Platform: PlayStation 2
It's been a great year for the PS2 - like an aged theatrical ham given one more chance at the spotlight, it's delivered performance after performance that has shown the younger generation that the old codger of the console world still has what it takes. Okami and God of War 2 should be in most sensible best of lists, some people (though not me) regard Final Fantasy XII as the best RPG of all time, and even Burnout Dominator can stake a claim to being the year's finest arcade racer. But with Rogue Galaxy we're in the era of the final flourish. With no major exclusives after September, the PS2 is heading off to what passes for retirement in console circles - a few more years of dwindling franchise updates and cheap kiddie-flick adaptations.
It would be nice to report, then, that it's going out with a bang, particularly as, when originally sighted, Rogue Galaxy seemed to fit in perfectly with FFXII and Okami as one of the PS2's late greats. Developed by Level 5, the creators of Dark Chronicle and Dragon Quest VIII, you could see it as the culmination of their cartoon RPG style. Rogue Galaxy is a dazzling fantasy space-opera; the sort of RPG you might get if you locked George Lucas and Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki in a room with Square-Enix employees and said they had to come up with a game before they could leave.
In terms of visual artistry, the, Rogue Galaxy is as good as it gets. In many ways it bests Blue Dragon on the Xbox 360, with superb, detailed character designs, gorgeous fluid animation and stunning cel-shaded worlds. You might not get the vast scope or size of the epic landscapes of Dragon Quest VIII, which seemed to stretch off into the distance from everywhere you looked, but you do get something more detailed and consistently impressive.
Make no mistake; there is a wonderful imagination at work here. The game kicks off with a desert planet straight out of Star Wars, but then introduces Space Pirates who race around the universe in stately, tall-masted Galleons. From there we're off to lush jungle planets, a huge urban metropolis with towering skyscrapers and traffic in the skies, water worlds and planets of perpetual twilight. And while your hero might be straight out of the classic spikey, blond dreamer book, he's soon crewed up with a tubby Scots aliens, bossy talking cats, Amazonian tribeswomen and C3P0-esque camp robots. All are brilliantly conceived and drawn. The only fly in the ointment is the baffling omission of Widescreen support. Is anyone out there still playing games on a 4:3 TV?