It’s time to take a look back over the last six months and shine a light on the games that really hit my sweet spot — those that kept me awake, late at night, for “just one more.”
On the 360, it was the dynamic duo of blistering, blitzkrieg action assaults doled out by Capcom’s Devil May Cry 4 and Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden II. Of the twin titles, DMC4 is the more accomplished, blasting its way into this new generation with style to spare. Nero and Dante’s arrival on the 360 was gratifying in more ways than one, as they injected some high-intensity third-person action platforming on a system that was swiftly following its forbearer down the well worn FPS alley, and it introduced a big Japanese hit series on a system that has struggled to make ends meet Down East.
Ninja Gaiden II, the long-awaited true sequel to one of my favorite titles on the original Xbox, wasn’t as good as its predecessor, but that’s like comparing deep-fried Snickers. What’s on display is a tasty morsel that simply continues the fight the original game started. It might not bound beyond its predecessor in terms of graphics and gameplay, but it does provide another large bite of bone crushing, over-the-top action, which truly satisfies.
On the Wii, Nintendo finally launched WiiWare, its long awaited answer to XBLA, and with it, they released my favorite game on the system this year, LostWinds. LostWinds is a classic 2D platformer gussied up with some three-dimensional effects and brought to vibrant life through the expert application of the Wii-specific motion controls. This is the reason gamers like myself bought the Wii — to garner new gameplay experiences. While LostWinds appears similar to platformers of old, the Wiimote really enhances the game, as the player wields their wand to create gusts of winds that propel their avatar through a lush fantasy and utilize these abilities to solve an escalating series of brain teasers. The knock against LostWinds is that it ends just as its potential is tapped, but knowledge that this is merely a prologue to a greater adventure leaves me hoping the winds blow this way again soon.
Finally, the PS3 plays host to the absolute best game of the last six months and, most likely, the year with the release of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In MGS4, Kojima brings the 10-year Solid series to a satisfying close and ties down every loose tether in the full Metal Gear mythology. With this latest, and last, Solid Snake adventure, Kojima refines the gameplay he crafted, bringing every innovation he’s pioneered in the tactical espionage action arena to the absolute apex of perfection, providing innumerable ways for players to navigate his beautiful warzones.
His greatest achievement is his trailblazing approach to game narrative. In MGS4, Kojima layers in real-time cut scenes that segue way to gameplay and vice-versa, thereby blending the definition of what it means to play a game or watch a movie. In Kojima’s universe, the two separate actions and entertainments are a symbiotic whole, his games are meant to be absorbed and reflected upon. As contemplative as his themes are, the guy also knows how to entertain, offering up a rollicking adventure that kicks most summer blockbusters to the curb.
There’s a lot of talk that Kojima should just head to Hollywood and direct movies. No way. We can’t afford to lose this guy. The work Kojima has done to merge mediums, to blend and bend genres, to erase the lines the separate cinematic fiction from gameplay will shape our experiences to come. Kojima is a real pioneer, pushing ever forward into uncharted lands, and his work to remap the game world is vital to its continued existence. Kojima is a master in his craft, forever furthering the argument of games as art. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is his masterpiece.
And I think he’s just getting started.