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.
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.
[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 Xbox 360-based 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...
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 anyone not offended, and an investment
for prospective Xbox 360 owners. 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!
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...
[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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kong Country Returns
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!
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
King Of Fighters - Sky Stage
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.
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
'N Goblins - Gold Knights II
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.
Crisis Strike 2
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?
Crisis - Razing Storm
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!
- Harmony Of Dissonance
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!
[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!
[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!
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.
[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
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!
2011 All Rights Reserved.