My Best and Worst of 2012

In terms of gaming, 2012 was a long, strange year. A year in which the game I spent the most time in was a game that originally came out in Japan two years ago. OK, maybe that's not so strange in my case, but regardless, this year we were introduced to a new console while developers are preparing for two more (presumably coming next year). Kickstarter came along, shook things up, created rumblings that it would create a new industry paradigm, and then proceeded to annoy the hell out of people with an influx of projects asking for funding that may or may not succeed.

So no, it's not been the usual sort of year. But for all of the oddities that this year has brought, there have been a lot of good and bad as well. Here are my best and worst of 2012!

Biggest Disappointment: Games Journalism

In lieu of posting the overplayed Geoff Keighley photo, here's a picture of Missile instead.

There area lot of things that I could have declared the, er, "winner" of this category. The insanity, reactions, and counter-reactions to Mass Effect 3's ending (and subsequent rewrite of those endings. The Cross Assault sexism fiasco. The debate over sexism in games in general. The questionable behavior of game journalists in their relations with publishers.

What it comes down to, however, and what all of these items (and others this year that I may have failed to list) have in common is one thing. The complete and utter bungling behavior of the games press. Now, my expectations for games journalism has never been particularly high, though I'd wish that more in the press would aspire to do better. But if this year didn't showcase a complete and utter joke of what the press was, is, and may always will be, I don't know what else possibly could.

I should not that this award is not specifically for the staff of Giant Bomb, though they certainly share some of the blame for what a mess this year has been in their industry. No, this blame also goes to other major and minor outlets at both the reporter and executive levels. For those looking for some examples of what went wrong:

  • The discussion behind Mass Effect 3's ending: Regardless of your own stance on the ending, and regardless of how insane the Retake Mass Effect movement may have been, members of the press consistently missed the forest for the trees, focusing on the notion that fans just wanted a happy ending and ignored the more reasoned critical analyses. By constantly shifting blame and pegging the debate as a whole as the ravings of idiot fanboys, they failed to recognize the debate for what it was at the time and some still do.
  • Aris and Cross Assault: Man, was this ever a disaster. After the sexist idiocy that Aris put on display at Cross Assault, the event meant to promote Street Fighter X Tekken, there was an attempt at digging into the fighting game scene to determine how deeply entrenched this behavior was. When the fighting game community as a whole elected to turtle and shut out the press, well, that was that. Investigative journalism at its finest.
  • SEXISM IS BAD YOU GUYS: Man, if this wasn't a ridiculous debate. Let me state point blank that yes, there is sexism in the industry, and you're either ignorant or an idiot if you can't recognize that. But the way that the press took up the debate this year in particular by focusing on an ill-worded quote from a Tomb Raider developer about protecting Lara Croft turned it what could have been intelligent discourse into a sideshow, right up until Square Enix revealed that a woman was responsible fro writing the script, at which point all discussion was dropped until attention was clumsily brought to an otherwise well-intentioned Twitter campaign that could have led to more intelligent discourse if journalists hadn't fumbled the ball again.
  • Doritosgate: I'm not going to get into this one too much, other than to say that Eurogamer shouldn't have edited the column that sparked that fire. It was the one bright, shining moment this year when games journalists were forced to take a look at themselves, but that moment seems to have more or less passed in a cloud of razzing tongues and fart noises.
  • Jason Rubin is an asshole and wants to destroy Saints Row!: Except he doesn't. People only thought he did because Brian Crescente couldn't be arsed to write up an interview with him without putting words in Rubin's mouth that led to that confusion in the first place.
  • Medal of Honor trivializes war!: Tom McShea's on-camera interview with a Medal of Honor: Warfighter developer served as my introduction to Tom McShea. It also gave me a staunch reason to stop listening to him as he belligerently and immaturely forced the developer into a circular argument and more or less showing why he isn't qualified to give on-camera interviews. Any salient points that McShea might have had were sabotaged by his own inability to conduct himself in an intelligent, professional manner.

And for as disappointing as this year as been, I just don't see it getting any better. Part of the problem being that even the biggest sites (and some of the smaller ones) are staffed by people that lack even basic backgrounds in journalism. Hell, just look at Giant Bomb; Jeff comes from a time and place where, as far as I can tell, the only reason he's in the position he's in today is because he happened to be a guy that loved writing about video games living in northern California circa 1996, putting him in the perfect place to be hired by a video game website that just happened to be based in the region. This appeared to be the hiring pattern for years, and many of those faces are still active in the profession today, whether they've improved at their craft to a meaningful degree or not. At all levels of the press, from the biggest sites to the smallest, the majority of the people writing about game news aren't journalists; they're people that like games and are capable of stringing sentences together to form coherent thoughts. Are you roughly twenty-four years old, love video games, and can write with a modicum of skill? Congratulations! You too, have the qualifications to work at mid-'90s Gamespot, so long as you can work in an office and conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to the environment. (Oh, also, you have to live in the Bay Area. Tough noogies if you live anywhere else since that's where all the big outlets are located.)

Yet, even more embarrassingly, even those with actual journalism experience aren't necessarily people to look toward, either. The aforementioned Brian Crescente was once a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News, which was an actual newspaper in Colorado. Then he became editor-in-chief of one of the worst game news sites on the internet (Kotaku) before becoming part of the Polygon team, which elected to introduce themselves to the world via a hilariously overwrought documentary series that more or less proclaimed them the saviors of the games press. (Insert Nelson Laugh here.)

We are fucking doomed. Every last one of us is doomed. And I say this as someone that this past year has taken my own stab at the whole games journalism thing. From the inside looking out, I implore you to heed me when I say that we all have a long way to go if games journalism is going to ever be worth more than a bottle of Mountain Dew.

OK, rant over. Moving on!

Worst Game of the Year: Dream Trigger 3D

I have no idea what the fuck is going on.

I haven't really played any bad games this year. At least, none of the games I've played that came out this year have left me clawing at my eyes and screaming for the horrid banshees within the game to take my soul and be done with the torment. The absolute worst game I played this year was actually something that came out last year. Dream Trigger 3D is an example of an early 3DS game that, as far as I can tell, tried to get by on it being in 3D and little else. I say this because there's nothing else for this game to get by on. While it's at least technically competent to the point that it won't crash upon booting up, its abstract graphics are nearly impossible to decipher, leading to numerous quick and early deaths that are almost unavoidable. Despite playing through the tutorial, I honestly couldn't tell you what in the flying hell is going on in that game because it does such a poor job of explaining itself, other than the fact that it's thematically wrapped in the same philosophical dream butterfly motif that defines the Persona series. Only with absolutely no clear reason that I can find other than an excuse to put "Dream" in the game's title.

I bought this game used at a discount because I was both curious and stupid. It was too much, and I have since paid my penance.

Best New Hardware: The Wii U

It has a silly name, sure. And the Wii U's raw power will probably be leapfrogged by whatever it is that Sony and Microsoft are cooking up right now. But none of that detracts from the simple fact that the console's central conceit, a controller with a big touch-screen in the middle, is actually sound and works as advertised. And while the games that make truly innovative use of the touch screen capabilities may be further off, it's no slouch, either, as games like ZombiU do a lot to demonstrate using the touch screen in tandem with the TV.

