Wow, I’ve been playing a lot of games lately... I went on such a long streak of games that were, frankly, outstanding that I had a hard time sitting down and writing one of these. How can I properly sit down and write a series of mini-reviews with only positive things to say? Well, I’ve since played some awful games to balance out the good ones, so let’s get started!
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I wanted to like this game. I really, REALLY wanted to like this game... But I can’t. I heard some advice that suggested my problems with the controls were because I wasn’t using the best possible controller (the Wii remote with Wii Motion Plus built in). So you know what? I bought one of those. I paid $40 purely on faith that this new controller would make Skyward Sword not suck. But you know what? It didn’t help. These are some of the worst, least-responsive controls I’ve ever seen. As I explained in my previous review of this game, they basically took a control scheme that worked perfectly fine and replaced it with forced motion control and waggle. And for what purpose, to promote a new peripheral? I have no idea. All I can say is, this game is terrible. You can skip it. Here’s hoping the TBA Wii U Zelda game is much better, because I normally loves me some Zelda.
THIS GAME IS AWESOME! And I didn’t expect it to be. I skipped out on this one for years; I had dismissed it as a lame dating sim for the “waifu” crowd with same lame puzzle elements thrown in to flesh it out. It’s not that. This game probably respects the adult gamer’s intelligence better than most that have come before it. Instead of infantile fawning over imaginary waifus, you have some very frank and realistic depictions of relationships and sexuality, and I found that the characters in the game were asking a lot of the same questions I would in the same situation. The lead character, Vincent, is sort of a loser - he’s a spineless 30-something who stays marginally employed, and ends up cheating on his longtime girlfriend with a mysterious woman he met at the bar. But while you spend the first half of the game embarassed for this guy, he does start to grow on you, and you begin to sympathize with his plight and his reactions to the major life changes happening around him. The puzzle elements seem tacked on, but they’re really a metaphor - relationships, like these blocks puzzles, are comprised of a lot of well-planned push-and-pull; the struggles of the lead character in this fantasy puzzle world are an allegory for the balancing act sometimes required to maintain a healthy relationship. The game never takes it self too seriously and, thankfully, never resorts to petty melodrama to tell its story. If you’re looking for something a little smarter than your average game, you’ll find it here. You’ll also find anthropomorphic sheep.
Soma is, without hyperbole, one of the best video games I’ve ever played. Like Catherine, it’s a smarter game than it has any right to be; it’s a first-person horror game from the developers of Amnesia, a game that made rich men out of screaming morons on YouTube. But Soma is not Amnesia. Not even close. It’s not a carnival ride of jump scares with light story elements tacked on - it’s all about the story, first and foremost. And honestly, the game comes damned close to being a walking simulator. But unlike the vapid, pretentious nonsense that genre is known for, Soma has a lot to say. For what it lacks in traditional gameplay, it more than compensates with phenomenal environment design and a fantastic story. There is a lot of philosophical musing going on in this game, but it never feels full of itself like other games can. It presents a set of themes and ideas to you and, as you explore this horrific undersea environment, you never stop thinking... About the implications of this world, about the thoughts in the minds of the characters, how any of it could relate to your own reality. There are big, spooky monsters, sure, but the game isn’t about them. They are minor obstacles on the path to something much greater. Unless something comes out that absolutely blows my mind once again, this is likely my GOTY for 2015.
Worth noting though, the PS4 version had a lot of lag issues, horrendous loading times, and a few gamebreaking bugs. I love this game to bits, but I do suggest the PC version (which isn’t locked at 30fps!) over PS4.
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
I hate to seem like I have some hate-boner for Nintendo, but like Skyward Sword, this is another game I want to like, but can’t. And once again, it’s a flawed gimmick that makes the game significantly less fun than it potentially could be. In this case, it’s the small planet levels. Honest to god, they screw with my head. Because you’re moving on these tiny spheres and otherwise curved levels, I have a really hard time trying to orient Mario in any kind of fixed space. I never really know where I am in relation to the objective, and if I figure out where a star is, it’s really difficult to figure out an efficient way to get there. I’m sure this game is great, I’m sure it has a lot to offer, but ultimately, I can’t wrap my head around it. it’s just not for me. The Candyland, hyper-cutesy visuals are a big turn-off, too.
Red Faction: Guerrilla (PS3)
This game may be one of the most important things I’ve ever discovered. See, for those who don’t know me well, I live life with an anxiety disorder. I’ve been on medication for it before, but ultimately, the cons outweighed the pros for me. One of the big symptoms I face as a result is this constant state of irritability; I can really only describe it has having the urge to grab a lead pipe and just break shit. I’m not a violent man by any means, so I don’t manifest that energy onto people or property, but that sheer burst of adrenaline and testosterone is a constant presence. And this game scratches that itch in a may that’s difficult to describe... Holy shit, does it ever feel good! This is literally a game where you can pick up a sledgehammer and break shit. Does it have a plot? I don’t care! :D I honestly only played about an hour before coming to write this opinion - all of it spent in the first area, making gravel - and as long as this game gives me a big, open world where I can drive up to a thing and smash it, I’ll literally hug the box and begin to lead a happier life. (PS, if there are more games like this, please let me know!)
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
I love this game. I love it! But Nintendo, good god... It’s yet another game that would have been significantly better without a stupid gimmick thrown in. This game has one of the best JRPG stories I’ve seen in years, beautiful, sprawling environments that look amazing on a big TV (seriously, there is a marked improvement viewing this game on an HDTV vs. a CRT, which is not true for many Wii games), a combat system that mixes the very best of MMOs and traditional JRPGs... But I’m mad at this game. I’m mad because I’m stuck on a boss, I WANT to proceed through the story, but the game has some serious balancing issues that make it a really hard sell. I spent 7 hours yesterday - 7 hours! - grinding out sidequests and collectibles, doing all kinds of MMO checklist bullshit that the game absolutely INSISTS is worth your time... And on top of being horribly bored, I didn’t gain a single level. Not one! The EXP yields in this game are not at all reasonable considering the challenges placed before you. I even found an exploit, I kid you not, where I could trick the game into thinking I killed two Lvl 76 monsters (30 levels higher than me), rewarding a relatively high amount of EXP... And it still takes 30-45 minutes per level-up. And that’s with EXP-boosting gems! I have no doubt I will beat this game, but seriously, I’m not wasting my time level grinding. I’m going to buy (or download) a cheat device, turn on infinite HP or whatever, and just beat this game. The game is broken, so I ain’t playing by its rules anymore. *sassy fingerwag*
Criticism aside though, the game is amazing. Like. Incredibly amazing. It’s just not balanced, which makes it hard to suggest. It’s easily one of the best JRPGs in the last 15 years, but it’s just so unbalanced! I dunno, man...
I Also Played the Following Games Briefly and Immediately Hated Them:
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (really boring), Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition (horrible music), Lost Planet 2 (no music at all and also boring), Shadow of Mordor (not sure why something so mind-numbingly boring and unfocused gets so much praise), F-Zero Maximum Velocity (Played an F-Zero game before? Now, imagine those games with controls that feels like you’re driving on nothing but ice. Yeah, this game’s not good...)
I Am Considering Picking Up The Following Games Soon:
South Park: The Stick of Truth, Battlefield 4, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, Trails of the Legends: Heroes of Sky Steel or Whatever, Fallout 4, and I will be pre-ordering Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth whenever Amazon Canada realizes the page for it is broken. :P