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Top 10 most anticipated games of 2011 - post-e3 edition

10. Radiant Silvergun

Developer: Treasure
Platform: XBLA
Release Date: 2011
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVeU0JHtNSg

Radiant Silvergun was a disappointing no-show at e3. Treasure has seemingly focused on Saturn brawler Guardian Heroes over this which, in my mind, is a real disappointment.

I have never played Radiant Silvergun and only kind of know what it's about. All I really need to know is that there are two Treasure shmups that are considered all-time games: Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun. Ikaruga is truly an amazing game with fantastic design. Radiant Silvergun is always in the conversation with Ikaruga when it comes to beat shmup ever. This version will add HD visuals, online multiplayer and an Ikaruga mode where you can switch polarities. I wish they'd say something more about this game because I've been really excited about it since they announced it at TGS last year.
 
9. Bioshock Infinite

Developer: Irrational
Platform: PC, 360, PS3
Release Date: 2012
Video: http://www.giantbomb.com/e3-2011-bioshock-infinite-trailer/17-4254/

If Bioshock Infinite was playable in video form on the show floor, everyone would be talking about it as Game of Show. Instead, Irrational opted to show it in closed theaters where no video could be taken. Too bad.

Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Games, is the game industry's #1 twisted genius. This guy might legitimately be crazy. He is the very definition of an artist. The things he is implementing in Bioshock Infinite - "vertical" gameplay, interactive setpieces that are completely mindblowing, the story of Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth and the Songbird - there's just nothing else like it. Every time I see Bioshock Infinite, I shake my head and go "there is no way this is actually interactive."

But every journalist I've read says that it is. It really works. And it's amazing. This isn't a walk-down-a-corridor game with huge explosions and minor interaction. This is a game that does that while you're jumping from skyline to skyline at breakneck speed and ripping apart the fabric of space-time.

My vote for best trailer of 2010 goes to the 10 minute gameplay demo of Bioshock Infinite. Watch it if you haven't. http://www.gametrailers.com/video/ten-minute-demo-bioshock-infinite/704932
 
8. Tomb Raider

Platform: PC, 360, PS3
Release Date: Fall 2012
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAI0F1-P0EI

So... I've never played a Tomb Raider game (that weird downloadable arcade-y game notwithstanding). I really didn't like early 3d and Lara's ridiculous proportions always made the game seem like shallow eye candy (and not even good eye candy). By the time Tomb Raider got legitimately good it had already faded from the public consciousness. I've heard the last 2-3 games are good but to be honest I don't even know what they look like.

Which is why my surprise of the show was the Tomb Raider demo at Microsoft's press conference.

Wow. Tomb Raider takes a page out of Uncharted's book and makes a strictly linear experience with great interactive setpieces. It's kind of funny what they're going for here since Uncharted was originally taking a page from Tomb Raider. There are lots of quick time events and scripted sequences. It's not the most interactive thing in the world.

But there is an edge to it that is really unlike other games. They are flat out torturing Lara Croft in this game. This isn't super cool badass Lara, this is shipwrecked, inexperienced 21 year old Lara. They tie her up, they set her on fire, they impale her, they nearly drown her. The whole presentation of this opening scene is claustrophobic and more than a little bit uncomfortable. This doesn't seem like a game focused on action and killing. This is a game focused on survival.

I love it. Uncharted will probably be a better game but it feels very much like Uncharted 2. Tomb Raider? This looks like it's going for a different kind of experience. The focus of the game seems much more on creating a gripping narrative than making a dumb-but-fun action movie. Tomb Raider also had a closed theater demo for the media much later into the game. Reports say that Lara shows a definite progression from clueless victim Lara to determined-to-live-at-any-cost Lara. It also gets a lot more interactive and less scripted. It sounds like they're really developing her character and I think that sounds really interesting.

My biggest concern is the puzzle aspect of Tomb Raider. I don't particularly want to sit there solving environmental puzzles. I hope they're interesting puzzles. This probably won't end up being the game for me, but damn, that demo left an impression.
 
7a. Street Fighter x Tekken

Developer: Capcom
Platform: 360, PS3
Release Date: 2012
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf1NEVnAHhc&feature=feedu

The phrase I keep coming back to with SFxT is "cautiously optimistic". I adore Street Fighter IV -- game of the gen, as far as I'm concerned -- but have always had a huge aversion to Tekken. I also don't like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 because of its complete insanity. My fighting game preferences are pretty rigid.

SFxT seems like a perfect middle ground between all three. It features a lot of MVC stuff like canceling normals from light to heavy, tagging characters in and having pretty wild combos. On the other hand, it also seems to be a game based on spacing and setting things up like Street Fighter. People who have played the game say that it feels "almost broken but not quite -- and because of that, it feels really exciting". That sounds great. This is being made by Ono's team which means it's the de facto followup to SF4. I don't expect it to be as good but I'd like to see where they go from here. If they can straddle the line between craziness and tight gameplay then I might really like this game. Even if it has Tekken characters.

7b. Street Fighter III Third Strike: Online Edition
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: XBLA, PSN
Release Date: Summer 2011
Videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB_dN9xj5s4&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwAbYjBBLgM

If I were a 3s fan, I would be going absolutely crazy at what Capcom is doing here. In a good way.

This is Capcom's most expensive downloadable game to date -- more than Bionic Commando Rearmed, more than HD Remix, more than anything. And this is all despite it being an arcade-perfect port job.

Where did all of the money go? There is a ton of new features in this. It's got GGPO online which is, supposedly, the best lag-free online experience out there. It's got all kinds of in-game achievement progressions that lets you unlock all sorts of stuff. It's got 5-6 pages of dipswitches you can set that let you customize the kind of game you want to play -- no specials, no jumping, however the hell you want to play. It's got combo training. It's got parry training. It's got 8 player online lobbies with spectator mode. It's got trials.

You want to know how fan-friendly this is? There is a trial called Evo Moment #37.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS7hkwbKmBM

Yeah. That one. Watch the videos linked above. The guy running them clearly knows his 3s and is super jazzed about the game. It makes me want to play it even though I haven't played SF3 in ten years.

This could be great. I'm probably more excited about this than I am about SFxT because it's actually coming out soon and because the online experience looks great.
 
6. Asura's Wrath

Developer: Capcom
Platform: 360, PS3
Release Date: 2012
Videos:

http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-asuras-wrath/715431
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-asuras-wrath/715433
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-asuras-wrath/715437
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-asuras-wrath/715439

So, I like God of War more than Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta. I prefer my big action games that are a spectacle more than a precise gameplay experience. Show me some ridiculous boss fight with a crazy sense of scale and I'll be satisfied. I don't want a really tough, rewarding experience with action games generally. I like dumb games.

Enter Asura's Wrath. No game is dumber than this.

It's only barely interactive, a game of dumb boss fights where you do stupid QTE-like things and blow up the sun or something. But it takes everything that's ever been done before and just trumps it in the stupidest of ways. This is, I think, the first boss. I'm not sure if any game has a sense of scale like this on the last boss, let alone the first. If this game has 5-6 more of these, somehow ramping up the scope each time, I'll be satisfied. I don't care if it's 5 hours. I don't care if it has zero replay value. Let me assassinate the solar system. Let me slice a planet-sized elder god's head off and punt it into orion's belt. Let me dragon punch a hole in space-time that creates a black hole and destroys the entire andromeda galaxy. It'll make no sense at all.

It'll be fun.
 
5. Batman: Arkham City

Developer: Rocksteady
Platform: PS3, 360, PC, WiiU
Release Date: 10/18/11
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXfhP8lXYXc

At first I was disappointed with what I saw of Arkham City. It's still got the same combat, just with more moves. It added a new character but it's basically just a reskin of Batman. It's not like she'll play differently in combat and I somehow doubt she'll be traversing in the air like Batman does.

But then I saw the world and wow. This is Assassin's Creed: Batman Edition. I always compared AC to Arkham Asylum because both do multiple enemy combat but Batman does it better. It feels better, it flows better, it sounds better. But Arkham City is now an open-world kinda thing where you can fly above the city and descend upon your enemies.

The thing that always made me love Arkham Asylum is that Batman is a straight-up stalker. I don't care about the comics or the character but I love the feeling of being able to scare the crap out of guys and just pick them off one by one. Not even Solid Snake can scare the ever-loving hell out of someone like Batman does in Arkham Asylum. If you add some open-world elements where you can sneak up on guys and tie them up without anyone seeing you? This game should be great. We shouldn't need to rely on jumping from gargoyle to gargoyle and detective vision is much improved.

This game should be great. I was super skeptical of a sequel to Arkham Asylum because it was so fresh and self-contained, but they're proving that they're not just remaking the same game. Even if the combat is similar.
 
4. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2

Developer: Square-Enix
Release Date: 8/28/11
Platform: DS
Video: http://www.giantbomb.com/e3-2011-dragon-quest-monsters-joker-trailer/17-4368/

I love this series and would love a new one. This was almost #1 on my list. I think I like DQM more than the regular DQ series. They're the most addicting things on the planet -- a game dedicated to endless progression and constantly building better monsters. Some people get into Pokemon, I get into this game. I cannot wait to drop dozens of hours into this addictive mess.

And then I found out what it was.

Joker 2 got an enhanced version in Japan a few months ago called Professional. Professional is like the third version of a Pokemon game -- Platinum or whatever the other corresponding third games are.

Square is bringing over the first version instead of Professional. Professional adds 100 monsters, new areas and has better online play. Joker 2.. is actually a big improvement on Joker 1, featuring 100 more monsters than that game and peer-to-peer online play instead of the busted mess that Joker 1 was. It should be awesome.

But I still feel like we're being gypped here despite finally getting a game that I've been super excited for for almost two years. I know that somebody will eventually release a translation patch for the superior Professional. People have been working on it for a while already and won't stop.

This'll still be better than Joker 1 and I loved Joker 1. Gotta keep telling myself that.
 
