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Games of the Year – Part 1 – 2006

As a start to my new Gamasutra blog, and as seems to be the popular thing to do around this time of year, I thought I'd run down my games of the year beginning from when I started writing them – 2006.

As a start to my new Gamasutra blog, and as seems to be the popular thing to do around this time of year, I thought I'd run down my games of the year beginning from when I started writing them – 2006.

I'll post the list and then talk about the games in the context of the here and now. Seeing as I made the lists at the time but failed to add any comments.

I guess I figure it would be a good way for people to see where I come from and what I'm about. A list of favourite games I've always thought to be a good window into the psyche of the writer and an immediate way to see if you click or identify with the writers views. They can also be controversial, and everyone likes a good argument over who's personal preferences are better than everyone else's... Right?

So let's get on with it then. I'm sure you've already skipped to the list by now anyway and I could write anything here and no one would be the wiser. I open mouth kissed a horse once.

1. Ultimate Ghosts 'n' Goblins
2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
3. Shadow of the Colossus
4. Yoshi's Island DS
5. Wii Sports

Only five? Lame. In my defence at least I can say that every year after this I've had ten. 2006 just wasn't a big year for me in the end, for reasons which will become apparent later.

Looking at that list of five games though I guess people could easily get the impression I'm one of 'those' Nintendo players. You know, the ones who only own Nintendo consoles and a handheld or two, with the odd 'other' game creeping in now and again. To be honest, yes, I was going through a Nintendo revival that year and I think lots of other people were too. The Wii had arrived and given the industry a bit of a shake and a bit of a how's your father. But I can say for me it was less a Nintendo revival, and more an over all console revival. You see, I'd spent the last few years in a coma, or what other people call, World of Warcraft.

I played World of Warcraft for two years, and I believe I did myself a dis-service. I was the Guild Master for an end game raiding guild and I was the Main Tank for the same guild. You couldn't have given your life away any more if you enlisted in the army. But enough about the years previous and excuses for a lack of games, we'll leave that story for another time. Let's just make it clear that the stress of WoW reached a critical mass and I haven't touched a PC game since.

So yes, I came back to console gaming and this was my bridge year. The year I bought a current gen console, switched to Linux on the PC, and tried to forget the last few years ever happened. The years following are a good example of what a man can do when he wakes from a sickness where he only ate the one food for that time and then furiously feasted on everything he could the time after. The riches I had missed in my ignorance was embarrassing.

'The games in the list, what about the games in the list?' Yes, I'm getting to those.

Ultimate Ghosts 'n' Goblins

I bought a PSP just so I could play Ultimate Ghosts 'n' Goblins. A big investment for one game sure, but I've never been one to skimp on a purchase just because of the price tag. Not when one of my favourite gaming franchises is involved anyway. The original Ghosts 'n' Goblins was an alright game, but it was its sequel, Ghouls 'n' Ghosts that I fell in love with. The four way directional firing and chaotic platform traversing as a result felt so exhilarating. Everything was held on a knife edge. Leaping from one platform to the next while wiping out monsters floating below and above at the same time generated such a high when done right. So you can imagine my disappointment with the next game in the series, Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, when it went back to its roots and only had two way firing. Still a good game, but not the GnG I craved.

It was with baited excitement that I greeted the news of UGnG being released, even with four way firing. I was a little concerned with the 2.5D graphics too, but that concern only lasted long enough for me to finish the first stage. As after that I was completely and utterly hooked. This wasn't just my game of 2006, it was the best platforming action game I had played outside of Super Metroid and easily secured a spot in my top 10 games of all time. It's beautiful, massive, and as hard as nails. It amps the exhilaration up a great number of notches and is an utter genius creation from the veteran game designer Tokuro Fujiwara.

And did you know that the princess you save in all games, Princess Prin Prin, is named after the sound of perky breasts? What does that even mean? I'm not sure, but I like it.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess has left less of an impression on me over the years. I really enjoyed it at the time, but even then I would concede Wind Waker was better. At least, in art style. That cel shaded art of Wind Waker is absolutely timeless and will look good until the sun collapses. But at least I finished Twilight Princess, I never did get around to finishing Wind Waker.

TP had its moments. Collecting bugs in the beautiful over world brings a nostalgic tear to my eye. As does the level where you used some spinning top thing to traverse walls and platforms. One of the better dungeons in the franchises history. However, no Zelda game has really impressed me as much as A Link to the Past I have to say.

No, I haven't played Ocarina. Let's just get that out of the way. The less I say about the N64 the better for all concerned.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most beautiful games ever made in my opinion. It has a real sense of place. The atmosphere is thick with a brooding sadness and cautious mystery. Where am I? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why do I feel so sad after murdering another giant? Why can't I stop?

Complete with one of the saddest scenes I've experienced, and rounding it out with the best ending of any game. There's no doubt this is one of the best games of 2006 for me. If games were art, this would be acclaimed as a masterpiece.

Yoshi's Island DS

Yoshi's Island DS... I have no idea why this is here and have no memory of playing it. I guess I enjoyed it at the time...

Wii Sports

Wii Sports in my opinion was not so much a revolution in games but a return to what they once were, albeit with a new slant. I remember back when I was a toddler all the family huddling around a giant black and white CRT television playing four player pong variants. To me Wii Sports felt very similar only more hand waving (though one could argue my parents did enough hand waving back in those days to make up for it). I never played Wii Sports by myself, instead many Wii parties were organised by my friends and I and we'd all get together and play until the early hours of the morning, along with our Nintendo DSs with Mario Kart. They were special times. So many people would come and enjoy themselves immensely, then leave with sore arms and a wallet dying to spew money over the counter of the nearest Wii stockist.

Playing four player Wii Tennis will remain one of the most fun gaming experiences I've had in the last 20 years.

So there you are. The games I loved (and in some cases forgot) in 2006. Not the biggest and widest breadth of games to be sure. But a couple of very significant additions to my gaming history none the less.

In the coming days I'll post again with my list of 2007.

Marc.

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