Friends, hobos, countrymen, lend me your ears!
No, I mean it, I need a new pair of ears. I can’t hear anything over the sound of how my mind was blown by last year’s best game holy shit that was something!!! Ahem. What I wanted to say is, just in time for the Academy Awards I have come to talk about my personal game of the year. I wanted to do this ever since the new year started, look back at the games that have been released in 2013 and that I played, which… weren’t that many, frankly. Which is a shame, but once you have an actual job, there’s barely any time to spend big money on a new game, because you know you barely get to play it, so you spend little money on an old game.
And while I was quite confident that I got my hands on the (subjectively) best games released last year, it was still tough to decide on a best one, because all of them have felt a bit… mediocre. Very few to none had a really original concept (mind you, I don’t count indie games, because it’s far more important to me what the big productions are doing to justify their spot in the market) and to be honest, I’m not even sure which ones were released in 2013 and are instead already way older than that. And with some, it’s kind of a grey area, like Persona 4 Golden, which is an amazing remake of an already amazing game, but can hardly be seen as the best game of the year because the original was released back in 2008/09. And thus began my mission to find a game that can keep up with Persona 4, not under the same aspects, but feeling just as amazing.
So since RPGs are my favourite genre, I tried to first take a look at other RPGs released in 2013, but that was even more difficult, because I haven’t played any of them! After the atrocious games that were Hyperdimension Neptunia and, to a slightly lesser extent, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, I didn’t want to go anywhere near Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. A whole different story on the other hand is Atelier Ayesha because I didn’t want to play that one until I have finally beaten Atelier Totori (you can follow my progress on that anytime soon on my Twitter, with more barrels than you can handle). But I definitely will get back to that one, because I love every aspect of the Atelier series and can’t wait to play it. Then there’s Disgaea D2, the entirely new entry in the Disgaea series that was released in October, which I didn’t get to play because, well, I had a full-time job since September, I don’t have time for such a grind-heavy RPG experience anymore, which is why I decided to get The Guided Fate Paradox instead, which is awesome by the way! As a spiritual successor to Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman for the PSP it does everything right and delivers it’s story and mechanics in a way that just makes sense. Every single chapter of the game is a delight of it’s own so far, and you can expect a full review once I’m finished. It was definitely a contestant for my GotY 2013, but sadly, not any more original than the other games in concept. Clean and polished, yes, but not enough to give it that title for me. I would have said something about Tales of Xillia too, but I haven’t gotten very far into the game yet, and while it’s quite enjoyable, it’s not really worth mentioning. It’s an RPG, it’s a ‘Tales of’-game, but I never understood what made them any more special than the rest. The story? Please. I could go read a book instead. A story has to use a game’s assets to it’s advantage to make it compelling enough to carry a game (see Asura’s Wrath or games like Arkham Asylum, Bioshock, Deadpool or Dishonored… or Mega Man X, what a classic), but all I can see in this game is dialogue after dialogue, with the occasional fanservice-y scenes that… still lack motion for the most part. It’s like watching a stage play, and nothing more.
Following my motivation to find a game that can compete with Persona 4 Golden, I went to look at other portable games I got that year, which was quite easy since my good friend Cait convinced me to get a 3DS and I suddenly had both current portable game consoles, this one and my
Nvidia Shield PS Vita. And since they were portable, I had more time to play them as well. However, while I did enjoy every game I played on the 3DS that year, none of them really stood out to me. Fire Emblem: Awakening was a clean and successful attempt to perfect the Fire Emblem formula, to go ahead and tell the wider audience ‘this is Fire Emblem now, enjoy’ and make it epic. And that it was, but to me who was a Fire Emblem player since the GBA games, it was still just Fire Emblem. Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the other hand wasn’t even a game to me, it was therapy, a fun little distraction and… something I look back to with joy. But not a game and certainly not the best of the year, oh no. I can say the same about Pokémon Y too, a game that I didn’t even want to play at first despite having it, because I saw no point in doing so when there was no one I could play and trade with. It’s just more fun that way, it gives the game a little more purpose. But everything beyond that was… well, just Pokémon. Although I do have to admit I got a little emotional at the ‘ending’.