It also helps that the console's internet functions are enough to make one easily forget the days of having to exchange friend codes. The new Nintendo Network ID system, friends lists, and the Miiverse all stand in stark contrast to the overly simplistic (if far more secure) exchange of alphanumeric codes. There's still room for improvement, that much is certain, but in terms of features and functionality, there's no question that Nintendo has learned their lessons well and have taken steps to implement systems and services that wider audiences can appreciate. Will the quality games follow? Time will tell, but I can certainly see myself playing games on the device for years to come.

Best New Character: Labrys/Best Fighting Game: Persona 4 Arena

Take a bow, Labrys. You deserve it.

This has been a hell of a year for fighting games with seemingly something for everyone. But the best of the year is also the most unlikely; a fighting game set as a sequel to an RPG. But Arc System Works and Atlus pulled through big-time on this one, with elements of ASW's experience working on BlazBlue and incorporating gameplay and aesthetics that perfectly evoke Persona 4. Even more impressive is the way that Persona 4 Arena manages player expectations; there's depth for those tournament-savvy players that want it, but for anyone that just wants to play the game because they're a fan of the RPG and not necessarily a fighting game fan, there are perfectly viable options for them, as well. These elements really come together to make it the best fighting game of the year.

But a major appeal of the game, particularly for Persona fans, is its story mode. And while the game features a number of returning characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4 in its narrative and roster, their importance to the proceedings takes a back seat to Labrys; a mysterious android that serves as the heart and soul of the narrative. And her particular story in the game's story mode is easily the most enthralling of them all, despite the fact that the player is only ever asked to fight once in its entire duration. She's sympathetic, fits in with the existing cast, and is well-written and acted, from her early days as an emotionless test prototype and on through her evolution into an emotive, expressive, sensitive being that has to come to terms with who and what she is even though the truth is agonizing. She's easily the best new character of the year, and just happens to star in the best fighting game of the year, only making it better with her presence.

Best Revived Characters: Pit, Palutena, and Medusa

Kid Icarus: Uprising reintroduces Pit and makes him a full-fledged character.

The core cast of Kid Icarus, the heroic angel Pit, the goddess Palutena, and the villainous Medusa, had not been heard from in a long, long while. Over twenty years had passed since the last Kid Icarus game, and aside from Pit's (and to a lesser extent, Palutena's) appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, not much had been done with them in the meantime. These are characters without much personality, and no history other than being relics from the nearly forgotten depths of Nintendo's NES and Game Boy era.

And then something crazy happened. Masahiro Sakurai pulled them all out of storage, dusted them off, gave them a new game to star in in Kid Icarus: Uprising, and then wrote a fantastic script that defines them as characters, as personalities. It gave them full spectra of emotions with a surprising amount of depth. They evolve beyond jokes about the NES game and into complete personalities that don't need to lean on the olden days as a crutch. And the stellar localization and English voice acting go a long way in bringing them to life, from Pit's goofy, innocent charm to Palutena's trollish sense of humor to Medusa being an equally sharp-tongued antagonist. And that's all before the game really kicks into high gear.

Best Story: Kid Icarus: Uprising

No, I'm not joking.

Uprising's story is by far longer, deeper, and better than I imagined it could be.

Once the game gets through its requisite NES jokes and its first nine chapters, the high gear is kicked in and a new antagonist is revealed. The story grows more complex as new conflicts arise, new characters are introduced, and the plot takes some genuinely surprising, heart-wrenching twists. There's a moment in the game that I like to call the mindfuck, where my expectations were kicked in the head and left bleeding on the curb as the game threw its best curve ball. I was so genuinely stunned and so amazed by this turn that I absolutely couldn't put the game down until I had beaten it. It took me the rest of the evening and into the night. I had to plug my 3DS into the wall as the battery wore down, even as I kept the Circle Pad Pro plugged in, because after that moment, I absolutely had to see that things were set right. And when the game was finally beaten and he credits started to roll, I knew that I had played through one of the best game stories I had quite possibly ever experienced. It was absolutely beautiful, pitched perfectly from start to finish.

Best Graphics: Asura's Wrath

That's a giant finger coming down at him HOLY SHIT.

Vibrant, otherworldly, colorful, and insane. Asura's Wrath explores a wide range of environments from a mundane, yet still fantastic Earth to the war-torn depths of space. Its characters are beautifully designed and perfectly encapsulate their roles in the story, from Asura himself to his mentor Augus to his daughter Mithra. The fact that the game is running on the Unreal Engine 3, which has often been criminally underused to produce bland game world after bland game world, is put to excellent use here. The cinematic nature of the game's presentation, structured just like a televised, episodic anime complete with commercial bumpers, further emphasizes the artistic work on display, whether it be during one of the game's quieter moments or when Asura is in a full-blown rage.

Best Original Soundtrack: Xenoblade Chronicles

There is no contest here. Xenoblade Chronicles has an absolutely massive soundtrack, and every song is golden. Its pumping battle tracks, its environmental themes (each area in the game has their own individual daytime and nighttime themes), and its cinematic music are all beautifully done and perfectly evoke the mood, whether it be a battle against a mechon enemy, exploring a massive field or city, or doing just about anything else. Even the fanfare that plays when discovering a hidden location is awesome enough to make me raise my fists in triumph when I hear it.

While Xenoblade's graphics may not be as stellar as a game like Asura's Wrath because of the hardware limitations, being on the Wii does nothing to stunt the abilities of the soundtrack's composers and musicians.

Best Game of 2012: Xenoblade Chronicles

The massive scale of the game world is absolutely breathtaking.

There is a lot of game in Xenoblade Chronicles. I mean, really. You can spend over a hundred hours in it and still not be done, just because there's so much to see an do. More importantly, however, is that the game is absolutely fun and well designed in its every aspect, from simple-to-understand gameplay systems and an easy-to-manage quest log to its strategic combat aspects and the different gameplay styles of the primary party members. It might be easy to lean on Shulk for the bulk of the game with his control of the Monado, but there were large sections of the game where I was having fun being in control of the magic-wielding Melia or the goofy fuzzball of death, Riki.

The story and world behind the game are nothing to sneeze at, either. If you're a fan of Tetsuya Takahashi's other Xeno-titles, Xenogears and the Xenosaga trilogy, you should be right at home here. While Xenoblade Chronicles has nothing to do with his previous games in a narrative sense, it does feature a very rich world and an interesting story that are steeped in gnostic inspirations and influences, as well as characters and events that likewise take inspiration from those earlier games. A friend of mine that considers Xenogears one of her all-time favorites absolutely ate Xenoblade up, and could certainly do more to talk about these influences than I ever could, so don't go asking me for deep analysis (my relative knowledge of gnosticism is amateurish, at best), but if you have the interest, it's there.

But all talk of influences aside, the story and characters are well worth playing the game to see, as well. The story is entertaining, spanning the world (a world comprised of two gigantic titans!) and full of mystery. The characters the game follows are an entertaining bunch, and sometimes throw the old JRPG character tropes for a loop in some surprising ways. They're a group that's well worth journeying with, traveling across and exploring the vast reaches as their adventure takes them further than they could ever possibly dreamed.

37 Comments
38 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

In terms of gaming, 2012 was a long, strange year. A year in which the game I spent the most time in was a game that originally came out in Japan two years ago. OK, maybe that's not so strange in my case, but regardless, this year we were introduced to a new console while developers are preparing for two more (presumably coming next year). Kickstarter came along, shook things up, created rumblings that it would create a new industry paradigm, and then proceeded to annoy the hell out of people with an influx of projects asking for funding that may or may not succeed.

So no, it's not been the usual sort of year. But for all of the oddities that this year has brought, there have been a lot of good and bad as well. Here are my best and worst of 2012!

Biggest Disappointment: Games Journalism

In lieu of posting the overplayed Geoff Keighley photo, here's a picture of Missile instead.

There area lot of things that I could have declared the, er, "winner" of this category. The insanity, reactions, and counter-reactions to Mass Effect 3's ending (and subsequent rewrite of those endings. The Cross Assault sexism fiasco. The debate over sexism in games in general. The questionable behavior of game journalists in their relations with publishers.

What it comes down to, however, and what all of these items (and others this year that I may have failed to list) have in common is one thing. The complete and utter bungling behavior of the games press. Now, my expectations for games journalism has never been particularly high, though I'd wish that more in the press would aspire to do better. But if this year didn't showcase a complete and utter joke of what the press was, is, and may always will be, I don't know what else possibly could.

I should not that this award is not specifically for the staff of Giant Bomb, though they certainly share some of the blame for what a mess this year has been in their industry. No, this blame also goes to other major and minor outlets at both the reporter and executive levels. For those looking for some examples of what went wrong:

  • The discussion behind Mass Effect 3's ending: Regardless of your own stance on the ending, and regardless of how insane the Retake Mass Effect movement may have been, members of the press consistently missed the forest for the trees, focusing on the notion that fans just wanted a happy ending and ignored the more reasoned critical analyses. By constantly shifting blame and pegging the debate as a whole as the ravings of idiot fanboys, they failed to recognize the debate for what it was at the time and some still do.
  • Aris and Cross Assault: Man, was this ever a disaster. After the sexist idiocy that Aris put on display at Cross Assault, the event meant to promote Street Fighter X Tekken, there was an attempt at digging into the fighting game scene to determine how deeply entrenched this behavior was. When the fighting game community as a whole elected to turtle and shut out the press, well, that was that. Investigative journalism at its finest.
  • SEXISM IS BAD YOU GUYS: Man, if this wasn't a ridiculous debate. Let me state point blank that yes, there is sexism in the industry, and you're either ignorant or an idiot if you can't recognize that. But the way that the press took up the debate this year in particular by focusing on an ill-worded quote from a Tomb Raider developer about protecting Lara Croft turned it what could have been intelligent discourse into a sideshow, right up until Square Enix revealed that a woman was responsible fro writing the script, at which point all discussion was dropped until attention was clumsily brought to an otherwise well-intentioned Twitter campaign that could have led to more intelligent discourse if journalists hadn't fumbled the ball again.
  • Doritosgate: I'm not going to get into this one too much, other than to say that Eurogamer shouldn't have edited the column that sparked that fire. It was the one bright, shining moment this year when games journalists were forced to take a look at themselves, but that moment seems to have more or less passed in a cloud of razzing tongues and fart noises.
  • Jason Rubin is an asshole and wants to destroy Saints Row!: Except he doesn't. People only thought he did because Brian Crescente couldn't be arsed to write up an interview with him without putting words in Rubin's mouth that led to that confusion in the first place.
  • Medal of Honor trivializes war!: Tom McShea's on-camera interview with a Medal of Honor: Warfighter developer served as my introduction to Tom McShea. It also gave me a staunch reason to stop listening to him as he belligerently and immaturely forced the developer into a circular argument and more or less showing why he isn't qualified to give on-camera interviews. Any salient points that McShea might have had were sabotaged by his own inability to conduct himself in an intelligent, professional manner.

And for as disappointing as this year as been, I just don't see it getting any better. Part of the problem being that even the biggest sites (and some of the smaller ones) are staffed by people that lack even basic backgrounds in journalism. Hell, just look at Giant Bomb; Jeff comes from a time and place where, as far as I can tell, the only reason he's in the position he's in today is because he happened to be a guy that loved writing about video games living in northern California circa 1996, putting him in the perfect place to be hired by a video game website that just happened to be based in the region. This appeared to be the hiring pattern for years, and many of those faces are still active in the profession today, whether they've improved at their craft to a meaningful degree or not. At all levels of the press, from the biggest sites to the smallest, the majority of the people writing about game news aren't journalists; they're people that like games and are capable of stringing sentences together to form coherent thoughts. Are you roughly twenty-four years old, love video games, and can write with a modicum of skill? Congratulations! You too, have the qualifications to work at mid-'90s Gamespot, so long as you can work in an office and conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to the environment. (Oh, also, you have to live in the Bay Area. Tough noogies if you live anywhere else since that's where all the big outlets are located.)

Yet, even more embarrassingly, even those with actual journalism experience aren't necessarily people to look toward, either. The aforementioned Brian Crescente was once a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News, which was an actual newspaper in Colorado. Then he became editor-in-chief of one of the worst game news sites on the internet (Kotaku) before becoming part of the Polygon team, which elected to introduce themselves to the world via a hilariously overwrought documentary series that more or less proclaimed them the saviors of the games press. (Insert Nelson Laugh here.)

We are fucking doomed. Every last one of us is doomed. And I say this as someone that this past year has taken my own stab at the whole games journalism thing. From the inside looking out, I implore you to heed me when I say that we all have a long way to go if games journalism is going to ever be worth more than a bottle of Mountain Dew.

OK, rant over. Moving on!

Worst Game of the Year: Dream Trigger 3D

I have no idea what the fuck is going on.

I haven't really played any bad games this year. At least, none of the games I've played that came out this year have left me clawing at my eyes and screaming for the horrid banshees within the game to take my soul and be done with the torment. The absolute worst game I played this year was actually something that came out last year. Dream Trigger 3D is an example of an early 3DS game that, as far as I can tell, tried to get by on it being in 3D and little else. I say this because there's nothing else for this game to get by on. While it's at least technically competent to the point that it won't crash upon booting up, its abstract graphics are nearly impossible to decipher, leading to numerous quick and early deaths that are almost unavoidable. Despite playing through the tutorial, I honestly couldn't tell you what in the flying hell is going on in that game because it does such a poor job of explaining itself, other than the fact that it's thematically wrapped in the same philosophical dream butterfly motif that defines the Persona series. Only with absolutely no clear reason that I can find other than an excuse to put "Dream" in the game's title.

I bought this game used at a discount because I was both curious and stupid. It was too much, and I have since paid my penance.

Best New Hardware: The Wii U

It has a silly name, sure. And the Wii U's raw power will probably be leapfrogged by whatever it is that Sony and Microsoft are cooking up right now. But none of that detracts from the simple fact that the console's central conceit, a controller with a big touch-screen in the middle, is actually sound and works as advertised. And while the games that make truly innovative use of the touch screen capabilities may be further off, it's no slouch, either, as games like ZombiU do a lot to demonstrate using the touch screen in tandem with the TV.

It also helps that the console's internet functions are enough to make one easily forget the days of having to exchange friend codes. The new Nintendo Network ID system, friends lists, and the Miiverse all stand in stark contrast to the overly simplistic (if far more secure) exchange of alphanumeric codes. There's still room for improvement, that much is certain, but in terms of features and functionality, there's no question that Nintendo has learned their lessons well and have taken steps to implement systems and services that wider audiences can appreciate. Will the quality games follow? Time will tell, but I can certainly see myself playing games on the device for years to come.

Best New Character: Labrys/Best Fighting Game: Persona 4 Arena

Take a bow, Labrys. You deserve it.

This has been a hell of a year for fighting games with seemingly something for everyone. But the best of the year is also the most unlikely; a fighting game set as a sequel to an RPG. But Arc System Works and Atlus pulled through big-time on this one, with elements of ASW's experience working on BlazBlue and incorporating gameplay and aesthetics that perfectly evoke Persona 4. Even more impressive is the way that Persona 4 Arena manages player expectations; there's depth for those tournament-savvy players that want it, but for anyone that just wants to play the game because they're a fan of the RPG and not necessarily a fighting game fan, there are perfectly viable options for them, as well. These elements really come together to make it the best fighting game of the year.

But a major appeal of the game, particularly for Persona fans, is its story mode. And while the game features a number of returning characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4 in its narrative and roster, their importance to the proceedings takes a back seat to Labrys; a mysterious android that serves as the heart and soul of the narrative. And her particular story in the game's story mode is easily the most enthralling of them all, despite the fact that the player is only ever asked to fight once in its entire duration. She's sympathetic, fits in with the existing cast, and is well-written and acted, from her early days as an emotionless test prototype and on through her evolution into an emotive, expressive, sensitive being that has to come to terms with who and what she is even though the truth is agonizing. She's easily the best new character of the year, and just happens to star in the best fighting game of the year, only making it better with her presence.

Best Revived Characters: Pit, Palutena, and Medusa

Kid Icarus: Uprising reintroduces Pit and makes him a full-fledged character.

The core cast of Kid Icarus, the heroic angel Pit, the goddess Palutena, and the villainous Medusa, had not been heard from in a long, long while. Over twenty years had passed since the last Kid Icarus game, and aside from Pit's (and to a lesser extent, Palutena's) appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, not much had been done with them in the meantime. These are characters without much personality, and no history other than being relics from the nearly forgotten depths of Nintendo's NES and Game Boy era.

And then something crazy happened. Masahiro Sakurai pulled them all out of storage, dusted them off, gave them a new game to star in in Kid Icarus: Uprising, and then wrote a fantastic script that defines them as characters, as personalities. It gave them full spectra of emotions with a surprising amount of depth. They evolve beyond jokes about the NES game and into complete personalities that don't need to lean on the olden days as a crutch. And the stellar localization and English voice acting go a long way in bringing them to life, from Pit's goofy, innocent charm to Palutena's trollish sense of humor to Medusa being an equally sharp-tongued antagonist. And that's all before the game really kicks into high gear.

Best Story: Kid Icarus: Uprising

No, I'm not joking.

Uprising's story is by far longer, deeper, and better than I imagined it could be.

Once the game gets through its requisite NES jokes and its first nine chapters, the high gear is kicked in and a new antagonist is revealed. The story grows more complex as new conflicts arise, new characters are introduced, and the plot takes some genuinely surprising, heart-wrenching twists. There's a moment in the game that I like to call the mindfuck, where my expectations were kicked in the head and left bleeding on the curb as the game threw its best curve ball. I was so genuinely stunned and so amazed by this turn that I absolutely couldn't put the game down until I had beaten it. It took me the rest of the evening and into the night. I had to plug my 3DS into the wall as the battery wore down, even as I kept the Circle Pad Pro plugged in, because after that moment, I absolutely had to see that things were set right. And when the game was finally beaten and he credits started to roll, I knew that I had played through one of the best game stories I had quite possibly ever experienced. It was absolutely beautiful, pitched perfectly from start to finish.

Best Graphics: Asura's Wrath

That's a giant finger coming down at him HOLY SHIT.

Vibrant, otherworldly, colorful, and insane. Asura's Wrath explores a wide range of environments from a mundane, yet still fantastic Earth to the war-torn depths of space. Its characters are beautifully designed and perfectly encapsulate their roles in the story, from Asura himself to his mentor Augus to his daughter Mithra. The fact that the game is running on the Unreal Engine 3, which has often been criminally underused to produce bland game world after bland game world, is put to excellent use here. The cinematic nature of the game's presentation, structured just like a televised, episodic anime complete with commercial bumpers, further emphasizes the artistic work on display, whether it be during one of the game's quieter moments or when Asura is in a full-blown rage.

Best Original Soundtrack: Xenoblade Chronicles

There is no contest here. Xenoblade Chronicles has an absolutely massive soundtrack, and every song is golden. Its pumping battle tracks, its environmental themes (each area in the game has their own individual daytime and nighttime themes), and its cinematic music are all beautifully done and perfectly evoke the mood, whether it be a battle against a mechon enemy, exploring a massive field or city, or doing just about anything else. Even the fanfare that plays when discovering a hidden location is awesome enough to make me raise my fists in triumph when I hear it.

While Xenoblade's graphics may not be as stellar as a game like Asura's Wrath because of the hardware limitations, being on the Wii does nothing to stunt the abilities of the soundtrack's composers and musicians.

Best Game of 2012: Xenoblade Chronicles

The massive scale of the game world is absolutely breathtaking.

There is a lot of game in Xenoblade Chronicles. I mean, really. You can spend over a hundred hours in it and still not be done, just because there's so much to see an do. More importantly, however, is that the game is absolutely fun and well designed in its every aspect, from simple-to-understand gameplay systems and an easy-to-manage quest log to its strategic combat aspects and the different gameplay styles of the primary party members. It might be easy to lean on Shulk for the bulk of the game with his control of the Monado, but there were large sections of the game where I was having fun being in control of the magic-wielding Melia or the goofy fuzzball of death, Riki.

The story and world behind the game are nothing to sneeze at, either. If you're a fan of Tetsuya Takahashi's other Xeno-titles, Xenogears and the Xenosaga trilogy, you should be right at home here. While Xenoblade Chronicles has nothing to do with his previous games in a narrative sense, it does feature a very rich world and an interesting story that are steeped in gnostic inspirations and influences, as well as characters and events that likewise take inspiration from those earlier games. A friend of mine that considers Xenogears one of her all-time favorites absolutely ate Xenoblade up, and could certainly do more to talk about these influences than I ever could, so don't go asking me for deep analysis (my relative knowledge of gnosticism is amateurish, at best), but if you have the interest, it's there.

But all talk of influences aside, the story and characters are well worth playing the game to see, as well. The story is entertaining, spanning the world (a world comprised of two gigantic titans!) and full of mystery. The characters the game follows are an entertaining bunch, and sometimes throw the old JRPG character tropes for a loop in some surprising ways. They're a group that's well worth journeying with, traveling across and exploring the vast reaches as their adventure takes them further than they could ever possibly dreamed.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

I mostly agree about games journalism. I'd add that a lot of games journalism and editorial is just plain boring -- so much games journalism is slavishly participating in the publisher-dictated hype cycle, which I couldn't be much less interested in these days. Some of the controversies this year had the makings of interesting discussions, but quickly devolved into the familiar circle-jerk.

Also, I'm totally on board with the Xenoblade soundtrack, and totally not on board with it being the best game of the year (but I think we've already been through this!). Asura's Wrath is a nice choice -- it's a beautiful, inspired, and unique-looking game.

Posted by Oldirtybearon

@Hailinel said:

Biggest Disappointment: Games Journalism

In lieu of posting the overplayed Geoff Keighley photo, here's a picture of Missile instead.

There area lot of things that I could have declared the, er, "winner" of this category. The insanity, reactions, and counter-reactions to Mass Effect 3's ending (and subsequent rewrite of those endings. The Cross Assault sexism fiasco. The debate over sexism in games in general. The questionable behavior of game journalists in their relations with publishers.

What it comes down to, however, and what all of these items (and others this year that I may have failed to list) have in common is one thing. The complete and utter bungling behavior of the games press. Now, my expectations for games journalism has never been particularly high, though I'd wish that more in the press would aspire to do better. But if this year didn't showcase a complete and utter joke of what the press was, is, and may always will be, I don't know what else possibly could.

I should not that this award is not specifically for the staff of Giant Bomb, though they certainly share some of the blame for what a mess this year has been in their industry. No, this blame also goes to other major and minor outlets at both the reporter and executive levels. For those looking for some examples of what went wrong:

  • The discussion behind Mass Effect 3's ending: Regardless of your own stance on the ending, and regardless of how insane the Retake Mass Effect movement may have been, members of the press consistently missed the forest for the trees, focusing on the notion that fans just wanted a happy ending and ignored the more reasoned critical analyses. By constantly shifting blame and pegging the debate as a whole as the ravings of idiot fanboys, they failed to recognize the debate for what it was at the time and some still do.
  • Aris and Cross Assault: Man, was this ever a disaster. After the sexist idiocy that Aris put on display at Cross Assault, the event meant to promote Street Fighter X Tekken, there was an attempt at digging into the fighting game scene to determine how deeply entrenched this behavior was. When the fighting game community as a whole elected to turtle and shut out the press, well, that was that. Investigative journalism at its finest.
  • SEXISM IS BAD YOU GUYS: Man, if this wasn't a ridiculous debate. Let me state point blank that yes, there is sexism in the industry, and you're either ignorant or an idiot if you can't recognize that. But the way that the press took up the debate this year in particular by focusing on an ill-worded quote from a Tomb Raider developer about protecting Lara Croft turned it what could have been intelligent discourse into a sideshow, right up until Square Enix revealed that a woman was responsible fro writing the script, at which point all discussion was dropped until attention was clumsily brought to an otherwise well-intentioned Twitter campaign that could have led to more intelligent discourse if journalists hadn't fumbled the ball again.
  • Doritosgate: I'm not going to get into this one too much, other than to say that Eurogamer shouldn't have edited the column that sparked that fire. It was the one bright, shining moment this year when games journalists were forced to take a look at themselves, but that moment seems to have more or less passed in a cloud of razzing tongues and fart noises.
  • Jason Rubin is an asshole and wants to destroy Saints Row!: Except he doesn't. People only thought he did because Brian Crescente couldn't be arsed to write up an interview with him without putting words in Rubin's mouth that led to that confusion in the first place.
  • Medal of Honor trivializes war!: Tom McShea's on-camera interview with a Medal of Honor: Warfighter developer served as my introduction to Tom McShea. It also gave me a staunch reason to stop listening to him as he belligerently and immaturely forced the developer into a circular argument and more or less showing why he isn't qualified to give on-camera interviews. Any salient points that McShea might have had were sabotaged by his own inability to conduct himself in an intelligent, professional manner.

And for as disappointing as this year as been, I just don't see it getting any better. Part of the problem being that even the biggest sites (and some of the smaller ones) are staffed by people that lack even basic backgrounds in journalism. Hell, just look at Giant Bomb; Jeff comes from a time and place where, as far as I can tell, the only reason he's in the position he's in today is because he happened to be a guy that loved writing about video games living in northern California circa 1996, putting him in the perfect place to be hired by a video game website that just happened to be based in the region. This appeared to be the hiring pattern for years, and many of those faces are still active in the profession today, whether they've improved at their craft to a meaningful degree or not. At all levels of the press, from the biggest sites to the smallest, the majority of the people writing about game news aren't journalists; they're people that like games and are capable of stringing sentences together to form coherent thoughts. Are you roughly twenty-four years old, love video games, and can write with a modicum of skill? Congratulations! You too, have the qualifications to work at mid-'90s Gamespot, so long as you can work in an office and conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to the environment. (Oh, also, you have to live in the Bay Area. Tough noogies if you live anywhere else since that's where all the big outlets are located.)

Yet, even more embarrassingly, even those with actual journalism experience aren't necessarily people to look toward, either. The aforementioned Brian Crescente was once a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News, which was an actual newspaper in Colorado. Then he became editor-in-chief of one of the worst game news sites on the internet (Kotaku) before becoming part of the Polygon team, which elected to introduce themselves to the world via a hilariously overwrought documentary series that more or less proclaimed them the saviors of the games press. (Insert Nelson Laugh here.)

We are fucking doomed. Every last one of us is doomed. And I say this as someone that this past year has taken my own stab at the whole games journalism thing. From the inside looking out, I implore you to heed me when I say that we all have a long way to go if games journalism is going to ever be worth more than a bottle of Mountain Dew.

OK, rant over. Moving on!

Posted by Video_Game_King

As long as we're including horrible games that weren't released in 2012 and we picked up super cheap, where's Alone in the Dark? I had a joke for that, but it got far too wordy, so I'll just say it sucks.

Other than that, *nods at rest of blog*.

Posted by Mento

Honestly, Missile's essay on Gamasutra about the misrepresentation and marginalization of dog gamers, as salient as it was, was kind of a snooze-fest and a little hard to empathize with. Don't get me wrong, the "who's a good boy?" and "goddammit, stop barking into the microphone" comments in online shooters need to stop, but did we need to focus on it so much? Of all the folk in games journalism that I respect, Matthew Rorie was the only one to support it, and I can't help but feel he had an ulterior motive for throwing his lot in with the pro-canine camp.

Glad to see Xenoblade Chronicles getting some approbation. As my GOTY thing hinted, perhaps a little too overtly, there were several categories XC would've swept this year had I allowed myself to include it. Hey, I'll repay the favor next year by giving Persona 4: Arena some kudos when it finally comes out in Europe (though maybe that should be an "if" with the way things seem to be going).

Moderator
Posted by Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

I mostly agree about games journalism. I'd add that a lot of games journalism and editorial is just plain boring -- so much games journalism is slavishly participating in the publisher-dictated hype cycle, which I couldn't be much less interested in these days. Some of the controversies this year had the makings of interesting discussions, but quickly devolved into the familiar circle-jerk.

Also, I'm totally on board with the Xenoblade soundtrack, and totally not on board with it being the best game of the year (but I think we've already been through this!). Asura's Wrath is a nice choice -- it's a beautiful, inspired, and unique-looking game.

We may have to agree to disagree about Xenoblade's GOTY qualifications, but damn if that soundtrack isn't something special, as is Asura's Wrath's artistic graphics.

But as for games journalism, I am just at a loss at this point. As long as journalism remains mired in what brought it to this state, it's never going to change and never have a chance to truly improve. That more than anything is disappointing.

@Video_Game_King said:

As long as we're including horrible games that weren't released in 2012 and we picked up super cheap, where's Alone in the Dark? I had a joke for that, but it got far too wordy, so I'll just say it sucks.

Other than that, *nods at rest of blog*.

I didn't play Alone in the Dark. :P

Besides that, it's not the first time I've included a game from a previous year in my awards. Last year, I gave best soundtrack to a game from 2009.

@Mento said:

Honestly, Missile's essay on Gamasutra about the misrepresentation and marginalization of dog gamers, as salient as it was, was kind of a snooze-fest and a little hard to empathize with. Don't get me wrong, the "who's a good boy?" and "goddammit, stop barking into the microphone" comments in online shooters need to stop, but did we need to focus on it so much? Of all the folk in games journalism that I respect, Matthew Rorie was the only one to support it, and I can't help but feel he had an ulterior motive for throwing his lot in with the pro-canine camp.

Glad to see Xenoblade Chronicles getting some approbation. As my GOTY thing hinted, perhaps a little too overtly, there were several categories XC would've swept this year had I allowed myself to include it. Hey, I'll repay the favor next year by giving Persona 4: Arena some kudos when it finally comes out in Europe (though maybe that should be an "if" with the way things seem to be going).

Yeah, Missile has a long way to go before his Gamasutra essays will get much respect. But he is a newcomer to the scene, and he's not an old dog, so new tricks aren't beyond his ability to learn.

I saw the results of your awards, and if I had given out all of the awards you had given, then Xenoblade would have walked away with most all of them. Hopefully you won't have to wait forever for Persona 4 Arena, though. It's crazy that it fell into the hands of a publisher with a track record of long delays.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

Xenoblade could be GOTY... for 2010

Posted by Hailinel

@Fredchuckdave said:

Xenoblade could be GOTY... for 2010

It could, and some publications probably did name it such, but it came out in North America this year and this is the year I played it, so hey!

Posted by Video_Game_King

@Hailinel said:

I didn't play Alone in the Dark. :P

Of course you didn't. You actually know better than to do that. -_-

Posted by Hailinel

@Video_Game_King said:

@Hailinel said:

I didn't play Alone in the Dark. :P

Of course you didn't. You actually know better than to do that. -_-

If it's any consolation, a number of years ago, I did watch the Uwe Boll Alone in the Dark movie on DVD. Then I watched it a second time immediately afterward with the director's commentary turned on.

I count that misadventure as one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I watched the Nostalgia Critic review of that movie. I can only imagine the pain you went through.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Man. I agree pretty much entirely with your sentiment on games journalism. I've never played Kid Icarus (though it is definitely on my short list of games to buy when I inevitably purchase a 3DS for Fire Emblem related purposes) but knowing what I know, I think saying it has the best story is borderline Other M territory. I can't really agree or disagree, considering that it's been a rotten year for game stories outside of the obvious one that everyone and their dog has already mentioned and I endorse to some degree and I can appreciate that kind of flippant response to the community's outstanding obsession with big, epic stories.

I did get Persona 4 Arena though, so at least I can theoretically see what all the kids are talking about on the Labrys front. Probably would give Xenoblade a look-see if I was in any way interested into sinking that degree of time into an RPG. I dunno. For as much as I sing praises unto both the traditional CRPG and weird JRPGs that catch my interest, anything more than 40 hours is liable to break me, though that is somewhat mitigated by me being able to bum-rush my way through otherwise lengthy games.

In any case, I enjoyed reading this, so your purpose was fulfilled?

Posted by WJist

FWIW, journalism in other industries or even what is considered mainstream journalism isn't much better: saw a lot of dumb shenanigans this year. That doesn't excuse games journalism, it is just (unfortunately) becoming the standard.

I regret not picking up Xenoblade Chronicles when it was first available! Will have to seek it out on your recommendation.

Serious question though, because I know you're the person I see who contributes a lot to the Dynasty Warriors pages in the wiki, what are your thoughts on Warriors Orochi 3? I considered getting the WiiU version when I bought my WiiU, but opted for the 360 version. They've really honed some of the systems found in the earlier Orochi games.

Posted by Hailinel

@WJist said:

FWIW, journalism in other industries or even what is considered mainstream journalism isn't much better: saw a lot of dumb shenanigans this year. That doesn't excuse games journalism, it is just (unfortunately) becoming the standard.

I regret not picking up Xenoblade Chronicles when it was first available! Will have to seek it out on your recommendation.

Serious question though, because I know you're the person I see who contributes a lot to the Dynasty Warriors pages in the wiki, what are your thoughts on Warriors Orochi 3? I considered getting the WiiU version when I bought my WiiU, but opted for the 360 version. They've really honed some of the systems found in the earlier Orochi games.

I have the Wii U version of Warriors Orochi 3. It's a lot of fun, and has a few features not found in the 360/PS3 version (four new characters and an extra mode). Definitely one of the best Warriors games I've played, and a massive step above Warriors Orochi 1 & 2.

And yeah, journalism in other areas isn't much better, but a man can at least dream.

@ArbitraryWater said:

Man. I agree pretty much entirely with your sentiment on games journalism. I've never played Kid Icarus (though it is definitely on my short list of games to buy when I inevitably purchase a 3DS for Fire Emblem related purposes) but knowing what I know, I think saying it has the best story is borderline Other M territory. I can't really agree or disagree, considering that it's been a rotten year for game stories outside of the obvious one that everyone and their dog has already mentioned and I endorse to some degree and I can appreciate that kind of flippant response to the community's outstanding obsession with big, epic stories.

I did get Persona 4 Arena though, so at least I can theoretically see what all the kids are talking about on the Labrys front. Probably would give Xenoblade a look-see if I was in any way interested into sinking that degree of time into an RPG. I dunno. For as much as I sing praises unto both the traditional CRPG and weird JRPGs that catch my interest, anything more than 40 hours is liable to break me, though that is somewhat mitigated by me being able to bum-rush my way through otherwise lengthy games.

In any case, I enjoyed reading this, so your purpose was fulfilled?

I guess. I can understand why you might compare Kid Icarus to Other M, but they're not really in the same boat. They aren't the same kinds of stories, nor were the characters in Kid Icarus saddled with certain expectations like those some people had of Samus. I'd be interested to hear your opinion of it after you have the chance to play it (whenever that is).

Posted by Apathylad

Ah yes, the Tom McShea interview. It was hard to see McShea's argument when he didn't even play the games he was criticizing.

The other big story from 2012 was Jeff finally being able to speak about his termination from GameSpot. For years, we've been told that GameSpot losing ad money in 2007 had nothing to do with his dismissal. And here we are, five years later, with Jeff admitting that it was the cause this whole time. It sure isn't gonna change anyone's cynical opinions about the industry.

Posted by Slag

@Hailinel: That was ice cold man.

I think you hit on some very unfortunate truths about games "journalism".

but to be fair journalism everywhere is decaying rapidly.

I still need to play P4arena but I have a hard time imaging any better new character this year than Walking Dead's Clementine who is is arguably the best child character in video games ever imo...

Online
Posted by Hizang

Kid Icarus story is surprisingly good and well told, plus its amazing.

Posted by sdharrison

The rant on game journalism should have its own thread. So many of the guys in the industry seem like right place right time hacks. Almost any time they get tested, failure soon follows.

Posted by Cincaid

Very interesting to read (as usual with your blogs), even if I don't agree with all your points / awards!

(Especially the part of 'there was a time and place, and that's why a majority of them got hired'-part comes off as a hint of jealousy. Almost like you yourself is a educated Journalist, or at least once applied for a job to a big gaming website, but was shot down partly because you didn't live in the area. Maybe just me reading too much into it. :P)

Posted by Hailinel

@Cincaid said:

Very interesting to read (as usual with your blogs), even if I don't agree with all your points / awards!

(Especially the part of 'there was a time and place, and that's why a majority of them got hired'-part comes off as a hint of jealousy. Almost like you yourself is a educated Journalist, or at least once applied for a job to a big gaming website, but was shot down partly because you didn't live in the area. Maybe just me reading too much into it. :P)

Nope. I never applied to any such position. I'm not a journalist, either. I never studied it in college and only have a single semester of high school journalism under my belt. When I was twenty-four, I was working as a game tester and had no journalistic desires. Even so, my point about those being in the right place at the right time still stands.

@Apathylad said:

Ah yes, the Tom McShea interview. It was hard to see McShea's argument when he didn't even play the games he was criticizing.

The other big story from 2012 was Jeff finally being able to speak about his termination from GameSpot. For years, we've been told that GameSpot losing ad money in 2007 had nothing to do with his dismissal. And here we are, five years later, with Jeff admitting that it was the cause this whole time. It sure isn't gonna change anyone's cynical opinions about the industry.

That's very true.

@Slag said:

@Hailinel: That was ice cold man.

I think you hit on some very unfortunate truths about games "journalism".

but to be fair journalism everywhere is decaying rapidly.

I still need to play P4arena but I have a hard time imaging any better new character this year than Walking Dead's Clementine who is is arguably the best child character in video games ever imo...

I haven't played The Walking Dead, but I have a hard time believing that Clementine is that great of a character. As others have criticized, she's basically a device that's meant to guilt-trip the player at every turn. She's also the game's equivalent of a horror movie's invincible child. From what I understand, never at any point is she in actual, real danger; the game puts her in peril at points, but the chances of her actually coming to any harm while everyone else are dropping like flies is effectively null.

Posted by StarvingGamer

I tried to slog through the cavalcade of ill-conceived criticisms of ME3 looking for anything resembling a cogent argument and was definitely left wanting. And I looked hard.

@Hailinel said:

@Slag said:

@Hailinel: That was ice cold man.

I think you hit on some very unfortunate truths about games "journalism".

but to be fair journalism everywhere is decaying rapidly.

I still need to play P4arena but I have a hard time imaging any better new character this year than Walking Dead's Clementine who is is arguably the best child character in video games ever imo...

I haven't played The Walking Dead, but I have a hard time believing that Clementine is that great of a character. As others have criticized, she's basically a device that's meant to guilt-trip the player at every turn. She's also the game's equivalent of a horror movie's invincible child. From what I understand, never at any point is she in actual, real danger; the game puts her in peril at points, but the chances of her actually coming to any harm while everyone else are dropping like flies is effectively null.

Except that it isn't. It's true that if you wanted to metagame TWD you could make the assumption that they probably wouldn't off Clementine, at least until the end, but the same can be said of almost any work of fiction. There has to be a certain suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to video games, because the threat of death is more often a failure state than a plot device.

Posted by Hailinel

@StarvingGamer: Then I've seen enough horror movies to recognize that Clementine wouldn't die or otherwise come to any real harm. I'm not saying that Clementine needed be more actively threatened, but even from the first moments of the game I saw back in the first episode's quick look, I pretty much knew that no harm would befall her, and that no matter what happened to Lee and everyone else, she'd somehow come out of it. I'd have been legitimately shocked if the writers actually did allow her to fall victim to a zombie attack in any branch of the story as an actual plot point and not as a failure state.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@Hailinel: Instead I'd say that you've experienced enough media, but that is no fault of the game or her character. You are free to look at her as a plot device, but by doing so you're willingly walking yourself into a forest for trees situation. Almost every character in any work of fiction is a plot device in some way. The fact that she is the biggest plot device in the series does not invalidate the quality of her dialogue or the strength of her acting. At the end of the day, there's nothing new under the sun and if you've watched/read/played enough stuff, you can metagame almost anything in this way. You can choose to let this color your experience or try to enjoy it on its own merits.

Posted by Demoskinos

I effectively like Giantbomb simply because they less often get mired in the dumb shit going on in the video game enthusiast press. I refuse to call it "journalism" as there is little actual reporting and more just people offering commentary.

Posted by Hailinel

@StarvingGamer said:

@Hailinel: Instead I'd say that you've experienced enough media, but that is no fault of the game or her character. You are free to look at her as a plot device, but by doing so you're willingly walking yourself into a forest for trees situation. Almost every character in any work of fiction is a plot device in some way. The fact that she is the biggest plot device in the series does not invalidate the quality of her dialogue or the strength of her acting. At the end of the day, there's nothing new under the sun and if you've watched/read/played enough stuff, you can metagame almost anything in this way. You can choose to let this color your experience or try to enjoy it on its own merits.

Maybe so. I'm still not sure when or if I'll get around to playing TWD, but I'm not going to write the whole game off without playing it.

Posted by Encephalon

You are ice cold.

I definitely understand--if not quite empathize with--where you're coming from with your game journo rant. Perhaps I'm not as incensed because I just don't expect as much. I find myself enjoying GB with the proviso that they are essentially comedians whose function it is to entertain me; rarely do I expect "journalism" in the traditional sense, or even "criticism" to the degree that it would actually change or inform my opinion on something. If I want to hear games criticism, I'll listen to Idle Thumbs. GB is where I get my game-related lowbrow humor.

And now I just depressed myself about this whole thing, thanks.

You should think about giving TWD a shot. I could wax lyrical about all the lessons I think the industry should take from it (not that it's without shortcomings of its own). If nothing else, the visual novel-ness of the game is unlikely to bother you, so there's a start.

Posted by darkcargio

I agree with you with the current situation in game journalism. It has too many faces that sometimes you do not know what to believe anymore. This website is for my entertainment but I rarely take any opinions or rants from the staff seriously, as a game journalism should be. I really would like to play xenoblade but it is hard to me to get my dusty WII on again; I guess i will wait for the game to be port in another console. Good blog.

Posted by Hailinel

@Demoskinos said:

I effectively like Giantbomb simply because they less often get mired in the dumb shit going on in the video game enthusiast press. I refuse to call it "journalism" as there is little actual reporting and more just people offering commentary.

I don't know. Sometimes it seems they do, and other times they obviously don't.

@Encephalon said:

You are ice cold.

I definitely understand--if not quite empathize with--where you're coming from with your game journo rant. Perhaps I'm not as incensed because I just don't expect as much. I find myself enjoying GB with the proviso that they are essentially comedians whose function it is to entertain me; rarely do I expect "journalism" in the traditional sense, or even "criticism" to the degree that it would actually change or inform my opinion on something. If I want to hear games criticism, I'll listen to Idle Thumbs. GB is where I get my game-related lowbrow humor.

And now I just depressed myself about this whole thing, thanks.

You should think about giving TWD a shot. I could wax lyrical about all the lessons I think the industry should take from it (not that it's without shortcomings of its own). If nothing else, the visual novel-ness of the game is unlikely to bother you, so there's a start.

I've never listened to Idle Thumbs. Maybe I should give them a shot.

@darkcargio said:

I agree with you with the current situation in game journalism. It has too many faces that sometimes you do not know what to believe anymore. This website is for my entertainment but I rarely take any opinions or rants from the staff seriously, as a game journalism should be. I really would like to play xenoblade but it is hard to me to get my dusty WII on again; I guess i will wait for the game to be port in another console. Good blog.

Thanks! As for Xenoblade, I doubt it'll ever be ported. At this point, your best bet would be either playing it on the Wii or on the Wii U (through backwards compatibility).

