For some years now, I've been keeping a list of games that I've beaten throughout the year, along with the date in which they've been completed, and occassionally a short review to accompany it. I started this to try to find trends in my gaming habits, as well as help document what I've thought about certain titles. I've found it immensely helpful. For instance, I looked back and saw that I had last played Deus Ex: Human Revolution in February of 2012, and decided then that it was time for a new playthrough. I also saw that in 2013 it took me a solid two months to finish the fabulous Persona 3.
With that being said, I thought my list would be beneficial (or at least amusing) to some of you, and thus I am publishing it here. It gives you a small glimpse into the world of a graduate student who somehow finds too much time to play games in his spare time. This is part one of my Mid-Year review, so expect to see the completed list of games beaten thus far this year in the next day or so. If you like this, please let me know, and I'll be sure to do more in the future. I may even publish previous years' lists. And now for the games...
- Metroid Prime - Publisher: Nintendo. Developer: Retro Studios. 2002, Gamecube / Wii (Completed on: January 1st)
I started the new year off right by completing a bonafide classic. I hadn’t played this since it released for the original Gamecube and felt the need to revisit this gem just after Christmas. I make a conscious effort not to use a guide, and surprisingly I was able to make it through the majority of the game without any problems. I even collected a good majority of the upgrades; I suppose it’s true that good games always stay with you. The only problems I had were that, towards the end, enemy placement became exceedingly difficult to aim at, but the improved controls using the Wii remote make this problem nonexistent. This is a must buy for any gaming fan.
My Score: 5/5
- Citizens of Earth - Atlus. Eden Industries. 2015, PS4 (January 10th)
When I first heard of Citizens of Earth, I loved the concept: be the vice president, assemble a ragtag group of citizens to help stop an evil force with gameplay and humor in the vein of Earthbound. Who wouldn’t want to play that? Unfortunately, the execution just didn’t work out for me. Battles were overly simplistic, and even ramping up the difficulty just made them longer, not harder, for me. Most areas are inhabited by such a large amount of enemies that fighting became a chore rather than any amount of fun. While there are approximately 40 citizens to find and recruit, I only ended up using a handful for the majority of the game because most of them were not interesting or useful. For a game that mimics Earthbound so much, I thought the story was a drag and the music was just awful, both things that the former game excelled in. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really need your RPG fix.
My Score: 2/5
- Guacamelee! - Drinkbox Studios. 2013, PS3. (January 12th)
When I began playing this, I didn’t know it was going to turn out so much like Metroid or I would have postponed it a little bit to let Metroid Prime wear off of me. Still, this was a fantastic game. I loved the Mexican-inspired fantasy world, and playing as a powerful luchador superhero. Very creative. The combat in the game felt natural and yet unique for a game of this type, and brought back fond memories of old school beat-em-ups of the 90s. I would have liked to see some more puzzles and varied locales, and the game was a little on the short end, but it’s something that I think everyone could enjoy.
My Score: 4.5/5
- King's Quest: A Knight to Remember - Sierra. The Odd Gentlemen. 2015, PS4 (January 14th)
I loved the original King’s Quest games, or at least a majority of them, and a return to that franchise was something I couldn’t pass up. Most of the first episode of the episodic series was pretty great. The art style is bursting with character, and the voice work (featuring the likes of Christopher Lloyd, Wallace Shawn, and Tom Kenny) was spot on. Most of all, the puzzles were entertaining, and worked best when they reflected the archaic adventure games of old with modern day hits like Tell-Tale’s many titles. The pacing I felt was a little slow, and despite playing it twice I couldn’t see multiple ways of completing the objectives, which was a bummer. I have yet to play the other two episodes, but I certainly plan to sometime this summer. If the first game is any indication, this may be one of the best episodic titles out there.
My Score: 4/5
- Batman: Arkham Knight - Warner Bros. Rocksteady. 2015, PS4 (January 18th)
When I think of Batman, I think of solving crimes, skulking in the dark, taking out criminals from the shadows, and scour the city of Gotham from the rooftops. The first three games in the Arkham franchise really delivered in nearly every way, which is why I found Arkham Knight so surprisingly disappointing. For the majority of the game, the player takes control of the tank-like Batmobile, crashing through walls, gunning down criminals, and firing rockets at runaway bad guys. Puzzles include using the mobile’s wench and mild platforming, and even boss fights involve racing or outmaneuvering villains in the vehicle. None of these things spell Batman to me. Add to this a story that I felt was dull from the beginning (and vastly predictable), and a poor ending, you have a game that very well may kill a franchise. The spectacular graphics just weren’t enough to save the caped crusader in this one.
My Score: 2.5/5
- Folklore - Sony. Game Republic. 2007, PS3 (January 26th)
(Hey! I actually gave a full review for this here.)
