Round 95 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Insanity Prevails reviewing the Arkahm trilogy from the beginning, and he seems to have a very good first impression of it based on this review. He describes it as the authentic Batman experience as you beat down bad guys and even snoop around like as if you are the Batman!

Batman: Arkham Asylum Score: 9.5/10
Genre: Action

It's a licensed game that avoids the common pitfalls such games fall into and provides an excellent blend of action and stealth for the Batman experience you've been waiting for.

quote Insanity Prevails
Who am I? You want to know who I am? I'll tell you who I am. I'm the goddamn Batman.

This factor is the special thing about Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum. It isn't just a case of a company successfully shaking off the "all licensed games are bad" stigma to create a good game with Batman. Instead you are Batman and the entire experience is skilfully crafted around that central theme to form a product that might not be quite the same without the iconic series name behind it.

Events kick off with Batman bringing in familiar villain Joker to the titular Arkham Asylum. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game to have the bad guy dealt with before the opening sequence and even the titular hero seems very much aware of this. Despite coming along, things take a turn for the worse as expected and Batman suddenly finds himself stuck in the asylum to deal with the antics of the Joker.
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Batman: Arkham Asylum Who am I? You want to know who I am? I'll tell you who I am. I'm the goddamn Batman. This factor is the special thing about Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum. It isn't just a case of a company successfully shaking off the "all...


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Round 94 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Lukas reviewing the latest entry in the fairly long running and reasonably successful Ratchet & Clank series, Into The Nexus. He, unfortunately, finds that it doesn't quite live up to the quality of the PS2 games or the Future trilogy on the PS3 as there's some signs of franchise fatigue between only maybe a few genuinely creative and inspired weapons and mostly lazy storytelling. There's still quite a bit of hope as it's still fun and satisfying to kill hordes of aliens.

Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus Score: 7.5/10
Genre: Platformer/Third Person Shooter

Its aspiration towards being a longer downloadable game actually hurt it in the long run, really. It's a shame because it has all of what makes these games tick. It's full of high octane action and hardly ever lets up. There's just so much to blow up and it's so satisfying laying waste to so many robots and aliens that it never gets boring.

quote Lukas
Another year, another Ratchet And Clank game. At least this entry is more like the older games than like the last two games that tried to either be a co-op top down-y shooter or a MOBA-esque shooter. But it also goes to show why All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault/Q-Force had to be what they were; it's a gameplay style that's still really good, but it's just getting a bit old. It's mainly because this is the twelfth game in the series and the tenth to use this style. At first, it was all about improving itself with each successive game in the series, but they had practically reached their plateau with Deadlocked so they just sort of stagnated. This would be something of an issue if Tools Of Destruction and A Crack In Time didn't feature such good stories and Quest For Booty didn't have so much zazz in its story – don't get me wrong, the games were still fun, but like I said, they kind of stagnated in terms of style and overall quality. I think that's the issue I have with Into The Nexus – I've played this before and I just can't justify playing this over any other Ratchet And Clank game. The original quadrilogy showed steady improvement over the gameplay while having fun stories to tell, and the Future trilogy had a surprisingly compelling story with a memorable cast of characters. It's far from a bad game; in fact, it's a good game, but it's definitely one of the weaker Ratchet And Clank games.

For the most part, you have a lot of the series' trappings like a large variety of high tech weaponry, gadgets and lots of shit to blow up. There's the usual stuff like plasma blasters, mini bombs, disc launchers and rocket launchers, and there's also the series' mainstay – the RYNO, which fires tons of bullets and wrecks everything in its path. But there are some unique weapons like a weapon that turns enemies into snowmen, a shotgun that places enemies in slow motion, and a weapon that scares the enemies stiff. Yeah, you can sort of tell that they're running out of ideas, but twelve games would do that to you – Capcom ought to know since there are more Mega Man games than there are people in the world. But it hardly matters when it's still fun and satisfying as shit to blow up all sorts of aliens and robots with these weapons. It's just the effect these games have on you as they send lots of enemies your way throughout most of any given level. Sure, there's the occasional platforming segment and the "run/fly for your life" segment, but then you'll have more enemies to deal with right after that. Yeah, there's a scavenger hunt involved, but more than half of what you have to find are inside enemies and they'll usually be accompanied by smaller enemies that'll try to distract you. Then you take down the big enemies, reap the rewards and feel like you've earned those bolts and the eventual rewards.
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Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus Another year, another Ratchet And Clank game. At least this entry is more like the older games than like the last two games that tried to either be a co-op top down-y shooter or a MOBA-esque shooter.


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Round 93 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Polarity taking the gold with his rather meaty review of Super Meat Boy. For him, it's a practically picture perfect marriage of old school gameplay and new school style, which is a necessity in keeping things relevant in the year 2014 - well, 2010 in the case of this game - although he states that most worlds have weak boss fights ending them. I suppose we're none of us perfect.

Super Meat Boy Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

The duo from Team Meat, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, understood that in order to get today's crowd, you have to find a way to keep them coming back.

quote Polarity
If man yearned for one thing in our fast paced work-a-day world, it's to relive the glory days - to take a moment to remind themselves of what had once motivated them to live life. For some folks, it involves video games. There's been a clear shift from arcade games where the objective is to get the highest score and maybe beat the game, to more cinematic games where the objective is to watch snippets of a movie, witness a crazy set piece and sometimes play the game. Obviously, some developers weren't too happy with this, but thankfully, they have found a way to relive their boyhood days, and that's through emulating the games of the past. The problem is that a lot of them can *bleep* it up by reminding us of why we are where we are. Not only have basic game design principles changed, but so has the audience, and today's players aren't all that interested in dying and starting over a million times. This is especially evident in today's games where AI replaced reflex based play and outright trial and error. Thankfully, there are developers who get this, and the duo from Team Meat, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, understood that in order to get today's crowd, you have to find a way to keep them coming back.

Yes yes, we've heard the tale a million times - “oh my god Super Meat Boy is soooo hard man!!” The thing with Super Meat Boy is that yes, it is hard, but the only reason you're dying so much is because you suck. Well, okay, maybe that's a little too harsh, but really, Super Meat Boy's difficulty is quite fair in its design; it just happens to be harsh by its nature, if that makes any sense. There are plenty of tricks and traps like saw blades, spikes, missiles, lasers and all sorts of other nasty hazards that'll splatter Meat Boy across the walls and all over the place. However, they're not just plopped onto levels willy nilly; each hazard is placed onto the levels with plenty of care and attention, all in ways that force you to react quickly - given that Meat Boy runs as fast as a Jamaican athlete - without it seeming like they were inconveniently placed. At the same time, the game requires a fine grasp of the controls in order to progress. They can take some time to get used to as you'll really need to get the feel for different jump heights which can influence your survival – getting it right will allow you to live while over or undershooting can lead to your death – and also getting a hang of the two different speeds that Meat Boy can run. It's easy to say that they're quite loose, but the levels are, more or less, designed to accommodate towards Meat Boy's movements.
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Super Meat Boy Developer and Publisher: Team Meat If man yearned for one thing in our fast paced work-a-day world, it's to relive the glory days - to take a moment to remind themselves of what had once motivated them to live life. For some folks, it...


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Round 92 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Taake's review of Rayman Legends. Well, I suppose we have to keep up appearances somehow (this person also won with his review of Rayman Origins a year and a half ago, albeit under the monicker of Rift). Anyway, he describes Rayman Legends as one that tops Rayman Origins in most regards, but manages to also be a bit of an inferior sequel due to their ambitions outweighing the actual implementations of the extra stuff.

Rayman Legends Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

Rayman Legends does exactly what a sequel should do – it takes its predecessor, improves on it and adds whatever it deems necessary to add.

quote Taake
I absolutely adored Rayman Origins. It was a return to form after a series of party games, but it wasn't merely a return to the more popular stylings of Rayman 2 and 3. It was more akin to the very first Rayman game for the Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC in which you move from left to right, collecting stuff whilst making it to the end of each level, although it wasn't quite as hard. You also learned “new” techniques along the way, such as punching, floating in mid-air and swimming. In many ways, it was a modernization of Rayman 1, but like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it was able to become palatable towards newer gamers without insulting the intelligence of older gamers. It was brilliant, focusing on a more rhythmic structure whilst culminating its elements into a sublime experience. Even now, it's possible to pick up Rayman Origins and still find yourself enthralled by it.

But what about Rayman Legends? Well, it's a good game, too! It has all of the hallmarks of surpassing its predecessor with its fine-tuned art style, tighter gameplay mechanics and a higher focus on rhythmic level designs placed on a larger scale, but it also had those moments where it felt like it sidestepped whatever issues may or may not have been prevelant or even relevant in regards to Origins' design and as a result, it feels like a sharp step down. A lot of the additions to the overall formula are admirable, but sadly, whatever excitement generated from the elements are cut down once the realization that they're either gimmicky or haphazardly executed at best hits you square in the face. Don't get me wrong, none of these elements turn Rayman Legends into a bad game or even a mediocre one; however, they undermine the improvements that were made on the elements established in Rayman Origins.
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Rayman Legends The Introduction: I absolutely adored Rayman Origins. It was a return to form after a series of party games, but it wasn't merely a return to the more popular stylings of Rayman 2 and 3.


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With all that's said and done, we end round 91 of the Articles Of Excellence Solid Snake 4Life's review of Fallout 3 taking the win and blowing up the competition at that. He describes his experience as the sort that'd redefine what it means to have choice in how you explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland within a video game - from how you customize your character after birth and during your time in the wasteland, to the decisions that you make with each individual person and the multitude of factions, there's just a lot on offer that most games just can't keep up with... leaving them in the dust, so to speak.

Fallout 3 Score: 9.5/10
Genre: Role Playing Game/First Person Shooter

It’s a unique one of a kind experience that should be on the shelves of all who consider themselves fans of the role-playing genre.

quote Solid Snake 4Life
The vault door groans to life and rolls open. You have just enough time to say a heartfelt goodbye before security is on your ass. A small tunnel lies ahead of you and at the end you can see light peering in through the doors cracks. You open it and step out into the world for the first time in your life. The sun is blinding. Your eyes aren’t use to the intensity of the natural light but they soon adjust, and you begin to make sense of your surroundings. You think you can make out an old radio broadcast tower against the horizon but it’s impossible to tell from this distance. You know you should be on the hunt for your dear old dad but that tower is tantalizing, teasing you with the secrets that it may or may not contain. Luckily deciding what to do is entirely up to you. Welcome to the Capital Wasteland.

Its scenarios like the one described above that has allowed Fallout 3 to captivate a generation of gamers. The house that The Elder Scrolls built is no stranger to creating sprawling worlds that just beg to be explored but Fallout 3 was the first time that Bethesda really managed to fill one of these worlds with set-pieces that stay with you after you’ve finished playing. Wreaking havoc as the pint-sized slasher in Tranquility Lane, besting your first Super Mutant Behemoth with the trusty Fat Man, taking a stroll with Liberty Prime and more are all some of the past console generations most memorable moments.
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Fallout 3 The vault door groans to life and rolls open. You have just enough time to say a heartfelt goodbye before security is on your ass. A small tunnel lies ahead of you and at the end you can see light peering in through the doors cracks.


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Note: This was originally meant to be posted on the 7th of January, 2014.

With the year of our lord 2013 ending and 2014 taking over, we end round 90 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Hell Fire's review of Tales Of Xillia winning. He describes his experience as a great first impression, implying that it's a great game for newcomers to the Tales series to start with while still having a lot of humor and action to keep old timers like myself (calm down Gryzor, Tales Of Symphonia isn't quite 10 years old yet) entertained.

Tales Of Xillia Score: 8.3/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

The strong twisty-turny plot, interesting characters and fast, exciting battle system (even if a little easy most of the time) all contribute in making it a well-rounded, enjoyable experience.

quote Hell Fire
I’m quite surprised that I’ve never crossed paths with a Tales game before, being the enthusiastic RPGer that I am. Part of this is due to my seemingly never ending pile of games on my to-do list, but also because of the consoles that past Tales games have called home (X-Box Shmex-Box….. yeah, I said it). The good news is; the two most recent additions, Tales of Graces F and Tales of Xillia, made the PS3 its home, which suits me just fine. I’m happy to announce that the positive reviews for Xillia were completely justified, and that for me, it goes down as one of the strongest JRPGs released over the past few years.

The story starts in the town of Fennmont, capital of Rashugal. Jude, a young, aspiring medical student, becomes curious when his professor mysteriously disappears, and decides to investigate (break in to) a military facility for answers. On his way, he encounters a mysterious girl, who has her own reasons for breaking in to the building; to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. Of course, this just doesn’t roll with the authorities, so things immediately start to pick up when they become enemies of the country and are forced to flee. This is just the tip of the ice burg in terms of plot points. Most of the time when characters say “we’ve come so far”, they really haven’t, but in Xillia so much happens (twists and turns galore) over the course of the game that it really does seem like the epic journey that it’s meant to be.
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Tales of Xillia I'm quite surprised that I've never crossed paths with a Tales game before, being the enthusiastic RPGer that I am. Part of this is due to my seemingly never ending pile of games on my to-do list, but also because of the consoles that...


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Round 89 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Insanity Prevails surprising the circuit with his first win in what feels like forever! This one review happened to be on F.E.A.R. 2, the psychological horror shooter featuring that creepy little girl. He confirms that Alma is, indeed, creepy, but she really enhanced what was a standard ordinary (albeit well designed) shooter.

F.E.A.R. 2 Score: 8/10
Genre: Survival Horror

While I think some of the stuff could have been executed better, I did find that I enjoyed myself playing through the game. Perhaps not entirely for the reasons the developers had intended, but the fact that I wanted to go back in and keep progressing is a good sign.

quote Insanity Prevails
When it comes to the horror genre a good number of the more well known series play from a third person perspective - either a playable view behind the character or that awful fixed camera option. Yet it feels like first person would be the more ideal choice, putting the players squarely in the shoes of the poor sap that is due to be victim to whatever supernatural forces the developers care to drop in. FEAR 2 goes that route, putting us closer to the horror than other games would as we deal with the dangers of Alma.

You're part of a task force attempting to reach someone involved in some incidents before other special forces reach her first. Then shit happens and then you end up trying to reach your fellow squad mates while dealing with a creepy women who seems drawn to you and then blahdeblah blah. There is a lot of backstory you can dig up about everything though, which comes in the form of data disks scattered around throughout. The environment itself does a good job of providing elements of the story too. When you arrive at the school it initially just plays out as a hiding place for a NPC. As you explore you realise that the school itself holds numerous dark secrets.

The stand out part of the story for me was Alma, as I gradually learned about who she was, how she was involved in everything and why she kept appearing where I was. Despite the interactions with her going the route of OMFG SHE'S HERE I'M SCREWED she was definitely the character I was the most interested in. By comparison, I found it hard to care too much about the others. The most notable friendly NPCs - that being "Snake Fist" and squad leader Stokes - have little interaction with the player so they don't really seem to go beyond their assigned roles. You do get the odd radio transmission from them, but not enough to really flesh them out. The antagonists other than Alma also seem to have little presence. You see them in the first few parts of the game and then they mostly vanish entirely up until the final areas of the game, apparently content to leave all the work to the mooks. I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about finally confronting one any more than I did about replica soldier 851 whose blood I'd just used to decorate the walls two rooms earlier. The ending is also obvious sequel bait, which may be a little annoying if you're not actually sure if you want to invest in FEAR 3 too.
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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin When it comes to the horror genre a good number of the more well known series play from a third person perspective - either a playable view behind the character or that awful fixed camera option.


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Round 88 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Aevers swooping in with a review of Obscure. She describes her experience with it as one that's all too familiar, but thankfully has the spooky atmosphere to back it up for a while.

Obscure Score: 7/10
Genre: Survival Horror

Where it really shines is in how the first half of the game really sucks you in as you explore the dark, twisted hallways of the empty school, hoping that you can gather some supplies before you get jumped by monsters.

quote Aevers
Released at the peak of survival horror's quality (or at least the Alone In The Dark/Resident Evil style one, anyway), Obscure takes the tried and true Resident Evil formula, adds a few things and sets it all in a high school. It'd be easy to dismiss them as cheap gimmicks implemented to vainly mask the fact that it's a generic survival horror game, and to be fair, I feel like Obscure would lose its edge without these things. Without its approach to co-op and its characters, it would play out like a rather generic and top heavy survival horror game, and by generic, I mean generic with a capital G. In other words, it feels like Obscure works not necessarily because of its overall structure, but because of its theme and its approach to the survival horror genre. Oddily enough, it's these things that'll make the game well worth your time.

Leafmore high school is no ordinary school – at least, not once you head into the basement. Kenny Matthews finds this out after chasing somebody down to the basement and finds himself surrounded by cages with some syringes poking around the place. Not only that, but there are some people in there who seem to be mentally scarred, and monsters in the darkness. Just as he's about to escape, the door shuts, trapping Kenny in the basement with the monsters. Kenny's girlfriend and sister notice that he hadn't come home that night and, alongside two guys, they decide to search the school for him. It's like a teen horror movie – starting off with a dark, scary scene showing Kenny investigating and then getting trapped in the basement before it transitions to a brighter scene of people entering the school. As you play through the game, you'll find notes that'll unravel the mystery and the final scenes will bring it all to light, ending the game on a satisfying note
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Obscure Released at the peak of survival horror's quality (or at least the Alone In The Dark/Resident Evil style one, anyway), Obscure takes the tried and true Resident Evil formula, adds a few things and sets it all in a high school.


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Round 87 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Monterey Jack just waltzing in after a brief period of hibernation and casually handing in a review of Doom 64 that manages to score him yet another win! He describes his experience of Doom 64 as a dark, gritty shooter with sublime lighting and plenty of moments where you shoot down groups of demons with big guns.

Doom 64 Score: 9/10
Genre: First Person Shooter

It's not just the dark and foreboding alleyways, the dark sky and the fire and brimstone; it's also a stark raving badass marine killing demons. By the end of the game, you'll be giving these denizens of hell a taste of what the world of the living has to offer by literally giving them hell.

quote Monterey Jack
Doom was the shit! While not quite the first of its kind, it was the game that took the first person shooting formula and made it its own. Everybody who played it loved it, and it became pretty big. Not quite Mario and Sonic big, but for the PC crowd, it came close enough to that level. Bit of a shame it was linked with the Columbine Massacre, but them's the brakes I guess – Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson used to be linked with bad shit too. Anyway, Doom had to expand its mighty empire, so it was ported to most any console that was available. It'd be easier if I listed what it wasn't ported to – the Sega Genesis and the Nintendo 64. Even then, it was ported to the Sega Genesis' 32X add on, but not the Sega CD for whatever reason. As for the Nintendo 64, well, its controller isn't exactly first person shooter friendly like a keyboard is, and all that gory Satanic imagery on what was mostly a kiddy console wouldn't really sit well with parents – hell, it didn't sit well with Christian organizations when it was on PC! So Midway went and made something completely different using a modified Doom engine...

...and while it started off innocently enough – or about as innocently as gunning down zombie marines and carving up demons with chainsaws got, anyway – it wasn't until the ninth level (of which there are 32) when you went into hell itself, and that's when shit gets hectic! All of a sudden, the barren UAC bases with the occasional zombies and surprise demon attacks are like tea time with the Teletubbies compared to the fire, brimstone, pentagrams and guys in red pyjamas sticking pitchforks up your butt (and that's if these demons don't make you jittery with that trigger finger). Honestly, while Doom on the PC had satanic imagery and demons out the ass, Doom 64 upped the ante in terms of sheer atmosphere, especially once you entered hell. It probably helped that Doom 64 has an entirely ambient soundtrack consisting of droning noises rather than MIDI formatted heavy metal, but then you take note of the colors and the lighting, and from there, it becomes clear that this isn't your older brother's Doom.
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Doom 64 Doom was the shit! While not quite the first of its kind, it was the game that took the first person shooting formula and made it its own. Everybody who played it loved it, and it became pretty big. Not quite Mario and Sonic big, but for the....


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Round 86 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Rift banging out a review of Ninja Blade. Despite his vocabulary consisting mostly of big words and small, difficult words, Rift is a man with simple taste as his review of Ninja Blade demonstrates. Sure, he'd rather a game that commits itself towards being fun and challenging rather than tepid and uninspired with bosses having more HP than Jesus, but hey, if you can get a campy story and quick time events right, he'll forgive you.

Ninja Blade Score: 6/10
Genre: Hack and Slash

It almost seems like this game would've worked better as a Shenmue/Indigo Prophecy-esque game, rather than Ninja Gaiden with a crapload of quick time events.

quote Rift
As the industry moves more towards churning out quadrillion dollar cinematic experiences with less engaging interactive gameplay than a DVD menu, I often mull over the cause of such a direction. It's the kind of direction that causes a game to spin against the way that it drives – sure, its cinematography is fine, but when it comes to interaction, it ranges between boring and maybe sort of interesting if I honestly have nothing better to do. The irony of it all is that there are times where this can work to its advantage and actually make things more interesting. Shenmue, Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain showcased quick time events as a means of interaction during an action packed cutscene that couldn't be replicated nor bettered by actual gameplay. Furthermore, games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Sleeping Dogs displayed a more fluid approach to hand to hand combat, games such as Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and No More Heroes showcased fast, furious and flashy combat, and lest we forget the forefather of quick time event driven games - Dragon's Lair.

