2007 Diehard Gamefan Staff Commentaries

A comprehensive look back at what we individually deemed the best of 2007. So that means even Madden has a shot of being recognized! Maybe…

We’ve done a collective Gaming Awards for 2007, but that represents us as a whole. If you were to ask each member of the staff independently what floated our boats for the year you’d get a wide variety of answers. In addition to loving the Halos, Marios and Bioshocks we had a bunch of niche stuff and things that aren’t always recognized like Persona 3, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, Naruto Rise of a Ninja, Etrian Odyssey, Shady O’Grady’s Rising Star, Earth Defense Force 2017, and even Karous and Last Hope for the Sega Dreamcast. We’re an eclectic bunch aren’t we?

See what ranked as our personal top games and check out our opinions as a whole for the 2K7. Maybe some of you will even identify with us. Stranger things have happened…

Chris Pankonin’s Top 10
Senior Editor

1. Halo 3 (XB360)
2. BioShock (XB360)
3. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
4. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare (XB360)
5. NCAA College Hoops 2K8 (XB360)
6. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
7. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)
8. The Simpsons Game (XB360)
9. Madden NFL 08 (XB360)
10. NCAA Football 08 (XB360)

I actually voted for BioShock as Xbox 360 game of the year because I think it was the all around best game – not my favorite – that award goes to Halo 3. The reasoning is that it captivated my apartment, roommates, and myself for 3 straight months. I had never truly appreciated how fun Halo could be until there were 4 of us in the same room playing online in a ranked game. It got even better when friends of mine from another city were doing the same thing, along with my brother and some of his friends at another spot – and another guy’s friends at another spot that resulted in a 16 player battle. It was really fun and competitive and honestly the best time I’d had playing any video game in a long, long time.

BioShock on the other hand was an outstanding single player experience. Few FPS’s hold my attention long enough to complete the sometimes boring and repetitive levels (I still haven’t “Finished the Fight” on Halo 3) – I wanted to keep getting power ups and see what was next. It was a great game with a convenient release date – late summer – when not a whole lot was going on.

The rest of my list is filled with sports games, which again fall into the “favorites” over whether they’re the BEST games of the year. Madden and the College games have their flaws, but no matter what I still buy them and still spend hours finishing seasons and dynasties. The Simpsons Game is a good platformer with great audio and humor, Super Mario Galaxy is what I expected it to be, and Resident Evil is a late addition – I hadn’t played it until I noticed all the rave reviews the fellow staff were giving it – went out and bought it last week and love it!

Here’s to hoping 2008 sees a big improvement…and maybe even a reason for me to buy a PS3!

Guy Desmarais’ Top 10
International Correspondent, Canada

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
2. Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (DS)
3. Guitar Hero 3 (Wii)
4. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
5. Zack & Wiki Quest For Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii)
6. NHL 08 (XB360)
7. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare (XB360)
8. Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)
9. Sin & Punishment (VC)
10. Blades of Steele (VC)

Super Mario Galaxy and the new Legend of Zelda are the best games of their respective series I have played since the N64 days. Guitar Hero 3 was criticized for a lack of innovation, but I’m still playing it way too much despite having finished every songs a long time ago. These three games have been my addiction for this year.

Super Paper Mario is about as innovative as the series has been since it jumped into the third dimension, and it did so by going back to 2D. Zack & Wiki showed that even third party publishers can do something good on the Wii when they give it a try.

Even though I only own a Wii and a DS, I spent a lot of time at my friend’s place this year, and I could enjoy both NHL 08 and Call of Duty 4. NHL 08 marks the first time playing a video game actually feels like a real game of hockey, while COD4 took me back to the days of Goldeneye, with exciting 4-players shooting fests.

Mario Strikers Charged marked Nintendo’s incursion into online multiplayer gaming, and it did the job admirably. Sin & Punishment might be an N64 game, but it was released for the first time in North America this year. I had heard a lot about it, but didn’t realize how awesome it was until I was shooting at the Earth. Not it’s population, but the planet itself, which was happily shooting back. It deserved a spot on that list for that simple fact.

On the other hand, Blades of Steel had been released in North America previously, but it’s appearance on the Virtual Console right on Christmas Eve was probably the best present Nintendo and Konami could have given to a hockey fan like me. Sure it’s old, but it still manages to be more entertaining than 99% of the hockey games I have played since it’s original release all the way back in 1988.

