My Games of the Year 2013

I've been somewhat immersed in a bunch of game of the year articles, videos, and podcasts the last two weeks, so I figured I should throw down a few quick words at some point. Only about half the games I played this year were from 2013, so dear god this is not a representative sample. Found some great ones though.

#5 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) -- Still pretty early in this one but it's already extremely likeable. I was a huge fan of A Link to the Past on SNES and they gave me everything I loved about that game and so much more. The music especially is a highlight.

#4 - Beyond: Two Souls (PS3) -- I didn't want hold a controller in my hands for a game that came from the folks behind Heavy Rain but I loved the simplicity of interaction in Beyond. It was a great story and the motion capture and visuals are so strong I often forgot I was playing a game, particularly thanks to Ellen Page's lead role as Jodie.

#3 - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4) -- Another game I'm not yet finished with, but I would have been more than happy to call this my favorite game of the year this or any year. Sailing the seas looking for ships to plunder or islands on which to hunt for treasure is extremely relaxing, and the scope of the game is so huge I'll still be at this for a while.

#2 - Tomb Raider (PS3) -- Thank god this lived up to my own hype. I'm still not a very good shot in any game where you have to aim weapons, but this has the best 3rd person combat of any game I've ever played. Between automatic cover and weapons and skill upgrades I thought it all came together perfectly. An absolutely gorgeous game too. It'll be hard to resist the PS4 port next year.

#1 - The Last of Us (PS4) -- Those beautiful people at Naughty Dog did it again, though with a game quite different from the Uncharted series. I moved quite slowly through the game, generally out of terror, with all lights out and loved every minute of it. As much as I wanted to hold onto that love of Tomb Raider all year until a list such as this was made, the story in The Last of Us is so incredible that nothing else stood a chance. Before I would have mentioned just the Winter chapter as the source of my love but it's really the entire package leading up to the final conversation that makes this game for me.

Best game played in 2013 not released in 2013 -- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

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The Assassin's Creed post

Quick update: finished The Walking Dead and loved it. Never played a game like that before, and I hope I never have so much trouble grabbing someone's hand while jumping off the side of a building ever again. I also played through Uncharted: Golden Abyss a couple more times and -- just like the first three Uncharted games -- now have every trophy except beating it on Crushing difficulty. I just wasn't built for the really tough ones. I haven't done much else with my Vita since then though.

My most extreme distraction the last 2 months has been the Assassin's Creed series. I've violated all my own rules about not buying too many games in a series without playing prior entries. All of these games have looked great to me and I owned 6 (the 5 on PS3 and the 1 on Vita) before I started any of them. At least I bought them all for good prices.

I started with the original, knowing full-well of the repetition complaints. Yes, you did a lot of the same things over and over, but I had a lot of fun doing it. Really enjoyed running around in those environments, and the villains were pretty cool too. More bugs than I'm used to, and that didn't improve too much with the sequel, but between these and The Walking Dead I wonder if I'll ever play another great game without bugs that require a reset. At one point I was trying to finish a time trial by dropping off a building and landing on a piece of wood sticking out right next to my contact. Somehow my leg got stuck and I was then hanging upside down, swinging back and forth, right next to the guy. If it was possible for your foot to get stuck in a rope and end up hanging like that, then it was perfectly done. It was just impossible to escape!

Up next with no hesitation came Assassin's Creed II, which was better than the first in nearly every way. I lost sight of why I was targeting half of those major conspirators, but beyond that this was one of the very few best games I've played on the PS3. So much more to do, and I probably don't need to go on too much about how great a game it is. And, as a bit of an amateur trophy addict, I loved getting another platinum, my third within the last 6 months. Though the ending was a bit wild, my jaw didn't drop quite as much as most due to my extensive history with the rpg genre. Once they revealed the Apple of Eden in the first game, everything from there on out was fair game.

Now I'm into Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, having started maybe 3 weeks ago and getting through 60% of the game so far. It feels like an open world game within the Assassin's Creed universe, and I'm really really enjoying it. So many options! Of course, there is some frustration of course. You want to hit that 100% sync on every mission and the terms make things rough. As of now I couldn't get it on 2 of the War Machine missions, but I'll try again later. Still, love the game.

Looking forward, I have that collector's edition of Tomb Raider preordered, so I'll dig into that next month. I'll do a little bit of multiplayer in that and in Brotherhood, but not much. Then of course in June comes The Last of Us!!

Happy gaming, JP

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On Uncharted and the Vita!

