Friday, January 13, 2012

My Games of 2011, Part 2

Tonight's post of picks 8-6 for my GotY list is going to require a little more care than it might otherwise for the simple fact that one the two games that I didn't play, but felt as if I could place, are within these three slots.  Obviously, without actually playing the games myself that means I did happen to miss out on some of the actual experience of it for better or worse, but, and while this is a dangerous thing to state it's normally true, you can sort of get a feel of a game to be able to tell how your overall opinion of it might go.  We are often wrong in those times, and it's quite possible that I will be proven wrong when I do eventually get to play these two games, but, for my part, I could only suggest that I'd expect these two games to actually exceed what I thought for and of them, knowing what I know about them.  Which is enough to have spoiled me on some of each game but certainly not all of it, so unless the parts I missed are akin to the optional content in Chrono Trigger DS, it's not going to negatively skew anything.

Much like yesterday, however, I make this big opening paragraph about the 'big issue' of this crop of games and then the first game I bring up isn't affected by that at all.  Where I haven't played a couple of the games on my list, the first game up here is the game I've played the -most- by far this year with, in all actuality, something like 140+ hours invested in it between its two parts.  Astute readers of the blog will be able to figure out the game by that, but if it wasn't obvious by that, then I'll just go ahead and say it.

8. Dynasty Warriors 7 (And Xtreme Legends)

Know that the above figure is no exaggeration - I know for a fact that my playtime of the original game broke 100 hours.  I know this because when I was copying my save from the HDD to my Memory stick directly after Platinuming it (I believe this was when, at least) I noticed for the first time, that a Play time was displayed and that playtime had 100 or 101 in the hours spot which seems absolutely ridiculous to me and is in fact the only reason why I remember it.  While I have spent a -lot- of time with Xtreme Legends, I'm not prepared to say it's as much time as the original yet, and a conservative estimate puts it around 30-40 hours overall, given the amount of grinding I've done on that game.  Getting the weapons, beating every mission at least once and then several, several times more to unlock titles for over half the characters in the all adds up, clearly.  And it clearly speaks to just how much I am able to enjoy these games.

They are not the best games by any means, but they are games that scratch a very specific itch, fulfill a very specific craving and are generally simply a means to an end.  I'm sure we all have games like these, games that we acknowledge aren't the best, sometimes even aren't that good, but we love them because of what they have to offer.  And the Dynasty Warriors games offer me to build up a bodycount in the thousands per level by simply cutting swaths through anything that isn't allied with me.  Where some action games and FPS can try and guarantee you carnage on a grand scale, none of them can boast quite like KOEI can, if only in that very specific department.  And it's for that that I have bought, played and enjoyed about every Warriors game I can get my hands on and will continue to do so.

Dynasty Warriors 7 placed like it did for generally impressing me more than a Warriors game has done in a while.  While it's easy to get lost in the grumblings I have at the grinding and the pure stupid it propagates through poor interpretation of history, Dynasty Warriors 7 is actually really quality in terms of the games that came before it.  The way it handles the story modes is slick and innovative for the series and the game just looks generally a -lot- better than iterations before it, which while being coupled with the 'winning formula' from previous games that aren't 6 (more varied weapons and movesets, having different levels of every weapon, etc.) it's just a recipe for success.  It's not perfect, and it still lacks a little bit in my opinion (Free Mode battles, a few different generic enemy models would've been nice especially for the Nanman battles and a return of personal items would've been nice) but it's probably the best Dynasty Warriors game since 3 or, depending on your perspective, 5 (Since both of those are generally touted as 'the best') and that really means something.

