Inside Pulse 12

2007 Diehard Gamefan Gaming Awards

Well, at some point and time we had to come to an agreement on all of this. After much blood, sweat, and tears we’ve finally made our decisions. Join us as we show what Gamefan collectively picked as the best (and worst) of 2007.

2k701The staff here at the new Diehard Gamefan is wildly diverse. For 2007 opinions were all over the place on what deserved honors and what didn’t. Even our thoughts on the year as a whole spanned the gauntlet. Some absolutely loved 2007. Others thought it was an ok year. And some of us were just “blah”. Thank God no street fights, murdering of puppies, ripping off of testicles or sodomizing broke out. In the past we’d literally KILL each other deciding this crap but I think we’ve finally realized that this is just for fun and is not meant to be serious in any way shape or form.

In spite of our contrasting opinions just about everyone was able to find something that they truly enjoyed this year and that’s what we’re here to celebrate. It’s a bit belated, I know, but we just freaking launched so cut some slack, people. Hopefully this will give you a small idea of our diverse and sometimes… umm, unorthodox tastes. So come along for a look back at what we deemed the best of 2007. And if you disagree well, most likely you’re wrong. No seriously. We’re always right. Always. Even when we contradict each other. Even when we’re wrong.


2k702

BEST SONY PLAYSTATION 2

God of War II

2k703The oldies are sometimes still capable of producing that magic that used to entrance us. Like Sean Connery in The Last Crusade, or David Hasselhoff in Baywatch, sometimes the energy for something truly special can be summoned just one more time.

So it is with the Playstation 2. Left for dead like a pile of scrap on the side of the road by the gaming population, Sony decided that the venerable old system needed one more shot at glory. And so God of War 2 was brought forth into the world like Athena, riding a crest of sea foam. Ok, not exactly. But Kratos did make an excellent return trip to the PS2, to the consternation of many in the gaming world who felt that it should have been on the PS3 to sell more systems. And in a year where there were so few options available on the system, a game with the pedigree of God Of War 2 really stands out like a Sony PR party serving dinner from the entrails of a goat.

Good bye old friend PS2. You’ve served us well.
_Michael O’Reilly


BEST NINTENDO DS

The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

2k704Is it really a surprise? The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is your DS Game of the Year. In fact, yes, it should be a surprise. With a staff populated by some notable Pokémon lovers, the new Diamond and Pearl versions easily could have won this award. After all, it was a great game in its own right, probably the best game in the series since its Game Boy Color days. It’s just that once again, the Zelda series managed to take advantage of everything a system had to offer. In the same way that Ocarina of Time showed what the N64 could do, Phantom Hourglass is one of the few games to truly push the DS to its limits. The result is probably the best game the series has seen in a decade.

Being a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass uses the same colorful graphics as its Gamecube counterpart. While its predecessor was a great game in its own rights, PH improves the formula by correcting nearly every little issue that fans had with the game. The long, stretched-out fetching missions are gone. Instead, we have about twice the number of dungeons that its big brother featured and a navigation system that couldn’t be simpler. Let’s not forget that Phantom Hourglass also single-handedly proved that controlling an entire game only with the touch screen could be fun and feel natural.

If you’re a Zelda fan, you probably already own this game. If you’re a gamer who has always been on the fence about the series, then this could be the one that will grab you and make you a believer. It’s more accessible than the franchise has ever been, it has a story that is surprisingly touching and there’s even a sweet multiplayer mode that can be played online! Not only is this game the best that the DS has seen this year, it could be argued that this is the most complete Zelda game ever released. After all, it’s the only one that offers a “Pimp My Ride: Boat Edition” side quest.
_Guy Desmarais


BEST SONY PSP

Jeanne d’Arc

2k705If, after 2007, someone tells you there are no good games for the PSP…..smack them. Smack them hard. While it’s true there were few titles that could honestly be called good in 2006, this past year was jam packed with several great titles for Sony’s portable system. Along with all the nominees for best PSP game, there was Crush, Dungeon Maker, Final Fantasy Tactics, Siphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, Pirates!, Gurumin, and even Silent Hill: Origins. But of all the PSP games this year, Jeanne D’arc stands above the rest.

When I first heard of the game, I, like many people was amused. The story of Joan of Arc in a video game? With demons and monsters? It just sounded silly. In fact the only reason I purchased the game was because I wanted something lengthy to hold me off until the Final Fantasy Tactics remake came out. Instead, I was treated to one of the best games of the year. The story is rock solid. The factual events of the hundred year’s war are blended beautifully with a spiritual tale of mystical beings and a personal tale of a young group of friends trying to deal with the responsibilities suddenly thrust upon them. Jeanne’s character evolution is truly great to behold. The voice acting could have been suspect too, given that most of the main characters are French. However, none of the accents are too ridiculous. They are all understated and never detract from or befuddle what you’re hearing.

Of course none of that would matter if Jeanne didn’t have good game play. And while it doesn’t have the depth or complexity of Disgaea or FFT, it’s still a lot of fun and has a good amount of complexity and customability. Everyone’s class is set, but the things you can do in each class are amazing. The burning aura added a lot to the strategy as well. Any time you attacked, it would leave an aura behind your enemy. This aura could then be used by anyone who stood on it. They would get a nice attack bonus. The fact that your enemy could use these too made you think before you attacked, or even moved.

