4. Heavy Rain
I can remember, vaguely, the first time I heard of Heavy Rain. It was a sideline item in a magazine article concerning 'Upcoming' Announced Playstation 3 exclusives, some two years ago, at least. Not a lot of information was given, as there wasn't much information available on it, but from what I read, it managed to get a "Huh, that sounds pretty neat" from me before I forgot about it completely.
Then, last year (Well, -two- years ago, technically. Year's barely started, after all. Made this mistake before, though, see if you can find it!) I actually saw it in action. I don't remember where specifically, but I remember seeing the Junkyard fight scene with our friend Norman "Nahman" Jayden. The concept alone intrigued me, along with the knowledge (They made a point to do the scene twice, showing branching paths) of how differently a scene could play out. Then they dropped the bomb: The characters can die.
|At that moment, Norman Jayden begins to regret wearing his sunglasses at night.|
Not only can they die, but the game continues on without them. Though not completely new by any means, the thought alone was tantalizing. When it was implemented, it wasn't as good as one could have hoped (Namely, some scenes just plain don't end with death), but, much like everything Heavy Rain accomplished, it sounded so good on paper.
|Private Investigator Scott Shelby knows the importance of having a partner you can trust; one that's made of metal and deadly.|
That isn't to say that I was disappointed with the game. Far from it. While I may hand-wave away the plot-holes I don't like (as most of them can be rationally explained away in a way that isn't giving too much credit) I don't even think I'm being too lenient on it, because it's less the game I'm concerned about than the importance of the experience it provided and the hope it might be emulated in the future. And I know that might seem counter to the point, buuuut...
Just think of a Kojima-created re-imaging of Snatcher in the style of Heavy Rain.
That said, Heavy Rain remains one of the few games that I am looking forward to replaying thanks to my PS3 bricking and me losing all my previous saves. It has to wait in line, but at least it is in the line. And that may seem odd to people, as, to most people, it's not a game that lends itself to replayability. In fact, David Cage, the creator of the game, all but insists that you play it once to get your story and then move on. But, with all due respect, Mr. Cage, I remember my story. It is clearly embedded in my memory. But I am the type of person who watches a movie I like over and over again simply because I like it, one who plays a video game over and over again, because I enjoy it. So that is what I did, and it is what I will continue to do. Fact is, I can recreate my story any time I want to.
I'll be completely and totally honest here: I had absolutely zero hope in Nier turning out to be good, much less one of my favorite games of the year. Whenever I read anything about it, they always brought up the Drakengard series, as it's Cavia's notorious franchise that this is, in fact, a spiritual successor to. And whenever I read anything about Drakengard in relations to Nier, I remembered the absolute pile of crap that Drakengard 2 was. While a very archaic game, as far as gameplay goes, Drakengard at least had a crazy, yet deep story to fall back on. Drakengard 2 (at Squeenix's urging, I'm sure) borrowed the big book of anime/RPG clichés and never gave it back. So needless to say, barring a few marginal gameplay improvements (that I would contest did absolutely nothing positive) Drakengard 2 was a game that never deserved to exist, much less continue the story of the original, especially in the way that it does.
Nier, though? Well, the connections are there, is all I'll say. And they deserve to be there since, much like Drakengard, you may not be happy with how Nier plays (or, to some, how it looks), but you will be hard-pressed to convince yourself that the story it's telling, and indeed, how it's being told (through the writing and the Voice-acting both) is not worth experiencing.
At its core, Nier tells the timeless story of a Father's devotion to his daughter, and to what ends he will go to to ensure her safety. And as you play more and more, the impact of that single fact begins to reverberate more and more in ways that you'll simply have to play to understand.
|So, Kainé, brutally slaughtered anything lately?|
Our main character, simply referred to as the "Father" as you get to name him, doesn't have to face his journey alone, of course. You end up recruiting a rag-tag group of people so......diverse, we'll say, that the dynamic of the group simply shines through at all times. From your very first companion to your last, they never fall into a rut of being wholly unoriginally 'themselves' for the benefit of the player to know "who" they're supposed to be in a typical group, and instead continue to grow and grow as the story presses on and you learn more and more about them.
|Yes. Yes she has.|
Nier is truly a game that keeps on giving the more and more you play it. As long as you remember that most sidequests are not worth your time (even if you're going for Achievements/Trophies, as you only -need- to complete a certain amount of them for them) and fishing/fighting is something you'll get the hang of eventually, you're in for a ride that keeps going when you think it's going to stop, and then makes you understand when it actually is going to.
And, if you're like me, getting to that point will be tough, as you truly won't want it to be over.
2. God of War 3
The inclusion of God of War 3 is likely not a surprise to anyone reading this (especially after my fandom for the series was expressed in the last post), but this game didn't get a pass on good faith alone. It didn't even claw its way to the top. No, after the sense of scale and the feelings of awe it created in players everywhere (myself, of course, included), everything else seemed to step to the side to allow Kratos to sit upon his proper throne.
|Can you spot the bloodthirsty anti-hero on Poseidon's Arm?|
From the very start you're presented with, quite possibly, the largest boss battle in the series, and it's merely the tutorial. And from there, it never hesitates to at least attempt top itself from the last one, and it usually succeeds, depending on what you're expecting.
|Unsurprisingly, this ends badly. Well, for him, anyway.|
Through out the entire game, it creates the visceral feel that you can only expect from God of War, and indulges in it in a way that leaves you unable to put it down, as there may be more just ahead. Ultimately, it lets that desire build and build in yourself, much as Kratos, before finally giving both player and character a release at the end in a way that I could not have predicted better.
|Don't let the scope fool you; Kratos is but an ant in size to Atlas.|
Though anybody who has played the game will find something to their displeasure, be it the ending or that it was, in fact too gruesome for them, (my gripe being simply that it ended) a general consensus can be reached that it is, in fact, a great game and well worth every bit of praise it receives and the fact that the more-argued point is whether or not it's better than God of War 2 simply shines a light on the quality of the series itself. I may have gone a little light on the text for this game, as compared to the others, but, be assured, it's simply because each word brings my want to play it again higher and higher; a temptation I will have to resist until I've cleared my backlog of games out at least a little more.
My Number One pick for 2010 will be the next, and last post in this series (unless I decide to do a post dedicated to the games I wish I could have rated) will be tonight. Not to tease, but I do hope everyone is wondering, at least somewhat, what could have beaten out all these other games that I've gushed about. Though, to most people who know me, it might not be such a surprise. (Especially since I've told a few people already.)