Look to 2014

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2014 has begun and I already have my first game completed on the year (Guacamelee). After getting a PS4 and 3DS in the last week plus, the first few months of this year is shaping up to be quite busy. But each game is something I have been eagerly anticipating, so this should be a very fun start to the year. We'll see how the rest of the year pans out...

My Anticipated Games of 2014

#1 - Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

#2 - Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD

#3 - inFamous: Second Son

#4 - Bravely Default

#5 - Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

#6 - South Park: Stick of Truth

#7 - A Hat in Time

-Final Fantasy XV & Kingdom Hearts 3: FFXV coming out this year would be fantastic, but I would simply like to see/hear more information and possibly a solid release date.

-Transistor: follow up game from Supergiant; will it live up to the greatness that was Bastion?

-Dragon Age: Inquisition: reiterating what I said last year, will DA3 make up for the disappointment that have been BioWare's latest releases (ME 2 & 3, DA 2).

-The Last Guardian: where is it, what's going on, yada yada yada.

-Indie RPGs (Cosmic Star Heroine, Pier Solar, Soul Saga to name a few): will we see them this year, particularly Cosmic Star Heroine and Pier Solar.

-And wrapping up as always, new Ratchet & Clank??

My Top Games of 2013

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Another year in the books, another 23 games finished during said year. This past year took a different turn as I tried to increase my gaming efficiency (finishing any game I put time into), and passed my original goal of 80%. I kept track through the year of games I seriously put time into (to avoid counting 'trials') and the final tally came to 32/38 (84%). Fewer games played that I was expecting, but I also took a few new games that I acquired during the final week off that list because its unfair to myself, plus I was actively trying to keep my efficiency up. All the while I still got to play a number of great games during the year. I also added a PS4 as an awesome Christmas gift, plus a 3DS, both in a crazy sequence of events. Onto the list.

Dishonorable Mentions

-Batman: Arkham Origins: I was worried it would be more of a cash-in, didn't preorder it initially because of that worry, gave in b/c its Bats, and was rewarded with a crappier Arkham City with wasted plot potential; please DO NOT annualize this franchise.

-Marvel Heroes: fun (FREE) Diablo clone with Marvel characters, but all the microtransactions is too much (like $4 for an additional stash page!!! yuck)

Honorable Mentions

-Resogun (game in-progress): based on what I've played of Resogun so far, its really fun and easy to pick up and play.

-Shadowrun Returns: I am normally not a fan of strategy RPGs, but I had to try this out and ended up loving it, until I had to pad out my character's stats to finish off a fight at the end of the game. Still enjoyed it.

-Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: not quite as good as the original PS2 trilogy, but good enough; besides, great to have a new Sly game to play through.

-Project X Zone (game in-progress): when the strategy aspect is not punishing, and the combat is basically a fighting game, with ridiculous amounts of fan service, I just had to try this out, and through 9 chapters so far, I'm loving it.

Top 10 Favorites Games of the Year (soft rankings)

Knack

Also in-progress, but its right up my alley, looks terrific and sports a very original gameplay mechanic: Knack consists of relics and the more you pick up in a level, you regain health and get bigger. As Knack gets bigger, he hits much harder, takes less damage, and can eventually grow to a massive size. Being able to walk around a level knocking over everything in your way, shrugging off damage, and basically being a 3 story tank is super fun. I don't care what scores it has received, this is one of the games I wanted a PS4 for (the other is inFamous) and I have enjoyed my time with it so far.

DuckTales Remastered

Its DuckTales. You get to swim in the money bin. What more do you want? Granted the final part of the last level was really annoying, and you get used to the modern aspects of games, but as I said. Its DuckTales. A-woo-oh!

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4

Penny Arcade's Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series was super fun to play through. Eps 3 & 4 were both developed by Zeboyd Games, and were fun little RPGs with humor throughout, and interesting battles utilizing some crazy skills. Ep 4 was not quite as much fun as Ep 3, but Zeboyd creates great games so they are definitely worth playing through (such as Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII: The Beginning).

DmC Devil May Cry

I really like Ninja Theory. I loved Heavenly Sword, and really enjoyed Enslaved. So their working on the new Devil May Cry was great news to me. Maybe it didn't quite have everything that made the original so beloved, but NT did a great job here. The action was fast, frantic and best of all, fun. The bosses were large, tough, and a joy to take down. That and while at first the redesigned Dante was a bit of a shock, the more time spent with him, the better he became especially as the game progressed. Towards the end, he started feeling much more like the Dante we all know and love. Now make DmC 2 please.

BioShock Infinite

Initially a lot higher on my list, but then games in genres I love came out. But at the time I played Infinite, I wanted to keep the game because I thought it was incredible. I mostly still feel that way. About an FPS of all things. But one of the reasons I still love playing games is for the story. Yes that's right, for stories. Because I'm not a big book reader, and anything over 300 pages (give or take depending on material) I can't handle, video games provide me that storytelling outlet. And BioShock Infinite's story was truly something. I enjoyed the FPS combat for the most part, but the ending was the main reason I wanted to play Infinite after hearing all the praise it received. I also played through BioShock just prior to tackling Infinite, so I was in that kind of mood. The original's twist was incredible, but the gameplay in Infinite was better (to me at least), and practically everything about Infinite was better in my book. And that ending, wow. Burial at Sea was fine, but not quite as good until its ending which was very cool. Can't wait to see what happens in Burial at Sea Part 2 and what you get to do with Elizabeth!

Tomb Raider

Boy am I glad that I did not totally give up on Miss Lara Croft. I just lost interest in the new Tomb Raider in the months leading up to its release, but a rekindling of interest came back when I read the praise. And it did not disappoint. Yeah, maybe the tombs could have been a little more expansive, or just simply more of them, but Tomb Raider was phenomenal. This is the second time that I have thoroughly enjoyed and loved a Tomb Raider reboot (TR: Legend being the other, which also was phenomenal). I did not want to give up my copy to be honest, but I cashed it in to Amazon on a huge trade deal earlier this year, so I can't complain too much. Great adventure, and hopefully the start of more to come once again from Ms Croft.

Anytime Releases

Like the last few years, I've tackled some games that released prior to this year. Here are a few of those noteworthy titles:

-The Binding of Isaac: great roguelike with plenty of items to locate, crazy bosses to fight, and just the right amount of difficulty; can't beat the price either.

-Hot Shots Golf World Invitational HD / Ratchet: Deadlocked HD: can't argue with HD releases from franchises I love; plus I feel that Deadlocked is under-appreciated for how much fun it is.

-Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix: thank you Square for finally providing NA gamers with KH: Final Mix; super eager for KH HD 2.5 for KH2 and KH:Birth by Sleep, both HD Final Mixes!!

And now back to your regularly scheduled list...

Guacamelee

What is not to like here? Metroid-vania gameplay, Mexican Luchador motifs with unlockable wrestling moves, references galore, and chickens. I waited a while before picking this up, got it on Steam for basically nothing (Amazon credit for signing up for Prime), then re-bought it on PSN just because, and loved it all. Guacamelee even has multiple endings, and both of them are heartfelt and terrific. Keep up the great work Drinkbox Studios.

Puppeteer

THE most original and creative game I have possibly ever played. There is nothing that you can compare Puppeteer to, except for LittleBigPlanet kinda because of the 2d platforming. Even then, Puppeteer trumps every true platformer I have ever played. I have never seen anything this original and this amazing. The entire presentation takes place on a theatrical stage, with a crowd applauding & booing along the way, a great narrator (ranked just behind Bastion's), a crazy fairy tale-like story involving the Moon, a Bear King, and of course Calibrus, magical scissors used for combat and platforming (b/c of course they do). I cannot praise or promote Puppeteer enough. It is truly a remarkable game that I cannot say has an equal or anything comparable. It only sits in 3rd because of...

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus

Duh. I shouldn't have to defend this at all. Its the latest Ratchet & Clank adventure. Enough said. Although the Winterizer was awesome.

#1 - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Level 5 + Studio Ghibli + JRPG design = something truly amazing. I did not like the Pokemon combat with the familiars, but I can easily excuse that because of how truly amazing Ni No Kuni looks and sounds. The instant I heard this game existed, I started following it on GameSpot with the hope that it would someday reach US shores. That day finally came at the start of the year, and it took over the top spot and never relinquished it. And how could it? I have played tried to play every Level 5 game that they have made, include Jeanne D'Arc despite that fact that its a genre I am terrible in, and Professor Layton which meant I bought a DS (and now 3DS) to play them. I loved Dark Cloud 2, and Rogue Galaxy. I wanted to like White Knight Chronicles, but the MMO style just didn't work for me. The Professor Layton games are terrific. And Ni No Kuni is simply sensational. Like I said, I started waiting for this game when it was only going to be released in Japan simply because its Level 5, working with Studio Ghibli, on a JRPG. So, so, so, so worth it. Now I only wish I had gotten the Wizard's Edition to get the real Wizard's Companion book. I settled for a .pdf of it, which is good enough.

Catching Up

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I'm not a huge fan of this recent GameSpot redesign, but I mainly use the site for news, updates, stuff like that. And I like the ongoing blog I've worked up, even though I have 4 posts this entire year it seems. Eh.

Since last time, I've been pulling away from gaming slightly. Part of that stems from my receding interest in most games, which is sad because there are good genres that just get ignored in favor of the same garbage (or worse, a good franchise that's falling apart, looking at you AssCreed). But I have realized that I simply cannot just give up on gaming simply because there are plenty of game genres or franchises that I love too much. So I am just trying to be more selective on what I get. And that finally led to a game-rush in the last 6 weeks.

Downloadables Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational and DuckTales: Remastered started things off, but September kicked it into overdrive. Rayman Legends was a last minute decision, that at this point I'm kinda questioning mainly because of what followed. That would be Puppeteer and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix the next week, and the gargantuan Grand Theft Auto V the following week. I did have fun playing Rayman Legends though, so that's something.

