Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014 - #10 - #1

As I discussed in this blog post, I originally was going to make a list of games I was excited about for 2014 back in the start of January, but school kind of demanded my attention and I never got around to it. Now that school is done and summer is here, I would like to write a bit about the games left to come out this year (that I haven't already talked about) that I'm excited to play. So here's the second part of the Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014.

Sorry this is a little late. I planned on having this out last week, but job hunting, traveling out of the country to attend UFGT, and getting sick kinda pushed this back a little farther than I'd like. Sorry!

#10 - Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Platform: Vita, PS4, Xbone, Wii U, PC, 360, PS3

Release Date: October 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNckNbeA4AM

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third entry in the series, isn’t even out yet and I’m still excited for the next sequel. While the 3DS eShop title Pirate’s Curse seems to be building on the established formula for fans to enjoy, Half-Genie Hero seems to be made to revamp Shantae and introduce new players to the series. Shantae has always been a relatively niche Nintendo handheld focused series and is now releasing on nearly every other platform under the sun, so it makes sense. I don’t know if Half-Genie Hero will be quite as good as the metroidvania goodness that came before it, but I’m kinda excited just to see the series get the audience and recognition it deserves.

#9 - Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines

Platforms: Vita

Release Date: 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta0ZUyEYhWw

Oreshika is not just on this list because it looks like a solid classic turn based JRPG with a beautiful cel-shaded aesthetic reminiscent of Okami on a platform that desperately needs it, it’s on here because it’s a sequel to a Japan-only classic that stole a gameplay hook I had been thinking about for years now. Okay “steal” is probably the wrong wording, as the original game, roughly translated to the badass name “Over My Dead Body”, was released on the PS1 and I just wasn’t aware of it until recently. Regardless, this game is an excellent opportunity to dissect how that mechanic benefits the game and how it was implemented and emphasized from start to finish.

It may seem like a standard JRPG, but Oreshika has some interesting mechanics that flip the genre on its head.

Oh yeah, should probably explain what that mechanic is, eh? Well I’ve always been fascinated with permadeath. It works wonders to raise tension and stakes in the moment to moment gameplay of Diablo or Spelunky, while fostering a deeper connection with the characters of a story in Fire Emblem or even a Nuzlocke run in Pokémon. But permadeath is nearly nonexistent (beyond self-imposed rules like the aforementioned Nuzlocke runs) in the traditional turn based JRPG genre and I’ve brainstormed for years on how to pull it off.

And we came up with a fairly similar base solution: a multi generational story that’ll see many of your party members die of old age as well as in battle. It adds that juicy tension to the combat while creating a unique, gameplay driven relationship with a family line, kinda like how you naturally built a story and connection to your generic as hell characters in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Oreshika, unfortunately, chooses to up the anime factor (and, therefore, the embarrassment factor of even being excited for this game in the first place) on the idea by making your offspring age about 35x faster than normal and your characters have sex with gods to have children. Uhhhh….. Yeeeeeaahhh….. that’s a thing, but it doesn’t disuade me from still wanting to analyze it from start to finish.

#8 - Sportsfriends

Platform: PS3, PS4, PC

Release Date: June 2014 (PC)

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Yeah, I didn’t get through this list nearly fast enough to post before the PS3 & PS4 launch, but I have still yet to play the game(s) because of a foolish mistake to back the game’s Kickstarter and commit to getting the PC version. So hush.

Really, I could talk about how much fun Super Pole Riders is going to be in a social setting amongst friends or how cool Hokra is for actually making a video game that accurately depicts what it’s like to play a sport or I could talk about how much Johann Sebastian Joust reminds me of the impossible task of getting multiplayer games of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure going, but this whole package is just a vehicle for me to play BaraBariBall.

BaraBariBall is Super Smash Bros. with the same approachability, easy controls, surface simplicity, and hidden depth, but A) doesn’t require mayhem to keep players engaged B) has a clear definable goal to a match that everyone can relate to C) that has excellent and varied maps that accentuate the core gameplay mechanics and D) that has a tournament level competitive nature to its gameplay without removing or ignoring mechanics. It is, basically, up there with Divekickas one of the most approachable fighting games I have ever seen.

And as someone who has much love for the FGC and puts a lot of effort into making it as approachable, inclusive, and accessible to as many people as possible, games like BaraBariBall are a godsend.

At the time of posting, Sportsfriends has been released on PS3 and PS4. Pick it up.

#7 - Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Platforms: PC

Release Date: Winter 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtYWqE55s24

I’m a fairly recent fan of 4X games. To which I mean I’ve only played about 3 games of Civilization IV and Civilization V over the past year and the addicting one more turn gameplay is just as great as people made it out to be.

Beyond Earth is nothing more than more of the same with a twist. Same basic structure that’ll keep me up to 4am, but with aliens, less rigid progression, and the potential for cyborgs or alien-human hybrids taking over new planets.based on a game I never played, but has a concept I can get behind. In a predicted not-too-distant future (because it seems inevitable instead of dystopian) we try to colonize other, earth like planets that’ll have all sorts of alien lifeforms and civilizations. I could go into more detail, but blah blah blah you get the gist of it. It’s more Civilization! And I can’t really complain about that.

#6 - Bayonetta 2

Platforms: Wii U

Release Date: Summer 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY7O13bLagE

Character Action games, the weirdly named subgenre for what is essentially the stylish & fast-paced 3D evolution of the beat-em-up, enjoyed a lot of fantastic entrants this past generation. No More Heroes had some of the most challenging and rewarding boss fights out there, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was the best Metal Gear game in nearly a decade (and since), and Devil May Cry… had an HD port of Devil May Cryand Devil May Cry 3. But the subgenre found its peak in Platinum Games’ Bayonetta. It was everything you could ask for. Combat that constantly tested and rewarded your skill and reflexes, an incredible variety of weapons and abilities that drastically altered your approach to combat, and a control scheme and combo system that were pretty much perfect. The debate continues whether the sexually charged titular character was appropriately handled and I don’t think many people are going to jump to defend the goofy and convoluted story, but Bayonetta was basically what the entire genre was working towards on the gameplay side of things.

This looks like a new Bayonetta alright.

But how do you make a sequel to the quintessential character action game? I don’t know. I don’t know what Bayonetta 2 could be other than “just more Bayonetta" or "Bayonetta but not quite as good”, unfortunately. But I’m willing to give them the chance to surprise me. I know I really should condemn the medium for the constant unnecessary sequelization and push towards new ideas instead, but I don’t think more of the same is a always a bad thing. Bayonetta was fucking fantastic and even if they make a game that isn’t quite as good or tries a few new things that don’t quite work, I think giving a passionate team the opportunity to try to improve and innovate on already great game is worth a shot.

Much like how Dark Souls II disappointed many, no matter how hard Bayonetta 2 could fail, there is nothing it can do to affect anyone’s enjoyment out of the original. So why not give it a shot?

#5 - Ultra Street Fighter IV

Platforms: PC, 360, PS3

Release Date: June 3rd, 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRA5hF1NBzo

People who complain about how many releases of Street Fighter IV there are simply don’t understand fighting games, let alone how much time and effort goes into balancing and tweaking them. Tier lists and match-ups can come down to a single pixel of a hit box, a single frame of invincibility or recovery, or how much metre an attack builds when it lands. When all of that is taken into account for each 24+ normals, 2+ specials with ~3 different versions, 1 super, and 2 ultras (which isn’t even counting command normals, distance dependent normals, EX moves, and special cases like Gen who has two complete movesets) for each of the 39 characters, you’re talking about making tiny, tiny tweaks that have huge impacts on the metagame. Without investing the time to properly balance and examine these tweaks carefully, you could have a character with an attack or technique that cannot be punished or a buff to a bad character that ignores their current flaws, keeping them at the bottom tier.

Hell, I don't even mind Decapre. She's shaping up to be an interesting and unique character, despite sharing a few normals (and DNA?) with Cammy.

And these balance changes are lasting. Fighting games have tried to have constant patches for balance purposes like shooters or MOBAs, but it generally discourages a player from getting invested in the games. If the combos I spent 10 hours experimenting with and mastering the timing of won’t even work in a week, why would I put the time in to learn them? If my way of combating a certain strong attack by an opposing character has its hitbox shifted, why would I take the time to learn the match up? The infrequency of these updates allows for each nook and cranny of a game to be explored, for misunderstood characters to rise to the top, for “unbeatable” characters to have their weaknesses exposed, and for every player to strive to be more effective and efficient in their play.

Fans of Street Fighter IV will buy Ultra. It adds new dynamics to a game whose current state has been thoroughly explored for 2 years. It adds 5 new characters (and, therefore, 210 new match-ups), new interesting modes like Edition Select, and quality of life changes like online practice to a game that has been kicking around for five years. With that kind of support and hours of entertainment numbering in the thousands, I’d gladly pay the $140 total asking price.

And considering how much the FGC has grown over the past 5 years, I imagine I am very much not alone in thinking that.

#4 - Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem

Platforms: Wii U

Release Date: 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK5-EIzDtKo

We know absolutely nothing about this crossover other than its platform, the two series involved, that Atlus and Intelligent Systems are co-developing it, and that it’s going to be some type of RPG.

We probably won't even see these characters in the final game.

Probably a turn-based tactical RPG, but we don’t know.

We know absolutely nothing about this game.

We don’t know if it will be good. We don’t know what it will play like. We don’t know if it will be generic sword & sorcery fantasy like Fire Emblem or sci-fi post-apocalyptic religious-nonsense like mainline Shin Megami Tensei. We don’t know if it fuses tactics with the dungeon crawling to make some sort of alternate take on Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. We don’t know if it will be grid-based, top-down, third person, or first-person. We don’t know if there will be permadeath or if there will be demon fusing. We don’t know if there will be manual stat allocations or if there will be class ups. We don’t know if it’s a direct crossover of established titles or a new title that takes the soul of both series into account. We don’t know what it’s about. We don’t know who it’s about.

For all we know this game will be absolute trash.

Who knows if this game is even going to come out? The video above and these stills of past characters are all we have.

But it still doesn’t stop me from dreaming about how these very different series could be intertwined. It’s the concept of taking two established-yet-separate properties, really breaking down every element of each, and somehow fusing them into one being that makes crossovers (and, to a lesser extent, games that mix genres) so appealing to me. What elements are, when boiled down, truly necessary in a series? What elements work together and what no longer makes sense? How much do you remove from one series to make the game accessible for the other’s fans? What style do you go for artistically and musically?

We know nothing of Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, but that’s okay right now. The absurd concept of joining those two series I love is enough to get me excited about it. I know that the end result won’t be nearly as cool as the dozens of ideas I have when I daydream, but I’m still excited to see exactly what Nintendo and Atlus have in store for us.

#3 - Super Smash Bros. 4

Platforms: Wii U, 3DS

Release Date: Winter 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEJBPMcbRkk

I spent the entire Sportsfriends post listing off ways in which BaraBariBall improves on the premise of this series in a more streamlined and approachable package, but what can I say? I love me some Smash Bros. and always have since I read in disbelief that extensive preview of the original in some obscure, forgotten gaming magazine. Link, Pikachu, and Mario in the same game? It’ll never happen! Yet the series would become a staple at my childhood birthday parties, during my teenage class skipping, in my crowded university dorm room, and in the basement of my own place. I grew up with this series and, despite how much my life has obviously changed, have never really stopped playing.

Nintendo's screenshot-a-day approach gives us a trickle of cool info, like having both genders of Animal Crossing Villagers.

So, while many bemoan the series for its lack of commitment to the competitive style that was discovered within Melee and others see it as nothing but chaotic four player nonsense that doesn’t deserve to be looked in a competitive light, I’ve fallen into a more neutral role that just accepts the games for what they are, warts and all. There has never been a game in the series that has been “bad” yet, just a series of games that lack focus and don’t give enough attention to the style of play some exclusively prefer. It’s a jack of all trades multiplayer experience with Nintendo nostalgia filling in all of the cracks and I don’t see this fourth game changing all that.