Fun fact: when I bought my PS3 back in 2007, one of the first games I purchased was Folklore, a little known JRPG that mixes the allure of collecting and training monsters á la Pokemon, with real-time combat such as Kingdom Hearts. Plus, the game features a murder mystery and two playable characters whose distinct storylines intersect, forcing the playing to venture through both to uncover the full story. As great as this sounds on paper, the many times I tried to play through this game I got bored after the first few chapters. While there are two characters with their own play throughs, they go through the same areas and encounter many of the same enemies, making it a hassle to play through both roles. Also, the majority of monsters (called “folks”) to collect and battle are carbon copies of others in the game, just stronger than previous ones, and their number isn’t as vast in quanitity as in other games. Lastly, while the music is good, voice acting is used sporadically, making long cutscenes with just written font boring to read when voice acting could have elevated it. Still, the combat is fun and areas are enjoyable to explore, and the story is worth experiencing if only for a single playthrough.
My Score: 3.5/5
- God of War: Ascension - Sony. SCE Santa Monica. 2014, PS3 (January 30th)
The God of War franchise has grown stale for me. While each game has been larger in spectacle than the last, the combat doesn’t seem to evolve any, making the games feel largely like expansions rather than sequels to me. That being said, God of War 3 was a fantastic adventure, making Ascension a game I knew I would play at one point. What’s puzzling is that after (spoiler?) killing Zeus in the previous installment, there isn’t much left for Kratos to massacre in a sequel, so a prequel against lesser foes is concocted in order to give our hero more Olympians to tear through. This makes the game for anyone who played the third in the series already a bit of a letdown. Likewise, where God of War 3’s graphics were spectacular, these appear a bit of a step-back as well, making the previous title even more superior. That’s not how to do a sequel. While the combat is as fun as it always has been, a reworked magic system is put into place, which requires weapons to be fully upgraded, which is confusing. I also had considerable fault with the camera, as the director loves to zoom far out to showcase that the battle is taking place in an epic location, making it frustratingly difficult to tell exactly what is happening in the battle, leading to multiple deaths. Despite this, Ascension may be the easiest God of War title to date, and for a series that has promoted its difficulty, that’s a bad thing. Lastly, while the story was interesting enough to keep me playing, I quickly forgot what happened once the credits began to roll. Hopefully the next God of War title adds meaningful upgrades to the combat, has a much more interesting story, and has a director that puts gameplay before simple spectacle.
My Score: 3.5/5
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - Nintendo. 1998, Gameboy Color / 3DS (February 10th)
Link’s Awakening was my first Game Boy game growing up, but unfortunately I never finished it. When I was a kid, there were a lot of games I loved, started, and just never completed. I’ve slowly been playing through the entire Zelda franchise, and while I sped through the previous titles, I again got hung up on Link’s Awakening. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong. The world map is fun to explore, if just a bit confusing, and the majority of items are a joy, if there isn’t much new from previous titles. What is most enjoyable from the game’ repertoire of items is the Roc’s Feather, which allows Link to jump. These are especially helpful in the side scrolling areas reminiscent of Zelda 2 and Super Mario Bros. In fact, I wish the Roc’s Feather and side scrolling areas appeared more often in the Zelda series, but perhaps these are elements that make Link’s Awakening so memorable.
My Score: 4.5/5
- The Last Story - Nintendo. Mistwalker Studios. 2012, Wii (Febuary 17th)
This quite rare Wii title had been on my shelf for awhile. Created by Mistwalker, written and directed by the creator of Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi), and composed by the famed Nobuo Uematsu, I felt this game deserved to be played. Compared to the Final Fantasy series, The Last Story is quite a departure: it is very straightforward without an overworld to explore, battles are in real time and employs more strategy, and the setting is more European based, akin to Final Fantasy Tactics than the core Final Fantasy series. While the experience is a bit short for an RPG (just under 30 hours) but I enjoyed most every minute of it. The story is engaging, the characters are entertaining, and the battles are exciting. The game also sports some of the best visuals on the original Wii, though that isn’t saying too much.
My Score: 4.5/5
- Final Fantasy Tactics - Sony. Squaresoft. 1998, Playstation / PS3 (March 4th)
After playing The Last Story, I just couldn’t get Final Fantasy Tactics out of my mind. The European inspired fantasy, the story revolving disputes over the throne, tactical gameplay, and even the orchestral style music are very similar. Even after all these years, one fact remains: FFT is one of the best RPGs ever crafted. Apart from the aforementioned attributes, which are all superb, what really stands out is the gameplay. The classic Final Fantasy job system is at its best, which dozens of careers characters to take and special abilities to master. Battles require skill, preparation, and careful planning. While the game starts out hard, as long as players focus on making the most of the job system the game rarely becomes overbearing. The one complaint I would have with Tactics is that there are too many areas in which you are forced into a battle with a chance to return to the map and level up, buy weapons, and general re-prepare for a miscalculated challenge. This means that should you go into a fight unprepared, then your only option is to continue with what you’ve got, which might be impossible.