This has been kinda rough on me because I try to play through one game at a time, and when I have like 6 (4 big retail releases no less), I feel slightly overwhelmed. Luckily Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was there for comfort. After playing through the original Kingdom Hearts in 2002, I only made one attempt to start replaying it but did not get very far as I had to use my PS2. So playing through Final Mix was a joy, and after 50 hours, I finished it last night. The only thing I left unfinished was gathering synthesis materials to synth the last 5 items and the Ultima Weapon for Sora. I'm not sure if I'll make the effort to get it or not due to the way enemies spawn in KH, but I do have the want to make it happen. We'll see, but I'm not holding my breath about it. KH 2.5 HD ReMix, that's another story. HD Birth by Sleep! KH 2 Final Mix!!! Make it happen Square!

And the reason I'm not sure I'll return to KH: FM is due to GTA V. Of late, I've been working from home more and more because I bought the Sony Wireless Stereo Headset to use with my work softphone, but I also thought it was a pretty good idea for my gaming too. Incidentally, using it helped me in the Sephiroth boss fight in KH (never beat Sephy in my original playthrough, did this time!!). So the headset plus a coworker playing GTA, reason to invest some time in GTA: Online as well. That and I just wanted to put some time into GTA to see what its like. GTAs and I have a 'love it' 'bored of it' relationship. IV is the only GTA I've actually finished thus far because I tend to get bored and start screwing around which leads to me getting bored of the game totally. So I put some time into V last night, getting through a few missions and checking out some other things in the game. Not sure how exactly I feel about the game. Too many recent games to really know. Plus that other game threatens to steal time too.

I started following Puppeteer like I follow most new IPs: it sounds awesome, has a great premise, and looks fantastic. Most of the time this just leads to the game being either "meh" or "awful", or the rare "good". Puppeteer rises above all of that. In fact, its one of the best games I've played this year. Talking about the game is tough for me because its just tough to explain it without actually watching/playing/seeing it in action. Once you start seeing all the theatrical stuff in action, with the great narrator, Professor Gregorious T. Oswald, and all the charm in the graphics, you'll see why its that good. As best I can put it, its the best version of LittleBigPlanet there is, with a theatre stage framing every level (plus a crowd!), and the most innovative platforming I have ever seen (scissors). Good thing I don't have anything coming out too soon...

Oh yeah, Batman Arkham Origins, maybe WWE 2K14, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. Hmm... Well its a good thing I have a 3 day weekend then.

FPS List Addendum: Congratulations BioShock Infinite

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I have never been shy about sharing my feeling on first person perspective games, particularly of the shooter variety.  I just do not care for that perspective in gaming for a few reasons, but among the top reasons are that I have horrible aim and I vastly prefer to see my character and use the camera to check out the environments.  Which makes the Ratchet & Clank games absolutely ideal for me, because they have fun, innovative, and insane weaponry from a 3rd person perspective without having to aim anything (like say Fuse).  However, there have been some FPSs over the years that have just been that good that I can let the 1st person perspective slide.  My FPS List was finally put together a few years ago, and new additions are tough to come by.  However, I believe a new contender has arrived, and made its way pretty high onto the list.  That would be the spectacular combination of titles known as BioShock and BioShock Infinite (more so Infinite).

I can remember prior to BioShock's release all the hype it was receiving, let alone all the post-release adulations as well.  But being an FPS, I said no because I know my preferences, and an FPS is really far down the list.  However I will not fully ignore a game due to its genre if it is that good.  I've gotten myself in trouble with this aspect over the years as it led me to getting extra consoles simply for a couple games and that was it.  Still, I try not to ignore great games even if they are from a genre that I do not care for.  In the case of BioShock, I played the demo and was impressed.  It was on my hypothetical "when there's nothing else" list of titles to try when I have a lull period.  Sadly I didn't get around to it despite getting it used at one point in time I believe.  No idea anymore what I did with it at the time, but I just know that I never played it.  Fast forward a few years until the recent release of BioShock Infinite.

Same situation, but this time Infinite had a bit more going for it.  All the major talk about the story, and especially the ending, intrigued me.  The great reviews at least backed up my fleeting interest.  A glowing recommendation from a good friend whose opinion I can always trust pushed that fleeting interest into "okay I hate FPS, but I think I have to play this game" territory.  Selling off a slew of old DVDs/Blu-Rays and getting $65 for them all sealed the deal, and I got myself a copy of BioShock Infinite.  First up though, after finishing up Tomb Raider, was playing the original BioShock to see where it all began.

