Notable 2010

There were all sorts of 2010 surprises worthy of recognition. Video-gaming saw continued classic IP support and resurrection (Ghosts 'N Goblins - Gold Knights II, NBA JAM, an iPhone Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Donkey Kong Country Returns), and that's what made it such a great year. There weren't just a few titles worth playing, there were a ton! On the surface, it seemed like there wasn't much going on, but a broader look shows a year with no shortage of quality gaming. The Wii and iPhone reached their stride, while HD hardware (XB360, PS3) saw business as usual. Unlike previous years, there were great games all across the board, on every type of hardware you can think of.

Even though development starting slowing on it, the Wii actually had a good year with several grade A titles not just for fans of the hardware, but fans of games in general. Then there's shooting game developer Cave, who released a host of quality titles across various platforms. Pretty impressive when you look at how much smaller they are than most developers out there. SEGA picked-up Bayonetta, which was one of the best, most successful choices they've ever made.

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Bayonetta
[SEGA / Platinum Games]

SEGA took a fancy to PS3-based development early on with their Lindbergh hardware, essentially selling Sony hardware with titles like Virtua Fighter 5 and AfterBurner Climax. But as House of the Dead 4 suffers in home release limbo, SEGA has put their focus on new IPs like the instant sleeper hit Bayonetta. Unlike his boring past works, Bayonetta is arguably ex-Capcom producer Kamiya's best; blazing action drives dramatically-stylized storytelling for one of the most sultry female designs ever seen in a video game. This is due largely in part to how well Platinum Games captured and channeled the essence of a woman into the game through physically-profound stances. The way she walks, talks, moves...

 
 

She carries-out even the most menial of duties with an unparalleled, sexy grace. For example, most other female characters we've seen pull levers in such a form that portrays a laborious task. Bayonetta, however, makes the same task look literally like a dance move on a stripper pole. There are so many other examples like this in the game; I could go on a lot longer just about how she walks! She really does animate that incredibly (supporting even more that 3-D can animate just as well as 2-D)! And if Bayonetta herself isn't enough, her fully-spread Seraphim clone and mature witch sister Jeanne are sexier than anything anything by Tecmo or D3 Publisher! The game would be just provocative and violent, but distinct, familiar imagery puts it way beyond that.

 
 

Past and present Capcom imagery is tucked away in every crevice of Bayonetta, from recreations of space scenes from Lost Planet 2 and final boss battles straight from Devil May Cry 4, to GodHand references and classic Capcom font! There's even a boss clearly inspired by washed-up 70's porn-star Wesker from Resident Evil 5, except with a "Fab 5" makeover (complete with obligatory lipstick, half-mask, robe, and peacock feathers)! All this Capcom stuff is obviously intentional, but is it mockery and bragging, or worship and tribute? Either way, the remainder of the game's design is still uniquely incredible, featuring a host of archaic, yet bionic enemies and environments. The menacing Fearless and monstrous Sapientia look awesome, but aren't angels supposed to be good? Or did I miss a key story part?

 
 

Some parts play like a certain "devil hunter" series, and some a certain "divine wolf," while others mimic old SEGA games with jetpacks and lightguns. I like more orthodox types, but there's no denying this eclectic gameplay mix is what made Bayonetta sell; running around as cats and riding on missiles (inspired by a certain Konami action series). SEGA also did an absolutely killer localization job; Bayonetta sounds as adult as it looks! It's an insta-buy for the few PS3 owners out there, and an investment for prospective PS3 owners. The PS3 version of Bayonetta has been done wrong and blown completely out of proportion; it's not what critics have made it out to be, and even our resident Bayonetta stalker SolSadGuy can attest to that! The game's still visceral, quirky, and sexy, so go and play it for yourself!

