2009 Gaming Roundup
Welcome to my third annual review of the games I played last year, with brief impressions of each one. The previous editions can be found here: 2007 Roundup | 2008 Roundup
As always, special thanks to namatamiku for the post that initially inspired me for my own.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES via Wii VC) – One of the weaker Kirby games, but still pretty fun. Came quite close to 100% completion, too.
Disgaea DS (DS; port w/extras from PS2) – Still engrossing, funny, and flat-out great. Although a lot of the voice acting was cut, this is a solid port of one of the PS2’s best RPGs.
de Blob (Wii) – As I wrote while I was playing this, de Blob is “joy in video game form”. Cheery graphics, decent controls, fun gameplay, and a great soundtrack (available the iTunes music store, hint hint).
Portal (PC) – This was my second playthrough, and I managed to remember just about all the solutions to the puzzles. Still an excellent, atmospheric game.
Portal: The Flash Version Mappack (PC) – A tough-as-nails fan-made map pack where precision is everything. If you already have Portal, but want more, check it out for yourself.
Cave Story (Mac; straight port from fan-translated PC) – One of the best games I played all year, Studio Pixel’s Cave Story is nothing less than a masterpiece. It’s free, as well as short, so there’s no excuse not to play it. Thanks to nama (again) for recommending it to me.
Sam & Max Season One (PC) – Eh. It had its moments, but the humor felt like a watered-down version of that in Steve Purcell’s original Sam & Max comics. It was also a bit fidgety in that particular point-and-click way. There’s better adventure games out there.
Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (PC) – Another fan project, this RPG Maker game combines the NBA and JRPGs in an irresistibly wacky way. Don’t play it for the battle system and exploration (which are average at best), play it for the LOLs. Special thanks to JEKKI, who posted about it at CAG’s forums, and without whom I might not have heard about this game in the first place.
Earthbound (SNES) – This legendary JRPG with a just as legendary fanbase didn’t quite click with me, but it’s obvious why some absolutely love it. Me, I didn’t like the inventory system, nor the final battle, nor certain other things, but there were some moments I enjoyed.
Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon (DS) – Greatly improved from the first game in some ways, but with a few annoying little problems of its own, the Rune Factory series continues to be an addictive alternative to your average Harvest Moon.
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (GBA) – My second Klonoa game ever, after Lunatea’s Veil blew me away last year. Crisp, lovely graphics and puzzles which get tougher and tougher as the game goes on make this a must-have for puzzle-platformer fans.
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS; enhanced port from NES) – It’s got all the usual Dragon Quest charm, very much including another great Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack. There’s a bit more freedom (particularly in the later sections) than I prefer in this sort of game, but otherwise, good stuff.
Wario Land 4 (GBA) – Speaking of soundtracks, I detested much of the one in this game. The game itself was all right, though.
Klonoa (Wii; remake from PS1) – The reason why I quit listening to Retronauts. This is a great, great platformer; then again, that should go without saying since it’s a Klonoa game.
Ōkami (PS2) – Started out great, with loads of charm and beauty. Then it became disjointed. And the pacing went off the rails a bit. And the whimsy revealed itself to be completely inappropriate in the serious scenes. And for a Capcom game, it was too easy. At least a lot of the dungeons were still good.
Secret of Mana (SNES via Wii VC) – A sparse translation, fidgety party AI, and overdone animation didn’t exactly help to win me over. It’s okay, but hardly the best old-school RPG I’ve ever played.
Samurai Legend Musashi (PS2) – Pretty mediocre, but I had fun with it. The story’s pretty basic, and the voice acting leaves much to be desired, but it looks and plays good.
Pokemon Ruby Version (GBA) – My first real experience with the main Pokemon series, and one of my favorite RPGs this year. It’s as addictive as they say.
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon (Wii) – A cute, light roguelike romp with a soundtrack full of great remixes of classic Final Fantasy tunes. Avoid most of the postgame stuff, though, as Squeenix flubbed a bit there.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2) – This was great, and the localization in particular was impeccable. Dark, and truly mature, and not just because of the violence. Decent battle and ability systems which were clearly inspired by Final Fantasy X, and huge, but not unmanageable, dungeons.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (PS2) – Basically Digital Devil Saga again, but with some tweaks and improvements. The story was a bit faster paced this time around, and… I’m still not quite sure what to say about the endgame.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (GB) – One of my personal favorites from when I was younger. This time around (and with a little help from GameFAQs), I managed to get all of the treasures.
Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament (GBA) – More puzzle platforming a la Empire of Dreams, but with a story centered around a competition and the boss encounters changed up a bit. Once again, good stuff.
StarCraft (Mac; straight port from PC) – Another replay, this time of one of my favorite PC games. Still can’t wait for StarCraft II.
Retro Game Challenge (DS) – A nostalgic romp through familiar-looking 8-bit games you’ve never played. Complete with game magazines full of hype and cheat codes, comically bad translations (“Haggle Man”, anyone?), samey sequels, and even cartridge blowing.
Etrian Odyssey (DS) – A very hard, and very good, first-person dungeon crawler with a cartographical twist. Etrian Odyssey II is now on my must-get list, and I’m also looking forward to the third game in the series.
Tales of Legendia (PS2) – A Tales game with all of the expected trappings, though the dungeons are a bit bland. Aesthetically solid with a good script, great cast, and lovely soundtrack; recommended if you generally play games for their stories.
Super Paper Mario (Wii) – Though this is said to be less of an RPG than the previous Paper Marios, it still felt like one to me, albeit an action-based one as opposed to turn-based. The pacing gets a little wonky in a certain section, but otherwise, I loved this game.
Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PS2; port from PC) – It’s got all the low-budget quirks one would expect from Ys, but that’s part of its charm. And the battle system is so, so good.
Radiata Stories (PS2) – Features one of the best party-centric action RPG battle systems I’ve ever seen, as well as lush graphics and a catchy soundtrack, but falls short when it comes to characterization, story, and pacing.
Endless Games, Multiplayer Games, and Others Not Beaten:
Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii) – I quit ACCF very early in the year. It’s a dumbed-down version of DS predecessor Animal Crossing: Wild World with fewer surprises. That, and unlike with ACWW (which I mostly played during my commute), I couldn’t justify the time I spent with ACCF.
Dance Dance Revolution X (PS2) – The worst DDR game I’ve ever played. The ten-foot difficulty rating system was swapped out for a twelve-foot one, and the new announcer is very, very annoying.
Front Misson: Gun Hazard (SNES; fan-translated) – Only got a little ways into this game—a cutscene-heavy Metroidvania-type—before getting bored. Maybe I’ll give it another chance in the future, but for now, I think I’ll stick with the main SRPG series.
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (GC) – This game is the worst one this year I played that had an amazing soundtrack. Seriously, the Giant Egg OST is brilliant and worth getting, but the game itself… has problems.
StarCraft: Brood War (Mac; straight port from PC) – Pretty sure I played a few multiplayer rounds this year; either this or vanilla StarCraft as well (I can’t remember). Good stuff, as always.
Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2 (PS2) – Now this is how you do a DDR game. A wide range of songs, balanced step charts, a steady drip of unlockables, a great Workout Mode, and the regular old announcer.
Wii Fit Plus (Wii) – Wii Fit with a new coat of paint, and new features that give the player more reasons to stick with it. And if you already own a Balance Board, it’s only $20!
Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – Played a couple of multiplayer rounds with my husband this year. A fun, quick distraction, even though it’s still not as good as the DS one.
Puyo Puyo 2: Tsuu (MD/Gen via Wii VC) – Still fun, still hard, still Puyo Puyo 2.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES via Wii VC) – One of those Nintendo classics that everyone’s played at one point or another. I got this in a fit of nostalgia, mainly just to mess around with.
Planet Puzzle League (DS) – There’s a reason why this, the most recent iteration of Panel de Pon, ends up on my Roundup every year, and it is this: it’s the best. Puzzle. Game. Ever.
Chrono Trigger (DS; enhanced port from SNES) – I love love love me some Chrono Trigger, and this port is outstanding (especially now that it’s cheap—no more Square Enix Tax!). Protip for newbies: avoid the “Extras” section until you’re a good ways into the game; a certain big spoiler reveals itself there early on.