Holiday Seasons in Retrospective: 2008

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.


A Little Big Year

Among the annals of videogame history, 2008 has the distinction of having one of the strongest release schedules in recent times. As the console wars kept its normal course; the Wii dominating while the PS3 valiantly struggling, huge gems like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Fallout 3, Little Big Planet, Valkyria Chronicles, Dead Space, Prince of Persia, Grand Theft Auto 4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl! and Rock Band 2 got finally released, to an extremely positive critical reception. In addition, the consoles had new services to enhance their already excellent products; The New Xbox Experience, the open beta for PlaySation Home and the WiiWare service ensured gamers 2008 was a year to remember.

In terms of the Xbox 360, the console had a fairly good year, though not as exclusive- heavy as the PS3, Microsoft’s console still had some big hitters on its own. For the holidays, the big MS had prepared a completely new interface for its console, called The  New Xbox Experience, which included a blatant rip-off of the Wii’s Mii creator, as well as a pretty, albeit somewhat inconsistent, new graphic design and information architecture. The worth noting releases for Q4 were Fable II, Gears of War 2 and Left 4 Dead; the three of them being blockbuster system-seller titles, and catering to various niches of the market.

Left 4 Dead

The PS3 kept struggling to come on top of the charts, but 2008 marked the moment Sony’s console finally mattered with arguments. The implementation of much-needed tweaks like in-game XMB and Trophy support gave the plain PS3 interface new life. Besides, the launch of PlayStation Home’s open beta helped counter the Xbox’s own new casual approach, with a huge hub for real time social interaction and Avatar shopping. The game releases were arguably better than those found on other consoles, with the likes of the tactical strategy title Valkyria Chronicles, the impressive shooter Resistance 2, the beautiful level creator platformer Little Big Planet and the highly acclaimed latest entry on Solid Snake’s story Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The PSN was also graced with amazing releases like Echochrome and Pixel Junk Eden, strengthening the platform even more.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

The Wii in 2008 is still the reigning champion when it comes to sold units. Titles like Wii Fit and Wii Music, despite what you might think about their quality, drove huge amounts of consoles throughout the year. What’s the hardcore gamer to do with this array of casual goodness? Besides Super Smash Bros. Brawl! and Mario Kart Wii, there’s really nothing that should cater the veteran gamer’s taste. On the bright side, however, the WiiWare service was released, and a bunch of really fun titles got released along with it; the fantastic World of Goo among them.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl!

On the handheld front, both the PSP and the NDS performed admirably, but we have to hand it to Nintendo’s dual screened console, as it had a more regular release schedule, in contrast to Sony’s black and white offerings through the year. Besides having a new console variation (PSP 3000), Skype and a new PlayStation Video Store implementation, the PSP had a nice array of quality software, but they were few and far between. Notable blockbusters include Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, God of War: Chain of Olympus, and the adorable and innovative Patapon. The Nintendo DS, however, had a lot more variety to cater a wider audience. I mean, we’re talking about a console that had the luxury of closing its year with outstanding games like the charming puzzler Professor Layton and the Curious Village, as well as sequels to beloved franchises like the strategy title Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Console of the Year

PlayStation 3

This year, the choice became quite difficult, as every manufacturer had something worth playing and remarkable in every sense. Let’s hand it to Sony and its PS3, though, as it delivered incredibly high quality exclusives (both disc-based and downloadable), and a revamped experience via its user interface and services. Price cuts, attractive bundles and Blu-ray marketing push helped drive more sales than ever before in the life of the console.

Game of the Year

Fallout 3

Despite initial concern from classic Fallout fans, Bethesda stayed true to its pedigree; delivering a vast, immersive, beautiful and fun post-apocalyptic adventure. Fallout 3 took the world by surprised by how polished it was, how varied its locations were and how true to the source material it managed to be. Bethesda’s latest piece of art after its also highly acclaimed Oblivion became an instant classic and an Action-RPG worth playing by anyone considering him/herself a gamer.

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.

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