Best and Worst of 2012

Posted by Cathryn (541 posts) -

Most Disappointing Game: Asura's Wrath

I thoroughly enjoyed most of Asura's Wrath, and the hype surrounding the game wasn't altogether undeserved, but the combination of the way the ending worked and a stupid error on my part left a very bad taste in my mouth. I know that these days we tend to try and not think so much in terms of gameplay hours = value, but most of Asura's wrath's value for money comes from wanting to replay levels to obtain higher scores. Since I've never been the type of person to care much about scores and am far more concerned with enjoying the story, the fact that Capcom forced players to pay extra for the ending was ridiculous. Locking out the last 30 seconds of transition between the disc ending and the DLC ending behind S-ranking 5 levels took the ridiculousness to a level that, for me, was a dealbreaker.

Best Music: Sound Shapes

I am generally not a huge fan of platformers, but the combination of music creation and platforming in Sound Shapes is excellent. If you own either a Vita or a PS3 and are in to music at all, you must pick up this game. The whole soundtrack is incredible, but it contains the first new solo material that Beck has released since 2008, which is definitely the most exciting part for me.

I should probably make it clear here that I did not play Hotline Miami or Fez, but I have listened to their respective soundtracks. While I loved them, I think it's best to stick to soundtracks of games I've actually played. I'm thinking about picking up both games in the new year, but the backlog, it is huge.

Best 2011 Game I Played in 2012: Skyrim

I traded in my PS3 copy of Skyrim late in 2011, when I knew I could still get a good amount of money back for it and wound up getting a 360 copy for my birthday in February. I logged something like 80 hours on the 360 version and still am only about halfway through the main quest line and am still a good bit away from being finished with my personal Skyrim bucket list. Skyrim is definitely one of the two games I had the most fun with in 2012, the other will be in my top 5 below. Eventually I'll finish the things I want to accomplish in it, but I don't see myself being finished with that world for quite some time. I think only the release of the next Elder Scrolls game will stop me from picking this up and doing some adventuring from time to time.

Top 5 Games of 2012

I focused a great deal on playing games in my backlog in 2012, and there weren't a large number of titles released that I was interested in playing, so a top 5 is probably better for me this year than a top 10.

5. Analogue: A Hate Story

Christine Love's visual novel projects have been a little hit or miss for me. I generally cite Digital: A Love Story as one of the most interesting games I've ever played. The project in between Digital and Analogue, Don't Take it Personally, in comparison was a tremendous disappointment. She has completely redeemed herself in my eyes, however, with her latest effort. In Analogue, the player takes on the role as a sort of space archaeologist who has discovered a seemingly abandoned ship floating in the middle of space. Upon accessing the records of the ship, the player meets two separate A.I.s who tell an amazing story of the development and eventually decline of the ship's society and culture. If you enjoy visual novels at all or, like me, are an archivist who loves reading old personal letters and diaries, this game is pretty well a must play.

4. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom

As a huge fan of shoujo manga and anime, I was thrilled when I heard that Aksys was planning to localize the main title in the Hakuoki series of Otome games. I am not fond of many of the themes in Hakuoki (its story focuses on the Shinsengumi's struggle against the Imperial forces in Japan and makes them vampires or demons or something), but it was a terrific example to me of how much better Otome games are than their anime adaptations. These days, likely due to the slumping economy and the temptation of cross-marketing, many shoujo anime titles are being adapted from Otome games, and these anime series are generally not particularly good. They are typically general to a fault, involving the protagonist in every drama possible in order to introduce as many of the romantic options as can be fit in to 12 episodes so as to entice viewers to purchase the game for further details. As a Western fan without access to the games, this is extremely frustrating. Hakuoki, whose anime adaptation is probably one of the best examples of exactly how crappy these anime adaptations can be, however, has several engaging stories to tell, some of which have a lot more emotional depth than I'm used to seeing in typical japanese pop fiction. I didn't finish all ofthe character routes in the game, but I thoroughly enjoyed those that I did, and will definitely pick this up again in the future when I want this style of gameplay.

