Looking Back On… the 2014 Year in Review Staff Commentaries

(Well, here we are, a year removed from the 2014 Year in Review, and aside from the fact that I’ve not had a lot of time or energy to update this site, and probably won’t until April or so, when I finally graduate, there are two things I can say definitively: first, that it turns out I went back to three of the games in my 2013 list in Terraria, Saints Row IV and XCOM, for personal fun, review of a rerelease and livestreaming respectively, and second, that holy shit was 2014 a wonderful year in gaming in comparison to 2015, at least for me personally. I can understand if you thought 2015 was a wonderful year in gaming, because indie gaming exploded for a lot of folks, but I was one of those people who was looking forward to a lot of sequels that didn’t deliver, so 2014 feels like a wistful remembrance in comparison. To each their own and whatnot.)

Mark B.’s Top Ten
Senior Editor

1.) Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (3DS)
2.) Dangan Ronpa 1&2 (Vita)
3.) Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed (PS3)
4.) Valiant Hearts: The Great War (PS4)
5.) South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC/360)
6.) Demon Gaze (Vita)
7.) Goat Simulator (PC)
8.) Dragon Age: Inquisition (XBO)
9.) Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (360/PS3)
10.) Five Nights at Freddy’s (PC)

(I might shuffle the first and second spots around, but otherwise the top five games in the list are honestly more or less fine as is. Goat Simulator would probably move up a slot, and I’d probably slot in something else in place of Demon Gaze in retrospect… maybe If My Heart Had Wings, as weird as that sounds. Otherwise, though, it’s a fine list, and I’m mostly still happy with the majority of the games on it.)

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Looking Back on… Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Sony Playstation 2)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Console: Multiple, but for reference, PS2.
Genre: Adventure/Action/Puzzle solving.
Developer: Ubisoft.
Publisher: Ubisoft. (This is the first in the Sands of Time series, for reference.)

Alright, I am going to deviate from the norm and sum this review up on one simple statement, because everything after this will only be reinforcing that statement, so I might as well get it out of the way now.

I don’t care what console you own, you MUST take the opportunity to at least PLAY this game, if not own it outright. (I still feel at least partially that way, though the rest of the games that come after it are a bit hit-or-miss.)

Everything from this point onward is only validation of the above statement. Thank you.

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Looking Back on… Review: WWE Raw 2 (Microsoft Xbox)

WWE Raw 2
Console: X-Box
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)
Developer: Anchor
Publisher: THQ (We have about one more YHCOR review left before we have to finish up the other content, ugh, which will then bring us into the DHGF content. Lord knows how long that’ll take to get through, but let’s find out.)

Hey, what’s better than wrestling? (These days, lots of stuff.) More wrestling! THQ, the proud parents of the Smackdown franchise of games, have recently released Raw 2, the second in Anchor’s WWE games series for the X-Box. Now, I don’t want to sound negative or anything, but Raw… well… it had some issues, to put it politely, (It fucking sucked, to put it less so.) and Anchor swore they would take great pains to work out the bugs on the second go-round and produce a superior gaming experience in all possible respects.

Did it work? Well, I think so, but to be fair, the game still isn’t as good as it could’ve been. (They fixed everything but the gameplay, basically.)

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On multiplayer in Bloodborne, and why no one cares about your whining.

Okay, one more post about Bloodborne, for now.

Multiplayer in the Souls series has always been kind of an odd duck. It’s there, and it works, but it’s not the thing that attracts most people to the experience. The idea is certainly novel, in theory; your “world” is open to anyone from another world, be they hostile or helpful, and while you can choose to summon in helpful people whenever you wish, hostile invaders can enter whenever they wish and make your life hell. This has always been an evolving process, of course; in Demon’s Souls invaders could only invade you when you were “whole,” and killing you meant they could become whole, thus putting them at risk in turn, while in Dark Souls, invasion was simply a matter of being in human form, but there were also a whole lot of covenant options available to players who wanted to customize their invasions or even act as spirits of vengeance. Dark Souls 2 took this concept even further, creating covenants and entire zones where invasion was basically a thing that was always going to happen, though it also implemented a concept called “Soul Memory” which retained your total accumulated souls, thus limiting invasion options, which hasn’t been very popular with online players.

Bloodborne takes this a step further, by not only prompting the player at launch of the game if they even want to be online in the first place, but also by limiting the availability of invasions to specific set zones in the game (two “nightmare” zones and some Chalice dungeons), unless you’re summoning help (or invasions) in which case bets are off, which has players up in arms on various posting boards. The general argument seems to b, on the pro side, that the online in Bloodborne is not very good, due to the extensive limitations placed on it because of the “whining” of the “casuals”* and how it’s a huge cop-out and so on, and on the con side, that they’re fine with this, but would prefer alternate options. For the most part, this argument isn’t generally compelling to me, for various reasons, but I wasn’t really sure why I wasn’t really on-board for either side. The fact that I don’t particularly like the online component in Souls games makes sense as to why I didn’t care about the pro online side, but the anti-online side isn’t especially compelling either, frankly, because… well honestly, they don’t really understand the situation, I don’t think.