As you can tell, my disdain towards cinematic gameplay is not due to principle or whatever bullshit 4chan decides to pull out of their collective asses, but rather, it's due to developers lazily using them as a crutch to elongate gameplay or give their otherwise boring as sin cutscenes an edge. Oddly enough, Ninja Blade is a game that you'd quickly assume was a game that should've just been a movie as it relied more on flash than substance. When I had first played this game, I was turned off by the low rent Ninja Gaiden meets Heavenly Sword gameplay and the plethora of quick time events that were to follow. I played about a couple of hour's worth a content, wrote it off as a mediocre hack and slash, and went on with my day. But four years removed, for whatever reason (perhaps Resident Evil 6's flawed cinematic escapades got to me), I decided to pick this game back up and just go through it. By the end of the game, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself rather enamoured by the experience. Granted, the hack and slash gameplay still felt like a poor man's Ninja Gaiden, but the quick time events were surprisingly excellent and as a result, the game found itself a place in my heart. It's not exactly a great game nor one that I would replay once or even twice a year, but it's a game that succeeds where other games fail... incidentally, it also goes through the motions where other games tend to excel.
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Ninja Blade The Introduction: As the industry moves more towards churning out quadrillion dollar cinematic experiences with less engaging interactive gameplay than a DVD menu, I often mull over the cause of such a direction.


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Round 85 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Praetorian_Lord banging out a review of Journey. He describes his experience with Journey as one that bridges the gap between a mere video game and art with its superb usage of beautiful graphics and a grandiose, downright moody soundtrack, although it has moments of reminding you that it's a streamlined video game.

Journey Score: 9/10
Genre: Platformer

If it comes to a choice between a game lasting only a few hours yet polished to perfection, or a colossal Skyrim-style open world full of glitches and bugs, Journey is Exhibit A when it comes to demonstrating why the former shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

quote Praetorian_Lord
‘Artistic video games’ is quickly becoming my favourite genre, because it’s increasingly clear to me that AAA developers don’t have any balls. They sink so much money into game development that anything less than a major hit represents huge financial losses, and as such they can’t afford to take any risks. So instead they pander to the lowest common denominator by creating games which last for dozens of hours and include every gameplay element they can think of, perhaps in the hope that throwing enough shit at the walls will result in something sticking. We gamers are to blame to an extent since we’ve come to expect a predictable bang for our buck, but it’s watered down all the individual genres to the point we’re they’re all starting to resemble each other. As usual it’s left to the minor studios or the indie scene to push existing boundaries by jamming their fingers in their ears and staying true to a single, initial vision. And every once in a while a previously unheard of developer strikes gold. If it comes to a choice between a game lasting only a few hours yet polished to perfection, or a colossal Skyrim-style open world full of glitches and bugs, Journey is Exhibit A when it comes to demonstrating why the former shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

There’s no definitive story to Journey – you play as a cloaked humanoid figure which could as easily be male or female, human or alien. There’s no dialogue whatsoever to provide you with any hints. While there’s a handful of cutscenes which act as a transition between ‘zones’, these are purely visual and so heavy with imagery that every player will have a slightly different interpretation of what’s really going on. It takes a while to settle in with this style and you probably won’t arrive at your own conclusions after a single playthrough. Some gamers will inevitably be put off by that philosophical chestnut of projecting your own personality onto the player character, but all the same there’s enough there to give you the general impression of a message of self-discovery, character building, adversity – you know, all those clichés associated with journeys being more important than their destinations. But unlike many other artistic games, it’s in fine balance here – Journey is deep enough that you can read into it as far as you want to, but it also isn’t so distracting as to be pretentious. You’re free to make of it what you will without it much affecting your enjoyment of the gameplay.
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Journey Highlight this box with your cursor to read the spoiler text. 'Artistic video games' is quickly becoming my favourite genre, because it's increasingly clear to me that AAA developers don't have any balls. They sink so much money into game dev...


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Round 84 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Hell Fire winning it out with his review of Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. Looks like Halloween has come early with this one, folks! He describes the game as one full of wonder, whether it's within the catacombs of Dracula's Castle or even through the secrets necessary to find in order to get the good ending.

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

Move over Twilight, Vampire Diaries and any other wimpy blood sucking vampire text plaguing our screens, Alucard is the real deal, and is here to kick some ass.

quote Hell Fire
It’s safe to say that most gamers these days have old games lying around the house that have never seen the light of day. However, most of these games probably get to escape the confines of their cheap plastic casing within a couple of years. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SOTN) hasn't been so fortunate. All it wanted was some love, yet I kept it in the darkness of my cupboard for over twelve years. After moving house, my eyes once again met the cover of the game and I thought enough was enough, why not give it a shot? I’m glad I did, because what SOTN offers is something that’s incredibly hard to come by these days, and that is a quality, 2D action-RPG experience. While the game isn't without its flaws, it is easily one of the leaders of the genre. If you’re into this sort of game, then SOTN is a must play.

The game is set four years after a short intense-interactive-introduction (say that ten times) which involves the slaying of Dracula (you tried it, didn't you?). A mysterious castle has appeared and Alucard (the main character, also Draculas son) tasks himself with destroying the castle, and in turn his father. Now, unless you’re a pre-teen girl, I’m sure you’ll agree that the film and television industry has recently turned vampires in soft, shiny, twinkly pretty-boys. Fortunately, Alucard kicks some serious ass. His journey, however, is unfortunately quite short and simple and there are only a few other character in the game that you’ll interact with. And let me tell you something; these interactions are as cheesy as….. cheese. On one hand, I don’t know what the developers were thinking when they both wrote the script, and chose the voice actors, but on the other hand, it kind of gives the game a bit of charm. With that said, it would be unfortunate if you missed out on experiencing this charm by completing the game pre-maturely…..
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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night It's safe to say that most gamers these days have old games lying around the house that have never seen the light of day. However, most of these games probably get to escape the confines of their cheap plastic casin...


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Round 83 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Stalagmite netting her first win in a long time. This time, she gives Super Mario Brothers 2 a spin. She describes it the same way Mario would describe it - like a dream with nightmarish parts. Only in this instance, the "nightmarish" parts are underwhelming bosses while the levels, controls and even different characters are like a dream.

Super Mario Bros 2 Score: 8.5/10
Genre: Platformer

Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream-like experience. Not quite in the sense that you're probably thinking of - whether it's dreamy like Ico, weird like Katamari Damacy or nightmarish like Silent Hill. No, it's an experience that's more akin to all three put together.

quote Stalagmite
Released in 1988 by Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream-like experience. Not quite in the sense that you're probably thinking of - whether it's dreamy like Ico, weird like Katamari Damacy or nightmarish like Silent Hill. No, it's an experience that's more akin to all three put together. It's weird in that the residents of the dream world known as Subcon aren't the same as those found in the real world. It's nightmarish because you're plopped in the middle of its takeover by the evil Wart, who had imprisoned the guardians of Subcon. It's dreamy due to how many different environments you go through. In the original Super Mario Brothers game, you pretty much went through some plains, trekked through underground passages and all through each of Bowser's castles - in Super Mario Brothers 2, you went through grassy lands, deserts, ice lands and even up in the clouds with no real transition other than "it was all a dream", combined with some high quality graphics that manage to perfectly capture that experience. In short, Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream that you won't want to wake up from.

It's amazing how some of these ideas came to be. The idea of a four legged creature wearing a mask is a bit odd. My estimation is that they're the souls of the people who had committed suicide due to bullying, or the souls of people who had burned to death that Wart had brought from hell or purgatory to do his bidding. Coupled with the fact that the rulers of this dream world are sprites and their captor happens to be a giant frog, and it's clear that nothing is rooted in the confides of reality besides the landscapes. Not that the Mushroom Kingdom is the paragon of realism or anything, but Subcon makes the Mushroom Kingdom look normal by comparison. But one thing I'll never understand is how Mario and friends exit each level – so they defeat this dinosaur with a wide open nose that spits eggs (and occasionally, fireballs), take the crystal ball that it spits out upon defeat and then go through... a hawk's open mouth? In even my most intoxicated and stoned state, I still cannot fathom the idea of going through the open mouth of a hawk to get to the next level in a world. I guess prior to going to sleep, Mario had saved Princess Peach from the clutches of a giant hawk and his engagement ring somehow fell into its mouth so he had to reach in and grab it. From there, he was like “it's like being in a part of another world”. That's the only explanation I could think of that makes even a fraction of a percentage of sense, really.
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One night Mario has a strange dream while sleeping. In this dream he saw a very long staircase that ended in a door. When the door was opened a vast new world lay before him. A voice declared the world as Subcon, and pleaded for Mario's help again...


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Round 82 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with another review of a Square game - this time, Secret Of Mana from Polarity. While people look fondly on this game, Polarity takes off the rose tinted glasses and looks at the game for what it really is, which is an unrefined action RPG with some interesting gameplay elements, a poorly translated story and fantastic presentation.

Secret Of Mana Score: 5.6/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

It's just too unpolished and borderline sloppy at the worst of times to really have fun with, and given the dissonance between its happy atmosphere and its more serious moments in conjunction with the borderline hackneyed translation, it's certainly not good enough to pass itself off as an experience.

quote Polarity
Ambition is a double edged sword – on one hand, it can create a genuinely fantastic game that goes above and beyond its contemporaries; on the other hand, it can create a cluster*bleep* of a game. Secret Of Mana is a mix of both. It manages to take the Legend Of Zelda style of gameplay that a lot of gamers at the time loved and added RPG elements like stats and levels, culminating in an experience that could potentially serve as a fantastic game. In practice, it's a confused mix of unrefined gameplay systems, illogically bullshit moments in combat, inconsistent computer companions and – at least in the case of the English translation – a story that's smaller than it really is. It's certainly not without its positives; there are some systems that are surprisingly well done and the production quality is pretty high, but there are far too many moments where you wonder just what was going on inside Square's headquarters during development...

Ted Woolsey, the translator for the game, had remarked that he had to significantly shrink (or “nuke”) the dialogue down to the bare essentials. It's not because gamers had ADD, but it's because there wouldn't be enough space in the text boxes for a detailed story. So essentially, if you're coming into Secret Of Mana with the expectations of there being a deep, thought provoking story, you will be sorely disappointed unless you play the Japanese version or find a really good fan translation. Instead of being an epic tale of a boy saving the world after accidentally dooming it, it instead reads like a children's pop up book. That's how badly neutered the story got - text size limitations and not wanting to do anything drastic such as adding more text boxes all but killed the story. Most developments for the relationships between our characters, as well as the motives of certain characters are lost in translation.
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Secret of Mana Developer and Publisher: Squaresoft Ambition is a double edged sword - on one hand, it can create a genuinely fantastic game that goes above and beyond its contemporaries; on the other hand, it can create a cluster*bleep* of a game. Se...


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Round 81 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with another Final Fantasy review winning, this time from Upmagic. He describes the experience as one that goes between being a well constructed fairy tale full of beautiful imagery... and an turn based RPG with little challenge that moves at the speed of a tortoise in a chronic state of bullet time.

Final Fantasy IX Score: 6/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

To the developer's credit, they really did get just about everything, but then it's no surprise that as a standalone game, Final Fantasy IX doesn't have an identity to call its own. In all of its pretty, purposeful pastiche, it forgets it needs to be something playable. A game, even.

quote Upmagic
The kingdom of Alexandria is busied with great excitement as its people prepare for the performance of "I Want to be Your Canary," a famous play and favorite of her highness, Queen Brahnne. The giant of a woman sits atop her castle balcony, cooly fanning herself as she indulges in the fireworks, staring on as a theater ship sails through the sky and into the arena. Ticket buyers take their seats, less privileged delinquents navigate the city's rooftops in hopes of catching a glimpse of the spectacle, and the stage is finally set. The Queen cannot hide her anticipation. But while her maniacal eyes grow wider with joy, there beside her, with a gaze cast downward and wearing a face of somber indifference, sits her daughter, Princess Garnet. Perhaps the subject matter of the play -- a story of a royal girl breaking free from the cage of castle walls -- has her longing for something more in life.

It would be a girl's lucky night, then, because the theater troop below is actually a ruse, the actors and stage workers aboard the airship a guise for a band of thieves and their plan to kidnap the princess, yet unaware that she herself has already made plans to slip away during the evening's entertainment. The confusion that follows is unforgettable, running various characters around the castle in a playful chase for the princess, a girl more daring than either her knights or kidnappers had ever imagined. Captain Steiner of the Queen's Guard hopelessly tries to assemble his worthless soldiers into a rescue effort while Zidane, a scrappy and wild boy (he has a tail, in fact), infiltrates the castle; his comrades putting on the show for the queen, demonstrating the game's battle system on stage in between volleys of acted drama.
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Final Fantasy IX The kingdom of Alexandria is busied with great excitement as its people prepare for the performance of "I Want to be Your Canary," a famous play and favorite of her highness, Queen Brahnne.


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Round 80 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Aevers snagging a win with her comprehensive review of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, which has a graphical remake of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. She regards Final Fantasy IV as a fantastic game that contains a brilliant story full of characters you'll love, and gameplay that's easy to get into. She unfortunately describes its direct sequel as a game that doesn't hold a candle to the original.

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection Score: 9/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

It's with these bold steps forward that Final Fantasy evolves from a basic dungeons and dragons-like game to an experience that you sit back and feel a little something for.

quote Aevers
This is when Final Fantasy started getting really good. Let's recap before we begin to emphasize that fact - the first game was good for its time but was more about level grinding than anything as the story hardly existed until the last dungeon, the second game was overly ambitious with some dickish design choices amongst a good story, and the third game had some great ideas compounded by harsh difficulty. Where does Final Fantasy 4 get it right? By being a more character driven experience while introducing the ATB system that relies on quickness to add legitimate challenge to a game that otherwise relies on simplistic strategies. Through everything that it does, it opens up a new level of Final Fantasy, taking everything from the first games, irons out the flaws and plays to the strengths. It's not a perfect game, but it comes pretty damn close to the mark at the best of times and even at its worst, it's still a reasonably good game.

Oh and there's the direct sequel somewhere that I'll also cover in this review.

Final Fantasy 4 begins with our protagonist, Cecil... forcibly taking a crystal from a nearby kingdom and delivering it to the king of Baron. He questions why he has to lead the squadron of Red Wings to attack kingdoms carrying the four elemental crystals, which doesn't sit well with the king as he's stripped of his rank and sent on a seemingly menial task to deliver a package to a nearby village shrouded in mist. With fellow knight and best friend, Kain, in tow, Cecil heads off to deliver the package, and at that point, let's just say that shit hits the fan. From there, Cecil has to atone for his dark deeds by shedding his dark knight powers in favor of light paladin powers in an effort to slay the dark beings. Along the way, he'll meet with characters who will have their own reasons to fight alongside him, whether it's to help him outl (either under orders of a leader or because they want to be with him) or for their own personal revenge and/or atonement.
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Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection This is when Final Fantasy started getting really good. Let's recap before we begin to emphasize that fact - the first game was good for its time but was more about level grinding than anything as the story h...


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Round 79 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Gryzor taking another win, this time with a spin off of the Metal Gear franchise from Platinum Games known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. While he finds the story to be one that goes in one ear and out the other while serving up a lame final boss and bad camera controls, he also finds the overall game to be a fast and furious romp that feels like an adrenaline rush and is just so much fun to play through that the bad stuff can be overlooked... to varying extents.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Score: 7/10
Genre: Hack and slash

There's just too much working against Revengeance to consider it a great game, though for what it does right, it most certainly comes recommended.

quote Gryzor
Platinum Games and Kojima Productions working together on a Metal Gear game? If you're the kind of person who digs anything and everything campy and crazy, this would pulsate your *bleep* into a diamond carving machine. I mean holy shit, fun and exciting gameplay with some over the top set pieces to go along with an exposition heavy story full of crazy plot twists? Sign me up! Sure, it took a long time and the only reason Platinum Games was even involved was because Kojima had some issues and needed somebody to essentially redo it for him and Shinji Mikami was more than happy to help out, but it did eventually come and with everything at their disposal, I'm sure they've developed a fantastic game, especially since it's based on...

...Raiden? You mean the guy from Metal Gear Solid 2 that people hated because he wasn't Solid Snake? Who wound up becoming a cyborg ninja in Metal Gear Solid 4 and got people loving him and even wanting games based on him because he was doing some sick Matrix shit? Interesting – and really, that's a word I'd use to describe my experience with this game. Raiden is able to slice up robots, slow down time to cut them into tiny little pieces and harvest their spines for health (otherwise known as Zandatsu), and given that there are a good amount of enemies and bosses to take down, it makes for some frantic action. There are so many instances where the phrase “holy shit” is uttered to a point where my voice is hoarse and not just gravelly.
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Round 78 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Gryzor giving the semi-sequel to the reboot of the Castlevania series a review. Sadly, he describes his time with the game as one that's confused about its overall design and found it flat and underwhelming as a whole. He did point out a few things that redeemed this otherwise mediocre game, but then he brings you back down to Earth by pointing out what makes this game so tepid and uninspired.

Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Mirror Of Fate Score: 5/10
Genre: Platformer/hack and slash

Really, this could've been a great game, but it feels like Mercury Stream didn't quite capitalize on much, if anything that they had at their disposal here.

quote Gryzor
Mirror Of Fate is just weird. It wants to play like the 2D Castlevania games, but it has the feel of the 3D Castlevania games. It wants to be like the Metroidvania games in that there's a huge castle to explore, but given that you're playing as three different characters at three different time periods, some downsizing had to be done. As a result, it hardly feels like you're actually exploring the castle; instead, it feels more like you're a gerbil in a linear maze with a few small nooks to give the illusion of open endedness. A lot of the time when you're presented with a seemingly impassable obstacle, you're usually required to get a new item that you'll find at some point in the parts of the castle that you can explore. Even then, you'll only ever really find HP and MP upgrades, sub weapon ammo and experience points you can use to purchase new attacks. You can also acquire experience points from defeating enemies, but more on enemies in a sec – a lot of the time, it feels more like a superfluous detail than a legitimate design choice.

It wants to be like the Metroidvania games but it, more or less, has the linearity of the first Castlevania game on the NES, but yet it has lots of backtracking like a Metroidvania game... it feels like they couldn't quite think of a way to create an ingeniously designed set of castles so they just went “*bleep* it” and did the first thing that came to mind. “Exploring” this castle feels like a chore, like it would've been better suited as a set of levels rather than one big level that changes when the game decides to arbitrarily change your character every few hours. Before anybody cries “it's on a handheld”, I'll just say that Aria Of Sorrow, which is my second favorite Metroidvania game for what it's worth, was on the *bleep*ing Game Boy Advance and it had a much better designed castle than this hunk of shit! In fact, it was a better game on the whole, and that's because it understood basic game design principles, something Mirror Of Fate didn't quite get.
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Round 77 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Hell Fire coming back to the winner's circle, this time with a review of Ni No Kuni. He describes the game as one where you'll fall in love with the world around you and the critters (or Familiars, if you will) that you can capture, although capturing them is a bit tricky and getting captured by the plot via the main three characters is about as hard. Nevertheless, there are some grand villains, an awesome sidekick with a Welsh accent and a bunch of NPCs with good enough dialogue to compel you to do the myriad of sidequests on offer.

Ni No Kuni Score: 8.7/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

Even with the few flaws, NNK stands to be one of the most enjoyable JRPGs of the decade and I can confidently recommend it anyone who enjoys a role-playing experience.

quote Hell Fire
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. To be honest, it’s not the most appealing name for a game. It sounds like something a five year old would watch after a stressful day of finger painting at kindergarten. Couple this with the cutesy looking characters and you would have something that I would certainly flick past at my local game store. Fortunately, I closely follow RPG releases and the amount of hype that this game got was unbelievable. I would put this down to the collaboration with the famous Studio Ghibli…. You know; the guys who made Princess Mononoki, Spirited away and all those other masterpieces? I can happily say that the quality of their films certainly carried over to this game. Ni No Kuni (NNK) has not spared any expense. It is a beautiful, huge game and one of the best JRPGs released this decade. All those things that we loved in the RPGs of the 90s are back, and this is what made NNK so enjoyable for me.

The story begins in the town of Motorville, where Oliver and his friend are busy working on a motorcar. Just like any teenager, Oliver decides to disobey his mother and sneak out at night in order to give the car a test run. Stupid idea, as this kid clearly can’t drive. Within seconds, the car crashes nose first in a lake. Fortunately, Oliver is saved by his mother…..buuuutttt she later dies as a result of saving her son. Oliver is a mess, and tries to shut himself off from the world. Then the magic happens! Upon crying over the unfortunate events, Olivers tears hit his favourite doll, Drippy, which results in it springing to life. Drippy soon introduces Oliver to a parallel world in which only can save from the evil wizard, Shadar. This plot is quite a simple one and cruises in third gear until the final third of the game when the plater is hit with a load twists and turns that are actually quite well written. The majority of the story is far from revolutionary and in my opinion, a little too childish at times, but it’s easily enough to drive this amazing game without creating a hint of boredom.
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Round 76 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Monterey Jack scoring a win with a review of DmC - Devil May Cry... wait, haven't we already featured this game? Oh yeah, we did! Needless to say, Monterey Jack offers a somewhat different perspective on the game as, while he also found the story to be underwhelming, he found that the combat scenarios and the combat itself was mostly fantastic, managing to be fast, fluid and fun - the three F's, if you will. He laments the small number of bosses, but hey, you can't win them all in the game of... gaming.

DmC - Devil May Cry Score: 8/10
Genre: Hack and Slash

It felt like a refreshing dip in a freshly cleaned pool.

quote Monterey Jack
Damn, Devil May Cry was cool! It's a series that indulged on over the top elements that offer the player a good time while putting them in places with gothic architecture, given that it was originally meant to be a Resident Evil game. But with time comes a need to change things up, and with Capcom thinking that they can't keep the series relevant, they pass off the franchise to Ninja Theory to see if they can do it any justice. Well, one goofy looking Dante design and an overhaul of the battle system later, and DmC: Devil May Cry is actually quite a rousing success. It may not feel like the original games, but by the way Ninja Theory did their spin on it, it felt like a refreshing dip in a freshly cleaned pool.

But kids are going to pee in it and the pee is the story. Look, I understand if you like the idea of a demon corporation secretly controlling the world through advertised product because it's a concept that could work in theory. Adding on a dual world mechanic – in this case, the real world and a demon-infested world called Limbo – seems pretty cool too. I mean, just imagine all the possibilities!! The execution, on the other hand, is competent at best. At no point, did this story grab me by the head and push it onto my TV screen; instead, it tepidly explains stuff in somewhat of a dry manner. It probably didn't help that every single character in this game felt less like three dimensional characters and more like walking tropes. Dante had a crappy past as he was orphaned at a young age and received constant abuse, and although he's thankfully not as bad as Tidus from Final Fantasy X (at least he doesn't whinge every ten minutes), he's certainly not a good or well written character. Vergil and Kat also have tragic pasts that are explored a bit, but when you actually watch them in a cutscene, they just exist. I guess the idea of exploring Vergil's past was to justify why he wants the humans to be under his control under the guise of freedom while Dante's past and involvement with The Order (a vigilante group dedicated to stopping the demons from controlling the world) is meant to explain why he wants true freedom for them, but at the same time, it always feels like they just embody their tropes, personalities and whatnot without actually having much if any life being breathed into them.
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Round 75 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Alyssa scoring another win, this time with her review of Heavenly Sword. She prefaces the review by saying how it was ignored due to being released at the wrong time, and explains that if it was released under different circumstances, it would immediately be a classic, perhaps outside of some gimmicky motion controls. But hey, if you have excellent combat, a fantastic story and surprisingly good animation, it's very easy to overlook the motion controls.

Heavenly Sword Score: 9/10
Genre: Hack and Slash

With a dynamic cast of characters and intense battles, it's hard to deny that Heavenly Sword is definitely one of the finest games in this generation.

quote Alyssa
Damn, 2007 was a gooood year. Before the seventh generation became little more than corporate greed and generic faceless crap, there were a bunch of games that could give a lot of the previous generation a run for its money. Games like Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, Crysis, Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxy and the subject of today's review, Heavenly Sword manage to make PS2, Xbox and Gamecube games look like yesterday's news. Smoother, more detailed graphics leading to tighter game mechanics, with better sound quality to further enhance the experience – sign me up!! Heavenly Sword, unfortunately, had the displeasure of being released on the Playstation 3 and only the Playstation 3 because in this otherwise glorious year for gaming, “PS3 HAS NO GAEMS” wasn't just a simple obvious troll comment, but it was also an actual argument. It's a bit of a shame because Heavenly Sword is fantastic. Of course, it's easily to make claims like “too short” and “too much like God Of War” back then, but now, the former point isn't as relevant as it was back then because now, it's like 20 bucks instead of $60-90, and the latter point is irrelevant because God Of War ripped off Lament Of Innocence and made it into a terrible game, while Heavenly Sword took some elements from God Of War and worked them into a great game.

It all begins with the story. While the game opens up with a big battle between our heroine, Nariko, and thousands of soldiers with her dying at the end, it actually begins five days before the big battle. Nariko is seen as a burden to the clan as she was supposed to be the brave manly warrior who would wield the mythical, cursed blade known as the Heavenly Sword to save them from the evil of the Raven Lord. Instead, she just so happened to be born a woman. Hooray for sexism, right folks? Better get Anita Sarkeesian to do another 20 minute video where she basically reads a Wikipedia article while we pretend to care about what she says! But suddenly, Lord Bohan's army attacks their stronghold and takes most of the clan prisoner, including Nariko's father. While fleeing with the Heavenly Sword, Nariko gets ambushed by Bohan's army and must wield the sword in order to protect herself. Unfortunately, the Heavenly Sword's curse seeps within her body – she only has five days to live before the curse overpowers her body and kills her. From this point, Nariko has to save her clan and kill Lord Bohan before she dies.
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Round 74 of the Articles Of Excellence ended a bit later than usual, but Gryzor was in hospital between Monday and Friday so he couldn't make the AOE deadline. So sorry about that. But enough of that, because he has a review to make the winner, and this period's winner is none other than Demonfurby's review of Bioshock Infinite. He describes it as one of the finest games ever made, and for a game made in the year 2013 to accomplish this, it's definitely something to consider.

Bioshock Infinite Score: 10/10
Genre: First Person Shooter

Please buy it, support Irrational. Support a change for the better. For the betterment of the genre, and industry as a whole.

quote Demonfurby
Wow.

That's all I was thinking after completing Irrational's latest masterpiece, BioShock Infinite. My mind was officially blown. Not because of the immense atmosphere, juxtaposed by the highs of the soaring, majestic skyscapes of the floating, seemingly perfect city of Colombia, and the lows of its gritty underbelly, rife with racism, sexism, corruption by its cult-like leader who sends waves of his city's forces against anyone who stands in the ways of his ambitious goals. Nor the near-perfect shooting, with Irrational learning from their mistakes their first two takes on the series. It was the single most poignant, thought-provoking, complex, spine-chilling narrative that will make you want to cry, shout, cheer and yell out in anger at your television once that final piano key strikes. Perhaps I'll be embarrassed when I look back on this years down the road (hell, maybe next week), but moments after completing this incredible experience I can only feel that BioShock Infinite is the best videogame ever created.

Mother*bleep*er. I can't believe it myself. A first person shooter game from this generation of overall meh is, in my opinion, the best thing ever made in this industry. Not that I'm saying the fps genre is bad, not at all. The fps is probably my favorite genre, which is why this gen has been so painful for me and others alike to endure. Almost every single fps released is trying to be Call of Duty. Which sucks. That series is the embodiment of everything that's wrong with the industry. Sure, Call of Duty 4 was a breath of fresh air after years of Nazi shooting, but when the series does nothing else to improve and just becomes a yearly rehash of the same shit, with fifty other developers trying to copy it so it can leech some sales from the juggernaut, the smoke's in the air. But Irrational tried. At least, two out of three this gen . I try to forget BioShock 2 exists (okay apparently this wasn't made by the same studio . I am ashamed)because it just seemed like a pathetic money-grab (which in hindsight is alright if it helped bolster the resources for this baby Jesus of a game). But BioShock (the original, that is) now seems like a breath of fresh air. How naive we all were back in 2007. We were waiting on baited breath for Valve's highly anticipated Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (HA), and didn't even know the next six-plus years would force us to endure the onslaught of grey/brown regen shit that was thrown at us year after mind-gratingly frustrating year. But BioShock is like a dream now. A hybrid fps/rpg with an incredibly well-written story and dense atmosphere that is considered by some to be the GOAT (it isn't). It wasn't the best shooter, it wasn't the best rpg, and it wasn't the best stealth game, but it featured a great, engaging story, now iconic boss figure, and "revolutionary" morality system (which it wasn't, it was honestly very mediocre). It was a great game that was nothing more than an aberration of what was yet to come, with Modern Warfare revolutionizing the industry a mere month and a half later. It's all okay now, fellow gamers, Infinite has arrived. We are saved by its divinity.
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Round 73 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Gryzor giving the reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise some kind words, giving kudos to the parts that work really well, but add a cruel tinge towards parts where it fails. He describes this reboot as one with excellent art design and a great combat engine, but a poor story and underwhelming enemies and bosses to utilize such a good combat engine on.

DmC - Devil May Cry Score: 6/10
Genre: Hack and Slash

It's not so much the hype that let me down, as much as it was the potential to be a fantastic game because if they followed through with their designs a lot better, the 8s and 9s and even Tameem's boasting would be justified, but as is... it's worth a rental, but nothing more.

quote Gryzor
The one thing that captures the attention of any potential buyer is what's on the box. As much as people bang on about looking up reviews and trailers, a cover can sometimes seriously speak volumes about what a game will contain. Having Devil May Cry on the box with some black haired guy who has the same fashion sense as Dante from that series made me think "hmm, awesome, we get to play as somebody completely different". But then I remember long before the game came out that the guy on the box... is actually a redesign of Dante because Ninja Theory, the developers Capcom trusted to continue the Devil May Cry lineage with, wanted to inject a different flavor to the franchise because a more western approach was necessary after Devil May Cry 4 turned out to be nowhere near as good as Devil May Cry 3 and had too much anime shit in it to be a coincidence. One way to do so was to change Dante's hair from anime silver to a more realistic shade of black. So with a change in designs and mood, how does Ninja Theory execute this game? Well, it's not bad as it has a solid combat engine, but there are a few too many missteps

In this reimagining of the Devil May Cry universe, a place known as Limbo City is secretly controlled by devils, advertising soft drinks and all this other shit to keep the population under their control. Dante, a really cool guy who isn't at all a Gary Stu or anything, is haunted by the demons inside his subconscious, but it doesn't stop him from going to nightclubs having *bleep* with heaps of chicks. According to a mysterious woman in this nightclub known as Kat, Dante is in danger because she can see Limbo for what it really is. She's a part of a vigilante group that fights against the tyranny of the devils and wants Dante to join the fight. When the rest of the group meet him, they basically tell him that he's basically the only one who can save them from the government conspiracy. From there, you stop giving a shit about the story because what it winds up having is a grade school level of understanding of conspiracy theories like the media brainwashing us and there being a secret higher power controlling us.
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Round 72 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Monterey Jack coming back from a short hiatus to take the circuit by storm with his review of Okami! Describing it as being on par with nature itself, he explores its deep artistic appeal while at least keeping you on Earth by pointing out some flaws here and there while explaining how everything adds to a fantastic experience.

Okami Score: 9/10
Genre: Adventure

That's the beauty of Okami – nature, like how you're restoring nature back to the way it looked instead of having all of this artificial darkness, or how you'd naturally use the different Celestial Brush techniques in order to solve various puzzles in dungeons.

quote Monterey Jack
I've stated this in a previous review, but allow me to reiterate the fact that I'm not a believer of the whole “video games are art” thing. They've always been something that you do to kill a couple of hours before you do something more important like school, uni or your significant other. Having said that, Okami, like Journey, is quite an experience that challenges this claim of mine. It's one of those games that's best summed up by how each of the elements work in order to create the experience, rather than the elements themselves. On their own, they're good, but to truly enjoy this majesty is to enjoy the game as a whole.

Okami is a tale of the great goddess, Amaterasu, being called into Nippon to restore it to its former glory by reviving Guardian Sapplings. What had happened was that the seal keeping Orochi imprisoned had been broken, and in an act of rage, he put a curse on the land, creating barren landscapes, polluted oceans and turned most of the inhabitants to stone. With Guardian Sapplings, Amaterasu can bring portions of the land back to life. To help Amaterasu is Issun, a Poncle (or little sprite if you will, or flea as I thought he was at first) who happens to be quite the little artist as one of the first things he does is draw up a picture of the forest sprite Sakuya, who had been protecting the Kamiki Village for over a hundred years and had summoned Amaterasu once Orochi plunged Nippon into darkness.
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Round 71 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Praetorian Lord travelling back to the glorious year of 2007 when the seventh generation still had great ideas to expand the medium of gaming. He describes it as a game with excellent ideas with hit and miss execution.

Assassin's Creed Score: 7.5/10
Genre: Stealth

The chance to rampage around the medieval Middle East is perhaps even more enjoyable than being one of history’s greatest assassins.

quote Praetorian_Lord
When you look back at the relatively harmless video games of the ‘70s and ‘80s, you wonder how killing has become the indispensable ingredient of AAA titles. Gamers have become so desensitised to blood and gore that none of us batted an eyelid in 2007 when Ubisoft’s new IP had us playing as a medieval, professional murderer. Indeed it speaks volumes about the appeal of animated slaughter that six years, seven titles and some 38 million sales later, Assassin’s Creed has become one of the more successful video game franchises in recent history. But don’t you dare say that video games glorify violence!

In this first installment of the series you play as brooding rogue Altaïr, star recruit of a brotherhood of assassins during the Third Crusade. Well, actually, for whatever reason Ubisoft Montreal decided the plot needed fleshing out and so you technically play as Desmond Miles, Altaïr’s modern-day descendant. Abducted by an evil organisation, Desmond’s wired up to a fancy machine which through some inexplicable sci-fi wizardry allows him to access his ‘genetic memories’ and experience Altaïr’s story for himself. Sure, ok, whatever. For non- history buffs, the Third Crusade was the stand-off in the Holy Land between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart. Assassin’s Creed pays a surprising amount of attention to historical accuracy, at least in terms of location and the characters who serve as the main protagonists and antagonists. All the main figures are there from Templar Grand Master Robert de Sablé to Hashashin leader Al Mualim, the latter of whom serves as your boss and primary mission-giver. Is this historical accuracy necessary? Not really. Is it the sort of thing that’s likely to be lost on the game’s primary target audience, who are more inclined to skip through the dialogue to return to the semi-stealth action as quickly as possible? Without a doubt. But when combined with brilliant storytelling devices, superb voice acting and twists and turns at every corner, Ubisoft deliver a gripping and creative alternate history which is sure to have every gamer...
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Round 70 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Alyssa delivering what would appear to be a dishonorable review of the smash hit, Dishonored. She describes it as a game that lacks a good and compelling narrative with some haphazard stealth elements in what is primarily a stealth game and graphics uglier than Quasimodo. There is some silver lining - it is at least fun to kill people with Corvo's special powers, although when a game advertises itself as something, wouldn't you theoretically want to get that right? That's what made Alyssa not like the game as much as the critics did.

Dishonored Score: 6.5/10
Genre: Stealth

With no real incentive to sneak around outside of some forced moral elements, it's more appealing to play as Corvo the powerful sorcerer, master of the universe, and son of god.

quote Alyssa
Despite what any paid reviewer will tell you, the stealth genre is practically dead. Most of the old guard have degraded into action games with maybe the odd stealth segment or some minor stealth influence – the biggest offender being Splinter Cell: Conviction. Ugh. That's not to mention the fact that Metal Gear Solid 4 was more concerned with boring you to death with 30 minute cutscenes than actual stealth gameplay. Worst yet, I'll probably be collecting social security checks by the time Thief 4 comes out. But there's always hope. Meet Dishonored, a product by Arkane Studios... who brought to you Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic (which is a pretty good RPG if you ask me). But whilst being marketed as a stealth game, you can play this as either that or an action game, and unfortunately, the action route is significantly better. Not that the stealth route is bad because it's still playable, but playing it like an action game is undoubtably a million times better.

One thing I didn't like is the story. Corvo is the royal protector of the empress of Dunwell. But after he returns from a trip elsewhere to find out a way to stop a plague that's killed half of Dunwell, he finds out that the empress had been assassinated and her daughter got kidnapped – and to top it all off. he got framed for it. From there, he has to take revenge on them while rescuing her kidnapped daughter. The story's biggest strength is its lore. As you explore around the city, you'll find various sidequests, books, journal pages, notes and audio files laying about that will tell you more about the background of where you are and what situation you're in. However, when it comes to the present and future, it's not quite there. Revenge is often a good beginning point for something bigger, but Dishonored sticks with it throughout the entire game with maybe a twist towards the end. Said twist is... pretty bland as the characterization beforehand is virtually non-existent and the delivery felt like it was written on toilet paper after the writer ate McDonald's.
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Taking aside Ninja Theory's increasing amount of arrogance (which boils down to "if you don't like this game, then you're a clinically depressed misanthropic jobless friendless unloved sack of shit, your mother's a whore and your dad has a herniate ballsack"), this really isn't a great game or even a good one for that matter. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, but nothing about this game even remotely lived up to Ninja Theory's claims. It takes Heavenly Sword's battle engine (swift weapon, medium weapon and slow, strong weapon), adds two different chains and tries to be all edgy and whatnot. Surprisingly though, the combat isn't half bad. When it gives you the opportunity to combine all three of your weapons to make a super combo of sorts, it's a ton of fun. When it arbitrarily limits you to a certain weapon (and at times, it really loves to do this), it feels like a homeless man's God Of War without the brutal finishers. Suffice it to say, combat is only really good when you get to mix it up. Sadly, it makes up for the mediocre enemies and lame bosses.

I'll admit that I wasn't a big fan of the new Dante because he seemed like he'd be a whiny little shit who tried to be edgier than new Dante. In fact, I thought he'd be worse than Nero from DMC 4. While that's how he was for a while, he does eventually become a bit more relateable as the story progresses as he's more down to earth than his overpowered old self. Mind you, he's never truly relateable as the writers try to make him all hardcore and edgy with the rock and dubstep music that looms in the background while Dante swears more than Revy from Black Lagoon. Throughout the game, I was conflicted - should I like him for being kind of relateable, or should I hate him for being a *bleep*ing dickhead? The story does about the same thing - it wants to be taken seriously, but with a grade school level of understanding of conspiracies like the media brainwashing the populace and how we should stop them or some *bleep*ing dog shit like that. It's also worth pointing out that Vergil Ties would hate to see what they've done to him in this game...

The platforming, which was Capcom's DMC's biggest weakness, is at least better here. Oh, and it's leagues ahead of Enslaved's, but that's because DmC wasn't trying to suck Uncharted's dick.

Summary - A good combat engined and good platforming marred by mediocre combat scenarios
Rating - 6/10

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#16 - The Warriors

The idea of doing a licensed game is very common, but what about doing one based on a movie that's older than most Playstation 2/Xbox owners? It's a bit out of left field, but it's a risk that worked so *bleep*ing well, I not only played through this game, but also bought the movie and watched it to see how faithful it was. Yep, even when I was about 13, I gave a *bleep* about this kind of shit. You know what, this game was about as authentic as it gets. It was gritty and felt like you were in the streets with these warring street gangs back in the 1970s. You'll not only fight other street gangs, but you'll also be required to tag parts of town and steal shit in order to get money to stay alive.

Besides atmosphere, the part where The Warriors *bleep*s your shit up is in the combat. While it mostly feels like a traditional beat em up ala God Hand, The Warriors' combat has more weight to it. There aren't any over the top combos; they're what you'd expect from real life street gangs. But here's the thing - each hit feels satisfying. There's a lot of oomph in each hit you land and inevitably take, whether it's with your fists or a baseball bat.

If anything hurts this game, it's the *bleep*ing camera! Whether it's the bad fixed angles or unwieldy controls, it's bullshit how something like this can hurt a game.

Summary - A licensed game with plenty of authenticity, not to mention excellent gameplay
Rating - 9/10

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Round 69 of the Articles Of Excellence unfortunately doesn't end with a hentai game review, although the bafflingly attractive Polarity was the one to snag the win, so deal with it. Anyway, his review of Sleeping Dogs was what netted him the win. He describes the game as one that nails the underground cop in a triad gang aesthetic with a portrayal of Hong Kong as a city that never sleeps with some very well executed hand to hand combat to boot.

Sleeping Dogs Score: 8/10
Genre: Sandbox

Sleeping Dogs is a game that knows exactly what it wants and gives you what it knows you want

quote Polarity
What was once the third instalment in the True Crime series, Sleeping Dogs is like a breath of fresh air in the sea of banality that is the summer of 2012's video gaming line up. Even when that's not considered, Sleeping Dogs is a game that knows exactly what it wants and gives you what it knows you want - a compelling storyline and a host of things to do when you want a break from said story. Perhaps it won't set your world alight as at a cursory glance, the only truly special things about it are the parkour elements and the story, but it's easy to get engrossed in this game and see it as it is, which is a pretty damn good game marred by some ill conceived elements here and there.

You play as Wei Shen, a police officer who is sent deep undercover into a Triad gang known as the Sun On Yee. His objective is to take them down from the inside, though to do so, he must earn the trust and loyalty of the triad gang, least of all his childhood friend and lackey of the Triad, Jackie; and its feared leader Winston Chu. Over the course of the game, Wei earns their loyalty and gets closer to achieving his true objective, but the police superintendent Thomas Pendrew fears that he is becoming one of them. Given the way that the story's told, it would appear that he is getting closer to the Sun On Yee for real, as opposed for the express purpose of infiltration. Throughout the game, Wei will be conflicted by his decisions - he is against committing crimes and he is a police officer, yet he must instigate street brawls and essentially *bleep* shit up in order to gain the trust of the Sun On Yee. It especially hits home whenever Wei and any of his fellow officers interact with one another, and then the last third of the main story drives it further home with its plot twist. In essence, it's easy to get sucked into the overarching narrative.
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#17 - Psychonauts

Psychonauts is just brilliant and I feel that a lot of platformers could learn a lot from this game. A lot of platformers at the time (well, really, any and all besides Jak 3 and the first four Ratchet & Clank games) were pretty *bleep*ing mediocre and only served to remind us of an increasingly stagnant genre that wasn't even in that high a demand anymore. Then came Psychonauts and my balls were blown off by how out there it was, not just in the fact that the story was insane and the humorous stuff was actually funny, but also the fact that the levels were all very, very well designed, each with their own personality. Then again, that ought to be the case as they, more or less, take place inside the minds of other people! But no, even from a technical standpoint, the levels are brilliantly designed. Just about everything implemented in each of the levels complimented one another in a way that made them work even better, like if you were to even remotely alter anything, the level would be shit or just not as good. *bleep*, I love this game!

The only thing stopping this game from being in my top 10 is the same thing that stops Deus Ex: Human Revolution from even enterting this countdown - the boss fights. WAY too easy, almost to the point where they slow down the game and stop us from partaking in the masterfully crafted levels and wacky, way out of this earth cutscenes. I also suggest that you either get the Xbox or PC version. The PS2 version is rather inconsistent - at times, it's the same, but at other times, it runs like shit, and that's not mentioning the longer loading times on the PS2 version.

