Sunday, 8 January 2012

Gaming 2012: What to Look Forward to!

Well... what I'm looking forward to, that is.

Okay! So, we’ve got a lot of games coming to us this year. (hopefully, with potential announcements during the year of some really awesome and must-have titles) This will be a list of those that I am looking forward to, or rather, perhaps those I just feel obligated to purchase. There is at least one of those in this list, but there may end up being more, as time goes on.

The Last of Us
Console: PS3
Developer: Naughty Dog

This one, if it does come out in 2012, will likely be released around the time Uncharted 3 was released last year. It’s a game that is very Naughty Dog in style, but the trailer that was released before the end of 2011 shows it to be a Survival/Horror-type game, rather than the adventurous kind of game that Nathan Drake of Uncharted has been playing around in. Set in a ruined world where it seems one of our main characters was born into while it was in this state, it kind of holds an “I Am Legend” quality to it; especially if the ‘things’ that are attacking them turn out to be diseased humans, or something.

What has made me really want this despite the present lack of detail on it is that we’ve been lacking much in terms of the survival/horror genre and could really do with a return-to-form, which Resident Evil seems to have strayed from. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more of this game, and likely what we’ll hear of it from E3 this year.

Monster Hunter Tri G
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: CAPCOM
Release dates: Autumn 2012 (Europe) (R)
                             Unconfirmed (US/AUS)

The ever-evil CAPCOM have been teasing us in the Western world with not just one, but two Monster Hunter games for the 3DS; Monster Hunter Tri G and Monster Hunter 4. The reason Monster Hunter 4 isn’t going to be listed here is because I’m not really holding out any hopes that the game will actually be released over here, and with the rumour that TriG may be released over here towards the end of this year, and the fact that the game it is based off of; Monster Hunter Tri, was released over here, it has more of a chance to be given to all us Western Hunters of Monsters.

TriG has some really interesting stuff coming to it in the form of some new monsters, some new Subspecies, the return of some old monsters, and the return of some very awesome weaponry. To my knowledge, Bows are confirmed, as well as the return of everyone’s favourite broken Leviathan, Plesioth! With the addition of underwater combat from Tri following through to TriG, combat with Plesioth may be a little less annoying than it used to be in MHFU and other titles that lacked underwater combat and contained sickeningly broken hitboxes and skull-crushingly overpowered moves.

Overall, it is believed that a total of 72 monsters are confirmed in TriG (as according to the MH Wiki page), which includes all of the 3rd Generation monsters (including the rumoured Amatsumagatsuchi at HR150, but as of yet, unconfirmed on the MH Wiki page), as well as the return of the two Rathian and two Rathalos subspecies. (Pink/Gold and Azure/Silver respectively)

My only concern with MH3G at the moment is that from what I’ve come across, there still seems to be a solid lack of Elder Dragons or equivalent monsters, considering that MHFU held a vast array of these in Teostra, Lunastra, Kushala Daora and a boat-load of others. It would have been nice to see these monsters pop back in, but at least for me, that would only be a bonus. I’m just ready to pick up a weapon, slip on my armour and head out there to perform the hunting of monsters! In 3D!

The Last Story
Console: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Mistwalker/AQ Interactive
Release dates: February 24th 2012 (Europe)
                             Unconfirmed (US/AUS)

With a game that has Hironobu Sakaguchi behind it, and the statements that he made that people took as him saying this was going to be the last game he does when he actually meant that he was working on it like it was his last project, I’m really expecting a lot from this game, and I’m looking forward to seeing how well the world and story unfold. One of the three games that Project Rainfall have been really pushing Nintendo of America to release so that their console doesn’t die over there with third-party party games and actually has a wonderful ‘swan song’ to send us off into the Wii U, this is something I’ve both looked into, and know little about, but have enough information to actually really want to get my hands on this game.

It comes out in Europe just over 20 days after Final Fantasy XIII-2 as well, so if that turns out to be another Final Fantasy Flop, I’ll hopefully have a good game coming out to cheer me up. Something that I’ve recently found out about it is that it has multiplayer modes, which is pretty surprising for an RPG to have, when it is a dominantly single player experience. You can take on a boss with a friend, or go one-on-one with them in combat. Sounds pretty interesting, and when it comes to the guy who gave us such an unsung classic as Final Fantasy IX, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing if The Last Story will fall into the same category as some of his greatest work.

