Our Story So Far...

Holy cow, 2010 is half way done.  Already?!  Where did all that time go? Well, I know where a lot of my time went.  It went into playing games.  Six months in, and 2010 has already seen some incredible game releases.  I'm almost tempted to say we've seen some of the greatest games I've ever experienced.  I think we may look back on this year as a very important one, where genres finally blended in a way that felt natural instead of forced.  Ideas that seemed cool in concept have become awesome in reality.  I'll get more specific when I get down to talking about the games themselves, but if you want a teaser, let's just say that I really liked Mass Effect 2.

Typically, it's the back half of the year that sees the bulk of titles being released.  The holiday season is usually a chaotic mess where every company is trying to convince you that their game is the one most deserving of your money.  When Angry Joe called October "Broke-tober", he wasn't kidding around.  But last holiday season, a whole ton of developers pushed their releases away from the holiday season.  I think Modern Warfare 2 had a lot to do with that, but it also gave them time to polish their games.  The end result has been a steady flow of quality games all year, and with E3 now behind us, that flow doesn't seem like it will dry up any time soon.  Before we get into that craziness of the latter half of the year, I want to take some time to consider what I've seen so far.  I want to take the next couple of days and highlight some of my personal favorites and discuss what made them special to me. 

 Before I get into that, though, I want to use this introductory post to talk about some honorable mentions.  I've narrowed down my list of favorites down to six, but there were plenty of other great games that I've seen this year.  These games deserve to be talked about as well.  Plus, there are also some games I just haven't been able to devote enough time to to see them through to the end.  But I'm planning to get through them someday. 

Perhaps the biggest game, both in size and importance, is Final Fantasy XIII.  This game has been hugely divisive, mainly because of the length of time you have to devote to it just to see the true meat of the gameplay.  Some people have claimed it basically has a thirty hour tutorial.  This is kind of harsh, but I can also understand where they're coming from.  Some people have written this off as the worst Final Fantasy and the death knell of the franchise.  How do I feel about it?  Personally, I love the game.  The graphics are beautiful, the combat system is fast paced and intuitive (not something I thought I would ever say about a Final Fantasy game), and the characters are all interesting and compelling.  Well, except for Hope.  I want that whiny little jerkbag to just fall into a lava pit or something, but I have a feeling I'll be stuck with him for the duration.  Dang it.  I'm still probably only about a quarter of the way into the game, and I haven't found time to get back into it recently.  But I definitely do want to jump back in soon and see this story out.  I don't agree with any of the complaints I've read.  This is a fantastic game.

War.  War Never Changes. 

Another game that I've really enjoyed but haven't gotten around to finishing for some reason is Darksiders.  People are calling this a dark Zelda game, and I really didn't get the comparisons when I first starting playing.  Then I got to the first dungeon, and that's when I realized, "Oh.  Yeah, this is totally Zelda."  The combat is more akin to God of War, though.  You have a combo system, you can power up your weapons, and there are Quick Time Events to finish off enemies in a brutal fashion.  Then there are moments where I turns into a Panzer Dragoon game, which is just fine by me.  But the dungeons are ripped straight out of Zelda, and you will find new items that open up new parts of the map and defeat enemies with greater ease.  And the whole "heaven vs. hell" scenario is pretty interesting, if very questionable from a theological standpoint.  But they're approaching the story from the mythology standpoint, so I don't really find it offensive.  If they went the Preacher route, now that would be offensive.  This setting is pretty cool though, and the artwork reminds me of the sketches you would find from Samwise in the old Blizzard manuals.  So yeah, it's pretty awesome.

It feels good to shoot these guys if only to get them to finally shut up. 

