My name's Ben. I'm pretty quiet but really easy to get along with. I've been playing video games since I was a little kid, watching my brother play the NES and sometimes playing with him. The first game I ever beat was Super Mario RPG, and that's when I developed a love for video games.
Games that I thoroughly enjoy:
Shadow of the Colossus
EarthBound and Mother 3
Demon's Souls and Dark Souls
Persona 3 and 4
Team Fortress 2
Super Mario RPG
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Mega Man Legends
Super Meat Boy
Beyond Good & Evil
Dragon Quest VIII
Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII and IX
Mega Man 2
Super Mario Sunshine
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Endless Ocean: Blue World
Other things that I thoroughly enjoy:
Studio Ghibli films
Eels (the band... and the animal too)
Kill la Kill
Krazy Kat comics
The past few weeks, I've been playing Wild Arms. It's a pretty solid fantasy RPG, but what drew me to the game in the first place was its western theme. Much of the game seems to be tenuously related to the western genre at best, however. It's essentially a typical fantasy RPG, with some western flair to help it stand out from other RPGs. The game's soundtrack is pretty great, though. It was inspired by the music from some of my favorite spaghetti westerns, namely The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as the overworld theme in the first game is a cover of The Ecstasy of Gold, my favorite song from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack.
This got me thinking about all of the great western-themed songs I've heard from other games. Westerns tracks tend to be a favorite of mine, because they always remind me of Sergio Leone's films. My fascination with the western genre is sort of a recent development, I only started watching westerns about four or five years ago, when I got the sudden urge to watch a Clint Eastwood movie and decided on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It instantly became one of my favorite movies, and since then, I've seen most of Sergio Leone's other films, and a few westerns from other directors as well.
This week's theme will obviously be the western genre. I thought of a lot more than five examples that I really liked, so there will probably be a sequel to this theme in the future (in case you're wondering where Guacamelee is). What do you guys think of western films/games?
The Shootist Red Dead Redemption
Ah, Red Dead Redemption... by far the most perfect game to play after binging on a bunch of spaghetti western films! If you ever want to play a game where you can pretty much be the Man with No Name, this is certainly the game to play. Of course, you do have a name, and a family and everything, so it's not exactly the same, but it's just about as close as you're gonna get. Obviously, the whole soundtrack is worth looking into if you like western music. The Shootist just happens to be my personal favorite track. It's got everything: whistling, rattlesnake noises, twangs, horns, men shouting "hah!"... and it's got a slick sound to it, befitting a talented gunslinger like John Marston.
Spike in a Rail Bastion
The Bastion soundtrack is a beautiful thing. It manages to simultaneously bring to mind images of the Wild West and some sort of futuristic fantasy world. Some of the tracks sound like they could have been taken straight out of Firefly. The vocal tracks are definitely the highlight of the soundtrack (I'll no doubt be revisiting those in a future blog), but the instrumental tracks are, in my opinion, equally brilliant. There are several tracks I could have chosen here (Slinger's Song is another excellent choice), but the energy of Spike in a Rail makes it a favorite of mine. It sounds like a theme song for a badass cowboy riding into town like he owns the place, while outlaws stand around giving him the stink-eye.
Shadow's Theme Final Fantasy VI
This song was an interesting choice for a character who is essentially a ninja. You might expect something with a little more eastern influence (kinda like Cyan's Theme), but Shadow's twangy theme certainly evokes images of the west. And somehow, it makes perfect sense. Shadow is a loner and a mercenary, much like the Man with No Name. Working on your own and taking assassination jobs to make money does seem like a very Wild West thing to do. Only instead of having a faithful horse companion, Shadow has a super loyal doberman partner.
Hidden Village The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I'll be honest, I actually completely forgot about this song until I heard it in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This is probably because I played Twilight Princess before I started watching western films, so it didn't stand out to me as much back then. But now, the Hidden Village is one of my favorite areas in Twilight Princess. It's essentially a ghost town; only one resident still resides there (Impaz).The town certainly looks like something straight out of a western; I'd expect to see some tumbleweeds roll by as Link rides his horse up to the nearest saloon! Too bad the place is deserted...
Nowhere to Run Rayman Origins
This one gets bonus points for the whistling. There's nothing like a good whistled tune to give something that old Wild West feeling. I mean, look at all the tunes the Man with No Name had, whistling as he rode into town. Or even the cowboy from Cowboy Bebop (you know the one). Aside from the music, the Land of the Livid Dead is not a particularly western setting, it's basically a graveyard of undead, agitated grannies. Platforming-wise, it's also the most intense level of the game, so having some awesome music to accompany the often frustrating difficulty certainly helped make these levels very enjoyable. I found myself whistling along to the music as I died over and over!
Confession time: I've only ever played one video game which is considered a part of the survival horror genre, that game being Amnesia. I've never played any Resident Evils, or Silent Hills, or Fatal Frames, or Dead Spaces, or Slender Mans or what have you. And it's not because I think they would be too scary, it's actually kind of the opposite. I think it has something to do with marketing. Video games, and movies too, which are marketed as terrifying experiences, excellent examples of the horror genre, just don't do anything for me. I'd go into them expecting to be scared, and it just wouldn't work. It's exactly what happened when I played Amnesia, which was a cool game, but it never made me jump in fright or feel dread or panic, because I knew the game was trying to scare me.
However, there are a few video games I've played which actually did scare the pants off of me, but interestingly they're never classified under the horror genre. And I think that's exactly why they were so scary to me. I'm not going into these games expecting any terrifying situations, so they creep up on me and surprise the crap out of me. Before I know it, I'm playing the game super carefully, as if I'm home alone at night, nervously exploring a darkened house to find the source of a mysterious noise.
The first game that ever truly scared me was the original Tomb Raider for the Playstation. Ugly graphics aside, the game was very immersive to my ten-year-old self who had just discovered 3D gaming. I was going into this game expecting an exciting adventure through caves and ruins in search of hidden treasure, probably fighting off bats and wolves and other adventurers, something like Indiana Jones: the Video Game (but hopefully without the melting skeletons!). And in fact, the first part of the game does feel very much like a video game version of Indiana Jones. There's caves, and bats, and wolves, and traps, and boulders, and secrets, and there's nothing that I can't handle!
Or so I thought. At this point in the game, everything seems pretty normal, save for a few unsettling things. The first weird thing I noticed was a nasty, half-mummified skeleton which is just lying out in the open. It doesn't do anything, other than provide some very creepy atmosphere. Not to mention it's constantly looking at you (due to being a 2D sprite in a 3D game). I spent a lot of time examining it because it seemed so weirdly out of place. What happened to this person? What kind of creature did this? My imagination was starting to run wild, so I decided to just put it behind me and continue on.
Then there was the music. While sometimes beautiful and mysterious, to bring wonder to the unknown ruins you're exploring, the 'music' for the most part consists of silence, interrupted by occasional strange noises. It puts you on edge, wondering what's making the sounds and what could be hiding around the next corner. There's also the enemy music, which can suddenly begin even when you don't see any enemies, so that you know you're being hunted! It can definitely surprise you, causing you to whip out your guns and look around wildly for the enemy.
The only other parts of the first couple levels that were slightly unsettling were the underwater parts, because you can't use weapons while swimming. Luckily, there were never any enemies in the water, so it was no big deal, but the first few swimming sections were pretty tense nonetheless.
So all is going well and good, until I get to the third level, the Lost Valley. As I wander around the level, picking up a shotgun and an abundance of health packs, I start to notice more and more skeletons scattered about. Maybe they were killed by all these wolves? Eventually I make my way to a jungle area, which must be the valley, and can't help but notice some odd tracks on the ground. They kinda look like they were made by a... no, it can't be. Then I hear footsteps and a terrible screech. What was that? Something red is running towards me. Oh shit, is it a dinosaur? Kill it, kill it!
