I pretty much stick to one blog a year at this point, but you can always count on it being a year-end roundup of my favorite games! This year's theme: downloadable games are awesome. That's not exactly news, but the sheer number of quality downloadable releases that stood side by side with bigger retail titles this year was certainly noteworthy. This list is a pretty good indication of that. Anyway, here are my 10 favorite games of 2012:
10 - Sleeping Dogs
It looked like Sleeping Dogs would never come out, let alone come out and end up on year-end lists like this one. And yet here we are with Sleeping Dogs occupying my #10 spot. Sure, games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Saints Row 3 do the open-world action game better, but that doesn't take away from the fun I had with Sleeping Dogs. The streets of Hong Kong were fun to explore and the visually striking melee combat helped differentiate it from the crowd. The takedowns in particular were just plain awesome.
9 - Spelunky
I died countless times in Spelunky's underground tunnels, whether it be because unforgiving traps or dangerous enemies. And after each death I'd load it right back up in the hopes of getting just a little bit further and maybe making it to the next set of levels. Yes, I'd see the same environments and enemies again and again, but the randomized nature of the game's design always kept things interesting. I became particularly concerned with jetpacks; trust me, jetpacks are awesome in Spelunky. One time I got a jetpack and a shotgun... that was a good day.
8 - Dishonored
I like games that give me awesome powers and then let me use them in any number of ways, so it should come as no surprise that Dishonored makes this list. Each level in the game is like its own little sandbox, and though stealth brings a certain usefulness, I had a blast purposely tearing my way through enemies like some kind of supernatural badass. It also supports the idea of player choice in its own way like the #3 and #4 games on this list, with players being given the freedom to approach each level in a myriad of ways. Want to transform into a rat and slip past some guards? Go ahead. Want to slow down time and pop off some incendiary arrow headshots? Even better! I also found myself impressed by the design of Dunwall and its inhabitants think City 17 meets steampunk.
7 - Fez
Fez is a madman's virtual paradise masquerading as a charming puzzle platformer. Upon completion of my initial playthrough I thought it was a decent downloadable game, but then I dug deeper into the wormhole and uncovered the ridiculously complex ciphers that lie hidden beneath Fez's mysterious exterior. I had to get out a pen and paper to decode an entire language don't the developers know I'm a 21st century man who sticks to computers? Even when I was completely stumped and in the need of a guide, I found joy in looking up solutions discovered by the code-cracking community and its own furious scribblings. Fez also has the special distinction of featuring music that feels integral to experience. The often unsettling and dissonant electronic soundtrack adds to the air of mystery that permeates Fez's unique world. All of these elements culminate to form a one-of-a-kind indie gem.
6 - Far Cry 3
It only took a bit of traversing Far Cry 3's lush tropical island setting for me to become hooked. This is open-world gaming at its finest, with interesting environments to explore and various activities to take part in. The emphasis on survival instincts surprised me, but it gives Far Cry 3 its own singular feel. Players will have to hunt animals and craft pouches to make it out alive, but these tasks never become tedious and using a bow and arrow to kill tigers is pretty cool. In fact, there a ton of fun weapons to use in the game my personal favorite is the flamethrower. I never got tired of setting entire buildings on fire. The sheer amount of stuff to do and the variety with which it is presented makes for a game that will keep players busy for numerous hours. I'll admit that the narrative squanders a fantastic villain and dips into lunacy far too often, but I didn't play Skyrim for the story and the same holds true for Far Cry 3.
5 - Mark of the Ninja
Mark of the Ninja might be the best stealth game I've ever played. Perhaps it's the benefit of working on a 2D plane, but developer Klei Entertainment has made a game in which every single design choice feels like an ingenious take on a familiar mechanic. On top of that there are plenty of cool gadgets to use, all of which provide noticeable benefits to the player's ninja repertoire. Most importantly, everything doesn't completely go to hell when the player gets discovered by guards. That's not to say Mark of the Ninja is a cakewalk, but the tools at the player's disposal heighten the emulation of the ninja way. I liken it to the experience I had with Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City I'm Batman, so of course I should effortlessly pound enemies into the ground. In Mark of the Ninja I'm a ninja, so of course I should slip past guards with ease.
4 - The Walking Dead
Part of me feels weird placing The Walking Dead so high on my year-end list. It has the most noticeable flaws of this entire bunch, from wonky shooting sections to technical issues. Plus, there really isn't a whole lot to do in the game from a purely mechanical perspective. But I just can't get the story and characters out of my mind. It's the reason why so many people have fallen in love with this game, and rightly so. Never before have I felt so emotionally attached to virtual characters, and the fact that my decisions dictate how the narrative plays out further instills that personal connection. It's also a damn-well written game, with plenty of jaw-dropping moments that actually warrant the use of the term jaw-dropping. The fact that The Walking Dead is an episodic experience only makes those achievements more impressive and ultimately argues for the usefulness of episodic gaming. To say I eagerly awaited the each new installment would be an understatement.
3 - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
The idea of player choice in video games often correlates with narrative, but the genius of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is how it takes that concept and applies it to the battlefield and research lab. Tough decisions have to be made in this game; soldiers will die and countries will pull out of the XCOM project. The challenge comes in the form of making decisions that lessen the impact of those inevitable blows, resulting in a tension-filled campaign in which the payoff is a sense of triumph after each victory on and off the battlefield. The cohesion between the two key gameplay systems the base operations and actual battles highlights the expertise on the part of developer Firaxis Games. Let's just say the folks at that company know what they're doing when it comes to turn-based strategy games. They also deserve an extra pat on the back for making a strategy game that works just as well on consoles... I had no problems playing this game on the 360.
2 - Journey
With Journey, thatgamecompany strikes the perfect balance between innovation and minimalism. The core gameplay involves little in the way of meaningful challenges and instead emphasizes unspoken bonds between players. It's an unprecedented approach to multiplayer that somehow manages to create even stronger connections without text or voice chat. The first time I played the game I lost my partner about halfway through and honestly felt saddened by the loss. The journey to the top of the mountain was a lonely one, but the triumph of having a buddy alongside me during a second playthrough still resonates with me. Simply by exchanging a series of mysterious symbols, a hard-to-describe bond was formed and I felt I could find meaning in seemingly incoherent communications between myself and my fellow companion. It's the kind of idea that easily welcomes outside detractors, but those who have shared the experience will surely understand. It also helps that Journey is an absolute wonder to look at there are scenes in this game unmatched by technical powerhouses and art-house fantasies alike.
1 - Persona 4 Golden
I became obsessed with Persona 4 Golden for a good two to three months. I spent 134 hours with the game, beat it three times, and got the platinum trophy over the course of those few months just let that sink in. I know there are those out there who spend hundreds of hours with certain games, but I'm usually not one of those people. It takes something truly special to hold my attention for that long, and Persona 4 Golden managed to do it. As someone who's been holding out on Persona 4 since 2008 in the hopes of some kind of updated re-release, the expectations for Persona 4 Golden on my end were high, and yet somehow it managed to exceed them. I came to love nearly every character in the game and had fun exploring dungeons without the tedium of repetitive dungeon design (I'm looking at you Persona 3). And to top it all off Golden features a baffling amount of new content, including additional (and often hilarious) scenes and smart mechanical changes that broaden the target audience without alienating the core fanbase. I never thought I'd say one game justifies my purchase of a system, but that's exactly how I feel regarding Persona 4 Golden and the Vita. If I hadn't bought Sony's handheld earlier this year, I likely wouldn't have experienced this new all-time favorite of mine.
The site I write for, GamerNode, is currently looking for news reporters. I figured I'd take to my blog to see if anyone out there is interested. It's strictly a volunteer position, but it provides great experience in videogame journalism - something I enjoy very much. If that does in fact interest you, take a look at the jobs page on the site and drop me a line here or send me a pm.
10 - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick came out on the DS all the way back in January, so don't be surprised if it doesn't pop up on too many end of the year lists. But this adventure/puzzle game from the creator of the Ace Attorney series was a refreshingly original take on the genre, full of interesting plot twists and great characters. It also gets the amlabella award for best talking dog in a video game.
9 - L.A. Noire
By now you've all heard the scandal surrounding Team Bondi, the (former) developer behind L.A. Noire. In the past few months it seems like that news has overshadowed what was a really great game. It managed to perfect the film noir ****with its Black Dahlia-centered plot and seedy representation of Los Angeles. Most noteworthy was the incredible facial animation technology, but the game also provided a unique experience with its heavy focus on crime scene investigations and interrogations. This one would be a bit higher up on the list if the last hour or so wasn't so terrible.
8 - Terraria
I remember hearing Jeff Gerstmann talk about this game a lot on the Giant Bombcast, having no clue what it actually looked like. But one day I decided to purchase it on Steam for like $10 or $15, and boy was I in for a surprise. I could not stop playing this game for about two weeks as I strived to create meteor armor and obtain a Phaseblade (aka a lightsaber). If I had to make a list of the most addicting games of 2011, Terraria would probably top it. There have been many comparisons to Minecraft, and though I've only played a bit of that game at a friend's house, Terraria feels much more like a video game rather than a creation tool. Also, I find the simple 2D art design more appealing.
7 - LittleBigPlanet 2
User content on consoles doesn't get any better than this. The comprehensive tool base at gamers' disposals in LittleBigPlanet 2 is mind-boggling, resulting in some inventive, surprising, and downright crazy creations. Heck, you can make entire games in LittleBigPlanet 2. The result is a gift that keeps on giving. I'd also like to note how much fun I found the story mode to be. In the first LittleBigPlanet it was decent, but the sequel marks a significant improvement in that department.
6 - Bastion
For the past four years there has been at least one downloadable game that I consider among the year's best. For 2011, that game is Bastion. The action-RPG design isn't revolutionary, and I didn't find the story to be as great as others claim (it really boils down to the narration, which I admit was pretty cool). But when a game is executed this well, it doesn't really matter. The combat is fun, the weapon variety provides gameplay flexibility, and I absolutely loved the soundtrack. I can't wait to see what developer Supergiant Games does next.
5 - Deus Ex: Human Revolution
For me, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is probably the most pleasant surprise this year. I honestly wasn't expecting much prior to the game's release, but when I heard some good feedback I decided to purchase it. What awaited me was a wonderful RPG only rivaled by Skyrim this year in the "open-ended" department. At the time of this game's release I was really craving a game with numerous upgrades, weapons, and sidequests, and Human Revolution delivered. I also enjoyed the cyberpunk aesthetic, which perfectly complimented the complex story.
4 - Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
First thing's first: Uncharted 3 is not as good as Uncharted 2. In fact, it's not even close in my opinion. But that doesn't mean it isn't one of the best games of the year. There isn't a significant jump in quality this time around; instead you get another fantastic Nathan Drake adventure full of amazing set pieces. There might be detractors out there who wish the game tried something different, but in the two year span between Uncharted 2 and 3, no other developer has been able to match or surpass Naughty Dog in scale and execution when it comes to action/adventure games. So more of the same is just fine with me.
3 - Batman: Arkham City
Uncharted 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum were my top two games in 2009. As I just pointed out, I believe Uncharted 3 doesn't quite reach the level of its predecessor. But in the case of Batman, Arkham City takes everything from the previous game and makes it better: improved combat, more gadgets, more Riddler challenges, a stronger story, etc. Add to that an open world with side missions and you have the best superhero game...again.
2 - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It seems like this is the game that will be taking home the most GOTY awards, and it's understandable. I really enjoyed Oblivion but wasn't enamored with it. Skyrim, on the other hand, is a game I absolutely love. Everything just seems more polished this time around, and the new skill tree is an excellent addition. But what makes this game so magical is how Bethesda is able to create a fully realized world that you can lose yourself in. That includes a limitless amount of quests that would keep any gamer busy for a long, long time. It's a shame Bethesda still isn't able to properly execute in the technical department though. I didn't experience a bunch of technical issues during my playthrough, but there were some noticeable bugs, including one that would have forced me to start the game over 35 hours in (luckily I had one old save file left that I loaded up). At first I was debating with this and my #1 choice for GOTY, but I don't want to endorse shoddy game development. So for that reason, Skyrim will have to occupy the #2 spot.
1 - Portal 2
If you had told me before the year started that Portal 2 would by my GOTY, I would have called you crazy. I was certainly looking forward to it, but at the same time, I felt Portal was one of the more overrated games in recent memory. Sure, the idea was cool and the writing clever, but other than that it didn't feel too special. But by introducing new gameplay elements such as tractor beams and expanding the scope of the story this time around, Valve has made an instant clas.sic with Portal 2. Even more impressive is the cooperative multiplayer, which is one of the few instances out there where the experience truly feels cooperative. It's also worth mentioning that Cave Johnson and Wheatley are probably my two favorite video game characters from this year. All in all I really can't say anything negative about Portal 2, so it's my GOTY.
Hey everyone. I noticed I have yet to write a blog in 2011, so I thought I might as well post an update of sorts. Here's what's been going on with me over the past month or so:
I'm currently on vacation from school and enjoying it a whole lot. It's been about 5-6 weeks so far, and I haven't really done anything special. But simply not going to lectures is good enough for me! The only bad thing was that I had jury duty on my first week of vacation...luckily I didn't get picked for a trial. I start my second year at UC Davis in late September, so I still have plenty of time to relax.
I'm still writing for GamerNode.com, and it's been a really enjoyable experience. When I used to write for AceGamez, I'd do a review every now and then. But with GamerNode I have a more hands-on role, posting news every day and writing a monthly feature in addition to reviews. The free games are certainly welcome and I also get paid (not much, but I still think that's pretty awesome). I've even been invited to a few industry events in San Francisco (which I couldn't attend unfortunately because of school). The more and more I write for the site, the more I think journalism is the career path I should take. Whether or not that ends up being videogame journalism is up in the air, but if I do decide to try that out in the future I'll definitely have some experience under my belt.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
I finally beat Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, about eight months later. I took a really long break from the game because I had re-played ACII right before Brotherhood, and I guess it was a little too much Assassin's Creed at once. But I've had a blast playing Brotherhood over the past few weeks. I really like the improvements they made to the game with the enhanced combat and the assassin's guild. Standing back and watching my assassins take down enemies was incredibly awesome. And of course there was another crazy ending that has me eagerly awaiting AC: Revelations' release later this year.
I was really looking forward to downloading Bastion this morning since I've been following Giant Bomb's coverage of the game for a while now (in their "Building the Bastion" videos). I played a good chunk of it today, and it's been great so far. The combat is both challenging and fun, there are plenty of customization and upgrade options, and the way the story is presented is intriguing. I even like the guy who narrates the entire game (though that may not appeal to everyone). It seems like every year there are one or two awesome downloadable games that end up on my short list for favorites of the year. I have a feeling Bastion might make that list by the end of 2011.
Catherine doesn't come out until next week, but it's the next game I plan on purchasing (I'm also going to review it for GN). I've had my eye on this one for a good while now (also thanks to Giant Bomb). I'm still not completely sold on the puzzle gameplay since I could see it getting repetitive at some point, but the unique premise is just too good to pass up. A love triangle with two women named Catherine and weird sheep men...that sounds both bizarre and awesome.
Hey everyone. The year has almost come to a close so that means it's time for me to list my 10 favorite games of 2010. I played and revisited most of these games in the past couple months in anticipation of this list, and what I realized is how great the year was from top to bottom. I honestly could see any one of these games being my personal #1, and ranking them was extremely difficult. I'd have to say the top three were the real standouts but overall there wasn't a whole lot separating one game from the next. Quite a few games that missed the cut were pretty great too. But I'll stop rambling on now; here are my top 10 of 2010.
10 – Donkey Kong Country Returns
Playing the original Donkey Kong Country on the SNES is one of my fondest gaming memories, so when I heard the developers of the Metroid Prime series were making a new one I was extremely excited. The first hour or so of DKC Returns is a little underwhelming, but as I progressed I realized that this was one of the best-designed 2D platformers I'd played in recent memory. There isn't much in the way of innovation but each level brings forth new and devilish challenges that really test your 2-D platforming skills. The forced motion controls were annoying but that was my only real problem with the game. Its most impressive feat was managing to feel modern while evoking those nostalgic memories of past games in the series.
9 – Bayonetta
I bought this game about a week and a half ago for $20 and now I regret not playing it sooner. It looked similar to Devil May Cry and I'm not the biggest fan of that series, but Bayonetta takes that formula and makes it about 1000x crazier. The cutscenes and characters are as ridiculous as the combat, but the game always manages to be incredibly fun. The timing-based combat is satisfying and I'm a sucker for bosses that take up half the screen. Games that push storytelling and gameplay forward are important, but sometimes you just want to sit down with a game and pull off gravity-defying combos against a horde of bloodthirsty angels. Bayonetta satisfies that need and more.
8 – LIMBO
This might sound odd but I feel kind of bad for putting LIMBO so low on my list. The reason I say this is because it's one of the few games that I just couldn't get out of my head after finishing it. In the actual game the story is practically non-existent, but the very premise had me trying to fill in the blanks myself. Who is this kid, where is he, and why the hell is there a giant HOTEL sign? And one can't mention the game without talking about the eye-catching black and white visuals and minimalist sound design, which are perfect. But behind all that is a fantastic puzzle platformer that gave me a good challenge and managed to be a lot of fun. Sure, it's a bit on the short side, but for this kind of game I throw that whole dollar to hour ratio argument out the window. It's hard to put a price on a video game experience, and that's exactly what LIMBO is, an experience.
7 – Heavy Rain
This game is about as divisive as it gets. Some hated it, some loved it. I am absolutely in the latter category. During its most intense moments Heavy Rain had me on the edge of my seat like no other video game has before. This was interactive storytelling at its finest, and every twist and turn had me that much more interested in what would happen next. There were some lingering questions about particular plot points and overall the voice acting left a lot to be desired. But Heavy Rain is truly unique and I love games that push boundaries and try something new. In that regard Heavy Rain is a resounding success.
