Monday, January 2, 2012

2011: A Retrospective


2011 is actually one of the better years I can think of, in general, for games. There weren't a whole lot of surprises, but I think everything came out just as good, and occasionally better, than I had expected. I wanted to take some time to highlight the best things in games. Not just the games themselves, but the grand industry surrounding them as well. I think the importance of trends and actions can sometimes be overshadowed, and I want to make sure they get some recognition.

Also? I wanted to come up with a list of 50 things. That's 10 things a day. There's no discernible order to them, so don't try to find my "favorite thing" about last year.

10 Things I Loved About Last Year.

This game has one of the best opening sequences I've seen in a long time.

Dead Space 2 - It's been almost a year since this title came out, already, and I still recall so much of it vividly. From top to bottom, this game never stopped impressing me. Between just how crisp it looked and ran, the XBOX 360 no less; to the immaculate attention paid to the sound design; to the action that only broke camera a handful of times the entire game, Visceral Games really deserves to be commended for busting such a brilliant game. And just over two years after their initial title, managing to squeeze out Dead Space: Extraction, and the (quality arguments aside) full package that was Dante's Inferno. Those guys have done a lot in a short while, and Dead Space 2 stands as a crowning achievement.

More class than the Japanese public school system.

Satoru Iwata - I've said before that I think he is the classiest son'bitch in games, and this only cemented that feeling. Maybe it's a difference in culture, but in the face of the 3DS not doing as well as was hoped, Iwata's actions still illicit a double take. He did what? He cut his salary in half?! And those of other managers? Rather than firing staff at the bottom and giving himself a bonus like every other CEO? I've heard it said that this is common in Japan, and maybe it's just my selective reading, but I still can never think of a time in history where I've seen this. In an era of Enrons and #OccupyWallstreet, it's nice to see a big ol' corporate man take a humbling hit like that. The 20 free games I got didn't hurt, either.

I still can't stop laughing at this. You'd know why if you were into things that were awesome.

Persona 4 - The Anime - No shame here, I'll put any excuse to remind people that Persona 4 was a thing that I can. That game is, to this day, one of the most memorable titles I have ever played. And as I push thickly framed glasses up my nose, I want to be clear, that I enjoyed this game before Giant Bomb's Endurance Run. Well before all of that, my friend bought me Persona 4 for Christmas, considering my recent love with Persona 3. The first time I powered that game on was on a random whim at 4 in the morning. Some friends were over and we were talking, and I just felt like throwing down some JRPG action. 16 hours later, I finally took a nap. No game has ever, to this day, had that effect on me. And the thing I love about the anime? It manages to recapture everything that I loved about Persona 4, while still tossing it's own spins and curve balls in there to keep it engaging. I'm praying for localization at some point, but until then, watching it on Hulu is working just fine.

"Professor! Something dramatic is happening off camera!"

Professor Layton - It was a good year for Professor Layton fans the world over. Japan saw the release of Mask of Miracles, Layton's first 3DS outing; us local folk-al saw the release of The Last Spectre; and we received the jaw-dropping announcement of Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton. Plus the release of Layton's first full-length movie, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. It was an action-packed year for Layton's apprentices, and there's still plenty more to come.

Sing it with me. "Do-doo-do. Dodo! Dodo! Doo-doo!"

Sonic Generations - Alright. I don't like to generally get nasty or snarky but: It's About. Fucking. Time. Huge nostalgia kick aside (which they nail in the face and straight to my childhood), they actually did it, you guys. They made a good Sonic game again. And what's weirder? It's probably the best Sonic yet. They made a new Sonic, that's cobbled together from all the old Sonics, AND MADE IT A BETTER SONIC! How does that work?! They didn't just lean on the drug of nostalgia; they actually made it look and feel blazing fast while playing buttery smooth. This game is miles ("Tails" Prower) above their Sonic 4 game, which wasn't bad, per se, but wasn't really great either. What's more, they didn't just make a lazy port to the 3DS, they tried to make an original, albeit similar, game. So owning both copies, I don't feel like I have the "gimped one" and the "amazing one." I mean, one is clearly better by virtue of tech, but the 3DS one is still pretty awesome.

