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Archive for December, 2010

Wallet Abuse Wednesday Year in Review Part 2

Posted by nfinit on December 29, 2010

**June **

It was right around here where we realized something was amiss.

Peace Walker and Sin and Punishment 2 provided quality hardcore gaming experiences on their respective consoles (and no one cared), Alpha Protocol gave a strong argument against any further attempts by Bethesda to develop it’s own intellectual property, and Green Day Rock Band will best be remembered as the slight scraping noise barely heard above the band in the Titanic’s ballroom.

Microsoft unveiled Kinect just prior to E3 in a garish, surreal media event featuring lighted ponchos, levitating suburban families, and a parade of nightmare-inducing forest spirits. This was merely the beginning of Microsoft’s half-billion dollar advertising blitzkrieg designed to promote Kinect, a sum of money sufficient to buy every speck of dry land that comprises Micronesia.

Twice.

Sony tried to counter Microsoft’s momentum by revealing their own motion controller, simply dubbed the Move. Like everything else Sony’s done since the launch of the PS3, The Move felt more like something Sony was forced into rather than part of an comprehensive strategy, a fact apparent to anyone who has perused the Move software section of their local Best Buy.

Not that E3 was a total parade of failure. During Nintendo’s traditional announcement of DS hardware revisions Nintendo actually announced a brand new system, the 3DS, helpfully signalling to the gaming masses that they could wait at least two years on the 3DSi before buying a new Nintendo handheld.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Alpha Protocol)

But that’s a tangent for another time. What I do find interesting is the parallels you can make between the complaints voiced for Alpha Protocol and the stuff we all overlooked for another, beloved game, Deus Ex. Good writing, fundamentally bad gameplay (until at least you put some points into your skillset), good universe, an abnormal amount of 3dclunkiness– the important distinguishing characteristic between the two being that Dues Ex was released a dozen years ago, before we accepted the idea that a game can have maintain excellent RPG elements and also some semblance of competent shooter-based gameplay. I somehow doubt Deus Ex would have been as well received in a post-Mass Effect world.

I’d like to take this moment to apologize to all fans of Deus Ex; anyone who has ever played Deus Ex; any game store clerk to ever come in contact with a box containing the game Deus Ex; Warren Spector; Warren Spector’s dog; the fictional construct “JC Denton”; anyone reading or associated with Big Red Coat; my mother; and Tim Berners-Lee, for cheapening the internet with my diseased, ill-formed opinions.

**July**

I’m not going to say July was a total waste; at least we got Dragon Quest IX and Limbo out of it, but the only boxed console release of note was Crackdown, which was notable for being Crackdown 1, only somehow worse. Somehow I managed to summon enough interest in games to find something to say about July’s releases, a Herculean effort that I’m sure all my fans appreciate, even if none of you actually cared enough to send me money or videogames or booze or high quality nylon fetish pornography.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Arc Rise Fantasia)

Which I suppose is about right, as Arc Rise Fantasia is as generic as a generic JRPG can possibly be, and most of it’s hopes pin on the fact that not very many games like it exist for the Wii and this is possibly the last JRPG release of note for the system until The Last Story, which won’t come out until sometime shortly before President Newt Gingrich’s first midterm election.

This would appear to be a risky foundation on which to build your hopes upon– after all, if you’re a JRPG fiend who happens to also only be a Wii-exclusive gamer is about as common as a Gran Turismo addict who’s Wii-only. Moreover, the supposed success of ARF leads to troubling questions about our own industry– if ARF can succeed on a recipe of exclusiveness and mediocrity, what does this mean for Kinect?

That said, ARF provides what promises to be Perfectly Acceptable Gaming provided you can ignore it’s “Jill-the-master-of-unlocking” level of voice acting, it’s mid-generation PS2-level graphics, the fact that it relies on the Classic Controller to play properly

Turns out ARF isn’t just generic; it’s actively terrible, as archived by Nitrobeard’s own Imran Kahn.

**THE LOST MONTHS: August and September**

Videogame publishing companies are operated by old men who remember a childhood where children willingly spent Summer outside and active instead of inside and in front of an air conditioner; as a result few games are released during the Summer break. This becomes a problem in October when these same people realize they’ve neglected to sell a single game in the preceding three months and desperately scramble to have games out for the Holiday season before they are forced to file for bankruptcy.

The result of this insane system are games like Enslaved which enjoy a three week long window where they can be realistically sold for full price. Whereas if any of the October games had released a month earlier they would own the field because no one releases games in September other than Bungie.

This Summer was especially abhorrent for PlayStation 3 owners. At least Wii gamers got to argue over the relative merits of Metroid: Other M while 360 owners enjoyed the annual ritual of convincing themselves Halo is still relevant. What did PS3 owners have to enjoy? Kane and Lynch 2? That thing lasted all of five hours. Dead Rising 2 came out, but I have a hard time believing it was easy to be excited about Dead Rising 2 without exposure to the first game. Valkyria Chronicles saw a sequel, but that was for the PlayStation Portable.

For my part I spent most of the Summer obsessing over Persona 4 instead of, you know. Writing. Sorry about that.

