Sunday, January 13, 2013

N5S 2012 Reflections - What games Influenced us the most.

In our quest to savor every Nintendo-themed morsel that comes our way and anticipate whatever tasty delicacy or nasty dish we encounter in the near future, we take a quick stop and reflect back on what it was like the previous year in gaming. 2012 has come and gone and the plates are clean, and now it's time to compliment the chef. Did we enjoy the meal? Are we still hungry? This is what the good folks at Nintendo-5-Star, including me, had to say about 2012 (Note: new submissions may be added eventually):

  Most influential game:
Xenoblade Chronicles (it was released for NA in 2012 so I guess that still counts?)

The single player MMORPG game. Seriously, although this is a single player game it just feels so much like an MMORPG, with a gigantic not to mention BEAUTIFUL world, hundreds of quests and unlocking/upgrading Arts for all of the characters.

Everything about this game is spectacular from the story down to the voice acting. Also, the graphics and scenery in this game will make Zelda and Monster Hunter developers cry. Start crying suckers. 


Okay let's see if I can make this short....2012 was an epic year for gaming, with so many killer apps being released for Nintendo's new portable console, the 3DS, and also the release of its new home console, Wii U, towards the end of the year. That would have been some really great gaming moments.....except I own neither of them. So where am I then? Still stuck with good ol' DSi and my precious Wii, whose lineups have been getting thinner than the hairline of a 50 year old man. That's not to say there weren't any high notes for the two legacy systems though; both consoles have had their swansongs this year.

For DS, the most influential game I played came in September; the launch of Pokemon Black 2/White 2 in English. Having played the JP version some time back I knew what to expect, but for me, traveling through Unova never got old, training the same Pokemon from my roster of Gen 5 favorites never got old (I love you Reuniclus) and even better, reconciling with some Pokemon which I liked but unexpectedly found them rather useful now (Huge Power Jolly Azumarill with Ice Punch, Aqua Tail and Superpower). Despite how much I played the sidequests never seemed to end. There's just so much to do whether you're into battling (Treehollow, Subway, PWT) or not (Link Avenue, Musicals, Pokestar Studios). Pokemon has always helped me get through a boring afternoon and keep me occupied even in the most stressful of times, and I'm happy to say this was the best of the bunch in a year where there really was nothing else on DS. 

For Wii, putting aside my obvious obsession with Taiko no Tatsujin and rhythm games in general, the game to beat was Xenoblade Chronicles. Alright so where do I start raving about this game....The graphics? So-so when you're up close looking at the textures, but taking in the grand picture from up high or far away is amazing, with scenery you never even knew existed. And the realization that the water and mountains you saw in the background can actually be traveled to...woah. The soundtrack? Epic and matching the huge scale of the overworld. The story? Evolves so many times until Shulk reaches a sort of ultimate focus, and so much character development going on with the 7 possible party members, though the voice acting still needs some work. Very absorbing. The gameplay? You'll be easily spending more than 100 hours on this even on the first playthrough. With so many sidequests to complete and relationships to develop, it almost feels like a world instead of being, you know, a country or something. Xenoblade does everything so huge in scale than sometimes you just step back and gape admirably at the overwhelming things you can do. And the elite monsters (sub-bosses in the game) are fun to take down and have really fun names too. Simple as the battle system is, it eschews so much of the traditional JRPG stuff (no random encounters, skip travel, realtime battle system) that it becomes something entirely of its own. Xenoblade has kept me occupied alongside Kirby's Dream Collection and my vast collection of Taiko no Tatsujin (oops) throughout the year, and stands as one of the best.

Yes, I know, there's a whole bunch of other great games on other consoles, some of which I really admire and want to try out (Borderlands 2, XCOM Enemy Unknown, Hotline Miami, Journey to name a, screw you Halo/Call of Duty), and to be honest makes me regret a little for limiting myself to only Nintendo consoles. But that doesn't mean my year has been any less fun despite only being able to play two consoles and not upgrading to the newest ones. I thank Nintendo for supporting their old consoles to the very end for people like me. 


