Many of those hours were spent on the train and why not? Two hours of commuting daily gives me plenty of time to play! It also, unfortunately, has started a disturbing trend. My habits are changing - I'm starting to enjoy gaming on the go rather than on consoles.
There's just so much effort involved with a console!
Who am I? I'm scared!
Ridiculousness aside, there WAS a reason why I did not play as many console games this year other than the convenience of portable gaming.
That reason is number 15 on my list of the many games I played this year. As per usual, there were games I played that I did not get to last year or whenever they were released. Some of these will be counted and sorted anyway in my review list of favourite games I put my hands on this year.
Developer: Sting Entertainment
I felt as though I wasted valuable time playing this through. It was your standard RPG experience and not very likeable. There was only one character for me to be interested in and even he was not swoon worthy, or very complex. Playing through Levant's story was enough for me to not want to play through Cecilia's story (is that her name? Already forgotten, I have). I may have been interested to see what happens with the main evil kid and to get a true ending, but if someone could play through the 30 hour journey of mostly boredom for me, then I'd be willing to fight the final fight. Since that is never going to happen, I'm going to consider this game the worst I've played this year. The decent music involved was not enough to save the overall experience.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
The little brackets indicate where this game would place if it were a true contender in this futile exercise of a list I enjoy making. Legacy of Ys: Book I is old. That does not mean a game that old cannot be super fabulous but it has a somewhat of a handicap. That said, it's a funny little action adventure game - it's got magic, dungeons, an incredibly tall tower, a power/hair metal soundtrack and lots of things to slash at. Zipping around was fun, killing things was fun, and my life energy draining like madness upon encountering a boss was fun if not maddening at times. I can see the appeal and truthfully, I would like to play Book II based on my impressions of Book I. Perhaps next year!
19. Elite Beat Agents (DS, 2006)
It's tough putting such a lauded game so low on the list but then again, this is turning out to be a tough list to create. This game was good - it was made specifically to utilize the stylus and touch screen capabilities of the DS and executed well. It was also tough as rhythm games often are. The mini-stories were zany, and comical with some truly classic moments throughout. I especially found it clever given the changing of the story line if you did poorly on certain parts of the stories.
On a personal note however, it loses points on the soundtrack. Localizing a game like this must be hard - you cannot use the Japanese tracks as a selling point for this market and goodness knows it would be frustrating and would render it almost unplayable without lots and lots of practice and learning of songs. I understand this and appreciate it. But had I known Good Charlotte was tossed in there among some other horrid ones, I would have given serious thought to not buying this at all. As I said, that was personal on my part and there's always going to be some song to hate. That's also not to say that the soundtrack was a total waste - why, it had David Bowie on there, and that's always a plus.
Developer: Cing (::sniff:: farewell Cing!)
Ehhhh. I expected more. It was almost too easy and I only truly ran into trouble at the end when it mattered most. I got suffocated in a room and it was awful. Other than that, this game played like reading a mystery novel making you the gum shoes on a point and click puzzle adventure. I must say that I found the main character Kyle Hyde quite the likable anti-hero. Without his charm, level-headed, yet bitchy attitude I probably would not have enjoyed playing this much.
The story was not terrible and thinking back on that aspect now, it was decent. The main puzzle to the story involving Kyle and his partner was well-played out, and left on a note of uncertainty. The sketch art fit nicely allowing this game to feel like the pages of a book, while holding the DS at a 90 degree angle enhanced that experience as well. While I thought the game had potential and could have done more, I still would play the second part if given the chance.
Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Studios
This game had incredible potential that it did not quite live up to. It's a genius concept and an ambitious endeavour creating objects using an impressively large lexicon, and creativity. However, the mechanics were horrendous enough for me to not play through in its entirety. The use of the stylus for movement was the worst idea ever and hopefully has been approved in the new one. The other problem is that maybe it's just me but my imagination seemed to be quite limited - or maybe they put me in situations that limited what I could do. Cthuthulu never smote so many creatures before.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
The art in this game is beautiful and reminds me of Wind Waker with pastels. The music is every bit midi sounding and everything about it is a throwback. I like the humour, I love how split the party is at the beginning and I really, really loved that they made me run a shop! I do not like that gil is not easily available, and that I have forgotten how to play a JRPG (leveling up is a must - how could I forget?). It's supposed to be a straightforward game which it is, but the AP magic system really has you stressed by how limited it is, and how quickly the battle can turn.
