Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Games of 2013, The Runner-Up and the Winner

By some stretch of luck or simple decisiveness, picking my top game of the year has not really been a difficult prospect the last few years.  Unfortunately, this was the first year where I simply didn't have a Yakuza game to place, which is all Sega's fault and damn them for it, and such a game would have made my pick this year -very- difficult.  However, in the end, there were two games that stood out for me this year for hilariously opposing reasons and you've probably guessed them already, which means you probably understand the silly juxtaposition they make.  Of course, if you're still a bit in the dark, I'm about to make it a lot more clear as to what I mean.

2.  Rune Factory 4

As I've never neglected to mention even once, Rune Factory 4 is literally the game that was the tipping point in my 3DS decision.  All of the Pokemons, all of the Animal Crossings, all of the this and the that, that all made the purchase tempting, but it was something I wasn't prepared to really consider until Rune Factory 4 was announced for a localization.  That clinched it and, in a way, I'm exceptionally happy that it -did- force me to buy a 3DS, as I've had a lot of fun with mine.  I still prefer the Vita by miles, but the 3DS is plenty capable in itself and it makes me wonder just what the -next- Nintendo handheld will be able to do, but that's neither here nor there.  What -is- here and there is just how enjoyable Rune Factory 4 was, and how disappointed I am that it's probably the last iteration the series will see.

Rune Factory, as a series, only seems to get better and better with each iteration and that held especially true with Rune Factory 4 which was such a marked improvement over even 3 that it was almost staggering.  Combat was refined, farming was re-thought and improved and hell, even the Relationship System was revamped between games.  It was a complete tear-down and re-build of what you'd expect a Rune Factory game to be and even though there were a few elements added that didn't quite reach their full potential (the party system, in my opinion, and the Storefront) it did so many things so incredibly right that I couldn't -not- love it.  There was a reason why I sunk an excess of 100 hours into it, after all.  Well....two reasons.  That it was fantastic was the important one.

The other reason was due to Rune Factory 4's one misstep.  There's a random event system in the game, which is a great idea actually, but the way it's handled is abysmal.  The Random Events occur randomly as the name suggests, but the chance of an event beginning on any given day has to be around 30% if not lower.  Thus you find that a lot of your days are uninterrupted, allowing you to simply focus on your duties or the story if you haven't cleared it all yet.  However, in the Events pool are the events that lock away Marriage to the candidates, meaning you have to unlock it as a possible event (by getting to the appropriate relationship level with that person) and even then, it's only added to the random event pool.  So you could, as I did, be stuck with your lover at 15 hearts (when the Marriage requirement is like 8-10 hearts) and all the proper furnishings, but still get your proposals turned down because the event hasn't flagged and allowed you to experience it.  More annoyingly, the event that kick-starts the third act of the story (the epilogue, really) is...well, a random event as well.

That would be more of a problem if Rune Factory 4 were a chore to play, of course.  It's not, however, and the amount of fun you can have playing it really does help to mitigate the frustration you might feel from playing day-in and day-out without hitting the event that you want or, indeed, an event at all based on the low chance.  It doesn't remove it completely - nothing could as it's a legitimately frustrating idea - but going "Damnit, no event, oh well, I can still do this, this, this, this and that today" at least distracts you and keeps you from simply spinning your wheels and waiting for it.  Use that time to get to know the incredible cast of characters that the game has to offer.  Train your combat skills with the new and improved fighting system.  Try and harvest materials that you then try to figure out crafting recipes for, or buy them and try to work up to being able to craft them with no difficulty.  Simply enjoy all of the bounty that Rune Factory 4 has to offer within its small confines, because it's a damn great game.

And now, without some sort of crazy build-up or further ado, I bring you...