Let’s start with the pro online side, which can be summed up by the following completely real quote I extracted from GameFAQs that sums up a lot of the arguments in favor of the invasion system in one easily digested sentence:

“I want to be able to invade your game and halt your progress whether you wanted me there or not.”

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On ranking the Souls games, or, which one is YOUR favorite?

I spent a decent amount of time banging out a piece on why Bloodborne isn’t a perfect game over at Diehard GameFAN, during which I made the observation that yes, Bloodborne is probably the third best game in the Souls series*, without really offering any context for that observation. Since I don’t really know how I’d turn that into a full DHGF column, I thought I’d just explain the point here, for those who are interested in this thing. The basic concept isn’t hard to understand, obviously: taking Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2**, and Bloodborne, order them from worst to best, and explain why they rank in those spots. It’s the why of that explanation that’s a bit more complicated, if only because people are going to rank their lists different ways for different reasons, which is the fun part (relative to your definition of fun). So, since I wrote three thousand plus words on why Bloodborne is essentially the third best game in the series, let’s take some time to explain how the other games stack up, and why.

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Looking Back on… Final Fantasy VII (Sony Playstation)

Final Fantasy VII
Genre: Role Playing Game
Developer: Squaresoft
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 8/31/97 (So here’s a fun thing I haven’t really posted anywhere else: the review I wrote as my application to write for IP Games/DHGF almost a decade ago now. It’s… not great at this point, but it’s fun and considering that it gave me the chance to do all kinds of cool things I wouldn’t have done otherwise, I consider it historically significant at least.)

It’s kind of weird to be playing a Final Fantasy game on any system other than one with the Nintendo name on it. I should admit, I’ve been something of a fan of the games since FF 1 was released back in 1990 on the NES. (This is kind of a fallacy, in that I didn’t play the original Final Fantasy until years after the fact, and in point of fact, Final Fantasy III/VI was my first actual exposure to the series. It’s correct in that I liked the first two games when I played them, but incorrect in that it presents the idea that I played them when they came out, which isn’t even close to true, as I was an SMS kid growing up.) Two SNES titles (as well as a handful of Gameboy games) later, and here we are, facing down the correctly numbered sequel to one of the best RPG’s ever made (that being FF3/6; though I still like Phantasy Star 4 better, I have to give credit where it’s due) (Still true; Final Fantasy VI is almost certainly the very best traditional JRPG ever made, but I still like Phantasy Star IV better because it pays off the franchise storyline well and I like the characters a whole lot. It also kind of pays off the romantic subplot from Phantasy Star II to a point, which is neat, and I wish that the Sega Classics franchise had lasted long enough for PSIV to see a re-release, if only because I’d have paid actual money to see that come to the US. As it is we have a fan translation of the first game, with the sequel being worked on now, so that’s something at least. Maybe someday Sega will finish the series off with a proper remake, but maybe someday I’ll win the lottery, because of the two, that one is the more likely possibility.) on the PSX. I had high hopes as I brought it home and popped it into my system, but I had the utmost faith that Squaresoft would once again deliver the goods with yet another highly entertaining RPG.

Well… not exactly.

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Looking Back on… WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain (Sony Playstation 2)

WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain.
Console: PS2
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: THQ (At this point we’re reaching the end of the YHCOR reviews; about two years after this point, I’d be writing regularly for IPGames, and I only had about two more reviews in me for YHCOR before the entire process basically became something I couldn’t commit time to anymore. If I’d had the sort of easy-to-use tools we have now for posting to the site it might’ve been different, but at the time I was working with writing everything in Word, putting it together in Dreamweaver, passing it to my webmaster, and waiting for him to upload it, so it wasn’t the most intuitive thing in the world. These days I’m just too busy to keep focused on it, sadly, but assuming I don’t die by forty I’ll be back to it eventually.)

Ah, wrestling games. If anyone on this earth is familiar with wrestling games, you can damn well believe it’s me. From the glory days of WWF Wrestlemania on the NES (“Glory days,” he says. That game was the Hershey squirts.) to WWF Royal Rumble on the Genesis (Terrible game but man I loved it.) to WCW Versus the World on the PS1 (A lot of people thought that game was terrible, but it was basically a precursor to the AKI games we all loved to death, and for what it was, it was pretty fun.) to Fire Pro Wrestling D (Which was my go-to wrestling game until Fire Pro Wrestling Returns came out on PS2, which I will never stop playing.) and some version of Touken Retsuden on the Dreamcast (Sporadically; I could never get into the Touken Retsuden games, sadly.) to Def Jam Vendetta on PS2 (Vendetta was closer to an actual wrestling game, but Fight for New York was a better overall experience) to Ultimate MUSCLE on Gamecube (Man AKI made a lot of wrestling games even in their death throes.) to… you get the point, if there’s a wrestling game, I’ve probably played it, or some variant of it. I love ’em. (Loved, these days. WWE games tend to be the shits anymore for a number of reasons, and once you get a Fire Pro game in English you don’t need much else. Though man I wish THQ had paid off that rumor of releasing a downloadable version of No Mercy with an updated roster.)

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