3. Style Savvy: Trendsetters

Probably my most pleasant surprise of 2012, Style Savvy: Trendsetters is probably the best game for girls I've ever played. While I often say that I'm not a big fan of games for girls, this generally has more to do with what games for girls actually wind up being than my having trouble with the concept itself. Trendsetters is a fairly simple management sim: the player manages a fashion boutique, provides customers with items in the style they want, chooses which fashions to sell in their boutique and competes in taste-based fashion contests. While it's simple, if you have any interest in fashion, you should get a good deal of play time out of it. It's addictive, the clothes in the game look great, the character models are cute, and it's full of female characters who are working hard and succeeding in their respective careers. While some have complained that all of the character models and clothes are the same size (ie small and skinny), this is more of a mechanical limitation than anything else as having all the models and clothes be the same size makes the game a lot easier to fit on to one cartridge. Other than Skyrim, playing Trendsetters is probably the most fun I had with games all year.

2. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

I loved 999. I would probably put that game in my personal top 10 games of all time. As a sequel to 999, Virtue's Last Reward definitely did not disappoint, though I did not like it quite as much as the original. VLR took many of the principles introduced in 999 and amped them up to the next level in ways that were exquisitely crafted and well-thought out, and the changes to the flow chart system enabling the player to jump between nodes as in Radiant Historia is probably one of the best gameplay refinements I've ever seen in a sequel. That said, I felt like the sheer number of paths and endings in VLR divvied up all of the game's information in a way that I wasn't too fond of. I found that many of the character endings were totally unsatisfying, because the writers wanted to save all the best revelations for the True Ending. As there was a much smaller number of endings 999, I felt like each playthrough gave me just enough information to keep going and see what another start might bring me the next time around. VLR was a little too spread out for my taste to the point where a few times I really had to force myself to keep playing it. Also, in my opinion, only Luna's path in VLR came close to delivering the creepy atmosphere that I felt was present pretty well all the time in 999.

1. Journey

I don't think a game has ever taken me on such an emotional journey in such a short amount of time as Journey did. Beautiful art style and graphics, amazing atmosphere, and gorgeous music combine here to make one of the most incredible experiences that games, for me, have ever had to offer. In the roughly 2-3 hours that it took me on my first playthrough, I felt curious, puzzled, elated, horrified, miserable, and elated all over again. All of this occurred without actual characters or dialog or really anything aside from gameplay and atmosphere. Journey is one of the best examples that games have so much more to offer than violence.

#1 Posted by Cathryn (541 posts) -

Most Disappointing Game: Asura's Wrath

I thoroughly enjoyed most of Asura's Wrath, and the hype surrounding the game wasn't altogether undeserved, but the combination of the way the ending worked and a stupid error on my part left a very bad taste in my mouth. I know that these days we tend to try and not think so much in terms of gameplay hours = value, but most of Asura's wrath's value for money comes from wanting to replay levels to obtain higher scores. Since I've never been the type of person to care much about scores and am far more concerned with enjoying the story, the fact that Capcom forced players to pay extra for the ending was ridiculous. Locking out the last 30 seconds of transition between the disc ending and the DLC ending behind S-ranking 5 levels took the ridiculousness to a level that, for me, was a dealbreaker.

Best Music: Sound Shapes

I am generally not a huge fan of platformers, but the combination of music creation and platforming in Sound Shapes is excellent. If you own either a Vita or a PS3 and are in to music at all, you must pick up this game. The whole soundtrack is incredible, but it contains the first new solo material that Beck has released since 2008, which is definitely the most exciting part for me.

I should probably make it clear here that I did not play Hotline Miami or Fez, but I have listened to their respective soundtracks. While I loved them, I think it's best to stick to soundtracks of games I've actually played. I'm thinking about picking up both games in the new year, but the backlog, it is huge.