Matt Yaeger’s Top 10
Contributing Editor/Writer

1. Halo 3 (XB360)
2. The Orange Box (XB360)
3. Mass Effect (XB360)
4. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
5. The Elder Scrolls IV Shivering Isles (XB360)
6. Final Fantasy VI Advance (GBA)
7. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
8. Puzzle Quest (Multi)
9. Rainbow Six Vegas (XB360)
10. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)

I don’t know if it’s been a great year for gaming, but it certainly has been a fantastic couple of months recently. Actually, thinking about it, it has been a great year. I can barely think of any games that I’ve personally purchased that I regretted buying later. Since this is also still early in the lifespan of all of the current major consoles I’m looking forward to seeing what will churn out over the next year as they get more and more comfortable. I’m particularly looking for the Wii to step up in the next year. It has a large user base, but most of my disappointments from 2007 came from badly made Wii games. Here’s hoping that changes in 2008.

Lee Baxley’s Top 5
Senior Writer

1. Orange Box (XB360)
2. Rock Band (XB360)
3. Bioshock (XB360)
4. Mass Effect (XB360)
5. Assassin’s Creed (XB360)

Is it obvious what my favorite system is? Sadly, I don’t own a Wii, so I haven’t been able to play those games, so due to that and financial crises, I only have 5 top games for the year. I’m sure there are many others that I simply never played, but are likely very good (Super Mario Galaxy, Call of Duty 4, to name a couple).

Those I did play were excellent, however. Orange Box is easily the best value on any system, with the fun multiplayer Team Fortress 2, the classic FPS Half Life 2 and its excellent Episodes, and of course, the greatest game of the year, Portal. Please, Valve, please bring us new Portal content!!

Rock Band is the best party game EVER, and also the most fun I’ve had in years, and it gets better everytime new content is released, which has been weekly so far. Not to mention the community content that has been included in the Rock Band site.

Bioshock simply blew me away with its level design. Sure the game isn’t the greatest FPS ever, but it’s pretty close. The storytelling is good and the levels are fantastic, and it’s just fun. At the same time, Mass Effect is a ton of fun…sometimes. The story is awesome, though the conversation system is quite overrated. The combat irks me to this day, but the planetary Mako exploration makes up for it. Lastly, Assassin’s Creed is a great game with great graphics and great exploration, but it gets simply too repetitive at times.

It was a good year to be a gamer, with the 360 hitting its stride and totally dominating the PS3 in exclusives, and even the cross platform games usually perform better. The Wii has come out with more quality titles, but the question still is does it have the staying power? We need more companies to devote the R&D time to making quality stuff for the Wii, because the first party titles will start to dry up soon.

Michael O’Reilly’s Top 10
International Correspondent, Canada

1. Bioshock (XB360)
2. Rock Band (Multi)
3. Ratchet & Clank Future Tools of Destruction (PS3)
4. Halo 3 (XB360)
5. Crackdown (XB360)
6. God of War 2 (PS2)
7. Mass Effect (XB360)
8. Uncharted Drakes Fortune (PS3)
9. Call of Duty 4 (XB360)
10. World In Conflict (PC)

A year that started off with immense expectations of personal bankruptcy due to the number of fantastic games which were expected to be released actually wound up being a bit of a let down. With games like GTA4 and Mercenaries 2 being pushed back into 2008, 2007 lost much of the oomph which could have made it the gold standard in terms of games released. Having said that there were still some fantastic games released. God of War 2 proved that there was still (STILL!!!!) life left in the PS2’s old bones, while Uncharted and Ratchet & Clank Future finally showed that there was some (SOME) life in the Playstation 3. The Xbox 360 staggered like a drunken pirate through 2007. Hardware issues FINALLY got the attention of the press and the company was forced to swallow a billion dollar pill to extend the 360 warranty and replace all the junk that they rushed out the door. Despite that they had a very solid batch of exclusive titles, headlined by Halo 3 and my game of the year, Bioshock. Throw in Mass Effect, which was good but not great, and Assassins Creed, which was an acquired taste but still quite beautiful, and you had something of a banner year for Microsoft. Still, one gets the feeling that this was the year for Microsoft to slay the sleeping dragon at Sony, yet failed to do so because of it’s constant missteps. Finally the Nintendo Wii, which I named system of the year despite not owning one, because I STILL can’t find one to purchase. It may not have the best games of the year, it may, I couldn’t say, but Nintendo is laughing all the way to the bank all over again, and any company that can capture lightning in a bottle like Nintendo has deserves the title of System of the Year.

