NeonNinja / Member

Forum Posts Following Followers
17318 178 634

NeonNinja Blog

Not sure if I'm sold on Metro: Last Light

That 9 isn't very convincing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure VanOrd thinks the game deserves a 9.  However, the game looks exactly like Metro 2033.  Again, not a bad thing, Metro 2033 is a fun and interesting game.  For one, brief go around.  I'm not fully convinced that Last Light is the major step over 2033 that VanOrd's score would imply.  If anything I'd have liked if Chris Watters had reviewed Last Light just to see what he thought of it in comparison to 2033.  I think it would have been a good way to guage how much of an improvement Last Light is over 2033.

It looks like a "more of the same" type of sequel and I am not a fan of the story setup.  The game assumes we all chose the destructive ending in Metro 2033.  Sure, it was a hidden ending, but I chose to let the dark ones live.  Not destroy them.  Why am I stuck playing a game that forces me to play through a story that I didn't experience?  Not every game can be Mass Effect, but if you're going to offer choices in one game, you need to carry them over to the next.

Anyway, I'll probably play Last Light sometime later in 2013.  I'm spending all my money on our Eurotrip so no new game purchases for a few months.  In fact, no new purchases of any kind until I return and start getting paid again.  But videogames in particular will be taking a backseat, at least until September when Ys: Memories of Celceta releases.

I need Dragon's Crown, and why we can't let the a**holes win

If I don't purchase Dragon's Crown, the a**holes win. 

With Kotaku trying to spin it as some anti-feminist game, as the politically correct wing of gamers screaming their lungs out at Vanillaware and Kamitani, I can't help but see a close minded group of people so consumed with trying to say the right thing that they don't realize how utterly stupid they are.  Then again, these are the same people who try to criticize the almighty by saying it's got an anti-feminist role and totally has a sucky story so we shouldn't play it.  Which always makes me want to ask them, "Do you just have like some twisted form of brain damage that we can chalk up to mental retardation or are you just f*cking stupid?"

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what Vanillaware is aiming for with Dragon's Crown and its visual stylings.  The way the Amazon, Sorceress, Fighter, Wizard, Elf and Dwarf are all total caricatures of actual artistic representations of each class speaks volumes about them.  From the Amazon's cocky confidence and sense of empowerment in the way she moves right down to the bushy-bearded Dwarf and his bulging muscles out of every inch of his body.  It's art and character design that's actually highly intelligent.

From artistic influences ranging from Thor.


To the heaving breasts of the Goddesses of Fertility, obviously twisted here to show the Sorceress giving life to the dead through necromancy.

to obviously the Amazon warriors

I mean, I am literally, LITERALLY at a loss for words at how stupidly people are reacting to Kamitani's artistic expression, which he shows how we have viewed each of these character types for our entire existence as a species and to turn it into a "well, he's just a pervert."  No, he's not.  He very clearly knows what the f*ck he's doing.  It's sad how much of this is lost on so many people.

It's stupid.  I shouldn't have to draw up comparisons to the waifish Elf, robed Wizard or muscular and armor-clad Fighter.  It's very obvious what these guys are doing and it's wonderful, if only because it makes me feel smarter than every other assbackwards person screaming for equal rights at a game that has nothing to do with those issues.  If artistic expression bothers you that's fine, but when you twist it, "these guys are perverts, they objectify women" well, you're an a**hole.

Adol the Red

Ys I and II Chronicles is a history lesson from the 1980's worth discovering for the first time for those who have never played the games.  The story of Adol Christin, the ancient land of Ys, its twin goddesses and the people of Esteria makes for excellent fiction and one of the best action RPGs, Ys I and II sets a template that would later be followed by more popular titles, including Secret of Mana.  The bundle of games tells two halves to a shared story and should be played by fans of the genre and the 1980's era of gaming.

As a series, Ys is very focused on combat and intense boss battles and the tone is set in the first two games nicely.  Combat in Ys I and II is based on the "bump" system.  You run Adol into enemies and he automatically attacks with his sword.  There is some strategy involved to it though based on your angle of attack as head-on attacks will allow enemies to attack Adol as well.  In Ys II combat is further developed by giving you magic abilities.  Only one of them is an offensive spell however, but it allows you to attack enemies with fireballs from a distance to chip health away as they close in on you.

The boss battles in particular are the highlight of the two games.  Bosses often have attacks that spread across a wide area that you have to dodge before attacking.  In Ys II the majority of bosses must be defeated by magic, as simply trying to attack with your sword will cause the boss to inflict massive damage on Adol.  The boss battles in both games are excellent finales to each section you play through.

Unlike many RPGs, the first two Ys titles each take under ten hours to complete, bringing rough completion time to around sixteen or so hours for both games.  However, the narrative told across the two games manages to tell a story that never deals with the padding, filler and fluff of many role-playing games.  You still travel between various towns and speak to NPC characters, but you are never saddled with silly fetchquests or objectives that fail to add to the game, you simply handle your business as it comes to you.  Because of both games' focus, grinding is a non-issue as you generally will be at a sufficient level to progress by simply playing.