Summary - Very out there...
Rating - I could be a smartass and make up some silly shit, but I'll be boring and say 9/10

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#18 - Metroid Prime

Like Ninja Gaiden, Metroid started off on the NES, although it did get a chance to perform on the SNES, and Samus did make an appearance in Super Smash Brothers for the N64, which is more than what I could say for poor old Ryu. To rub salt in his wound, unlike the piece of shit that was Ninja Gaiden 3 (really, both the NES and the 360/PS3 version suck balls), Super Metroid was a fantastic game for Samus to temporarily end her main adventures on! Easily one of the best on the Super Nintendo... and I guess the original was good for its time. But then came Retro Studios, pitching to Nintendo a great idea to bring Samus to the 3D world. I would've loved to have been in on this pitch meeting because holy shit, Metroid is making the leap to 3D, finally catching up with the likes of Mario, Zelda, Castlevania and even the eternally overrated Sonic.

Talk about a leap into Scrooge McDuck's money pit - this game is *bleep*ing good! It took Super Metroid, made it 3D and made it its own thing. Sure, the basic structure of exploring the planet to find items for further exploration is still there, as is the need to beat down bosses, but thanks to the first person perspective, the world is more immersing. Granted, having to scan everything is a pain in the ass (especially switching to the radar on that tiny *bleep*ing D-pad - and me having stubby fingers isn't relevant because even those with slender fingers hate the Gamecube's D-pad), but it's worth it to learn more about the world, thus making the experience even more immersing. It especially helps that there aren't any cutscenes, making the planet either feel desolate or like everything is going to kill you. You're all alone no matter what context you take it in - this is also why I'm not exactly a fan of the sequels, nor did I really like Other M. The graphics were actually pretty damn good for the time as well, really making use of the Gamecube's technology (which is vastly superior to the PS2's, by the way Sony kiddies) while having the appropriate visuals for the world. The soundtrack, in typical Metroid fashion, isn't so much melodic as much as it was atmospheric, really drawing you into the world. People like to say that Half Life 1 and 2 are the most immersing first person shooters, and while they do tend to have very good points (particularly with Half Life 2, which is pretty much a how-to on making a good first person shooter that sucks you right in), I don't know, I tend to find myself more immersed into Metroid Prime.

Summary - One of the most immersing first person games out there that does just about everything right. The open world yin to Half Life 2's more linear but still *bleep*ing immersing yang.
Rating - 9.5/10

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#19 - Bastion

It'd odd to put up a very recent game on a list of this nature, but it's a testament to how really good game design can keep me interested and willing to replay a game. Most games from this generation are lucky to get one playthrough from me; Bastion received about 7 playthroughs from me. It was that *bleep*ing good. Some would say that I'm still in the honeymoon period, but I don't know, a year and a half later, I'm still in love with this game.

What makes Bastion work is the overall feel - the isometric style where you either wail on enemies or shoot at them (depending on what works best in any given situation, as well as your weapon combination) in tandem with the music and visuals works so *bleep*ing well, it was almost criminal. It's so beautiful that if it was a woman, I'd dump my current girlfriend and go for this one, treat her to the most romantic dinner that anybody on an IT administrator's wage could afford, watch whatever movie she wanted to watch even if it was *bleep*ing Twilight (though I doubt she would because she'd have standards, I'm pretty sure) and be open to whatever sexual fetishes she had. In other words, it's a damn fine game. The storytelling is also something that I enjoy quite a lot - you essentially have an omnipresent voice telling you about what's going on in a style that at least amuses you. There's a twist involving the narrator, but I'm going to stay tight lipped about it. In fact, the plot twist at the end, alone, is enough to warrant a playthrough, let alone the amount of majesty found in its aesthetics and gameplay.

Summary - Even in times where production line quality games are considered great, Bastion ninja kicks us across the face and shows us "no mother*bleep*er, THIS is how you do it".
Rating - 9/10

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I figured that at one point. Platinum Games would slip up and, while not outright eating its own shit in public, disappoint me with a game that doesn't quite work as well as it could've. Anarchy Reigns was pitched as a multiplayer brawler and a lot of alarms had been set off from that point on, but hey, this is Platinum Games - it'll still be awesome, right? Well, somewhat. At first, you'll have a choice of which two campaigns to go through, and then about 2 1/2 hours later, you're done with one. I want to say I have a major issue with that because even the average Call Of Duty campaign is longer than that, but one look at the story makes me go "thank *bleep* it's over until I play the other campaign". Simply put, it's a silly nonsensical story that wants to be taken seriously when it has moments like death and shit. Wow. I think Slayers TRY did a similar thing, and that was easily the worst Slayers season ever. Go figure, a comedy anime trying to be serious is worse than when it just tries to be a comedy. But the actual fighting, while nowhere near as stylish as Madworld or Bayonetta, is executed fairly well. It's a lot of fun beating up the enemies as there's plenty of crunch to each hit.

What about the multiplayer? There are no offline options and online is *bleep*ing dead. If you're going to buy this, buy this cheap. I mean really cheap - $10-15 cheap.

Summary - A fun game that's just too short for its own good, relying too much on multiplayer.
Rating - 6.5/10

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Round 68 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Upmagic once again taking first place, this time with his review of Final Fantasy XIII. Describing the game as one that breaks tradition to refresh itself and JRPGs as a whole, he adds that it gives the experience a sense of speed in battle while taking its time to establish itself.

Final Fantasy XIII Score: 9/10
Genre: RPG

Final Fantasy XIII stands as a new kind of JRPG that rewards varieties of intelligent play and players who think on their feet

quote Upmagic
Fal'Cies serve as the supernatural workers of Final Fantasy XIII's world, demigods that shelter humanity in a sphere-shaped structure called Cocoon. There they nurture the citizens' every need, cradling them in the sky above the feared and wild earth below known as Pulse. But as Final Fantasy XIII begins, that floating paradise is being dismantled. A foreign Fal'Cie from Pulse has found its way inside, erupting a panic between a fleeing civilian resistance and military groups attempting to "purge" the sector clean of the contamination. Amidst the chaos you'll lead an unsuspecting cast to the heart of the conflict, where the alien visitor deals them a dreadful fate.

Your party is made Li'Cie, magically infused humans branded by the Fal'Cie, thus becoming errants in service to an enemy of their own home in the clouds. It marks upon them an ill willed destiny, or Focus, giving only a small window of time to complete in as they face 3 possible outcomes. Fail and become monsters, succeed and turn into crystal for eternity, or simply die. Talk about being dealt a bad hand. And when their Focus is too vague and muddled to interpret, the crew can only fall steeply into despair as they flee pursuing military platoons, hunted as enemies of the state.
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#20 - Contra


Technically, there are far superior games in the series like Contra 3, Hard Corps (the Genesis one) and Shattered Soldier, but I've always loved this game more than I ever will any of the rest. Contra, for the two or three people who know nothing about it, is a series where two guys run through cities or through an island base to destroy the alien race known as the Red Falcon. So expect plenty of running and gunning. Oh, and expect to die often your first time playing, because Contra is best known for bombarding you with enemies. Even the original, which is tame compared to 3 and Hard Corps, can sometimes get overkill with its barrage of soldiers.

Why do I like this more? Because it has just the perfect difficulty. I've always felt that the other games get suffocating at times, requiring quite a lot of association and reaction. Here though, it's perfect. You're not forced to constantly look around for like 500 soldiers rushing in at the speed of the mother*bleep*ing Flash to *bleep* you up - it's just about looking around to find some soldiers. Really though, this is what separates this from its sequels (the PS1 games don't exist) - that, and it doesn't have as many different weapons and only one path (Hard Corps has four selectable characters and Shattered Soldier has multiple endings). But even then, this is the go-to Contra game for me, simply because while the others appear more exciting, this has the right difficulty for me. The rest are if I feel like playing harder and more intense games, although they're more of a mood thing for me. Well, 3, I can also play any time, but I prefer the first game.

By the way, *bleep* Super C, that game is literally just "oh hey here's ten thousand soldiers with no rhyme or reason, *bleep* actual difficulty!"

Summary - One of the finest action movies on the NES.
Rating - 9/10

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Round 67 ends with Upmagic taking the circuit by storm with his review of Ico. He describes the game as a dreamlike experience, full of whimsy and wonder, with plenty of immersion through its deliberate pacing and immaculately created atmosphere.

Ico Score: 10/10
Genre: Adventure

Though created with gaming elements we’re all too familiar with – ledges, ropes, levers, and 3 swing combos – Ico is able to grab at our hearts in a masterfully conceived way.

quote Upmagic
Back in 2001 when Ico was first released there was scarcely anything quite like it. Perhaps, like many games of the past, it was over-praised for being something different where now it may seem aged – a feat of its time and little else. Now given a re-release and the HD treatment, Ico may just be another example of a developer aiming to cash in on nostalgia. What is strange, however, is that Ico in 2011 is grabbing players in the same way it did 10 years ago, players who are entering its castle chambers for the very first time.

Playing Ico is much like experiencing a dream. You have little idea of how everything has come about, or how you got to where you are, yet everything seems natural, and thus you comfortably proceed through your imagination. The game begins with little explanation, following a young boy named Ico as his captors escort him to a castle isolated upon a misty island. Although normal in every other respect, Ico possesses a feature unlike most boys his age – two horns that protrude from his head. It is because his horns that he is entombed in the basement of this abandoned fortress, and then by a great stroke of luck, is able to break free. Shortly after exploring past the remains of his broken stone tomb, Ico discovers a girl, Yorda, caged high above ground in the neighboring tower. He then takes it upon himself to free the girl, and so your adventure with Yorda begins.
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With 2012 behind us, it's time to take every video game from then (that I've played, anyway) and compile two lists that glorifies both the best and the worst that was on offer.
The Highs
Let's start positively with a bunch of games that gave 2012 the boost that it needed to keep you coming back.

Spec Ops: The Line
The idea of a video game might've always been interacting with a virtual environment, often with a story tacked on for good measure. Usually when I say a game's story is good, I mean it in the context of it being a video game story - these things are not substitutes for books or even movies and story driven TV shows. However, I'm happy to report that Spec Ops: The Line is one of the few video game stories that can stand alongside books. It has a highly engrossing story about the horrors of war and what everybody else has been glorifying. You may be shooting people, but who are you really shooting? Are you a freedom fighter or are you a bloodthirsty gun nut? Throughout the game, you'll be forced to make decisions to either press on and give the surviving citizens of Dubai two big fat middle fingers, or tell your squad mates to get *bleep*ed while you save some Dubaiins from trouble. Each decision is grey as there are positives and consequences no matter what you do. Due to details like this, the story ends up sucking you right in. The gameplay itself is serviceable, even good at times, but it's the story that helps it stand out. So if you're thinking of a story driven experience but you can't code gameplay worth a shit (eh Team Bondi), this game should be a decent enough starting point.

I Am Alive
The idea of being in a sort of post apocalyptic world is something that's somewhat done to death with the Fallout games and Darksiders. But I Am Alive takes that concept and bases not only the story and themes, but also the gameplay around it. It's not about shooting down zombies and mutants and shit; it's about surviving against the odds. Survivors may or may not be willing to let you live if you even register in their peripheral vision as anything that can move. You're not exactly a super soldier either - in fact, you have to use whatever tools you can find in order to find out what's going on. It's a highly engrossing game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially when you consider that while the platforming is mechanically like Uncharted (in which a lot of it is done for you), the addition of a stamina meter makes things more intense. If you can't play conservatively, you're going to die. That's how it rolls, people.

Hotline: Miami
It's easy to overthink about this game's intentions - about how it's about the glorification of video game violence and all that, especially with a level where you're not given bright neon colors nor the ability to fight. That level is meant to be crap because it's meant to show us our true nature when it comes to playing video games, and how *bleep*ing appropriate is this - you're rewarded points based on how you kill, including the variety of ways that you carry out the killing and the actual method. But look past that pretentious bullshit, and what you have is a fun, fun game about brutally *bleep*ing people up! It might have bright and colorful 2D visuals and it might have a top down perspective, but *bleep* me if it isn't bloody and brilliant... or just bloody brilliant. Perhaps it's the sadistic bastard inside me speaking, but this game is a lot of fun and I can see myself playing this repeatedly because I like to see cartoony heads roll...

Silent Hill: Downpour
Hey, it's my original pick for the game of the year! Fancy seeing you... no longer there! But really, Silent Hill: Downpour is a fantastic experience through and through. It, like the rest of the series, contains a lot of suspense not only with the pacing of its scares, but also the sound design. Daniel Licht may not be as awesome of a sound composer as Akira Yamaoka, but he still manages to compose something that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Also like the rest of the series, its story is one that keeps you compelled to go on as Murphy is a very likeable not to mention relateable character, going through situations that we only barely go through in our minds (fun fact: Silent Hill is basically a manifestation of one's inner demons) whilst trying to keep a level head and not go insane. Due to all of this, combat that can be seen as clunky (not Silent Hill 1-4 clunky but not as fluid as Homecoming's either) and Otherworld segments that can be seen as too trial and error heavy wind up being better seen as elements that are a result of Murphy trying to survive in a *bleep*ed up world. This is something I've always believed was lacking in survival horror games, particularly the eternally overrated Resident Evil series - the horror tends to be a result of arbitrary bullshit like tank controls and standing still while aiming. Not for Silent Hill. The horror there resides in the subconscious of the protagonist and his limitations... sorry, I'm just not over the fact that what essentially amounts to SWAT can't aim and run at the same time with *bleep*ing pistols while ordinary people like every Silent Hill protagonist can with smaller firearms...

The Walking Dead
Telltale Games, you magnificent bastards! While you guys don't always make hits (Hector: Badge Of Carnage was alright, and Jurassic Park: The Game was abysmal), *bleep*, when you do, you *bleep*ing do! Meet The Walking Dead, a set of five episodes based on the comic of the same name. The idea is to survive the zombie apocalypse and you'll do so by gathering supplies to keep the group of survivors alive whilst fending off the occasional zombie. Like Spec Ops: The Line, the story is most certainly the strongest point and at first, it helps you overlook some mediocre gameplay - the first two episodes feature basic gameplay that only really works in the context of itself. Thankfully, the later episodes up the ante and make things more exciting, even when they consist of pressing certain keys at the right time. But again, the story is what makes it work out so well in the first place! It's easy to get sucked into the whole thing as the writing is fantastic, as is the characterization of the survivors. To put it simply, you'll feel for their situation, you'll like their company while it lasts, and you'll be a little down in the dumps when somebody dies. It's one of those games you'll play over and over again to make different decisions, just to see where Telltale allows you to go with them - yeah, they subtle, but with characters like these and writing like this, it doesn't matter that much.


The Lows:
Unfortunately, this year had its share of shitty games, so let's just get this shit over and done with. Too bad it felt more like the aftermath of a meal at Crapdonalds.

Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse
Did anybody at Heavy Iron Studios actually watch this show? I understand that Family Guy isn't exactly the paragon of intelligent humor... or even relevant humor, but this goes WAY overboard! Anything and everything people bitch about in terms of Family Guy's humor, like its irrelevance to the plot, overrepetition or Seth MacFarlane's overly liberal agenda, is found here. These aren't even jokes, they're comments. Instead of making you laugh, they make you cringe. If that's not enough, the game is complete shit. The aiming is flimsy, enemies are batshit *bleep*ing insanely stupid, physics are floaty, the graphics are complete shit and overall, the shooting is just boring. It's like a shitty arena shooter if it was way too forgiving with its respawn points... if The Walking Dead can kick ass, so should Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse. Oh, and it's 2012 - we should know how to make good licensed games by now. No excuses, this game blows giant nutsack. The only reason it's not my #1 worst game of 2012 is because... believe me, you can do worse.

Lollipop Chainsaw
Recently, I replayed the game because it was coming up to the time to do one of these lists up and I thought "eh, it can't really be that bad, right"? Well, I'm so wrong that I'm more retarded than Peter Griffin - this game IS bad! Where the clunkiness of combat is ignorable in Silent Hill: Downpour (at least when put into context), it's actually pretty damn annoying in Lollipop Chainsaw because... well, aren't you meant to be pretty *bleep*ing kickass at *bleep*ing up zombies with a chainsaw? I know a chainsaw is heavy, but still! Oh, and the mini games feel more like an arbitrary means of falsely increasing difficulty, and don't get me started on the quick time event shitfest that is when you control Nick. WHY!? Oh, and the humor is complete shit too. There's wittily written jokes, and then there's "it's funny because they exist", and this game falls under the latter. So no, I don't regret trashing this game before because it's a terribly conceived game that can't even fall back on its style!

Medal Of Honor: Warfighter
I suppose I can understand why Medal Of Honor's reboot deserved a sequel - it was a realistic take on war instead of simply glorifying it like Call Of Duty does. Really, Medal Of Honor 2010 wasn't terrible because its story was pretty good... it was just a bore to actually play it because it honestly felt like a broke man's Call Of Duty. So here comes the sequel - Medal Of Honor: Warfighter (more like Borefighter, am I right xdd), and its story isn't anywhere near as good! Unlike Spec Ops: The Line, it's boring. The writing is mediocre, the storytelling is haphazard at best and it honestly does nothing to capture your attention at any point. Outside of a handful of sequences, it's an extremely unremarkable game with *bleep* all going for it - at least Medal Of Honor 2010 had a good story!

Blades Of Time
"Oh golly, we have a "sexy" half naked chick on our cover, we're gonna sell millions!" - I'm not sure whether I feel like pointing out its sales figures (frankly, I'd be embarrassed publicly acknowledging having ever owned this shameless piece of shit) or whether to just rip this game a new *bleep* because holy *bleep*ing shit, this game sucks! I've covered this before - it's a boring hack and slash game that doesn't ever make you feel like a badass, nor does it ever make you feel anything other than bored out of your skull. The time mechanic is poorly implemented and feels clunkier than the combat in Lollipop Chainsaw. Buy X-Blades instead.. if you want to, of course; it's not much better, but it's fun at least, and Blades Of Time isn't.

Resident Evil 6
The only Resident Evil game I like is the fourth one. I can appreciate the first game for what it did, but the rest can *bleep* right off for all I care. Resident Evil 6 is meant to be a push in the right direction as far as action horror goes as you can *gasp* move and shoot. Sadly, this game embodies far too many things that this generation does wrong - the third person shooting, although better than Back To The Multiverse's, is clunky with some sensitive aiming controls, the cover controls are ass backwards, and it does everything in its power to keep on taking play control away from you by either boring you to death with an irrelevant story (Resident Evil's always had a shit story, but this is just ridiculous) or by shoving a million quick time events down your throat. Look, quick time events work either when a game is designed around them or when used for a few sweet action sequences. Resident Evil 6 doesn't have anything resembling a direction in its design, instead favoring throwing shit on the wall to see if it sticks while sticking you in mostly ultra linear hallways, cramming non stop and eventually *bleep*ing boring action down your throat. Pacing - what's that? We're Capcom, we're so out of touch with reality that we can make money by slapping a famous logo onto a shitty game - which is what this game is. If it was a no name IP, it'd sell like shit and it wouldn't have such a whiny fanbase... I think that already happened. It's called Quantum Theory! This and Back To The Multiverse are strong, strong contenders for the worst game of the year, but you know you can do even worse, if that's possible.


The absolute worst game of 2012 is...
Amy
To think that a game that was released at the beginning of the year would still be a benchmark for utter atrociousness is weird. Like Lollipop Chainsaw, I recently replayed this game just so I can say to myself that there're worse games - this was the worst game of the first half of 2012 and, although the bar had been set lower with Back To The Multiverse and Resident Evil 6... this is still such a wretched game that I can't really put it anywhere else, maybe except in a furnace! I've said it once and I'll say it again - if this is the true survival horror experience, boy oh boy, I am *bleep*ing glad it's ceasing to be a relevant genre. It still feels like it hasn't been playtested due to the fact that I've had moments where I couldn't backtrack after dying... when I needed to, as well! The co-op elements are even more forced than those found in Resident Evil 5 and the stealth level... oh my *bleep*ing god, after the likes of Dishonored and Mark Of The Ninja, I think even less of this shitty level! All in all, it's a poorly designed game that seems to take the piss out of what went wrong with Japanese survival horror games... YEARS AFTER PEOPLE STOPPED *bleep*ING CARING AND MOVED ONTO AMERICAN HORROR GAMES!

The absolute best game of 2012 is...
Sleeping Dogs
Like The Walking Dead, Silent Hill: Downpour and especially Spec Ops: The Line, Sleeping Dogs's biggest strength is in the story. Whether it's the writing, the concept or the storytelling, it's all very strong, and its implementation into the game itself is even sweeter than Strawberry Shortcake. Simply put, you're an undercover officer working to destroy the triads, but you find yourself becoming more and more like one of them at the disdain of your fellow officers. It's not just a cover; it's you. The dilemmas faced here in tandem with the events that unfold help keep the game's story as intriguing as possible. That's not to mention the gameplay - move on over Batman and Spider Man, because Wei Shen will *bleep* you guys up with his killer martial arts right after *bleep*ing up rival gangs! Seriously, the hand to hand combat in this game, while a tad easy, is masterfully crafted to work really well and be a lot of fun to pull off, and with unlockable combos earned either through Triad experience points or by collecting and returning statues to a martial arts club, there'll be more at your disposal. There's not much else to say without rambling on for hours and hours than this - buy it. Seriously, this is a fantastic *bleep*ing game that deserves your hard earned money.


