Monday, December 23, 2013

Year of Gaming (2013)

 <- 2012's Year of Gaming
As is now tradition on What They Call Games, for the end of the year I looked back at all the games I played the most during the year. They aren't necessarily the hottest and newest games, they're just whatever I happened to play. For each, I wrote a short review and shared my thoughts on them approximately in the order in which I played them during the year. I'll be splitting this into two parts. Here we go!

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS3)
While fun at first glance, further playing of Playstation All-Stars reveals that it lacks the polish and amount of content of its competitors. It's not a bad game exactly, but it's not super good either. I appreciate that they tried something new with the "super system", in which you spend the fight charging up super attacks which are the only attacks that can KO your opponents, but unfortunately this system doesn't work as well as simply having an HP meter or trying to knock opponents off of the stage. That, and it's fairly unbalanced and easy to win by spamming certain attacks.
Dark Souls (PS3)
Everyone talks about how hard this game is, so I had to see it for myself. It didn't take me long to realize that, yes, Dark Souls is indeed hard. What people don't always tell you though, is how open this game is. It reminds me of older RPGs somewhat, in that the game does almost nothing to tell you where to go. You're free to go almost wherever you want from the beginning and the only things letting you know that you went the "wrong" way are beastly enemies that destroy you. If you don't mind crazy hard bosses and getting lost, definitely give Dark Souls a try.
Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (PS3) (Review)
This game's really unique. It's kind of like Animal Crossing in that you just walk around town (an old-fashioned rural town in Hokkaido, Japan) and do whatever things a little boy would want to do, like catching bugs, fishing, and playing jump rope. It's unlike Animal Crossing in that the game is limited to thirty in-game days with time passing as you move between areas. It also has a continuing story and interesting characters, along with different events throughout the month. It's a relaxing game with beautiful backgrounds and scenery. If you don't understand Japanese, you won't get as much out of it, but I have translated and subtitled a good chunk of the game for those who want to check it out.
Mr. Driller: Drill Land (GCN) (Review)
There are some Mr. Driller games available in the US, but Drill Land isn't one of them. It's unfortunate too, because it's one of the best. It has five variations to the usual Mr. Driller gameplay which are all consistently fun and fairly challenging. Unlike Boku no Natsuyasumi 3, I can confidently recommend Mr. Driller: Drill Land even to those without experience with Japanese. Also, it's worth noting that it has one of my favorite soundtracks ever, which is how I found the game in the first place. The music is composed by Go Shiina, of Tales of Legendia and God Eater fame. If you can't play the game, at least give the soundtrack a listen.
Crashmo (3DS)
I'm not one to support Nintendo's eshop, at least not yet, but for smaller games like Crashmo which are only available digitally, I guess it's alright to give it a try. And I'm glad that I did give it a try, because Crashmo is a really clever and challenging puzzle game with lots of puzzles and new variations that are frequently added to the mix. The gist is that you push blocks and platforms around, making others fall, in order to make your way to the top. Anyway, it's good, and the fact that it has a level editor puts the replay value through the roof. If you like puzzle games, check it out.
Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii) (Review) (Video review)
In spite of Excitebots' forgettable and boring art direction and occasionally irritating motion controls, its unique spin on the racing genre makes it one of the most fun games I've played on Wii. Instead of just racing for first place, in Excitebots you compete to reach a target number of stars. These stars are granted for absolutely everything; from catching big air and doing spins to constructing sandwiches and hitting tambourines in rhythm. It's fast, it's crazy, and it's incredibly fun. Don't let the title and graphics fool you; this game is very much worth playing.
Nintendo Land (Wii U) (Videos)
This is the game that should have been in all of the Wii U demo kiosks. This is the game that should've sold the Wii U like Wii Sports did the Wii. Nintendo Land is more fun and has more to do than the average minigame collection and all of the games make you realize how fun the GamePad can be. It's great with friends or alone. Sure, some of the games annoyingly make you replay from the beginning every time or have less levels than I'd like, but for the most part, Nintendo Land far exceeded my expectations and I think it's a game that every Wii U owner should have.