I also found myself cursing a lot while playing this - leveling up seemed slow and I could run around one dungeon's floor and best creatures I find, but on the next floor get killed after an hour of play. There's no real way to prepare for what you find sometimes, and it's cheap as all hell. I really hate that big time. It boils the blood! I see red!
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Three years - that's how long I waited for this game. A major decision to purchase a PS3 was based on owning this game. Then the warning signs came: it was to be released on the Xbox as well, no pre-order bonus (no loyalty to PS3 owners), no press for PS3 and the rumours that it was so linear that the game was awful.
These were all warning signs I ignored and forty hours in, the game killed my PS3.
I believe I have formulated enough of an opinion to write a review, however.
I would be telling an untruth if I said I hated it. However, I did not love it either - I was not overly impressed by the soundtrack, and I definitely felt suffocated by just how linear 90% of the game was and have long since been not overly wowed by Square's graphics.
Well... that was harsh! Tell us how you really feel, Or 2!
Forty hours is a lot of time to invest in a game not to my liking and one reason is that I feel the need to finish everything I play, unless it's grossly unplayable.
I may not have felt a strong bond with all the characters (really only disliking Snow) but I did enjoy how ultimately their stories intertwined to the main plot. Sazh was my favourite character - his stellar voice acting, emotions and the twist of fate in his story line was the most compelling to me.
The linear game play went by quickly and fit into the story of being on the run but it really just felt soulless, especially after being thrust into Gran Pulse and not knowing which the eff way to go. It was tiring. The battle system I actually very much liked, and Square's got great graphics but as I have said many times, it's expected of them. The quality is always very high for the FF games. But on those parts when I just kept running, there was so much of one colour it made it seem bland.
I would not mind picking up this game again to finish it but I don't really care if I do not either. That's not a good thing and thus, I am relegating this game to my 14th best I played this year. In terms of the Final Fantasy "main" series of games I have played, I will rank this as my second least favourite. FFVIII there's no need to worry. You are still the most suck worthy.
Developer: Harmonix, Backbone Entertainment
Published: MTV Games
My initial impressions of Rock Band 3 were not favourable. RB3 has gone in the direction that it was ultimately going to go: pro. The addition of a keyboard and a pro-mode (with a real six string guitar) was added, and with it the series 'grew up'. I applaud the difficulty increase but the game no longer felt fun to me. The animation was clean cut and more realistic. Re-creating Zarnyx was no easy task and while I usually love attention to detail in my games, there was too much that I could do to mess him up. He in fact, turned out looking very strange in the upper body. Did I want him to continue to be a realistic stick figure of a boy? Yeah, sure. He had more personality that way. I felt the same way for the character customization in The Sims 3.
The track listing was something I had never seen before. It's a whole crazy mix of songs - heavy on the 80's and older tracks, sprinkled with a heavy dose of pop/pop rock. DLC keeps the game fresh, and keeps me poor.
After playing through a longer session with Beetchie, it's the little things that changed and were added that make this game better than the others technically. The difficulty has increased - I'm not sure how that happened but I can no longer fudge a song I don't know. Usually I could tell by the line guidelines just how high or low a vocal part is going to be but not so in RB3. I'm having a hard time adjusting - perhaps a more accurate scale is being used? It's almost as if I see the song is going up high and I adjust to suite except it goes higher than it seems to read. I find myself having to go through a whole verse of actually listening to the song before being able to sing the rest of it properly.
Beetchie notes that the guitar difficulty has gone up as well, and not by much but noticeable enough.
Other welcome additions include more personal movies of your band's humble beginnings on the road to stardom - making your members feel more involved and gives them much more personality; the ability to drop out or change difficulty settings as necessary during gameplay and they finally fixed jumping back into play after pausing. It rewinds and gives you a chance to catch your bearings.
I bought this game for BH and was pleasantly surprised to see that after I jumped into the fray, he had already completed a bunch of the levels. He's a smart one, that. But then I started playing and wondered how the hell he managed. The difficulty level of this game has increased quite a bit from previous installments. Sure, BH has not been able to attain gold trophies or all the special Mario coins and needs help with the higher levels but he adapts well. I'm impressed!
BH aside, like I said, the game has increased in difficulty and I find myself fumbling on some levels before getting it perfectly. I am amazed by how much more fun this new installment is too. The addition of new mechanics has not only increased the challenges but made level designs intriguing.
