By Hailinel 85 Comments
It's that time of the year again. Living rooms around the world smell like pine, crazy uncles are having a little too much to drink at family gatherings, and a jolly fat man in a red suit is invading peoples homes and leaving oddities in their socks. Yes, it's time once again for my Best and Worst of the year. Have at thee!
Biggest Disappointment of the Year: YouIn past years, I had separate categories laid out for the biggest disappointments in both hardware and software. Seeing as how no hardware really disappointed me this year and it's been by and large a great year for games, I figured it would be best to trim it down a bit and talk about the one item in general to games that's disappointed me the most this year. You know what that is?
Well, no, not necessarily you personally. But in general, I'm disappointed with the attitudes that some crowds have really shown this year. Whether it be screeching at others for enjoying a game that's gotten less than stellar reviews, knocking games that they either haven't played or never had any interest in playing in the first place, or simply being dicks for the sake of pissing in someone else's Frosted Flakes, I have witnessed a great deal of unnecessary hostility this year. Yes, it's the internet, and yes, there will always be trolls, internet tough guys, and other such fools in forums, but that doesn't give reason for their behavior to be considered tolerable in any fashion. The fact that some seem to go out of their way to spoil the enjoyment of others or simply stir shit that doesn't need stirring is and always will be a disappointment.
Also, I'd like to give a special shout-out to that psychotic stalker that harassed me to the point that he had to be IP banned after creating a second account just to flood the forums with this glorious image seen to your right. I honestly feel flattered that someone would try to insult me by photoshopping my head into a lazily produced image macro, but dude, you crazy. If you're reading this for some reason, get some help.
Worst Game of the Year: Sands of DestructionOh, Sands of Destruction. I had such high hopes for you. Really, I did. A Xenogears-style combat system combined with a premise of adventurers out to destroy the world. That's right. Not save, but destroy. Annihilate. Kill. Kill. And you know, you started off so well, too. Then everything went south.
Where do I even start? I suppose I should start with the failure that is your combat. While it's a variant on the battle system seen in games like Xenogears and Xenosaga, it is also utterly broken. No more than a few hours into the game, and I already had a party that was so ludicriously overpowered that combat encounters devolved into a simple pattern:
- Battle Start!
- Ridiculously Long Combo!
- SUPER ATTACK THAT HITS EVERYONE!
- Victory! :D
Hell, even boss battles fall into this trap. There comes a point where the only determining factor of whether you'll win or lose is if you act first or not. Do you act first? One-turn win! Do you go after the boss? You die. Try again.
Then there's your dungeon design. Simple, straight, forward. More twists and turns in general than Final Fantasy XIII, I'll give you that, but then you throw me into the Chamber of Knights. A teleporter maze from which I could not escape. Frustrating, to say the least. I wandered this damnable room for hours before I finally gave in and turned to GameFAQs in the hopes that someone more masochistic than I had actually put in the effort to map the correct path out. Thankfully, someone like that did exist, and I was able to continue on.
And then there's the disappointment of the plot. Flat, unlikeable characters. A plot twist stolen right out of Chrono Trigger. Rote and idiotic. It shames me as I recall trying you out at PAX 2009 and seeing enough promise to put you on a list of ten potential favorites of the year.
In short, you are a horrible, horrible game.
Best Hardware of the Year: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom Arcade StickRight, so PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360's Kinect both came out this year, but I only tried a little Kinect back at PAX and didn't touch Move at all. So I can't really award this to either of them. What I can do, however, is say how much fun I've had playing Tatsunoko vs. Capcom with the game-branded arcade stick. There really aren't too many fight stick options for the Wii; it basically comes down to this one, produced by Mad Catz, or the Hori stick, which I do not own. The TvC stick has held up incredibly well, and I found it well worth the money.
Best Fighting Game: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-StarsSuper Street Fighter IV blah blah blah blah blah. Uh, no. Sorry. As was the case last year with Street Fighter IV, I tried getting into Super, and I just couldn't do it. I could only sustain enough interest to play through arcade mode a few times on a low difficulty setting and a relatively few arcade matches before just calling it quits. No, sorry. i got far more mileage out of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.
Maybe it helps that I was already familiar with a number of the Tatsunoko characters beforehand. Maybe it's the fact that I was just in the mood for something lighter, crazier, and filled with 100% more Doronjo. Maybe I just wanted to thrash dudes as a gigantic cigarette lighter. Whatever the case, I had more fun with TvC than with any other fighting game I played this year.
Funniest Game of the Year: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The GameIn order to really get the humor behind this game, there are really two things you need. An understanding of the Scott Pilgrim source material, first and foremost. Without the use of dialogue, the game goes a long way in showcasing the humor of the original graphic novels. The other thing you need is a fondness for the beat'em ups of yore, from River City Ransom to Golden Axe to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There's nostalgia at play here, folks, and if you don't have a willingness to embrace it, then you probably won't find much to laugh at in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. However, if you do, you'll find more than a few sight gags that are certainly worthy of a hearty laugh or an Asian Catholic schoolgirl's giggle.
