Archives for category: Nintendo 3DS

Sonic 25th anniversay
After much teasing and dropping of hints, Sega have finally announced what’s next for Sonic the Hedgehog in this, his 25th year. The Blue Blur will be speeding through 2017 in not one but two new games, with the retro-inspired Sonic Mania set to launch next Spring and a new main series entry, currently called Project Sonic 2017 due later in the year.

The two games were announced at Sonic’s birthday party at San Diego Comic Con, which was also streamed live on Twitch and YouTube. Unfortunately for those of us at home, the stream was a bit of a mess; it started much later than advertised, and then suffered persistent audio problems, with sound occasionally dropping out entirely. In fact, the stream was so buggy that one wondered if the surprise announcement would be a straight port of Sonic 06.

Thankfully we were spared the horror of that alternate reality. So let’s look at the first of these new games, Sonic Mania. As if to appease those fans that are constantly calling for a more classic Sonic experience, Sonic Mania looks like a lost Megadrive game, and development is being led by Christian ‘Taxman’ Whitehead, known among Sonic fandom for his work on ports of Sonics 1, 2 and CD, using his own Retro Engine. He was joined on-stage by head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka, who mentioned that along with all new levels (one of which, Studiopolis Zone, is shown off in the reveal trailer), classic levels will be present and remixed in the new game. Graphics, movement and momentum all look absolutely spot-on, as you’d expect from Whitehead, but beside fresh stages there’s also a new gameplay mechanic in the Drop Dash, which seems to allow you to initiate a spin dash in the air, zooming off as you hit the ground. It looks like it’ll be great for sudden changes in direction while maintaining momentum. Sonic Mania was playable at the event, so there’s already plenty of gameplay footage on YouTube, but for us mere mortals unable to attend the party itself, the new game is currently scheduled to launch on PC, PS4 and Xbox One next spring.

So we’ve got our classic, 2D Megadrive-y Sonic covered, what about Modern Sonic, I hear you cry? Well, held back until the very final moments of the party was a reveal trailer for Project Sonic 2017. Although Iizuka made a point of saying that the new game was not a sequel, but a “brand new experience”, it’s difficult not to see the game as Sonic Generations 2. Indeed, the trailer sets the scene by proclaiming, “From the team that brought you Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations” leading us to believe it’ll be a return to the successful ‘boost’ formula seen in those games, as we see Modern Sonic boosting, jumping and sliding. Moments later, he’s joined by Classic Sonic as the pair team up, just as in the hedgehog’s last anniversary game.

Fans have been hoping for a return to the playstyle of daytime-Unleashed/Colours/Generations for a good few years now, after both Lost World and spin-off Sonic Boom each failed to impress, but one thing that may give pause is the tone of the trailer. Opening on a devastated city (that looks suspiciously like the one from City Escape to me…) under attack from enormous automatons that look more than a little bit like Sonic 2‘s Death Egg Robot, the colour palette is muted, swamped in browns, and the final tagline of the trailer reads, “Join the Resistance.” Hmm. Hopefully the full game is not too self-serious, as that just doesn’t work very well for Sonic (you need only take a look at Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog or the aforementioned Sonic 06 for proof of that). I don’t think we’re going to be looking at a grimdark Sonic though – the last few franchise entries, even as far back as Unleashed, have been generally breezy, ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ affairs, and it feels like the people at Sonic Team now realize this is where the franchise needs to be. Project Sonic 2017 is slated for late next year, and will hit PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo NX.

Alongside the game reveals, the party was of course a general celebration of everything Sonic. We got a brief look at both Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice for the 3DS and the character’s appearance in Lego Dimensions, as well as a short clip from Season 2 of the well-regarded Boom cartoon; the cast even came out on stage to do a script reading, but unfortunately the stream rather annoyingly cut away from this. The tone was often completely, bafflingly, bonkers, with random interjections for such mundanity as a nacho tasting session from one of the sponsors, but it opened up to a rather half-hearted, lethargic set from Hyper Potions, complete with a lifesize, very Mikudayo-looking Sonic mascot who waddled onto the stage to throw some uncomfortable-looking shapes. Sonidayo later returned to the stage alongside Hello Kitty, for possibly the most inexplicable crossover you could imagine. It did, however, allow me to gif this.


Yep. Totally worth it.

Other than the games, the highlight of the night came when legendary Sega composer and Crush 40 guitarist Jun Senoue hit the stage to play some of the band’s Sonic themes. To be honest, it felt a little weird at first to see Senoue jamming along to a backing track, but I have to admit to grinning like an absolute loon when he started to play Escape from the City, encouraging the crowd to sing along, and when he followed that up with Open Your Heart, joined onstage by Crush 40 singer Johnny Gioeli, I was not at all surprised to find myself actually singing along. Well ok, not singing, as it was about 3:30 am, but mouthing the words, at least. It was a performance that lacked a bit of the energy you’d have got from a full band playing live, but it was still a great treat for the fans, especially those that love the music of the Sonic series. It must have been fun to be there in person.

This was an event by and for Sonic fans, and by all measures it was a massive success. As a Sonic fan, I’d have loved to have been there myself. However, the series still faces struggles in the wider market; Sonic remains a big brand in gaming, but the ‘Sonic Cycle’ is still in full effect, with the last two big games undoing all the good that Colours and Generations managed to do. With a return to a proper classic style of Sonic, as well as a game that looks to be expanding on those two excellent ‘boost’ games, it certainly looks like we’re on the upswing again. The only way it could be any better is if there was also a Sonic Racing 3 on the cards. Ooh, just imagine.

[Credit for Crush 40 live clips: W10002 on YouTube.]

A while back, I commented on Sega of Europe’s hesitance to announce localisations for their own games, and happily, we are now starting to see some movement in this area, as Sega and its subsidiary Atlus last week announced a partnership with Deep Silver to publish a number of titles in Europe.

Atlus fans can breathe a very large sigh of relief as, thanks to this deal, we’ll be getting both digital and physical releases for both Persona 5 and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (it’s worth remembering that the original SMTIV didn’t even receive a physical release in Europe). Surprisingly, Deep Silver have also picked up Sega’s 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, the third game in a series that has, until now, never seen a release outside of its home nation. This is great news in itself, as many were beginning to think that the 3DS title would never see release in Europe, despite now being out in the US.