The graphics are sprite-based and filled with some of the most beautiful art of the time.  From the animated introduction sequences to the labyrinthine layouts of levels, Ys I and II are absolutely beautiful games.  But the highlight of the series for many folks is the music.  The tracks are absolutely stellar, and help give that nostalgic vibe of the 8-bit era that stands the test of time.  The greatest part though is that you can change the music at any time from one of the three options, the 1987 and 1988 versions of the audio, the 2001 Complete version or the 2009 Chronicles version.  Similarly the graphics can be slightly changed as well for the anime designs of characters you speak to, although it doesn't effect enjoyment of the game nearly as much as the music options.

I personally find it very hard to understand how Ys never gained popularity outside of Japan.  These first two games are an excellent, almost Zelda like adventure.  They tell a story that feels ahead of its time for when it released and features timeless game design that never feels broken or cheap.  Prior to this year I had never played an Ys title before, but Nihon Falcom, and the talented localization team at XSEED, have provided some of the greatest games ever made.  Ys I and II are classic and timeless games that should be played by anyone who has an interest in gaming's history and the Chronicles package on PSP and PC is an excellent way to experience these two stellar titles.


Yup, I'm an addict.  Oath in Felghana here we come!  Little mini-review over here, but no big deal, not everything needs a colossal review.

After Felghana I'm going to be very sad.  I might watch Let's Play videos of Ys IV: Dawn of Ys and Ys IV: Mask of the Sun.  I have no idea why Nihon Falcom licensed the game out to two different devs.  But there are two Ys IV games out there.  Although the new PS Vita game, Memories of Celceta is going to be the new canon entry in the series.  All three do take place in Celceta, so I'm guessing the series canon will progress smoothly enough.

Me purchasing a Vita is all but assured at this point.  I don't want to start saying things specifically just yet, but I am under the impression that if I get the Vita I can download PSN versions of the PSP game Ys Seven.  That'd be suh-weet!  If I do go for the Vita it'll be my first handheld since the Gameboy Color, which I only used to play Pokemon Red, Yellow and Gold.  This could be a similar issue.

For what it's worth mentioning, I have not paid full price for a game with my own money in a long time.  But I have paid full price for Ys Origin, Ys I and II Chronicles and now Ys: The Oath in Felghana.  Together they add up to $50.  And so far to 48 hours played between Origin and Chronicles.

I cancelled my pledge to Chasm as well.  It was actually during their livestream of Rondo of Blood.  The team lead said he was pissed off at a backer for saying that achievements and new game+ should be included in the game instead of as stretch goals.  Let's be honest, you don't need an extra $25,000 to put achievements in a game, nor do you need an extra $150,000 to include New Game +.  That crap gets put in just because.

So the stretch goals felt suspect and his reaction to the backers of "People have the nerve to tell me what to put in MY game" was enough to make me back out.  Yeah, people have the nerve to tell you what to put in the game because they are FUNDING YOUR GAME.  So good luck to Discord Games and Chasm, I guess.  But I don't roll like that.  No matter how appealing a Metroidvania type game is, it isn't appealing enough to deal with this team.  The money (which I had raised to $50 from the initial $15) will be spent elsewhere.  Likely not enough to make a dent in the game getting funded, but if it turns out to be good I'll buy it later, at a heavy discount.  Just because.

"It's NOT FAIR!!! Why are there so many pirates!?"

I loled.  I loled so much I had to share it with the world (or GameSpot).

Green Heart Games recently developed a little simulation game called Game Dev Tycoon.  It's similar in concept to Kairosoft's Game Dev Story on mobile platforms.  For those not in the know, Game Dev Story is one of the most addicting games available on the market right now, so seeing a knockoff of it at this stage for the PC platform is A-OK by me.

To sum up both games, you are in charge of a videogame company.  Awesome job, right?  You hire the programmers, coders, artists, composers and so on in order to create the best possible games you can.  You start out small at the start of the industry and keep growing.  But budgets rise and you need to meet high scores in order to get the attention of the media and public.  Your company attends gaming conventions, potentially competing with Game of the Year and maintaining your finances so that the company doesn't go under. All the cool kids know about this stuff, so nbd, but in case you didn't, consider yourself up to snuff now.

But what's truly lol-worthy is that Green Heart decided to conduct a little experiment with Game Dev Tycoon.  They uploaded their game on a major torrenting site and pulled a prank that's just too good to be true.  Similar to the immortal pink scorpion of death in Serious Sam 3, they uploaded a version of the game where completion would be impossible due to, wait for it... piracy.  So everyone who pirated the game gets a version of Game Dev Tycoon where their own created videogames are pirated.  And no matter how much money they put into their games they very slowly lose money as budgets rise.  They get in all the high scores imaginable, but those pesky pirates keep pirating the game until there's nothing left to do but go under.  What can I say, it's a hard knock life.

But it's the complaints from totally legit customers that really bring the chuckles.

Some say it's "not fair" that their games aren't selling.  Others ask if there's a way to "research DRM" for their games.  The answer is no.  No, there isn't.  You're going to lose the game every time.  And that's funny.  That's very, very funny.

