Roundtable: Our Game (not) of the Year 2011

December 19, 2011

We’re human. We don’t always get to every game before the end of its year of release. This is our way of making amends: the best games we missed out on until 2011. Because we can’t go back in time and honor them in a more timely fashion.

Chris Ingersoll: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
My wife and I found this game, new and sealed, for a criminally-discounted $5 in a GamePorium bargain bin and immediately scooped it up. I’m not sure what excuse I had for not doing so (at full price) when it was released in late 2007, but after playing it during this slow summer I regret it. The motion control flight is clunky and thankfully not required, but just about everything else about NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams was amazing. I can see why the original Sega Saturn NiGHTS is so beloved amongst its fans. Waiting over ten years for an official sequel must have been torture, but if we don’t see Nights again until 2016 or later it might still be worth the wait.

Justin Last: Assassin’s Creed II
I played the first Assassin’s Creed when it came out and enjoyed it. Somehow, after that, the series fell off the radar for me completely and it wasn’t until after a sale last year that I played ACII and Brotherhood. I’m still not sure whether Ubisoft has ever topped Ezio’s debut. The updates from the original to II in terms of storyline, characterization, mission variety, and combat controls are amazing. I love the Italian setting, and ACII is the last time where we’ve had multiple cities divided by countryside which is something I missed in both Brotherhood and Revelations. If I could only replay one Assassin’s Creed game from here on out, it would definitely be II.

Andrew Passafiume: Nier
Nier is a game that was greatly unappreciated when it was first released, and I dismissed it pretty quickly after the lukewarm reception it received from critics. Thankfully, I went back to it after hearing some unexpected praise for the game a few months later and found a copy for fairly cheap. This is a game that needs to be experienced by everyone, whether or not you like RPGs. The gameplay is fairly basic, but fun, but the real draw is the story: it’s beautiful as well as tragic and it’s full of the most compelling characters I’ve seen in a Square-published game since the PS1 era.

Graham Russell: Comet Crash
I missed this PSN tower-defense/action game at release, and it even sat unopened in my XMB for months after acquiring it through PlayStation Plus. Once I opened it and found it had 3-player local co-op functionality throughout the campaign, it was sealed. My friends and I spent weeks gathering, pulling up a level, discussing a battle plan and trying to hold off the enemy forces until we could muster a counterattack. We devoured all the original’s maps, breezed through the expansion and then sat wondering what developer Pelfast is working on next. (It’s still unannounced.)

Eric Albuen: Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
Ace Attorney Investigations strayed in a different direction from what we know of the series, but it sure was an interesting trip. We see what Miles has to do before every trial, meet new characters (Shi-Long Lang being my new favorite) as well meet up with old faces in the series and laugh how they’re exactly the same. The story was pretty in-depth as far as finding out how several separate events in the present and past all connected to one plot event at the end. Kay’s backstory, as well as Lang’s story brought the most interest to me since their histories were interesting and valiant.

Gerry Pagan: Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War
Despite Ace Combat 4 being my first game in the series, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War was the title that truly introduced me to what Ace Combat is all about. Sporting an engrossing tale of aerial duels and chivalry, partnerships and beliefs, Ace Combat Zero is a game not easily-forgotten, with a magnificent score, rock solid gameplay and some great replay value behind it. This is definitely one of the better games in the series, so people who haven’t learned of or played an Ace Combat title should definitely look this up.

Shawn Vermette: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
This was a tough category for me this year. I played a number of older gems, such as Gears of War, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and Puzzle Agent. But the one title that stood above them all was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The action, cinematics, character development and gameplay all stood head and shoulders above the first game. It was, quite possibly, one of the best made and enjoyable games I’ve ever played. It channeled the adventurer/archaeological spirit that I love in this type of story as well as any Indiana Jones movie has, and that is quite the accomplishment.

{ 4 comments }

Graham Russell December 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Chris, people really don’t like that NiGHTS sequel. Being someone who does, do you know why most are cold toward it?

Gerry, you’re the only one to go back past this generation for your pick. (Of course, I almost put one of a few Neo Geo Pocket Color games down, haha.) Is it because you didn’t play memorable older games for the current systems, or because Zero left that much of an impression?

And Eric, how would you compare Ace Attorney Investigations with the main series? Do you like one more than the other?

Eric Albuen December 20, 2011 at 3:26 am

I liked AAI a lot. Mainly because it was so different from the other four games. While the thrill of being in court is lost, I did primarily like it for the story and seeing things from Edgeworth’s side (that being investigations).

I also liked Lang’s design a lot in there. Really interesting character.

I still have a soft spot for the main series though. Interesting character design doesn’t trump great story and all four games in the main series had a great story. Well, not so much Justice for All, but the other three were amazing.

Chris Ingersoll December 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

I couldn’t say why people dislike the Wii NiGHTS. People –especially gamers — tend to irrationally hate things for no clear reason. Looking at Metacritic, the majority of the middling scores are saying “could have been so much better,” so I’m guessing it was just inflated expectations.

Gerry Pagan December 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Nah, that wasn’t really a reason. I play a lot of older games all the time as well as new ones. It’s not so much that I didn’t find games this year memorable, but that ACZ left a really strong impression on me. It’s a series that I feared to play more of due to the much dreaded sequelitis that plagues most series… but man was I glad to have been proven wrong.

I /almost/ put in Vanquish instead of ACZ. Almost.