The Year in Review 2007 Feature - The Next Level

The Year in Review 2007

A look back at the staff's top picks of 2007.

Article by TNL Staff (Email)
January 12th 2008, 05:50AM
 

Andrew M's Top Five Picks of 2007

5. Picross DS (Nintendo DS)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Jupiter


Much has been made of this title's addictive nature, and for good reason. It's just so very difficult to put down. Simple math and block puzzles make for curious bedfellows, but alas, they found themselves in the throes of passion and begat a damned engaging handheld experience. In addition to the many hours worth of puzzles included in the actual game, more are continuously released via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. It's extremely approachable and will have you hooked within minutes. Given its budget asking price, Picross DS is a must-own.
 

4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations (Nintendo DS)
Publisher: Capcom   Developer: Capcom


 
The third and final episode of the Phoenix Wright trilogy smartly corrects the missteps of Justice For All. The pacing is back on track, the characters are quirkier than ever, and the cases are neatly executed with the perfect mix of humor and gravity. Old friends return both in critical roles and fan-service cameos. Likewise, old enemies also return-- sometimes in ways that will make PW enthusiasts cream their shorts. Speaking of enemies, this installment sees the introduction of Prosecutor Godot, who is perhaps the coolest villain in contemporary gaming. His one-liners and coffee metaphors remain amusing much longer than they should. The entire affair reaches its apex in the final case, which is nothing short of a brilliant coalescence of events from several pervious cases. It's a bittersweet end to a most satisfying story, but you can't ask for a better send-off.
 

3. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (Nintendo DS)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Cing Inc.


 
This game exploits my weaknesses for detective stories and the neo-noir motif. Many other games received higher overall ratings, but few sucked me in like Hotel Dusk. The moody tone makes the somewhat rundown hotel really come to life, and with few exceptions, the soundtrack does much to complement this feeling. Every character has a unique personality, emphasized both in their pencil-drawn facial features and impeccably written dialogue. The entire package makes for a wonderfully atmospheric and engrossing experience. It's less game and more interactive novel, but it's a damn good one. We need more titles like this.

 

2. BioShock (Xbox 360, PC)
Publisher: 2K Games   Developer: Irrational Games


 
Roger Ebert says that games aren't art. While many already-existing titles handily disprove his assertion, this dystopian first-person shooter drives the point home like no other. As you traverse the crumbling underwater city of Rapture, questions of morality and human nature abound. Oh, and it's also a hell of a game. BioShock is one of the most visually stunning experiences to be had anywhere, and the creative use of aural effects nicely adds to the presentation. Considering that there are absolutely no penalties for dying, the suspense level is surprisingly high. It's a shining example of what the modern video game should be. Go out and buy it now. Heck, buy a second copy to send to Mr. Ebert, along with a message to stick it up his pompous fat ass. Sideways.

 

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Nintendo

 
While it's true that you can never go back and relive the cherished memories of your youth, Galaxy provides the next best thing. This game is precisely what Super Mario Sunshine wasn't: a true-blue successor to the legendary Super Mario 64. It's not as innovative as the plumber's first three-dimensional outing; however, what it lacks in novelty, it more than makes up for in imagination. Beautiful level designs, insane gravity effects, and an astonishing soundtrack all meet here, and the result is pure, concentrated happiness. The journey to the end credits is easy enough for the younger crowd, but collecting all 120 stars requires traversing some borderline-sadistic levels that will leave even the most hardcore gamer with sweaty palms. Super Mario Galaxy is the best game of 2007, and it might just be the best game of the past several years.


2007 Overview

My first year writing for GotNext also happened to be the best year ever in terms of quality games. I simply can't remember a year that has offered so much choice. My dreadfully backlogged queue of games that I have yet to play is overflowing to unprecedented levels. But what really strikes me more than anything else is how much time I've spent playing my DS. With so many excellent titles, it's clear that handheld gaming has evolved from a portable substitute to a full-fledged gaming experience.

My other big observation is the proverbial elephant in the room: the dismal performance of the PS3. How has such a mighty brand managed to fall so hard and so quickly? The so-called "killer apps" are still specks on the horizon. In the meantime, almost everything worth playing on the PS3 is readily available on the Xbox 360, and often in better form. It would be premature to say that the Sony era is officially over and done, but the situation isn't pretty.

2008 Outlook

The new year promises to continue the trend of excellent titles released at a steady rate. If all the speculation is to be believed, this will be the year that I finally get to wrap my hands around Alan Wake. Super Smash Bros. Brawl looks to be a sure-fire winner, as well. On the hardware side, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft releases a new (read: functional) model of the 360, or if Nintendo unveils another DS redesign. The two-screened wonder is now in its fourth year on the market, so rumblings of a successor in the E3 season wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Most of all, I'm curious to see what Sony does to turn their situation around. Will the removal of backwards compatibility matter in the long term? Will the much-needed games finally arrive? How low does the price need to go before consoles start flying off shelves? There are a lot of questions here, and how Sony answers them will have considerable implications for the future of the industry.

Oh, and I would like it very much if my somewhat new 360 lives to see 2009.
 


 

Rich G's Top Five Picks of 2007

5. Madden 2008 (All Platforms)
Publisher: EA Sports   Developer: Electronic Arts


This was the year that Madden finally arrived on my Xbox 360. No longer feeling like an incomplete experience, it sported the crispest visuals yet, balanced gameplay that allowed you to (gasp!) run the ball as well as attack through the air, and a non-traditional Superstar Challenge that's much more than a tacked-on afterthought. Other than a few middling problems – way too many fumbles, a lame Super Bowl celebration, and no online leagues – there was a lot of enjoyable football being played around the Grisham household this summer.
 

