So we’re almost at the end of our week-long celebration of 2010 and we’ve enjoyed it immensely. We picked our favorite games from DSiWare to Wii, Noah gave a moving speech about how much he’s looking forward to Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright on 3DS next year and Mr. Hsieh and Mr. Tidman left the party with their pockets full of thieved canapes. Roll on 2011, we say!
But while we look to the future and drink in all the spectacle of announcing our top games of the year, we risk forgetting the other games that frustrated us, surprised us and moved us in the past twelve months. Sure, they may not have been as perfect or universally acclaimed as the few prestigious titles that are currently being swamped with a landslide of awards, but they brought us pleasure and surely that’s all that matters, right? Read on to find out which games our staff thought deserved a bit more love than they ended up receiving.
Monster Hunter Tri was the first game in the Monster Hunter series I’d ever played, and since then, I’ve been hooked. I guess it’s kind of difficult to describe, but the visceral goal of being able to capture monsters that tower over you like skyscrapers (or, more often, kill them and turn them into armor– this is a game that PETA hates) is, well, very thrilling. I can’t say anything about Tri in the context of the series, having not played any of the others, but I can say that Monster Hunter Tri, with its robust multiplayer and really-friggin’-hard-but-really-addictive gameplay– as well as its MMORPG-style questing and hunting format– took up way too much of my time in 2010. (It’s got droprates, for goodness’ sake– in trying to get the 6.4% or whatever drop for Rathian Plate, I got enough Rathian Scales to build my own Rathian.) But trust me when I say that it was all very, very enjoyable.
On a somewhat lesser note (that is, a game that I liked but didn’t spend hundreds of hours on), I also greatly enjoyed Ivy the Kiwi?, which I said was actually quite an enjoyable game despite comparisons to Yoshi Touch and Go or Kirby Canvas Curse that made it out to be some kind of impostor. Well, Ivy ain’t no impostor. The fact that, for example, the game is multiplayer even in single-player mode (meaning other players can help or hinder your progress in the story), is one huge difference; the fact that the visuals are so inspired by old storybooks and thus incredibly charming is another. Ivy the Kiwi?, like Monster Hunter Tri, is kind of grueling sometimes (if not most of the time), and can very easily make the player want to throw the controller at the screen– but it’s also addictive in that Mega Man manner. Besides, the plight of that poor kiwi crying for her mother is just too sad to pass up. You really feel like you need to bring this (somewhat dimwitted) kiwi to her mom– and it just goes to show how brilliant Yuji Naka is that he was able to make this game so simple, yet so annoyingly (yet charmingly) addictive at the same time.
I probably played more video games than ever in 2010, probably owing to an extreme increase in essay-writing (more essays = more video game time), but Monster Hunter Tri and Ivy the Kiwi? are definitely two of the best, despite their seemingly endless attempts to increase my level of murderous rage. Or perhaps it’s actually because of those attempts. I don’t know anymore– I just want to hunt some monsters and save some kiwis.
While I’m very happy with our choices for the best games of 2010, here’s to you, Super Mario Galaxy 2. I think the entire gaming community has celebrated a lot of games that were very successful yet didn’t try to do new things. Now I’m not trying to say there’s anything wrong with the likes of Mario or HeartGold & SoulSilver or any of the other games we chose as our top picks but they were all very… safe, weren’t they? Galaxy 2 was very good because Nintendo is excellent at making platform games. Dragon Quest IX was also very impressive because Square Enix knows how to make a fabulous RPG. But neither of these games tried to break the mold; instead, they actually reinforced the mold of what we think a good game should be.
While very few games did trailblaze past their competition and shatter the expectation of gaming in 2010, a fair few gave it their best shot despite their limitations. Games that, while not completely perfect, still tried to push the boat out with new things and took real risks which I fear we may not have credited as much as we could have in the past twelve months.
Only managing to scrape the shortlist for Nintendojo’s Wii game of the year, Sin and Punishment: Successor to the Skies brought back a Japanese-only relic from the bowels of Nintendo’s history and made a furious arcade shooter that had more than a few tricks up its sleeve. The moment my mouth first dropped was in the opening video sequence when the characters started talking– yes, voice artists in a Wii game! While the visuals may not have been as polished as they could have been, the voice work would have been impressive on any console and worked well with the game’s fiendish difficulty, rather decent story and pleasing art direction.
Another title that tried to do new things but ultimately fell a bit flat was the highly anticipated, and bizarrely titled, Metroid: Other M. Taking female bounty hunter, Samus Aran, out of the isolated terrain of abandoned planets and spaceships and throwing her into the middle of a Space Federation case alienated fans badly enough but when Nintendo revealed that Team Ninja would be working on the video-sequence-heavy project, some just fell off their chairs in horror. “Samus talking!?” was the reaction of many a male gamer who had long admired the kick-butt heroine but had never assumed she had anything worth saying.