After I take down the enemy, which took a lot more bullets than anything else I've killed up to this point, I carefully approach and examine the body. It looks like a raptor. Well this was certainly unexpected! I continue through the jungle, but now I'm being much more cautious. Any odd sound makes my heart skip a beat. I come upon a broken bridge way up above my head, and as I approach it, the enemy music starts up. More raptors? The ground shakes. Oh no. Out of the shadows leaps a massive T-Rex!
At this point, I shrieked, paused the game and promptly fell out of my seat. Like literally fell backwards off the ottoman I was sitting on. I just was not prepared for that moment at all, even after seeing the raptors. How could I fight something so big? I took a few moments to plan out a strategy of backflipping and shooting, before I finally unpaused the game. I hesitated, and the T-Rex bounded forward and ate me. It straight up grabbed my torso in its jaws, thrashed me around, and threw me to the ground, and I was dead. Welp.
Eventually, I manage to dispose of the T-Rex. I examine its corpse up-close, but very cautiously. I keep half expecting it to suddenly come back to life, I just don't know what to expect anymore. I make my way to the next level, the Tomb of Qualopec. This place is indoors, which makes me feel a little bit safer. But in the very first room, I'm assaulted by a rogue boulder and a pack of raptors. The dinosaurs escaped the valley?! Now I'm fully expecting to have to fight another T-Rex. They could be anywhere!
As it turns out, the Tomb of Qualopec is mostly devoid of enemies, save for the aforementioned raptors and a pack of wolves. But the scenery is becoming increasingly ominous. This level introduces the giant, bloody spikes of death, an obstacle that I quickly learned to avoid at all costs, because of how horrific Lara's death animation is when she gets impaled on them! There's like a popping, squelching sound as Lara doubles over, it was just too much for me. It sent shivers down my spine every time it happened.
After acquiring an artifact from the tomb, Lara travels to Greece, the second location in the game, to a place called St. Francis' Folly (probably my favorite level in the game!). The first part of the level isn't too bad, as we seem to be returning to more normal enemies. Lions and gorillas are much less frightening than dinosaurs! Then you reach a corridor which suddenly becomes a long slide down into a flooded sewer-like area. Water? No big deal. But wait, did I just see something moving? Is that a freaking crocodile? But I can't use my weapons in the water, so what do I do?! I gotta get out of the water, FAST.
And with that, I'm now terrified of the water again. No place is safe. Everything is trying to kill me. The latter part of the level is a tower with rooms devoted to gods of various mythologies, full of deadly traps based off of those gods' powers. Why not just Greek gods? Who knows. All I know is that even the gods are trying to kill me!
I make my way through the Grecian ruins rather uneventfully until I come upon the Tomb of Tihocan. I find myself at the entrance of the tomb, which is decorated with two majestic centaur statues. You can examine them to find that they basically do nothing, just decoration. You need to open the door of the tomb, though, which requires a switch. But after you pull the switch and make your way towards the door, one of the statues suddenly bursts and comes to life! You're faced with a grotesque, possibly undead centaur which appears to be all muscles and bones, and it starts shooting fireballs at you. I about had another heart attack, similar to the T-Rex reveal. And Jesus, this enemy is scary! What the hell is it? A zombie centaur? Once you defeat the enemy, it explodes, leaving no corpse behind to examine. So now I don't even know what kind of enemies I'm up against!
After clearing the second tomb, I find myself in Egypt, and now the game has entered full-blown horror territory. The Egyptian levels are crawling with all sorts of bizarre, hideous monsters. Mummies shriek and leap at you from nowhere, with freakish speed. Mummies are supposed to be slow and creepy, not quick and agile and fucking terrifying! Those things made my heart stop every time I encountered one. You'll find more undead centaurs, too, as well as other weird zombie creatures and even some horrifying, flying demon mutants! What the hell is happening? We've gradually gone from a grand Indiana Jones adventure to an unexpectedly gruesome horror game. And the creepiness doesn't stop here.