If I could define 2012 in one word it would be 'WHOA'. It sounds very vague, I know, but it's the only way to express what I feel to be the most insane roller-coaster of a gaming year I've experienced yet. Where do I begin? You tell me! But let's start with Operation Rainfall: these guys need a freakin' medal for forming such a large group of gamers and succeeding at convincing Nintendo to bring (at least) two of the three JRPGs they've been previously reluctant to release stateside. The first of which, and the game I claim to be the best JRPG ever made (and what my fellow admins have described in grand detail above) is Xenoblade Chronicles. I could go on for five paragraphs of how this game added 100+ hours of amazing exploration and gameplay that I haven't experienced in, well, I never experienced anything like this game to be able to compare it to anything else- but I already exhausted a review, and well, my fine admins have already covered it. The second JRPG was The Last Story, the most visually appealing Wii game I have ever played/seen since the system's upbringing. Hironobu Sakaguchi couldn't have developed a better game after he retired from Squaresoft, and his partnership with long-time Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu created some of the most ear pleasing music I've ever heard in a video game (search Youtube for "Toberu Mono" and you won't be sorry), not to mention that the voice overs are fantastic. Thankfully, the work on making the game visually appealing isn't distracted by a boring battle design, for the the gameplay is satisfying and tight, and demands a well thought out strategy and quick trigger finger- this is definitely not your average stand-in-one-place-and-attack JRPG we're used to. Both Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story are a huge step in the right direction for JRPGs, and it's shameful on Nintendo's part for holding these amazing titles from us for a whole year. Hopefully the sales of these games encourages more localizations in the future, because I can't imagine a gaming world without these titles. 

If there was ever a highlighted year for the 3DS, 2012 was THE. YEAR. For the sake of brevity, I'll try to keep a brief summary for every 3DS game I played, but it won't be easy. Kid Icarus: Uprising was definitely the best game of the year for the handheld system, there is just no way I can give credit to any other game. Keeping the well written, and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious, storyline going on the bottom while you fight baddies on the top screen keeps things flowing perfectly- so perfectly, it almost seems alien, but more like the lovable ALF you want to keep in your house just to see what he does next and not a facehugging Xenomorph who's trying to breed with you. The land battles are clumsy at first, but that's the only complaint I have for the best 3DS game I've played yet. I can't think of any other character who can best that comeback. Other worthy mentions include the extremely addictive Threatrhythm Final Fantasy, which is unlike any rhythm game I played before; Adventure Time: "Hey Ice King, Why Did You Steal Our Garbage?!" a Zelda 2 inspired platformer with both clever show cameos and nostalgic video game references scattered throughout made for a really fun game; Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, which is absolutely the best in the series thus far if you can look past the confoundedly confusing plotline; and then we have great eShop titles like Colors! 3-D, and a bevy of previously unreleased Virtual Console titles like Mole Mania and Castlevania Adventure. Pokemon Black/White 2, the final hoo-rah for the DS, was just as unexpected as this year's X/Y announcement and proves that the Pokemon series isn't as predictable as previously assumed. That was just scratching the surface of games the handheld received last year, and that's not to mention the games we'll anticipate in 2013 including Brain Age: Concentration, Fire Emblem: Awakening, the unannounced Monolith soft game, and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon to name a few. Not bad for a system that was 'DOOOOOOMED' a few years ago.

It was also a great year for Mario fans too, with three Mario games released in one year. Love or hate the 'New' Super Mario Bros. games, you got to give Nintendo for at least trying to differentiate between titles, though I agree that it's time for Nintendo to work on different IPs for 2013, because there's only so much 'New' I can take.  

I only briefly tried out the Wii U in a Best Buy store demo, but I'm certainly convinced that it's a bright future for gaming. The response of the game pad to the TV was astounding, and both screens have a perfect resolution frame rate and texture. The gamepad also feels pretty comfortable despite looking like a paper weight. While I won't be getting a Wii U this year, when I do obtain one Rayman Legends and ZombiU will be at the top of my want list. But other than that, my hype is pretty low. Nintendo's E3 conference last year only showed games we'd be expecting until Q2 this year, but nothing much after that. It makes me both concerned about their future and curious to see what they're planning for this year's E3.  

While 2012 didn't give us everything we wanted: TWEWY sequel ended up being a remake of the first game for the iPhone, the Tokyo Game Show teased games we'd never get to play, Paper Mario: Sticker Star could've been better, Nintendo Power collapsed, and Pokemon Snap 2 was unfairly debunked for no good reason - but at least we got something out of it. Who knows what else this year will bring? Will it be worth the wait? Maybe it will be something we never expected? If 2013 can best what 2012 already accomplished I have only one word to say: WHOA.

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