 
 

Super Street Fighter IV
[Capcom / Dimps]

This game really doesn't deserve to be here. The only reason why it's on here is because as far as Final Fight goes, Capcom did a great job integrating it into the world of SFIV. Guy and Cody both made it through the transition safely; they look like they should (with all their nuances intact), and animate incredibly well. The same goes for the almighty Adon, who I was very, very surprised even made it to the final cut. The garbage "Destiny" song was also replaced, making SSFIV already better than SFIV (but not by much). SSFIV had so much potential to be better, but turned-out to be a disappointment because the balance and unpredictable "Just" combo system weren't fixed. Too bad...

 
 

Samurai Shodown Sen
[SNK / XSeed]

I saw this once before my most recent departure from Japan, and thought I was out of luck because I didn't pick it up before I left. Thankfully it came out Stateside, but buying it at bargain price was bittersweet. The low price may have been good for me, but couldn't have been good for SNK. They went through all the trouble of re-imagining the series, only to arrive at inevitable damnation by "fans." Apparently, it was doomed from the beginning since it's 3-D and not Samurai Shodown II. Sure, the control could have been a little more loose, and the censored Japanese version is really disappointing, but the lush, stylized visuals are on-par with SSFIV. It's generally unliked, but I love the game!

 
 

Ketsui: Kizuna Jigokutachi EXTRA
[Cave / 5pb.]

This re-mastering of Cave's incredible 2003 vertical helicopter shooter took forever to come out, and its many delays and rumblings from the underground suggested cancellation. Longtime readers know how I feel about the game, so after being on edge for months on end, its surprise release was relieving. It would have been an incredible injustice if this shooting masterpiece had not been released at long last. Few titles in the genre have ever been so deserving of not just a consumer release, but re-mastering. They say you can't please everyone, but looking at forums and blogs, it appears they even managed to please picky "f@n$" who usually hate consumer releases by default. Yet another title to buy an XB360 for.

 
 

RayStorm HD
[Taito]

Seeing Taito acquired by Squeenix was very, very sad to see. The extent of their influence on Taito's operations was unclear (and still is), and if they would still be allowed to revisit their many iconic IPs. So, RayStorm HD came as an unbelievable announcement. The acquisition really sucks, but RayStorm HD was more than just an HD remake of a classic 32-bit polygonal shooter (which was generally unappreciated in its day); it's ultimately an indicator of hope for resurrection of other Taito IPs. Funny thing is, Cave released a ton of goodness, but I was probably more surprised and hyped to play RayStorm HD just simply because it reminded me of all the good times I had back in the 32-bit era with the original RayStorm.

 
 

NBA Jam
[EA]

This was another huge surprise of 2010. The initial rumors sounded sweet, but the official announcement was bitter. Seeing NBA Jam's resurrection made me happy, seeing it happening through EA was saddening. The facts had to be wrong, and I thought it was just a media misunderstanding. No matter how many times I checked, and no matter how many sites I looked at, it stayed an awful truth. Mark Turmell and other members of the original development team were involved, however, so it was hard for me not to want to play it. My solution? To buy the game used (or "pre-played" as greedy scammers like GameStop) instead of new so that EA gets none of my hard-earned money. You're still not "in the game," EA.

 
 

DoDonPachi Resurrection
[Cave]

Cave's iOS support came as a surprise not just because of the touch-screen controls, but because they're known primarily for developing on their own, proprietary hardware. The result? A re-mastering of sorts that is more playable than the original. How did they do it? Through flawless touch screen controls that make the game infinitely more controllable than the original. This game handles, by far, tighter and quicker than any other iOS title, period. I'd go so far as to say it's the best-controlling title in the genre, ever. The game is damn-near perfect, with its only real flaw in design; the bosses kinda stray from what the series knows, and in a questionable manner that's hard to ignore.

 
 

Donkey Kong Country Returns
[Nintendo]

Nintendo's approach to their own IPs took some criticism during the GameCube era, and not much changed into the Wii era. Even with the success of modern Mario and Zelda games, some thought they strayed too far from the charm that made them who they are. One of those IPs that has been questioned is Donkey Kong. After the incredibly huge Donkey Kong 64, not much was going on with the series. Enter Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii. It was a completely unexpected return to form, and yet another reason to invest in the Wii hardware. The game showed that Wii analog 2-D output could be every bit as impressive as the 2-D output of high-definition hardware. There couldn't be a better Wii finale!