And then there was The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Oh boy have I not talked about this game yet. When I went into it, I was telling myself: This is it! A new Zelda, I can’t wait to see how much time I’ll put into it! Was I mistaken? Yes. Was I disappointed? No. I have very mixed feelings about that game. It’s solid, but it’s not what Zelda is to me, especially considering it was supposed to be a successor to A Link to the Past. Neither did it feel anything like that apart from having the same world map, nor was it original enough to make it stand out. I’m not even sure what the point of that game was, because the story was quite generic in terms of a Zelda game, and lacking. For a game released in the late 80s or early 90s, that’s fine, but I expect more from a Nintendo game being made in 2013, even if it’s a portable one. Remember Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages? Those were amazing portable Zelda games! This on the other hand is an embarrassment, since Nintendo is capable of so much more! I can understand that they rather put their full effort into the home console titles, but come on. No improvement? Keeping it safe? Don’t become Hollywood, Nintendo. Please don’t. Consider outsourcing your franchises to third-party developers more often to make spin-offs like that, like you did with Capcom back in the day or even Team Ninja for the more recent Other M. Although I do have to say, it looks like you really are going to do that! Teaming up with Koei to make Hyrule Warriors is brilliant, more of that please!
Wait, where was I? Oh right, portable games of 2013. Wait, let me check this huge catalogue of Vita games that were released in 2013.
There is no huge catalogue of Vita games.
No, seriously though, this is the main reason why I’m so happy that I got convinced to get a 3DS. For the duration of 2013, there was a drought on original games for the Vita I couldn’t even believe myself. There were only two games that caught my attention, one of which was Ragnarok Odyssey, which I didn’t get despite the lack of Vita games because it just seemed… wrong to me. Nothing about that game felt right when I played the demo, I couldn’t see any actual direction and in terms of ‘Monster Hunter’-esque games it was just an embarrassment. Soul Sacrifice on the other hand did what it was supposed to do perfectly, and while it was the only Vita game worth playing in 2013 in my opinion, it would have still been the best game the system would have had, because it’s glorious. The lore is unique and intriguing, the gameplay and sense of progression perfectly implemented, and with friends it’s even more of a blast to play. This game has no technical flaws and doesn’t treat you like a baby, it knows you want to play a game, that you want a challenge, that you want to feel like you’re getting better on your own, and it gives you exactly that. What it does lack however, is impact. It doesn’t feel like you really contribute anything to the game’s world, you’re just fighting to survive, making your way through another person’s memories to find means of survival. And with that in mind it’s hard to find a motivation to play the game, since the only one really is ‘get stronger’ and then what? You’re not told. Just get stronger and beat the shit out of the guy who holds you in a cage. Despite that though, Soul Sacrifice would have still gotten the title of GotY from me… if it hadn’t been for one other game I recently played.
Let’s go back to the PS3, but this time, let’s not look at just RPGs I have played, because there have been plenty others. This list sadly excludes the new Tomb Raider though, because… I haven’t… *blinks* … played it yet…
*walks out of his room*
WHY HAVE I NOT PLAYED THE NEW TOMB RAIDER YET.
*walks back in*
Ahem, anyways. The first game of this kind that received my utmost attention that year, was BioShock Infinite. And I do have to say, while the mechanics of the game were a big mess and I hated the fact that there was only one boss fight, an annoying boss fight, and one that is fought three times at that… I have fond memories of playing it? Maybe it was the character of Elizabeth. Maybe it was the Lutece twins. Maybe it was the environment I can only say… I would play it again. I /have/ played it again. And I still dislike it, because I just feel that it’s overrated, and not at all what we expected from it. I hate that I love this game, and I hate even more that I have to hate this game. It’s a guilty pleasure to me, but a legitimate one for others, so who would believe me. God. Damn. It. Well, maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn’t bought it at full price. Other than that… it was certainly the Movie of the Year 2013. (Because… Cloud Atlas was released in 2012, right? Right.)
Then there was DmC: Devil May Cry, which I really enjoyed, surprisingly enough! I didn’t expect anything else from it since I already loved it when I played the demo, but when I saw the outcry from the original DMC fans, I was thinking that there might actually be a reason why that game is bad. But it wasn’t. It was a fun and reasonable hack-and-slash experience, no moment felt wasted and it had solid, intuitive controls. I wouldn’t call it mind-blowing, but it did what it promised it would, and you can’t blame a game for being easier than the predecessors. Mostly because the only reason they were difficult was because they had broken controls. Yes, I said that. Sue me.
