December 31, 2013

Game Over: 2013

Apparently I have readers in Bolivia. That's freaking cool. Hello, Bolivians!

This entry is going to be a little on the pathetic side, because I've decided to mostly include only the games that are mentioned within the website, but my hope is that in the coming years my 'Game Over' series will be a better reflection on each year in gaming as well as an accurate summary of my year in gaming which of course includes games from everydamnthing/time.
I think it's safe to say 2013 was a pretty exciting year for games, but before we dive into that, I just want to take a moment to explain why And Then She Games was born and why it's important to me. If you've been reading thus far, you already know that gaming has been a life-long hobby for me and I've always considered it an important entertainment medium. If you've been gaming for any length of time, you likely also know that it's a commitment; it chews up a lot of time and money and if you live a busy life, it can be difficult to find the time to devote to regular gaming.
A few years ago my life got pretty complicated. Suffice it to say that I was struggling to survive 16-hour days, 6 days a week, and when I wasn't doing that I was in the hospital fighting for control of my own brain. This carried on for 4 or 5 years, and of course meant very little gaming for me. I really fell off the bandwagon since I never had the time or energy to play, and what little gaming I did was usually long-since-purchased backlog and I seldom finished anything. There were a few exceptions, but this is largely why my PS3/360/Wii backlog is gargantuan, and frankly I've still got a lot to do on the previous generations as well.
Thankfully, my life has been a little less chaotic as of late, and while I don't anticipate this simple time will last, I am confident that I can reincorporate gaming into my every day life again. Since I'm so far behind, and my habits are pretty shattered, I started And Then She Games in the hope that it would motivate me to complete games, and make note of what each game has to offer; to sort of force myself to learn about the current generation and decide what's what. Also it would serve as a sort of permanent record of my thoughts, and when I come back to these games some day with a totally different opinion, I can read exactly why I felt the way I did. Lastly, I hoped it would help me reconnect to the online community, which has not only invented itself since I kind of "left the gaming world" but flourished! To achieve this goal, I attempted twitter, and I must say it's been a surprising and wonderful experience thus far.

Okay, onto the game-y stuff. Quick disclaimer: if you've been a reader, you'll know that I play games from all years and systems, so this article will include games that were NOT released in 2013. This entry is a reflection of MY year in gaming, and not just the current generation(s).

Let's start with a list of games I played this year, with completed entries listed in orange:
click for the article, where applicable

Batman: Arkham Origins
Beautiful Katamari
Bioshock Infinite
Brutal Legend
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Dragon's Dogma
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Eternal Sonata
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy VI
Heavy Rain
Lollipop Chainsaw
Mass Effect
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ninety-Nine Nights
No More Heroes
Shadows of the Damned
Shining Force 2
Tales of Vesperia
The Last of Us

Of the above list, here's a taste of what I will almost certainly pop into my console again:

Bayonetta - Bayo is a great example of a game that brings out my rage, but I can't help but love it anyway. Ridiculously challenging, gorgeous game; neat concepts and a kickass leading lady.
Bioshock Infinite - I detailed my feelings about BI in the blog, but I can't help but feel like I'm missing something. Generally well-received, I actually didn't enjoy BI that much, but I feel like I need to give it another shot. I'll play it again after I've had some time to reset my feelings about the game, and hopefully finally understand what all the fuss is about.
Catherine - I've played Catherine twice now, and felt surprised each time by how fun and challenging the game is. I know a lot of people weren't sure what to think of Catherine when it came out, and I was no different, but it's actually a fun, relatively short game. I'll definitely revisit Catherine some day.
Dragon Quest VIII - DQ games are a staple for me, there isn't yet a title I'll refuse.
Final Fantasy IV/V/VI - See Dragon Quest, except put the cap on after X.
Mass Effect - this game tricked me! It's a great game hiding under the guise of terrible controls and iffy gameplay. Nevertheless, it won me over, and I not only intend to complete the trilogy, but I may replay Mass Effect some day.
Ni no Kuni - NNK was fun to play, a classic RPG designed by one of the greatest animated film studios of all time. I'll gladly clock another 100+ hours in this fantastic RPG.
Shadows of the Damned - the only reason this game isn't completed is because it is a collaborative effort between myself and a friend I don't see enough. This game surprised me, it's much more fun than I thought it would be and the writing is terrific. I look forward to continuing it.
Shining Force 2 - My favorite Shining title and possibly my favorite game of all time. Super tricky strategy RPG, but I just adore it. If I didn't already own one (two, actually), I'd purchase a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive just to play this game.
Tales of Vesperia - Again, another staple series for me, but Vesperia has won my heart. It is not only an amazing, complex RPG, but my favorite 'Tales of' title to date.
The Last of Us - I've said it a dozen times already, this game blew me out of the water. I've already begun my second playthrough, and when I pry it out my brother's cold, dead hands (he's borrowing it from me) I will play it again and again.

