In remembrance of 2011, I thought I’d compile a list of what I thought were the ten best games I played this year. Considering that I don’t play a ton of recent releases, a lot of this list will be older games. As anyone who reads this blog will note, that’s in line with what I actually play. Rather than ranking these games, I’ll simply alphabetize the list.
Animal Crossing: City Folk – This game is up there with Skyrim in the amount of time I devote to it. It’s awfully familiar to previous games in the series but I still find it as addictive as ever. I also had fun getting my friend into it and playing with him.
Batman: Arkham City– What a game! I loved Arkham Asylum and this game upped the ante in so many ways. Such a large environment with so much to do!
Mass Effect 2 – I had so much fun discussing this game with others, more importantly though, I had so much fun playing this. The gameplay was much improved over the first game and even though there were a lot of things taken out, the options I had were still astounding.
Mansion of Hidden Souls – An unusual pick for sure but this game turned my friend and I onto an unfamiliar genre and we’ve had a lot of fun solving puzzles in similar games since playing this.
Vanquish– Platinum Games took the usually slow moving military third-person shooter and blended it with Japanese quirks. A fantastical futuristic setting, a story with some ridiculous moments, a lot of great set pieces, and super fun and fast-paced gameplay.
You Don’t Know Jack – A stellar mulitplayer game that received a ton of rotation at my house. A great value.
Merry Christmas! I woke up this morning with sleep crystals in my eyes and gazed upon the gifts that Santa left me last night and found… Skyrim! Many other great gifts too. I enjoyed being with my family and later on, visiting with my girlfriend’s. Hopefully everyone else had a pleasant day as well.
After completing Skyward Sword earlier in the week I needed a quick game to get me through to Skyrim and that game was The Maw for Xbox Live Arcade. I’ll post a review over that tomorrow.
I probably won’t get to play Skyrim until Tuesday but I have something interesting in mind for it… I will play some games tomorrow with my pal and then in the evening it’s off to a friend’s wedding. Expect some posts soon.
Also, my friend wrote his review of The Bouncer so check it out!
Seeing as how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword requires the Wii MotionPlus add-on or a Wii Remote Plus, it makes sense that Nintendo would also sell Skyward Sword bundled with one. What’s great about the bundled Wii Remote Plus is that it isn’t a stock vanilla controller, it’s gold and emblazoned with Triforce insignia. It looks nice and the form factor matches that of a normal Wii Remote which is good; the Wii Motion`Plus accessory adds a few inches to a standard controller. Too bad there wasn’t a matching gold nunchuk though.
Also with the bundle, and with every copy of the game I believe, is a soundtrack CD celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary. About half are medleys or symphonic movements with the rest being specific songs from the series. The medleys combine many games while the symphonic movements hone in on one game in particular, either The Wind Waker or Twilight Princess. At first I liked the songs better because they were easy to identify and they weren’t such a time investment, but after listening to the CD for a few days, the longer tracks grew on me. They were all done with a symphony too, real instruments!
The bundle was a good value at seventy dollars when it originally came out, a little less so for me since I already had a Wii MotionPlus, but I had to get that Zelda memorabilia! Now it seems to be going for at least one hundred dollars on the internet and that’s ridiculous. Unless you’re just hurting to get the special Wii Remote Plus, I’d hold off on the bundle because it’s the only unique thing in it.
When I think of a category of games and attempt to decide which is best, I end up with what the first was and what the best was since then. Whatever game did something first receives a lot of weight because it initiated a concept or formula. Everything to come in that game’s wake can improve upon concepts and formulas however and excel past the original in many ways, but the original always holds a special place. Keeping with this idea, I believe The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the best 3D Zelda game since Ocarina of Time.
Why do I feel that way about Skyward Sword, the most recent game in the series? It seems like during the development of Twilight Princess the developers had Ocarina of Time forefront in their mind and the goal of being bigger and better. Twilight Princess is definitely a fantastic game but thanks to the visual style, it felt very similar to Ocarina of Time and not necessarily a step forward for the series. I feel during Skyward Sword’s development, the developers now had the idea of doing something new within the familiar Zelda format. I believe this can be attributed to the inclusion of enhanced motion controls.
Because of the inclusion requirement of the Wii MotionPlus, enemies and puzzles seem fresh. There are many familiar enemies but defeating them requires evaluation. Common enemies like the goblins could block my attacks so I couldn’t just wail on them. There are a ton of new enemies that require special methods to defeat too. Puzzles were devised around the 1:1 movements that the controller would pick up and they were fulfilling. My movements weren’t picked up exactly 100% of the time and when this happened, it was annoying.
