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So, it's the start of 2014 today, the moment when many gamers make their "Games of the Year" lists and post them for all to see. That's probably what I would be doing too, but as it turns out, for various reasons I didn't play any of the games that came out this past year. Instead I'm forced to settle with ranking all the games I did play in 2013, starting from the very worst and working my way to the very top.

This is my first attempt at making such a list and I don't think it turned out particularly good (I couldn't think of much to say for a lot of these), so here's hoping next year's turns out better.

Also, for the sake of reference, if I were giving scores to these games, the bottom two would probably get close to a 5/10 while the top 4 would all get close to a perfect 10.

(NOTE: For some reason, the name of each game is showing up very small on the preview, even though I made it size 5. If it's like that in the published version, I'll see what I can do to fix it)

22: Vexx

Vexx has great platforming controls and some really fun and challenging platforming segments, which could have made it a good game, but unfortunately itís held back by its many, many flaws. Combat isnĎt any fun, the puzzles (of which there are many) are all bad and dying undoes everything you did since the last door you went through (especially annoying in the long platforming sections, which are pretty much all of them, because most of them take place above an abyss where even one mistake can kill you and then you have to do it all over again). Itís also a very buggy game and has a bad camera.


21: Sonic Colors

Back when this game was released, everyone was praising it as the game that made Sonic good again, but if I had played it back then I would have said that Sonic still has a ways to go before it can be considered ďgoodĒ again. Sonicís movement has a lot of momentum and his jumps feel weird, which doesnĎt work well with all the platforming . There are a few good levels, but not enough to make up for the rest of the game.

20: The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past

I did not have much fun with this game. Although the overworld is great, probably the best out of the four Zelda games Iíve played, the puzzles and combat arenít very interesting, and to top it off there is a frustrating lack of direction at times. For example, one time I wandered all over the world for two hours trying to find a way to get to the other side of a river before I gave up and looked it up online. It turns out youíre supposed to use the hookshot on a skull on the opposite side of the river, but the skull isnít even visible from your side of the river.


19: Devil May Cry

It has good combat but few interesting enemies and a bad camera system. Not much more to say about it.


18: Super Mario Bros. 2

Again, not much to say about the game. Itís just a fun little game with a good challenge and good gameplay.


17: Super Metroid

The game has a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed the exploration. Some platforming segments can be a bit frustrating, particularly the ones that require the beam whip and the wall jump, but once you improve your jumps theyíre not as bad. The game probably would have taken a better spot on this list if it wasnít for the backtracking. There are few things I like less in a game than being forced to backtrack and this game has too much of that for my liking.


16: Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2nd playthrough)

And here we have yet another game that I donít have much to say about. Itís a fun game with only a few minor flaws (unskippable cutscenes and no vertical control over the camera), but unfortunately, after it was released a lot of games came out trying to ape its style, and as a result the game can sometimes feel like just another generic PS2-era platformer.


15: Paper Mario (2nd playthrough)

The game has a lot of charm, but the battle system could use some work.


14: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2nd playthrough)

This was my second Playthrough of Twilight Princess and this time around I managed to find even more things to like and to dislike: Itís way too easy, the motion controls start to get frustrating after a while and most of the second batch of dungeons are boring, but the overworld has tons of secrets I missed in my first playthrough, the combat has more to it that Iíd realized the first time around and the story is still my favorite in all the Zelda games IĎve played.


13: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Great puzzles, good combat and a good story.


12: Kingdom Hearts 2 (2nd playthrough)

The combat is great, the story is good and the Gummi Ship segments are really fun. Only problem is that the time spent in each world feels very short and the worlds themselves feel really small.


11: Megaman 9

It has great music, great gameplay, great level design and is an all-around fun game.


10: Chrono Trigger

A good story and good combat system, and it has the courtroom scene, one of my favorite moments from any videogame.


9: Final Fantasy X

The best part of the game is undoubtedly its setting: A world where, for the last thousand years, a giant, powerful monster named Sin appears every so often and destroys entire cities. Through the course of the game, you learn about Sinís origins and of how society has developed a new religion, new customs and new social order in response to its appearance. There are a few flaws, such as unskippable cutscenes, a few low points in the story and voice acting, and a whole lot of linearity, but everything else is good and even has some great moments.


