Monday, February 17, 2014

Top 15 Games I Played in 2013

Pretty simple, my 15 favorite games that I played for the first time in 2013. I didn't feel like narrowing it to ten, and thanks to Gamefly, I've played enough great games to justify making this list so long. I can't guarantee i'll have so many games to talk about next year, but I hope I do. Keep in mind, most of these didn't come out in 2013, I just had my first experience with them in 2013. So yeah, read and stuff...

15. Batman: Arkham City - Yeah, I know I took way too long to play this. Yes, I know I have it really low. I loved Arkham Asylum, I played the tits out of it when it first came out. I loved the story, I loved the baddies, I loved the Matrix-ass combat system (not just for the slow-motion, Path of Neo has very similar combat in general), I loved the Splinter-Cell-With-Grappling Hooks stealth, just everything about it was perfect, except for the ending, but whatever, it wasn't Mass Effect level or anything, just kinda lazy. I picked up Arkham City on Black Friday, and honestly only got about 8 hours into it in 2013 (haven't touched it yet this year honestly). Don't get me wrong, I really like it, hence it being on this list. But, at least in the earlier portions, there are way too many fucking wild goose chases. Arkham Asylum was constantly flowing from one objective to the other, yeah, you could do side missions and collect-a-thons, but if you wanted to jsut play through the story, it would progress with little besides the actual gameplay, which is also amazing, getting in the way, and even then, you're still working towards it. I feel like Arkham City, while interesting, feels a lot more bloated, and not nearly as intense or dire. In Asylum, you're trapped in a very confined space with motherfuckers that want you dead. In Arkham City, there's a bunch of stuff going on and you happen to be there. The parts involving you are good, but there's so much uninteresting filler that it drags the experience down. The original would make my top 5, but as good as its sequel is, there are too many things I didn't like to justify putting it any higher.

14. Zone of the Ender: The 2nd Runner - I finally gave the Zone of the Enders games a shot (definitely would've as a kid if I'd known about them) via the HD collection. The first game was alright, but honestly kind of slow and over-complicated with the unnecessary side-missions and little mini-game type tactics against bosses. This isn't the kind of game where those are fun, it just slows down the fast pace and sucks the fun right out at a record pace. The second game however, didn't have these problems. it's straight-up fast, fun, intense, and more challenging. It's easily one of the smoothest playing games I've tried in a long time and, holy shit, it's so fucking fun! The anime cutscenes are pretty epic as well. Honestly, there's not a lot to say about it. The plot's basically Gundam with MGS complexity, but it doesn't interrupt the game often. The only reason it's this low, besides having played a lot of great games, is that I've played so many fast-paced mech games now. It's among the best, but it's just a well-executed version of something I've played plenty of times. If I played this as a kid, I would've shit myself, but as it stands, it's just extremely enjoyable for about a half hour to an hour at a time.

13. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath - I've heard nothing but amazing things about this "grossly underrated classic hidden gem greatest thing ever". The fourth and most recent addition to the Oddworld franchise, it's by far the biggest departure, but it's also clearly Oddworld. It's the first to not primarily feature platforming, it's the first to primarily be in third person, it's the first where you never control Abe, and Mudokons aren't in this game at all from what I recall. Plenty of chicken people, but no Mudokons. You stroll around the old west as a bipedal dog-like creature named Stranger, collecting bounties with your trusty crossbow-type thingy. You can find ammo scattered around in the form of animals that do things like latch to enemies, act as shotgun bullets, explode, release foul odors, etc. Or you can go into third-person, sprint at 30 MPH and ram into enemies like I did. This game is one of the most creative and original games I've ever played, the controls, the story, the characters, are all on typical Oddworld levels of weird and awesome, but seperating itself from the rest of the series makes it stick out even more. The one big reason it's so low is that, quite honestly, I got bored pretty quickly, and never ended up finish it. I saw someone beat it, so I know what happens, and I would have beat it if it wasn't a rental, I just couldn't consistently enjoy it without taking long breaks as it got too tedious too quickly. If you can get past that and find it for cheap, pick it the fuck up.

12. The Mark of Kri - This is a game I only found out about fairly recently. Not long after, I found it at a local game store for $5 and they were having a but one get one special on PS2 games, so I kinda had to get it. The mark of Kri is a very different type of action-platformer. I haven't played a game like it and likely won't again. It's kind of like if Mulan was a dude and a beastmaster with a raven, and it plays like a mix of 3D Zelda, Ape Escape, and Metal Gear Solid. It's an enjoyable and sometimes deep journey of self-revelation with a beautiful art style, sprawling environments, and a complex but easy to maneuver combat system leads to an extremely fun, underrated action-platformer that got buried in a myriad of great titles like Sly, Ratchet & Clank, Jax, and the like. Apparently this game's main issue was not having a humanoid animal.