**October**

So after a four month period where the best title released was– what? Dead Rising 2?– we were presented with four weeks of the following:

*Shantae: Risky’s Revenge
*Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
*NBA Jam
*Vanquish
*Fallout: New Vegas
*Costume Quest
*Super Meat Boy
*Rock Band 3
*Fable 3
*Bit.Trip FATE
*Super Scribblenauts
*Kirby’s Epic Yarn
*Enslaved: Journey to the West

And that’s not even touching on random shit like Comic Jumper or EA MMA or the sequence of events the lead up to this:

If you’re Platinum Games do you really think it made sense to release Vanquish on the same day as New Vegas instead of releasing it sometime in August and dominating the gaming media for at least two weeks? What’s the point of releasing Rock Band 3 so soon after Green Day? And I’m almost positive Enslaved was already on sale for forty bucks by the time Black Friday rolled around.

Meanwhile between Super Meat Boy, Comic Jumper, Shantae, Costume Quest and Bit.Trip FATE we had the strongest month for downloadable console in recent memory.

On the bright side, sales figures for October would reveal more people cared about New Vegas than did Medal of Honor, so there’s some hope for quality gaming amid the dudebro hordes. On the other hand, over half a million people were tricked into buying Fable 3. I don’t know how to explain that other than either the Xbox 360 userbase is largely comprised of easily fooled simpletons or there is a disturbingly large contingent of English people within North America buying terrible, terrible videogames.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: New Vegas)

I’m trying very hard to stay optimistic about New Vegas, but this is an Obsidian Games joint and in the wake of Alpha Protocol there’s every chance that Obsidian is a bad studio. I mean, let’s look at the record:

Alpha Protocol: Complete, irredeemable shit

Neverwinter Nights 2: Good, albeit fantastically glitchy despite the engine and setting being handed over whole cloth from NWN1

Knights of the Old Republic 2: Fantastic as an RPG, probably better than the first KOTOR, but also buggy as a Brooklyn used mattress store and obviously releasing incomplete (despite again the engine and setting being established in KOTOR 1)

I dunno. It’s entirely possible that New Vegas is an outstanding game, you just can’t deny Obsidian’s dubious pedigree. And it’s not like Obsidian is exactly working with the most stable engine ever created– Fallout 3 had some rather astounding issues with free-world jank:

Turns out I’m an idiot and New Vegas is an improvement over Fallout 3 in almost every conceivable measure. The only problem? Two years is not nearly enough time between open-world CRPGs of this magnitude set in the same universe. Sure New Vegas is by far the superior Fallout 3 experience; but playing it this soon after FO3 almost seems like a chore.

I mean, it’s a fantastic chore full of mohawk-sporting hookers with electrical tape pasted over their jibblies, but still. That’s a whole lot of game, and as with most Western-developed RPGs of it’s nature it’s impossible to see all the sides of the story on a single run. Thankfully sales for New Vegas have been strong and the general public does not agree with my insane opinion on the matter; but I still feel like everyone involved would have been better served had the game went through another six months of bugfixes or at least find a way to make sure buildings make contact with the surface geometry of Nevada 90% of the time.

**November**

The good news is, November gave us the year’s best 3d platformer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the best arcade racer in Need For Speed; Hot Pursuit, and the year’s best game of Snake in Pac-Man Championship Edition Deluxe.

The bad news is everything else fell off a cliff.

That’s not to say November didn’t also have a ton of games; it’s just that the games released were either awful or pandering mainstream crap. November saw the culmination of Microsoft’s five-hundred-million-dollar Kinect advertising campaign, resulting in Kinect Adventures (a high definition copy-and-paste of Wii Sports), Kinect Joy Ride (the racing game that plays itself), and Kinectimals (the Eyepet-meets-Viva Pinata crossbreed brought to you by the shambling corpse of the studio once responsible for Jet Force Gemini.)

Blood Stone was released, resulting in the immediate dissolution of Bizarre Creations. Eight million people people bought Call of Duty: Black Ops. The less said about Epic Mickey the better. After mos of a decade in development Gran Turismo 5 was released, featuring a car list of eight thousand vehicles, seven hundred and ninety three of which were imported from Motor Toon Gran Prix

November served as the culmination to the ominous, shadowy warning delivered by the videogame publishing industry at E3. In October the hardcore had thier fun; November was when the bills were paid, and if rumblings from Microsoft are to be believed then 2011 looks a lot more like November 2010 than October 2010.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)


So I finally got around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2 this year, and I admit I was totally wrong about that game– it’s an improvement in every conceivable way over AC1 and I’d have no problem saying it was last year’s premiere action game over Arkham Asylum.

And the great thing about AC2’s gameplay was that it was solidly a single-player game. There was none of the gameplay or design choices that crop up when you build a multiplayer game in mind– Instead Ubisoft Montreal presented us an open-world Prince Of Persia; a rare combination of intricate sandbox gameplay with intense 3d platforming action. It was so good that I didn’t even mind the silly and distracting sci-fi Dan Brown-meets-Minority Report story that wrapped around AC2.

Suffice to say it’s not the sort of game where I played it and thought “what this needs is deathmatch”

Which is pretty much what we’re getting with Brotherhood. Admittedly more of a good thing is still a good thing– It’s not like they’ve stripped out the single player game for Brotherhood, this game continues Enzio’s story through Rome, which sounds pretty fantastic. But I also have to think that with only a year of development time provided– and Ubisoft splitting the game between five different developers just to get another Assassin’s Creed through the door for 2010– that the game can’t help but suffer. It’s also entirely possible that Brotherhood was what caused Patrice Desilets to flee Ubisoft and that can’t possibly be a good sign.

