Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gaming in 2013 so far ...

Just a fair warning before I begin this post: I'm mainly going to be criticizing about the games I've played this year so far, and my view is going to be pretty bias. And, with that said, let's move on ...

So, I've played a decent handful of games this year, many of which have been quite good, some even amazing; however, I can't help but feel quite disappointed as the first quarter of this year comes to a close.

I'll go through the games I've played so far this year (in no particular order) and say a little of what I thought about them. My overall conclusion will come afterwards ...

Anarchy Reigns - a decent fun time in multiplayer mode, but no substitute for Smash Bros. The single-player mode had a pretty good story with some great graphics, cutscenes, and characters, but the gameplay was repetitive and uncreative, thus it left a lacking impact.

Xenoblade Chronicles - a game that impresses in several ways in how it brings new ideas to some places and high quality to others, but, in the end, the game design got repetitive, especially the combat and side-quest process, and unfortunately, the story wasn't story enough to keep me interested for over 50+ hours. Hopefully, the next Xeno game for WiiU will fare better.

DmC - just bad. Even for Ninja Theory, everything about this game was pretty bad. The combat was OK, but it pales so much in comparison to its rivals, that it's not even worth playing.

Sly Cooper 4 - a charming game that really brought back the playstyle and charm of the PS1 and PS2 era. And while there was some quality to the game, it has some wasted potential and the gameplay doesn't take many risks.

Metal Gear Rising - a great roller-coaster ride, but the game is short and the combat never changes beside the process of parry-and-attack. The lack of gameplay diversity hits this game hard. Perhaps it was trying to have a balance between Platinum style and Kojima Style? Regardless, it didn't hit a sweet spot, despite having some impressive graphics and music. Bayonetta and Vanquish still remain Platinum's best.

Naruto Storm 3 - the impact of the Storm graphic engine is losing its power, as not even the game's great graphics could save it from its faults. A story mode where you watch more than you play, less boss battles than the previous game in the series, and a weaker story just make Storm 3 fall to wayside in comparison to its superb predecessor. Versus mode had an impressive amount of content though.

Tomb Raider - a game that is basically fantastic in all parts of its game design. The main problem lies in that the game really lacks impact. The story and characters are very weak, and it was just hard to care about pressing onward. The gameplay saved this game, but even that got a bit repetitive over the course of the game. The game's beginning presents several interesting gameplay concepts that we only see once, which is a shame. Some more surprises really would've helped.

Bit.Trip Runner 2 - a fun and challenging platformer. There's some great level and sound design in this game, but it never really goes beyond being just a good game. If the developers did more with the visuals and sound, then it could've been a great experience a la Outland or Trine 2, but it just falls short.

Bioshock Infinite - a game that, for all intents and purposes, is perfect. I find it hard to find many faults with this game. There are some gameplay annoyances here and there, and the reuse of character models is noticeable, but those quips don't change the fact that BI attempts and accomplishes more than the majority of videogames made this gen, especially in its story and how it is presented. And yet, I wasn't very satisfied with the game. Just something about the tone, the "comfortable" execution, and simplistic game and level design just made me feel like I'd done all this before. I've interacted with likable NPCs before, I've explored interesting settings before, and I've played with dual-wielding before (mostly in the first Bioshock). And, as a result of this familiarity, the game just didn't hit me.

And I think that brings me to my conclusion: it has been a very long time since a game has hit me with some significant impact. I feel as though I will forget about each game I play mere days after I've finished them because they provide little impact for me. This gen has hit me with several impactful games, such as Bayonetta, Vanquish, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Metroid: Other M, Naruto Storm 2, Skullgirls, and Journey, so I know it can't be that I'm incapable of feeling impact anymore. I think it is more a process of these games I've played recently not really trying new things (AR, Sly 4, Naruto Storm 3), not executing its ideas well enough (Xenoblade, MGR, Runner 2), basing themselves too heavily in the past (TR, BI), or simply not being very good (DmC). It all just lacks impact.

Of course, I'm not saying all of these games are bad, nor that they aren't good experiences to have. I'm simply saying that the best games are ones that really leave a strong impact on the player by providing a strong core experience that combines gameplay, graphics, music, and story. I really wanted such an experience out of many of the games I've mentioned above, and yet they all came up short, despite some being pretty impressive. And, unfortunately, such powerful experiences have become few and far between as of late, with last year only providing a few amazing experiences, as opposed to years like 2009 and 2010 which provided many amazing gaming experiences.

So, what does the rest of this year hold. Well, I'm putting all of my hope on two games at the moment: The Wonderful 101 and Dragon's Crown. Kamiya's team at Platinum, Nintendo, and Vanillaware are my three favorite developers, and I hope they give me their best with these two games. And, at the moment, I'd have to say Dragon's Crown is my most anticipated game.

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