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drummer131 Blog

Game of the Year: 2004-2009 Edition

For a whole year, I've been sitting on my hands when it came to catching up on my GOTY posts. You might remember the last one I wrote was for 2003, and I wrote it about a year ago. The printed packet with each year's game purchases, complete with honorable mentions, runner-ups, and winners, has been sitting beside my nighttable all this time. Honestly, I think it was just that I didn't feel like sitting down to type out another six lengthy and highly formatted GS posts when they each take at least an hour each. So, here's my solution. I would still like to write a lengthy and highly formatted GOTY post for last year and would like to keep that tradition going into the future.

But for all the years in between, we're going to take the super abridged route.

Please remember that when it comes to determining a GOTY, I never revise or reverse my decision. The games listed for each year were released in that year but not necessarily played in that year. For example, those of you that know me pretty well will probably be really surprised by 2007's choice, but I voted based on how I felt about the games that came out that year that I'd actually played, in that year. That's how I roll; that's what sounds fair to me. So, yeah, some games miss out on due praise, but that's my own fault.

At any rate, read on and let's discuss!

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2004

Honorable Mentions:

  • Super Mario 64 DS (DS)
  • Myst IV: Revelation (PC)

Runner-Ups:

  • Star Wars: Battlefront (Xbox)
  • Halo 2 (Xbox)

Winner

wow

World of Warcraft (PC)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2005

Honorable Mentions:

  • Mario Kart DS (DS)
  • Wipeout Pure (PSP)

Runner-Ups:

  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
  • Star Wars: Battlefront II (Xbox)

Winner

meteos

Meteos (DS)

Games that didn't make the cut:

  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)

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2006

Honorable Mentions:

  • Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS)
  • Mario Hoops 3-on-3 (DS)

Runner-Ups:

  • Mega Man ZX (DS)
  • Yoshi's Island DS (DS)

Winner

ffxii

Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

Games that didn't make the cut:

  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS)
  • New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
  • Final Fantasy III (DS)

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2007

Honorable Mentions:

  • Etrian Odyssey (DS)
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP)

Runner-Ups:

  • Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)

Winner

dkjc

DK Jungle Climber (DS)

Games that didn't make the cut:

  • Pokemon: Diamond Version (DS)
  • Sonic Rush Adventure (DS)
  • Mega Man ZX Advent (DS)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (DS)
  • Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS)
  • Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (DS)
  • Geometry Wars: Galaxies (Wii)
  • Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3)
  • World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2008

Honorable Mentions:

  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
  • Soul Bubbles (DS)

Runner-Ups:

  • Chrono Trigger (DS)
  • MotorStorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)

Winner

crisis core

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP)

Games that didn't make the cut:

  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)
  • Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard (DS)
  • Final Fantasy IV (DS)
  • Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2009

Honorable Mentions:

  • Suikoden Tierkreis (DS)
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)

Runner-Ups:

  • Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time (PS3)
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

Winner

uncharted 2

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

Games that didn't make the cut:

  • Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)
  • Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)
  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
  • LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition (PS3)

drummer131's GS Blog - Uncharted 3 Edition

Ever since I returned home from my weekend of adventure in Alexandria, VA this past Monday, I've been really wanting to post here again and lay out my impressions of Uncharted 3. However, this desire was eclipsed by my desire to play through the game a second time. Technically, I had to anyway because the first time I beat the game, it was on my friend's PS3. So, I beat it on Normal - playthrough #2 - and now here I am to relay my thoughts.

Since it's been so long since I last wrote anything, I was initially considering including a couple short paragraphs detailing my progress in WoW since I hopped back into Azeroth towards the end of September. I've since decided not to do so, as I'm sure not many of you really care about my exploits in WoW. Primarily, because not many of you play WoW. Good on you. Keep it that way. ;) Suffice it to say, however, that my main character has reached the new level cap and is well on his way to becoming raid ready.

And now, without further ado....

drake and a plane

PROS:

  • Incredible graphics. This is definitely another one of those cases where even watching trailers or gameplay vids online in HD do not do the visuals justice. As if Uncharted 2 wasn't detailed enough, Naughty Dog took it to a whole other level this time around. Of course, while you're actively playing the game, you may not even notice many of the small details, but they're there. Things like horse ears moving as they should, marketplaces filled with lots of individually modeled merchandise, and even a wall outlet in a bar. ND is mercilessly OCD about their research, as well as about how accurate and authentic their locales appear. It shows in spades here.
  • The characters, voice acting, and script are as superb as ever. Amy Hennig, ND's Creative Director, is always mentioning how she feels like she can't take all the credit for the games' dialogue because the actors play an important role in this department as well. They collaborate frequently and often times, come up with lines improvisationally that end up in the final product ("Kitty got wet" anyone?). At this point, the actors are so in tune with their Uncharted character counterparts that the result is an even stronger performance. In a game full of poignant, harrowing, and mind-blowing moments, there was one in particular (at the end of Chapter 15, I believe) that just blew me away. These characters act and sound like real, genuine people. I can't think of any other video game I've ever played where I could say that again.
  • Those folks who disliked the final "boss" encounters in the previous two games might enjoy DD's final event better. Without giving anything away, it would seem that ND has realized that they are first and foremost trying to bring to the masses an interactive action film-like experience to the gaming community. Action films don't have boss fights; they have tense confrontations with the antagonists every so often. This is what UC3 does; there are no boss fights. I think ND has finally realized that boss fights, as they are strictly defined, are immediately awkward and jarring in a game like Uncharted and therefore have no place within. Those looking for explicit boss fights need look elsewhere.