 
 

Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All-stars
[Capcom / Eighting]

Most American players probably wondered what in God's name a "Tatsunoko" was, but that mattered little because Capcom went through hell to get Tatsunoko VS Capcom released in the US. They put forth so much effort, in fact, that it spawned an upgrade complete with a reworked character roster, re-balancing, and a host of additions not found in the original version. Sure, playing over the network isn't quite as streamlined as hoped, but it's still pretty good (considering Nintendo didn't make the Wii's network the easiest to work with). Despite all the whining, Capcom didn't make this one multi-platform, and it's always good to see a quality title like this when development has slowed.

 
 

The King Of Fighters - Sky Stage
[SNK]

Samurai Shodown Sen wasn't SNK's only quality game in 2010; they had a KOF, but it wasn't of the fighting type. In an unpredictable move, SNK used their well-known KOF characters to make a shooting game in the vein of Castle of Shikigami 3. This is interesting because that game was on Taito's Type X hardware, as is Raiden III (which was also made by developer Moss, who helped SNK make the King Of Fighters into shooter). This doesn't just mean that an arcade version is possible for arcade-only fans, but that Type X shooter fans can carry their skills over to KOFSS in an easy transition. It plays like a mix of Castle of Shikigami III and Raiden III, and true fans of the genre know that both of those are great modern shooters.

 
 

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
[Netherrealm Studios / EA]

The iPhone version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 isn't at all what it seems. It's too bad nobody probably noticed that it was completely redone in 3-D. Why? Because like with so many other games out there, the title is misleading. You'd figure that with EA in the picture, they'd do anything to make more money off it; like adding "iPhone Edition" or "i" anywhere into the title to sell it to completists. But they didn't, and it's a shame, because the game really deserves to be separate from the 2-D original it's based on. It doesn't have every character from the original, but the absentees can easily be DLC, the fatalities have all been redone in 3-D, and some new modes! Still, we hate you EA.

 
 

Ghosts 'N Goblins - Gold Knights II
[Capcom]

Whether Nintendo considers it a portable contender or not, or whether players doubt its legitimacy, the steady support of Apple's iPhone/iPod Touch cannot be denied. Nearly all of Capcom's most popular IPs have appeared on the iOS; something not seen on the DS even with the head start it had. Ghosts 'N Goblins - Gold Knights II is one of those popular IPs, and it's a prime example of how quality platforming can be done on the hardware. Lancelot was replaced by Percival, who's powerful and plays more up close and personal. Replacing Lancelot was actually a good thing because it makes for replay of the first game, but Percival's design was much better in Capcom's own timeless 2-D classic Knights of the Round.

 
 

Time Crisis Strike 2
[Namco]

Namco is always careful in their hardware endeavors. They didn't just use the iOS for any one of their IPs; they made sure to choose what other developers had already proven tried and true. One was the "whack-a-mole" approach, and Namco must have saw potential for their recent IPs; there couldn't have been a better fit than Taiko Drum Master and/or Time Crisis. Time Crisis 4 was a good game, so it was cool to see that Namco modeled Time Crisis Strike 2 off of it. That means the environments, enemies, and everything else in between look cool and sleek. That is, everything except the idiot who looks like Johnny Depp. Great game, but that idiot looks dumb as hell. What is this? Time Crisis of the Caribbean?

 
 

Time Crisis - Razing Storm
[Namco]

This is one of the best PlayStation 3 games of 2010, and moreover, a reason to buy the hardware (even amidst the crumbling of the PlayStation Network). One of the coolest light-gun shooters ever was Namco's own Crisis Zone, and they hit gold again with Razing Storm. Added to the title was "Time Crisis" for the consumer revision, and it couldn't have made more sense. Props to Namco yet again! The first impression I had was that the game is as solid as a 400-pound linebacker who's built like a dumptruck and hits like one. Inspiration from Metal Gear Solid 4 can be seen in the design, and its theme makes it arguably the most epic Crisis to date. Being able to have this game in the comfort of your home is a real treat!

