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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Deathsmiles Coming to the United States!

I may be a little late on this one because the announcement happened 2 weeks ago but the news is still as exciting as ever - Cave's "gothic-lolita" shoot-'em-up, Deathsmiles, is coming to the North American market for the X-Box 360! The official release date has yet to be revealed but who do we have to thank for this? Akysys Games! I can't think of a better publisher for this game because of Aksys' success here in the North American market with the Guilty Gear series and recently Blazblue may result in guaranteed domestic releases of future Cave games. I can't wait!


I look forward to battling Whroon and his freaky grinning apples!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mass Effect 2: The Return of Bad Textures


Everything looks glorious at a distance...

When looking at the above screenshot, it's easy to admire Mass Effect 2's stunning presentation. As I have mentioned before, the game doesn't look that much better than its prequel but that is not a bad thing since the first game is still beautiful to this day. It is unfortunate however that the Personal Computer version of Mass Effect 2 still suffers from some bad low-resolution textures just like in the original: a problem that definitely derived from the game being developed for both the X-Box 360 and the PC. I suspected that BioWare would ensure a premium visual experience on the PC like they did with Dragon Age: Origins but sadly that is not the case. I do not have the 360 version to make direct comparisons but I can say right now that I am very disappointed with this, especially after playing Origins because these depressing looking texture-works do not exist even on the non-player characters in that game and it should not have surfaced in Mass Effect 2. There are other weird things that BioWare did to make the game more managable on the console that just don't work that well on the PC but I will discuss those in my review of the game.

...but the close ups are messy. Click to enlarge:


The MVE logo on the sniper rifle just cannot endure the roughness of deep space travels.


Far into the future, there are still laundry detergents that can cause fabrics to fade.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Now Playing Mass Effect 2

I finally completed the Personal Computer version of the first Mass Effect. Even though I know that I was doing more quests - as well as playing at a higher difficulty level - compared to my play-through on the X-Box 360, I still completed the game in about 40 hours and my character ended the game at level 50, just like she did on the console. There were so many details in the storyline that I have forgotten, especially during the final hours of the game so this whole thing was a great refresher session for the sequel. When I transferred my old Shepard to Mass Effect 2, the game provided the option to change her looks and her character class. I am sticking with what I had before. The game provided the transferred character a lot of "bonuses" and some actually derived from a long and rather mundane quest on the first game - brilliant.


Then...


I have only played the first hour of the sequel and I can say that performance-wise, the game runs perfectly on my PC at 1920 x 1080 resolution with all the bells and whistles enabled. Mass Effect 2 is not that big of a jump graphically compared to first game but the graphical details have definitely been bumped up. The game's premise is not what I expected for the sequel to be but I am willing to keep an open mind and just allow things to progress a bit more before I can pass my judgment on it.


...and now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Bayonetta


Bayonetta (2010)
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: X-Box 360, Wii U
Induction Date: 01/05/2010, 10/29/2014


She likes sucking on lollipops slowly and surely.

When I played the game's demo early last month, I was quite impressed with Bayonetta that it became a point of obsession for me. In what would be a first in my video gaming life, the end product was not what I thought it would be. This is a history in the making because I have never been so hyped-up about a game and then gets totally shafted by the experience. This may sound dramatic but I can tell you that Bayonetta is still an incrediblly fun game. It's just frustrating to know that the game could have been a masterpiece if not for some stupid design choices made by the developer.


A heavenly ascension or a trip to hell? Maybe the latter for the angels.

Having awakened from an eternal slumber, Bayonetta is forced to live a modern world without any memories of her past other than the fact that she wields the powers of a witch and that she is constantly being harassed by the agents of heaven. We later learn that Bayonetta is being guided by a mysterious voice that beckons her to dig deeper into her past and this lead to an adventure of epic proportions. Having played the full version of the game, it is obvious now that the game's story is very tongue-in-cheek. Though a bit thin and unsatisfactory, the story is fortunately not that convoluted. It is incredibly silly, however. I do like the idea that you are playing a witch fighting against angels and the game doesn't justify that these angels have gone rogue or anything like that. You are fighting the forces of light that hate the forces of darkness, which means that they want Bayonetta dead while desiring to steal the secret of her existence from her. The entire game is told via real-time cut-scenes and I always like it when developers do so because it maintains great coherence in the game's visual presentation. When you are running a game using a great 3D engine like the one found here, there's really no need for full motion videos. For those who own both the PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360, get the 360 version. It's prettier to look at.


