I've been gaming since 1987. I used to be a big Nintendo fanboy, then Square jumped the shark, so I followed. Eventually I realized neither Square nor Nintendo were the only companies out there worth following and my collection more or less speaks for itself now. I love to meet up with people on XBL, though I haven't done much online with the Wii. I've also been writing game review articles since 2004 on the old Project Wonderboy, then Morphine Nation, and now back to the new Project Wonderboy and various other sites.
I also help out in writing for a local videogame store website (VGMX). Not much else to say, really, when it comes to gaming. I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I would say I'm experienced.
Skyrim has hit most gamers' Game of the Year for 2011, if not their personal top 10 list. In saying that, I must admit it's one of the finest games I've ever played. There are a few problems, however, that could have been ironed out to make the game even more fantastic and unfortunately these problems, while ranging from mildly annoying to sort of annoying, culminate to create frustration in a game that is otherwise flawless. Things like...
Lacking In Mystery
I don't feel like I'm ruining things here for Oblivion, especially since it's a 2006 title, but if you haven't played it and really want to, you may as well skip this point. In Oblivion, it wasn't too terribly easy to figure out how to gain entrance to "secret society" archetype guilds like the thieves guild or the assassins guild. And really, that makes sense. Actually, I ended up having to scout an FAQ to figure out the assassins guild one.
The thieves guild wasn't as difficult. All you have to do is talk to the right homeless people and you start acquiring info that eventually leads you to where you want to be. But in Skyrim? "HI HI HI, THIS IS DA THIEVES TOWN WHERE THIEVES ARE AND I HEARD A RUMOR THEY'RE IN THE SEWERS BUT IT'S ONLY A RUMOR ACTUALLY." Yeah. Subtle. Oh, but hey, at least it's hard to figure out how to get into the assassins guild, right? Right?
Wrong. You have a mission that's delivered to you by some random means where someone wants to call upon the wrath of the assassins guild and you just happen to get the call...but you're not a member. Easy to figure out. Easy to do. Stupidly simple. Now you might link this in with puzzling elements saying they're trying to make it more casual, but come on. If you REALLY want to be a thief and/or assassin, shouldn't this be more, I don't know...INTERESTING?
Levelling Up Is Too Subtle
I like subtlety. Games like Shining Force Neo make this fun because allocating just a few points into something won't be the difference between a deathblow and missing the enemy entirely, but it will, over time, account for something grand. Unfortunately, Skyrim plays this hand with such subtlety it may as well not exist. As a side note, I WAS trying to be a master thief first and foremost, so it may just be that I didn't notice immediate gains for that reason, but I digress.
The first 10 levels, it seemed like nothing was truly improving. Sure, I was technically getting stronger, more adept, etc. from a numbers angle, but there was no noticeable gameplay difference, especially because of level scaling. Worse still, so you'd go "Ah shit, I'm really getting raped in the HP department. That does it. When I level up, I'm working on light armor and improving my HP!"
Yeah okay...only you'd still be getting screwed over anyway. The change is so subtle it's unnoticeable. In fact, I didn't start noticing major gains until probably in the 30s or 40s of character level. Granted, I'm level 54 now and I rarely die anymore, but the bottom line is there's a point at which, especially if you're trying to dedicate yourself to a certain class, you get totally screwed over regularly because you're not really training yourself as a warrior and the level scaling suddenly jumps out of nowhere.
One of my biggest gripes about Oblivion is trying to climb mountains. Often you'd have to work on your acrobatics skill, constantly jumping, and hope you find those few "sweet spots" that actually allow you to progress upward rather than sideways until you find your way up. Oh, and THEN when you finally do find your way up, you find a very clear pathway down that you didn't find AT ALL when humping the entire perimeter of the mountain for about an hour. FUN.
At least there weren't many mountains in Oblivion and at least in the new Fallout games there are rarely mountains at all, but SKYRIM IS ALL ABOUT FUCKING MOUNTAINS. You know, they took out various "redundant" abilities like acrobatics...why not replace them with a climbing skill? Maybe just have it where you can get climbing gear and over time it will break, but if you have a higher skill, strength value overall, etc., then it won't break as often and you'll move faster or something.
Seriously, what the hell where they thinking? The environments are fucking beautiful, but JEEZ. Navigating these mountains and finding new areas is often a chore because the landscaping is done...well...but not well enough to allow for actually showing the way properly. The same goddamn thing happens as in Oblivion, but constantly, and worse because there's no acrobatic ability. FUCKING FUCK.
Quest Items Suck
In my inventory I have quest items that I can't drop, stow away, or sell. Alright, that makes sense. You wouldn't want a situation where you accidentally did away with something important and totally jeopardized a task, side mission or not. No, that does make sense. WHAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE is often these have an associated weight, often glitch, and sometimes have a highly unnecessary value.
