I always played video games but it was not until about 2004 I got really into them. That was when I got into Gamespot and from there Giant Bomb. I spend a whole lot of time either here, or playing various video games. Last gen coincided with high school for me which was a time when I had ample free time and the money to buy games. Thus I was playing as many games as I could manage and as a result ended up playing a lot of quality titles.
Always one to enjoy reflecting back, I thought it would be fun to think about which of those games had the biggest impact on me personally.
For anyone interested, I have only included one game per series and only games from last gen systems so if you wonder why no Persona on this list, that is why. I plan to add a next blog in the series every couple days or so.
Without further ado, lets get started.
25. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect is probably the best series to come out of last gen. Where most others overstayed thier welcome with too many releases or just bad sequels, Mass Effect managed to be great throughout and was bold to try telling a tale with player input over the course of several games. To that end, Mass Effect is a huge accomplishment. In a decade when people look back on this gen Mass Effect will be talked about.
Ultimately I felt it best to pick one and ME2 is my favorite. The cast of characters, is so much more interesting than the first becoming more than vehicles for expository dialogue. The combat became something you do, to something I really enjoyed and the world was just as fascinating.
24. Halo Reach
For many people Reach was probably just another Halo game albeit a well crafted one. To me however it was the first game the series really clicked. I enjoyed Halo before, but this one, for whatever reason, grabbed me and did not let go for months.
The campaign was awesome and I even beat that sucker on legendary alone. Which was actually a ton of fun but Where I spend the most of my time was in the multiplayer. I eventually got half decent at the game too, rocking the power armor load out, and DR.
23. Pokemon Black/White
As a child there I loved nothing more than Pokemon. Be it the cards, game or show I was all over it. I played the games all the time with a fervor few games since could replicate. After silver however I dropped off and could never find enjoyment in the newer gens.
That is, until Black/White. This was most drastic change the series seen in years and everything they changed was for the better. Keeping it familiar yet feeling fresh. I appreciated there being entirely new Pokemon so not every cave was a den of Zubats, of course there was Woobat, but Woobat is awesome and I will hear nothing to the contrary.
22. Dead or Alive 4
I always had a thing for fighting games. Often terrible ones because I never knew any better as a kid and found them all fun. DOA4 was the first one to inspire me to actually learn the inner workings of how the genre works and make an earnest effort to improve.
Before that DOA was my favorite fighting series because even when you don't truly know what you are doing the series is satisfying to play, but it turns out there is a share of depth to it as well. After several hundred games my lowly Dragon kicking Jann lee became somewhat respectable, netting me some wins. The online community for the game was pretty solid too, good times were had in those odd squid filled lobby's.
Journey is a game of elegant design and simple yet evocative mechanics. Your only ways of interaction are jump or make a noise but the beauty is in what those elements express when intertwined with the sublime audiovisual presentation.
The path may be linear but each Journey feels unique due to the other wanderers you can come across. I still recall the loss of a long time travel partner during a snow storm because of a misstep on my part and how lonely that felt. If you never played Journey, you owe it to yourself because it is truly something special and we need more of that in this medium.
2012 was a bizarre year for video games. The big budget games mostly failed to deliver or were pushed back to 2013 so the indie scene took over and is flourishing. This is something I expect is more than a trend and will be here to stay. Thanks to the indie and middle tier games 2012 was a solid and interesting year for games. The idea of what is a game has been brought into question as the scope of the medium is broadened. 2012 is Not a year that will go down as an all time great but had some fantastic and memorable games none the less. It was hard to order some of these but at some point you gotta go with your gut and move on. So without further ado here is my top 10 favorite games of 2012.
Cinders tells a more fleshed out and grounded version of the classic, Cinderella. It takes simple simple those stereotypical characters and makes them both believe and reliable by fleshing them out with quality writing. The step sisters are not cartoonish, cackling villains who hate Cinders because she is different. You learn who these people are, where they are coming from and why they treat cinders poorly. I actually sympathized with the step sisters and tried my best to keep moral high around the house.