After Egypt, you finally make your way to the lost city of Atlantis. But Atlantis probably doesn't look like what you expected. The lost city turns out to be a pyramid of throbbing, pulsing flesh, filled with huge eggs which spontaneously burst open to reveal more zombies, centaurs, flying demons and the like. There's even a zombie which mimics your every move, and looks like a version of Lara that has been skinned alive!
This all leads up to the final boss of the game (essentially), which turns out to be a gigantic, legless, mutant torso, which pulls itself along the ground with its arms, as you stare in horror at its exposed bones, muscles and tendons. I mean, what else would you expect? Everything has been leading up to the most horrifying thing imaginable, and this is certainly it. The thing seems to take FOREVER to kill, and yet it can kill you with the flick of its wrist (literally; he'll grab you and slam you against the ground, breaking your entire body!). After it's defeated, you have to escape from the crumbling ruins of Atlantis, fighting one last boss along the way, the main antagonist, Natla. She's not nearly as tough or terrifying as the torso mutant (though she does grow demon wings), so I don't really consider her to be the final boss. After defeating her, you can finally escape from the horrifying hellscape that is Atlantis and beat the game!
The horror elements in Tomb Raider are exactly the kinds of things you would expect to see in a typical survival horror game. Foreboding music and atmosphere play a huge role, along with elements of surprise, grotesque monster designs, and an escalating amount of horrific situations as the game progresses. For a typical horror game, these elements would be expected. But since the game was marketed as an action-adventure game, they come as a complete surprise while you're playing. In this case, I'd say it was a welcome surprise!
It's interesting to see how the Tomb Raider series has developed over time. Most of the Tomb Raider games still retain that horror element to some extent, but the games have never been marketed as such. Even the newest game, the 2013 reboot, still has some story elements taken right out of the horror genre. There's gruesome human sacrifices, supernatural forces, and even a river of blood which Lara has to swim through. Yet you would never guess the game could be so horrific until you actually play it. I really think this is one of the Tomb Raider series' most entertaining qualities, and it's kept me coming back for more with every new release.
Hello everyone! If you've been following my presence here on the site, you've probably noticed that I really enjoy video game soundtracks. I talk about them a lot, and these days I actually tend to listen to video game music more than any other kind of music. I've always wanted to write a blog about my favorite video game music, but there's just too much to talk about in one blog, so I'm going to try starting a new series instead. I hope to post these with some regularity, maybe a new one every two weeks or so? I'm also going to keep them small, I'm thinking five songs per blog, to keep the series going longer and because you probably don't want to spend all day listening to my selections. Each post will have a different emotion or theme that each of the five tracks share in common, and I may revisit certain themes if I need to.
This week's theme is happiness! These are songs that make me smile; songs which I could imagine listening to on a bright, sunny day. What are some of your favorite happy songs?
The Wonderful Star's Walk is Wonderful Katamari Damacy
The Katamari games are pretty much the epitome of happiness for me! Everything from the bright colors, the crazy art style, the upbeat music and even the gameplay just makes me smile! I love just about the entirety of the OSTs from the Katamari games, and yet there's still one song that I love above all the rest. The Wonderful Star's Walk is Wonderful is the tune that plays on your home planet and while you're viewing the collection in the original Katamari Damacy. I spent a LOT of time browsing the collection, partly because I got to listen to this song on repeat. If I had to pick one song to describe myself, it would probably be this one (in fact, AlphaDeus used this as inspiration when he wrote my song for the Destructoid Community Album!).
Control Bit.Trip Core
The Bit.Trip games are really great at portraying emotions through music. Core and Runner both sound pretty happy, but the music that makes me smile the most is found in Control, the final level of Bit.Trip Core. It's interesting because Core was by far the hardest Bit.Trip game for me, and the final level, gameplay-wise, was the most frustrating. But I could never be too angry with the game because the music is just so freaking happy! Even as I'm messing up left and right, on the brink of failure, I still can't stop smiling. I'm including the song found on the game's official soundtrack here, because it's shorter and easier for the casual person to listen to, but if you want to hear the music in all of it's usual glory, it's best to look up a gameplay video for Control. The game's sound effects, which aren't found on the OST, actually add a lot to the music!