So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen - 2012 is over. Overall, it was a pretty weak year. Yes, the best of the best drove the medium further towards storytelling that's backed up by great (or just workable in the case of Spec Ops: The Line and The Walking Dead, though the latter's case is one that can't be helped) gameplay, but the worst games embody quite a lot of things wrong with gaming today - whether they be frustrating mistakes or the embodiment of everything that can go wrong with modern gaming, one thing is for certain, and that's that you better keep a close eye on what you're going to buy. There are some honorable mentions in Mark Of The Ninja, Binary Domain, Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron and yes, even Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2. I wish developers all the best for their output in 2013, hopefully we'll see some more interesting games without going through so much mediocrity. I also wish you guys all the best for the new year and remember - keep a balance of gaming and real life responsibilities so you won't be a *bleep*ing jobless hermit!

Originally posted for http://signfarbeyond.blogspot.com.au/

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#21 - Soul Calibur 2

While some would prefer Soul Calibur 1 for the Dreamcast, I thought the series was perfected with the second game - with a reasonably balanced mixture of fighters (okay, Link is cheap if you bait people to the edge and throw them off of it, but that's about it), a long lasting and fun arcade mode and plenty of shit to do with your mates, Soul Calibur 2 is pretty much one of the best fighting games ever made. The only thing missing here is fatalities. Come on, don't tell me Cervantes wouldn't cut Maxi's head off, or that Maxi wouldn't bludgeon Cervantes to death with his nun chucks, or that Nightmare wouldn't rip out your soul and show it to you before you die!

Okay, that aside, it all felt right. Each fighter had their own styles with their pros and cons to learn and master, and while some were easier to learn than others, getting them to work just feels so satisfying when you're able to kick some ass with them! Sure sure, some are clearly better than others - Astaroth benefits more from the guard impact (where you press a direction and guard at the same time just as you're about to get hit) than anybody else and... well, let's just say that this will be Link's most difficult quest to save Zelda as Nightmare could *bleep* him harder than Ganon ever could and Link isn't exactly easy to use nor satisfying to master (unless you use his cheap throw - you guys know what I'm talking about), but other than that, no, it's very, very well balanced. Some of the conditions during the Weapon Master mode are silly (hit them against walls? only use guard impact? is this a tutorial?), but for the most part, they actually add a fair amount of challenge that pisses you off just enough to make you want to beat it. Overall, it's one of the most enjoyable fighting games. Doesn't help that the fighting engine itself is balanced to be inviting to newbies whilst making things technical enough for all but the biggest elitist shitheels to keep coming back to.

Soul Calibur 1 is also a great game, no doubt about it. I simply prefer this because it feels more balanced and a lot more fun. Speaking of balance, the later games give balance the middle finger as although Soul Calibur 3 has even more single player content, god, the AI is atrociously unbalanced - weak as a kitten one minute and stronger than the *bleep*ing gods the next. Soul Calibur 4 took it up the ass even worse and that's not even mentioning the prison style anal *bleep* Soul Calibur 5 received... I mean, holy *bleep*, most of these new characters are unbalanced as *bleep*, especially when controlled by pros or the AI! Not to mention that the button inputs to execute combos KEEP *bleep*ING CHANGING! No Namco, I don't want to keep relearning how to use Cervantes's combos! It just keeps throwing me off my game! ARGH! If you stopped at Soul Calibur 2, congratulations, you had more foresight than I did *bleep*ing wasting my money with inferior products!

Summary - An excellent fighting game that's great for both single and multi players.
Rating - 9/10

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#22 - Perfect Dark

What Doom 64, Turok and Goldeneye started, Perfect Dark tooled to near perfection. I mean, one must take the Nintendo 64's limits into consideration and admittedly, Halo and Halo 2 for the original Xbox did more justice by adding online multiplayer, but nevertheless, Perfect Dark takes Goldeneye and expands on it in a way that makes it kick more ass. It has a similar gameplay structure in that you have to complete objectives in semi linear levels, but there are some significant improvements. First off, the enemies aren't pants shittingly retarded; they can actually fight smartly by chasing you down, shooting you at the right places and just generally kick your ass. So if you ever thought Goldeneye was too easy, well, Perfect Dark is your mother*bleep*ing savior! Secondly, the levels are bigger and better, with more to explore and more level specific objectives to give them an identity outside of their songs. Finally, the multiplayer is even better if that could be believed. More bigger and complex maps await you, a ton of weapon packs to choose from and each character actually has specific properties outside of their looks, meaning that selection requires thought. The only thing holding this game back is that some of the later levels are pretty flat and uninspired, but most of the levels are so well done that the crappy ones just stand out more.

Summary - A boost that console first person shooters really needed.
Rating - 9/10

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#23 - Final Fantasy VI

When I feel like trolling Final Fantasy fanboys, I'll state claims about this being the only good Final Fantasy game and that the later ones have wet dreams of even sucking this game's dick. When I feel like being more legit, I'll simply state that this is the best that the series has been and ever will be. This isn't to be an Edgy The Hedgehog or anything; I simply find that this game is far superior to the rest of the franchise. This has the most likeable cast of characters, the most developed cast of characters and world without ever feeling long winded and, above all else, an experience that never feels aimless or dragged out for the sake of dragging on unlike later Final Fantasy games, or grind heavy like most earlier Final Fantasy games (and earlier JRPGs in general).

A lot of what I said about Dragon Quest VIII applies with Final Fantasy VI - it's a steampunk world that's easy to get lost in and it doesn't feel like a mere game. It always feels like an experience, as if every minute of the 20-100 hour adventure (depends on whether you want to go through the main story or do sidequests) passed on by like seconds. Most later Final Fantasy games, especially XII, XIII and XIII-2, are more interested in showing off amazing graphics (for their respective systems, of course) and boring you to death with 5 hour long monologues and dialogue exchanges that don't add enough to their stories to justify such long cutscenes - hey, rag on Metal Gear Solid for having 30 minute long cutscenes for every 5-15 minutes of gameplay, but at least its themes, charactization and plot twists allow it to do so. This one? It's more interested in sucking you into the story and keeping you in.

Summary - A deep, whimsical journey full of wonder and excitement without pulling the breaks; it simply shifts gears whenever it needs to whilst Solid Snaking through traffic.
Rating - 9/10

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Round 66 ends the Aevers/Resident Evil streak and brings it back to everybody else with any game that they can get their hands on, which is exactly the case with Gryzor and his review of Inversion. Describing it as mediocrity personified with a potentially cool idea squandered by greed, well, let's just say that even the $27 he paid for it felt too expensive.

Inversion Score: 5/10
Genre: Third Person Shooter

Zero gravity is lame, inverted gravity is only aesthetic instead of being a gamechanging element and the actual gunplay is *bleep*ing mediocre at best.

quote Gryzor
Inversion is a game with great ideas and a solid foundation, but it's nothing ultimately special at the end of the day. It reminds me of this other game Saber Interactive developed called Timeshift because that also had great ideas and a solid foundation, although Timeshift did fumble with its ideas more often than not. Inversion's ideas are more gimmicky in practice than they are actually practical or even all that well used. So ultimately, it's a decent third person shooter that tries to separate itself from the competition, but winds up just going through the motions. Damn, I love the ideas this game has, too!

In the future, an alien race that looks almost human known as the Lutadore has taken over Earth and kidnapped a bunch of children. Amongst them is the daughter of our wise cracking protagonist, Davis Russell. Meanwhile, the Earth's gravity has been all out of whack, leaving sections without gravity and others with vector changes. As cool as it sounds, expecting a half decent plot is a big, big mistake. Any and all attempts at emotionally connecting with the characters is bitchslapped with the other guy going "be a manly man and stop your crying you little bitch", meaning there's no real time to connect with them. Any attempt at explaining the plot is cut short by the need to shoot more aliens. I've found more clarity inside a deep fat fryer. It's not even good as a B-grade action story because the one liners are just bad (as in they make me want to vomit due to how half assed they really are) and there's no amount of masculinity to be found. It's like a bunch of out of touch middle aged men wrote this shit.
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Round 65 ends with Aevers winning yet again... with the third Resident Evil 4 review to win an Articles Of Excellence award! She describes Resident Evil 4 as a refreshing change of pace for the series after it had grown stagnant, and it became a working formula with its blend of action and horror, but not without a craptacular escort mission and some questionable quick time events.

Resident Evil 4 Score: 8/10
Genre: Survival Horror/Third Person Shooter

The action is fun, some of the quick time event sequences are actually pretty exciting and the inventory is really cool!

quote Aevers
After four successful games and a few... questionable spin off games, Capcom took a bit of a break from the series as its formula grew stale. Each of the older Resident Evil games, while adding some tweaks here and there, did feel samey and although I love them, I don't think anybody can take yet another instalment of the same exact thing. So what the boys and girls over at Capcom did was change the camera angle from preset ones to one that's over the shoulder. So in a sense, we still have tank controls, but it doesn't feel as tank-y thanks to the more fluid controls and the change in camera angles. That and putting even more emphasis on action gives this game a distinct flavor. But does this make for a grand old time in the realm of survival horror? Well, not quite.

What Capcom also did here was try to start off fresh - keep any and all ties to the older games within the introductory scene. Yep, we're in control of Leon Kennedy again, only he's been long gone from Raccoon City after the zombie apocalypse. Instead, he's sent to a remote village in Spain to rescue the president's daughter who will be known as the ever so annoying Ashley Graham once you rescue her. Okay, seems innocent enough, but then you meet the villagers... who all want your head off of your body. A natural response to this is “what's going on”, but then you get further and realize that there's more to this than you think. It's just like Resident Evil to do that, but unlike the other games, this doesn't go all over the place with surprise betrayals and all that. Leon may meet old friends and deal with some bigger troubles than villagers who seem to hate him while getting involved in some conspiracy involving the president's daughter, but really, it's a straightforward affair. Maybe it's not “horrific” enough - not knowing is the greatest fear of all - but Resident Evil 4 wasn't exactly trying to be scary...
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#24 - Kick Master

Back when Kid were making games and not visual novels for the Playstation 2, they made some kick ass games that flew under the radar. Whether it was because they released their shit when a console became more and more irrelevant or everything else seemed more appealing at the time, they were pretty damn overlooked. The only game most people remember from these kids is Pepsi Man for the PS1, but ladies and gentlemen, I'll always remember Kick Master above all else.

A lot of it probably relates to nostalgia as the means of getting items is a bit silly - like they scatter about and fall through the ground if you don't collect them in time. Not to mention that there was clearly not enough buttons for what they wanted to do as you'll find certain commands overlapping as you level up. While there are plenty of bosses, only about a third of them are original - the rest copy their moves. But looking past that, not to mention the fact that there are about 20 or so bosses, lies a great game that's a lot of fun to play through. It's always satisfying kicking a demon in the face and watching him blow up, as well as beating a tough boss. The spells - when you can find most of them, as levels have hidden passages - were varied enough to work and are surprisingly useful in the heat of battle. Besides my little issue with an attack or two overlapping, the controls are smooth and easy to handle, meaning death is simply your fault for not jumping far enough or getting hit. Finally, the soundtrack is *bleep*ing awesome. Goddamn, I love listening to the music. Sometimes, I'll just play to listen to the music. Certainly one of my favorite NES soundtracks, probably top 3.

Summary - An intense game about a guy whose kick was too deadly for the MMA circuit.
Score - 9/10

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#25 - Banjo-Kazooie

Alright guys, we've hit the halfway point of this countdown! Awesome! Let's celebrate with the best collect em up game to ever be released... well, okay, second best, and that, my friends, is Banjo-Kazooie. It takes Super Mario 64 and expands on its ideas to make an even better experience for the player. Some would opt for Banjo-Tooie because it has bosses, bigger levels and upgrades, but nothing in Banjo-Kazooie is as bad as Grunty Industries and I didn't really dig the levels quite as much as I did Kazooie's - I think there's such a thing as being too big. Some would say Donkey Kong 64, but... I don't know, I like platformers that are platformers, not platformers where you spend half the time playing shitty mini games. So Banjo-Kazooie it is.

Really, why not? Banjo-Kazooie's levels are big, but there's some a lot of care put into their designs, meaning that you'll always at least have a decent enough idea of what to do next. There's a lot of cohesiveness to the levels that made them work well for an enjoyable stay in them. There were a lot of collectibles, but not too many so that while there was plenty to do, it never felt overwhelming. Not to mention that the dialogue had a good amount of humor injected into them - I was always looking forward to learning the next move or finding more characters, and lest we forget Gruntilda, the rhyming witch whose goal is to look tall, thin and hot instead of fat and ugly? Man, I just couldn't get enough of that shit.

Summary - A fun and enjoyable, not to mention funny continuation of what Super Mario 64 started.
Rating - 9/10

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With the end of the Halloween contest concluded, Round 64 ends with Aevers winning a supplementary battle with her review of Resident Evil 3. Describing it is a perfect mix of action and horror, she adds a tinge of nostalgia with criticiality, only to lavish the hell out of it with praise.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Score: 9/10
Genre: Survival Horror

If it was just the trilogy, I'd say it ended with a hell of a bang!

quote Aevers
So yeah, this is pretty much my favorite Resident Evil game. Many people swear by Resident Evil 2 and the remake of the first game for the Gamecube, and while I'd acknowledge the latter to be the definitive Resident Evil experience, I just love this one so much that it doesn't even matter that I didn't get a Gamecube growing up to get such a game. It's more action driven than the first two games, but it does itself some huge favors to make it more tolerable. That, and there's a good balance between action and horror, which I think is what all survival horror games where you can at least fight back should strive to do.

Taking place before the events of Resident Evil 2, Jill Valentine had turned in her S.T.A.R.S badge after the events of Resident Evil 1 and, given that Raccoon City experienced a zombie invasion, she's out to escape from the city so that she doesn't get eaten. However, she runs into a former teammate... only to witness him being killed by the bio organic weapon known as Nemesis. Why? Because he's a member of S.T.A.R.S, and they know too much about the experiments in the mansion, and about the use of viruses to infect a whole city, so Nemesis is invented to take them down. Unfortunately for Jill, simply turning in her badge isn't enough to not be Nemesis's next victim, so on top of leaving the city, she also has to take down Nemesis... as soon as she can find a way to actually do that, as a few gun shots won't slow him down.
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#26 - Shadowrun

Before Deus Ex rocked our dicks off with its blend of first person shooting and role playing action, there was Shadowrun (not to be confused with Shadowgate, which is a horror-themed adventure game). This is based off of the tabletop game that's like a futuristic Dungeons & Dragons - only it takes place in a dystopian future instead of times of peril against the mighty dragon.

You start off as a person who had risen from his grave (or spot in the morgue - whatever), looking for the people or person who murdered you. Over time, you'll learn from various people about the situation... at least those who won't shoot you. But when it comes to people who'll *bleep* you up, well, you'll need to toughen up your body, find a decent gun and cap some bitches. This is when the levelling system comes into play - as you do certain things (completing quests and killing enemies), you'll acquire karma, which can be spent on certain attributes (body, gunmanship and hacking, for instance) when you rest somewhere you can sleep. You can gain cyberware, or cybernetic parts (I guess you could say augmentations) that can replace your skin with armor or give you better movement, etc etc. There's quite a lot of depth to this game as it opens up the further along you get, opening you up to upgrades, more fun firefights and a more interesting story. The latter is especially big when you talk to more and more people in the world, especially as you talk to more people and pick up on certain words. Honestly, this is what LA Noire wished it could be... I mean, you feel more like a detective in this game than in *bleep*ing LA Noire! But personal bias against games that squander their potential aside, Shadowrun kicks ass and is probably the best game to come from the land down under.

Summary - Deus Ex before Deus Ex while adding some detective elements LA Noire has wet dreams of being anything like.
Rating - 9/10

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#27 - Rocket Knight Adventures

This has always, at the very least, been an interesting game as it feels less like a platformer and a bit more like "the best of the 16-bit era". It has platforming and shoot em up sections to keep you on the edge of your seat. Each level and boss had its own definitive look and feel, giving you quite an experience. Really, the best way to describe Rocket Knight Adventures is that there's a lot of cool shit, and it's a ton of fun to go through, especially the boss fights. Holy *bleep*, this game has some sick bosses, especially the final fight against Axel Gear, Sparkster's rival and he who kidnapped the princess at the beginning of the game.

Sadly, all I can talk about from this point are its sequels - Sparkster on the Genesis was interesting, if somewhat flawed and quite frustrating. Sparkster on the Super Nintendo, despite being a loose port of the Genesis original, wasn't quite as interesting. Rocket Knight on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network was... pretty *bleep*ing vanilla.

Summary - If nothing else, this is the kind of game where its interesting ideas culminate into an enjoyable experience.
Rating - 9/10

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#28 - Tales Of Vesperia

I always find it funny when people try to downplay certain games because the reality is that it's better than their favorite game. Tales Of Vesperia does get liked by a lot of people, but just as many people will criticize the hell out of it, only to jack off to Tales Of Symphonia and The Abyss. Seriously? I enjoyed Symphonia and Abyss, but there's a good reason Vesperia is on my list - because it's more enjoyable as a whole. The Tales series was never really known for good stories but for good characters, and with the exception of Estelle (aka Colette with pink cropped hair and even more awkward), I felt that Vesperia was where they really stepped up their game and I also hope that Tales Of Xillia continues this trend, or I might have to cap a bitch. But yeah, Vesperia has a lot more going for it, particularly in terms of character development. Not only does individual development keep the character interesting, but their relationships further develop their characters into something more than just a group of kids saving the world. I'd honestly put this in my top 10 if the last act wasn't so... I wouldn't say weak because it was still good, but it feels like they were about ready to go to bed while writing this act. The first two acts were actually quite strong, particularly the second one as it further developed the characters, but the last act didn't show much except them taking a step back into old ground. At least the characters were interesting enough to keep it from being shit, but all Tales games are like this, really.

The Tales games aren't just about characters, but what the player does with them. If you've played Abyss, then you'll be quite familiar with Vesperia's because they're similar - while you mostly fight on a 2D plane, you can hold the RT and do some "free running" (meaning it's on a 3D plane). You'll be a bit slower and you can't use artes (special attacks) whilst free running though; it's more of a dodging mechanism than anything else. At least you can attack... with this one slow attack, but it's an attack nonetheless. One addition is the fatal strike, where if you hit an enemy enough with a certain type of arte, once the symbol pops up, you press RT and you'll either kill them or do a lot of damage to them. Also, playing as other members is finally not a complete pain in the ass! I'm sorry, but in other games, I made sure only to play as the default character as they were clearly the one who was designed the best in terms of player control, while here, everybody has their own nuances that you can eventually get used to and will be a blast to play with. I guess it has to make up for the dungeons, which have no puzzles. At least Symphonia had good puzzles (besides you know what...). But Vesperia's combat is so much fun that it doesn't matter.

Summary - It shows strong signs of the series growing up and overall, Tales Of Vesperia is a damn fine experience. If only its third act could keep up.
Rating - 9/10

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#29 - Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey Of The Cursed King

Spare me the "grind for 6 hours to beat a boss and then grind for another 6 hours" jokes because they got old quite a while ago - I honestly enjoyed my time with Dragon Quest 8. It was a slow burner, true, but it does eventually open up, and when it does, you'll find yourself enjoying it too. Simple levelling up turns into skill trees you get to access every few level ups, there are plenty of items and secret monsters laying about in the overworld, and best of all is the monster arena.

It's hard to really explain why I love this game so much because really, there are moments where you have to grind and the story doesn't exactly scream "quality". At the same time, it brings me back into what I love about JRPGs - just the fact that I can get lost in a fantasy world for about 50+ hours, messing around with the monster arena while going through dungeons to take down monsters in an effort to save the princess/world or whatever. You may be about ready to go "DOUBLE STANDARDS" and all that jazz, but really, there are very few JRPGs that let you get lost in its world. Most JRPGs, including Dragon Quest IX, feel more game-y than Dragon Quest VIII does, and again, I find it hard to explain why. I guess after a little while, grinding could be reserved for while you going through the world unless you do as little fighting as possible, but that tends to happen in other JRPGs. Whatever... Another thing that made this game stick out to me was the plot twist. Without spoiling anything, it'll take you by surprise. Course, it probably won't now, but... I don't know. It's still one of my favorite twists.

Summary - One of the finer examples of an old school JRPG brought into the modern age.
Rating - 8.5/10

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Round 63 was full of creepy crawly reviews, but the public braved through it all and managed to single out Mrblikey's review of Corpse Party as the most frightening in terms of quality writing. Describing it as a game whose dialogue is full of grotesque wordplay and bloody imagery, let's just say that the game will be in your deepest nightmares for quite a while.

Happy (late) Halloween, everybody!

Corpse Party Score: 8/10
Genre: Horror/RPG

Pack your barf bags, bring some pillows and turn off the lights, we're in for a wild ride.

quote Mrblikey
Corpse Party was originally a game for the PC-98, which was a fancy Japan-only PC, and was originally developed using RPGMaker, the thing used to make games like Yume Nikki and Ib. The PC-98 version was released only in Japan (go figure) although it did have a few shares of fantranslations out there. It was eventually ported to PSP with updated graphics and a few new added features, and thanks to the wonderful people at XSEED, it's been localized for our pleasure, or rather, disgust. Whatever.

The game's story revolves around the eccentric group of classmates who perform a ritual in order to ensure that their friendships last forever.

Guess what? It goes horribly wrong, and now they're trapped in the Heavenly Host Elementary School, a school in another dimension.
Full of spirits.
Evil spirits.
Of children.
Dismembered children.
That want them dead.

Yeah, things aren't going to end so well.
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#30 - Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden on the NES was something else back in the day as it was the first to use cinematic cutscenes... well, sort of, but besides this innovation in storytelling, the story itself was your typical "save the world" kind of deal and that's it. Still, it was an impressive feat for its day - certainly more impressive than its cheap *bleep*ing bullshit difficulty (Stage 6-2 in the first NES game made me want to kill everyone at Tecmo for how broken it was). But after the travesty that was the third game, it went into hibernation for a few generations... until the sixth generation, when a company by the name of Team Ninja decided "you know, let's branch out into hack and slash games" (as they had made a couple of Dead Or Alive games beforehand). Their first foray into hack and slash...