CONS

  • Enemies are back to being damage sponges, just as they were in the first Uncharted. You shoot and you shoot and you shoot and they don't fall down. Forget about the armored guys that look like baseball umpires. I don't expect the baddies to go down as quickly as they do in a realism-charged war-inspired game like BF3 or MW3, but they should not take over a clip of bullets each. On NORMAL. God help me when I attempt Crushing next week.
  • It is nearly impossible to break out of a melee confrontation once you're engaged. It doesn't matter if a sniper has their red laser aimed right at your head or a grenade has just been tossed at your feet. You are locked in that melee encounter until the dude you're punching goes down. I have nothing against the melee, but it's admittedly a bit ridiculous that the game becomes so rigid once you break out in fisticuffs.
  • Prior to my second playthrough, I had actually jotted down two additional cons: The story could have had more to it, and the game as a whole didn't seem as polished as its predecessor. I still sort of believe in both sentiments. I never encountered any plotholes, but the whole thing just didn't feel as fleshed out as it could have been. I believe this stems from the fact that Uncharted 2 was just so unbelievable cohesive and consistently flawless in terms of pacing and the like. ND creates the epic set pieces before it finalizes the story, so in fact, they end up working the story around the set pieces they wish to keep and create for the final product. I think I read somewhere that ND itself was pleasantly surprised at how well UC2 came together, the set pieces with the final story. UC3 is by no means disjointed or terrible, but it is not quite the wonder that UC2 was because things simply didn't come together as neatly or as finely as they did the last time around.
  • Damage sponge enemies! I sincerely hope ND fixes this in a future patch. While they're at it, the aiming is a bit slow, even on max sensitivity, so it'd be nice if that were adjusted, too.

OVERALL

Uncharted 2 is still "Best in Series" in my mind, but I'll be damned if Uncharted 3 wasn't at least as gorgeous to look at, at least as fun to play, and at least as deserving of the Uncharted name as its predecessor was. I still cannot believe that the same Naughty Dog that brought us the goofy and comical Crash Bandicoot and the silent, courageous duo Jak and Daxter have brought these Uncharted games into the world. I have yet to pinpoint what it is that made me fall in love with the series so quickly, but at this point, it has a very tight grip on my heart.

In the week between its release and last Friday when I finally got to play the game, I heard people on many sites tearing Uncharted 3 apart. The thing is, though, it's not a bad game. I think they're just upset the gameplay wasn't better, wasn't more improved. Hopefully, ND will continue to refine these mechanics for future Uncharted games (oh please, let there be more.). However, let us look beyond such things as gameplay and graphics. Uncharted has never really felt like a game to me. Sure, I pop in a disc, use a controller to interact with it, and earn trophies, but I've always said that the Uncharted games have felt more like experiences. More so than I felt with UC 1 and 2, I felt with UC3 like I was simply interacting with a film. I was playing through a movie. By worldly definition, the UC games are just that, games, but they certainly transcend far beyond that for me. The characters, locales, and story will suck you in all over again and after a short time, you'll completely forget you're manipulating the events on-screen with a controller in your hands.





Before I conclude this post, I wanted to include a break down for some other games I had been / will be considering buying/playing in the weeks and months to come.

  • Assassin's Creed 2 - My friend, the Kaptain, convinced me last Saturday that it was worth checking out this game. I was able to pick it up pre-owned for only $13.50. I'll be tackling Venice after I finish with Uncharted 3 and after that, who knows? Maybe Brotherhood and Revelations will be in the horizon.
  • Battlefield 3 - It disgusts me that some games are made these days purely for multiplayer and they include a single player campaign, almost as an afterthought. All that I've read about BF3 makes it seem like this is exactly what happened. As I am not a major participant in online multiplayer activities, BF3 has definitely been scratched off my list.
  • Need for Speed: The Run - While I will continue to track it out of curiousity regarding what reviews might say, the demo did not impress me. The cars control so differently from how they did in last year's Hot Pursuit. It felt like I was driving a big boat; ordinary braking and the handbrakes were not all that effective. I may have just needed to lay off the gas a little bit, but still. Also, it pains me to admit the sentiments you may have heard that state the game is not as graphically impressive as other recent racing releases, it's true. HP and Shift 2 put this one to shame.
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One - I'd had this one on my Tracking List for a very long time because I enjoyed Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time very much last September. Unfortunately, this one proved with just a two-level demo that it would be very boring. I grew bored while playing the demo. Everything that's been objectively mentioned as cons of the game is actually true. It may have Ratchet and Clank in it, but it's not a Ratchet and Clank game like we've grown to know and love them. Humorous as it may be, I'm passing on this one, for sure.
  • Rayman Origins - A surprising new addition to my roster. I've never played a Rayman game before in my life. I barely even knew about this game before last week. But, I read some positive things about it and saw the demo available in the PS Store, so I gave it a whirl. The demo contains 3.5 levels, and it was a total blast to play. It reminded me strongly of Earthworm Jim. It looked great. I don't know that I want to spend $60 on it, but I'll definitely be looking to pick this one up someday.

Release-mas is upon us!

Release-mas, noun; An occurrence typically taking place in the Spring or Autumn seasons, involving an often constant release of particularly hyped and/or high quality video games.

