A “best of” list spanning across multiple media would be the ideal thing to do, but I just don’t feel at the forefront of anything but games and internet junk. As far as music is concerned, my favourite albums from the last year actually came out in the early 80s and 90s. There’s been some new albums that I’ve enjoyed this year, but I haven’t heard enough to be definitive about them (though, if anything, Rossz Csillag Allat Született might be my album of 2005).
Same deal with movies. It was a joy to finally attend the Toronto Film Festival this year, but outside of that I really did not go to see many recent films. 2005, more than anything, was the year that I raised my eyebrow to Westerns. This was the first time in my life that I gave them any serious consideration and I have come emerged a fan of the genre. I saw everything from “Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” to “The Wild Bunch” and “Ride the High Country”* to “Unforgiven” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and everything inbetween. I liked a lot of it. It’s been a good year in that regard, but calling “Once Upon a Time in the West” the best film of 2005 isn’t right, so I’ll leave those labels to the Golden Globe and Oscar people and all other reviewers.
Books? Forget that. TV? Nope.
So I’m left with games. I’ve played an ample amount of videogames this year and I had grown tired of — and abandoned — most of them. I got bored of Resident Evil 4; I never finished Shadow of the Collossus; I only did a few races in Forza and Gran Turismo 4; I barely started Dragon Quest VIII; I only finished the first few missions in Nexus; etc etc.
Perhaps my attention span has really shifted over the last couple of years. Perhaps I’m just tired of all the conventions and cliches and unnecessary complications. I’m not sure which, but my picks for “top games of 2005” reflect some of that. Save for one title, they’re all simple (not stupid) quick-play games.
Top 5 games of ’05:
5. Castlevania: Dawn of Souls. Best 2D action platformer since Metroid Zero Mission. Collecting mechanic can be a bit annoying, but for the most part you can just skip that and hack and slash your way through. The game gets harder because of it, but the option to make the trek easier (by collecting souls) is always there. Last boss was a bitch.
4. Civilization IV. The exception of the bunch. Once I got past the installation headaches, I lost a lot of time to this game just as I did with III and II. More of the same, yes, but more of the same gold standard.
3. Mario Kart DS. I really enjoyed the SNES game. I never did play the N64 incarnation. I was really bored with the GameCube and GBA versions. To me, this was the first real sequel to the SNES original. The others just don’t compare (though I do wish the battle mode was better.)
2. Lumines. It was a toss up between this and Meteos, but over the holidays, I pulled out Lumines for a quick game and ended up playing for an hour and a half. Winner. It’s a gem in what has been a rather lacklustre PSP showing.
1. Guitar Hero, by far. There’s a reason why I recently changed my band’s name from the not-so-rocking “MKN” to the more rocking, and much more accurate, “REPETITIVE STRESS”; Guitar Hero is going to give me RSI. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve failed to complete “No One Knows” on Expert (MANY), I keep coming back to the game. I keep coming back to try to improve on my past performances. I keep coming back to unlock more songs and guitars. I keep coming back because it’s still fun.
* Speaking of which, the Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection seems to be coming out on DVD in a couple of weeks.