Aaron Sirois’ Top 3
Staff Writer

1. Puzzle Quest Challenge of the Warlords (Multi)
2. Jeanne D’arc (PSP)
3. God of War II (PS2)

I picked up Puzzle Quest simply because it looked different, and the gamble paid off. Simple, yet deep enough to keep me playing for dozens of hours, which is something only a few games have ever succeeded in doing for me. This is the game that truly kicked off my love affair with my psp

-Final Fantasy Tactics is my favorite game of all time. However, I’ve never found a strategy rpg that ever compared in my eyes. (Yes even Disgaea, which is good, but not on the same level) Jeanne D’arc was the one to finally break that stranglehold. The gameplay was fun, and I came up with strategies for that game that I’ve never dreamed of doing in others. ( I pulled off my own version of the Hot Gates using the spear carriers which was just so awesome.) Not to mention, the story was truly incredible. It had real character development and a twist that shocked the hell out of me. I couldn’t put this game down for weeks.

God of War is EVERYTHING an action game should be. Its loud, violent, and a ton of fun. One of the few complete packages I’ve ever played. The story isn’t quite up to the level of the first game, but still holds. The voice acting and music is still some of the best EVER. The graphics are perfect. The mix technical and artistic touches to really make the ps2 sweat. And of course, the gameplay was top notch, with plenty of amazing boss fights, and perfectly paced level design, along with those classic quick time events. I don’t have a complaint to make here.

J. Rose’s Top 10
Art Production Manager

1. Earth Defense Force 2017 (XB360)
2. Monster Hunter Freedom 2 (PSP)
3. Etrian Odyssey (DS)
4. Sherlock Holmes The Awakened (PC)
5. Rock Band (Multi)
6. The Witcher (PC)
7. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
8. Persona 3 (PS2)
9. Warriors of The Lost Empire (PSP)
10. The Legend of Zelda the Phantom Hourglass (DS)

Earth Defense Force is a screwy pick I know, but anyone who gave the game a shot, I’m certain can understand to some degree. Hands down, I haven’t had as much fun with any other title all this year. With all the sophisticated AI and Ben Hur inspired story lines in most of our modern games, there is something extra special about a game that just allows me to smite a seemingly infinite army of giant insects and robots with magic guns that never run out of ammo, and do more damage to the city then the alien menace I’m protecting it from.

Monster Hunter Freedom 2, though an acquired taste, is a very fine vintage if your down with it’s sort of thing. There are few games that can literally make me feel so bad, yet feel so good at the same time, and a similar emotion was felt for my time spent in the many old school dungeons of Etrain Odyssey.

I usually am very hit or miss with adventure games. Nowadays the same level of craftsmanship has not been apparent in the genre, and many of the current entries exist as single run cash-ins released at budget prices. Though the later may be true of the Sherlock Holmes romp that made my personal list, the former certainly isn’t. Mr. Holmes vs. Cthulhu is an undeniable recipe for kick ass right out of the gate, and it’s graciously fortified by interesting mechanics, an extremely well written story, and an incredible atmosphere.

Though I’d be the first of the group to probably suggest we try playing “real” instruments instead, I have to honestly admit that Rock Band as an experience was actually a whole heck of a lot of fun. And I haven’t played any of the Guitar Hero games. The momentum will indefinitely wane after awhile, and that’s not a great thing given the price of the product collectively, however, it’s great fun while it lasts, and downloadable tracks will give you reason to beat your pads and strum your plastic again, after the out of the box excitement is killed.

The Witcher, though not a ground breaking RPG by any means, deserves recognition and attention simply for the way it goes about things. The bleak and dismal atmosphere presents itself full force during all of your multiple hours playing the game, and the subjective nature of the game’s many quests and the constant challenge of your main character’s morality in specific situations sets this RPG against anything but the stereotypical good vs. evil backdrop.

Unfortunately, one of the few times I actually, genuinely smiled whilst playing my Nintendo Wii this year, was during my time with Super Paper Mario. Wonderfully stylistic, cleverly executed, and (no surprise) very charming. In my personal opinion, it was one hell of a platformer as well.