Credit for this new word goes to my friend, KaptainKumquat, who introduced it to me in a recent email. In the email, he expressed his unwavering and ever-growing excitement for this fall's game release schedule. For him, games like Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Battlefield 3, and Uncharted 3 are the prime games of choice moving forward. For me, I had previously laid down a course to keep my head on straight, but I've recently noticed that I'm definitely shying away from certain games while adding a couple of new games to the roster.

ICO / Shadow of the Colossus Collection

ico

Next Wednesday, I'll be going to my local Best Buy to pick up a copy. It's relatively close to my local Gamestop, which despite my growing distaste for the brand, manages to snag great pre-order bonuses. I plan on pre-ordering SSX there on my way back home.

I've checked out the trophies a second time and honestly, it seems as though I'll be able to earn most of them. There are at least a couple in each game that may be near impossible for me to achieve, just based on what I've read from people who've already played the games at least once before. Regardless, this is what I'll be playing up until the heart of this season's Release-mas festival comes around, the month of November.

Check vs. Mate

checkmate

I have no idea what the story with this game is anymore. It runs through three release dates this time last year, gets cancelled, comes back from the dead at this year's E3, and then falls back off the existential plane again. None of the main store chains or their websites (including Amazon) have this game on their site available for pre-order. I bet Gamestop doesn't even know the game ever existed. All I'm asking for is a little news update. You set September 2011 as the release window, but you still haven't announced a specific date and it's the 23rd. Has it been cancelled again? Say something, SouthPeak!

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

uncharted

The game that my life has literally revolved around for the past year. Seriously. My video gaming routine in the past year has had this constant objective of "make sure the slate is clean for UC3 to come through". No matter what else has been happening in my life in the last ten months, good or bad, I've always thought about how amazing November 1st will be. No offense, cousin, but your wedding two weeks prior is just slightly less anticipated than this game (thank God she doesn't read this). I've obsessively looked forward to certain games before (primarily in the years before I was in high school), but this is the first time I've recently been this way and certainly the first time I've ever felt like my life was being lived in order to lead up to the release of a video game.

My friend, the Kaptain, has actually invited me down his new place in the DC area for the weekend following UC3's release for a sort of post-release launch party. I couldn't believe my eyes when he first proposed the idea. Like a good boy, after he bought his PS3 shortly before the outage, he heeded my strongly worded recommendation to buy a copy of the first two Uncharted games. He has since beaten them both and is now just about as excited for UC3 as I am. The plan is that I'll arrive relatively early that Friday and we'll try to get through as much of the game as we can that day before his wife comes home (she'd watch, but she's generally not at all interested). I sincerely hope we can actually get through the entire game together, but we'll see. By that time, he'll have the new Ace Combat and BF3 in his possession and I know he'll want to show those off.

LEGO Harry Potter : Years 5-7

harry

The first of two new additions to the list. After the Deathly Hallows Part 2 film inspired me to buy the Years 1-4 game and I earned the Platinum in it, I knew that I'd want the sequel. It is currently looking much better graphically. I don't know if they were going for more realism, but I swear the character models actually look like live, real LEGO figures this time around. At any rate, it should be a blast. It comes out ten days after UC3, the same day as Skyrim, so that hypothetically should be enough time to Plat UC3, although we'll see. While we're on the topic, this will surely be another Platinum, judging simply by the amount of time I know I will devote to it and how I'll be sure to collect and do everything that can be collected and done.

Need For Speed: The Run

i'mrunningi'mrunning

There are some of you that I distinctly remember scoffed when this game was first announced. I know I was hoping for a Hot Pursuit 2. Instead, we have a main character and story and quicktime events. I'd say I'm currently 60% sure I'll pick up this game. I'm already craving more insane driving action and the more I see of this game, the more I'm intrigued. The Kaptain's the one who turned me onto this game after I'd already disregarded it off my radar.


Games that were at least temporarily removed: R&C All4One and Battlefield 3.

There's nothing wrong with A4O; I just don't need to own it the moment it comes out. I'll buy it sometime down the road, probably when there's a killer deal somewhere on PS3 games. You know, BOGO or BOGOHO. The kind I never get to take advantage of because I always buy my games cheaper elsewhere, or I already own every game I'd want to own at the time.

BF3 is totally the farthest stretch I've ever gone as far as tracking a game of a kind I've never played before. It's got guns and violence and it's Armed Forces warfare stuff and I've never played anything close to that ever. But, BF3 is mad pretty and looks really fun. I bet my November visit with the Kaptain will be the determining factor as to whether or not this game ever makes it into my collection.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

EDIT: As of 11:53pm, I have earned my twelth Platinum trophy. It was certainly the second most difficult Platinum I've ever earned (under NFS: Hot Pursuit), and I think it's the coolest looking one I've obtained so far.

victory

Can anybody guess which game it's from? 8)

Scratch the Picnic Basket, Zap the Seed!

Harry Potter is one of the most recognized and beloved fantasy book series of all time. So, no pressure whatsoever for TT Games when they attempted to put their developing skills to the test by drawing upon what they'd learned while making LEGO Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Pirates of the Caribbean to create LEGO Harry Potter, right?

The game may have been released as though it had taken a few hits from a rogue Bludger (a.k.a. crazy amount of glitches), but it's all good now thanks to a simple casting of Reparo (that's Harry Potter pun-age for downloadable patch).

dumbledore

I initially bought the game following my successful completion of what I had set out to achieve in Mirror's Edge, as a result of the Deathly Hallows Part 2 film rekindling my love of the series. I knew from the start that I'd be going for the Platinum. Who knew that I'd enjoy the quest as much as I did. It was really fun. Really fun.

