The year 2011 proved to be “a game of two halves” for me in terms of my personal life but gaming-wise it was one of the better years of gaming for me. The motivation to play video games was still burning bright through the entire year right until the end which was pretty rare for me as I’m easily susceptible to ‘gaming burnout’.
I’ll be going in the order I got around to playing the following games last year, this is the first part and a final part will follow as soon as I’ve written up that section. On a side note, I won’t be delving into any RPG maker games as I covered all the ones I played in my game reviews.
During much of January I was playing through the much-anticipated third Golden Sun game, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS). Just a year or so ago, I got around to beating both it’s preceding games and my expectations for it to deliver were high. The various gameplay elements that carried the prequels forward weren’t as compelling a third time in and I felt the game got a little too easy at some point in the game. Furthermore, Golden Sun always had eight playable characters split into two parties that you could swap around in battles but some of the latecomers to the party arrived a little too late and this didn’t help with the story side of things. The soundtrack was forgettable as well. I was better off not playing the original games as Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is one of the better RPGs on the Nintendo DS but comparing the three games is unavoidable.
Dark Dawn’s story runs many parallels with previous Golden Sun games
After I was done with Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, I picked up Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS). I had already seen some footage of the Japanese version prior to it’s European release. The game had me instantly hooked from the off as I loved the the mystery surrounding Ghost Trick’s story. The shortfalls in the game were the trail-and-error way of solving puzzles that were transferred over from the Phoenix Wright series and the dialogue can get a little heavy but Dark Dawn prep me well here and I’d say the ending was definitely worth seeing. The character you control, Sissel, had all the qualities of being a good IP for Capcom but poor sales will probably mean there will be no planned sequels or similar risks taken in the future which is a shame as I enjoyed this way more than the next game I’ll be discussing.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (PS3) was Capcom’s cash cow and for good reason too. Riding on the success of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, this game was hotly anticipated and I brought it on pre-order without a second thought. It was only later that I realised it came with on-disc DLC as well as some seriously annoying elements within the game that made me regret ever hearing about the game in the first place. I found the character roster very lacking and the absence of some of my favourite characters like Megaman and Cyclops made me somewhat frustrated but I overlooked this and chose to enjoy the game with it’s relatively newer mascots.
“I can’t control it!”
Playtime did not last long however as I found the game a little bit ridiculous when it came to character balancing. Sentinels were everywhere online and offline, I was constantly beaten by a Phoenix player using the X factor to it’s full potential. Maybe I was just a bad player but the advice that was thrown at similar players discussing these issues was to spend hours in the training mode, I tried but couldn’t face the music. I learnt to play fighting games from regular battling but that was impossible unless you mimicked the play-styles off your opponents. Also, clearing the mission mode was pretty much hopeless without an arcade stick and to rub some salt into the wound, Capcom indrectly admitted MvC3 was incomplete by announcing and later releasing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Essentially, the same game but with more characters, refined gameplay as well as improved online features. I didn’t buy that standalone DLC as I quit this game indefinitely after getting tired of trying to like MvC3.
Sometime during the spring, I decided it was time to get (PC). It gave me a much-needed change from the previous games I had played for those last few months. The “ : Game of the Year Editionhat factor” might have had some influence on me too as the game gave two free hats to Team Fortress 2 owners but that fad wore off fast. The game itself was easy at the start and got very frantic near the end levels. I liked the way special units were handed out and the mini-games themselves were a blast. It’s a game that I’ll be playing on-and-off for sure. I had the chance to play on the DS too and the game is just as good on there.
Zombie-zapping, plant-shooting fun
(DS) completed the trilogy of Layton games on the DS. At the time of its release back in 2010, many critics called it the best Layton game out of the three which is quite something considering how good the first two games were. I played it with some expectation that it will be some more of the same as the others but Level-5 managed to freshen things up a little. I liked the mini-games, the toy car one being my favourite. The story book was great fun and collecting and arranging those stickers was strangely satisfying. The puzzles themselves, like before, were weaved into the engrossing story which I loved and considered better in most ways to the other Layton games. I didn’t particularly like the abundance of lock puzzles though and that’s the only negative thing I remember about it back then. As this was the final Layton game to grace the DS, I can definitely say that I’ve enjoyed all three. It’s definitely one of my favourite series at the moment.
Super Scribblenauts (DS) set out to improve on the original Scribblenauts game (which was hyped to the stars above). Another 2010 release, I expected that it’ll be up for grabs for cheap by the following year and it was. Having played the original for a short time, I didn’t hold out much hope of enjoying this game but the game surprised me with great use of the newly-added adjectives feature. Completing levels weren’t too hard although some of the objectives were a little vague at first (thankfully, the hints helped). The messy controls were fixed although I didn’t really find it hinder me that much in the first game. A game much like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, this game is definitely better than its predecessor although the idea behind it all wore off big time by the time it was released.
Having played the awe-inspiring Ōkami, I didn’t have any second thoughts about playing Ōkamiden (DS) except for the sad fact that Clover Studios was not working on this game. However, the people behind it’s sequel did more than enough to satisfy many fans (although probably not all as I did notice a lot of backtracking and some other minor niggles; can’t remember them though). The fights were difficult, the world was smaller than on the PS2 but the compelling story and chiby art style presentation made it a worthy sequel.