6 – God of War III
God of War and God of War II were fantastic action/adventure games that I enjoyed immensely so I had no doubt that Kratos' debut on the PlayStation 3 would be just as great. The guys at Santa Monica Studio demonstrated yet again that a rewarding combat system and spot-on controls go a long way. The amazing visuals certainly helped too. There were no radical changes made to the formula but I struggle to think of one moment of boredom while playing God of War III. I admit the "been there, done that" feeling came over me a couple times, but when I look back on the game there's no denying that in terms of scale, pacing, and just overall fun factor, God of War III is the best in the series.
5 – Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
I've played Pac-Man only once or twice in my entire life so I don't have any strong ties to the franchise. But there was something about Pac-Man CE DX that had me instantly hooked. Unlike the clas.sic blueprint the goal of this game is to create a train of ghosts and then eat them. Getting that power-up, turning around, and devouring ghosts by the dozens is one of the most satisfying moments of 2010 for me. On top of that this game is all about the high scores. I didn't grow up with arcades but I find it very exciting seeing my name go up on those leaderboards. Usually I'll sit down with the game planning to play for a short while and then time just flies by. I now find myself ranked in the 500s overall out of 70,000+ people (last I checked). Let's just say it can be quite addictive.
4 – Super Meat Boy
I never knew I was a masochist until playing Super Meat Boy. OK, that's not true, but Super Meat Boy is pretty damn difficult. I'd get frustrated and wonder how completing each particular level was even possible. But that feeling of accomplishment that comes with beating each level is exhilarating. Even though I'd get mad I still found myself enjoying the challenge. It's because I had no one to blame but myself. Both the level design and controls are perfect, so it's up to the player to make it through the hellish obstacles that stand in their way. I have to say I find that very refreshing. And if someone were to now ask me what my greatest video game accomplishment is, I'd say it's beating Super Meat Boy.
3 – Red Dead Redemption
My favorite thing about Red Dead Redemption is how wonderfully it represents the Old West. After playing the Undead Nightmare DLC recently I realized how similar the basic combat and mission structure was to the GTA series and how it was starting to feel a bit stale. But then I went back to the main game, rode my horse through the plains, and forgot all about that. Rockstar created an amazing game world that I truly lost myself in. Sometimes it feels like the world itself is its own character, and that's a remarkable achievement. RDR also presented a clas.sic western story with excellent writing and one of the best video game protagonists I can remember in John Marston. The game certainly has its flaws but Red Dead Redemption is easily one of the most memorable games of 2010.
2 – Super Mario Galaxy 2
Just when I thought Nintendo had lost me they managed to pull me back in. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was quite literally a system seller for me since I bought a Wii earlier this year solely for that game. I always had reservations about the Wii and mine has been collecting dust up until recently, but I don't regret the purchase because of how much I enjoyed SMG 2. This game reminds me that clever and inventive gameplay design can trump pretty much anything. Whether it was eating chili peppers with Yoshi or drilling through the ground SMG 2 seemed to offer a new concept with every single level. The level of variety was truly astounding and though I still prefer Super Mario 64 for nostalgic purposes, SMG 2 is probably the best 3D platformer I've ever played.
1 – Mass Effect 2
I thought the first Mass Effect was a flawed masterpiece. It had inventory issues, a clunky combat system, and uninteresting side missions. But the Mass Effect universe was incredible and I wanted to learn more and more about it. The story and character interactions were equally compelling, making it my favorite game of 2007. Mass Effect 2 managed to maintain those fascinating story elements while addressing most of the problems found in the first game. Combat was completely overhauled making it more like a third-person shooter, and the inventory was rid of altogether. Overall the game was significantly streamlined, and the RPG fan in me was initially bothered by that. But they were sacrifices that resulted in a much better game, and the things that made me love the first game so much are still present. The main plot was lacking but the superb cast of characters more than made up for that. Oh, and the decisions you made in the first game carried over to the sequel...you know what, I could talk about Mass Effect 2 all day but I'm gonna stop now before I feel the urge to go play through it a fourth time. That will have to wait for another day.
Well it seems Christine (tinoshke) has tagged me, so what the heck, I'll join in on the fun. Here are the rules for this tagging game:
1. Put Your iTunes (or other music player, for example : Windows Media Player) on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.
5. Tag at least 10 friends.
6. Anyone tagged has to do the same, because fun pointlessness spreads like a virus.
Do it ! Don't cheat ! It's creepy how odd some of the answers turn out...
Here we go:
1. If someone says, "Is This Okay?" You Say:
"The Rat" - The Walkmen
2. How would you describe yourself?
"In Limbo" - Radiohead
3. What do you like in a guy/girl?
"All Things Must Pass" - George Harrison
4. How do you feel today?
"Tell Her Tonight" - Franz Ferdinand
5. What Is Your Life's Purpose?
"Cold Light" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
6. What is your motto?
"Boogie With Stu" - Led Zeppelin (interesting motto )
7. What do your friends think of you?
"I Guess You're Right" - The Posies
8. What do you think of your parents?
"Peking O" - Can
9. What do you think about very often?
"The Underdog" - Spoon
10. What is 2+2?
"Untitled" - Interpol
11. What do you think of your best friend?
"Something's Gone Wrong Again" - Buzzcocks (haha)
12. What do you think of the person you like?
"Helpless" - Neil Young
13. What is your life story?
"Cool It Down" - The Velvet Underground
14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Creep" - Radiohead (I swear it isn't true!)
15. What do you think of when you see the person you like?
"Bellhead" - Liquid Liquid (hmm...)
16. What will you dance to at your wedding?
"My Father's Gun" - Elton John
17. What will they play at your funeral?
"Rising Up" - The Roots (that would actually be pretty cool)
18. What is your hobby/interest?
"Folk Jam" - Pavement
19. What is your biggest fear?
"The Bride" - Dirty Projectors
20. What is your biggest secret?
"The Long and Winding Road" - Beatles
21. What do you think of your friends?
"We're Not Gonna Take It" - The Who
22. What will you put as the title?
"I Have the Moon" - The Magnetic Fields
The people I tagged are in the first comment.