Persona 5

Deep Silver’s press release mentions that the “…publishing deal will cover the wide array of future titles for both physical and digital versions across PAL territories,” so hopefully we’ll also get some more releases out of this development; one franchise conspicuous by its absence is the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series. The latest release, Project Diva X, hits American shelves next month, while Japan has just recently been treated to a lavish port of Future Tone, the previously arcade-only outing. While the latter is currently Japan-only, there’s been no word on whether we’ll see Diva X on European shores, so whether Sega plans to publish the game itself in this part of the world or ignore it completely is, unfortunately, unknown.

It’d be a shame if the game fails to see a release here, as it’s managed to establish itself, as well as the entire Vocaloid phenomenon, quite well so far – a digital-only PS3/Vita release of Project Diva f did well enough to earn a physical release for the sequel, again on PS3 and Vita, while the second game did well enough in turn to ensure a boxed release of Project Mirai DX on the 3DS. Given their deal includes 7th Dragon, I’m actually quite surprised there’s been no word on Project Diva X, assuming it was on the table, of course. It’s hard to imagine a situation where Deep Silver would pass up a reasonably established franchise in favour of picking up an unknown property that’s never left Japan, and thus will have to build a fanbase from scratch. Strange times, indeed.

7th Dragon III

Quite how it has come to this – with Sega of America and Atlus USA brokering a deal to get games out in Europe, while Sega of Europe apparently sits on its hands – is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t do much at all for those fans that feel SoE couldn’t care less about them, but I guess at least we’re going to be seeing releases – physical ones at that – actually make it out here. If it has to happen withough SoE’s involvement, so be it. Atlus at least has prior with Deep Silver, having partnered with them to bring 360/PS3 puzzler Catherine to Europe, so perhaps this earlier business relationship is what lead to the current state of affairs.

While it may be a bit odd, at least we now know we’ll be getting these games at some point, and that’s the most important thing to take from this turn of events. We’ll just have to pray for Miku.

Back in July, newly-appointed CEO of Sega Games Haruki Satomi admitted the company had some work to do: “I’ve been talking to the employees about how we should start putting serious consideration into quality from this point on,” Satomi told Japanese publication Famitsu. He added that Sega had learned a lot from its acquisition of Atlus, at least in terms of the western market, stating, “If we can make a title with proper quality, I believe there’s a good chance for it to do well even in the West for players that like to play Japanese games.”

At the time, many reacted with cynicism. There’s a weight of history that has conditioned people to expect little from Sega over the last decade and a half (which is probably a touch unfair, considering the undeniable quality of some of their releases over that period), which led to some passing the comments off as nothing more than lip service. However, recent signs seem to be suggesting that Sega may well be in danger of getting their act together.

First, November brought us news of both a remaster of the cult favourite PS3 strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles and a new entry in the series, entitled Valkyria: Azure Revolution, both for the PS4. Fans had long since given up any hope of seeing anything done with the series; except for a port of the first game to Steam back in November 2014, the franchise has seen no movement since the Japan-only PSP game, Valkyria Chronicles 3, which is now five years old. The last title we got in the west was the second game, also on PSP, which came out in 2010, so to say these developments came as a surprise is something of an understatement. So far, only the Valkyria Chronicles remaster, out now in Japan, has been announced for a western release. Hopefully, good sales will encourage Sega to localise Azure Revolution, too.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution

In early December we received confirmation of a western release for a new title in Sega’s evergreen Yakuza series, as Sony’s Gio Corsi took to the stage at PlayStation Experience 2015 to announce that Yakuza 0, a prequel to the main series set in 1988, would be making its way to PS4 in the west. It’s always good to get confirmation for localisations in the Yakuza series, as it has had something of a rough ride outside of Japan, with three (spin-off) instalments entirely MIA. The latest in the series, Yakuza 5, only made it to PS3 a couple of months ago – three years after its Japanese release, and even then only as a PSN download – while the recently-released Kiwami, a remake of the first game, and the forthcoming Yakuza 6 have both yet to be announced for localisation.

Then there was the more recent announcement of a retail release for the 3D Classics line, a collection of classic Sega Arcade, Master System and Megadrive games, including Thunder Blade, Fantasy Zone 2, Altered Beast and more, that have been releasing one at a time on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. There are two such collections in Japan, with only the second one set for release in the west, but hey, one is certainly an improvement over none, right?

And just last month there was news of yet another localisation, and this one is surely the most surprising of the lot. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is an RPG for the 3DS in a series that has never escaped Japan – especially galling for fans of Sega’s older RPG lines, as it’s produced by one Rieko Kodama, creator of Phantasy Star and Producer on Skies of Arcadia, and directed by Kazuya Niinou, director of the Etrian Odyssey series. Oh, and did I mention the series has music by Yuzo ‘Streets of Rage’ Koshiro? Yes, now you’re seeing why this is a big deal: to think there’s been an RPG series with that pedigree that we’ve been missing out on since 2009! Sega’s press release stressed that the game is a standalone title in the series, and as such newcomers can go into it completely fresh, which is rather handy.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as Sega may be learning from Atlus in more ways than one. “Atlus hates Europe” is pretty much its own meme at this point (seriously), and at this rate, “Sega hates Europe” may well end up being a thing, too; of those four games listed above, only one – Valkyria Chronicles Remastered – is currently confirmed for a European release, and considering the game has already been released here on PS3 and PC, it’s perhaps the least exciting of the bunch. Rather cruelly, the trailer shown for Yakuza 0 at PlayStation Experience appeared to confirm a European release, only for Sega to later clarify that it was an error, and that an EU release could not be confirmed.

Of course, the lack of European announcements doesn’t mean these games won’t be localised, but even so it’s not exactly encouraging. Still, at least in the case of any PS4 titles, while far from ideal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they do remain JP/NA-exclusive thanks to the PS4 being region free. The real issue is those 3DS games, thanks to that console’s region lock, and it’d be almost tragic in the case of 7th Dragon that the series would finally make it out of Japan, but still be unplayable for those of us in Europe. Perhaps it’s worth taking to Twitter to convince Sega Europe that we’d like these games, too.

At any rate, it’s good to see Sega are actually going to be making some new games that aren’t Sonic and Yakuza (though we can expect a new Sonic game this year for the franchise’s 25th anniversary), so let’s hope this is a sign of greater things to come.

