Holiday Season; that busy, crazy and sometimes unbearable time of year where everything just become frenzy, and humanity tries desperately to sell you their goods. The worst thing is that you can’t help but join the cheesy feelings and wait for the not-so-silent night to receive a bunch of quality software pieces (unless you have a crappy cheap uncle).
In any case, we ask: which one of the recent holiday seasons has been the best one? Which one has offered the best gaming collection?. Every week we’ll analyze all the Christmas seasons, starting from 2005, in order to remember all those fond memories these particular days produce, and the games/consoles we should have played.
The Year the Fight was Finished
The seventh year in this decade, and the third on this gaming generation will be forever remembered for the release of huge memorable games. For starters, Master Chief Petty Officer John 117 finally finished his fight, the world got their filthy claws on the underwater world of Rapture, Infinity Ward didn’t disappoint with their vision of a frantic Modern Warfare, galaxy was saved by the hands of a bad-ass known as Commander Sheppard, forming a Rock Band right at home became a possibility and Miyamoto showed the world Mario still got moves.
Let’s start with Sony’s behemoth console, which was still doing surprisingly poor. During the year, a slight price cut was implemented and a bunch of software updates helped the PS3 be a lot more smooth than what it was at launch. It was still selling poorly but it was becoming a better console, one step at a time. It also got a healthy dose of releases throughout the year, including Motorsport and Ninja Gaiden Zigma, but the remarkable games for the holidays were only three: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (which ran pretty well on Sony’s console despite initial concern), Rock Band and, of course, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, which is one of the finest examples of adventure-platforming. The PS3 in general was still in a tricky situation, with expensive hardware and a still clunky user interface, but things were starting to look better, and you got to give it to Sony for effectively listening to their costumers and the market itself.
The Xbox 360, on the other hand, had one hell of a year, and a kick-ass holiday season too. 2007′s fourth quarter of the year was surprisingly flooded with new quality IPs (contrasting 2010′s trend) including Bioshock, Rock Band, Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect. The real star of the season, however, would be a little guy in a green armor known as Master Chief, who left the world wondering what exactly “Finishing this Fight” meant a couple of years earlier. In the end, Halo 3 turned out to be quite a good game, albeit its graphics were definitely underwhelming. Meanwhile, Infinity Ward continued its Call of Duty franchise in a different direction, bringing contemporary conflicts to the table, as well as refined gameplay, an admidettly nonsensical story and sophisticated visuals.
In terms of Nintendo gaming, both the Nintendo DS and the Wii made fairly good years, especially the handheld, which had an excellent Zelda release (Phantom Hourglass); certainly one of the finest adventure games of this generation. New installments of Phoenix Wright and Contra ensured DS gamers had a great holiday season. The Wii, despite the plethora of waggle-fest shovelware, managed to release two heavy hitters in the form of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (not a Q4 title, mind you) and the revolutionary Super Mario Galaxy. The latter demonstrated the Wii was not only a sports-friendly console with crappy graphics; it boasted the best visuals ever for a Mario game, as well a changing the platforming landscape forever. Other notable games were Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and the very innovative Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure.
Finally, after a couple of so-so years, the PlayStation Portable got a wonderful array of holiday blockbusters. Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness and Jeanne d’Arc were prime examples of the quality and variety of the handheld’s offerings, only counting the holiday releases. If only for a brief time, PSP owners were treated the way they deserved for having bought this mildly expensive but full of potential piece of hardware.
Console of the Year
True, the Wii got a new Mario and a new Metroid, and that alone should be enough to warrant victory over the competition, but Microsoft’s console offered what Nintendon’t (see what I did there?); completely new IPs. Mass Effect (published by Microsoft), Bioshock and a superior version of Assassin’s Creed were great pieces of software in their own right, and above all, they were original. Nowadays, having new franchises is a luxury getting less and less frequent, so let’s give it to Microsoft for taking the risk.
Game of the Year
Nintendo and Mr. Miyamoto know how to make outstanding games. Super Mario Galaxy, touted as the true successor of Super Mario 64, had the guts to tell hardcore gamers “hey, I still matter”. It was a game with gorgeous visuals and art direction, and the gameplay was, simply put, platforming perfection. Every Nintendo fan fearing SMG would suffer from Nintendo’s new casual and non-gamer philosophy, put their fears to rest, as this Mario adventure, even if it was built for a new generation, deeply respects its roots. Super Mario Galaxy is an instant classic, and will be forever remembered as the one game that gave new life to the aging plumber, and a revolution to its genre.
Note: The Game of the Year stated in this article has been chosen according to a trend followed by the industry that year. It must be noted that Game of the Year nominations are ultimately subjective perceptions made by equally subjective individuals. This one is not meant to be any different so feel free to differ with the author’s subjective statements.