I have a thing for portable gaming systems and knew I wanted a Vita. Having Uncharted: Golden Abyss at launch and eventually more Sony-friendly franchises and PS1 downloads was plenty for me, but not at full price. I was going to get that Assassin's Creed bundle on Black Friday at Gamestop but then heard about Amazon's crazy Vita bundle, which I got in on. The price alone at $180 was less than I was planning to pay, but then they threw in Playstation All-Stars for free and 3 months of Playstation Plus, which I used to get a free copy of Uncharted immediately.

The Vita as a system is pretty cool. I don't need the various touch controls, just like I don't need the 3D in the 3DS, but they can be fun to mess around with. Love having 2 analog sticks on a portable system, the screen looks great, and once you turn it on it's all rather friendly, like a Nintendo system. PS3 and PSP had this very simple cross media bar thing going on, but the 3DS and Wii (from what I've seen from friends) just seem more alive and welcoming between the music and what you can actually play around with. You can even earn trophies on the Vita's system tutorial, though I'll never get them all: this includes a few timed slide puzzles, and I've always been horrible at those.

It's possible that Near is the biggest feature of the Vita, but I haven't quite figured the whole thing out. I guess it can show me what games are getting played the most near me based on my wifi connection, and there are game goods to be acquired but I haven't gotten anything of note. Uncharted has this Black Market feature that is supposed to let you trade some of the rare collectibles enemies drop with other players through Near, but I haven't received anything yet, nor do I really know how to offer anything up.

I determined recently that Uncharted is my new favorite game series, with a deciding factor being how soon I play new entries. I have games on my shelves from Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Metal Gear that I really want to play but haven't been driven to yet. But then within days of acquiring a Vita I was playing Golden Abyss, as excitedly as I dug into Uncharted 2 and 3 within days of their release. Not that Golden Abyss is as good. I would rank the games in a rather obvious and typical order, saying 2 is the best, then 3, then the original and then Golden Abyss, but it was still a solid 8.5/10 rating for me.

Clearly at system launch they wanted this to be a game you could interact with in as many ways as the Vita would allow. There is a lot of touching and tilting. Some of it is optional, most of it isn't. Swiping a finger across the screen was easy so I never minded that. Balancing on logs was hard for me. The worst example was a document you had to hold your Vita up to light to read. A status bar slowly fills up to 100% but it took me several minutes. You need a really strong light, and it took me a while to realize the ones above my bathroom mirror would work best. I will never be able to play that game (or at least get through that part) on a train or a plane, which is annoying.

It still has everything I love about these games. Combat is great, with grenade usage being different but cool. There are fewer characters but I liked them. Voicework and motion capture was up to par with the other games. The legend being explored wasn't anything to write home about and was confusing at times, but it worked. There's no online multiplayer but that wasn't a big deal for me. Beautiful environments too. And, if you were really into treasure hunting on the other games, there are as many treasures in Golden Abyss as the first three games combined.

I beat the game for the first time last night, and will start it up again soon. Played on Easy since I was expecting it to be hard, which it was in places. But also because with the additional treasures randomly dropped by enemies, and the weapon trophies, additional playthroughs would be needed. Got every environmental treasure at least, and have a trophy percentage of 51%.

Oh hey, I should mention another game. I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead on AMC and wasn't dealing well with knowing it wouldn't be on Sunday nights anymore for a couple months. After hearing so many great things about the Telltale game, I went ahead and bought it, thinking I could play an episode each Sunday night to help ease my wait. Solid start with Episode 1, looking forward to playing more this weekend.

Happy gaming, JP

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Please release me WKC2!!

I'm having trouble focusing at the office since it's getting rather warm in here, so I thought I'd try typing up some sort of wrap-up blog for White Knight Chronicles II. I might play another hour, or another few, or once a week the rest of the year, or never again. But I've hit that point where I no longer feel the drive to push my character (via dozens of hours) to the elite levels of my most talented guildmates, which would bring me more addicting PSN trophies, yes, but they were always going to be the hardest to obtain that I never thought I'd get. I'm ok with the recent announcement that the U.S. won't be getting any of the dlc Japan did that we've all been waiting on, because there was still plenty for me to do and I was mainly having fun playing with guildmates. But as fun as it would be to still quest with them, I've sort of had my fill, ya know?

I'm just shy of 400 hours, which is by far the most time I've ever put into a game. It was the only game I touched from late December to late April. I suppose the answer many would give as to why this game could garner so much clock time is that it's an MMO-type game. Playing with different combinations of people on different quests can still feel fresh. And there are always hundreds of rare items to track down to help makes the hundreds of weapons and armor bits you could ever want to try out. I tried to combine such specific hunts with quests others needed, or quests I could use guild tokens on. When you use tokens at the start of a quest, you earn prestige points for your guild, which in the case of the Lolliepop Guild I spent all my months in, it helped keep us in the top 10, entitling us to additional items and shop discounts. It would still help the guild out if I popped in every few days and used up tokens, so I might do so for a while.

