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29 January 2012

8 Bits O' Nevsky - My Top Five of the Year

Ah yes, I know I'm a bit late with the "best of 2011" lists that every videogame website with a budget of over $50 has put it out, but look at it this way, you've seen the rest, now look at mine!

Of course, with my relatively limited budget, I've only played a handful of the games released last year, but still, looking at this list, I can't help but think that you, the reader, will find that I'm exactly right. So let's get crackin'!

5) Mortal Kombat

I've said in the past that I love fighting games even though they don't really return the favor. And even the fighters I find most fun to play invariably retire to the shelf after I hit that sticking point. My limited dexterity and refusal to buy game guides mean once I've reached that level of competence, I'm not going to get many new experiences after a while.

Still, good ol' MK lasted quite a bit thanks to the developers' decision to take what was in effect a freakshow spectacle and turn it into an actual fighting game. So while you still had the ludicrous characters, idiotic dialogue, and demented pseduo-torture porn settings, there was also something actually worth learning and playing.

And don't think I didn't appreciate having the moves listed on a pause screen rather than have to figure them all out through GameFAQ.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

This fall there seemed to be a glut of "10"s handed out by gaming magazines, scores usually reserved for games truly groundbreaking and trendsetting, such as Mario 64 or Grand Theft Auto III. Skyward Sword and Uncharted 3 were given 10s so casually that I can't help but wonder if my relatively low placement here stemmed from the mild disappointment I felt when I first played them. Uncharted 3, so far, seems to be pretty much Uncharted 2 with wonkier controls (and I'm not sure how that happened). Skyward Sword, however, has grown on me rather pleasantly, but I'm finding its charms not to be in the much-hyped motion controls (because you still waggle as crazily as you did in Twilight Princess) but the fantastic level design and the surprisingly fun story.

3) Portal 2

I can't argue with anyone who called this their game of the year. The three-hour original was practically perfect in every way, so multiplying that experience by five and fleshing out the story and puzzles while maintaining that ridiculously high mark of quality was something I was afraid could never happen in a million years. So fuck me, they did it. On top of that, the co-op puzzles with my like-minded friend were simply fantastic and perhaps my single favorite gaming experience of the year. Even complaining about the nominal drawback seems so petty I feel like a shit for mentioning anything, but if there is a difference between this game and the two others listed below, it's that I haven't felt the need to revisit this world having completed it (unless even more DLC is on the way). But this is the one game on the list that everyone who has a console should own, period.

2) Dark Souls

Basically, Demon's Souls sold me a PS3; I'm the sort of person drawn to perverse curiosities, so when I heard about this game that mercilessly kicks your ass every step of the way, I had to try it. I wasn't disappointed in the least, either. And save for the lack of novelty, Dark Souls is an improvement on the franchise in every way. I understand why RPG fans would hate it; in a lot of ways, I find Dark Souls to be more analogous to Resident Evil 4 than any role-playing game. It's survival horror with more options. But these options are what gives this game such replayability. Oh sure, you get your ass kicked, but if it was just headbashing against a wall, even I'd give up. But there's always a new weapon to try, a new spell to acquire, a new upgrade to achieve, a new discovery you made about that enemy's attack pattern, a new reason to go up against that giant monster that just two-hit killed you for the thirtieth time. I've put 60 hours into this game and I'm guesstimating that I'm about halfway done. The world is so fantastically deep and detailed that you can't wait to get back into it, and the pants-shitting terror you feel as a new villain jumps you is just a bonus.

1) Mass Effect 2

AHA! The PS3 version of this game came out in January of last year, so this technically counts! Everything I loved about the games above is here in bucketfuls; an expansive, detailed world that was a sheer joy to explore, a narrative that compelled you to play just to find out what happened next, strategic combat that got your heart rate through the roof yet required you to think, and well-written characters that actually made you care about the responses you gave. Goddammit, I know I COULD have played as a "Renegade" and still cultivated the loyalty my shipmates showed to me but I DIDN'T WANT TO! Two playthroughs as a Paragon, and that's the Shepard I'm carrying through to ME3.

And how can you hate on this?

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