4. MLB 2K7 (All Platfomrs)
Publisher: 2K Sports   Developer: Kush Games


 
It's rare that any title's graphics will truly impress a cranky old gamer like me. However, 2K's MLB 2K7 is easily the best-looking baseball game ever made, blowing away any and all comers on next-generation hardware. Even better, its addictive yet maddeningly difficult gameplay demands a dedication that many of us simply don't have. Thank God for treadmills, though, because as the spring melted into summer I had finally solved the riddle of how to successfully hit the ball and completed a full 162-game season and playoffs to win the World Series. There are few games that would ever get me to dedicate that much time to a season, but MLB 2K7 was simply that good.
 

3. MLB 07: The Show (PSP)
Publisher: SCEA   Developer: SCE


 
One of the things I miss the most from 2007 is taking the train every day and playing MLB 07: The Show on my PSP. Switching careers in the latter part of the year meant the virtual end of my handheld marathons, but not before I spent the better part of the summer head-down in The Show. This overlooked little gem is simply superb from top to bottom, including by far the most interesting single-player mode in the history of sports games. I still don't quite know how SCEA got all that gameplay onto one tiny little UMD, but there's no doubt that The Show made my daily commutes fly by with a lot of smiles.
 

2. NHL 08 (Xbox 360, PS2, PC, PS3)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Nintendo


 
This one was tough. I was excruciatingly close to making NHL 08 my game of the year – especially considering it’s currently my treadmill game of choice – because it's quite simply the best hockey game I have ever played. Better than Blades of Steel, better than the old Sega NHL titles, better than anything. The gorgeously simple mechanics (move with one analog stick, shoot with the other), silky-smooth 60 frames per second, and beautiful visuals will make this most sports fans game of choice, and it's a deserving candidate. There's no denying its brilliance, and may even turn non-believers on to the great, forgotten sport of hockey.
 

1. The Bigs (Xbox 360)
Publisher: 2K Games   Developer: Blue Castle Games

 
I spent the better part of the fall completely absorbed in The BIGS, which is incredibly strange for plenty of reasons. Not only was I barely interested in the game when it came out, I played it and liked it but then put it away after a few initial weeks goofing around with it. However, when the time came to pick a new treadmill game, I remembered how much I had liked it and decided to go through a full single-player season. That decision spawned two of the most enjoyable gaming months I can remember. The terribly original and entertaining single-player mode, combined with a challenging yet simplistic arcade-style gameplay, made for a rediscovery of what ultimately is my 2007 Game of the Year.



2007 Overview

There's a good chance that you'll peruse my list of 2007 favorites and grumble.....nothing but sports games? Well, friend, there's a compelling reason that in this year of an obscene amount of AAA titles, my top five games all involve athletics.

You see, 2007 was the greatest and most tumultuous year in my life. Not only did I welcome my first child, a son, in July, but I also changed careers in September, leaving a job I had held for 9 years in an agonizing decision that impacted me in more than a few ways. In short, I had to seriously compartmentalize my game time. Basically, there were no more late nights of playing whatever I wanted to until the wee hours. If it wasn't a review game, then about the only time I could really spend diving into a title was on the treadmill. And, since the treadmill suits itself perfectly for sports games and not shooters, role-players, or racers, the sporting genre literally took over my gaming life. Hence, my list above.

I did get a taste of a few of the big games in '07, though. BioShock? I really, really enjoyed what little I played, but I just didn't get nearly far enough to legitimately put it in the top 5. Halo 3? Spent an hour or two in the single-player campaign before getting dreadfully bored, and occasionally ventured online in some multiplayer action. It was exactly what I expected, with the exception that I didn't really "feel it" like I had in the past. Call of Duty 4? Probably made it through the first two or three levels, spent some time online, and called it a day. Great game, but just didn't have the time to dedicate to the multiplayer community to keep up with the rest of the world. Mass Effect? Assassin's Creed? Both still in the shrink wrap. Mario Galaxy? Metroid? No chance. I packed up my Wii a few months ago to avoid the little guy getting his hands all over it and haven't bothered to turn it on since.

I didn't set out to become a virtual sports loner in 2007. It just sort of happened. It's funny, because when I first started playing games in the '80s, all I did was play sports. In a way, I am getting back to my roots more than ever. And the best part about it? I'm having a hell of a lot of fun.

2008 Outlook

At this point, I am not sure how much farther my favorite games can go. Madden can get a little better, but not much. MLB 2K can open up the hitting a little bit. NHL..well, not sure what more can be done there. Same with The BIGS, although I'd be shocked if a sequel doesn't show up later this summer.

I am looking forward to, though, is a serious improvement to the PS3 version of MLB The Show, which was good but not great last year. Also, NHL 2K9 can stand for some improvement as well. But no matter what, we're getting to the point where next-generation sports games are almost topping out. At least it seems that way.

Naturally, I am also patiently awaiting the mother of all games, Grand Theft Auto IV. I don't know exactly when or how I am going to play it – certainly not on the treadmill! – but I've got to believe that one way or the other it'll make its way into some kind of a rotation. Other than that, though, I am just looking forward to another great year of pucks, baseballs, and pigskin. Damn it feels good to be a sports gamer.
 


 

Hit the next page to read Val and Ross' picks...

 


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