I was excited about this game for the art style, the music, and the enjoyable combat, which were all as good or improved upon from the first game, so there are no regrets. But I need to move on to some other games y'all!! I took a trip for work a couple weeks ago, and always like having portable games on me in such times, so I got back into (or rather restarted) Suikoden Tierkreis. I enjoyed it when it first came out but didn't finish because I got sidetracked by another game. But now I'm a solid 15-ish hours into another and determined to stick it through. On PS3, it looks like my next game is Game of Thrones. I've spotted some early reviews, and they're rather disappointing, but I preordered this a few months ago and am going to at the very least take pleasure in the artwork, the story, and the ability to run around in Westeros. Too cutscene heavy they say? Well Xenosaga Episode 1 was GREAT.

Happy Gaming, JP

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Not quite living and breathing WKC2 (but almost)

I'm sure I blogged about the first White Knight Chronicles. It was highly addictive, mainly as a combination of being a rather beautiful game with a ton of crap to do and a great, massive online mode. The sequel is just even more. The first game is included, so it benefits from improved graphics and all the new errands, bounties, and combat adjustments they made for the sequel. And this inclusion was also most helpful since I lost my rather massive save file from the first game, giving me a great excuse to go through it all again.

Most people on message boards (and I'm on the GameFAQs and Neoseeker boards for this game daily) would say you should play through the entire single player game before ever going online, because of how much stronger it'll make your characters. But the online stuff is far too enticing and I can't stay away. Plus there's a new guild system that makes logging onto GeoNet daily worth it. At this point I'm not too far off however, maybe halfway through the WKC2 portion of the single player game. And boy am I doing absolutely everything possible along the way. I've been playing for 24 days and put in... I think 109 hours, which is an insane pace for me. No time or interest in other games right now. Thankfully I'm still working, sleeping, bathing, that important stuff too.

The truth is I could type forever about this game, so many many things to say, but I'll spare you unless you want me to stuff your inbox. My 1-year-old nephew got me this for Christmas, such a smart little guy already! I'll be hooked at least another month.

Happy Gaming,

JP

PS -- If anyone actually playing this game reads this, PSN name is on the left, and I'm Fei-hung in the LOLLIEPOP guild.

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An apology to all Uncharted 3 players

I'm that guy. The one who keeps playing Uncharted 3 multiplayer despite being horrible at it. My kill/death ratio according to some quick math off the Naughty Dog stats site is .42 and I'm actually surprised it isn't lower. I've managed to get up to level 19 because I've put in 6 hours and have still had so much fun this entire time. I learn from mistakes but still end up making stupid decisions. Perhaps in a game where you always respawn I'm much more willing to sacrifice myself for... the greater good? I don't know, sometimes haha. 2 out of every 3 of my kills is via melee. Once I got Drake's AK thanks to Subway, and I see how much more accurate the blindfire is, I just run up to people while shooting and then punch them out. But I'd bet on at least half of those they knock me out at the same time. Oh how I love taking people down with me.

But I'm working on being as useful as possible though my aim isn't very good. I get a lot of assists, and try to help teammates out. Been playing a lot of Team Objective and have been the points leader for my team a few times by going for the actual objectives and not so much the kills.

I did very little competitive multiplayer on Uncharted 2 and a ton of co-op. Thought it'd be the same with U3 but since co-op isn't out yet I've really gotten into this. I intend to keep leveling up, and to try desperately to earn more treasures. I've gotten a handful so far, and won't be dropping that booster that aids in treasure acquisition anytime soon. If you see me in-game in red, yes I'm an easy kill. If you see me in green, just follow behind, use me as a shield, and pick up after my mess please.

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I played the hell out of Dragon Quest IV

3 years to get to playing a game I've really wanted to since I first bought it, yikes.  That's this version of DQIV at least, on DS.  Wanted to play it for the NES back in the day but I was always about 2 years behind on the Dragon Quest/Warrior games, and by the time I wanted IV, it was either too hard to find or I'd have to pay $50 for a used copy.  Also, I wasn't employed in grade school haha. 

This was my chance though, and I loved the game.  Also did just about everything I could with the game, in just over 45 hours.  I love when rpgs have a bunch of bonus content at the end, but I don't always get to much of it.  This time I did the bonus dungeon, all 3 of the bonus bosses, filled out the bestiary, got some extra gear, kicked ass with the excellent bonus character.  Really only a couple things I didn't do.  There's a pair of bosses at the end of the bonus dungeon you can fight several times and get a different item each time.  Got the gear for beating them 4 times but didn't see the value in going further.  For the 7th victory I'd have to do it in under 10 rounds (20 was pushing it) and would just get an extra character for the town you can build, which I already got up to the highest level (5) anyway.  Another thing I didn't do:  win at the casino, because it was too damn hard.


