Archive for 2010

Biggest Gaming Disappointments of 2010

2010 was a good year.  We saw tons of innovative games, some solid entries in existing franchises, and (as usual) the slow, plodding approximation of “progress” that Koei and Natsume put into their Warriors and Harvest Moon / Rune Factory franchises.  It may not have been a great year, but then I’m not much interested in the mainstream games so much – if I’m disappointed, it’s just that the obscure games I found  (or the few mainstream ones I played) weren’t quite as good as I’d hoped, not that the gaming industry has suffered some setback it will never recover from.  Here are a few highlights.

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Games of the Year 2010

Since the year’s drawing to a close, and I haven’t posted about games nearly enough to satisfy my own desire to do so… I figured I’d post my picks for GOTY 2010.  Ordinarily I’d call these the “best” games of the year, but I’ll switch it to “most interesting” games of the year.

Infinite Space (DS)

This one was a surprise hit for me.  I expected it to be decent, but not nearly as good as it was.  There is a little more linearity to it than I would like, but the gobs of recruitable characters and a few major decision points with genuinely different  results make it more non-linear than 90% of JRPGs.  Not that it really is one.  Solid customization, fun but quick battles, and a good plot make it hard to beat.  This was better than several console RPGs I played this year.  My review at vl

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)

It’s not quite as good as Baroque – in fact, it’s frustrating and repetitive to actually play.  But that’s actually part of the point.  It’s one of the prettiest, creepiest games out there, and although I doubt I’d play it again I can appreciate the amount of work put into its making.  This is the first game I’ve played in a long time that was truly touching in places.  My review at vl

Dragon Quest IX (DS)

This is without a doubt my “bland JRPG” pick of the year.  It has rock-solid pacing, lots of fun customization mechanics, good support/post-game content (I got two shirts, a poster, and some stickers out of what amounted to advertising events)… it’s like a big-budget RPG, but on a portable system.  It’s a good replacement for all the missing PS3/Wii RPGs, with the PSP picking up the slack otherwise.

Persona 3 Portable (PSP)

This is the ultimate version of the best game from last generation.  It is perfect in nearly every way; the load-time fixes make even the slow parts go by quickly, and there’s a fast-forward available for all dialogue.  The event movies are missing, but this makes a difference in only two places.  With the new protagonist, additional songs, and even subtle references to an upcoming Atlus game it’s pretty hard to go wrong with an improved version of a game that was already better than any JRPG out.

NieR (PS3/360)

Sort of a mature counterpoint to Fragile, NieR is a diverse game.  It’s sort of a JRPG, but often feels like Zelda.  Fantastic voice-acting (if SE could only get this going on their main-line…), incredible music (available on iTunes, as is a more recent arrangement album), frantic action and a compelling plot.  Hard to go wrong.  My review at vl

I hope to follow this up with a “Worst games of 2010”, since I haven’t found an appropriate forum on which to vent about Final Fantasy XIII.


A Few Quick Reviews

In the past few weeks I’ve started playing a few more games… as usual.

At release, I picked up Etrian Odyssey III. I finally started it up and the class variety is much better – and class choice more significant, it seems – than in the original.  I never played II, but I don’t think I’m missing out on much for not having played it.  If you’re in the mood for a long dungeon-crawler with lots of cute art and frequent frustration, it’s probably right up your alley.  I think it’s parallel to mine, but not quite exactly right.

More recently I picked up Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.  Most any franchise that is inspired by Journey to the West (or Saiyuki, or whatever you’d like to call it) has at least the core of a good story.  Enslaved has three decent characters, a lot of frustrating gameplay, and the occasional beautiful view.  I finished it, and I’m convinced it’s really not worth release price.

Finally, I found a cool thread at NeoGAF that discussed an iOS game called Game Dev Story.  Although it was briefly tempting to pick up an iPhone (why yes, I will consider it seriously for a dinky $4 game), there is a free-to-download PC version.  The thread calls it a “sequel”, but it seems to be the same game with a slightly different feature set.  Given it’s incredibly awesome (devoured most of a weekend), I made a quick guide for the layman English speaker.

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Arcana Revisited

I probably have more interesting things to talk about (going to PAX, playing through Starcraft 2, enjoying Persona 3 Portable among others) but I’d rather talk about Arcana.  So let’s do that, shall we?

I originally posted about Arcana some time ago – indeed, more than four years ago.  Since that post I had looked for the game each time I went to a brick and mortar store.  There’s something that just feels right about finding it someplace physical rather than going on eBay and picking it up for a little more (or likely less).  The local Game Xchange, Spokane’s (otherwise very nice) Trade-A-Game, and the occasional not-very-likely Play-N-Trade were all candidates, and all failed me.

What actually succeeded in selling me a copy of the game – and yes, I’m aware this is not a very interesting accomplishment – was the Pink Gorilla booth at PAX.  Yes, that’s right – I had the opportunity to play Portal 2, Retro City Rampage, Metroid: Other M, and, might I add, did none of these things (lines too long / not interesting enough to me) and the first thing I post about is buying a SNES game that nobody cares about.

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An Interesting Game Draws NieR

I’m a little late to this post-apocalyptic party.

I’m not even really sure NieR can be called a game.  While it has many elements of a game, so many of its parts are clearly parody – of Zelda, Resident Evil, text adventures,  God of War, and even bullet-hell games – that I’m not sure there’s much left you can really call NieR at its core.  Yet at the same time, it is a game with a highly serious plot.  On the other hand, it has all sorts of nonsensical banter – your floating-book companion, Grimoire Weiss, makes fun of you incessantly for accepting the most inane quests from villagers.  Kainé is also a wonderful vehicle for (more profane) banter.

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