Particularly challenging have been the boss fights at the end of each level as Donkey Kong sends wave after wave of nostalgia down to you. What nostalgia? Well, the boss levels play like the original game DK game all those years ago back in the 80s. It's a great upgrade and the game feels so much more involved as part of Nintendo's Mario library due to the feel and the very familiar music in certain levels.
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
The visuals in this game were inspired by wood block art and were gorgeous. It was very Japanese in look and feel - even leaving in the Japanese voice acting with English subtitles, which I greatly appreciated. I played through Kisuke's story and began Momohime's. It's not that I have no interest to finish Momohime's, on the contrary, I would love to play this again and will do so when I am able.
Story-wise for Kisuke, it started good enough but ended in a blur. It became some wretched love story, but not sickeningly sweet.
This game gave me a little bit of trouble at times and I really had to think about which blades to forge and use in battle. That was also greatly appreciated - the strategy made the game play even more enjoyable for this side-scrolling slash 'em up adventure.
The music was great which was not unexpected, and though trekking around Japan could sometimes be repetitive, every time an enemy appeared it was thrilling. I also loved the tiny attention to detail here and there in particular Kisuke's behaviour and movements as he ran across the country. He watched his back and ran with one hand on his sheath, ready for battle.
11. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS, 2009)
Developer: Square Enix, and h.a.n.d.
Publisher: Square Enix
It's so easy to be completely confused by the Kingdom Hearts Universe. I certainly am. I missed playing KH II, and with one of my life anthems is finding Disney despicable, I played the original KH many years ago and liked it (much to my dismay). This year I decided to jump back in and began with Roxas' story. I had to figure out who he was by doing a little reading, but as for this game - I really liked it. Yoko Shimomura does, as always, a great job with the soundtrack even if replaying worlds over and over became a tad annoying with the music streaming so familiar and routine in the background. I loved the slot system of managing stats, weapons, and abilities. That in itself was like a mini-puzzle game. But in the end, all the love I had for this somewhat simple entry in the series was due to Roxas. His story is tragic, his personality timid and unsure at first only to evolve and be crippled unknowingly by outside influences. It was touching, even if gameplay was nothing more than hitting a button to defeat your enemies. I did not mind at all.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I decided that I would not play another game after FF: Four Heroes of Light. Then, I got a cold right around Thanksgiving. With an extra day of hanging out at home and a fixed PS3, I decided to play Uncharted. I mostly chose to go with this one from my tiny stack because I really wanted to give the game back to the person who loaned it to me.
Naughty Dog, as I know I have stated before, has always been one of my favourite developers. They made the Jak & Daxter series - one series I consider an all time favourite of mine. I had no doubt that Uncharted would be good even if it involved heavy gun play and wasn't made up of cartoony characters.
While I should have expected no less, Uncharted became a time suck.
I quickly fell in love with Nate, the game's hero. The voice acting and dialogue were superb. The story was fun. It's a Tomb Raider like game if I had to make a comparison, with more heart. I also found myself really disturbed that I could pull off so many head shots with ease and enjoyed it. It's no secret I'm the master at that but getting those achievements made it all the sweeter. It was also pretty sweet that it took me only a few days to beat. It was so interesting to play that the hours just went by. Then the zombies came and I didn't want to play anymore (because zombies are real and will be the death of us along with Google). I stuck that out too, lured fast moving crazy zombies to me and shot them from a corner. It's not the smartest thing backing yourself into a corner but it worked really well thanks to my AK-47.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
I won't say much about why I love No More Heroes because I'm saving that for when I Rank Battle this game (at No. 1? Maybe!), but I will say of part 2 that the soundtrack is phenomenal. I'll say that NMH2 had everything part 1 had but with less charm, and less soul. It was less 'fun' (boss fights sadly so at times) and became too serious plot wise (which not necessarily a bad direction for a game to go...it didn't feel natural). It's not all bad - some of the trademark humour was definitely involved - 8 bit mini games were fabulous along with the Jeanne training game. A giant mech fight complete with cheerleaders? Why not. A Pizza conglomerate and a crazy son bent on revenge in the most peculiar manner? Hey, go right ahead and get...unbelievably large. A haunted house? Okay, now you're just creeping me out.
