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January 02, 2006

VGP's Best of 2005!

*high profile awards are measured up to the top 3 titles, while the lower key, yet still important awards are only measured up to the runner-up.

Best Graphics

: Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)

As if there was any question. Resident Evil 4's graphics engine stands up to the challenge, and rises above all expectations. The living disposition of Leon and his fellow cast mates never cease to amaze, and the pus spewing sores of the ganado and blunt toothed jaws of the el gigante don't disappoint either. As I exclaimed in the written review: this game is next-gen now, and looks better than most high-end PC titles and even the elusive Xbox 360, and it's bevy of launch software. Gamecube owners get the King Shit of graphical presentation.

Silver: Shadow of the Colossus (Ps2)
Bronze: Killer 7 (GC)

Best Story

: God of War (Playstation 2)

A broken man, seeking redemption for the murder of his very own wife and daughter, brought about by the trickery and deceit of the God of War, reaps the ultimate reward for doing what no lumbering army of God's could do. This game has "epic" written all over it. Graphic and non-gratuitous, God of War is an adults rendition of greek mythology, and it sparkles with perfection. The only thing that could make one forget the superb and moderately pornographic story telling here, is the fact that a sequel is, as we speak, in transit.

Silver: Killer 7 (GC, Ps2)
Bronze: Resident Evil 4 (GC, Ps2)

Best Soundtrack

: Shadow of the Colossus (Playstation 2)

Evocative of some of the euphoric feelings most gamers got from experiencing the polyphonic masterpieces of Final Fantasy-past, Shadow of the Colossus shares it's emotions with gamers, rather than just show them off. From the opening moments where nothing but desolation and lonliness prevail, up until the triumphant battle cheers of tussels with the Colossi, Shadow does more than just play music, it is music, and music is art.

Silver: God of War (Ps2)
Bronze: Killer 7 (GC, Ps2)

Best Videogame "Extra"

: Separate Ways (RE4, Ps2)

When a developer can deliver an unlockable feature that lasts almost as long as the game itself, you've done more than create a great extra, you've fabricated a whole new dimension of playability. Ada herself gets her own special abilities like the flip kick; her own gadgets like the grapple gun which allows traversal to new areas altogether; her own set of bosses, including one boss exclusive to Separate Ways, as well as her own cut-scenes, story-line and special weapons. Separate Ways is good enough to be a standalone piece of software. Heck, if all you could play was Separate Ways, the game would still exude the same rich quality of the game we've all come to know and love, starring Leon Kennedy. Separate Ways is more than compensatory for the tardy arrival of RE4 on the Ps2, it's a gift. One which all Resident Evil 4 players should experience at some point in their gaming careers.

Silver: Julius Mode; Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)
Bronze: Call David Jaffe; God of War (Playstation 2)

Best Handheld game

: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)

There's just no competition here. Konami has delivered a phenomenal iteration of the Castlevania series. The strage thing is, it makes use of the Nintendo DS' "features" in very artificial, and gimmicky ways. It isn't the final banishment seals or the ease of navigation with the second screen map that make C:DoS great (they're great additions to be sure, though). It's the depth of gameplay and multitude of customization options, coupled with superb boss encounters and dense sprite 2-D visuals that make Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow a must-own for any self-respected DS owner. It takes action RPG to an all new level for handhelds, and is light years ahead of the rest of the franchises golden, yet unpolished, titles.

Silver: Lumines (PSP)
Bronze: Nintendogs (DS)

Best Voice Acting

: God of War(Playstation 2)

Sophisticated dialogue, and narration on par with blockbuster motion pictures like Lord of the Rings, God of War offers the gamer a believable and emotionally attached cluster of voice work. While technically short-casted, Kratos, Ares and the narrator - remindful of dame Judy Dench - really have been personified within all parameters of humanity. God of War proves to the industry that only a few voices, honed and tweaked to perfection, is by and large better than a large cast of just "good" voice actors.

Silver: Resident Evil 4 (GC, Ps2)
Bronze: Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (GC, Ps2, Xbox)

Most unique title

: Killer 7 (Gamecube)

When someone asks you what was one of the most memorable games of this entire generation, I would hope that on a top ten list, Killer 7 is one of the games you mention. Regardless of whether or not you loved or hated Killer 7, it's a game that caused quite a stir among reviewers everywhere, and should be something you can look back on ten years from now and reminisce. It polarized the entire industry, and not a single game has ever been able to pull off such a feat. From the self-proclaimed lunatic, Suda 51, Killer 7 is a unique perspective on the first person shooter and third person adventure hybrid. It also boasts a storyline more cryptic than the Metal Gear Solids of gaming, or any movie the existential film community would care to conjure. There's no denying the staying power of Killer 7. To this very day, few will say they were in the middle. Most either hated it (as if it had raped and murdered their dog) or loved it (like a mother loves her child). It's suprising to see such reception, but it's that polarity that will forever cement Killer 7 as a memorable game. Even despite this love-hate relationship, the game's cast was crafted masterfully, and really challenged what we think we know, what we actually know.