Early impressions of BioShock were very good, up to my first Big Daddy encounter.  Not too far after that I was running into troubles, particularly on a section where I had to fight a Big Daddy and died repeatedly.  Frustration set in at that point, and thereafter when I thought I would have to backtrack for the Lazarus Vector.  It also didn't help that I mixed harvesting/rescuing the Little Sisters, so I wanted to restart after learning some more about the game.  I restarted the game on Easy simply because I wanted to enjoy the game without despising it afterwards.  By the end of that same Saturday night, I had completed BioShock and was very impressed.  I wanted the good ending, and enjoyed it even if it was very short.  It was fun, and I liked the combination FPS, adventure-ish style of the gameplay.  Rapture was also a very cool setting, and had its own grand story of its lifespan.  The twist toward the end was also surprising and helped put all the story pieces together, which to me were pretty scattered.  Just a great start.  I was going to just skip BioShock 2, so I read up on its story, only to later on purchase the Ultimate Rapture edition to play it because of......

Playing through BioShock Infinite was a joy.  Between the original and Infinite, I cannot recall another FPS that nailed elements of games I love: narrative, atmosphere/environment, gameplay, characters.  From the start, Infinite felt like a better version of BioShock in every way.  And that's before finding Elizabeth and discovering more about Columbia.  I loved how populated Columbia was after visiting the desolate Rapture.  And then you met Elizabeth, and as Jim Ross used to say during Monday Night Raw, 'Business just picked up.'  I am still not an FPS fan.  But when its done like this, or like a few of the ones on the FPS List, they are a lot of fun.  The combination of, basically, magic spells (plasmids or vigors) and standard firearms is super fun.  Much like Mass Effect 1, its the combinations at play that make the fights entertaining.  You don't have to just try and take enemies down with gunfire, although you do in most cases, but you are augmented with the powers found (bees, or crows, or fire/ice, etc, etc).  And that doesn't even get to the story pervading throughout Columbia and Infinite.  Once business picked up, and things started going crazy in Columbia, I was lost admittedly.  I kind of knew what was happening, but in the grand scheme of things, I was lost.  I did have a few suspicions about the characters, which were confirmed later on.  But the BIG aspects of the story I had no clue about until the marvelous ending was rolling.  I'm a sucker for happy endings, as evidenced by my attempt to come up with an ultimate happy ending for Mass Effect 3.  That's why I replayed BioShock, and that is why after finishing Infinite, I just could not part with it.  That and Songbird is amazing.

What that all means, is the FPS List is welcoming a new member to its list.  BioShock Infinite - welcome to an exclusive club.  BioShock is added to the honorable mentions group, along with Borderlands 2, which is still a pretty exclusive club.  These two titles prove to me that it can be done in an FPS.  Granted far too many are the now standard CoD-clone, but it can be done.  I look forward to see what Irrational Games can come up with next, because as it currently stands, BioShock Infinite ranks #2 in my Games of the Year so far list, only trailing the magnificent Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.  That is most DEFINITELY high praise.

A new job, the new Tomb Raider, and me playing BioShock?!

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I just haven't felt like writing anything for awhile now, but for my own posterity feel like putting something down since the last time I worked up a post was three months ago.  Since then, I've played through Sly IV, Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk HD, and working on BioShock.  I'm starting a new position at work fairly soon, switching to days after over 5.5 years working second shift.  But even after all that, I find myself once again staring at very few upcoming games to keep my hobby alive...

Sly IV came and went, and I still feel that it was disappointing.  Basically the "walks like a duck, talks like a duck" analogy.  It looked and played like Sly Cooper, but it didn't feel like it.  It really felt like someone emulating or imitating the original Sly Cooper games, as opposed to it just having the actual feel of one.  Sly IV is still a pretty good game, but it does not compare to the originals.

I moved on to the new Tomb Raider after that (and after finishing Ni No Kuni and beginning work on post-ending missions).  Prior to release, I didn't have interest in TR for some reason, but all the great reviews, plus GameTrailers TR franchise retrospective renewed my interest in the new game.  And having finished it, I can say that it was worth it.  I really enjoyed the direction of the new game, even though the ridiculousness remains, in the "surviving lots of craziness" way that can get out of hand (Uncharted 3 anyone?).  But the new TR is very good, with a lot of stuff to do, even though I was hoping for more tombs or just lengthier ones.  I am very interested to see where a sequel goes with this new direction.  I must say that I loved how it all came together though, that everything happened on the island in the timespan of probably a week at most, and very little felt extraneous compared to previous TRs or Uncharted 2/3.

And that, game wise, brings me to Tiger Woods 14 and BioShock.  The inclusion of all 4 majors, and what feels like tighter mechanics, made the TW14 purchase easier, as is the lengthy 'Legends of the Majors' mode that unlocks a bunch of great HoF golfers.  I'm a sucker for a good golf game anyway, plus TW14 is a nice upgrade from TW12.  As for BioShock, I have wanted to try the original at various points, but with all the praise for Infinite, as well as a glowing recommendation from a good friend, I figured I could try Infinite, seeing as it comes with the original too.  I'm around halfway through BioShock so far, not entirely sure what I think of it yet.  Early on I loved the game design, and how it kinda combines action, FPS, and adventure elements into the same package.  The further I have gotten, the more I have noticed a bit of the standard gameplay tropes (do this for so-and-so, gather x and y for z).  I'm not saying its bad, just that I got stuck earlier in the game because I had to find something to unblock an area; this time its just simply, to do this, collect these things.  I'm being a little picky about that, but its just my feeling about the design.  I'll try out Infinite after finishing the original.