Best 2011 Game I Played in 2012: Skyrim

I traded in my PS3 copy of Skyrim late in 2011, when I knew I could still get a good amount of money back for it and wound up getting a 360 copy for my birthday in February. I logged something like 80 hours on the 360 version and still am only about halfway through the main quest line and am still a good bit away from being finished with my personal Skyrim bucket list. Skyrim is definitely one of the two games I had the most fun with in 2012, the other will be in my top 5 below. Eventually I'll finish the things I want to accomplish in it, but I don't see myself being finished with that world for quite some time. I think only the release of the next Elder Scrolls game will stop me from picking this up and doing some adventuring from time to time.

Top 5 Games of 2012

I focused a great deal on playing games in my backlog in 2012, and there weren't a large number of titles released that I was interested in playing, so a top 5 is probably better for me this year than a top 10.

5. Analogue: A Hate Story

Christine Love's visual novel projects have been a little hit or miss for me. I generally cite Digital: A Love Story as one of the most interesting games I've ever played. The project in between Digital and Analogue, Don't Take it Personally, in comparison was a tremendous disappointment. She has completely redeemed herself in my eyes, however, with her latest effort. In Analogue, the player takes on the role as a sort of space archaeologist who has discovered a seemingly abandoned ship floating in the middle of space. Upon accessing the records of the ship, the player meets two separate A.I.s who tell an amazing story of the development and eventually decline of the ship's society and culture. If you enjoy visual novels at all or, like me, are an archivist who loves reading old personal letters and diaries, this game is pretty well a must play.

4. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom

As a huge fan of shoujo manga and anime, I was thrilled when I heard that Aksys was planning to localize the main title in the Hakuoki series of Otome games. I am not fond of many of the themes in Hakuoki (its story focuses on the Shinsengumi's struggle against the Imperial forces in Japan and makes them vampires or demons or something), but it was a terrific example to me of how much better Otome games are than their anime adaptations. These days, likely due to the slumping economy and the temptation of cross-marketing, many shoujo anime titles are being adapted from Otome games, and these anime series are generally not particularly good. They are typically general to a fault, involving the protagonist in every drama possible in order to introduce as many of the romantic options as can be fit in to 12 episodes so as to entice viewers to purchase the game for further details. As a Western fan without access to the games, this is extremely frustrating. Hakuoki, whose anime adaptation is probably one of the best examples of exactly how crappy these anime adaptations can be, however, has several engaging stories to tell, some of which have a lot more emotional depth than I'm used to seeing in typical japanese pop fiction. I didn't finish all ofthe character routes in the game, but I thoroughly enjoyed those that I did, and will definitely pick this up again in the future when I want this style of gameplay.

3. Style Savvy: Trendsetters

Probably my most pleasant surprise of 2012, Style Savvy: Trendsetters is probably the best game for girls I've ever played. While I often say that I'm not a big fan of games for girls, this generally has more to do with what games for girls actually wind up being than my having trouble with the concept itself. Trendsetters is a fairly simple management sim: the player manages a fashion boutique, provides customers with items in the style they want, chooses which fashions to sell in their boutique and competes in taste-based fashion contests. While it's simple, if you have any interest in fashion, you should get a good deal of play time out of it. It's addictive, the clothes in the game look great, the character models are cute, and it's full of female characters who are working hard and succeeding in their respective careers. While some have complained that all of the character models and clothes are the same size (ie small and skinny), this is more of a mechanical limitation than anything else as having all the models and clothes be the same size makes the game a lot easier to fit on to one cartridge. Other than Skyrim, playing Trendsetters is probably the most fun I had with games all year.

2. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

I loved 999. I would probably put that game in my personal top 10 games of all time. As a sequel to 999, Virtue's Last Reward definitely did not disappoint, though I did not like it quite as much as the original. VLR took many of the principles introduced in 999 and amped them up to the next level in ways that were exquisitely crafted and well-thought out, and the changes to the flow chart system enabling the player to jump between nodes as in Radiant Historia is probably one of the best gameplay refinements I've ever seen in a sequel. That said, I felt like the sheer number of paths and endings in VLR divvied up all of the game's information in a way that I wasn't too fond of. I found that many of the character endings were totally unsatisfying, because the writers wanted to save all the best revelations for the True Ending. As there was a much smaller number of endings 999, I felt like each playthrough gave me just enough information to keep going and see what another start might bring me the next time around. VLR was a little too spread out for my taste to the point where a few times I really had to force myself to keep playing it. Also, in my opinion, only Luna's path in VLR came close to delivering the creepy atmosphere that I felt was present pretty well all the time in 999.

1. Journey

I don't think a game has ever taken me on such an emotional journey in such a short amount of time as Journey did. Beautiful art style and graphics, amazing atmosphere, and gorgeous music combine here to make one of the most incredible experiences that games, for me, have ever had to offer. In the roughly 2-3 hours that it took me on my first playthrough, I felt curious, puzzled, elated, horrified, miserable, and elated all over again. All of this occurred without actual characters or dialog or really anything aside from gameplay and atmosphere. Journey is one of the best examples that games have so much more to offer than violence.

#2 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4660 posts) -

I'm surprised that Style Savvy is actually good. I would of taken it as shovelware.

#3 Posted by connerthekewlkid (1773 posts) -

while i haven't played most of these games your list was still a good read!

#4 Edited by Pepsiman (2450 posts) -

It warms my heart to see that I'm not the only one willing to put Analogue on a GOTY list. The fact that it's also attracted a decent Korean following after its localization into that language speaks to how well Love was able to write both a universally human story and one that feels distinctly Korean. I haven't had the time to get around to playing any of the other games on your list, although regular seeing your praise here and on NeoGAF for Style Savvy has definitely made me keen to give it a whirl at some point. Definitely one of the more original lists I've seen come out of this site's user base and it's a much better one for it in my book.

@ImmortalSaiyan said:

I'm surprised that Style Savvy is actually good. I would of taken it as shovelware.

I believe both of the Style Savvy games have been developed internally at Nintendo and were headed up by a female director, which probably does wonders for why the game is actually appealing and not condescending. There's a really interesting Iwata Asks on the 3DS version that discusses the game's development here that talks about its design philosophy.

#5 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4660 posts) -

@Pepsiman: According to the list from Thatfrood three people had Analogue as their GOTY. One of them being you, of course. I should give that game a try at some point, but I did not care for Digital: A love story. I had no idea about those Style Savvy games. I kinda want to play this one now. I'm open to it.

#6 Posted by Hailinel (22744 posts) -

@ImmortalSaiyan said:

I'm surprised that Style Savvy is actually good. I would of taken it as shovelware.

I played the first one. It's really damn good, actually. I'd like to get around to playing the new one if I have time.

#7 Posted by PixelPrinny (1030 posts) -

Good list! I was gifted Analog: A Hate Story for xmas so it's nice to hear that it's on par with her Digital game. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of both Digital, and Don't Take it Personally (Seriously, stopping the game and forcing me to check the 90 missed texted on my phone because you want to call my character a stalker? Come on now).

One day I shall play Virtue's Last Rewaard. One day.

#8 Posted by FakeKisser (232 posts) -
#9 Posted by AdzPearson (201 posts) -

Once again, I feel like the odd one out when it comes to Journey. XD From what I've seen of it, it doesn't look like a game I'd get on with (although it looks very nice visually). I tend to get bored of games that lack an obvious narrative. On the other hand, I've seen it on so many people's GOTY lists, so there must be something to it. I don't know whether to give it a shot one day or just accept it's not for me.

#10 Posted by living4theday258 (677 posts) -

@AdzPearson: its $7USD on psn if your ps+ so if you are its worth it and if you dont like it $7 isnt a terrible waste of money

#11 Posted by Video_Game_King (34653 posts) -

Given all this talk of #2 actually being kinda decent, should I fire up the "playing girl games" shtick again, or should I just wait until next week for that to happen?