7. Ghost Trick:  Phantom Detective

Some of you might remember that I have some very, very strong opinions about Ghost Trick that sort of hover around it being "my favorite, if not the best, DS game of the year" which is reflected by it being one of two DS games to be featured in my list and the highest ranking of the two.  It's also reflected by Ghost Trick being the first game I reviewed because I felt as strongly as I did.  I understood just how I could like a game so much, yet be as objective as one could expect about pointing out its flaws, of which Ghost Trick certainly had a few.  Yet I was more able to celebrate all of Ghost Trick's successes with gusto that was deserved, not given, than I was able to criticize its short-comings given that I had to actually think about just what I didn't like about the game.  It was only after playing through it twice entirely that I had managed to compile a short list of deficiencies that I very nearly discarded from my mind directly thereafter.

Basically, the defining downside of Ghost Trick is the one shared by all, or at least most, of puzzle games out there:  they're lightning in a bottle.  Brilliant, beautiful, intense and wonderful, but only for that one first moment that you can never catch once more.  You open that bottle when you finish it and you're left with only the memories since you can always put electricity back in the bottle, but it's never going to be as vivid as it was that first time.  I'm not going to argue if this method is more effective than other games that manage a little more staying power at the cost of not having a few of the types of moments Ghost Trick offers, but it certainly worked for this game and I can say with certainty that I'm quite glad I actually grabbed the game when I did and played it.  With it giving something of a turning point to me and this blog, who knows what would've happened had I not!

6. Dead Space 2

I recall quite easily stating something to the effect of "I hope Dead Space 2 doesn't end up on my 'Games that weren't my games of 2011' list" last year because Dead Space 2 promised to be more of the same of the original in terms of quality.  The original Dead Space is something that I sometimes am amazed that I played all the way through, seeing as I am very, very susceptible to being scared far too much by things that aren't real - things like particularly scary movies and shows, frightening imagery and the like, but I managed through it because for as scary and unsettling as the original game was, it was also very, very good.  Most took to calling it RE4 in space, but it was quite a bit more than that, if only for the fact that (yes, I said it before and will continue to say it) it didn't control poorly.  The aiming was nice and smooth and responsive, you could actually move while aiming to assist in that, and the melee options of "Pistol Whip" and "STOMPYSTOMPSTOMP" were visceral and actually quite useful.  I recall quite fondly a moment in Dead Space the original where I ran out of ammo completely, but managed to stasis an incoming Necro to pistol whip/stomp him to (re-)death before resuming my frantic search for plasma energy.

It's for those reasons that I am genuinely disappointed in myself that I didn't pick up Dead Space 2 this last year and that I had to resort to a (very good) LP to finally introduce and carry my way through the game.  It is most certainly not the same thing, especially with a horror game that is actually scary like Dead Space 2, but it was a good window into the story and the mechanics and offered me the opportunity to see what was polished and what wasn't.  Perhaps it was because I wasn't immersed in it, but I found it quite hard to call the story of the overall game, or more specifically the flow of it, 'great' but merely 'good' at best.  This was balanced out, however, by the inclusion of the Javelin Gun which looks to be the single-best weapon of any game from 2011, or at least high up in the running for it.  Really, the whole inclusion of actual impalement physics was enough to make me feel literal pain and shame for not buying the game.

Much like the two games from last year's list that I included prior to playing, I only included Dead Space because I can very easily imagine just what my experience with the game will be like, more or less, so I can take that and put it where I feel it'll rank. While I feel it's entirely possible that the game will be very different from my expectations, I imagine the difference will be in the game's favor rather than against it.  After all, that Javelin Gun.  It's a wonderfully compelling argument, I'd say.

While I hate to seem like I'm breaking up these posts even more than normal by offering only three today, there's a good reason for it, which will get explained in due time.  Most of it is that I'm finding it hard to really parse out my reasons for number five being where it is, as some of it is....well, personal reasons.  Which is an odd thing to say, of course, but it's something I've been thinking of since being exposed to the game and I have to, very carefully, figure out just what I want to confess (not only here, but to myself) regarding it.  I only hope that I can better formulate my feelings tomorrow than I was able to tonight, but I figure I'll manage.  Somehow.

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