With today being July 1st, it marks the halfway point of 2010. This year has been surprisingly great in terms of quality releases. Usually there's the massive flood of games during the holiday season (which will surely happen still), but there have already been some great games that have made the first six months of the year a lot less boring than they could have been. Rather than doing a top ten I wanted to highlight five particular games that have stood out from the crowd in my opinion. I avoided ranking these games because I can never make up my mind on a proper order, it changes by the minute. I'll save that task for the end of the year. So in alphabetical order:
God of War III
Kratos' first foray onto the Playstation 3 ends up being the best in the God of War series. It's not like that's a shocker, but the sheer scale of the game is what took me by surprise. Epic is a word that works perfectly in tandem with God of War III. God of War still reigns supreme over all action games with its fluid and satisfying combat system. The brutality and gore has been amped up to another level and this game should be in the running for the best looking visuals out there. The boss fights are the real highlight though, including one that is...ginormous. Heck, even that word doesn't do it justice. Perhaps the guys at Santa Monica Studio are fans of Shadow of the Colossus. God of War III doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it brings the God of War series to a satisfying conclusion...maybe.
Whether you choose to clas.sify Heavy Rain as a video game or not, there's no denying that it is a unique experience. Developer Quantic Dream's previous effort, Indigo Prophecy, was a solid effort but this game takes those core mechanics and improves on them in every way. Essentially the game boils down to making choices and responding to button prompts (QTEs), but you'd be surprised by how suspenseful and intense the game is. The decisions you make can affect the story in monumental ways and the depth behind the characters and their motives is rivaled by few other games. It's certainly not a game for everyone, but it is one I encourage others to try at least once.
Mass Effect 2
The first Mass Effect was one of those games where the overall experience made up for its flaws. Bioware created an amazing sci-fi universe with interesting characters and a wealth of backstory. How many codex entries were there?! But the less than stellar combat and a cumbersome inventory system were among the problems that held it back from reaching its full potential. The sequel fixes a lot of those problems from the first game, and its the combat that takes center stage. Mass Effect 2 plays very much like a third-person shooter now, and one of the best available at that. The fantastic morality system and decision making from the first game returns, and a stronger cast of characters makes up for the weaker overall plot. Some people were slightly dissatisfied with design choices like ridding of the inventory system altogether and inserting mission completion screens because it broke up that immersive RPG experience from the first game. I admit there is a part of me that wishes Bioware hadn't streamlined the game so much, but it's a very small part. It's easier to overlook those decisions when the rest of the game is so good.
Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar is king when it comes to open-world games, and they may have outdone themselves with Red Dead Redemption. It's like an amazing Western game is what I've been waiting for my entire life and I didn't even know it. Anyone who has played the Grand Theft Auto games will already feel familiar with the game as there are some glaring similarities such as the mission structures and various side-activities that you could spend time on (which include poker, horse breaking, and horseshoes among others). But the incredible setting is what sets it apart. The game perfectly captures that Old West feel; I had fun just riding from town to town and taking in the sights. Of course the writing is top notch and there is a solid cast of characters, including one of the better protagonists I've ever played as in a game. A few of the characters you meet along the way may be a bit too colorful for the time period, but what else do you expect from Rockstar?
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the main reason why I recently purchased a Nintendo Wii. After reading the glowing reviews I had to try it out for myself, and I was not disappointed. Despite not owning a Wii, I had played and finished the first. I thought it was a bit overrated so my expectations weren't all that high for the sequel. The development team even referred to it as Super Mario Galaxy 1.5 at one point early in development...that didn't help me get on board. So the sequel ended up being a pleasant surprise of sorts for me, though I shouldn't be surprised that a Mario game has potential to be really good. What makes SMG2 stand out is the fact that practically each level throws a new idea or game mechanic at you. I don't want to spoil any of it since part of the enjoyment is discovering what each new level has in store for you, but the amount of variety in the gameplay is unmatched by anything else out there. There's also a welcome challenge to the game that's been missing from Mario games. It can occasionally be frustrating but it makes getting each star that much more rewarding.
Hey everyone, hope you're doing well. Just thought I'd post a blog recapping what's been going on with me lately.
I graduated last week so no more high school for me. Can you believe it was raining during graduation? At the end of May!? Anyways, it was sad to say goodbye to a lot of people I may never see again, but I'm excited to move on to college. I'll be going to UC Davis in the fall. I'm undeclared at the moment; I plan on taking a year or two to figure out what I want to major in. Orientation is in July so that's when I'll be picking my cla$$es (damn you GS!).
As far as gaming goes my parents surprised me with a Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 as part of my graduation present. I'd mentioned to my mom about how I wanted to play SMG2 after reading the reviews and I guess she was paying attention. Unless there was some insane price drop and the Wii was only $100 there was no chance I was personally going to buy one, so it was cool of my parents.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one amazing game. I still prefer Super Mario 64 for nostalgic purposes but I'd say SMG2 is every bit as good as that game. Each level introduces a new idea or game mechanic; the level of creativity throughout the game is something I haven't really seen before. I'm currently at 50 stars (I believe 70 minimum is required to beat it). I've also been playing Red Dead Redemption, which I beat earlier today. Rockstar absolutely perfected that Old West feel and the setting may be the best part of the game. It's my personal GOTY at the moment. I also purchased Alan Wake not too long ago but I've only played it for a couple hours because of the aforementioned games. I plan on going back to it eventually though, I was enjoying the short amount of time I spent playing it.
Well, that about covers it. Does anyone have any recommendations for the next game I should purchase for the Wii?
Sorry for taking so long to move on to part 2, but I finally got around to it. Here is part 1 in case you missed it: Part 1
SPOILER WARNING: Some of these entries may contain spoilers, so if there's a specific game you haven't finished yet then I recommend not reading the paragraph about that game.
In particular, there is a very big spoiler about Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in here, so if you haven't played and/or beaten it, do not read that.