And here are some that I've no intention of finishing or replaying:

Beautiful Katamari - I suppose if someone turned on this game while I was drunk, I might mind it, but otherwise I'll happily avoid Katamari games from now on. I just don't find them interesting.
Dragon's Dogma - this game just failed to rope me. I found the controls frustrating, the visuals uninteresting and the story just didn't present a valuable case quickly enough for me to continue playing.
Eternal Sonata - I had high hopes for ES but I feel like once through is enough. I do miss Salsa, though.
Heavy Rain - You may note that there is no blog for Heavy Rain, merely a mention in one of the game binges. I completed Heavy Rain because the story was excellent and I wanted to see which ending my efforts would net, but the game presents little replay value to me. The gameplay is HR is minimal - which it's supposed to be, and I appreciate that they didn't try to make an action game out of it, but I'm just not very motivated to try again.
Ninety-Nine Nights - it takes a pretty special game to make me sit through an entire hack and slash, and N3 just failed across the board.
No More Heroes - another example of hack and slash that didn't move quickly enough for me to bother completing. There are a million other games I'd rather put the time into.

And the in-betweeners:

Batman: Arkham Origins - I've never particularly warmed to the Arkham games, and Origins was a little too weak in the story department for me. I do love Batman, though, and it's possible that I may pick this up again some day and give it go.
Brutal Legend - by no means a bad game, just not really something I want to sink my teeth into. This game garnered countless laughs out of me, and I think it would be a great game to play with a group of friends to kill some time or just for some fun. It's unlikely I'll ever complete the story on my own, however.
Lollipop Chainsaw - kind of a goofy game, I feel like once through may be enough but I suppose if it sits of my shelf long enough, I may revisit it someday.

Here are some of the games I regretfully backlogged from 2013. These are games I absolutely intend to play but just didn't find the time for.

Tomb Raider - if the game-makers didn't sell me on this installment of TR then the gaming community did. I've heard nothing but good things about TR and it's been a long time since I've picked up one of these games. I think it's about time I get to it.
Beyond: Two Souls - I'll be picking this one up solely on the word of my friends. I hope it lives up to its reputation.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag  - I had lost hope in the AC series but everyone is telling me good things about AC4! Plus, I can't pass up an opportunity to play a pirate game. I am the captain you know...
Pokemon X/Y - Yep.
Fire Emblem: Awakening - I've had good experiences with Fire Emblem games in the past, I hope this one follows suit.
Grand Theft Auto V - Do I have to explain myself here?
Metro: Last Night - This is a game I wouldn't have paid much attention to if I didn't have friends constantly talking about it. I hear mixed reviews, but I'm willing to give it a shot.
Deadpool - Okay let me make one thing very clear to you: I bloody love Deadpool! He's like the psycho, superhero, male version of me. I'd play this even if everyone in the world hated it. I love Deadpool. I love Deadool. I love Deadpool.
Shin Megami Tensei 4 - Another "reputation" game. I enjoy the SMT universe so I'm hoping this one will be good!
Time and Eternity - The longer I wait on this one, the worse it seems to get. Only one way to find out…
Tales of Xillia - Tales game. Sold.
Dragon's Crown - Twitter nerds adored this game. It seems to be a good balance of fun and ridiculous. I look forward to checking it out.
Wonderful 101 - Another game that comes highly recommended to me. I typically enjoy Platinum games so I hope I like this as much as everyone else.
Super Mario 3D World - Someday.
Pikmin 3 - I feel like I have to play Pikmin because I'm a gamer. It seems Pikmin 3 didn't really live up to its name but the Pikmin games aren't exactly "be all" games to me anyway.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between World - Again, a classic series whose games I never turn away from. Plus, it's universally praised, so I have very high hopes for Link's return to the DS.

