Over the last month, I’ve unfortunately neglected my duties due to various factors, but I promised myself that for something a little bit special, I’d be looking back over the last decade of holiday seasons and the five best years for games and consoles Santa has brought all the good boys and girls! Are we clear? Good, then take my hand, Scrooge!
The Hardware Award – Panasonic Q
This machine, which you might not have heard of, is pretty damn interesting. It’s essentially a Gamecube manufactured by Panasonic that can play DVDs. This means that essentially you had no excuse to get the PS2 over the venerable Cube. Well there was one difficulty because it only saw release in Japan and it cost about twice as much as a regular console, but we don’t count those, do we guys? Interestingly, the laser used for this system means it’s better able to read burned game discs as well as DVDs, meaning it’s somewhat of a rich pirate’s plaything. It can be yours too, for the low, low price of… Well, I can’t find any anywhere.
The Software Award – Super Smash Bros. Melee
You know you’ve made a solid game when ten years after its release, fans are holding it up as an essential title. It sold seven million copies over seven years and may well have helped keep Nintendo afloat through the dark years of the Gamecube. For those reasons, as well as its huge character roster and huge amount of content, I’m awarding Super Smash Bros. my Christmas release of 2001. I’m aware that there’s a great deal of other software I could have chosen, but screw you, beating up Bowser with Ness is a unique and wonderful experience!
The Hardware Award – Wavebird Wireless Controller
If you owned a Gamecube, you pretty much had to have one of these. The first first-party wireless controller ever released for any console, it still stands out today as a shining example of controller design at its best. The simple, effective button layout, combined with hybrid analog/digital triggers that give precise, comfortable controls are still given as reasons why this might be the best controller ever designed. It’s got a range of almost 90 feet and a battery life of 100 hours. Oh, and it works with the Wii, too! One downside is that you don’t get rumble, but it’s never really necessary, so pick one up as soon as you can!
The Software Award – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Yes, I know this list is being dominated by Nintendo, but hey, their stuff is just that damn good! In keeping with that theme, here’s the first Zelda title for the Gamecube, and one which I still feel is superior to all the others, even after nine years. This cel-shaded adventure had Link sailing around a huge open world in a badass red boat, but for the change of scenery managed to perfectly capture the sense of freedom and beauty that Zelda has always been trying to evoke. It’s a little costly, but for your £20 you’ll have a lengthy, deep and gorgeous quest through a lovingly rendered world. Did I forget to mention it’s very, very nearly my favourite game ever made? Still gives me chills today.
The Hardware Award – Nintendo DS
Hey, there’s a prize for the first person to guess which system has sold as many units as the PlayStation 2 in three years fewer? Well done geniuses, I listed it in the title! Yes, as of time of writing, the Nintendo DS has sold 150 million consoles worldwide, two and a half times the (not inconsiderable) number of PSP systems shifted by Sony. When it was introduced, the DS revolutionised the gaming world, bringing through its touch screen the early baby steps of what would go on to become Nintendo’s fixation with alternative control methods for their machines. Let’s hope the 3DS has just as healthy a future!
The Software Award – World of Warcraft
Now, for the record, this wasn’t my favourite game of the year (that honour goes to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Pikmin 2, Tales of Symphonia, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or myriad other brilliant games) but I doubt if anyone really thought that this would still be going strong seven years later, so I’m giving it the prize on longetivity alone. It’s been through three expansions, innumerable patches and more events than you can shake a Sword of a Thousand Truths at, yet still its 10.3 million subscribers still aren’t bored. Well done Blizzard for creating what might just be the most profitable game of all time!
The Hardware Award – PlayStation 3
Let’s face up to the fact right now that, for all the fanboyism the Nintendo and Microsoft crowds might engage in, the PS3 is a pretty damn fine piece of hardware. WiFi out of the box, support for native 1080p 3D output and easily interchangeable hard drives? Yes please. Well, I suppose it was bulky, loud, prone to dying and had a severe game drought for about two years, but the hardware was very impressive and, well, what else came out in 2007? If you haven’t already got one, the price is now not so astronomically high and a 120GB PS3 Slim is a very good buy. If you’ve got the cash, pick one up during the New Year sales and have yourself a blast!
The Software Award – Everything!
Honestly, deciding this one down to a specific game would cause so many flames it might well burn the website down, so I’ve averted that outcome by awarding many games at once. For starters, we had the triumphant return of Final Fantasy VI for the aging Game Boy Advance, quickly followed by gritty adventure game Hotel Dusk: Room 215 on the DS. Those sound fun to talk about, but I have limited space, so moving swiftly on.
March saw the PS2’s swansong in God of War II, after which came Cooking Mama: Cook Off, which sounded as though she wanted people to leave her kitchen and was being rather profane about it. April was the month of Super Paper Mario and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, some of Nintendo’s finest games that hopefully kept people occupied through the summer, because nothing new of note was released until August, when the best single-player FPS games of the year, Bioshock and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, came roaring onto our screens and set benchmarks in brilliance.
On the multiplayer front, September, October and November were your months, launching thousands of hours of online fun through Halo 3, Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In the midst of this was the Orange Box, notable in particular for Portal, otherwise known as the game that started That One Meme. You know, the one about the cake.
Towards the tail end of the year, we saw tight and brilliant but also slightly easy platformer Super Mario Galaxy, a game I still love today, before rounding off festivities with a good old game of Rock Band. Of course, I probably couldn’t write in detail for all the great games of 2007, so I’ll just give a quick mention to World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, Kororinpa, Mario Party 8, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, Rune Factory, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, Beautiful Katamari, Zack and Wiki, Guitar Hero 3, Battalion Wars II, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Crysis, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams.
Are we done? Phew.
The Hardware Award – Nintendo 3DS
We’re all anxiously awaiting the PlayStation 4, Wii U and the Microsoft Whatever-They-Call-It-Next, but for this year we have a pretty good tradeoff. A GameCube-level portable that can use a parallax barrier to display in 3D is pretty impressive and given that it’s already seen major games and sales figures almost as good as the original DS, it looks like the PlayStation Vita is up for an even harder fight than the PSP had. A second analog pad attachment is due pretty soon, meaning we’ve essentially got a Wii U about a year early. Yum! Pick it up over the holidays for cheapsies, and be sure to grab Super Mario 3D Land or Mario Kart 7 as well!
The Software Award – LA Noire
Ah, I bet you were expecting this one to be Skyward Sword, weren’t you? Well unfortunately for you dear reader, Skyward Sword happens to be my least favourite Zelda game besides Zelda 2. Instead, I chose a visceral, epic game, which while developed with slave labour by a tyrant, still managed to be a lot of fun while making you constantly watch your back, like one of Stalin’s Christmas parties. LA Noire spent seven years in development, during which time half the staff came and left, consoles were switched and two entire desks were cut to leave room on the Blu-ray disc. What you get for your money is a wonderfully inventive and refreshing call back to the days when adventure games ruled the Earth and LucasArts were King!
Those were, in no particular order, the five best Christmasses in the last decade, but before I go there’s one thing I have to say-
Thank you, reader. When we founded CubedGamers back in August, we never dreamed of the popularity we might gain. It may not sound like much, but within those three thousand views were people who were interested in what we had to say, show or share. We hope that you’ll continue to follow us way into the new year and beyond, as we build, grow and develop for the future. Enjoy your holidays, whatever they may be, and don’t forget to eat, game and be merry!