Reader’s Choice Awards 2010

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews and my personal thoughts on them:

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Vote for your favorite game! Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

 

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews, and my personal thoughts on them:

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

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When the Challenge Goes Out the Window

We’re all familiar with those boss fights that make us want to pull our hair out, and yell in frustration. We employ the use of strategy guides, videos from other successful players, and even word of mouth in order to overcome this foe that’s halting our progress. Whether you’ve seen the Game Over screen ten times or a hundred, sometimes you’ll get that voice in the back of your head:

This doesn’t make sense. How am I losing so often!?

Provided that you haven’t thrown your controller against the wall in a curse-filled rage yet, it may be possible that you are indeed doing everything you should be doing. Perhaps you are doing exactly what should be done in order to win, but you’re stopped dead in your tracks time and time again. For SOME reason, the skills that you employed to make it through every other hurdle thus far simply don’t work here. In this situation, we may be quick to blame the boss itself. We’re quick to get laughed at for crying that our opponents are cheating, and we’re only pushed to say this when we’re the ones losing. Ridiculous accusations like that run rampant in fighting games, even amongst the most casual of matches.

This doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does, I’m left just as dumbfounded as many of you are. I recently had to tangle with forces greater of my own, and even now, I’m still not even sure how I was able to get through it.

The second endgame boss in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is the newest member of this society of extremely tough bosses. He comes out of the blue, and leaves just as strangely as he came. I mention him here, because there’s nothing I can really spoil – He’s freaking UNKNOWN, so that’s what we’ll call him. Unknown is just the kind of boss that whose sole purpose is to make you suffer. Each of his attacks can either kill you, or critically injure you. Provided that you somehow survived within an inch of your life, chances are you’re too frazzled to keep your guard up. Before you know it, you’ve already made a mistake, and are paid with another visit to the Game Over screen. Some of his attacks ARE blockable, but it’s easier said than done.  Okay, that sounds pretty standard for an endgame boss. I mean, for an Action RPG, there probably aren’t too many things that can really stand in your way if you’re strong enough to dish out some hefty blows yourself, but damn, all of the confidence I slowly garnered from beating every tough battle in the game up to this point was shattered after my first five losses to this guy.

For all of you overachievers out there, the first person who managed to defeat the Unknown (and upload it to Youtube) had to cheat and give themselves infinite HP just to make it through. Even then, it still seemed that he had a tough time.

I’m not talking about old school Capcom/SNK style bosses that were made to be very difficult to keep people popping in as many tokens as humanly possible, nor am I talking about the vast majority of the types of encounters that made Demons Souls the difficult yet rewarding game it’s known for. I’ll go as far as to put the Unknown in the “Nice to meet you, YOU LOSE” category.

Simply staying alive while going head to head with the Unknown is a feat in itself – You’re perpetually mashing the Square button to dodge roll, because whenever you dodge, you’re granted invincibility frames that render you impervious to any attacks he lets out on you. While you’re doing this, you’ve got to think of when its safe enough to try to strike back without him retaliating. On paper, I’m sure this kind of scenario was a cool idea, but when its actually happening, this isn’t very fun, because despite my best efforts at trying to dodge for 5 to 10 minutes straight, whenever I died, I was more pissed off in the way I died, rather than the fact that I was able to deplete one of his four life bars.

In the end, I would say that it took more retries than I had expected in order to defeat him. Getting a few Game Overs here and there are okay, because I was learning what not to do the next time around However, too many deaths is a little excessive. I would have a couple really good rounds against him, but too many factors would be working against me – If he used his “rope” too many times, or his full-screen attacks (which are really difficult to dodge or block) without giving you a chance to heal, it was only a matter of time before I would eventually die yet again. There were too many “stupid deaths” as opposed to losing fair and square.

This is not the way an optional super boss should be. Yes, I’m all for being hard as hell, but give me some kind of strategy; some set of guidelines that I can follow that would lead me to victory, as opposed to jamming my thumb till I lose feeling in it, only to die in the dumbest way possible. Even when I won, I didn’t feel accomplished at all. I got a useless Keyblade, while Unknown just nodded and disappeared the same way he came.

How anti-climatic.

Ventus, Complete!

I’m a little bit surprised that I cleared Ven’s storyline in four days. More or less, he romps through the same worlds as Terra, and now I’m seeing the point of the three-pronged approach to this game. It’s nice to notice when more than one hero is in the same world, and how their actions are seen from another person’s perspective; again, its encouraged to clear each story to get the full picture.