...was *bleep*ing awesome! I mean it's hard as tits like the NES games, but it utilizes the Xbox's technology to make it a bit fairer - stuff like AI and 3D battlefields helped to flesh things out the NES couldn't do, and due to all of this, I actually found myself having a damn good time regardless of whether I'm *bleep* mother*bleep*ers with my Dragon Sword or getting my ass kicked. Also due to the Xbox's more advanced technology, you can equip multiple weapons (short and long ranged weapons) and have multiple special attacks, meaning if your Dragon Sword isn't good enough, eh, maybe one of your other weapons can do something better? If anything is wrong with this game, it's the *bleep*ing camera that *bleep*s me off - seriously, the right trigger is the only camera control I have? *bleep* off! But surprisingly... I can overlook it and enjoy myself. Weird how things work, huh? But yeah, everything in this game works pretty damn well for an enjoyable time, even if it kicks your ass.

Can't say the sequels did it any better. Ninja Gaiden 2 was fun, but way too cheap. Ninja Gaiden 3 was watered down to focus more on the story and OH GOD QUICK TIME EVENT, making it feel more like the sequel to Ninja Blade than Ninja Gaiden.

Summary - You're a badass ninja. I don't think there's anything else to say... except it's hard as tits, but only to a point that pisses you off enough to make you keep going.
Score - 8/10

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#31 - Bioshock

Walking in the footsteps of the Half Life games, Bioshock contains a narrative that's integrated into the game, as opposed to just being a barrage of cutscenes mixed with gameplay segments. What I like about Bioshock that seriously stops any Half Life game from appearing on this list is that said narrative is compelling as *bleep*! Learning about Rapture and your situation whilst being stranded in the sunken city of the same name made for an interesting experience and the want to learn more kept me playing.

Immersing yourself into the city of Rapture helps make the game work a lot better than if you handle it like you would a standard first person shooter - indeed, the gameplay is a bit lacking as combat isn't all that common nor crazy like you'd expect in this genre, old school or new school, and I feel that this holds back the game somewhat, but due to the ambience of the game, this easily becomes one of the best new school first person shooters on the market. Even then, the gameplay is serviceable. Fighting the bosses and Big Daddies make for some fun encounters, but otherwise, on its own terms, the gameplay is pretty mediocre and it does pretty much rely on immersion to make up for it. Good thing it's something that's easy to get immersed into, eh?

By the way, *bleep* Bioshock 2. Talk about missing the point of what made this one even worth a damn! At least it sort of improves the gameplay, but not enough to be anywhere near as good as this game.

Summary - An immersing experience with an interesting setting and gameplay that works.
Rating - 9/10

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#32 - Riviera: The Promised Land


I apologize for not posting this for nearly 4 months. I guess that's what happens when you try to release things every day - you start to get a little burned out. But I'm in the mood to get back into doing up this list so... yeah, here's the long awaited #32 - Riviera: The Promised Land. It's one of those "love it or hate it" kind of games as it's a different kind of RPG. It has no overworld, you move through dungeons like you move through menus and there isn't a whole lot to battling. That's the kind of thing that'd turn people off of this game (and right back to Pokemon because double standards)...

...but then I focused on everything else and found myself enjoying it. For instance, the story and the characters are quite engrossing. It's one of those games I couldn't put away since the development of these, especially the characters, made things much more interesting. I've also found that although navigation through the dungeons is very simple, the rooms themselves aren't, as there are action triggers which will require you to press a sequence of buttons in order to get some awesome items and not screw yourself over. There's also the Look Mode, which lets you use TP (Trigger Points) to look at objects in each room to hopefully find some cool items to use in battle. These can seem irritating, but they compensate for the lack of battle depth as they require some quick thinking on the former and strategizing on the latter. And eh, I really don't have an issue with the simplicity of combat - just wishing it was a bit more complex if nothing else.

Summary - A simplistic unique JRPG with excellent characters and a pretty good story.
Rating - 8.5/10

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Round 62 sees Stalagmite take another win, this time by giving a sacred cow some critical analysis without letting her nostalgia blind her. Oh, it's not as if she takes a big dump on it, but she does point out that the controls and camera style haven't aged very well and makes certain situations more tedious than they have any right to while not finding it all that scary, but not without praising the survival elements, level design and presentation.

Resident Evil 2 Score: 6/10
Genre: Survival Horror

Ambitious in concept; flawed in design. Approach with caution like an area near a biohazard zone.

quote Stalagmite
Originally released on the Playstation 1 in 1998 by Capcom and ported over to the Nintendo 64 in 1999 by Angel Studios, Resident Evil 2 continues the story from the first game (the whole T-virus zombie thing) while standing as its own thing, which is good for the sake of this port... being the only one that made it onto the Nintendo 64, and hey, if you're going to port just one old school Resident Evil game onto this beast, why not the best one? Yeah yeah, the third game had Nemesis and the first game had atrocious voice acting, but the definitive old school Resident Evil experience, to me, will always come in the form of the second game. That being said, the old school Resident Evil experience consists of a blend of excellent survival elements, hit and miss quality puzzles and crap controls.

If you were a cop and had to describe your first day, would you tell the truth or come up with a wild lie? Well, at first, it would seem like Leon Kennedy chose the latter, but when you go through this game, you'll believe him when he tells you that he spent his first day on the force trying to take down the Umbrella Corporation, with said corporation being the one behind the biological attack that infected Raccoon City and turned nearly everybody into zombies. Oh, and there's Claire Redfield, who Leon was with until they decided to split up after the policemen in the station died and learned that her brother, Chris Redfield, is in Europe to take down that branch of the Umbrella Corporation. What starts off as a simple "rescue the survivors" premise evolves into one full of conspiracies and whatnot as Umbrella are a pharmaceutical company, making you wonder why they'd want to start up a zombie apocalypse.
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Round 61 has Stalagmite step out of her comfort zone. As opposed to reviewing an old Nintendo or Sega game, she opts to review a modern game and it seems to have paid off for her as she walked away - surprised - the winner. She describes it as a game that has more to offer than it can keep up with, stating that Darksiders 2 suffers from a bit of an identity crisis while at least being fun to play more often than not.

Darksiders 2 Score: 7/10
Genre: Action/Adventure

While it has a fantastic soundtrack, exciting combat and creative puzzles, they aren't a good enough laxative for this game.

quote Stalagmite
Released in 2012 by Vigil Games, Darksiders 2 is what happens when you try to reinvent your product when all it really needed were a few kinks readjusted and one section worked on... and make things a bit worse. The first Darksiders game was what happened if the Zelda series had more combat, more blood and voiced dialogue (something I dare say Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword sorely needed but that's just my opinion). It was, if nothing else, a rather interesting take on the Zelda series that was a lot better than Twilight Princess. Darksiders 2, on the other hand, ditches the Zelda style and adopts the Fable style, or at least an abridged style of it. That is to say, it revolves around exploring an open world to find and go through dungeons in order to complete quests and find some goodies while you're there. At least it doesn't suck hard like Fable does, but when all is said and done, Darksiders 2 could've been a lot better.

It's not as if Darksiders 1 was a work of Shakespeare, but at least it had a sense of progression with a couple of interesting moments every now and again, and having The Watcher (voiced by Mark Hamill) made things better. Darksiders 2 doesn't even do any of that. The idea is that Death is supposed to clear War's name as he either knows or is just damn sure that it wasn't him who prematurely started the apocalypse. Unfortunately, the means of getting there revolves around him being every NPC's errand boy, fetching ingredients and dead kings in exchange for nuggets of information. Said nuggets are more like McNuggets as they tend to have no value whatsoever, save for arbitrarily getting you closer to your goal. I say arbitrarily because the story never actually develops, nor do the characters besides Death matter one bit because you're never given much time with them and while you can make the argument that everything said and done is doomed by the events of the first game, eh, it doesn't mean you can't weave a little interesting sidestory or two!!
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Round 60 of the ongoing Articles Of Excellence season ends with a book review written by one Solid Snake 4Life - in particular, Misery by one Stephen King. He describes the book as one that makes crazy, middle aged fangirls seem even scarier than the supernatural and how effective the relationship between her and the author is, especially when given the circumstances.

Misery Score: 9.8/10
Genre: Horror

Even something so basic as Paul wheeling himself around Annie’s house while she’s out in an attempt to find her pharmaceutical drug stash, manages to create a level of suspense that most Hollywood blockbusters could only dream of.

quote Solid Snake 4Life
By now the plot of Misery has been parodied so many times over, it’s likely you know it already even if you’ve yet to ever read the book or see the movie based on it (Which is an excellent film starring James Caan, best remembered as the guy who gets riddled with bullets in The Godfather). But just in case you aren’t in the know Misery is the story of the winter famed author Paul Sheldon spends with his number one fan Annie Wilkes, first as her patient and then as her unwilling hostage. Unlike the earlier mentioned epic The Stand; the equally iconic Shining, or the decidedly less epic Duma Key, King resists the urge to include the supernatural in this tale. There are no hands of god to help our hero triumph, or statuettes housing the spirit of a dark presence that’s responsible for his tribulations. Rather the reason that Misery is one of the most disturbing works I’ve ever had the privilege to read is because of just how goddamned grounded in reality everything is.
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Round 59 sees the return of Monterey Jack to the winner's circle with his review of Serious Sam 3: BFE. He describes it as a familiar yet refreshingly fun experience in the eye of the modern military shooter storm.

Serious Sam 3: BFE Score: 9/10
Genre: First Person Shooter

Its fast and frenetic action that remains exhilarating because of aggressive AI, lots of guns and the pacing between encounters that gives you enough time to catch your breath.

quote Monterey Jack
In 2011, three similar games came out - Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 3, and Duke Nukem Forever. These games were meant to be more arcade-y, fun and over the top like in the good old days, as opposed to serious and grounded in realism while still feeling arcade-y like the majority of military shooters these days. I enjoyed Bulletstorm but it could've been a lot better. Duke Nukem Forever was boring and mediocre, and if it was a no-name game, nobody would give even a fraction of a shit about it unless you know who Gearbox Software are. So to finish off the year is Serious Sam 3, a long awaited but not nearly as long awaited as Duke Nukem Forever sequel to the awesome one-two punch of Serious Sam: First and Second Encounters. Both of those games were good, but Serious Sam 3 really ups the ante and winds up becoming not only the best shooter of 2011, but also one of the best shooters I've played in years!

BFE stands for Before First Encounter.
Serious Sam 3 is a prequel to the crazy time travelling tales of, well, Serious Sam, which I guess is meant to get people who missed the older games in the series into them, but really, Serious Sam was never Shakespeare - he was just a meathead with a lot of one liners. Basically, Croatia's answer to America's Duke Nukem, although Duke was more badass than Sam. Either way, the decision to make it a prequel is a bit silly, but then again, I guess anything to get people to buy the earlier games is a good thing. Anyway, an alien known as Mental sends his fleet of aliens down onto Egypt (modern Egypt, actually). The survivors of the attack turn to the time lock, a time travelling device which could be used to alter events of the past... if they could actually use it. Sam and some soldiers from the Earth Defense Force are sent to take them out, but there's more to it than that as things don't start off on the right foot and more stuff happens as he progresses. Honestly though, it doesn't do much except set you up to kill more aliens and give Sam more cheesy one liners, and honestly, while I do think that Bulletstorm did a better job of this concept as it's just much more enjoyable, at least here, it's not in your face, and Sam has a few funny one liners every now and again. It's just there because... well, every game has to have a story of sorts, apparently.
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The idea of Borderlands is to find The Vault. Well, I've found a different sort of vault and in it contains Round 58's winner, which is EricF's review of Borderlands. While it seems to replace a good story with lackluster voice acting and mediocre music, Eric assures us that the game is a lot of fun to play, especially with 3 other people and enough weapons for about 500 action movies.

Borderlands Score: 8.5/10
Genre: First Person Shooter

Without having to take the game too seriously, it becomes a game that you can pick up time and time again when you're bored, and despite how much time you give it, it still manages to create a sort of spontaneous excitement on your screen.
quote EricF
Over the last few years, I've developed a fierce liking to post-apocalyptic role-playing games. And for one strange reason or another, I never got around to playing Borderlands during its post-release success. Why? To be honest, after playing it, I have no idea. Borderlands is easily one of the most enjoyable games, on or offline, that I've ever played. While games like Fallout are of a consistent enjoyability prior to completion, after completion or while playing DLC, there's something very sentimentally brilliant about Borderlands. Without having to take the game too seriously, it becomes a game that you can pick up time and time again when you're bored, and despite how much time you give it, it still manages to create a sort of spontaneous excitement on your screen. Any fans of the franchise will agree that Borderlands could well be a game that could be picked up again in 10 or 20 years' times and still be considered fantastic.

An uninteresting plot with strange appeal

Borderlands is set on the planet Pandora (no, we're not watching Avatar), a place greatly populated by those seeking this mysterious Vault location. In fact, as you progress you'll find that every Pandorian (seems like a legit word, doesn't it?) has a peculiar interest with this Vault - the Vault only opens once every 200 years, once you have all the corresponding components and keys. And, as I'm sure you could've guessed, this 200 year milestone is approaching once again, leaving many of the Pandora dwellers hunting for its location. So, back to your own character(s) now; at the beginning of the game, you're on a bus that's heading for Fyrestone (your first location of the game) and on this bus is 4 characters that you can choose from; Roland the Soldier (generically boring role for a 21st century gamer, don't you think?), Mordecai the Hunter, Brick the Berserker and Lilith the Siren.

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And so we Round 57 on a much more positive front, with Fluidity's extremely glowing review of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Describing it as quite the pretty adventure with a lovable cast of characters, Uncharted 3 will find its way into your heart the same way Uncharted 2 hopefully did (see: an excellent game).

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Score: 10/10
Genre: Action/Adventure

I see great things in our future, kid. Great things.
quote Fluidity
When given the option to choose between a 160GB PlayStation 3 console with no game and a console with double the storage space and a game for only $50 more, any sensible person who can afford to pay up the extra cash will go with the latter. This was the scenario I was in upon deciding to add the PS3 to my gaming collection, and I went with the bundle. The game that was included was an installment in the PlayStation's "signature series": Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Being third in the procession, I was a bit skeptical to start the game right away, but was too impatient to wait to purchase and play through the others, so I decided to dive right in. In retrospect, I'd like to thank my impatience.

"Well, of course it's genuine."
Up until this game I haven't had the pleasure of seeing a PS3 exclusive in full 1080p HD. Mind = blown. Let me just say that the visuals in this game are absolutely stunning. The colors are rich, the sound effects realistic, and the in-game graphics can be confused for a cut scene... that is, until you see how they somehow managed to make those look even better. (Drake's eyes in the cut scenes... Ahem.) But yes, attention paid to small details such as indents in stone, ripples in water, and lasting clips on the ground after reloading makes you feel like you're really there experiencing all the action for yourself. I can honestly say this is the most beautiful game I have ever laid my eyes upon.

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Round 56 sees the rise of new blood in Praetorian_Lord, whose review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution swept us off of our feet! It's a bit of a shame the game itself didn't do the same to him, as he describes it as a game that is lukewarm on the action with RPG elements that feel tacked on at best, but one that at least has great sneaking.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Score: 6/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

The game, like its protagonist and his world, seems to be suffering from a crisis of identity. It doesn’t work as an out-and-out shooter, and RPG elements are only really tokenistic. The stealth elements are the game’s main source of enjoyment, and work well when you’ve had enough experience with them.
quote Praetorian_Lord
The third instalment in a critically-acclaimed series? A unique approach to a neglected genre? Developed by a brand new studio owned by gaming giants Eidos and published by the iconic Square Enix? For a game that really should tick all the boxes, I’m really disappointed to say that I flat-out can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Released for console in August 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in 2027 as a prequel to previous Deus Ex instalments. A priori, the game should be excellent, and it’s certainly received accolades from professionals and gamers alike. Players assume the role of ex-cop Adam Jensen who presently works as security chief for major augmentation producer Sarif Industries. What’s an augmentation? This is the future, remember. Recent advances in prosthetic technology have made cyborgs – part man, part machines – an everyday reality. At the game’s outset, a would-be fatal incident forces Adam to become ‘augmented’ against his will. Called back into action six months later, the bulk of the game’s story follows him as he tries to track down the culprits and, in the process, unveils an international conspiracy that will define the future (or rather, the very nature) of mankind. It promises stealth action akin to Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, combined with RPG elements for which Square Enix is universally renowned.

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Round 54 of the Articles of Excellence season sees Polarity kick some ass with his review of Silent Hill: Downpour, describing it as a survival horror game that shows us that the genre can still stand on its toes if given some modern enhancements, and he doesn't mean putting emphasis on action - he's talking about making mechanics feel more fluent than they did in the late 90s/early 2000s. That and an excellent story is what makes this game really tick.

Silent Hill: Downpour Score: 8.8/10
Genre: Survival Horror

It may not feel right at first, but as you play the game and it opens up to you, you'll find yourself falling in love with it too.

quote Polarity
It's interesting how poorly received this game is by the press. Many reviewers plastered it with 6's not because it has something to do with the devil, but because they had a wide range of problems with the game... some reviewers even gave it abysmally low scores for, quite frankly, silly reasons that make little to no sense. It's almost like they didn't want to like it, and that just feels like dishonest journalism to me. Then again, that seems to be the case with many games these days, so it shouldn't surprise me, especially games that aren't the most accessible in the world, but hey, I love this game to bits. It gets so much right not only in terms of being a Silent Hill game, nor even in terms of being a horror game, but in terms of being a game in general. It understands its purpose (to be a deep game with scares to boot) and it accomplishes its mission very successfully (it has a deep story and it is pretty scary), not to mention that you'll have a very good time playing this game - that's all I really ask of a game.

You play as Murphy Pendleton, who is meant to be tranferred to another prison, but after his bus crashes and his fellow convicts are scattered about, he wanders into Silent Hill. As is to be expected in a Silent Hill game, this will be a horrifying journey of self realisation for Murphy, full of monsters and creepy townsfolk. That's not to mention the Otherworld, which will really mess with his mind (as well as yours) with walls melting, blood covering the walls and even more terrifying monsters show up, among other things to really make Murphy (and yourself) feel like he's in his own personal hell. It's the kind of story that keeps you interested in the character you play as by developing them bit by bit, explaining their situation and allowing you to get an idea of why they're the way they are. Due to this, he becomes a character you can symphathize with, and he is a very likeable character - full of charisma and moral ambiguity - so the want to be invested in his development is made natural, not to mention that much sweeter. So yeah, Murphy is a great character and he makes for an interesting story. That isn't to discount the other characters - some of the more important ones get a decent amount of development and are likeable as well, but they serve as background objects by comparison, and while it's possible to care for them too, it's Murphy that steals the show, and why shouldn't he? It's his game, after all!
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#33 - Pokemon Emerald

In the beginning, Pokemon was a game that you really got into as a kid because it looked so kidlicious. You quickly lined up your parents' money, ready for generation 2. Then you got tired of them a bit into the second generation and most likely skipped the third generation because it was either getting too stagnant or "it's gay". Then the fourth generation came and you got back into it, and it got stronger with the fifth generation. While the franchise's popularity will never reach the height it did when it first came about, it's still going on really strongly and there's nothing stopping them, save for cancelling the series.

Would you believe that the generation you most likely skipped is by far the best one?

Not only was it a time when the anime was actually good for a change (not great, but take what you can get), but it was a time when the games really added shit that changed the game... as did the generation 4 games, but generation 3 was the biggest step up and actually playing Emerald is a lot more fun and exciting than Platinum. While the basic principle of capturing and levelling up Pokemon is the same, raising them is a bit different due to a brand new addition known as natures. Now, Pokemon of the same species can be marginally different without the aid of steroids! Not to mention the plethora of new holdable healing items (which was there in the second generation, but now is when they really became more than just a few basic items here and there), IVs or individual values which further separates each of an individual species of Pokemon from one another once they hit level 100, and much more that really gives the game weight to stand on in comparison to other JRPGs. Oh, and the adventure was fun. Never mind that we're given new mechanics, but they're all used well to give us quite an adventure around the Hoenn region.

Summary - It adds so much to what was a relatively simple JRPG, and it makes for an excellent game to play through.
Rating - 9/10

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With the year being halfway done, I feel the need to make some sort of summary of gaming pre-E3 2012. This can either be the most uneventful half of the year or... I guess a tad less eventful. Either way, let's look at it all so far.

We'll start with what's good so far.

Binary Domain
Starting off this list is a cover based third person shooter from the same team who make the Yakuza games. At first, it just felt like an ordinary third person shooter, but then you enter the second half, and its brilliance truly shows with excellent writing and some pretty damn intense fights... not that the intensity was low in the first half, but the second half was muuuuch better in that regard. With that said, I don't like the fact that this game is a slow burner. When it comes to shooters, you pretty much want to start off strong and keep going strong. If it had even a good beginning, this would be my pick for game of the year, but given its mediocre start, it's not quite there.

The Darkness 2
Yeah, it's not nearly as good as the original game, but that game was *bleep*ing excellent and easily one of the best games in this generation. However, this sequel is still worth buying. It puts in a good effort to continue the story, and even though it's not nearly as interesting or emotional, it's still one that you'll be absorbed into. The structure of this game is like that of any shooter - linear hallways, bang bang bang. The Darkness itself does make things interesting at least. Overall, a good game, but nowhere near as good as the original game. Plus it's a bit short.