All told, Level 5 deserves a lot of praise for Jeanne D’arc. After all, it’s the best game on the PSP this year, and it had a lot of competition.
_Aaron Sirois


BEST MICROSOFT XBOX 360

Mass Effect

2k706Oh Mass Effect. How we love thee. Let me count the ways.

First there’s the story. It’s not perfect, but never have I seen a game with a universe and characters this fleshed out. It actually rivals other sci-fi worlds like Star Trek and Star Wars. Complimenting the main narrative we have TONS of back-story that you don’t even have to touch explaining alien races, their role in the universe, interstellar politics, and the history of humanity after space travel, all available via your Codex. To drive home the point they actually put out a BOOK (that’s right; a 336 page paperback novel) before the title released as a prequel with its own fully fleshed out story; all for the purpose of getting you ready for the actual game. BioWare did everything possible to get the player wrapped up in Mass Effect’s world. And never has digital acting been this awesome. Yell at one of your squad mates and you could swear they’re about to cry. Flirt with another and relish the look in their eyes as they seem ready to jump your bones. The facial expressions, the body language, the alien lesbian sex, it’s just all so believable. Well, maybe not the alien sex but it’s great to have! We’re all really excited about that (sadly).

That brings us to the graphics. Awe-inspiring. Seriously, almost every action sequence and especially conversation feels like a Final Fantasy cut-scene. Textures on your amour and each person’s facial details bring your characters to life. Great stuff.

Oh and Gameplay! Wow the gamplay. It’s so incredi… Ok, no. Not really… I can’t back that up. I won’t lie. This is the game’s weakest point.

“But Bebito that’s crucial! How can this be 360 game of the year when the gameplay isn’t perfect? And why are you so obsessed with big booty white girls?”

To answer the latter: because I’m black and they’re easy to score. REAL easy. Thick chicks also rule.

To answer the former, nearly every game I’ve played has some sort of weak point. Think about it. Some look like garbage, but the story is awesome. Some play incredible but lack originality. Some sound great, look great, but turned NiGHTS into a piece of crap because Sega/Sammy ruined the franchise making you cry curled up in the fetal position in the corner rocking back and forth contemplating killing Yuji Naka just so he can roll over in his grave every time another copy is sold and… Whoa, whoa, whoa…sorry there. Kinda blacked out for a second. What I think I’m trying to say is there are very, very few games that the kliq feels are worthy of any sort of honor because we’re nitpicky jaded lunatics (thus these awards being so hard to pick). But it all depends on HOW weak the game’s weak point is. If Mass Effect played like total garbage then no it doesn’t matter how good everything else is. As you said snazzy dressed and well educated reader, gameplay is one of the most crucial aspects of a game (it could also be argued that story is equal depending on the genre). So thankfully, besides issues with balance, item management, and a few cheap deaths the game’s still easily, EASILY fun to play. Gunplay is competent. Using biotic powers is a blast. The paragon/renegade morality system is intriguing. Searching optional planets and going on side missions pays off revealing more of the story. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly not bad.

Overall, it’s one great experience. Snatch this one up before Electronic Arts inevitably sucks the soul out of BioWare. (I’m just kidding EA! Just kidding! …God it sucks being the Director of Marketing & Public Relations.)
_Bebito Jackson


BEST SONY PLAYSTATION 3

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

2k707Many complain there are barely any games worthy of purchase for the PS3. But isn’t that to be expected? It takes time for a system to build up a competent library. If you want good games you have to wait, people. I mean what system has launched with a killer app straight out of the gate?

Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64.

Ok. But that’s RARE. It’s not like…

Xbox: Halo. Super Nintendo: Super Mario World. Dreamcast: Sonic Adventure. NFL2K. Soul Calibur…

I get it! I get it! But listen… uh… I mean, things have really stepped up for the PS3 as of late. No don’t laugh! And that’s without even going into the quality third party non-exclusives. We got Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. We got Folklore, which is just outright cool. And though it didn’t live up to the hype, Heavenly Sword, taken for what it is was quite enjoyable. And many, many more! *cough*

But besides the aforementioned there was one game whose light shined brightly amongst the rest: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Why? Fans of the genre already know. Ratchet & Clank = Budda. I love this franchise right after my Jak & Daxters and that’s with very, very good reason. Gameplay. Sweet. Platforming? Sweet. Combat? Sweet. Little mini-games to break up the monotony? Sweet, sweet, sweeeeeeeeet. (Geez, my vocabulary is limited.) Sure it’s not original. But that doesn’t matter. There’s a reason these games keep getting churned out; they’re good.

Since the quality and integrity of the series are left in tact, what’s new? First the graphics. Now, everyone screams like a hopped up retard on cocaine, “THEY’RE LIKE PIXAR! OMG, GAMES’ GRAPHICS FINALLY LOOK LIKE 3D ANIMATED MOVIES!#@&! ROWWLLL”. Those people are idiots. Play this game and then go watch Ratatouille. Not even in the same league. Come on now. But that doesn’t stop this game from being the most beautiful 3D platformer ever created up until today. It’s not the Gears Of War type of graphical awesome. But just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. The PS3 flexes its muscle and we get a small inkling of its potential. Also new is the depth of story. Ratchet & Clank’s story was always comedy over substance. Now they actually explore the relationship issues between our heroes. Cool and unexpected. Thankfully the past humor of the series is retained. (Again, this game is tried and true.)

So is this the killer app the PS3 has been waiting for? No. But if you own the PS3 this is something you must pickup.

Besides, what else are you gonna play? ;)
_Bebito Jackson


BEST NINTENDO WII

Super Mario Galaxy

2k708Did you really see Nintendo’s Wii becoming such a success? I’m a lifelong Nintendo fan, and I could see the potential in their new console, but I didn’t think that so many people would jump on the bandwagon. While third-party support was very minor on the Gamecube, the Wii is now offering great games from a wide array of developers. Because of that, we had a lot of quality candidates when it came to choosing the best game released on the console this year. While Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Carnival Games or Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 are all superb games, they were unlucky enough to be released on the same year as Super Mario Galaxy.

A new Mario platformer is always an event in itself, but this time around, it was poised to be even bigger than usual. After the series last foray in 3D platforming proved to be effective but unspectacular, fans were expecting a lot from Super Mario Galaxy, which thankfully delivered. Sending the plumber in space was a great move which presented the veteran hero with a huge playground and many opportunities that couldn’t have been explored in his previous adventures. It also perfected many familiar areas and gameplay mechanics in order to give the game an unprecedented sense of exploration, but tinted with sweet familiarity.

After a few months spent with no real flagship title, the Wii is finally becoming the home of many first-rate games. The fact that Super Mario Galaxy managed to stand above games like those mentioned previously says a lot about it. Owing a lot to its predecessors but innovative in its own right, it provides gamers with a lethal blend of fun, excitement and nostalgia. 2007 was a great year for Wii owners, and Super Mario Galaxy was simply the crown jewel in a rich library of releases.
_Guy Desmarais


BEST SPORTS GAME

NHL ’08 (Multi)

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat.

NHL ’08 is not NHL ’94. It’s better.

Blasphemy? Hardly. No matter how good a hockey game is, someone’s always going to say, “Nothing beats NHL ’94 for Sega Genesis.” Well, forget that, because EA’s outdone themselves this time. Just when you thought they couldn’t be any more innovative with the NHL series, EA finally figured it all out. How to create a game without cheap scoring tricks and over-the-top hits. How to provide a game that is not only entertaining to play, but is hockey in the truest sense. And even though EA has given us some great hockey games in the past, this is the one where it all comes together.

Imagine playing a hockey game where you can actually set up a power play, drive a slap shot from the point, and bang in the rebound. Imagine stealing the puck via a well-timed poke check rather than slamming somebody into next week. Imagine starting a fight to wake up your sluggish team and actually picking your game up in the aftermath. If it’s something you see the pros do and something you do at your weekly game, you can do it in NHL 08. It’s not video game hockey… it is hockey.

The ads for NHL 08 proclaim that no two games are the same. That’s true in real life, and it’s certainly true in this game. No matter how proficient of a scorer you are, you’re going to eventually run into a hot goalie and be shut down. Just the same, a defensive-minded team can score five or six goals on any given night. The unexpected is expected, and that’s a good thing. There are no ridiculous momentum meters, big hit buttons, or unnecessary gimmicks. What’s left is hockey in its purest form – fast, exciting, and unpredictable.

It might have taken fourteen years for EA to outdo its masterpiece, but the wait was worthwhile. NHL 08 not only provides the finest representation of the “new” NHL yet, but it just might be the best hockey game we’ve seen.
_Bryan Berg


BEST FIGHTING GAME

Virtua Fighter 5 (XB360)

Do you have ANY IDEA how long I’ve been waiting for this? Virtua Fighter on-freaking-line. Sega’s most dominant and debatably only great release in 2007 (as a Sega fanboy God that was hard to write) is hands down Virtua Fighter 5. Why? Because… despite the fact that Yu Suzuki said it couldn’t be done. That it wouldn’t be done. That on his tombstone it would read, “Ha ha! No internet fighting VF for you!” Well, with its release on X-Box 360 the Virtua Fighter franchise is finally online and it makes a world of difference. In the past the series has been a bare bones experience when it came to modes / extras / etc. when compared with other fighters on the market. Bringing it online and opening up the fighting frenzy across the globe finally squashes the last main legitimate criticism.

The thing that makes this generation’s Virtua Fighter great is that it’s so accessible now. The first Virtua Fighter? Despite being the father of the 3D fighter it alienated people. The learning curve was steep and unless you became a true student of the game it would never strike a chord with you. But with each subsequent release the series has become more and more starter friendly and Virtua Fighter 5 strikes that perfect balance of immediate accessibility with the deep gameplay fans have come to respect. You can hop right in but the longer you play, the more you learn, the better and more multifaceted the experience becomes until you reach that sweet, sweet, level of gaming nirvana.

Ugh, I could drone on forever but we have like 26 awards to cover in this feature so I’ll get to the point. This is it, people. This is what fans of the series have been waiting for. If you’re a lover of the genre you will fall head over heels for this. It’s definitely the best fighter on X-Box 360 (and the PS3 for that matter) and debatably the greatest 3D fighter ever released up till now. The graphics, sometimes a weak point of the franchise, are gorgeous. The balancing? Perfect. The gameplay? Unparalleled. The replay value? With online play to compliment the already competent Career mode, it’s now off the chains. If you avoided the past games because of bias, reservations over the learning curve, or any other silliness, understand now is the time to take the plunge. Find out why this is one of the most respected franchises in gaming history.

Tekken sucks, btw.

Crap! I’m sorry! Every time I talk about VF I bash Tekken. It doesn’t REALLY suck. I know some of the staff likes Tekken… I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I’ll try to do better going into the new year.

Tekken sucks, Tekken sucks, Tekken sucks, Tekken sucks. Crap it! It’s like Tourettes!
_Bebito Jackson


BEST ROLE PLAYING GAME

Pokémon Diamond / Pearl (NDS)

Another year, another Pokemon game gets an award from the Kliq. You could almost make a drinking game based on it.

Pokemon D/P really was the best RPG of the year in many ways. More people were playing this game in 2007 at any one time than any other game, regardless of genre. It was the best selling game of 2007 worldwide. It was the main reason the DS was the best SELLING system of 2007. Most importantly, it united millions of gamers worldwide and gave us our first Nintendo published online RPG.

Pokemon D/P was a return to greatness for the series. After R/S/E stunk it up in 2002, Game Freak listened to the complaints and wishes of gamers, regardless of age or location, and made Diamond and Pearl what we all wanted. There was a more adult/mature storyline, yet the game still followed the same basic premise. There were new side quests and mini games, interesting new Pokemon, new ways to interact with other players besides battling, the Underground (a personal favorite of mine), a ton of new things to see and do after you beat the main story of the game, a new way to import Pokemon from the previous generation of games, and a return of the 24/7 clock which was sorely missed in the last generation.

In the end, Pokemon D/P gave us what anyone could possibly want from an RPG. It rejuvenated the core franchise and brought Pokemon back to a level of popularity it hadn’t seen since the Johto days. If you haven’t ever played a Pokemon game, or you’ve drifted away over the years, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up and see just why it captured the hearts of tens of millions of people the world over. Pika Pika baby.
_Alex Lucard


BEST FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

First person shooters are a unique genre in video games. These games do more than any other game to put you, the one holding the controller, in the shoes of whoever is holding the gun. From such titles as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom to more realistic games such as Call of Duty, FPS’s have been growing more and more realistic over the years. With the Prime series of the Metroid franchise already having placed the player in Samus’ Power Suit, it would be hard for the 4th installment in the series to make it even more realistic, but leave it up to the Wii’s interactive controls to do just that.

Our winner for best first person shooter of the year, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption does everything a first person shooter should do, and more. You get to blow the crap out of bounty hunters, robots, aliens and sentient radioactive ooze, all from the perspective of Samus Aran, while the Wii’s motion-based controls add a whole new element to the mix. Such actions as pressing buttons and pulling levers are done by you performing the action yourself, and the many functions of the grapple beam are performed with a flick of the wrist rather than the push of a button. One of the most interactive adventures available to date, Metroid Prime 3 does more to place you right in the middle of the action than other shooters, easily picking up the Best First Person Shooter award for 2007.
_Charlie Marsh


BEST TRADITIONAL SHOOTER

Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)

RE:UC is joy on a disc. Combining the fast and frantic gameplay of House of the Dead with a wide variety of Resident Evil weaponry and monsters, and adding the ability to unlock tons of extra content, missions and dossiers, RE:UC is good. Add to that a complete ret-con of Resident Evil history into something easily palatable for new fans that missed the first few games, as well as older fans that are looking for a better understanding of things? And further, add co-op play for most of the missions, and a way to unlock full co-op for ALL of the missions?

If that doesn’t sell you on RE:UC, I don’t know what to tell you. Blasting zombies with the Wii-mote is all sorts of glorious fun. I love it. Everyone I associate loves it. Lucard loves it for crying out loud! This is a Resident Evil game for people who can’t stand Resident Evil games. It’s stylish, it’s fun, it’s easy to play, and it’s got replay value out the hoo-hah. About the only depressing thing is that it’s missing the stories from RE2 and RE Code Veronica, but it’s not like Capcom won’t release a million more of this game between now and 2010. So get on-board now while it’s fresh! You won’t regret it.
_Mark B.


BEST ACTION ADVENTURE GAME

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (NDS)

Sure, a Zelda game is this year’s best action/adventure game, but the series has been carrying a tradition of excellence in the genre for a while now. Ever since the first game in the franchise was released all the way back in 1987, you would be hard pressed to find games designed with more care and love than what The Legend of Zelda has been able to provide. With such a resume preceding each new release, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Phantom Hourglass succeeds in being yet another award-worthy title in the storied line of adventure games.

By being the first game of the series to be released on the DS, Phantom Hourglass brings its fair share of innovation that wouldn’t have been possible on any other platform. While I could rave on for longer than you would care to read about on the game’s technical achievements (it looks like a Gamecube game! On a handheld!), this award is to honor its excellence as an action/adventure title. The Legend of Zelda has the habit of spoiling gamers with massive missions, and by being the sequel of an already ambitious game released for a home console, one could have had serious doubts about the sequel’s ability to deliver such an epic adventure on a handheld system. Thankfully, not only does Phantom Hourglass builds on the huge world of The Wind Waker, it makes you feel even more of a part of the story by allowing you to write your own directions and indications on the in-game maps. It may look like a simple addition, but the effect it has on gameplay should not be downplayed. Never before has Zelda felt so interactive.