Tomorrow, the sequel to one of the 3DS’ most celebrated jRPGs hits European shores, as Square Enix’s Bravely Second: End Layer lands on store shelves. Like Bravely Default before it, the sequel is also getting a deluxe collector’s edition, and because I bought that, I also bought this. Because I’m a sucker for limited editions.

So, what’s in the box? Well, it’s a similar deal to the first game, containing a large art book (the main draw for me), a figurine and a mini soundtrack CD alongside the game – there’s no pack of cards this time, however. One of the things that surprised me with the original game’s limited edition was the size of the box, and there’s little change here; while the box is a different shape, it’s still huge. Where am I going to put this thing!?

Bravely Second Deluxe Collector's Edition

Opening the box, we’re greeted with a lovely piece of black and white art of new character Magnolia on the inside lid, as well as a look at the game box, the soundtrack CD, and the miniature figurine of Agnes in a small box, all sitting in a cardboard tray. Lifting out this tray, we find the art book hiding underneath.

Bravely Second open box

Below, you can get a look at the full contents of the box, before we take a closer look at a couple of the items.

Bravely Second full contents

Probably the only complaint levelled at Bravely Default‘s collector’s edition was the quality of the included Agnes statue. While quite large and weighty (I believe it’s made of polystone), the paintjob was pretty messy, and it just didn’t really look like Agnes at all. That’s been fixed for Bravely Second; while the figurine is much smaller and made of plastic, it actually looks like Agnes, and is a much greater representation of both her in-game look and Akihiko Yoshida’s artwork. In the gallery below, you can see a comparison of the two, but here’s a close look at the figure itself.

Bravely Second Agnes figurine

Last up, here’s a look at the art book, the headline item as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, it’s not hardback like the original game’s book, however, we’re getting a much thicker tome this time, and it’s not just an art book. Here we have a full design works book, collecting production sketches and artwork from right across the game’s development. Included are the original Japanese notations, complete with English translations. I haven’t looked too deep into it for fear of spoilers, but a quick flick through suggests this book will be an absolute must have for fans. Also, upon opening it, we’re treated to that same piece of artwork of Magnolia that I mentioned earlier, only this time in glorious colour. See more, including a couple of comparisons with the original book, in the gallery at the end.

Bravely Second Design Works

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. Coming in a little cheaper than the original Deluxe Collector’s Edition, with a couple of definite improvements over some of the included items, it’s a nice treat for fans. Now I just have to find the time to play the game! For now, enjoy the gallery, and the game if you’re getting it this week.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call 3DS pouch
Today, the sequel to one of my favourite games of 2012 hits the 3DS. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call, to give it its full, unwieldy name, is the follow-up to Square-Enix’s rhythm-action Final Fantasy compendium, and it’s fit to bursting with more music, more characters, more modes and even more fanservice. I’m a sucker for pretty much anything FF, especially its music, so I was glad when Theatrhythm turned out so well. And I of course ordered the Collectors Edition of Curtain Call, which has just arrived. So let’s take a look at what you get in the box.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call collectors edition

It’s quite a large box for a 3DS game, and it’s pretty similar to the one Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn came in, with a sturdy box covered by a card slipcase. Inside is a collectors pouch for your 3DS emblazoned with the cast and logo, and unfortunately for me, it’s for a 3DS XL. I can still use it to store my launch model console, of course, but it won’t be a snug fit.

We’re also treated to five platinum CollectaCards of the kind found in the games. The pack of five contains Edgar from Final Fantasy V, Zack from Final Fantasy VII/Crisis Core, Yuna in her X-2 appearance, Final Fantasy XIV‘s Y’shtola and finally Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics. All the cards are double-sided, with character art on the front and a short bio on the reverse side. You can see the back of Zack’s card in the gallery below.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call CollectaCards

Finally, we have two CDs to listen to. The first of these is the same five-track remix CD that also comes with the cheaper limited edition version of Curtain Call, while the second is a 20-track ‘best of’ collection, which includes untouched music from across the series. These two discs come in the same jewel case, and you can see the full tracklisting for both in the gallery.

That’s it for collectors goodies, but printed on the manual is a note stating that those who’ve played the demo (like me!) will begin the game with some characters already unlocked and ready to go.

For £45, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got here. I’m about to get started and I can’t wait to spend another 90 hours on the new game. My 3DS is pretty much sorted for the next year.

BD_LEFULLToday sees beautiful 3DS RPG Bravely Default hit European store shelves, just over a year after its Japanese release (as Bravely Default: Flying Fairy), and as you can see from the image above, I decided to help myself to the European-exclusive Deluxe Edition. Help yourself and your eyes to some pics of the enormous box and its contents below.

I mentioned that the box was enormous, and it truly is. This is mostly to accommodate the full-size hardback art book. I’ve mentioned in other limited edition quick looks that I’d rather have a hardback art book, but Bravely Default‘s tome goes one better by being a full-blown book.
BRAVELY OPEN BOX

Other than the lovely art book (art from which you can see in the gallery at the bottom of this piece), the box also contains a figurine of Bravely Default‘s mage Agnes. What surprised me the most about the figure is that it’s not plastic – it feels like porcelain. I guess it could be made of polystone, but it doesn’t feel as ‘dense’ as statues made from that material tend to.
BD_AGNES

Also in the box is the game itself (of course), a pack of 34 AR cards (that I’ve yet to try out) and a lovely ten-track “mini-album” soundtrack with a beautiful piece of art on the cover.
BD_CONTS

The deluxe edition truly is a deluxe item; every part of it is lavishly-produced, from the big, solid presentation box, silver-foil art elements embossed on black, to the handpainted Agnes statue, and even the beautifully minimalistic soundtrack disc art (which you can see in the gallery), everything is beautifully made. I can kind of understand now why they were originally asking for £100 for it. Thankfully the price dropped almost immediately to £80, and I’m perfectly happy with what I’ve received for my money – I think it’s worth every penny.

Now I just need to find the time to play the game! Hopefully I’ll get to it before the just-announced sequel, Bravely Second, is released!

Enjoy some more images of the Bravely Default Deluxe Edition in the gallery below.

theatrhythmcharactersI’ve waxed lyrical about Theatrhythm before, Square-Enix’s curious little Final Fantasy-themed rhythm-action title that saw release on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. I suppose part of my love for it is that it’s as unexpected a candidate for a game of the generation as I could imagine. Even as a huge fan of Final Fantasy and its music, I never thought I’d put eighty-five hours into a handheld rhythm game.

In the run-up to Theatrhythm‘s Japanese release, I had more or less ignored it – it’s exactly the kind of game I’d expect to never make it out of its home territory. So I didn’t know a great deal about it until a demo landed on the 3DS e-store. I had expected it to be a relatively lightweight affair, and the demo didn’t do a great deal to dispel that, offering a choice of two tracks to prod along to (Final Fantasy VIII‘s ‘The Man with the Machine Gun’ and Final Fantasy XIII‘s ‘Sunleth Waterscape’). But this was just a short teaser of the full game; I wasn’t about to judge the full release on a demo alone, and I’d already long-since decided to buy it – it had Final Fantasy music in it, after all.

It was lucky I did. Theatrhythm is a deep, deep game.

So, for the uninitiated, the basics: Theatrhythm first tasks you with choosing a party of four iconic Final Fantasy characters, before embarking on one of three types of music stages. In Field stages, your first character strolls through an environment made up of areas from the game that the music comes from, so during the aforementioned ‘The Man with the Machine Gun’, you’ll see such familiar landmarks as Balamb Garden and Fisherman’s Horizon scroll past as a note chart comes at you from the left. Do well enough in a specific section of the chart and you’ll summon a chocobo to speed you through the stage. Battle stages look much like a Final Fantasy battle of old, with your team of four standing along the right side of the screen, with various monsters appearing as enemies to be vanquished by your performance across four lanes of note charts. Finally, Event stages are note charts set to a montage of emotional cutscene moments. Final Fantasy X‘s ‘Suteki da ne’ is a particular favourite of mine.

Each numbered-series title up to Final Fantasy XIII has its own ‘playlist’ consisting of one of each type of stage, and you can choose to either work through a game at a time in series mode, or pick and choose single tracks to play in challenge mode. However, this being a spin-off from an RPG series, there’s more going on than simply swiping your stylus through fun songs. Each character in your party accrues XP across all modes, increasing both their level and their base stats (strength, magic, agility and luck), as well as collecting equippable skills, items and equipment to help you out in a tough situation. Every character has strengths and weaknesses, which means you need to put some thought into choosing the ideal party for the game’s real challenge: The Chaos Shrine.

This is where you’ll play Dark Notes, special pairs of songs – one field track, one battle – that can be far harder than anything in the other modes (think superfast note charts with spinning arrow notes – you’ll need to figure out which way they’ll be pointing when they reach you!), and it’s through Dark Notes that you’ll get the rare item drops needed to unlock new player characters. Each time you finish a Dark Note you’ll unlock a new one, which will often feature tracks not found in the main game. This is the part of Theatrhythm that will propel your file time into the double-, if not triple-figures. Best of all, if you allow the game access to Streetpass, you might just pick up a new Dark Note from another player – I picked up a ton of them when I took my 3DS to last year’s Eurogamer Expo.

Visually, the game is a real treat. Environments are beautifully drawn and saturated in bright colours, and landmarks and battlefields are easily recognisable from their host games; in Final Fantasy X‘s battle stage you can even spot pyreflies dancing away in the background. But it’s the character designs that are the focus here, with all your favourite Final Fantasy heroes, villains and enemy monsters reproduced in a cute super-deformed art-style. Chibi-Terra is my personal favourite. A word of warning though: this is one 3DS game that I wouldn’t recommend playing with the 3D slider on. While it offers a nice bit of depth to the backgrounds, the note prompts sit on a separate plane on top. This means two separate ‘layers’ are displayed, both moving individually, and trying to focus on one and ignore the other can really wreck your eyes. On the plus side, turning off 3D means you can play Theatrhythm for longer.

The 3DS cart comes packed with more than 70 songs to play through and Square-Enix also supported the game with weekly DLC for a fair while. In all, 52 extra tracks were added and I bought them all. What’s interesting is that they saw fit to add in songs from both Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The latter has since been shunted to next-gen and renamed Final Fantasy XV, while Type-0 remains unreleased outside of Japan. Perhaps there’s hope yet for the PSP title.

Also stuffed onto the cart is a music player containing all the tracks in the game and a movie viewer, which allows us to watch those gorgeous cutscenes in all their glory, without the distracting note charts drawn all over them. Like the secret characters these all have to be unlocked, though in these cases via ‘Rhythmia’ – an ever-increasing total that you gather by doing well in the game. Also unlockable are ‘CollectaCards‘, effectively in-game ‘trading’ cards depicting characters and enemies. These cards cannot be traded between players, but can be levelled up by getting the same card a number of times as an item drop; at level four, cards become holofoil cards, and at level 7 they turn into platinums. In Theatrhythm, you’re always either unlocking something or working towards something, and it’s a great set of collectibles that keeps you playing for hours.

It’s not all about grinding out those collectibles though. Often, it’s the determination to get a perfect score on every song that brings me back to the game, and no doubt I’ll still be trying to nail down those ultimate perfects when the sequel, Theatrhythm Curtain Call, arrives with new songs, characters and even airships sometime in the indeterminate future.

Previous entries in Games of the Generation:
Dead Space 2
Tales of Vesperia
Halo 3

Square-Enix’s beautiful 3DS jRPG Bravely Default: Flying Fairy will definitely see a release in Europe.

The title had been the subject of much speculation since its Japanese release last October, but in a Nintendo Direct livestream this afternoon, Nintendo Europe president Satoru Shibata announced that the game will be released later this year in European territories, as well as showing off a subtitled trailer, below.

Crystals, airships, magic, CG cutscenes? It’s all looking a bit Final Fantasy. Indeed, other than the female protagonist’s likeness to Dagger, there have been screens doing the rounds for quite some time that remind me of the art style of Final Fantasy IX – a gorgeous game, as this one also looks to be. Bravely Default apparently has a battle system similar to Final Fantasy V, with its use of jobs, and it was well received in Japan, with Famitsu awarding the RPG a score of 38/40, calling it a “supreme game”.

bravely_default_ff_009

I’ve had my eye on it for quite some time, and was beginning to think that Square-Enix were going to pull a Type-0 on us. Thankfully, that’s not the case, and I’m hoping Bravely Default is as great as it looks, and that it’ll bring the old-school jRPG goods when it releases later this year.

togf
It’s time to take another guilty look at my absurd backlog, and today I’m focusing on Namco-Bandai’s Tales of Graces f. An enhanced port of a 2009 Wii title, this PlayStation 3 version added a ten-hour epilogue (hence the ‘f’, for ‘future’), and finally made its way here last August.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (first off, thanks!), then you may remember that I made an unboxing video of the Day One edition that Namco-Bandai put out at Graces f‘s release back in August. And a very generous set it was too, comprising a gorgeous, full-colour (albeit paperback) artbook, a behind the scenes DVD and a soundtrack disc. I was very excited for the game; I was quite new to the Tales of series at the time, having played Tales of the Abyss on 3DS and (most of) Tales of Vesperia on my 360, but I became a big fan of the series right from the start.

I knew I wouldn’t be jumping straight into Graces f, as I was knee-deep in something else at the time (I can’t remember what though…), so I had intended for it to inhabit The Shelf for a while. But recently, a couple of things have really tempted me to get stuck in. First of all, I’m currently playing another beautiful, colourful Namco-Bandai RPG – Ni No Kuni. I’m now about 16 hours into Level-5’s collaboration with anime house Studio Ghibli, and loving (almost) every second of it. It really is a beautiful game, and genuinely looks like a Ghibli anime. It’s quite an achievement; we’ve seen cartoon-y games before, but the sumptuous colours and bright, clean shading really elevates Ni No Kuni‘s art-style above other aesthetically-similar games. Visually, it reminds me of the couple of Tales of games I’ve played so far (Abyss and Vesperia), as they’re also very colourful and possessed of stark, clean lines and use of flat colours and cartoon-y shading. Playing Ni No Kuni has reminded me that Tales of Graces f sits unloved on my shelf, and also that I still need to finish Tales of Vesperia (a game so good I bought it twice!).

Speaking of Vesperia, that game is another reason for my sudden desire to play Graces f. I recently watched the anime prequel Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, and it reminded me how much I loved the game’s characters – Yuri Lowell might well be my favourite jRPG protagonist ever, and young mage Rita Mordio is fantastic, possessed of the kind of attitude that usually only inflicts one who is too good, too young – but I never finished the game. I reached the final dungeon (The Tower of Tarqaron) a few months back, and then decided to ‘take a break’. I absolutely loved my time with Vesperia (I might even call it the best jRPG I’ve played this gen), but there was one difficulty spike that took me close to ten hours to overcome (and also took me perilously close to crying real man-tears). When I reached Tarqaron, I worried that I might find the final boss insurmountable, decided to leave it for a few days… and then never went back.

As I’ve been getting strong Tales of cravings recently, I’ve decided to go back and finish it off soon – maybe even today. But I only have a few hours of the game left to me, and I really want to experience a full-on Tales of journey, so it’s handy that I have Tales of Graces f, which hasn’t even graced my PS3’s disc drive yet, to scratch that itch. The only problem is that it’s calling to me so strongly right now that I’m tempted to play it concurrently with Ni No Kuni, and this I must resist! I don’t think I can handle two massive RPGs at the same time (and I’m still dipping into The Witcher on my PC every few days). So, provided I can hold out, I’m pencilling in Tales of Graces f as the next title in my backlog that I aim to tackle. And I know I’m in for a good time; PSG’s own Dan Bushell put the colourful jRPG in at number three on his top five games of the year list, and if Dan loved it, I’m sure I will too.

Welcome back to the second and final part of Push Start’s Games of the Year feature! A few days ago my good friend Dan gave us his top five picks, as well as a handful of this year’s games that he hopes to catch up with in 2013. I’ll be doing the same, and I’ll also be throwing in an honourable mention or two before I get down to my own personal top five. So let’s start off with those that I need to catch up on.

FarCry 3
I’m actually playing this one at the moment, but I’ve not played enough to really give it an honest appraisal. Like Dan, I checked out the demo at September’s Eurogamer Expo, and found it fairly similar to its predecessor – in general, this is a good thing, as I loved and hated FarCry 2 in equal measure. I loved the world, the gunplay and the way fire spread outward to consume the unwary; I hated the respawning checkpoints, the enemies that could see you hiding in the long grass from a mile away and snipe you with a rusty AK47, and bloody weapon jamming!

A fifteen minute demo was too short a time to see if these problems and issues had been excised, but after a few hours with the game, it seems to be the case. Detection is now made clearer by a bar showing how close you are to being spotted, taking an enemy encampment now means you keep it (hooray!) and weapon jamming is gone, seemingly in favour of a paucity of ammo. The result is that FarCry 3 is more or less the game I always knew FarCry 2 could be, but it’s also been weighed down with scavenging, hunting, crafting, and an XP/skills system, and I’m not entirely sure these mechanics are to the game’s benefit. It makes it feel like Skyrim with guns at times, which might sound amazing, but I’ve found that, for me, all this detracts somewhat from the main thrust of the game. I’m also yet to find any sidequests which don’t just boil down to fetch quests, and I wish there wasn’t any forced stealth in it – I like being a sneaky git, but it should be an option, not an instant fail if you’re spotted. Still, it’s early days yet, and it’s as easy to lose hours in this game as it is to do so in Skyrim.

Dishonoured
Like FarCry 3, I also played the demo of this at EGX, though I didn’t really enjoy it. I liked the idea of it, but it’s just not a game that demos well in a public setting, I think. For a start, you’re dropped into a mission without much explanation of what you’re doing and what your abilities are for, which does leave you free to experiment, but I didn’t really feel able to mess about considering it was a public demo in a gaming con. Perhaps playing the demo at home would’ve allowed me to get into it at my own pace.

As I said, though, I liked the idea of the game, I liked the art direction, and I did enjoy what I played – I just felt a bit out of my depth. A good friend was kind enough to get it for me for Christmas, so I will be playing it. I’m sure I’ll love it when I can play it at my own pace.