I've got various quest items I can't get rid of, but there's a weight for them? The fuck? And it wouldn't be so bad, but the missions for a lot of these have technically been completed, but the item was never removed, so it's a constant hindrance for no reason other than derp game design. And again, there's a value associated with it? Why? I can't sell them even if I was totally hard up.
Oh, and it gets better. There are certain quests that, despite the fact I've completed all the objectives, didn't roll over to complete, cancelled out, or to a new objective...meaning they're just taking up space. Not nearly as annoying as the quest items themselves, but an annoyance all the same. When you're looking at a game this close to perfect, even the smallest speck doesn't go unnoticed.
Nearly Impossible To Not Be A Warrior
What is an RPG? Depending on who you ask it could be an epic journey, a game that involves a lot of strategy and planning, a game that focuses heavily on story, a game that focuses even heavier on grinding and character development, and/or a game that's all about beating the shit out of monsters to gain experience and level up, which allows you to beat the shit out of stronger monsters easier without getting the shit beat out of yourself quite so easily.
Really, I'd say it's a healthy combination of everything, but the Elder Scrolls series has always been a little...different. It's not entirely combat centered. There are MANY ways to level up and all of them are useful. Or they were. Until Skyrim. Let me be frank...if you go into this game attempting to be a master thief, you are going to fail, fail, and fail again in order to accomplish this.
Any guild will have you doing the same thing. Go here. Kill this. Come back. While the thieves guild is supposed to be about non-violence, the ideas are still similar in nature. Effectively, if you're not already on your way to being a master thief by the time you choose this guild, you will not succeed. Oh, but that's okay, BECAUSE THE TRIP TO RIFTEN ALONE WILL TURN YOU INTO A MONSTER TESTICLE WEARING WARRIOR OF INSANITY ANYWAY.
Skyrim is a game for warriors. If you do not set out initially to be a warrior, there will be a point at which the game becomes difficult enough that it becomes annoying. You will evade dragons. You will focus only on stupid non-combat shit you can to level up, just so you can add perks to something that IS combat related and probably your max HP so MAYBE...just maybe...you won't get a cornholing the next time you enter that cave to JUST STEAL SHIT OR WHATEVER BUT END UP HAVING TO FIGHT SHIT BECAUSE HOOOOOLY SHIT THAT'S WHAT THIS GAME IS ALL ABOUT, ACTUALLY.
And yet, I fucking love this game. It can feel unbalanced and unfair at times, but it's totally worth sticking with. Hell, I just love rolling over achievements, completing quests, and levelling up. It's still fun, even 100 hours in. And if I'm 100 hours in, then you know that these are still minor gripes. Seriously, if you don't own this game, you fucking suck. Go get it!
This is going to be an interesting year. There are 40 games this year. This is going to be an odd year because prior to this writing, I've only played two of these. Let's hop to it!
Call of Duty (PC)
Well, what can you say? It's the original CoD, in all its...uhhh...glory? Yeah, we'll go with that. By this point I was wrapped up in RPGs more than anything, and for good reason, but the point is this wouldn't have appealed to me anyway because it's another WW2 shooter. Yeah, I said it. The CoD series, minus the Modern Warfare ones, really never appealed to me. And even with MW, it's a hit/miss scenario.
So no, I didn't play this when it came out. It's not bad and it certainly has its moments, but I wouldn't say it's anything grand.
Here's a more obscure title nobody really knows about. That doesn't mean it's any good, but this is the reason I love doing these. It's nothing mind blowing, but it's got good atmosphere, story, and it's not a tactical shooter. What more do you want? Naturally, it's no major contender for the #1 spot, but it's worth checking out all the same.
Yet another obscure title that deserves mentioning. I'm going to paraphrase the youtube uploader here, but this is confirmed with wikipedia as well. The Duke Nukem voice actor plays the main guy, there are huge outdoor environments, and several types of vehicles ready for you to wreak havoc with. Very nice stuff.
Codename Nina - Global Terrorism Strike Force (PC)
Okay, no. I'm going to paraphrase the youtube uploader here for a sec. The voice acting is horrendous, the action is mediocre, and the environments are bland. Screw that. Especially now that FPSs have really taken off, there just isn't room for a game like this anymore. Pass!
Contract JACK (PC)
So basically this is a side story set in the NOLF universe, but it lacks the charm and spunk of the other two. Worth checking out if you really liked NOLF 1 or 2, but nothing groundbreaking.
CTU - Marine Sharpshooter (PC)
Yet another military tactical shooter, but at least it attempts to have an interesting story. That's about all I have to say about it.