Best Soundtrack: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The GameAnd with that nostalgia factor in mind, Anamanaguchi's retro-inspired soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim is among the game's most brilliant touches. From the peaceful world map music to the boss themes, the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack is one overflowing with a style that's pitch perfect in tone for both the game or for just listening to on an MP3 player.
Best Downloadable Game: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The GameI just awarded it the previous two awards. So why the hell not?
Best New Character: The Persona 3 Portable HeroineShin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 had already been released twice. Once in its original form, then in the enhanced FES package. In both cases, the game had you playing as a male high school student interacting with other students, hanging around the town, and fighting monsters in a giant, psychedelic tower. So after two trips to the well, how could the game remain fresh?
Easy. Make the protagonist a girl. Though a simple change on the surface, this one alteration has a major impact on the way other characters interact with the main character. While it doesn't ultimately change the primary flow of the main narrative, the aspects of the daily life that she leads provides a fresh perspective on a high school that players of the previous games had already grown to know fairly well.
Best RPG: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by SleepThe Kingdom Hearts fanbase is a divided one. There are those that think that the story has gotten too deep for its own good and wanted it to stop with the first. There are those that enjoy the entire series. And then there are those that don't like seeing their visions of certain characters ruined by new canon and refuse to play those games.
I'm of the second mind. I've enjoyed most every Kingdom Hearts game to date ( Re: Chain of Memories being the lone, notable exception). Birth by Sleep, this year's KH release for the PSP, was welcome to me because it offered the chance to play as three new characters (never mind that one of them looks and sounds like Roxas). It offers a tale that predates the original Kingdom Hearts along three separate paths, a revised combat and character progression system that mixes traditional KH hack-and-slash with Panzer Dragoon-style firepower, and answers to questions that have been lingering since Kingdom Hearts II.
While not all of the new characters are entirely likable ( Terra is one of the biggest maroons I have ever seen in a video game), others more than make up for their faults. Aqua's story arc was particularly heartbreaking, simply because of the position she's put in and the way she seemingly has to clean up the messes others leave behind. The game also introduces a small collection of Disney worlds new to the series, including the worlds of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Lilo & Stitch, giving it a fresher feeling than other entries in the series. (Best part, NO AGRABAH. Thank Christ.)
Best Remake: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 PortableThis might be the second time that Persona 3 has been remade, but that doesn't make it any less worthy of this award. Though sacrifices were made in the visual department for the PSP format and the game's structure feels more like a visual novel when outside Tartarus, the game does enough things right to be a more than worthy rendition. Anyone that's screamed at Mitsuru as she'd cast Marin Fucking Karin should love the fact that the game now allows for full party battle control, and as said previously, the new female protagonist adds a great deal to a narrative that had become well tread territory. Operation Babe Hunt takes on a whole new brand of ridiculous when it's just Junpei and Akihiko.
Best PSP Game: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by SleepThe best RPG of the year is also the best PSP game of the year. Birth by Sleep may not aspire to the interstellar grandeur of Mass Effect 2, but that doesn't make its story less compelling. It's one of the best games in the series with one of the most interesting stories that has a lot to offer those that put their time into it. It also has Mark Hamill and Leonard Nimoy both voicing characters in the game. Geek. Gasm.
Best DS Game: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange JourneyThe DS had no shortage of RPGs of its own this year. Dragon Quest IX, Etrian Odyssey III, Glory of Heracles, Infinite Space, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, and, uh, Sands of Destruction, are all entries that saw release on the platform this year. But of them, Strange Journey stands out in my mind as the best. Taking the classic MegaTen dungeon crawling to a dimensional hellhole in the Antarctic, the player guides a U.S. Marine on a very, well, strange journey. Using a special Demonica Suit, the player can scan for enemies, negotiate with demons, and wind their way through an adventure that Atlus very nearly titled Shin Megami Tensei IV. It would not be unworthy of that name.
Best Wii Game: Metroid: Other MIf you've been keeping track of my activity in the forums and my blog this past year, I'm sure that you all saw this coming. I've written at great length praising and defending the game. But instead of rehashing all of those arguments here, the gameplay, the characterization, the fact that Samus isn't the only friendly character in the game, allow me to simply say this. Other M is the Metroid game that I had been waiting for for many years, and I was not disappointed by it in any way whatsoever.
Best PS3 Game: Final Fantasy XIIISome people were disappointed by Final Fantasy XIII. I was not one of those people. Rather than get my hopes up regarding what I wanted Square Enix to provide me, I stayed away from the hype and the expectations. The end result that I received was a game with a linear quality not unlike Final Fantasy X, with a roster of interesting, likable characters with depth in sometimes surprisingly subtle ways, and with one of the best combat systems that the series has yet seen. In short, I got a kick-ass Final Fantasy game.
That in mind, I still don't really understand what other people wanted or expected; Final Fantasy XIII seems like a natural entry in the series that was undone by unreasonable fan expectations. Look, Final Fantasy VI is and probably always will be my favorite entry in the series, but I don't expect or demand a repeat performance from each new game. Final Fantasy has always been a series about changing things up and trying different ideas from game to game. Final Fantasy XIII gave me just that. A different experience than the previous entries that was both fun to play and a marvel to look at. So what if it took Square Enix five or seven or however many years to produce? It's fun, and I enjoyed it. That's all that really matters in the end.