Final Fantasy X
Tidus and Yuna kiss
I always thought of Tidus as an idiotic and kind of annoying main character, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in the romance between him and Yuna. I suppose that's the "romantic at heart" part of me, so I'm sure that not everyone will agree with this pick. But if you're like me you ignored the ridiculous way in which the two of them floated through the water and just appreciated the moment. (Speaking of ridiculous, the infamous yelling scene from FFX narrowly missed this list; it was so bad it was hilarious. If you've played the game you know what I mean. )
WTF happened to my memory card?!!!
I'm not the biggest Eternal Darkness fan but I can't deny that it was a solid Gamecube title. In the game you had to avoid letting your sanity meter drop, but sometimes I did just to see the crazy effects that came with it. There might be whispering voices, an uneven camera, or even a fake Video 1 TV screen. But what topped them all is when the game told you your memory card had been erased or something along those lines. You should have seen my reaction. Of course then I realized it was just another mind trick the game was playing on me. Good one Eternal Darkness, ya got me.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Wait, I'm WHO?!
The entire story in KOTOR, from the characters to the various key plot points, was fantastic. But what helped it is that it contained one of the best twists I've ever encountered in a video game. Here you are after going after Darth Malak whose former master was Darth Revan, and then you find out that you are Revan! I certainly didn't see that coming and the initial shock factor was huge.
Resident Evil 4
That guy's carrying a chainsaw!
I've never encountered a scary movie or TV show in my entire life. I really don't understand how so many people can be frightened of a movie like…let's say, Paranormal Activity. But there have been a few games that have scared me, and Resident Evil 4 is one of them. The game just gives off that claustrophobic feeling where anything could happen at any moment. But man, when I saw that chainsaw dude for the first time I freaked out. And of course I was so flustered that I let him get too close and my head was decapitated.
God of War
Kratos, the Hydra, and a sharp wooden pole
I won't go too much into this, but in God of War you realize that Kratos is a badass and that this game is going to be awesome right from the get-go. The very first boss battle in the game against the Hydra is one of the coolest I've ever come across. I recently got the rerelease of both God of Wars on the PS3 and the impact of that fight is still so exciting today. The satisfaction from pulling that Hydra through the sharp wooden pole made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Throughout my years of playing video games there have been moments that have felt truly special to me, whether it was a cutscene, a boss battle, or even an entire level. In the next few blogs I'd like to highlight 20 of those. This isn't an all inclusive list though; there may have been moments that slipped my mind or some that I haven't experienced yet. Also, this is not a ranked list, it goes in chronological order.
SPOILER WARNING: Some of these entries may contain spoilers, so if there's a specific game you haven't finished yet then I recommend not reading the paragraph about that game.
Escape Planet Zebes!
Nostalgia may very well play a factor in the inclusion of the ending from Super Metroid considering it was the first video game I ever played. But even today the final moments of Super Metroid are intense. After defeating the final boss you have three minutes to escape the planet. All that's in your way is a horde of enemies and some tricky platforming. The shaky screen, explosions, and flashing red lights all add to that feeling of impending peril if you fail to escape the planet in time. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I let out a big sigh of relief once I finally reached my ship.
Final Fantasy VI
A night at the opera
One of the many beloved Final Fantasy moments is the opera scene from Final Fantasy VI. On the surface the scene's popularity may seem baffling; there's no fighting or action and the player's only involvement is choosing the correct lines when prompted. What makes it so special is the boldness behind the decision to include a scene so simple and beautiful in the midst of this epic journey that you and your party are on. The fact that it also includes one of Nobuo Uematsu's best musical compositions also helps.
Final Fantasy VII
The death heard round the RPG world
Just about any big RPG fan out there knows of Aeris' death in Final Fantasy VII. It packed one heck of an emotional punch that hadn't been seen in too many games before it. The game up to that point had done an amazing job of developing characters and making you actually care about them, and then one of them is killed? There was certainly a look of shock and awe on my face. It also made Sephiroth one of the most hated characters in video games (in a good way).
Metal Gear Solid
Psycho Mantis screws with your head...and your controller
One thing the Metal Gear Solid series has always gotten right is its boss battles. They can provide quite the challenge and are always memorable. Perhaps the most famous of all is the battle with Psycho Mantis in the original Metal Gear Solid. I tell ya, the "psycho" part of his name fit him well. He could move your controller with his mind and make it useless in the first controller port! Sure, today it may seem a bit gimmicky but back in 1998 that was cutting edge trickery.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Campbell goes crazy
I'm a Metal Gear Solid fan, but I always thought the second game was so over the top to the point of ridiculousness. There's a guy cartwheeling around naked and Snake gives some lame speech while footage from real life plays. Seriously Hideo Kojima? But one part I always loved is when Colonel Campbell starts acting strange over the radio. He says all kinds of crazy stuff, including what's there in the picture above. In case you can't read that it says, "I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with the tuning fork does a raw blink on hiri-kiri rock... I need scissors! 61!" Weird, yes, but if that's not hilarious I don't know what is.
Sorry for taking so long to finish up this list. But here is my favorite game of the decade. First off, a recap of 10-2:
10. Metal Gear Solid 4
9. Call of Duty 4
8. World of Goo
7. Grand Theft Auto IV
6. Valkyria Chronicles
5. God of War II
4. Mass Effect
3. Uncharted 2
2. Chrono Cross
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
As stated in my thoughts on Mass Effect, Bioware are master storytellers. Take that talent and add in the Star Wars universe and you have KOTOR. But what's so great about the game is that you don't have to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy it. It's a well-crafted RPG with a riveting plot, an excellent cast of characters, and a fun combat system. Being a big Star Wars fan certainly doesn't hurt though. Using force powers and wielding a lightsaber is easily one of the most thrilling things I've ever done in a video game.
Hope you enjoyed taking a look at my favorite video games of the decade. Happy holidays everyone!
4. Mass Effect
Bioware knows how to tell a damn good story, and Mass Effect is no exception. It's not the most original game out there but the time and effort put into creating the sci-fi world in Mass Effect is really something. Being able to create your own Commander Shepard, choose your backstory, and make key decisions in the story really puts you in control of the game and I absolutely love that. Gameplay-wise pulling off biotic powers is fun and the gunplay is solid. There are some shortcomings here and there like some of the side-quests being tedious and handling the Mako (which sucks). But this is one of those games where I can overlook the flaws because of the experience that it provides.