It's funny how a simple game about collecting things can evade becoming monotonous while thriving in a constant state of being almost mindless. It's mindless fun while you're playing through your favorite stories.

staircase

I have to say, if you're going to buy this game (I recommend that any fan of the other LEGO games or Harry Potter in general should buy this game), avoid the DS or PSP versions. Hogwarts, the hub of all the other versions, is positively stunning. It's possible to get lost and it's awesome to explore the different House common rooms and dormitories, venture down to the Black Lake or the Quidditch Pitch, walk up the Great Staircase, or check out the hidden rooms amongst the Lesson c1assrooms. In addition, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley are open for business. Coming from LEGO Star Wars The Complete Saga for the DS, I was blown away by the amount of detail in the scenery.

hogsmeade

I also enjoyed the changes that were made to the gameplay design, compared to LEGO Star Wars. Rather than have basic archetypes like "Droid" and "Jedi", the archetypes kind of blur into one another. For example, if I'm not mistaken, Neville Longbottom can dig like Crookshanks, Fang, or Professor Lupin can, while also being able to cast many spells. So, instead of "Digger" and "Wizard", you have a hybrid. You also have "Dark Wizards" that count as "Slytherins" and in the case of Dumbledore, an "Old" "Wizard" that "Reads Books". Typically, whichever obstacles you thought a certain character would be able to get past due to what you know about them from the books, they can, and a cauldron of Polyjuice Potion is always close by to let you become the key to get through the locked door, so to speak.

outdoors

This was my first Harry Potter video game ever, and I do not regret the purchase one Knut. Quite honestly, it has me super excited for the sequel, Years 5-7, which is supposed to come out by the end of the year.

- - - - - - -

Now, if only my quest for the Platinum could have been so bubbly. After clearing each of the game's twenty-four levels to perfection and finding all the Red Bricks, I found myself left with just one Student in Peril to rescue and one Gold Brick left to collect. Coincidentally, rescuing the imperiled student would grant me the last Gold Brick, so really, it was just a matter of finding the last remaining student somewhere on the Hogwarts grounds. With an online guide in hand, I went through the list of twenty-six Students and walked to each alleged location to see if I could recall if I had actually rescued someone there. I was pretty certain I had gotten them all, so I was sure the game had somehow glitched and did not count one of the Students as rescued even though they had been. It's not as though the student would reappear, so I realized I would have to start a new file from scratch and try again. Before leaving for work yesterday, I had finished beating the Story Mode for the second time and began to run around Hogwarts, collecting Red and Gold Bricks and rescuing the Students.

One of the Students that I rescued was hiding in a picnic basket in Hagrid's Garden. To "rescue" him, I had to shoot a seed he'd thrown out of the basket until it grew into a gray pumpkin. Next, I had to cast Wingardium Leviosa on the pumpkin until it popped out of the ground, grabbed the basket, and flew off into the air. It didn't hit me until I was in the middle of my work shift last night that I didn't recall ever doing that in my first save. I remembered repeatedly (read: repeatedly) zapping the basket with the wand, but never a seed on the ground. I also remembered that umm, the picnic basket was still on the ground for me to zap. In the second save, once the basket took off with the student in tow, it didn't reappear by Hagrid's hut. It was gone for good. So, this must have been the one Student I left behind! The one student that eluded me, just by keeping quiet in a dang picnic basket!

When I got home, I ran to the garden, praying that I was right and the seed would be waiting for me. It was indeed waiting for me. The game hadn't glitched. And with that, I was only a handful of simple trophies away from the Platinum. An hour or so later, I had my eleventh Platinum trophy.


plat11

Sure, there's a happy ending to this story, but I don't think I'll be able to get the image of myself endlessly zapping the basket, waiting for something to happen, while the seed just lay there silently screaming at me to zap it instead out of my head for some time.

Between the Gloss and the Reality

It's been a truly thrilling week for me, gaming-wise. I spent the last week - especially, this past Sunday - playing Mirror's Edge. The game turned out to be more or less exactly the kind of experience I was anticipating it would be.

concept3

One aspect of the game that never ceased to please me was the atmosphere. The lighting, the bold colorful visuals, the sounds of a bustling city and Faith's speedy paces and hastened breathing. If only the game was longer. Yesterday alone, I was able to beat the last two chapters, plus play through the entire game all over again (for the Test of Faith trophy), plus play through the first six chapters on Hard. It is entirely possible to get sucked into playing "just one more chapter" until you find yourself over halfway through the game already. This is not to say that the game is terribly short; it is highly entertaining and fulfilling. I just wish there was more of it.

sunscape

I'd been working hard to earn every trophy that does not involve Time Trials or Speedruns. While the Time Trials could potentially be fun to return to some day just to toy around with, the Speedruns will be indubitably avoided. There are certain parts of certain levels that I found to be consistently broken. Through three playthroughs, they always acted funny; e.g. a wall in chapter 4 that would rarely allow me to wallrun on it. Unfortunately, wallrunning onto this wall is mandatory for progression and so, I was left wondering during each and every playthrough how on Earth I'd ever hypothetically find the patience to deal with such cruel trickery, were I ever to attempt a Chapter 4 Speedrun. My easy and effortless answer, the simple solution to this problem, is that I won't ever attempt said Speedrun. The bronze trophies are not worth it and I don't need the Platinum in this case. Straight up beating the game, beating the game without shooting anyone, and beating the game on Hard difficulty were plenty challenging for me. There's just no logical reason why I'd subject myself to such destined infuriation, particularly if the run had been going so well prior to the flawed obstacle(s) in question.

office

I'm completely content with the in-game mileage and trophy progress I made within the game. I'm glad to leave things as they stand, so that the game continues to leave wonderful afterthoughts in my mind.