Gameplay wise, I would say Ven’s game was easier than Terra’s – that is to say, he plays the most like Sora, making him the easiest to get back into playing a Kingdom Hearts game. They’re both nimble, quick, and of course – they can fly. I went through Neverland as Terra just waiting for Peter Pan and Tinkerbell to sprinkle him with magic dust so he can take flight. It never happened, so I guess adults really can’t fly, oh well.

I liked Ven as a character. He’s the most cheerful of the three heroes, and his personality and interactions with others made each scene memorable. Terra’s brooding nature seemed to drive a wall between the bubbly Disney characters, but I’m just being nitpicky. Ven connected with people like Stich, Mikey, Donald and Goofy. The first thing that drew me to him was his obvious resemblance to Roxas, from Kingdom Hearts II. Why does he look just like him? Is this some kind of ploy to get all fans to collectively say “wtf, who is that?” Well, if I were to answer that, then what’s the point in all of you planning to play it? I’ll just say that it’s an interesting plot twist. Regardless, the overarching plot is sometimes difficult to follow, and when you have a new character that looks like someone we’ve already met five years ago, it’s a lot more complicated than just passing them off as something like an older twin…

To build off of my previous note about Final Fantasy’s presence in this game- I’m sad to report that no other characters have been found. Still, a young iteration of Zack is so far the sole representative for Final Fantasy, which is kind of odd. One of the main draws to Kingdom Hearts is seeing a universe that combines the elements of two really big properties: Disney (Duh) and Final Fantasy. Having only a side character (at best) weakens that very easy way to market this game to those fans who swoon at the chance to see someone like Cloud or Squall/Leon again. I still hope that this isn’t the case, but time is running out. Perhaps a bunch of characters are just hiding in Aqua’s story!

I suppose in defense of this decision, having a deficiency of Final Fantasy characters allows the game and the players to focus on the central protagonists. As a prequel, their actions are very important, and this game serves to answer a lot of those questions that still haven’t been answered, or have been speculated on for years. It’s all up to the individual player, but I’m sure a lot of Final Fantasy fans would be dissapointed there isn’t much for them.

If I learned the basics of Birth By Sleep with Terra, then I’ve gotten proficient with Ven. Chances are, what I’ve learned with him will make Aqua’s story a breeze-  but we’ll see.

Well, I’m off to start Aqua’s storyline. Happy Gaming!

Terra, Complete!

The picture basically explains it all. But, if you want to somehow dodge any harmless picture that could be construed as a spoiler, I’ve just finished Terra’s portion of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep. Overall his game wasn’t too difficult, but the final level for his storyline gave me a run for my money. Even though I was on standard mode, I was getting way too many game over’s for my own good. I’ll leave his last boss anonymous, but relatively speaking, he was pretty damn tough (hard like Sephiroth) compared to the rest of the boss battles in the game, at least for Terra. Kingdom Hearts does an excellent job with each boss battle, I was never disappointed.

As far as Terra goes, he only grazed the surface each Disney world he visited. In the short time he interacted with each character most of us have grown up with, the eventual boss battle signifying the end of his portion of the world occurred sooner than I had expected, and after that, he would be off towards the next destination, and at times, very abruptly. With Snow White, he meets her and protects her from a horde of Unversed. Like the frail girl she is, she runs at the sight of danger into the forest (Yeah, the same forest where the trees come to life and grab at her). Terra turns around and sees the boss behind him and defeats it easily. “What does this all mean? Maybe I will find my answers elsewhere…” Snow White’s world is complete. I can understand this approach to the narrative, as it makes me want to play through the next character to see what happens next in each world after the previous hero leaves. Later on, I find out Ventus shows up with the Seven Dwarves to take Snow White to the cottage.

Hopefully this is just Terra’s problem, but Final Fantasy characters have been nearly non-existent – I’ve only seen a very young Zack from Final Fantasy VII, for about ten minutes. So far, all of the other (popular) characters have yet to make an appearance. I hope that gets rectified soon.

That’s all for now! I would have been more diligent in completing everything there is to do, but since I’m reviewing this, I had to fly through as fast as I could. I’m working through Ven’s story now, so stay tuned!

Banner, Complete!

Hey readers, no new blog this time, but I wanted to draw your attention to the top. Yeah, see that? Say hello to 9999Hitpoints’ new banner, done by Quintin Rodriguez-Harrison. Quintin is a digital designer based out of New York City and has been a good buddy of mine for a few years some now. After a couple weeks of experimentation, he’s stepped up and done something a lot better than just simply mashing together a bunch of stock images together. If you like this banner, please be sure to check out his work, found at http://www.bluetailedspark.net/

In other news, school is starting for me in a week, so we’ll see how much that utterly destroys my schedule, or not.  Stay tuned for more articles!