3a. Hero 30 Second

Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: 8/4/11 (Japan), TBA (USA)
Platform: PSP
Video: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/japanese-prologue-half-minute-hero/709371

Half-Minute Hero is probably my favourite RPG this gen even though it's only barely an RPG. It's really unique and refreshing, the kind of thing you want from a new IP. It spends most of the game parodying RPG tropes until the end where the story comes together and it actually becomes legitimately awesome.

Hero 30 Second strips away all of the other modes and goes for a pure RPG experience. The RPG is by far the best part and is the reason everyone gets it. I've played the demo for this game and the missions are far more connected and cohesive instead of just being these silly "you called me a bird! I'M GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD" plots. (Of course, it still has that stuff too. HMH is awesome.)

The thing is, with the PSP being DOA here, is anybody going to actually localize this game here? I'd like to think XSeed will but I'm never sure. I'll still play the Japanese version just like I played the Japanese version of the original, but I'd love some a localization.

3b. Half-MInute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax

Release Date: 6/29/11
Platform: XBLA
Video: http://www.gamepro.com/article/news/219651/gamepro-live-half-an-hour-with-half-minute-hero/

SUPER MEGA NEO CLIMAX is a XBLA port of the original with some bonus missions, online leaderboards and online multiplayer. It's got a new visual style that, in my opinion, is atrocious, but fortunately you can still play the pixelated version. They've put next to no media out on this and they haven't said how the new missions will be unlocked (probably DLC), but XBLA on a platform people actually own is great and I hope it does well. I'll buy it for sure, even if all I really want is the sequel. Maybe HMH2 can come to XBLA as well.
 
2. Xenoblade Chronicles

Developer: Monolithsoft
Platform: Wii
Release Date: September (Europe), TBA (America)
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R0yZ3ptiMU

This game just pisses me off. It is completely insane that this game isn't coming out here. For the second e3 in a row, Xenoblade was a no-show. Nintendo of Europe announced it will be released and multiple voice actors have said that it's expected to be released in September. Despite this, there has been utterly no mention of a release in America. This is so inconceivable that I have a hard time even believing it's coming out in Europe. I keep coming up with weird explanations, like "Nintendo wants to stop supporting the Wii" or "NoA doesn't have anything else coming out so why make it seem like the Wii still exists?" or my personal favourite, "Reggie played FF13 and has a personal vendetta against the entire genre". Fortunately, hacking a Wii is super mega easy so a European release is as good as an American one. I just think it's insane.

Anyway, Xenoblade looks like the anti-FF13 - wide open environments, a game based on exploration, great music, cool setting. I think being in standard def has allowed the team to make a really expansive RPG that doesn't cost a quadrillion dollars. THE ENTIRE GAME TAKES PLACE ON THE BODIES OF TWO DEAD GODS. There was a recent poll in Famitsu and Xenoblade was rated as the best RPG of this generation. I've played a few minutes of it and it has that special magic that the great RPGs have. You start playing it and you get a big smile on your face. It's an undefinable quality that sets this game apart from other RPGs released this generation. I hope that feeling stays throughout the game.
 
1. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

Developer: Fuelcell Games
Platforms: XBLA
Release Date: July/August 2011
Video: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-insanely-twisted/716023

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is pretty unique. This is a game headed by a guy that has zero experience with video games. Michel Gagne, a famous animator that has worked for Pixar and Disney and is largely responsible for the special effects in Ratatouille and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, has not played a video game since Doom. When development on this project started four years ago, he thought about buying a current-gen console and learning what video games are like but decided against it because he didn't want to copy what was already out there. He wanted to go in not knowing anything.

What he's created is basically a Metroid game with awesome as hell art. ITSP is creepy and foreign in the same ways that a Metroid game is, only with much better animation. Everything in ITSP looks so fluid and natural, largely because the guy making it is a world-class animator. It's a dual-stick shooter at heart, but you gain new abilities and find tons of secret paths all over. There's no HUD at all which makes the game feel even more natural. I haven't played it but I imagine this is a game without any explicit storytelling. It'll be more like Super Metroid than, say, Metroid Fusion or Outland.

The music fits the game so well, too. Dimmu Borgir is doing some of it, actually. When you're a world-class animator you can call in favours like that. It's kind of crazy that an ambitious project like this is destined for downloadable services, but hey, I love me some $10-$15 Metroid action. Between this and Outland, this may be the year of Metroid games.

Still one of the best trailers ever -- http://www.gametrailers.com/video/exclusive-extended-insanely-twisted/52779
1 Comments

games of the year - 2010 edition

I didn't like this year much. this is evidenced by me having three ports or near-ports in my top 4 for 2010.
 
 10. Dragon Quest IX (DS)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKPZ3PgqJZI&feature=related

You know how people use vague, condescending terms like 'soulless' and 'going through the motions' for Final Fantasy XIII? Yeah, that's Dragon Quest IX for me. It's got all the pieces that make a DQ game but it's lacking something. I'd call this way more disappointing than FF13 just because DQ3 and 8 -- my two favourite DQ games -- are combined here, but the end result was way below either of them. It's got an interesting job system that ends up being not that fun thanks to the way skill points are incorporated and skills are carried over from other classes. It's got a quest system that's just awful. The Alchemy Pot is miserable. Battles take way longer than they should due to characters running around onscreen. There's a whole bunch of stupid multiplayer nonsense that will never hit in America due to no online. The plot is awkward because you've got a party with all NPC characters, meaning that there's no dialogue coming from the protagonists at all. Ultimately, it just feels like they hit all the notes a DQ game should hit without having a cohesive whole.

And yet despite all these complaints, I put 40 hours into it in a matter of days. I liked amassing skill points and grinding for metal stuff, even if it was a pain in the ass to do so. Grotto maps seemed interesting and there was an absolute ton of optional content here, even if, again, it was a pain in the ass to do. On-screen randoms are a very welcome change and will make it hard to go back to previous games in the series. DQ9 seemed more like a timesink than previous games thanks to nonsense like hunting for Alchemy items or doing inane quests in order to unlock better jobs, but when you were just enjoying the basic DQ game, it was a meaty and fun experience.  
 
 9. Z.H.P. Darkdeath Evilman vs. Unlosing Ranger (PSP)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wn6NYU7QeU

This game had me with this trailer. "A grindfest RPG you can play 40 million times!" I usually hate Disgaea humour but something about this hit a spot for me. ZHP is basically a Roguelike mixed with Disgaea, which is a pretty unique combination. You lose all your levels and equipment each time you die -- and you'll die all the time -- but you level up base stats and get stat upgrades that you can attach to yourself so you start out stronger and stronger each time.

Like Disgaea, the sense of progression is pretty awesome as you go from doing 15 damage to 15,000. And like Disgaea, it has absolutely no gameplay depth and is just a grindfest. It's oddly fun though. I beat the game and then started playing it instantly on NG+ when they gave me even more ways to pimp out my stats. Something about this game is really appealing even if it looks and sounds stupid as hell. Anyone who's played Disgaea knows what I'm talking about. 
 
 8. LIMBO (Xbox Live Arcade)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4HSyVXKYz8&feature=related

I've been thinking about Limbo a lot lately. I've come to the conclusion that it's a survival horror game - the game is flat-out haunting. It's like a silent black and white movie that tries to kill you. You die from everything, you're being chased by frightening creatures and you're completely helpless. It's survival horror.

That first hour of Limbo is fantastic. The encounter with the spider is just disgusting all around. You get stalked and impaled and when you succeed, you pull out its arms in a really gruesome fashion. The game goes downhill once it reverts into a standard puzzle game, but even then you're going to get brutalized by deaths in ways I Wanna Be the Guy would be proud of. It can't maintain that high bar of excellence and it doesn't have the ingenuity of Braid, but it's still a special experience. 
 
 7. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTbz_LFnLr8

Edgeworth's game never hits the highs of the Phoenix Wright trilogy but also never drops to its lows either. The lowest point is probably the last day of the biggest case where everything drags out and nothing feels satisfying at all. Other than that, it's a remarkably consistent game with very tight cases and good characters.

The entire game takes place over the course of like one week, if that. That gives the cases a ton of continuity. The highlight of the game is case 4, a flashback case that's crucial to the main arc of the game. It introduces lots of good characters and has some excellent cameos. My least favourite aspect is that they turn Gumshoe into an idiot and make him bad comic relief -- basically, the Edgeworth equivalent of Larry Butz -- instead of being awesome. Dude has a much better role when he's with Phoenix than with Edgeworth. Fortunately there's Kay Faraday in his place, the best sidekick yet.

The highest praise I can give this game is that it managed to evade the stink that came over the series in Apollo Justice. It doesn't come close to topping PW1 or 3, but it's a game that renews faith in the series. 
 
 6. Super Meat Boy (XBLA, PC)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT_a0dcdWac

Super Meat Boy is kind of everything you could possibly want in a platformer rolled into one.

It's got tight level design. It's got dozens of unlockable characters, all of which play very differently. It's got good music, it's got a cool replay feature. it's sadistic and it's got replay value. It's got speed runs and online leaderboards. It's fast. it's got tons of content, even more optional content and a villain who is a fetus dressed up in a robot suit with a monocle. And he hates you. The only thing this game is missing is some co-op action, an option that would have been a lot of fun.

But for all the content packed into this game, it gets one thing wrong: its physics. This game is slippery as hell. One bare mistake and you'll go flying. The game's reliance on momentum combined with the controls makes this a game that is insanely trial and error-y. You'll die 50 times learning the precise muscle memory needed in order to clear some later levels. If you're doing the dark world then good luck to you and may Meat Boy have mercy on your soul. This game is hard as hell which is awesome but it also relies on pure memorization at times. That's not cool. There's also a lot of gimmicks in the middle levels like missiles and crumble blocks and etc that just aren't very fun. World 6 is the best in the game because it is pure platforming goodness.

When Super Meat Boy is good, it's really good. It can also frustrate you with the physics engine it has in place. This is a game that you just love to hate. 
 