She likes implementing hardcore BDSMs into her fighting moves.

Bayonetta is a full action game with some light platforming elements and limited instances of quick-time events - yes, we can still blame Shenmue for making QTEs popular. The fighting mechanics is definitely very polished and it's not until after you have purchased all of the available moves that you will see its brilliance. You can equip Bayonetta with a number of weapons and they all come with their own unique set of combos. Everything is tied together by the game's dodge mechanics - if you dodge during the last moment before Bayonetta is hit, "Witch Time" is triggered where everything on the screen slows down. It's another version of "bullet-time" but it's very brief even though you can do a lot of damage during that short window of opportunity if you know what you are doing. Beating up your enemies build up your magic meter and once you have acquired enough of that, you can perform "Torture Attacks", a fatality of sort, that can take out a huge chunk of an enemy's life or kill the enemy instantaneously. Then, there's the "Climax" attack where you get to totally humiliate huge monstrosities, including the game's ridiculously gigantic bosses, by summoning a variety of infernal demons to do what they please to their helpless victims. It's all very satisfying. The game also contains a couple of totally out of place stages that involve more than clearing enemies from point A to point B but as out of whack as these "special" stages are, they fit perfectly into the overall aesthetics of the game's already goofy premise. After you completed a chapter, you can revisit it as often as you like and you can change its difficulty level as well. You will be doing a lot of this after completing the game to collect halos to buy new items from the store as well as to beat your previous performance record.


Little girls look up to her while big boys want to be with her.

Bayonetta is a fun game that you want to keep playing over and over again but there are things that hinder it from true greatness. Its most cardinal sin is its vanity - no, I am not talking about the pole-dancing, quick-witted, overly sexy Brit of a main character. She is definitely a lot of fun to watch and her dialogues never fail to make you to let out a laugh or two. The problem here is the constant interruptions from long-winded cut-scenes between the action. Some of these cut-scenes were actually removed in the demo version of the game - so apparently, the developer does know how off-putting they can be, especially after the first time seeing them. They can be skipped but it's not a one-button input: when you pause the cut-scene, you need to select and then confirm the action. The process of doing this is fast (be warned that it comes with loading time on the PS3) but I wish that there was a main option to just skip all of the game's cut-scenes. Then, there is also the problem with boss repetition, which is always a big no-no in my book. Bosses are meant to be unique but the game likes to recycle bosses like how Bayonetta herself likes to suck on lollipops: Very often! When you have completely decimated a boss with such gory and glory via the "Climax" attack, the last thing you want to see is the same boss showing up again in front of you alive and well later in the game. Lastly, the "Climaxes" themselves. When triggered, they are pretty much nothing more than a collection of pre-set interactive cut-scenes. I wish they could happen anywhere in the game's real time 3D space like the "Torture Attacks" because it would have given them more impact.


Fact: Supposedly "holy" books have always been used to summon mindless minions.

So after all of the pain and suffering that I have endured waiting for this game's arrival, what did I get in the end? Well, I did get a little bit of that Bayonetta fever but sometimes I wonder if it was just a symptom of the swine flu. The game has its moments when it comes to presenting grand spectacles but they are few and far between. The game seems to drift off into laziness halfway through though the responsive fighting system still shines brightly every single time I found myself playing the game. I don't think this game is better than the more structured Devil May Cry series and that my friend is a hurtful thing to say to such a charming and attractive old witch like Bayonetta.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nice Collector's Edition: Mass Effect 2

I have written about "Bad Special Edition" releases of games several times before, like this one for Demon's Souls. It is only appropriate that I also write about the "nice" ones and what a good way to start with the Collector's Edition release for Mass Effect 2. I don't just blindly pick up these "special releases" just because I am interested in the games themselves. I look for the overall design aesthetics of those releases so it's never just about the additional contents either. I do like metal cases a lot though: it's an easy way to convince me to spend a bit more on a game.


Insert inappropriate sliding-related metaphor here.

Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition comes with a nice cardboard sleeve - I surely do love these stylish sleeves too - that houses the game's metal case for the discs and another cardboard sleeve for the included comic and art book. There's that futuristic minimalist approach to the overall design of the entire package with the moody and somewhat gory cover art on the game box and a brooding male Shepard on the metal case. The glitchy Cerberus Network card is nicely designed and I appreciate the fancy gold embossing done on it. Click here if you are interested to know more details about the contents of the Collector's Edition. If you decide to get the Personal Computer version of this special release, you gain another additional benefit: It's cheaper than the X-Box 360 version, not to mention that it's also technically superior.


This is why the Digital Deluxe Edition should only be sold for around $39.99.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cerberus Strikes Back (Now That Was Fast!)

Afraid that someone may claim the code for my Collector's Edition special armor - since there is that duplicate code issue floating about - I went ahead and redeemed the code. When I went to the download page, I noticed that the Cerberus Network additional contents were also available for me to download and when I went back into the game, the Cerberus Network was accessible - as you can see below with the computer access on the right side of the screen! Kudos to Electronic Arts and BioWare for the super-fast fix!


Catastrophe averted.

New Games Alert: Bad Cerberus Network Edition!

3 new games are being inducted into my Game Library today, Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition and Risen for the Personal Computer as well as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars for the Nintendo Wii. The first two are action role playing games, one involving the vastness of outer space and the other, the vastness of a fantasy world. For those who are familiar with Capcom's Vs. series, Tatsunoko is a triumph of the fighting genre that also marks a satisfying victory for North American gamers because the game is actually being released outside of Japan after a nightmare of licencing issues and the threat from its smaller, niche market appeal.


3 incredibly exciting games in one day: I am spoiled.

I have installed Mass Effect 2 on my PC. Everything is running smoothly so far and after seeing the first few minutes of the game, I really cannot wait to finish the first Mass Effect so I can start playing this sequel! Those who bought the Collector's Edition like I did may encounter a problem with their free "Cerberus Network" card that comes with a code to unlock additional contents for the game. I am unfortunately, one of the unlucky ones and I am waiting for Electronic Arts and BioWare to fix the problem before I can claim my code. The problem occurred because the unique codes were duplicated as codes to unlock a special armor in the game: so it was a matter of who gets to enter the codes first. What a mess! [Update Note: The fix arrived really fast!]


That is just totally shameful. I hope I can claim my Cerberus Network code very soon...

Mass Effect 2 Prep Result

Over the last 6 days, I have made a valiant effort to finish playing through the original Mass Effect so that I can have my character transferred to Mass Effect 2. This whole thing seems like a chore, especially the fact that I have already completed the first game a couple of years ago on the X-Box 360. For a brief moment, there was a hint of regret in my mind about this whole exercise - that I should have decided on continuing my Mass Effect adventure on the 360 since I have a character who is ready for the continuation on that platform. But I know that I am doing the right thing here: In the end, the overall experience is better on the PC. I am about ready to go to sleep and this is what I have gotten so far:


So I was able to clock in about 20 hours of playtime. During my 360 run, I completed the game in about 40 hours so I am almost getting to the halfway mark though this may not be necessarily true because I am able to find a number of quests that I have never encountered before during my first play-through: I may be looking at another 30 hours of gameplay before I can get to the end of the game! The good thing about this is that at least I am having a lot of fun with this process. Since I am going to dive straight into the sequel once I am done with the first game, this whole experience is going to be really epic since it's going to feel like it's just one very, very long game.

Games Played 01/18/2010 - 01/24/2010

- 01/18/2010 -
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - NDS
Spectrobes: Origins - Wii

- 01/19/2010 -
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - NDS

- 01/20/2010 -
Bayonetta - X-Box 360
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - NDS
Mass Effect - PC
Raiden IV - X-Box 360
Red Faction: Guerrilla - PC
Tinker - PC

- 01/21/2010 -
Bayonetta - X-Box 360
Mass Effect - PC
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PlayStation 3
World of Warcraft - PC

- 01/22/2010 -
Bayonetta - X-Box 360
Mass Effect - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PlayStation 3

- 01/23/2010 -
Mass Effect - PC

- 01/24/2010 -
Alone in the Dark: Inferno - PlayStation 3
Critter Crunch - PlayStation 3
Mass Effect - PC/X-Box 360
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3
World of Warcraft - PC
Zen Pinball - PlayStation 3

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mass Effect: Console Confusion

I don't know, I just have a very curious and very demanding brain. While ravenously playing through the Personal Computer version of Mass Effect in preparation for Mass Effect 2 that's arriving tomorrow - I know for sure now that I won't make the deadline - I decided to install the X-Box 360 Mass Effect last night just to check out how things used to look there. Of course, doing that lead me into playing my level 50 console Shepard for a couple of hours! I don't know, she just looks so stunning in the kick-butt red armor.