I think the reason I haven't gotten around to finishing these games really speaks to the quality of the other games that have been released so far.  I love both of these games, but I've found games that I wanted to devote my time to even more.  You'll see six examples in the days ahead, but then you have a game like Splinter Cell: Conviction.  This game brought Sam Fisher back in a big way, and made him a force to be reckoned with.  In the prior games, you always felt like Fisher could take care of business, but the stealth gameplay always demanded a more methodical approach.  This time, Sam's not messing around.  He will straight up destroy anyone who gets in his way, and his enemies haven't got a prayer.  The Mark and Execute maneuver allows you to clear out a room of enemies within seconds, and creates a faster and more fluid style of play.  It also meant I wasn't reloading the last save every five minutes (I tend to get anal about the older Splinter Cell games).  The single player is short and sweet, and is basically comparable to a quality action film.  The multiplayer is also solid, allowing for some truly awesome co-operative takedowns and suspenseful moments.  Though things can get pretty rough in co-op, too, so be prepared for some frustrations when the AI pours on the heat.  While I just can't bring myself to put Conviction up there with my top six so far, it still is a great experience that I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn't checked it out yet.

Of course, there are also portable games.  Sadly, I haven't devoted the time to portable games that they deserve.  I guess I feel I should be getting my money's worth out of my HDTV or something.  But that doesn't mean there haven't been any good portable games!  On the DS, I feel I need to mention Picross 3D.  I love the prior game, Picross DS, and actually haven't finished all the puzzles that game had to offer.  If you don't know, the Picross games have traditionally been square or rectangular grids.  Along the edges would be numbers that would tell you how many squares were actually in the puzzle, and an idea of how many groupings you can expect.  You have to use logic to figure out what squares to remove, and the end result is that you've revealed a picture in the grid.  It's actually way more fun then I'm probably making it sound.  But Picross 3D takes the Picross formula, makes it three dimensional, and actually makes it work. Now you are basically sculpting out blocky images, and you really won't be able to figure out most of the images until you've cleared out all the unnecessary squares.  At my current pace of knocking out one or two puzzles every other day or so, I'll probably be hanging around with this one for a while.

I still can't believe this looks as good as it does.

On the mobile side of things, I want to mention Chaos Rings.  This is a mobile game developed by Square Enix.  I have it on the iPhone, but I don't know if it's available on other mobile phones.  They've basically made a full sized RPG for your phone, and made it look comparable to some of the higher quality graphics on the PS2.  The battle system is fast and fun, the story is intriguing, and the artwork is beautiful for a mobile game.  I'm still really early on in the game, but the ability to quit out at any point and pick it right back up when you're free again is a key feature for me.  Oh, and you can turn off random encounters if you want.  That's pretty cool.  It cost me $12, which is pricey for an iPhone game, but I think it was worth every dollar.  If you have any love for JRPGs and have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I highly suggest you give it a try. 

I'll let you handle the meet and greet, Zach. 

Ah, but then there are those games that we try not to talk about with other people.  We don't want them know what we've actually been up to in our private time.  No, I'm not talking about adult games.  Those are just creepy.  No, I'm talking about the guilty pleasures.  And for me, no game has been more of a guilty pleasure than Deadly Premonition.  Holy cow, has this game gotten way more coverage this year than it deserves.  It is not a well made game.  That much needs to be said up front.  The combat is tolerable most of the time, and the driving is just awful.  There are ideas in the game that I feel had promise, but I don't think SWERY had the money he needed to really pull them off.  Yet it's the characters that make this game dear to my heart.  The oddball inhabitants of Greenvale are just the right kind of quirky to make it worth pushing through the zombie infested portions of the game.  And then there's the hero: FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan.  Just call him York.  That's what everyone calls him.  This character is cut right from the Twin Peaks mold, and it is hard not to love the guy.  I'll admit, I've found myself talking to Zach every now and then.  Thanks to Giant Bomb's dueling Endurance Runs, I know how the game ends, so that's slowed me down on completing it myself.  Yet I have a feeling that someday, I may return to Greenvale to finally solve the case once and for all.  Isn't that right, Zach? 

So those are my honorable mentions for the year so far.  Oh, yeah, there was Alan Wake, but I've talked about that recently, so I won't be redundant here.  I don't really have a "worst of" category yet, as I have tried to avoid any games I've heard negative things about.  Really, everything I've picked up has been great so far.  The only bad thing is that I don't have nearly enough time to play it all.  Yet somehow I'm finding the time to play the original Deus Ex.  Hmm...ANYWAYS, check in tomorrow when I'll be discussing episodic gaming at its finest.