Yeah, I was wrong about this one, too. Turns out Brotherhood is probably the best Assassin’s Creed to date, even if the multiplayer sections don’t work well. Who knew that slapping a game of Assassin Tycoon into the middle of Prince of Persia-meets-Splinter Cell would work?

**December**

No one releases games in December unless you’re Nintendo and have managed to turn trolling your own fanbase into a viable business strategy. Which is also why I’ve spent the past four weeks recapping crap instead of being bothered to find witty things to say about Tron: Evolution and/or Jam City Rollergirls

***
NEXT YEAR~!

**I FINALLY START TALKING ABOUT GAMES AGAIN EVEN IF I’M FORCED TO FEIGN INTEREST IN GET FIT WITH MEL B

**BETTER ACTUAL EDITING!

**THE RETURN OF WEEKLY GIMMICKS!

**MORE BLATANT SUCKING UP TO PLATINUM GAMES!

**MORE ARTICLES OTHER THAN WAW!

**AND MORE AT NITROBEARD.COM!

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Wallet Abuse Retrospective Part 1

Posted by nfinit on December 22, 2010

Alright kids, it’s the final weeks of 2010 and while we’re way past the point in the holiday season where any sane publisher would bother releasing anything, I’m sure that’s not stopped someone like Capcom or Square from–

Okay we are not talking about this week’s games.

Instead since we’re near the end of the year I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back on the year that was in gaming, the regrettable purchases we all made, and the stupid, stupid things I said that I wish I could take back but will leave in here anyway because it’s easy content.  And subce next week’s slate of games looks like this:

We’re going to make this a two-parter.

**January**

Two Thousand and Ten started off with what may as well be the best non-holiday month of gaming ever. I mean, just look at this lineup:

*Bayonetta

*Mass Effect 2

*No More Heroes 2

*Darksiders

*Army of One: 40th Day

*MAG (Just kidding. No one ever cared about MAG.)

*Tatsunoko vs Capcom

*and Windy x Windham, a little-known DS fighter based on the similarly little kown Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, who is herself a hot anime lesbian chick.

Even if you’re strictly a Nintendo-or-bust kind of gamer, there’s at least two games released in January that are part of your permanent collection; and chances are if you’re reading this then you own at least four of these games. Two of them– Bayonetta and Mass Effect 2– are legit GOTY contenders and indeed these very two games wound up Nitrobeard co-GOTY.

Of course not even in the month that brought us this

and this

did everything go perfectly. Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond was released, pretty much confirming what we all feared true about Vicious Cycle software and Dark Void was so bad Keiji Inafune left Capcom 10 months later. Okay so those two may be completely unrelated events, but man was that game awful.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Darksiders)

Which is too bad, as Darksiders might not suck– Or at the very least, it’ll suck quantfiiably less than Dante’s Inferno, yet at the same time it’s destined to drop to $20 inside of two months and shoved into that bottom Gamestop shelf where the clerks just stack games with the spines facing out alongside between Brutal Legend and X-Blades. Not that I’m saying you should buy this game– I mean god no, Bayonetta comes out this week– But it’s a solid “hey I got twenty bucks left on this gift card” choice.

Which was, of course, complete horseshit. I wound up buying that thing for $40, and while I don’t regret that decision it’s also something that’s going to be far more well-regarded than it actually deserves, especially come this time next year when the inevitable sequel is released. It wasn’t so much that Darksiders was bad; it’s just doesn’t do anything at all remarkable with the whole “Dark Zelda” theme. It gives out way too many gameplay mehanics, most of which are only used for the level they’re introduced in, and by the time you collect all your powers and feel truly empowered the game is over.

**February**

Between Heavy Rain, Deadly Premonition and Dante’s Inferno, February will be remembered as The Month That Tried Too Hard. We hadn’t seen as much overwrought pretentious bullshit since the music video for Bring Me To Life was released and the world became aware of Amy Lee’s boobs.

Not that February was a total loss. Wii owners at least got Data East Arcade Classics, a disc full of games with which I’m still seething with envy that are not present in some way on XBLA or PSN, and Chime was released, an oustanding rhythm/puzzle game hybrid you should probably be playing right now instead of reading this. Also at some point during the month the DS game World Cup of Pool compelled me to post this:

which I assure you all was not some sort of perverse attempt to land google searches for Shanelle Loraine to my site.

Shanelle Loraine.

Shanelle Loraine

Please marry me, Shanelle Loraine.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Bioshock 2)

I’ve already made my disgust for this game clear– simply put, it doesn’t need to exist, it shouldn’t exist, the original game is the very last thing you want to make a franchise out of and it’s all a horrible example of how videogame publishers continue to Miss The Point.