The Last Story
I really, really want to play this. I can’t say for sure why I’ve not yet done so, as I was massively looking forward to this, the latest console jRPG from one of the grand masters of the genre, Hironobu Sakaguchi – the man known as the Father of Final Fantasy. It should be apparent by now that I’m a massive fan of Final Fantasy, and of Sakaguchi (Lost Odyssey, created by his Mistwalker team, is one of this generation’s best jRPGs), and I of course pre-ordered the limited edition version of The Last Story, which came with a gorgeous, richly-coloured artbook and a lovely soundtrack CD composed by fellow Final Fantasy stalwart Nobuo Uematsu – which I wrote a Musical Mondays piece on a while back. It’s a beautiful set, complete with a golden steelbook case, and I confess I pick it up and look at it every now and then.

So why haven’t I played it yet? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I played a lot of RPGs last year and needed a break from the genre. Yet here I am, knee deep in The Witcher, and planning to play through a slew of other RPGs afterward. Maybe I should bump The Last Story up to the top of the list?

Tales of Graces f
I’m a bit of a latecomer to the Tales of series – a good friend recommended Tales of Symphonia to me back on the GameCube, and he tried again when Vesperia came out on the 360. To my eternal shame, I didn’t take on board his suggestions, but I did make sure to grab a copy of the 3DS remake of Tales of the Abyss, and I absolutely loved it. I then made sure to hunt down a copy of Tales of Vesperia and loved that too… well, I’ve not quite finished it yet, which is why Tales of Graces f still sits unloved on my gaming shelf.

I pre-ordered ToGf on the strength of those other two Tales of games, and ended up with the lovely Day One edition that Namco-Bandai put out (of which I posted an unboxing video here on Push Start), and I am really looking forward to playing it eventually… But with Ni No Kuni coming along in the next few weeks, I think it’ll have to wait a little longer.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
I’d heard great things about both of the Witcher games since each was released, and bought the Xbox 360 version of the second, Assassins of Kings, intending to check out the main narrative beats of the original title on Youtube.

Instead, I ended up buying The Witcher on Steam, despite my PC only having integrated graphics. So I bought a new PC and I am currently playing The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, and will then get around to The Witcher 2… Hopefully. As I hinted at above, I’m also getting massive urges to play a ton of RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Planescape: Torment and Knights of the Old Republic… Maybe I should put it to a vote!

Oh, and I also missed Assassin’s Creed 3 this year, but as I’m yet to play Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I’m not too fussed about that…

Honourable mentions:
I want to give a quick shout to Resident Evil: Revelations, a 3DS exclusive that I loved a lot more than the more recent Resident Evil 6. It looked so good that it deadened the impact that Uncharted: Golden Abyss had on me when I got that shortly after, and it played beautifully with the Circle Pad Pro. I enjoyed the slower place of play and the scanning mechanic reminded me of Metroid Prime to a degree. Sure, the story was overblown hokum, but again it turned out better than Resident Evil 6 in that regard.

One more shout out before we get to my top five: Final Fantasy XIII-2. While I’m one of the five people that really enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII, it cannot be argued that it was stripped back to the bone in gameplay terms. Spreading the party out into groups of two and shifting between them every now and then helped mitigate the relentless forward momentum, and an excellent battle system kept the pace up. Its sequel did some things better, and some things worse. Firstly, it was decidedly less linear, thanks to both larger environments with occasional branching paths and a time-traveling mechanic that meant you could go back to previous areas whenever you wanted.

However, your main characters were a duo consisting of a bit part player from the first game and a total newcomer – Lightning, the previous game’s stern heroine is curiously absent for much of the game. The story was also weaker than the first part, and the battle system has been somewhat compromised, making the stagger mechanic, the beating heart of XIII‘s combat, almost worthless outside of boss battles. With Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII now in development, I’m hoping Square Enix can take the best of both, add some new stuff and give us something really great

And so, here we are: Push Start Gaming’s Top Five Games of the Year:

5: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
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“A Sonic title in a list of the year’s best games?? Surely not,” I hear you cry. Well, yes. I can understand your scepticism. The old blue chap hasn’t had the best of times since bursting out into the third dimension in the late nineties, but his more recent games have been getting steadily better. The Wii exclusive Sonic Colours was a very good start (even if at times it resembled a high-energy rollercoaster), while last year’s Sonic Generations was a perfect evolution of the Colours formula and served up an excellent 2.5/3D Sonic adventure that offered a good, hearty helping of nostalgia for the errant Sega fan, and became one of my favourite games of 2011 as a result.

This form has continued into Transformed, a sequel to 2010’s well-received fan-service racer. This time, some characters have been excised (no more Ryo Hazuki!) and others have been added to the star-studded roster, which now features the likes of NiGHTs, Jet Set Radio‘s Gum and Skies of Arcadia‘s Vyse. The big gameplay hook this time is rather obvious from the title; as you race around beautiful racecourses inspired by various Sega games (some of which are utterly, brilliantly mental), both course and vehicles transform, allowing you to drive, sail and fly around the environments.

Handling is uniformly excellent across all three modes (to be expected from Sumo Digital, of Outrun 2 fame), though if I have one complaint about the transforming aspect, it’s that boating feels a bit too slow. Karting absolutely flies by comparison, especially if you nail the drifting mechanic, which allows you to build up a boost of up to three levels should you hold a long enough drift. And trust me, you’ll need it, as this is a tough game even on ‘normal’ difficulty. It’s probably worth your while to start out on ‘easy’ and work your way up once you know the tracks.

And know the tracks you will, given the generous amount of modes on offer. You have five cups consisting of four races each, reminiscent of Mario Kart‘s GP mode, as well as a world tour mode that throws standard racing at you along with specific challenges, such as drift zones (I’m sure I remember one of the PGR games doing this years ago, but it’s still great fun here). The requisite single race and time attack modes are also catered for, as is a multiplayer matchmaking mode that I’m yet to try out.

All this stuffed in, and yet the game was released at a lower than usual price. As far as I’m concerned, it’s at least up there with recent entries in the Mario Kart series, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be getting more out of it than last year’s MK7. Put simply, if you like kart racers, you owe it to yourself to get this one.

4: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
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If you checked out Dan’s list the other day, you’ll notice some cross-over here. That’s because I all but forced him to buy this game (it’s not as sinister as it sounds; I knew he’d love it, so it was for his own good, really!). I’d had my eye on this Final Fantasy-themed rhythm-action game for quite some time before release, and expected it to be a somewhat limited, yet fun little curio. If you’d have told me before release that I’d end up putting 80 (yes, eighty) hours into it and naming it as one of my favourite games of the year… well, I doubt I’d have believed you.

