Dashed Expectations

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:32 pm
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Location: Lively Town
Image The time has come once more. 2013 had a lot of really good stuff going for it. So much, in fact, that I haven't gotten around to playing it all.

But what I did play, I enjoyed immensely. So let's honor my 10 personal favourites from the year.

And, I wanna stress that, it's the ones I personally enjoyed the most. Okay? Good. Then let's get to it!


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10. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
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Favourite Song: Bubblegum K.K.

Arguably the best the franchise has given us, New Leaf gives the Animal Crossing a much needed update to the initial formula. How so? By letting your character make the decisions around town, ranging from what hours the stores are open for to whether or not you wanna give Mr. Resetti his job back. Placing your avatar as the new mayor really breathes new life into what a few years ago I had believed would never be able to expand and give us excitement again. That's not even getting into the newer features to customize your world the way you want to, like changing designs on furniture and new pieces of clothing to wear.

That being said, it still suffers the same problem that the previous games did in that, after a month of play, you're bound to see a ton of repeat dialogue and, honestly, it can be hard to get back into if they're just going to say the same thing over and over again. Nevertheless, if you've never played one before, you should certainly take a look at it. But I'd recommend you play it at a very slow pace so not to overindulge and see everything too quickly. This game isn't a race to the finish.


9. Dragon's Crown
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Favourite Song: Town Theme

Dragon's Crown scratches a much needed itch of mine. It's been a long time since I've really played a brand new brawler, so even when the first game details arose, I was already excited. What I didn't expect was a game that not only had the classic elements of a side-scrolling beat-em-up, but also modern era RPG elements and loot drop systems. It helped make the game feel just a bit more rewarding as you progressed further and further into the dank dungeons and caverns.

The story isn't really anything to write home about, but the way it's presented was quite charming, with a narrator talking to you as though he was a DM of a group of D&D players, complete with opening up with the whole "meet at an Inn" cliché and even provides the voices of other characters when necessary.

True, the art style, like most Vanillaware games, are a bit, how to say, exaggerated, and the levels are kinda lacking, but if you can get past those barriers, you'll find yourself with a really enjoyable brawler with friends. Too bad that needs to be unlocked too...for some inexplicable reason.


8. Pokémon X/Y
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Favourite Song: Lumiose City

At last! A main Pokémon game becomes 3D! Was it everything we ever hoped for? Well...yes and no. Lemme explain.

For the yes, it looks great on the 3DS. The shading on the Pokémon suits the style of the game very well, complimenting each other greatly. Battles feel much more involved than ever before. No more static sprites with a bit of movement but actually fighting and contact. The trickier of the camera helps maintain the illusion that a real battle is happening.
The game also does its best to welcome newcomers into the competitive field better than any generation before. Without getting too in the details of things, having that perfect dream team, assuming you know what to do, is just a few hours away from reality. In fact, I've almost got mine 100% ready myself. I'm just waiting for the Bank to be released for my final team member to be added.
The battles themselves are quick and as enjoyable as ever, and thanks to things like the O-Powers and the redone EXP. Share, making your team stronger goes at a much faster pace than before.

However, for our more casual Pokémon players out there, there isn't much the game really offers that's new. The gameplay is still the same as always and the story is much weaker than what we got in the 5th Generation. There also isn't much you can do outside of battling opponents online. The Maison is one thing, but would it have killed Game Freak to include some other facilities like the Battle Frontier of old? It's possible they are, once again, saving the big things for the inevitable "upgrade" version, but that kind of bothers me how they would hold off like that. It's like more expensive DLC without calling it that.

Oh well. It's still a solid Pokémon game that big fans should really check out.


7. Guacamelee
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Favourite Song: Santa Luchita

I love me some Metroidvania. You all know that. It's probably my favourite sub-genre of all time. And Guacamelee is one of the best ones to come out in a long time. Taking the roll of a simple man who dons a super powered luchador mask to become a powerful luchador himself, he sets out to stop the current ruler of the Land of the Dead from bringing chaos to the world of the living and rescue El Presidente's daughter while he's at it.