And after y’know… playing the game, I’ve come to peace with Bioshock 2. Okay yes, it probably didn’t need to be made. But then neither do nine out of every ten games you see lined up at Gamestop; it’s not like 2k Marin should be demonized for picking up where Ken Levine left off and getting paid in the process. Yeah, the story doesn’t quite live up to Bioshock 1’s standards, but the final fourth of Bioshock 1 didn’t exactly do that either, and this story is at least better than everything that happens in Bioshock 1 after The Twist. And it’s even a good videogame, even if “being a good videogame” isn’t exactly what Bioshock is supposed to be about. There are some moments to Bioshock 2 that are very human, very touching, and I don’t regret going back to Rapture a second time.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bioshock Infinite is going to be the game we were all wanting instead; but we can’t really blame 2k Marin for trying.

**March**

Although March gave us a number of standout titles– the excellent Just Cause 2 and Metro 2033 spring to mind– It will mostly be remembered for a trimuverate of disappointment.

God of War 3 was promised by David Jaffe to “look like a painting come to life” and to be an epic conclusion to Kratos’ bloody rampage through Greek mythology. Instead it turned out to be as rote as a very rote thing can be; and was mostly notable for the sheer number of gods that Kratos manages to dispatch without hardly any effort at all. GoW3 added nothing of note to the series in terms of gameplay or refinement; something that was all the more noticeable when compared to Bayonetta and even Darksiders. Even the final battle with Zeus was uninspired and anti-climatic; punctuated with an awkward, hard-to-enjoy 2.5d brawler segment and a finale that allowed you to to wale on Zeus’s skull until you got bored and wanderd off to do something better.

Final Fantasy 13 apologists can finally throw in the towel. Yoichi Wada is now openly apologizing for allowing horrible Final Fantasy games to be made and that the situation is so bad they’re going to have to rebrand everything.

Fuck you, Game Room.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening)

Bioware seems to be taking the best of all worlds approach with Dragon Age Origins, releasing sporadic DLC packs that keeps the game fresh at retail and still providing big hefty expansion packs larger than most full single-player action games. This approach would also seem to reveal a glimpse into how developers are gaming the current economy.

If only. Turns out this may be the last worthwhile thing Bioware is going to do with the Dragon Age franchise in general: Since the release of Awakening we’ve learned that Dragon Age 2 will only have on playable main character with one backstory; that most of the RPG battle elements have been eliminated and that it’s been deemed that enemy stats are too confusing for gamers to be trusted with, so those are gone too. What we’re going to be left with is Dynasy Warriors with an excellent dialog system.

**April**

I’m not sure if you can say any standout titles were released in April, although Super Street Fighter IV shipped, which is either awesome because you love Street Fighter and Capcom, or awful because you think Capcom never should be put themselves in a situation where this update had to be released on disc instead of DLC. Also Nier was released– if you can’t quite remember what Nier was, it’s the super depressing Cavia action JRPG that gave us this:

…there’s a guy demon living somewhere in there, which either horrifies you or intrigues you, depending on which end of the Kinsey Scale your sexuality resides on. I won’t judge. Actually April was a rather outstanding month for downloadable titles, Capcom’s befuddling misunderstanding of the nature of DLC aside. Both Afterburner Climax and Final Fight: Double Impact were relased, both of which should reside on your 360 or PlayStation 3 hard drives as we speak. Also Nintendo tried and failed to make people care about Monster Hunter in America; although they probably could have tried harder.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Splinter Cell Conviction)

All this said, there’s not a whole lot of games left that do what Splinter Cell Conviction does. We haven’t seen a new Thief game in roughly forever, Metal Gear Solid is less about stealth these days and more about Hideo Kojima’s insane action movie plots, and Assassin’s Creed isn’t so much a stealth game as it is about parkour and swordfighting. So Conviction might not only wind up the best stealth game of the year, but barring some sort of Street Fighter IV-like revival of the genre, may very well be the best stealth game of this console generation.

I don’t understand why I keep forgetting that Arkham Asylum had an outstanding stealth element bundled into it’s 3d medroidvania brawling and is easily the best stealth game on an HD console. Or maybe it’s not, as there’s no way I’m actually going to spend money on Conviction. But at any rate between the Assassin’s Creed series and Arkham Asylum/City, it’s not actually a bad generation for stealth games; it’s just that developers have stopped making stealth only games in favor of making stealth an element you can partake in instead of killing everyone on the level. Which is kinda the exact opposite tact the end of Conviction takes when stealth becomes wholly useless and you’re forced to gun down every living in Washington DC.

**May**

May was another outstanding month for games, as both my other game of the year, Red Dead Redemption was released as well as Alan Wake, which itself is winding up on more than a few GOTY lists. It was also a good month for unintended hilarity as the wonderfully broken Alpha Protocol proceeded to scare the living shit out of everyone who was looking forward to Fallout: New Vegas later in the year. 3d Dot Game Heros was sort of great, and even Wii owners found something to be excited about in Trauma Team Wii. And also something something Mario Galaxy 2 something.

It wasn’t a good month for Bizarre Ceations however, as their otherwise decent Mario-kart-but-with-BMWs racer Blur was released in the same three month span that gave us the far flashier Split/Second and PS3 darling ModNation Racers. In between the failures of Blur and Blood Stone, Activision would openly discuss the necessity of shutting down or selling off the developer before the end of the year.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Alan Wake)

Okay so sour grapes aside– after all, its probably not fair to judge a game based on what was promised instead of what’s presented– Alan Wake has a lot going for it, even if Brad himself said that the combat wears out it’s welcome and it’s entirely possible to finish inside a weekend. Reviews almost universally praise the storytelling elements and the writing, and the atmosphere is frankly incredible. So it looks like it’s one of those games that really needs to be experienced, if not exactly for the gameplay itself. And that’s fine; 360 fanboys need an answer to Heavy Rain. While I look forward to playing Alan Wake there’s no way I’m going to do so for sixty bucks.