Honourable Mention: the soundtrack. Again...really a crazy mix of bad rock, pop and techno. It really gets an A+ from me and the best I heard in a game this year.
Developer: Level 5
The third installment of this series had me cursing ever so much. I also think I destroyed my DSi battery some in my many resets to save picarats. Don't judge me! You would have done the same! The frustration came not from puzzles that were too hard, but from puzzles that H1 and I felt to be poorly worded.
Mini-games were incredibly delicious, even if the parrot did cause me to lose some cells from the noggin'. As per usual, the music and the art were stunning.
As far as the story - this was the absolute best in the series thus far. Character development took centre stage, as we got to learn more about the Professor and his Apprentice, Luke. By the end of the tale, I was crying as we learn that Hershel Layton can in fact, be a man and not a Dalek. It's not all cold calculations and gentlemanly etiquette with him; and it's all fun and games until someone loses their true love - for a second time due to some freakin' time-machine. What really got me was that he cried because "it was too much to bear". It was too much for me to bear too, Professor. I really felt for you in that moment.
I...I don't want to talk about it anymore!
Oh, but hottie adult
Developer: Square Enix PDD 5
Publisher: Square Enix
Probably one of the most visually impressive games I've played on my PSP, KH: BBS was also one of the best. This prequel in the KH universe added another layer of complexity to the story. It's ridiculous even trying to figure things out at this point, but it wasn't so bad, really! By the time I got through the third play through, I hated Disney Town so much I wanted to scream but playing through the worlds from the point of view of each character kept the game fresh for the most part. Spell Fusion was brilliant, and I really enjoyed creating brand new spells from the ones I leveled up and collected.
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
A Nintendo Fan pre-launch party which I got to attend (complete with swag) did not sway my opinion to place this game so high on the list. SMG2's utmost fun stands on its own - with cleverly designed levels that were often challenging and as said before, brilliant. Beautiful music accompanied a beautiful game, as Mario (and Luigi whenever I was able) hopped, slid, dashed, oppressed Yoshi and ran through crazy levels in the search for power stars. My fondest memory was Mario ice-skating and doing those triple-axles. They're not necessary but the simple mechanic was executed beautifully and that's what made this game great. It was so smooth and fun to play.
Developer: Clover Studio
The most beautiful game I played this year and what seemed to be the longest, Okami looked like a moving Japanese style painting and surprised me in many ways. Near the end I became a little bit jaded because it went on just a tad longer than it should have. I was surprised when I first fought a main boss just a few hours in. It was uplifting having such a change, and then I fought him again not long after. A time line was established and replayed adding an interesting element to the game. The characters were funny, loveable, spoke in animalese which took some getting used to but all in all, it was a great RPG experience (with a very Zelda feel) with lots to do and a fun, excellent use of a brush pen/wii mote battle system.
Publisher: Square Enix, Nintendo
Of all the things that made this game great including character creation and customization, the individual stories involving obtaining each of the fyggs were completely uplifting. It was really fun playing a guardian...an angel, no less - doing good around the world in my human form. Comical and often heart-wrenching were the tales of each person you had to assist in your journey towards the heavens to get your wings back. Boss battles were of your standard fare but sometimes challenging especially the final, and with hours and hours of gameplay and ridiculously funny and/or ridiculous sidequests, you could level up forever with endless hours of entertainment.
While I found DQIX to be incredibly fantastic throughout, I was unhappy at the 'final' ending to the main quest. Things did not quite work out the way I had hoped - SPOILER ALERT - I never got my wings back and lived my life as a mortal. Albeit I was a super mortal but still, I felt really sad how it ended. It truly was a great game and one of the more memorable RPGs I've played ever.
Developer: Alphadream, Nintendo
The best Mario RPG I have played...dare I say, this was one of the best games to ever grace my DS. May I go a step further to say this is one of the best Mario games...no, best games, ever? Truthfully, I have always been confused by the Mario RPG series on the DS (Yoshi's Island, M&L: Partners in Time). I say confused but what I truly want to see is "suck". I suck at the Mario RPG series. I don't know what it is but I get really far then I fail. Maybe the cheapness? The bad jumps? I don't know but it's embarrassing.
Even with all that personal sense of inadequacy gnawing at my brain, I picked up Bowser's Inside Story. I did not expect to be so enthralled, have so much fun, laugh so much, and love Bowser so much. That's right, BOWSER. Bowser had personality for days! The interactions between Bowser and his minions was touching if not mostly hilarious. And of course, let me not forget that everyone's favourite Luigi was stellar as well.
