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Friday, November 1, 2013

Peter's 2013 Gaming Awards

Well, it’s been a while since I put anything up on PG’s Game Room, but it seems to me like it’s that time of year again!
As per usual, this article only covers games I have played this year, not specifically brand-new games from this year. I will also throw up a mild Spoiler Warning for a couple games on this list. Enjoy!

Best Game Overall: Persona 4

Remember how last year I awarded this spot to the magnificent Persona 3, that game with a killer soundtrack, likeable characters, and a unique blend of traditional RPG mechanics and dungeon crawling with high school student life? Well, all the praise I heaped on that game can also be awarded to its sequel, the magnificent Persona 4. The Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite game series, and I can’t wait to see what Atlus has in store for us in the future.

Most Under-Appreciated: Nier

Good god, where to begin? Nier is a game that received mediocre reviews from critics, but I think that everyone who took the time to play it was caught a little off guard. There’s certainly nothing else quite like it, what with its quirky cast of characters (including, among other things, a flying talking book) and hodgepodge of various gameplay mechanics from many different franchises, including Zelda and Resident Evil. Those who got past the drab visuals and clunky combat found a game with a lot of heart- a fantastic story and amazing soundtrack serve as the highlights of the Nier experience. Give it a go if you have a chance, and make sure to play through it a couple of times to see the multiple endings.

Best Looking: Okami HD/ Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix (tie)

If nothing else, this shall be known as the year Peter forever changed his mind about HD rereleases. Now that I have an HDTV, I see the appeal of replaying an old favorite that won’t look like butt on your screen, and if that HD version happens to have new content in it, well, the more the merrier. Okami I’d never played before, so it was a treat to experience this gorgeous game and its watercolor art style for the first time. As for Kingdom Hearts, the amount of effort put into this remaster is stunning, and I can’t wait for the upcoming 2.5 Remix.

Most Disappointing: Ni no Kuni- Wrath of the White Witch

You did it to me again, Level 5. After Rogue Galaxy turned out to be a tedious hack-and-slash and White Knight Chronicles the most boring game I’ve ever played, I am further disappointed by a game I genuinely got caught up in the hype for. Ni no Kuni was heralded as The Savior by some, the glorious return of the console JRPG. Thing is, the genre never really went away despite claims to the contrary, and when you get right down to it Ni no Kuni is a pretty average game with an admittedly handsome presentation. Great visuals and music only go so far to salvage a game, though, and try as I might I just haven’t been able to enjoy Ni no Kuni as much as I wanted to.

Guiltiest pleasure: Darksiders 2

I really liked the first Darksiders- I’m a sucker for Zelda-esque adventure games, and Darksiders offered complex dungeons to explore, supplemented by meaty combat and a cool art style. So I was ecstatic to pick up the sequel, and even though Darksiders 2 is a very, very flawed experience, I still enjoyed my time with it. Death isn’t a particularly complex character, but neither was War, and the concept of playing as a badass Horsemen of the Apocalypse in an epic fantasy world is very appealing (even if the story is utter nonsense). I also liked the addition of RPG-style loot (better loot being something I’d like to see in the Zelda series), and there were far more dungeons in Darksiders 2 than there were in the original.  Darksiders 2 is still pretty buggy and unpolished when compared to Darksiders 1, which I would probably still call the better game. But hey, I had fun with both of them.  

Best Protagonist: The Demi-fiend (SMT: Nocturne)

The Demi-fiend may be a silent character, but he’s also an avatar for the player, allowing the player to shape the Demi-fiend’s personality through the moral choices they make in Nocturne. Does he seek to create a world populated only by the strong? Does he want to restore the world? Will he forsake those paths and choose to stand beside Lucifer? That’s up to you, but one thing we do know for certain about the Demi-fiend is that his normal attack animation is to run up and punch a demon in the face.

Best Side Character: Walter (Shin Megami Tensei IV)

On the other side of the personality spectrum we have Walter, one of Flynn’s numerous allies in SMT4. If it wasn’t obvious from the get-go, Walter represents the Chaos alignment, but unlike Jonathan from the Law side (who I got stuck with on my initial playthrough) his character arc is consistent and compelling throughout the game. Walter has lived his whole life under the thumb of the Luxurors, and when given a chance to alter the balance of power in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado he jumps at it. He expresses doubt and fears about going against his friends, but ultimately decides to stand with his own principles. Without getting into details, this doesn’t end particularly well for him, but Walter is certainly one of the most memorable characters in the game.

Best Music: Nier

I already mentioned how Nier has amazing music, and that it’s one of the highlights of the experience. And while I’d encourage everyone who hasn’t to give the game a try, if you’re on the fence you should listen to the soundtrack and then go play the game.

No, I’m serious, go listen to it. Here: 

Best Moment: The Last Colossus (Shadow of the Colossus)

This is it. There’s no turning back. Your only companion throughout this journey is dead. There are men coming to stop you. But the end is within reach- your target stands before you, silhouetted by flashing lightening and soaked by the rain. It’s just standing there, waiting for you. Watching you.

Worst moment: The Black Throne (Darksiders)

For the most part, the dungeon design in Darksiders 1 was pretty solid. The unfortunate exception to this rule is The Black Throne, which sullies one of the best ideas the game had, which was using the Portal Gun in a Zelda-style dungeon. With needlessly over-complicated puzzles and vague directions, not to mention a terribly anticlimactic and easy boss fight at the end, the Black Throne is easily the worst part of what is otherwise a pretty good game. 

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