Monday, January 28, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 3

Here is where things start to get a little dicey.  I already sort of prefaced that yesterday, but it definitely bears repeating.  This is about where it becomes less and less about the numbers and more and more about just listing the games because they ended up being important to me for one reason or another.  Around this point, games start to not be 'better than' the ones that rank 'lower' than them, so the numbers part of it starts to become a little unnecessary.  This will only get more and more prevalent as we get closer and closer and I think I'll need to be a little more focused with these as it gets more into that, so from here on out, I'm going to do less at a time so I can put a little more explanation into everything.  This post and the next post will cover three games each, much like last year, and I will try to do them justice that way.

10.  Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

You're surprised, right?  Because I'm surprised.  I'm really surprised.  I wasn't really excited for the game at all, but I got it because of the Cross-Buy, if solely so I could play the game on my Vita because, well, it's really kind of a value and I wanted to go with that in the hopes that it might come up more.  I expected the game would be a fun pick-up-and-play ordeal that would tide me over for a few days while I cleared the bulk of it and then moved on to something else.  I expected it would be decent, not particularly good and definitely not great.  I basically just expected, as I think most people did, that it was just an attempt at something that was kind of potentially ill-conceived and just a thing that was trying to reach for something that, potentially, they couldn't really get a hold of.

I was very, very wrong.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is honestly really goddamn fun.  It is definitely pick-up-and-play, since your matches will generally last three minutes, at most, and after that, you can go off and do something else if you're not going to jump right back into it.  Every character is fleshed enough that they have their own strengths and weaknesses and the gameplay is deep enough that it's not -solely- about slamming on buttons and ending up the winner, but with the inclusion of the Super Gauge, it's at least got a welcome element of strategy.  A lot of people didn't particularly like that, but I am honestly really confused as to the why of that since, if you think about it, it's honestly not all that different from other games of this sort.  The only difference, really, is that the 'finishing moves' are attached to a single button that you have to charge up for.  What makes that different from fighting games where you have a special meter, and what makes it different from Super Smash Bros. where you need to use a 'big' attack after your foe is softened up enough to send them flying off the screen?

Obviously, the game got a lot of comparisons to Super Smash Bros. and really, that's fair.  They're definitely similar games and it'd probably be safe to assume PASBR was inspired by SSB, and in fact, I think someone said that it was.  Except, people say this as if it's a bad thing.  As if Nintendo owns the entire cross-over fighting game genre which is really silly, since they were mostly definitely not the first ones to step into that ring.  As if Sony has besmirched the honor of Nintendo, of gamers everywhere, by daring to make a game in that vein because 'Nintendo did it first'.  Because, you know, it's totally not cool to use a genre that already exists, so all the first person shooters, the racing games, hell every game now is ripping someone off and we should all be super angry about that you guys and stay purists to the originals.  Because clearly, they're the only ones that are -actually- good and fun.

The thing that kills me, is that in the same breath, people will tell you that it's a Super Smash Bros. clone and that it is also not enough like Super Smash Bros. to be fun.  As mentioned, the Super thing gets trotted out a lot as a shining example of how the game isn't fun, but really, -how- is it different from Super Smash Bros.?  In Super Smash Bros., you have to wail on your enemy til their damage percentile is high and then use a high-impact move to send them flying.  You have to hit them a lot and then use a specific move to finish them off.  I am thrusting my hands out and making wild motions with them now, I assure you for reasons that are probably obvious.  Beyond that, people complained about the token amount of story in the Story modes which is also kind of silly when compared to Super Smash Bros. as, from what I know (unless it got changed in later titles, I've only played the original), there is no story.

I don't really understand the gaming elitism that PASBR inspired and it's really, really unfortunate because it forced a lot of people to miss out on a really fun game.  That probably accounted for layoffs at SuperBot despite a sequel apparently already being green-lit.  And for what?  So people could feel smug that Nintendo did a fun thing first?  So people could have another little laugh at Sony?  If it's just not a game for someone, because, you know, there are things that are not for everyone and they are called everything ever, then I can understand that.  But the bulk of the people that I've ever seen smugly mocking PASBR are people that would never consider buying the game, have never played it and never will, and haven't even paid attention to its development whatsoever.  And I just don't get that because we are supposed to be in this hobby to have fun and PASBR is fun.

9.  Sorcery

As yet another game that I had a ton of fun with without expecting it, Sorcery was a welcome surprise in my late game rush, validating entirely the excitement for the title I had when it was shown off for the first time.  Again, I didn't really expect much out of the title, nor do I expect many others did if only for the Move functionality it requires (which is another can of worms that I -won't- be getting into tonight), but the game is wonderful and charming and provides a lot that we want, that we look for, in a game.  Despite the vocal minority, it's well-documented that there are motion games out there that people actually enjoy and Sorcery should definitely be on those lists for doing a bang-up job of mashing up the Motion gaming experience with traditional controls, thanks to the abundance of buttons and the like that are actually on the Move Wand and Navigation Controller (or DualShock 3 if you're into that, but seriously, the Nav. Controller is good).  It's definitely not the first that has actually merged the two, but it's yet another title that is proof that it is possible, no matter the insistence against the notion.