And lastly, here are some of the games that have been announced for the next year to two that I hope to get my hands on:

Uncharted 4 - I've enjoyed all the Uncharted games so far, so I'm happy to see another one on its way.
Metal Gear Solid V - See above… actually… I'm a little weary about this one. The last few MGS games haven't been quite as entertaining to me as their ancestors. I love that Kojima is screwing around with everybody with this game, but I hope it's all worth it in the end.
Infamous: Second Son - I really need to revisit the Infamous games, but I recall having fun with them. I'll have to give them some time before I start Second Son.
Tales of Xillia 2 - Whenever I get around to beating the first one, I'll likely play this as well. I actually haven't played many of the Tales sequels or spin-offs. Need to change that.
Persona 5 - I haven't conquered all the Persona games yet, as some of them are hard to come by, but I typically enjoy them. Looking forward to it.
Bayonetta 2 - Can Lo contain the monster within for another Bayo game? Find out on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z wheneverthegamecomesout.

Let me begin by saying that I'm entirely disappointed in myself for not taking notes on the gaming news of the year, but I will do my best to remember and comment on some of the biggest topics of 2013.

It's probably safe to say that the biggest development this year was the introduction of 3 "next generation" consoles: Nintendo's WiiU (which actually came out in 2012), Sony's Playstation 4, and Microsoft's Xbox One.
I'm sad to report that I've acquired exactly zero of these in 2013, but this is actually typical of me. I often wait until the second or third edition to purchase new consoles for a number of reasons: they're often cheaper, there is a sizable collection of games to choose from, hardware is usually improved, physical size is sometimes reduced and the companies have had time to iron out most of the kinks in the system, thanks largely to all the fine folks who picked up the console at release.
Regardless, each console made a splash in the news world. Of the three, I think the Xbox One (X1? Xbone? Did we decide on a nickname?) takes the cake for most controversial console, in spite of the WiiU's efforts.

I wrote a lengthy rant about the Xbox One around the time of E3 (North America's largest gaming convention) that I think accurately depicts what I and many gamers felt about the Xbox One after it's announcement :
Like pretty much everyone else on the planet right now I feel like Microsoft (hahaha, my mac says 'Microsoft' isn't a word!) basically dug the Xbox's grave with the One. Nearly every news release since the official reveal has been bad news. I can appreciate that they're trying to do something new and different for their next-gen console, but there are just so many things wrong with this one. It seems like it's been designed to tear the gaming community apart, and just make us all stereotypical losers who are glued to our Xbox 24/7. Lets start with the first bad idea: this "game pass" shit. Let me be the first (or 7000th) to say that trading/sharing games is at the center of my very being. I would not have played or bought half the games I know if someone hadn't lent it to me first, or at least brought to my house to play with me (on MY console). Also, being a game collector and having lots of old games and consoles, my friends are constantly borrowing from me. Is this supposed to be the future of gaming? What ass-hat sat around and thought up this brilliant idea? I realize it's a money game, but they should have known they were gonna piss a few people off with this.
Secondly, Xbox One is strictly for people with no lives and amazing internet. You not only need the internet to use the various tools the One provides, but you need to connect just to make the damn thing work! Specifications suggest the One needs to be connected to the net every 24 hours or shit will just give up on you. How is this realistic? Many, MANY people on this planet have no or virtually useless internet connection. You've all been ruled out of Microsoft's choice demographic. Also what is one supposed to do if their internet is down for a while? What if I go on vacation for a week? Am I supposed to hire a babysitter for my Xbox? "Hey, could you just come over once a day and turn my Xbox on and off? Gee, thanks". Furthermore - and I may be alone on this - but who needs all the internet crap anyway? I mean Live is fun, and that's become an integral part of Xbox gaming, but I don't need an Xbox that skypes and controls my tv and all that junk. If it's not gonna do my laundry then just make me a console that plays games! Also the kinect creeps me out. My kinect is currently sitting by a tv in another room, far away from my 360. Because I never use it. I don't want it cluttering my game room. I'm not thrilled by the idea of a console that won't operate unless it can see you. "Xbox, does the dress make me look fat?"
Additionally, the controller is an ode to the massive clunker that came with the original Xbox - which I hated; it's not backwards compatible - not that I'm surprised; and it's bloody expensive.
Something that makes me very proud to be part of the internet gaming community is how powerful we can be when it comes to nonsense like this. The online gaming community (twitter was particularly vocal) helped force Microsoft to reverse many of these policies, and the Xbox One-eighty is now a desirable console that I've heard quite a few good things about. Still the last on my list, but I'm encouraged to pick one up eventually. Well done, gamers.
Side note: it's hilarious for me to read blogs I posted earlier this year, and to see how far I've come as a blogger. Haha!
That brings us to Xbox's nemesis: the Playstation 4. I was surprised that after months of positive press about the PS4 (and its belittling of the Xbox One), its actual release was relatively quiet and littered with a bit of disappointment - mostly due to shipping errors and a few poorly assembled units, the system was otherwise praised for its beauty, its small but quality selection of release era games, and mostly for just being better than the Xbox.
Then we have this generation's underdog: the WiiU. Arguably under-looked because it actually came out first, my twitter feed was frequently flooded with people berating the WiiU for its novelty and unique style, while others defended it, saying the games were overlooked and the system underestimated, and remarking on how Nintendo finally joined the online world with Miiverse and eventually the Nintendo Network which allows players to finally connect their WiiUs and 3DSs with a single account. While I feel it did take Nintendo a while to announce and release "must have" games, I think the WiiU is a very desirable system, and I intend to pick it up first of the three new systems.

