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The New Gamer 2006 Retrospective

January 27, 2007 By Glenn Turner

In our fourth annual retrospective, we reminisce over our favorite, most unpleasant and most memorable gaming experiences and find the year 2006 to have more plateaus than peaks. What games, for better or for worse, managed to catch our attention? Read along to find out...

What was your favorite gaming memory this year?

D. Riley: God Hand.

God Hand God Hand God Hand.

When I was but a boy, my father would take me to his work (he was a college professor) and give my brother and I free reign in the games room, which contained the princely accommodations of a broken pool table (missing most of the balls), a ping pong table (missing all of the balls), and a Final Fight cabinet. We were allowed a dollar each which, as anyone should know, is not nearly enough to get the full experience of a beat 'em up, a genre that is genetically engineered to suck your quarters.

I'd never actually beaten Final Fight until 2006, and even then, it was a month or so after having played God Hand to its fullest. God Hand was entirely able to sate these long-buried urges I've had since my pre-adolescence. A game that was equal parts comedy and action, as beat 'em ups should be, God Hand's protagonist had no trouble mouther off to the demon that just kicked him through a wall, spanking the hell out of a attacking witch's behind, or even cracking wise to the dark lord Satan himself.

Plenty of people will complain about the game's lackluster graphics, monotonous fighting engine, or crude sense of humor. That's fine, but looking up on my shelf I see more than a few games that could be considered "better", Gears of War, Dead Rising, Valkyrie Profile 2, but none of them have half the heart that God Hand did. As far as I'm concerned, we've been waiting for a game like God Hand for far too long.

G. Turner: My initial serve in Wii Sports tennis. I was tired as hell thanks to waking up far too early to queue up for a Wii, but exhilarated by the thrill of attaining a (mostly) freshly launched console when I powered on the console for the first time and prepped to play my initial game. Wii-mote in hand, I stepped up to the television, saw the tennis court, my Miis, and thought 'What do I do now?'. I flicked my wrist and EUREKA – the brilliance of the Wii cascaded over me and I couldn't stop grinning. After the first volley was complete, all I could do was turn to unitdaisy and say 'You have to try this.'

God Hand

What was your most unpleasant gaming memory of 2006?

D. Riley: I'm going to make myself the odd man out here and say Okami.

Before you crucify me, let me explain myself.

Okami was an excellent fifteen to twenty hour Zelda-type adventure game. Unfortunately, it was a fifteen hour game that someone decided to stretch it to over twice that length and the results were nigh-on disastrous. After a while the obviously palette swapped enemies and overly long fetch quests were bound to get one anyone's nerves. The game should've ended with the defeat of Orochi, with maybe a little more filler stuffed in beforehand to pad out the runtime to a reason twelve-some hours. Extending the game as long as it went, and especially making you fight all the bosses over again (and one boss THREE times), just wasn't the way to go. Okami dazzled me with its flair and killed me with its length.

R. LeFeuvre: Waiting in line at the terribly un-fun West Coast Wii Launch Event. There was a live performance by some wicked cool acrobats, a bunch of Wii demo stations set up, and well... I have no idea what else because the line went nowhere near any of it! I had to wait about 11 hours (from about 7pm to 6am) because they only had four registers going for about 700 systems. Sure, I understand from a marketing standpoint that we really didn't need to see any pro-Wii propaganda (obviously those in line were already buying the damn thing) but come on.... all I got was a really ugly baby-blue "Wii Launch" shirt and a lame-ass wrist band (#549!) Where's the love, Nintendo? How about some hot cocoa or the ability to enjoy the celebration from the line?

Well, if it matters, I also got the Wii... (two of them actually) but let's not that derail this – I demand hot chocolate dammit!

G. Turner: All the folks in our first Wii line got hot chocolate. Well, only if you had managed to get a Wii pre-sale ticket, which we didn't thanks to some unscrupulous line-cutter. But like you, I'm also bitter about not receiving any hot chocolate. However, I'm more disgruntled about Worms: Open Warfare, whose DS iteration practically demands to receive this honor. The game was so buggy, so poorly executed and contained such idiotic AI routines that even a Worms-fantatic like myself found the game utterly unbearable and practically unplayable. And no online multiplayer! What a crime.


What were you most surprised by in 2006?

R. LeFeuvre: Where the hell are the Wii Nunchuks?!

D. Riley: Is there a feeling in the world better than being right? Last year the loud-mouthed Terrel Owens was a media disaster for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. When he was stomping the ground and throwing hissy fits in Philadelphia everyone else in the country said the team was being too hard on him, now that he's doing basically the same thing in Dallas for the Cowboys (at the very least, not earning his multi-million dollar paycheck) I'm experiencing a serious sense of vindication.