Theatrhythm is, as I said above, a Final Fantasy-themed rhythm-action game. On the top screen of your 3DS, you’ll see your note chart, characters or backdrop (depending on the type of music playing), and you’ll furiously swipe along on the bottom screen with your stylus. Very furiously, if you’re playing some of the harder songs on Ultimate difficulty (damn you, ‘Battle with the Four Fiends’!). There are three types of track to play along to: battle themes see a party of four characters of your choosing arranged alongside the right, with enemies on the left like Final Fantasy of old, and four lanes of notes rushing toward you; field themes are your world map traversal analogue, where one character at a time walks along in time to your swipes and slides; event themes are played to the backdrop of cutscenes or gameplay segments, and can occasionally catch you out as you stare at the pretty pictures instead of watching the note chart.

Each of the numbered series titles has a playlist, consisting of one of each type of theme, and there are a number of unlockable songs that can be played singly in challenge mode, which is also where you’ll find any of the DLC tracks you might choose to add to your game. Other collectables and unlockables include upgradable ‘trading’ cards, options for your personalised profile card, songs and videos for the two media players, and items and equipment that you can use in gameplay.

These last two come in very handy if you’re trying to tackle the game’s challenging Dark Notes or find the crystal shards that unlock additional characters, as they add modifiers to your character’s base abilities, level them up faster or increase the likelihood of rare item drops. It’s a lot deeper than you’d expect, given its genre, and even after 80-odd hours, I’ve not unlocked everything. It’s certainly not exactly the game I was expecting, and this is all to the good. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is the perfect companion for someone who loves the music of the venerable jRPG series

3: Mass Effect 3
gsl
Sometimes the internet makes me wish I had Asura’s extra arms, so that I might be able to act out the world’s most over-the-top facepalm.

Now, I understand some people were disappointed with Mass Effect 3’s ending. I get that. I was somewhat indifferent to it myself (which I guess is damning it with the faintest of praise, considering it was the ending to a galaxy-spanning trilogy), but by no means did I hate it. I understand that people disliked that the final few moments did away with your party and that the ending itself came down to a choice of three seemingly interchangeable decisions. Even though I felt like the entire game was in itself an extended ending (and that, for me, the final cutscene left it open for the player to imagine the state you leave the universe in for generations to come), I get why that would annoy people.

What irritated me was the ridiculous escalation that then took place. First, it was “Mass Effect 3’s ending sucks!”. Then it became “Mass Effect 3 and BioWare suck!”. Not long after that, I began to notice comments popping up all over the ‘net proclaiming that the entire series sucks and always has. I understand that the internet seems to foster a culture of rampant (frequently idiotic) one-upmanship, but man, it’s so depressing at times.

But anyway, I’m not here to lambast the internet-at-large, this is supposed to be a celebration of my favourite games of the year. Mass Effect 3 is certainly one of these. I confess, I find it the weakest of the trilogy (I had hoped some of the RPG mechanics would find their way back in in the style of ME1, rather than the more streamlined mechanics of ME2 – though at least they did away with those horrid post-mission result screens!), but even so, some of the series’ most emotional moments are to be found in Mass Effect 3, and it’s down to that feeling I mentioned earlier – that the game as a whole feels like an ending. Who can forget (SPOILERS!) Mordin’s heroic sacrifice; Thane saying a final prayer, not for himself but for you; shooting the breeze and shooting cans with your best buddy Garrus high above the Presidium (oh and just for the record: Shepard doesn’t miss). Who can forget ordering Grunt to stay behind and hold off the Rachni/Reaper assault, and being sure that you’d lost him, only for him to come swaggering out of that cave, covered in gore. Who can forget the relief? Every other mission, it felt like you might lose someone, and that made every survival all the sweeter, every death a grand tragedy.

Mass Effect 3 also has some of the series’ greatest moments of spectacle, such as the opening on Earth as Reaper forces invade, laying waste to all before them, or the assault on the moon of Palaven, with gigantic Reapers hanging in your peripheral vision, in orbit over the turian homeworld. That’s without even mentioning the galactic showdown near the game’s end, except that I did just mention it.

The game does have some missteps, of course. There is, of course that ending, which at it’s best is a touch unsatisfying (though I’ve not yet tried out the extended ending DLC that appeared post-release, as I’m waiting to do a second, all-DLC playthrough), and the journal bugged a few of my sidequests to the point that I couldn’t finish them, while others disappeared entirely, leaving me to wonder if they were time-sensitive. N7 quests were few and far between, and the less said about Galactic Readiness being tied to multiplayer, the better.

Still, some things, such as skill-trees, were improved from ME2 (though still not as granular as ME1’s system), and the level of graphical and presentational polish was higher than before, and coupled with those earlier-mentioned moments of emotion and grand scale, combined to create a trilogy closer that kept me enthralled throughout, determined to keep everyone alive, before realising that it was never going to happen, that this was what they had all joined me for, this fight. It wasn’t do or die; it was do and maybe die anyway. I had to accept that, in order to complete my mission, losses were inevitable, and that epiphany had two effects: it freed me up to do what I had to do, and it filled me with a sad sense of finality – just the atmosphere a final chapter needs, in my opinion.

Production has recently begun on a Mass Effect 4, but I really don’t know where they might take the series. A game based on the human-turian First Contact War would be too limited in scope after saving the galaxy from annihilation, and any sequel would surely have to be far enough in the future that it may as well be a new IP. I love the Mass Effect series (I have all three collectors editions, after all), but I think it should remain a trilogy. And it’s a trilogy I know I’ll be playing for years to come.

2: Gravity Rush
grk
I knew this was going to one of my favourite games of the year from the first time I fired up the demo. As far as I’m concerned, Gravity Rush is the Vita’s best game, and worth buying the handheld for alone. But then, I am absolutely in love with the game.

Like Theatrhythm, before release I had thought this might end up as perhaps an enjoyable curio. The resulting game is as close as you’re likely to get to playing through a Ghibli film (at least until Ni No Kuni arrives next month) – a mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and inner strength. The game’s protagonist Kat is one of my favourite characters of the year; at once cheeky, cheerful and petulant. She doesn’t spend vast swathes of the game feeling sorry for herself for having lost her memory (which she never even regains over the course of the game), she just gets on with the business of saving the world, and genuinely enjoys the powers her sparkly feline sidekick ‘Dusty’ thrusts upon her.