I spent much of early summer was spent catching up with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS), a highly customisable RPG trying to appeal to the wider audience. Initially, I didn’t like the fact that there was hardly a story behind the characters that you control other than the main protogonist and evne then the story was just treading on old ground. Eventually, I grew to like the game for what it was. I spent many hours grinding down grotto maps and completing my file to 100%. The hardest time I had was with the wardrobe thing as it was a weekly WiFi download thing where you got some items randomly but using a few “secret” techniques I managed to get all of them. The optional quests took a while to complete too due to them not being released when I had finished the main quests. The game was dubbed to be the most difficult game in the series and a lot of the monsters were definitely no pushover. Grinding up levels with metal slimes made short work of that though.
This is obviously not my own party (or my screenshot)
While waiting for the WiFi stuff in the DQIX, I decided to get Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie (DS). I remember playing the first Dragon Quest and enjoying the game for hours on end and wanted to try out the game on a SNES emulator due to the fact that it was never released in the western shores but I didn’t stick to it for long back then. This time was different and I managed to beat the game. It was a difficult game to get into as the two-world system was confusing and travelling back-and-forth with random encounters (something I didn’t miss in DQIX) didn’t help alleviate that. However, the game did a lot of things right like the class system, exceptional character dialogue, crazy transportations and many other things that have escaped my memory. The purists will prefer this over DQIX but I liked DQIX more as it felt more accustomed to the DS and more importantly in 2011.
In June Steam released their first free-to-play games and one of them was Spiral Knights (PC). An online action-adventure game borrowing elements from the handheld Zelda games. I hardly play it these days but for a quarter of the year, it was my number one game to play but one can only do the same task over and over again just for the sake of feeling like you’re working towards something (the bane of MMOs). When I stopped playing regularly, the energy prices (that are required for many things in the game) was sky high thanks to Three Rings decision to introduce an elevator pass but recently this has dropped again to decent enough levels. My review can be found here.
In mid-November I got the critically acclaimed action RPG, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3). It was being hailed as the “game-of-the-year” across the internet so I couldn’t pass up on this game. Initially, I thought Bethesda had skipped the PS3 but I had forgotten my reasoning behind that (someone on Twitter reminded me it was on PS3 too). Anyway, when I loaded this game up, it was pretty much gaming haven. The vast scale of the game meant I had seemingly limitless ways in which to play the game. I spend many hours side-tracking from the main quest and doing various things for about 50 hours including forging my own set of armour and doing various explorations without some random NPC telling me where to go. It wasn’t until I decided to go into far-away cities that I came across the reason why I never heard about the PS3 version of the game in the first place. Bethesda didn’t provide any copies to media outlets. In fact some IGN guy had to buy his own copy to test out a major issue with game (which he later confirmed although this isn’t exactly the same intensity of lag I’m experiencing at the moment).
One of the many things to do in Skyrim is to simply stare at the amazing scenery around you
I was pretty distraught as it ruined what was at first a great game. Patches came in to remedy the situation but they didn’t work in the long run and I had to use some frustrating workarounds (which didn’t fix anything at all to be honest) to play the game like turning off auto-saving, rebuilding my PS3’s file database, re-installing the Skyrim data etc. I also came across bugs that prevented me from continuing on with the game like the civil war bugs I mentioned earlier last month and a bucket-load of others which are all listed on the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (a great source for Skyrim information by the way). However I persevered and got my platinum trophy, after this I gradually lost my motivation to put up with the bug-ridden game but completed as many quests as I could using USEP to guide me. I can say that I’ve done almost everything in the game except the Bard quests which are too buggy for me to attempt at this stage.
The game “breaks” after a certain point where enemies get very easy and you don’t need to bother worrying about having optimised gear and the dungeon crawls get very repetitive too. The game was advertised as an “epic” and I got about 230 hours out of it (not counting the hours I lost in backtracking through previous saves because of freezes, lag and quest bugs and not to mention the delightful loading screens) before putting it down, it definitely has a limit to it’s appeal but I had hoped it lasted longer. Here’s hoping the next patch Bethesda release addresses the issues they insist they are going to fix.
I also got to play a much more quality-tested game called Super Mario 3D Land (3DS), finally a reason to actually own a 3DS. Having not played the previous most-recent Mario games on the Wii, I was coming into this off the back from New Super Mario Bros. The levels were very creative and finding the stars proved to be quite a challenge but the most challenging aspect was to visualise this game in 3D because for some reason, it never worked for me. I tried the two different modes, held the 3DS high in the air, under my foot but nothing helped. All I saw was a blur so I guess I was in the minority that had to play it in 2D but I still enjoyed the feel I got of various past Mario games implemented in here. The game was only difficult because I couldn’t get used to the analogue controls and kept misdirecting my jumps (I wish Nintendo had given the option to use the d-pad for this reason).
I used this screenshot before and I’m not afraid to use it again…
Thus ends my recap of 2011. I can look back on this post and learn from the mistakes I made with some titles and avoid becoming a paying beta tester as well as pay for half a game while the companies in question release the superior version several months later. I’m pretty weary of critical reviews as well now since most of them lack the guts to write honestly rather than write sonnets to the hands that feed them. I’m not sure how 2012 will go but I have a feeling I won’t be playing as many games as I have done in 2011 but time will tell.