The persona series has always been my favorite extension of the Shin Megami series, most likely because it was my very first exposure to the games state side. persona 3 certainly didn’t disappoint, though it did get tedious at times. A decent concept, great art and music, and an endearing high school simulator incorporated into the flow of things, kept the game memorable.

Warriors of the Lost Empire? What the hell’s that? Yeah I know. But if your a fan of dungeon hacks (or even beat em’ ups) in any form or fashion, this obscure PSP gem is absolute bliss. Trading up the traditional “hack, hack, hack, dead, hack, hack, hack, dead” gameplay of most dungeon hacks of recent memory for a very polished, precise and satisfying beat em’ up style combat motif, Warriors of The Last Empire is one that won’t pop up on any radars, but should definitely be checked out if your into the sort of thing.

Ah, and finally The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass. Stylistically the game is new school Zelda all the way, which I for one am all for, and the touch screen control has got to be to most effective and functional I’ve experienced with a DS game. I loved the characters and the adventure collectively, but I positively hated the trademark Zelda “novelty” this time around. The hourglass sections were a bit much to swallow at times, and really distracted me from the excellent balance and flow the game set up until those points. But still, I’ll take whatever Zelda I can get, and the pros far out weigh the cons with this installment.

Other honorable mentions this year, though I won’t go into detail Valhalla Knights (PSP); Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (Wii); The Darkness (PS3); Dungeon Maker Hunting Ground (PSP); Drawn of Life (DS); Metropolismania 2 (PS2); Front Mission First (DS); Bullet Witch (XB360); Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)

Chuck Platt’s Top 10
Senior Writer

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
2. Front Mission DS (DS)
3. Total Extreme Wrestling 2007 (PC)
4. Trigger Heart Excelica (DC)
5. Last Hope (DC)
6. Karous (DC)
7. Dragon Quest Monsters Joker (DS)
8. Pokemon D/P (DS)
9. Puzzle Quest (DS)
10. Sin and Punishment (VC)

Well, 2007 was the year of the old school shooter for me and the select few who still own Dreamcasts… (Editor’s Note: Yup. And that’s our Chuck Platt ladies and gentlemen. A subtle, contemplative man. And a man of very few words. Very, very, very, very, very… few words.)

A.J. Angeloni’s Top 10
Contributing Editor/Writer

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
2. Zack and Wiki (Wii)
3. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (DS)
4. The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (DS)
5. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
6. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)
7. Sin and Punishment (VC)
8. Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn (Wii)
9. WarioWare Smooth Moves (Wii)
10. Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations (DS)

Yeah, yeah I know…all Nintendo. But what do you expect from a guy who up until this past holiday season only owned Nintendo systems for the last 7 years? Next year I’m sure the 360 will corrupt my Nintendo soul as I’m already discovering how great it truly is, but this year belonged to the Wii for me and my list reflects that. The only game I’m going to comment on is Super Mario Galaxy since it is my game of the year. It redefined the platformer genre for me. In fact it has single handedly given new life to a dying genre that may have found it’s savior. Every nuance of the game makes me smile. The gravity effects, the puzzles, the bosses, and all the nostalgia meld together to concoct the near perfect game for 2007. After completing it with both Mario and Luigi, and collecting every star possible, I figured I would be all Galaxied out, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a game I’ll come back to again and again as it just hits all the right notes and proves the Big N remains one of the best game developers in the world. Twilight Princess may have set the standard for the Wii in the beginning, but Galaxy shattered that standard and at the same time redefined gaming for an entire generation who will discover the innate charm of Mario all over again.

Misha’s Top 10
International Correspondent, UK

1. SingStar Rock Ballads (PS2)
2. Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)
3. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (DS)
4. SingStar Next Gen (PS3)
5. Guitar Hero III (Multi)
6. Resistance Fall Of Man (PS3)
7. Lego Star Wars 2 Original Trilogy (GC)
8. Smackdown vs Raw 2008 (Wii)
9. More Brain Training (DS)
10. Metal Slug Anthology (Wii)

I was pretty late to the party on NextGen consoles (bought my Wii this Christmas), but I have friends who early-adopt. SingStar has been my big franchise this year; It’s just *so* much fun, especially in a group, and Rock Ballads gets the nod because of its fantastic track selection. GH does the job as well, but I’ve always been more of a singer. Twilight Princess isn’t perfect, but it’s excellent, Pokemon brought all sorts of newness, and SvR2k8 on the Wii compelling (primitive, but fun). Resistance was highly underrated, and hours of fun in Co-Op mode.