 5. Metroid: Other M (Wii)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpBn4zHEP1g

Other M's taken a lot of crap for various things - Samus's personality, the story, the idea of having eight-way control with a sideways Wii Remote and more. A lot of it is either unwarranted or necessary criticism. Samus's personality barely matters when she's blasting space pirates left and right. Sideways WIi Remote somehow works due to some smart design choices such as putting a lot of the corridors on rails and making roll dodges really easy. Auto-target works and is not that big of a deal even though it should be. First person mode is actually pretty awesome most of the time thanks to the risk/reward system of not being able to move but having tons of firepower. Other M features the best combat in the series thanks to Ninja Gaiden-esque encounters. This game has the best collection of boss battles in a game I've played this year, which granted isn't much since I'm not much for high-budget console games, but they were nonetheless impressive.

There are a whole host of other flaws going on here - some forced over-the-shoulder sections that go on way too long, anything involving scanning an area to figure out where to go next and some first person-only boss encounters that are kind of dreadful. Other M is not a top tier game but it does succeed in doing what it wants to do - make a 2.5d Metroid game that really works. It's way too linear and lacks the replayability that makes Metroid great, but it's still damn fun. 
 
 4. Cave Story (Wiiware)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12f7ATjX7TM

I had never played Cave Story until this year. It's one heck of an impressive game for a one-man effort. It borrows elements from Metroid and Mega Man but really, it's its own thing thanks to its unique gameplay systems. You power up weapons by collecting enemy drops and power down if you get hit. It's a cool give-take mechanic that makes bosses really interesting: the beginning of the battle is easy because you're at full power but then you lose your weapon power and the boss starts doing tougher attacks as he gets lower on life.

The end result is that Cave Story has some amazing bosses, in particular the string of fights at the end of the game. It took me about 3 days to finally get through the final boss gauntlet. it's grueling and really satisfying when you pull it off. Cave Story never hits the peaks of a Mega Man or a Metroid but it is so solid all the way around. 
 
 3. Super Street Fighter 4 (360, PS3)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRR3X1Tz-mA

I can't really rank this game properly. SF4 is my 2009 GOTY and no 2010 game eclipses it besides, well, SSF4. It adds characters, balances things better and adds online modes. But despite the improvements, I probably like it less than I did in 2009 if only because it's more of the same. I didn't play nearly as much SF4 in 2010 as I did in 2009. Ranking it as my 2010 GOTY would be kind of silly in that sense. Then in 2011, when Arcade Edition DLC comes out, I'd have to call that my GOTY again. Screw that.

Anyway, SSF4 is a little bit too much for me. It's just got so many characters and so many modes. If I had infinite time then I would learn them all, but I barely have any time and often go months without playing my go-to multiplayer game. Because of that, I just stick with my main 5 or 6 guys -- most of which I've been playing for 20 years since SF2 -- and everyone else is just daunting. They're adding even more modes and characters soon too. That might just be the end of me.

I dunno what to say about this one. I love watching SF4 matches and I love playing with friends. I hate playing ranked matches because they're just not much fun. I've got a solid rotation of 6 or 7 people here that I play, all at different skill levels, and that keeps the game fresh and fun.
 
 2. VVVVVV (PC)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf06P-_1lkU

V is a one-button platformer. The amount of mileage they get out of this one mechanic -- flipping upside down -- is remarkable. V has brilliant level design and some real personality that sets it apart from other games. Like Super Meat Boy, it's really slippery and that drags the game down a little, but since the checkpoints are so numerous it's almost not a big deal. V might be the only game I can think of where dying simply doesn't matter. It doesn't even phase you or make you mad. You just go back to where you started.

It's all the little things that makes V so good. The trinkets are nothing more than pointless collectibles but they're really fun to try and get. The soundtrack is straight out of Mega Man which is a good thing. There's speed runs and postgame content and it's just really replayable. Sometimes I'm bored and just throw V on for fun. it's so easy to just pick up and play. Great game right here.  
 
 
1. Persona 3 Portable (PSP)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB4WyHe-HRM

A port of a game that wouldn't make my top 50 is my game of the year. Kinda says it all.

My biggest problem with Persona has always been its pace. These games just have miserable pacing. Everything takes longer than it should and you'll often end up doing the same thing for too long.

P3P is lightning fast. You move around quicker thanks to not having to run from location to location, battles go quicker thanks to player control, and it's overall a lot easier thanks to a few tweaks that make the annoying parts of P3 a lot more bearable. Sure, there's lots of other cool adds like new social links, female protagonist and blah blah blah, but it's the speed of the game that makes this an all-time RPG for me.

On top of that, I always preferred P3's dark setting, minimal story and awesome music to P4. Once you catch the gameplay up to P4 levels it's a no-brainer for me. Persona 3 feels more fresh because it came first and I like the atmosphere a lot more.

But if P4P ever happens and they speed the game up, that could be my 2011 GOTY. 
 
 
and a bonus list -- my top 10 most anticipated 2011 titles
 
10. Catherine (PS3 / 360)
9. Mortal Kombat (PS3 / 360)
8. Radiant Silvergun (XBLA)
7. Ace Attorney Investigations 2 / Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (DS/3DS)
6. Ghost Trick (DS)
5. 3rd Birthday (PSP)
4. Xenoblade (Wii)
3. Outland (XBLA/PSN)
2. Hero 30 Second (PSP)
1. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)

1 Comments

My most anticipated games, part 2 (post-e3 2010 edition)

Part 1 here - 
http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/transience/my-most-anticipated-games-part-1-post-e3-2010-edition/30-53564/
 
12. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
System: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Ignition
Release Date: Spring 2011
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-el-shaddai/700573

First of all, watch that trailer. What I'm about to write will not make sense if you don't. (Coincidentally, it will also not make sense if you watch it.)

El Shaddai is unique if nothing else. Let's start with the fiction: it takes all of its cues from the Bible, and in particular the Book of Enoch. You are Enoch, a mortal called by god to heaven. When fallen angels choose life on earth over heaven, god -- or El Shaddai, since it stands for God Almighty -- is furious and wants to wipe out humanity with a great flood. Enoch has a chance to save humanity by bringing these fallen angels back to heaven with the help of the four archangels. He also has the help of Lucifel, or Lucifer if you'd prefer. However, this Lucifel is before he turns against god, and he's often seen talking to god on his cell phone.

Yeah.

Okay, so El Shaddai's fiction is completely messed up. But it's also compelling, something totally unique. One can assume that Lucifel will tempt Enoch away from god and that there will be lots of plot twists, likely with Lucifel ending up as the bad guy. This game is already messed up though so it's hard to say where it will go.

But the fiction isn't the most striking thing about El Shaddai: that would be the style of the game. El Shaddai is being made by ex-Clover employees. The director is the art director from Okami while the producer produced DMC, RE4, Viewtiful Joe and Okami. The game has a wild visual style. The environments are just completely out there and the sky just looks totally messed up. I don't know if the areas in the trailer are supposed to be heaven or what, but it has this impressionistic art style that's reminiscent of Braid. It looks like the end of the world. Occasionally the screen flashes all these wild colours and who the hell knows what's going on.

Gameplay-wise, it's an action game. You have a weapon called an arch which you use to slice up foes. I expect it to be a little more 'normal' there, with combos and parries and all that hardcore stuff people love. However, as the trailer shows, there are also these super spaced out 2d platforming sequences. Watching this trailer, I can't tell what the hell this game is. The music is pretty amazing and the visual style is messy and otherworldly. The main character is your standard androgynous Japanese crap, but in this case it actually works because angels are supposed to be androgynous.

I'm actually really really excited about this game, but I'm keeping my hopes as low as possible because I have literally no idea how it's going to turn out. That unknown quality of El Shaddai makes it pretty exciting. At the very least it's a game to keep an eye on.
 
11. BattleBlock Theater
System: XBLA
Developer: The Behemoth
Release Date: TBA
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/story-teaser-battleblock-theater/61499

I'm really not sure what this game is. The Behemoth have put out lots of little tutorial videos but every one looks different. It almost looks like a minigame collection that you play co-op and competitively.

But when I see From the creators of Castle Crashers, I'm sold. Those guys made the single best co-op game of all time. I like other games more than Castle Crashers, but everybody gets into it and anybody can have fun playing along with you. I can't say that about any other game. Castle Crashers is just simple enough to play while being fun enough to replay. They know what's fun and know how to make other people enjoy it.

So while I'm not 100% sure what BattleBlock Theater is, I can't wait for it because I want to have co-op goodness. These other co-op games will be fun for a little while, but Castle Crashers is a game I can replay for the 20th time and still enjoy a lot. That's not going to be true of Hard Corps or Lara Croft or Castlevania HD.

Plus, that story trailer above is pretty damn cool. 
 
10. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
System: XBLA, PSN
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: q1 2011
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-bionic-commando/700711

I was super psyched about the original Bionic Commando Rearmed, and it was a pretty good game: kickass music, great bosses, a really underrated and fun competitive 2d deathmatch mode, good weapons, feels good, etc. It certainly wasn't perfect, but Rearmed did a lot of things right and showed that if you really put effort into a classic revival, people will buy it. Rearmed was damn solid.

Rearmed 2... is weird. It's a sequel to a remake, which opens up all sorts of questions. Will it still be good now that they're designing their own levels? Rearmed was good but often felt like it was being held back by the constraints of the original. Now that they're creating their own levels, will they be good or will they outsmart themselves and go away from what worked in the original? I have faith in the design team here so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. It's always weird when you go from making remakes to making original content though. 4 Heroes of Light is a good example of this.

My other issue is a bigger one: this game seems like such a sequel, and I mean that in all the negative ways. Capcom is a great developer but god knows they've got a history of rehashing existing properties with little innovation. Rearmed 2 adds a jump button (this isn't as big of a deal as people are making it out to be, it's a minor thing really), a new ground pound technique and a couple new weapons, but overall it is the exact same game. I can't get as excited about this one as I did the original. It *should* be a better game than the original, but there's something cheap and uninspired about the whole thing that rubs me the wrong way. I'm sure I'll love it when it comes out but I'm not a huge fan of the sequel to a remake thing.