The clash of Samus’ newly formed personality and a less than mind blowing gameplay experience, normally a hallmark of the Metroid series, left Other M out in the cold somewhat, more than likely suggesting that Nintendo will return to the bounty hunter’s stoic roots for her next adventure. This is a shame because most gamers spend half their day complaining about how games are all becoming too stale and similar, and then end up bashing anything that tries to do something different and doesn’t completely achieve it. While Other M was Nintendo’s first foray into the world of big budget storytelling, I certainly hope it won’t be their last.
Ah, Donkey Kong Country Returns, the best Wii game I’ve played this year (I have not played enough of Super Mario Galaxy 2 to make a judgment, before you ask), and terribly underrated in our 2010 awards. To be fair, most of our staff has not gotten the chance to get too much in depth with the amazing reboot, but I think I can speak for Nintendojo when I say this is an excellent game. Excellent. My experience didn’t start off so well, though.
When I first discovered Cranky Kong’s shop during my first half hour with with the game, I wasn’t the happiest player. “Oh, these must be for the younger kids and casual gamers,” I snobbishly proclaimed to myself in reference to the amount of extra lives one could buy with the ample amount of coins they discover in various levels. I bought some lives anyway, and lost more than 10 of them thereafter in one of those insane mine cart levels. Donkey Kong Country Returns will slap the elitist “hardcore” jerk right out of you, and is undoubtedly one of the hardest games of 2010. It’s the polar opposite of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and proof that old-school, punishing, yet ultimately rewarding game design has not completely died yet. Don’t let all this discourage you though; the game is still very welcoming to newcomers as well as vets, with the return of the Super Guide from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Completing the game won’t take you more than eight hours, but going back and collecting every item and exploring every nook and cranny of the levels will.
Other than Donkey Kong Country Returns, I haven’t played many other great games this year that weren’t already represented in our awards. Ignoring the omission of Donkey Kong (I forgive you guys), I think we picked a great bunch to represent what will go down in history as a great year in gaming. Hats off to another!
2010 was very kind to both Wii and DS. Each platform saw a number of highly-anticipated releases over the course of these past twelve months, but for every system-seller there was a smaller gem that got lost in the shuffle. DSiWare in particular saw a lot of great little titles join its ranks this year, and my favorite of them would have to be Spotto!
Puzzle games do not normally tickle my fancy, but there was something undeniably addictive about this one. You play as a bombardier duck commissioned by the president to rescue his daughter (who was, for some reason, kidnapped by ghosts). They take her back to their mansion, and from there the game challenges you to clear its 50+ rooms by hurling your explosives into the open mouths of the ghosts within. The title’s difficulty stems from how you complete this objective: the trajectory of your bombs is controlled by a dial, and you must adjust it to the correct angle so that your bombs will ricochet off of walls and other obstacles and into your targets. It’s a perfect pick-up-and-play kind of game, and for a mere 200 points the title is a steal.
WiiWare, too, had its fair share of standouts this year, but one title I’m sure nobody has played is Snowpack Park. Developed by Skip Ltd. (which should be readily apparent if you’ve seen the title in motion), Snowpack Park is best described as the wintry lovechild of Pikmin and Animal Crossing. Your avatar travels to the titular reserve to play with the penguins that live there, but a violent blizzard has swept through and driven them all away. Your task is to travel to the various portions of the park and retrieve as many penguins as you can. Once they are returned to the hub area, you can engage in a number of activities with them: if you feed and pet them, they will become fond of you, even following you around the park as you walk, and there is a handful of mini-games you can play with them (in one particularly bizarre example, you use the penguins as basketballs and try to score as many points as you can within a set time limit). It may not be the best WiiWare has to offer, but there is enough quirky charm in the game, especially if you’re a fan of Skip’s previous output, to make it a worthwhile purchase.
M. Noah Ward
Did I mention how much I love Tatsunoko vs. Capcom yet? Well, I did on the last podcast (episode #124) a couple times, and the game did get a kind-of, runners-up award for best Wii game. But still– the game rocks, and I feel it needs more love. PS3/360-esque visuals and animation, simple but in-depth gameplay and enough Japanese flavor to qualify it practically as an import. And decent online play! You don’t have it yet? …Why?
Moving along, I also don’t want great WiiWare titles to get lost in the shuffle. Yes, I love Fluidity (I have a whole stable of dead horses to beat), but I also recommend ArtStyle: light trax (it’s Tron and Snake and dizzying and meditative!) as well as Max and the Magic Marker. light trax is notable for its ’80s-simple visuals that at first seem Plain Jane but then abruptly change from a 2D perspective to something 3D with depth, and you’re dazzled. Plus, the concept of playing a racer without truly worrying about steering and acceleration the way you always do in racing games will also turn your world on end.
Max and the Magic Marker is a physics puzzler/platformer with charming and crisp comic book-like visuals and a catchy, acoustic soundtrack straight out of Toy Story and, at times, Baton Rouge. This is a game that Wii was made for: drawing seesaws, boulders, bridges and umbrellas with your remote is intuitive, and the game’s a lot more challenging and meaty than its cheerful presentation would suggest.