Bryan Berg’s Top 3
Senior Writer

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
2. NHL “Ëœ08 (XB360)
3. Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 (XB360)

I generally find that of all the games I play, sports games are my favorites. They’re quick to play and easy to understand. There were two sports games that sprung to mind this year. NHL 08 took the series to a whole new level this year; I can’t say enough about it. It’s actual hockey – what a concept! The ridiculous hits are a thing of the past, as are the obscene goal totals. You’re just as likely to play a 1-0 game as you are to play an 8-5 game. Even the commentary isn’t repetitive. Certainly a refreshing change over last year’s game, and if it didn’t freeze up all the time, it’d be even better. Another franchise that caught my eye was Winning Eleven, which I had never played before. I got really into English soccer this year, and Winning Eleven did a far better job of matching the nuances of the European game than FIFA did. In Winning Eleven, your players get tired if they play in too many games. You routinely play in different tournaments during the season, and your best players are constantly being pulled away for international duty. And, most importantly, the gameplay is excellent. Goals are reasons for celebration, and the replays help you to really admire your handiwork. There were quite a few great sports games this year, but these two take the cake.

But in a year of quality sports titles, Super Mario Galaxy was the game that stole my heart. Even though I wanted to like it, I didn’t know I’d absolutely love it. Super Mario Galaxy was the game that finally got me to turn off the Virtual Console and actually explore the capabilities of the Wii. I’ve never felt so involved in a game; it was as though I was in the game. Given the planet-jumping nature of the game, that’s saying something. The controls were very easy to learn, and the game itself has a great difficulty curve – it’s not overly difficult, but can be very challenging at times. I’m a bit of a jaded gamer, but this game gave me some hope for the future of gaming. Super Mario Galaxy is one of the most fun games I’ve ever played, and I loved it more with every level I played.

Christopher Bowen’s Top 10
Managing Editor

1. Football Manager ’08 (PC)
2. NHL ’08 (XB360)
3. Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn (Wii)
4. Dynasty Warriors Gundam (XB360)
5. Planet Puzzle League (DS)
6. Contra 4 (DS)
7. NBA 2K8 (XB360)
8. Puzzle Quest Challenge of the Warlords (Multi)
9. Jeanne D’Arc (PSP)
10. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

What a year. This year was less notable for the games that DID make the top 10 than it was for those that DIDN’T; nowhere on this list are games like Mass Effect, PGR4, Forza Motorsport 2, or most of the other big-name releases. What a year; I can’t remember a year that had this many good releases, and I’m not even counting the downloadable for Live or the VC.

Unfortunately, I wonder if this is the calm before the storm. Games are simply costing too much money to make, and therefore, as the stakes are getting higher, games are becoming more focus-grouped, and it’s safer to make a re-release, or focus energies on the casual audience than it is to release an innovative game that carries more risk, as one mistake is enough to kill a company nowadays. There were a lot of great releases this year, but I worry that too much money is going to be necessary to keep this trend up. I almost wonder if we’re heading for another crash like we saw in 1983.

Let’s hope for the best, but at least if that happens, there were enough top-notch releases in 2007 to last us for awhile.

Charlie Marsh’s Top 10
Staff Writer

1. Metroid Prime 3 Corruption (Wii)
2. Sin & Punishment (VC)
3. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
4. Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels (VC)
5. Contra 4 (DS)
6. Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles (PSP)
7. Ninja Gaiden (VC)
8. Bubble Bobble (VC)
9. NiGHTS Journey of Dreams (Wii)
10. Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (DS)

Well, I’m limited by the number of systems I have, and certainly limited by the amount of money I have to spend on each system, so I know I missed quite a lot this year, but here’s my personal top ten. Most of my gaming came from the Virtual Console (easily making Wii my favorite console EVER) as I’ve been able to get some great classic games that I never owned as a kid. Ninja Gaiden and Bubble Bobble are two of my favorites, but the two import games, Lost Levels and Sin & Punishment were easily worth the $18 I spent. I can see why they thought Lost Levels was too hard for release here in the States (though I’d still have preferred it to SMB 2) but it’s still awesome, and the challenge keeps me coming back for more. And Sin & Punishment is one of the most unique and fun games I’ve played in recent years.