I wish somebody made me a logo this sweet for my 25th birthday.

The Zelda 25th Anniversary - I don't think they could have handled this better, really. A huge concert, tons of press, free games, updated versions of favorite games, a brand new big ass game... I mean... How awesome was that, you guys? I write this, a week away from going to see the Zelda Orchestra in Dallas, TX, and I'm still getting goosebumps. It does kind of make me bummed that Mario, the Big Red fucking M, got a half-assed package and a wave out the door, and Metroid was completely overlooked. But they pulled out all the stops with, arguably, their biggest franchise. A job well done, top to bottom.

That is some interesting jewelry on the yellow guy...

The Steam Sales - It wasn't until the end of this year that I would have ever called myself a PC gamer. Sure, I loved me some Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and the occasional MMO stint, but I was always a console guy. I think that's about over. I got a 27 inch monitor for Christmas, I've got me a wired 360 controller (for Super Meat Boy, etc.), and I have Steam. All year long Steam has been really ramping up it's services; providing screenshots, video recording, and the sales. My god, it's full of sales. The Summer Camp and Winter promotions were, I think, brilliant. They give you huge incentives, besides ridiculously priced content, to play some real hidden gems like Sanctum and Jamestown. Even if you didn't get anything especially cool, you still had a chance too, and I think that was half the fun. I got me a copy of Nimbus I can't wait to crack open, now that I can stop hounding for achievements, and I've got a couple dozen amazing titles to go back through.  About the only thing I would love to see now is Steam hit other platforms. I would love to have access to the store via my Android, or choice games (like Binding of Isaac) available on my 3DS or Vita. It's a bit of a long shot, but it would be amazing.

It's certainly unique, you can't argue with that.

The 3DS - I've mentioned it enough times that I might as well give it a slot to itself. The year started quite rough for the little guy, not unlike when the original DS launched. A couple of pretty neat titles, a bunch of quick-to-make-a-buck ports and remakes, and some virtual console titles were all we had for quite a while. Then came a huge price cut, a promise of 20 free virtual console games, and (most importantly) some key software. It took a while, but I believe the 3DS landed a far higher note than the DS did in it's first. I'm already in possession of a stack of games that dwarfs my PSP collection, and I earnestly enjoy them. Seeing what I've got up ahead, I've still got plenty to be excited about, too. The DS is still my favorite little guy, but the 3DS is quickly living up to his older brother.

So good.

VVVVVV - Like Persona 4, I'll take a good instance to show off this game whenever possible. It's a great little title with an amazing soundtrack. It was just released on the 3DSWare at the end of the year, and if you haven't checked it out yet, you're doing it wrong. Doing what wrong? Everything. Granted, maybe you just don't like awesome 2D platforms that challenge your twitch reflexes and love of chiptune music, and that's fine. Some people are just born without a soul, but that doesn't mean they're any less of a person. Well, they are, but not legally.

Little red sumo guy for Smash Bros.! Right?! Guys? Right?

Pushmo - Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Guys. Seriously. Guys. Pushmo. Look at it. Oh my god it just. It just hits you right there, you know? That spot in your brain? The one that doesn't get scratched enough? Yeah. It gets you there. Right there. It just gets it's talons, or proboscis, whatever it uses, and it just fucking wedges right up in there and takes hold. And you don't want it to go. Every time your eyes are seperated from the screen and the puzzles; every time your ears are no longer drowning in the pleasant 'beatz,' it's painful. Like the loss of something, but you don't know what. You just know you want it back. That's Pushmo, guys. Pushmo.

What if I told you it was Modern Warfare + Persona 4? Would you play it then? I'd be lying. But would you play it?

Favorite Thing from Before 2011 that I just discovered this year: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey - I picked up this little DS title when it came up then shelved it for whatever distraction came my way. Going back to it, I rather enjoyed the story and atmosphere of it, and I highly recommend it to anybody who missed it. There will be one item like this every day in supplement to the list of 50.

And that's my list so far. Come back tomorrow and I'll have another 10 things that I just absolutely adored this year. Or don't. Whatever. I'm a blog, not a cop.

-Make it a good one.

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