As for Wii retail offerings, Sonic Colors and Guilty Party definitely deserve your consideration. Sonic Colors has some of the best graphics on Wii, hands-down, and the soundtrack’s so hyper-cheery you may be unable to resist bouncing to the beat. The script is frequently funny (on purpose!), the voice acting much better than expected, and the game’s rife with epic moments and level design that will instantly recall Super Mario Galaxy 2 to mind. While Sonic’s latest offering isn’t as polished as Mario’s (and what games are?), that it’s so much fun, challenging and better than any 3D Sonic game in probably a decade, it’s definitely worth your attention.
Guilty Party is remarkable for being a Disney title that won’t make you cringe if you’re over 13, in spite of what appears like a kids-centric wrapper. It sports quality character design, animation, voice acting and music. Yes, it’s got a bushel of minigames that tend to get repetitive after many hours of gaming, but Guilty Party earns its stripes on the fact that it’s a party game that actually evolves beyond the derivative, carbon-copy formula we’ve been swallowing in every Mario and Wii Party (and their non-Nintendo rip-offs) for years. With exciting locations (complete with secret passages!), over-the-top suspects and detectives, and a challenging set of mysteries that are intuitively solved with interrogations and gathered clues, this party’s always a winner.
Nintendo fans have really been spoiled this year when it comes to role playing games. A long time has passed since Nintendo consoles received two main numbered entries in established RPGs within the span of a year. In 2010, Nintendo fans got Monster Hunter 3: Tri on Wii, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies on DS. But I think a lot of Nintendo fans are forgetting about another main entry in an RPG series that they received in 2010, and the game that series belongs to is Shin Megami Tensei.
Dragon Quest IX was receiving a lot of attention because it was the first new Dragon Quest entry to be released on a Nintendo console since Dragon Quest VI on the Super Famicom, but you could say the same thing about Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. There are many games that fall under the “Shin Megami Tensei” umbrella, but there are only four games in the main series, and five if you count Shin Megami Tensei: If…, which is a side story. Therefore, the last time a main entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series graced a Nintendo platform was in 1994, with Shin Megami Tensei II, also for the Super Famicom.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is the fourth main entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, and is exclusive to the Nintendo DS. It offers a level of depth and detail that few RPGs do. In Strange Journey, a portal has opened over Antarctica, and it is up to you to close it. As you explore, you convince demons to join you, and make decisions that will alter the rest of your game. In Strange Journey, your decisions actually matter, and will influence events later in the game. If you love RPGs and have a DS, this game is for you.
This will likely come as a no-brainer to any of my fellow staffers but two games (of one series) that have a special place in my heart this year are Art Style: Rotozoa and Art Style: light trax. What can I say? I’m a sucker for games that kick ass, take names, have a simple concept and brilliant execution.
The Art Style series has been a “silent killer” on the WiiWare front, receiving seemingly little attention despite providing the best the DLC platform has to offer. While the entries in the series may not achieve the absolute greatness that Super Mario Galaxy 2 has (but then again, what can?), they certainly embody what I want in a game: they’re fun.
Visually, they’re beautifully. Aurally, they’re haunting. Great games of a great series– hopefully Nintendo won’t let this series bite the dust, and we’ll see some great entries on the 3DS as well.
One of the top games of the year has to be Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii, a superb homage to the beloved Donkey Kong Country trilogy of the ’90s. When I think what I like most about the Donkey Kong Country series, it boils down to the wealth of secrets. Some of them take so long to find, and it’s so much fun to send Donkey Kong on kamikaze missions in hopes of finding a secret barrel down a huge pit. Thankfully, Donkey Kong Country Returns delivers this gameplay in spades.
And that’s where you will likely have your most enjoyment. Nothing compares to the enjoyment derived from scouring a level, every last nook and cranny of it, to find the goodies and secrets. Of course, the platforming is top-notch, and every level will give a lot of challenge and variety (Rambi the rhino returns!). In fact, you will probably lose dozens of lives just playing through the game. If you’re looking for hidden objects, however, you will lose more lives than you can fathom, but the satisfaction of acing a level makes it all worth it.
I didn’t get a chance to play many Wii games this year (because my Wii was thousands of miles away for months), barring Super Mario Galaxy 2. That game was undeniably fantastic and diverse, and it was enjoyed immensely. But Donkey Kong Country Returns tugs at my heartstrings more than Galaxy 2, because I have loved the Donkey Kong Country series (including the excellent Donkey Kong Land cousin series for Game Boy) ever since I played my first game at age six. (Don’t get me wrong; my love for side-scrolling Mario games goes very , very deep.)
So Donkey Kong Country Returns is worthy of anyone’s attention, and the intense challenge of the game doesn’t hinder it in the least—in fact, it’s a huge boon to the experience. But remember: playing through the levels isn’t enough. You have to scour those levels for everything. It’s definitely one of the best games of 2010.
Now it’s your turn! What games that narrowly missed a Best of 2010 award do you think are worth your fellow Dojo-ites’ time? Tell us in the comments below.