Video Game Awards 2008

To follow what I did last year, it’s time for me to declare my video game awards for 2008 using Spike TV’s categories. Obviously, I’m didn’t play every game that came out or even every major game; this shows my preferences based on what I played, not true ranking of 2008’s games.
I’m revising my Game of the Year. I’ve been really torn, so I’m just leaving it a tie between No More Heroes and Professor Layton and the Curious Village.
Game of the Year: No More Heroes
I had a lot of fun playing this. The controls were interesting, and the bosses were fun, humorous, and challenging. Many of the bosses tempted me to try to find strategies online, but I managed to resist. I felt like I really shared the main character’s feelings of both excitement and disappointment. Only another year until No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle!
Studio of the Year: Grasshopper Manufacture
They made No More Heroes! Win!
Game of the Year: Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) by Level-5
This game was just wonderful. I was first drawn in by the beautiful art and was pleased to find such an amazing game. Level-5 did a great job blending a point and click adventure game into a puzzle / riddle game. Both aspects of the game would be far less fun without the other. The music, characters, and story were all great, and I find myself still exclaiming “I think I’ve got it” when I’ve solved a problem. It was very enjoyable to play this while two other people I knew played copies as well, and it kept me entertained for a long time. I’m looking forward to Pandora’s Box.
Studio of the Year: Level-5
This seems like a weird category to me. I suppose a company that released many really great games could be considered better than a company that released one game that was the best, but I’d say as a rule of thumb, the studio behind the Game of the Year should be studio of the year. For that reason and the reasons I included in my reasoning behind picking Layton as game of the year, I think Level-5 is studio of the year.
Best Shooter: Left 4 Dead (Steam) by Valve
This was a touch choice for me because I really enjoyed Gears of War 2. However, Gears just felt like more of the same only a cheaper experience (although it was a truly bromantic game). I also feel like I haven’t given Left 4 Dead proper attention yet. I didn’t want to play online with random people until I had time to sit down and play it with friends, but I still haven’t. How can I talk about a game designed for multiplayer without having ever played it with another human? Really, I shouldn’t. But I will. The game feels amazing with the multitude of zombies and the speed that they come at the player. It feels like Dawn of the Dead and 28 Weeks Later. The graphics look amazing, and I love the B-movie feel. Each campaign has a corresponding movie poster, and the film grain setting makes the game feel like a horror B-movie. Another wonderful job from Valve.
Best RPG: The World Ends With You (DS) by Square-Enix
This game definitely surprised me! I haven’t really liked an RPG in a long time, but The World Ends With You was very close to being my game of the year. What really drew me in was the amazing art style. The game looked amazing with its urban inspired graphics and motion comic style (comic book style art with frames that occasionally have small amounts of motion). With rock, hip-hop, and electronica, the soundtrack was great and perfectly fit, at least to an American, the graphics and feel of Shibuya, the setting of the game. The plot was definitely intriguing and motivating, but Square-Enix never disappoints there. The battle system was fascinating and complex, requiring gamers to control two characters separately, one on each screen, and each with a different battle system. The game required players to stop into stores for new clothes and food, reminding me very much of Rivercity Ransom, one of my all time favorite games. Probably the greatest feature of this game was the ability to change the difficulty on the fly, which changes what drops you can get from enemies, and the ability to lower your level, which causes the drop rate to increase. The World Ends With You was truly an amazing game.
Best Individual Sports Game: Wii Fit (Wii) by Nintendo EAD
I’m not sure I’d call Wii Fit an individual sports game, but Spike TV did. Honestly, I definitely think it helps people lose weight if they keep at it. It’s fun to play with friends (at first), and it’s entertaining when people refuse to play because it calls them fat. However, I have to admit that I can’t think of any other games I played that fit in this category. Win by default!
Best Handheld Game: Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) by Level-5
Big surprise there, eh?
Best Graphics: The World Ends With You (DS) by Square-Enix
I don’t think there’s a need to praise this game again. It was beautiful though.
Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360) by LucasArts
I want to start by saying that this game definitely had its share of problems. I don’t think it deserves to be anywhere near a game of the year discussion, but there weren’t a lot of games that I played based on movies of TV shows. There problems with having to replay long areas after dying and spiking difficulty in some bosses. That said, it was a fun hack and slash and a great addition to the Star Wars universe. The game looked great, and I liked the voice acting. Most importantly, I really liked learning the story of the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and seeing the formation of the Rebel Alliance.
Best Music Game: Rock Band 2 (360) by Harmonix
What can I say? I wanted to stick with Harmonix because they’ve been in the genre longer and had experience with full band games. I like the feel of it more than Guitar Hero World Tour, its main competitor, and think the song selection is better. Nothing beats playing Rock Band 2 at parties, and it’s also great when a friend or two visit. There are a ton of songs to download, and the ability to rip the songs from the original Rock Band is fantastic.
Best Driving Game: Mario Kart Wii (Wii) by Nintendo EAD
Mario Kart Wii didn’t hold me like Mario Kart Double Dash did, but it was still a lot of fun! It was fun to play casually with non-gamers using the wheel and fun to play competitively with Mario Kart fans without the wheel. I just wish the online play didn’t have the blasted friend code nonsense. Also, I have to say that despite the game not being a “driving game,” Grand Theft Auto IV came very close in this category. Driving in it is fantastic.