As per my premise for Wallet Abuse, I was being entirely too harsh on a game I had yet to actually play.  B genuinely a great, inventive game, and I would not have been disappointed to have spent full MSRP on it when it first came out. I dunno what sort of insane gaming god Brad Shoemaker is when he’s not filming Quicklooks or Endurance Runs, but to took me a solid two weeks of gaming to get through Alan Wake and the free DLC story that comes with every new purchase. Also it was rather ignorant of me to compare Alan Wake to Heavy Rain– aside from for the tenuous relationship they may have in general atmosphere, Alan Wake is an actual videogame and not an overwrought FMV on a quick time event crank.

NEXT WEEK~!

Instead of talking about the games you absolutely under no circumstance should be buying between now and New Year’s, I try to explain why I didn’t update for like to months.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 12-15-10

Posted by nfinit on December 15, 2010

I’m going to be honest here, I’m having a difficult time summoning up interest in today’s writeup. That’s mainly because this week’s Wallet Abuse consists of:

Lilt Line (WiiWare)

Super Mario Brothers All-Stars Wii (Wii)

Under Siege (PSN)

X-Men Arcade (PSN, XBLA)

Now keep in mind, it physically pains me to say good things about Nintendo and it’s quite possible that Under Siege is one of those PSN games that no one, including the developer, knows exactly when it’ll be available for download. Lilt Line is probably decent enough, but if I’m going to start talking about downloadable Nintendo games then at some point I’ll have to bring up Just Sing! Christmas Songs Volume 2 and no one really wants that, now do they?

You people seriously don’t want me to do that.

….

Okay,fine. But in protest to today’s parade of irrelevant crap, I’m going to critique the year in shovelware developers as well, because as good as this year was, we need to honor those who remind us of the terrible threat cheap, assessable gaming casual gaming poses to everything we love.

Just Sing! Christmas Songs Volume 2
Developer: Someone actively taking the food out of the mouths Hifumi Kono’s children as we speak
Publisher: Hitler
Platforms: DSiWare

It’s a DSiWare title, which means we don’t get box art or even a unified title card, but this works nicely as we also learn exactly how many public domain Christmas standards Nintendo will allow to be transmitted over their service any any given time.

Also, this is the second game in the series and we’re only just now getting to “Merry Christmas” and “Deck the Halls”. What sort of esoteric shit did Engine Software break out for Volume 1? King Diamond’s No Presents for Christmas? Coffin Fuck’s cover of Here Comes Santa Claus?

At any rate, this is a karaoke game, and if it’s like most karaoke games it doesn’t really matter what you say as the DSi mic is only picking up (at most) your tone. So you could actually sit there and offer forth the most vile swears imaginable to “Deck the Halls” as long as you get the tempo right.

SHOVELWARE 2010 RETROSPECTIVE SPOTLIGHT: DESTINEER GAMES

Destineer opened 2010 mocking the hopes and dreams of Wii owners worldwide with Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding; one of the few non-fitness Wii games released this year that actually made use of the Wii Balance Board. As Wii traumatized Wii owners tried to make sense of a world that would allow snowboarding games not named 1080 appear on their beloved hardware Destineer released an unrelenting stream of crap for the Wii, culminating in the late Fall release of Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, a collection of laserdisc games for a system that cannot itself play a Dragon’s Lair DVD.

Among other highlights:

Marines: Modern Urban Combat: a game which basically served to remind Wii owners that Infinity Ward would rather risk a lawsuit from Activision than make games for their system

Harley Davidson Road Trip: The rare title that managed to troll both Nintendo fans -and- Sega fans who wondered whatever became of the Harley Davidson LA Riders license

Statisfashion: Which managed to retroactively make everyone think Style Savvy by Nintendo was also crap.

Destineer’s dedication to breaking the will of Wii owners worldwide was unmatched. Not only did Destineer manage not to release a single worthwhile game all year long, they did so with a style and panache worthy of an artist. We here at Nitrobeard are left in awe at their efforts.

**

Lilt Line
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Gaijin Games
Platforms: Wii Ware

Gaijin Games was helpful enough to provide videos of people actually playing Lilt Line on their website, and from what I can gather it involves tilting the controller to move the player’s line through a twisting corridor while hitting “The Button” (said in rather ominous tones) when you cross lines. Sounds simplistic, but these are the same guys who gave us the bit.trip games, so taking simple concepts based on rhythm and turning them into outstanding games is sort of what they do.

On a wholly unrelated note, anytime I see the Gaijin Games name I get a tiny thrill inside as I invariably confuse them for Vic Ireland’s Gaijin Works and I think it’s finally time to swear violently about Working Designs for three hundred words. Sadly it’s not to be. Yet.