My level 50 360 Shepard dropping it like it's hot...

Anyway, the difference is of course very clear: the frame rate is noticeably lower on the X-Box 360 and the up-scaled 1080p cannot touch the pristine clarity of the game's native 1080p resolution on the PC. I did notice however that the PC version uses some of the lower texture resolutions of the clothing and armors found on the console, especially on non-player characters. That's somewhat disappointing, the fact that Demiurge Studios, who was responsible for the PC port, had a lot of time to clean up these mediocre texture works. I have a feeling that the same won't happen with the sequel since it's more of a PC game ported to the X-Box 360 and BioWare is handling the development on both platforms themselves: I do feel that BioWare is being bad because the 360 owners will have to do some disc-swapping (ewww) while playing the sequel. I guess they haven't heard about the HDD installation feature of the console? I do think that I have to delete my HDD installation of the game on the X-Box 360 or I may be tempted to go back in there to squeeze in a couple of more hours of gameplay!


...but I need to get to where the real action is: My level 20 PC Shepard.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Games Alert!

To make up for the absence of any celebratory sales for Christmas last year, Sony is finally putting up 10 titles for sale on the PlayStation Store to celebrate the year 2010. A majority of these are not worth getting but at least two of them are listed on my Purchase List: Critter Crunch - $3.49: A puzzle game where you swallow animals and then spit them out Yoshi-style to force feed other animals hanging from rows of vines until they burst so that you can eat the crystals that come out of the exploded bodies, and Zen Pinball - $4.99: a collection of 4 beautiful digital pinball tables. For those who still haven't purchased the brilliant Braid, it is also currently offered through this sale for only $7.49. This 10 for '10 Game Sale offer will only last through the 27th of this month!


If you really think about it, this game is kind of gross despite its cute graphics.


El Dorado is my favorite of the four.
I may get the Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden themed additional tables soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reaching for the Sky

Things fared a little better for me today in regards to my Mass Effect sequel preparation adventure - it's been the only game I played today. I am not even at the half-way point into the game yet because I am going through the dialogue trees like it's the first time I have ever played the game. It's very simple to skip the details while talking to the characters in the game but I chose to get deep into the discussions instead. I can't help it, I get quite engrossed in the game that I play and the well-written dialogues in Mass Effect are still as fun and fresh as they were before. It's also neat to see the Renegade side of Shepard since I played the game with a full Paragon character on the X-Box 360. I may not be able to make it in time to get this character transferred to Mass Effect 2 on Tuesday next week. But at least I am starting to really care about my current Shepard and this will make the sequel much more meaningful.


I am currently at the Bring Down the Sky expansion content
and I have never played this portion of the game before so it's quite exciting!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Of Sheep and Shepard

Why is it so hard for me to stick to playing just one game at a time? Well, it's probably dependant on the game that I am trying to focus on so this must be an exception and not the rule. I tried to continue my Mass Effect adventure excusively last night but I ended up playing more Bayonetta and thanks to a friend's encouragement, I also logged into World of Warcraft too. Later on, even though things were starting to pick up again in Mass Effect in terms of the overall excitement factor, I ended up playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves instead: a good game that surely doesn't deserve its overwhelming accolades last year - it's just another action game with better graphics and pacing compared to others in the genre. With the way things are going, I don't think I am going to make it in time, especially with other more important things I need to take care of in my life... But I can't give up now! 3 more days to go!


Wrex means business. I should do the same.


I created a new WoW character last night and was surprised by the new noob-friendly tutorial.

When It Rains, It Pours

Life is a curious thing. Sometimes you live a carefree existence, riding on top of its gentle waves as it takes you further and further into the sea of opportunities, happiness, and contentment. Sometimes you feel a sudden drop as you fall deep into a swirling vortex, certain about the doom that would follow its savage pull. When you look at the sky, it's blackened and filled with suffocating dark clouds that shoot water pellets down on your face. It's about the ups and it's about the downs before it finally stops. When things are alright, you feel like life is never going to end. When things are bleak, it is always uncertain if things would get any better even if you are optimistic that it would be.