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Posted by JimmyJackJones

Holy cow, 2010 is half way done.  Already?!  Where did all that time go? Well, I know where a lot of my time went.  It went into playing games.  Six months in, and 2010 has already seen some incredible game releases.  I'm almost tempted to say we've seen some of the greatest games I've ever experienced.  I think we may look back on this year as a very important one, where genres finally blended in a way that felt natural instead of forced.  Ideas that seemed cool in concept have become awesome in reality.  I'll get more specific when I get down to talking about the games themselves, but if you want a teaser, let's just say that I really liked Mass Effect 2.

Typically, it's the back half of the year that sees the bulk of titles being released.  The holiday season is usually a chaotic mess where every company is trying to convince you that their game is the one most deserving of your money.  When Angry Joe called October "Broke-tober", he wasn't kidding around.  But last holiday season, a whole ton of developers pushed their releases away from the holiday season.  I think Modern Warfare 2 had a lot to do with that, but it also gave them time to polish their games.  The end result has been a steady flow of quality games all year, and with E3 now behind us, that flow doesn't seem like it will dry up any time soon.  Before we get into that craziness of the latter half of the year, I want to take some time to consider what I've seen so far.  I want to take the next couple of days and highlight some of my personal favorites and discuss what made them special to me. 

 Before I get into that, though, I want to use this introductory post to talk about some honorable mentions.  I've narrowed down my list of favorites down to six, but there were plenty of other great games that I've seen this year.  These games deserve to be talked about as well.  Plus, there are also some games I just haven't been able to devote enough time to to see them through to the end.  But I'm planning to get through them someday. 

Perhaps the biggest game, both in size and importance, is Final Fantasy XIII.  This game has been hugely divisive, mainly because of the length of time you have to devote to it just to see the true meat of the gameplay.  Some people have claimed it basically has a thirty hour tutorial.  This is kind of harsh, but I can also understand where they're coming from.  Some people have written this off as the worst Final Fantasy and the death knell of the franchise.  How do I feel about it?  Personally, I love the game.  The graphics are beautiful, the combat system is fast paced and intuitive (not something I thought I would ever say about a Final Fantasy game), and the characters are all interesting and compelling.  Well, except for Hope.  I want that whiny little jerkbag to just fall into a lava pit or something, but I have a feeling I'll be stuck with him for the duration.  Dang it.  I'm still probably only about a quarter of the way into the game, and I haven't found time to get back into it recently.  But I definitely do want to jump back in soon and see this story out.  I don't agree with any of the complaints I've read.  This is a fantastic game.

War.  War Never Changes. 

Another game that I've really enjoyed but haven't gotten around to finishing for some reason is Darksiders.  People are calling this a dark Zelda game, and I really didn't get the comparisons when I first starting playing.  Then I got to the first dungeon, and that's when I realized, "Oh.  Yeah, this is totally Zelda."  The combat is more akin to God of War, though.  You have a combo system, you can power up your weapons, and there are Quick Time Events to finish off enemies in a brutal fashion.  Then there are moments where I turns into a Panzer Dragoon game, which is just fine by me.  But the dungeons are ripped straight out of Zelda, and you will find new items that open up new parts of the map and defeat enemies with greater ease.  And the whole "heaven vs. hell" scenario is pretty interesting, if very questionable from a theological standpoint.  But they're approaching the story from the mythology standpoint, so I don't really find it offensive.  If they went the Preacher route, now that would be offensive.  This setting is pretty cool though, and the artwork reminds me of the sketches you would find from Samwise in the old Blizzard manuals.  So yeah, it's pretty awesome.

It feels good to shoot these guys if only to get them to finally shut up. 