This year's E3 convention was plenty exciting. Not only were the two then-unreleased next-gen consoles expanded upon, but there was a great array of games announced, some of which were released later the same year, and some we still have to look forward to. I won't dive too much into E3, as I did blog about it, although I admit I'm not terribly proud of the entry and will attempt to do a better job next year!

There were a few big titles announced this year that many have sought my thoughts on:
Final Fantasy XV - the longer it takes, the less I care. Sadly, Square Enix has lost my support for the Final Fantasy series. I thought briefly about picking this up anyway and giving it a shot, but the more I hear about it, the less I want it to happen. I really wish they'd just leave this series be, but I know that won't happen because there is a whole new generation that have just discovered FF and will support these new-style games that are unrecognizable to me. We did, however FINALLY get a release date for the HD rerelease of FFX/X-2 and, while I don't really intend to pick these up, I'm excited for more people to discover and experience what I consider to be the last playable Final Fantasy. I'm looking forward to the reactions on twitter of people hopefully enjoying a game I've played every year since its release.

Another big series for me - Tales of - hosted a couple of big announcement this year. Not only did we finally get Tales of Xillia released in North America but they've promised us the sequel, too! If that wasn't tasty enough, Namco then announced an entirely new title for the series, Tales of Zestiria, and in a change of events, it was said that Zestiria would be released worldwide. Normally 'Tales' titles are released exclusively to Japan, and sometimes later localized for the English-speaking world, but the Zestiria announcement was for all regions!
While I still haven't caught up in the 'Tales' games, I'm excited for a new title anyway. Tales games are always dependable and I look forward to a new story.

2013 also saw a lot of Zelda news. We got a HD remake of Wind Waker, which was bundled with a beautiful limited edition version of the WiiU that I wouldn't mind owning. I think it's really interesting that they chose to reintroduce Wind Waker, as it's a very controversial Zelda title. WW is a very "cartoon-y" Zelda game and it got a lot of trouble for that when it was originally released. That said, I always thought it was a great game, and found the new style to be refreshing. I'm glad to see that it's doing well and many new gamers are discovering WW.
A Link Between Worlds was released this year for the 3DS, and it was kind of sprung on us! Who would have thought that a Zelda game could sneak under the radar? That said, we're still waiting on this currently untitled new Zelda game for the WiiU. While I feel that the current Wii Zelda titles are some of the least enjoyable (albeit still good),  I look forward to learning new information about a new game in the new year.

Another Nintendo trend I noticed on twitter was lots of talk about a new Metroid. This is, as of yet, entirely fictional, but I know many people would love to see a new Metroid game. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm a fan of the classic Metroid games, and as such I'm worried that a new generation game wouldn't work very well. Sometimes classic Nintendo games just don't translate very well into current gen (Other M, anyone? Castlevania?) but at the same time I feel like Nintendo needs to give us old gamers what we love.

I've also heard rumors about Bravely Default becoming a yearly release franchise. This is interesting news, and people seem to have mixed feelings about it. I've not yet played Bravely Default, so I will reserve judgement about it, however I know that popular RPG series' generally suffer from frequent reinstitution. In recent years, the Final Fantasy series has turned out another title almost yearly, and I feel that game has lost its way. Call of Duty gets regular releases and I'm sick of them. I don't even play Call of Duty! I fear that Bravely Default may suffer a similar fate if they try to cram a new game down our throats every year, so if this is their plan, I hope they can pace the games properly and leave people wanting more.