Green Heart Games basically turned a mirror on some oblivious gamers/pirates parading around as customers with their little experiment.  From the charming little message that comes up once the sales drop to the hilarious lines of frustrated "customers" that read "Why are there so many people that pirate?" is the best way to tell people that use torrents one of my favorite lines of all time.  "Hey, f*ck you."

Thanks to usea of NeoGaf for sharing this and Green Heart Games for providing the lulz! (full report here, although now I'm having trouble viewing their webpage, but I'm sure it'll be fixed soon)

Remember to upvote Game Dev Tycoon for release on Steam via Greenlight and if you do have an interest in the game you can always buy it directly from Green Heart as well.


In non-piracy news, the ever excellent-looking Chasm is roughly 80% funded with 12 days left to go right now.  But tonight at 6PM Pacific Time the developers at Discord Games are going to be live-streaming a playthrough of Rondo of Blood (the predecessor to the greatest game of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.... tied with Chrono Trigger, obviously).  Get stoked, back Chasm (or download the new demo that still doesn't let you fight the boss :/) and let's hope we get a true Metroidvania style game that kicks as much ass as I think Chasm likely will once it releases!  Remember to upvote these guys on Steam Greenlight too!

Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen

I beat Ys 1 yesterday and it's insane how different Ys 1 and Ys Origin are.  Ys Origin is a hell of a game, lean and focused on combat with story interspersed as you scale the tower.  It's good stuff.

Ys 1 feels like an old-school action RPG.  Out of what I have played, it reminded me of Secret of Mana the most.  There's an overworld, you travel between towns and enter dungeons.  Returning to towns is where the story sections play out.  Ys 1 features backtracking between the towns as well, so you'll find yourself running between Barbado, Minea and Zepik in order to speak with different characters, purchase items and to advance the story.  But it's still really fun and holds up very well.

The soundtrack is absolutely ace yet again, and combat this go around is based on the bump system, where Adol swings his sword automatically as you run into enemies.  Revisiting Darm Tower was interesting too.  It's interesting to see how in Ys Origin it can take 8-10 hours to scale the tower, but in Ys 1 it takes about an hour or so.

The thing to keep in mind is the backtracking.  There were times where I was unaware that I had to backtrack and so I continued forward only to be met with a roadblock.  After checking a guide I realized I had forgotten to speak to someone to get an item or something necessary to advance.

Ys 1 took 6 and a half hours to beat, although I hear Ys II is significantly longer.  The level cap in Ys 1 is 10, the level cap in Ys II is level 55.  I figure that's a strong indication of the game being much longer.  Whether this means that's through grinding or actual content is what I'll find out.  Although, I did reach the level cap in Ys 1 long, LONG before the final dungeon, so there's that.

Playing through Ys 1 also had an effect of "Ohhh...." when I saw certain items used between the two games.  They did a great job of that in Ys Origin.  And as far as Ys 1 goes, it gave me a sense of value for some of the events that would have gone over my head had I not played the prequel game.  As far as I can tell, after Ys Origin, I and II, the games become standalone adventures, but nonetheless I'm looking forward to more of them.  Oath in Felghana is a guaranteed purchase at this point.

Playing through Ys II so far it's the direct continuation.  And some surprise bosses from Origin are also on the hit parade here as well.  There's magic in Ys II as well, but I'm enjoying just as much.

Ys II: Eternal, or as the giant header over my screen says, Ancient Ys Vanished the Final Chapter.  Apparently succinct titles are not a thing the Japanese like. XD

Hand of the Goddess

Ys Origin is set 700 years before the events of the first two games in the Ys series.  As demons swarm the land of Ys, the two goddesses, Reah and Feena, raise Solomon Shrine into the sky.  But just as quickly, the demons build a tower to try and reach the heavens.  As the tower nears completion, Reah and Feena leave Solomon Shrine without saying a word.  Once its discovered that the two goddesses are missing, a search party of twelve is sent down to the surface, composed of sorcerers and knights.  As they descend, a powerful force attacks the group and they scatter.  And like that, you begin a journey to scale the tower and find the goddesses.

Ys Origin features three playable characters, Yunicah Tovah, Hugo Fact and a third character that is unlocked after completing the game once.  It is worth mentioning that each character has a very specific story.  All of the narratives follow the same basic structure of scaling the tower and rescuing the goddesses, but each one features variations on boss battles and dialogue.  And to be clear, the third hidden character is the obvious canon entry.  But to get the full understanding of various character motivations it is recommended that all three stories are played through, and in the specific order of Yunicah, Hugo and the hidden character.  Not doing so will definitely dampen the experience at large.

This is a problem I have noticed with the reviews for the game, and even many of the discussions.  They seem to be based on a single playthrough and not the full experience.  However, Ys Origin deserves to be played through three times, if not more.  Each character brings a different style of play to the experience, Yunicah is the traditional warrior class, she attacks with a battle axe, Hugo is our mage and attacks from distance and moves far slower.  The third character is a lightning quick berserker who has to get in close for damage.  Each one has different abilities in combat as well.  For instance the wind power for Yunicah allows her to whirlwind into battle, attacking enemies on all sides.  Meanwhile for Hugo it becomes a forcefield that negates damage as he fires from a distance.  So the difference is in both gameplay and narrative.