Day of Defeat (PC)
I LOVE this game. This was one of the first online multiplayer mods I ever played. Yes, I played this alongside CS. Basically it's axis vs. allies, but set up sort of like CS, but with varied classes and weapons, excellent environments, and lots of great tactical chokepoints and what have you. This is easily one of the best online multiplayer experiences I've ever had.
Delta Force - Black Hawk Down (PC)
Jesus...could that mini-map be any larger? So this is a generic ass FPS that is military based, but not nearly as good as CoD...or as pretty. Yeah. I mean, it seems to be an interesting concept, but still.
Delta Ops - Army Special Forces (PC)
Ugh...it looks and sounds worse than Codename Nina. Pass.
Deus Ex - Invisible War (Multi)
This game is upsetting for three reasons. One, the original Deus Ex was an incredible game and idea all in one. It had so much potential for sequels, branching out to other projects, and so on. This game doesn't hold a candle to the original, but the second reason this is especially bad is because it's not a good game at all. See, it'd be one thing if it was just alright or pretty good, but oh no.
This game is AWFUL. It doesn't even try to share the same room with its predecessor and instead breaks into being a generic FPS. And finally, only in the last year did we FINALLY get another Deus Ex and while that one was GREAT...I just can't help but think we would've gotten it a lot sooner if this one was even a slight amount better. This really is the bed shitter of the series and almost prevented it from being continued in the first place.
...why is everyone made of pink kool-aid? Also, why is it "oonce oonce" time when you start fighting enemies? And why would you bounce around when you receive a headshot while pissing on the sidewalk? Nevermind...this bland shooter isn't worth it anyway. Still, it is kinda awesome that the dude seems to be holding 500 guns at once.
Elite Forces - Beyond Normandy - Assignment Berlin (PC)
There's no movie for this one, but again, I've not been impressed by the Elite Forces series up to this point, so it'd have to be something incredible to warrant my attention in the first place.
Gods and Generals (PC)
...No. What, you want a longer comment? Okay then. Fuck no.
Great Qin Warriors (PC)
...uhhhhh...that is easily one of the most retarded stories I've ever heard for an FPS ever. Anyway, it's basically a mech shoot-em-up. Pretty standard, just with a really terrible story.
Hidden & Dangerous 2 (PC)
Didn't I already review CoD? Oh, this isn't CoD? Are you sure? Really? Huh...okay. Pass.
IGI 2 - Covert Strike (Multi)
Running through the mountains with heavy metal playing with your knife out is no way to go through life, son. In all honesty, I've watched a few vids of this and it certainly seems fun, but I never got into the original, so I never checked this one out either. I know that seems sloppy, but listen, the #1 this year is virtually untouchable. Trust me.
Line of Sight - Vietnam (PC)
This game looks incredibly boring. The youtube user and commenters aren't much help either as all they say is the "the game is hard." Really? How hard? Farcry hard or military tactical shooter hard? You know what, nevermind. Pass.
March! Offworld Recon (PC)
So it's Quake 2, only not as fun, interesting, or graphically advanced. In 2003. No thanks.
Navy SEALs - Weapons of Mass Destruction (PC)
BAAAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAA. Oh my God this game is hilarious. No, not in the good way. I could watch that video all day, but I will NEVER play this game. Pass.
Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi (PC)
Alright, so it's ugly. I mean, REALLY ugly. But let us remember what the brilliant and all-seeing Jim Sterling has said, that horror IS ugly. Were this me playing the game, going into it my first time, a lot of what's going on would cause me to jump. This guy already knows the score and is playing the game masterfully, taking part of the fun out of it. It actually looks pretty fun, creepy, and possibly even scary.
Maybe not on the level of Condemned, F.E.A.R., or Amnesia, but come on. This is quality stuff for 2003. Yeah, I'd give this a shot.
So it's basically Battlefield 1943, but with sci-fi. Look, I'm probably not the best person to report on this at it seems there are entire communities for it still today, but it definitely looks like it's worth checking out, especially if the BF43 crack sounds intriguing all the same to you.
Postal 2 (PC)
This game is ridiculous, violent, and hilarious. Honestly, I'd stayed away from these games because I heard they were crap and don't get me wrong, it looks kinda crap. Even still, I'd probably give this one a shot because of all the crazy and funny shit you can do.
Quest for Saddam (PC)
Now some people may say this game is more for shock value than a qualifier for an actual game, but here's the thing. It is an FPS, so I am going to rate it accordingly. It sucks. I mean, come on...it's 2003 and THIS is the best they could come up with for something controversial? Goddamn, Postal 2 got it right and these fuckers didn't even try. Pass!
Resident Evil - Dead Aim (PS2)
Resident Evil Survivor didn't work, so why the hell would Capcom ever try that awful formula again? Oh yeah, money. They won't be getting mine for this garbage. Pass!
...what in the blue fuck is this? Man, I LOVED the original Robocop movie, but this is terrible. Why is Robocop going "Ohhh yeah" when he takes people down? Why did the develop think cluttering up the screen with crap was a good idea? Hell, why did they think using something that looks like a basic rework of the original Half-Life engine for a 2003 game was a good idea? Man, fuck this game.
Savage - The Battle for Newerth (PC)
So it kinda looks like World of Warcraft...only not. It's actually really hard to tell what's going on. I watched about 5 different videos and each one has frenzied action that's almost set up like a hyperactive MMO. There's nothing wrong with that, but for someone who doesn't know anything about the game, it's fairly problematic. It doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't quite have the graphics of the time, nor does it seem to be much more than Counterstrike, but with a fantasy theme. Pass.
Secret Service 2 - Security Breach (PC)
It's slow. It's dumb. It barely looks better than the original. Pass.
Star Trek - Elite Force 2 (PC)
This might sound odd, but anything from Star Trek - Next Generation onward bores me. Sure, the movies are okay, but the show never really grabbed me. I think the original Star Trek series is boss, but pretty much everything from then on is just kinda...meh. I won't say this game is crap as it's actually got pretty good production values, but I wouldn't have any idea what's going on as I don't follow this series. Give it a go if you like the later Star Treks.
Star Wars - Jedi Knight - Jedi Academy (Multi)
This actually doesn't look half bad. A little dated, sure, but not bad at all. Plus, there's so much going on with it. You've got vehicles, lots of lightsaber play, and all kinds of environments. Honestly, this is how a modern Star Wars game should operate. Not disappointed in the least. I'll have to give this a look later.
SWAT - Global Strike Team (Multi)
Finally, a SWAT game that isn't tactical. It doesn't look that great, but at least it's not all about the tactics. Of course, that's kind of the point of SWAT, sooooo...yeah, I know I'm presenting a "have your cake and eat it too" scenario, but let's be honest...SWAT belongs in the realm of tactical shooter, unless it's one of those flashback/side missions in a normal balls to the wall action game.
Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines (Multi)
Sloppy and just okay. I guess that's the best we can hope for with a modern movie game.
Terminator 3 - War of the Machines (PC)
So it's basically Counter-Strike, but with Terminators vs. humans. Not a bad idea, but nothing too brilliant either.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 - Raven Shield (Multi)
Ayup, more of this. I'm not big on tactical shooters, but by now you should know that. If you like them, give this a shot. That's about it.
Tron 2.0 (PC)
Look, I don't know a whole lot about Tron. That could partially be because I've never watched any of the movies. *ducks ensuing objects flying at head from nerd rage* In any case...this looks okay. Not terrible, certainly. And it has decent enough graphics.
Unreal 2 - The Awakening (PC)
Never got a chance to try this, but it looks pretty fun, actually. Very Quake 2-like and I mean that in the best sense possible. Yeah, I'd give it a shot.
Not half bad. Honestly, I don't think there are enough games about wars like Vietnam or Korea, so it's good to see a fairly faithful shooter for it every so often.
Warhammer 40000 - Fire Warrior (Multi)
It's a bit dated and doesn't have great production values...or much else...but if you're into the Warhammer 40K series, I suppose it'd still be worth a look. Personally, I'm not, but hey.
Western Outlaw - Wanted Dead or Alive (PC)
Honestly, I'm not that big of a fan of wild west games. Sure, there are rare exceptions like Red Dead Redemption, but this game is very meh. The graphics are blah, the music is ehh, and the production values overall are ecch. That's about it.
Will Rock (PC)
So it's basically Serious Sam, only not as good...not even by a long shot. A lot of people like this one, but I'm not convinced. Pass.
Winner: XIII (Multi)
This game is fan-fucking-tastic. Why? Well, let's talk about the one and only one negative thing I can say about this title: yes, it does look a bit cartoony. This was the early days of cel-shading and while it's the first I know of that did it for an FPS, it looks dated and a little silly at times. That said, it actually comes as an advantage to the game in the form of production values, because it's set up almost like a living comic book.
For example, in the image above, you can see that there are comic panels. This occurs every so often when you take someone out with a good shot, often with a throwing knife or crossbow. It's actually a pretty cool effect. Plus, it's an amnesia story done right. One of the best angles this game has to work with is they throw all kinds of crazy stuff at you because you can't remember shit and you're smack in the middle of a major conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.
The cutscenes are great, the voice acting is...well, it's decent at least, but it also has major players like Adam West doing a few voiceovers...and the production values and level design for the game overall are very good. This is a very fun, long single player campaign that will keep you hooked until the very end. I highly recommend this title, even though there are games that, visually, looked a hell of a lot better this year.
