Another year has essentially zipped by us. Isn't that remarkable? At the time of writing this, we have yet to enter the final month of 2012. It's been a crazy year with a lot of big games. Once again, none of them will be talked about by me. I don't even know anything I wanted to play that came out this year. I guess I wouldn't have minded grabbing a 3DS, but I'm satisfied with what I did get. I had to loosen my restrictions a bit this time. These are games I played in 2012. None of them came out this year, some of them I played before 2012 in limited capacity, some of them I haven't technically beaten. Very odd fringe cases, and we're going to have a few double bills. This is my list and I'll do as I please with it. It may be unorthodox, but that's how I roll. I'm a total rebel. Roll 'em.
PORTAL 2 (2011)
Okay we're close! This is a game that came out last year to some acclaim. It's the sequel to Portal, which I played in 2010 and enjoyed quite a bit. I had no real plans to get this, but one Steam sale, a generous benefactor, and a day spent staring at a download progress bar later I was READY! What did I get? Portal but better. It took me over double the time to beat, that's for sure; 7 hours vs. 3. As for how it plays, it's... Portal. You're a lady with a portal gun trying to get out of a Very Bad Place. There are lots of new puzzles and junk. Stephen Merchant voices a robot that talks to you with witty banter. Halfway into the game you hear JK Simmons for an extended amount of time, and play with gels. I found it pretty neat that Portal 2 went into the backstory of Aperture. I had to look up how to spell "Aperture". The mistake was that I forgot the first R. The point is that Portal 2 is a shoo-in for this list because it's more Portal and it's well done. I have no further anecdotes to share, but I will with other games.
Jeez, another game that came out last year? I'm not all that far behind after all. Or maybe I am, because I've not beaten this one yet. Man, I put goddamned Crisis Core on my list last year and I've still not beaten that. I'm horrible with backlogs. Anyway, Bulletstorm. A very long time ago a company called 3D Realms made a game called Duke Nukem 3D. It was very good and people liked it. They promised a sequel called Duke Nukem Forever. It came out like 13 or 14 years later and was supposedly terrible. Bulletstorm is like Duke Nukem Forever if it was good... and not, you know, supposedly terrible. Ultra violence rules the day, as does overexaggerated testosterone. Everyone in this game yells about dick for some reason. "I'll kill your dick!" or "What the dick?" What? No, this game is totally a manly game for manly men! No, I have no idea what you're talking about. Point is, this game is just fun. Shoot dudes, kill them in gory ways for more points, use points to buy weapons and junk. Hell, you even have a cool future grappling hook thing that you use to toss dudes around. AND SPEAKIN' OF GRAPPLING HOOKS...
BIONIC COMMANDO RE-ARMED (2009)
Holy hot god damn. I played quite a few games in Capcom's premiere SWING 'N SHOOT series this year. I recall beating the NES original while listening to one of Big Finish's Doctor Who audio dramas, and clearing the thing before the story was halfway done. Oops. It helped, though, because it let me appreciate how cool Re-Armed was. This thing came out right around the time the "retro revival" concept was new and hip. You know, Mega Man 9 and all that jazz. This bad boy is both remake and revived concept. Not bad for the first Bionic Commando since the Game Boy Color one where the villain tells you how to make cookies. I ain't making a lick of that up. This game is HARD. But the good kind of hard. The kind that makes you both swear like a sailor, and eager to try a new strategy on the part that got you killed. I love that kind of hard, and SPOILERS YOU'RE GONNA SEE MORE OF IT ON THE LIST. Point is, this game is fantastic and only ten bucks. What are you waiting for, a JUMP BUTTON? That's in the sequel. Which I also played this year. Briefly. Blegh. We're talking about good games here, so let's talk about another good game.
SUPER MARIO GALAXY (2007)
What a good game we've got here. Nintendo finally got with the program and popped a bunch of their Wii games onto some Nintendo Selects label. 20 bucks a pop for good games! And also an Animal Crossing and Super Mario Strikers. DA HELL WITH THAT, MARIO GALAXY! 3D Mario and I have never exactly gotten along. I missed the boat on Mario 64 and first played it in 2006. I didn't quite enjoy it. I understood its significance and all, but I didn't enjoy it. Super Mario Sunshine, I never got on the boat for. I rented it once a few years ago. That's all I've played of it. Can't judge it. Mario Galaxy is the first 3D Mario that really worked for me. I didn't 100% it... but man, I actually want to. Not like Mario 64; I got the 70 stars and shoved it back onto the shelf. This game was pretty god damn good. It made me WANT to beat it, and enjoy like every second of it. I really should get all the stars. Then DO IT AGAIN AS LUIGI OH BOY. Or maybe I'll grab Galaxy 2. One hopes that with the Wii U out, now the price on them Wii games might drop. Come on Nintendo, the Wii Sin and Punishment ain't worth 50 bucks anymore.
Did I play Earthbound for the first time this year? HA HA HA HA NO. I've known and loved this game for like twelve years. Why's it on the list then? Because this is my list and I have made my own rules for inclusion. I have another valid reason too! This year I replayed Earthbound... on a legitimate cartridge. A lifelong white whale was finally snagged when I buckled down and got a great deal on the game plus the strategy guide. What a great little book that is. Hell, I also bought the SUPER FAMICOM version on impulse for 15 bucks. Playing Earthbound on console was a great experience this year, so on the list it goes! I'm not even going to TRY to explain why Earthbound is a good game. Go read Pitchfork, or watch the Happy Video Game Nerd. They did it better than my feeble little fingers ever could. I will share my best memory of playing on console, though. I was playing Moonside at like, 1 AM. I talked to a man and he said "You're holding a controller in your hands right now, aren't you?" I WAS! That shit blew my goddamn mind. Earthbound is amazing. Please play it.
Everyone's favorite Crono Maniac made a deal with me a while back. If I played this really neat game called Iji, he would watch popular science fiction program Doctor Who. I accepted. I love Doctor Who. I regularly put myself through suffering in order to earn merchandise from the program. Iji was the best Doctor Who deal I made though. Instead of getting a cool item, I got a neat experience! Crono reviewed the game and you should read that because the man said it better than I could. I went with the "aggressive" style of play. Kill everyone and make the title character... well, sort of like what the Doctor's companions in Doctor Who become! I took an innocent girl and forged her through adversity into a blood-stained weapon. Man, Doctor. Now I know how it feels. Being the Destroyer Of Worlds ain't so hot once you have to face the consequences. I've been meaning to replay it as a pacifist, but the backlog is piling up on me. Great game though, and totally free. What are you waiting for, Christmas? 'CAUSE THAT'S WHAT TIME IT IS.
SHINING IN THE DARKNESS (1991)
Confession time: I'm still working through this one. I'm close to the end though, and I doubt things are going to radically change in the game. SO ON THE LIST IT GOES! I am a bit of a fan of dungeon crawlers... but the only one I've ever beaten was Arcana on the Super Nintendo. This game is also a dungeon crawler, and it's even better than Arcana! I've been making it more fun by drawing my own maps in a book of graph paper. Slowly and surely mapping out every square of each floor, using pencil and pen and marker to represent hazards and treasures and whatnot. Let me tell you, it's really rewarding to flip through the book once you've finished a floor. You can look at the detailed hand-drawn maps and know that YOU DID THAT! Just like they did back in 1986 or whatever! Oh, and it helps that the game is solid too. Lots of items, lots of spells, lots of monsters to murder for gold and XP. It's good and it's also cheap on Steam as one of those Sega classics. Go play it. Buy a book of graph paper.
SUPER MEAT BOY (2010)
Those of you with good memories may recall that I put Edmund McMillen's The Binding Of Isaac on my list last year. I briefly mentioned that I had played Super Meat Boy in 2010, so it did not count for that year's list. If I may send a message back in time to my past self: BULLSHIT. You played the first world and maybe a third of the second. You have NOT played Super Meat Boy. This year I pretty much cleared Super Meat Boy 100%; a weird glitch stopped me two levels from the end of the extra world. I won't get too much into that right now. What I will tell you is that clearing Super Meat Boy is a harrowing, enraging, incredible experience. Clearing the Dark World levels makes you a madman. Actually getting all the bandages and secret characters and warp zones makes you... a beast in the shape of a man. That is what I became, and at times I snarled in a rabid red-hot rage. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to pretty much come out on top. As mad as I got, the experience and game were worth it. It did, however, begin a bit of a hard game trend. You may know what's coming next.
OH NO HE DIDN'T! Oh yes. Yes he did. Let me tell you a story. I had mostly beaten Super Meat Boy, and I was working on a review of it for this fine site here. I called it a good hard game, as opposed to bad hard games... and cited Battletoads as my example. The time came to gather screenshots, and I figured "how about a screencap of the Turbo Tunnel?". This meant playing Battletoads and the Tunnel, so I did. I discovered I was actually kind of good at it. I could clear the infamous last section consistently. This shocked me to the core because I thought no human should be able to do good at Battletoads. I then decided to see how far I could make it into the game. This began a six day journey into the very depths of hard video game hell. I fought through the ice, I surfed, I rode the snakes, clingered a winger, and climbed atop the Revolution and toppled its Dark Queen from her throne. I was utterly amazed that I had pulled that nonsense off. So how is Battletoads? I like it. It is not a perfect hard game by any means. I'm not going to suggest that you go through what I went through because holy shit I wouldn't wish such pain on anyone. It changed the way I thought, man. For real. Definitely an experience I wouldn't take back, though.
CONTRA 4 (2007)
The last part of this list is the Hard Game Corner. In these woods we have Contra 4. This is the hardest Contra game I've beaten, and what a goddamn ride. It's an extreme version of the Contra experience. This game is going to wreck your shit when you first play it. Gradually you might get better and better, and eventually clear the normal difficulty. In my case, I ended up clearing all the challenges in the challenge mode before going at the main game. It nearly drove me batty because some of those challenges are ridiculous at first, but you get the hang of them. They also train you for clearing the main game! When your final challenge is beating the last boss without dying, you eventually learn to... well, beat the last boss without dying. I've not attempted Hard Mode yet, but this is tied with Super C for my favorite Contra. It's just... really good!
ECCO THE DOLPHIN/ECCO THE TIDES OF TIME/ECCO JR. (1993/1994/1995)
Yes, a triple header. Considering that I beat all of these games within 72 hours of each other, they deserve to be lumped together into one "experience". With particular emphasis on the "experience" part. Ecco The Dolphin is probably, without hyperbole, the hardest video game I have ever completed. Nearly every part of it drained my sanity and stamina as I attempted to best the horrors of the ocean. Supposedly this game is very atmospheric and builds a mood. It built a mood in me, alright; a mood of total despair. I have gone back to Battletoads willingly. Ecco The Dolphin stands with Final Fantasy 2 as a game that left me battered and bruised, but alive at the end. Alive to whisper "Never again". So then someone bet me that I couldn't beat the sequel. Within two days I had done it. The Tides of Time was actually a pretty good game... for the first 2/3rds. Then it morphed into a sadistic mess like the previous game, and it drove me mad once again. I still won. As for Ecco Jr.? An educational video game made for children... but a sigh of relief for a torn and bleeding soul. It took two games and a lot of pain, but I finally got my cute game starring dolphins.
That was 2012. Maybe next year I'll play games that came out this year. See ya in 2013.