Your Affection Persona 4
If Persona 3's prominent emotion was gloominess, as indicated by the soundtrack and the generous use of the color blue throughout the game's art, then Persona 4's prominent emotion was definitely happiness! It's a much brighter game, using the color yellow as its main theme in the artwork, and with a more upbeat, pop-inspired soundtrack. It may seem strange, considering the game's story revolves around MURDER, but the meat of the game is much more focused on friendship, so the happy theme actually works quite well. There are a lot of tracks I could have included here, but I chose Your Affection for a few reasons. The songs plays while you're wandering around Inaba, but only on clear, sunny days, so it was surely intended to portray happiness. My favorite part of the song is the first twenty seconds. I don't know enough about music to go into techniques or instruments that they used to convey certain emotions, but I just feel that the first twenty seconds sounds like something that would play as you step out of your house into a beautiful, sunny day!
Descendant of Shinobi Final Fantasy VII
This song is also known as Yuffie's theme, so as you can probably guess, it plays during many important scenes involving Yuffie, who just so happens to be my favorite character in FF7. It's kind of similar to Eiko's theme from FF9, which I suppose is fitting because they're both young girls, even though their personalities are vastly different. I prefer Yuffie's theme over Eiko's though, mostly because Yuffie is a much cooler character. Both songs immediately make me want to bob my head in a jolly manner, with a big ol' smile on my face!
Toroko's Theme Cave Story
Toroko's theme is also kind of similar to Yuffie's theme, they're both very cute and bouncy. This song is sort of hidden in the game; you can hear it playing on the title screen, but only if you can manage to beat the Sanctuary (aka Hell) in under 5 minutes. It's an interesting song, because if you listen to it without having played the game, it's pretty much just a happy, innocent little tune, befitting a happy, innocent little character like Toroko. But if you've played the game, and know what happens to Toroko, the song becomes incredibly bittersweet. Poor Toroko... Her theme song still makes me happy regardless, which I'm sure is what she would have wanted anyway!
The articles that Destructoid has run recently about GaymerX have made me kind of sad and worried about the current community. The articles themselves are great, mind you. The staff is clearly welcoming of people from all walks of life. It's the comments that make me worried; full of blatant ignorance, vitriol, and unhelpful apathy. The few positive comments are like an oasis in a desert of hate, and they're usually from the same few users (most notably Pixielated and crackedbat). I feel like even the lighthearted gay jokes would be welcome at this point (offensive though they may be to some), but even those are few and far between. And maybe I'm just remembering things incorrectly, but I feel like it didn't always used to be like this around the site.
I remember a time when Jim Sterling would consistently post articles with completely unrelated homoerotic header images (and some that were clearly straight up gay porn, cropped just enough to make it not pornographic). The comment sections would either have some fun with it or sometimes even ignore the images entirely, as if they were just a normal part of the site. Anyone who complained about the images would get a mouthful from the site's regulars, mocking their sensitivity. I'll admit that I was a bit unsure about the images at first, thinking they would just lead to comments full of homophobia, but that very rarely happened.
I also remember reading articles such as Pixielated's first promoted blog or Chad Concelmo's farewell post about Final Fantasy VI, where the comment sections were brimming with positivity and open-mindedness (with a relatively minor amount of sourpusses). Those articles made me feel very good about the Dtoid community! In fact, they made me feel like Destructoid's environment had become something like the idealized version of the world that many of the comments on GaymerX articles tend to bring up, a place where no one cares one way or the other about your sexuality, you're welcome no matter who you are.