SHOVELWARE 2010 RETROSPECTIVE SPOTLIGHT: SOUTH PEAK GAMES

South Peak followed up a breakout 2009 (X-Blades, Velvet Assassin) with a frustratingly silent 2010, where their talents at following up on outstanding gameplay promise with soul-crushingly bad execution was almost entirely wasted on the already crowded DS shovelware market. However they were responsible for Blood Bowl for the Xbox 360, where South Peak managed to take the concept of Orcs vs Space Marines playing no-rules intergalactic football and somehow made it less compelling than the board game.

Super Mario All Stars
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform:  Nintendo Wii

A lot has been made about these games not appearing on the Virtual Console instead of being sold sold on disc for thirty bucks, but one has to remember that the way Nintendo operates if these games were on Virtual Console then they’d break up the SNES original into it’s component pieces and charge eight dollars for each game. And since Nintendo is lazy and would rather not go through all that trouble anyway, this was probably the only form you were ever going to get Super Mario All-Stars to appear on the Wii in the first place.

If you’re the sort of person who owns a Wii and buys actual videogames for it, you’re the sort of person who already wants to own these games. The only problem? Nintendo may not be kidding about this whole “limited edition” thing. Already it’s sold out online at Gamestop and Best Buy, and the only way to get it through Amazon is to pay fifty bucks through a 3rd party reseller. In other words if you don’t already won this disc you’re probably already fucked.

SHOVELWARE 2010 RETROSPECTIVE SPOTLIGHT: CRAVE GAMES

Crave has always been on the forefront of crap, and their alliance with the Discovery Channel has lead to amazing new breakthroughs in Shovelware science, allowing the Newport Beach company to terrorize the gaming public with games based on the Alaskan crab fishing industry. This is combined with a strong stable of traditionally shitty games, such as Brunswick Pro Bowling for the Wii and Baby Pals for the DS. I expect no less from the guys who once made a Napoleon Dynamite game for the PSP FOUR YEARS AFTER THE MOVIE ITSELF WAS RELEASED.

I swear to God this happened.

Overall another strong year for the standardbearers of Shovelware excellence.

**

Under Siege
Developer: Seed Studios
Publisher: Seed Studios
Platforms: PlayStation Network

Every once in a while a developer will get it into their head that they are going to get the whole ‘RTS-on-a-console’ thing right and it usually ends in failure because a thumbstick is a poor substitute for a mouse. Seed Studios has at least incorporated Move support so maybe that will help, but even official PR-approved gameplay video seems to suggest that it’s still a jerky, frustrating experience.

Under Siege abandons base building and resource gathering, none of which is suited for the console anyway, but you’re probably reading this on a computer capable of playing Dawn of War anyway. So why not play that instead?

SHOVELWARE 2010 RETROSPECTIVE SPOTLIGHT: MAJESCO

Usually a strong contender every year; I have a hard time giving props to Majesco’s shovelware efforts when they stumble and release genuinely good videogames. It’s very hard to give credit to efforts such as Attack of the Movies 3D when titles like A Boy and His Blob and Data East Arcade Classics are sitting there providing genuinely compelling gaming experiences. Hopefully a strong lineup of godawful Kinect titles such as Zumba Fitness will put Majesco back in it’s rightful place atop the shovelware heap in 2011.

X-Men Arcade
Developer: Konami/Backbone
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: PlayStation Network, XBLA

Look. I know we all want to sit here and pretend that the early 90’s beat-em-ups are something we actually want to go back to, but do any of you really think this thing is going to provide you with more than an hour of entertainment? I mean, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is sitting right there. It’s a better game. It probably even has better spritework.

Anyway, if you’re intent on buying X-Men Arcade you need to be be aware that the home port is being handled by Backbone, the same assholes who managed to ruin Contra on XBLA. They’ve killed before and they’ll kill again. If you buy this then sooner or later someone will slip up and let Backbone handle something important, like The Ninja Warriors Again or Cybernator.

SHOVELWARE 2010 RETROSPECTIVE SPOTLIGHT: ACTIVISION

All the Call of Duty games in the world won’t do you any good when you willingly put your name on this:

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Big Red Coat Game of the Year 2010

Posted by nfinit on December 8, 2010

There are several games that were released this week that you should never play.  Instead, let’s talk about everything  could be playing right now if Black Ops wasn’t rotting your mind instead.

PRESENTING THE BIGREDCOAT GAME OF THE YEAR 2010.  HARDCORE GAMES.  BECAUSE BROS CAN GO SUCK IT.

FAIR WARNING: STUFF I DIDN’T PLAY

Game That Would Probably Be GOTY If I Hadn’t Bought New Vegas Instead:  Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Game That I’d Buy a System For (Again):  Dragon Quest IX

Game Most Likely to Force Me into Reassembling My PSP:  Persona 3 Portable

Game That Makes Me Wish Nintendo Would Go Third Party  Already So I Don’t Have To Buy a Friggin’ Wii:  Super Mario Galaxy 2

Game That Gets To Wait Until I’m Finally Bored With Forza 3:  Gran Turismo 5

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STUFF THAT DIDN’T COME OUT THIS YEAR BUT I PLAYED THIS YEAR ANYWAY. (Gamestop Used Bin Game of the Year Awards)

Game of the Year from Last Year:  Assassin’s Creed 2

I don’t think I’ve ever mislead myself about a game’s quality as I did Assassin’s Creed 2.  It turns out Ubisoft Montreal (and more specifically lead designer Patrice Desilets) didn’t just deliver on the sliver of promise behind the plodding, dull Assassin’s Creed I, but improved the original game in such a far-reaching fashion that it’s difficult at first glance to tell they’re from the same franchise.

