Adventure is to action as a GR editor is to beer; one is full of, and undoubtedly enhanced by the other, but we are not, strictly speaking, beer itself. The same goes for Action / Adventure games, though the line gets awfully slurry, I mean, blurry.
So perhaps what distinguishes an Action / Adventure game from a plain old action game, aside from a dubious drinking analogy, is scope. Instead of violence in stages, Action / Adventure games give us entire cities, realms and fairy tales in which to meet exotic creatures and characters, then kill, paint, or wedgie them accordingly.
Where to begin? Perhaps with the revolutionary "Paintbrush tail" mechanics Clover tied in so brilliantly with the game's painted, watercolor visuals and clever, moving story. Or maybe the fact that Okami is at least fifty hours of the smartest action / adventure gameplay we've ever seen.
Perhaps we should lament the passing of the studio responsible, or applaud them for making the most of their time. We'd scream for Capcom to dissolve all their studios if it meant more games as good as Okami.
For now it will have to be enough to say Okami is one of the best games ever made, and easily the best Action / Adventure game of the year. That's pretty good, for starters.
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
In 2006, crazed pundits tried to start a controversy over Bully. The only problems was that, instead of making a depraved and tasteless murder sim, developer Rockstar created a smart, savvy, humorous game where the violence was accurately juvenile and you actually wanted to attend class. With a perfect teenage sneer, Bully reminded us all that high school was as bad as we remember, and as fun as we had forgotten.
Platform: Wii | Gamecube
As solid a hero as ever, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a classic Link adventure, even if you're not technically Link himself. With the newfound ability to transform into a wolf, 2006 was yet another great year for saving the land of Hyrule. Although some of the game’s bacon was admittedly stolen by Okami, there’s no denying that this was one of the most entertaining games of the year. May the Triforce be with you.