Destructoid is not a website like GayGamer, where the primary focus is on LGBT issues as they pertain to video games. It's a website where the primary focus is on video games, yet any related topic is welcome, including topics of an LGBT nature. That was one of the reasons why I fell in love with this place; I actually felt welcome here! I hate to think of new members reading the comments on articles like the ones about GaymerX and coming to the conclusion that Destructoid is not a place where they'll be welcome
Now, maybe it just has something to do with the GaymerX convention specifically. After all, there's apparently something about a gay-oriented video gaming convention that many people can't seem to wrap their minds around. But even articles about the convention from a few years ago had MUCH more positive receptions than they do now. Maybe if we saw another article like the ones by Pixielated and Chad, we'd get a more positive reaction from the community. I'm not really sure, because we haven't seen an article like that in a while.
Anyway, to get to the point, I've been trying to think of ways to create a more welcome atmosphere around Destructoid. I might try to think of some LGBT-centric blogs to write about, and I'll definitely try to post more positive comments on articles about LGBT topics. Admittedly, said articles are not very common, which is fine, but I hope the ones we get in the future can harbor a more positive atmosphere than the ones we've seen recently.
I'm confident that the part of the community that frequents the C-blogs are a lot friendlier and more welcoming than your average front page commenter, so I hope that everyone reading this can agree with these sentiments and maybe try to help the situation in their own way. And I understand that LGBT issues are probably not very important to some, and that's fine too. As long as you're not actively trying to harbor a negative attitude, then we can surely get along.
What do you guys think? Has anyone else noticed this shift in attitudes surrounding these topics? Maybe you're tired of hearing about all this sexism/racism/homophobia stuff, but after reading some of the comments from the aforementioned articles, surely you can see that there is still a problem. And this is exactly why these topics are continually brought up, because we clearly have not yet reached a state of universal acceptance. Maybe one day...
Something really cool happened this week, and while it might not be the most exciting story to some, it was still very exciting for me.
So, growing up, my family had several gaming consoles that were apparently given to my dad as gifts from a coworker. We had an NES, SNES and a Genesis, along with quite a few games for each console. I played them almost daily, mostly with my brother. Then, in 1996 (I was about 8 at the time), the N64 was released, and my brother and I both really wanted to try it out, except our parents wouldn't buy it for us. My brother decided to buy it himself, and in order to get the money to pay for it, he decided to sell all of our consoles and games to a pawn shop. He ended up trading our huge collection of NES, SNES and Genesis games for an N64 and one game to go along with it: GoldenEye. I'm sure it was not the best deal.
While GoldenEye was indeed a very fun game, I immediately started to miss all of our old games. Once I started to earn my own money, I made it my goal to buy the old consoles again and try to find all the games we had for it. I never ended up getting another Genesis (it was my least favorite of the three), but I did get an NES and SNES, and have been steadily building up a collection of games for both. I found most of the games that I remembered playing as a kid, including the Mario games, the Mega Man games, Zelda, Blaster Master, Marble Madness, Ironsword, Bubble Bobble, etc.
But there was one game that I remembered playing which I could never remember the name of. I vaguely remembered some platforming mechanics and item pick-ups, and a screen showing a map of the world. I also had a very clear memory of being really bad at the game, and trying to make up passwords in the password screen to see if I could get further. I somehow managed to input an acceptable password and jump ahead to the middle of the game. I ran to tell my brother and sister what I'd done, but I don't think either of them really cared.
That's pretty much all I could remember about the game, but for some reason I really wanted to figure out what the game was. Neither of my siblings knew which game I was talking about. It was like a part of my childhood was missing since I couldn't remember anything about a game I spent a lot of time playing. I tried looking through a list of every NES game, hoping one of the titles would jog my memory. At one point a few years ago, after looking at some screenshots of random NES games, I grew convinced the game had been Little Samson. That would have been incredible, since the game is worth a ridiculous amount of money these days, but after playing it for a bit on an emulator, I decided that it wasn't the one (although Little Samson is a really awesome game!).
Close, but no cigar.
Then, just this week, Hamza posted a video of a compilation of every NES title screen in alphabetical order. I watched a bit of it just for the heck of it, and made it to the C titles, and laughed when I saw a game titled Clash at Demonhead ("It's that band from Scott Pilgrim!"). Then it played some music from the game, which sounded oddly familiar. I watched a bit more of the video, then stopped and went back to listen to the Clash at Demonhead song again. I thought, "No, it couldn't be..." but decided to look up some gameplay videos just in case. The music, the enemies, the pick-ups, everything brought back memories. "This is it! This is that one game I played as a kid! I finally figured out what it was!"