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) (Videos)
What to say about New Super Mario Bros. U… On the one hand, the level design is as good as ever and the addition of a punishingly hard challenge mode is very much welcome, but on the other hand, it still has the uninspired art direction and soundtrack of previous New Super Mario Bros. games. I'm tempted to say that I consider it to be the best 2D Mario game to date, but even still I can't help but think how much better it could have been when looking at other platformers like Rayman Legends, Kirby's Return to Dreamland, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. New Super Mario Bros. U is a great game, but it takes the easy way out and doesn't do anything extraordinary.
Pokemon Black 2 (DS)
I feel horrible saying this, but I am bored of Pokemon. I finally dragged myself through finishing Black 2, and while it was still very good, the drudgery of wading through wild Pokemon and trainer battle after trainer battle finally got to me. It's not really the game's fault. There are some improvements that I'd like to see, and it seems that X and Y may have made some of them, but I think my main problem is that I just don't feel like training competitive teams any more now that my friends don't have the time for it either. Anyway, Pokemon is still good, don't get me wrong, I just need a break for a while. See you when Pokemon Z comes out.
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
I heard this game was hard, but when I started it for a blind race on SpeedRunsLive, it didn't seem so bad. You run fast, you cling to walls, you kill enemies with one hit of the sword or special weapon. Basically, you feel like a totally badass ninja. …Until you get further in the game. Suddenly there are birds and other enemies flying all over the place and knocking you into pits. It's ok though because you have unlimited continues. But then it gets even harder; so much so that it took me nearly an hour to finish one of the later levels and only then by using a glitch to despawn one of the enemies. Then, there's the three stage last boss, which dying to makes you play the whole world over again rather than just that level as had been the case during the rest of the game. My only complaint with Ninja Gaiden is that darn final boss loop. That, and enemies juggling you against walls. Other than that though, Ninja Gaiden is like Battletoads, it's not just a hard game, it's a really good game. Actually beating it legitimately has been one of my proudest achievements in gaming.
Thomas Was Alone (PC)
The simple, but not lazily simple art direction, the interesting narration and story, and the easy to understand puzzle-platforming gameplay make Thomas Was Alone quite a good game. But, at the same time, I didn't really enjoy playing it most of the time. Many of the puzzles felt more like a hassle than a puzzle to me. It's still good, but it's probably not for everyone.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS) (Review)
Virtue's Last Reward alternates between long visual novel segments and object-based puzzle segments, but what really will keep you playing is the engaging and twisting story. It features a widely branching storyline with multiple endings and one mind-blowing true ending. The translation and voice acting are both above average and there's even the option to switch to Japanese voice acting. Unfortunately, the 3DS version of the game has a rather terrible glitch than can corrupt your save file if you're unlucky, but apart from that, I can't recommend this game enough to anyone who loves a good story. Just be sure to play 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors first for maximum enjoyment.
Super Metroid (SNES)
I've played Super Metroid before on SNES, but for 30 cents I couldn't resist playing it again on Wii U Virtual Console. It's a masterpiece of a game with great atmosphere made up of fantastic backgrounds, music, and creatures. It's just the right level of challenging and there are secrets around every corner. Finding out what lies beyond each new doorway and previously impassable obstacles is truly a joy. There's very little negative to say about Super Metroid and it's one of my favorite games of all time. 
(Image source)
Scribblenauts: Unlimited (PC) (Video)
Scribblenauts isn't a particularly difficult game, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Your enjoyment of this game will be directly proportional to the level of creativity you put into it. Since you can solve the many simple puzzles by writing any object into existence, you might be tempted to take the easy way out and just make bridges to cross gaps, but doing so would be robbing yourself of the fun of the game. Why walk across a bridge when you can fly across on a giant flying manatee? It's that kind of random fun that makes Scribblenauts: Unlimited worth playing. I recommend the PC version in particular due to it's lower price and object creator which is integrated with the Steam Workshop.

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