Exactly one year ago I posted my most wanted Top Ten Games list for 2011!
I couldn’t play all of these- some didn’t release- for some others I didn’t have time.
So they will be moved to next year!
But I had an absolutely awesome time with the rest. I finished 6 out of the 10. And now I ask myself- which game was the one that blew my mind the most? Which game was it that made me really love my videogame lifestyle for another year? It’s really a hard battle inside myself to pick one. But it’s fun to try it!
Here are my nominees:
Dead Space 2 (for PS3)
Dead Space 2 was a trip! This space station with all it’s details, from living quarters to waste facilities and cybergoth churches really pulled me in! The new monsters were really gruesome- the screams of the mutated children still give me chills. On the other hand the new weapons – my favourite is the spear gun with the electric shocks- gave one the feeling of pure bad ass-ness. I appreciated that the game is livelier and the scripted action sequences are definitely among the most memorable moments of 2011. That said- I was still scared as shit at some points. Especially when I was riding the monorail towards the dock with the Ishimura, the Space Ship from Dead Space 1- with almost no ammo and health packs left. It felt like descending into a dark place that I had locked away deep inside my memory. It felt like going into hell. I really immersed myself in this game- and had a great time with it.
Yet despite all the spectacle, the many new monsters and the superb graphics, there was a slight dissapointment at the end. I was waiting for some big nasty mutation bosses to wait for me at the end of the road. But there wasn’t even one in the game. And to be honest- I still don’t get the story. Yet- I can’t hardly imagine a better game to start the year
Yakuza 4 (for PS3)
Yakuza 3 was my game of the year for 2010. The deep story, the detailed world, and the spectacular arcade action style battles- combined with a JRPG Game concept and dozens of hilarious minigames make this series the last shining example of old school hardcore gaming!
When the 4th installment was delivered to my house- I missed the delivery truck by just 2 minutes. So I was running down the road with house shoes and dropping pants almost to the other end of town.
And there was the truck, stopping down the hill for another package. With the last of my breath I shouted- “YAKUZAAAAAAAA!” The guy was a little confused- but I got my game!
And shit- it was worth it! Yakuza 4 offers a story with multiple characters, each with his own perspective on the events unfolding- each with his own relationship to the underworld- and each with a totally unique fighting style and quest design.
The game world was immersive as never before- from the underground labyrinth full of homeless people, to prisons, the little Asia ghetto full of illegal immigrants and rooftops over the city where you can find more crazy guys than you might think. There is always something new to see in Kamurocho- the district of the Yakuza.
The game is full of humor, action, plot twists- and this time, we even have our own hostess bar! Hostesses modelled after real girls- among them the famous Japanese pornstar Rio who also lent her voice! You can also train your own fighters in a Dojo, play arcade games with their own graphic engines and what not.
I had a lot of fun here- and damn- I know what I’ll be doing when I come back from Japan. Yet I have to say- the story didn’t blow me away as much as Yakuza 3. It was touching and thrilling- yet Yakuza 3 brought me to tears at some moments. So the 3rd one is still my favorite.
Dissidia 012 (for PSP)
This games full name is Dissidia: Final Fantasy Duodecim 012.
The predecessor was just called Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
Only Tetsuya Nomura comes up with crazy shit names like this. Yet it has a reason why its called like that. In Dissidia: Final Fantasy we are in a disrupted version of the Final Fantasy 1 universe. There are two god like beings- Chaos and Cosmos who are trapped in a never ending conflict. This is affecting the fiber of the universe itself- and other dimensions have been destroyed, their pieces (fighting arenas) floating in this one.
The whole Universe- actually all existence is about to vanish in a giant chaotic vortex. All that is left are a few warriors- remnants of each dimension- (which means each Final Fantasy game from 1 to 13), who have lost their memory. Aside from that the only survivors are the cat like moogles- a race that exists in many Final Fantasy games, and maniquins- soulless duplicates of the remaining characters, that Chaos summons from rifts in the space time continuum to destroy everything.
The first game depicted the 13th battle between Chaos and Cosmos. In every cycle they awaken warriors of the Final Fantasy dimensions, and use them as chess pieces to fight there endless war.
The new game depicts the 12th battle- it is a prequel to the first game- that’s why it has the latin word Duodecim for 12 is in the title. The 012 in the end depicts a countdown- this series counts backwards.