3. Uncharted 2
Yes, I know this game came out only a couple of months ago, but I had no hesitations putting it so high on my list. When the first Uncharted came out it was an instant favorite of mine. Nathan Drake was a charismatic new character that you couldn't help but love and the story had that modern day Raiders of the Lost Ark feel to it (which is one of my favorite movies btw). I enjoyed the gunplay quite a bit and the platforming was great minus the occasional elusive edge here and there. Uncharted 2 takes that game, makes some minor improvements to the gameplay, and includes huge set pieces. This is the equivalent of a great summer action movie, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I won't spoil anything, but the train level in particular is probably the coolest I've ever played in a video game. And whereas Uncharted was a very short game that didn't add much replay value, Uncharted 2 includes some very fun multiplayer that is sure to keep me coming back every now and then. It really is the complete package.
2. Chrono Cross
I know some people that didn't like this game just because it wasn't a proper Chrono Trigger sequel. For the record I love Chrono Trigger, but it's pretty obvious that I didn't mind Chrono Chross not being a true sequel. The story of parallel dimensions and the Frozen Flame is one of the best ever told in an RPG; in fact, I'd put it behind only my #1 game on this list. The plot is extremely important to me when it comes to RPGs, but I also really enjoyed the battle system. It was different from your normal turn-based affair, and I loved the fact that you could even escape boss battles if you needed to get resituated. On top of that the game features an amazing musical score and the inclusion of many potential party members. Sometimes I prefer having a core cast of characters in your party but not in this case.
Well, there's only one game left. Can you guess what it is? I guarantee it will be a surprise...just kidding, it's kind of obvious.
Here's Part 1 in case you missed it.
Alright, here's the second part of my favorite games of the decade list.
7. Grand Theft Auto IV
I've always been a big fan of the GTA series but the mindless fun and endless cheat codes were what appealed to me most. The writing in the series has always been top notch and often hilarious, but the plot itself never kept me completely interested. That all changed with GTAIV. There were still plenty of humorous moments in the game but it took a darker tone and actually focused on a coherent narrative, at least more so than previous entries in the series. By the end of it I was really invested in Niko as a character and wanted to know what would happen to him. Best of all the gunplay was immensely improved, thanks in part to a solid cover system, and the mission variety was better than it had been in years past. Those two things significantly decreased the frustration factor that often pops up in GTA games. Plus, the inclusion of online multiplayer didn't hurt.
6. Valkyria Chronicles
I have to thank those at the RPG Temple for this one. Leading up to this game's release I didn't know much of it and didn't care either. Final Fantasy Tactics would be the only strategy RPG in my heart. But the positive feedback from some people at the Temple convinced me to get the game, and boy am I happy I did that. Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy RPG, but it ignores many conventions that follow that genre. The ability to actually control your individual troops really changes things, and eventually I got hooked. I'd find myself repeating previous battles over and over again not only to level up troops but also because it was a lot of fun. On top of that the game looks amazing with its watercolor painting-esque visuals and the audio is fantastic as well. Although the story isn't groundbreaking I find myself ranking it right up there as one of my favorites. It hits all the right spots, tackling tough issues, presenting a compelling cast of characters, and delivering a perfect ending. This is easily the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the decade for me.
5. God of War II
The God of War games deliver bloody, straightforward action at its finest. The controls are extremely fluid, the boss battles are epic, and the over-the-top violence fits the games perfectly. I went with God of War II specifically because it took the framework from the first game and just made everything bigger and better. It really pushed the PS2 to its limits and showed what the system could do; now that's what I call a perfect swan song. Oh, and Kratos is probably the most badass character in video game history. His quest for revenge on Greek Gods just reeks of awesomeness.
With 2009 almost coming to a close I was going to do a top 10 of 2009 list (which I still might do). But the end of 2009 also means the end of the decade, so I thought to myself, "Anthony, go big or go home!" So instead I opted for a top 10 of the decade list. These are my favorite games of the decade, not necessarily the best. There are quite a few releases within a 10 year period, so I'll start out with a few games that just missed the cut but deserve a mention. Then comes the first few games on my list. Hope you enjoy it, and look out for the rest of the list over the next few days.
Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy X, BioShock, Braid, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Suikoden III
10. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
One thing I've come to realize over time is that I over-exaggerate my love for a game when it first comes out. When MGS4 was first released all I could think was "OMG MGS4 is teh awesome!!!" Okay, maybe those weren't my exact thoughts, but I liked it a lot more than I do now. Despite that overreaction, the game is still in my top 10 of the decade, so that's saying something. The stealth mechanics were still there but there was more freedom in whether you wanted to be stealthy or go in guns blazing. Presentation-wise the game is amazing, and although the story is convoluted and confusing at times (isn't every MGS game?), it is a solid conclusion to Snake's story and I have much respect for Hideo Kojima and his work on the series.
9. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
No more World War II! Infinity Ward finally decided to go in another direction and boy did it pay off. They delivered another intense single-player campaign with a surprisingly strong story, but the multiplayer really stole the show. The perk system took the online world by storm and with Modern Warfare 2 it continues to be one of the most popular online multiplayer games out there (and my personal favorite). I could have picked MW2 for this spot, but unfortunately the single-player took a step back in my opinion because of the focus on multiplayer. And in the end it feels more like Modern Warfare 1.5 to me. But I shouldn't end on a sour note so…the original Modern Warfare was awesome.
8. World of Goo
This game was developed by 2D Boy which consists of just two people, two!! Despite that they managed to create one of the most innovative games I've ever played. The concept of connecting goo balls together to reach a pipe is simple, but the formula soon ramps up in difficulty. Instead of being frustrating though, the game provides a sense of accomplishment for each level completed. Oh, and it helps that the game features possibly my favorite (original) video game soundtrack (which is available as a free download on their website I believe).