 
 

Castlevania - Harmony Of Dissonance
[Konami]

Was multi-player Castlevania ever a fan demand? It's no matter, because Konami did a good job making one of their most beloved IPs from a single-player affair into multi-player adventure. The music is as well-done as fans have come to expect, and the gameplay is familiar, but the visuals are a different story. They're good, but questionable. It's sad to see that Konami made retro stages and characters, but no retro versions of the modern characters, so the screen is usually a hodgepodge uneasy on the eyes. I just can't shake the feeling of how tacky the smoother, modern characters against the older, pixelated retro backdrops really look. The game is hilarious fun with friends, though! Get it!

 
 

Desert Slug
[Triniti Interactive Limited]

There are more portable games than ever these days; some good, a lot bad. The least likely, basic, and uninspired of titles have gotten the most acclaim, and ones that actually deserve it don't seem to get it. Just by its name you can tell what Desert Slug draws inspiration from. The difference, however, between this and the countless other iOS-based clones, is that this one is actually an inspired clone. Yes, it borrows the cartoony style, gameplay style, and even effects from Metal Slug, but it does so in it's own style. For a clone, Desert Slug is on a level of quality that many big name titles even fail to achieve. Not perfect, but it innovates in control, has great design, and smooth animation!

 
 

Dark Void
[Capcom / Airtight Games]

After seeing Gears Of War on the Unreal Engine 3, my mind was racing with possibilities upon hearing that Capcom was developing for it. Was it a new IP, or a classic one? Some time later, it was finally revealed that Capcom was nearly finished with a new science-fiction title that went by Dark Void. It was then revealed that the Unreal Engine 3 was being used to make its Rocketeer-inspired themes to life. The game turned out to be more than just a Rocketeer clone, though. Its compelling theme echoed familiar "conspiracy theories" involving an alien ruling elite, proving that good fiction really is based on real-life. Fans of RE4's "conspiracy theory" story will like DV's, and the quicktime sequences that go with it!

 
 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS
[Capcom / Namco / Bandai]

2009's Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam VS Gundam NEXT Plus marked the end of an era that delivered absolutely incredible multi-player arena fighting on the PS2/PSP. A joint effort between Capcom, Namco, and Bandai, this 3-D arena fighting Mobile Suit Gundam series originally started on SEGA hardware, but hit its stride and legacy on Sony hardware. As clear as day, I can remember the droves of rowdy Japanese players crowding Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Federation VS Z.A.F.T. II machines, and it was easy to understand why. Its mayhem is blazing multi-player fun! That legacy continues with Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS on PS3 hardware in a tradition with origins dating back to Tech Romancer and Cyberbots.

 
 

Dead Rising 2
[Capcom / Blue Castle Games]

The sequel to Dead Rising didn't really have big shoes to fill. Me and people I know liked it, but it was far from a perfect game. From the obligatory first-person and camera emphasis, to frustratingly dumb AI and glitches, it's surprising a sequel was released. That's not to say that the first game was bad, it's just that the laundry list of qualms seemed like more than a chore for a sequel to handle. Dead Rising 2 undertook that task, though, and came out well. Spoiled brat "fans" threw a fit upon discovery that picture-taking was omitted, but that automatically made the game better for me because it was side-scrolling co-op fighting without all the monkey business! The online co-op is also a blast with friends!

 
 
After All
2010 was a surprisingly great year not just for sequels, but also new IPs. For the most part, they all rocked, and across various types of hardware; it wasn't like some years where all the best stuff was on one or two types of hardware. Aside from obvious HD hardware choices like Bayonetta and Dead Rising 2, SD titles like NBA JAM and mobile titles like DoDonPachi Resurrection showed diversity in 2010. And for anyone who didn't yet own a PS3 or Wii, 2010 showed more reasons to invest in them and enjoy different games on different hardware (while we still have them). So many great games, so little money!

- BAD -

 
     
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