Yeah a long introduction I know. The cool thing is- that this game has a completely new prequel story that explains a lot of the background from the first game- and it also has the complete story of the first game in it!! The story is re-arranged- in the new style of the prequel- and rewritten in part, which makes the story waaay more consistent, logical and immersive than the first game. Each character has its own adventure and hardships to face. During the progress everything is pieced together as a giant puzzle- and all the cutscenes and diaologues can be reviewed in an easy to handle timeline.
I had over 80 hours fun with the story mode alone- and I still haven’t seen some of the hidden chapters.
Most of the game itself is basically a fighting game mixture of Smash brothers and Naruto. You walk across a world map depicting the destroyed world of Final Fantasy 1 and unlock portals to space rifts. In here you will have duels with warriors from the other side (or sometimes even the same side) and maniquins. There is also a strategy component within these portals, that reminds me a little bit of Final Fantasy Tactics. Then there is a shitload of costumizable equipment, abilities and even assist characters that you can call into the battle. The battles are dynamic and frantic packed with special effects and destructable surroundings. And the game becomes deeper and deeper as it progresses, since the universe is changing in this game- the battlesystem and the odds also always change. It is really deep. Yet in this installment, everything is made easier and more understandable then in the first game. Although it has many more features. Really good game design. You can also transfer your leveled characters and some items from the first game.
But that is far from everything. This game is packed with content- a gigantic and wonderful 40 track soundtrack (which you can listen to in its own media player) and many different modes aside from the battle modes, unlockables and a professional Edit Mode for battle replays. You can also convert them to Avi Files. And there are very cheap Soundtrack DLCs. There are many 4 Track packages for 99cents in the Playstation Online Store if you want to hear battle some music from the old soundtracks that wasn’t rearranged in the new soundtrack.
For Final Fantasy Fanboys, this game is just an endless fan service. Each character is fleshed out with a very unique fighting style and there are many moments full of nostalgia and reference. Poor Laguna and his leg cramps…
But the story is still enjoyable without background knowledge- as I myself didn’t play many of the Final Fantasy games. This game was like a personal interactive anime that I could escape to, while I was riding the train on my way to work for many weeks. It is definetly a big contender in this list.
The Third Birthday (for PSP)
While I was laying on my futon, thinking about many dates gone wrong, and assignments undone, spending my time with Aya Brea- the hero in this game was the perfect getaway. She is definetly the most sexy video game girl this year! This game is a loose sequel to the PSone classics Parasite Eve. It is the third time Aya Brea is in a game hence the title The Third Birthday. But the game is also a rebirth and features a completely new story. Its maybe a little helpful, but there is absolutely no knowledge necessary from the older games. Despite the fact maybe- that Aya is a person with very strange genes and that her twin sister was evil.
Now the game is truely a frantic third person shooter! The whole world is infested with fierce monsters called the Twisted. Nobody knows what they are and where they came from. Kudos to the character designers, never ever have I seen more twisted creatures on my PSP. When they touch people the humans burst like bubbles made of blood. There is probably more blood in this game, then all other Square Enix games combined.
The only way to save the world is by sending Ayas consciousness- let’s say, her ghost, back in time, when the world wasn’t as fucked up. Here we take control of soldiers in the first battles against the Twisted.
You can always take control over soldiers nearby by pressing the triangle button. Your ghost will then rush into this soldier- and your stats and equipment will slighty change. This makes the game by far the most dynamic single player 3rd person shooter I have ever EVER seen.
It’s just crazy how fast you can change the perspective from a soldier standing between the giant legs of a monster, to a sniper on a rooftop, and back to a guy in a tank. And it is absolutely necessary. Because the game is balanced in a way that the soldiers you control are meant to die! You are manipulating the battlefield and the soldiers actions of the past, in a way so at least a few can survive. The Twisted are so strong, fast and many, that there is absolutly no chance to survive a level- or even a battle with a single soldier. Yet you won’t feel so bad for sacrificing some of the guys in a kamikaze fashion, since they all would have died in the past if your ghost wouldn’t manipulate it. As a story as well as a gameplay device, this is a really cool idea. There are many more smaller things, like hidden skills you can level up and costumizable weapons that give the game more depth. And the story has many multiple layers (the title has also many meanings- but its even more crazy than in Dissidia- so I will let you find out for yourself). There are mindblowing in game cutscenes
and even more mindblowing CGI movies that will draw you into the plot. Yet sometimes the game is a little bit too fast and too cryptic, so I had to re-watch some stuff in the databank to understand it.
