Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 4

We're hitting the home stretch here and praise everything for that.  There's not a whole lot that I can say here to preface these picks that I haven't already said, and I'm not really up for restating them, so let's just get on with it.

7.  Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush was a rather stunning game from the first time we saw it, to the time we finally got it in our collective hands and to the time where we uncovered all of its secrets, saw its story and gameplay and truly knew what the game was about.  This was among the few games shown off for the Vita, prior to the release that people were clamoring for, the games that people purchased Vitas for and thankfully this was one of the games that made that purchase well worth it.  The art style grabbed and the story charmed and the gameplay amazed.  In all facets, it was just a wonderfully well-done game.  In a lot of ways, Gravity Rush is definitely one of the best games that came out in 2012 because of just how different it was and how good it was as well.

Make no mistake, if you have a Vita and you do not have this game you are, in fact, doing it wrong.  Though I highly doubt that is a possibility because the game is one of the prime staples of the Vita's Playstation Plus Instant Game Collection which means it is -your- game for -free- whenever you want it.  Because if you have a Vita and you don't have Playstation Plus....well, again, you are doing it wrong.  So, by virtue of not being a wrong person, having a Vita and having Gravity Rush is basically hand-in-hand and this is a very good thing indeed because the game deserves to be something that is played by a wide audience.  It's something to be lauded and appreciated and it's something to hold up as a prime example of what a handheld game -can- be and in a lot of ways, what one -should- be.  Whenever the sequel comes out, with any luck, it will definitively reinforce that.

I think my fondest memory of the game, since I haven't played it in so long, is just the feel, the freedom, of 'flying' around the city in which the game takes place.  It's a simple affair, but because it is so simple, it allows for a lot of personalization, if you will, and it inspired a lot of that as well.  It becomes much more than "Shift, point at building, shift to 'fly' to it, you are at your destination".  It becomes "Well, if I launch myself at that angle and cut off my flight at this point, I'll land right there and then I can do this and that"  It becomes a thing that you can finesse and just have fun with on its own merits and, given that it's something we normally don't have access to in games - flight- that is a big deal.  Because not only is it done, but it's done well which is a rarity unto itself.  So long as the sequel has more things to -use- that flight, that finesse of movement, it will be an amazing game itself.

6.  Lollipop Chainsaw

I realize that, around these parts, I did not exactly say a lot about Lollipop Chainsaw once it was released, once I had played it myself and that was not fully intentional.  Rather unfortunately, the game came out at a time in my life and situation where things were hectic and annoying everyday thanks in part to the extreme heat wave, but clearly, there was a bit more going on than just that.  I won't get into the finer details, but there was a -thing- that I was trying to do with Lollipop Chainsaw and it simply fell through, but I didn't want to give up on it completely, so I just sort of held out to see if it could be salvaged.  And time passed, as it does, and I just got into other things that I could and wanted to talk about, so it just sort of fell by the wayside.  That is, of course, rather unfortunate.

So, let's talk about Lollipop Chainsaw.  Let's first discuss that, while playing Lollipop Chainsaw, no matter what the hell was going on around the house, in my life and such at the time that had me down and got in the way of doing things, I could not force the grin off of my face.  Lollipop Chainsaw is a thing of beauty because it is a perpetual entertainment machine.  If you're not enjoying the absolutely stylized, wonderful combat (along with the Sparkle Hunting finishers and the super mode that played "Hey Mickey" in the background while it was active), then you're enjoying the hilarious dialogue between Juliet and Nick, or the other characters, and if you're not enjoying either of those then you just aren't playing the game.  I am mostly serious when I say that I exist in a world where I think it is an impossibility for one to -not- consider Lollipop Chainsaw fun and/or entertaining on some level.

Lollipop Chainsaw does not complicate itself.  It doesn't over-saturate itself.  It simply exists as what it is, and it's because of that simple entertainment factor that it's just so damn wonderful.  It's not going to be one of those games that changes your outlook on anything, it's not going to redefine a genre for you and it doesn't need to.  It is a game that is fun.  That's all it is and that's all it needs to be.  In that vein, there's absolutely no way I could advocate picking up a copy of it yourself, since you probably didn't, and going through it.  You might not laugh at everything, you might struggle with the combat system at first, but if you don't crack a grin, if you don't chuckle here and there, then, well, there might just be something broken inside of you.

5.  Yakuza:  Dead Souls

It is a very, very odd thing for a game with "Yakuza" in the title to not be in the Top Two of any of my lists, and an even more odd thing indeed for said game to barely break the Top Five.  There is a very, very simple reason for why Yakuza:  Dead Souls didn't make the illustrious cut and, put simply, it's just because it was very, very obviously Yakuza Studios' first attempt at a third-person shooter.  Painfully obvious.  It was also fairly obvious that the Yakuza Engine (even modified as it was) was not intended for third-person shooting in any facet beyond cursory.  So, in the end, all it meant was that the Studio wanted to try something different, which is completely and totally admirable, they used a franchise of theirs to make it happen and it just didn't come out with the same level of quality as their other games.  It's unfortunate, but that's just what happened.

Now, clearly I'm not saying the end result was a bad game.  Because it wasn't.  In a way, Dead Souls was an absolute wonder in its own right and a lot of that is because they used the Yakuza franchise.  Not only did they use it, but they respected it (obviously, I mean, it's -theirs-) and made its out-landish story and concept fit into the long-running narrative and canon.  Though, obviously the game is not canon for the series (seeing as Yakuza 5 exists and Tokyo is not in shambles), you could totally believe that it is because of the way it just fits into everything that already exists in the series.  One of the moments that made me actually stop in something approaching shock was when I approached the upper right portion of the map, where Kamurocho Hills had been in development for the last two iterations of the series and suddenly, finally it was there.  It's like going to your old neighborhood and seeing things that are familiar, yet also seeing how time has changed it, the blending of nostalgia and awe of new things.

Something that Yakuza Studios said about Dead Souls was that, if the game were to get localized, they would 'like' to change up the gameplay some to more mirror Binary Domain's controls, the second third-person shooter they released that is much, -much- more like a third-person shooter.  After playing both games, I can safely say that that, unfortunately, did not happen even in the slightest, and Dead Souls really flounders in that respect.  It's not bad, it's just kind of clunky which is not at all what I would ever suggest is an attribute of a Yakuza game.  So, it's bad in comparison to its pedigree, I should say.  Yet, on the whole, it's a wonderfully realized game with the same things you love about a Yakuza game (aside from the combat system), which means it's a quality product indeed.  That might seem to clash with some of the things I said, but realize that I have a far more vested interest in the series than most, so I'm going to be a little over-critical of it.  And, considering it still made it as high on my list as it did, despite my grumblings, that should be a message in itself.

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