Let’s not forget about the engrossing story. While previous Zelda games have always more or less been about saving the world, none of them has made me this interested about its characters’ issues since Ocarina of Time. The introduction of a real talking and moving human as a sidekick instead of a faceless fairy does a lot in making you feel more involved in the result of your actions. This time around, it looks like your mission could affect more people than ever before.

While a new Zelda game is always likely to be a top-notch title, it just seems to me like Phantom Hourglass went past that mark and landed straight into “instant classic” territory. It is for this reason, and many more, that we believe there was not a better adventure game released in 2007.
_Guy Desmarais


BEST REMAKE / RE-RELEASE

Dracula X Chronicles (PSP)

When a game company goes to remake an older game, they have to be especially careful. If they get it right, then they please fans of the older product and gain a whole new legion of paying fans along the way, but if they get it wrong, they not only expose flaws about the older game to new fans, but anger older fans.

However, when translating and re-releasing games that never made it out of Japan, companies have to be even more careful than normal, considering the English fans of the games are the most rabid that any fan base will ever see. If one gets a translation right, it does nothing for them because already patched around the old ROM and unlocked all of a game’s secrets, but if it goes wrong, pasty-faced nerds the country over will go bonkers on message boards deriding the shoddy work of the company and threaten massive boycotts; for an example of this, mention the GBA remake of Tales of Phantasia on any Tales forum, and then get the fuck out of Dodge lest you get hurt.

Very rarely does a company not only nail one of these remakes, but goes above and beyond the call of duty to the point where even fervent fans of the older product have to tip their Master Chief helmets in approval. Konami – a company with a good history of touching up classic games for the XBox Live Arcade service – released the long awaited Dracula X Chronicles, which was the remake of the Turbo CD game Akumajo Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood). The remake made improvements to the gameplay and graphics, and gave more options for endings, but best of all, included two key unlockables: the original Rondo of Blood as seen (with very minor changes) on the old Turbo CD (for those that don’t use emulators), and the full version of the seminal Playstation classic Symphony of the Night, and though that classic has become highly common due to it’s release on XBLA for $10, it’s still one of the greatest games of all time, and will stand the test of time for a long time to come. To just have the remake of Rondo of Blood was enough to warrant $30, but to have that, the original game AND Symphony of the Night makes this by far the best remake we’ve seen in 2007, by one of the few companies that seem to know what they’re doing.

Now, if we can only talk them into bringing their Suikoden 1 + 2 remake on the PSP over to American shores…
_Christopher Bowen


BEST PLATFORMER

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Let’s face it, it’s not surprising that Mario Galaxy is winning this award. It is more surprising that this award still exists at all. Platform games took up a huge part of the 2D side scrolling market in the 8-bit days, but the genre took a steep dive once gaming went 3D. There have been great 3D platform games, such as the Mario games, Ratchet and Clank, and the Jak series, however for each one of those titles there are many more budget, license or just plain bad platform games. Not only that but the industry has evolved and with that evolution the idea of a pure genre game has disappeared, you’ve got stealth card games, FPS RPG’s, Sandbox racing, etc. The idea of simply using the environment and jumping abilities to get from the beginning of a level to the end just seems archaic thinking by comparison.

Mario Galaxy takes a genre that was on life support and one more bland Crash Bandicoot game away from flatlining and proves there’s still life left in it. There probably is no higher praise I can think of for the game than saying that it took a stagnant genre and made it fresh again and pushing the limits of what the genre can accomplish.
_Matt Yaeger


BEST HORROR GAME

Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)

It’s hard to pull off a quality horror/terror game. Usually the plot if cheesy and full of holes, or the controls are god awful and the game is saved only by the story. Capcom is no exception this rule. The plot and controls of all their horror games are generally ridiculed, even by fans of the franchise. From Dinosaurs in Space to ruining the Clock Tower franchise, it’s a bit of an understatement to say we here at DHGF are usually skeptical about Capcom and their survival horror efforts.

So imagine our surprise when we all pretty much unanimously LOVED RE:UC. I raved about how fun this game was when I reviewed it, and I have generally hated every RE game that’s come out from the original on my Saturn down to Outbreak.

RE:UC combines your usual light gun fare, with diverging paths, and bit of role playing standard fare by letting you level up your weapons. The graphics are amazing, controls are simple and easy to learn, and best of all, the game creates a better sense of continuity throughout the RE series and every retcon done in the game improves the entire franchise’s continuity/storyline.

Capcom finally got the genre right, but made one of the best light gun games ever. Just…don’t play it for long stretches of time or your wrist will give out.
_Alex Lucard


BEST ALL AGES GAME

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Critics of the modern-day video game industry often complain about how games were better when they were kids. They say that they long for a time when the games were clean-cut and family-friendly. These critics would do well to take a good look at Super Mario Galaxy, which single-handedly proves that the best games don’t have to be the most violent ones. Super Mario Galaxy provides a huge breath of fresh air to the industry by showing that one great game really can appeal to adults and children alike.