Though I got it in early 2007, I'm still gonna count the Wii as my top surprise of 2006. I always maintained a cautious optimism about the system, but every now and then the 'haters' would get to me and cause me to doubt myself. Now that I've played it I've got nothing about good things to say about the tiny white system, and it's a lot like my (and most other Philadelphian's) thoughts about Terrel Owens causing a stink. Screw all the haters, stick to your guns! When Itagaki (the alcoholic/pervert/possible sexual harassment suit waiting to happen who leads Tecmo's Team Ninja) said that the Wii was asking the player to put too much effort into video games I almost believed him. I tried to imagine playing Ninja Gaiden and having to mimic forty hit combos and back flips. It seemed clumsy and unnatural.

What I didn't think about was that the Wii wasn't made for Ninja Gaiden, and it was never trying to be that type of game in the first place. When you're lining up for your tenth frame of bowling in Wii Sports, Ninja Gaiden is the furthest thing from your mind. When I doubted the Wii I was thinking about it with entirely the wrong frame of mind. The Wii isn't trying to reinvent current games, it's trying to create a whole new TYPE of game, and if Wii Sports is the example then that's just fine with me.

Now, if only I could find another controller...

G. Turner: Hands down, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. What appeared at first to be a generic spin-off turned out to be a nicely conceived, albeit simplistic, action-adventure game. It didn't serve up anything new but, what it did, it did with glee and fun. The ship battles were especially amusing, and the puns actually made me laugh.

Wii Sports

What were you disappointed by most in 2006?

R. LeFeuvre: I had high hopes for several Xbox 360 games and not a one of them worked out, the worst of which was Dead Rising. Zombies + Mall + Use anything I want as a weapon + Photography!! Maybe its my own fault for putting the game on a pedestal it could never reach, but by about the fourth day of playing I had had enough of the game. Once it became apparent that killing zombies doesn't do anything for your character (the best source of PP (read: XP)) is photographing drama-filled moments like innocent people being devoured alive and zombie chick panty shots) I stopped fighting and just avoided the zombies. And why did they decide to make all the bosses human? What's with the 'Raincoat Cult?' HOW CAN YOU RUIN A ZOMBIE GAME?!

Bah. Maybe if the first play-through wasn't so dreadfully frustrating I'd be more willing to hack my way through the rest of the story and see what the damn 'big reveal' of the zombie plague is, but I am too busy tossing furniture around my house in Elebits and playing in gi-normous fast-paced Resistance multiplayer games (side note: Resistance multiplayer is fabulous).

D. Riley: I've always imagined the online gaming sphere as a place where the unlimited potential of gaming ran free. My taste buds were tantalized years ago with games like Splinter Cell seemingly redefining what it was to play a game of death match. How far we've come since the days of Doom II's direct connect, or even Counter-strike!

I received Xbox Live for Christmas and I couldn't have been more excited, as a friend of mine had just gotten his subscription and visions of gunning down wave after wave of the evil Locust horde in perfect tandem.

My hopes were thoroughly dashed on the rocks the first time I logged in, when a chap I believed was named "Anal Spaceman" (or something similar) who (judging by his voice) couldn't have been more than twelve years old told me how he'd just "headshotted me with the 'motherf'-ing pistol" and how he was going to go "do my mom".

Oh well, I guess my dreams of an online gaming utopia are far from realized. Still... online co-op is pretty cool.

G. Turner: Cooking Mama. If they had just taken that extra step to actually pay attention to culinary chemistry, I wouldn't be so disappointed. But sadly, based on upcoming previews, I'm already earmarking Cooking Mama: Wii for the same position next year. Prove me wrong Office Create! Prove me wrong...

Dead Rising

What game, or gaming moment did you regret missing out on this year?

R. LeFeuvre: Okami??? Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess??? I really don't know because for about the last four months of 2006 I completely fell off the map, deeply entrenched in world of video game development. I have no clue as to the wonderment that may have passed me by because I was simply not paying attention, so I must regret missing nearly half of 2006 in general... I guess I will just have to make up for it in 2007.

D. Riley:

G. Turner: Viva Piñata, & the glory of high-definition gaming. Oh the horrors of console purgatory. In my eyes, the 360 still doesn't have a killer app (yes, Gears of War and Dead Rising both intrigue me, but they both have their flaws that prevent me from fully embracing Microsoft's new machine). However, out of all the current available software, I'm lamenting not being able to play Viva Piñata more than any other 360 title. Mr. LeFeuvre was right when he pegged it as a title to watch out for at E3, and now I have to endure his endless jeers. By all reports, the game's fresh, innovative, cute, bent, and exceedingly playable. Oh, and absolutely gorgeous in high-def.