But I am impressed with everything I’ve seen so far. The roster selections have been smart, there have been more concessions made to the competitive side without sacrificing the manic four player experience, and the flow of the gameplay is a distinct mix of previous entries. That’s really all I can ask for to keep me hooked for several more years.

#2 - Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth

Platform: 3DS

Release Date: Winter 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-lrvQRx3dA

You have to commend Atlus on how they handle their spin-offs. They consistently deliver excellently made games that capture the essence of the source material instead of relying on fanservice to succeed. Persona 4 Arena, for example, was a great fighting game that appropriately imitated each characters playstyle despite the abrupt genre shift and had the mechanical depth necessary to succeed in the genre, yet with an approachability rarely seen in anime fighting games. Hell, the Persona series itself is just a big spin-off of Megami Tensei and it still carries the same heart and soul of MegaTen despite it morphing into a (somehow critically acclaimed) high school simulator dungeon crawling JRPG.

Even with Personas helping you, F.O.E.!

So I don’t know why I would doubt Persona Q, despite having the dubious honour of being a spin-off crossover of a spin-off. Instead of just pumping out a story with the Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters with a tacked on gameplay system, they’re actually taking this crossover pretty seriously. Make no mistake, Persona Q is shaping up to be an Etrian Odyssey-ass Etrian Odyssey game. Even knowing that Persona attracts a more modern RPG player, they didn’t back down from including the complexity of Etrian Odyssey. Instead they decided to appropriately fuse in Persona gameplay elements to the Etrian Odyssey base wherever it made sense. They even make concessions to appeal to both crowds simultaneously, offering simpler difficulties and optional auto-mapping for Persona players and increased character customization for Etrian Odyssey fans.

So while I’m too big of a sucker for both series to resist the idea of a Persona 3 & Persona 4 crossover with Etrian Odyssey gameplay systems, it’s really the devotion to the execution that has me excited. It’s easy to say “wouldn’t it be cool if…” for crossovers, but it’s another to really break them down and fuse them together without alienating either side. It really looks like Atlus is taking all the right steps here and I can’t wait to play this game when it gets a localized release later this year.

And, as someone who has always described Persona 4 as an Anime Scooby Doo JRPG, JESUS do I love that Scooby Doo-esque logo.

#1 - Transistor

Platforms: PS4, PC

Release Date: May 20th, 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Bastion was an obvious highlight of the last generation. If Braid put an end to the era of downloadable independent titles being viewed as just cheap fan efforts and simple retro inspired titles, Bastion made people seriously consider why they perceived a barrier of quality between retail and downloadable efforts. 2011 could be argued to be the last year where triple-A retail games thoroughly dominated the market and, with games like Saints Row: The Third, Portal 2, and The Witcher 2, they were no slouches either. Yet, despite the competition, Supergiant’s little game received an incredible amount of deserved praise and Game of the Year nods because of its smooth and responsive combat and storytelling that was quite mature for this medium, both in content and in presentation.

Bastion was quite possibly the best game to come out last generation, so how could Transistor not be #1?

But Transistor is not Bastion. It cannot be Bastion. It’s the classic struggle to follow-up what came before, like a sophomore album or a younger sibling following in the footsteps of their accomplished sister/brother. Many people are going to be disappointed with Transistor, regardless of its quality. And I don’t really think there was anything Supergiant could have done to change that. People naturally enjoy a brand new experience that surprises and innovates, but you can’t make a second first impression.

Transistor is exactly the game that they should have made. It takes those magical parts in their previous game, like the stunning art direction and genre blending soundtrack, and incorporated them into a whole new gameplay and story experience. It tells the player to expect the same quality of experience, but nothing like what has come before. This capturing of the essence of what worked in prior works are what made Disney movies so magical and memorable in the nineties and Pixar movies now (well, before the last few films at least). Completely different specifics, but that same attention to detail and engagement with the audience.

And that’s exactly what I wanted.

At the time of posting, Transistor has been released. Pick it up on PC or PS4.

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Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014 - #20 - #11

As I discussed in this blog post, I originally was going to make a list of games I was excited about for 2014 back in the start of January, but school kind of demanded my attention and I never got around to it. Now that school is done and summer is here, I would like to write a bit about the games left to come out this year (that I haven't already talked about) that I'm excited to play. So here's the second part of the Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014.

#20 - Wildstar

Platforms: PC

Release Date: June 3rd, 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnmlSU_nTi0

I have some huge, huge, HUGE misgivings about Wildstar. Even with the newly added set of body types, the proportions, animation, and presentation of its characters (especially of its female characters) can only be described as “harmful”. The optimization for the game, from what I have messed around with it, is horrendous, making it not as approachable requirements wise as other MMOs on the market. The intro areas do not exactly give you a compelling first look into the game’s more interesting and unique features, somehow feeling more banal than the outdated starting zones in World of Warcraft. The gameplay is action heavy, so having a good connection is another limiting factor on its audience. Perhaps most egregious, at least to me, is the “humour” on display in some of the trailers put out is Borderlands 2 levels of bad.

But I can’t help but be excited for it mechanically. Wildstar, at least on paper, is the closest an MMO has come to eclipse World of Warcraft. Now, I don’t mean that Wildstar is a WoW clone that plays exactly like it (but there are plenty of those out there) and I don’t mean that World of Warcraft is the absolute best game in the genre anymore, as Blizzard became complacent atop its throne these last few expansions and games like Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV have launched to much acclaim and praise in the same time frame.

The environments in Wildstar really stand out.

No, there are plenty of MMO alternatives out there nowadays to choose from, but Wildstar is the first game to feel like World of Warcraft did when you first jumped in. It captures the wonderment of exploring the world, the possibilities for player interaction and engagement, and evolves the mechanics of the genre in unique and refreshing ways. Especially impressive is how they are handling combat. Effectively making every non-instant ability a telegraphed area of effect spell makes for a reaction based, action packed combat system that really changes the dynamics of PVP combat, raids, and even how you just fight mobs scattered throughout the landscape (which, by the way, are also impressively detailed once you get out of the boring and generic sci-fi starting areas).

Having poked around in the beta and soaked up information about its various alterations to the MMO template, Wildstar has manage to capture that essence of excitement and awe that I felt when my Troll Shaman took his first steps into Durotar all those years ago.

Only time will tell if the game can grab me for the better part of a decade like WoW did.

#19 - Mario Kart 8

Platforms: Wii U

Release Date: May 30th, 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYBz6HWBw3A

Let’s face “facts” here: there hasn’t been a good Mario Kart game in close to a decade. Mario Kart Wii sold like hotcakes, but ultimately was a disappointing direction for the series. It sucked the fun and excitement out of the franchise so thoroughly that many fans (myself included) didn’t even bother picking up Mario Kart 7, which launched awkwardly at the time when everyone thought the 3DS was a failure and very few people were able to experience the local multiplayer that makes the series worthwhile. And the Mario Kart arcade games? Who has access to an arcade anymore? I can’t think of more irrelevant entries in the series.

One of everything, please.

Now, Mario Kart DS on the other hand…. that game had everything you could want out of a kart racer. Excellently handled local and online multiplayer (especially for both an early DS game and a handheld entry), superb controls that rewarded skilled driving, a wealth of fun and challenging single player content to go through, a wide variety of characters, and both new and remastered courses. For 2005, I think it was pretty much a perfect Mario Kart game.

Obviously you can tell that I love Mario Kart DS and I’m a bit grumpy that a lot of its mechanics have been thrown out the window since, but I’m not the only one who lost their faith in the Mario Kart series. Mario Kart 8 comes out this month and a lot of people don’t even have the game on their radar. Maybe that’s just a symptom of the larger “The Wii U isn’t selling so let’s just ignore anything good about it” attitude that seems pervasive across the internet, but I think it’s more that, after Wii and 7, people are just done with Mario Kart. I can understand the attitude as I’m not exactly thrilled with a lot of the mechanics from the past two titles are making their way back into the new game (motorcycles and flight, for example) and the new anti-gravity gimmick and HD visuals are not really that exciting.

But I’m willing to give Mario Kart 8 a shot. Mario Kart has provided me too many great memories over the years for me to just abandon it. I mean, Super Mario Kart was the first game I ever owned and the games have been a multiplayer staple since. I doubt Mario Kart 8 will live up to my expectations, but I’m hoping it will still be worth my time.

#18 - X

Platforms: Wii U

Release Date: 2014?

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Xenoblade was far too pretty for a Wii game.

I stopped playing Xenoblade Chronicles for a reason I’m not proud of. About 20 hours too soon, I guessed a major, incredibly stupid plot twist in the game that, when I found out it was true, made me so angry and disgusted that I quit playing the game entirely. I haven’t picked it back up since.

It’s not like I hated the game or anything! I actually was enjoying it immensely! I found the world to be utterly beautiful (especially for a Wii game), the combat to be a nice take on Final Fantays XII's MMO-like system, and even the stupid repeated phrases during combat I grew to love. “It's Reyn Time”, indeed. And that's not even mentioning the superb soundtrack, which is one of the best of the last generation.

But then the curse of the JRPG’s struck.

When you play any JRPG, you run the risk of the story, characters, and/or writing becoming just so nonsensical or anime-y that you begin to question why you enjoy the genre at all. I should just stop giving most of these games a shot. I mean, I bought Tales of Xilia a few months ago for god’s sake. I’ve tried no less than than four times to get into that series and I’ve hated every single one of them. Yet, here I am, probably jumping into my fifth attempt over this summer. I’m like a four year old that, instead of learning to be careful when they put their hand on the stove when it’s on, I keep coming back for more pain.

Again, far far too pretty to ignore.

No, I’m not proud at getting angry at Xenoblade for ending up being a JRPG. I should have expected it. I should have expected that something so aggravating would occur that I’d want to put my controller through the window. I shouldn’t have got attached to the story or grown incredibly interested in the world and those that inhabit it. But I did. And I got burned for it.

And here I am, staring at X salivating like a puppy looking at a steak. Not learning my lessons. Actually, actively ignoring these lessons I’ve learned and getting my hopes up for yet another JRPG from the same people who brought me that last one that disappointed me so much. I should focus on how the story will likely be just as bullshit, but I’m too distracted by the unique take on ranged/melee combat, vehicle based world exploration, and the breathtaking design of the world.

Call me stubborn or call me an idiot, but I guess my continued interest in the current state of modern JRPG’s produces enough winners to keep me coming back.

#17 - Azure Striker: Gunvolt

Platforms: 3DS

Release Date: Fall 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_8pqPS6u6A

Azure Striker: Gunvolt is an action platformer from Inti Creates, the company currently working on Mighty No. 9, that looks a helluva lot like what I’d expect a new Mega Man ZX game to look like.

You know what? I am perfectly okay if Keiji Inafune continues to use his new company to make new games based off of his old series, especially since they have more interesting ideas and premises and he has less restrictions being imposed on him by some sort of upper management.

#16 - Persona 4 Arena: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold

Platforms: PS3, 360

Release Date: Fall 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHzKUSLYDYA

I loved the original back when it came out in 2011, but I just kinda shrugged when Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold (fantastic name, by the way) was announced. I don’t really like how Arc System Works approaches updating their fighting games. Sure, I respect them updating Guilty Gear XX to hell and back with for over a decade ago, but it was still the same base game underneath. The same is true for Blazblue. Arc Sys has released two sequels to the original Calamity Trigger, but they don’t really feeel like sequels. They have new story content, if that babbling mess of a storyline holds your interest, and there were new moves, characters, and mechanics added, but they all really feel like the same game.

And it's a hhhhoooommmmeee ruuuuunnn!

I guess when you get down to it, there really isn’t much difference between how Arc System Works and Capcom approach updating their games, but they promise different things. Capcom focuses on the mechanics and balance, while adding a few features here and there in their “updates”, while Arc System works does the same with an irrelevant story and classifies them as a “sequel.”

It’s super pedantic, I know, but it kinda set my expectations for Ultimax pretty low. The promise of three new characters (including two Persona 3 characters) and an expanded story followup to Persona 4 was enough for me to know I had to play the game, but out of obligation more than anything. I never really got to the point in Persona 4 Arena to be competitive at the game, despite entering a few tournaments here and there. I enjoyed the game immensely, don’t get me wrong, but I never “grinded it out”, as they say. So the idea of a more-of-the-same sequel didn’t really have me jumping up and down with excitement.

But I guess it was the disappointment of Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma and the overall stagnation of the current games in the FGC that got me looking forward to jumping back into a familiar and fun fighting game that doesn’t get a lot of attention anymore (anime games have a notoriously short lifespan in the FGC). Plus, the addition of the Shadow characters really does shake up a lot of the match-ups and playstyles for characters. It effectively gives you a completely different, more aggressive way to play each character if you’re confident in sacrificing their defense.

So, yeah. Ultimax is a weird pick. It’s a game I’m very confident I will enjoy and play a lot of, but it’s the situation surrounding it that makes me more excited to play it than the merits of the game itself.

#15 - Galak-Z: The Dimensional

Platforms: PC, PS4, Vita

Release Date: Fall 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdK8H5q5X7c

17-bit naturally decided that after shipping the Advance Wars inspired Skulls of the Shogun that the next logical choice would be the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Despite its last century anime vibe, Galak-Z is a reimagined Asteroids for the modern age of downloadable games, giving you a roguelike-like progression system through vast levels and a control scheme hellbent on giving the player as much control as possible without becoming overly complicated. Merely watching its simple surface gameplay doesn’t do Galak-Z justice, as you’ll need a short play session to truly understand the player’s power over trajectory and the fluid movements you can make with it. Details on the roguelike-like elements are scarce, but, with the right balance and design, it’s easy to see how enticing it could be to squeeze every drop out of Galakzed. Skulls of the Shogun was a solid offering and I’m hoping that, despite the genre whiplash, 17-bit will deliver a product worthy of its premise.

#14 - Kero Blaster

Platforms: PC, iOS

Release Date: May 11th, 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej2AtlVNvjM

Kero Blaster is an unassuming action platformer like its spiritual predecessor Cave Story, so much so that it might be overlooked. I kinda understand why, as it’s a basic gameplay premise, with a simple presentation, and generic video game-y premise. It’s easy to write it off as yet another fish in the vast sea of indie games, but watching video of the game reminded me of that magic Cave Story had. Sure, they share more than a few similarities, but Kero Blaster distances itself mechanically while keeping the spirit of its fundamental predecessor. I’m pretty sure this will sneak up on a lot of people.

At the time of writing, Kero Blaster has already been released, so pick it up at Playism.

#13 - The Iconoclasts

Platforms: PC

Release Date: 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZE7kGax7Ds

Such a beautiful and vibrant environment.

The Iconoclasts has been in development since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Well, Konjak (the curious, relatively young creator of great PC action games like Noitu Love & the Army of Grinning Darns and Legend of Princess) has really only been working on Iconoclasts for three or four years at this point, which isn’t all that long considering its scope and the size of his development team (himself). But it’s one of those games I’ve been dying to play for years that the wait feels like an eternity. It looks charming as hell, has lovely animation, and has a fun and unique premise (you know, for a metroidvania). And, judging by some gameplay videos posted to his youtube channel, it seems like this huge undertaking is finally getting to the point where it will be out soon.

I think.

Maybe.

#12 - Owlboy

Platform: PC

Release Date: 2014?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdzIVXkESbc

Picking up friends gives you new abilities.

Owlboy is basically in the exact same position as The Iconoclasts. Both games have been in development for a long time. Both games have small, passionate development teams. Both games are shaping up to be something special.

Owlboy isn’t exactly in the same genre though. Sure, there’s a little bit of shooting action in Owlboy, but it’s mostly for puzzle solving. The game actually feels like an action-adventure game like a Legend of Zelda title more than some sort of action platformer or metroidvania. Owlboy’s ability to fly (as you might have guessed) turns the whole Zelda structure on its head a bit. You will still be exploring dungeons, opening treasure chests, using abilities found in those areas to traverse, solve puzzles, and attack enemies, but it kinda feels like a shooter (think R-Type, not Call of Duty) as well in a way. Many enemies have projectile attacks you’ll have to avoid and the terrain can be full of spikes and tight shafts and corridors that require careful navigation.

It’s a weird combination, but with some excellent movement options and unique dungeons built around these mechanics, it could play like a dream. Factor in some beautiful sprite work and a soundtrack that is already shaping up nicely, and you’ve basically pushed all the right buttons to get me excited

#11 - Cosmic Star Heroine

Platforms: PC, Vita, PS4, Xbone

Release Date: December 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

We're getting to the point where new small scale indie games are looking like old blockbusters.

Zeboyd Games were one of the first developers to really impress me on the Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace when they released the excellent Dragon Quest inspired RPG Breath of Death VII. Since releasing the just-as-great Cthulhu Saves the World on the service, they worked on completing the Penny Arcade quadrilogy that was previously abandoned by Hothead Games. As my interest in Penny Arcade waned over the past, say, seven years (aided by its creators' constant douchebaggery), I thought of those two games less as products I should be interested in and more as a great way for Zeboyd to secure a comfortable income, finish a series that fans had been waiting to see completed, and, more importantly, hone their skills into a mean, lean "J"RPG making machine.

And it's now time to see what that machine can do. With their games getting closer and closer to looking like those 16-bit era classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI, it's interesting to think just how far they've come and just how much potential this small team has to create a piece on par with those holy grails of the JRPG genre.

Not saying that Cosmic Star Heroine will be as great as Chrono Trigger was, but instead I'm stating just how much faith I have in Zeboyd to create high quality, old-school JRPG experiences. And who knows? With enough time, money, and experience, I think they could pull off a modern classic in the genre.

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Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014 - #30 - #21

As I discussed in this blog post, I originally was going to make a list of games I was excited about for 2014 back in the start of January, but school kind of demanded my attention and I never got around to it. Now that school is done and summer is here, I would like to write a bit about the games left to come out this year (that I haven't already talked about) that I'm excited to play. So here's the first part of the Top 30 Most Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014.

#30 - Hohokum

Platforms: PS4, PS3, Vita

Release Date: 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Hey there, Mr..... Elephant? Crocodile?

Hohokum has a rich art style reminiscent of a fellow, albeit dormant, Sony franchise: LocoRoco. Yet, despite the similar aesthetic, LocoRoco almost seems tame in comparison to the creativity on display in Hohokum. This creativity pushes the game beyond a simple mechanic of slithering a flying…. snake… eye… creature… thing… across levels using an unusual, but incredibly fun, control scheme. I only got a bit of time to poke around with it at PAX, but each new level breathes new life into the simple mechanics, with finding your new objective being just as fun as completing it.

But all these comparisons to LocoRoco is what’s got me nervous. While LocoRoco was interesting to dive into, it’s gimmick didn’t interest me enough to stick around for the whole game, let alone two. I’m hopeful that Hohokum will be a fun little diversion that I can squeeze some joy out of, but I can’t shake that nagging feeling that it’ll disappoint.

#29 - Final Fantasy XV

Platforms: PS4, Xbone

Release Date: 2014?

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Whenever a new game in a franchise is passed onto a new developer, fans immediately begin debating and dissecting whether the studio is up to the task. Even from last year, games like Tomb Raider, Killer Instinct, and Dmc each took their franchises in more modern directions. Whether they succeeded is completely irrelevant, as the transition from old habits to new talent naturally ensures that the established core of a franchise will be challenged and redefined.

Final Fantasy XV doesn’t have that luxury. Square Enix is shooting for a brand new direction with XV alright, but Final Fantasy still has that weight of wasted potential and misguided priorities that the franchise has become synonymous with. This is no new blood here to truly shake things up or guarantee a new path for Final Fantasy. The same people who produced only a small handful of worthwhile titles (most of which pushed into obscurity in favour of marketing the milking of FFXIII) with over a decade worth of resources and potential are the same same people working on XV, this bastion of hope for an ailing (if not already dead) franchise.

To say I have faith in Final Fantasy XV is a huge overstatement.

Fuck the (ridiculous looking) police.

That being said, I do think there has to be some sort of chance for this… this… UnchartedKingdom HeartsFinal Fantasy XIIIThe Last Story… hybrid… thing… can work. It’s an intriguing approach that is full of potential and, for the first time in quite a while for Final Fantasy, I think I would still be interested in it even if those words never appeared in the title.

But, then again, so did the last two numbered titles and FFXIV was only saved by scrapping it and building it from the ground up again. So we’ll see how this goes. If it succeeds, then hats off to Square Enix for believing in their people when I didn’t and proving that they know how to handle their franchise a lot better than little ‘ol me. If it fails, then an ensuing shake up at Square Enix may help push this franchise either back on track or off the rails completely. Either way, how Final Fantasy XV unfolds and how it impacts what was once considered one of the biggest and best franchises in the industry is what I’m anticipating most it.

Hey, just because I’m making a list of games that I’m anticipating doesn’t exactly mean I’m jumping at the chance to run out and preorder all of them. Sometimes, the story around the game is what’s worth getting excited about.

#28 - Shovel Knight

Platforms: PC, 3DS, Wii U

Release Date: Summer 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

I really can't tell what this game is taking inspiration from.

I never really paid attention to Shovel Knight’s Kickstarter. Partly because I was broke, but also because I wasn’t really too impressed by what they were showing. It seemed like they were looking to capitalize on the look and mechanics of old school Capcom NES titles like Ducktales and MegaMan, but didn’t have the heart in it. That early footage lacked that je ne sais quoi that made those classics, well, classic. That attention to detail when faced with limitations, that love and craftsmanship in the level design, and a simple, yet immediately fun feel to the gameplay.

And I still have those fears, but Yacht Club Games have done their best to mitigate them. I really won’t be able to decide for myself whether Shovel Knight is worthy of the comparisons to its inspirations, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At worst, the game looks like a solid foundation that future iteration will hone into something special, much like a certain blue bomber decades ago.

#27 - Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Platforms: PC

Release Date: May 7th, 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Okay, the trailer above is all I really needed to know about Tesla Effect to get pumped up for it. And it’s not even because the game itself looks amazing. Well, it does look amazing, but I’m more excited that all those dreams of the return of self-serious FMV silliness through the magic of crowdfunding has actually come true. While I’m always a fan of a good point & click adventure game, there’s a special kind of joy that you can only get out of the over-dramatic stupidity of an FMV sequence done right and a resurrection of the form is long overdue.

#26 - Destiny

Platforms: PS3, PS4, 360, Xbone

Release Date: September 9th, 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAJjPTDG9ak

Look, I’m just trying to find a game to replace the fun co-op FPS RPG gameplay of Borderlands but without the insulting storytelling, groan-inducing dialogue, and hateable characters. If Bungie can fulfill that expectation, then I won’t really care if it’s bland rip off.

I’ll settle for anything at this point.

#25 - Tomodachi Life

Platforms: 3DS

Release Date: June 6th, 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Man, I don’t even fucking know anymore.

Tomodachi Life? Hell, I don’t know what the hell THAT is, but I think it says something weird about me that I’m 100% into it.

Whatever it is.

#24 - Road Not Taken

Platforms: PC, PS4, Vita, iOS

Release Date: 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqz16Khp61I

Spry Fox are focused on and committed to making simple, high quality titles with incredibly smart and innovative design. This is what made Triple Town a true stand out, even if it was a game in a crowded match-three puzzle genre available on even more crowded social network and smartphone marketplaces, and Realm of the Mad God a completely unique take on the MMORPG.

I’m not entirely convinced that the idea behind Road Not Taken, an honest to goodness roguelike with match three puzzle mechanics, will work as well as I hope, but I am convinced that if anyone is the right team to tackle the concept, it’s Spry Fox. I can’t wait to huddle around my Vita and struggle along The Road Not Taken later this year.

#23 - Apotheon

Platforms: PC, PS4

Release Date: 2014

Trailer: [Giant Bomb Link]

Such a beautiful, unique style.

I’m actually, truly excited for Apotheon despite it being not “my” type of game. I mean, look at this list. Sure, you’re going to find a healthy dose of indie games and titles that have action, exploration, and platforming aspects to them, but mixing Apotheon with those games kind of diminishes what it’s going for. It’s not looking to relive the glory of NES action games like Shovel Knight is and it’s not trying to go for cinematic flair like FFXV is. The platforming is an essential tool for traversal in a 2D plain, but not the central focus of the gameplay. The exploration is… well, I’m not sure the extent of the exploration in the game truth be told, but from what I’ve experienced in Apotheon it seems like it will play a vital role in the background of the moment to moment combat experience.

Instead, Apotheon seems to be taking the feel, the weight, the pace of its combat very seriously. It wants your actions to be deliberate. If you lower your guard to swing your sword or shoot an arrow, you’ll have to accept the consequence of those actions. It’s tired and old to compare things to the Souls games at this point when you’re looking to talk about that commitment in gameplay, especially since combat in Apotheon is much more nimble and (at least from what I played) more forgiving, but I don’t have the confidence in my understanding of Mount & Blade or something of that nature to compare Apotheon to instead.

And that’s the fascinating part of Apotheon for me. It hits a spot in my array of experiences with games that I have rarely touched, yet I still found my brief times with it fun and exciting. Sure, I’m a sucker for a good art style and Apotheon’s is completely captivating, as that Greek pottery art style has rarely been seen in video games and certainly not with this fidelity and commitment. Yet, even if the beautiful art style is what grabbed me initially, it’s the potential to dive into an unfamiliar gameplay experience that has me anticipating the final product.

#22 - Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

Platforms: PS3, PS4

Release Date: 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5pkaWp8Xso

We saw a huge boom of fighting games this past generation, where almost every series you can think of was rebooted, reimagined, or, at least, rereleased. But beyond a few ports, a few crowd funding successes (Yatagarasu and Skullgirls come to mind), and the release of Injustice (which felt just as clunky and obtuse as the last Mortal Kombat), Divekick (which is a great game, but doesn’t exactly scratch that fighting game itch) and Killer Instinct (which is also great, but stuck on a system most don’t have access to), 2013 was a quiet year for fighting games. Sure, it was a pretty okay year for the FGC, with bigger events mixed in with the usual, unfortunate controversies that plague that scene, but we didn’t really see a big shake up of the games we were actually playing.

This new character's name is Bedman. Seriously.

Which, I guess, makes it fitting that a new Guilty Gear is coming out in 2014. The previous entry, 2002’s (!) Guilty Gear XX, saw over a decade of balance changes, patches, and new versions, with the last version, Plus R, coming out last year. That’s a long-ass time for a fighting game to be supported. While the fighting game genre definitely needs new blood, there isn’t an active fighting game series that needed a new entry more than Guilty Gear. I guess Xrd’s impending release is kinda killing two birds with one stone.

Guilty Gear has always been the least interesting of the three main Arc Sys fighting game series to me. It’s always been the least approachable, most likely due to it being iterated on for so long. It’s hard to jump into a fighting game when the people you’re playing against have been playing it for years. Which is why I prefer Blazblue or Persona. Sure, Blazblue's newest version, Chrono Phantasma, fell pretty flat due to some serious balance and mechanics issues and Persona 4 Arena was a lot more simple than its older siblings, but at least I was able to start those series at the beginning. Where everything was fresh, new, and exciting.

And that’s why I’m excited for Guilty Gear Xrd. It’s an entirely new fighting game to sink my teeth into without having to play catch-up to even compete. Okay, not entirely new but Guilty Gear is starting fresh with a downsized roster and new characters, movesets, mechanics, music, etc etc etc. Hell, the game even switches to a sick cel shaded style from the hand drawn sprites of the past. I’ll probably end up playing more of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax this year just due to preference, but I’m excited that Guilty Gear is finally getting a full refresh and maybe giving newcomers like me a chance to jump into the series.

#21 - Massive Chalice

Platforms: PC

Release Date: September 2014

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BExTz9y9rMQ

The game itself is looking kinda cool too.

Massive Chalice isn’t my most anticipated game of 2014, but it is the game I’m most jealous of. It is basically my dream game. Not the game I dream to play, but the game I dream to make. It takes all the right inspirations, all the right directions, includes all the right mechanics for my head to just burst with ideas. From enemy types to class implementations to damage values, level geometry, and how all of the above would be implemented in code. I’m not exactly an expert game developer yet and I know that I need a lot more experience to lead a team on a game of that size, budget, and scope, but it’s what I aspire to. It’s what I make notes about in class while I’m bored. It’s what I daydream about when I’m on the bus. It’s what I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble notes about, having had a flash of inspiration while I slept. It’s what, if you plopped an infinite budget into my hands right now, I would be doing for the rest of my life.

I have full faith that Massive Chalice will deliver the Double Fine experience that we know and love: a game that may have a flaw or two but is unique, fun, and always new & interesting. But what makes me excited about the game is to analyze every tiny bit, figure out why the developers made the decisions they made, and learn from the experience so that I can get closer to, one day, making my own dream game.

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2014: Let's Talk About Those Video Games

School kicked my butt this past term, but that’s all over. While I get to spend this grace period after finals and before summer work doing responsible things like doing extensive spring cleaning, managing my finances, and actually finding a summer job (gulp!), I also get to play some goddamn video games again! And do some writing! Mostly writing about video games!

So, while I could just work through my Most Anticipated Games of 2014 list that I was going to write at the start of January and pretend a good 1/3rd of them aren’t already out, I’m instead going to just write a feature that is just a big ball of excitement for video games of 2014, past, present, and future.

I’ll still be doing a most anticipated list, expanded to 30 titles that are not yet released as of this time (to cover my butt on releases that are happening very, very soon). I’ll also be talking about 20 more titles: 18 titles that have been gnawing at my very soul while I ignored them to work through the school term and 2 titles that were unfortunately delayed into 2015 that I was so eagerly looking forward to at the start of the year.

All in all, that will amount to me writing about 50 games and gushing about how excited I am to play them. So uhh….. look forward to that, if you’re into that. Not gonna lie, I write these mostly for myself to just get my excitement on paper (errr… on…. computer?) so it doesn’t distract me later. Also, the time capsule element of looking back on how wrong or right I was about a game has always been fun for me.

Anyway, on Giant Bomb I'll be posting the lists in six giant chunks: 3 posts for the 30 Anticipated Games for (the rest of) 2014, 2 posts for the 18 Games of 2014 I Am Dying To Play, and another post for the two delayed games, which I imagine will be lot longer than the average post. I'll be posting the first 10 of the Anticipated games this evening. I'll also be using this blog post as a hub for all those lists, so click on the links below to jump to the appropriate posts.

And after all that is done? I'll get around to finally writing my Top Ten Games of 2013 list. Finally.

You can also check out my Tumblr instead, if you really want the posts separated into individual posts or something. I don't know.

Enjoy!

Eh, Video Games. This was a swell shindig! Thank you very much!

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Oops, Life Happened

Quick apology for all... one or two of you who were looking forward to my "2014's Most Anticipated Games" post series. I've been done the list for a while now, but need to put some solid hours into writing/editing them. I'll have that time during the break in classes in a week and a half, but until then I have a mountain to climb of school work and midterms. It's been a crazy busy year so far with a lot of things on my plate and not exactly conducive to spending a lot of time writing on the internet about video games I want to play.

So it'll be mid-February by the time I get around to writing this list and games are starting to come out. Heck, some are even out! So, I thought I would write some words about them. A few were never going to be on my big list, but I'm still ecstatic for. Some were on the list, but will be available far too long to be discussed in a "most anticipated" feature. Some will be released, but I still think it'll be worth talking about them later.

So, to make up for my lack of tardiness, here's a quick, short list of some highlights of the first 45 days of 2014.

Banner Saga - PC - We've got two more chapters of this Viking-esque Oregon Trail Strategy RPG to be considered fully "released" and plenty could go wrong, but the first episode is leaving a pretty good, if a tad shaky, first impression. We'll see how this goes.

Bravely Default - 3DS - Bravely Default defies conventional wisdom. If you’re a big company making a spiritual sequel to a smaller game, you attach your big name franchise to it for that sequel to sell more copies. Except Bravely Default’s predecessor was the fantastic and overlooked Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, so the shift to its own series is surprising. Maybe it says something about the health of Final Fantasy, but I think it says more about the possibility Bravely Default has to be a killer game and franchise going forward.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - Vita - A visual novel in the vein of Zero Escape and Ace Attorney. Interesting release that I plan to delve into right after this rough patch of school is over. VN’s aren’t really my thing, but a swarm of recommendations from friends for this game and its universal, glowing praise has certainly grabbed my interest.

Detective Grimoire - Mobile/PC - Not the best or most in depth adventure game I’ve ever played, but the unique art style, short play time, great use of the mobile interface, and its just approachability of its design makes it an easy recommendation.

Nidhogg - PC - A fantastic multiplayer game. I was able to get a bit of free time last month and attend a gaming event at my university. Nidhogg was there and people were freaking out about it. Didn’t matter if you played video games or not, everyone wanted to jump in. It’s been a long time (other than Samurai Gunn recently) that I’ve seen a game grab people quite like that.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch - PC - That Octodad guy. He’s got a good thing going, ya know? Nobody suspected that the game would have been anything less than a short, fun experience filled with wacky controls and humourous situations. And from what I’ve heard, it delivers exactly that.

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Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2014: Prologue - The Waiting Continues

Developing video games requires hard work, determination, a little bit of insanity, and a whole lot of luck for a presentable product to be produced in the end. But games don’t always release when the gaming audience wants and games almost always release well after the developers want them to. Sometimes, a game just needs that extra time, whether it’s to make up for a lack of polish, to attempt to meet lofty expectations, to seek out a translation team with the right skill set (and the right asking price), or just due to a little too much feature creep. Therefore, there will always be games that slip past their release dates, that don’t quite make it out when the developer hoped they would (no matter how hard they tried).

It’s easy to be disappointed by delays, but I’m just thankful that, with everything that could go wrong, the games I’m excited for come out at all.

So….

Welcome to the prologue to my personal Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2014. I will get into those games very soon once the actual list is ironed out, written, and polished. Meanwhile, the nine games below are all titles that I’ve written about in the past, but have yet to reach the consoles, tablets, computers, and/or handhelds they’re destined for despite being set for release in 2013. No matter the reason why they were delayed, I’m still anxiously awaiting their releases. I hope you will too after you…

Click the header images. captions.

Watch the trailers.

Enjoy the write-ups.

And get excited for what video games have in store for us in 2014.

Edit: There is an issue with linking to trailers on images. Going to just link in the captions instead.

Edit 2: Welp. Captions aren't working either. Going to put them behind spoiler tags then, so I won't destroy anyone's internet by embedding nine youtube videos.

Edit 3: WELP. That didn't work either. Ugly ass plain text it is!

Broken Age

There's not much I can really say about Broken Age. Despite the first half being out in, hopefully, the next few weeks, I don't really know much about the game itself beyond the genre and the basics of the story. And why would I? The adventure game genre is named that for a reason. It's not an adventure if you know all the steps you're going to take to get to the destination.

What I have been paying attention to is the documentary series for backers. Broken Age has had just the right amount of problems and compromises inherent to game development to make for a fascinating roller coaster ride of a series, but not enough crashing and burning for the game to actually, you know, fail. I'm sure 2 Player Productions were excited to see it fall into place like that and have done an excellent job making the most of this opportunity. Even though Broken Age isn't out yet, I can at least recommend future fans of the game or people wanting to know more about how their favourite games are created to watch the dozens of hours of behind the scenes footage out there.

Release Date (Chapter 1): January 2014

Release Date (Chapter 2): April-May 2014

Dark Souls II

I have no useful insight into Dark Souls II. I haven't seen anything about it beyond a trailer or two. Hell, I still have the daunting task of beating the original left to do. Though I have that mountain still left to climb, I've played enough of the original to know that having more Dark Souls to play is a very good, and terrifying, problem to have.

I look forward to this game kicking my ass.

Release Date: March 11th, 2014

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - Second Chapter

I still can't believe it.

For a game with a notoriously difficult and time consuming translation to have an announced English localization is shocking. For that game to also be announced for release on a dead system in 2014 is unthinkable. For that game to be a sequel to a JRPG that flopped hard in North America, barely receiving press coverage and hardly selling out its sparse stock across the continent, is nothing short of a miracle.

Even though it was clear XSEED was very passionate about this excellent JRPG trilogy, it was hard to ignore the reality of the situation. No matter how much they wanted to complete Second Chapter and The 3rd's localization, that ship sailed when the PSP died. XSEED needed to completely transition to new platforms to continue localization efforts, which was not a small undertaking. Concentrating on other projects with bigger payoffs and faster turnarounds was just a smarter business move.

XSEED's enthusiasm, however, seems to have been greatly underestimated by fans. While most publishers would have dropped the game for something much more profitable, XSEED made secret deals behind closed doors. When the great people at Carpe Fulgur, known for their localization work on Recettear and other Japanese indie games, went dark two years ago, no one could have known it was because they were secretly contracted to localize Second Chapter for Steam and (digitally) PSP. Not only that, but work was also underway to port the PSP version of the first chapter to Steam and will launch soon in the new year. Since Steam is sorely lacking RPG's of this ilk (something Square-Enix is trying to capitalize on with their old PS1 Final Fantasy ports), this move should work wonders in creating a ton of new fans and ensuring that the series becomes profitable, much like Steam did for Nihon Falcom's other series, Ys.

So this throwback to the PS1 era of JRPG's gets a new lease on life on Steam, it gets an impossible release on a dead system, it gives an established indie localization studio some serious cred, it has given Trails in the Sky fans hope for the trilogy's localization to be completed, and XSEED didn't have to kill themselves financially to do it.

Again, it's pretty much a miracle.

Release Date: 2014

Monster Hunter 4

My excitement for Monster Hunter 4 continues to wane as time goes on. With a timely release of the fourth iteration on the formula, I thought I would be able to skip over the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but quickly caved once a 2013 MH4 release seemed less and less likely. Now that I have hundreds of hours of monster hunting to cook on a rotisserie and sink my teeth into (so tasty!), Monster Hunter 4 is looking far less tempting than it once did. Plus, I actually know people who own Ultimate, which means I may finally be able to play the series in its intended form.

I guess there will always be some sort of Super Monster Hunter 4 for the Wii U or PS4 or Vita or whatever in a few years anyway.

Release Date: Never?

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

It seems like the popularity of crossover titles has grown exponentially since this game was first announced. Sure, we live in a world where Battletoads & Double Dragon was produced 2 years after the Rare original and Super Smash Bros. is a gigantic system seller on three platforms (thus far), but now all kinds of wacky crossovers have popped up. Even beyond the realm of cellphones, where Batman is in Puzzle & Dragons and the card game Street Fighter x All Capcom is appropriately named, we're continuously seeing developers exploit multiple fandoms in order to maximize their potential customers.

Some would say the video game industry is going too far. That, with the Persona series intermingling their casts and the land of Hyrule serving as a setting for a Dynasty Warriors hack 'n slash, we as an industry are eroding our beloved franchises so thoroughly and quickly that nothing will be left when this is over. Of course, that's pure hyperbole, but if the mixture of classic Namco arcade game characters and Homestuck in the bizarre high school dating sim Namco High isn't a sign of the end times, I don't know what is.

Yet, beyond their sometimes odd pairing and questionable abundance, there will always be a place for crossovers in video games. You may call them cash grabs or desperate attempts for companies to stay afloat in an increasingly cutthroat industry, but that shouldn't stop great ideas from being pursued. And I doubt you'll find a crossover with more raw potential than mixing these two series of logical puzzle solving and eccentric storytelling. I said it before and I'll say it again, these two series are a match made in heaven.

I can't wait to finally play this game once it hits North America later this year.

Release Date: 2014

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Shantae has had a long history of coming out on the wrong platform at the wrong time. The series debuted on the Game Boy Color well after the Advance's release. The sequel was one of the only bright lights in the dark pit of despair that was DSiWare. The metroidvania series required tight controls, fast reflexes, and precise movements, yet Risky's Revenge was ported onto the iOS store just as the bubble sort of burst on paid games.

Recently, the series seemed like a great fit for the PC market, yet it got lost in the wave of independent games trying to get noticed on Valve's ill-designed Greenlight service for Steam. Now that hundreds of titles have been pushed through Greenlight by Valve, it seems like Steam is getting flooded by new independent games every day and metroidvanias are becoming more and more common on the service.

Oh, and that big kickstarter for Half-Genie Hero that Wayforward must have been relying on? It launched mere hours after the now record breaking kickstarter for Mighty No. 9, thoroughly stealing the spotlight from Shantae.

Yep, it's been a long road for this little franchise that could, but I think 2014 will be the year Shantae finally gets the attention it deserves. The 3DS might just be the most popular console in the world right now and the eShop is becoming a more and more viable service for developers, as many hot titles came out on the service in 2013. It's also shaping up to be pretty damn fun if the demo I played at PAX is any indication. It was a brief look, but Pirate's Curse seems to have improved a lot of the series's now well established formula.

Even after a hot year on the 3DS and some great looking titles coming out on the horizon, there's few releases on the handheld I'm looking forward to more than Pirate's Curse.

Release Date: Q1 2014

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Everything we've seen of South Park looks fantastic. The humour is spot on, the animation makes it look like a long lost episode of the television show, and the light RPG mechanics seem incredibly well made and actually kinda remind me of Paper Mario, which is pretty damn high praise.

But there is that constant nagging feeling in the back of my head that something about the project is horribly, horribly wrong. That just beyond the frame of the pretty picture shown to us that the world is on fire. That we're going to discover that this whole thing was just too damn good to be true.

I really hope that's just baseless pessimism.

Release Date: March 4th, 2014

Super Time Force

Super Time Force has gone through a major shift in its gameplay since its first announcement, which made me pretty skeptical. I loved what I played of this time traveling run & gun back at PAX 2012, but playing it a year later put my fears at ease.

The new rewind mechanic shifts focus away from short bursts of repetition to a more fluid gameplay experience. Respawning just a few seconds before your death removes a lot of the game's frustration and quickens the pace with only minor sacrifices of tension and challenge. In fact, these changes allowed Capybara to make the levels a lot more lengthy and fleshed out, as you no longer have to risk starting from the beginning if you miss a crucial jump 20 seconds into the level. Just rewind to the jump, spawn as a new character, and keep on going (sans 1 life). It also gives the game a layer of strategy, as you can choose to spawn in a different class on the spot to access hidden areas, block an incoming attack, or just gang up on a boss.

Looking forward to its eventual digital release and all the goofy, over the top action goodness that comes along with it.

Release Date: 2014

The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Treasure is a studio that are masters of the shooter genre. Whether it's top down, horizontal, on-rails, or run & gun, Treasure has produced some of the highest quality titles the genre has ever seen. Though that's not always the case. The men and women at the company are mortals and they do make mistakes, whether it's a fatal flaw that ruins an otherwise fine game or just a venture into a genre they don't have the experience to tackle.

Nippon Ichi Software is sort of the Treasure of Strategy RPG's.

During the magical time of the PS2 era, Nippon Ichi could do no wrong. They released game after game in the niche genre that all could be considered classics and seemed to be, at least as developer, almost infallible. Once the generation changed, however, Nippon Ichi were revealed to be mortal after all, making damaging partnerships, localizing terrible title after terrible title, and having bad luck finding success outside of that familiar niche (Z.H.P.'s take on the roguelike being the notable exception) that they were quickly bleeding dry. Sure, the newer Disgaea games and even Guided Fate Paradox (Z.H.P.'s spiritual sequel) were solid games, but they weren't of the quality expected of them by their long time fans.

So I can't be blamed that, when NIS announces that they are going to be making an isometric action RPG reminiscent of Diablo, I get a little hesitant. Sure, I threw it on my list last year and I'm obviously looking forward to see how it turns out, but that doesn't mean that I have the utmost faith that Hundred Knights is going to be good.

Sometimes the hope of a game surprising you against all odds is enough for you to look forward to it.

Release Date: March 25th, 2014

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This blog is a crosspost of a series of posts on my personal blog: Yeti Sized Games. It's a blog about my thoughts on gaming, whether it be reviews, opinions, podcasts, game design, and, sometimes, my time with indie game development while working towards getting my degree. Check it out if you want.

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Fuck! Ryan Davis... D:

After a Sunday lost due to nasty allergies and a nasty hangover, the first thing I did when I woke up was roll over, pick up my laptop, and check twitter. The first tweet I looked at was Patrick's announcing the great loss the video game industry had suffered. A full day of crying and pouring over everything I could find that made our Ryan Davis special followed.

I don't want this to stretch on when you can read other people's better and more personal anecdotes. I never met Ryan Davis, though I often tried to at PAX. I didn't have a life altering experience that his voice helped me through, but he did constantly entertain. Quick Looks, Podcasts, Mailbags, Endurance Runs, Livestreams, E3 Coverage, PAX Panels, dumb tweets, I Love Mondays, and dumb Game of the Year videos. I consumed it all again and again and again. It kept me feeling great during the good times and picked me up during the darkest times of my life. Over the past three and a half years, the Giant Bomb crew have constantly been there to put a smile on my face. And Ryan Davis was at the centre of it all.

The world will never be the same without that big ol' lovable jerk. You were one of a kind, Ryan. You will be sorely missed.

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My Favourite Games of 2012

It’s the start of April. The reflection period is complete and I’ve caught up on nearly all of the games I wanted to play in the last year (Sorry, Analogue. I’ll get around to you eventually). With time to think about what I’ve played, I can finally compile of a list of games that I find to offer the best and most memorable experiences of 2012.

If you have read my lists in the past, you’ll know I always make a point to differentiate between “best” and “favourite”. You can have immense respect for a game that is not your cup of tea and you can have (probably irrational) love for a game with utterly terrible design. Much like my earlier anticipated lists, I’m going for a personal perspective with this. So, unfortunately, the eloquent Super Hexagon won’t be on this list, even if I think the game could easily win Best Game of 2012.

But I’d still give it a solid Honourable Mention. That game is brilliant.

Anyway, I shall begin, once again, with the list creation and delivering process.

Also, check out my friend PerfidiousSinn's list as well. He put a lot of time and effort into his list.

#10 - Dust: An Elysian Tail - Humble Hearts - XBLA/PC

“I don’t understand… [W]e did everything we were suppose to.”
  • Best Metroidvania Game
  • The "Cave Story” Award For Most Impressive Achievement
  • Game That Was Most Likely To Kill Its Creator

Dust: An Elysian Tail is not a perfect game. There are too many extra gameplay and progression mechanics that lack coherent balance or satisfying depth. The mapping system is ambiguous and obtuse as compared to even the forefathers of the Metroidvania formula. Progression gates are purely artificial and strictly to adhere to the formula of Dust’s inspirations. The combat system, while inherently satisfying and well designed, lacks the evolution to prevent the late game becoming labourious. The story, while having a weighty theme and just enough maturity to pull it off, is rushed and not fully explored. Suffice it to say, the problems I have with Dust are numerous.

