Enjoyed Recommended

Gaming 2009: DS/PSP/Xbox 360/Wii

When it comes to my attention span, these consoles lost out in 2009.

The PSP software market, already a bit dry, turned desert-like this year. It was hard to find titles that weren’t reviewed poorly (Gran Turismo Portable) or overpriced to hell (LittleBigPlanet PSP, GTA:Chinatown Wars).

The Wii and DS repeated their performance from last year, with the Wii managing 2 retail purchases but no downloaded titles, and the DS managing one retail purchase.

The 360, which last year managed a whopping 1 retail game purchase, managed to sink to an abysmal 0 retail games and about 4 XBLA purchases. (The 360 continues to get a bit of a free pass since every game on the Multiplatform list is available for it.)

With this poor performance in mind, let’s find some silver lining in an otherwise dreary year.


Rhythm Heaven as iTunes Visualizer

For all the things they get right – mass market appeal, price points, easy to understand interfaces – Nintendo occasionally gets things terribly wrong. Among their transgressions against the gaming world: failing to localize (translating + releasing in the US) great games that have appeared in Japan.

But sometimes, the good games make it through. Earlier this year, Nintendo of America came to their senses and released Rhythm Heaven. A localization of Rhythm Tengoku Gold, Rhythm Heaven is a collection of over 50 rhythm-based mini-games for the Nintendo DS. A typical game will see you rocking out with a ghost band, filling robots, playing ping pong, picking turnips, and joining a monkey dance party.

It’s extremely weird, but also extremely fun. Even BeyoncĂ© likes it.

Today, I discovered that by not actually looking at the official Rhythm Heaven site, I missed something fantastic: a free iTunes visualizer, using artwork from the game.

Installers are available for OS X, Vista, and XP. (In case these links break, you can find the downloads through the official site on the left hand side.)

A quick install and iTunes restart later, and even an average song can be made amazing through the addition of trippy visuals from the game.

The visualizer isn’t perfect – I’m not really feeling a lot of “sync” with the music I tried it with, and sometimes the artwork clips oddly – but watching the assembled mass of ghost drummers, duck drill sargents, and lab assistants rocking out to anything you throw at it is a thing of beauty.

Download this, before Nintendo shuts down the site and we’ve lost the archive for this glorious piece of software forever.

(Many thanks to Offworld for tipping me off. If they’re not on your feed reader, they should be.)


Gaming 2008: The Wii + DS

Our Wii got dusty this year – more retail titles than the 360, but less overall purchases. There’s no sign in the coming year that this will change.

Sadly, the same can be said of the DS. A handful of titles that warranted checking out, but nothing that made me say “Wow, 2008 was a great year to have a DS!”. Of course, with the system being four years old, it may be nearing the end of the lifecycle.

## High Points & Surprises

It can’t be argued that No More Heroes was the most enjoyable thing I played on the Wii this year, and the game that pushed the most boundaries this year. Suda51 is a mad man, but like all great mad men, his insanity is society’s gain.

On the DS, The World Ends With You showed that Square Enix *can* do a portable RPG that plays to the strengths of a portable without dumbing it down. Too bad Crisis Core didn’t get the same level of attention.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia finally gives us a tough Metroidvania game, almost to the point of pain. It’s more memorable than the other DS Castlevania titles, that’s for sure.

I played through Professor Layton & The Curious Village. As someone who loved puzzle books as a child, this was a fun nostalgia trip. I can’t figure out what the holdup is on the localization of the other Layton titles.

## Low Points & Disappointments

Super Smash Brothers Brawl failed to pull me in. After clocking endless hours on Melee during college, Brawl featured a slapdash plot, some obnoxious levels, and unplayable networking. It didn’t hook me, and I should probably trade it back.

Mario Kart Wii was more enjoyable than the Gamecube or N64 versions, but I still miss the psuedo-3D of the SNES and GBA titles. Still not quite the level of fun I’m looking for.

Wii Fit caused my most depressing moment of the year: the “fattening” animation after your first weigh-in. Whoever programmed that is a *dick*.

## Open Questions

Is Nintendo ever going to fix the storage issues on the Wii?

Is there any compelling reason to upgrade to the DSi? (I can’t find one.)