There are also files you can read, which give you background information. But they change as you manipulate time. Especially after you beat the game. All in all I have to say- The Third Birthday was a challenging and twisted game with a really crazy story- but it is very innovative and I had a lot of fun with it. And the graphics are the shit!
Final Fantasy 4 Complete Collection (for PSP)
Another PSP Game on my list. It’s the first time I played the FF4 story and it was really cool! It is classic Final Fantasy with the old battle system. Yet the Story and game progress is very linear- like Final Fantasy 13, but it has many plot twists and memorable moments. This Remake stays very close to the 16bit SNES Version, so the presenation is minimalistic at times. Yet the animations are very comical, the dialogues are well written, and the music will stay in your ears after playing. In the end your own Fantasy will make this game as epic as the new ones really are. And the graphics are really not bad, in fact every pixel has been redrawn and the high resolution of the PSP Screen makes this a very nice 2D Game.
There is also an epic CGI intro. Yet the game is a little monotone. Every character has slightly different abilities, but often it is enough to just attack. That being said- sometimes this monotony is exactly the appealing feature of the game. Just walking through the dungeons and just killing EVERYTHING without thinking can be somewhat relaxing. You can also push select anytime- the game will shift into auto mode and the characters just attack. Everything speeds up during that. Perfect to get done with all the random encounters quickly. Yet in some dungeons the monsters are so hard, that you have to use every detail of the fighting system to your advantage, and level up your characters for a few hours.
Now there is also a little interlude story and a sequel to Final Fantasy 4 on the disc. The sequel has its own CGI intro. They have made a few tweaks to the fighting system- you can perform combo attacks, and the lunar cycles affect your abilities. These are nice little additions to the fighting system. I also liked the story of the additional games- they are not as long and epic as the main game- but the characters and there diverse adventures are well written and emotional.
In the sequel you can choose the order of different character’s stories and after these, there is a final story that connects them all.
This is real old school JRPG action- and I am still having fun with this game in the moment. It is just perfect for a little mindless grinding when you are somewhere underway with your PSP.
Shadows of the Damned (for PS3)
Now its time to sound off a little. This game received many bad reviews. And I can see why. This game is made by Suda 51 and his Studio Grasshopper! The guys who made crazy psychedelic games like Killer 7 and No More Heroes. Absolute over the top and aesthetically unique games, almost expressionist in character.
Then the director is Shinji Mikami- a legend of gaming. The inventor of Resident Evil and many other great games. They wanted to make another Survival Horror game, and also teamed up with Akira Yamaoka, Director and Musical Composer of Silent Hill!!!!
Now this was something the world was waiting for. And yet- the issue here is, this game is not as crazy as No More Heroes or Killer 7, and it is by far not as creepy as Resident Evil or Silent Hill. There are also technical issues, since it is the fucking shitty Unreal engine the games textures take sometime loading and there are framerate problems (sometimes- seen worse).
Now the main problem of the critics was- the game plays almost exactly like Resident Evil 4 what felt old to some of them. In the Shadow of the Damned- wait- I meant, in the Shadow of the technical superb and creepy Dead Space 2, which is also produced by EA- as is this game, Shadows of the Damned looks a little bit like a wannabe survival horror without horror.
Shadows of the Damned is just fucking cool. And to be honest- I liked it better then Dead Space 2. So Dead Space 2 is NOT game of the year.
Because Shadows of the Damned had exactly what Dead Space 2 didn’t have- crazy fucking hardcore Boss Battles! If you are a true Demon Hunter- and play on a high difficulty these Boss Battles are exactly what I as an action gamer love. You have to memorize the attack patterns, sharpen your senses and maximize your concentration to beat them.
Now in Shadows of the Damned you go in to hell to save your girlfriends. Yet it is not really creepy- and still it is disturbing. The door locks are baby heads that you havve to feed with items that you punch in there mouth. The Demons are like little gollums stupid and somewhat cute yet aggressive as they should be. The game doesn’t look as weird as other Suda 51 games but there is so much weird little shit in the details, and when everything comes together, the music the colors and the gameplay, you sometimes just wonder what the fuck you are doing. I said the game plays like Resi 4 but its like Resi 4 on speed. The close encounter moves are so crazy fast, and if you do it right you can chain them together. The character will say shit like “Fuck Yeah” then every second. Some graphic filters who make it psychadelic at times occur when you give headshots in between. Then there is a constant stress factor in the game as you always have to repell darkness throughout the whole game by lighting up Goat heads. If you don’t you will die fast. Because the darkness drains your energy and makes the demons invisible. All of this combined and some moments really play out unique.