Yet, while Dust’s many blemishes can be blamed upon its over-ambition, that enthusiasm was what saved it. Dust is a massive title for its relatively slim play time, humble origins, and budget price and it does wonders in showing just how multifaceted games have become. The end product is tarnished by a handful of missed game design opportunities, but has overcome thousands more to create a fluid, responsive, beautiful, and incredibly enjoyable action platformer.

Its flaws are many, but Dust’s aspirations and successes still manage to push the caliber expected of downloadable and independent gaming up a few notches.

#9 - Mark of the Ninja - Klei Entertainment - XBLA/PC

"None of them have any honour."

Stealth is one of the most out of date mechanics in game design. It’s an idealistic dream of designers to evoke that superspy or master assassin power fantasy, but it’s a core mechanic that continuously produces clumsy and unenjoyable results. It’s an outdated goal that is never achieved. Either compromises are implemented to destroy the designer’s dream and make a better game or stubbornness produces inaccessible, slow, boring, and needlessly punishing garbage. Either way, stealth is an annoying distraction, a gimmick that is a burden upon the rest of the game.

That is, until Mark of the Ninja came around and I witnessed the first game, in my eyes, to actually get it right.

The results are breathtaking and exhilarating. It’s a game that lays down its many, equally viable tools before you like paintbrushes of death and asks you to paint a creative and expressive masterpiece with each enemy encounter. It expects you to form your own role, your version of that ninja power fantasy, your own form of creative expression, and to execute it well. By allowing the player to define what it is they are painting, it will drive them to make every brushstroke absolutely perfect.

Oddly, several of the oldest mechanics in the medium (especially pausing, the 2D perspective, and point based reward feedback) were the keys to making this game succeed. Sprinkle in perfectly placed checkpoints and hidden collectibles, add a ton of challenge, and you have one of the most rewarding games of 2012.

It’s just a shame that the plot was paper thin and the ending was just another addition to the “contrived moral decisions don’t work” list.

#8 - Tokyo Jungle - Crispy's / SCE Japan Studio / Playstation C.A.M.P. - PSN/PS3

“The days of being a coddled pet are at an end.”
  • Best Arcade Game
  • The “R-Type Final” Award For Ridiculous Replayability
  • The “Viva Pinata” Award For Best Use Of Animal Sex

I’m unconvinced Tokyo Jungle wasn’t developed in an alternate universe where the arcade is still king. It’s the kind of game you’d imagine to run across in that stereotypical, smoke filled Japanese arcade that kids once fantasized about. The cabinet would be littered with Japanese text, bright colours, and pictures of Pomeranians. Drunken, depressed businessmen would chain smoke cigarettes as they sit down in front of it. It’s the kind of game that, once your Beagle avatar has been thoroughly eviscerated by a looming Hyena, will stick with you long after your urban Japanese vacation had ended and not just due to the startling image of the above scenario.

Then you have the return home, that stop at the arcade being one of the highlights of the trip. A vivid memory and a single photo is all you have to communicate Tokyo Jungle’s simple, yet insane, premise to those who care. An image forms in their minds of the basic idea, but once you get into the mechanics of the game, your explanation becomes the ramblings of a mad man. Side-scrolling beat-em-ups and roguelikes. RPG levelling and equipment mixed in with leaderboards. Acid rain, giant rabbits, and dogs wearing hip hop clothing. A completely different version of the game is envisioned with each person you tell, impossible to truly nail down an accurate and thorough description of your unique and bizarre experience.

I guess all you could do is hope that they’ll play it for themselves one day and it will live up to their insane expectations.

#7 - Awesomenauts - Ronimo Games - XBLA/PSN/PC

“Mr. Zork requires shiny objects."

MOBAs/DOTAs have never cut ties with their RTS roots and it has severely hampered my enjoyment of the genre. The mechanics have grown and evolved into a competitive RPG of sorts, but the feeling and the approach of an RTS is still there. Movement is still clunky and imprecise, the game is full of unnecessary complexities, and there is a ridiculous amount of knowledge you must absorb about the game before playing.

One big difference that allows RTS’s to still be enjoyable is they craft an eloquent and enjoyable 10-50 hour tutorial called a “campaign” to teach you the ins and outs of each faction while simultaneously giving you some story or whatever. DOTA (or other, barely different games) give you dozens upon dozens of characters (see: factions) with minute differences that you should learn the ins and outs of immediately before you play or you’ll be feeding the other team and your a fucking asshole piece of cock shit.

Or whatever the kids use for insults these days.

And this is where Awesomenauts comes in. This game is a gigantic middle finger to MOBA/DOTA’s established conventions, as it provides the same basic experience without all the bullshit. The game removes the base level confusion immediately, destroying much of the barrier to entry through a more limited roster, more straightforward progression/upgrade mechanic, and more focused objectives: Kill bots and towers to progress, Kill enemy players to get money, kill creeps for health, and don’t die. That’s it.

It may just seem simplified down, but the other major revelation in Awesomenaut’s design is what makes it a winner: It draws upon the conventions of an action platformer instead of an RTS. I know that’s just swapping one genre’s complexities for another, but if there is a genre I and many others have burned into our skulls, it’s the platformer. Jump arcs and character weight. Mid air directional changes and double jumps. Hovering and jumping through platforms. None of this needs any explanation to the player, as it’s all second nature to anyone who has played a classic Mario, Mega Man, or Metroid game. Best of all, is that those skills are transferable. If you want to just jump and shoot your way to victory, that is totally valid for half of the cast.

In the end Awesomenauts is just an immensely fun and approachable game in a genre where that is truly a rarity.

#6 - Skulligirls - Lab Zero Games - XBLA/PSN/PC

“The world will always be cursed by a Skull Heart, and so it will always be cursed with Skullgirls…”
  • Outstanding Achievement In Animation
  • Most Intelligently Designed Game
  • The “BloodRayne: Betrayal” Award For Best Game That Was Largely Ignored

If you listened to the gaming press, Skullgirls is nothing more than a promising indie title that couldn’t hope to compare to the other, larger budget games in its competitive genre. Yes, Skullgirls features a beautiful Michiru Yamane soundtrack, unparalleled animation, and one of the best tutorials in the genre, but much of the dialogue around the game’s release (beyond sexualization, albeit parody driven, of a few characters, which is another debate entirely) was dominated by how atrociously difficult the AI was, how stereotypical and dull the story mode was (featuring little voice acting and almost no animation), how lacking a move list destroyed the game’s integrity, and how the slight cast of eight wasn’t worth your time investment. Most reviews were comfortable with picking Skullgirls apart and criticizing each little bit, drawing a conclusion about the game as a whole, and slapping a score on it.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned the versus gameplay yet, which is basically the point of a fighting game. Unfortunately, most reviews didn’t seem to focus on it either.

Quick aside: I can say, with certainty, that Street Fighter II is one of the best games of all time. By that, I don’t mean for its day, I mean as compared to fifty years of video game history. It’s that good.

Yet, I can understand if you don’t agree, especially if you’re basing this off of The World Warrior. Small roster, unclear moves, terrible story, and input reading AI, if you break the game down and remove the fact that it was breaking new ground, it was pretty much a terrible experience. The game may have been drastically improved over three years of iteration, but it’s just not as feature filled as one would expect from a modern game.

The fact that Street Fighter II is still played by many people today purely for its versus mode is, clearly, irrelevant.

I can also say, with its brilliant design and innovative gameplay mechanics, Skullgirls is a better game than The World Warrior and, with several years of enhancement, it may just become better than Super Turbo too.

#5 - Persona 4 Arena - Arc System Works / Atlus - PS3/360

“Make sure you take care of that Persona… It’s your other self, after all.”

Look, I just wrote a full post about how great Skullgirls (a fast-paced, charming, and eloquent fighting game) is and I can do that again about Persona 4 Arena (a fast-paced, charming, and eloquent fighting game) if you want me to. But the two games pretty much hits all of the same notes and both do their part to push the genre every so slightly into approachable territory. Sure, it might need some major balancing, but the game is still a blast to play regardless, even with some atrociously bad matchups.

The only real reason P4A is higher on this list than Skullgirls is because it’s Persona 4 sequel. I can’t help it. Persona 4 is the game I have simply enjoyed the most during my time here on Earth. Any sort of media that will expand upon that universe and attempt to recapture that feeling of playing the original will immediately grab my attention. Even with the absurd genre shift from a high school simulator JRPG dungeon crawler to an anime fighting game with a significant visual novel story, I still can’t help but fall in love with Persona 4.

#4 - Journey - thatgamecompany - PSN/PS3

“…”
  • Outstanding Achievement In Artistic Design
  • The “Super Metroid” Award For Excellence In Minimalistic Design
  • Best Wandering Around And Looking At Things Simulator

Almost two decades ago, a little accident called Super Metroid was released. I only call it that because Yoshio Sakamoto, Gunpei Yokoi, and the rest of the miniscule development team at Nintendo R&D1 somehow crafted a brilliant experience that has yet to be matched. The game’s commitment to minimalistic design was far ahead of its time, yet it managed to perfectly execute it in a fairly complex action platformer. Necessary tutorial and exposition were both completely woven into the exploration, such that every new enemy encountered, secret discovered, and door opened equally increased your knowledge of the world around you and your confidence in controlling Samus. Simply put, this level of world building and melding of gameplay and narrative is rarely seen in games, largely due to the insane attention to detail necessary to create such a natural experience.

So, if you can follow the format of my previous points, you know that a comparison is going to be made between Super Metroid and Journey. A strange couple, but in a lot of ways they have a very similar approach to delivering narrative and world building, but they unfortunately have completely different goals.

Your abilities in Journey are severely limited to make each interaction meaningful and it works surprisingly well. If I chirp at this wall painting, it will react and reveal a glimpse into the past. If I run up to this seaweed like structure, my scarf increases back to full, which tells me more about the odd plant like structure than any amount of exposition could. By limiting my communication, a player avatar falling over and crumbling into dust implies a darker side in this tale instead of merely focusing on the player disconnecting to go play another game. This is how the story is told in Journey and it makes for a refreshing three hour ride of gameplay-as-narrative experiences.

Yet, Journey’s simple and more accessible route offers little in the way of actual “gameplay.” After looking back on your time with the game, you feel like those limitations that offer you those rich insights into the world actually hamper and lessen your experience, making it feel more like a touching narrative wrapped around an early gameplay demo. It might just be me nitpicking, but I feel like Journey is the stepping stone to a much larger and breathtaking game.

That experience was what I wanted out of Journey. Even if I loved my time with the game, I wanted a game that featured the same perfect weave of narrative and exploration, of discovery and exposition, but with a more fulfilling gameplay experience. Even with all that Journey accomplished, I guess I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in the end result.

And I guess I just wanted a new Super Metroid.

#3 - X-COM: Enemy Unknown - Firaxis Games - PS3/360/PC/iOS

“Remember, we will be watching”
  • Best Series Revival That Thankfully Was Not A Shooter
  • The “Fire Emblem” Award For Most Challenging/Rewarding Title
  • The “Fire Emblem” Award For Best Moments of RNG Bullshit

It’s a weird thing to pin all of the success of Enemy Unknown on one mechanic, but it simply would not be as successful without permadeath. In an experience built around multilayered stress and situations being straight up fucked, permadeath is what holds the whole thing together.

Your entire run through the game can hinge on who you bring to battle and who makes it out alive, so each investment decision outside of battle is absolutely critical. Spend all your money on weapons and armor and you’ll soon have countries, which act both as income and lives (in a way), dropping like flies and a crippled base, preventing you from upgrading equipment further or progressing through the plot. Keeping countries safe and your base in peak condition is a full time investment though, so pool too much resources into them and your soldiers are going to die. Every element of the entire game wraps back to one simple fact: winning missions is what matters and you need every advantage you can get to keep your your soldiers alive.

Thankfully, the actual game part of X-Com is pretty damn good. There’s not much to say about it, really. There are some dumb scripting, bad bugs, and line of sight issues, but they are mostly a fleeting frustration unless you’re examining the game under a microscope. All in all, the tools given to you during the gameplay and your upgrade paths for your characters are excellently balanced and each encounter is a tough and challenging experience right up until the end game.