Pandora’s Tower
Console: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Ganbarion
Release dates: Q2 2012 (Europe)
                             Unconfirmed (US/AUS)

Pandora’s Tower is the one game that Project Rainfall has been pushing for that I personally know little about. For the most part, all I really know about it is that it is an action RPG, much like the other two games of the Project. But if Xenoblade Chronicles is anything to go by, Pandora’s Tower is going to be a brilliant game. I don’t really have much more to say about it, since I kind of don’t really want to look into it and potentially spoil myself. Xenoblade Chronicles was the same, before its European August release date.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
Developer: Square-Enix
Console: PS3, XBox360
Release date: February 3rd 2012

Well... perhaps not. Really, I’m getting it out of obligation, just to see if Square are still bat-shit insane when it comes to game development. Final Fantasy XIII had potential to be a good game based on its story, but it was executed with much incompetence. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is set after the events of the first, but from what I understand, there is going to be a lot of time travel-based progression in the story, and I’m a little concerned that this will really pull the game down.

Personally, I’m hoping that this is the start of an upward climb for Final Fantasy, but considering how well they have been doing lately, it’s kind of hard to believe it possible. But who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us and bring out a half-decent game that can be used as a stepping stone to better things.

A few others to keep an eye on

Other 2012 games that I’m looking forward to hearing more about, but don’t really have anything to say about right now are:

 Fire Emblem: Kakusei
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Intelligent Systems

The reason I don’t really have anything to say about this one is because there isn’t anything on international release of it yet, nor on the game itself... really. There's a few small bits here and there, like having some features that have only been present in a small number of the games and even something new offered up to the plate in joint attacks, but its not really enough to go by. If there was one specific thing that moved me about this title, it was that it is a Fire Emblem game. Hopefully we’ll get this, but I get the feeling it’ll be a 2013 release, if we do.

Scheduled for release in Japan on April 19, 2012.

Pokémon + Nobunaga’s Ambition
Console: Nintendo DS (???)
Developer: Game Freak/Tecmo Koei

This one’s up there because I’m a little curious how this amusingly strange crossover will work, and feel that playing it for myself will really be the only way I’ll sate that curiosity. Though much like with CAPCOM’s crossover game with Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton, I get the feeling Pokémon + Nobunaga’s Ambition will fall the same way and only be released in Japan; primarily because it is said to be coming out on the Nintendo DS. What’s with that? Also, same thing as with Fire Emblem: Kakusei—it’ll probably be a 2013 release.

Scheduled for Japanese release, Spring 2012.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Square Enix

A game that I’m hoping will be good. It said to be similar in gameplay style to Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is a game I don’t think will actually ever come out, now... and if it does, it will likely hold the title of Final Fantasy XV rather than being associated with the disappointing 2010 RPG, Final Fantasy XIII. I don’t know a lot about DDD, but if the game is as fun as the Kingdom Hearts series has proved to be, then I’ll definitely enjoy it. (didn’t used to be a KH fan, either... lol)

Scheduled for release in Japan this March, with the rest of the world stuck with a generic 2012 sticker.

Monday, 2 January 2012

RenegadeFox's Games of the Year 2011

While I try to get the Infinite Undiscovery article some content (I'm working on it, if a little (rather, a LOT) slower now that I've got some more games to play), I thought I'd start 2012 with what I felt are GOTY-quality games that I played. Frankly, my library of 2011-released titles is pretty limited, for my lack of being able to fund such a venture as to buy near enough ALL of them to give a full opinion on, but I have the advantage of going GAMEfest in September, where I saw and played some of the upcoming games (at the time) of 2011. Not only that, but the games that have been released are ones that I know friends have played and have seen them playing, so I do at least know where I stand with some of the games that I haven't played.

Now I can't help but be biased in my selection; after all, I am dominantly an RPG gamer and don't venture off that set path too far, but thanks to Square Enix flopping last year with Final Fantasy XIII (I'll get to that soon), I have been wandering from RPGs to play some of the other titles that were released.

There's just NO way I can say specifically what game is THE best of the year, which is why I gave the title of this article a plural rather than singular; what I'm going for is games that I thoroughly enjoyed playing, what had a story I could really get in to and what didn't resort to weak single player experiences just to release a multiplayer game. (*hint*hint* You know who you are *coughactivisioncough*)

So let's get started!

Xenoblade Chronicles
Developer: Monolithsoft
Console: Nintendo Wii

This game, in my opinion, is what has given JRPGs new life, and in 2012, I'm looking forward to seeing how well Pandora's Tower and The Last Story do when they are released over here. It's almost like Monolithsoft saw what Square Enix produced last year and realised what they were doing wrong when it comes to 'westernising' JRPGs. Square took all the wrong qualities of a linear world that you can't explore, and buried the plot deep under a mound of awful attempts at trying to make the game good. You have a lot of explosions and 'badass' moments in FFXIII that make it just a little stupid; especially when the plot actually had some potential. While Xenoblade Chronicles comes along and says, "This is exactly how an epic, world-saving adventure of the RPG genre should be!" and delivers that very thing.

