Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best of 2010 - biggest surprise.

I'm not going industry-wide, here. News that Nintendo's 3DS is actually pretty cool? Surprising. Word that Kinect is worse than we feared? Didn't expect that. Its fantabulous sales? That's no shocker. The fact that Duke Nukem Forever will actually be released? Slap my ass and call me Lucy.

No, what I'm looking at here are games that took me by surprise - one way or another. Given that this blog is, more than anything, about my personal gaming experience, I'm going to break with the rules and include titles that I played for the first time in 2010 - not just games that were released this year.

And the nominees are...

For being yet another shitty PS3 port.

Most of us figured the era of PS3 parity had begun with the advent of pitch-perfect multiplatform releases like Dead Space, Mirror's Edge and Modern Warfare 2. Not so, with Platinum Games' sophomore release.

While the 360 version is as sharp and fast as a greased katana, the PS3 version - ported by SEGA - is significantly marred by dull colors, lower framerate, fewer effects and the most incredibly egregious load times of the year. Sony took it upon themselves to patch the game and (mostly) fix the load issues, but Bayonetta's sub-par performance on the PS3 is still a kick in the teeth, twelve months later.

For being a movie tie-in that doesn't suck.

It's no GotY contender - or even a major contender for best downloadable game - but it's still a video game created directly to cash in on a motion picture that doesn't make the player feel the least bit cheated, or dirty for enjoying. It's a little miracle, is what it is.

For that awful ending.

One of the biggest shockers this year was the way Sony Santa Monica dropped the ball on the ending for God of War III. What should have been one of the most memorable gaming moments of 2010 became an overwrought, self-important application of pop psychology in a franchise that begs to have such chaff left on the sidelines. Seriously, Stig. It sucked.

For being pretty damned good!

Few were the dreamers bold enough to hope that a little independent studio, helmed by an ex-comic book artist and his buddy, could actually make a good game that riffed on the Legend of Zelda formula while adding a little style and a lot of blood - but Darksiders really knocked it out of the park. A delicious surprise.


For being a JRPG I enjoy playing.

You may not feel it's a big deal - it probably isn't, for you - but if I were missing two fingers, I could still count the JRPG franchises I really love on one hand. I keep trying, God help me, but when one comes along that actually manages to seize upon my imagination and compels me forward it's nothing less than a revelation.

If you have any affection for JRPGs, I cannot recommend Resonance of Fate highly enough.

* * *

(that I played in)

For being one of the funnest games I played all year,
when it was supposed to suck.

"That game wasn't released in 2010!" you'll protest - and that's true - but if you'll scroll up, you'll see I said I was going to do this at the beginning of the post and, of all the games that caught me off-guard this year, Bionic Commando is the one that bowled me right over and still, to this day, whispers for additional playtime.

It's the game I want to tell people about. It's the hidden gem too few people know is actually pretty damned great, and it all comes down to a title that - like Resonance of Fate - is totally dedicated to doing its own thing, and nuts to any expectations or preconceptions about its genre.
"The new Bionic Commando's greatest single flaw in the eyes of critics - and greatest strength in the eyes of yours truly - is that it doesn't try to be anything else. It doesn't fumble its way through an undercooked open-world setting, it doesn't attempt a me-too cover system and it doesn't coddle its players with mechanics that take thirty seconds to learn. It's a linear, skill-based platformer built around a very unique mechanic, combined with your standard third-person shooting and a batshit crazy story.

What's lovely is that last sentence describes Bionic Commando on the NES twenty years ago and on your PS3 and 360 today. GRIN did Bionic Commando justice."
- from the review -
It's no doubt useless to try to convince you that this game is, actually, really solid - so I'll leave you with the two words that planted the seed of hope in me - a tiny, pitiful grain of salty sand that I ignored for months on end, until I saw the game new, sealed, for $10:

It's true.


  1. Nier came out this year

    and you have it

    just, you know, sayin'

  2. And it's still sealed. I don't have time for an epic action RPG at the moment. First I gotta' get through Epic Mickey, then there's The Sly Collection, Ghost of Sparta and... Costume Quest and Thongs of Virtue.

    If I can get through all that before Dead Space 2 drops? Sure, I'll get near Nier.