It simultaneously critiques the harmful messages of fairy tales and cherishes the kind of escapist fantasy they allow and the imagination they foster. This duality is reflected in the gameplay. As You can mold Cinders in either direction. In the original tale Cinderella was passive and beguilingly accepted her fate until one day when by magic she was carried away into a life of happy ever after. Cinders actually has agency and takes charge in her life, for sit around will accomplish nothing.
If you have played a Tales game or even a JRPG before, Tales of Graces F is a familiar experience. But it is well executed JRPG hitting all the right buttons. One thing that does help it stand out is the structure. The games spend it's first few hours playing as the main cast as kids. Gives the character and world a real sense of growth and help you gets attached to their plights.
The plot may be standard JRPG fare with political intrigue, a magic power source and crystals but the characters are enduring. Although they fit archetypes they have great chemistry with one another. The dialogue is often silly, lighthearted and humorous. Never taking itself to seriously and allowing the drama to have weigh. I grew to care about the cast. especially pascal. She is just so darn energetic and oblivious to social norms it's hard not to like her.
The combat is great. It's flashy the CC systems makes it more involved and stand out from past Tales games. All the characters are fun and useful in combat. I really like there level up system which allows skills to be gained by ways other than combat, the characters highly customizable and gives a steady steam of new stats and abilities to ensure even fighting the simplest of foes stays exciting.
My favorite thing about Fez it it's world. One which exudes mystery and intrigue with every location. It's a cryptic place that gave off the impression that there is more going on than is immediately apparent. I am ever impressed with the amount of detail and care that went into every section of that world. It is filled with cryptic details which are obtuse in a way that demands to be uncovered. What does this giant telescope possible do? What is with all the Tetris like imagery everywhere? It has enough respect to the players to offer clues but never spell it out.
There is a game with a clear vision and cohesive design. The art and incredible music add reinforce the peculiar, enigmatic atmosphere. If this The perspective shifting mechanic is enjoyable to use and super cool to look at. But it's also a metaphor and way to nudge you on that you should be paying attention to whats around you in a nontraditional way. In the story the character gains the ability to see the world around him in new ways, which phil fish expects the players themselves to do.
In a year where a lot of people are discussing the merits and relevance of non traditional games Mark of The Ninja stand outs. It is a fantastically designed game. With precise, snappy controls that ensure you are always able to do what you want. It sports terrific level design which allows for multiple valid approaches. I loved stalking out the enemies and thinking of new ways to dispatch of them. Or I could avoid them completely. The game rewards you well for any style of play and gives you the tools and classes to play however you want.
I have never gotten into open world city games. They don't appeal to so i'm surprised I like Sleeping Dogs so much. The game gets labeled as derivative but I think it's more original than given credit for. It has a different feel to other games in the genre. Sleeping dogs pulls from classic Hong Kong action movies as opposed to gangster films. Sleeping Dogs is more about finesse and style over brute force and gunplay.
The primary objective of Sleeping Dogs is to be pure dumb fun at every turn. The melee fighting is brutal with great impact and enough moves to keep it from ever getting stale. Cops are never a problem because you can easily ram them off the road and hop from car to car, creating a awesome chase scene from some movie on the fly. The story is smart in that is never creates a dissonance between the player and narrative. Being affiliated with both cops and with a experience bar for each make either play style feel valid.
The world is well made with plenty of varied and quality side quests to do which are spaced in a such a manner that you will come across them on your way between story missions. You are rewarded with meaningful experience and skills with every side objective you can do so they don't feel like needless padding. The city feels like a place inhabited by actual people that looks beautiful at night. It and other small details such as how many of the characters speak Chinese immerses you in the Hong Kong's lifestyle wonderfully.
To me Mass Effect 1 shown because of it's universe building. It painted a intriguing picture of the the universe filled with interesting and varied races all with years of intricate back story and conflict. Mass effect 2 took that universe and inhabited it with characters we grew to care about. Mass Effect 3 does a excellent job of combining and capitalizing on both these styles. Intertwining the The personal relations we forged with our crew mates and the fate of all galactic civilization.