With a story that grips you with characters that you can actually care about (since they're actually developed early in the game, and as you acquire them), a huge world ripe with brilliant challenges at every turn and a great combat system that brings out the more strategic aspects of the RPG genre, while keeping the action fast-paced, this is certainly a game that everyone should get to play, and I'm happy that Nintendo of America have seen the light-- even if it is a limited run, at the moment. It's a game that, in my opinion, revitalised the JRPG genre.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Consoles: PC, PS3, X360

Now there is one thing I will admit outright; until not long ago, I wasn't really a fan of Western RPGs, primarily because I wasn't all that comfortable with them. Though go figure, huh? The one person who is writing a story that would pretty much turn out as an RPG, with a Western mind, and I'm not comfortable with Western RPGs.

That changed when I played Dragon Age: Origins though, back in 2009, but I didn't buy another one until Skyrim came out over 2 years later. You can chalk it up to my lack of comparison to others of its type, but I have to say that Skyrim is probably THE biggest game of 2011, and is likely a purchase inspired by not just friends, but the visit I gave the Bethesda booth at GAMEfest, as well. We didn't get to actually play the game at that point though, but from what they demonstrated, I was sold on the game. Something else I respect about them at GAMEfest was that they were BIG, but not obnoxiously so. But that's beside the point.

The fact that you can explore the generously large province of Skyrim to its entirety, go from the lowest valley to the highest mountaintop and back down the other side gives the game a huge scale of adventure, and with the many dungeons, quests and mysteries to unlock, you really feel like you're accomplishing something. Especially so when you take down a fierce dragon raining flames over you and the town guards!

Now because I've been filling the ambition of explorer in my game, rather than really progressing the story of Skyrim, I can't comment on how it fares in proportion to the rest of the game, but you can tell that Bethesda really wanted to take this game in a major detailed path, and they have done that-- even if there are some pretty heavy bugs, and issues with the PS3 version that eventually render a save file unplayable, at the moment. If there is any game that I would like to represent the capabilities of the Western game development studios for 2011, Skyrim would definitely be that title.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Wii

The Legend of Zelda series is probably one of the most successful franchises Nintendo has under their belt, for how long it has been going. From the original game released on the NES to Twilight Princess on the Wii, Nintendo have always been able to bring us a grand adventure, with everyone's favourite green tunic-wearing, Hylian protagonist leading the charge.

As the game that pretty much solidified the 25th anniversary of the franchise, Skyward Sword likely had a huge amount of pressure on it to really be as good as, if not better than what many have come to class as the staple game of the series; Ocarina of Time. In my opinion, it has met that mark and gone beyond; the story is beautiful in it's execution and the gameplay has pretty much (likely) set the new standard for all future titles of the franchise. The customisation of equipment makes it feel more like an adventure game, making you seek out items so that you can make your shields, transportation equipment and even your bow to make them more powerful and effective in their use.

Though I would have to say that where Skyward Sword shines brightest is it's story; as an origin story (which it quite obviously is; at least until they bring out another prequel), it plays very strongly, leaving you satisfied, but wanting more at the same time. Rather than using the standards with its main characters, Zelda holds a position as a childhood friend (kind of like in Minish Cap, only less hyperactive and more protective) and stands as the daughter of the headmaster of the Knights Academy of Skyloft-- no princess status here, eh?

Skyward Sword, if not a Game of the Year, certainly stands as one of the best innovated franchises of the year; sure, it plays as the same type of game as its other titles, but it brings in new life to it, refreshing it from how it used to be to how it currently is, and potentially how it will be going into the future.

Sadly, this is where my stock of GOTY games stops; I've played a fairly limited number of games this year, so I can't really say what else would stand out in that way. I have Uncharted 3 sure, but I've not played a lot of it yet; once I started on Skyrim, it pinned me down with its epicness, and I've been playing it ever since-- amidst the family distractions of the holiday season, that is.

I'll probably add more to this article or make a new article of the games that I didn't play once I've played them, but probably not. I feel like I'm just rambling now, so I'll stop here and carry on playing Skyrim. Just take what I've noted with these games with a grain of salt; I am prone to biased opinions-- especially when it comes to games that have a stupidly large fanbase (*coughactivisionagaincough*), but hey! That's what GOTY is all about, right?

Next will probably be a list of games I'm eagerly anticipating for 2012, so if anyone is interested in that, keep your eyes peeled for the next few days, 'cause it won't be (as) long from now that I'll be posting it!

Here's hoping that 2012 is a good year for gaming.