At its most basic level, Ys Origin is a dungeon crawler, but it stands head and shoulders above any one that I have ever played.  This is a better and more fully realized game than any of the Diablo or Torchlight titles.  Despite the copious amounts of loot in those games they lack the basic feel of progression in Ys Origin.  This is a better game than Bastion, which despite its innovative use of narration, lacks the replayability of Ys Origin.  Playing through Ys Origin is a delight each time, and that I found myself compelled to do it back to back to back should say plenty about the games quality.  Barring a hatred of RPGs, there really is no reason to not play Ys Origin.

Combat is the meat of the experience and involves basic attacks, magic attacks and the boost ability, along with some platforming sections.  Its your job to determine what attacks enemies are weak against and to exploit those weaknesses.  Some may be resistant to magic and require the basic attacks, others may be resistant to physical damage, and of course Boost amplifies your abilities greatly for a short period of time.  Interestingly, unlike other dungeon crawlers that simply place new power after new power in your hands, Ys Origin opts to let you upgrade your powers instead, so there is a feeling of true progression for players that explore.  You will want to max out the potential of your weapon and magic abilities, while expanding on other skills like boost recovery and MP usage.

Ys Origins roots in Japanese design are obvious as well since many enemies, particularly bosses, litter the field with patterned projectile attacks that you have to dodge or counter.  Some of the bosses literally scream danmaku in their attack patterns.  But its fresh and exciting to fight bosses that are more than tanks and require you to spawn town portals to survive.  Ys Origin is a game of skill, moreso than Diablo and Torchlight, moreso than Bastion and moreso than the majority of the action RPG games available.

The boss battles in particular are absolutely stunning!  Running across the backside of a giant centipede, hacking away at its armor to reach its head is as exciting as it sounds.  Foes are enormous and their attacks can take up the entire screen at times.  But the frantic pace of combat makes it all feel like more than window dressing like many games and actually makes them impactful and threatening.

There are five difficulty levels in all, Normal and Easy are the two I recommend for first timers.  The main difference in challenge is based around how much damage enemies do and how much experience you gain from combat.  So grinding is generally a non-issue unless you go for the higher difficulty levels.  I found Easy more enjoyable as I rarely went back to clear out rooms of monsters unless I wanted to.

The games level design is spectacular.  You spend the entire time scaling the twenty five floors of the tower, but nothing feels cheaply placed.  Everything flows and powers, from dashing to double jumping become available at a pace that keeps you coming back for more.  Levels range from the basic tower design to water, fire and desert sections only to then hit the more demonic sections of the game.

Each playthrough of Ys Origin takes roughly eight hours, and in those eight hours Ys Origin packs a far more meaningful and interesting narrative with actual character growth and villains with true motives than the majority of the 60 to 100 hour long role-playing games on the market.  There is no filler at all, everything makes sense and clicks together.  And while the narratives each work as standalone stories, you should still play them all.  Yunicah and Hugo both have interesting character arcs and narratives.  But the final hidden characters story uses events and character motivations that occur to those two as you scale the tower on your own.  So skipping one of the first two to dive into the third one may have you questioning why a certain character acts one way or another.  The final story is also just too entertaining and features one of the coolest character arcs to come from a Japanese RPG in some time.  And of course, the true ending is as poignant and beautiful as I could have hoped for it to be.

Ys is a series most famous for its music, and I have to agree with all of the praise.  Ys Origin has such a cool soundtrack Im almost tempted to call it one of the all-time greats.  The music I heard in the trailer afterall is what tempted me to purchase the game and right down to the final events in the game the music is actually used as diegetic sound.  Its spectacular and catchy and just gets you pulled into the experience at large.  The audio track played for the 25th floor of the tower is by far the singular achievement of the soundtrack and helps to end the experience on a powerful high note, leading up to the biggest and most exciting showdowns against rival characters before hitting the summit.

The graphics are basic, yet beautiful.  The art design is very much Japanese in nature, with anime styling all over the game.  The tower itself is wonderfully realized and enemy designs are spectacular and often imposing despite the dated look of the visuals.  Its hard to imagine this as a 2006 PC release when American developers were releasing games like Gears of War and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  But it takes more than pretty graphics for a game to shine and Ys Origin stands head and shoulders over those two games, and many more, in pure quality.

While it took six years after its Japanese release for Ys Origin to makes its way to North America, it remains as proof that excellent gameplay design can make a six year old game feel better than the majority of modern game releases.  Ys Origin is the best dungeon crawl I have played yet and it succeeds because it nails every element a game needs in order to succeed: its fun to play, is spectacularly designed and features some great writing and characters that you will care about.  The combination of the beautiful soundtrack with all of these elements helps solidify its place amongst the RPG greats.


For those curious, GS loses apostrophes when I cut something from Word.  I'm not bothered enough to go and fix it again.

Also, I just bought Ys I and II.  Gotta go in numerical order since after Oath in Felghana is the remake of Ys III: Wanders from Ys.  SHOULD BE DOPE!!!