Hey everyone, hope you're all doing well. It's been a while since I wrote a review for AceGamez, but I did one recently for the new Grand Theft Auto IV DLC. I actually wrote it near the end of October but the AceGamez website was being redesigned, so it hadn't been posted. The new site launched yesterday, and I think the redesign looks pretty snazzy if I do say so myself. Anyways, here's the review:
In other news, I read that Walmart will be having a price drop on the Wii starting this Saturday. I guess technically it's not a price drop, but any Wii console purchase comes with a $50 gift card, which would probably be used on the Wii. So essentially the system will be only $150. I'm considering getting it for Christmas with my birthday money that I've saved up and just asking for a few games for Christmas. My main motivation for getting the system is the Virtual Console actually, I'm more interested in visiting the classics rather than picking up new games. There is one game on the Wii that I REALLY want to play though, and curiously enough it's not a big game like MadWorld or No More Heroes. It's actually Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. It got some great reviews because of the controls and I'm interested in seeing how they translate to golf in real life (since I play golf quite often). There are some other games out there that I'd end up getting eventually, but like I said, the VC is the main attraction for me.
That's about all that's going on with me. Take care.
Well today is my birthday. Usually I don't do anything special, but since I turned 18 today I was planning on going out with some of my friends. Unfortunately I felt like crap when I woke up, so that spoiled my plans. As far as presents go, I got a 32" HDTV. For the size of my room it's pretty big and certainly an upgrade over my previous 23" HDTV. Also, my old TV didn't have 1080p resolution but this new one does. I also got Assassin's Creed II so I'll be playing that this week. That's about it for my 18th birthday. Not very exciting, I know. I just had to get sick today, didn't I? Oh well, I'm happy with my new TV and I ate some delicious cake, so today was still alright. Take care everyone.
Hey everyone. This is just a quick blog mainly about how I've started my senior year of high school. Of course they screwed up my schedule so I had to move a few things around. But I'm happy with it now; it looks like this:
1st period: Web Design
2nd period: AP English
3rd period: AP Government
4th period: Spanish 3
5th period: Teacher's Assistant (for my Spanish teacher from last year)
6th period: None (I have modified schedule)
Apparently AP Government is a fairly simple course (damn you Gamespot!) most people say the teacher is great and the majority of his students pass the AP test. On top of that, he doesn't give out too much homework, which is a plus. AP English will be my toughest course but I've never had trouble with that subject, so it shouldn't be too bad. The rest of my courses are extremely easy and I get out an hour early because of my modified schedule, so I'll finally have some time to relax during my senior year.
We had senior sunrise last Friday. I got up at 5:00 AM and went with some friends. At the first sign of the sun people were running to the parking lot so they could go get breakfast. My friends and I were the first ones to IHOP; we ended up being the only ones eating for the first hour. We were finished with our food way before anyone else was even served.
Besides school, I haven't really been playing any games lately, just FFIV for the DS here and there. But I will be purchasing Batman Arkham Asylum next week. Also, I pre-ordered the Beatles Remastered Box Set (comes out September 9th, same day as the Rock Band game I believe). It comes with all 13 of their studio albums with improved audio (the current Beatles CDs aren't very good when it comes to the audio quality, and I'm a bit of a music nut, so that's important to me). It costs quite a bit, $180, but seeing as the Beatles are my favorite band, it's well worth it for me. Oh, and I saw District 9 last week. Here's my take on it: GO SEE IT, IT'S GREAT!
Well, until next time, take care.
Hey everyone. Well, I got back from Hawaii last week and I had a blast.
First off I'd never been on a plane before, so that was interesting. By interesting I mean boring and uncomfortable. But the take off and landing was kinda cool I suppose. We landed in Oahu after a 5 hour plane ride and then took another short one to Maui.
We stayed in this really nice house that we rented from some people. Right outside of the house was a beach, so we walked down there a lot. Other activities included parasailing, snorkling, and going to a luau. A lot of time was spent swimming at the beach which is always fun. The weather there was good - it was very windy at times but mostly warm.
I went golfing when I was there, and during the first 9 holes there was some INSANE rain and wind, easily the worst conditions I've ever played it. Just made it more fun in my opinion.
I would have posted pics sooners but either my camera or computer is having some problems, because I'm not able to upload all of the pictures I took. This means that I can only show you a few pics that turned out okay, and they're not that interesting. Sorry about that, hopefully I can figure something out. Well, until my next blog. Take care.
Pic 1 - Big Beach, where we spent a lot of time
Pic 2 - Big Beach again
Pic 3 - The view from right outside the house
Pic 4 - Pic of the house, with my shadow clearly visible
Pic 5 - Inside of the house
Pic 6 - Inside of the house
Pic 7 - Me in Hawaii!
Pic 8 - Since one pic of Anthony obviously isn't enough, another one of me.
Hey everyone, hope you're all doing well. It's been a while since my last blog, but I had to post one before I go to Hawaii. I'm going on Thursday and very much looking forward to it. I get back on the 21st I believe, so I'll be away for about 2 weeks. So sorry to everyone whose blogs I'll be missing. I'll be sure to take some pics and share them when I get back.
In other news I got the results of my AP tests back. They were easily thethree toughest tests I've ever taken in my life,and theycertainly tested me. Each one is out of 5, and 3 or above is passing. Unfortunately I got a 2 on US History and Biology, but I got a 4 on the English one. This means I receive college credits and considering I'm thinking about majoring in English I'm very happyabout that beingthe one I passed. Well, until next time, take care everyone.
I'm one of those impatient types who can't stay focused on one game for a very long time (with some exceptions, such as a great RPG), so it's always an accomplishment when I finish a game.
Earlier this week I finished Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 after a lengthy break from the game, and man am I glad I went back to it. I'm not a big fan of strategy RPGs, but VC is such a unique game that manages to stay fun just about all the way through. Also, it had one of the better stories from a Japanese developer in a long time. I got so attached to the characters and the ending was perfect. I'd easily give the game a 9.5, and it's my second favorite PS3 game after MGS4. I really hope they make a sequel. Next up for me on the gaming front is Lunar Silver Star Story Complete for the Playstation. I bought it a couple of days ago on ebay, so hopefully it arrives this week. Well, until my next blog. Take care.