End-of-year review/awards, 2014 edition!

To the untrained eye it probably looks like I’ve done nothing but play REmake this past year, but I’ve actually gone through all sorts of formats and genres! 

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OK, and an awful lot of Biohazard. I can’t really deny that one, can I? No? No.

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But seriously, it’s been a very interesting year for me: I’ve dated hot part-time lion men (Beast Master & Prince – Vita), experienced the wonder that is Burns Byford (Hard Edge – Playstation),  marvelled at the technical witchcraft of Parasite Eve 2’s player-controlled scrolling FMV background (a feat that they sadly didn’t repeat at any other point in the game) and made myself utterly and permanently terrified of school lavatories thanks to the deceptively tame-looking Corpse Party.

This was also the year that not only did darling doujin shmup Crimzon Clover see a worldwide release on Steam (in its upgraded arcade form, no less!), but so did the equally impressive and yet totally different Astebreed too. You pretty much can’t move on Steam these days without bumping into a great doujin title and thanks to (Japanese) PSN I literally don’t have enough room on my Vita memory card for all the incredible Playstation games on offer – some of which, like LSD, would be ludicrously expensive to buy a physical copy of (a quick eBay search shows the cheapest to be about £200/$300 USD). Slightly further afield the ever-lovely Project EGG’s commitment to bringing gamers the finest retro Japanese computer games has meant I’ve been able to pick up everything from Star Trader to Xak to Solid Lancer with no fuss and minimal damage to my Paypal account (about £3 each). Yes, there have been issues with digital services – DDoS attacks seem to be the cool thing for antagonistic nerds to do these days, excitedly turning on a new console only to see it update everything for the first hour or so is really boring, and Nintendo continues to have such strange and draconian digital policies that they’d be called archaic if anyone else had ever actually been stupid/paranoid enough to use them, but overall digital’s done more good than harm.

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Of course I’ve had a lot of fun playing/replaying old games over the past twelve months but modern games have probably given me more pleasant surprises this year: both Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and Diablo III have been good co-op fun, PT scared the living hell out of me even when I knew what was supposed to happen, Destiny was good fun (up until the “Light” grinding, anyway) – all in all I’d be much worse off without modern games. I’m still not as up to date as I want to be (Sen no Kiseki really needs buying at some point) but I think this year’s been a good reminder that I was perhaps teetering a little too close to being a “All new stuff sucks!” nerd before now.

However I’m still furious at HtoL#NiQ for squandering such a wonderful setting on such an awful game – it’d be the disappointment of the year if only…well, you’ll see when you hit the “awards” part of this post.

Not all the surprises were from the new side of things – to be honest I started playing Resident Evil: Outbreak just for completion’s sake; there was no way the offline bit of an ex-online group-based survival horror title was going to be any good, was there? Actually, it was. Outbreak proves why it’s good to sometimes dive in to games that I don’t think I’ll like, or why I’ll have another go at games I didn’t enjoy first time around – because being wrong is awesome. While by no means perfect, both Outbreak titles are incredibly deep games that reward skilled, thoughtful play and repeated runs. On the atmosphere side of things they also manage to be an excellent example of the “We’re all screwed and everything’s gone up the Swanee” that everyone currently thinks The Walking Dead did first while at the same time being a Resident Evil lore-hound’s delight. When I finished Outbreak File#2 I wasn’t just impressed, I was upset that there weren’t any more to play!

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So what about next year? In the main I want to continue in broadly the same direction I have this year, but I’ve also written out a wish list of gaming challenges  to try and finally finish a few games that I keep starting but never quite get through (Vagrant Story’s a good example of that) as well as a few things I’d like to do because I can be a terribly cocky show off at times (my 1CC Alien Soldier challenge is a good example of that). I might do them all or I might only do a few, but it’ll be fun to try them out either way.

Last but not least -

Kimimi’s 2014 Gaming Awards of Award-y-ness:

Favourite retro RPG: I almost gave this one to PC-98 RPG Elmknight for being so technically impressive as well as a shockingly fair old RPG, but it just doesn’t feel right giving it to anything other than Falcom’s action RPG Zwei!!. Experimental, drop-dead gorgeous, and a pleasure right up to the very end.

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Favourite retro not-RPG: I’ve cruelly banned myself from giving this to a Biohazard title, so I’ll instead award this…umm, award to Densha de GO! 2 on the Neo Geo Pocket Colour instead. I never thought a pared-down handheld port of an arcade train sim could be as enjoyable as this is.

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Favourite modern game: It’s got to be Astebreed – exhilarating, accessible, and arcade-y. That’s proper arcade-y, which means it’s a shmup that’s flashy as well as fun from your very first go, rather than the sort of thing that only appeals to the type of gamer that Googles perfect chain videos.

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Disappointment of the year: The Evil Within. I’ve played games that are far worse than this in 2014, but this is the only one where I feel it really could have been something spectacular with a few different design choices.

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Guilty pleasure: Wasting an awful lot of time playing Final Fantasy XIV, dressing up my Phantasy Star Online 2 character, and grinding in Dragon Quest X. So basically, playing MMOs. No doubt these will all be 2015’s guilty pleasures too.

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Overall game of the year: What title left an indelible mark on my gaming consciousness in 2014? What title was the one above all others I was most grateful to have experienced? How much longer can I string out this poor attempt at tension-building?

Prepare yourselves, because my game of 2014 is…

Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis

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Not even joking. Capcom’s stupid, stupid, dinosaurs-in-hyperspace game left me with a huge smile on my face like nothing else this year – and that smile was still there when I went through it the second time. It’ll be there on the third too, no doubt. So, for simply being absolutely bonkers and a hell of a lot of fun while it’s at it, Gun Survivor 3 is my game of the year.