Like all games of the genre, as you progress further into the game, you unlock new abilities that will let you access new areas, such as being able to jump higher, but what really makes it stand out here is the fact that each new move feels like a luchador attack. Uppercuts, headbutts, kicks, these are all moves that help you get access to new areas as well as to pummel your enemies with. And if I do say so myself, the combat in this game is incredibly satisfying. Being able to chain combos together and throw enemies into other enemies is great fun to be had.

The art style looks great. Everything is colourful and sharp and really stands out. Now, some people might be bothered by the meme references and in several years down the line no one's even going to understand what a lot of them mean, but I honestly was not bothered by it.

Definitely worth a look if this kind of game suits your fancy.


6. Saints Row IV
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Favourite Song: Dubstep Gun (Oktoberfest)

Oh sure, there's that other open world sandbox game that takes itself more seriously, but y'know what? I'd much rather have the sillier stuff, and Saints Row IV is as silly as silly gets! Pretty much any association as a gang video game are thrown out the window as our bad boy/girl protagonist, now the President for questionable reasons, is kidnapped by aliens and must now bust out of this Matrix-esque simulation and save the rest of the gang. How? By hacking into the system and gaining superpowers of course! From running at high speeds, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, throwing fireballs, manipulating gravity, and so much more! Just going about and wrecking stuff without a care in the world just so soothing and hilariously over the top that you just have to love it!

That's not even getting into the fact that the weapons are even sillier than ever (chief among them, of course, being the Dubstep Gun) or that the dialogue is actually pretty funny and how much this game pokes fun at other conventions and tropes with fists out, but never done in a hateful way.

I can totally understand that this isn't for everything due to just how over the top it is, but I thoroughly enjoyed going through the game and see myself living that simulation a few more times in the future.


5. Super Mario 3D World
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Favourite Song: Shifty Boo Mansion

I don't think any company out there understands pure, unadulterated fun like Nintendo does. Super Mario 3D World is just further proof of that. It also ended up being my biggest surprise of the year. At the initial reveal at E3, I put it off as just a simple sequel to Super Mario 3D Land, which I wasn't exactly crazy about before, but once you get in and play it, it just feels so right. The levels are designed so expertly, but that should come as no surprise as this is Nintendo EAD we're talking about here. But to go into more detail, it's like every single level feels like it should be in its own miniature platforming game, each one coming with new ideas that'd you'd love to see expanded on, which a few do, but they never overstay their welcome. It's a great feeling to want to keep playing because you want to see just what the next level is going to offer to stay exciting.

It also doesn't slouch around with the difficulty. It starts off fairly easy, but once you hit around World 3, you start to notice an increase that, while not huge, is definitely noticeable, especially if you decide to go look for every Green Star for 100% completion. And doing so often requires the use of the new Cat Suit, probably one of the best new power ups in a long time due to that sense of feeling that you need to have one around at all times. I haven't felt that way about a Mario ability since the cape from Super Mario World. Being able to climb walls changes the dynamic of the game and let's you discover things you never thought of before.

It's hard not to recommend this to any Wii U owner. The system is still small in quality titles, but this is definitely a must own for sure.


4. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
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Favourite Song: The Praetorium

My other big surprise of the year, but for a different reason. Final Fantasy XIV on its own actually isn't a 2013 game, originally coming out in 2010 as Final Fantasy XIV Online. It's reviews were, well...pretty bad. It got so bad, Square-Enix publicly apologized for this mess, let anyone who bought the game already play on their servers for free, and formed a new team to redo the whole thing.

The result...was A Realm Reborn, and what a massive improvement it was. The game plays well with a smooth levelling curve, an easy to understand UI and quests that actually teach you how to play the game instead of simply being about killing x number of enemies (that's been relegated to the optional Hunting Log instead).