The central theme of Mass Effect 3 is about coming together to stop impossible odds and the sacrifices that must be make to get there. Which it portrays through it focus on the people and conflicts we care about. It uses these per-established story threads, because we are attached to them. It brings together the long standing issues of the series and attaches them to the characters we care about. so instead of getting the help of the Krogan or Salarian by talking to random people we never heard of we are tasked with solving the issue of the Genophage.
This is how it gets us to care about the universe and actually want to stop the reapers from wiping it all away. Because we don't want to people like Tali whom we grew attached to. Some call it cheap how everyone you ever met keeps showing up I think it's a well done story device taking advantage of the past games. Plus I enjoyed catching up with Jack, shooting with Garrus in the middle of the citidel and facilitate a romance between AI and human. Mass effect 3 reminds us that just because the galaxy the people whom we at attached are as important as ever.
The combat is also great. As a third person shooter Mass effect 3 stands out for the use of biotic powers. flinging foes around with Liara's warp as I charge around into them causing a mini explosion never gets old.
For me to like a fighting game it simply has to "feel" right. I have always loved the flow of combat in Dead or Alive games. They are dynamic and flashy looking. Akin to a well made martial arts movie. Where people gets knocked through glass, real from strikes and any attack can be reversed to gain advantage. It has that back and forth I love, a match in Dead or Alive feels like a honest to goodness fight.
Dead or alive 5 keeps this signature style and improves upon the mechanics behind that fighting in smart ways that make past games feel obsolete. Things like un-holdable stuns, guaranteed hits after getting slammed into a wall and critical bursts give the gameplay more depth plus are fun to do.
The mechanics of journey are simple but engrossing and in context absolutely beautiful. Controls are perfect ensuring immersion and the animation convey the hardships of trekking though the environments. The mere act of jumping is elegant. Sliding down a sand hill is gleeful fun. The art design is gorgeous. I love the consistent red cloth aesthetic. It give an impression that everything was connected, environment, player and the peculiar creatures trapped in cages. I would be filled with inexplicable joy whenever I filled a piece of cloth in the environment.
The co-op is in a word, brilliant. With no words I felt connected to my partners in travels. I experienced gratitude when they waited for me, sorrow at losing them in the midst of a snow storm. me chirping away as the only way to cope at the realization we got separated. Elation undercut with wistfulness at reaching our curious destination. A combination of hope and fear as we huddled together behind a rock formation under the stare of a enormous beast.
The word experience is over used when describing games but it fit Journey to a tee. I would recommend it anyone.
This game is about the characters and making difficult morally grey choices that involve and effect them. I'm not a fan of zombie settings but the way they are used here is well done. The world is bleak and oppressive yet grounded and relatable thanks to fantastic writing, characterizations and voice work.
I picked my choices based on the characters around me and how I felt any given decision would affect those individuals and overall group morale. All choices are presented as having pros and cons, never does the game force one upon you. It proves that solid writing and characters are key to story investment not a binary moral system with meters that fill up.
The clear star of the cast is Clementine who is one of the best child characters I have ever seen. She is a child but capable on her own and not to be talked down to. She is a developed character in her own right instead of a whiny kid who is forced upon the audience and used as some easy plot device. I respected her enough to tell her the truth in near every situation. Her relationship with Lee is the backbone of the game. Their interactions are both sweet and heartbreaking. Often at once like in the incredible ending. I'll be honest here, I cried during that ending. Never would i though going into this year that some zombie game would evoke such a response from me.
The way the game makes you care about Clem and always keep her in mind during any decision may be it's biggest achievement. I wanted to survive for her sake. She deserves better than the the hand she was dealt. I truly wanted to be a positive role model to her, show that despite the sullen state of the world there was still good people left.