While playing, I did find some flaws/issues/whatnot that are worth mentioning. None were game-breaking, and none ever detracted from my enjoyment of the game. For starters, I feel that the story could have been more fleshed out. Uncover all the details of the corruption. Discover exactly who did exactly what. What happens after the credits? The player is left wondering how Faith proceeds from the current situation. From a certain perspective, nothing really gets resolved.

Another issue stems from the controls. I see now why so many critics' and fellow gamers' reviews of the game have cited an unusual and awkward control scheme. After playing several playthroughs of each released Uncharted game and a couple playthroughs each of the two inFAMOUS titles, I am definitely used to a particular control scheme when it comes to action games. It's exactly like how you come to assume X will mean "Confirm" while O will mean "Cancel", or how PS3 gamers have come to learn that R2 is the new "Accelerate" in 95% of current gen racing games. So, imagine my perplexion when I suddenly found myself (more often than I would have liked...through all three playthroughs, no less) accidentally pressing R1 to shoot and finding myself turning around 180 degrees instead, or, pressing the Square button in anticipation of a Melee punch but rather, finding that I'd triggered the Reaction Time mechanic. Oh well, right? Well, this is what happens when developers commune and agree on a certain control scheme and then one developer decides to stray. Perhaps the sequel will provide us with the welcome and familiar control scheme we have come to love and trust.

cityconcept

Speaking of "the sequel," I would love to see a Mirror's Edge 2. I could totally see an Uncharted 2 / inFAMOUS 2 moment happening once again, with an outright phenomenal sequel coming along that blows us all away and makes all the years of waiting worth it.

*MAJOR SPOILERS* Since the story ends with Faith's sister, Kate, in a personal scenario that doesn't really lend itself towards enabling her to remain a cop, what if Kate decided to agree to letting Faith teach her the ways of being a Runner and together, they worked to take down the Mayor and Celeste and Pirandello Kruger and bring the "new" city to its knees? How positively epic would that be? I'd play that.

Heck, having played the first Mirror's Edge, I'd be game for Mirror's Edge 2, no matter what.

theend

The Lightning Has Passed, New Forecast Arrives

Tonight, I beat my Evil/Hard playthrough of inFAMOUS 2, granting me my tenth Platinum trophy. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, let me just say that if you find yourself playing - and enjoying - the first inFAMOUS even just a little bit, you absolutely need to pick up the sequel. I am not exaggerating.

Amazingly enough, I am right on schedule, as far as my summer gaming plans are concerned. I wanted to save Mirror's Edge until August and I hoped I'd be ready to play it come August and sure enough, here we are on the eve of the first of August and I've plat'd both inFAMOUS games! I currently have no plans to plat Mirror's Edge, but of course, this is contingent upon me absolutely sucking at the Time Trials. We'll see. After Mirror's Edge, I will attempt to earn the Platinum for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The key word there is "attempt", as my brother had shown me months ago that even Normal proved too difficult for him. However, if Minishdriveby can do it, I'm sure there's a chance I may be able to pull it off. Maybe.

Now, what happens after Lords of Shadow? Funny you should ask. Regardless of whether or not I can pick up a full-time teaching position somewhere (please pray for me, all of you), Autumn 2011 looks pretty locked in and booked. I can't see myself suddenly wanting to buy more games than the ones I've been tracking for months already and they seem to be spaced enough so that I'll be able to just about beat one right before the next gets released. That's probably wishful thinking, but on paper, it looks that way.

At any rate, here's my Autumn gaming forecast through to the start of next year (NOTE: 3DS titles are not mentioned due to my utter and complete lack of possession of a Nintendo 3DS):

ICO / Shadow of the Colossus Collection - September 27, 2011

My first "HD Remastered" Collection title. The first game, one I completely skipped due to lack of interest. The second, missed because my PS2 was already long out of order at the time of release. Now, my interests have changed and I see this as my prime opportunity to see what I missed out on the first time around. This game (or is it, these games?) will allow me to see if I should continue tracking The Last Guardian.

Check vs. Mate - September 30, 2011

This game was supposed to be released last September. Then, the date got moved to some time last October. Then, the date got moved once more to a day somewhere in last November. That third release date came and went and still no "Battle Vs. Chess" on the shelves or available for order anywhere online. I was sure the game had been sadly cancelled. I came to find out it was all because the name was very similar to the original NES game's name, Battle Chess, which this modern game is quite obviously inspired by. My brother and I were pretty bummed. We're not chess masters by any means, but a fun-looking chess game like this was exactly the kind of thing we'd love to play.

Flash forward to about a month ago. I found out the game released in Europe and would be coming to the US under a new, less copyright-infringing title: Check vs. Mate. Quite honestly, I don't care what the damn thing is called. Just release it so I can hold a copy in my hands and play some Wizard's Chess with my brother!

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One - October 18, 2011

I haven't decided whether or not I will be buying this one right away or if I'll be holding off until I can find a nice deal on it. Regardless, ever since I played Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time last year, I've been eager to play more Ratchet and Clank. The platforming is always solid, the weapons are always amusing, and the script is laugh out loud funny more often than not. I like the idea that I'll be able to play this one with my brother, in addition to with or without one or more of my PSN friends. Some really good times might be had with this one.

