2009 in Retrospect

What moments in gaming truly defined 2009? Sequel-itis? Console price drops? Obsession with motion control?

If anything, 2009 was surprisingly mediocre. Nintendo, after a one year period that saw nearly every big sequel released for the Wii (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii), it was as if the big N was just out of ideas. Similarly, Microsoft, fresh off of releasing formerly in-house publishers BioWare and Bungie saw the Xbox 360’s best games being multi-platform.

The only true benefactor of Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s mediocre year was obviously Sony. Their behemoth of a system PlayStation 3 saw a slim redesign along with several of their exclusive franchises seeing worthy sequels. Killzone 2 opened the year for the PS3 bringing its fanbase to crown it as a Halo-killer. Along with Resistance 2, which was released in November of 2008, Sony finally had a pair of sturdy shooters to go toe to toe with Microsoft’s Halo.

But Sony wasn’t finished yet. Further proving that they are two of the most respected and consistent developers in the industry, Insomniac and Naughty Dog had strong showings in the Fall of 2009. Insomniac, who churns out a quality game annually, released the second of the PS3’s Ratchet & Clank Future games with Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. Similarly, Naughty Dog lost no steam in the two year lay-off with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the sequel to my 2007 game of the year.

But surprising gamers everywhere was the little-known of title Demon’s Souls, which arose to fame based on word of mouth. The Japanese dungeon crawler was hailed for its harsh difficulty and its unique and engrossing multiplayer world.

Couple the strong software showings with a smaller redesign of the PS3 along with a price drop and there was no reason to not appreciate the PS3 this year.

But Microsoft and Nintendo couldn’t have done horribly this year. Microsoft stayed in the game with its strong userbase and consistency in Xbox Live. The only unique game to make an impact for the Green machine was the Fall release of Halo 3: ODST which smelt of more of an expansion than its $60 price tag asked for. Xbox Live DLC had a strong year with Arcade releases of Shadow Complex, Trials HD and Splosion Man. Microsoft also made use of timed exclusive DLC for Fallout 3 and exclusive episodic content of Grand Theft Auto 4 in The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.

Nintendo, on the other hand, focused on their hardware expansions. The Nintendo DSi, much like its previous DS siblings, sold like hotcakes in the States and in Japan (Which dominated Sony’s digital download only PSPGo). Wii Motion Plus made its big splash to interested parties that found it fun, but not too different from standard Wii Motion. My verdict will wait until more Motion Plus oriented games make their way to the console, especially those developed by Nintendo.

Many third parties released solid titles cross platform including Dragon Age: Origins, Assassin’s Creed II, Borderlands, Brutal Legend and a little game with a little following called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

All in all, 2009 was a year that may be seen as holding down the fort during an economic decline or as just the beginning in what looks to be a busy 2010 that has several big name games knocking on the door this spring. But that is for another post.

-Ris

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