X-COM is one of the few games to capture that raw stress created by permadeath and channel it correctly. Its inclusion makes every decision, movement, and upgrade a calculated risk and reward decision that requires you to consider your strategy for not just the next few battles, but for the rest of your playthrough. Not since Fire Emblem 7 have I played a game that pulls it off so well.

#2 - Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward - Chunsoft - 3DS/Vita

“I may be gone, but I’m aaaaaaaaaaalways watching. Maybe I’ll see you again some day… Have a nice tragedy!”
  • Best [Insert Every Award For Storytelling and Localization]
  • The “Metal Gear Solid 2” Award For Most Improved (Yet Paradoxically Still Worse) Sequel
  • Winner of the “No, Not That Type of Visual Novel” Award

Wow.

Just wow.

Play 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and then play Virtue’s Last Reward. This is less of a recommendation and more of a requirement. I don’t really give a fuck what your opinions are on the Visual Novel genre. Just get over your insecurity about a genre you barely understand (like I did) and enjoy two of the best looks into the thriller genre of storytelling that this medium has ever seen. Because both of these games have this whole storytelling business down.

You want to know how much I love these games? I was disappointed by Virtue’s Last Reward. Disappointed! It’s not nearly as good as 999 in my eyes, yet here I am just barely stopping myself from naming it the best damn game of 2012. It’s that fucking good.

I don’t really have much to say about that game beyond my slight grumblings about the puzzle structure and how I wish they were as good as 999’s puzzles. Other than that it’s just straight up insane rantings of an overly excited fan. So just play the games.

They’ll blow your mind.

P.S. While writing this post, I figured out what the hell "Virtue’s Last Reward" actually means and I’m kinda freaking out a bit.

#1 - Kid Icarus: Uprising - Sora - 3DS

“I’ve been so looking forward to your arrival, Pitty Pat.”
  • Game of the Year 2012
  • The “Masahiro Sakurai” Award For Insane Breadth Of Content
  • Best Series Revival That Thankfully Was A Shooter

Kid Icarus: Uprising is one of the best Saturday morning cartoons I’ve seen in years wrapped up in video game form.

It’s got a healthy 25 chapter first season of 15-20 minute missions. It follows your typical monster of the week cartoon structure, fighting excellent bosses at the end of each chapter/episode. It’s got mid season twists, tangential story arcs, and multi-part episodes that end on a cliffhanger. It’s even got your stereotypical “way too serious for a kid’s show” episode!

What’s best about the unique handling of the pacing and story structure is that it allows the story to just be fun without sinking too much into long exposition or melodrama. The characters are memorable, well written, and gracefully localized, which is especially impressive due to the game’s overall goofy tone. It’s not a hilarious game by any means, but the dialogue between characters has a nice comedic timing rarely seen in gaming and will keep a nice smile on your face throughout each level. Kid Icarus even manages to give you all the plot, laughs, and charming characterization while minimizing the amount of cutscenes to a fraction of most titles.

After watching the season finale and going back to see a few reruns, I can’t describe the experience as anything but delightful.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is the best game that Sakurai has ever created.

There is an attractive style in which the man creates his games, as they usually end with an impossible attention to detail and more content than necessary or even healthy. Yet, Uprising is the first game to take advantage of all of the crazy nonsense Sakurai loves to put in his games. Yes, there are a ton of trophies in Kid Icarus, but every other mechanic feeds back into the core gameplay somehow, whether it be street passing, the over 250 achievements in the game, the sheer variety in its gameplay inspirations (see below), the secrets and hidden paths scattered throughout every level, and, weirdly enough, a very enjoyable online multiplayer deathmatch mode. Even if it just means gathering more weapons and items, Uprising manages to channel all these weird aspects Sakurai likes to sprinkle his games with to contribute to the game in a (somewhat) meaningful way,

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a weird, yet delicious mix of Sin & Punishment, The World Ends With You, Gears of War, Diablo, and Persona 3.

TWEWY’s difficulty system was always a highlight for me, as dropping Neku’s level to improve the drop rate was a really clever idea. Uprising evolves the concept to become straight up genius. Not only are you using the 90 point difficulty scale to dictate how much money you make and what loot drops, but damage values, enemy population, enemy type, attack patterns, costs for an extra life, and even your path through the level are all altered by where you put that slider. It’s absolutely insane, but it somehow works and allows you to fine tune the difficulty to be perfectly in line with your skill level.

The flying mode, occupying the first half of each chapter, is just straight up Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. And that is AWESOME. Flying across the screen during these on rail sequences is natural to control, fast paced, and full of enemies, making for a completely chaotic experience that will leave you sweating bullets every time you transition to…

…The completely strange third person, over the shoulder shooter sections that make up the second half of each mission. Due to the touch screen this may sound clunky, but just as detailed options are available for tuning your controls as there are for the difficulty. After a few minutes of tinkering and a little practice to make sure, you’ll be mowing down enemies with your arsenal of weapons, vehicles, and ridiculous special abilities without problem.

Speaking of the weapons: have I explained yet that, besides having nine different weapon types that have a completely different playstyle, each weapon you find in the world has random stats associated with them? Because loot games are always fun, right? Usually that’s a grown worthy comment, but when you have an intricate fusing mechanic (ala Persona 3) for your weapons, it makes creating, customizing, and charging into battle with your ultimate weapon immensely satisfying.

It may toss a ton of mechanics into the mix, as expected from Sakurai, but, again, it somehow works. Kid Icarus is a better game for every single one of those mechanics and the combination of them all makes for an entirely unique experience.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is the best fucking game that came out in 2012 and ya’ll are gonna have to deal with it.

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This blog is a crosspost of a series of posts on my personal blog: Yeti Sized Games. It's a blog about my thoughts on gaming, whether it be reviews, opinions, podcasts, game design, and, sometimes, my time with indie game development while working towards getting my degree. Check it out if you want.

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My Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2013 - Part 5 (5-1)

Thanks for reading the conclusion to my Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2013. It took much longer than I wanted it to take, but I hope that you at least enjoyed reading my blogs or learned about a new title or two coming out very soon. Thanks!

<< Part 2 (10 - 6) ----

#5 - Shin Megami Tensei IV

For the past decade, western gamers have turned to the Shin Megami Tensei series (and its offshoots) for a consistent source of quality titles year after year. From fantastic JRPGs releases like the crushingly difficult Digital Devil Saga to experimentation with RPG sub genres like Devil Survivor and Devil Summoner to the much beloved and critically acclaimed Persona series, the Shin Megami Tensei name is on the box of some of the best games to come out of Japan.

I'm thinking Bufu might be a bad choice here, hee-ho.

This is all largely due to the influence of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, the third game in the main series. Not only was it one of the earliest SMT games to come out in North America, it established and refined much of the tone, style, and, most importantly, gameplay mechanics that persist throughout the SMT series. The biggest change? Transferring the series away from the traditional first person dungeon crawler into the standard third person JRPG. Honestly, I think the series is much better for it, as it is now focused on the mechanics that matter, letting one-offs like Strange Journey return to and explore the roots occasionally.

Now, I don’t expect Shin Megami Tensei IV to have a huge revolutionary impact on everything MegaTen for the next decade, but anything that is attempting to be Nocturne’s successor is no doubt going to be important for the series going forward. If you have any interest in the eventual new Persona, new Devil Summoner, or new SMT subseries that comes out 3-5 years from now, play this game. It’ll give you a glimpse at the changes, and quality, to come.

#4 - Ace Attorney 5

While we’re still waiting for that magical Professor Layton crossover to come over here, we at least have early confirmation that the long awaited fifth game in the Ace Attorney series will make it to international shores. Which is great, since the last game in the series, the often hated for no reason Apollo Justice, was released just shy of 5 years ago. Yeah, there has been an okay live action adaptation, a manga series that never interested me (because manga), and those boring Miles Edgeworth spinoffs stuffed full of fanservice and little else, but there hasn’t really been a true return to the roots of these somehow amazing courtroom adventure/visual novels in quite some time.

Wright may be older, but he's probably still a lovable idiot.

Enter Ace Attorney 5, Phoenix Wright’s return to the spotlight after a brief stint of piano playing and tuque wearing in Apollo Justice. He has a lovely new sidekick, ready to be embarrassed by Wright’s stints of incompetency in all of his cases. The visuals have been moved to 3D, but perfectly convert the expression and animation of the original trilogy. Heck, there’s even a new magical special ability to suss out the truth for witnesses and suspects.

But are any of those really what makes Ace Attorney work? Nah. The mechanics and visuals have always been second to the gripping storylines full of colourful characters, mysteries to unravel, and some truly amazing plot twists. Do they have the best or most mature writing and storytelling in the medium? Hardly. Yet, the series has never failed to produce fun and suspenseful tales that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Or bed. Or bus seat. Or wherever you play 3DS games.

Anyway, these are all elements of the Ace Attorney series that we can’t really identify the quality of until it sits in our hands. So regardless of the new screenshots, trailers, import previews, and convention demos, I’ll remain stoked to just finally be able to play this on my own terms.

#3 - Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I like to think that Animal Crossing in the same boat as Katamari Damacy, Pokemon, or Harvest Moon: each series has a magical and approachable game design that has gone through very few changes and only minor improvements across multiple titles. Yet, no matter which game hooks you into those series, you’ll find a wonderful, memorable title unlike anything else out there. Try to play any more of the series though, and you’ll find that you’ve quickly had your fill. Animal Crossing especially, as it just doesn’t have the room to expand on its original concept nor the depth in its gameplay to keep you coming back with each new game.

Yet, there is a solid reason why New Leaf is so high on my list and a reason that, despite what I said above, I am willing to jump into another title: Time. Simply put, it’s been a decade since I really got hooked on Animal Crossing for the Gamecube. And I mean hooked. I enjoyed the hell out of Animal Crossing back in the day. Jumping on at any and all hours of the day to see all of the cool events, helping out my best buds around town, checking Tom Nook’s stock before school every morning, and making sure that I hopped on every Saturday night to grab a new K.K. Slider song.

Fuck Yeah, Interior Decorating!

But my excitement for New Leaf is not exactly based on me trusting that the series has evolved and overhauled enough in the past 10 years to warrant revisiting. From what I’ve heard of the game, it’s still the same core experience. Instead, I feel that I have had a long enough vacation away that I can appreciate it again.

I mentioned Pokemon in that list above for a reason, as it is a series that I have similar feelings towards, but have managed to find a renewed interest in it regardless. I was part of that generation of kids who got struck hard by the Pokemon craze, but I personally stopped before the second generation even ended. I just had no drive to play those games anymore. Yet a decade later, I jumped back into Pokemon when White launched and was rewarded with hundreds of new Pokemon to catch, dozens of interface improvements, faster gameplay, and a boatload of new features added to a series I last played on a good ol’ brick Gameboy.

But more important than the details, Pokemon White got me to enjoy the core of the Pokemon experience again and ended up being one of the most enjoyable times I had with games that year.

And that is what I’m hoping New Leaf can achieve: restoring a long lost passion for a series I once loved. Maybe that’s putting too high of expectations on New Leaf, but I eagerly await my life to be taken over by talking animals and interior decorating if it succeeds.

#2 - Disgaea Dimension 2

Moving from Animal Crossing to Disgaea is a harsh jump, as they are opposites in almost every conceivable way. Disgaea is not approachable, incredibly complex, can be punishingly difficult, and has more gameplay systems than it is possible to keep track of in your head at one time. It is a series that has somehow survived on an incredibly small audience, as you won’t really get much out of it unless you are really, really into Strategy RPGs. It is the pinnacle of complexity in the genre, with very few SRPGs managing to top its breadth, depth, and insanity.

What is even going on here?

