10 January 2011

The Game of the Decade Past

A new decade and games are getting better and better, aren't they? Er... not exactly. For every Mass Effect, there are dozens of lacklustre rehashes of safe and sound so-called hits. "Hey, you said Mass Effect! Then Mass Effect 2 surely must be the game of the past decade (2000-2010, that is), given how much you have babbled about it here!". Close, but no cigar. Bioware is the developer of the decade for sure. No one can beat their track record, including classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age and of course, both Mass Effects. "Okay then... but the game of the decade must still exist on the current generation of consoles anyway?". Nope. In fact, that game was released as far back as 2001 on PS2 and that game is...

Bare. Unpretentious. Beautiful. Enchanting. Ico broke the boundaries between art and games, a feat no game has surpassed. Ico created an emotional sounding board, born from an unlikely friendship. The game doesn't tell why this outcast kid with horns was thrown into a castle of mist simply to die. Nor does it tell why there is an imprisoned girl, all stone-white and delicate. When they meet, the game turns from what could have easily been just one of the many have-seen-it-all 3D-adventures of the time into a tale of untouched beauty, where no words are needed, and the little speech there is in an imaginary language. There's no romance, no kisses. Just the boy and the girl, these kids, unselfishly helping each other to escape. And there is no love greater than that. Presented in an ethereal lighting and music, the ruined castle and its immediate surroundings is the only world they know, with shadowy creatures on their heels and the puzzles the haunting place presents in every step on their way out.

And when the game ends, it's all up to you to decide what happened. Did they survive? Did they die? I can't tell anything more because there are tons of people who missed this gem and who has yet to answer the question themselves. Soon there is no excuse to overlook the game anymore, at least for PS3 owners, as an HD-remake along with Shadow of the Colossus, also made by Team ICO, will be released this year on PS3.

 pictures scanned from the European release game box and postcards within

1 January 2011

Games of the Year 2010

Best RPG: Mass Effect 2
I think this was more than obvious. It's not about throwing dices behind the curtain, filling the inventory with dozens of equipment, or adding points to gazillion of skills you probably won't ever use. It's about you, the choices you are allowed to make. That's the beauty of it; you are commander Shepard.

Old friends, been through hell and more.

Best adventure game: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition
I think it tells something about the strength of the game, its storyline, humor, characterization and the puzzles, that MI2 is in fact 19 years old game and still can grab this award easily in 2010 A.D. Lavish HD treatment aside, the core of the game is just as good as it was upon its original release all those years ago.

Best fighting game: Super Street Fighter IV
Okay. I suck in online play at SSFIV. It's the damn balance issue... (or maybe that's just a bad excuse :P) But the gameplay mechanics, the immerse depth to it despite of superficial simplicity, make SSFIV stand head and shoulders above other fighting games. And the game adds one of the most fresh, fierce and original characters ever in a fighting game to the roster; a Korean meanie Han Juri. Phwoar!

You know, Juri is a kind of girl who gives you the best sex of your life. And then kills you.

Best platformer: Blade Kitten
Very much scolded in gaming media but in reality a nifty little platformer. Blade Kitten doesn't take the usual approach to platformers, that is to copy everything from Nintendo, but feels more like a polished Amiga game in the vein of Superfog, Assassin and such, which is not a surprise as the lead designer and the graphics supervisor started his career in Amiga scene back in the 90's. It's also his own web comic Blade Kitten is based on. And Kit Ballard is such a pussycat, with attitude... meow!

"See that? Totally not a man!"

Best downloadable game: Faery - Legends of Avalon
When you think something sweet, you usually get an excessive feeling of sugar rush in your taste buds. But Faery has a different kind of sweet taste, not icky or sickly at all. An alternative to the usual carnage on offer, Faery is a charming and cute RPG in the style of older Final Fantasies. Instead of angst-ridden, spiky-haired, androgynous teens though, you fly around a lush 3D-world with sweet little forest folk straight out of collective fairytales and folkore, all fused together into a world of its own, brimming fantastic characters and events. Turn-based, simple combat comes as a blessing after such convoluted disasters as the fighting mechanics in FFXIII. Get credits and download it today!

Character upgrade screen with my cutey pie fairy.

Best graphics: Mass Effect 2
In movie terms, an astounding set design, retro lightning mimicing optical effects with halos and glares, and effectively used hand-held camera in the more action-orientated cut scenes make Mass Effect 2 look more credible than most sci-fi films which nowadays look more artifical than they did when everything was done by hand or on camera. Lets not forget the character models either which look real but still stylized, and the real-time lighting and shadows which lively illuminate and mask the scenes instead of preset spotlights.

Point proven.

Best audio: Mass Effect 2
The music mixing Vangelis and other synth pop into a soundscape which still has a voice of its own liven up Commander Shepard's galaxy saving team like in no other game at the moment. Add high-quality voice acting and stellar sound effects to the mix and there's absolutely no dull moment in ME2's rich audio texture.

Honorable mention for visual achievement: Enslaved - Odyssey to the West
Where Ninja Theory's impressive debut Heavenly Sword drew its influences from sweeping Asian wushu epics, making it beautiful and breathtaking experience and three years and more counting, still the best looking game on PS3, Enslaved takes its visual cue from French sci-fi comics with broken colors (green married to red and such), over-exposed lightning and decadent, majestic landscapes. It's always a pleasure to look at, and Monkey and Trip look real, something you can care for.

Er... I can see your buttcrack...

Best voice actress (lead): Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 2)
See, I'm not absolytely biased to ME2 in any way. Really I'm not. Jennifer Hale just is the best voice actress in the business at the moment. She's your commander Shepard, someone who has had harsh times behind her and more harsh times in front, always keeping cool, and being tough or compassionate whichever the script (and your choices in the context) calls for.

The battle of wills.

Best voice actor (lead): Andy Serkis as Monkey (Enslaved - Odyssey to the West)
Yeah, a brute with a heart like Monkey sounds like all too common a cliche but Andy Serkis, here harsh but soft-spoken, makes Monkey feel like a real person. It seems mr. Serkis takes his business 100% seriously whatever he's doing, be it a movie, a TV series or a game.

Game of the Year: Mass Effect 2
No further comments ;) If you thought there would have been some other game here, you haven't been reading my blog!

I'm simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone...

And the rest of the best:
Best character: Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 2)
Best NPC: Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Best voice actress (supporting): Kym Hoy as Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Best voice actor (supporting): Michael Beattie as Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2)
Best electronic pop fused with vangelisque ambience: Tali's theme (Mass Effect 2)
Best title tune: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition
Hottest ass: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Best thighs: Chun-Li (Super Street Fighter IV)
Best quote: "How 'bout goodbye? (female renegade Shepard after pushing a mercenary through the window in Mass Effect 2)
Best villain: Ghost pirate LeChuck AKA Chuckie (Monkey Island 2 Special Edition)
Most bad-ass attitude: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Hottest perhaps lesbian, perhaps cannibalistic Korean meanie: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Hottest Japanese girl with penchant for kleptomania: Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Hottest half-feline, half-human heroine: Kit Ballard (Blade Kitten)
Most handsome game hero: Ilkka Villi as Alan Wake in, er, Alan Wake