Which brings me to the second part of my reluctance to jump on the 360 bandwagon, and it has to do with what Mr. Riley discussed in his Gears of War review: The 360 is a high-definition machine and I live in a standard-definition world. I have no HDTV and I have no plans to buy one until the prices come down further and/or some absolute standard is reached in which I know my image quality won't look severely worse a year from now. Also, most HDTVs look awful. I can deal with the analogue blurriness of standard-definition television, but not the digital artifacting and other artificial blemishes that lower quality HDTVs are burdened with. Also, frankly, I'd rather spend a couple thousand dollars on an overseas trip than on a television set.

Nevertheless, I do regret the fact that I haven't fully experienced the broad spectrum of high-definition gaming but, with any luck, this year will be my final year trapped in the 450i world.

Viva Pinata

What gaming moment will you remember years from now?

D. Riley: Rule of Rose is going to stand out in my mind for at least the next two decades as a treatise on how to get everything wrong with a game that has a fundamentally cool concept. According to the weak-assed thriller Session 9, people used to get thrown into the looney bin for such mental illnesses as 'unrealized potential'. Can we institute a similar law for video games? The jury deliberating on Rule of Rose's case wouldn't have time to order Chinese takeout before delivering their verdict.

It seemed like the game should've had everything. Creepy, fat English school girls applying too much lipstick while a Japanese crooner delivers heavily accented English lyrics about life and love makes for an extremely creepy trailer, but I guess it's tough to make a whole game out of that. What reviewers described as soul-shivering and creepy to the bone (rat on a stick, bag full of grasshoppers and moldy cookies) I just found trite and un-amusing. Already you have the makings of a terrible game, but the cherry on top was the atrocious story, a story that caused thousands of fans to well up out of nowhere and declare that the game was so great BECAUSE the story didn't tell you anything and you had to figure it out for yourself with NO CLUES AT ALL. Just like the legions of Lost fans, don't believe the hype. Rule of Rose is all rubdown and no payoff.

G. Turner: While I certainly was disappointed with Rule of Rose, at least it had aspirations and gave the player an original experience. A fatally flawed one, sure, but I'm not so sure I'll be remembering it years from now. Regardless, I found it to be a pretty weak year – even the top-notch games I played felt worn and complacent. However, despite its Zelda-ish nature, I will never be able to forget the numerous hours I spent with Okami: the game was far too striking and brilliantly composed to be lost to the shadows of my mind. I was repeatedly dumb-founded by the ink-flow of the visuals, the bombastic soundtrack and dramatic tonal shifts. For all of Okami's flaws (and I'm certainly on-board with Mr. Riley about the game's bloat), it's an animated marvel and its art design and execution is nearly flawless. I dare say that it'll hold up and still look sharp and impressive years from now – which is good, since I'll probably still be replaying it in 2010.

R. LeFeuvre: Maybe this is cheating as I wasn't really "gaming", but working on my first video game and being part of a awesome gaming company is truly unforgettable. You never forget your first.

And then, having a game I was working on show up at E3, seeing screenshots in gaming magazines, hearing feedback from our public beta multiplayer demo, seeing the demo disc with our game on it that was handed out in certain PlayStation magazines – it was all so gratifying and surreal.

Can you believe I get paid to do this???

Rule of Rose

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3 comments for ‘The New Gamer 2006 Retrospective’

#1 jt-3d Jan 29, 2007 08:27am

And here I was looking for something to read earlier. I'll have to get to it later as I'm too drunk to read. I can only type at this stage.

#2 KillerTeddy Jan 31, 2007 08:58pm

Wow, seems like yesterday that we had the 2005 thread. Jeez.

Best gaming moment of 2006. Chronicles of Riddick. Hands down, the most overlooked game I've ever played. took me 2 years to discover.

Biggest Disappointment. 2142. Bananas. I wasted 5 bucks on the pre-order.

#3 w3a2 Jan 31, 2007 10:29pm

my personal biggest gaming moment of '06? well not counting the Wii which i got in '07, it would have to be the DS and sadly New Super Mario Bros. Mostly for the simple fun it brought to our family and the DS-tug-of-wars we had arguing over whose turn it was. Saddest gaming moment of '06? Almost finishing KoTOR, but then totally failing to...