#12 Posted by Hailinel (22744 posts) -

@Video_Game_King: #2 is Virtue's Last Reward.

#13 Posted by Video_Game_King (34653 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

@Video_Game_King: #2 is Virtue's Last Reward.

....I stand by what I said.

#14 Posted by Cathryn (541 posts) -

@ImmortalSaiyan: As Pepsiman said, both the Style Savvy games were internal Nintendo projects, but still, huge surprise there. I was very torn about buying the game in the first place, but actually it was Reggie talking about the game on one of those Nintendo update things they love doing so much that solidified it for me. I haven't checked in awhile, but if I remember correctly, there are 2 demos available on the eShop. One demonstrates how the competitions work, and I believe the other is choosing clothing items for customers -- they might be worth downloading and checking out.

@Pepsiman: Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and for your kind words. As I said above, the demos for Style Savvy, at least, are worth trying. I think the worst part about that game for me was the fact that the mechanics of buying and selling the clothes got a little boring before I had finished all the competition ranks, but given that I probably put about 30 hours in to that game in a fairly short period of time speaks to how addictive in can be -- it's probably the kind of experience that is best played in small chunks over a long period of time. That Analogue has been so well-received in Korea is very impressive to me -- she must have done gobs of research to write that game. Kudos to her, she is awesome.

@Hailinel: I picked up the first one recently and have been trying to play it, but they made a lot of improvements to the sequel and it's a bit tough to go back to, especially with how good the sequel looks on the 3DS. I hope you enjoy it should you decide to pick it up.

@connerthekewlkid: Thanks very much for taking the time to read and to comment! I greatly appreciate it.

@PixelPrinny: Not only that, but I just didn't really find the main theme that the concept of Privacy was deteriorating to be all that interesting in the first place. It just felt kind've forced and tacked on to me. And I know it's superficial, but I found it to be a little disconcerting that the characters were all from Ontario, and the models were anime-style -- it just weirded me out. I think you'll find a lot to like about the story in Analogue. It's far more involved and much more mature than any of her previous offerings, though for me, I don't think she'll ever top Digital in my eyes just due to the nostalgia that I feel whenever I play it.

@AdzPearson: As living4theday mentioned, if you've got PS+, it looks like it's a pretty good deal right now. I would argue that Journey does have a very strong narrative, it's just that it's delivered in such a way that it doesn't need dialogue. The way the gameplay works delivers the narrative in a way that is maybe even more compelling than older ways of doing things. The difficult thing about Journey, is that it's tough to verbalize exactly how it does its storytelling without giving a lot of it away. I hope you decide to give it a risk at some point -- I'd be interested to hear what you think about it.

#15 Posted by AdzPearson (201 posts) -

@living4theday258: @Cathryn: I don't have PS+, so I can't take advantage of that deal. That said, given the convincing argument, I might get round to it one day. Should be able to put it in somewhere during the year, seeing how short it is. I suppose it's only fair that I at least give it a shot.

#16 Posted by aurahack (2229 posts) -

I'm getting excitedly giddy over here seeing all these GB users give Analogue the attention it merits. :'D Good blog, yo.

#17 Posted by Cathryn (541 posts) -

@AdzPearson: This is true -- you really can't go wrong when the game is only about 2-3 hours long. Though whether or not it's a value for money is another question, I guess. I suppose if you wind up not liking it, it really isn't. Hopefully the price on it will drop at some point as well, though I don't see that happening any time soon.

@aurahack: Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I've also been super happy to see it getting so much praise, but really, given how amazing it is, it shouldn't be all that surprising, right? ;D

#18 Posted by aurahack (2229 posts) -

@Cathryn: You'd think so, but there seemed to be no spark for it both when it released and when GOTY list-time came around. :( Digital seemed to benefit from a pretty good enthusiast press bump when it was released. It makes me a little sad to see the same didn't happen for what I feel is a much better game.

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