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.

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The Other Shoe Drops: The PS3 Repair Odyssey

In May of 2007, my Xbox 360 suffered from what is commonly referred to as the Red Ring of Death. A series of four posts followed, in which:

* I spent 40 minutes on the phone with Xbox Support to request my “casket”.
* A week later, I received an extremely destroyed box that I was intended to ship my 360 back with.
* Two weeks later, I received a 360 that was not my own back. Because of Microsoft’s DRM, I then had to fight to get my purchases reactivated.
* This fight lasted another ten days, and involved a Better Business Bureau case, a text adventure, and much screaming into the phone.

Last, my launch Playstation 3 began to routinely crash after 30 minutes of use. This, as far as I can tell, is not a widespread problem – the closest parallel that Sony has is the “Yellow Light of Death”.

(Strangely, my RRoD occurred while playing Crackdown, a free-world adventure game where you play as a crime fighter with superhero powers. My PS3 issues occurred while playing inFamous, a free-world adventure game where you play as a crime fighter with superhero powers. I will not be buying Prototype, largely for the safety of my hardware.)

After the frustration I had dealing with Microsoft – a combination of poor materials, shoddy business practices, and a cavalier attitude towards the customer’s experience – I figured it would be worth documenting whatever hell Sony would put me through. Horror stories are easily found regarding service for launch units, include time frames of “months”, due to Sony no longer manufacturing that exact type of hardware. And given the bile that was spilled regarding the 360’s failures, it would only be fair to hold the PS3 up to the same light.

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Gaming 2008: The Xbox 360

Not counting carry overs from Christmas 2007, I played exactly two disc-based games for my 360 this year, largely due to fears of the hardware failing again. One game was purchased in February, the other in November. The number of disc read errors I’ve gotten on the second game have not subsided this fear – even a post-NXE installation needed multiple tries.

But the appeal for me with the 360 continues to be Xbox Live Arcade, which is where most of my (space) bucks went.

## High Points & Surprises

Rez HD made a fantastic translation into an Arcade title. It provided me with a chance to finally work all the way through the game, and it now has a solid place in my heart. I would’ve bought it at retail at full price.

Culdcept Saga finally came out in the US, 15 months after the game came out in Japan. It was worth the wait for those into deep board games.

Braid made a strong statement for indie games on the 360; the story may not have made much sense, but the puzzles were inventive and the experience was a thrill. I wish I could play it with fresh eyes again.

Geometry Wars 2 showed the rest of the gaming industry how to do leaderboards. Hopefully people will follow Bizarre Creation’s lead in 2009.

n+ took my favorite flash game *ever* and turned it into some online behemoth. Bravo, metanet!

I didn’t end up buying it (due to lack of friends with it), but the translation of Ticket To Ride was well done.

## Low Points & Disappointments

Castle Crashers‘s broken network code. Horribly, horribly broken, enough so that I wouldn’t touch the online portion in fear of losing my saved game. It took three months to get a patch out, and in that time the community has mostly died off.

I was so turned off by the voice acting in Blue Dragon I didn’t get much past the tutorial before trading it back.

I was deep into Mass Effect when the year started, and finished it out within the first week. While the core story and plot were enjoyable, my completionist streak kicked up and I did all the side missions. And between the repetitive architecture, the horrible combat controls, and the general lack of variation, they ruined the game for me. Side missions matter.

While there were certainly enhancements to the core functionality, Gears of War 2 felt like more of the same. Another year, I would’ve given it much more attention; this year, it got lost in the pile.

## Open Questions

Why is Netflix now the reason I’m turning on my 360 the most?