Monday, January 10, 2011

My Games of 2010: Part 2

In considering the list going forward from my last post, I came to a conclusion that I'm surprised I didn't come to before.  Since this section will be about the four 'tricky' games in my list, and it could be considered malleable within a numbered scale, why not skip the numbered scale altogether?  To be sure, the games listed here are definitely my 8 through 5, but when the dust settles after I've actually given them all equally fair shakes, their order may be far different from how they were when I voted.  So, in no particular order....

Phantasy Star Portable 2

Back in 2001, a game was released for the now-gone, but not forgotten, Dreamcast that holds a little bit more weight than most games can hold a candle to as far as being important go.  A game that, no matter how many games I play, I can always still remember it fondly, perhaps even harbor interest in playing again, as nothing comes close to matching it, to replicating what I feel in my memories.  That game, of course, being, Phantasy Star Online.

This box art just brings back so many memories.

For me, someone who wasn't, and still isn't, that much into PC gaming, the concept was insanity.  "Single-player and Online Multi-player?  I can play this same game with other people through the Internet?!"  Well, I could have, if I could have ever gotten my Dreamcast online.  Sadly, not knowing that much about how internet works, not to mention we were simply using Dial-up that was so bad it paled in comparison to other Dial-up, meant that I never got to play PSO as anything more than a Single-Player experience, something that's always weighed on me a bit.

Later on, when Phantasy Star Portable (Which I've yet to get, unfortunately) and Phantasy Star Zero were released, they were both well into better internet times for me.  Though not perfect by a long shot, we have DSL now that pales in comparison to other DSL, but it's most certainly better than Dial-up.  "I'll finally get that Internet Experience." I said.  "All that hunting, the missions with friends, running about in the lobby and just being silly, I'll get to do it."  I did not.  Phantasy Star Zero's experience proved lacking, to say the least, though it clearly tried to emulate parts of PSO.  I can't say much for Phantasy Star Portable 1, as I never played beyond the demo, but, while closer, it still didn't catch that spark of PSO I wanted so badly from it.

Phantasy Star Portable 2 is as close as I can imagine to being what I wanted.

Just like PSO before it, PSP2 was shown off with Sega's Mascots names.

I'm clearly in no position to call Phantasy Star Portable 2 better than Phantasy Star Online, and I will not; some deficiencies are clear, but the structure of PSP2 feels so much more familiar, especially when compared to Phantasy Star Zero.  If I had to be more clear in the differences, I don't know what more I could say than, "I have played Phantasy Star Zero online.  I have experienced Phantasy Star Portable 2.", and I believe that's what makes all the difference.

Metal Gear Solid:  Peace Walker
As a very unapologetic fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, it'd be a little silly of me to not include this in my list.  Even not as a fan, this game would still have found a place on my list, because it was just that fun.

Taking a cue from the fans response to Metal Gear Solid:  Portable Ops, Peace Walker's first success lies in a vastly improved control scheme.  Though I didn't have much difficulty with Portable Ops on my original playthrough, I did give it another go after trying the demo for Peace Walker and, suffice to say, the differences are night and day and even if you operated PO without difficulty, the improvement is nearly unchallengeable.

Also vastly improved was the story.  In lieu of prefacing yet another statement with "I had no problems with Portable Ops..", I will simply state that the Story and the whole single-player run through the game, minus a couple gripes with a few maps, was just fantastic.  Of course, the fact that it was so closely tied with Metal Gear Solid 3:  Snake Eater, could likely have helped, being that 3 is usually the best regarded game in the series.


Somewhat(?) new to the series was the Co-op Multi-player that Peace Walker added in, which more or less mirrored experiences likened to the Monster Hunter franchise.  Essentially, as Peace Walker was Mission Based, it offered you the chance to tackle Extra missions (read:  Non-story) with your friend or friends.  It's very self-explanatory, and while not the best Online Experience I've had, it was certainly one of the better ones.

Teamwork doubles as a bonding experience in Peace Walker.

Still, though, after I was finished with Peace Walker, an unsettling level of closure set in, which may sound odd, but normally with Metal Gear games, that's not a feeling that sets in as much after time, not to mention right after.  I got through the main story, I got through all the Extra Ops, I got through everything and then I was done.  The thought of playing one more Vehicle Capture mission, even with Stealth Camo and all the fun extras turned my stomach.  Challenging Rathalos one more time seemed boring, and challenging Tigrex or, Indeed, Metal Gear REX (if it were a reptile) seemed like punishing myself for committing no wrong.  My little romp with Peace Walker was clearly done with, even if I couldn't understand why.  The memories last, however, and I do entertain the notion of going through it all again someday.  We'll just have to see when that day is.

Valkyria Chronicles 2

The first of the two remaining titles that, while I haven't actually sunk my teeth into, so to speak, I feel I am well-enough equipped to expect good things without the idea of disappointment.  As such, it was given a spot on my list in simple measured good faith.  

But that good faith is well-placed, if I do say so myself.  Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 was one of the better experiences I've had with the system; well enough that it made my "Games of the year" list for the year it was eligible, though what place it was, I'm not too sure I remember.

VC2's Main Character runs through gunfire, possibly doesn't afraid of anything.

Needless to say, the series jump from the PS3 to the PSP did not come without its complaints, nor without its compromises, one of them being a downgrade of the much loved CANVAS engine which really made VC stand out on the PS3.  Without going for AAA-level graphics intensity, they still managed to make one of the better looking games on the platform on art style alone. Maps are also changed; instead of the grand-scale maps the first game offers, the sequel breaks every map into chunks to travel between for a mission.  To what degree this affects things, I don't know, as my experience with the game was the Demo, which didn't prove to be too disconcerting.  Still, it is something I wonder about beforehand.

Still, from all I've heard, VC2 seems to be a worthy successor to the first and considering that VC3 will be on the same platform, we can only hope that it works to improve on what 2 has to offer, since the series certainly won't see another PS3 entry if it doesn't.

God of War:  Ghost of Sparta

Once again, the extent of my fandom for the God of War series almost guarantees a spot on my list for this, as it was released in 2010 and is a God of War game.  I know this because I have played the demo, and am aware that it doesn't pull any sort of Brütal Legend-style trickery afterward.

I'm not sure what attack this is.  I just know I can't wait to use it.

While I have a certain level of expectations for the title, somehow I'm assured that GoS meet them and then some, so to even consider that GoS would have not earned a spot on my list is slightly more outlandish than simply not including it because of a technicality.  Still, as with Valkyria Chronicles 2, it's hard to assign a rank to it, being that it is still somewhat of an unknown, but I am confident in having them placed alongside the other two titles in this post.

So while I couldn't give these four games ranks among themselves, I still place them firmly in the 5-8 spots of my list.  My only concern now is how I'll be able to convince you, the reader, much less myself, why my top 4 games ranked higher after gushing so much over these ones.  If nothing else, you can just assume that they're all on the same level from this post and on and use your own tastes to determine my opinion's worth.

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