The one thing that BCR lacked was online co-op and I was hoping they'd add it to this. I really loved the competitive deathmatch mode and that would be a lot of fun to play online. Capcom hasn't confirmed it though which basically means it won't be in it. blah.

BCR2 should be good. 
 
9. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
System: DS
Developer: Square-Enix
Release Date; Unknown
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/japanese-debut-dragon-quest/64062

Pokemon does absolutely nothing for me. I have zero attachment to those little monsters and I don't find the gameplay particularly fun. I think I just started playing it too late and can't find the magical fun in catching a bunch of things I don't care about. I think you had to 'be there' for Pokemon and I'm too old.

But Dragon Quest Monsters? Yeah, that's my Pokemon. I can play DQM games for 12 hours straight and not even realize it. The monsters are far more appealing, I'd say. They animate wonderfully and the way they move gives them tons of personality. The breeding system is ridiculously deep and the 'campaign' is way more interesting than Pokemon could ever be. I'm just much more of a DQ fan than a Pokemon one.

Joker 2 is offering something huge: direct online battling. In Joker 1, you could join tournaments against AI-controlled teams, but it was broken and every good team was hacked to hell. It wasn't fun at all. WIth Joker 2, you can battle people online, something that's really critical given how DQM isn't the most popular series in America. Joker 2 also has over 300 monsters, way more than Joker 1 had. Seeing as I put 75 hours into Joker 1, Joker 2 might very well consume my life. This will shoot to the top of my list if/when it gets a US date. It sucks that it didn't make an appearance at E3, but DQ games always take a while to get a US date. Hopefully this makes it over here in 2011. 
 
8. Necromachina
System: XBLA/PSN
Release Date: q4 2010
Developer: Square
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA0r9E46IGU&fmt=22

Now here's something I didn't expect: Square getting the man who designed Strider to make a four player Strider game. On top of that, feelplus -- the people behind Lost Odyssey -- is the team programming the game. It's such a weird combination.

But there's no doubt about it -- this is Strider 3. The game looks like a Strider game. Strider 2 is the best sidescrolling game on the PS1 and one of the best sidescrolling beat-em-ups ever, so I can't wait to see how this turns out. Necromachina has experience points and different attack types and looks like a fairly deep beat-em-up type game. Will it be as good as other four player co-op games like Castle Crashers? Probably not. But I loooove Strider 2 and I'll give Strider 3 every chance in the world.

It's too bad this wasn't playable at e3, only in trailer form. I want to hear some impressions about how it plays. I have faith. 
 
7. Kid Icarus: Uprising
System: 3DS
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 2011
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-kid-icarus/101486

This is the one thing at e3 that blew me away more than anything else. Nintendo is launching their new system with.. a Kid Icarus game? Really? That's awesome.

I love the original Kid Icarus. Is it a great game? nah. Is it something I adore? hell yeah. I have a huge amount of nostalgia for this series. Just hearing the title theme brings me back every time, so when I saw this trailer I was like "oh hell yeah."

So now that I've said that: what is Kid Icarus: Uprising? That's a question that I'm not sure of and I don't think others are either. I have a feeling that it's nothing more than a rail shooter a la Star Fox 64 or something. There's a cursor going on all throughout the trailer. A rail shooter is something that would lend itself really well to the 3DS's 3d technology. The premiere launch title is going to be something that really showcases the system, not just a Zelda game with Pit instead of Link.

If this game is a version of Star Fox 64 with Pit as the ship, I'm going to be really disappointed.

I'm hoping that this is a game with two separate parts: flying parts where it's a 3d shooter and then land parts that are adventure-y like Zelda. If that's the case, I could really get into this game. I just worry that the only reason I'm a fan of this is because it's got the Kid Icarus name on it. Quite frankly, this is a new IP that has verrry little to do with the original Kid Icarus. Once you remove the nostalgia, what's left?

Really need to see more of what this game is. I might really adore it or I might lose all interest. We'll see. 
 
6. Persona 3 Portable
System: PSP
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: July 2010
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXry4hCCLeI

Let me start by saying that the Persona series is super overrated. It's got its moments of fun, but it's got huge glaring flaws and is overall a frustrating experience. I have a thing for gameplay-heavy RPGs though so I put up with these flaws because of its addicting gameplay. I wouldn't call it anything close to the best thing ever, though.

So why is it this high? I'm not sure. Let me start by saying that I prefer Persona 3 to Persona 4. Persona 4 is a better game, but there are aspects of Persona 3 that I just prefer. I like the game's style a lot more. It feels more novel since Persona 4 copies the Persona 3 formula to the letter. I like the music way more. The pacing is a lot better thanks to the story not being as invasive. And I like the main character a lot more. Persona 4 has a better cast and a better battle system, there's no doubt about that. But I like Persona 3 more.

And that's the thing about P3P -- it's fixing a lot of what was wrong with Persona 3. Persona 4's gameplay tweaks have been added to P3P which should hopefully be a huge improvement. Navigation took forever in P3, but in P3P you don't actually walk around, instead choosing the icon of the person you want to talk to and a conversation automatically initiating. A lot of people will dislike this change but I prefer it because it streamlines running all around the school and the town. Battle fatigue has been revamped in good ways.

And then there's the new main character. You can play as a chick in P3P which will change the story and the relationships in the game significantly. I'm hearing that it's not the greatest set of changes, but I want to see how it plays out anyway. Plus, I never actually beat P3 or P4 since they get super repetitive and not really all that fun. I think I'll be much easier to handle it on a portable system though. I'll feel much better about playing it in bed than sitting around in front of a tv for hours and hours. If I get bored or annoyed, I can just throw it into sleep mode and pick it up again later.

The biggest problem with P3P? It's a gameplay-heavy RPG, which is something I'm totally into, but DQ9 comes out the same week. If there's one game that overlaps with DQ, it's Persona. Both are light on story and are monotonous turn-based affairs that can break a hundred hours. P3P is cool but DQ9 is the game I really want to play. I would have gone nuts for P3P anytime over the last 2-3 months when I haven't had anything to play. Oh well. I'll get to it eventually. 
 
5. The 3rd Birthday
System: PSP
Developer: Square
Release Date: late 2010 in Japan, probably 2011 in US
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-the-3rd/101621

I've got a thing for Parasite Eve. The original was wayyyy ahead of its time - put this game on the PS2 and I bet it would have gone somewhere. Parasite Eve did pretty well but it could have been really big; as it was, the system just couldn't handle what it was going for. It's the first real horror RPG that I played - while I'm sure there was some stuff like Shin Megami Tensei that had a dark edge, PE1 was practically a thriller. The only other game like that I played was Shadow Hearts and that game's fantastic. The game played slow (that walking speed, my god) and the CG, while great for its time, could have really benefited from PS2-esque graphics. PE2 was some kind of horror game that was a complete bastardization of everything that made PE1 great, but I always wanted to play it just for the story. PE1's fiction, while stupid as hell, was always kind of appealing.

Enter PE3. Or the 3rd birthday.

The first thing one needs to know about the 3rd Birthday is that it's being developed by Square's A team, headed up by Tetsuya Nomura. Nomura is the guy behind Kingdom Hearts and FF13; once he finishes 3rd Birthday he'll move on to Versus 13. I don't think Nomura's games are all that great, but it's good to see that 3rd Birthday isn't some throwaway title: this is Square's next real effort. I have high hopes because of that.

The game looks great graphically. Gameplay-wise it's said to be a third person shooter, but this is a japanese RPG company we're talking about. Yes, you shoot guns at creatures, but it's got lock-ons and you can run all over the place shooting people. It sounds pretty similar to the original Parasite Eve, actually.

The gameplay that I've seen -- which is relegated to the few seconds of that trailer -- looks a lot like Crisis Core. You get into an encounter, run around on a battlefield and dodge-roll out of the enemy's way. Crisis Core has lots of issues but the gameplay itself was pretty good. If 3rd Birthday is Crisis Core - FF7 fanservice + Aya Brea + Parasite Eve's twisted world, I'm sold.

3rd Birthday also has a system where Aya can possess enemies and use their abilities in battle. I'm not sure what this is but I want to play with it.

Overall, 3rd Birthday just has a style to it that really appeals to me. It reminds me of old Square. I think Square and the PSP are the perfect marriage because the production values and costs fit in perfectly with the kind of game they make. If you let them go overboard then it turns into an on-rails thing. If you keep it at that PS2 level there's a chance the game will be good. 3rd Birthday really looks good so it's one of the only pure Square titles I'm excited about. 
 
4. Mortal Kombat
System: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Spring s011
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-mortal-kombat/101130

http://i48.tinypic.com/2ugcfh1.gif

Mortal Kombat is back.

The developers of Mortal Kombat saw Street Fighter IV's success and took note. Before SF4, many developers felt that making a 2d game would be a cheap retro cashin. SF4 showed that you can make a 2d game that people legitimately love.

The result is that everything is coming back to 2d. MVC3 is coming back and now Mortal Kombat. MK is going the SF4 route and taking everything that gave the series popularity and brought it back. All of the currently announced characters -- there will be 26 in the end -- are from MK1-MK3. The story is getting rebooted too. Shao Kahn is about to kill Raiden and Raiden sends some kind of mental message back to his MK1 self and the story of MK1-3 plays out again. It's stupid as hell, but also kind of awesome. They are shredding all of the excess fat that has cluttered Mortal Kombat and just going back to what works. Is it a cashin? Yeah, sorta. They're playing to people's nostalgia and not really adding anything new. But at the same time, that's exactly what most Mortal Kombat fans want, including myself.