Not only is Assassin’s Creed II the best 3d platformer I’ve played in years; it’s probably also the best stealth game I’ve played this generation–admittedly that’s not hard to do when the only other stealth games were the first Assassin’s Creed and the two interminable Splinter Cell games, but still.  Plus the combat didn’t suck, although it’s still clearly the weak point of the series (provided you ignore everything that happens while you’re not playing as Ezio.)

And you know the fucked up pa?  I’ll probably have this exact same discussion next year when I finally get around to playing Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

Game that Defined My Year:  Persona 4

Okay yeah, this came out two years ago.   It’s still the only JRPG I’ve sat down and finished since the very first Suikoden on the PS1, and the 120+ hour long save game file I amassed over the Summer  served as gaming comfort food as forlornly shuffled through Craigslist looking for a new roommate.

Admittedly I’ve not kept up with the JRPG scene since dropping out of college, so I may be talking out of my ass, but is no one  else alarmed that the current console generation has yet to see a definitive JRPG release, or is it time we all admit that the genre’s future is the handheld and Dragon Quest 9 is the best we’re going to see for a long, long while?

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THINGS WE WERE SURE WOULD BE IN THIS CONVERSATION LAST DECEMBER

Soul Crushing Disappointment of the Year:  Game Room

Remember when Game Room was first talked about by Microsoft and how the entire project started as a way to bring the Dreamcast library to XBLA?  Remember the promises of a n easily-accessible virtual museum dedicated to showing off the evolution of the gaming art?  Remember how we were promised a new game release every day, even if that game was something utterly obscure like Gateway to Apshai, but that’s okay because the next day could bring you an arcade-perfect Joust complete with leader board integration and custom challenges from your friend list through Ranked Mode?  Remember how there were no further games released for over a month after it’s launch?  Remember how almost all those games were some godawful 2600 castoff or a Konami arcade game no one really liked or an Intellivision game that really wasn’t suited to the 360 at all?  Remember how games weren’t released every day, but instead every Tuesday we’d get a pack of seven games instead?  Remember how some weeks most of the games didn’t have Ranked Mode at all?  Remember the day there were only five games?  Then three?  Then there was like two weeks without any games at all?  Remember that week where the three games released were all from Intellivision?  Remember how it’s been six months since we’ve had Game Room and we’ve yet to see anything outside of  the 2600 and Intellivision and ancient Konami arcade titles?

Finally remember how Sega finally said “screw it; we’re selling Crazy Taxi on XBLA and PSN?”

Yeah.  Fuck you, Game Room.

Most Irrelevant System Exclusive of the Year:  God of War 3

You now remember that God of War 3 was somehow released in 2010 and not sometime prior to the Obama administration.

Game Most Unfairly Damaged By It’s Own Release Date:  Mass Effect 2

Did no one at Bioware think maybe it’d be a bad idea to release it’s two biggest titles of this console generation three months apart with nothing to follow up with the following Christmas?  Would anyone really have been all that bummed to have had more time given polishing up Mass Effect 2, maybe adding something resembling a workable RPG and less of a 40 hour long Gears of War campaign?

That said, ME2 wasn’t an awful game.  In fact, now that I have time to think back on Mass Effect 2 I rather like it, despite being disappointed that Bioware had largely abandoned the RPG industry by the time of it’s release.  But Mass Effect2 came out so early in the year that it’s rather hard to imagine it will be in any serious GOTY discussion– which is probably just as well, Vanquish wound up being a better Gears game and New Vegas was the better Western RPG experience.

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ALTERNATE UNIVERSE GAMES OF THE YEAR

GOTY:  1982:  Pac-Mex

I’ve talked about this a bit in the Nitrobeard podcast, but nothing can get you into that dilated-eyes, shallow-breathing, sweaty-palmed, I-don’t-care-that-the-house-is-on-fire-I’m-doing-something-important zone quicker than thirty seconds of Pac Man CE DX.  Well that and freebasing moth balls.

GOTY:  1992:  Super Meat Boy

You will never love anything as much as Edmund McMillen hates your ego.  God bless this man.

GOTY:  2002:  Afterburner Climax

Doesn’t this seem like the sort of early 2000’s arcade game fans would have begged Sega to release on the Dreamcast only to see it come out in the first wave of third party releases instead?

Okay yeah, it’s a stretch and I needed to keep the joke going.  But still, this is easily the best Sega arcade game — and possibly best first-party Sega game period– to come out in over a decade.  If AM2 still exists and is capable of putting out something like this, where’s our Space Harrier revival already?

GOTY:  2012:  Just Cause 2

This game was So.  Fucking.  Close.  to being the best sandbox game ever; only the utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a storyline kept it out of the running for a legit Game of the Year nod.  As it stands it’s basically a bunch of standalone faction missions with a tenuous plot holding everything together.  Not that you pay attention to plot in a game where the prime game mechanic involves attaching dudes to propane tanks before setting the tank alight and propelling the dude into the stratosphere; but still.  At least the Red Faction: Guerrilla made the token effort including a story with more than twelve lines of dialog.  Just Cause 2’s story felt like it was developed by a random number generator set to  “Dubious Spanish Gibberish”.