The downward spiral is now here to take me down to its twisting nether. It has something to do with my livelihood, that my financial income is currently in jeopardy. I am going to swim against the current as hard as I can to see if I could get out of this one as soon as possible. When it rains, it pours: It's just a question of how often will the thunder strikes and should I expect it to flood anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Shepard and the Sequel

With everything that has been happening this month, I am getting behind in my preparation to complete the Personal Computer version of Mass Effect so that I can transfer my she-bitch Shepard to the sequel that is coming out in less than a week! I am expecting my copy to arrive on the 26th - I am going to drop all other games as much as I can and focus my playtime on this game only for the next 5 days to see if I am still going to be able to make it on time. Of course it doesn't help that I am currently struggling with the game's control scheme, having abandoned it for a while now. My brain is just cluttered with a long list of Bayonetta's combos at the moment too. This is going to be a bit of a mad dash but I don't like rushing through games so I am going to savor my experience of playing the game again - even if it means that I would have to deny myself the sequel for a couple of more days after its arrival.


Is she eyeing Alenko with dirty thoughts on her mind or is she just upset about something?

Ccelia: A Closure

I attended Ccelia's funeral service yesterday. For such an emotional rainy day, everyone who was there - both family and friends - for the most part, was very strong because the theme was the celebration of her life instead of the eventuality of her passing. I may be an atheist - Ccelia was also very progressive in her view of religion - but I do find the whole proceeding to be beautiful and it provided much solace to those who needed it.



Throughout this tragedy, gaming - as well as my life in general - had been difficult. Though I was able to find time to play my games, the play sessions felt very empty because in the back of my mind, I am constantly reminded that I have lost someone so dear to me: a woman with such kindness and generosity, a woman who was able to find a place in her heart to accept me as a member of her family. One of the best human beings I have ever met. Life does go on and though she is no longer here, she will always be in my heart for the rest of my life.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Game Alert!

Spectrobes: Origins may not have the most flattering art design (the characters look creepy) but beyond its skin-deep ugliness lies a really fascinating game. I have been curious about this game for quite some time - it is an action role playing game with some Pokemon elements. It's a lite dungeon crawler where you can level up your characters and your summoned monster companions. There are a lot of different "spectrobes" to collect and level up with the back cover claiming there are over 100 of them in the game. Judging from my early sessions with it, this may end up being quite an addicting game!


A boy and his ugly space dog pig thing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Super Street Figher IV: The PC Mystery

A couple of months before the arrival of Street Fighter IV last year, I got into a conversation about the game with a friend on the X-box 360. He was very excited about the upcoming release and told me that the game would be the ultimate Street Fighter. I was lukewarm about SFIV because of its regressive development - the fact that it was more of a remake than a true sequel - and I made a mention that Capcom may be milking the game for all of its worth by releasing revisions after revisions in the near future like what they did to Street Fighter II. My friend thought that I was crazy, that something like that could only happen in the 90's. Well, here we are not even a year after the release of SFIV and Super Street Fighter IV will soon replace the first version of the game.


SSFIV for the PC is still not listed yet on popular online merchants like Amazon.com.
Once again, Capcom wants to make their money primarily from console owners.

Just like the release of SFIV, Capcom has been hush-hush about the PC version of SSFIV. Having learned my lesson from last time, I am going to hold off from buying one of the console releases of course. We all know that the PC release is going to be superior compared to the X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. The real question is, will Capcom make the right move for PC owners? This is what I mean by that: It is possible for Capcom to release a big patch to "update" the PC version of the game. Such distribution would also be made much easier because the game is already under the Games for Windows Live service. Heck, it would even be possible for them to do so with the console versions. They can still charge their $39.99 for the additional content - which will hopefully be priced at $29.99 for the PC if the common practice were to be followed. Realistically though, the price should be cheaper because in a sense, we have already paid a bulk of the money buying the first version of the game in the first place. Post-release patches are so common these days that they are expected to happen. It's also okay to update a game with huge new contents and revisions and instead of selling the revised title again as a "separate" game, it could just be an addition to the game that has already been released. The main issue for developers is probably the expected price reduction I mentioned earlier.