Mortal Kombat has always felt pretty 'stiff'. Things don't link together in MK like they would in other games. The focus was always on the style over the substance, but in this game it's got a robust combo system. You can link specials and juggle people in ways that you haven't been able to do in years. 'Dial-a-combos' are gone, replaced by a more legit combo system a la SF4. There's a super meter a la SF4. You can double tap to dash like SF4. And the fatalities are freaking sick this time around. There hasn't been a legit MK this generation and they're using the technical prowess to their advantage.

The gameplay I've seen looks like MK2 in HD. The game has MK2's look and style with MK3's focus on combos. It doesn't look overly broken which has been the case with most (if not all) MK games in the past. The backgrounds are really detailed and the game is really dark. Sweeps, uppercuts, roundhouse kicks and all the usual stuff is back. You can punch people into acid and pits and all the usuals. It may not be doing too much new, but bringing back MK is awesome. This was the game of E3 for me. Kid Icarus stole the show, but MK's gameplay demonstrations and fatalities and interviews showed me that they know what they're doing. Mortal Kombat is legit again. It feels like 1995 all over again. 
 
3. Metroid: Other M
System: Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: August 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-metroid-other/101482

I'm a little bit worried about this game. Its reveal last year drove me wild - a 2d Metroid being made by Team Ninja? Wow. I will always remember 2009 E3 as the year Metroid owned the show since the two games that stood out the most for me was Other M and Shadow Complex.

Why am I worried? A lot of reasons. First of all, the design of the game looks to be very.. linear, I guess. Due to the wonky control scheme -- we're using the Wii Remote's d-pad in order to control the whole thing despite it being in 3d -- you have to have fairly straight paths for the game to work. If you look at this trailer, it's all narrow corridors. This would be fine if it was 2d, but it's 3d, leading the game to feel like it's on rails. It's reminiscent of Metroid Fusion in that sense and that game, while good because it had some classic Metroid gameplay and atmosphere, definitely sucked on the level design side of things.

The Metroid Fusion comparisons don't end there. The Federation unlocks powerups for you in the same way that Metroid Fusion did too. I prefer the idea of exploring and finding things like a Super Metroid or a Metroid Prime. Other M has a focus on story like no other game has had since Fusion and a lot of it feels very uninspired. It's not that I'm against the idea of Metroid being more story-driven -- I actually like the story stuff in Metroid Fusion and think the Metroid world is pretty interesting. I was looking forward to seeing more about it actually. But the stuff I've seen just doesn't look very good. The dialogue doesn't look so great and many first-hand impressions have said the same.

The main 'gimmick' of Other M is that if you point the Wii Remote at the screen, you go into first person mode and can use missiles. Most bosses will probably use the formula of stun enemy -> go into first person mode -> missile -> repeat 3x, kinda like a Zelda formula. I'm fairly allergic to first person gameplay, but to inject it into my 2.5d Metroid is almost like taunting me. That said, I'm okay with doing this since you can't move while using missiles, forcing you to play most of the game in 2d.

Thanks to the game's 3d and fast-paced nature, there's auto-aim on the enemies. Maybe the people playing it just suck, but I've seen a lot of gameplay demos where people get too close to enemies, then run away to the other side of the screen and spam the shoot button until things get close, then try to dodge and repeat the same going the other way. It looks pretty.. well, bad. It looks like Ninja Gaiden if you couldn't do melee attacks. I can't tell if this is a design problem or if people are just bad at the game. The story doesn't look great, the gameplay worries me and the controls are weird. That's ominous.

Now that I've said all that... it's Metroid. It looks awesome in motion, one of the best looking games in my memory. Sure, it's not the most technically competent but it looks so fluid in motion. Seeing a super fast paced Metroid excites me beyond belief. It's a direct sequel to Super Metroid with the beginning of the game being a CG flashback to the final boss of that game, one of the most memorable final bosses of all time. It's the first third person Metroid game since 2004's Metroid: Zero Mission, and if you haven't heard, I kind of liked that game a little bit. You probably don't know a bigger 2d Metroid fan than me. Maybe this game won't be able to compete with Super Metroid, but if it's still got great tension and that Metroid feel to it -- something many people have said it possesses -- then I could be in love despite its many shortcomings.

I also feel like I might be getting overly nervous for no reason. I just don't want them to mess up Metroid's glorious return to 2d, you know? 
 
2. Xenoblade
System: Wii
Developer: Monolithsoft
Release Date: Unknown
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/user-movie/xenoblade-world-field-trailer/344433

I've actually played a little bit of Xenoblade and had to force myself to turn it off because I wanted to experience the game in English. I didn't really have super high hopes, but based on what I've played of it now I cannot wait to see more.

For starters, this game got renamed to Xenoblade but that doesn't mean that it's a pseudo-philosophical bunch of nonsense like Xenogears and Xenosaga. Xenoblade is a gameplay-heavy RPG that emphasizes the world over everything else. The game's world has an enormous feel to it that's reminiscent of Dragon Quest 8; you want to check every last corner, find every last enemy, collect every last treasure.

The gameplay of the game is daunting at first because, well, it's an MMO. The game plays like FF12 - huge expansive areas, on-screen enemies, AI-controlled characters. Xenoblade goes even more into the 'single player MMO' feel by adding literally dozens of quests in every town. They're a lot like FF12's hunts. Since the world is the main hook in Xenoblade, quests are a great way to let you explore it. They work in tandem well.

Xenoblade goes even further down the MMO path with the battle system. There is no MP in Xenoblade -- instead, every spell that you have has a cooldown on it. You can use them at any time and you'll be restored to full HP at the end of a battle, but in battle you've got lots of buffs and debuffs that you can trigger at any time. Battles are more about managing your allies than performing individual actions -- your guys auto-attack when their ATB gauge is up.

I'm really allergic to MMO gameplay and huge expansive worlds in general (I'm not a big fan of FF12), but something about Xenoblade felt really exciting. I *loved* finding enemies to fight and checking the corners of every world. After the straight-line affair of FF13, Xenoblade's wide open areas feel so liberating. Xenoblade has a cool feature where there's an arrow pointing you in the right direction and how many steps it'll take to get there if you get lost. There's guidance without handholding there.

Even though Xenoblade is a gameplay-heavy RPG, that's not to say the story doesn't look appealing. For starters, the entire game world takes place on top of two dead gods. You spent the game traveling between these two gods and the map shows you being on top of their legs or chest or wherever. The atmosphere surrounding this is really good. I've gone out of my way to avoid knowing too much about the specifics of the story, but I've heard that the game does delve into the same kind of stuff that made Xenogears and Xenosaga so interesting. That's not to say that the game will become an on-rails experience where the gameplay is at the absolute mercy of the storyline, but it's said to be pretty interesting. I'm into that. 
 
One downside to Xenoblade is that your supporting characters are completely AI-driven. You can't issue any commands to them whatsoever and they may not do what you want them to do at all. I've heard stories of people waiting for the AI to do the right command before going into a specific strategy. That's concerning, especially in such a gameplay-heavy RPG. Hopefully this is an overblown concern because I can't imagine they would let this fly if it's that bad.

Another downside is the obvious thing to say about every Wii game -- it's in standard def and doesn't have the visual clarity of a Lost Odyssey or a FF13. The fields are so expansive and fantastic but they'd be so much better in HD. That said, it still feels great to traverse them and you get over it quickly.

Lastly, I'd be doing everyone a great disservice if I didn't mention the soundtrack. This thing is the most ambitious soundtrack of the last decade. From day 1, the music on the website has been out of this world. It's done by Mitsuda (Xenogears, Chrono Trigger) and Shinomura (Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve) The music is so breathtaking that when I first turned it on, I sat at the menu screen for five minutes to listen. There was a couple times in my short time spent with the game where I just stopped playing and got a huge smiles on my face when I heard great music. Recent games have not had great soundtracks - a lot of them go for the cinematic feel and are more movie score-ish, choosing not to get in the way of the game and the voice acting. Xenoblade is more the classic PS1 and PS2 RPG sountrack and it feels so good.

The most disappointing part of E3 was that Xenoblade was a complete no-show. It wasn't even on Nintendo's release schedule after being on the previous year. I've heard some unconfirmed reports that Nintendo still intends to bring the game over here, but I'm always hesitant when something I really want doesn't immediately get announced for localization. Xenoblade was the #1 selling game in Japan last week and the Xeno name has some recognition over here so hopefully that helps them decide to do it. If it doesn't come over I will be pretty pissed because this game looks like it could be great. With the complete lack of RPGs this gen, Xenoblade stands out as the one console RPG worth playing. 
 
1. Dragon Quest IX
System: DS
Developer: Square-Enix / Level 5
Release Date: July 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-dragon-quest/101037

I've talked and thought a lot about Dragon Quest 8 in recent months. There is something special about that game; its world hooks me in ways no other does and it's probably the most complete RPG I've ever played. Naturally, its sequel would be something that's super exciting for me.

Except DQ9 isn't really like DQ8. Instead of gorgeous cell-shaded graphics on the PS2, we've scaled back to the awful looking 3d of the DS. Instead of having predefined characters, you're making generics and choosing classes for them. DQ9 will probably have a similarly massive world, but I don't think it's going to have the same impact as DQ8 did. That's partially because of the hardware but also because of the scope they're going for here. This is more a traditional, classic DQ. It's reminiscent of DQ3 and that aspect is a little bit disappointing.

Fortunately though, DQ3 is actually my favourite DQ game. I love the class system. It's got a nostalgic pull on me that other games don't have and I always find myself going back to it when I'm bored. Given that I love the game it's directly referencing (DQ3) and the most recent DQ game (DQ8), DQ9 may end up being the best of both worlds for me. I also love that I can play it on a portable system. I would have preferred the PSP since that would give it the visual clarity that it will lack on the DS, but I don't think the DS will hinder it too too much. It's not like DQ is Final Fantasy and exists solely for its visuals. The monsters still look pretty cool and DQM: Joker managed to have an interesting world despite the DS's limitations. DQ9 actually looks better than Joker so I'm sold.

