Posted on December 20, 2012 AT 08:00am
While certain issues continue to weigh heavily over the industry—the distressing state of Japanese development chief among them, as far as I’m concerned—2012 was also the year I learned to stop worrying and love the game again. Last year, I had to strain for entries to round out my Top 5, as nothing truly wowed me aside from L.A. Noire. This year, on the other hand, I had to leave several deserving titles off my list—and that’s always a good sign. Next year looks to continue that trend, too, with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, BioShock Infinite, and Grand Theft Auto V—among several dark horses, I’m sure—already vying for the top spots.
Andrew’s Top 5 Games for 2012
#5: Hitman: Absolution
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: IO Interactive
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
Ever since I first heard about Hitman a decade ago, I was hooked—well, in theory, anyway. In execution (oh, what the hell—pun intended!), though, Agent 47’s piano-wire exploits simply didn’t live up to their potential, with unforgiving alert systems and frustrating trial-and-error gameplay. Absolution improves on most of those elements, though—well, outside of a brutally strict save system that actively discourages experimentation on the part of the player. The whole point of Hitman is to be as creative with your hits as possible, right? Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another six years for IO Interactive to improve on the formula next time, though.
#4: Tales of Graces f
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
2008’s Tales of Vesperia is my personal RPG of the PS3/360 generation, and I don’t see anything topping it at this point. (Sorry, Lightning—I’m not exactly looking forward to your promised “return,” even with the dominatrix corset.) So, Tales Studio had a tall order in living up to those standards—after all, not much can top badass vigilante Vesperia protagonist Yuri Lowell. Graces f offers an interesting take on the traditional JRPG narrative, though, following its characters from children as they mature into adulthood—while also expertly refining the series’ trademark chaotic-yet-strategic combat sequences.
#3: New Super Mario Bros. U
Platforms: Wii U
I’ll admit it: Even after we got a brand-new Wii U in the EGM offices, I was surprisingly underwhelmed—a far cry from gleefully ripping off the wrapping paper of the NES and Game Boy back in the day. And I didn’t feel particularly pumped about playing through yet another 2D Mario side-scroller, truth be told. But that was before I saw the pudgy Italian plumber in crystal-clear HD for the first time—and experienced a game that channeled some of the best elements of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, my two favorites in the series to this day. Oh, and for those of you who think Mario’s a-gotten a little soft as he enters his 30s, think again—this one’s got some of the most challenging levels the franchise has seen in years.
#2: Double Dragon NEON
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Platforms: XBLA, PSN
I play through quite a few games for work and pleasure each year—and rarely, if ever, do I actually feel the developers’ true love and passion shine through. In Double Dragon NEON, though, I sensed the joy WayForward had in creating this kooky, over-the-top love letter to the classic arcade brawler—and, by extension, the totally tubular ’80s themselves. I won’t spoil anything about the game here, but I will say that if you spent any time in an arcade over the past 25 years, you absolutely must play this game. Oh, and as an added bonus, NEON’s got the best soundtrack—and the most rockin’, exhilarating, rewarding ending—of any game I’ve played in the last five years. Publishers, please give WayForward carte blanche to reboot your classic franchises; they know how to do it right, and it’s clear they have a true appreciation for the titles they’re honoring.
#1: Persona 4 Golden
In nearly a decade of writing game reviews, I’ve only ever handed out one 10—and that was for Persona 4 in 2008. So, of course, it follows that a PS Vita remake four years later would top my Game of the Year list. Not so fast—a simple port alone wouldn’t have done the trick. Sure, kickass kung-fu gal Chie Satonaka’s replacement voice actress is more grating than endearing, and the new main theme and battle music simply don’t match the power and emotion of the originals, but the overall package is vastly improved, with new characters, areas, and Social Links—and you can now take this Scooby Doo–style murder mystery in rural Japan with you wherever and whenever you want. If you’re an RPG fan of any stripe who’s put off playing this—like EGM reviews editor Ray Carsillo (and I’ll be hounding him to give it a shot in the coming months)—you owe it to yourself to remedy that injustice. Immediately.
Andrew’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012
|Making 8-Year-Old Me Cry Award
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
|I’m a Disney fan, but not in the “traditional sense” in that I tear up at the wacky hijinks of Hipster Ariel in The Little Mermaid. No, I’m a fan of Disney parks first and foremost, and Epic Mickey is, in theory, a tribute to the forgotten elements of Walt Disney’s grandest vision of all: Disneyland. After a vastly disappointing first game, legendary designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex) promised that the sequel would be more polished—and then proceeded to release a game with perhaps the most broken co-op play in recent memory. I don’t know if Disney corporate red tape is stopping Spector from making the kind of game we all know he’s capable of creating, but something is preventing this intriguing franchise from living up to its potential.|
|English 101 Award
|“Misogyny” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in game criticism these days, but few seem to realize its true meaning (direct from Merriam-Webster): a hatred of women. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that plenty of games show disdain for the female gender—but Lollipop Chainsaw simply isn’t one of them. I played it alongside my girlfriend—not exactly a shrinking violet herself—and she came away inspired by Juliet Starling’s spunky sass, clever resourcefulness, and loving (if goofy) relationship with her head-of-a-boyfriend, Nick. So, instead of simply labeling a game as “sexist” simply because it features an attractive girl in a cheerleader outfit, how about analyzing the actual content inside the package?|
|See Me After Class Award
Assassin’s Creed III
|If I weren’t writing and editing articles about videogames based on times of yore, I’d likely have pursued a career as some sort of eccentric professor of history. So, why is it that Assassin’s Creed—a series that, by all rights, should scratch about every itch I have—continually disappoint? I just can’t seem to have consistent, genuine fun with the experience, and Assassin’s Creed III was no exception. Whether it’s trailing Charles Lee in a half-baked chase sequence (who knew ol’ Chuck was so adroit?) or taking on 20 Redcoats at once (aren’t I supposed to be a silent assassin?!), ACIII’s missions are simply poorly designed means to an end. I wouldn’t have minded watching the game, and I like the story it tells—it’s just a chore to play through a good portion of the time.|
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