I Am Alive
Another potentially disappointing game - this time, because it went from being a full retail game to a downloadable game due to what I assume was shaky development. Not to worry, because it is still a good game. One thing that always bugs me about the Resident Evil series is that while it gets survival down to a tee, playing it is a pain in the ass. I Am Alive gets the survival aspect down to a tee by not leaving too many items around, forcing you to play conservatively in a world stricken by disaster. The platforming may seem like Uncharted or Enslaved in which most (if not all) is done with a simple press of the button, but with the addition of the stamina meter, it makes things much, much more tense. That's what I Am Alive is all about - tension and survival. Perhaps it is a bit clunky, but nothing that you can get used to (yeah, I hate using that argument to justify shit controls, but these are not bad - just a bit clunky and the rest of the game is good enough to make it easy to overlook). Overall, definitely worth a purchase, though I do wish it was the retail game it could've been. Ah well.

Dragon's Dogma
This is certainly an interesting game. It's basically a WRPG done by a Japanese developer (Capcom), and while the story is pretty mediocre and the lack of fast travel eventually makes backtracking a bore and a half (not my fault that I don't play games 24 hours a day unlike those who praise the lack of fast travel), the game is pretty *bleep*ing good. The combat is fluid and tons of fun to engage in, and the bosses are fan-*bleep*ing-tastically designed. God, I just love the combat in this game and the Pawns have some pretty good AI... which I guess makes up for the lack of co-op multiplayer... ah well, it all works out well in the end and what you'll get out of this is a game that'll really impress you. Expect this game on the end of year list.

Max Payne 3
This is how you make a reboot - take the old game, and modernize it! Max Payne 3 has most of the Max Payne feel, which is John Woo style shooting with bullettime up the ass and you needing to use it strategically (you know, unless you want to die), but it has the cover system we all know and love from other third person shooters, plus it just feels a lot tighter in general. The mood itself is different - instead of the melancholic tone of the first two games, it feels more like an action movie with hints of said melancholic tone thrown out there throughout. But if you see that as an issue, you probably also see fun and excitement as a bad thing, throwing terms such as narrative connection and all this other psuedo-intellectual bullshit nobody actually cares about. No, what I see an issue with is that you can't skip the cutscenes, which can be fairly lengthy. Fine for the first time through, but pretty shitty the second time through. Beyond that, it is a fantastic game. Also another game you should expect on the end of year list... at least, I'd hope so.

However, we've had our share of shitty and just plain disappointing games, so... here they are.

Syndicate
This is, like, the OPPOSITE of what Max Payne 3 did! Instead of taking an old formula and building upon it with modernizations, Starbreeze (yeah, I had to quadruple check that - I thought they were better than this) went "*bleep* it, strategy games aren't cool, it's a first person shooter". Now, I would have absolutely no problem with that if it wasn't so *bleep*ing boring! This is about as by the numbers as it gets, folks. Go through corridor, bang bang bang, corridor - you get the drill, and unlike The Darkness 2, it does *bleep* all to seperate itself from its kind. Even the powers are lame. I just couldn't give a *bleep* about this by the numbers game. That and the neon color scheme (which actually does irritate my eyes after a while) is what really holds it back.

Blades Of Time
Did we really need a sequel to X-Blades? X-Blades was, at best, a guilty pleasure. It felt like a bad Devil May Cry clone, but it was fun enough to justify existing. Mind you, I'd sooner buy Bayonetta than X-Blades, but whatever. Blades Of Time is a shitty hack and slash that isn't fun. It's drab, boring, and I just can't *bleep*ing play this shit anymore.

Lollipop Chainsaw
Clunky is the best way to sum up Lollipop Chainsaw. Really clunky. Like it doesn't control all that well, flow too well or even feel alright. It just feels like an early PS2 hack and slash not named Devil May Cry - awkward and about as fun as watching paint dry. Oh, and the quick time events... they suck. Just feels like they're put in there because, well, what game doesn't have them these days? Thanks God Of War! Not all the funny dialogue in the world can save this game from being pretty *bleep*ing clunky!

Soul Calibur 5
It'd be so easy to simply say "rush job" and end it right there, but then there'd be little reason to put this here. No, my issue lies with what it could've been. This takes place 17 years after the events of the last game. Alright, we have a bunch of new characters and a new-ish setting, so what do we do from there? Well, let's only give two of the new characters a story each, let's make the stories terrible, and let's have the storyboards serve as the visual. Genius! Not only that, but let's turn the fighting engine into some sort of half assed Blazblue clone! Let's make half the characters unbalanced as *bleep*, especially Nightmare and Siegfried with their comically big swords and the fact that they're fast as *bleep* in their huge amounts of armor! Hell, *bleep* the single player - it's all about multiplayer! Now, yeah, that is normally the case for fighting games, but last I checked, even the first Soul Calibur game had a good amount of content for single player... Does rush job sound any better, people? Because it is.

Pokemon Conquest
Unimpressive is the word best used to describe this. Mind you, there are only two real flaws - the AI is dumber than what you'd find in the generation 1 games and it does everything in its power to not feel like baby's first SRPG. What I mean by the latter is that there are plenty of different systems put in place, but they're either explained poorly or not at all, and yet, when you get right down to it, it's a really basic strategy game. Perhaps the ditzy blonde AI contributes to it feeling like an easy strategy game with little of the actual strategy? Or maybe it's the fact that your Pokemon only have one attack and can completely change from being melee attackers to being ranged attackers upon evolution? I don't know, but I thought this game was pretty mediocre and a huge disappointment. Damn, I really wanted a Pokemon SRPG, too...

The absolute worst game of 2012 so far is...

Amy
Anybody who thinks the reception for this game was exaggerated for any reason... hasn't played it. If this is a real survival horror experience, then thank *bleep* this genre died. I don't give a rat's ass about clunky combat or anything that you'd come to expect in survival horror games. What I do care about, however, is the lack of polish. Not in the graphics, though they aren't exactly the prettiest around either (even by Xbox Live Arcade standards), but in the game itself. I've had moments where I died and lost something that I needed to progress... which is fair enough, until you realize that you can't backtrack... at all. You're stuck and you have to reset. A lack of playtesting coupled with broken mechanics and feeling more bored than scared... this isn't just the worst game of 2012, but also the worst game of this generation.

The absolute best game of 2012 so far is...

Silent Hill: Downpour
Talk about the complete opposite to Amy! Like Max Payne 3, it takes the old formula and modernizes it without it feeling too different. In this case, why not take the clunky old survival horror thing and improve the controls? Wow, I didn't know what was so hard! Yes, combat is a bit clunkier than it was in Homecoming, but it's never a nuisance, unless you're forced to fight multiple enemies at once. Unlike Amy, there is always the feeling of tension, the feeling of suspence, and real legitimate horror, and as you'd expect from the Silent Hill series, you're never sure if there actually is something around the corner or not, but the sound design just *bleep*s with your mind (and yeah, I know it's the composer from the Dexter TV series doing it instead of Akira Yamaoka, but this guy definitely knows what he's doing), and then when you're given the Otherworld, *bleep*, the visual designs don't let up in terms of suspense and scares. It keeps the series's tradition of deep, character driven storytelling, showing us a sort of Dante's Inferno as they travel through Silent Hill to go toe to toe with their mental demons, and it is very compelling as Murphy is a very likeable character whose journey you'd really want to see from beginning to end, changing as he goes... a little thing called character development if you will. Yeah, this game is just *bleep*ing fantastic, and if you haven't got it, go get it. Now!

Well, that does it for this half of the year. Tune in next time for when I do this sort of thing for all the games instead of just these games! I may have missed a few, but that's either because I haven't played them (pretty much anything on the PS3), or they didn't really do as well or as badly as those found on the list (Kid Icarus: Uprising and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City). That, and Xenoblade Chronicles was released in 2010 in Japan and last year here in Australia. So yeah, hope you enjoyed this list, and if you don't like it, well, sorry, but Amy did suck really badly.

Originally posted for http://signfarbeyond.blogspot.com.au/

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53 is clearly Johnny boy's favorite number, because this marks his very first win in the ongoing competition to bring out the best in aspiring writers every two weeks... seeing as the 53rd round is topped off with Rift's review of Rayman Origins, describing it as a game that knows how to blend style with substance as it plays as well as it looks. Considering that it looks beautiful, it plays like a dream.

Rayman Origins Score: 9/10
Genre: Adventure

There is plenty of charm, style and enjoyability to be found, and at the end of the day, that's what a game should aspire to have. It should have a personality to match its style.

quote Rift
Releasing a game in October and November of 2011 was considered financial suicide, because you had three monolithic games to deal with - Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. All three of those games were on the top of many peoples' most wanted and most played lists, so a lot of games were overlooked. Rayman Origins, in particular, was overlooked. At the time, the last good Rayman game was Rayman 3, which was released back in 2003, and all people may have known Rayman for are those godawful Rabbids games. Plus, Origins was originally going to be a game on Xbox Live Arcade or the Playstation Network, and thus a retail selling price of 60-100 dollars was considered a ripoff when it found itself becoming a retail game. Furthermore... there was Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim to consider! Aww hell, there was Assassin's Creed: Revelations to consider... Nevertheless, Rayman Origins is a fantastic game that is certainly worth your time... and just putting this out there - I was at a point where I was going to boycott video games because with a few exceptions, this generation has been a constant disappointment. Thank your lucky stars Rayman Origins got me enthusiastic about gaming again! But anyway, onto the review.

Although it's not really heavy on story, it's one that works as a good enough setup. Basically, Rayman and his friends were sleeping on a tree in the Glade Of Dreams one day... in fact, they were snoring so loudly that the denizens of the underworld could hear him, so at the signal, they attacked the Glade Of Dreams, took all of the Electoons and Faeries, and plunged the world into darkness. Never fear, however, for Rayman, Globox and the Teensies are on the case! There is a twist at the end and I've probably ruined the surprise for you by mentioning that (you're welcome), but beyond that, there's really not much here.
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#34 - Zombies Ate My Neighbours

A lot of you will probably wonder why this is #34 and not in my top 10. Well, a few things, actually. One, you can't pause and scroll for a more suitable weapon for that situation, because it'd interrupt the co-op action. Two, loading up a game via passwords actually sort of screws you since you'll start with basic equipment, most likely because they want to keep passwords short, and given that a lot of things can change between playthroughs, you'd need like a million characters. Even then, it's all circumvented if you play on an emulator. Three, the collision detection kind of sucks. It's like half the time, you'll hit them, but the other half, you'll miss by like one pixel. Gay. Can't even defend this one, I think it's just slightly sloppy programming.

Okay, I'm done justifying this decision, because this is still a pretty *bleep*ing good game. It has a fun little charm and atmosphere to it that never relents, even 45 levels in. 45 is a pretty *bleep*ing high number and it is a pretty long game (well, by SNES standards), so for a Super Nintendo game like this to stay fresh and exciting for that long must be doing something right. In reality, it is a fun little overhead shooter where you have to rescue your neighbours before they get eaten by zombies. That stays entertaining for 45 levels. Why? Because the level designs are *bleep*ing excellent! There are plenty of little secrets here and there, especially in the second half of the game, and it's easy to get lost in these levels, even when you're about to get attacked by zombies, dwarves, aliens and Jason Voorhees's fat cousins. Add on the neat graphics style and the awesome soundtrack, and you have yourself a pretty sweet game.

If it wasn't for the fact that it stays entertaining for as long as it did, this wouldn't even be on the list and I'd be shaking my head in disbelief as to why people like it so much.

Summary - A long, fun ride in rescuing your neighbours from zombies and shit.
Rating - 9/10

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#35 - Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3

Let's set the record straight - I haven't played too many Dragon Ball Z games, but the few I played gave me the impression that they're not all great, and the earlier ones feel like encyclopedias with the game thrown in as an afterthought. Surprisingly, this is when they got their shit together and started making games. Too bad this is the best one by far. The rest that went in this style just didn't feel as good, and honestly, I couldn't give a *bleep* about the Tenkaichi games because they literally feel like button mashers that require like no skill to win. And yes, I do realize the irony in saying that to criticize the Tenkaichi games when I've admitted to liking Call Of Duty, which apparently takes no skill to play. Well, Call Of Duty is fun and I didn't find Tenkaichi fun, so *bleep* you.

Budokai 3 does have some flaws - mostly in that most, if not all of the characters play very identically with the only differences being maybe one or two inputs being different for each of their special attacks. There are plenty of features, but good luck seeing even half of them more than once. Technically speaking, the fighting is nowhere near as technical as the likes of Blazblue or even Street Fighter 2. In fact, the only fighting game this is more technical than is the Super Smash Brothers series. A lot of the combos and special attacks are easy to pull off... and in a bout of inconsistency, the ones that have any semblance of challenge to pull off are bloody *bleep*ing hard unless you're fighting against an opponent controlled by an arthritic grandma.

But none of that ever really stops it from being fun to play. A lot of fun, in fact. That's this game's biggest strength - it's so much fun to play through despite a simple and somewhat flawed combat engine. Now you're probably going to ask yourself where Super Smash Brothers will be on this list. Well, here's spoiler alert - nowhere. I generally find that series to be extremely overrated and actually quite a bore unless I have 2 or 3 friends to play it with and telling me that "that's the point" is an extremely laughable defence that my little sister could knock down by just walking into it. But that'll be for another time guys - until then, umm, this game is awesome and yet somewhat flawed, but it still kicks ass.

Summary - A simple yet very fun fighting game based off of one of the most popular anime series in the world (for good reason).
Rating - 8/10

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The 52nd round of the ongoing Articles Of Excellence competition sees a change in management - indeed, Dark Arcanine has handed the reigns over to me... well, he's been running the show for nearly 2 years, I'm pretty sure he needed a break from all of this, and I was willing to take his place!

Anyway, our winner is Dark Moor with her review of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. She takes us back to 1996 by showing us what it means to be playing a role playing game as you make various decisions that'll determine what your character ends up becoming. It may be glitchy, but if you ask her, it's not enough to ruin the experience for you.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall Score: 9.4/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

It is the pure essence of a role playing game. You choose your race, your class, your guild and just go out exploring. You can basically do whatever you want in such an open environment.
quote Dark Moor
Hands down, my favorite RPG of all time is The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall. I loved every minute of this game, even the parts that would annoy me in other games, mainly because what it does right, it does absolutely right, even if given the limitations of the PC in 1996, and especially since it has such a big world to explore. That's the beauty of this series – there's always so much to do with a lot of space to do it in, and I felt that Daggerfall capitalized on this concept the best. In short, I love this game. In fact, this review isn't as much of a review as it is my love letter to Bethesda for making this game, or at least to the boys and girls behind Daggerfall.

After you've done creating your character (as in, naming your character, choosing your race, choosing your class and tweaking various base stats), you'll find that your character had been shipwrecked in the country of Daggerfall. After escaping from the dungeon, you'll find that there are two quests that you need to do – first, you need to free the ghost of a dead king, and secondly, you must discover what happened to a letter you got from one of the emperor's spies. The letter is about a means of ressurecting a powerful iron golem... so having it fall into the wrong hands is not a good idea.

I have to say that while it can be rather intriguing at times, the story isn't exactly good. You'll be given enough story for it to function as a cohesive whole, and giving it multiple endings will further motivate you into replaying this game (you know, besides just trying out different classes), but it's nothing that will set you alight. It just works. Besides the main story, you can get involved with different guilds, who have their own little sidestories, plus there are important characters who have their own quests. Besides that, a lot of the sidequests you'll be given involve killing monsters. So yeah, the amount of stories to go through is impressive, but the storytelling itself is definitely not Daggerfall's strong suit... nor is it the series' strong suit in general. It just gives enough to get by.

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#36 - Duck Tales

This is easily my favorite Capcom/Disney NES game. The rest just don't really compare... well, okay, Rescue Rangers 1 was a ton of fun for me too, but Duck Tales does it better for me. The controls felt tighter, the levels felt like they were designed better, and the songs just felt sooo much better. While you could make the argument that both games did their styles justice, eh, Duck Tales just felt better designed to me... and don't get me started on the rest because they ranged from mediocre (the sequels, Adventures In The Magical Kingdom) to shitty (Tale Spin and Mickey Mousecapades).

But yeah, Duck Tales was a great game. Three things made it really stand out to me - one, it was very faithful to its license. Besides the fact that Scrooge can use his cane as a pogo stick (if he did that in an episode, let me know, and give me the episode name so I can check if you're bullshitting), it feels like a compilation of episodes. Generally, Scrooge, his three nephews (Huey, Dewey and Louie) and Launchpad McQuack (who calls Scrooge "Mr McD" - nice touch when they get stuff like that right, it shows they gave enough of a shit about the license) go on adventures all over the world to get treasure so that Scrooge can get richer, but there's always trouble afoot. Whether it's a beast or a relic come to life, it's never that easy, and his nephews always get in shit... just feels like a bunch of episodes, which makes it work.

Two, the soundtrack is *bleep*ing excellent. I mean, this has the moon song that a lot of people know of and would make love to if it was possible, but that's not to discount the rest of the soundtrack, which sounds great. The iconic Duck Tales theme song sounds *bleep*ing excellent and on key for an 8-bit rendition, and the rest of the levels all have upbeat, catchy songs that give you a sense of adventure, and they all manage to compliment the settings quite nicely.

Thirdly, the levels are big and expansive with a lot of secrets to find - which you're encouraged to find in order to get the best ending for this game. It never feels like a chore to go through the levels if you just plough right through them, and the secrets actually felt like secrets which you had to sometimes bust your balls to find. I see no problem with the levels, they're just very well designed.

If I had any problems, it would be that the bosses are too easy, it's a bit of a short game that could use a few more levels, and that you had to return to a level three times - once to get through it like the other levels, once briefly to get a key, and finally, once for the final stage... laziness, people. I don't know why they didn't make another level for the final showdown. Silly Capcom.

Summary - A fantastic platformer that stays true to its license
Rating - 9/10

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#37 - Goldeneye

One of the few licensed games that's better than the license itself. I like the movie and it was pretty much the film that broke the streak of bad James Bond movies, but I prefer the good old Bond movies. Still worth watching though.

But yeah, Goldeneye, like Turok before it, showed people that putting first person shooters on consoles isn't such a bad idea. It controlled finely for the time (better than Turok, if you ask me) and operated pretty well. Basically, instead of going through mazes to find keys and kill Cyberdemons and Nazis, you go through semi-linear levels to accomplish a set of objectives, such as destroying security machines (alarms and cameras), finding objects (keys, for instance) and other such things. All of the objectives... well, most of them are relevant to the story, which mostly follows the movie... I mean, there's no level where James just drives around like a madman in his flashy sports car, and I don't remember that part in the movie where James gets caught by Russians in Severnaya. But hey, taking liberties is what can really make a game fun! Like making Dante a warrior instead of a poet in Dante's Inferno!

The best feature of Goldeneye is the music. Rare in the 90s and early 2000s was a force to be reckoned with and for the most part, they had some damn good ears for some *bleep*ing good tunes, and Goldeneye has a pretty sweet soundtrack. The worst feature are a few levels. Statue has a glitch where you may not be able to complete it. Control has the infamous Natalya part (plus I thought the level in and of itself was kind of mediocre). Streets was cool for the time, but I dunno, driving through that level now really shows this game's age. Meh. The rest of the game is pretty damn good, and who the *bleep* can't forget 4 player multiplayer? This was the definitive multiplayer experience on the Nintendo 64. *bleep* Mario Party and *bleep* Super Smash Brothers - Goldeneye, man. That's where it's at...

...or is it!?

Summary - A great attempt at a console first person shooter.
Rating - 8.5/10

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#38 - Ratchet And Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal

Most people would pick either Going Commando or Deadlocked, and while I like those games, I just preferred Up Your Arsenal as a whole. Going Commando was a big jump from the first game, true, but Up Your Arsenal improves on that by a significant amount, and looking back, I just didn't like Going Commando that much. Deadlocked may have improved on the action, but the story sucked and it just bored me. So Up Your Arsenal it is. Oh, and the first game has not aged well (and if you actually think it's the best in the series, then I think there's something wrong with you because the rest of the series plays SOOO much better...), the PS2 ports of the PSP games were not up to par (nor were the PSP games that good, period), and I haven't played the PS3 ones so I can't really comment on them (although having Dr Nefarious back in A Crack In Time? Hell yeah).

But really, Up Your Arsenal took the Ratchet And Clank formula and performed at 9001%. This is easily the funniest story in the series with the most over the top villain to date that always cracks up. This also has the best story in the series. The earlier games and Deadlocked either moved a bit too fast or too slowly, but Up Your Arsenal gets just the right speed in terms of pacing and allows every moment to sink in. Not a great story by any means, but it's pretty good, especially considering that nobody really looks at this series for story. But you know, humor is one thing - gunplay is another, and they certainly get that right too. The weapon selection has a good amount of variety, from pistols to rocket launchers and even plasma whips and shield generators. Enemy encounters are generally fun, levels are designed fairly well... really, it's the feeling that it could've been better that holds this game back.

Summary - A fun, oftentimes humorous shooter/platformer
Rating - 8.5/10

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#39 - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Elder Scrolls series knows what it means to be a true Dungeons And Dragons-esque experience. In Dungeons And Dragons, you start by creating a character, which consists of naming it, giving it a gender and race and rolling the dice to determine your stats. Then you go along on your merry adventure to slay the dragon or whatever. The Elder Scrolls series plays out like that, and due to this, it certainly grasps the whole role playing game thing to a *bleep*ing tee. Some would say that Daggerfall best represents the Elder Scrolls series, but I'm sorry, that game is WAY too glitchy for its own good and it gets pretty frustrating after a while. Morrowind may not be as good as Daggerfall gets on a good day, but at least you can play Morrowind without needing the planets to align to get it to work.