But after these, there is another dry spell of titles coming over the summer.  A few downloadable games should help matters (PA Rain-Slick Ep 4, Ducktales Remastered, Castle of Illusion HD), but as far as big console releases, I'm only interested in Fuse and Remember Me until September.  And I don't' have that much interest in Fuse either...  Solid release dates for the FFX/X-2 HD Remasters would be great, same for the South Park RPG.  But it appears I will soon be back where I was late last year, after the very nice start to this year (DmC -> Ni No Kuni -> Sly IV -> Tomb Raider -> BioShock even).  Hopefully E3 has some good announcements then...

DmC Thoughts

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I loved the original Devil May Cry. Played it straight through in a couple days when it came out back in 2001. I would even sing an improvised song about it (Pressure 4-5's "Beat the World" turned into "Beat Mundus", not exactly sure why but it was a new song at the time, and rusted keys). Alongside Tony Hawk 3 and Final Fantasy X, those were the biggest and best games I got to play and the PS2 era was just beginning. Devil May Cry 2 had a lot to live up to, and it didn't hit that high mark set by the original. And that meant DMC3 had a lot of expectations, which it matched, but it also pissed me off endlessly that I turned my sights to a new franchise, God of War. I have made numerous attempts to play through DMC3, but I seem to get stuck somewhere: whether its the more complex combat, the tough boss fights (the Nevan fight may just be one of my most hated boss fights ever), the 4 styles which I was not a huge fan of. God of War was just more fun to me as well. I did return for DMC 4 which I really enjoyed playing. And so that brings us up to this past week's nuclear release of the reboot, DmC.

I can be pretty forgiving. Despite their changes from the norm, I loved Ratchet: Deadlocked and even All 4 One to a lesser extent; the Bond reboot has two of the best movies in the entire franchise (Casino Royale, Skyfall). So I was not all that shocked and appalled at the new Dante. I am a big fan of Ninja Theory after playing both Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, so I was very eager to see what they could do with a new Devil May Cry. I liked the old/original Dante like everyone else, but I had faith that Ninja Theory would make a great game. I picked it up upon release last Tuesday, and when I had time, played it through, finishing it last night. Having finished it last night, what do I think as a fan of the original series?

Simply put, I loved it. Yes, the new Dante nowhere near as good as the old, but he does get much better toward the end of the game. Yes, the combat may not have the crazy ceiling previous entries (namely DMC 3) has. Yes, the combat may be too simplified and accessible compared to the previous entries. But you know what? I had more fun with this more accessible combat system than I have in the previous DMC titles. It didn't feel like you had to know all these different attacks and combos, not unlike a complex fighter, or any fighter for that matter. You have all these moves at the ready, and use the L2/R2 as weapon modifiers so you can easily chain together combos that involve all 3 weapons, let alone the gun(s). Toss in the Angel/Demon pulls, and combat was a blast all the way through. As for Dante? He grew on me to be honest. The hair still looks a little off, but his personality got matter during the course of the game. And the story being told was pretty good. I really enjoyed the ending, even though it could have used a slightly longer ending. The way everything played out made solid sense (for a game involving demons, and Limbo). The boss fights were okay (Barbas was probably the best one), so maybe that's a bit disappointing, but again, I can forgive it if I had a lot of fun. Which I did.

What I can't get over though, is how much internet hatred DmC is receiving. I remember Devil May Cry 4 being good, and receiving good scores as well, but all the recent talk makes it sound like DMC4 was terrible. I would have liked to see where Capcom would take the series after 4's introduction of Nero, but if they wanted to reboot the series so be it. Sometimes when a franchise just kinda repeats its prior entries, those new games have to something going for them to make it stand out against the others. Case in point, the Legend of Zelda. Basically each new console version has been a variant of Ocarina of Time, which came out over 15 years ago. Who wants to play the same game over and over and over again when there are new games every couple years (besides all those people buying Call of Duty every year for no reason)? I can only understand when it comes to sports games. That is the reason I try to only get 1 or 2 sports games a year, varying it between the sports (MLB & NCAA FB last year, Tiger Woods year before). It is also the reason (among other reasons) I won't touch a new Assassin's Creed game if one comes out later this year. So Capcom trying something different with the newest Devil May Cry is not the worst thing to happen. If they kept at it, DMC could end up where Resident Evil is, with their latest entry either widely panned or (seemingly) sparsely loved.

I loved the new DmC. I still love the originals. I hope DmC does well enough to give Ninja Theory a chance to make a sequel, and improve on what they have started. DmC is a very good game, and at least deserves a chance. Accessibility doesn't always mean dumbed-down. It can just mean its easy to pick up and start playing, then be tough to master. Maybe that is because I try to simplify things to help me understand various stuff. Or even more so because I love playing games that are fun, such as Ratchet & Clank. Either way, it means I loved DmC and eagerly await the coming release of a game I have been waiting on for maybe 3 years, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch! Two more days!!