Those wonky-eyed enemies! I remember!
It was a really fantastic feeling to finally be able to solve a mystery that had been on my mind for years, even if it was a relatively unimportant mystery like a video game. It was also really cool that music was the thing that triggered the memory. I'd heard the title before while reading and watching Scott Pilgrim, but the title of the game was not as strong of a reminder as the music. It just goes to show how powerful and important music can be!
Needless to say, I'm currently in the process of tracking down a copy of Clash at Demonhead to play it again. I'm not sure if it'll even be a good game, but it's definitely something that I need to have for my collection!
Hello, everyone! There have been so many Best of 2013 blogs already (which is awesome!), and I'd like to throw my own list into the mix, even though it's a little late. I also thought I'd add a few extra awards at the end just for fun. So, without further ado, here are my favorite games of 2013!
Top 10 games of the year:
10. Killer is Dead
When I head that Suda51 was making a new game with the assassin series in mind, I got really excited! Killer7 and No More Heroes were my favorite Suda51 games, and this one definitely brought back memories of those games. The bizarre plot was very reminiscent of Killer7, and the over-the-top boss fights were as amazing as the ones from No Mores Heroes. I wasn't really a fan of the gigolo missions (was anyone?), but that's OK; they're easily avoidable anyway. I played Killer is Dead primarily for the crazy story and boss fights, and I was not disappointed by either!
9. Runner 2
AKA that Bit.Trip game with the really long name. Bit.Trip Runner was always my favorite game out of the series, so I was really happy that it got a sequel! Runner 2 is set in an alternate universe from the other Bit.Trip games, and it definitely feels very different in tone. The Bit.Trip team got really silly with this game, adding in weird new characters like a pickle guy and an inverted merman, giving the characters alternate costumes and dance moves, and adding in voice narration (by none other than Charles Martinet!). The fantastic rhythmic gameplay from Bit.Trip Runner is still there, just with an added layer of silliness thrown in for good measure!
8. Rayman Legends
Rayman Origins was by far my favorite platformer from the last few years, so of course I had to play the sequel. While I think I prefer the first game overall, Legends is still a solid game which added several cool features. I really enjoyed the daily/weekly challenges and leaderboards, although the challenge levels could have used some more variety. The best new feature was the musical levels, where the game suddenly became a rhythm platformer, as you raced along to hilarious tunes. I wouldn't mind seeing more levels like those in the future!
Antichamber is all about mind games. The game will play tricks on you, and you'll keep falling for them again and again until you finally try something new or unexpected. You'll have to throw away everything you thought you knew about video games as you try and figure out the rules of this game's world. Unfortunately, I haven't finished it yet, but even so, Antichamber has left quite an impression on me!
6. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
For how many hours I've spent this year playing New Leaf, I had to put it on my list somewhere. While it's not really too different from the other games in the series, I do believe it's the best one yet. This time around, not only can you customize your house, you can also customize your entire town! You can add landmarks and new buildings, and you sort of have a say in which neighbors stay or go. Traveling to other towns and inviting people over is easier than ever, although I do think there are still a few kinks to work out as far as the online portion goes. The Animal Crossing formula has always been addictive and fun, and Nintendo keeps perfecting it to make it even better.
5. Tomb Raider
I've always been a fan of the Tomb Raider series, although a lot of the more recent entries haven't really been so great. I think a reboot is just what the series needed, even though the new game seems to be straying away from it's predecessors in some major ways. While I could have done without a lot of the shooting gameplay and QTEs, everything else in the game was simply fantastic! The jumping and climbing mechanics are the best in the Tomb Raider franchise, the island setting was gorgeous, the new direction for Lara's character was brilliant, and while I didn't care for shooting down hordes of enemies, the bow was still really fun to use! While it's sort of sad to see the Tomb Raider franchise go in a completely different direction, at least it still remains an enjoyable game.