With the developers having to develop around the new functions, it brought the concept of doing something new to other areas of the game, like the soundtrack. It’s performed by an actual orchestra for the first time in the series, and it sounds good! I heard some very unusual songs (that I enjoyed) throughout dungeons. Overall, it helped to set the mood when exploring and matched the tone of touching moments, and there were a lot of touching moments between Link and Zelda.
In Skyward Sword, Link and Zelda are just normal kids. Well, normal kids who then realize that they were chosen by the deity Hylia to save the world. The game’s introduction sets up their relationship as well as the relationships between their neighbors. They felt like normal kids instead of a princess and a hero destined to save her. The quest was enthralling, although a little tedious to always chase after items that are in multiple pieces. It makes sense to have checks and balances but at some point you’d think all these supreme beings would realize all I’ve gone through and say “yeah, you’ve proved yourself already, here you go”. In the end, there was a lot of interesting information dropped on me about the historical chain of events relating to Skyward Sword and the series in general and the last couple of hours were packed with memorable moments for the Zelda fan.
One thing that helped to make Skyward Sword feel fresh was the visuals and the setting. As I mentioned in my first impressions of the game, Skyward Sword features an interesting art style that looks fantastic on the less than stellar powerhouse that is the Nintendo Wii. Skyward Sword isn’t set in traditional Hyrule though. Instead, Skyloft, a floating island in the sky acts as Link’s home base. With many shops and residents with side quests, I had plenty of reasons to return throughout the quest. In the sky were a handful of other floating islands and it was a large overworld, but it took too long to get places and there wasn’t really a lot to do. To get to the ground though, where all the dungeons were, I’d have to fall through holes in the clouds.
Getting to the dungeons required traversal of many other obstacles including forests, oceans of sands, and volcanoes. Getting to the actual dungeons were challenges in themselves. The surface areas were not entirely accessible from the beginning and I returned to and uncovered much more about them with each return.
Skyward Sword is a much fresher Zelda experience than Twilight Princess was. It’s still a Zelda game through and through with a similar format and story but it shines brighter because of what it requires. Combat and puzzle solving has been reinvigorated thanks to the 1:1 movements. The surrounding elements feel fresh and are enthralling too. Skyward Sword is a fantastic Zelda game and a fantastic game in general, worthy of being placed together with any recent release.
Finally got some time with Skyward Sword this week. I believe I’m wrapping it up and if correct, I should complete it this week. There’s been a lot of information dropped on me in the past couple of hours. Nintendo seems to put a lot of thought into the general history of each Zelda game’s universe and when this information becomes clearer, I always make sure I’m paying attention.
Other than that, my friend and I dabbled with about a half dozen games, attempting to pick one to play through. We weren’t successful but two standout games were Odama (GameCube) and Mystaria: The Realms of Lore (Saturn). Odama is super weird for a few reasons. It is basically a pinball game set in feudal Japan but there are also elements of army management. Another weird thing: it’s controlled nearly exclusively with a microphone. I thought it was fun, but I got frustrated at it easily. I’ll definitely put more time into it.
Mystaria: The Realms of Lore, also known as Blazing Heroes, is a tactical rpg similar to Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber or Front Mission. We played it for a few missions but I was turned off by the visuals. It’s in 3D and it doesn’t look great, worst of all the camera changes are oddly jarring. The gameplay seemed easy, with a lot of depth potentially, but it was very slow. I might have an idea as to what we’ll play through next however…
Finals week(s)! I took three finals last week leaving me with my final final that I’ll take tomorrow. I did fantastic in Operations and Supply Chain Management, Accounting Information Systems, and Money and Banking. I really put effort into studying though so that makes sense. Tomorrow I’ll finish Principles of Finance and be done with school for a few weeks.
I just got back from visiting my girlfriend’s family in Wichita, Kansas so I didn’t play a lot of games. I did bring my PSP though and tried out Hot Pixel and Tokobot. Hot Pixel is a WarioWare style game so it consists of lots of games that last a few seconds. It didn’t take long to get my fill of it and I’ll probably write a short review.
Tokobot was a prime exclusive for the PSP early on and I remember it getting a lot of press, but I didn’t like it. It’s aimed at a young audience and that threw me off of it, but the gameplay seems alright. The protagonist has a group of small robots that follow him around and he can arrange them in formations and use them to solve puzzles and navigate. I’ve always been interested to try Tokobot, but I don’t foresee playing it to completion.
I’m done with Juggernaut! Posted my review last week and I’ll probably post the guide my friend and I used to keep notes this week. Speaking of reviews, my cohort wrote an article about Juggernauthere. Basically we’re flooding the internet with information about the game.
Played more Skyward Sword last week too. I’m twenty hours in and in the fourth temple. I’m impressed by the amount of new content in the game. It seems like every enemy, every item, every tactic, everything is new, or a familiar thing rethought. It feels like the developers’ mission was to do something new within the confines of a The Legend of Zelda game.