Super Mario Galaxy is the video game equivalent of a Disney movie – cute and innocent enough for children to play, but deep and multi-layered enough for adults to enjoy as well. Playing the game really is like one of those classic Disney films in that there’s something for everybody. While kids are content to see their favorite characters in another new adventure, adults can marvel at the wonderful graphics and really appreciate the nuances of the game. Not even the most jaded, bitter gamer could get through a Galaxy session without smiling – it just effortlessly exudes that Mario charisma we all grew up with.

Those concerned with the violent nature of video games can rest assured knowing that Super Mario Galaxy isn’t just family-friendly, but gamer-friendly as well. It’s simply impossible not to have fun playing this game. Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t win the award for Best All Ages Game just because it has cute characters. Instead, it wins because it reminds us all of what it was like playing video games as a kid and why we fell in love with gaming to begin with.
_Bryan Berg


BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME

Sin and Punishment

You know what’s cool? The Virtual Console. Know what’s cooler than that? Putting great games on it that you couldn’t get your hands on before because it was released halfway around the world from where you live!

A run and gun rail shooter, Sin & Punishment brings fun gameplay with a deep storyline about a group of rebels’ struggle for survival in the chaotic world of the future. The controls are very easy to pick up on; your forward movement is automatic, so all you have to do is point and shoot, with the occasional dodge to the left or right (picture Star Fox, but without an Arwing). There are several different difficulty levels ready to challenge you. The game’s English voice track makes one wonder why this was never released outside of Japan, but hey, better late than never, right?

At $12, its the most expensive game on the VC, but it’s worth every penny. It’s incredibly fun to pick up and play, has a great story, great graphics for a N64 game, and is practically begging for a sequel on the Wii.
_Charlie Marsh


MOST ORIGINAL GAME

Puzzle Quest (Multi)

Two, three, four. Every time I turn around it seems a game is followed around by some sort of number – like a conjoined twin that you cover with a basket because of its murderous nature.

The time has come to face the fact that a large percentage of video games released are sequels, franchises or rehashes of another game that had success.

Common offenders of this are World War II shooters (honestly, I think the Nazi factor is starting to run low), Nintendo, SquareEnix, role playing games in general (especially angsty main character J-RPGs) and all those small casual puzzle games that outfits like Pop Cap games churn out like some Amish butter churning society on a three week speed binge.

Sometimes, though, a person decides to try and fuse two genres together to spice things up. Fighting games get role playing game elements, racing games get role playing game elements, shooters get role playing game elements. Somewhere someone was playing Bejeweled and thought: I know what we could do! We can mix this game with some story and role playing game elements!

Puzzle Quest is the byproduct of this brainstorm. Puzzle Quest is not the greatest game ever but it combines the addicting nature of the match puzzle game with Pavlovian level advancement. The story is average fair and the setting is fantasy world in peril #8369745637029. People love puzzle games. I love puzzle games. They are perfect to pick up and play, provide a fun challenge and do not take up a huge chunk of time for the most part. I also enjoy role playing games. The statistic management and planning, the heady activity of leveling up and the enjoyable idea that you are advancing. Mixing the two should seem like a slam dunk but it took awhile for a game like Puzzle Quest to come along – basically like adding crack to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

The game itself is better as a whole than the sum of its part. The skills of the character class you select add a layer of strategy to a standard puzzle methology and the story breaks give the game a more robust product to peddle. The fact the puzzle game is easy to understand yet slightly more difficult to master with the skills you pick up along the way adds to the level of addictiveness.

While some would say that the game brings nothing new to the table they are missing the point. Can you name another game that uses a popular puzzle design that then welds a workable role playing game onto that framework? The idea is simple when you think about it but it took this long for it to come to fruition. I cannot think of another game like this and that is refreshing compared to almost all of the games released this year. Kudos to Infinite Interactive for releasing this gem.
_Dave Olvera


WORST GAME OF THE YEAR

Soul Calibur Legends (Wii)

A lot of great games came out in 2007, make no mistake of that, but as this was the first year for both the PS3 and the Wii, 2007 was as much a year of win and awesome as it was of ass and fail. In a year that was filled to the brim with crappy licensed titles, weak novelty titles and horrible “Me too!” Wii ports, Soul Calibur Legends was (barely) the absolute worst pile of shite inflicted on gamers this year. Namco’s proven time and again that while they can make some solid, entertaining fighting games (piss off haters), they are wholly incapable of taking those same characters and putting them into ANYTHING else that doesn’t suck, and Soul Calibur Legends maintains that legacy of sucking out loud. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about the game, and anyone who is telling you any different is either trying to justify spending fifty dollars on circular plasticized agony, secretly hates you, or has a sticky Ivy body pillow under their bed, so you really shouldn’t be listening to them in any case.

Sorry for that mental image.

What’s wrong specifically? Well, it’s ugly, and not “Wii has crappy graphics hur hur” ugly so much as “the developers don’t know how to make anything pretty but the title characters” ugly. Worse, the same stupid looking enemies and ugly backgrounds are reused about a bazillion times in your eighty million year long quest to find something in the game that you give a goddamn about. The gameplay itself comes down to maneuvering your character into the general vicinity of an enemy or obstruction or whatever, followed by flailing around like an epileptic with a nervous tic until said enemy ceases to exist. If you’re so inclined you could TRY to get the Wii-mote to register individual directional waves to set up air combos and such, but you realize that this is not a terribly easy thing to arrange consistently about five seconds before you realize that it doesn’t matter anyway ’cause you can kill most everything by flailing like an idiot.