Game of the Year 2013 - Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE

I'm sure this comes as no surprise. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if you didn't see this one coming a mile away, you simply weren't paying attention.  I talked about Metal Gear Rising a lot and the bulk of that was simply stating and restating just how much goddamn fun I had with the game.  It bordered on 'indulgent' and if I was worried about not being able to put Soul Sacrifice down, I had to literally wrest myself from REVENGEANCE to actually get things in my life and my backlog accomplished.  At least with Soul Sacrifice, I would be gaining offerings and building up sacrifices and the like, making progress.  There would be no such thing with REVENGEANCE as I swear to you I could put an entire day into a Grey Fox run (Grey Fox suit, fully upgraded Fox Blade, no items) yet only play the first couple of (proper) chapters.  Over and over again.  Since a Grey Fox run literally provides me with what I've yearned for in an action game - the ability to simply cut something and have it fall apart.  That something being enemies, thanks to the Fox Blade's ability of being able to blade mode cut while..not in blade mode.

It's hard to pin down exactly what I liked about Metal Gear Rising, except to simply say "all of it" and by all of it, I really kind of do mean all of it.  The over-the-top cheese dialogue, the lightning-fast (ha!) action, the absolute visceral feel of actually cutting, of actually slicing and destroying, the astoundingly good soundtrack - it's all fantastic.  It was just the perfect slice (Ha- okay, I'll stop) of what I wanted and, honestly, what I needed when it came out.  There's not a lot else that I can say about it that I haven't said already without restating, so I'll give that a shot.
"Oftentimes, while playing REVENGEANCE, I only stopped playing because I knew I -had- to because of other obligations, or because I beat it.  Again.  It quickly transcended from "Game I need to play because I want to and I just bought it" to "Game I need to play because oh my god" and all the way to "Game I want to play forever because oh my god"."
"When I say it's probably my Game of the Year at this point, I say that with full knowledge that I've actually played quite a few new releases already this year with many more on the horizon.  I say it because there are few words that can effectively convey the fun and joy that I experience when I actually play it, though I suppose mentioning fun and joy is a good start.  Playing the game, actually playing just a dream.  It's less about playing the game, about the mechanics, about anything than it is about using everything you have to just have as much fun as you can.  Every room full of enemies is a new chance to pull off some sort of amazing combo, if not in numbers, but in executions.  A chance to dismember every one of them in a different way if that's your thing, or a chance to find new and exciting ways to take them out as you get new weapons added to your armory.

The thing about REVENGEANCE is that, despite its fairly linear structure by nature, there's a staggering amount of freedom when it comes to the fights because of how freeform it can be.  Not only with weapons, with sub-weapons, but with little things like appearance and style as well as the Wigs that enhance your abilities in some fashion.  Throw on the Brown Wig and become a Grenadier.  Stun everyone with whatever's handy before you eviscerate them.  Stay back and pelt everyone with rockets because you have a rocket launcher in your pocket and you ain't even -care-.  Do whatever you want.  Do whatever makes the game fun for you because there is a way for that.  I cannot fathom someone playing REVENGEANCE and not, eventually, finding a way to play it that makes it an enjoyable experience for them."
"Like with the just mentioned Binary Domain, I didn't know quite what to expect, walking into REVENGEANCE, but I did expect something good.  Something fun.  And much the same as with that situation, I got a -lot- more than I expected, finding that at no point in my four hours of playing did I stop grinning, did I stop chuckling and getting excited by all of the wonderfully awesome things on the screen.  The game is beyond fun, it's beyond good - it is exquisite, and it's a whole different beast than I was expecting, but a beast that I've been wanting without knowing it."
-From CUT ALL THE THINGS (2/19/13)
With all that said, I'm fairly confident that it's obvious why I picked REVENGEANCE to be my Game of the Year for 2013.  There will be one more Game of the Year post explaining the lack of certain games on my list and then we'll be all sorted until next time it rolls around.  Thanks for reading in the meanwhile and congratulations Konami and Platinum Games for making such a fantastic game that everyone needs to look into, Metal Gear Solid and Action Game fan alike.  If you walk away from it disappointed, I just don't know what to tell you.

I may have a few choice words I would -want- to tell you, but that's a different story

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