After charging us for the "extra" costumes in SFIV, those costumes will be readily
made available in SSIV in addition to just 1 other new costume. Pro-milking at its best.


Most of the data is already in the original disc but even if one may argue that having the new content come as a separate title is a good thing because one wants to keep the original SFIV just the way it was made, the additional content doesn't have to overwrite the original game. With the new content downloaded, an option can be made available at the title screen where the player can choose to play the first game or the second revision of the game. It's not too late to do this for SSFIV for the consoles but of course, that would probably not happen at this point. With the PC version still shrouded in mystery, I would like to think that Capcom would revolutionize how these kind of game updates would be handled in the distant future. It would certainly be a historical move.


We can blame Capcom for starting the milking trend in fighting games.
If they would make SSFIV a downloadable update, games like BlazBlue will follow suit.
BlazBlue's new revision contain balance tweaks and only two additonal characters
and if the trend doesn't stop, it will be released on a separate disc as planned.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mass Effect 2: Digital or Physical?

With all of the games that I have stuffed inside my game room, I really don't look forward to the day when I have to move some of them out because of newer games coming in. I really am enjoying the idea of having everything easily accessible within the confines of a room and that is why I see a bright future in digital download distribution in the video gaming industry. But will the distributors of such contents, like Direct2Drive, ever learn that there is a real difference between the digital space and the physical world?


Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition in its physical form on Amazon.com = $59.96


Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition on Direct2Drive.
All the contents from the physical version of the game = $59.95

Looking at the feature similarities between the physical copy and the digital version of the game above, it is nice to see that you get the digital recreation of physical things that you normally get from a purchase of the physical copy of the game but what is the justification behind the similarity in the pricing module? To be frank, I rather have the digital copy of the game's artbook and documentary video. Just think about it - you will never fear losing your digital contents because everything is stored electronically and you are granted access to download them again without limits. You can easily damage the physical artbook in a clumsy coffee accident and you can lose your game in say, galaxy forbid, a house fire. The benefits of owning the digital download version of a game are enormous but since the actual physical manufacturing and distribution of the game are thrown out of equations - not to mention there are less hands in the pot now when it comes to the profit margin - there is no reason why digital download games are still being sold at retail prices.

This atrocity must be discontinued. I am going to buy Mass Effect 2 in its physical form and I urge other Personal Computer gamers to do the same. We have to stop sending the message to digital download distributors that it is okay for them to price the games up so high as they are laughing their way to the bank. Of course the fault doesn't necessarily lie with the distributors since the developer/publisher themselves don't seem to have a problem raking in the dough from the overpricing as well:


Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition on Electronic Arts' online store.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yearly Gaming Analysis: 2009

Time goes by so fast. I can still remember writing the first Yearly Gaming Analysis in January last year. I started this website in early 2008 and I am happy to say that it has become a natural extension of my video gaming life - well, actually my life in general. The amount of writing has increased tremendously last year and the content overhaul has resulted in a much more varied writing alongside the much needed proficiencies. When it comes to the actual gaming, 2009 was a bit of a slow year that only picked up somewhat towards the year's end. As with what I did for 2008, the analysis will include all games that were purchased in 2009, even if the games were released prior to that year. The brackets shown in the number counts signify the difference between 2008 and 2009. Since I was able to get a full year's worth of Daily Game Log and Monthly Gaming Analysis data, I am able to present to you a new category: "The Most Played Games of the Year" - how fun!


--- NINTENDO DS ---
Total Year Purchases: 10 (-6)
Favorite Game of the Year:
Rhythm Heaven
Developer: Nintendo/TNX
Purchase Date: 07/06/2009


Lizards in love.

This compilation of rhythm action extravaganzas is one of the best music video game ever made. What makes it so addicting is that it's expansive in that Warioware kind of way where each of the title's mini games presents interesting and new rhythm mechanics as well as unique visual style. Though seemingly random at first, it's surprising to see how the different rhythms can be united to create both musical and gameplay harmony. Since the game is so good, it's saddens me to know that the series has been available in Japan for quite some time now.

Disappointment of the Year:


The DSi is not related to the two older DS systems.