Each and every one of Sorcery's motion controls feels natural and is fairly intuitive because of that.  Whether it's swirling your wand like a tornado to switch to the Wind Spell, or drawing a line facing down to make a literal wall of fire before your character, or even just flicking the wand to send off an arcane bolt, it's obvious, the intent behind every gesture and it just works because of it.  What says the most for it is that it is not a game that then had gestures, motion controls added to it arbitrarily because they're just so ingrained into the core mechanics and properly at that.  Potentially the true mark of that is that, without the motion controls, you would still have a fun game in Sorcery, but not as fun as it -could- be, because part of the fun of the game is actually being drawn in thanks to the use of the wand.

Sorcery's progression of power is rapid once it really gets going, and because you're physically doing it, because you're making the gestures and flinging off the spells, it's surprisingly empowering.  Launching three Ice shots at an enemy to make them a frozen block of goblin while charging them to slam into them with your spectral shield at the last moment, shattering them into tiny bits just would not -be- the same without your physical input.  Making a whirlwind and launching it at a group of foes and then deciding to launch a fireball at it to make it a firestorm, burning all those trapped in the vortex to ash, it wouldn't -be- so right.  Slamming down a shock trap right in front of you just as several enemies are charging you, weapons drawn and watching them get taken out by the unparalleled voltage of the spell while also picking off foes further back with bolts of lightning just wouldn't make you feel like you've accomplished real, visceral power in the game without the Move wand in your hand.

It's because of that that, by the end of the game, I was practically begging for more.  I wanted challenge rooms, I wanted new areas, I wanted some form of being able to play the game more with all the Spells unlocked so that I could just go wild with the power.  I just wanted more, and if that's not a compelling argument for how fun it gets, then I don't think you'll ever be convinced.  I'm hoping against hope that there will be a Sorcery 2 or something that invokes the types of things that Sorcery itself did, using much the same methods and I don't know whether to be expecting that or not.  Obviously, the game didn't sell very well, but on the other hand, Sony isn't really all about giving up when it comes to Move games, even if they aren't flooding the market with them.  (Which, neither was Nintendo, really.)  I suppose if there's another game announced in the vein of it, or even a sequel, then you know who will be excited as hell, because it will be -this guy-.

8.  Uncharted:  Golden Abyss

I am a man who loves Uncharted games, if that was not made abundantly clear over the course of this blog.  All of them.  Yes, even 3, we are not starting that again.  So that means that I loved Golden Abyss which is definitely not a wrong statement to make.  I am definitely not alone in loving Golden Abyss, but I would say that I am definitely in the sub-group of folks who loved it -a lot- versus the people who loved it -kinda sorta-, because at its core, it is still an Uncharted game.  Unfortunately or not, depending on your perspective, it was also a game that included a whole lot of features that the Vita supports, features that were initially sold as optional and then made mandatory at some point in development.  People were not too fond of these and, being as they were made mandatory, I can't fully blame them since, for about 90% of the gesture controls, there was no real reason why they -couldn't- have been optional.  I didn't mind them, clearly, but I am, more often than not, the exception and not the rule.

That's not to say that everything that Golden Abyss did with all the extra functionality was poorly-implemented, because it certainly was not.  Something that I absolutely -adored- in the title was the ability to adjust your aiming through tilting the system, but it was a learning curve, admittedly.  It is something to get used to, but when you do, it adds a whole new layer to your abilities to efficiently take out your foes, of which there are plenty in typical Uncharted fashion.  The trick, clearly, is to use the sticks to get close enough to what you're aiming for and then shift a little to get it right on target since in most cases, it will offer you the absolute level of precision that you seek in a very swift and easy way.  While I initially turned the feature off, I popped it back on at some point to give it a whirl and my performance almost became night-and-day.  It was -the- thing that really allowed me to get into prime form, to make my several playthroughs of the game enjoyable without being too difficult.

That isn't to say the controls are lacking, of course, because they certainly weren't.  Nothing -about- the game, in my opinion, was lacking in any real form without getting a little picky.  The complaint that the whole thing takes place in a jungle and a temple, rather than offering slightly different locales as even the first game did (95% of the game in a jungle, 3% on ships, 2% in a bunker, more or less) is one that I will entertain, but even that wasn't too grating.  Of course, Bend Studios is -not- Naughty Dog, so the game probably could have been better somehow, but I'm not complaining one bit with the way it came out, because it was definitely an Uncharted experience in the palms of your hands, and that's all it said it was on the tin.  With any luck, we'll be seeing another foray into treasure hunting with good ol' Drake on the Vita before 2012 is up, because I could certainly be up for that.

As you can see, opinions are getting a little more and more strong for the games as I get closer to the top and -that- is precisely why it got so difficult towards the end.  We started crossing over from games that I liked well-enough to games that I really, absolutely adored and eventually reached games that I could easily say amazed me in some way or form.  All of these are intense emotions, difficult things to get a grip on, to quantify in a manner that made me consider any of them more or less worthy than others.  Yet, I think I did in -some- form, even though I will obviously inform you that every game on my list is -on- my list for a reason, and not simply because I played it in 2012.  My only hope is that I really sort of get across the -why- for those games, the reasons they made my list and the reasons they made the place they did.  Since my list is nothing if not urging you to play some of these games if you haven't, since goddamn, 2012 was a good year for our hobby.

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