It doesn't do anything that other MMOs haven't done already. If you're looking for something new, it's not here. What it does, however, is observe and learn from these other MMOs, borrow elements that worked for them, and melted it altogether to make a fun experience for everyone. What it lacks in innovation it makes up for with an enjoyable experience that let's us all forget the terrible vanilla release it had.


3. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
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Favourite Song: Treacherous Mansion

It's easy to forget, but this game actually did arrive early 2013 as the start of the Year of Luigi. And man, what an excellent start it was! The man in green dons the vacuum cleaner once more as he goes to Evershade Valley to solve the mystery of the shattered Dark Moon, which acted as a restraining bolt on the once friendly ghosts. Rather than finding your way from beginning to end in a single mansion like the first game, Luigi is instead given various different missions across five different mansions in order to restore peace to the valley. On one hand, I miss the simple but enjoyable exploration aspect of the first game, but on the flip side, the missions are very well put together on their own and it always feels good to go back to try to get that elusive 3 Star ranking.

Most of the boss fights are very enjoyable, of note goes to the very first one against the giant spider. The multiplayer was also a neat surprise too. Ghost hunting with a group was something I didn't think I needed, but after pouring several hours into the Scarescraper, I wondered why this wasn't thought of sooner.

All in all, a charming delight and a worthy sequel to the classic Gamecube launch.


2. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
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Favourite Song: Main Theme

Once again, I'm cheating since this game is actually and updated re-release of Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, released back in 2010, but considering I never gave that game a fair chance before, I wanted to retry it and see if I could learn to love it this time with its bigger selection of monsters and challenges.

And...love it I did.

It's a big favourite of my sister's, which I never understood since that game just seems like an endless grind, but after playing it myself for more than an hour, I finally understand: The combat is exciting and a lot of fun. Having the game focus entirely on the giant monsters instead of a group of smaller ones actually forces you to play smart and be fully prepared for whatever these giant things can bring. It could take upwards of 45 minutes just to down one of these massive creatures, but you feel like a total badass when you do!

But like I said, it is incredibly grindy, which will probably put some people off, but if you don't mind fighting the same thing a dozen times over to get that one rare drop you need, you'll find yourself with probably one of the best combat experiences ever.


1. Fire Emblem: Awakening
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Favourite Song: "Don't Speak Her Name!"

I've always enjoyed turn based strategy titles. I like to look over the battlefield, plan my course of action carefully, and send my units out in hopes that my carefully laid plans all work in my favor. Fire Emblem is a great exemplary of that desire since I first started playing with Path of Radiance on the Gamecube. And while I always tried to encourage others to play these games because of just how well designed they are, a part of me always knew that the one game that could convince people how great it is never came to North America...

...until now. Fire Emblem: Awakening is, without question, the best game in the series released in North America.

While still bringing the familiar fun I've come to expect of the franchise, it also moved ahead with its customization being more involved than ever before. Changing classes to get various skills, taking the time to battle random enemies for extra EXP, even who you marry determines how amazing and strong your final team will be. It's incredibly complex, but not at all oft-putting or hard to follow.

As an entry level FE game, it's also one of the best. I know several people are intimidated by the idea of a permadeath, so having the option to not include it was a wise move, I feel. It also features a great tutorial that, not only does it not distract from the action, but compliments it well, and keeps it nice and conceit so not to annoy long time fans.

Story is quite well developed with some surprisingly good voice acting (I say that because the Radiance games were just so horrible with its VA choices) and actually isn't afraid of talking to characters like they are adults this time.

I strongly believe this to not only be the best game I played this year, but the best 3DS game currently available. You owe it to yourselves to pick up and play this game and see just what you've been missing out on!


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A Few Honorable Mentions
NES Remix
A small collection of challenges of classic NES games. Really great fun, though a bit high in price.

Pikmin 3
Beautifully rendered sequel to a great Nintendo franchise. Don't like it quite as much as 2 but still a lot of great fun.

EarthBound
Technically came out on the SNES but was re-released on Wii U this year. Deserves mention because it's flippin' EarthBound! Pigs have been flying ever since!

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