It’s constant in your face stress. And the villain in this game- well he is just an Asshole! He kills your girl friend over and over before you. Sometimes he eats her limbs while talking to you- and her head still lives during all of this.
Now if you need energy you drink alcohol. In hell- alcohol regenerates your life. The thing is- you cannot enter the item menu without using an item the moment you push the button. So you are forced to drink.
To be honest- its desgin bullshit like this- that gives the game its moodiness and personality. It is not a clean game- it doesn’t want to be a clean game. The Character Garcia Ozzbourne just doesn’t give a fuck about anything then kicking ass and saving his girl. The hate he feels, is highlighted in every moment- and stress you feel while playing this- and the hate you feel for some of the issues of the game- have the effect- that you can really connect with the character. I’m not kidding. This shit really works- especially if you are drinking like the main character.
And in the end- you will have a good time. There is no Online bullshit or challenge mode here. If you want all the trophies just beat it, a few times on the difficulties, get all the items, and kill a few guys in a special way. Simple minded. The way the monsters are positioned, and the game elements are combined is classic Shinji Mikami game design. If you like his other games, Vanquish and Resi 4- you wil lfeel this here too.
On top of that- there is one thing where this game outshines all the others: The Sound! Akira Yamaoka has outdone himself here. The soundtrack is so atmospheric, the soundscapes and effects are beyond anytthing i have ever heard and the music is innovative and moody.
Shadows of the Damned- is just like pure whisky.
A bad thing you sometimes want to do to yourself. Hence- a real videogame! Most off the idiot journalists didn’t get it.
The only thing that really disappointed me was- that I didn’t get to ride this awesome demon motorcycle….
NOW WHICH GAME OF THESE WAS THE BEST??
Dead Space was an action horror ride- but to be honest- it lacked character in a way. The game design is somehow too accessable- too comforting. The atmosphere is great- it is the atmosphere that challenged me, not the gameplay. And that’s a mistake somehow. A game doesn’t have to be hard to be fun, but there has to be some uniquness in the controls or the game system that I just didn’t feel in Dead Space. That’s whay it didn’t have bosses to flesh out the gameplay mechanics. I will deepen this topic at another occasion.
Now- Shadows of the Damned was totally my thing- but- I wanted to ride this motorcycle sooooo bad!!! (T__T)
And they didn’t let me. So it has to be between Dissidia 012 and Yakuza 4. The games that enchanted me the most! I wrote enough about Dissidia- as a sequel this game is absolute perfection.
Yet if you play it more than two hours it gets boring since it is just fighting. And despite all the fan service- the story is not so deep as it could be. To be honest- damn- it’s Yakuza again. Shit this game is just like a second life. The Yakuza Games are hand down the best Playstation 3 games on the market. The story is just as good as it gets, the gameplay is fun like arcade games but the skill system is as cool as any good JRPG, the music is cool- and there is soo much to do WITHOUT DLC!!!
I mean the first playthrough took me 40 hours- 40 hours of pure excitment- and I’m still at 15%!
It’s a game with real hand made Japanese game design.
So the winner is
wait a minute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I forgot something! There is another PSP game I played. I bought it 2010 but I played it in spring 2011! I played it with my best homie, and it was a gripping tale that deepened our friendship- the one of the ingame characters, and our real personalities. Then in Japan I played it again with a new found ally- so excessivly and shit- there was so much more fun to be had!!!! It is an epic game- with 1.000.0000 features, a great story and super graphics and music! And the best thing is- from this month on you can play it on PS3!!!!!!!!!!!!
The! Winner! Is!
Yeah. I am cool with that. I took the opportunity to talk about some games that I really love, and that are not really known to a lot of people. I wanted to flesh out the ideas, that made them unique for me, compared to so much of the more famous stuff out there.
Yet Peace Walker was a really great exeprience- this is the first game in a while that I played two times in a row and still can’t get enough.
I know- it’s a game from 2010- but fuck it. This was MY year 2o11.