2005 in Review

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posted 1/13/2006 by The GN Staff
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Sean Colleli - Staff Writer
This past year was a real mixed bag as far as games go.  I remember back in December of ’04, we were hearing about how big 2005 would be for gaming.  Unfortunately not everyone’s expectations were met, but there were some high points that made 05 at least memorable.

First and foremost we saw the DS really come into its own.  After a smattering of ho-hum launch titles, developers woke up from their constricting genre hibernation and slammed out some winners.  There were the quirky titles, to be sure (Trauma Center comes to mind) and all out crap (Battles of Prince of Persia).  But we also got hits like Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow, Advance Wars Dual Strike, Meteos, Mario and Luigi 2, and Nanostray. 

In the middle of it all, Nintendo expanded the demographic with their cuddly Nintendogs, a puppy simulator that confounds the hardcore but hypnotizes the casual and female gamers at the same time.  Who could’ve predicted such an innocent concept would turn into a DS selling monster?  Heck, they even released a holiday bundle that flew off the shelves like hotcakes.

It all ended in a bang, of course, with the release of Mario Kart DS, the closest thing to video game crack to come along in a while.  Accompanying the Karting frenzy was the launch of Nintendo WiFi Connection, which was further implemented in Animal Crossing Wild World a few weeks later.  Yes, the DS is showing significant progress after a lukewarm start.

The GameCube, however, wasn’t as lucky as its unorthodox little brother.  Nevertheless, a healthy supply of quality games found their way onto the pint-sized console.  The innovative Geist and the revolutionary Resident Evil 4 stole much of the spotlight, while Killer 7, DDR Mario Mix and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat filled out the selection.  Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance brought some much needed RPG love to the lineup, but with Zelda pushed back to April 2006 there wasn’t a Nintendo produced cube Mega-Hit in 05.

The PC had a relatively healthy year, if rather unexciting.  F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 both promised to change the shooter market, and while they still made a splash, they’re the same old FPS with a new coat of paint.  On the downside Half-Life 2: Aftermath has once again been delayed.

In multiplatform news, Prince of PersiaL The Two Thrones graced all three platforms with the third installment of his trilogy.  After the irritating, Godsmack hardrocking second game, Two Thrones was a breath of fresh air and the fulfillment of the first game, as well as a successful synthesis of artistic beauty and brutal combat.  In other news, Sir Sean Connery was back as Bond in From Russia with Love, although the movie-to-game transfer was inevitably rough.  If I’d wanted to watch cutscenes, I’d pop in the DVD.

Timesplitters: Future Perfect delivered the much-needed run and gun action that Bond faltered with.  Across all three platforms, Free Radical’s nonsensical shooter fulfilled fragging dreams with its massive multiplayer and mapmaker.  The solo game was mostly a parody of older titles Free Radical had worked on, but it was en an entertaining affair without doing anything earth-shattering.  All in all, a good year for action across the board.

Far and away the biggest gaming event of 2005 was the explosive launch of the Xbox 360.  But after the hype faded, so did the divine luster of the 360.  Some of the good games (Call of Duty 2, Quake 4) are available on the PC, a parallel to the original Xbox’s chief problem: it’s a gaming PC with a controller. 

Rare spiced things up with Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero, but Rare’s definitive quality seems to be wearing off.  I really hope they can rescue Joanna Dark’s franchise, the original PD was one of my favorite games and I’d hate to see the series go mediocre.  Here’s hoping PDZ was just a case of development confusion. 

The 360 has a great deal of potential, but like all consoles, it’s up to the developers to use that hardware.  The intentional console shortage backfired, the launch lineup was simply “okay”, but I’m willing to bet Microsoft won’t let the 360 become the next Dreamcast.  Competition is tight, with the uber-powerful PS3 and groundbreaking, user friendly Revolution hitting stores next year, but these are the console wars and everything is fair.  Regardless of which side they’re on, gamers have a lot to look forward to.  2005 was good for gaming, but 2006 will be extraordinary. 

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