At some point Eidos is going to bring all the disparate parts of Just Cause 2 together and remember to build a videogame around it.  Here’s to 2012.

Game I’m Trying Very Hard To Fall In Love With Despite All Evidence Otherwise:  Vanquish

So admittedly I’ve only owned this for roughly a week, but should a Gears clone be this goddamned complicated?  I’m dreadfully afraid of opening up a weapon upgrade crate for fear of instead of throwing a hand grenade into my own face.  Also for a game that touts arcade-fast gameplay you sure do spend a lot of time cowering behind cover waiting for your dash attack/bullet time meter to recharge.

That said, I’m roughly five hours in and I can see where Shinji Mikami is trying to get to.  Given another week I’d probably have it listed somewhere with the next group; but right now it’s not nearly as fluid as Bayonetta while not quite as cathartic as Gears.

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THE CONTENDERS

GOTY 2 Years ago Still Counts, Right?:  Fallout New Vegas

The only failing New Vegas ha is that we all played this same game two years ago, only without good writing.  Otherwise everything else you love from Fallout Three is still there, and even the stuff you didn’t really love, like innumerable gameplay glitches and the creaking Gamebryo graphical engine.

Fallout 3 was good enough for my Game of the Year in 2008, but 2010 has been a stupidly good year for games.  New Vegas doesn’t really improve upon the Fallout 3 formula aside from Obsidian’s typically stellar writing and mission structure– which is remarkable, as Obsidian didn’t have time to include any new crippling glitches, even if it’s obvious an emphasis was given to voice cast over quality assurance.

Gameplay King of the Year:  Bayonetta

Yes, the story is silly, yes it’s exploitative at best and tawdry at worst, and yes the characterization is downright silly.  That said.  No game released this year played as fluidly as Bayonetta; no game this year gave as much immediate sense of control as Bayonetta; no game made you feel as much of a badass as Bayonetta and in pure gameplay terms perhaps nothing released since Ninja Gaiden in 2004 can touch it.

What’s more, Hideki Kamiya has crafted a love letter to Sega itself; the game is littered with references to past Sega glories as well as outright gameplay inspirations from classics like Super Hang-On and Space Harrier.  Even better, the game utilizes a purely Sega ranking system, giving grades at the end of every mission, encouraging you not to just slog through to the finish, but to become better at playing Bayonetta.  This is the first game in years that I’ve sat down and immediately played through after finishing it, and after playing through the second time I immediately completed the game a third and fourth time just to see if I was good enough to beat the game on it’s absolute most difficult setting.  And I’m not.  Yet.

So if Bayonetta does everything so well; if it’s a revolution in gameplay and control, why not just stop here?  It’s obvious if Gameplay Is King, then Bayonetta is our leggy, leather-clad queen, right?

Well, the problem is, gameplay might not be everything, and this exits:

Everything Not Directly Related to Gameplay GOTY:  Red Dead Redemption.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say that RDR’s gameplay sucks.  It doesn’t, but it’s not great.  It’s very much a Rockstar game, and if you’re used to that clunky, slightly disconnected feel, you’re not really going to mind the gameplay all that much.  I dropped over a hundred hours into Red Dead and thus became a bit attached to the gameplay; and while nothing Rockstar does can fairly be called a “good action game”, it mates well with the level of freedom offered in RDR.  Simply put I’m not sure if you can create a sandbox game that plays better than RDR, and if anyone were capable of doing so it’d be Rockstar.

This is the first game in years that I simply didn’t want to end.  The characters were too good, the story was too good, the writing was too good.  I didn’t want to leave this world and it’s people behind.  The last time I remember this happening to me was near the end of Chrono Trigger.  You might not be happy with the way the characters acted all the way through, but they acted consistently and logically with the story Rockstar wanted to tell, and that’s the important part.  No one in the industry makes you feel for a character more than these guys; even when your character is acting like an obvious idiot as he’s being shuffled around among power brokers in early 1900’s Mexico.

If games are ever going to grow into something more than an extension of the early 80’s arcade industry, we’re going to need more games like Red Dead Redemption.  Let’s hope we can get there without losing the Bayonettas of the gaming world.
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THE WINNER: BIG RED COAT 2010 GAME OF THE YEAR AWARD: 

Bayonetta.

I hemmed and hawed my way between Red Dead Redemption and Bayonetta– in truth New Vegas wasn’t really in the picture with the other two; the current console generation didn’t really need a second Fallout 3, at least not this quickly.

In the end, it came to this.  DLC and expansions aside, I’m probably never going to touch Red Dead Redemption again.  It told it’s story and I’m happy with that.  I don’t need to go back there, at least not until Rockstar is ready to tell the next chapter in the Marston story.  Bayonetta is the sort of game I’m going to replay at least once a year until my launch-window 360 eventually  melts into a puddle of plastic goo and toxic fumes, and the very next day I’ll shop for a new 360 Slim so I can play Bayonetta again one day.  The list of games I can think of that I’d do that for is very short indeed, and it consists of Symphony of the Night, Joust, Bayonetta, and very little else.  It’s that good.

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