Battlefield 3 - October 25, 2011

I bet you weren't expecting to see this one on the list. A month ago, it wouldn't have been. I've been in jaw-dropped awe of this game ever since E3 introduced me to this fine piece of gameplay footage. I have never been a fan, let alone played, anything remotely close to a "war sim" shooter like this, but I didn't know it's gotten to the point where they look and sound this realistic. Anyway, back to how it got on this list. I've got a really good friend from high school (some of you may already be vaguely acquainted with...the Kaptain) that has a friend from college that he would play copious amounts of BF2 with on the 360, and I just keep thinking how fun it'd be to join in if this friend of his happened to have a PS3. I don't know which way the Kaptain's going to go with this one, 360 or PS3, so that's actually a determining factor as to whether or not I'll pick this one up in the end. Also, what the reviews say will matter greatly. There is just no way I'm going to drop $60 on a game that is so unlike anything I've ever played or even remotely had an interest in watching being played before.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - November 1, 2011

Ummm....duh. 8)

SSX - January 2012

The only snowboarding video games I've ever played are the two Snowboarding Kids titles that were made for the N64 (fun little suckers) and Cool Boarders 2001 for the PS2, which me, the Kaptain, my brother, and another good high school friend of mine had an absolute blast with around the time of release. I've never played a SSX game before, but I know what the franchise has been about. I caught wind of this one and immediately began tracking it. I think the fact they used actual topographical intel from NASA to inspire their mountains piqued my interest. That, and the fact there will be a huge number of drop points and at least ten mountains to choose from around the world (I think I heard 18 somewhere). I was definitely all in once the Kaptain got himself a PS3. The two of us are going to be all over this. I do hope there's split screen MP, as well as online MP here. Competing against my brother was always such a highlight of our time with CB '01.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 - January 2012

The original FFXIII may not have been the most well-received game in the series and it's by no means my favorite, but I did enjoy my time with it. That said, here comes a direct sequel and I'm really hoping it helps to redeem the FFXIII brand. Contrary to popular opinion, I had an amazing time with the first direct FF sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, so I have high hopes for a similarly entertaining adventure. We still know very little about the game, but I do hope it can stick to its current January release time frame. Between SSX and FFXIII-2, I'd be set for the whole month.

It's Electric!

Click for appropriate background audio.


shockwave

Thank you. Now then. It pleases me greatly to let you all know that as of one hour and twenty-one minutes ago, I earned the Platinum trophy for the first inFAMOUS. I can't say it was all that difficult to earn; however, I did need to work hard to pull off all the stunts (an actual stunt list detailing how to do each one would have been marvelous) and certain missions tested the limits of my patience at times. Ironically, my Hard playthrough went smoother than my Medium playthrough. Funny thing is, rather than say I can't place why, I happen to know exactly why. I went most of the way through my first playthrough completely oblivious to the fact that absorbing electricity from any source heals Cole. I knew it gave you more energy to use on special attacks, but I never knew it healed you. Would you believe the difference that made? Life-changing. I also never realized until much later that I could make my own generators by repeatedly shooting objects like exploded cars, trash cans, and such with Lightning Bolts until I felt I'd stored enough energy in the object to absorb back into myself. The tutorial at the start of the game on these topics, which was delivered through character dialogue, was clearly not direct enough.

evilzap

For the most part, I definitely enjoyed the game very much. Gameplay elements were varied, and the game was very easy to pick up and just start toying around with. The music wasn't anything special, but it did help to accompany the current mood and environment of a grim, dangerous, and collapsing city. The controls were just fine, although one of my major issues with the game is Cole's tendency to be ultra clingy, as though the buildings and streetlight poles etc. had some kind of electromagnet. Sometimes, I just wanted to let go of the side of a building and use my Thrusters to glide in between the adjacent buildings. But no, the game would make Cole cling right back onto the building, just a few feet down.

Another problem I have with the game is all the glitches that happen. I didn't experience that many during the first playthrough, but it was a totally different story with the second. I fell through a concrete parking lot into water, ran through metal gates, encountered temporary invisible walls, and even had to replay a mission from start to finish because none of the enemies or cutscenes were triggered to appear/play. Isn't there a reason games have Betas and play testers and Quality Control? Again, by no means a game breaker, but it was certainly irritating.

All that said, I still would like to give this game an 8.5. The glitches and clingy controls keep this game from being a 9.0 for me.

tstorm

And now, it is time for me to move on to inFAMOUS 2. I had preordered the game back in March or April because I had a hunch that I'd enjoy it. I didn't know about the early access to the Uncharted 3 beta at that point, and I hadn't touched the first inFAMOUS either. Now that I have played the first game, I can't wait to jump into the sequel. I just know it's going to be a vast improvement and even more fun to play than this first game.

sequelhereicome

Out of Control!

Have you seen my Now Playing list lately? It has never been that long. I usually like to keep it between two and four games, but it usually sticks to at most three. There are nine games listed currently (there are so many, not all are shown). To say I'm feeling a bit crazed by it is an understatement.

You see, I'm a guy that likes to finish something that he's started before moving on to the next thing. When it comes to books I'm reading or RPGs I'm playing, particularly, it's one at a time. Somehow, with the rush of new content at the PS Store, including the Welcome Back games, I've lost track of my own system and am just running around with a multitude of game play objectives all over the place.