For handheld games, three of the latest installments of some classic franchises came my way this year. Phantom Hourglass was good, but nothing totally blew me away about it. I like how interactive it is, though I feel a little silly yelling into my DS’s mic every now and then. Maybe it’s just because I’m a quiet guy or maybe it’s just the old-school-oriented gamer in me that would just rather play a game like that with a regular controller. Speaking of old-school, it didn’t get more old-school than Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles and Contra 4, each of which had some updated graphics but played practically the same as the originals, which is the quickest way to my heart.

I never played the original NiGHTS, so I can’t be disappointed by comparing it to the original, but I thought it was still fun, if a little hard to control. At least it didn’t make me scream at it to get ahead like Phantom Hourglass. Super Mario Galaxy is amazing, though some of its more headache-inducing levels, where you’re switching gravity every ten feet bumped it down the list a bit. It’s fun and all but, damn, I can’t play it for very long before I get dizzy. No complaints about number one. Well, maybe one: Metroid Prime 3 is too short! I wanted more! It’s as close to a perfect game as I’ve ever gotten my hands on. Every aspect of it’s gameplay is as innovative as you can get, placing you right into Samus’ armor, which sounds a lot dirtier than it should, but you know what I mean. Just amazing.

So, like I said before, I’m missing out on some great games due to lack of options and lack of fundage, but what I have is certainly keeping me busy. I’m definitely looking forward to 2008…maybe I’ll finally get my hands on a 360. Maybe.

Dave Olvera’s Top 10
Contributing Editor/Writer

1. Persona 3 (PS2)
2. Out of the Park Baseball 8 (PC)
3. Shady O’Grady’s Rising Star (PC)
4. Neo-Geo Battle Colluseum (PS2)
5. Lifesigns Surgical Unit (DS)
6. Deirdra Kiai’s Chilvary is Not Dead (PC)
7. Mass Effect (XB360)
8. The King of Fighters XI (PS2)
9. Firepro Wrestling Returns (PS2)
10. Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations (DS)

The first thing you are going to notice about this list is that you probably have not heard of three of the games listed here. Some of you will have heard of the dynasty that is OOTP so that leaves only two games on this list you have no clue about.

I have peculiar tastes. I tried Assassin’s Creed and that game did not take. I am not a fan of first person shooters, not even Half-Life (which I will admit is amazing but just not for me). Portal looked interesting but I wanted the game solo. I did not want Team Fortress 2 or Half-Life, just Portal (I know I can get the game now, alone, by purchasing a new video card but that is just too extravagant for me right now).

Out of the Park Baseball, well it is a baseball management simulation that offers a player many ways to set up a baseball league. Version 8 uses real players and real team names; which is a great entry point for new folks. Overall a fun game that has a niche audience, but that audience is much obliged when a new version comes out.

In the end Shady O’Grady’s Rising Star (a band management sim game) and Deirdra Kiai’s Chilvary is Not Dead embody what games can be when the “little guy” decides to make a game. Rising Star lets me try to make a band successful but does not bother me with a Guitar Freaks for the USA style of gameplay (I tried Guitar Freaks and DrumMania but they did not take). I guided a band from a hard touring PNW (that is Pacific Northwest for you not in the know) indy darling to an on the cusp of complete national success. Egos clashed and the band started coming apart at the seams because I decided to not read the manual and find out how to keep folks happy. My imagination was loose and told me that they would definitely be in the pages of The Big Takeover or Magnet in a story about bands that should have made it but didn’t.

Chilvary is Not Dead takes the idea of choice and runs with it. The game can end in so many ways, in so many locations, from so many choices that you discover it is actually quite difficult to break out of your own thought patterns. CIND is a smart game. The game is well written and just so smart you cannot help but smile while playing it. While many developers laud the idea of giving a person choice in a game but never have I seen this many paths to take to different destinations. The adventurous spirit in me was very pleased.

The rest of the games on this list are pretty darned good. Persona 3 took the sub-series in a new direction. Mass Effect created a new world that was interesting enough to want to learn more about. SNK brought the good fight back to my PS2. 2007 was a good year for games, even if the games were not always what everyone else played.

