The pride, the glory, the honor. Which games will take home the top awards, and which ones will end up on the floor with a sore butt? Is there a difference?
Grubdog – For me, Xenoblade Chronicles. I expected a solid, lengthy RPG to pass the time – I got the best story ever told and the most impressively designed game world I’ve ever seen. This game took over my life.
Infernal Monkey – Honestly? Samurai Warriors: Chronicles freakin’ blew me away at the 3DS’ launch. It was something I basically picked up just due to that whole “whoa a new system, I’d better get a bunch of games that I’ll likely regret and sell months down the track” feeling, but nope! It’s still sitting on my shelf, and I’ve managed to sink about 40 hours into it. All you do is hit a battlefield full of braindead goons with the same attack combos over and over again! THAT’S THE ENTIRE GAME. And I love it.
Pro Daisy – TrackMania: Build to Race (Wii) was released in North America… AT ALL. This gem of a Wii Wheel racer beat all odds, jumping between different dying publishers during a near-heartbreaking winter/spring 2011 before Amazon could verify a REAL ship date – something Nintendo’s own MONADO failed to deliver.
RABicle – I am continually surprised by my colleagues refusal to take mobile gaming seriously. Tiny Wings was coded by one guy in Germany and it’s a game I just keep going back to.
Deguello – Xenoblade NOA Localization Reversal. It’s very rare for a company like Nintendo to go back on itself due to fan pressure. Operation Rainfall can notch one for the gamers, showing people who merely whined about it to be annoying AND worthless.
Bill Aurion – Nintendo has really taken to making me think of all the possible ideas for their systems and still end up surprising the hell out of me. First the DS, then the Wii, then the 3DS, and now finally the Wii U. There’s a ton of potential for this console in terms of gameplay ideas, and I really hope they downplay the fact you can play the full game on the U tablet (and thus erase any innovative usage). But even for developers that are too lazy to actually make games, even the fact we can finally get rid of the HUD without really getting rid of it is going to be a real improvement in terms of immersion. And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing how developers like Tokyo EAD, Team Aonuma, Retro Studios, and MonolithSoft, who have already created some absolutely gorgeous games on Wii, handle the more powerful hardware. It’s a long and painful wait to E3…
Mike – I was really surprised that Skyrim didn’t work properly on the PS3, despite the power of Cell™ behind it. Did they think it was going to be a Wii game or something? LOL.
Charles – Charles, here. My holiday was disturbed to hear about PS Vita’s distressful sales last month. The potential of an Uncharted Portable should have prompted vigorous queuing and violent sell-outs for weeks across the homeland. I have lately channeled my erect fury into Gran Turismo PSP, as the situation has become completely inexcusable.
Who else? Nintendo America’s President has been a busy man. He kicked off the year in style, displaying his musical prowess and kung-fu skills in an inspired performance that made even the terminally hip stand up and take notice. He then resumed kicking ass in Mario Kart Wii, pushing forward on his quest against online terrorism. With his Wii Wheel of justice, he gave Funky Kongs and Biker Gangs around the world the fight of their lives. He then decided conquering 32 tracks wasn’t enough, and mastered HUNDREDS more in Trackmania Wii. In March, he made his much anticipated 3D debut, appearing in peoples’ houses in 3D glory, climbing fridges and jumping out of peoples’ washing machines. After finally finding a home in a portable console, the sky was the limit for NOA REGGIE, as he became the star in his very own series of MicroGames. He also made a rare unscheduled appearance at a party, with unconfirmed reports claiming Satoru Iwata joined in on a few “activities”. He’s now finding his feet in Mario Kart 7, as he dominates spots 1, 2, and 3 on the Pietriots community ladder. Most recently he’s been spotted on a well earned vacation, as he prepares to kick ass and take more names than ever in 2012.
NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR
The 3rd Party Wall of Shame got more attention than anything else in 2011. While its contents are technically 2 years old, it’s a timeless story written by history: The Industry, doing what it thinks is best for itself. The Wall of Shame itself has no angle, no prejudice: the only criteria for a game that appears on this wall is existing. The very fact that people thought these were ONLY the bad games proved its entire concept, and highlights the biggest thing wrong with the industry and its publishers. We’re being attacked with filth. The truth hits us hard, we hit it back, and people took notice.
BEST GAME NO-ONE PLAYED
How the hell should we know? We didn’t play it either. We’re sure it was good, though.
WORST GAME EVERYONE PLAYED
Grubdog – Super Monkey Ball 3D. The 3D effect is nice and it has great music, but the game is awful. I’ve still only logged about 5 hours of playtime. My optimism surrounding this game was severely misguided, and perhaps blinded by my brand new invisible 3D goggles. With this game, the series is well and truly dead.
Infernal Monkey – Oh dear, Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon. I’m fairly certain that what was left of my brain ended up melting and passing out my urethra as a painful result of not being able to process just how infuriated I was with this game.