2013 Efficiency Status: 3 games completed on the year, 4/6 overall after playing more R&C UYA HD last night. Next up: Ni No Kuni!, maybe The Cave, maybe Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE.

Going for efficiency?

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So, for about the last year plus, I have been debating on whether or not to cut back on my gaming. It has not been that easy because I there always seem to be a couple games that I give a chance and end up loving. The real problem is that I try too many, so the ratio isn't that good. But I am going to try something out this year and see how it goes: efficiency over total.

Most of this stems from reading an article on Kotaku about the guy's "games played" & "games finished" list. His included somewhere over 175 games played with only 23 finished. Now I know I do not play that many games in a year, but the number is still somewhere between 50-75, and last year I only finished 20. There was some guy's post about supposedly finishing 112 games last year (which just sounds ludicrous to me, but whatever), so that got me thinking a little more about my habits, and whatwith the games I purchased during Steam's Holiday sale (5 games for $17.50 total: Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Cthulhu Saves the World, The Binding of Isaac, Mark of the Ninja, Scribblenauts Unlimited from Amazon), I thought about keeping my own list of played and finished, plus a little checklist so I can see what I have combined with what is approaching. My goal is to attempt to finish more than 80% of the games I play this year, and I am 3/4 so far. I hope it helps me to avoid seeing a 1 or 2 week gap and talk myself into something I most likely don't need.

Right now, my 3/4 consists of: already finished WWE '13; just finished Breath of Death VII & Cthulhu Saves the World; with Mark of the Ninja in progress

Backlog: Binding of Isaac, Scribblenauts Unlimited, R&C Up Your Arsenal HD, R&C Full Frontal Assault, The Walking Dead

Upcoming: DmC, Ni No Kuni, Sly IV: Thieves in Time, South Park: Stick of Truth

Considering: The Cave, A Hat in Time (Steam Greenlight), Tiger Woods 14, MGR: REVENGEANCE

Look to 2013

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Wrapping up the year by, of course, working tonight. But before I have to head to work, let's toss up my most anticipated games for the coming year. 2012, like the last couple years, has been up and down. Not too long ago I think I figured out why: its the end of the console cycle, so there are fewer new IPs and way more sequels, but more than just that. The directions these sequels have gone have hurt the franchises I once enjoyed (Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Ratchet & Clank [still love, but grrrrrrrrr FFA], Uncharted, Dragon Age as some examples). Then it doesn't help that because there are fewer new IPs, when these AAA titles miss (like Dragon Age 2, or Mass Effect 2, or Assassin's Creed 3), I have nothing to fall back on like I did in previous years (case in point 2009, where I had over 10 strong favorite games). I somehow still find some titles that fill the void (LEGO Batman 2, WWE 13), but I think I'm getting closer and closer to needing a full gaming break to be honest. Not quite yet though, as there are a few big titles I have on my wait list.


My Anticipated Games of 2013

#1 - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2nd repeated #1, 1st time back to back years)
#2 - Final Fantasy X HD
#3 - Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
#4 - South Park: Stick of Truth
#5 - Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
#6 - DmC
#7 - Hot Shots Golf 6??

-Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Kingdom Hearts 3: please Square, finish Vs 13 already so KH3 can begin production
-Injustice: I'm not a fan of Mortal Kombat, but featuring an entire DC cast, do I give it a shot?
-Dragon Age 3: what does BioWare have in store here? DA2 was such a letdown (as was ME3 to me), so can DA3 be anything like DA:Origins, or will it be an odd mixture like ME3?
-Fuse: do I still care about Insomniac's multiplatform FPS effort? leaning towards no right now..
-The Last Guardian: okay come on, what is going on with TLG?!? like FFVsXIII, will it ever see a release????
-a new proper Ratchet & Clank followup/sequel to Crack in Time: while I liked All 4 One, R&C deserve a a true followup, not these "side project" offerings that don't have many of the great elements of R&C. I trusted Insomniac not too long ago, but R&C deserves much better than A4O and FFA. MUCH better.

My Top Games of 2012

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2012 was another interesting year in gaming for me, much like the last two. It still felt like very little really stood out, no matter how many people talk about how many "great games there were", etc. 2009 was the last year I truly felt there was a best game of the year for me, and I had 3 choices (inFamous, R&C Future: A Crack in Time, Batman: Arkham Asylum). Early plans to start to limit the games I play haven't gone super well, but when there aren't many in genres I like to play, I don't have much of a choice. Somewhat surprisingly then, I still found quite a number of games I really enjoyed playing this year, almost to the point where I could make it maybe 15 deep, but 10 has been the correct number in the past, so here we go.


Dishonorable Mentions

-Mass Effect 3: mostly for that ending, but also because despite some welcome returns of RPG aspects, it was still way too much like Gears of War, and my love for the original was for its 3PS/RPG hybrid gameplay.
-Assassin's Creed 3: this Kotaku debate is pretty much my argument; I couldn't bring myself to do anything but the main story, and THE WORST ENDING THIS YEAR seals AC's fate for me, which is "no mas".
-Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault: No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! Worst R&C game in its franchise history.

Honorable Mentions

-PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale: loved the idea, but not the execution; why not just finish the Smash Bros ripoff, instead of the terrible "only supers can net kills". maybe fixed for the inevitable sequel?
-LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes: super fun, even if the LEGO games are too simplistic; and a nice use of many DC characters, with voice acting helped.
-SSX: honestly I was not a big SSX fan way back when, but getting this for only $20, I had a lot of fun, particularly with the boss-like Deadly Descents.
-The World Ends With You Solo Remix: I've been sidetracked from this on my iPad for awhile, but its good, and I heard plenty of praise for it. And 'Phones.

Top 10 Favorite Games of the Year (soft rankings)

Mark of the Ninja

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A last minute entry, and Steam Holiday Sale purchase, but I have enjoyed it so far even though I normally don't like stealth games. Much like the Sly Cooper games, the fact that Mark of the Ninja is kind of a stealth platformer raises it to a level where I can enjoy it. Created by the developers of Shank helps, as I enjoyed playing Shank on PS3. As the titular ninja, you have access to a few gadgets to help distract the guards, as well as a few different possible routes to make your way through levels. I've only played through the first 3 or 4 levels thus far, but I liked it enough to replay the first level, which is a good sign.

The Walking Dead

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Another in progress title, but for a different reason. I'm planning on playing through each episode in a straight shot, and so far I have finished episode 1 and was impressed with what Telltale Games created. The tough decisions you have to make without knowing consequences, what you have to do to protect Clementine, and the tale you weave while interacting with other survivors, The Walking Dead is terrific. And this is coming from someone who doesn't watch the show or read the comic, and hates the zombies craze. Can't wait til I have enough time to play Episode 2 and see what's up next for Lee and Clementine.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

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The iPad version may not be the best, but I really like it. When Theatrhythm came out, I didn't think anything of it, of course I did not have a 3DS either. But why not download the free version for my iPad, along with some songs from my favorite FFs, and see how it is. And its pretty fun. The effort put into everything is very very cool, such as the backgrounds during the music scenes. The two moons and Tower of Babil from FF4, the fields of the Mi'Ihen Highroad, its there. And the standard enemies are here too during battles, including the summons, and bosses too. I've enjoyed it so much that I'm considering a 3DS just to play the full game.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitaional

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I love golf, and Hot Shots if my favorite golf series. If only developer Clap Hanz could use their Hot Shots gameplay and make a PGA game with real courses. The new Vita version keeps the great gameplay, tosses in some fun courses and characters. I also liked how they had nearly every meter system they've created, letting you choose from multiple versions of their standard meter-based swing system. I do kind of wish the driver was easier to hit off the tee, but it is one of the toughest clubs to hit in real life anyway as I know first hand. Makes me want to get another full console version of Hot Shots, as Out of Bounds quietly came out in March 2008.

Borderlands 2

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I don't like shooters, but I do like RPGs, and the loot-a-thon known as Borderlands is lots of fun. Especially Borderlands 2 with its awesome visuals and cavalcade of weapons. I finally got around to finishing Borderlands 1 shortly before 2's release, and I loved how Gearbox kept the world of Pandora alive with the heroes and NPCs of Borderlands returning in the sequel, headlined by the terrific antagonist, Handsome Jack. I think I wore out my shooters stamina playing them nearly back to back, but I had a blast through both.

Diablo 3

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Very nearly my game of the year, but it wasn't for the gameplay. The social elements of Diablo 3 is amazing. Of course it helps that I had a bunch of friends all playing at launch, but the ease of joining friends games, of seeing their characters and build, all helped me keep playing longer than I should have. I wasn't a huge a fan of Diablo 2 as most people, so the ability to change up your skills on the fly was great for me, as I could experiment and use spells/skills I liked. But I can definitely see all the downfalls, particularly the auction house. Its nice being able to go and get something really awesome, but it removes the fun of battling hordes of enemies trying to find awesome loot. Still, all the fun had with my friends earns it this high nod.

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

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I really enjoyed the first two Rain-Slick entries for their Adventure/RPG gameplay, but the "old school" RPG feel of entry #3 was also terrific, as were the various c1asses (Dinosorcerer, Tube Samurai, Crabomancer, Delusionist, Diva, Gardener...) that you could equip. I played through it on my iPad, and absolutely loved it. There are so many funny moments throughout the game, that its tough pointing to one or two specific things. I hope they keep up with the series, because they are lots of fun and make for great "quicky" RPGs.

WWE 13

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WWF No Mercy is, to me, the best wrestling game ever made, but WWE 13 is still really good. The Attitude Era mode was the big selling point for me, and having finished it last night, it was well worth it. The moments, and scenes, and actions were so close to real life for just about every match. I started watching in early 2000, so I just missed the peak of the Attitude Era, but I did watch a bunch on VHS or DVD, so getting to play some of these matches was a thrill, such as: Undertaker/HBK Hell in a Cell, HBK/Hart Survivor Series, Austin/HBK WM14, Undertaker/Mankind HiaC, Survivor Series Deadly Games Tournament, Austin/Rock WM15. It also helps that the gameplay is really good, with moves for seemingly every occassion. Being only the 2nd wrestling game I've played in about 5-6 years, it was a great choice.

Anytime Release

I came up with that last year, when I wanted to honor Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. This year, another title gets to earn this, but I had other titles in mind ahead of it. So it sits here in a general Top 3 spot, and that title is....

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection

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FFIV more to the point, since I haven't finish the After Years yet. But FFIV was great. FFX was my first FF entry, followed by IX, X-2, XII, XIII, XIII-2, and I have played small parts of FFI, VI, VII and VIII, but IX was the earliest entry I finished. Until I made it through FFIV. And I can definitely see why fans love the older titles, there's a lot to like. FFIV is a great game, with an equally good story, great characters, and plenty of fun battles throughout. That and the music is fabulous, with my favorite probably being the bizarre yet awesome music on the moon. And back to the 2012 list...

Final Fantasy XIII-2

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I really liked XIII, and XIII-2, no matter how much people insult it. Same goes for Lightning. Having gotten that out of the way, I really enjoyed XIII-2, from the time traveling, to the monster "recruiting", to my working on the Platinum trophy I earned. In one manner of speaking, it is my favorite game of the year, but more on that in a paragraph. As much as I have enjoyed the ATB and CTB battle systems from FFs I-X, I have loved the paradigm system of XIII & XIII-2, especially in the sequel, as the battles are more fast paced, and the inclusion of monsters as the 3rd party member is pretty cool. Calling upon a Chocobo, or a Tonberry, or DLC Lightning (or other DLC bosses) is a lot of fun. I do wish those arena bosses were included (or at least more were included), but I was pleased with those I downloaded and defeated. Plus the last DLC, Requiem of the Goddess, was a blast to play, closing up the story. Which means I am very much looking forward to XIII-3, aka Lightning Returns.

And finally, it all comes down to this last title. A title that while I think is a bit of a copout, I just couldn't help but make it #1, simply for what it is, and what happened this year. And this title would be none other than....

#1 - Ratchet & Clank HD Collection

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Ratchet & Clank is the best. And an HD release of the original trilogy basically trumps everything else. And considering Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal are among my favorite games period, I just couldn't think of anything that actually tops the HD Collection. Granted, the original R&C is now 10 years old, I don't care. All 3 games hold up very well (more so GC & UYA than R&C, for the lock-on strafing), and are just as great to play now as they were then. That and I haven't played through R&C since after I first beat GC in 2004. Same goes for UYA, which I had not played since way back in late 2004. They are amazing, and oh so much fun. Which makes Full Frontal Assault all the more disappointing. 10/9/8 year old games are leaps and bounds better than the newly released title. I will make time for Full Frontal Assault at some point, simply for my love of Ratchet & Clank, but not until I finish replaying Up Your Arsenal first (and probably replaying Deadlocked when its HD release launches). For the R&C 10th Anniversary, I'll remember the terrific HD collection, and that truly awesome "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" poster I purchased.

Tomorrow Never Dies

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I just love that theme song, that's all.

With less than 2 weeks left in the year, its that fun time to read about what critics call the best games of the year. Naturally I don't really agree with them, but that's because my tastes are so different, and because I have personal favorites. This year is no exception as usual, although it did have its rough patches. Not during the fall per say, despite a few missteps.

Dragon's Dogma joins the new growing list of games that I lost interest in for no discernable reason. Part of that stems from my trading in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for WWE 13 (and loving it). And part of it comes from the fact that maybe I shouldn't have purchased DD in the first place. Whatever, I tried and thought it would work out, and good beats if not. Same goes for PSASBR, and WWE13 has been well worth the trade swap. I haven't been a full wrestling fan since early 2003 (and probably more accurately mid-2002), but I can still enjoy the action and whatnot, plus the Attitude Era mode has been excellently done. Reminds me of the glory days of WWF WrestleMania 2000 and No Mercy, the greatest wrasslin' games there are. WWE 13 may join that argument, or at least get mentioned toward the top of that list.

Otherwise, I need to find time to play Walking Dead Ep 2. Ep 1 was very good, and I can see why its being talked about in GOTY discussions. I haven't found the time for Ep 2 yet because I want to play through each episode straight through, as I was able to do with Ep 1. That and I don't mind the small gap between episodes as it kinda recreates the "waiting for next episode" feel as if I had bought episode 1 at its launch.

That's been pretty much it for the month so far. I'm through the first two big sections of WWE 13's Attitude Era (Rise of DX, Austin 3:16, a few matches into Brothers of Destruction), ready and waiting to create my superstar to use in WWE Universe (want to unlock as much as I can prior to the creation). I earned the Platinum trophy for R&C Going Commando and have an early Up Your Arsenal save going. And the finishing touches are being put into place in my head for my Top Games of 2012 list coming next week sometime. But first, I have Christmas shopping to complete.