4. Papers, Please
By far the most unique game I played this year, Papers, Please seems to be impossible to define in terms of genre. The gameplay involves poring over passports and other documents, searching for discrepancies, and deciding who can cross the border into the country of Arstotzka and who gets turned away. Somehow, they took this seemingly tedious gameplay idea and turned it into a very compelling video game! You'll have to race the clock to get through as many people as you can while minimizing mistakes, so that you can afford to feed your family. I'm still not sure how the developer turned this idea into such a fun game, but kudos to them! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry some more over all the people whose lives I ruined by refusing them entry into Arstotzka...
3. Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy satisfied my itch this year for tough-as-nails platformers/roguelikes. It's a genre that's really been thriving lately in the indie game scene (Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV, Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, etc.), and I just can't get enough of it! I'll find myself dying over and over again, and yet I never get discouraged, and eventually I'll overcome obstacles which at first seemed impossible. It's a wonderful feeling when you finally succeed! Rogue Legacy is especially interesting, though, thanks to the ancestry and traits mechanics. All of the different traits and classes help to keep gameplay interesting, whether the world is black and white due to colorblindness, the text is all scrambled due to dyslexia, or everything is upside down due to vertigo (never pick vertigo!). Of course, when you finally get the perfect combination of class and traits and then die way too soon, it can feel pretty terrible, since you might never get that combination again. I'll always miss my gay Hokage warrior with ADHD...
Like Rogue Legacy, Guacamelee satisfied my other indie game itch for metroidvanias. Guacamelee was perfect in just about every way. It had engaging combat with awesome wrestling moves, excellent level design, challenging platforming, a nice dose of humor, fantastic music and more, all wrapped up in a charming Mexican luchador theme. I honestly can't think of anything they could have done to improve it!
Game of the year: Ni no Kuni
I love a good JRPG, and Ni no Kuni took everything I love about JRPGs and put it all together into one great game. They replaced the traditional turn-based combat with a more action-oriented combat system which I actually really liked. I could see the combat working really well for a Pokemon game, probably because the familiars in Ni no Kuni are very similar to Pokemon. The game is filled with your typical JRPG quests, lots of grinding, endearing characters, fantastic music, and plenty of hours of gameplay. Plus they had Studio Ghibli help out with the art direction, so the game is absolutely gorgeous! It may have a few flaws (too many tutorials, poor AI for team members), but it's pretty darn close to being the perfect JRPG!
Best game to finally release on a system I own: Spelunky
I waited very patiently for Spelunky to release on PSN, which it finally did this year. I already knew I was going to love it, having played the original on the PC, and I also knew I was going to become addicted to it. I've played well over 500 rounds this year already, having only beaten the game three times so far. I still haven't beaten Hell, though, so that's my current goal!
Best game that I didn't play until this year: Nier
Why didn't I play this game sooner?! Everything from the art direction, the music, the characters, the locations, the combat... it was such a fantastic little game, and I quickly fell in love with it. It's too bad it wasn't very well received, I think it definitely deserves more attention!
I've played it almost every day since I got it. Still plan on playing it for months to come. I may or may not need an intervention...
Runners-Up: Spelunky, Rogue Legacy
Best luchador: Juan Aguacate from Guacamelee
There were actually a lot of luchadors this year, which is great, because luchadors are awesome! Juan is an easy choice for the best luchador, being the playable character in a fantastic luchador-themed game. He also has the best mask.
Runners-Up: Hawlucha from Pokemon X/Y, El Luchador from Rayman Legends
Best beard: Wilson from Don't Starve
Seriously, that thing is magnificent! And it gets bonus points because you get to watch it as it grows!
Runner-Up: Joel from The Last of Us
Game of the year for every year: Dark Souls
It's still the best game of the last generation. I just hope they don't screw up the sequel...
Most anticipated 2014 release: Persona 5
Oh god, it's going to be so good! I can't wait! :D