8: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2nd playthrough)

A great atmosphere and great exploration without all of Super Metroidís backtracking. The gameplay is also really good and the game works really well with the Wii Remote.


7: Pikmin 2

Biology, anthropology and weird creatures are all some of my interests and this game has all of them, so it was practically impossible that Pikmin 2 wouldnít end up taking a high spot on this list. Pretty much everything in the game is good; the only thing I donít like about is the lack of the 30 day timer. In the first game, I was getting very pressed for time towards the end, so I had to improve my strategies, learn to multitask and start taking more chances in order to get all 30 parts on time, and when I beat the final boss and got the last ship part on the final day, it was really satisfying. Without the timer, there isnít any real pressure on the player to beat the game or to get better at it.


6: Shadow of the Colossus

One of the most unique games of all time and often considered one of the defining games of the PS2 library and the PS2 generation in general and while it doesn't quite live up to the hype for me, it's still a fantastic game. Fighting the colossi can really get your heart pumping, and bringing down these giants using just your wits, your sword and your bow feel really satisfying. There were a couple colossi with which I had to look up a guide in order to beat them and the framerate can drop to the second lowest I've seen in any console game (first place being taken by Global Defense Force), but both of those do little to detract from the experience.


5: Super Mario Galaxy 2

The sequel to what is probably my favorite game of all time. While it doesn't quite match Galaxy 1's greatness, mostly because it's an all round more linear game, it's still a fantastic game. I just wish those green stars were more than just a boring easter egg hunt, then maybe I'd be willing to 100% the game.


4: God of War II

A great brawler with really great and challenging combat, and even some pretty clever puzzles.


3: Donkey Kong Country Returns

A fantastic 2D platformer. Every level offers something new and the design is fantastic throughout. If only the motion controls were absent and the d-pad on the Wii remote was better I'd say the game is near perfect.


2: Xenoblade Chronicles

I played this game for over 110 hours. That alone should tell you how much I liked it. It has a really fun battle system, a great setting, great story and great music.


1: Ico

Ico is a 3D puzzle/platformer, but that's not what it's about. What it's about is having the player form a bond with Yorda, a mysterious girl who follows you around as you try to get both of you out of a huge prison. Though Yorda doesn't talk, and your character only rarely talks, most of this is accomplished in the gameplay. All the interactions between the two, like holding Yorda's hand and running her around the place is endearing. Heck, even the simple acts of saving and loading the game manage to be adorable. It's a really fantastic and unique game and it's the best game I played in 2013 (and, in case you're wondering, the puzzles are also pretty good).








So after weeks of procrastination, I have finally finished writing a review. Anyways, if you guys have any feedback about my writing, it would be much appreciated if you would post it.

And now for the review:

With the spread of phazon once again threatening the galaxy, the galactic federation knows exactly who to turn to for help: bounty hunters. Yes, despite the Federation being, presumably, the largest, most powerful political and military force in the galaxy, not a single soldier is even close to being as good at their job as any known bounty hunter.



And so, to combat the space pirates and the spread of phazon, Samus get sent all over the galaxy to many new planets. The different planets all have unique environments and, for the most part, enemies, and they all have backstories that tell part of the planet's history hidden throughout the world. These can be found with the use of the scanner, along with many details about different enemies, artifacts and other objects in the world, which really adds depth to the world. The main story is good, too, and builds up to a big climax that is a fantastic finish for the game and for the Prime series as a whole.

Progression follows a familiar formula: you explore the newest area, kill enemies and bosses when necessary, get a new upgrade that unlocks a new area, repeat until end game. It's very predictable, but the exploration, puzzles and combat have enough variety to keep it engaging all the way 'til the end. The combat is a bit simple, (there's like four combat related actions in the whole game), but thanks to the combination of lock-on, aiming with the Wii pointer and the speed of your shots, it's a lot deeper than you might think. The lock-on also solves what might have been the biggest problem with the new control method; the turn speed. Sadly, this problem does come up in a pair of boss fights near the end, but for the most part, it's non-existent. Instead, the worst use of motion controls in the game are the door locks. Though some of them are inoffensive, a lot of them require somewhat unintuitive movements that sometimes require you to twist your arm into some uncomfortable positions.