Where to even being with this game. It is hard to describe why exactly Katawa Shoujo connected with me on a level so few things ever do. I just love it, I love the tone of it's story and I loved spending time with Lily, Hanako, Rin, Emi, even Shizune and Misha. Each of their routes had a different overall feeling to it but was coherent to the overall tone. Mundane tasks such as shopping for gifts and playing chess were enjoyable with them. Through this time spend together you get to learn of the characters, there relations with each other and watch them grow with Hisao all in a natural and sweet way. It's that focus on interaction and little things most games would never have you do that endear me so much.
For a concept that could of gone horrible the result is passionate, sincere, and even poignant. For the two weeks I spread this game over I was truly immersed in it. Part of this is thanks to Hisao who I think is a great lead. I connected to his bitterness and resentment towards his current situation. He had a heart attack at the worst possible time for a teenager. He feels weak, pathetic, and lost all those close to him as he was forced to move to a school for disabled students. Hisao himself is a great character yet still works as a surrogate for the player.
He started out awkward and unsure of how to act towards the people around him in fear of hurting their by acknowledge their disabilities. Katawa Shoujo teaches the harm in this line of thinking. For avoiding the topic with good intentions he was actually defining the characters though their disabilities. Instead of looking at it as merely part of a multifaceted and complex human being. Hanako's story gets this point across beautifully.
As I sit here and write this and reflect on my time at Yamaku high. I remember the moments it gave it and the feelings they evoked. No matter how much I write I can't possibly express just why I love Katawa Shoujo as much as I do or the way it made me feel. Just know that I do love it and that it's my Game of the Year.
Dead Or Alive 5 is the first numbered entry in the series in nearly seven years. In the intervening time Team Ninja has been using the Dead or Alive name for their awful Xtreme spin off series It was looking as if Dead or Alive 5 would never come to be. When DOA: dimensions was released it showed Team Ninja still cared about DOA as a fighting game. I was hoping Dimensions was to test the waters for a full fleshed sequel.Thankfully I was right and when DOA5 was announced I was thrilled but a little skeptical considering the current Team Ninja had yet to prove themselves in my eyes. I did not just want a re-skinned DOA4, I was hoping for changes. Now that Dead or Alive has been out a couple weeks and I have put sixty or so hours into it I feel confident in writing down my thoughts.
The first thing you are likely to notice about DOA5 if you have ever seen the prequels is the new character models. Gone is the plastic-skinned porcelain doll look; now the characters have a more detailed and realistic appearance. Before all the female characters looked interchangeable, now everyone has a distinct look. I was sick of the old designs as they looked the same from DOA2-DOA4. The characters now look fantastic, easily the best looking characters in any 3D fighting game. During a fight the clothes of the fighters will get dirt or snow on them when you are bashed around the environment. This small detail along with the sweat they accumulate make the fight feel more brutal as their is clear visual evidence of a fight. It just looks cool. Animation has always been a strong suit of the DOA game and this continues with DOA5. Fights in DOA are the most fluid looking in all of the genre, every hit has a strong visual and audio impact, a punch to the face will cause the opponent to rear back their head for instance. This combined with the animation quality give every fight a visceral feel.
The stages have always been part of what gave DOA it's personality. The stages in DOA5 look incredible and are a joy to fight in. There is great variety, everything from a raft which speeds down a rapids leading to a waterfall. To My favorite - a multi-tiered house where you can knock people though walls, floors and all sorts of furniture. choose any tier of a stage to start from. Paying attention to your position in a stage is more important than ever because now getting hit into a wall or breakable object will result in a unholdable (not able to be countered) stun. This makes the stages more strategic to fight in, and integral to the fight because now not only must you be wary of getting knocked off a ledge but walls and objects are more dangerous as they lead to guaranteed damage.
This is a massive deal because in DOA4 guaranteed situations were simply not possible. To put it politely, DOA4 was entirely based on mix ups. The objective was to stun your opponent and keep strikes them with new attacks of different types and hit levels. Because of the stun and overpowered hold system both offensive and defense were primarily about guessing. This made DOA a very accessible and new player friendly game because even just pressing random attacks could be useful offense because the defender would have no idea what it was you were doing as the attack was playing with little understanding of the game and thus not possible to react to on a logical level. For one lucky strike would result in a critical stun 95% of the time and lead to a guessing situation. Lets say i'm the attacker Would I go low, high, how about mid punch? Maybe I could see if defender got over zealous and went for a hold? This thought process was what is was like to play DOA4 at all times. You could never be certain of any option on offense of defense because everything has a counter. Like a more complex version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. One of the reasons I was so hyped going into DOA5 is because they gave off the impression of addressing this issue and making the gameplay less random.