But yeah, I feel that Morrowind is a better representation. It has many cities to visit, many townsfolk to talk to who will give you quests, many guilds to join who will also give you quests, and dungeons which house monsters and treasure, like you'd expect any fantasy game to do. While there is plenty to do (and I do mean plenty), Morrowind finds itself at the #39 spot instead of the top ten for two reasons. 1, the combat blows. I shouldn't expect much out of a first person RPG, but it just doesn't sit all that well with me. 2, the story, while it has that "merry adventure to slay the dragon" thing going for it, just isn't all that captivating. Some would say that I should put up a different Elder Scrolls game, and while I could because they all had fast travel, I have to say, Arena didn't do much for me, Daggerfall was way too glitchy for my liking, Oblivion felt like a step back from this one in all but combat (and it still wasn't that good), and Skyrim... good game, but it was easily the weakest in the main series, with a less interesting world, less role playing, and let's not forget that painfully unfunny meme... *bleep* all of you, that meme was one of the worst I've heard in a long time.

Summary - A true Dungeons And Dragons experience, albeit with bad combat and mediocre storytelling.
Rating - 8/10

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#40 - Terranigma

The end of the world is ni-- actually, no, it's already happened! Everybody you've ever known is dead (oops, sorry, "frozen"), and it's all your fault! Better don your skills with the blade... because you're going through a series of dungeons to restore the world to the way it was!

Originally, I was considering putting Dark Cloud here, but I found Terranigma to be more entertaining. Dark Cloud was a pretty good game, but I felt that Terranigma did it better. The combat was simple enough to work, but most of the dungeons were pretty well designed and I had a blast playing through them. But what sells it for me is the sheer scope of it - the story is more intense and the ambience of the soundtrack sure as shit ain't no slouch! In fact, Terranigma is downright beautiful at times. Certainly more beautiful than most of today's indie games, but that's not saying much, so I'll say this - playing through Terranigma is quite an experience. It basically chronicles Ark's life from when he decided to be a little shit and destroy the world, to when he grows up and takes responsibility by basically killing Satan.

Three things kill it for me - one, Ark doesn't get as much dialogue as he rightly deserves. He's the smartass little prick that you'd think would talk a lot, but actually, he's that kid at school who doesn't say much... besides a few smart little one liners. It's like "dude you're allowed to talk, we'll probably forget like two weeks later". Ah well. Secondly, it's got a slow start. The first few dungeons are a tad on the boring and easy side of the fence, and playing through them would make you wonder if it's even worth it or not. Well, let me tell you this - YES IT *bleep*ING IS! Just trudge through them and from there on, the game gets really good. Finally, some of the bosses that seem like they could be quite the tough customers... are basically neutered if you go and level up once or twice. Well, maybe not neutered, but they're significantly easier, that's for sure... a nitpick on my end, sure, but it stopped me from liking it as much as I wanted to. It's just something that generally annoys me - like why should you get to win because you wasted your time killing heaps of smaller enemies? *bleep* that noise!

Summary - A beautiful game with a slow start.
Rating - 8/10

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#41 - Tekken Tag Tournament

To me, Tekken was the series that moved fighting games forward from where they were prior to its release. It flowed better than Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2, and it wasn't nearly as complicated as all those fighting games released by SNK. In other words, it was a fighting game you could pick up and play. Same with... pretty much the rest of the series.

Tekken Tag Tournament stands out due to the fact that I felt it made the most significant improvement over the formula. It flowed a fair bit better than the older games, and I dare say it flowed better than Tekken 4 did. This is what a jump to the next generation ought to feel like - a much better version of the older game(s) on the older system(s). It does feel a bit more complicated, but since it initially starts off easy to play, it eases you into getting into the harder stuff. Not to mention the tag team system... this is just another reason why I prefer this to the others, even Tekken 6, which I feel does its style the most justice. I mean, it's one thing to just have one fighter - it's another to have a combination of two fighters. Then there's just a lot of characters to use and a lot of shit to unlock, and yeah, this will last quite a while.

Summary - A fighting game that's easy to pick up and play while allowing you to mess with different tag combinations.
Rating - 9/10

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#42 - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest

Donkey Kong Country is about a gorilla who has to get his bananas back from a crocodile. That's probably the best way to sum it up. Oh, unless you're dealing with Donkey Kong Country 2, in which you're a chimpanzee instead of a gorilla.

In my eyes, all three Country games deserve to be on this list for having some good level designs and tight mechanics to go with the excellent visuals and kickass soundtrack, but the reason I put this one on the list above the other two is because this felt more balanced than the first, and did a better job of everything than the third. Many people would cite additions like more animal buddies and additional collectibles as their reasons for preferring this over the first, but for me, it's just the fact that it never gets as ball bustingly hard as the first got at times. The controls feel better, the level designs feel more refined, and... generally, everything is better. This is what I think of when I think of a sequel - the refinement of the original game.

As much as this seems like something I ought to put in my top 10, I honestly just don't like it that much. Some of the animal buddy moments felt shoehorned for the sake of variety and their levels just didn't feel as good as the levels with Diddy Kong. I still find that it gets unnecessarily frustrating at times. Never to the extent of the original game, oh thank god it never gets to that extent, but it still has its cheap moments. Finally, I thought a couple of the bosses sucked ass. But besides the last bit, they're not really a huge deal. They're either just not as good as they could've been or mildly frustrating instead of challenging. Technically, this is a great game, but as I've said on many occasions, this is a list of my favorite games, not the best games ever - Earthbound and True Crime: Streets Of LA wouldn't even be on this list otherwise.

Summary - An excellent platformer that has moments of not being so excellent.
Rating - 8.5/10

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#43 - Lufia 2: Rise Of The Sinistrals

This one is a bit of an oddball compared to the rest of the SNES's JRPG lineup. Unlike other JRPGs, this isn't heavy on story. Unlike other JRPGs, most of the bosses may as well be enemies towards the end of the game. Unlike other JRPGs, the world is small, with one town per sector.

And yet, I can't put it down!

It's unlike a traditional JRPG at the time and what it does instead... works out pretty damn well regardless - unlike Earthbound, which just relied on humor to make itself worth a damn. Lufia 2 has some fairly light hearted dialogue that just sounds like people having real conversations (something JRPGs, even or probably even especially today, lack) spoken by characters that feel just right - they're good people, but not goody goody, nor are they angst ridden teens (keep in mind, this was before Final Fantasy 7 came out). These are characters you'll actually give a shit about. It's like Resonance Of Fate before Resonance Of Fate. Now if only it released within the same month as a main Final Fantasy game.

Lufia 2 just ends up being really addicting despite flimsy reasoning and shoehorned development. It's more about the cast and their merry adventures than about saving the world. I'm guessing the reason for that is because it's the prequel to Lufia 1, so no matter what would happen, it'll all end with us needing to play through Lufia 1 again just to finish the story, even though Lufia 1 is, at best, a mediocre game that's very *bleep*ing boring to play through. Not to mention, Lufia 2 touched up the battle system to make it actually pretty good, and the puzzles... holy shit, these are good. So yeah, not quite what you'd expect from the same era that brought you Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6, but it's still a pretty strong game.

Summary - A JRPG that defies tradition and kicks ass in its own way.
Rating - 8/10

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#44 - Kingdom Hearts

The basic idea of Kingdom Hearts is to put some original characters with a bunch of Disney characters and the occasional Final Fantasy character. To put it simply, fanservice is the name of the game, but it's backed up by fun (if almost juvenile-y simple) combat. I mean, the story is a *bleep*ing mess, we all know that, but the fanservice was what mattered at the end of the day.

This isn't just about quality, but also enjoyability. If you ask me, Kingdom Hearts 0 (aka Birth By Sleep) and 2 are much better games with more refined mechanics. However, those games focused more on the story and somehow, it still makes no sense and thinking about this story will only make your head hurt. At least the first game only really delved into the story at the beginning and towards the end of the game. Other than that, there was a lot of fun Disney fanservice and a good amount of variety in the enemies and bosses that were all fun to fight. That's the middle name of the game - it was FUN. Kingdom Hearts 0 was fun too, but that story... yeah, I'd rather shovel wheelbarrows full of Big Macs through my throat, and I think Big Macs taste like shit! As for the others... same thing, less fun. Yeah, the first was just a blast... this isn't the nostalgia talking; this is me talking.

Summary - A Disney/Square crossover that's just a blast to play.
Rating - 7/10

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#45 - Eternal Sonata

Eternal Sonata is a JRPG that's based on the classical composer, Chopin - or rather, it's based on a coma fantasy of his where he embarks on an adventure with a bunch of characters that he's dreamed up. Said adventure is to stop the evil Count Waltz from turning people into zombies with mineral powder. It's not some generic good vs evil story, as it dabbles into politics and philosophy at times...

I really wanted to put this higher, but Eternal Sonata just had to give me monotonous dungeons whenever they damn well pleased and kept on trying to wax philosophically. Generally, monotonous dungeons are just terrible and do not sit well with me, feeling like incessant filler that wastes more of my time than Naruto's filler ever could. As for the philosophical bits... I appreciate the effort and I know that it has relevance to the setting, but I just couldn't stand how they were very lengthy and ended up boring me to sleep.

It's sad, because it's a fun JRPG. The story, whenever it doesn't try to wax philosophically, is a lot of fun, especially Count Waltz and his voice actor's bad habit of overacting. The combat is a lot of fun - easy as pie on the 360, but whatever, a real time-y strategy-y kind of system that tends to result in flashy moves always gets me going if it's done right and Eternal Sonata sure as shit gets it right. Honestly, it's one of those games that's simple enough to get you going, and stays simple to keep you hooked. It's fun enough to let you overlook the crappy dungeons... that's enough to get my praise.

Summary - A fun combat engine to make the crap dungeons not so crap. A fun story to make the awkwardly executed philosophy less crap.
Rating - 7/10

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#46 - Turok 3: Shadows Of Oblivion

Oh lookee here, another first person shooter. But unlike the last one, this isn't one that changed gaming or anything. It's simply the sequel to the sequel to one that helped make first person shooters look playable on consoles. Turok 1 was about an Indian who had to save Earth from the Campaigner. Turok 2 was about that Indian's descendant who needs to stop the Primagen from destroying the world. Turok 3 is about Turok 2's protagonist's brother or sister having to destroy the forces of Oblivion after they kill Turok 2's protagonist.

None of them are Shakespeare in any shape or form, but they're all fun games. Folks would say that Turok 2 was the best, but obviously, I disagree, and will tell you that Turok 3 is much better. I actually like the linearity of the level designs more because they just felt a lot tighter than the open world designs. Sure, 1 and 2 technically had decent designs, but *bleep*, was getting lost a touch too easy for its own good. In fact, Turok 3 just feels like a much more refined experience. The weapons were bigger, louder and better. The levels were intriguing. The enemies were ferocious... and shit, the atmosphere was damn tense for the time (which is why you'll never hear me praise Doom 3 much for it's atmosphere - Turok 3 beat it to the punch by a good 4 years). It was no System Shock 2, but Turok 3 was quite a tense game at the best of times. The enemies were well placed and very well designed for such moments.

I just loved this game back in the day, and even now, I enjoy it a lot. I wish the series ended on this note... but nope, we got two more games. Evolution was a piece of shit and Turok 09 just didn't compare to this game.

Summary - A darker side of a series that was essentially about hunting dinosaurs and aliens in an effort to save the world.
Rating - 8/10

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#47 - Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

STOP! CEASE! DESIST! DO NOT PASS GO! DO NOT COLLECT $200 - THE ALMIGHTY GRYZOR ADMITS TO LIKING A CALL OF DUTY GAME - HELL, HE ADMITS TO LIKING THE SERIES! WHAT A CASUAL GAMING HOMOSEXUAL!

*sigh*

So yeah, Call Of Duty... why did I single out Modern Warfare when these games are supposedly "all the same"? Two reasons, actually.

1. It was a refreshingly excellent shooter when it came out. The first three Call Of Duty games were good, but nothing ultimately special. This one took the first three games and injected them with steroids that somehow don't make your *bleep* and balls shrink. Through that came some amazing scripted events and moments that reminded you of why shooting bad guys is so much fun. Also through that came an online mode that's still very *bleep*ing widely populated (with hackers, but whatever), which keeps the lastability and funfactor high... come on, who doesn't like going into an online match just to kill shit?

2. Unfortunately, it felt like Infinity Ward just got lucky, because subsequent games just floundered about. Modern Warfare 2 is a buggy, unbalanced mess when it comes to multiplayer and the campaign just tried too hard to be cool and edgy, which made for a rather mediocre and generally unenjoyable game, and same for Modern Warfare 3. On the flipside, it's as if Infinity Ward aren't quite good teachers - World At War wasn't bad, but it was disappointing after Modern Warfare, not to mention that the scripted events and whatnot just didn't have that much bite on their own. Black Ops, I did enjoy a lot, but just not as much as I did the first Modern Warfare.

There you have it. In general, Call Of Duty is just dumb fun. I mean, there are cohesive storylines to be found, but so what? Things blow up and you shoot the bad guys up. That's actually the general idea of most shooters, and while Modern Warfare could be seen as the game that changed gaming for the worst, I'd like to think that Modern Warfare has plenty of ideas that, if utilized properly, could create some very *bleep*ing fantastic shooters. While I think something like System Shock or Bioshock got the story down, I think Modern Warfare got the fun down to a tee with some genuinely memorable moments that people still talk about to this day. The later games will probably be forgotten over the years, but not this one. Never. Not until the day the world blows up.

And yet it's only #47. I guess what I said is a bit of an exaggeration. It's changed gaming for the worst over time, but I still have hope that it can change gaming for the best. In fact, that's why it's only #47 - because of the declining quality of games since this game's release; because of the watering down of otherwise complex, subtle and stealthy games; because it was too successful for its own good; because... of many things, really. Let's keep one thing in mind - this list isn't a list of best games; it's favorites, and my reasons for liking games can and will go beyond the quality of a game; it can also be influenced by anything the game does, period.

Summary - A pretty good shooter that's maybe a bit too influential, and not quite in a good way, either.
Rating - 8/10

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#48 - Earthbound

Earthbound is known as that one game Ness from Super Smash Brothers is from... or was, until everybody and their dogs found out about it probably a bit after playing the original or even Melee. But yeah, it also has a juicy history behind it... stuff about it being a huge risk for Nintendo and a few silly mistakes that had good intentions (ie. every copy having a strategy guide... which makes the boxes bigger and the game cost more to buy).

I'll be perfectly honest - Earthbound is, for all intents and purposes, an above average game at best. The story doesn't quite exist and the gameplay is not quite that good. It's an easy JRPG (although it's a beginner's JRPG done right, at least) that just isn't all that engaging after a while. What gives this game any weight in the long run is its personality. Its eclectic soundtrack (that sounds *bleep*ing sweet, I might add) and sense of humor not only kept my sanity intact; it also made the game feel a lot better to me. I could play this over and over again, based on the music and humor alone, and I'd imagine that a lot of people would be in the same camp... what, you mean this is a great game? Haha, nice try. It's playable at best, but if you want a fantastic JRPG on the Super Nintendo, well, just stay tuned.

Summary - A somewhat above average JRPG with quite a sense of humor and a pretty cool soundtrack.
Rating - 6/10

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#49 - Blazblue: Continuum Shift

In my eyes, there are two ways to do a fighting game - either have it focus on hand to hand or sword to sword combat with emphasis on multi strike combos or huge strikes, or you just have everyone use special powers and shit, giving people who play it seizures. Blazblue is a fine, fine example of the latter. A lot of the time, the fighting will consist of ultra flashy moves being pulled off by anime characters. That's... pretty much the main draw. Seems shallow, but what I really like about it is that after you get past the initial hurdle of learning what you're meant to do, it gets rather addicting and you just can't help but keep fighting. By no means, is this the best fighting game ever - and trust me, you'll see plenty of fighting games on this list that easily trounce this - but it's still a game that's plenty of fun. Probably helps that the music is *bleep*ing awesome and always inspires you to fight in different ways.

Yes, there is a plot, but it gets fairly convoluted at times (not Metal Gear Solid convoluted, but *bleep* if it doesn't get overly complicated at times). It does have a decent sense of humor, although it's more hit and miss than anything else. So really, on top of there being little to no animated cutscenes, it's almost skippable. Never got why people liked Blazblue's story so much.

Summary - A flashy fighting game that may seem very button mashy at first, but it winds up working in the end and you'll find yourself enjoying it.
Rating - 8/10

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#50 :: True Crime: Streets Of LA


I'd imagine that everyone has played a Grand Theft Auto game before. Well, in this game, the roles are reversed - now YOU are the cop, although you're quite a loose cannon, so... well, you're just on the other side of the law, really. This is what people thought LA Noire was going to be, but then they got pissed off when it wasn't like this. I didn't like LA Noire either, but it was for different reasons.

But anyway, I was originally going to put this game a lot higher up on the list... then I remember that halfway through the game, the story went from B-grade cop drama to something that hurts my brain whenever I try to comprehend it. So yeah, the story pretty much ruins this game's chances of getting any higher, but what got it on the list in the first place is just how fun it is. There's just so much to do, and I don't just mean that there's heaps of side missions; no, you can partake in shootouts, car chasing, fist fighting, sneaking... all sorts of shit, really, and they're at least competently done, so really, all that lets this game down is that it always feels like it could've been better.

Summary - A fun, ambitious game... with a crap story.
Rating - 7/10

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TOTALLY not ripping off King X2's series of blog posts related to this... not at all...

But yeah, it's amazing that I've lived long enough to turn 20. As a way to celebrate (about 16 days too late, but better late than never), I've decided to throw together a list of 50 video games. But this is no ordinary list - it's my top 100 all time favorite games! Every day or two (or so - depends), I'll post a video game, and a bit of text to explain why it's my favorite... and eh, I'll include the box art for it - why not? The only restriction I'm putting on myself is that only game per series is allowed here, with the exception of Mega Man, but I'll explain why when I inevitably get there. If you find yourself checking my reviews as a means of getting a sneak preview, you'd only be doing yourself a disservice, because 1) I haven't quite reviewed everything that you'll see in this collection, and 2) my reviews, more or less, reflect the quality of the game, not necessarily my favorites. A lot of games I rate highly in my reviews are rated as such because they're good, but they may not necessarily be my favorites. Just... putting it out there.

My apologies if I miss your favorite game, but either I didn't like it as much as you did, or I've never played it. I own an NES, SNES, Genesis, Nintendo 64, Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox 360 (and a handful of Xbox 1 games), Wii, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, DS, 3DS and PSP. If your favorite game isn't on those systems, then... well, consider that a heads up before getting offended.

I hope you'll all have as much fun reading them as I do writing them.


Table of contents:
#50. True Crime: Streets Of LA
#49. Blazblue: Continuum Shift
#48. Earthbound
#47. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
#46. Turok 3: Shadows Of Oblivion
#45. Eternal Sonata
#44. Kingdom Hearts
#43. Lufia 2: Rise Of The Sinistrals
#42. Donkey Kong Country 2
#41. Tekken Tag Tournament
#40. Terranigma
#39. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
#38. Ratchet And Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal
#37. Goldeneye
#36. Duck Tales
#35. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
#34. Zombies Ate My Neighbours
#33. Pokemon Emerald
#32. Riviera: The Promised Land
#31. Bioshock
#30. Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
#29. Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey Of The Cursed King
#28. Tales Of Vesperia
#27. Rocket Knight Adventures
#26. Shadowrun
#25. Banjo-Kazooie
#24. Kick Master
#23. Final Fantasy VI
#22. Perfect Dark
#21. Soul Calibur II
#20. Contra
#19. Bastion
#18. Metroid Prime
#17. Psychonauts
#16. The Warriors
#15.
#14.
#13.
#12.
#11.
#10.
#9.
#8.
#7.
#6.
#5.
#4.
#3.
#2.
#1.

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But that should be obvious, as everybody and their grandmas give it perfect scores, and honestly, no game is perfect. That said, Ocarina Of Time is nowhere NEAR perfect.

For one thing, half the puzzles in the game consist of tedious block pushing. That's it. There are maybe a few good puzzles like where you have to find the real purple ghost in amongst a group of four in the Forest Temple, or finding gaps in a collapsing ceiling before it squashes you in that same dungeon, and.. well, I can't really think of anything else, because this shit is dominated by having to push blocks either onto switches or so that the pattern resembles something (I guess I just have Forest Temple on the mind). But even some of the puzzles that don't revolve around pushing shit around suck. For instance, constantly needing to switch the water levels in the god forsaken Water Temple. But everyone hates that temple for its crappy puzzles and sub par main boss... and yes, Dark Link is still cool, albeit a lot easier than he was in Zelda 2: Adventure Of Link (in hindsight, that's a good thing, because he was *bleep*ing hard in that game).

That alone should be why this game is so overrated, but there's another thing that bothers me about the game - Epona. Now, I guess a lot of it is due to how limited the N64 is compared to the PS1 and most of the others, but at the same time, I always felt that more could've been done to make Epona more useful than to just get to some places faster, especially when you can't even enter half the places in the world while riding her.

That's.. pretty much it. I could have a problem with the combat engine, but it's functional, not to mention this was before Devil May Cry came out and showed us how awesome swordplay could be. I could have a problem with the bosses, but they offer a nice break from all the tedious block pushing, plus some of those bosses actually are hard - I just played too much of this game in my childhood. I could point out how it's easy to get lost, but it's nothing compared to the bloody original game on the NES, or even my personal favorite, A Link To The Past. In fact, there are many things I could have a problem with, but because they're not quite as annoying as Epona's wasted potential and tedious puzzles, I choose to have no problems with them. Besides, this IS a good game... just not as good as what everyone else says it is.

Full review will be arriving as soon as I stop procrastinating and actually get on with it. For now, I'd give it a 6/10, and I hope your hate mail is actually worth reading!

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