House Fact

I beat Ys Origin with Yunicah Tovah.  It's pretty damn rad.

I just started with Hugo Fact.  It's pretty damn different.

I wasn't sure if I would do all three character playthroughs or not, but the game holds up very well for a second playthrough based on the fact that the characters are completely different.

Yunicah was more about getting in close and going on the offensive.  When I found her wind magic she was capable of jumping into a group of enemies and whirlwininding through the whole group of them.  Hugo's wind magic is a forcefield that lets him float.

Hugo is a slower character and uses range attacks, and I've actually found the first boss fight at the end of Wailing Blue to be much more challenging than I did with Yunicah.  When the poison bubbles came down on Yunicah I would whirlwind past them and keep attacking.  With Hugo I had to play more keep away from the boss.  It makes for a different gameplay experience, which I do appreciate.

The levels and bosses are the same, however, the story is different, or it's from a different perspective.  Not sure yet.  I remember as Yunicah, the search party was formed without Hugo because they said he was so headstrong he'd climb the tower on his own.  That seems to be the case with this playthrough, however, the beginning plays out the same, just with Hugo instead of Yunicah.

I think I prefer Yunicah's more offensive playstyle, however, I prefer Hugo's character.  He's got an attitude and brains.  Yunicah was kind of clueless and the enemy tended to pick on her, whereas Hugo just seems to piss off the entire enemy team.  Although to give credit to the writers, Yunicah does go from a clueless girl who can't control her emotions to a capable warrior by the game's end.  As Kishgal tells her, she's had to step over the bodies of a lot of loved ones to face him and it seems to have toughened her up.  Also, Kishgal is a badass.

Either way, I'm in the Flooded Prison now, (I actually really liked that area of the game) and will keep on going through the game.  I look forward to seeing the third playthrough with our clawed friend as he seems to be the canon character.

Oh damn, Ys is freaking dope!

Those are words I never thought I'd say, man.  Ys is the SH*T!

To say that I've been bored with videogames after BioShock Infinite is an understatement.  I beat it and then nothing held my attention at all.  I tried to play Shogun 2, The Longest Journey, Noitu Love 2, Frozen Synapse and other games generally considered to be fun.  None of them clicked.

I beat Evoland in one sitting, it was OK.  A nostalgia ride, nothing else, and it took like 3 hours.  Fun but forgettable.  But it was the one game I did beat.  And then I found myself playing the demo for Chasm before deciding to toss a few bucks their way.  It was fun as hell and I want to see that Kickstarter succeed and they release that game ASAP!

But it was that old-school vibe that was sticking with me.  For all of BioShock Infinite's exposition, I couldn't sit through the dialogue heavy The Longest Journey.  I couldn't deal with playing politics in Shogun 2.  Noitu Love 2 was entertaining but lasts an hour.  Frozen Synapse was unique but ultimately did little for me.  But the demo for Chasm had me excited, and when it cut short at the large boss I knew I wanted more of it.

So for reasons I can't explain I came across Ys.  It's a series I generally cast aside as a generic JRPG despite having never read much about it.  Just that it was typically on the PSP and looked like a game I should avoid.  WRONG!

So Ys is a PC series, the PSP games are ports.  Go figure.  And it's one of the best action, hack and slash RPGs I've played.  I bought Ys Origin, as it's the prequel to all the games.  I figured it'd be a good place to start since it's set 700 years before the first two games.  All I'm going to say is that those bosses are freaking dope!  OMFG!  I love boss fights and running alongside the back of a giant centipede while hacking away at its plates to make your way to the head is as fun as it sounds.  The boss fights are huge and challenging!

I'm actually playing the game on Easy for my first run since there are three characters.  I'm not sure if I'm going to go through the game twice or three times.  The characters are Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact and The Claw.  Apparently The Claw is the canon character with the story that carries over to the other games.  I started with Yunica as she seems to be the best fit for a first playthrough.  But God DAMN is this game fun.

Scaling the tower is just too cool.  I've made it to the tenth floor, the Guilty Fire, though the Flooded Prison was pretty damn awesome!  The music is stellar, the hack and slash is stellar, the graphics are actually really nice and all the keys are customizable!  I'm playing with the gamepad right now, although I customized two controller input methods.

You can set the buttons on the gamepad to be whatever you want.  So I have a custom keyboard and mouse configuration as well as a custom gamepad configuration.  When I start the second playthrough I'll be playing with the keyboard and mouse since I've got movement mapped to WASD, jump to Space, Boost to Q, Camp to Tab and attack and magic to the mouse buttons.

On the gamepad I've got my skill swaps on the bumper buttons, while boost and magic have been switched.  The customization options are neat and let me play how I want to, which is rad.  I can't wait to see who the boss of the Guilty Fire is.  That's literally the best reason to keep moving forward, to get to boss fights!

Anyway, whether you game on PC or PSP or whatever, pick up one of the Ys games.  Origin is sweet, and Oath in Felghana will be one of my next likely purchases.  I'm hoping my friends with Vita systems are stoked for the remake of Ys IV, Memories of Celceta.  That or go for PSP's Oath in Felghana.  I'll be at that one in a while, I'm sure.  PC version of course.