A lot of my anticipation for DQ9 is because, as mentioned before, there hasn't been a knockout RPG in quite some time and I'm hoping this can fill that hole for me. On pure anticipation I probably want Metroid and Xenoblade more, but DQ9 is out in just a couple more weeks and I really want to lose myself in an RPG. Despite all the time I spent talking about games, I haven't actually spent much time lately sitting down and playing them. I just haven't been able to find anything I'm into this year. DQ9 is going to be a 50-100 hour timesink that I should love and I cannot wait to be lost inside of it.

1 Comments

My most anticipated games, part 1 (post-e3 2010 edition)

 

warning: I'm kind of biased towards 2d games
 
 25. Naughty Bear
System: PS3, 360
Developer: Artificial Mind and Movement
Release Date: June 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/snap-happy-naughty-bear/65095

I'm not usually one for mindless violence, but there's something about Naughty Bear's cutesy presentation that makes it even more messed up than usual.

Naughty Bear is an open-world killing simulator. The main character isn't invited to a birthday party and the other bears laugh at him, so he decides to kill them all. There are hundreds of ways that you can kill people and the trick is to do it in fun ways. Breaking their necks, Choking them, setting them on fire, even pissing them off so much that they'll kill themselves. The point of the game is to build up as many Naughty points as possible. It sounds a lot like Madworld, actually, only instead of blood squirting everywhere, you're killing cute bears that are begging for their lives.

I don't think I could convince myself to pay the $50 for this game, but it's a perfect rental. All the mindless violence will eventually get old, but until then it'll be fun setting traps for clueless bears and murdering them senselessly. 
 
 24. Trine 2
System: XBLA, PSN, PC
Developer: Frozenbyte
Release Date: Spring 2011
Trailer:: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-trine-2/700641

Trine was one of my big disappointments last year. The game got delayed endlessly with no updates, came out at a horrible price point and ended up just not being as good as I was hoping it would be. It was designed with a mouse in mind so the PS3 version never worked the way that I wanted it to, and I just don't like playing games with a mouse.

But the main problem with Trine was that there was no online co-op. The game was decent enough single-player, but playing with a friend would make it a ton better. Trine 2 was just announced yesterday and it's now coming to XBLA as well as PSN/PC, with, according to publisher Atlus, a "more reasonable price". The characters are also getting new abilities. If they tweak a few things, this game could be really good. I should be more excited about this game, but after the disappointment of Trine 1, I'm keeping my hopes low. If it surprises me, great.

For those who don't know Trine, it's a gorgeous, 2d puzzle platformer where you can freely switch between three different classes - a Knight, a Thief and a Wizard - on the fly. You can solve puzzles any number of ways - you can use the wizard to conjure a box and float across a gap or you can use the Thief and swing across using your grappling hook. It's got great atmospheric music and interesting puzzles. The gameplay isn't always great, but the overall presentation makes it a game well worth playing, especially if you've got online co-op. I might end up loving this game because of that. 
 
 23. Comic Jumper
System: XBLA
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Release Date: q4 2010
Trailer: http://www.giantbomb.com/comic-jumper-first-look/17-2190/

This game is nuts.

Twisted Pixel is one messed up developer. After making the completely insane Splosion Man, they've turned their eyes to comic books. The story is completely ridiculous and told as if it were an actual comic book, filled with panels and comic book cliches and everything. Comic Jumper takes it as far as to have four different comic book 'ages' -- Modern Age, Fantasy Age, Silver Age and even Manga. Each "age" has a totally different design and different kinds of objectives.

Comic Jumper's gameplay is nothing special, really. It's a sidescrolling beat-em-up that rotates between using your fists and using your guns. There are vehicle segments and minigames to break up the action, but for the most part you're sidescrolling.

It's the story and style of the game that makes Comic Jumper awesome. This game is just hilarious. The main villain, Brad, is the best thing ever. The talking star on Captain Smiley's chest is awesome too. There's a part in the first level where you punch a woman, jump on her and use her as a surfboard down the side of a building. Everything about this game is just hilarious.

http://xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/30712/tba-twisted-pixel-project/videos/comicjumper_gmp_twistedpix_61110.html -- what

I'm sure it would lose its luster after you beat it once or twice, but that first time should be a pretty awesome experience. Just watch the video, it's really unlike anything else out there. What a stupid game. 
 
 22. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
System: XBLA/PSN
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: Summer 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-lara-croft/700045

I've never played a Tomb Raider. I can't tell you if they're good or not, and quite honestly, I don't care. Tomb Raider came during that early 3d era where everything just looked miserable, and from the outside the only thing going for it were the size of Lara Croft's boobs. That's a good way to get me not to care about your game.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is not a Tomb Raider game. Lara Croft herself shouldn't even be in this game. It has next to nothing to do with Tomb Raider besides collecting treasures. It's not a 3d game. It doesn't seem to have a story.

Guardian of Light is an arcade game. It's an isometric action game similar to Gauntlet or Diablo. It's much more combat-heavy than the Tomb Raider series. This game doesn't focus on atmosphere or set pieces or anything like that, it's just a game where you shoot stuff and collect treasure.

The thing that sells me on this game is the co-op. Yeah, there's a lot of combat in this game, but there's also a lot of platforming and exploration. The second player can be this Mayan warrior dude named Toltec and both characters have unique abilities. You can see them in this trailer a bit - Toltec uses his shield to boost Lara up, Lara uses her rope to drag Toltec up after her, etc. There's lots of co-op elements in this game and I always loved the Gauntlet formula. I still don't know why we haven't gotten a proper Gauntlet Legends-type game on XBLA because it'd be a massive hit.

I don't think this game will be worth much single-player, but if somebody else buys it and I can play with them, I'm pretty sure I can have a lot of fun with this. 
 
 21. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
System: XBLA
Developer: Konami
Release Date: Summer 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-castlevania-harmony/700130

When I first heard about this game a couple months ago, I was really excited. 2d Castlevania coming back to consoles? A co-op Metroidvania? After Order of Ecclesia I felt that the DSvania thing was getting a little stale, so hearing that they were trying to mix it up was a great thing. They had just put out too many of the same game over the last five years, and they weren't even making new assets for them anymore. The same enemies you saw in Symphony and Dawn of Sorrow were the ones you saw in OOE. If you're not going to make new material, why not take a different approach? It sounds good.

That's until you sit down and really think about it. First of all, this game is reusing PS1 and DS sprites on a next-gen console. That's almost offensive. Second of all, there's no experience points - it's basically a loot game where you do a dungeon, get some treasure and increase your stats up that way. Third of all, in order to balance the game, you'd have to remove powerups. Everyone's got a double jump and their own unique weapons, but you won't be seeing bat form in this. You won't be seeing the "L jump" of later games. That powerup-based exploration is what makes Castlevania so good and it sounds like there will be very little progression in this game besides collecting better gear.

But the biggest problem is the speed of the game. My main complaint about Castlevania games is how slow you move. I always make jokes about how Alucard looks bored as hell while slowly plodding around the castle. You've got this huge sprawling castle that goes everywhere and you don't move quickly through it. It's a slow-paced affair.

That works okay in single player, but what about multiplayer? What about a time attack, since that's all this game really is? You're racing against the clock while walking slow as hell. I think this is going to drive me nuts.

And yet I have to play this game. It's a new Castlevania and Koji Igarashi has made some of my favourite games of the last 10 years. Sure, it's a quick cash grab and yeah, they'll probably try to charge 15 bucks for it. But it's Castlevania. And I love me some 2d Castlevania.
 
20. Dust: An Elysian Tail
System: XBLA
Developer: Humble Hearts
Release Date: TBA
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmSAQwbbig8

This game is made by one guy. Look at it. That's all the work of one guy, Dean Dodrill, an animator turned game designer on a whim.

Dust is reminiscent of recent Japanese action RPGs like Muramasa or Odin Sphere. It's got a deep combo system and gorgeous 2d visuals. Dust started its life out as an indie game until it won Microsoft's indie games competition at PAX last year. Now he has a full budget and the game has upgraded from a cheap $2 thing to a pretty spectacular XBLA game.

If there's a downside to Dust, it's the "furriness" of it - it's 100% not intentional, but our warped internet minds are so prone to see any anthropomorphic animal and react with disgust. If the wrong people get ahold of this game there will be some really awful fanfiction and fanart.

Game looks great and I want to support it because it's one guy and he seems like a super nice dude.  
 
 19. Portal 2
System: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Developer: Valve
Release Date: 2011
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-portal-2/700586

I'll be honest: I don't think there needs to be another Portal. The original Portal was refreshingly unique and unusual, two traits that will lose some luster when it gets sequelized. I thought Portal 1 was the right length: it introduced its ideas, told a charming narrative and then got out of your way before it bogged you down in all the details.

Portal 2 is doing the same thing that most sequels would do: it's adding new weapons (a laser that you can redirect through cubes to kill turrets), new methods of travel (gels that let you jump higher and slide faster) and probably a bunch more before the game is finished. Playing with these items via portals makes them unique enough, but I really like the ultra-simplicity of the original game: you've got your portals, you've got your physics and that's all. You get a cube that you can manipulate in various ways, but that's it. You don't need fancy weaponry. It's just not what Portal's about. These gameplay videos look insane, and while they have a lot of potential, I think the charm of the original gets lost a little bit when you start doing this stuff.

But then I hear Glados's voice.

"We're a lot alike, you and I. You tested me, I tested you. You killed me, I... oh no wait, I guess I haven't killed you... yet. Well, food for thought."
"Oh, it's you. It's been a looooong time. How have you been? I've been pretty busy being dead. But I think we can put our differences behind us. For science. You monster."


And I realize, "wait. Glados is still here and her quotes are better than ever. Valve is making this game, meaning that it'll have loads of polish, snappy writing and some incredibly smart design. maybe the idea isn't as novel as before, but it's still going to be fun, yeah?" 
 