How would they fix this deeply rooted issue? Well, there are situations that you can not hold from. Those include the aforementioned stage changes. There are some moves that that will put the receiver in a unholdable stun, these include sit down stuns (self explanatory) and feint stuns (indicated by a limp backward fall) around and they will fall. Each character has a few of these type of stuns. Some characters also have abilities specific to them which can not be held. Such as how Jann Lee's dragon gunner leads to guaranteed follow attacks. On paper that sounds fantastic and just the thing DOA needed. The reality of it however is unfortunate. The thing is, many of these stuns don't last long enough to guarantee anything more than a quick jab, or in some cases anything at all. Others are only in the second (or third) hit of a set sequence of attacks so they are not the most viable. Others only work on crouching opponents, these stuns are limited in use because the only time you see anyone crouch in DOA in after they whiffed a low hold, where you are better off going for a low throw instead.
Sit down and Feint stuns were looking to be a great addition that rewarded smart offense and greatly reduced how often As these stuns work now the effect they have on the overall gameplay is marginal; sure some characters have a useful one or two but the DOA stun system is too prevalent in my eyes. Offense should not be this easily punishable. As any attack you throw out could potentially be held so how are you supposed to string together a smart offense? This was my major issue with DOA4 after playing it for 100+ hours and I am frankly disappointed that the main mechanics that looked like they could fix this issue are gimped and underutilized. This one issue is what keeps DOA from being a strong competitive fighter instead of a fun casual one.
Don't get me wrong it is still a enjoyable game. I liked DOA in the past for it's fast paced and flashy game combat where the hits have great impact, are satisfying, it's highly accessible and the triangle system has it's depth. Plus there are some great new additions and changes. The recovery on hold has been increased (but I would like a few more frames added, especially on low holds) and the timing stricter. So throwing them out randomly is less useful and they're easier to punish. Sidestepping has been added and it works great. With effective use you can easily avoid predicable blocked strings and follow up with a quick punish. Rewarding the patient and adaptive player.
Remember when I mentioned Jann Lee's awesome new dragon gunner? Well, other characters got new tools as well. The characters in DOA4 all had different move sets yet everyone was going for the same goal. That being playing the stun game into a launcher. In DOA5 the characters feel more different in play style from one another. Such as the grappler characters who don't have to rely on the stun game for their damage. For instance Mila, has a style revolving in takedowns. Her game plan involves tackling you to the ground and fighting you there. She has several strings that go into her tackle giving her smart mix up options as the takedown is deadly and you want to avoid and will be looking for those strings. Bass, (a new personal favorite of mine) has a lot of guard break moves for keeping up pressure plus he can pick the opponent off the ground to keep him in your face and avoid wake up kicks entirely. While the grappler characters mentioned above have ways of getting around the stun game not all characters came to DOA5 as prepared. For instance Hitomi and Hayate whom were personal favorites in DOA4 have gained nothing, thus they are extremely boring as it seems Team Ninja never knew what to do with them.
Two of the main mechanics added to DOA5 are Critical Burst and Power Blow. The latter is an attack which must be charged and when it hits will send the receiver of the blow flying across the stage. The thing with these is the slow charge up makes them impractical in use as they are easy to see coming and hold on reaction. That in theory is where the Critical Bursts come into play. As once used trigger and unholdable stagger state where you are free to use any attack, namely a Power Blow. The catch here is most characters have a very difficult time actually getting off Critical Burst attacks and thus are, too not often seen. So you have two interesting mechanics that in practice don't effect the gameplay much but are satisfying to pull off. Which is a shame because much like the special stuns these are great ideas that are not well implemented.