I’m going into finals week in school so I don’t know if I’ll get to play that much this week but I’ll at least play more Skyward Sword, I can’t let my sister get too far ahead of me in it.
Basically a lot of Skyward Sword for me this past week. I’ve made it to the third temple and I think a lot of stuff is about to go down. Link is chasing after Zelda who is performing some sort of ritual that I’m not totally privy to. The temples aren’t the only challenge, getting there is too. There’s a lot of enemies and puzzles that stand in Link’s way, and they’ve done a good job of keeping me occupied and entertained.
My friend and I also made progress in Juggernaut, but we still have a few more hours until we’ve completed it. Juggernaut features some of the dullest gameplay, but what’s kept my friend and I going is the fun of working together and figuring stuff out. That and some of the most surreal storylines outside of a Suda51 game.
The Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game series. Nearly every game in the series has a blend of exploration, combat, and puzzles that I find fulfilling. I’ve played nearly every game bearing the name so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the newest, Skyward Sword, was released this Sunday, I was at my local GameStop as soon as they opened. I’ve played it for nearly eight hours and wanted to write about what I’ve done so far.
This time around Link is a knight in training at an academy. Rather than a princess, Zelda is a fellow student who admires Link. They live in Skyloft, which happens to rest on a floating island, in the sky. Skyloft is home to many people and there is a bazaar with a handful of shops. There are other floating islands as well and traveling to them on Link’s bird reminds me of sailing in The Wind Waker.
For the first hour and a half I learned about the world around Link and took part in the Wing Ceremony, a contest proving one’s ability as a knight. Soon after this, Link learns that he and Zelda are destined for great things. While celebrating Link’s victory, Zelda was wrapped up in a tornado and fell to the surface. I heard many rumors of the surface as no one seemed to know what was down there. With some aid from an ancient goddess that everyone worships, Link headed to the surface.
I’ve completed one temple so far and I’m at the entrance to the second. To get to the first temple I had to navigate Link through some woods which were full of enemies, and a few helpful creatures called Kikwis. There’s one aspect of the art style that really shines in colorful locations like the woods and it’s the way scenery looks from a distance. The game looks cartoony, although it’s not cel-shaded. I’ve heard others describe it as painterly and I agree. When looking at something that’s far away, objects begin to blend together and look like a blotchy watercolor painting; it’s really cool to see.
The first puzzle in the first temple stumped me for a good while. It revolved around using Link’s sword in a specific way that’s only possible with motion controls, which play a large part in the game. Skyward Sword utilizes Wii MotionPlus which makes the motion controls more accurate than would be with a normal Wiimote. Nearly every enemy I’ve run into has required me to attack them in a specific way. The combat is a lot tougher than it’s ever been before, but it’s also more fun because each enemy is a puzzle and requires me to act as though I’m swinging a sword.
What I’ve had the most fun doing so far is completing side quests and exploring. As soon as the opportunity arose, I began flying to other islands and meeting new people. I’ve met many other people besides those on Skyloft and opened up a minigame and some sidequests so far. After completing the first temple, I was able to complete some sidequests back on Skyloft and received some rewards. I’ve been finding treasures like crazy and I’ve bought a lot of upgrades, aiding me greatly.
One thing that bugs me about Skyward Sword so far is the controls for falling. I’ve had to fall for long distances many times now and I can’t quite get the hang of the controls. Other than that minor complaint I’m enjoying Skyward Sword. I really like the less realistic art style, I’m having fun fighting enemies and solving puzzles with the motion controls, I’m digging the exploration and rewards, and I’m just glad to play another Zelda game.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword came out today and I’ve sunk a couple hours into that. It’s been all setup so far, but I’m heading to my first dungeon in my next session. There’s much more of a human element so far, but there generally is in the first settlement. The setting of a floating island reminds me of The Wind Waker, hopefully there is similar exploration. I like the art style, other have described it as painterly. One thing I’m struck by is the way things look from afar; the objects and colors meld together and create a splotchy look, like a watercolor painting.
The coasting I did leading up to Skyward Sword’s release resulted in me finding all 440 of the Riddler trophies, challenges, etc. in Batman: Arkham City. I’ll be taking a break from that now. I also played Gears of War 3’s versus mode a little bit.
I’ll be focusing on Skyward Sword for a week or two so I probably won’t have much to talk about, plus I’m coming into finals week in school so I need to focus on that too, but I will write a first impressions article about Skyward Sword once I’ve sunk more time into it and hopefully another article or two as well. Oh! My friend and I made great progress in Juggernaut last week and it’s so fucking weird. Can’t wait to play more of that.