Graphics aren't everything, but they are important in FPSs. We saw a bunch of games with terrible, dated graphics, even for 2003. There were many titles that didn't feature music, ambience, or anything remotely interesting in the form of background noise. FPSs need to have atmosphere, lots of action, and above all else be INTERESTING. This was a year with a lot of boring games, but at least the winner was a gripping title that could keep even the most diehard action afficianado interested for a long time.
I know they're a bit dated now, but mode 7 and raster effects were pretty impressive effects in the 16-bit era. Most of the time all a game had to do was have a generic mode 7 effect and suddenly it become 500 times more awesome. Many games did this well, but the one I remember most vividly was Super Castlevania 4. If you really have no idea what I'm talking about, you could just skip over the article and view the stage here.
Yes, I'm referring to the infamous Stage 4. Look, up to this point, you already had some impressive environments absolutely dripping in atmosphere and ambience. Everything from the enemies to the music to the sound effects to the subtle, little touches like vines growing over stuff, skulls all over the place in the backgrounds, various water effects, and so on just added more and more to the already incredible environments.
And while each stage had something like that going for it one way or the other, the one that to this day I still come back to is Stage 4. I've gone over this stage time and time again...and I'm going to yet again! It starts out simply enough. You have a couple of standard enemies, classic Castlevania platforming in the forms of flipping platforms, moving platforms, enemies coming out of walls...then you have a giant skull that you have to fight until you completely chip away at it...then shit gets crazy.
You enter a seemingly harmless and somewhat generic room, go up the stairs, hang on a bathook...THEN REALIZE YOU'RE HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE AS THE ROOM SLOWLY BEGINS TO ROTATE. You have to drop down at one point to fight some medusa heads who will, I assure you, thrust you into spikes if you're not quick and accurate with them, then more hanging on for your dear life.
It's at this point you realize you're hanging over a pit of spikes with nowhere to go. When I first played this section, I didn't know what to do next, so I tried to swing off into the great unknown. BIG MISTAKE. Eventually platforms stretch out to you as if to say "Ha ha, well, it's over now. The next area's normal, I promise." THEN THE GAME TOTALLY TROLLS YOU. The next room is constantly rotating, but in a different direction that is highly disorienting with skeletons flying out of the walls at you!
And does it end there? As if you had to ask. The floor suddenly starts rising in different areas trying to thrust you into the ceiling. You have to have quick and good platforming skills to make it through to another, that's right, ANOTHER boss. Now to be fair, the skull boss and this one, a golem that throws blocks and makes blocks rain down, are fairly easy. Really, it's the stage that's a treat.
You know, almost every stage in Super Castlevania 4 has great memories attached to it. I think the reason I keep coming back to this one, though, is it kind of defines both what Castlevania was and also what the Super Nintendo was capable of. Yeah, you see games like Star Fox that have that super FX chip thingy or Chrono Trigger that have incredible graphics, an incredible story, great characters, and so on...but this, right here, is what I think of when I think SNES.
It has great music, great graphics, makes full utilization of the controller features, shows off the mode 7 effects, and is easily recognizable. Seriously, all I had to do to find this on youtube was type in "castlevania 4 stage 4." That doesn't seem too impressive until you realize most of the time when you do that on youtube you find a complete stage list or redundancy because 4 was listed twice or maybe you find the wrong game or whatever.
Really, the only two things I'd have to criticize the stage on would be I would have liked for it to be a little longer, especially in the first mode 7 room, and the second would be that the first mode 7 room is a bit lacking. I mean, you have an off white background, just the one stair case, no true platforming elements, just the one bathook, and a mini-swarm of enemies. That's about it. The room isn't hard to figure out, it's only fun the first time you do it, and while it does show off the mode 7 effects, the next room is much more impressive.
Even still, for someone that hasn't played the game before, this stage totally takes you off guard and is an absolute treat. For anyone that HAS played the game, admit it, this stage is fun as hell to come back to every so often. My stepbrothers and I used to play this game every Christmas. We would play it until we beat it and often replay it again right after. It's not the hardest Castlevania by a long shot, but it's easily one of the most fun and impressive ones.
Sometimes the mere mentioning that a game had RPG elements was enough to shelf the idea to bring it over. You're going to see me pulling this excuse a lot because for every Mega Man, Castlevania, TMNT, Mario, Zelda, and whatever title that came out, you'd have a dozen or so RPGs that didn't quite make it. While this happened less with the SNES, it certainly happened a LOT with the NES. For example...