18. Shank
System: XBLA, PSN
Developer: Klei
Release Date: Winter 2010
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SNnlvjWuYo

It's Devil May Cry in 2d. It's got a really compelling visual style. It looks like a graphic novel and it's bloody as hell. Every hit looks satisfying. You can knock someone down by taking a chainsaw to a guy's face and then jump on top of them and shoot them in the face with a shotgun. Watching Shank, I kind of feel bad for the bad guys. It's that brutal.

One concern I have for Shank is that there's no Z axis - it's all side-scrolling. It's not a classic beam-em-up in that sense, it's kind of on rails. You'll have to use guns for crowd control because you can't walk up and down. The weapons look really fun though and juggling a guy in the air with your guns a la Devil May Cry looks like a good time. I've been looking forward to this one for a while now and it's coming along pretty nicely. 
 
17. The Last Guardian
System: PS3
Developer: Sony
Release Date: TBA
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-09-the-last/50352

The complete lack of information regarding this game over the past year has caused my anticipation to slip. Once we get some new information I'll probably knock this back up to the top 5 again. This not being at e3 really hurt Sony's press conference, I thought, as this is the one exclusive they have that I *really* want to see more of.

All I know about Last Guardian is that the creature in this trailer is going to be super endearing and knowing Fumito Ueda, he's going to put this thing in harm's way early and often. And it is going to suck to watch this awesome creature suffer. 
 
16. HardCorps: Uprising
System: XBLA, PSN
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: q4 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-hardcorps-uprising/700568

Okay, let me paint a picture here. Take Contra. Give it to the company that's made Guilty Gear and Blazblue, two games with incredible art direction. Add a life bar, a dash button, double jumps and air dashes. Give it online multiplayer.

That would be an awesome game, right? The best Contra game ever, perhaps?

Uprising is, without a doubt, a Contra game. It's got every Contra staple: the same weapons, the same level 1 boss, vehicles, everything. Arc System Works dares to change up the somewhat stale Contra formula by giving it all the things a modern-day 2d action game would have, and it looks to be much deeper and more awesome because of it. Contra purists will probably decry the life bar and say that they're making the game a whole lot easier, but if you kick it up in difficulty you can take less hits. I imagine that there will be an expert mode where you get the same old one hit kills.

I'm a big fan of this. It should really be a lot higher but I find it hard to get too pumped up over Contra. I bet I'll like it a lot when I play it but I'm not anticipating it like crazy like others are. I expect good things from this game. 
 
 15. Ghost Trick
System: DS
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: q4 2010
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDprOzmmGOg

Ghost Trick is the new game from the guy who created the Phoenix Wright series. In some ways, the content is very similar: a murder has happened and it's up to you to put the pieces together. A large cast of kooky characters come along and turn a regular murder into the most convoluted crime scene possible, complete with lots of lighthearted jokes along the way. That basic premise hasn't changed much.

The mechanics of the game are light and day though. In Ghost Trick, you are the one murdered and you have the power to possess inanimate objects in order to solve the crime. It looks like you rewind time from the moment of the murder backwards to find out why things happened. I'm not entirely sure how the game works and I kind of like it that way. The pedigree is here and I trust the guys making it. Phoenix Wright had kind of hit a wall and something new needed to happen, so it's good to see a game like Ghost Trick pop up and change the formula up completely. The characters animate really well and it looks like it could be a pretty comical game. I'm looking forward to seeing more when it comes out at the end of the year. 
 
 14. Limbo
System: XBLA
Developer: Playdead
Release Date: Summer 2010
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0qI3dLapy8

Braid.

That's the game everyone compares Limbo to. It's got a striking visual style and a somber feeling. It's said to have really inventive design similar to Braid. Limbo doesn't have a really crazy mechanic like Braid's time mechanic, but it does have an art style that's just wild. Everything is black and overbearing. It's atmospheric and all that good stuff.

Limbo is about a boy trying to find his sister. I don't know much more than that and I don't think I want to - I get the feeling that this game has some story twists on the same level as Braid does. Gameplay-wise, it reminds me of WayForward's A Boy and His Blob a lot - a regular old boy without any special abilities. You walk and you can do a little hop, but nothing compared to the superheroes of the video game world like Mario or Mega Man. The environment and how you interact with it is what drives the gameplay of Limbo.

I think the most striking thing about Limbo is the death animations. Most games turn death animations into hilarious blood splatters or have wild sound effects, but with Limbo it's just depressing. This poor kid shrouded in darkness just kind of collapses and the screen fades to black. That's the kind of oppressive atmosphere that Limbo sets up, and it's that atmosphere that's going to bring people to play Limbo.

I think this game is probably going to be excellent, and in a month we're going to hear people championing it and claiming it's the most refreshing, inventive game in a long time. You know, just like they said about Portal. And Braid. I expect some really high review scores and people talking about how it's "high art" and all that. It's tough to get too excited about a game with such simple mechanics, but I have faith that this game is really going to be excellent. 
 
 13. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
System: DS
Developer: Square
Release Date: Fall 2010
Trailer: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-final-fantasy/700280

Final Fantasy 4 DS is a fantastic game. It's the best RPG remake around and probably the best thing Square's done since FF10. The developer in charge of the remake, Matrix, went on to make their own Final Fantasy with the same concept: a decidedly oldschool adventure in line with the original Final Fantasies. It's a game where you control four generics and go on a quest to save the world. It's a game where story is minimal and the addicting gameplay is more important.

It's a game with a job system.

4WL is a funny game. Based on that description, you'd think it was emulating the original Final Fantasy, but it's actually more in line with Dragon Quest. It's got limited inventory space. it's got a battle system that's very Dragon Quest-y. All impressions that I've read are that regular FF fans come off disappointed but the DQ fans rather enjoy it - and I'm a fairly decent DQ fan, so I think I'll like this game.

That doesn't mean that I like everything about it though. 4WL has some rather peculiar gameplay decisions. The main one is the battle system: you don't actually target characters or enemies. (Again, something reminiscent of Dragon Quest games.) You pick a basic idea like 'heal' and then the game does the rest for you. It'll auto-heal the character that needs it the most, but not necessarily the guy that you want to heal. That's just bizarre. On top of that, the game is called 4 Heroes of Light but you spend much of the game having only 2 or 3 characters at a time. That's not what I would expect from a game of that title.

But still, I have a soft spot for gameplay-heavy RPGs that are high on charm. 4WL isn't the prettiest game, but it doesn't need to be and it does seem to have a good amount of personality. I wouldn't expect too many people to be crazy about this game, but for me -- somebody who thinks the Final Fantasy series hit its peak over 20 years ago -- this could be the perfect game.

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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 1. Street Fighter IV (PS3, 360, PC)

  

  

I can define most gaming years by one thing. In 2007, I got big into Phoenix Wright because two games came out and I had just played the original in December 2006. 2008 was the year of Mega Man because MM9's announcement got me into playing all the old Mega Man games again. 2004 was lost to Zero Mission. This goes on and on.

2009 was the year I jumped back into fighting games again -- or rather, the year I jumped back into Street Fighter. Thanks to online making fighters viable again, SF4 is the perfect game at a perfect time. It is solid in every single aspect: balance, graphics, and plain old fun. SF4 is really fun. SF4 is fairly simple while having a hell of a lot of depth. You can play it on a very casual level or a very, very technical level. It holds up both ways.

It's not a perfect game - there are flaws there. The biggest one is the sound. SF4 has some of the most generic electronic nonsnse possible, with the rematch music being a four second loop that's incredibly grating. SF2 has classic tunes; SF4 is anything but. When you're hearing these songs for dozens of hours at a time, you really wish they were a bit more memorable. At least they're not annoying, rematch music aside. Some of the combo links are really tough to nail as well. And the online play is still pretty bare-bones, though the actual core game works well. SSF4 looks to fix all of that, so I can't complain about this much.

SF4 -- great game.
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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 2. Shadow Complex (Xbox Live Arcade)

 

  
 
 I can't really think of a more loved game than Super Metroid. It gets so much critical praise and its fanbase -- myself included -- just gushes about it. Super Metroid does so many things right, things that both defined a genre and showed how effectively you could set up an atmosphere and a narrative without a second of dialogue or interaction. That's what makes it so great.

So when you set out to recreate an absolute classic and the first words out of your mouth are "I want to make a next-gen Super Metroid", you better know what makes it tick. And for the most part, Shadow Complex gets it. It takes the Super Metroid formula and pushes it into 2009. It's basically a 2d Gears of War with a Super Metroid map. You've got grenades, cover, and even a small bit of stealth. You've got autosaving and checkpoints. You've got a couple of 3d sequences.

With a couple of notable exceptions, Shadow Complex blends the old and the new well. The 3d sequences kinda suck and shooting into the background was a bad design decision, but it works all right once you stop fighting it. Aiming is a nice touch that gives Shadow Complex more depth than the simple shooting mechanics of Super Metroid. The powerups here are good, though a bit uninspired. You've got your speed booster. You've got your Ice Beam. You've got missiles that you can use to open red doors. Any huge Super Metroid fan plays this and gets a huge rush at being able to explore a big map on a console for the first time in who knows how long. Shadow Complex is a great throwback.

The best thing about the game is how addictive it is. Once you get going, it's really hard to put this game down. There just never seems like a good spot to stop. The entire middle of the game flows together really well. I can't praise this enough: Shadow Complex is just damn fun to play.

Despite this, the game has loads of issues. Some are just minor quips about how the character controls. You can't shoot very well in mid-air. The game can be glitchy or perfect depending on the day. The difficulty curve is kind of backwards, with enemies doing good damage to you early and no damage late. This was a problem with Super Metroid as well though - by the end, regular enemies were just not going to phase you whatsoever. Boss fights are really not that interesting, with most just being massive mechs or some random armoured soldier.