I was originally introduced to this series through Global Defence Force (the PAL localisation of Earth Defence Force 2) on PS2, and it remains one of the most impressive and exciting video games I’ve ever had the pleasure of typing words about on the internet. For whatever reason, publisher D3 decided to give the franchise to a completely different developer for Insect Armageddon. It’s clear American studio Vicious Cycle Software just didn’t ‘get’ what Earth Defence Force was about. It’s about shooting Godzilla look-alikes in the arse while 10,000 spiders and ants crawl all over the city to the tune of a frame rate self-destructing in pleasure.
Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon featured all of 10 missions or so, down from the uh,… 80-100 from the previous titles. Likewise, the meager selection of weapons was pretty pathetic. Its single player campaign was dull and embarrassingly short; there was never a sense of being completely overwhelmed by not-Godzilla’s butt cheeks. Every situation felt exactly the same. Worse still, the whole game took place in one area that was about as interesting as a bag of grease. I hope you’re happy, D3. You made a little girl cry. Me.
Pro Daisy – Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Wii Play Motion: Trigger Twist. I picked up a few games in 2011, but much of the year was spent working on my 2009 backlog, and this un-scary RE fanservice spinoff was on my schedule. Both shewters were full of cool stuff, but constantly tainted by nonsense camera/control design choices. What the hell’s so hard about providing calibrated, unassisted shewting?
RABicle – So my muse Kklectric over at Totes Gamin’ Yeah gave Tiny Tower a glowing review. Apple then backed her up, naming it the iOS Game of the Year and it’s been a mainstay of the top 5 free(miun) all year. So I guess everyone played this. This game is pure shit. I’ve got a draft I’ve been too hungover to finish, explaining why Tiny Tower is a disgrace – and Tiny Wings the true iOS game of the year – but all you need to know is that Tiny Tower represents the absolute worst of modern gaming and is why I’m a pretentious arsehole.
Deguello – Spyborgs, because it just is that bad of a piece of shit. Read Ferny’s article for more, but everything he says in it is true and more. The lack of polish for everything but the graphics shows. It’s just boring as shit from start to finish and has some of the most generic characters ever designed.
Bill Aurion – Can you take a guess? CAN YOU TAKE A GUESS?! If you missed all the grunting and ranting (mostly grunting) in Ferny and my co-op playthrough of Dead Island, then let me just say it again. DO. NOT. BUY. THIS. GAME. Actually, don’t even TRY it. I wouldn’t touch this game AGAIN even if someone paid me. Everything from the characters to the completely empty and pointless overworld to the frustrating upgrade system to the complete and utter lack of variety to the numerous bugs that plagued us more than any hoard of zombies could, this game is garbage. I expected a lot more, especially with such a great premise. An open-world zombie Action RPG? How can you screw this up? Someone take this concept and make a good game out of it, STAT!
Mike – Go Vacation, oh dear. Vacation? More like prison camp. You can’t do ANYTHING in this game without moving your arms – if I wanted to waggle and tilt nonstop, I’d join the circus. At least there I could visit some of Mom’s ex-boyfriends, and people would laugh at me for the right reasons. This terrible game highlights everything wrong with Wii: bad graphics, crap story, and non-stop waggle mini-games. None of the characters even do anything, there’s no crying, no hot babes, not even voice-acted cutscenes. The battle system is terrible – waving at people doesn’t even do any damage. The Resorts are way too big and it’s easy to get lost. What kind of vacation is this? It’s the kind you go on when you’re on the run from the police. I’m never going to kick a stand over at GameStop again if this is where I could end up. The Marine Resort is just one giant toilet – what’s the point of going scuba diving when you can’t even shoot the fish or do anything? Wow, look at me, I’m swimming around with a camera. It’s like a documentary with really bad graphics, SNORE. Just thinking about this game and its “activities” makes me tired.
Charles - Charles, again. Dr. Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights on Nintendo’s Dual Seat Toilet was a sour misrepresentation of Yours Truly. Underpowered kit struggled to capture my piercing bravado, whereas weak “touch” play failed to bring my Throbbing Pendragon to climax. Fortunately, the upgraded PS Vita version will enhance my release.
WORST GOTY CATEGORY
Best HD Collection, from gamersxtreme.org. This was between four games: Ico & Shadow of the Collection HD Collection, Splinter Cell HD Collection, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, and God of War Origins Collection. These were also probably the ONLY four HD “collections” of the year. What’s wrong with this? Firstly, none of these actual games came out in 2011, and the experience is NOT going to be different in HD. It’s a different resolution, for christ’s sake. Furthermore, putting COLLECTIONS against each other is stupid when they have a different amount of games in them. It’s basically two games vs. three vs. no games; the criteria changes with each individual game. May as well give an award for “best price drop” or something equally pointless.
BEST PRICE DROP
GLITCH OF THE YEAR
BEST SUBMARINE SIMULATOR
Steel Diver. This game had by far the best controls and best 3D effect of any submarine simulator in 2011. Read our review for more; the game is excellent and nails the fundamentals of addictive arcade gaming while staying true to its submarine simulation roots.
BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME
Xenoblade Chronicles. HAHAHA kidding. Dumb category gets no answer; a game’s method of storage doesn’t mean it should be treated like a second-class citizen sub-genre. If Digital Distribution wants to be taken seriously, then it’s time to play with the big boys.
GAME OF THE YEAR
FIST NOTE (Swapnote / Nintendo Letter Box). What? This isn’t a game? Why haven’t you seen other sites vote for this? Well, they all made the folly of deciding who would win, BEFORE THE YEAR HAD ENDED. Fist Note was released December 23, and sent 3DS’s around the world beeping and buzzing with activity immediately upon its arrival. It’s a whole new level of messaging that makes Twitter and Facebook feel boring and empty. It transforms the “complexity” of images, sound and animation all at once, into one of the most natural things ever. There is nothing better out there to demonstrate the difference between a gaming machine and computer software.
GOTY OF THE YEAR
We’re going with Edge on this one. The only publication daring enough to give this award to an actual videogame. Nothing against Skyrim, but 84 publications all having a circle jerk around it is a bit much, and hints at an ulterior motive. What a surprise – the game that sold the most, got the highest reviews, and drives the most site traffic – would win. If that was our strategy, our winner would be Rune Factory: Frontier due to the mass searching of bikini pics. In any case, picking The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword shows Edge actually picked what they thought was the best game. It’s a rare thing in this industry to see a company not take advantage of such a huge viral marketing opportunity. There’s no backdoor-handjobs with Nintendo; picking a Nintendo game as GOTY won’t get you invited to any parties. Skyward Sword is a game that rewards the player for engaging; it’s a game that doesn’t play itself, and doesn’t advertise itself very well. It’s contrary to Skyrim, which is full of situations that play themselves and long conversations, and despite running like absolute shit (when it does run at all), it looks AMAZING in screenshots and trailers. We’re impressed Edge actually gave Zelda a chance: it means they actually sat in the same room as it being played on a TV, and experienced the game first-hand, because there’s no other way to appreciate it. Skyward Sword drives videogames forward through gameplay, and raises the bar on an interactive level with the most comprehensive controls ever seen in a game. Thank you Edge, it’s refreshing to see a mainstream publication decide that this ancient, naive concept called “gameplay” still matters.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2012
Grubdog – The Last Story will be amazing, get crap reviews, and nobody will play it. Dragon Quest X won’t come out, but a DQVII remake for 3DS will, and 3DS will continue breaking sales records. Excite Boat will debut at E3 for Wii U, and nothing else will matter.
Infernal Monkey – Square Enix will finally announce a Final Fantasy VII remake – for iPhone. It’ll be a match-three puzzle game with a monthly subscription fee. Nintendo will go back to their home planet in response, taking all of Earth’s oxygen with them. Iwata will laugh.
Pro Daisy – My 2010 Wii backlog will go unfinished by the time Wii U comes out :( My GameCube backlog will go unfinished by the time PS3 fulfills its 10-year strategy :( People will still search for “rune factory frontier bikini” :) And mobile gaming will find its new killer app:
RABicle – I predict continued resentment of mobile gaming and more denial from the rest of the Pietriots about it eating away at the portable gaming market. I predict the press in 2012 to announce the imminent death of the Vita, Wii U, PC gaming, and Obama’s presidency, whilst simultaneously hyping the iPad 3, PS4, social gaming and Mitt Romney. I predict the press will be wrong on all counts.
Deguello – Retro will have a a big game for E3 and possibly ready for the Wii U launch. They’ve been hiring people lately and have basically been unattached since October 2010. (Don’t let stories of MK7 development taxing their resources fool you. They only helped a little with DK levels and some retro tracks)
Bill Aurion – This will be the year a true console Pokemon RPG will be announced. And there will be much rejoicing…
Mike – One word: Cellius™. The father of the Playstation Family™ himself, Ken Kuturagi, has single-handedly recruited Namco as an exclusive Sony developer. This company is the ace up Sony’s sleeve; Ridge Racer Vita is only the start. In 2012 we’ll see Vita dominate the market on the back of fresh Cellius™ content, while 3DS quickly disappears into the background. What’s after Mario, nintards? There’s only so many angles you can view a toilet. Nintendo is finished, Ken K will strike. Fresh new IPs, revolutionary Cellius™ technology, and an innovative DLC structure will reverse the handheld fortunes of Sony and Nintendo.
Charles – I am expecting any minute now for the British Empire to be re-instated as the sovereign leader of the world and the pound sterling adopted throughout Europe after the failure of the euro. Queen Camilla Parkes will be covered in glory and adulation from all. She’ll cancel global warming, the third world, and Nintendo Direct. Nintendo Direct broadcasts will be replaced with footage of her selecting beetroots at the local farmer’s market.