Case in point:

  • Uncharted 2 and Hot Pursuit come in and out of my rotation as my good friend, the Kaptain, is available for online play. In addition, I do have at least ten DLC events still to get Gold or Distinction in. There are four Silver trophies up for grab there.
  • I downloaded Cuboid because I wanted to and because I really wanted to succeed in my goal to reach trophy level 11 without use of Outland or Portal 2 or by starting inFAMOUS. I made it through the Beginner and Expert levels on my own with only minimal help from Youtube. I'm working through the DLC courses now. They are very tough.
  • LittleBigPlanet 2, the game that keeps on giving. I am so glad I decided to pick this one up. It restored my faith in the LBP franchise, after the first LBP infuriated me to no end. 6h05tly and I have been spending many, many hours together in our Pods and out and about in the Imagiscape or whatever the game calls it. Besides that, I've been spending many hours with it by myself. Last week, 6h05tly aced the game and I suddenly saw this as a challenge. Through last week, I worked through the worlds until I had only "Where in the World is Avalon Centrifuge?" and the final boss level left to ace. Easier said than done, in the case of the former. But, I did it. And now, I'm working with 6h05tly to earn the Silver "Uber Prize Collector" trophy. I'm at 92% at the moment and the multi-player parts of certain levels won't be difficult; however, there are two levels in which I know I still have bubbles to find. They will be challenging. ...I never thought I'd find myself playing this game as much as I am. This leads towards this problem I have in general.
  • Super Stardust HD. Really, all I want to shoot for in this game right now is to make it through Split-Screen mode with my brother. There's a stupid easy Gold trophy waiting in the final level and I want it.
  • Outland. It finally came out! I really want to play it! But I have all these other things in other games that I'd like to do!
  • ModNation Racers. I really truly did not think this game would come back into my rotation anytime soon, but UFG released not one but two new DLC Tours in the last week and for some inexplicable reason, I feel like going insane by trying to complete all the optional race objectives for all the new tracks. I think somewhere along the way, I thought they might be doable with enough repetition. Doable. That word is the kiss of death. Trophies are black and white for me: They're either doable or not doable. I won't touch "not doable", but I will try very hard to succeed with the doable ones.
  • We haven't even talked about Portal 2 or You Don't Know Jack yet! I am almost done with Portal 2. My brother and I cleared the co-op campaign two nights ago and the only two trophies that remain before I plat the game are Still Alive and Friends List with Benefits (Minishdriveby or KillerWabbit23, looking at you, lol). I'll be glad when I can put Portal 2 behind me, simply from a logistics standpoint. Waiting for Dominick to come home when I really wanted to play the game more was killing me. Now, with YDKJ, I just need the Fourth of July to come. The only freaking trophy I still need before I plat the game requires that I play on July 4th. Do you believe that? Like Portal 2, this is something I just want out of the way so I don't have it popping in my head anymore.

All this and I haven't even mentioned inFAMOUS or inFAMOUS 2 or Mirror's Edge or Lords of Shadow, all games that I'd like to complete before September. There's also the chance Battle Vs. Chess may be released in the States. Either that, or I will import it. Furthermore, there's poor Pokemon White that hasn't seen screen time in weeks and DKCR, which hasn't seen the light of day in half a year.


I just need to be able to put some games in my drawer and have them stay there for a while. New things can't keep popping up when I'm trying to make the stack diminish.

I suppose it will help that the school year at the middle school where I work wraps up next Monday. I'll have much more time to play once my day opens up.

Craziest Trophy-Related Goal Yet

I bet you're all eternally grateful to me at the moment for not posting yet another E3-related blog post. You're welcome, haha.

I just wanted to share on here my gaming goals for today (slash, maybe tomorrow). I have to say, it's rather ambitious. I thought up the idea earlier in the week, but didn't actually think it was going to be possible until I wrote out a gameplan (no pun intended) for how to reach the goal.

The objective is to reach PS3 Trophy Level 11 without starting to play a game I haven't touched yet or relying on the Portal 2 co-op play that will resume once my brother comes home this coming Sunday. Essentially, I wanted to see if I could hit level 11 just by playing LBP2, NFS: HP, and my two Welcome Back titles (Super Stardust HD and Wipeout HD).

You might be wondering: Drummer, how were you able to figure out exactly how many trophies you still needed in order to level up? My response is simple. Mathematical calculations. It turns out there's basic arithmetic behind the trophy leveling system.

Here's a brief rundown of the magic behind the mystery:

  • Believe it or not, trophies are like itemized XBox 360 Gamer Points. Instead of physically seeing the number of points being awarded for a certain task or accomplishment, we simply see a type of trophy that identifies the difficulty of that task or accomplishment. It seems to make common sense that Bronze trophies are "worth less" than Silvers, Silvers are "worth less" than Golds, and Platinum trophies are far more valuable than even Golds.
  • The exact breakdown is as such: Bronze trophies are worth 15 points. Silver trophies are worth 30 points. Golds are worth three times that amount, or 90 points. Lastly, Platinum trophies are worth a whopping 180 points. These values are based on lots of experimenting and research conducted by players with lots of patience and spare time. At any rate, we can see that a single Platinum trophy is equivalent to twelve Bronze, six Silver, or two Gold.
  • Now, the next bit comes when we consider what it actually takes to level. It becomes clear very quickly that the same amount of trophies (I mean that loosely, since each person gathers different assortments of trophies in various orders) is not required for each level. Final Fantasy VIII, this is not. Instead, there's a sort of incremental system in play. It takes 200 "trophy points" to reach level 2, 600 to reach 3, 1200 for 4, 2400 for 5, and 4000 for 6. These are cumulative totals. If you're level 5, it only takes another 1600 to reach level 6, not another 4000 points. Anyway, moving on, from level 7 to level 12, it takes exactly 2000 additional trophy points to reach the next level. That's roughly two Platinum'd games, from start to finish. To reach level 13 and every level beyond that, the experimenting has shown that it takes another 8000 points each time to hit the next level. This is why we see many folks in the level 11-13 range and only the insane Platinum trophy hunters anywhere between level 16 and beyond.

So here's how I figured out what I personally needed to do to reach this very challenging goal of mine. Presently, I am level 10 and 85%. Since it takes 2000 points to get from level 10 to 11, I determined what 85% of 2000 is. Then, I subtracted this amount from 2000 and figured out that I only have 300 points left to earn before I "DING". At this point, I only needed to map out my course of action. Luckily, I had an entire planning period at school during which I had absolutely nothing else productive to do.

ambition page 1

This second page lists trophies I'd like to get from these games that I don't necessarily need to get in order to achieve my goal. I could very well just play one more planet in SSHD, for instance, and hit the 300-points-earned mark, rather than diving into LBP2.

ambition page 2

Well, wish me luck; here I go!

Still Alive after the Rapture

Last night, I completed my first playthrough of the single player portion of Portal 2. It was phenomenal. What a game.

I have to admit, coming into Portal 2, I only knew about the first Portal through a basic idea of its gameplay, the humorous lines of GLaDOS, "The Cake is a Lie," and the song "Still Alive". I had never played a second of it. It was only the first game's reputation and widespread appeal that caused me to consider checking out Portal 2. As more spoiler-free information came out about the sequel, I grew ever more worried that the puzzles contained within would be too hard for me, but I never once removed the game from my Tracking List. When the game finally came out, it still was on my Tracking List, but had not yet made it to my Wish List.

It never made it to my Wish List.

And yet, Kmart had that sale a few weeks back, selling the 360 and PS3 versions of the game for only $35 and I took full advantage of it. This has thus become another case of "so glad I decided to still check the game out in the end". I can't imagine how life would have been had I not allowed myself the opportunity to experience this game.

Because that's exactly what Portal 2 is to me. An experience.

portaleagle

Very few games that I've played are cl@ssified by yours truly as "gaming experiences". Most recently, I named the Uncharted games as "experiences". Final Fantasy XII, if I remember correctly, was also labeled an "experience" last year. Essentially, I define a gaming "experience" as a game whose story or overall gameplay far transcends what the great majority of games out there present.

Both Uncharted games feature a stellar story that captures your attention from the start, never lets you go, and stays with you long after the credits roll. The gameplay mechanics that accompany the story, while superb in their own right, play a secondary role but are so vital to the overall enjoyment of the game. They feel like they're behind the scenes, in a way. When I play either Uncharted game, the game plays naturally. I don't have to work to make Drake do what I want him to. I feel like he will do whatever I want him to. I can try different strategies to take out enemies. However, the point is that the game never feels like a shooter, at least to me. The enemies are in my way as I'm trying to progress the story and make it to the next crucial moment in the treasure hunt; they are simply obstacles that must be overcome somehow. I am playing through an engrossing story, not through a mere third-person shooter. The environments catch my attention, characters' motivations and in-game events make me stop and think and digest what's happening, and the mythology behind certain elements of the storyline inspires me to do some online research to learn more. These are not merely A+, AAA, Greatest Hits games to me. These, are gaming experiences.

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT*

And so, Portal 2 becomes the newest member of this exclusive club. The gameplay is simple. For the most part, you travel from chamber to chamber, using your portal gun to link two differently-colored portals together on white panels to get yourself from one place to another. There are companion cubes, lasers, turrets, a variety of gels, faith plates, and excursion funnels involved along the way, but they're all part of the puzzles within each chamber. Getting the exit door to open is one thing; keeping everything activated so you can walk through the door is another. That is the gist of the game. And yet, there is so much more to the game. Some might say the story is very bare bones. There is a twist mid-game and suddenly you're trying to stop an entity you didn't think would become such a problem. The game starts out with things being one way and then all of a sudden, the game is playing itself out in a completely different way. I believe I've read books whose plots have taken this sort of turn. A major revelation occurs and everything gets flipped on its head. This happens in Portal 2.

Chapters 6 and 7, specifically, gave me chills as I felt at times like I was playing a Myst game. Story progresses through the environment. What you see, what you hear, and what you read will tell you all you need to know about what happened and I loved that. It was such a contrast from the first half of the game.

I really wish I could go into more detail about the elements that I love so much, but I'm really trying to be as spoiler-free as possible. Suffice it to say, I absolutely loved the ending. It was...unexpected, and then it made me hold my breath, and then it made me tear up. And then I laughed. And then my jaw dropped as a realization set in. Then I laughed some more during the credits.

And then once the credits were over, I sat there and gave the game some genuine applause.



Most of you know how critical I can be about games and how harsh my tracking/buying processes are. This is why when I say that I highly recommend Portal 2 to both fans of the first game and total newbies to the series alike, you should listen wholeheartedly with both ears. I can't say that it's replayable in the way that the Uncharted games are replayable, but it's definitely something you'll want to play through again after some time. Also, there is plenty of content to go around when you consider there's also an entire co-op campaign and some free DLC incoming. Just do me a favor and check out this game. Even if you're on the fence. If you remember, I was standing on the diving board for the longest time, staring down at the pool below. Once I took the plunge, though, I couldn't remember why I'd had such reservations.