It’s also an absolute joy to control Kat, flinging her around the gorgeous island cities that make up the game’s mostly open world, especially when you’ve powered up her abilities enough that you rarely have to touch the ground. Many open world games offer you a large square-footage of ground to run around in; Gravity Rush gives you the same, but allows you all that space above and below to explore as well, meaning you can spend hours just searching out the gems you need to upgrade Kat’s powers. These are often hidden underneath the floating islands, leading you on extended scavenger hunts as you run along the underside of the world. Combat is just as fun, with Kat drawing nearby objects into her own gravitational pull and flinging them at the gelatinous Navi that are threatening Hekseville.

It’s an absolutely beautiful game as well, the draw distance masked by a lovely painterly effect that gradually resolves more detail as you get closer, and the cities each have their own distinct flavour, with great music helping distinguish one from another – even now, months after I finished the game, the music from the first area pops into my head every few days and makes me smile. There is a little room for improvement, though; Kat’s gravity slide ability is unwieldy, meaning I rarely used it, and the cities could do with a bit more to do in them than just story missions, challenges and gem harvesting. Some things for a sequel to address, perhaps

Speaking of a sequel, it certainly seems to be on the cards: the story, while fairly easy-going, does make you pause for thought at times, and towards the end you might find yourself questioning whether the events taking place are real or someone’s beautiful fever-dream. Though much is left unsaid, and many questions remain unanswered, it’s a very satisfying tale that has me really praying for a continuation – not just to clear things up, but also because I loved the game so damn much. I truly hope SCE Japan Studio will get around to it sooner rather than later, and in the meantime, I’m looking forward to their next handheld title Soul Sacrifice.

1: Halo 4
chiefcort
Since its unveiling at last year’s E3. I had been hoping that this would be my Game of the Year for 2012. However, with series creators Bungie stepping aside to build a new universe from scratch, and Microsoft putting together a hand-picked team of the industry’s best to continue their blockbuster sci-fi series, I had genuine concerns that 343 industries might not be able to match that trademark Halo feel, that “thirty seconds of fun, over and over again” mantra that has been at the core of the games since 2001.

When I finally had the game in my hands however, all my fears evaporated. 343 know their Halo, that’s for sure. Right from the off, it’s reassuringly familiar, as Cortana wakes the Master Chief from his power nap to deal with a Covenant boarding party that have overrun what’s left of the Pillar of Dawn. The new team have gone to town in ramping up the epic scope and scale, and this is, again, immediately obvious; towards the end of that first mission, you’re out in space, on the hull of a starship fighting Covenant as an enormous Forerunner planet looms above, threatening to swallow your almost insignificant conflict whole. And it just gets bigger and bolder from there.

Story takes a more central role in Halo 4 than it has in previous instalments, which has led to criticism that the game is too reliant on knowledge of the lore, particularly from the extended universe. I suppose it’s a valid criticism, but the story stands well enough on its own merits, while bundling in a ton of fan-service for those (like me) who’ve scoured the series for clues, read all the books and trawled Halopedia for hours on end. That’s not to say that the narrative ever overpowers the gameplay though, and this latest entry gives us a whole new class of enemy in the Prometheans: small, dog-like crawlers that clamber all over the environments and seek to overwhelm you with sheer numbers; watchers, the aerial power of these Forerunner constructs, with the ability to catch your grenades before flinging them back at you, shield comrades and even resurrect them; and a whole slew of massive Promethean Knights that tower over both the Chief and Covenant Elites, teleporting about the battlefield to cut you down with their arm-mounted hardlight swords.

Fighting the Covenant is as enjoyable as ever, and allows you to fall back on years of hard-won battle tactics, but the Prometheans will punish you if you go in expecting those same strategies to work. I play Halo on Heroic difficulty (it really shouldn’t be any lower if you plan on truly appreciating it), and in my first few encounters with the Prometheans, I got utterly annihilated. It’s not uncommon to feel out of your depth, perhaps a little hard-done-by, but it soon becomes apparent that you need to prioritise targets more ruthlessly than you might with the Covenant, and once you figure out your strategies for this new class of antagonists, they slot nicely into place.

Over on the multiplayer side, fans were even more worried. Everything 343 announced about the new modes seemed to lean towards a more Call of Duty-style XP ranking system, and that is not what Halo fans want. One of the main reasons that Halo‘s MP playerbase keeps coming back is because it’s always a level playing field – no matter whether you play every day or once a month, it’s always a level playing field. Ranking up is the very antithesis of this, a mechanic intended to keep people playing, which is all well and good, but we already have that in Call of Duty. That series also already has perks. No Halo fans wanted these features implemented. Thankfully, the way 343 have inserted these mechanics hasn’t impacted the game much at all – ranking up offers you more load-out options, but doesn’t affect base health or damage output (and at any rate, most players seem to favour DMR/pistol load-outs), and ordnance, Halo 4‘s perk system, tend to be either limited-ammo power weapons or very short-term buffs like a constantly-draining overshield or speed boost. All of these give you an edge, provided you know what you’re doing, but none of them allow you to dominate for more than a handful of seconds.

Another impressive aspect of Halo 4 is that, on its first try, a brand new studio has created possibly the best-looking game on the 360 to date. If it’s not the best, it’s certainly up there with the rest of them, and the hi-tech Forerunner world of Requiem is swathed in impressive lighting effects that further add to the game’s graphical potency. Some have complained that all this eye candy is at the expense of Halo‘s trademark expansive battlefields, and I don’t really agree. Some areas are as vast as those in any other Halo, and though there are plenty of indoor environments, those too can often be cavernous. If there is a trade-off (which I’m not so sure there is), I think it’s worth it as a showcase of what the seven-year-old Xbox 360 is still capable of. I cannot wait to see what 343 industries will be able to do with Halo 5 on next-gen hardware, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

So there you have my favourite games of the year. Leave me a comment, let me know what you think of the games I’ve listed and let me know what your favourites of 2012 were. In the next few days, I’ll be writing about what I’m looking forward to in 2013, so make sure to look out for that. For now, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hours of happy gaming!

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