Mark B.’s Top 10
Contributing Editor/Writer

1. Persona 3 (PS2)
2. Mass Effect (XB360)
3. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)
4. Trauma Center Second Opinion (Wii)
5. Monster Hunter Freedom 2
6. Front Mission DS (DS)
7. Rock Band (XB360)
8. Earth Defense Force 2017 (XB360)
9. Spider-Man Friend or Foe (Multi)
10. The Darkness (XB360)

God, there are so many games I wanted to include on this list that I couldn’t even put on here; Virtua Fighter 5 with online for the 360, the GBA re-release of Final Fantasy VI (one of the best RPG’s ever, I don’t care what anyone says), Raving Rabbids 2, Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles, Warriors of the Lost Empire (one of the best PSP games this year), Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star, a JP only 2D fighting game for PS2), Etrian Odyssey, and even more… the list goes on and on. But we’re limited to ten, and of everything I played this year, the ten I picked were the best I played.

Persona 3 was a prime example of old-school dungeon crawling goodness mixed with old-school sensibilities and heavy plot emphasis, and it WORKED. Mass Effect was an action RPG with a strong story and fun gameplay that was a strong resurgence for Bioware… just in time for them to be bought out by EA, but nevermind. Fire Pro Returns was an American localization of one of the greatest wrestling franchises in Japan, and a long time dream for yours truly. Trauma Center Second Opinion was the great gameplay from the first game, only with 2-player co-op making it even better. Monster Hunter Freedom 2 was great times with friends slaying giant monsters in snowy fields. Front Mission DS was the first time I actually found myself enjoying a series that, until recently, I wanted to love but always hated. Rock Band was the ultimate four-player party game and a really amazing multiplayer experience in general. Earth Defense Force 2017, despite being not very good on a technical level, was and remains an absolutely insane blast to play. Spider-Man Friend or Foe is a fun, simple 3D beat-em-up that is, surprisingly, GOOD considering how many Spider-Man games aren’t. And the Darkness was a truly innovative FPS with a strong narrative, well-written characters and enjoyable gameplay.

2007 was a great year for gaming, all told, and here’s hoping 2008 is even better.

Jonathan Widro’s Top 10

1. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
2. The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (NDS)
3. Odin Sphere (PS2)
4. Link’s Crossbow Training (Wii)
5. Rock Band (XB360)
6. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
7. Contra 4 (DS)
8. LocoRoco Cocoreccho! (PSN)
9. Ratchet and Clank Future (PS3)
10. Prince of Persia (XBLA)

Never before have I felt like one of those old guys who only listens to classic rock and rants about how bands today don’t rock. Or something. Unless it’s a platformer, 2D or an classic Nintendo franchise, I don’t give it much play these days. That being said, there were a ton of strong games this year in my core group. Imagine a year where we got both a Mario 2d platformer and a full new entry in the core series? As well as a Zelda for DS.

With constant talk about how Wii and DS are drifting away from the hardcore Nintendo fanboys, it’s nice to see a solid 2007 lineup and speculated 2008 lineup of classics and upgrades. Also with escalating game budgets, it’s encouraging for an old school fan like me to see so many outlets for cool 2D and lower budget niche titles on the downloadable networks and handhelds.

Odin Sphere knocked me out when I got it earlier this year, and I even went and picked up the Saturn prequel for PSP (Princess Crown). Sony continued to build a nice little library for PS3 under the radar, and 360 continued to offer nearly nothing I’m interested in playing.

I had glimpses of the major mainstream 2007 games (Halo 3, Bio Shock, Mass Effect, etc) and they are what they are – just not for me.

Bebito Jackson’s Top 10
Director of Marketing & Public Relations

1. Mass Effect (XB360)
2. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
3. Naruto Rise of a Ninja (XB360)
4. The Legend Of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (NDS)
5. Virtua Fighter 5 (XB360)
6. Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn (Wii)
7. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
8. Ratchet & Clank Future Tools of Destruction (PS3)
9. Eternal Sonata (XB360)
10. Contra 4 (DS)

So is it possible that this was the best year for gaming ever? Am I just delusional? Is no one seeing all this besides me? Nearly every single genre had at least one defining title. There was Super Mario Galaxy. Debatably the greatest 3D platformer of all-time. There was Virtua Fighter 5. Debatably the greatest 3D fighter of all-time. There was Naruto Rise of a Ninja. Debatably the greatest anime license game of all-time (for North America; Slayers Royal for the Sega Saturn never released in Region 1 so this wins by default). There was The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The most innovative addition to the franchise since the series went 3D in 1998. There was Halo 3, Bioshock, The Orange Box, and Call of Duty 4. I’m not even a fan of the genre and I can admit those are all awesome, probably making 2007 the greatest year for first person shooters ever. And oh yeah, one Mario platformer wasn’t enough for you? Ok you get two, with the other melding together 2D and 3D platforming elements.