And then there was Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, another Tecmo-Koei beat ’em up based on a beloved manga franchise. Not mind-blowing either, especially since it’s slightly less fun than their Dynasty Warriors series, but everything about that game is done right. While the content seems a bit dragged out, the story mode itself really is all you need, all the reason you buy this game, because it has everything you want from Fist of the North Star and no bullshit. It might not be that impressive of a game, but it’s certainly the best adaption of an already existing story that I’ve seen in a long time. That is, until a game comes up that has the same spirit as the next one… because that’s the spirit I would wish every action-packed anime adaption had.
So we’ve finally got to this point. It took me until now to decide which game deserves to be called the Game of the Year 2013 by me. It took this long because I haven’t even gotten it before 2014 had already started. Because I just finished the main story this week. But I can say without a doubt that none of the games I mentioned have anything to compete with this one. It’s sharp, it’s cutting-edge, it’s beautiful, it’s badass and it’s glorious. You know what it is, don’t you? A game released at such a bad time with such an oversaturated gaming market that I completely overlooked it until now, having presumptions about it and thinking it’s not worth my time. Oh, how wrong I was. Make way… for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
This game. Holy shit. That was not only the most pleasant, but biggest surprise for me this year. Where do I even begin? Back when I got the Zone of the Enders HD Collection, it came with a demo of Metal Gear Rising, and I hated it. There was too much talking, the flow of the game felt weird and uncertain to me, and I wasn’t sure if they wanted me to treat this like a stealth or an action game, and then there were ranged weapons too which only confused me more since I expected simple fun slashing. (Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy Zone of the Enders very much.) And the all-cutting Blade Mode felt unnatural to me as well. Boy, how wrong I was!
As soon as I started playing the actual game, with the actual introduction and beginning and everything, all of my initial thoughts have been washed away by the pure entity of insane action, tight controls and kick-ass music that I was suddenly thrown into. I couldn’t stop wanting more, it was one spectacular event after the other, a rollercoaster of emotions – most of them being burning passion! Each boss fight has it’s own music theme, with a transition to a version with lyrics once you reach a certain point of the fight, and it causes you to fire up just when it needs you to! This game is the perfect example of how much more awesome a game can be with just the right music, and gameplay that actually let’s the player feel involved, that lets him or her say “I beat this motherfucker with my own skill and the power of heavy metal dubstep electronic dance rock!” Everything in this game is evidence of actual care put into the making of it, evidence that it’s not just a cookie cutter product, because a mix of multiple themes like that would never go well without actual talent and determination. I mean, a cyberpunk western samurai mash-up with Die Hard-elements, come on! And the music represents that spirit perfectly, mixing all those things together in such a nice blend of modern, industrial and cultural music!
The story and writing itself is just as perfect. No moment that you spend listening feels wasted at all. One might argue that it might be too short, but personally I don’t care. I would rather have an amazing but short story than a long but dragged-out story, I said as much before about Gravity Rush too, which was my personal game of the year back in 2012. One should always know where to end, and this story really makes me want to play the Metal Gear Solid games now, even if just for experiencing the story myself.
By the way, the story is about preventing the government from spreading memes and creating a hivemind. Not even kidding.
It’s witty, it’s emotional, it’s charming and most of all, it had more than just one pay-off and was a compelling trip you are sent on that just makes sense in every way and even makes you think. The main theme is motivation, how humans think alike in a collective consciousness with shared sets of beliefs, influencing themselves, and about their reasons to do certain things, without even being fully aware of what is leading them there. What they are. What defines them. (So much for the bridge to Persona 4, am I right?) Basically, you can’t go away after playing this game saying it was mindless or cheesy. It’s none of that. It knows exactly what it is, and it doesn’t deny it one bit.
You might disagree with everything I said, that’s perfectly fine. After all, every single one of us experiences things differently depending on what we experienced before. Even if we might be influenced by this collective consciousness, which is only accelerated by internet and TV, every single one of us individually has the right to decide. To oppose. To question. And that’s how it always should be. Otherwise, we would just be sheep, following the other asses. Before anything else, we have to think about what’s good for ourselves and our friends and loved ones, not about the system. Even the character Blade Wolf in this game acknowledges that, despite being an AI only following what it was programmed to, it acknowledges that people are different. That they can choose. That it is likely that when it comes to people, no single correct answer exists. And that’s exactly right.
Well, okay, there is one correct answer that always applies.