The soundtrack and visuals both contribute to making this a very atmospheric game, but aren't very impressive. There's a handful of great, memorable songs in the game, and the outside of the character models for the humans, the graphics all look good, but neither of them aren't particularly amazing, even for the Wii. That said, they do what they were meant to do and they do it well; all of the major in-game areas but one have a unique feel to them, from infiltrating an enemy base to exploring a ghost town. Only problem is that the final area is so different from any other area in the game that you want to spend more time in it, but the gameplay and story give it both speed up at this point and prevent you from taking your time, and yet it takes too long for something that's supposed to be so urgent.



Something else worth mentioning is the difficulty. There are three difficulty levels: normal, hard and hardest (hardest has to be unlocked by beating the game first); I have played though the game in normal and hardest. Normal is, well, normal; nothing very challenging but you do need some skill to beat it. The only changes is Hardest are that enemies take and deal more damage and enter their more powerful form more often. While it's lazy, it works well save for a triad of late-game boss battles because of the biggest new addition to the gameplay: Hyper Mode, a special state you can enter in which you do much more damage in exchange for part of your HP. In Normal, It's pretty useless outside of bosses because you would have lost less HP by killing enemies the normal way than by using Hyper Mode to kill them. In the harder modes, you have to learn the nuances of Hyper Mode and learn to use it effectively and it's much more satisfying than normal mode. That said, those three bosses I mentioned are really poorly designed for hardest mode and just a huge waste of your time; If you're going to play the game, I recommend sticking to normal or hard mode.

Metroid Prime 3 is a great experience and, despite a few stumbles along the way. As someone who was introduced to the franchise through this game, I highly recommend you play it, whatever your experience with the series may be.[img]









With the year's end just one week away, it is once again time to engage in the tradition of trying to guess what the new year might bring to the industry. Here's some of mine (sorry it's a bit Nintendo-centric, but they're the only one coming out with a new console, which is great for speculation):

100%-76% chance of it happenning

New Call of Duty game announced by Activision.
Pikmin 3 revealed as a launch title for Wii U
Xenoblade Chronicles released in the US to poor sales...
That means no Last Story and Pandora's Tower.
New Mario game announced for Wii U, released in 2013 (unless it's a 2-D platformer).
New 3DS model announced, comes with second circle pad.

75%-51%

Following the success of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, Activision tries to figure out what to do with Crash Bandicoot.
The Jak and Daxter Collection, much like the Sly Cooper Collection, contains a teaser for Jak 4 which, like Sly 4, will be developed by a different studio and will be announced at E3.
Retro's Wii U game is revealed to be a new Star Fox.
The Wii U will come with a Wii Remote Plus along with it's new controller.

50%-26%

Microsoft announces the next XBox at E3...
It comes with the next-gen Kinect.
The Last Guardian release date given.

25%-1%

Half Life 3 ( or HL 2: Episode 3) is announced.
PS3 crossover fighting game announced.
Apple game console announced.








Graphics, Aesthetics and Camera

This game looks great. Everything looks better than it ever has before. There are some pretty good reflection effects in the water and the crystals, all the old characters and enemies are more detailed than ever before and the new ones fit right in.
The camera system doesn't give you much control over which direction it's facing and at times takes it away completely, but the game usually does a very good job with the camera, which makes it unnecessary most of the time. However, there were two times when the camera spontaneously decided that it would be a great help to me to have a wall blocking out my sight of Mario, nearly causing me to fall down into a black hole.


Sounds and Music

The soundtrack mostly consists of original compositions, although there are a few remixes of older Mario tunes, namely the original Super Mario Bros. theme and the Super Mario Bros. 3 theme, both of which I prefer to the originals.
There are some tracks, like the Comet Observatory, which would seem out of place in any other Mario game but feel right at home in Galaxy. Some tracks are dynamic, as in, they change depending on what you're doing. For example, one track plays with different instruments when you're underwater.
The music excels at setting the mood during the level. Just listen to this. This one plays during a boss battle with a terrakinetic ghost and again during a boss battle with a skeleton shark. That song alone made me feel those two fights were more intense than the final boss.

Story

The game has the same basic story as all the previous Mario games: Bowser kidnaps Peach and Mario has to go and rescue her.
However, that's just the story that takes place during Mario's adventure. There's a bit more to it than that. The biggest differences are the setting (space), Rosalina and that we get to know Bowser's motives.
There's also a bit of back story about the Star Festival that's being celebrated at the beginning of the game and the much more important Rosalina's storybook, which is the only part of the game with any character development. It's probably the most mature story told by a Mario game in the main franchise (although that doesn't say much). Overall, it's nothing on the level of the Mario RPG's, yet better than all previous Mario games.

Gameplay

The controls are rather simple (although that might be because I still remembered playing Super Mario 64), although movement takes a little getting used to when you're doing it upside-down. You can jump, ground-pound, long jump, back flip, wall jump and spin attack. The biggest change is the integration of motion controls into the game, which it does rather unobtrusively. You shake the Wii Remote to do a spin attack, you point at the screen to grab star bits or grab a pull star and you press B while pointing at the screen to throw the star bits, and that's the full extent of the motion controls while playing the main game. You can also play as Luigi after getting all 120 stars, with the only changes to gameplay being that he jumps higher than Mario and keeps sliding for a bit even after you stop moving.
There are also some galaxies with different controls that only use the motion controls to perform actions such as manta surfing, ball rolling and moving bubbles by blowing air at them. The motion controls are implemented well into these actions. The only one I have a problem with is the manta surfing one (which bears a resemblance to Mario 64's slide levels), where you control the manta by twisting the Wii Remote left and right, and if you do it too fast, the game interprets it as a shake, which is a jump when you're manta surfing. This can lead to deaths that could have been easily avoided by having more traditional controls in these segments.
The ball rolling segments are much less obtrusive, and the only problem I have with it is that it's hard to stop, which you do by holding the Wii Remote upright, but this is a pretty minor complaint, except in those places where you have to get through a narrow path. It would have been improved by being controlled with the analog stick, but it's better than the manta surfing stages, since the game only uses the motion controls for rolling the ball, so you won't be making any accidental jumps.
The bubble stages are definitely the best of the three. Mario is trapped inside a bubble which you can move by blowing air at it, an action which involves pointing at the screen and pressing A to blow air at it from the on-screen cursor. I never once felt that these segments would have been better by using the analog sicks, and they might even be better with the motion controls.

Design

Thanks to the addition of planetoids and gravity, Super Mario Galaxy features some of the most creative level design in years. There is an entire planetoid shaped like a question mark, one shaped like an 8-bit Mario and one shaped like Yoshi's head.
Just like previous Mario games, whenever you get a star, you get taken back to the hub world, something that I hated in Mario 64. However, unlike previous Mario games, when you go back to the same galaxy to get the next star, the world is significantly changed (although there are a few exceptions), which makes it feel like there's a real reason to have to go back. The prankster comets are also a good way to justify going back.The boss battles are usually like a sort of final exam on some skill you learned, usually earlier within the same galaxy, like throwing koopa shells or leading the Bullet Bills. This time around there are less bosses that are just bigger versions of smaller enemies, and there are small changes in their behaviour after hitting them enough times to make the fight slightly harder, such as bringing smaller enemies to help them out.


Overall

When I bought Super Mario Galaxy earlier this year, I honestly wasn't expecting to be blown away by it. I expected it to be, like Super Mario 64 was to me, a good, but overrated, game. Instead, it surpassed all expectations I had for it. It's creative, it's new (well, it's new to me, anyway, seeing as I first played it this year) and it's full of memorable moments. It has it's own share of flaws, sure, but overall, I'd say it's without a doubt the best 3D platformer to date (at least until I play Galaxy 2),and probably my favorite game of all time.

Score: 10/10 (Just to make it clear, I rate games on a score from 1 to 10, without decimals)

(NOTE: This is my first ever review, so if you need me to clear something up or if you have any tips, please post them in the comments.)