The warrior mentality

What a weekend man. On Friday all of LA croaked. Girls cried, guys couldn't say anything. For 17 years I grew up watching Kobe Bryant and everyone around just shut up. But seeing him walk up to take his final two shots and make them before being escorted off is something that will be written about as one of the most inspirational moments of his career.

When guys like Lebron, D. Rose, Paul Pierce or whoever the hell else is supposed to be one of the all time greats are taken out in wheel chairs, or carried off or whatever the hell it is, Kobe walks off without an achilles. When Tony Parker sprained his ankle he missed weeks, when Kobe sprained his ankle he was a gametime decision. There's something about that old-school warrior mentality that so many players don't have now. I forget who it was, but someone dislocated their shoulder and were put in a wheelchair. Kobe busted his achilles and he walked off. On Friday night I got a call at like 1:30 from my buddy because he couldn't sleep. We were all so bummed. Kobe will be back, he'll finish his final year, maybe play one more afterwards or so. But across these 17 years the people of this city have seen him as the greatest Laker of all time (sorry Magic). But it was felt again in that final moment. We knew he was done, he could have been escorted off, but our guy walked on one leg, shot on one leg and left by doing his job right. It was a scary night, but it's also why we view him as a living legend in the sport. For all the talent of the younger generation that's come up, Kobe has maintained the same level of play in his mid-30's.

I also helped kick a few bucks to Chasm on Kickstarter. I wasn't sure if I actually wanted to or not after reading about it, but Chasm has something going for it: It's a Metroid-vania style game being developed by Discord Studios, and as you all know Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is what I consider to be the best around. So, with that in mind, I looked to Chasm, not particularly sure what to think of it.

But these guys provide a demo. It's short, but I figured I'd give it a spin. Afterall, I've been bored with gaming in a post BioShock Infinite landscape at the moment and haven't really played anything for more than 30 minutes before setting it down. Just not in the state of mind for these games right now. It happens, so I'm focusing on basketball at the moment, both watching and playing. Still, the demo was actually pretty good. A little rough, but I knew I had to pitch in some money to the kickstarter campaign as soon as I reached the end of the demo and I just said, "NO!" I wanted to keep playing. Go figure.

It's not a proper Metroid-vania. The levels are randomly generated, but they provide an interesting combination of Metroidvania and Diablo. You delve deeper and deeper into this chasm, but the levels are bigger and bigger, with more interconnected rooms and treasures. It was pretty fun.

That's all I needed to know to toss a few bucks their way. I wish Shovel Knight had a demo as well. That one looks like a neat action platformer as well. But Chasm was pretty fun, and I hope this thing gets funded. I really want a Metroidvania style of game to do well. Still, Shovel Knight's beautiful graphics and themed bosses did enough to convince me.

Shovel Knight is coming to PC, WiiU and 3DS.

Chasm is coming to PC. But I'm curious if stretch goals will change that. There are backers requesting a Vita version, so that might catch on.

The Essential Games of 2012

Since December I've been questioning the merits of Game of the Year awards. Both critical and user-based. I understand this puts me in the minority since most people love their GotY awards, but it feels so forced and artificial. These days it's less of a celebration of all the good that came and more of a 'this game is the best that I played so it's the best!"

I spent months trying to figure out what I would say is my Game of the Year. I even found myself looking back at my older blogs to try and figure it out with older GotY posts, and then I realized I hated those too. I hated that I had the games ranked, and so I dropped the ranking of games. Because even as I ranked them I started to hate that one game was higher than another when they offered excellent but wildly different experiences. The numbers should never play a role in the enjoyment of a game, that goes from score (I rated Evoland a 5.5 but I enjoyed it a lot for those that haven't read the review) to ranking. So I finally figured that if it came to it, I'd just go unranked and only with the games that I believe mattered. If there were 20, the list would be 20 long, if there were 2, the list would be just those two titles. I've grappled with the idea for so long, ultimately not believing in a game of the year.

However, with a year as monumental as 2012, with the gaming landscape changing so much, it would be foolish to not discuss the games that made a genuine impact in meaningful ways. The medium is evolving to where critical discussion is becoming more important than mere product reviews. And with that in mind I decided that if I was going to have a discussion about what makes each game so special I'm going to do it in a way that doesn't involve numbers and doesn't belittle the accomplishments of individual greats based on people's perceptions of numbers. So here are the essential titles of 2012, and hopefully it helps you find something fun to play in these slower months of 2013.

Borderlands 2 by 2K Games and Gearbox Software

Notable for Excellence in World Building, Character Building, and Visual Design

Borderlands 2 is the sequel that could. It's big, insane and so funny that it speaks to your inner-adolescent/college student in the best way possible. And much of the game's excellence comes from it being so funny. The characters aren't anything special, but the scenarios you see and hear make them feel like your friends who you're often embarrassed to introduce to your family. That humor carries over into the game's design. One early sidequest has you helping one of your friends, Sir Hammerlock, try to rename the Bullymong into something more appropriate for the creature. But as you play he runs into so many problems that he decides to just call them Bonerfarts. And the game humorously has the enemies listed as that, and so you play, killing them off until he gives up on the entire endeavor. And of course, Handsome Jack, the villain, the biggest jackass in gaming in quite some time makes your goal of stomping his face in a hell of a good time. Borderlands 2 is designed for the 14-year old market with its potty humor and comic book style. And I don't care. I was too busy giggling at all the shrieking suicide midgets to care about how lowbrow the humor was.