There’s also terrible multiplayer if you’re the sort of person who feels that misery is the gift best shared with friends (or you hate everyone you know). Split-screen co-op takes the ugly visuals and squishes them into screens that make seeing what you’re doing even HARDER if you can believe it. There’s also versus play, where the two of you can square off against off against each other in hopes that your idiotic flailing will defeat their idiotic flailing.

And what the hell is Lloyd doing in here anyway? It’s bad enough you’re taking a dump on Soul Calibur, keep the Tales franchise far the hell away from this mess.

So, there you go. Ugly graphics, horrendous gameplay and hideous multiplayer. The only, and I DO mean ONLY, positive thing one can say about the game is that the character portraits in cutscenes look very nice, but that’s no reason to spend five dollars on a game, let alone fifty. Soul Calibur Legends is a fifty dollar game that isn’t worth one. Shame on Namco for having anything to do with this mess.
_Mark B.


BEST CHARACTERS

The Rabbids

Lucard loves bunnies.

Lucard owns this site.

Therefore it makes sense, if you work for the site, to let the bunnies win.

Of course, those of you who have played Rayman Raving Rabbids 1 or 2 know that the Rabbids are a worthy selection for Best Character(s). (Even if you haven’t played the games, you’ve probably seen the viral videos.) The Rabbids are the only things around that make me want to watch a mini-game cut-scene more than once.

They are just that exceptional.

What is it about the Rabbids that we here at DHGF so love? Is it for their mindless viciousness or their monstrous stupidity? Is it the way the bunny-goons scream “DAAAAAAAH!” before attacking with a hammer. Is it for their dance moves? Their penchant for slapstick? Or perhaps, their willingness to dress up in French maid outfits.

I think it is mostly the screaming.
_ML Kennedy


BEST STORY

Mass Effect (XB360)

Bioware has always been known for their high quality story crafting skills, and Mass Effect keeps that tradition alive. The story is a deep and complex tale of intrigue and politics, but not near as convoluted as something like Final Fantasy Tactics.

While not as awesome as the Light/Dark Side Jedi in Knights of the Old Republic, the game does feature a good/bad mechanic, allowing you to lean towards being a Paragon or a Renegade. The conversation system works like most games (though you are able to choose your selection before the other person is finished talking, so it flows better), so what you say effects your character, and the outcome of the conversation. If you are a paragon, you can charm the other person, or you can threaten them if you are a renegade.

While it’s not the greatest story ever told, it does seem to avoid all the classic sci-fi clichés, and each character has their own background, and there is enough dialogue that you will actually feel for them. And there is romance! And lesbian (mind) sex! How can you go wrong with that?
_Lee Baxley


BEST GRAPHICS

Assassin’s Creed (Multi)

You know, despite what anyone thought of the Ridley Scott flick Kingdom of Heaven, no one could deny it was a gorgeous film. The same could be said for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. No matter your opinion of the game (and it varies widely), there’s no way you could say this wasn’t the best looking game you’d seen all year. Whether you look at the game from a macro or micro perspective, you will come away with the same opinion: this may be the best looking game of the next gen console era.

When Altair climbs the highest peaks in the kingdom, the bird’s-eye view you get is stunning. The top-level detail you get to see in the kingdom makes you feel as if you’re actually in the 12th century crossroads of the Middle East. And when you’re on the ground the view is no less stunning. The level of detail that is seen in the architecture is amazing. You can almost feel the grit under Altair’s feet as he walks the dusty streets of Jerusalem, Damascus, and Acre.

The character models are the game’s weakest point, but that’s not to say that they are sub par. In fact, in most other games they would be touted as the best part. Fully articulated models bring the Crusades to life. Robes billowing in the wind, dirt and grime ground into the cloth, the models help bring the era to bloom. And nothing’s cooler than seeing Altair extend and retract his hidden blade through the spot in his left fist where his ring finger used to be. A Middle Ages Wolverine brought to life.

In a lot of games, pretty graphics help to staunch gamer disfavor, overcompensating for weak (to be charitable) gameplay. Not with Assassin’s Creed. Here, the graphics help to enhance your enjoyment of the story unfolding around you. It helps set the appropriate mindset, making you feel a part of the land where the Third Crusade unfolded. Roger Ebert famously said that video games cannot be considered art. Well, let him try out Assassin’s Creed and see if that doesn’t provide another chink in his argument.
_Michelangelo McCullar


BEST SOUND

Rock Band (Multi)

This award brought up some debate between the staffers here as to whether or not a licensed soundtrack should be considered in the same award as original compositions. Regardless, there is little doubt that Rock Band is deserving of the award for Best Sound, considering it includes some of the greatest tracks ever to be collected in a game, and in my eyes is only eclipsed by possibly either GTA Vice City or San Andreas.

There is literally something for everyone in this game, and it contains songs from several decades. Its biggest advantage over its nearest rival, Guitar Hero III, is the fact that pretty much anyone can look at the track list and find something they enjoy. There are exceptions, of course, but this IS Rock Band, not Country Band or Rap Band. And if you don’t like what songs are in the game itself, you could always pony up a little bit more for some of the downloadable content. Harmonix has released at least 3 tracks a week ever since it was released, and many of those are damn good. By comparison, GHIII’s downloadable tracks are, for the most part, lame, few and far between, oh, and more expensive by a small amount.