Obviously, one of the biggest highlights for me in 2013 was discovering you! the gaming community. I have hundreds of wonderful followers on twitter and I've found some great YouTube channels, podcasts, and blogs to help me get my gaming fix. If you have some free time, give a looksie at what some of my mates are doing.
Our friends The Cartridge Bros dubbed myself and two other bloggers the "Blogeteers," or maybe I did that... Either way, I recommend you pay visit to my partners Brandon at Just Another Video Game Blog, and Jed at Fate of the Game. Then, hit up Legacy Control and find my pal Tyler's review of The Last of Us. Then beat him up on twitter about it. Tell 'im I sent you.
If YouTube is your thing, you can also find The Cartridge Bros there, and don't forget to join the Cartridge Club and download the podcast. You can also find my young friend GP (if you want to know what it stands for you need to follow him) who makes great, fun videos for JG Reviews. There may or may not be puppets involved. Lastly, try and keep tabs on Joe. He's a staple in the twitter retro community and my partner in Team #ResidentBarry crime. He's constantly doing things to bring gamers together, like Retro Rebound and all things #GamersUnite.

I'm fully aware that I've missed a ton of games this year, and my judgement may or may not be congruent with yours, but of the games I played in 2013, here are my winners.

CONSOLE OF THE YEAR: Sony Playstation3

This may seem like a silly designation, and I'll understand if you don't agree with me, but I feel like the PS3 had a great year in games, warranting many sought-after releases and a few "must have" exclusives. What's more, I purchased more PS3 games this year than any other console. I really enjoyed getting to know the PS3 catalog in 2013 and beginning to rebuild my PSN account (there was an incident. Long story). PSPlus continues to be the most outstanding online service for gamers. Additionally, myself and many others praise the PS3 for its abilities, controller and growing online presence. For these reasons, I declare the PS3 the console of 2013.

CHARACTER OF THE YEAR: The Luteces (Bioshock Infinite)

In spite of my general opinion of Bioshock Infinite, there are a few things the game did absolutely right.  The Luteces were one of them. Not only did these two having me giggling throughout the game, but they were the topic of many a conversation I had afterward. The Lutece twins help make up for the poor development of the lead character, and in conjunction with Elizabeth, are the propellors of the game. I couldn't wait for these two to show up again and their story was wildly entertaining.

SOUNDTRACK OF THE YEAR: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Joe Hisaishi is one of my favorite composers ever, so it was no surprise to me that the soundtrack for Ni no Kuni was astounding. I sought out the OST immediately after playing the game for the first time, uploaded it onto every music player I have and it has countless plays. Beautiful, lively tunes demonstrated by a fantastic, deep orchestra, the soundtrack for NNK helps bring this magical Ghibli world to life.

GAME DESIGN OF THE YEAR: Bioshock Infinite

It's baaack. Like I said before, Bioshock Infinite did a few things right, and I'll be damned if I didn't spend hours wandering around Columbia looking at the intense details the developer scattered all throughout the game. While I feel the design is almost too much for a first-person shooter, I can't deny that this game is simply gorgeous. Every square inch is bright and colorful, detailed and a shocking change from the first two Bioshock games. I was floored the minute I landed in Columbia. Furthermore, the character design brought a certain whimsy to the game, which was a smart move in my eyes, as it helped to counter some of the heavy content in the game and bring a little more focus back to the characters.

And then, drum roll please…

GAME OF THE YEAR: The Last of Us

Surprise, surprise. I've said it a million times, and if you'd like to read into my reasons why, you need only seek out my wrap up blog for The Last of Us. In short: it's been a very long time since I've played a game I couldn't put down, and couldn't stop thinking about. Every event in this game had me picking my jaw up off the floor. TLOU is truly a masterpiece and I'm thrilled that Naughty Dog has given us something on par with, if not above 'Uncharted'-quality games.

So there's my brief, patchy review of 2013 in gaming. Thank you for taking the time to read this or any of my blogs, and thank you for being a part of my triumphant return to the world I love. I wish you all a Happy New Year and a successful 2014, and invite you join me here and on twitter for all sorts of geeky calamity in 2014.

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