The biggest problem is the narrative which is just terrible. It isn't even that the cutscenes are bad -- which they are -- but it completely contrasts with the style of the game. Super Metroid was atmospheric; Shadow Complex is generic. There's very little music as well, mostly sticking for sound effects or a quick tense song when something big is going on. As far as aesthetics go, Shadow Complex is not too great.

But it's still a fantastic attempt at a Super Metroid. It has the scope and the scale that portable versions lack. It has its heart in the right place. It's a formula that is among my favourites in video games. The inevitable sequel should hopefully clean up some of the rough spots since the core is really a fantastic game. As far as XBLA games go, this is a clear step above what you usually see on the platform and something that could have been sold at retail.
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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 3. Half-Minute Hero (PSP)

 

  
 
 The best Japanese RPG of the year -- of the generation? -- is barely even an RPG..

Half-Minute Hero is a game where you have to beat the entire game in 30 seconds. Battles redefine the words "lightning fast", with guys just running into each other automatically until someone dies. It's completely ridiculous until you realize that it's no different than a turn-based RPG. Half-Minute Hero streamlines every RPG convention and turns it into a game you can beat in five minutes max. You can rewind time but it costs money, and the amount it costs increases each time. There are two optional titles that you can gun for each time you do it. There's a run button that drains your HP but makes it so you don't trigger any random encounters. There's hidden items, optional weapons and armour, and multiple ways to go about finishing each level.

In short, it's an RPG in name only. It's more of a puzzle game where you try to figure out how to defeat the level in record time. Speed running is as much of a goal as finishing the quest. Yes, speed running. In an RPG.

There are 50 quests in the main Hero 30 game, but there's quite a bit more to Half-Minute Hero. There's also a super basic RTS, a shooter and a strategy action game. The storyline takes place over 500 years and comes full-circle in the end for an absolutely awesome conclusion. The dialogue is as silly as the concept of the game is, often referencing internet memes or just making fun of RPG conventions. The best part are the bad guys and why they want to destroy the world.

"I'm a bug! Argh, I hate being a bug! I'm going to fix this by destroying the world."

With a great sense of humour and super streamlined combat, Half-Minute Hero is actually really refreshing despite the fact that it's stuck in the distant past. The other modes are all right, but you're playing this for the RPG. The RPG is really cool. The main character is an awesome silent main a la Crono or a Dragon Quest hero. Dude's got tons of personality thanks to entertaining characters and plots surrounding him and some awesome on-screen equips.

I can't even find things to complain about. This game is so awesome. I guess it lacks depth, but that's part of the reason that it's so awesome. Princess 30 is not the greatest game, but that's mostly because it's trying to compare to the awesome Hero 30. I'd love to see a sequel but I doubt that will ever happen. You can't really make a sequel out of a game that has 50 in-game sequels.

Yes, that's right, the credits roll after you beat every 2-minute quest. You'll beat this game 50 times before finishing it.
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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 4. Batman: Arkham Asylum

 

  
 
 
This has to be one of the most improbable success stories of all time.

First of all, it's a comic book video game. The last good one was..... was..... you know, I can't even name one. Batman for the NES was a fun little Castlevania-lite game. There were probably others as well, but hell if I could name them. Games like this always suck. Always suck.

Secondly, it's one of the craziest hybrid games of all time. At its heart, it's a Metroid-style game: powerup-based exploration. These games are not easy to make. For every good one, there's five that are terrible. And yet Arkham Asylum succeeds with a combination of good powerups and a nice location. Yet Arkham Asylum doesn't rest on its laurels there; it also goes and scatters hundreds of hidden trophies throughout the game as collectibles, loads of audio tapes, and tons of character profiles, turning Arkham Asylum into something that Metroid creator Yoshio Sakimoto would be proud of.

And If that wasn't crazy enough, consider all the different genres that Arkham Asylum represents.

It's a beat-em-up tailored for fighting multiple enemies at once. It's a stealth game with more options than Solid Snake could dream of. There's even some survival horror elements in the form of boss fights with the Scarecrow. They even lift some elements of Zelda for the final boss. It is difficult to get just one of these genres right, but Arkham Asylum somehow nails every last one of them. The combat feels good - it's unusual at first, but man, it feels great to hit guys thanks to some Matrix-y slowdown and sound effects that make it sound like you're punching through walls. The stealth is amazing - when you sit back and think about it, Batman is the true master of stealth and Arkham Asylum uses his abilities to the fullest. The Scarecrow parts can be genuinely weird and spooky. They nail the atmosphere of a Batman movie perfectly. Hell, they nail the feeling of being Batman perfectly. In Arkham Asylum, you are Batman. There is no doubt about this. They emulated it perfectly.

You are Batman.

The most improbable part of this whole thing? This game was made by some company named Rocksteady Studios. Their only previous game was something called Urban Chaos: Riot Response. And yet they made the single best 3d action game on the 360 or PS3. What?

Batman is, of course, not without flaws. Boss fights are a mixed bag; some are great (Scarecrow, Poison Ivy), but others rely on just swarming you with hordes of regular enemies. The last boss is particularly bad about this; for a showdown with the Joker you would expect much more. Batman's combat is a little bit too easy. Detective Mode, the Arkham Asylum equivalent to MGS4's Solid Eye, is super useful but turns every character into an ugly glowing skeleton. You're often forced to choose whether you want to see all your enemies or if you want to see your enemies not looking stupid.

They're pretty small complaints though. I don't think I've had my expectations about a game rocked as badly as this in a long time. Seriously, how is this game this good?
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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

 

  
 Uncharted 2 is most likely going to win the most Game of the Year awards from review sites this year. It's well deserved.

The best way to describe Uncharted 2 is Metal Gear Solid 4 done right. It employs the same basic ideas - over the shoulder camera, third person gunplay, stealth - but Uncharted 2's gameplay is far more cinematic and the pacing is at least 4857489347x better. It also loads better and probably looks better graphically, though both are no slouch there. The voice acting is probably better in Uncharted 2 too. Uncharted 2 doesn't have the indepth storyline that MGS4 does, but that's also a plus in some ways since it's not bogged down by it. Uncharted 2 has been praised a lot for its perfect pacing and I have to agree here.

Uncharted 2's gameplay flips between three things - gunplay, platforming and puzzle solving. It's rare that you do one thing for too long. Platforming is really simple, but it feels good to make the jumps. Gunplay is pretty basic Gears of War stuff, but it's so cinematic that it keeps you going. You can check the video above for proof of that. The entire train sequence in Uncharted 2 is probably the best thing in video games this year. It flows so well between gunplay and avoiding obstacles, the scenes are really good, the ending is awesome and it leaves you breathless for a minute at the end.

The problem with Uncharted 2? It's stupidly linear. This is also a good thing because it allows for the cinematic awesomeness, but that means that it's limited in what it can do. The building you're on is about to fall down but it won't do it until you jump off of it. This kind of thing happens a dozen times in Uncharted 2. It's cool the first time, but you can only fool me so many times before I start to say "come on". The platforming isn't really platforming at all, it's finding a spot to start and then pressing the jump button along the linear path it's set for you until you hit the end. It looks cool and feels cool, but there's no depth there. The puzzle stuff's kinda lame too, but I'm not much of a fan of puzzle dungeon stuff so maybe that's just me.

My least favourite part of the game is chapter 20, where a tank is out to kill you. I actually got around the tank but the game didn't like it so it just instantly killed me for going out of bounds. There's more than a couple instances of things like this happening. You hit a spot you're not supposed to go to and then you instantly get killed by guys shooting you. Things like that are just bad game design.

But the pros way outweigh the cons here. Uncharted 2 is on a different level from other action games. It's incredibly well-designed. There's also apparently some kind of multiplayer mode that's pretty cool but hell if I have any interest in that. Uncharted 2 is not my favourite game of the year, but it is probably the most impressive one.
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Top 10 Games of 2009 - 6. Splosion Man

 

 

Speaking of simple games with simple controls...


No Caption Provided



Splosion Man is what would happen if the people that made Itchy and Scratchy made a video game. It is an ultra simplified 2d platformer where the only thing you can do is explode. Exploding makes you jump. Exploding lets you kill enemies. Exploding off walls lets you walljump. Exploding into barrels sends you flying. You can explode into helpless scientists and turn them into meat.

You can explode into helpless scientists and turn them into meat.

Splosion Man has a ton of personality. The character itself - a lab experiment gone wrong - has dozens of running animations and is generally just a psychotic bomb waiting to explode. He does flips, he rambles, he moves his arms back and forth like an airplane, he rants, he does it all.

But maybe I should back up and talk about the gameplay. Splosion Man is one of those nasty, difficult platformers where you die repeatedly and learn through trial and error. This sounds like a bad idea to a lot of people, but Splosion Man is actually forgiving while killing you over and over. You respawn instantly, there's checkpoints everywhere, and the game is pretty good about giving you a good idea of what you're supposed to do. Every death that you have will be your fault, not the game's. Every jump that you make will be rewarding. You will often kill a scientist that's pissing you off in a particularly gruesome way, and that feels great. Watching a guy that's hitting you with laser beams get slowly squished by a spike platform is so awesome. And if nothing else, the game's personality will keep you going.

If there is a downside to Splosion Man, it is the physics and the way the character handles. You can explode three times in mid-air, but then you have to touch the ground in order to recharge and jump again. The problem is that you don't recharge instantly; it takes a half a second before you're ready to go again. In a game with tight jumps and timed death chasing after you, you'll often move too fast and die walking off ledges. Wall jumping is weird - you don't have to actually touch the wall, you just have to be in the vicinity and it'll send you flying the other way. This isn't so bad, but I'm used to the ultra-tight control of N+. Splosion Man is good, but it can't compare to N+. If Mario's jump mechanic is a 10, Splosion Man's is a 6.

But Splosion Man has the level design and style to put up with these nagging problems. The game is so simple that it's addicting and it's very easy to get into a You vs. the Game mentality. If there is a word to describe this game, it is likable - you just have to love how they take such a simple idea and push it to its limits. Killing enemies and wall jumping feels so right.
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