11. Xenoblade: Chronicles - This is one of the most praised and beloved games to come out in recent years, and rightfully so. An interesting and complex story, a unique battle system, gorgeous environments, etc, etc. Anyone who's played it knows why it's beloved, and it is an amazing game. I rented it from Gamefly a couple months ago, and I was hooked from the start. It grabbed me and pulled me in immediately. The problem it had was keeping my interest after about 10 hours. The story quickly became predictable, the roaming became increasingly tedious, and so did the battles. I do recognize how great of a game it is, but it's wrong to rent this, at leas if you're like me. This game can be captivating in couple hour segments, but if you try to power through it, it quickly becomes a chore.

10. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal - Aside from a demo of Tools of Destruction, I'd never really played a Ratchet & Clank game before this year. I feel like I was at that age where most kids/teens try their damndest to ignore anything that reminds them that they're not grown up, so I skipped on this and other similar games like Sly and Jak... I was a fucking stupid kid. This game is pure awesome. Intense action, precise platforming, an epic arsenal (I get it now!), and fun bonus challenged make for a highly entertaining experience that never gets dull. There's not a whole lot to it, it's the definition of action platformer an is up there with the best. Not to mention there's a cheat that switches your wrench to a double-bladed lightsaber. THAT. IS. THE. TITS. BRUH... Homie... Fer shizzle... Ok, I'm done..

9. Darkstalkers Resurrection - Darkstalkers in one of my favorite fighting series, and perhaps game series' as a whole. I was immeasurably elated when I found out the first and third games were getting a modern release on PSN and Xbox Live. Finally, people will get to experience one of the great hidden gems of the fighting genre! I was not disappointed when  I finally got my digital hands on it. The controls are perfect, the animation is smooth and seamless, all the moves and combos are in tact, and, of course, you can play online. It's everything a Darkstalkers fan, a fighting fan, or a cheesy horror fan could ask for in a game, and I happen to be all three. I mean, who wouldn't want fast-paced mummy vs. chainsaw-legged zombie action. Obviously, the only reason it's so low, is because I've technically played it before, otherwise it'd at least be top 5.

8. Jade Empire - This one was tough for me. What there was of this game is prime, grade-A, elite BioWare, and I LOVE BioWare. The story is deep, engaging, twists and turns, and has a better plot twist than even Knights of the Old Republic (one of my favorite games ever). The combat is easy to learn but extremely complex, the world is stunning and vast, the characters are unique and interesting, everything about this game is done so superbly well and cements BioWare (pre-Dragon Age II) as masters of the RPG. BUT, I honestly feel like it's half a game. About 15 hours in, the story really picks up speed, a big event happens and you and your party flee, beaten and fragmented, you begin to devise a plan to fight back against the plight the game pits you against. Two hours later (if you watch the cutscenes, 1 hour if not), it's over. I don't think I've very been more shocked by any game. 15 hours of setup, two hours of steam and it's OVER. This game, with the immersive world and story, could have easily doubled in length without giving up any of the weight (adding to it, I think) and without feeling like filler at all. Instead, it rushed you full-steam ahead to a mildly satisfying conclusion. This, as you can see, left a very sour taste in my mouth. This game would probably be number one on this list and an easy all-time great if they'd given us the entire product.

7. Kirby's Return to Dreamland - I fucking love Kirby. I don't care how easy the games are, how pink he is, how colorful the games are, they're pure fun always and forfuckingever! Amazing music, beautiful environments, perfect controls, fun co-op play, inventive enemies and puzzles, side-scrolling platforming greatness, and one of the most feel-good experiences you;ll ever have. That basically describes every Kirby game ever, but this one perfects the formula, and if you ever want to feel amazing, just pop this in. It may not seem like the most inventive game after 20 years of Kirby, but it's one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences you'll ever have, especially with friends and/or family.

6. Rocket Knight Adventures - The Rocket Knight/Sparkster series is easily one of the most underrated series' of the 16-bit era, and definitely the most underrated platformers. Beating Crash Bandicoot to the weird-animal-mascot craze with an opossum with jetpack armor and a sword as big as him, these games are unlike any other 2D platformers. You can fly and bounce around with Sparkster's jetpack, do spinning sword lunges, shoot sword beams akin to the original Zelda, but a lot cooler looking, and fight enemies ranging from derpy pigs to giant sea creatures. The controls are tight, the environments original and detailed, and the game's just plain fun. Sparkstar should've competed with Sonic as Sega's mascot, and I think his first game is better than any 16-bit era Sonic game, and this is from someone who began his gaming life with Sonic 2. Plus, how did this ad not make it an instant hit?

5. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love - This may be the weirdest game in a list full of weird games. Please, I challenge you to try to picture a game with this description: Tactical turn-based mech combat/Life Sim/Broadway-esque play simulator. I guarantee you didn't even try to make that work, you just stared at my words, mouth hanging open, completely aghast. The best part is, Sega pulls it off with aplomb. You play as a member of an otherwise all-female acting troupe that doubles as enforcers of peace through the use of giant mechs. While this may sound like half a game, the story and interactions with your allies is just as engaging and well done as the strategy RPG battles, which are amazing by the way. This is honestly a game you have to play to truly grasp, but it's a huge, worthwhile experience. Now they need to localize the other four games. All four games were voted in Japan among the 100 greatest games ever and we haven't gotten ANY of them? They localized the barely above average Ys series and not Sakura Taisen?! Come the fuck on...

4. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness - In Disgaea, you play as the son of the Demon King, your father having been slain as you slept, you awake with the singular goal of taking back the lands that have been claimed in your father's absence, declaring war on armies full of demons and slaying their masters. Believe it or not, this game is fun, quirky, and vibrant as fuck! It's a combination of amazing anime art, grade-A humor, a deep troop recruiting system, story, and tactical RPG gameplay that makes this game literally endless. All of this is sewn together by great dialog, stellar voice acting, an over-the-top but strong story, and excellent gameplay. I DEMAND you support this series and its four releases! Also, sword-wielding Penguin Bats. SWORD-WIELDING PENGUIN BATS!!

3. Asura's Wrath - Asura's Wrath is basically a combination of Greek God mythology, Dragon Ball Z, God of War, and a little bit of Rocky. It's intense, fun, emotional, and a visual masterpiece. A story of betrayal, redemption, blind lust for power and epic battles between galaxy-shattering powerhouses. I don't wanna give much away because the story is surprisingly complex, deep, and has a few good twists, but this game is so fucking epically fun and intense, I don't really have the words for it. If you like anime-style action, epic boss battles, spectacle fighters or a complex, emotional struggle, you need this game.

2. Pokemon X - Quite honestly, I'm shocked at myself for not making this number one. A round of applause goes to the beast of a company that beat it, because I fucking love this game. I've been a massive Pokemon fan since I got a Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokemon Blue for Christmas in 1998, so it's been over 15 years now. Holy asschaps, I'm old. Anyway, I love every game in the main series, even my least favorite and the most overrated third generation games are still amazing and have been played through multiple times. Collecting different teams of Pokemon, building them up, customizing movesets, and battling never has and probably never will get old. Pokemon X and Y (I played X, obviously) are definitely the most refined and well-crafted games in the series, without losing any of the fun. There's not a lot new about the journey, besides having a bigger cast of friends to interact with, obviously the few new Pokemon, and choosing one of the new starters and one Kanto starter. The competitive game is where shit done got real. Mega-Evolutions, the new Fairy type, and the weakening of Steel type make assembling a legitimate team )assuming you try not to use legendaries like me) a totally different experience. Also, you can move diagonally and SIT ON BENCHES!!! The only complaints I have are that the story'a taken a step back after leaping forward in complexity and maturity in the 5th gen, and that, while a nice touch, super training takes ages considering it's supposed to be a shortcut for EV training, not to mention it's pretty easy, even for Pokemon.

1. Persona 3 - I'm quickly falling in love with Shin Megami Tenxei. I've only played Persona 3, Overclocked, and Persona 4. But the latter two have been in the last month and a half, so they don't count for this list. Even if they did, Persona 3 may still win this. This game is just amazing in every way. The combat is fun and diversified, ever-growing and changing. The story is complex and deep without being up its own ass with gloominess, the dialog is great and witty with a good bit of excellent humor thrown in. The characters, while seemingly cliched at first, grow into complex individuals that, through the game's excellent social aspects, you begin to care for as much as your real friends. It's a huge 90 hour romp that combines many of my favorite things. Pokemon-esque monster collecting (I do realize SMT did this long before Pokemon), an engaging story with deep imagery and amazing characters, an awesome social aspect that actually aids the combat portion, awesome anime art (and cute anime girls), and a stellar soundtrack that mixes moody pieces and the only J-Pop I've ever liked, yet alone loved, until Persona 4 that is. Every human being needs to give this game a shot, there's just so much to it that there WILL be something you like.

Thanks for reading, if you have an opinion, feel free to make yourself heard, especially if you disagree, cuz I love a good debate, especially since I already know I'm right. But yeah, I hope you found at least one game you haven't tried that you're now interested in, as all of these are great games that I'm glad I played. Also, follow me @SycoMantis1991 for random stupid shit and mini-rants.

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