Chronicle of the Radia War
If you've never seen or heard of this game, I'm not surprised. Also, you should immediately check it out. No really, go. Minimize this window, go check it out, and come back. You back? Awesome, right? You're welcome. Chronicle of the Radia War is a story about...well, I don't remember and it doesn't matter. Here's what you need to know about CotRW. It's an action/RPG with random encounters that feels similar to Final Fantasy Adventure, but made by Tecmo and therefore has awesome music, animations, sound effects, and so on.
The only major gripe I can make about the game is movement speed is very slow. Beyond that, it's fun, tough, and highly enjoyable. So why didn't it come to America? Action/RPG. Sure, it's pretty heavy on the action, but come on. It's still an RPG. For those of you that don't get it, consider this. I have two stepbrothers. These guys were big into sports and also enjoyed action games on the NES from time to time.
So games like Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Burai Fighter, Castlevania, and various others were immediately recognizable to them. There was one day I brought over Robotrek, hoping they'd play it. I toted it as being a game about robots. As soon as they saw it was turn based, they stopped watching. I got Chrono Trigger one Christmas. They liked the music and graphics, but recognized it as an RPG immediately and didn't give it a second thought.
Granted, Robotrek isn't exactly the best RPG ever, but to see easily and readily dismiss CT? Every so often they'd look up and see the incredible visuals, then go back to doing whatever they were doing. I couldn't believe it then and I still can't now. Unfortunately, that's the way most of the American audience of gamers were back in the day. Therefore, the next game couldn't possibly have made it here...
Look, every Mother/Earthbound fan out there can blow me. And no, it's not because I don't like the Mother/Earthbound series (because I really, really fucking love it, actually). "Ooooh, why didn't Mother 1 and 3 ever come to America? It doesn't make sense!" YES IT DOES. Mother 3 didn't come out to America because there's an implied rape scene where Lucas allegedly gets his cornhole tonguepunched by a transvestite in a hot spring...you know, to learn psychic powers or whatever, because LOGIC.
Look, we have the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I highly doubt anyone wants to see that in an RPG, especially one that's cartoony and has the appearance that it's made for children (inb4 South Park reference). Second, the original Mother was slow, tough, even stranger than Earthbound at times, AND WAS AN RPG ON THE NES. I think if you're really reaching you could claim there were 10 American NES RPGs made and that's it.
Remember, this was a time when games like Contra and Castlevania were kings and even the mere mentioning of Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior could get your ass kicked. The 80s and 90s were a brutal time for RPGs even after we entered the more accepting PS1 era. And again, I love the Mother/Earthbound series, but the more bizarre games often took a backseat to balls to the wall action titles.
It made sense, especially considering the NES was mostly about platforming and action games. That's not to say there WEREN'T RPGs, but again, they weren't popular. They just fucking weren't. What IS strange, however, is when a truly fucking awesome RPG doesn't come out to America. You know, such as...
This game rules, but sadly I've barely played it. What usually ends up happening is I download it at the same time as other great RPGs that are easier to stay focused on and this ends up getting shelved. Even now I have it downloaded, but I haven't even verified it actually works. This is an SRPG with dragons, dragon riding, floating islands, and all kinds of awesome 90s Squaresoft goodness.
It has incredible graphics and animation, great music, and all kinds of great concepts like feeding your dragon random stuff to make them evolve. Okay, that might be about it. Really, I wouldn't know because I haven't played it much, but what I have played is great. With this one I really only have one guess as to why it may not have come out: turn-based SRPG. And I know what you're thinking..."Wha, noooooo...come on, we loved the shit out of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and all that. That can't be right."
Name me one turn-based SRPG on the SNES that came to America that you love. Any takers? Anyone? Unless you bounce into the territory of Koei strategy games and claim that "well hey they're RPGs too" as an exception, there really weren't any, were there? Sure, Front Mission, but that never came to America. Neither did Fire Emblem. Now, Ogre Battle did, but it's slightly different from what I'm talking about.
Also, Tactics Ogre didn't. I can't think of even ONE American SNES turn-based SRPG set in the vein of an overhead or isometric view right off the top of my head. Not one. And again, I'm going to fall back on RPGs still not really doing that well, so adding strategy to the mix certainly would not have helped things.
In this episode all three games really didn't have a solid reason for not hitting American soil other than...well, just being RPGs. Sadly, all three still have yet to officially hit American soil, forcing us to import or emulate for these experiences. Even sadder is that still today we are being denied great RPGs for seemingly no reason. Anymore, unless sales were terrible, I honestly cannot think of any reason to NOT bring an RPG over to American shores.
Early in 2011, my 360 decided to throw a big "fuck you" party and go down for good. Being that this is the brokest I've been in years, I couldn't very well replace it, even though I really want to, but specifically only so I can get back on XBL with my friends, try to actually beat some of the games I have for it and XBLA, and I really, REALLY want a kinect because games like Dance Central give me boners.
