2009 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame
February 9, 2009

I must admit that there is a lot to smash in this picture.

If you visited the BOP offices, you'd probably believe that the Video Game of the Year was Halo 3. Despite the fact that the game was released to the public in 2007, the group really seems to enjoy the team dynamic available to them with this infamous Xbox 360 shooter. Still, we can't name Halo 3 Game of the Year two years in a row, can we? Can we?

The game in the top spot this year reflects the ascension seen by Nintendo, which saw its market share fall significantly to Sony during what we will heretofore refer to as the GameCube years. (Me, I loved the GameCube. There were countless games on the system that I absolutely adored, including Eternal Darkness, Viewtiful Joe and Animal Crossing.) Since the Wii has come to prominence, though, a whole new world of gaming has opened up. People who haven't played on a system since the Atari are reliving their youth as they take on Wii Sports and other interactive games like it.

Our winner of Best Video Game is Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game that is the grandchild of Super Smash Bros., which originally debuted in 1999 for the Nintendo 64. The second game in the series, Super Smash Bros. Melee, was created in 2001 for the GameCube and deserves mention along with those other games I noted in the paragraph above as one of the best ever made for the system. The Wii version, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, is the biggest and best ever.

For those unfamiliar with the game (and we're sad for you if this is true), Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a fighting game that lets players choose characters from the Nintendo family and smash each other around until a winner is declared. Playable characters include Mario, Luigi, Kirby, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Samus, Pikachu, Link, and a host of others. Each character has his or her own special moves, which means that someone who is skilled at the game can really dominate depending on who they play as. Things are even complicated along the way as special props are dropped, like guns, baseball bats, Pokeballs and more. These can be used to pack an extra wallop and hopefully smash your opponent out of the stadium.

The Smash Bros. series has always been a blast, but this time around, there's the added benefit of online play, which means that just as we did with Halo 3, friends can join up and play each other to settle the score as to who is truly the best smasher around. It's cute, it's funny and it's a joyous way to spend an evening.

Second and third place are owned by games targeted for the Nintendo DS. First up is the glorious strategy game from Square Enix, Final Fantasy Tactics A-2: Grimoire of the Rift. BOP has a faction of Final Fantasy fans - including me, and it's likely that this dedication to the series helped to bump this game up to runner-up in our annual poll. The game itself has players leading a clan of creatures to battle through a fictional land known as Ivalice, which happens to be the same setting as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII. Essentially, you work your various team members to learn a variety of jobs, and then choose the best players for each battle. It's almost like creating a small family, and it offers all kinds of replay value. For fans of role-playing-games and figuring things out, it's a top notch option.

Speaking of RPGs, another Square Enix property takes the third place spot. This time, it's Chrono Trigger, a port of a Play Station game that has been improved and expanded for the Nintendo DS. Not only is Chrono Trigger one of the more inventive RPGs you're likely to find, but it also has a variety of endings, which once again means that there is reason to return to the game again and again. For my money, the DS is ideally suited to the RPG genre, and the Square Enix games in our top two are perfect examples why.

The games in positions four through eight all share something in common. Each one is playable on the Xbox 360 platform, and in fact, all of them except one are exclusive to the system. Fourth place goes to Left 4 Dead, a 360 title from Valve Corporation, the same folks responsible for Half-Life, its sequel and all of the titles that go along with it such as Portal. Left 4 Dead is a survival horror game that pits humans against zombies that emphasizes cooperation amongst the Survivors. The great thing about Left 4 Dead is that it allows players to either work with or against each other in online play, which means that at last zombie fans have the chance to enjoy this genre of gameplay together rather than alone in a dark room.

Fifth place goes to Rock Band 2, for what are probably obvious reasons. A number of us were early adopters of Guitar Hero, playing the game long before it attained true popularity in the mainstream population. It's only natural that we'd want to move forward to a game that allows us to not only jam on the guitar, but to show our prowess on all of the instruments and vocals.

Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2 take the sixth and seventh spots. Fallout 3, which is playable both on the Xbox 360 and the PS3, is an action role-playing game set nearly 300 years in the future, and has players trekking through a ruined Washington, D.C. to locate a parent who has disappeared. As for the follow-up to Gears of War, we liked that it had a deeper plot than the original game and also thought the new Horde mode was highly worthwhile.

Rounding out the top ten are Too Human, Mario Cart Wii and in a tie for tenth, LittleBigPlanet and Wii Fit. It was probably inevitable that we would honor Too Human. From developer Silicon Knights (creator of the aforementioned Eternal Darkness), Too Human is a futuristic retelling of Norse myths, which makes for a unique and engaging story and immersive experience. If you don't know what Mario Kart is, well, you've missed out over the years. A racing game full of fun, the Wii finally allows players to compete online, which is good for sucking hours and hours of your day away. And finally we have LittleBigPlanet to close things out. This amazing game, exclusive to the PS3, has you play as Sackboy, a charming little fellow with whom you explore and create your own world. It's one of the most innovative games to emerge in recent years, and it seems a bit of a shame that more people aren't getting into it. On the other hand, everyone seems to know all about Wii Fit, the game that gets you off your couch and working to become more fit. It's not quite a perfect workout, but we appreciate the effort at something new and more active. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture