2006: The Year in Review

Yet another collection of worthless opinions from some guy you don’t know.

Surprise Discovery of the Year: 2006 saw me acquire my first handheld gaming device since my good ol’ Helmet (CN-07) Game And Watch… I picked up a Nintendo DS Lite. This really opened my eyes to the opportunities of handheld gaming, mainly because of the World Cup in Germany. I’d sit in front of the telly, “watching” every minute of every game (including Australia being robbed) and, during breaks or dull bits of play (hello, USA) I’d belt through some Project Rub or Sonic Rush.
However, late 2006 also saw the arrival of the Wii – and what a blast the last couple of weeks has been.
Wii Sports Tennis, Wii Zelda… it’s been brilliant. Sure, my shoulder’s stuffed now from that bloody Baseball, but it’s just fantastic fun. And so the Surprise Discovery of 2006 Award goes to… Nintendo. For… well, everything. Hey look at me, I’m a born-again Ninty fanboy :)

Disappointment of the Year: Easy one, this. After the sheer bliss of Project Rub, I felt compelled to snaffle the sequel, Rub Rabbits. Big mistake; no real advance in gameplay, and several aspects broken. And, let’s face it, Stampede on Hell Mode is just stupid. Booooooooooo.

Almost-but-not-quite Award: Ninety-Nine Nights. So much potential, and when the stars are correctly aligned the gameplay blissful. But the fact that it crashes more-than-occasionally, the completely half-arsed “story” (and I use that term very loosely), and the fact that there’s no checkpoints or save opportunities in Missions that can last half-an-hour result in you screaming with rage at the 360 because an end-of-Mission boss mashed you to a pulp because your dry eyes blinked at the wrong time or maybe the 360 Blade-Of-Death appeared right after the DVD drive spun down whilst trying to load the “Mission Complete” screen… ahem. Bugspray and a bit of care in the concept would’ve seen N3 highly regarded; instead, it’s a sorry tale of All That Could Have Been.

Press Conference of the Year: No-one could have guessed at the time that E3 2006 would be the last rendition of the Gamer’s favourite meat-market; no doubt a squillion smaller dev studios heaved many a sigh of relief after the announcement, thanking their deities that yet another make-or-break deadline for their pride and joy had disappeared. Still, E3 went out with a trio of variable press conferences from the console manufacturers. Sony started the ball rolling with the epitome of marketing suicide – talking smack, followed by gob-smacking stupidity. “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does” blended right into “actually happened in actual ancient actually actual Japan” and, of course, the giant enemy crabs. Never has one hour of such head-up-arse arrogant dribble turned me against a company so completely. Compare and contrast, then, against the much shorter press gig that Nintendo put on – chock full of enthusiasm and, dare I say it, FUN and JOY and LOVE OF GAMING. So, who takes the award – the people who encouraged me to hate (and I do love a good hate-fest), or the people who projected love? Nintendo, hands down.

Saviour/Death of Gaming Award: I’ve professed my love for Xbox Live and its GamerPoints before, but in that missive – right at the end, for all two of you who bothered reading – I expressed concern for the cheating potential. Of course, human greed is a wonderfully predictable thing, and so the numbers of people cheating via gamesaves (or similar) has gone through the roof, and there’s even “services” now who pledge to acquire GamerPoints on your Xbox Live account in exchange for cold hard cash. Delightful. And yet, Live still proffers plenty of moments from Gaming Heaven; wonderful demonstrations of international camaraderie and competition, and gentle encouraging GP goading. I guess the good comes with the bad.

Where-have-you-been-all-my-life Award: My Nintendo DS allowed me access to a game family that I had never previously tasted: I snaffled New Super Mario Brothers and indulged, for the first time, in the glorious 2D platforming antics that Mario (apparently) typifies. And NSMB would be a more-than-worthy winner of this Award – symbolising the gaping holes in my gaming upbringing – were it not for the stunning beauty of Ico. For which my words cannot… ummmm… express stuff. But it’s a bloody brilliant game, I’ll tell you that.

In Summary: 2006 was a great year to be a gamer here in Australia – even if we had to make do with late 360/DS Lite/Wii launches and no PS3 (guess what, Sony? The next gen has already come to Casa Moobaa, and the PS3 isn’t part of it – oh boo hoo). The brickbats from this rag-tag bunch of awards went to Rub Rabbits, Ninety-Nine Nights, and Sony; bouquets were delivered unto Nintendo, Nintendo again, Xbox Live, Ico, Ridge Racer 6, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I threw those two at the end in just because.

Anyway, what are you still doing reading this? It’s 2007 – a whole new year – so get gaming!

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