heavymetalmage's Game of the Year: 2011 Edition
by heavymetalmage

Originally, I wasn't planning on doing a Game of the Year article. I didn't really play that many different games at all this year and, being the el cheapo that I am, I don't think I bought a game that was released this year. I spent the majority of my year playing one game in particular (see my #1 pick) and other than that, the Let's Play Fall Funtacular ate up the rest of the time. However, I'm not one to miss out on some vidja game fun. Needlessly said, this list will be short and sweet and lacking any kind of novel insight. But since I have your attention, why not read on to find out some of the best games I played this year.

Honorable Mention: Contra

Before week 1 of the LPFF, I had never made a Let's Play video nor played any Contra games. Remember that time they took that guy who was on an airplane for the first time, and then had him make an emergency landing? You don't? No one does. It would never happen. Well, that's about how I felt playing Contra. This game (and series for that matter) is notorious for difficulty. It wasn't like I could use the Konami code and tank my way through the game, although I may have burned 30 lives in my 15 minutes playthrough. Unlike most "difficult" games, (Contra is not that hard) I didn't give up on the game nor the contest. Contra has distinction of making me a bit more battle-hardened and ready for greater challenges. It is with much respect, and curmudgeoning, that I honorably mention Contra on my Game of the Year list. We will meet again.

5. Dynamite Headdy

There have been plenty of games this year that I have played part of and haven't finished. Like, the majority of them. Just because I have a personal flaw doesn't mean you shouldn't get to hear about my wonderful gaming experiences! Dynamite Headdy is another game from the LPFF. Unlike Contra, I had never even heard of this game before. Let me tell you, I was in for a real treat. This game is pure, unabashed fun. Catchy music, silly art direction, and simple-yet-challenging gameplay really round out this action platformer. This game, more than probably any others, is a game I need to spend a lot more time with. I never had a Genesis growing up so I missed out on the best that it had to offer. Since this game stacks up well against other games of any platform, I have to say it must have been amongst the best on the Genesis. One unique aspect of this platformer is its unique usage of falling off screen. Instead of your standard instant death, this game takes away a little bit of your health and jumps you back up in order to hit your intended target this time. I am extremely thankful for this because I can feel my chest tighten and my blood pressure raise every time I, or anyone I might be watching play a game, misses a jump. Super Mario World was fairly kind when it allowed you to pause the game and hit select to leave the level. You had to have beaten that level first but I have since developed the instinct to pause the game as I descend into a bottomless pit. I am saying this right here, right now, putting it in print: I will go back and finish this excellent game!

4. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

The game that says, "Be your true mind...and stuff!" I spent quite a bit of time with this game, only to not complete it. I'm sure that sometime soon I'll go back and do that but first let me put forth some opinions. The original version of this game was released back in '96 as Revelations: Persona for the Playstation. I played the PSP update which was released 2 years ago. I read a few opinions before I started playing this, most of which read "A clunky old JRPG," or "Don't expect Persona 3 or 4," or something along the lines of "This game is only OK." I thought, "Hah! Fools! I like Persona games so this game is going to be great!" Well, those people were sort of right. Persona is a good game. It's grindy and clunky and the mechanics make very little sense. However, it has that SMT feeling to it, (post-apocalyptic, teens/young adults interacting with demons, unnecessarily difficult) and that is a feeling that I enjoy. The not-so-great parts involve things such a demon-recruiting (there is very little rhyme or reason, much less consistency in the technique), the battle system (involves an odd grid system that can be hard to arrange characters to use appropriate skills) and finally, how much you must grind in order to not get your ass kicked. I had to do plenty of grinding myself and, among other reasons, I just haven't gotten back to the game. The story is fairly light on details but that classic creepy feeling is there and along with a great soundtrack. (The PSP soundtrack sucking and the original being the best is a common complaint about this game. I, for one, never heard the original and I am enjoying the remake a lot.) Next year I'll form an opinion on the entirety of this game when I finish it.