The training mode is excellent. The best I have ever seen in a fighting game. You can customize the settings to train for a variety of scenarios. You can set the CPU to shake your stuns, block mix ups, wake up kick and other useful tools. My favorite option being able to turn on move properties this includes frame data so you can tell which moves are safe on block, how fast they come out and give a heavy stun. It is a great tool to see what the usage of each specific move is. Unfortunately the game does not teach you the knowledge to use training to it's fullest.
That is to say the tutorial is poor. The main problem here is that there is no dedicated tutorial mode you can go to to learn the basics. Instead what passes for a tutorial are side objectives during story mode matches. Those start off simple teaching you the basic of 3D fighting games, such as hit levels. Then they explain DOA's specific systems such as the triangle system. Problem is they explain the bare minimum, merely telling you about something and not how you may want to implement it in a fight or even how some mechanics actually work. It will tell you about Critical Burst but not about the stun threshold which is required to use them. Plus preforming these actions of top of story fights is not the ideal environment for experimentation. I see what they were going for; assuming that players will start with the Story mode so they wanted to integrate tutorials into it. However you should not have to spend multiple hours playing the game before it even tells you about important information, and poorly at that.
The story mode is told via cut scenes broken up with fights much like last years Mortal Kombat. It picks up I believe two years after the events of DOA4 where Helena has made a new DOATEC for whatever reason. She puts out an invitation to any fighters for the fifth Dead or Alive tournament. The plot is not practicality complex nor is it easy to follow and decipher. Each chapter you play as a new characters and the story is consistently jumping across it's timeline so the train of events can get lost. There are some amusing moments involving the characters such as Hitomi and Lei Fang preforming a Circus show put by and large it is played serious and not particularity interesting. The plots of past DOA game were ninja centric and it pleases me to see them give the spotlight even if they sacrificed a coherent tale to do so. DOA5 is the first major game in the series to feature English voice work (DOA: dimensions had it but I never played it) and honestly I quite like the voice work. A lot of it is hammy, accents are over the top and line reading can be spotty. I enjoyed story mode for what it was but it's not exactly impressive, as it haphazardly tells a boring story interspersed with charming moments.
Story is the primary single player mode, there are others but past hard difficulty they are a utter nuisance to play and I recommend against it, unless you really want string bikinis or achievements. The main incentive to play these modes is to unlock costumes, which in my eyes at least, has always been a series staple. DOA5 takes a more thematic and casual approach to it's outfits. As in many costumes fit with certain stages, for example Hitomi, Lei Fang and Zack have circus gear to coincide with the circus stage. The casual clothing is often my favorite in the game. I love Mila's and Eliot's costume 2.
Chances are the online mode is where you will spend the majority of your time playing DOA5. In DOA4 every match was in the lobby format and effected your rank. I was not fond of this system because you would spend more time waiting to play then actually playing unless you were dominating a room. Now there are multiple mode for online: Simple match, ranked match and lobby match. The netcode for DOA5 is not great, it sometimes feels worse than DOA4 which is puzzling. For whatever reason Ranked mode is affected worse by lag, even when there is no viable lag the inputs are delayed, playing that way in any fighting game is annoying so I learnt to skip ranked entirely. Finding matches in ranked (and simple) is difficult, i'm not sure if this is because everyone is playing lobby or a netcode issue, either way it's sucks. So rank mode is a bust and i'm still not a fan of lobby match so I stick to Simple. Which is like ranked but with the option to rematch and rank is obviously not effected. The online is not ideal due to poor matchmaking and netcode that is behind in the genre but it is serviceable and Team Ninja is supposed to be releasing a patch to fix it soon. Hopefully it does.
In conclusion Dead or Alive is a great game overall with some issues that hold it back from excellence. I still have fun with it as playing, as im reminded each time I play @AjayRaz . It is without a doubt a step up from DOA4 in every regard and features the best gameplay of the series, features a great training mode, excellent visuals, and sports an enjoyable story. It's just when I play it I can't shake the thought of what could of been.