The changes wreaked on WoW are huge and dramatic, altering the entire scape of Azeroth. In contrast, Pokemon looks much the same today as it did back in the days of Red & Blue Versions. This isn't to say that the series hasn't changed; it certainly has. Those changes, though, are behind the scenes in ways that casual Pokemon fans wouldn't see.
But the same changes have made a silly little game about collecting weird and fantastic monsters into one of the most hardcore and strategic competitive videogames on the market today. I've always been very positive on how the mechanics of Pokemon have only been changing for the better with every successive generation, and this fourth generation is the best yet.
Back in the day, I'd loved Pokemon Gold & Silver; to this day some see them as the best games in the series. I'd also loved Pokemon Diamond, Pearl & Platinum for their imaginative roster of characters (giant steel penguin!) and nigh-perfected gameplay. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver married the two - how could I not but love it?
As someone who's loved Pokemon from the outset, HeartGold & SoulSilver are the definitive games in the series. Will that change when Black & White show up? Maybe, but that won't make these games any less awesome.
The press room at BlizzCon is always pretty nifty - you have snacks, kiosks for all the games (so you don't need to go play them down on the floor), and a feed for the pay-per-view showing that covers all the panel and major events. It's always very busy, with dozens of members of the press and various fan sites running all over the place, from panel to hands-on to interview.
And yet, during the finals for the StarCraft II tournament, everyone stopped what they were doing to watch, enraptured, as two of the best players in the world went head to head. It didn't matter if they were there to cover StarCraft, Warcraft, or Diablo - or if they weren't gaming press at all - every single person in that room was transfixed by the match no matter how much they knew about StarCraft.
That to me is the beauty of StarCraft II. Yes, it has a great single-player campaign with stunning mission design (though it could have used a better scriptwriter). It certainly has a tremendously successful and entertaining multiplayer mode that takes the gameplay of its legendary predecessor and smoothly updates it to modern standards while adding its own twists - and yet remaining distinctly StarCraft. It's one of the most fun games I've ever played.
But it's also one of the most entertaining games I've ever watched. Competitive gaming just isn't accessible to non-gamers: We'll show non-gamers that one legendary Street Fighter III clip, but anything beyond that and their eyes glaze over as the gamers marvel at the mix-ups and combo strings. Competitive Counter-Strike is incomprehensible if you don't know what's going on.
Blizzard hasn't just created a magnificent RTS with StarCraft II (though it has). It's also created the best example yet for gaming as a spectator sport. When we're watching "World Series of StarCraft II" on ESPN six years from now, it'll be because of this game.
Those are my five favorites for the year - check back tomorrow for Managing Editor Steve Butts' picks, and keep track of all of our Five Favorites lists here!