3. Rockin' Kats

On to the games I actually completed! The oldest game on this list, Rockin' Kats, is goofy fun. It's also the only game that I had played before this year. I decided I wanted to do a Let's Play series on this game because I remembered it being a fairly unique game with an interesting aesthetic. Although the game was a bit buggier than I remembered, there was still plenty of fun to be had. Playing as Willy, an anthropomorphic cat living in the 1920s, you must rescue your girlfriend, Jill. Your weapon of choice is a gun that shoots out a fist, a weapon I affectionately call the punchgun. Well, your punchgun has different upgrades and you can use it in lots of different ways, including grabbing ledges and punching the ground to help you jump higher. Neat-o! This unique weapon gives the game an uncommon perspective on platforming (a lot of climbing up towers) and action (the punchgun makes boss fights a bit more strategic.) Combine those elements with some colorful levels and a pseudo-swing soundtrack and you've got a heck of an NES game. I'm sure that many of these developments came because of the late nature in which it was released (only weeks after the SNES hit North American shores.) However, some of the bugs are unforgivable in such an otherwise well-developed game. This game was developed by Atlus (who makes up the majority of EVERYTHING I played this year.) They were still in their early development years at this point but had had several NES games under their belts at this point; they managed to implement a lot of neat gameplay features because of that very fact. I particularly like being able to catch some flying objects and throw them back, as well as grabbing ledges and spinning around to vault yourself to another platform. I also appreciate the landing animation which features Willy doing your classic gymnast pose. All in all, it was fun to relive some NES memories with this game.


Only 914 deaths!

The newest release on my list, this game looks the oldest. With graphics modeled after the Commodore 64, (I likened the graphics to the best of Atari games,) my nostalgia meter was reading WHOOOOOOOO! A lot of people had recommended the game to me already and it was cheap enough on Steam, so I gave it a go. VVVVVV is both simple, but complex. In a game of "flip the gravity" and "don't land on spikes", you play as Captain Viridian, a dimensional traveler. The Captain and the rest of his crew are stranded in a crazy dimension. It's up to you to help the Captain rescue his crew mates who are scattered throughout one platforming nightmare after another. I appreciated the simple controls of this game, which consisted of nothing but arrow keys and a space bar on my laptop. This made it easy to fire up this game whenever I wanted. However, just because the game is simple, doesn't mean that it's easy. This game has a moderate-to-hard difficulty to it, at least for someone like me, and each new area of exploration has its own unique challenges that you must adapt to. This game includes a death count, which I realized after I had left the game open on a section known as "the Tower". This auto-scrolling section probably accounted for quite a few deaths on my final count but really, at that point, I was just excited to rescue all my crewmates to complete the game. Additionally, the game features extra challenges including shiny trinket collection, (objects scattered around the dimension requiring a certain prowess to collect,) time trial challenges and even a no-death mode. UGH. I am not trying that no-death mode, no sir. However, what I will be doing is purchasing the soundtrack for this game. VVVVVV features one of the best soundtracks I have heard in quite awhile, much less one featuring chiptune songs. These wonderful ditties kept me motivated while playing and were a big part of why this was one of the best games I played this year.

1. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

I apologize for using this image so much.

I'm just the king of surprises! This ended up as more of a list of games I played this year than best games I played this year, but that's ok. If I had to pick a game of the year, based on releases, I'm guessing Skyrim would probably be my pick. However, I'm waiting to pick that up till there's a "Game of the Year" edition. Gotta love irony. After having a blast with Persona 3 awhile back, I finally bit the bullet on Persona 4, and what a bullet! You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has played this game and didn't enjoy it to some degree. From its engaging mystery story, colorful cast of characters, funkyawesome soundtrack (I had to invent a word just to describe how I felt about it), and none of that even involves the gameplay! The third and final Atlus game on my list is truly the culmination of 20+ years of work on the SMT series. Although the Persona series itself is a derivative of that, it has come a long ways to stand on its own. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the next release in the series lost its SMT branding. If we look back on the original Revelations: Persona, its clear that this series has constantly improved itself in every single aspect; a fact that has brought it the success it has found thus far. I'd go as far to say that this game could save the JRPG. More and more series are degrading but Persona keeps on getting better. I feel like most people have played this game by now (and if you haven't you should) so I won't go on too much about it. Polly said about all I could say about it in her article, so if you're really itching to know more, give that sucker a read. As for me, I've picked up quite a few games on Steam and a couple more SMT classics (Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, namely) and I've also got plenty of games to finish. 2012 should be another great year for gaming.

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