So now I have Steam, a Wii, a PS2, a DS, a PSP, and that's it. The 3DS seems like a poorly chosen gimmick by Nintendo, though I've yet to try it, so I'll hold my bias until I actually do try it. I haven't been keeping up on the PS Vita, Wii U, or the alleged X Box 720. Nor do I have any sort of mobile gaming platform outside of...well, in my opinion, handheld consoles that were MADE for it in the first place.
Sure, I've got a couple of friends that have various smartphones and they go on about various apps all the time. And sure, I'm sure they're awesome, but good goddamn I'm not shelling out that kind of cash for a goddamn cell phone, nor am I subscribing to a dataplan that has an even more insulting monthly price tag. No thanks. Again, maybe I don't see the usefulness because I've never experienced it and I hear people all the time citing they "could never go back" to their old piece of shit cell phone.
But if you really must know my predictions, here goes. Keep in mind, most of these are speculation and some without any real investigation, just simple probability at work.
We'll Get Another Tales Game
The fact that Tales of Graces, the real Tales of Destiny 2, and most likely a few others still haven't hit American soil leaves me hopeful for this. I've been hooked ever since Tales of Destiny and went back to play the original Phantasia for the SNES on an emulator. Also, for those that wondered why ToP wasn't highlighted for the GBA, here's the SNES version and here's the GBA version. There.
We'll Get More "Shoot Enemies In The Face And Have A Giant Military Boner" Games
As if I need to tell you, this will be a year of more sequels and games desperately trying to claim they're not sequels but they totally fucking are. And of course, among them will be more military shooters. Don't get me wrong...military shooters can be fun. Unfortunately, the market's been oversaturated with them since about 5 years ago. It's been so far done to death that I almost passed up awesome titles like The Saboteur only because it has a WW2 theme to it.
The Wii Will Still Mostly Only Be Useful For Netflix
Skyward Sword. There, you don't need any more games from Nintendo, right? Sure, The Last Story and Xenoblade MIGHT come to America, but unless you're those few handfuls of rabid fanboys who give a shit, you'll probably completely pass over them forgetfully. Hell, I forgot about Last Story until I just compiled a list of wanted games for different consoles because I have some Gamestop giftcards.
Goofy, Piss Poor Third Party 3D Games Will Come Out For The 3DS
This is a given, but it needs restated. Anytime Nintendo comes out with something truly innovative, third party developers often fuck up again and again while trying to incorporate it unnecessarily in their games. Sometimes it's works, but usually it's only done right by Nintendo itself. So sure, Kid Icarus will probably kick ass, but pretty much everything else will look like garbage because they have no idea what the fuck they're doing.
Square-Enix Will Continue To Rape Final Fantasy, Give Cuddles To Dragonquest
How many Kingdom Hearts gaidens do we really need? Make Kingdom Hearts 3 already, dammit! See, this would've been me a few years ago...and now I honestly wonder why this company is even still around after Final Fantasy 13. Oh wait, Dragonquest. That's right. A game I never really followed until number 8, which was an incredible RPG, is ironically the only thing keeping a company together made of two previously massive RPG giants.
There Will Be More Console Wars Bickering, Even With New Consoles
Used to be Nintendon't, now it's RROD vs. PSN going down vs. Wii being useless vs. 3DS giving you migraines vs. PSP being useless vs. ...fucking whatever. This is another reason I've been perfectly content playing retro titles and buying up shit on Steam. I refuse to pick a side on this because it's gotten to the point that EVERYTHING'S annoying and console fanboys are only making it worse.
Steam Will Continue To Rule, Console Exclusivity Will Soon Become A Thing Of The Past
What does Sony have exclusive rights to? Naughty Dog and Insomniac? Really, that's it? What about Microsoft? Halo? And that's all, isn't it? Nintendo has the most first party support, but they've been falling seriously behind lately. Worse still, they have very little third party support now. The only good news here is anyone who's been doing PC stuff all along will have missed very little and will continue to miss very little because though digital piracy will always be a thing, Steam has more than rekindled most gamers' relationships with their PCs...it's a beautiful thing, really.
Place Your Bets - Someone Will Go Bankrupt
And here's where the fun starts. With as many bad ideas that have been thrown around lately, I very strongly believe a major company is likely to go bankrupt, belly up, or be completely absorbed soon. It's hard to say who. My guess would be Konami. Really, what have they done lately? They've fucked up Castlevania, don't make anymore Goemon games that I know of, are basically done with DDR, can't seem to make a solid Silent Hill title anymore, the last good Contra was from about 5 years ago, Kojima's no longer a part of their company anymore, nobody cares about Gradius and they probably won't make anymore of those anyway, and they probably won't make anymore Suikodens...seems like a fair bet.