And then there was Mass Effect. Now Mass Effect is chock FULL of flaws. Item management is retarded. Money is practically useless. Allowing only 10 save slots is asinine. It’s got balancing issues. Your AI squad mates like wandering off and shooting at walls. Yup, warts all over the place. And guess what? None of that matters. Mass Effect is one of the most captivating games I’ve ever played. Despite the occasional plot hole I can honestly say that interactive story-telling is taken to a whole new level here. The universe is so gripping, the characters and digital performances so believable, the story so great, and the graphics so remarkable that you can’t help but be sucked in. Oh yeah, and it’s fun to play (sometimes people forget that’s important). Just all around incredible. It’s worth every dime of that sixty dollar purchase for the last four hours alone.

Even with all that said I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg here. We got a new Metriod, a new 3D Castlevania featuring 2D gameplay, a new God of War, Odin Sphere, two new Ratchet & Clanks, new Pokemon games that continue to smash sales records proving the series’ longevity, new music games whose popularity further inculcate gaming into pop culture… Even the freaking Dreamcast is alive, releasing two (import) traditional shooters that we nominated for best in the genre. Oh my god, people. The only way this year could have gotten any more incredible is if Sega mended fences with Camelot and released a next-gen remake of the Shining Force III Trilogy in English, pretending as though the Neo and EXA games never existed. Of course that will never happen so I’ll just have to make due without a great tactical strategy role playi… oh wait, what’s this? Jeanne d’Arc? Fire Emblem?? Sweet Christ, I love 2007.

Alex Lucard’s Top 10
Editor in Chief

1. Raving Rabbids 2. (Wii)
2. Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (PS2)
3. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (DS)
4. Trigger Heart Excella. (Sega Dreamcast)
5. Spider-Man Friend or Foe (PS2)
6. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)
7. Guitar Hero 3 (XB360)
8. Carnival Games (Wii)
9. Last Hope (Sega Dreamcast)
10. Dracula X Chronicles (PSP)

At first I really wanted to write that 2007 was the worst year for gaming in a long time. The average score a game got from me review-wise this year was 5.57. As I look back though, it just turned out I spent much of 2007 playing a lot of great games – they just weren’t the ones I reviewed. For every Grim Grimoire, Hoshigamii, Growlanser V, or Sacred Rings that I played there was a Persona 3, Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, Super Mario Galaxy or Rock Band. And NONE of those excellent games made my top ten.

For me, this year was a return to awesomeness for the Dreamcast. Import gamers received not one, but three amazing shooters for this long thought dead console. Trigger Heart Excella and Last Hope played very different from each other, but both captured my heart. That’s what my top ten list really was. Not the best made games or the most visually stunning, but the games I had the most fun with.

2007 gave me a Rabbids game I loved even more than the original. It gave me the first high quality SNK fighter in years. It gave me an amazing Pokemon game to wash away the stink of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald as well as the DS’s general suckiness. THE gave me a fighter that involved chucking large ships at other large ships. Spider-Man FoF was the best beat ’em up I’ve played in years and made me laugh multiple times throughout the game. It’s been a long time since games made me laugh. 2007 gave me a Resident Evil game I can finally call good instead of crappy story mixed with crappy controls as well an awesome light gun game that has the disadvantage of hurting your wrist if you play it for too long. GH3 became my favorite in the series for Co-Op career mode, Carnival Games was the party game of choice with my friends for many months, and Last Hope was the second of two Dreamcast shooters that made this list and reminded me that the glory days of Sega consoles are not quite done if you know where to look. Finally Dracula X gave Americans not only Rondo of Blood for the first time, but a portable version of SOTN.

I may have reviewed a ton of stinkers this year, but the quality games of 2007 still stand out prominently for me.







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