Really, Rock Band is better than GHIII in almost every way. More tracks are originals by the original artists, and the ones that aren’t original are very close. The easiest way to compare the two is with Mississippi Queen, which is covered in both games. And Harmonix’s purchase by MTV was a boon and allowed them greater access to original music tracks.

And yea, GHIII and Rock Band cater to different audiences, but only the most rabid Guitar Hero will deny that Rock Band is better. So yea, if you haven’t purchased Rock Band yet, YOU NEED TO. Harmonix is making me poor, so they need to make you poor too!
_Lee Baxley


BEST GAMEPLAY

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Super Mario Galaxy could have won this category simply because it successfully perfected a formula that it started back in 1996 with Super Mario 64. The hub world, the areas to which it is connected, the many objectives on each level, these are all elements that the series has been based on since its Nintendo 64 days. Yet, none of them have been as polished as they have been in Super Mario Galaxy. Everything is bigger, better and ends up giving us some of the most fun moments you could spend with a controller in your hands in 2007.

Still, Super Mario Galaxy’s gameplay wasn’t simply good because it built upon foundations that were laid by its predecessors. Instead, the creators decided to cram the game with an enormous amount of things to do, probably more than in any other Mario game that came before.

This is a game where you can surf on the back of a ray on water that floats in the air. It makes gamers maneuver a ball through an over-the-top golf course by walking on it. It allows you to transform into a bee, a ghost or a spring, with each form feeling completely different from the others. It introduces many challenges to the series like speed runs, sudden death rules and courses featuring enemies quicker than Bebito’s mouth. Finally, it also features a secret character that changes the way you would usually tackle the game’s missions.

Super Mario Galaxy wins the award not only because of its masterful execution, but also because of its great diversity. They say that too many Mario games are released each year, but if they can keep up with this level of gameplay, I will gladly play everything they can throw at me.
_Guy Desmarais


SYSTEM OF THE YEAR

Nintendo Wii

This was an amazingly tight race between the Wii and the 360, with the PS2 in a distance third. PS3? Ha. Not a chance. We’d have considered the PSP or DS before a system that over a year in, can still count the number of quality games it has on a single hand.

The Wii however? It’s got something for everyone. Amazing mini games like Ravings Rabbids 2 and Carnival Games. it’s got Platformers like Super Mario Galaxy, which dominated the awards this year. It’s got shooters ranging from Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles to Link’s Crossbow Training and Metroid Prime 3. It’s got highly interactive sports games like the Bigs. It doesn’t matter your genre of choice – the Wii has something for all gamers and guarantees it will bring a smile to your face.

And the Virtual Console? That alone makes it the system of the year. Genesis, NES, Neo Geo, TG-16? All the systems we loved growing up are here. Want a classic fighter? Download SFII Turbo, King of Fighters ’94 or Eternal Champions. Want a good old school RPG? Look no further than Shining Force or Sword of Vermillion. Old school shmp’s? They are here in FORCE. Gradius, R-Type, you name – it’s probably on here. Every classic title from Bubble Bobble to Super Mario Bros 3 can be played on the Wii – and they’re adding 2-3 titles per week. For Retrogamers, the VC alone is a system seller.

The 360 is a worthy contender to the title, but for the sheer amount of quality titles and innovation available to us, the Wii reigns supreme and is our 2007 System of the Year.
_Alex Lucard


GAME OF THE YEAR

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Before I go into explaining why Mario Galaxy is one of the best games released in the last year, let me admit something, I have not really been impressed with the Wii since I’ve bought one. For a couple months my Wii sat unplugged unless I had friends over. For a short time I even regretted purchasing the system. Until Mario Galaxy was released.

Video games in the last couple of years seem to have little in common with the video games most of us grew up with. That’s not a bad thing as it’s important for any medium to strive to find new ways to grow and expand into new areas and with the jumps in technology we’re seeing video games come out with interactive plot lines that are at least as good as, if not better than some movies out there. There are also a lot of new games trying to find new ways to expand and create addictive multiplayer modes, and other games pushing the graphics barrier to new levels. So in many ways it’s refreshing that Mario Galaxy doesn’t try to do any of that. Instead it focuses on what made most of us fall in love with video games in the first place by focusing on just creating an enjoyable experience.

I know some people who’ve never played a Mario game before Galaxy who love it. My wife loved it so much she barely put it down for the first week we had it. Part of the reason the game is able to reach out to so many people is because the developers cut out all the extra junk in other games. The user interface doesn’t require 8 buttons to figure out. There’s no complex plot about saving the world, you’re just Mario saving the Princess, again. The level design works the same way, a bunch of simple concepts that are easy to pick up on, but designed so well that it’s ingenuous. The level design is some of the best design in almost any video game out there.

Put it all together and it’s a supremely well designed game that anyone can play and enjoy. Which essentially is what Nintendo is trying to accomplish with the Wii, and why I believe it is the Game of the Year for 2007. I can’t think of another game release in the last year that not only is a system seller, but also represents what should be expected of the console from now on.
_ Matt Yaeger