Dishonored by Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios

Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building and Visual Design

Dishonored is the first-person adventure that likely took everyone by surprise. But the intelligent design of the game left an adventure that you could play however you wanted. This isn't a matter of simply saying you could play it lethal or non-lethal like the recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but in that you had true creativity in how you chose to play with the powers available to you. Dishonored is a game about choice all the way through, whether you chose to mingle with party guests or straight for your objective, or maybe you chose to rob the house blind of any treasures you could find. Dishonored brought about an emergent narrative that you let shape the destiny of Corvo Attano and the empire at large, and the creative mission designs, from infiltrating a brothel to a masked party to the flooded districts where disease ran rampant helped show a world where the poor suffered and the rich still had their way. There is no one element to Dishonored's gameplay that stands out on its own, but the freedom, true freedom no less, to do what you like, created one of the most important action adventure games of quite some time.

Hotline Miami by Devolver Digital and Dennaton

Notable for Excellence in Game Design, Narrative Writing and Audio Design

Hotline Miami is an indie darling. Not the most obscure title, but with just enough media attention to send users flocking to it. Hotline Miami's message on violence is clear. It's a stealth murder simulator at its best (the politicians will love that). You use the levels to your advantage, to get to your enemies at just the right time and go for the kill. Melee weapons will leave you undetected but firearms, which will draw unwanted attention, could help put some distance between you and the people you're killing, assuming you have the quicker trigger finger. The story is minimalist but absolutely thought-provoking. And in terms of game design making a statement, being forced to walk back to the exit, past all your carnage, with the music completely turned off, gives you a sense of weight that only grows stronger the more you play. The audio design is a crucial element of Hotline Miami because the music will get you into a rhythm to begin killing, but only after you're finished and the music disappears do you take in the sight of your murders. It's an important game, and one that should be played not just because of the message it leaves behind, but because despite that message the game is just so well designed that you will continue to play it.

Mark of the Ninja by Microsoft Game Studios and Klei Entertainment

Notable for Excellence in Game Design, Visual Design and Audio Design

If there's one thing Microsoft knows how to do, it's publish some fantastic indie games, and Klei Entertainment have delivered the single closest product to gaming perfection since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in 2010. Mark of the Ninja is the 2D answer to Dishonored's 3D question. The game might just be the greatest stealth title I have played, and so much of that comes from Mark of the Ninja never trying to be anything more than a videogame. It doesn't send the messages of other titles like Journey or Hotline Miami, it instead opts for sheer gameplay brilliance and achieves that not just through sublime level design but by utilizing that level design in absolute harmony with the visual and audio design. You are always aware of your abilities, when you are hidden, when an enemy can see you, when an alarm can detect you and so on. Every piece works so smoothly to create an experience that works better than any other game on this list. Time will tell if I move Mark of the Ninja up to the coveted 10 out of 10, but it is the first game in two years to come close and it showcases the talent and ability of Klei Entertainment better than any game they have ever released.

Mass Effect 3 by Electronic Arts and BioWare

Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building, Visual Design and Audio Design

Mass Effect 3 is without a doubt my favorite game of the past few years. As you can see above, it's notable for every single category I have available. But it's notable for an entirely different reason as well, it showed me how wrong I was about Mass Effect 2, and the trilogy as a whole. I loved my first run through Mass Effect 3 so much, that I chose to repurchase Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 on the PC this time. And even moreso, I chose to purchase all of the downloadable content as well. And after completing Mass Effect 3, I played through the entire trilogy and all the pieces again. Mass Effect is the single most important intellectual property of this generation. It is created by a cohesive vision that is never broken and makes for the greatest gaming universe that we have ever been exposed to through strong characterization, distinctive visual and audio design, engrossing narrative writing and game design that invites the possibility for completely different playthroughs as you build bonds with characters and shape how the galaxy perceives you all while utilizing different play methods in battle based on your class. There's a sense of sadness I feel because the trilogy is over, leaving the door open for useless sequels that could dilute the brand. But there's also a sense of calming pleasure knowing that I will be able to go back to the game and begin a third playthrough from the beginning. All to experience what can only be described in three words: Simply the best.