Last year, I criticized the eventual release of the Nintendo DSi, stating that it would make the old DS obsolete. Though that bleak prediction hasn't turn into a reality (yet) with the DSi's arrival in North America since newer DS retail games do not require specific DSi firmware for both play nor performance improvement, the DSi is still casting a dark shadow over the previous handheld iterations. This is because of its direct download ability that has featured a small number of innovative software. This has created an unnecessary gap between users of the DSi and the DS. Nintendo could have released some sort of a memory card plus camera add-on for the old DS to rectify the situation. That would be much better than paying full price for the DSi.


--- NINTENDO WII ---
Total Year Purchases: 17 (-12)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Developer: Vanillaware Ltd.
Purchase Date: 09/10/2009


Polygons are still second to sprites.

There is nothing remotely vanilla about Vanillaware. With Muramasa, they have proven to the world once again that 2D art belongs in modern games. The game looks like a moving, breathing Japanese painting. The action gets somewhat repetitive because of its random battle design but it always feels like it's worth the grind because of the game's outstanding boss fights. Vanillaware needs to make a game in HD soon - get ready thought because when that happens, your eyeballs may explode.

Disappointment of the Year:
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Purchase Date: 11/21/2009


Why play online when you can invite a bunch of hobos to your place for some local co-op?

Whenever I heard about the rumor of a Wii-HD, I cringe. I certainly think that Nintendo should embrace the new era of game graphics but before they tackle that, they should really work on their utter disregard of the Wii's online community - or its lack of one. Let's see - Releasing a Wii-HD will result in more cash for Nintendo while creating a comprehensive online social network for pre-existing Wii customers means they have to spend money: I wonder which one will take precedence over the other? New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a strong representation of Nintendo's online gaming philosophy: "Keep waiting, suckers!"


--- PERSONAL COMPUTER ---
Total Year Purchases: 32 (+15)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Dragon Age: Origins
Developer: BioWare Corp.
Purchase Date: 11/07/2009


You may want to sit down. It's a long tale.

With the upcoming Mass Effect 2 being more of BioWare's media-darling, it is nice to see that they were still able to ensure that Origins would turn out to be a tremendous success. Origins is a deep role playing game that borrows heavily from massively multi-player online role playing games to make it such an addictive experience. So far, there seems to be a constant supply of official add-ons to the game alongside a comprehensive toolkit that would produce high-caliber user-generated contents - further strengthening the attractiveness of the game.

Disappointment of the Year:


Say no to bad PC ports.

Origins for the PC is great but on the consoles, it is not. Besides the typical performance and graphical downgrade, there is no friendly fire to worry about and there is no tactical zoom out camera on the console versions. Worse still are the controls: I cannot imagine using the left and right triggers to switch between abilities to use when you can easily just click an icon on the quickbar on the PC. The console versions are denied the user-generated contents as well! I love BioWare for making great games but whether they have been infected by Electronic Art's cash-crazed disease or not, they should have known better than releasing a game on multiple platforms when the other platforms would be severely dumbed down. No console owners deserve to pay a more expensive, terrible version of a PC game - the same goes vise versa.


--- PLAYSTATION 2 ---
Total Year Purchases: 5 (-8)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica
Developer: Gust Co., Ltd.
Purchase Date: 12/14/2009


The intro will make even the less astute blush.

Hectic turn-based battles, beautiful 2D graphics, overabundance of sexual overtones - what's not to like? Ar Tonelico II is a game that I was not able to buy for quite a while because of its limited availability - which probably has something to do with a potentially game-breaking bug that I am looking forward to defeating - so when I finally was able to get it, it brought me so much joy. The PS2 is almost dead. It's nice to see that a quality game could still be released for the system.

Disappointment of the Year:


I want more goodness please.

We know that the Ps2 can do a lot graphically. Have we already forgotten about Shadow of the Colossus, God of War I & II, the first 3 Jak & Daxter games, and Final Fantasy XII? I sure hope not. It's disappointing that the system's hardware potential was not celebrated upon last year. The console still has a large user-base so if a big release were to land on the system, positive sales number would be almost guaranteed. Perhaps I'm just being a bit too sentimental here - I love the PS2 and it's difficult to see how it's been reduced to nothing more than a second-class Wii during its senior years.


