Instead of just doing a plain top 10 list of the best games this year, I’m going to be going over the entire year in gaming, picking out some of the best and some of the worst examples of gaming in each month, as well as what was going on in the wider world of the Games Industry at the time. For the sake of easy reference, I’m going to be going by the American release dates for these games. Some games may get left out ‘cos I quite simply didn’t play them/had little knowledge of them/absolutely no interaction or interest in them and so it makes no sense to give my opinions of them now. At the end, there will be a top 10 list of my best games of the year, including what I believe to be the best game released this year; as well as a quick review of the decade as a whole and my top 5 contenders for the rather tough to decide ‘Game of the Decade’. January At the end of 2009, there were a number of titles slated for a 2009 Holiday release that just never showed up. Ultimately, most of them will appear in these first few months of 2010, but January plays host to two of the biggest titles that shouldn’t be in this topic: Bayonetta and Mass Effect2: Mass Effect 2 Mass Effect 2 needs very little introduction. The original Mass Effect was a rather unanimous success for the Xbox 360 in 2007, featuring a huge space-operatic plot, a heavy level of player influence on the outcome of the game and the actions available to them later on depending on their choices and... Well, some dodgy third person shooter combat. Mass Effect 2, then, is pretty much more of the same – except that the combat is vastly improved. As is the general control of the game – with menus simplified and better control of your squad, both in and out of combat, available. There’s very little that can be said against Mass Effect. What it does right, it does really well; what it doesn’t do so well, it still manages to keep at a fairly high level. Mass Effect 2 really does set out to improve on the experience of playing the game over its predecessor, while still keeping a tight focus on what these games are really about – telling a story. When it comes to accepting videogames as a literary form akin to books, television or film, Mass Effect is one of the first, important steps on that road. It’s still not there, obviously – but it proves the potential is there, and that by allowing the player to influence the events as a whole, videogames may just be capable of bringing something wholly new to the world of great literature – when they get there. Bayonetta Bayonetta is not a game destined to be on the top of anyone’s lists. Ever. However, that does not mean that it isn’t a good game. Far from it, in fact, it’s actually a fantastic action romp with enough absurdity and frivolity that it gives the darkness and violence of the game a light-hearted, amusing tone. I mean, her clothes are her hair and she has guns in her shoes. That’s just cool. It’s impossible to mention Bayonetta without drawing up a comparison to Devil May Cry. So, there. Consider the two compared. Darksiders Y’know, I never actually picked up Darksiders. Seeing now that it’s been almost a year since release kinda makes me feel bad over that. General consensus, however, is that Darksiders is a pretty solid game. For those even less in the know than I, Darksiders puts you into the role of War – one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – but your job is to bring order and prevent the Apocalypse (or rather, prevent it happening before it’s meant to) rather than bring it. This job sends you on a sprawling journey, fighting angels and demons along the way as you pick up more weapons and powers in preparation for the final battle.# Ultimately, it got a bit of a reputation for effectively being a Zelda game in disguise. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing – after all, there isn’t much one can complain about when it comes to Zelda’s formula, other than them not being very much different between each game. As it is, I can only give Darksiders a bit of a complimentary nod, given its absence from my playlist – but it’s definitely worth a mention among this year’s big releases. If, like me, you missed out on it, you may wish to over the next two years, as a sequel is due in 2013. Tatsunoko vs Capcom Ultimate All Stars When it comes to fighting games on the Wii, you’re pretty hard up for choices, really. Tatsunoko vs Capcom and Smash Brothers Brawl are your two main choices – and Brawl really doesn’t compare to the kind of gameplay you’d want and expect from a Capcom 2D fighter. Luckily, Tatsunoko vs Capcom does – playing quite similarly to the Marvel vs Capcom games with a few main differences. Firstly, instead of Marvel characters, the Capcom lot are fighting a bunch of weeaboo cosplayers. Well, to be y'know, factual, they’re actual anime characters from a few shows by the Tatsunoko Production company – however, it’s fair enough if, like me, you have no idea who any of these people are as most of these shows never left Japan. Secondly, instead of three characters to a team for each player, there are only 2. This only serves to simplify the gameplay rather than drastically change it, though. With only one character to switch to, it gives you simple and strong control over your character changes – something you can struggle with in MvsC to begin with. Ultimately, a lot of TvsC is about simplifying the game to make it easier to play. This shouldn’t really be surprising, given that it’s the Wii, but it can feel a bit –too- simplified from time to time. Thankfully, the truly simplified controls accessible to the Wiimote/Wiimote+Nunchuk users can be replaced with deeper control by using a Classic Controller, Gamecube controller or a proper arcade stick. However, if you’re coming straight off of Street Fighter IV and into this, it doesn’t matter what control method you use – the fighting is still effectively a simplified version of SFIV/MvsC2 and the hardcore fighters will tear through the game pretty quickly. Ultimately, TvsC doesn’t provide anyone with a complete experience unless you’re a total weeaboo or an actual Japanese person. Those who have no clue about who the anime characters are won’t find themselves very attached to them, while those who are interested in getting some solid 2D Capcom fighting action on the Wii are going to be a bit disappointed at the level of depth to the fighting compared to its bigger brothers. It’s still a fun title, though, and still the only real option for such an experience on the Wii. At the end of the day, a strange, but enjoyable game – though never great. Notable mentions Dark Void, Army of Two (2), Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond and MAG (Massive Action Game) all came out in January to a fairly middling reception. Of all these, I’ve only had any experience with MAG, and it was... ok. It represented an interesting curiosity (256 people in one FPS map and an interesting grouping system), but ultimately it’s a multiplayer game with no single player to ground it in anything deeper than just being shot at by a bunch of annoying, swearing, 10 year old Americans. No More Heroes 2 also came out in January in the States (a bit later everywhere else) and while it received some pretty positive reviews, it never really got off the ground in terms of sales. It’s no real surprise, then, that Goichi Suda, its creator, isn’t really interested in making any more for the Wii. Tune in next time for February and a good deal of self-indulgence.