But to make an odd comparison between Disgaea and Animal Crossing, both series do suffer from the same stagnation. Each game comes with only mild improvements, the series having changed very little over the past decade beyond UI changes, some streamlining here and there, graphical upgrades, and some new gameplay mechanics attached to that stubborn core experience.

The difference is that it doesn’t matter to me with Disgaea. I love to advocate games to try new things, to push new IPs, and to genuinely expand the capabilities and experiences within the medium, but there will always be titles out there that we will want more of. Disgaea could feature the same core experience for many, many years to come and I’ll still buy and play every single one of them. Unlike Animal Crossing, Disgaea does have that fundamental depth within the core experience that allows its appeal to persist.

So what is this, the fifth Disgaea game in ten years? And it’s the first direct sequel in the series, forsaking even creating new casts and storylines? Bring it. Judging by all the new mild changes and the consistency of this series so far, I will happily squeeze hundreds of hours of strategic goodness out of Dimension 2.

#1 - Fire Emblem: Awakening

So here’s where I almost fucked up and released this list after one of the games had come out. But I made it…. barely.

Disgaea might be a series I praise for its consistency, but its always exciting to see a series that has so much potential finally getting everything right. Fire Emblem has had such a rocky and inconsistent path ever since it’s debut in North America on the GBA. Simply titled “Fire Emblem”, that seventh game in the series was pretty much a perfect, albeit fairly simple, representation of everything Fire Emblem had to offer.

Subsequent games, however, have failed to live up to the expectations put forth by that first taste. The problems have been numerous and varied, ranging form a lackluster jump from crisp pixel animation to underwhelming 3D, terrible voice acting, failed overhauls of the conversation system, slowing the pacing of combat to a crawl, imbalance brought upon by removing the rigidness of the progression, making the recruitment of characters needlessly obtuse, a large pool of characters that are near useless, outrageous difficulties being excused by less rigid saving structures…. yadda yadda yadda. The list goes on and on. While I will defend Path of Radiance and Sacred Stones as at least enjoyable games, the series hasn’t exactly produced an amazing title since that first non-Japanese release.

Did I really just write that much about a game that comes out in two days?

But perhaps now, my faith in the series will be rewarded. Awakening has had unbelievable praise in Japan, well beyond the expectations of one of Nintendo’s most niche and least approachable series. Even from diehard fans of the series, near universal acclaim for Awakening has been echoing out from Japan for the last year.

From what I’ve seen/heard, Awakening is the game where Fire Emblem finally overcomes those problems and hurdles. And it is doing so at a perfect time. When I was made this list, I thought that with all of the love for X-Com: Enemy Unknown from the gaming community, winning numerous awards and creating thousands of new X-Com fans, there would be a willingness for more players to jump into games like Fire Emblem. But I could not imagine the overwhelmingly positive reviews already pouring out for Awakening from sources you’d never expect to cover this fairly niche title.

I have always thought that Fire Emblem: Awakening had the potential to be one of the best games of the 2013, but now I see that it also could become one of the biggest.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go boot up my GBA to pass the time until Monday, whilst crying softly that I missed my chance to pick it up when it was leaked early across Canada.

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This blog is a crosspost of a series of posts on my personal blog: Yeti Sized Games. It's a blog about my thoughts on gaming, whether it be reviews, opinions, podcasts, game design, and, sometimes, my time with indie game development while working towards getting my degree. Check it out if you want.

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My Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2013 - Part 4 (10-6)

Thanks for reading! This is the fourth part looking at those 25 games that has me excited for the rest of 2013. Sorry for the short wait, if anyone was waiting, it's been a busy couple of days. Also, I would like to thank for featuring the first three parts of in the always awesome weekly Community Spotlight.

<< Part 3 (15 - 11) ------------------------------- Part 5 (5-1) >>

#10 - The God & Fate Revolution Paradox

I think I’m going to hate this game.

I mean, watch the trailer and see how long you can last. Seconds? Maybe even a minute? It’s hard to stomach it.

It’s almost everything I hate about anime and Japanese video games in one trailer: Voice acting that causes a steady stream of blood to drip from my ears, maid outfits, annoying J-Pop music with a grating vocalist, a female cast that all follow stereotypical anime personality tropes with character designs that are degradingly oversexualized, etc. etc.

Actually, it’s mostly that last one. I mean, just looking at some artwork and screenshots for the game is enough to depress the hell out of me. It’s the worst kind of pandering to the worst kind nerds in Japan, a market that unfortunately has an affinity to these types of games and, somehow, the money to consistently buy any merchandise surrounding them. It’s shit like this that makes me want to give up on Japanese games altogether.

But on the other hand…

The God & Fate Revolution Paradox is a spiritual sequel to the PSP game Zettai Hero Project, an excellently goofy spin on the roguelike genre that featured all of the insanely deep mechanics and customization that you’d expect from Nippon Ichi. And that’s pretty much all I needed to know about God & Fate to be excited. ZHP was one of the best games I played on my PSP and one of the reasons why I’m excited to see Nippon Ichi break out from the Strategy RPG genre with games like The Witch & The Hundred Knights.

So God & Fate is basically ZHP again, but improved upon and made more insane. A more Disgaea-like roguelike, if you will. One of the biggest changes is that you now have party members that follow you around (which you can also customize to an insane degree) much like in other roguelikes like Shiren. This adds a ton of elements and strategy of positioning, picking up allies, and throwing them across the map, all elements Disgaea fans should be familiar with. Lots of special moves have been added that will affect the positioning of your characters, allowing you to string special moves one after another to progress across the floor, decimating everything in your path. Heck, it even has the vibrant graphics and art are on par with Disgaea 4.

At the end of the day, I don’t really enjoy or approve of adding even more anime influence when Nippon Ichi loves to saturate their games with them anyway, but if it gets me an improved spiritual sequel to ZHP, I’ll play it regardless of how the aesthetic looks or how the story plays out.

I think I’m going to love this game.

#9 - The Next Great Sequel in the Saints Row Franchise

Well, this is awkward.

When I made this list, THQ was in dire straits, but was looking to come out of it whole and in one piece. Now, it’s in the middle of being chopped up and sold for parts, so who knows where Volition and the Saints Row franchise itself will end up.

So let’s look at the best case scenario here: Saints Row and Volition end up in the same place and their new owner sits down with the heads of Volition and just says “keep doing what you’re doing.” Yeah, I know. It’s a longshot to the point of fantasy, but due to how fucked this situation has become since I started writing this, I have no choice but to deal with ideals.

In that case, hallelujah, we’ve got the king of open world games back from near-death. The Third was such a big leap in quality for the series that it took a couple of boring, tired, and old Grand Theft Auto clones and made a unique and hilarious take on a genre I pretty much hate. It was the first time in an open world game where the first and last thing on my to-do list wasn’t “fuck around” and I actually stuck around to play it longer than your average movie. It had an interesting story filled with insanity, it improved upon the base gameplay mechanics of the genre to the point of actually being fun (an unfortunate rarity), and a sheer variety of ingenious mission and level design that had me gobbling up all 30 hours of perfectly paced content.

So Volition did the impossible and made an open world game I could actually like (love?). Props to them. Now comes the hard part: making a sequel to that game without losing any of the magic. Oh, and they have to do it by adapting a failed piece of The Third’s DLC into a full game.

Good luck.

That all sounds like a recipe for disaster, but at this point, I’d accept a Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood-esque sequel: a sequel that hits all the right notes of the original experience, even if it feels more like an expansion pack than a sequel. And that’s why this is so high on my list. If Volition is able to make a sequel that doesn’t flop, proving that The Third wasn’t just lightning in a bottle, then I’ll be impressed.

I might be asking too little from this sequel or setting the bar a bit too low, but remember that this is after the spectacular destruction of THQ and the improbable case where this game is shipped. So maybe just asking for this game to be made at all is asking too much.

#8 - Double Fine Adventure (AKA Reds)

I really like the direction Double Fine has gone in the past few years. As much as I love Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, the smaller, unique downloadable titles allow them to explore an expansive and insane list of settings, themes, audiences, and genres.

But there is something about those old LucasArts adventure games that never really transferred over to Double Fine. Yeah, there is a completely different group of people working on these games and Tim Schafer wasn’t the one wholly responsible for games like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle becoming masterpieces of the genre, but you can tell that Tim Schafer and co. have been trying desperately to recapture that balance of uniqueness and quality that LucasArts once symbolized. Unfortunately, Double Fine’s aforementioned diverse spectrum of titles hasn’t really let them specialize in any one genre. This jack-of-all-trades approach is probably why their quirky, unique titles are usually heavily flawed as well.

This is why it is so exciting to see Double Fine go back to the genre that started it all, 15 years after the critical darling, and commercial failure, Grim Fandango. There are plenty of old hands left at the studio who get to return to the genre they once loved. And that is not an insignificant event. It’s one of those things that people have been wishing, wondering, and whining about on message boards, podcasts, and blogs for years. It’s a game that, as a developer, you have to wait until the stars align and just the right opportunity comes along in order to make it.

This is also why Double Fine Adventure has a lot of weight on its shoulders. It’s the return to form for old masters of the craft, the resuscitation of a genre long thought dead, and the poster child for that whole 2012 Kickstarter phenomenon. There is no way this game won’t disappoint those who shovel this mountain of expectations upon Reds. But for me, I’m hoping that I can just be content with what it is, even if it fails to live up to those greats that came before it and continues the Double Fine tradition of making great, but flawed, games.

#7 - Pikmin 3

Okay, these write ups have gotten way out of hand. Time to reel it back in and just basically say this: Pikmin kicks ass. It is cute, it is challenging, it is stressful, and it is everything that an RTS on a console should strive for. The sequel made significant changes to the pacing and core strategy of the game and while it lost just as much as it gained, it was an entirely different experience that was just as enjoyable.

Pikmin 3 is making a lot of changes to the formula that has me shaking my head, but I look back at the jump from Pikmin to Pikmin 2 and I can’t help but have faith in Nintendo. Yeah, they haven’t been batting 1.000 as of late, but I’m hoping that during the game’s long development cycle, they were able to innovate with the title just enough to create an enjoyable new take on an old favourite.

#6 - Etrian Odyssey 4: Legends of the Titan

Etrian Odyssey is the opposite of approachable and modern game design. There is little in the way of checkpoints and there is no auto-save. Game overs are frequent and can leave you with hours of lost progress. There is only rough indication on where you need to go to progress or to complete quests. You frequently are backtracking and revisiting old content. Character progression can easily be botched without a plan, leaving you with a near useless teammate. To top it all off, the game is punishingly difficult, with a steep difficulty curve that forces you to be prepared for anything and adapt.

All of the above is deliberate and why the series works so well. Etrian Odyssey does not hold your hand or talk down to you. It asks you to be an adult, figure it out yourself, and roll a new healer because you fucked up the last one. If anything goes wrong in Etrian Odyssey, it is your own damn fault. Trapped in a dungeon with a healer with 0 MP? Shouldn’t have progressed onwards without an item to warp out. Can’t take down this boss because your front line keeps dying? Shouldn’t have specced that warrior in pure offense now, eh? Can’t find the exit? Well, you would be able to if you mapped the goddamn route out correctly.

All of this sounds semi-abusive, but its actually, somehow, quite the relaxing title. Progressing onwards into the unknown, working hard to get that new piece of armor or finish that quest, exploring the nooks and crannies of each floor, and slowly, steadily becoming stronger and more confident in your team as you progress is one of the most rewarding feelings you can find in gaming. And due to the nature of portable games, it’s always there for you. You can set it down at any time and just as easily flip it open to continue your quest. There’s no huge commitment to it, there is no huge reward for finishing it, as merely progressing through it, bit by bit, is reward enough.

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This blog is a crosspost of a series of posts on my personal blog: Yeti Sized Games. It's a blog about my thoughts on gaming, whether it be reviews, opinions, podcasts, game design, and, sometimes, my time with indie game development while working towards getting my degree. Check it out if you want.

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