Note: The Ps2 version of Killer 7 is a glitchy, fat-trimmed version of the Gamecube version. To get the full effect of the unique antics of Killer 7 and the Smith's, do yourself a favour and pick up the Gamecube version if you haven't already..and if you can find it.

Silver: We Love Katamari (Ps2)
Bronze: Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)

Best Action game

: Devil May Cry 3 (Playstation 2)

Take it or leave it, Devil May Cry 3 is the best action game to date. It's a hardcore gamer's wildest dream, featuring a combat engine as lame or as badass as you can make it, and as fast or slow as you want it to be. Just be prepared for the flurry of enemies and bosses, designed to fully test the mettle of anyone, anywhere. Put it this way: if DMC3 is any indication of where DMC4 is heading on Ps3, then next generation is going to blow minds and break barriers, and Capcom will be on the forefront with Devil May Cry.

Runner-Up: Resident Evil 4 (GC, Ps2)

Best Adventure Game

: God of War (Playstation 2)

Without much competition in the category, and God of War already being the masterpiece that it is, Kratos and his Blades of Chaos were a shoe-in for best adventure title. The total game-time probably won't exceed 10 or 11 hours for 99% of gamers out there, but theres more earth shattering content in those 10 hours, than in the whole of other adventure franchises like Zelda and now Shadow of the Colossus. What those guys do is stuff in a lengthy travel period of mundane button mashing to traverse the trail from point A to point B. God of War cuts the fat, and gives gamers all of the things that matter without that, yet comes to a more complete finish. It's reasons like that that make David Jaffe one of this generations greats. God of War isn't just the best adventure game of 2005, and not just the best game of 2005, it's one of this generations best games. Easily in the top ten, if not the top 4 or 5.

Runner-Up: Shadow of the Colossus (Ps2)
Honourable Mention: Killer 7 (GC)

Best Platformer

: Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox)

I know what you're thinking: Prince of Persia is an adventure game, not a platformer! You couldn't be more wrong. When you're scaling the outer walls of the Tower of Babylon, and solving some of the most mind bending, platform intensive puzzles, not to mention the fact that the primary means of travel in PoP is to scale the walls and platform your way across the condemned rooftops of Babylon, I'd say PoP does more than just adventure. It does platforming better and smarter than any game to date. That's the God's honest truth.

Runner-Up: Sly 3 (Ps2)

Best RPG

: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)

RPG fans had some pretty slim pickings in 2005. Without a doubt, no RPG-nut should be without C:DOS or DQ8, but it all comes down to which one is better. Dragon Quest VIII suffers from some pretty hard to miss flaws. Square Enix really fell flat in a lot of areas, but came out smelling cleaner than a daisy with respect to others. However, Castlevania does not ever once suffer from the same stigma. At it's worst, C:DoS does some things mildly mediochre, while remaining quite faithful to the series, and fair to the gamer. Where Dragon Quest VIII has longevity, Castlevania has depth. Where Dragon Quest VIII has satisfactory game design, Castlevania's is great. Where Dragon Quest 8 is breath taking, Castlevania is simply mind blowing. Konami and the Nintendo DS have a winning combination here, and you'd be hard pressed to challenge that notion.

Runner-Up: Dragon Quest VIII (Ps2)

Most innovative game design

: Kirby: Canvas Curse (Nintendo DS)

When the Nintendo DS launched, Nintendo was hot on it's heels, enforcing this notion that the dual-screened, touch friendly handheld would lead to innovation. The launch lineup of software never once proved that point. Instead, we were left with a slightly in-tact rehash of a ten year old game, and 10 other low profile titles that really could be summed up as underwhelming at best. None of them were unique, none of them were innovative, and sure as the wind at my back, none of them were doing Nintendo any good with this new image they were intent on setting for themselves. Then comes our stay-puffed marshmallow space cadet, Kirby. Unleashing upon the DS crowd, true innovation. There's just no denying the power of an innovative game mechanic. It's something no one has ever experienced before, and when it's as good as the penmanship of our pink, fluffy friend, it can only result in good times with what is now the best handheld of 2005.

Runner-Up: Archer McLean's Mercury (PSP)

Game of the year

: God of War (Playstation 2)

David Jaffe has proven once and for all why a game doesn't need to be revolutionary to be great. All it takes is polish. God of War, while technically not markedly different from it's brethren, features some wholelly refined gameplay that gleams in comparison to other adventure titles, and boasts an unmatched sense of scale. From the peon minions of Ares, all the way up to the supersized god of war himself, there's just no umbrella to put the content of this game under. It's something that needs to be seen to be believed. These things coupled with an amazing story, great voice acting, and enough unlockables to warrant the purchase twice over, God of War is the full package.

Silver: Shadow of the Colossus (Ps2)
Bronze: Resident Evil 4 (GC/Ps2)

Reviews for Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, Sly 3, and Dragon Quest VIII coming soon...


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