The Top 50 continues! Check out 50-41 from yesterday, and look out for the next three parts over the next three days.
40. Saints Row 2
Oli Welsh: I didn't play it, but I enjoyed the vitriolic, polarised debate around Saints Row 2 very much, especially when Grand Theft Auto IV was brought up - if only to hear Rockstar fans arguing for GTA's moral sophistication and character depth.
Kristan Reed: Top of the list of games I haven't got around to playing yet. I was one of the few to stand up for the hilariously depraved original, so I'm very much looking forward to giving this some airtime over Christmas, yo.
Alec Meer: I only came to this recently and well, wow. It's GTA IV with the brakes off - no delusions of grandeur, none of the pointless early-game restrictions and turgidly similar/over-difficult missions Rockstar won't fix, and the most laughing I've done in a GTA-like since Vice City. It's also astonishingly crass, occasionally genuinely offensive and such a shameless copycat that it's a wonder Rockstar hasn't had the entirety of THQ arrested. That it sails through all that is testament to how well it's realised. Essentially, it's the GTA freeform rampage spectacular you describe yourself doing to your friends, knowing you're exaggerating your fairly pedestrian cop-killing hugely as you tell it. Only with SR2, you're not exaggerating anything.
John Walker: Still waiting for the PC version. Waiting... Waiting.
Rob Fahey: I spent more time with this than with almost any other console game this year, music games excepted. It's like Volition was channelling whatever spirit made Vice City so good - a glorious combination of humour, variety and kitsch which made it into a joy to explore and play. It's got more rough edges than a cheese grater, but it didn't matter - compared with the perfectly honed but ultimately staid and serious GTA IV, I go for Saints Row's silliness any day.
Johnny Minkley: GTA IV is my clear game of the year, and I really wasn't expecting a great deal from this since it had lost its original USP of being the only 'next-gen' GTA-style game. Volition's take on the genre might not be anywhere near as slick as Rockstar's, but it's stupid in the best possible way, and co-op is just great fun. I expect Bertie loves it mainly for the cross-dressing.
Frontier Developments / Wii
Kristan Reed: I can only assume only a few of us got around to playing this, or else it'd be up there alongside Braid as another poster child for 2D platforming loveliness. Frontier really needs to turn this into a full game and turn it into some sort of 2D British Okami. It might actually give a lot of us a reason to switch the Wii on again.
Tom Bramwell: I don't love it as much as Kristan, but I still agree. I think the position for this says more about WiiWare's failings in its first year than the game's quality.
38. Lost Odyssey
Microsoft / Mistwalker / feelplus / Xbox 360
Rob Purchese: Lost Odyssey turns cheesy, drags on and loses focus. But when the mixture works, particularly during the morose dream sequences, the effect tugs at the heartstrings in a profound and mature way. Even the random battles can't mire that.
Rob Fahey: Along with the flawed but lovely Eternal Sonata, this is the best game which Microsoft's huge expenditure on JRPGs has produced so far - which is quite depressing, actually. It looks beautiful and it's by no means unpleasant to play, but it's let down by horrible character art, a dated battle system and a thoroughly predictable story.
Simon Parkin: Videogames' immaturity has ensured that we're used to questing for humanity's baser goals: wealth, power, immortality and Princess Peach. Lost Odyssey turns convention on its head (at least that of the narrative variety, this is a traditional JRPG elsewhere) by revealing an immortal protagonist who is fed up with life and wants out. Littered throughout the game are 31 tiny stories plucked from protagonist Kaim's 1000 years of existence. Penned by esteemed Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu and translated by Jay Rubin, a Harvard professor best known for his translations of Haruki Murakami's work, they provide us with the year's best writing in a videogame, stuffed with sentiment but shy of sentimentality. While it's a shame that Shigematsu's pen didn't extend to the rest of the dialogue in the game, it's worth playing just for these moments. Elsewhere this is an orthodox but lovely JRPG that delights all the way to its conclusion, proof also, after the lacklustre Blue Dragon, that ex-Square founder Hironobu Sakaguchi really does know how to make a good videogame.