My Score: 5/5
- Xenoblade Chronicles X - Nintendo. Monolith Soft. 2015, Wii U (April 22nd)
I don’t know what’s wrong with me, jumping from one RPG to another, but alas that’s what happened. Xenoblade Chronicles was one of my favorite Wii titles, and this sequel was one of my most anticipated for the holidays. As anticipated, X is a lengthy experience, with my play time maxing out to nearly 150 hours. Even so, I had not even come close to maximizing the levels of my party, completing every side quest, or felling every beast. Speaking of, I loved the variety of the game. There are about a dozen party members that players can recruit, each with their own unique fighting style and abilities that the player created protagonist can adopt into his or her own arsenal. Side quests involve exploring new areas, slaying optional bosses, or collecting rare items. As for the enemies, many are massive, their towering figures blotting out the sky when up close; I never tired of being awed by these behemoths. All of this is heightened by the gorgeous graphics, in which not only the art direction is top notch but the Wii U’s hardware is maximized to full effect. I would say that many of the side quests are a little too vague, in that they ask you to find an item or kill an enemy but never really tell you where. For such a massive game, with the majority of the world map accessible right from the start, this is a bit frustrating. Also, the giant mechs featured on the cover art and in much of the promotional material don’t seem to have as much importance as I would have liked. You do not acquire one until roughly 30-40 hours into the game, and even so there isn’t much fanfare once one does begin piloting their mech. Regardless, this is a game that fans of RPGs need to play.
My Score: 5/5
- Star Fox Zero - Nintendo. 2016, Wii U (April 24th)
Star Fox is one of those odd games that has seemingly been done and re-done again-and-again. This isn’t particularly a bad thing, seeing as it’s a general story that can be repeated like the majority of Super Mario titles, but it can be distracting for long time fans of the franchise. Star Fox Zero does expand the story somewhat, making the experience a little fresh, while staying completely familiar at the same time. What is especially new is the wide variety of new vehicles to take control of. Most of these are satisfying, from the classic Airwing (which now can transform into a limited ground assault vehicle), to the Landmaster tank. New to the franchise is the Gyrocopter, which is employed in stealth missions. Fortunately these are very limited, as the Gyrocopter is slow, underpowered, and frankly not fun to play. The game probably would have been better off without these missions. Much focus has been placed on the motion controls, which I didn’t have much trouble with. Yes, it can be challenging to look at the TV screen to see areas around your vehicle while using the Wii U gamepad to blast away foes, but after a mission or two I was pretty well accustomed to this method. Except for a few rare occasions, I managed just fine using just the gamepad. Star Fox works best as an on rails shooter, but the all-range mode combat sections have always been exciting, which is great because Zero employs a ton of them. A main problem I have with Star Fox Zero is that it’s length is so short. I’ve completed the game twice, with the second being in just a single sitting. While I know the game is meant to be completed multiple times through different routes, an experience longer than 2 or 3 hours would have suited the game better.
My Score: 3/5
- Assassin's Creed 3 - Ubisoft. 2012, PS3 (April 24th)
As a graduate assistant that was teaching a class on early American history, Assassin’s Creed 3 frequently came to mind during lectures. The first time I played the game was directly after it came out, and I had such difficulty with it that it became the last in the franchise that I’ve bothered to play. Figuring the numerous glitches of the game would have been patched up by now, I thought I’d give the game, and the franchsie, another go. I was mistaken. The game is just as buggy as I remember it, with something wrong popping up in nearly every mission. Once, I attempted to kill a foe by leaping from a rooftop, only to miss and fall through the ground into an endless void. Another time, the game instructed me to kill a target that was not there. Yes, a red circle indicating is location hovered in thin air, but try as I might I couldn’t kill this invisible man. Glitches aside, the game is just boring compared to previous ones. The beginning chapters last far too long, and even once players get into the thick of it the game doesn’t seem to open up until far too late. The wilderness section has little to explore or kill, becoming a bore to traverse. The caravan trading system, which is a great idea, is poorly implemented, making money generation and item crafting a chore. Lastly, the sea faring sections, is which you control your own naval vessel, is the best part of the game but is largely utilized as a minor side attraction. These missions feel epic and are exciting to play, but rewards are few, and the small amount of missions means that this mode is quickly exhausted. There isn’t much to enjoy in Assassin’s Creed 3, which is unfortunate, as the story of Desmond Miles deserved a much more competent game to serve as it’s ending.
My Score: 2.5/5
Stay tuned for the second half of the games I've beaten thus far this year in the next few days!
LOOK WHO CAME: