Friday, January 3, 2014

John's 5 Feats and Failures of 2013


5. Ouya
If only I cared more...
I Kickstartered this bad boy and all I can say is… Hmm… Not much. I believe I turned the system on twice, maybe three times. I just have no reason to use this thing. There’s nothing compelling to play on it, and the few games I did try on it (specifically Final Fantasy III and Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode 1) ran poorly and, if I remember correctly, had no sound. All in all, meh.

4. Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded
Not that there was much to expect from a Leisure Suit Larry game, this was still far below what a gamer deserves out of a game, remake or no, in 2013. The artwork was nice and the voice acting was pretty good, but the gameplay felt as if it was ported straight from the original and the eventual “payoff,” if you want to call it that, is a paltry reward for what was a paltry experience. Leisure Suit Larry isn’t good enough to get away without showing any tits, yo.

3. The Last of Us’ gameplay/characterization in The Novelist
This is a two-fer because I couldn’t decide which was worse and wanted both to make the list. In other reviews, The Novelist has already been criticized for its poor explication of the characters you aren’t viewing the game through (i.e. everyone but Dan), but even more than that, I feel that Linda is one of the worst female characters in American media. She is the epitome of a selfish, unsympathetic, unappreciative – I believe
I wish I remembered when you weren't such a bitch.
the word I kept using while playing the game was “cunt” – woman, and it’s nigh impossible to feel any connection to her or her desires.

The Last of Us is a very good game, but it’s repetitive. Holy SHIT is it repetitive. Toward the end of the game, I was hoping, wishing for the end to come and come quickly. My problem lies in the fact that there were two things to do in the game: walk and fight. If you weren’t walking, you were fighting, and vice versa. There was very little exploration, there was no reason to go searching for collectible items, etc. The few puzzles there were were recycled ad nauseum (i.e. floating Ellie from place to place). It was a good game and I enjoyed it, but damn, it needed some variety.

2. Beyond Two Souls
Where to begin? This game had tons of problems: the “gameplay” is awful; the story is interesting but the characters in it are all terrible, vacuous beings; the ending(s) is ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense within the narrative’s own confines. (I should amend this last, there are four endings to pick from, and two of them do make sense, albeit one of them is anything but a logical leap from the events of the denouement.) There’s more, but I don’t feel like going through it. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are fantastic and are the only redeeming factors in a game rife with poor direction.

1. Grand Theft Auto V
I just don’t get this game. It’s well-made with excellent production values and tons to do, but, beyond the first couple of hours (in a game intended to be played for hours and days and weeks) it becomes stale quickly.

First (and I’ve remarked on it quite a bit in this article), good characters are important for my enjoyment of a game, and this game has none. Except for Franklin. He makes sense to me, his decisions, his motivations. He feels real. Michael and Trevor, though? Fuck ‘em. Michael is a piece of shit and Trevor is only there to be shocking and outrageous, and it grates on my patience, of which I have an abundance (I teach children in my real life). This game is appealing, though, and the reason I bought it is because it’s an enormous sandbox to play around in, and I generally love those games, but this one… I just can’t do it with these guys. Maybe if I could play the entire thing as only Franklin… but I can’t.

Second, the game’s repetitive. Lots of games are repetitive. Hell, Tetris is the same damn thing for hours on end. Katamari Damacy is, too. So is Dark Souls. But they all feel different enough throughout your time with them (admittedly, not KD, but I will never not love that game) that you don’t look on your next play with dread and boredom. I couldn’t escape this with GTA. Every mission wasn’t the same, but it felt the same. To me, anyway. And I have felt this way with every single GTA I’ve ever played.

So why did I buy it? Because I keep expecting to be seduced and to fall in love because it’s beautiful and hip and cool and it has good taste in music. You have almost everything I love in a game, but I just can’t get past your ugly personality, GTA.



5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Time to hit these books hard - with a vacuum.
I’m not sure why, but when coming up with a best of 2013 list, 3DS games were the first to pop to mind: Animal Crossing, Pokémon, the new Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and this one are chief among them. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is probably the most fun out of all of them. Traveling around the house and, eventually, the town to recover different items the Professor needs to continue his ghost experiments is fun and sometimes hilarious. And the game plays really well. Many of this year’s games have suffered due to poorly implemented control schemes (I'm looking at you, Beyond Two Souls), but not this one. It plays like butter.

4. Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock was a revelation when I played it on the 360 so many years ago. The steampunk theme resonated with me being an avid Final Fantasy VII fan and the story’s climax is one of the best in any media. Infinite isn’t quite as good as the first one was, but it’s a great game. A lot of people (my friends with whom I spoke about the game, anyway) thought the story was hamfisted and not especially great and maybe even pretty predictable (which I agree with – I had it pegged within a few hours), but it was a fine experience. I had a great time working my way through Columbia and Infinite is one of the few recent games I’ve seriously considered replaying through entirely (…even though I haven’t).

3. The Stanley Parable
Better look LEFT and make the RIGHT decision in this room.
Wow. This is not a difficult game, nor is it particularly interesting or exciting in the actual playing of it, but it’s a fine game, if short, and, in my playing experience, unique. I am not traditionally a PC gamer, and so did not play the original mod. Hell, I only played this game the other day when it finally came to Steam for Mac. But it’s fun. It's really fun. I enjoyed playing with the narrator as I either conformed to or blatantly disregarded expectations. It’s as if you can actually change the course of the game. You can’t of course, but the game makes you feel like you can. And that’s the point. Until you realize you can’t.

Good game.

2. Super Mario 3D World/Pikmin 3/Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
Of the three, I’d have to say Pikmin 3 is my hands-down favorite. I’ve played Wind Waker before and Mario, no matter how different-yet-similar 3D World is, is Mario. Pikmin 3 is intensely satisfying in the way that Dark Souls is. It’s nowhere near as hard, but every successful expedition is heartwarming. Every battery, berry, and button you find is a small exhilarating accomplishment whereas each battle you wage well is a large exhilarating Victory with a capital “V”. I hope they make a 3DS version, soon.

1. Pokémon X/Y
My number one game is the game I played the most. Pokémon is, by its very nature, a game you have to spend a lot of time with, training and exploring and breeding (if that’s your thing), but it’s rare that a game has the gift where you really want to spend all that time with it. This game is as charming as it is involved, and I felt like a kid again traveling the country capturing Pokémon. It’s also the first since the original Red and Blue that I played from start to finish, even going back through after the end and catching the various legendaries, or trying to, anyway.

If I had any problems with the game (I played Y, by the way) it would be these: it’s too easy (I understand, though – it’s a game for kids, after all) and there are too. Many. Pokémon. I don’t mean to sound like a mean old miser, but holy shit has the magic gone out of finding new Pokémon. Because there are so goddamn many, now. Back in the day, a new Pokémon was a somewhat momentous occasion because there would only be one or two new Pokémon in each new area you went, along with a whole rack of ones you had already seen, so randomly encountering one you didn’t have was an actual “OH SHIT AM I PREPARED FOR THIS” moment. In this game, though, it’s nearly every battle that you find a new Pokémon, and you eventually stop trying to catch them all because your money supply simply can’t keep up with the amount of Poké balls necessary to do so, and when you get to the point where you do have the means, you no longer have the will to go back through to each area to pick for the one you didn’t get the first time around.

Looking at 2013 in review, though... What a year, Nintendo.
Accurate representation of Nintendo Japan's work environment

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