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Unnecessarily large update on everything.


By what must be some accident, some gaming sites I like to use (though not all of them) are now unblocked at the office.  So if I'm typing this now it means... well nothing good.  I suppose when I get home I'd rather do the things I might blog about rather than actually blog.  In reviewing a few recent posts I've found that I break a lot of promises with these words.  I'll try not to make any crazy proclamations.  Any update on what I've been playing must begin with the words Dragon Quest... 

It's ever so clear that Dragon Quest IX has taken up a large chunk of my gaming time in the last 7 months.  More than half of it.  270 hours and still checking into the DQVC most days to try and buy items I haven't obtained yet in the game.  Haven't run through a grotto even in a couple months, or done a quest in nearly as long, but you never know.  Still so much to do, and though I sort of burned out on the game, I still really like it.  I carried it around everywhere at Comic-Con last month and easily got my 30 tags for the Questers Rest hotel thingy.  Just yesterday I helped a couple guys out from GameFAQs by going to my local mall and giving away all sorts of great maps.  I used to be the guy needed any maps or tips at all.  Now I'm the one with the big ones, it's a bit odd.  Happy to assist them though. 

A few weeks ago I started up Dragon Quest IV, which I had never played on the NES, and it's pretty good.  20+ hours in.  I should beat it soon, then I should jump into DQV, but we'll see where that goes.  I also last week jumped into Chrono Trigger DS because I was sick and needed something super comfortable and familiar.  Never got more than a few hours into the DS version and I'd love to see some of that bonus content. 

Never did get back into FFXII as I was hoping in January.  Got further than last time at least.  Also tried to replay MGS4 but lost steam after finishing Act 3.  Pretty much just cycling 3 different DS carts through the XL at the moment, but enjoying my current gaming. 

The big one off in the distance is for sure Uncharted 3.  Preordered it over a month ago, spent maybe 15 hours on the multiplayer beta, loved it, quite excited for the finished product.  Well, that's the big one in terms of excitement.  The big one -- potentially -- in terms of hours is White Knight Chronicles II.  Really liked that first one, want to play the 2nd, but if I think of it in terms of a game I'd put 150+ hours into, then I see all the other things I can do with 150+ hours.  Perhaps after Christmas if it's cheap, maybe.  Damn that's a dangerous maybe. 

I guess I mentioned up there that I went to Comic-Con in July.  First con of any sort for me.  Started planning last year right after the 2010 one ended and I had been drooling over all the G4 coverage.  Planned out absolutely every aspect, so I never got overwhelmed, and had so so much fun.  A friend of mine from college went too and we have 4-day passes already for next year.  Bought some cool stuff at the Square-Enix store, though there weren't many games at the con I was dying to actually play.  I suppose I make most of my purchasing decisions without demos.
 
Happy gaming y'all, JP

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Dragon Quest IX and upcoming tagging events at Best Buy


Yeah, horribly addicted to DQIX, 80+ hours with no end in site, loving it.  Been able to meet with people from GameFAQs twice now for some tagging and maps, though my total tags are only at 7 unique characters -- a long way from 30.  There is still hope though.  Best Buy is hosting some tagging events on February 26th and March 5th.  They're giving away the Orgodemir map, as well as some posters (for either this or DQVI, not sure) while supplies last.  I'm from Illinois, and all ours are on the 5th.  I actually live just up the street from the Naperville one so I'll definitely be there.  Hope some people see this and spread the word about any of the locations! 
 
Best Buy page for event 
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Yet again putting off one 100+ hour rpg because of another


I started up Dragon Quest IX on Sunday.  Just had a really strong urge to start something new, not having played it yet, but it was pretty much at the top of my backlog list anyway.  Poor Final Fantasy XII... I'm sure I'll power through to the end, skipping a lot of the late hunts, just to finish the game out of guilt.  It's almost a repeat of how I got sidetracked 4 years ago, though I'm much further in the game this time.  But right now I'm loving DQIX, even playing it on the train to and from work.  I loved DQVIII and this has all the best aspects of that game, and more.  Well, the humor comes from other characters this time, not my own party.  I probably won't get much out of multiplayer since the game's been out a while, but I'm working on a couple things, maybe even a GameFAQs meetup, plus a college buddy who recently bought the game that I can probably guilt away from WoW to start this up.  We shall see.
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