Spec Ops: The Line by 2K Games and Yager

Notable for Excellence in Game Design, World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building, Visual Design and Audio Design

Like Mass Effect 3, Spec Ops: The Line makes a full sweep. This may come across as contentious to some, but I believe Spec Ops: The Line is the most important game of 2012, one that deserves discussion and constructive criticism as it helps move not just the genre but the medium itself forward. Through the game design I tired of killing people. But that was the point. Through the artificial world built by Walker I was led to believe everything was real. Through the narrative I was broken. Through the character I noticed my personal disconnect with his feelings. Through the visual design I saw the battered and broken faces of my squad. Through the audio design I could only hear the words of the fallen who I was so deaf to. Spec Ops: The Line is a monumental experience that faced the misfortune of being judged as a product rather than an experience that will help move the genre ahead. A game that is only possible as a game and nothing else, it brings a scathing criticism of the military shooter and rubs in your face the acts of murder you have committed. It asks you to step away and stop playing, but every time the cursor hovered over someone, I pulled the trigger. Like clockwork, I felt trained to do it, and was left breathless by the most unforgettable shooter I have played. For those who stick around, Spec Ops: The Line is a vision of Hell like no other ever created.

The Walking Dead by Telltale Games

Notable for Excellence in World Building, Narrative Writing, Character Building and Visual Design

Telltale's The Walking Dead puts them on the map. Expectations for the team are raised, not just because they have single handedly brought the point and click genre back to the forefront of gaming, but because they have taken the single greatest step forward for the power of interactive fiction. Similar to Spec Ops: The Line, The Walking Dead raised emotions in me that I never thought a game could. It wasn't simply because the game left me in tears, but because I had an attachment to the characters. And my decisions would shape how they viewed me. It was important to me to get them to view me the way I thought would be best. Whether it was developing a potential love interest or seeking acceptance from another character. A grand tragedy began to unfold, and by the end of it there was the single ultimate emotion: Love. I would do anything for Clementine. I would never let that child feel pain, not as long as I lived. It was something I had never felt before and it left me in tears. The Walking Dead is the new bar by which all interactive fiction will be judged by and with its success comes the rise of Telltale Games as one of the potential, prominent studios in the medium.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown by 2K Games and Firaxis Games

Notable for Excellence in Game Design

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a game from a genre I never thought I could enjoy: strategy. And yet I found myself hopelessly addicted to it. It shines because of how well designed the game's design and rules are. You play XCOM: Enemy Unknown simply to play it. Not because there's a story to pull you along, or a rich group of diverse characters, or a world worth exploring. It's about risk and going into the dark to fight the unknown when no one else will. And XCOM: Enemy Unknown is Firaxis' grand success story. For all the praise that their massive and often daunting Civilization series has received, it is the more personal and smaller scale XCOM: Enemy Unknown that has made them known as a development team that can create a strategy game to both appeal to old fans and gamers new to the genre. It is the pace at which discoveries are made that new possibilities arise. And the ever looming threat of perma-death makes it all one of the most nail-biting experiences to be released in some time. It has given me hope for my future enjoyment of the strategy genre, and that's something that can't be understated in the least.

Other Fun Games

Not everything has to be essential, and these games provide a good time for fans of their respective genres. Check them out if you haven't done so yet.

Binary Domain by Sega

Developed by the Yakuza team, Binary Domain does Gears of War better than Gears of War. It's a Third Person Shooter that relishes in the dudebro idealogy of the genre and makes it one of the most light-hearted and entertaining romps through a TPS. And it has surprising depth to its characters. Go figure.

FTL: Faster Than Light by Subset Games

The little Kickstarter project that could, FTL is one of the best strategy, space sim, commander, roguelike hybrids ever. Whatever that is. All you need to know is that the game is cheap (in price), fun and addicting and you will find yourself engrossed at the different ways you will meet your end until you finally make it to the end of the game... if you make it to the end of the game.

Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy by Marvelous AQL, Playism and Opus

This excellent parody of the JRPG genre manages to provide a fun and hectic adventure that also highlights the needless padding of the genre's design. In a few minutes of playtime you will accomplish what some JRPGs take five hours to do. The Hero Mode is my favorite and took me on dozens of hilarious quests against evil lords out to destroy the world. It's a great time and worth checking out by fans of the genre and even people who hate the genre.

Max Payne 3 by Rockstar Games and Rockstar Studios

Max Payne 3 is a badass shooter of absolute cohesion. The game has a singular vision and never strays from it, and while not as fun and breezy as Binary Domain, this third person shooter brings a hefty dose of grit that genuinely works in its favor. The character of Max Payne is a compelling character study of a broken man, and it takes some awesome twists that make it worth checking out.

Sleeping Dogs by Square-Enix and United Front Games

Sleeping Dogs is one of the best open world games I've played despite being absolutely derivative. There's no innovation to be found here, and yet it's not something that anyone will use as a complaint against the game because it's so highly polished and well made. Sometimes you just need a game that can properly utilize all of its mechanics and Sleeping Dogs is just that game. And the Hong Kong setting is brillaint as well!

Torchlight II by Runic Games

Torchlight II is the real Diablo III. Say what you will, but this hack and slash loot and clickfest is the best example of the genre at work since the sublime Diablo II. It's even more fun in cooperative play and definitely worth checking out for fans of the RPG genre. I put in over 20 hours and I still think of returning to it. All that at a third of the price of Diablo III.

Notable Publishers in 2012

2K Games
Telltale Games

Notable Developers in 2012

Arkane Studios
Firaxis Games
Klei Entertainment
Telltale Games