John’s Top Picks of 2009

Yes, I know this is a late post. No, I do NOT care.  Recently, Herlock posted his top 10 picks of 2009. I think top 10 lists are great and all, but I think I’ll just narrow it down to just a few games: one each on Wii, PS3, 360, DS, and PSP.

Let’s start with the Wii.  My pick will probably come as super-shox to you all, but I gotta go with New Super Mario Bros Wii.  Everyone knows I am a complete and total sucker for classic platforming action, so when I heard there was an addition coming to the Mario franchise that played like the last 2D entry on the DS, I nearly lost it.  The allure of playing a classic-style Mario game with that next-gen shine to it was something I couldn’t resist.  I’ve not yet tried the co-op mode, but from what I’ve seen it looks to be a blast, regardless of whether or not you’re helping or hurting your teammates.  Clocking in at 9 worlds with crazy 4-player action, New Super Mario Bros Wii is definitely a great title.

My pick for the PS3 has to be Demon’s Souls.  Awash a sea of very samey JRPGs that tend to run together, Demon’s Souls most certainly stands out.  It’s a gritty game with unrelenting difficulty, but it’s one of those “hurts-so-good” games that’s a lot of fun to get drawn into.  The draw of the gameplay is its high-risk/high-reward element.  You’re thrust into extremely difficult battles with a very high rate of mortality, especially early on or in subsequent playthroughs, but the reward of amassing hundreds or even thousands of souls is almost always worth it.  With an intricate game world and the ability to summon a friend to slay demons by your side, this game is worth playing, to be sure.

On the XBox 360 front, I gotta go with Halo 3: ODST.  Now while I’m not a huge Halo nut, I have to say that ODST’s environments and story are really amazing.  Although I do think the game’s original title of Recon is a bit more apt in describing the plot of the game, it at least gives you an idea of who you’re playing as.  Now while being the “ultimate badass” Master Chief is all well and good, playing as an average orbital drop shock trooper puts a different spin on the action.  Having to worry about your health independent of your stamina makes the game feel like a throwback to the original Halo, which is a nice touch.  The co-op campaign mode from Halo 3 makes its return, as well as the new Firefight mode, which pits you against endless waves of Covenant enemy forces.  A must-own for 360 gamers.

Pokémon Platinum is the top of my DS choices.  While Diamond and Pearl were both great in their own respects, Platinum refines the formula by changing up the order in which some pokémon learn moves in order to smooth out the flow of the gameplay, as well as switching up the order of a few of the gyms to somewhat pad the game’s difficulty.  The addition of wi-fi mystery gifts to enable new events in game is also a welcome feature (especially for those of us too lazy to drive out to a Toys R Us / Gamestop for even stuffs).  Although a few of the gyms and the Elite 4 still pose a significant challenge, the game as a whole feels much tighter and balanced.

A few really fun games hit the PSP last year, but I think my PSP pick of 2009 is Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Once again, the draw of platforming action had me hook, line, and sinker.  Prinny certainly delivers in the challenge department, but like Demon’s Souls, it has that “hurts-so-good” feel that will keep dragging you back in to try those hellishly difficult levels over and over again.  The game has all the offbeat humor and charm of the rest of the Disgaea series, making it enjoyable for more than just its gameplay.

There were many other great games in 2009, but these five happen to be my own top picks.  Honorable mentions go out to Mega Man Star Force 3 for retooling the Star Force series and giving it a fantastic conclusion, Rock Band Unplugged provides hours of fun with a style akin to Frequency or Amplitude, Fate/Unlimited Codes for being pretty much the only decent PSP fighting game I’ve played to date, inFAMOUS because lightning powers + sandbox environment = great fun, and Batman: Arkham Asylum for being a fantastic follow-up to The Dark Knight that stayed true to the feel of the Batman franchise.  Sorry to those of you whose favorite games weren’t mentioned; there were a LOT of games that came out last year that were all really great, a few of which I’ve yet to play.  That aside, hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later with another entry!

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