Mini-games were immensely fun, the story was silly goodness and the use of the DS when it came to special Bowser battles were pure 'wow' moments.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Hearing much about NMH, I put it on my wishlist and now, have to thank Amazon for how cheap it was being sold and Frass for buying it for me a as a birthday present last year. I opted to play it at the beginning of this year and I must say, I have never bee na fan of hack and slash games. But with positive reviews and at $15.00, I decided to open my mind to different genres and go brave. Now, I am not ashamed to say that I have become a lover of Suda51.
For three days, I played NMH. I lapped up everything even though I felt as though I had no business liking the game. It was crude boy humour that included girls with short skirts and ridiculously large boobs. The whole thing was ridiculous from people getting slashed in half with blood spatter gallons thick and coins spewing to sitting on the toilet to save the game.
I say it was ridiculous but I will tack on that it was ridiculously cool. Travis Touchdown is to thank for all of that. He exuded so much charm, and clumsiness at the same time. For an otaku, he was pretty well-dressed too and somehow got mixed up with some hot ladies. Like I said, the game was ridiculous (and that was the point) but I loved it a lot and had no high expectations. It was quite the surprise.
Did I mention the boss battles were really a whole lot of damned fun? And that phone calls from Sylvia using the wii mote were a sharp, awesome touch? Oh, and the ending boss fight sequence was super quirky and fantastic?
Travis Touchdown for most of the year, was ranked No. 1 in my End of Year list but then I met...
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This was a year for me to play genres I do not usually dabble with. Being a Naughty Dog fan however, I had no doubt in my mind that this game was going to be amazing. I played the first one and had too much fun racking up headshots, running from zombies and listening to Drake say "oh crap" for at least fifty times.
In some ways, I had to play the first one to realize just how freakin' fantastic Uncharted 2 is. Maybe not "had" to because as a stand alone game, it's pretty freakin' amazing but in every way possible, UC2 surpassed its predecessor - graphically, mechanics of game play, and the voice work. Story wise and at the core of it all, UC2 is no more than an action movie. I am not a fan of action movies per say, but so well-done, so well-developed, and so engaging was UC2's game play, cutscenes and almost impossible scenarios that this game just sucked me in.
With a November 2011 release date for UC3, I almost feel as though I do not want to touch another game until then for fear that everything will pale in comparison.
That's the depth of my love for Uncharted 2. That's a lot of love, right there.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Twelve years after the fact, I finally beat FFTactics. All the trouble I had with this game I have spoken about before and I am happy that I can finally say I conquered it. Still challenging after all that time, beating certain boards and bosses in Tactics made me feel accomplished. It was great playing with sprites once again, in a game that had a beautiful music, a job system that made me create powerhouse monks and ninjas and a story so fantastic it had me in a daze.
The story! Oh, the story of Ivalice. War stories can usually get really complex in a strategy RPG and this was no different but there was no real confusion for me for the most part. The characters had very distinct personalities and there was a lot of hate to feel for some of those little bastards. It was a tragic tale imbued with dark magic, betrayal, treachery and some murderous intent of some very 'stabby' sprites.
I'm really quite thrilled I finished it so as to not miss out on one of the greatest games ever.
Game List: Unfinished or Currently Playing
Brutal Legend (2009) - my heart was not much into it when I played briefly due to the controls but it sure was heavy on the funny metal tribute/mockery.
Persona (re-release 2009, PSP) - I....tried. I did. I will pick it up again some time but for now, the quickness and first person perspective while running through maps is driving me nuts. Also, Monster 'friend-ing/slaving/whatever you want to call it' has not been going so well for me...
Disgaea DS (2008, re-release) - I was really liking this actually, and will finish it sometime. It being a challenging strategy RPG, however, it's taking me a bit long with the leveling up and such. The game's funny, I love the main character Laharl and Prinnies are the best, dood.
The Sly Collection (PS3 HD re-release, 2010) - Having never played Sly back in the day for the PS2, I decided that it was time to try it out. It's a decent platformer but I cannot help but compare it to Jak & Daxter, which is unfair of me. It's going okay so far and much more frustrating finding those bottle clues than I thought but I will continue to play. I just started the first game in this three part series and I'm liking it for the most part thus far.