Best Action Adventure Game: Grand Theft Auto IV (360) by Rockstar North
Before playing this game, I thought it was horribly stupid. I didn’t want to pretend to be some gangster. After putting a few hours into this game, I was truly amazed. There are some annoying controls, and at the beginning of the game, players are taught how to do things that they don’t really need to do. However, the driving is a ton of fun, and story is definitely motivating enough to continue playing. The voice acting is superb, and the satire and critique of the United States was very entertaining. I find myself always listening to talk radio when driving just to hear them make fun of our country. I also really like that the game gives players a lot of options as to what to do next while still never leaving the player feeling confused about their next goal.
Best Soundtrack: The World Ends With You (DS) by Square-Enix
I already talked about this before, so there’s no reason to talk about it again. However, I’d like to mention that I think games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero don’t belong in this category. What makes a soundtrack good is not only great songs but also songs that fit the feel of the game well. There is no game outside of the songs in Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
Best Xbox 360 Game: Castle Crashers (XBLA) by The Behemoth
What an amazing four player experience this game is! I’ve completed it at least four or five times now and look forward to playing it more! It’s a fantastic four player online or local hack and slash with the feel of an SNES era arcade game but modern game ideas and RPG elements. Leveling up makes the game interesting, and the ability to resuscitate fallen allies make the game very fun! There’s definitely a lot of entertainment when I’m playing with three of my friends and we spend a minute or two bringing each other back to life while we continually die. There’s a lot of humor in the game, and a lot of characters, weapons, and animal orbs (helpers) in the game. I’m definitely anxious to see what The Behemoth is working on next.
Best Wii Game: No More Heroes (Wii) by Grasshopper Manufacture
This is by far the best Wii game released to date. This was my first Suda51 game, and I was very happy with it. You play as Travis Touchdown, a young man who gets a beam katana and decides to become an assassin. The storyline is crazy and fun, and I’ve been using the main riff as my town tune in Animal Crossing. The graphics are stylish and interesting, and the story becomes clearer and crazier at the same time. This is one of the few (only?) action games on the Wii to actually benefit from the motion controls. Yes, games like Trauma Center would suck without motion controls, but it seems to me that while No More Heroes probably could be played with a standard controller, it actually benefited from having the motion controls as opposed to most games in which the motion control feels forced. The game consists of a series of bad mini-games in a fake open world environment followed by a boss battle. The mini-games only take a few minutes; the bulk of the game is boss battles. Beating each boss feels very fulfilling, and I loved every one of them. My favorite part of this game was minor spoiler (click to show).
Best PS3 Game: LittleBigPlanet (PS3) by Media Molecule
This may have been my biggest dissapointment on PS3, but it was also my favorite! It was buggy, “floaty” feeling, and imprecise, but it was adorable and a lot of fun. I love platformers, and I definitely don’t regret purchasing this despite not having a PS3. I haven’t played it since the online features were improved, so hopefully finding new levels has been made easier. I played a wonderful Shadow of the Colossus level when the game first came out that made me appreciate the user created levels. I’m looking forward to playing this more with my girlfriend and friends and hope to play through the Metal Gear Solid DLC soon.
Best PC Game: Wrath of the Lich King (PC) by Blizzard
I feel a little torn about this. As someone who is usually a little more artsy, it seems weird to give an award to World of Warcraft. Really though, Blizzard did some fantastic work here. I would like to say right off that I’m including some content that went with Wrath of the Lich King but was available to people who didn’t purchase it in my consideration of Wrath. First, the achievement system gives some great incentive to do some interesting things and provides casual end-game. The statistics are also entertaining. The world plague leading up to the release sounded fantastic, and I’m pleased Blizzard included that kind of thing. Sadly, I didn’t see it. The Death Knight class is interesting, and the Death Knight starting zone was some of the most amazing gameplay I’d had in World of Warcraft. Also, I’m happy that Wrath introduces raids that have both 10-man and 25-man settings and that Blizzard has made raids easier. This means that I now have a chance to see end-game properly.
Best Original Score: The World Ends With You (DS) by Square-Enix
Skipping this explanation!
Best Multiplayer Game: Castle Crashers (XBLA) by The Behemoth
I talked about this one already too.
Best Independent Game: Braid (XBLA) by Number None, Inc.
I enjoy the simple seeming platforming and time mechanic that slowly changes and gets more complex as the game proceeds. I’ve never seen this kind of mechanic in a game before. Some levels allow you to reverse time by holding down a button on the controller; some levels make running a certain direction on the screen cause time to flow in the reverse direction. There’s a lot of references to other games, and Jonathan Blow, the creator, definitely loves video games. It’s really quite beautiful and feels like a twisted Super Mario Bros.
Best Fighting Game: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) by Sora
I really didn’t play all the fighting games I wanted to this year, but I did enjoy Brawl. It didn’t hold my attention much after the first few weeks, but the multiplayer was crazy when it first came out, and I really enjoyed the single player campaign despite players being forced to replay the same levels. I especially liked the fan service with Sonic in the single player. My only complaints are that the online multiplayer sucked and the characters look so damn small in four player matches when everyone is far apart and the camera is way back.
Best Male Voice: Stephen Fry as The Narrator in LittleBigPlanet (PS3) by Media Molecule
Just go watch the introduction. Really.
Best Female Voice: Paula Tiso as Sylvia Christel in No More Heroes (Wii) by Grasshopper Manufacture
I loved how Tiso made Sylvia seemed angry, violent, sadistic, sexual, and flirtatious all at once. Sylvia was a wonderful character, and Tiso really made her come alive. Without her talented voice work, this game would not have been anywhere near as great as it was.
Big Name in the Game Male, Big Name in the Game Female, Best Team Sports Game: N/A
I don’t feel like I can properly make decisions for these categories. I have no opinion on the first two and didn’t play any team sports games at all.