I think the reason I haven't gotten around to finishing these games really speaks to the quality of the other games that have been released so far.  I love both of these games, but I've found games that I wanted to devote my time to even more.  You'll see six examples in the days ahead, but then you have a game like Splinter Cell: Conviction.  This game brought Sam Fisher back in a big way, and made him a force to be reckoned with.  In the prior games, you always felt like Fisher could take care of business, but the stealth gameplay always demanded a more methodical approach.  This time, Sam's not messing around.  He will straight up destroy anyone who gets in his way, and his enemies haven't got a prayer.  The Mark and Execute maneuver allows you to clear out a room of enemies within seconds, and creates a faster and more fluid style of play.  It also meant I wasn't reloading the last save every five minutes (I tend to get anal about the older Splinter Cell games).  The single player is short and sweet, and is basically comparable to a quality action film.  The multiplayer is also solid, allowing for some truly awesome co-operative takedowns and suspenseful moments.  Though things can get pretty rough in co-op, too, so be prepared for some frustrations when the AI pours on the heat.  While I just can't bring myself to put Conviction up there with my top six so far, it still is a great experience that I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn't checked it out yet.

Of course, there are also portable games.  Sadly, I haven't devoted the time to portable games that they deserve.  I guess I feel I should be getting my money's worth out of my HDTV or something.  But that doesn't mean there haven't been any good portable games!  On the DS, I feel I need to mention Picross 3D.  I love the prior game, Picross DS, and actually haven't finished all the puzzles that game had to offer.  If you don't know, the Picross games have traditionally been square or rectangular grids.  Along the edges would be numbers that would tell you how many squares were actually in the puzzle, and an idea of how many groupings you can expect.  You have to use logic to figure out what squares to remove, and the end result is that you've revealed a picture in the grid.  It's actually way more fun then I'm probably making it sound.  But Picross 3D takes the Picross formula, makes it three dimensional, and actually makes it work. Now you are basically sculpting out blocky images, and you really won't be able to figure out most of the images until you've cleared out all the unnecessary squares.  At my current pace of knocking out one or two puzzles every other day or so, I'll probably be hanging around with this one for a while.

I still can't believe this looks as good as it does.

On the mobile side of things, I want to mention Chaos Rings.  This is a mobile game developed by Square Enix.  I have it on the iPhone, but I don't know if it's available on other mobile phones.  They've basically made a full sized RPG for your phone, and made it look comparable to some of the higher quality graphics on the PS2.  The battle system is fast and fun, the story is intriguing, and the artwork is beautiful for a mobile game.  I'm still really early on in the game, but the ability to quit out at any point and pick it right back up when you're free again is a key feature for me.  Oh, and you can turn off random encounters if you want.  That's pretty cool.  It cost me $12, which is pricey for an iPhone game, but I think it was worth every dollar.  If you have any love for JRPGs and have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I highly suggest you give it a try. 

I'll let you handle the meet and greet, Zach. 

Ah, but then there are those games that we try not to talk about with other people.  We don't want them know what we've actually been up to in our private time.  No, I'm not talking about adult games.  Those are just creepy.  No, I'm talking about the guilty pleasures.  And for me, no game has been more of a guilty pleasure than Deadly Premonition.  Holy cow, has this game gotten way more coverage this year than it deserves.  It is not a well made game.  That much needs to be said up front.  The combat is tolerable most of the time, and the driving is just awful.  There are ideas in the game that I feel had promise, but I don't think SWERY had the money he needed to really pull them off.  Yet it's the characters that make this game dear to my heart.  The oddball inhabitants of Greenvale are just the right kind of quirky to make it worth pushing through the zombie infested portions of the game.  And then there's the hero: FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan.  Just call him York.  That's what everyone calls him.  This character is cut right from the Twin Peaks mold, and it is hard not to love the guy.  I'll admit, I've found myself talking to Zach every now and then.  Thanks to Giant Bomb's dueling Endurance Runs, I know how the game ends, so that's slowed me down on completing it myself.  Yet I have a feeling that someday, I may return to Greenvale to finally solve the case once and for all.  Isn't that right, Zach? 

So those are my honorable mentions for the year so far.  Oh, yeah, there was Alan Wake, but I've talked about that recently, so I won't be redundant here.  I don't really have a "worst of" category yet, as I have tried to avoid any games I've heard negative things about.  Really, everything I've picked up has been great so far.  The only bad thing is that I don't have nearly enough time to play it all.  Yet somehow I'm finding the time to play the original Deus Ex.  Hmm...ANYWAYS, check in tomorrow when I'll be discussing episodic gaming at its finest.