Edited by Cloudenvy

@Hailinel said:

@Hailinel: That was ice cold man.

I think you hit on some very unfortunate truths about games "journalism".

but to be fair journalism everywhere is decaying rapidly.

I still need to play P4arena but I have a hard time imaging any better new character this year than Walking Dead's Clementine who is is arguably the best child character in video games ever imo...

I haven't played The Walking Dead, but I have a hard time believing that Clementine is that great of a character. As others have criticized, she's basically a device that's meant to guilt-trip the player at every turn.

Yupp, hit the nail on the head, she's a cute girl meant to guilt trip you at every available moment. The love for her is insane to me, and I doubt I'll ever get it!

Then again, she might turn into a revolutionary character in the last episode, who knows!?

Posted by Clonedzero

i completely agree with your "rant" on games journalism. everyone completely missing the point with ME3's ending, the whole "sexism is bad" rehashing again and again.

i feel really bad for that guy who said the whole "you'll want to protect lara" cus i HIGHLY doubt he was being sexist about it. he probably just mean "hey we made a sympathetic character and you wont want to see her get hurt". i felt the same way with Lee in the walking dead, i dreaded every dangerous scenario because i wanted to kill him and clem safe.

i mean i'd be nervous and probably say something stupid if i was getting interviewed too. poor guy was dragged through the mud by hack journos and burnt like a damn witch, it was disgusting.

Posted by WMWA

Nice write-up. Loved your GOTY picks and such. Not real up on JRPG's and will be interested to try Xenoblade finally

Posted by RenegadeSaint

Ah games journalism... Does it even exist? I consider the entire profession to be video-game related entertainment and that is how I consume it. I don't care what any of these people think about sexism, racism, religion, or other serious topics, I just want them to entertain me. Perhaps that will change some day, but the overwhelming majority of games made today are created for the sole purpose of providing joy. A deep, moving story line in a video game has yet to give me pause and reshape my views. Until the medium matures to that point, games journalism will be stuck in its current shallow rut.

Posted by Hailinel

@RenegadeSaint said:

Ah games journalism... Does it even exist? I consider the entire profession to be video-game related entertainment and that is how I consume it. I don't care what any of these people think about sexism, racism, religion, or other serious topics, I just want them to entertain me. Perhaps that will change some day, but the overwhelming majority of games made today are created for the sole purpose of providing joy. A deep, moving story line in a video game has yet to give me pause and reshape my views. Until the medium matures to that point, games journalism will be stuck in its current shallow rut.

This is a mindset I can't agree with, as it's merely serving an apologist role.

Posted by WasabiCurry

While I do not necessarily agree with your picks. I do respect them. However, I came to comment on your piece of Gaming Journalism. When the entire Mass Effect 3 debacle came to pass; every so-called journalist, YouTuber, Dev, etc. had something to say. I had never played any of the Mass Effect games so I was completely on the outside in observing the issue. I just read through articles about either explaining on "how bad the ending was," "You guys should be more appreciative," or my favorite, "New endings will ruin the artist true vision of the game." They seem to overshadow the response of the quality of the game. It was the last fifteen or so minutes of the game that determined whether many would buy it or not. Not the overall experience; which counts the most.

These articles were more of opinion pieces than anything else. I will cut it short and to the point. I whole heartily agree that the industry needs real journalists. People who do game, yet are able to stay away from certain issues like sexism, racism, and controversies while making an overview. Opinion pieces are appreciated (if the audience takes interest in them), but they should not determine the review of a game.

I just want to know whether a game is good or bad. Nothing more, nothing else.

Also your writing is simply amazing. Awesome job!

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

I`m with ya on game Journalism. It is getting better but only in baby steps. At least Giantbomb is better than the vast majority of sites when it comes to this. They actually offer frank discussion and don`t usually get swept in publisher hype. Knowing the downsides to things like E3.

Your awards themselves make me want to play more Kid Icarus and Xenoblade. In the former's case I have issues with the controls and the writing seemed goofy and self aware but not funny. Nothing about Xenoblade grabbed me. I guess it music was alright but the art style, combat and general design were off putting. I want to give it another chance.

I think Asura`s Wrath is a good looking good but i`m curious if you played Journey.

Labrys is by far the best thing about Persona 4 arenas story. In fact I may say it is the only good thing. I think the plot was awful compared to Persona 4 proper. Most of the routes felt like filler and were a chore. They only needed Yu, Labrys, and Mitsturu/Naoto up to when they enter the TV.

Posted by Slag

@Hailinel said:

I haven't played The Walking Dead, but I have a hard time believing that Clementine is that great of a character. As others have criticized, she's basically a device that's meant to guilt-trip the player at every turn. She's also the game's equivalent of a horror movie's invincible child. From what I understand, never at any point is she in actual, real danger; the game puts her in peril at points, but the chances of her actually coming to any harm while everyone else are dropping like flies is effectively null.

To be fair isn't that more of a criticism of the plot than her characterization? Popular characters in many games have long been NPCs or just glorified deus ex machina. E.g. Princess Peach is essentially just motivation for Mario to go stomp some walking mushrooms and punch bricks before dumping a turtle-like dragon into lava. Not that I'd call either "great characters" per say but you get my point.

basically said I was going to better than I would. I agree with all his points

What made her work for me, was that this kid said believable things and had believable responses to situations for a girl her age. She seemed to "see" situations a kid reasonably would, which they often do in black and white unreasonable way. Her voice actor and the writers did a an amazing job of humanizing the kid. As someone with a lot of extended family, and who has taught young children and used to babysit quite a few of them, Clementime was the first kid character that really rung true to me. Actually Duck in the game wasn't half bad either (and he was definitely designed to be less likable on purpose), but Clementine reminded me of some of the smarter girls that I used to teach.

Maybe as you pointed out I just fell for the device, but if so I don't care because the device did expertly what it was supposed to do.

Kid characters in games usually sound like odd young women to me, with too much vocabulary and too much mature introspection. Which is understandable to some degree since they usually are portrayed by adult female voice actors with dialogue also written by adults.

I still really need to play P4arena so I can't really say how Labrys will feel to me (I'm really curious to given your high praise of her), but I think you'll see what I'm saying about Clementine when or if you play the Walking Dead.

anyway great list, it was a fun read!

Online
Posted by JackSukeru

I had all but forgotten about the music in Xenoblade and how genuinely good it was until a few days ago where I stumbled into some of it. It wasn't something that immediately stood out to me when I was playing the game either, apart from the "fight a tough enemy" song that had some sick electric guitarr in it IIRC, but looking back I had certainly gained a fondness for it. Relistening to the music ended up bringing my thoughts back to my favorite parts of the game, experienced in the time before I abandoned it and it ended up in my RPG pile-of-shame.

Posted by Zippedbinders

In regards to the posts about Clementine, she's honestly the best written character in the whole game. I too wasn't sure if she was as cracked up as the internet was making her out to be, but she was quite enjoyable. Perhaps its because I've spent a decent part of the year with a kid around her age, but her dialog and delivery was shockingly authentic and motivating. Perhaps she is never in any actual danger, but that doesn't matter in the end, its the actual events that I want to see play out that tied with her character that really made it good. She's a great adorable kid in a game, and I'd love to see her hang out with Nanako in some ... weird alternate universe cross over thing.

Still haven't gotten to Asura's Wrath, I started it up but I'm waiting for something like a group showing of it. Still have to finish Kid Icarus and Xenoblade too.