--- PLAYSTATION 3 ---
Total Year Purchases: 19 (0)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Shatter
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Purchase Date: 07/25/2009


Freedom of mind is astonishing.

Yes, yes, the hyped-up Demon's Souls is great - it truly is - but its release didn't grab me by the balls like the release of Shatter literally did. Shatter is a Breakout/Arkanoid clone that pretty much shatters the original games that inspired it. Sidhe Interactive was able to turn a genre that is so devoid of life and has been milked completely dry into something revolutionary and miraculously new. The sparkling HD graphics, the thumping techno-beats, as well as the creative stage design and boss fights resulted in an instant classic that will remain playable for a very long time to come.

Disappointment of the Year:
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Developer: Tecmo, Inc.
Puchase Date: 10/07/2009


More slashing, less splashing.

After the slight disappointment with the PS3's first Sigma, I didn't plan on buying Sigma 2 until I heard about the co-op mode. I love playing co-op more so than competitive games so suddenly, a game that didn't interest me so much became a must have. Then, I heard about the game's violence being toned down. Though I love my blood and guts, it didn't seem to matter at that point. When I finally got the game home and played it, I was sick to my stomach. The horrible screen tearing was nasty but more nauseating was the shock of seeing limbs being cut off and hardly any drop of blood was visible from the violence. The co-op is still fun but playing Sigma 2 feels like watching a badly censored film. Not that fun.


--- PLAYSTATION PORTABLE ---
Total Year Purchases: 4 (-1)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Phantasy Star Portable
Developer: Alfa System
Purchase Date: 04/09/2009


The proper way to grind on the PSP.

After the disappointing Phantasy Star Universe on the X-Box 360, it's nice to finally see the game returning to its former glory. To be honest, Phantasy Star Portable (its acronym is PSP!) is for me the most exciting release for Sony's wayward handheld thus far. This dungeon crawler is still playable even when you don't have people to play it with - the computer controlled teammates are not the smartest but they are competent enough to keep you leveling up your characters, searching for the next rare drop for your character.

Disappointment of the Year:


UMDs... So out of style.

I like the idea behind the PSP Go. Even though the second analogue stick is still missing from the new PSP system, the overall design is slick and the progression towards download only game distribution is something that I truly believe in. Everything was good until I found out that Sony doesn't have the slightest intentions to provide us with any solution to copy our UMD-based games into the PSP Go, making it the most useless piece of hardware upgrade in the history of video gaming.


--- X-BOX 360 ---
Total Year Purchases: 8 (-51)

Favorite Game of the Year:

Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5
Developer: Cave Co., Ltd.
Purchase Date: 12/07/2009


More bullets, more fun!

This game is the most surprising release of 2009 because it's the first region-free Japanese shoot-'em-up for the console. A must have for shooter fans, the game also serves as a gateway for future releases of Japanese shmups for the North American market. Though the impact of its "international release" is still unclear - Cave still hasn't revealed to us if ESPGaluda II that is coming out in Japan this February for the 360 will be region free or not - at least we are able to enjoy this highly entertaining foray into hardcore "bullet-heaven", especially with MushiFutari's multiple revisions on a single disc. It may not be the greatest of all shooters and Cave's Black Label release on the Live Marketplace is highly questionable, but this game carries a historical significance that just cannot be ignored.

Disappointment of the Year:


Just like Major Nelson, rather old and definitely desperate.

In 2007, we got a graphical bump from a maximum of 720p resolution to 1080p resolution. In 2008, we got the "New X-Box Experience". Last year, we got... Facebook & Twitter? Though riddled with hardware issues, all of us 360 owners have been spoiled by big improvements to the console's features every single year. I can definitely see why people like to post automatic game updates - like unlocking achievements - to their social network pages but browsing on both Facebook and Twitter via the 360 is just a complete waste of time when you can do the same thing more efficiently using a PC.


--- INTERESTING TIDBITS ---

MOST PLAYED GAMES OF 2009

Games that have been played for 10 days or more within the year:



TOTAL NUMBER OF GAMES PLAYED: 498
24.6% of the entire collection as of 01/05/2010


TOTAL NUMBER OF GAMES PURCHASED: 95 (-63)
4.7 % of the entire collection as of 01/05/2010





IF BAYONETTA IS ANY INDICATION,
2010 IS GOING BE A LOT OF FUN!