A Classic Will Be Reborn And Suck, Another Will Rule
This is kind of another game I like to play. We know that various developers are working on new titles for X-Com, Shadowrun, and Syndicate. There's a good chance that others are in the works as well. I strongly believe this next year will feature one that will absolutely suck and probably completely destroy the series. However, another will totally rule and prompt us to want to make more games like it. Again, just a prediction, but this seems to happen every so many years.
That's about it. Sorry, I'm just a little burned out and I'm also working on various GotY stuff at the same time, so I'm a little fried. Hope you enjoyed my predictions. Hopefully most of them are proven true.
Sometimes a game is deemed "too weird" to come to American soil. This doesn't happen all the time and usually when it does, it's for good reason. I mean, I guess so. I've decided to include youtube embeds on all the game pictures this time. Aren't I such a nice guy?! All three of the games highlighted here definitely have their quirks, but should still definitely have come to America. Sadly, all three are RPGs as well, so that may have something to do with it. Anyway!
When I originally saw screenshots for this title way back in the early 90s, it was being called 7th Saga 2. To this day, it's still inappropriately titled as such by some gamers. And to be fair, it both is and isn't 7th Saga 2. It's basically like stating Illusion of Gaia is Soul Blazer 2 or Terranigma is Illusion of Gaia 2. These statements are wrong, yet they aren't, because they're "spiritual sequels," which I guess means they're done in the same vein to being almost identical and dealing with the same themes, but not being connected...so it makes you wonder why they keep calling it Final Fantasy, then.
In any case, Mystic Ark is a very strange, but interesting title. I actually found it more fun to play than 7th Saga, yet I can...kind of...understand it not coming to America. In one area, you converse with people who live in giant, hollowed out fruit. In another, you deal with animal pirates. In yet another, it is entirely ruled by children. I mean, you get the idea. It's like this through the whole game.
See, in 7th Saga, it was kind of a medieval/sci-fi mashup very similar to that of certain FFs or even Phantasy Star, but with an Enix touch to it. This is more like a very confusing mashup of several different sci-fi ideas all at once. It almost feels like a predecessor to the Mother series in a way, but not quite. Actually...maybe I should've mentioned Mother 1 or 3 here, but...nah.
If you liked 7th Saga, there's no reason the strangeness should dissway you from playing this title, but yes, it's very...VERY...weird at times.
Adventures of Hourai High
Actually, with this one it's almost more about "games that are just too awesome to come to America." And it's strange. And it's an RPG. Anyway...it's a very fun game. I mean, any game that starts with you being transported by airplane to an island that's effectively a giant high school, but missing your stop, so they chuck your ass out of the plane, then you land on the honor student of the local newspaper, then the students decide to make you the new editor to take his place...well, you're already off to a great start.
There's a penguin army, clubs you can join and learn abilities from, a traditional level up system with some interesting touches, equally interesting turn-based battle system, lots of hilarious enemies, equally hilarious dialogue and situations, and...and...well, it's just about the funniest, most engaging game I've ever played on the SNES. Yeah, Earthbound included.
I mean seriously, kudos to the translation group Aeon Genesis. Without them, not only would I not have heard of this title, but there's a good chance the rough translation wouldn't have been all that funny. These guys bust their asses to make a lot of great translations, but in my opinion, this is one of the best. Hourai High is an instant classic, but I do get that RPGs really weren't taking off that well, the developer wasn't well known in America, and there are some questionable situations.
Wonder Project J
There is really only one reason I can think that this game didn't come to America and it's a really, really stupid one: the game is a little slow at times. No really, that's it. I've beaten this game frontwards to back and I can't think of any one reason it didn't come to America. It's an absolutely incredible game experience. You get to play as a fairy. Okay, then maybe two reasons.
That aside, you watch over a mechanical boy and try to teach him right from wrong, how to do stuff, inspire confidence in him, and so on. There are various stages where you have to fulfill various tasks to move on. Some are fairly simple, like learning how to do various sports, or sing, or fight, or whatever...and others require...well, a little trial and error...sometimes even forcing the kid to unlearn and relearn certain things differently.
The game has a great story, charming characters, good dialogue, excellent graphics and atmosphere, and...well, I could just go on and on and on. There's also a sequel on the N64 that I'm taking a crack at, but so far it's not quite the same. Wonder Project J was a great game that takes a very different approach to character development and is itself inspiring. I could very seriously see another sequel working as a casual title on a variety of consoles.
Weird or not, insane or logical, Japanese games truly are amazing. I won't be as pretentious to assume that ALL Japanese titles need to come to America, but at the very least, as strange as these titles are, they are among some of the best that were never released. Stay tuned!