Continuing the tradition I started last year, I’m doing another Year End Reflection for all the games I’ve played in 2012. Not to worry though, I haven’t finished very many (just 22), so this won’t be too long. That said, I’ve managed to out-do myself this year: I’ve beaten 18 games and completed 6 versus 2011’s 17 beaten and 4 completed. It’s not much, but it’s still something~ Last year I just listed the games I’ve finished with my thoughts, but I think that’s a little boring, so I’ll be trying something different this year. It’s not a top whatever list and I will still be listing all the games, but I thought adding little titles to them would make things more fun. Every spiel is spoiler free too. :)

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The Game that Took too Long to Finish
Breath of Fire II (SNES)

This game wasn’t particularly long nor did I end up clocking many hours in it (about 30 or so), but it took me forever to finish it because I kept playing it off and on for over a year! The fact that it was on my old laptop may have had something to do with it… Either way, BoFII was a fun game overall. The localization was pretty bad by today’s standards, but even then I managed to find a few characters I liked and got interested in the world and story of the game. There were definitely some very interesting concepts in this game for its time; like customizing your own town, and fusions that power-up and change the character’s appearance. For a sequel, it is one of the best, I feel, because it took what was good about the first game and strengthened the first game’s weak points; namely, story and characters were more complex and it added a few unique (for its time) features. I would say barring the translation, the game aged very well.

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The Biggest Time Sink in 2012
Pokemon Black 2 (NDS)

Technically speaking, Tactics Ogre did clock the most hours, but the majority of that was played in 2011, so for 2012, Pokemon Black 2 was my biggest time sink. I believe I spent around 70 or so hours before I managed to beat the game. To put that into perspective, I usually finish a mainline Pokemon game in 40-50 hours. I think the habitat list and all the additional features have something to do with me taking longer than average. Nonetheless, those were some very fun 70 hours. I really enjoyed the game, and I even wrote a guest review for it at Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. But that is not very unusual for me. I am a pretty big Pokemon fan and I’ve enjoyed all the mainline games and some of the spin-offs too.

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The Shortest Game in 2012
Imaginary Realm -Alternate Memory- (browser)

Well it’s a browser-based VN, so not much of a surprised that it was the shortest game I’ve played in 2012. I believe it took me about an hour to finish. I did cheat and look up how to get some of the endings because after 10 attempts of trial and error and no luck with triggering the remaining endings, it was either stop playing or look up how to get the rest of the endings. I decided that the latter was the lesser of two evils. ;) The game has it’s charm, albeit the grammar and spelling did somewhat mar the experience. It just takes me out of the experience when I have to tell my brain to read something like this instead of how it is written. Might just be me though. Still it’s free and on your browser, so I can’t really fault it too much. There is a second part and it looks more refined. I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe I’ll get around to it this year. ;)

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The Game Which Became My New All Time Favourite
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)

Yes, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is my new all time favourite game. I simply adore almost everything about this game. I’d say if the crafting was tweaked to allow you to make as much as you want of whatever item, it would have been perfect. But I can overlook a bit of tediousness if the game delivers on other fronts, and did it ever. I think this is one of the few games that actually depicts war realistically (if you ignore magic, which exists in the world of TO: LUCT) and it has a whole cast of interesting and varied characters. Some of them are very well developed too. Add in the moral choices and this game blew me away with how it melded story telling and gameplay. It being an SRPG helped too. I’ve got a soft spot for them.

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The Game with the Most Unique Presentation and Story Telling Approach
Analogue: A Hate Story (steam)

I really liked how Analogue used the computer, as the medium through which you play the game, to structure how you interact with the game. Basically, in Analogue you (the player) are interacting with the computer for the spaceship Mugunghwa. That means you use a computer terminal and interact with data logs that contain journal entries. These journal entries tell the story of the Mugunghwa. Of course, there are also two computer A.I.s there to give the game a more interactive element and also to further enhance the story telling with supplementary information they give you. But I think the most interesting thing about the A.I.s is that they make the journey through the journals less lonely. Which, given the themes of Analogue, complements the play experience even further. In short, not only was the story good, but the way it was presented only strengthened the narrative, and I think I loved that the most about Analogue.

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The Game that Blew My Mind
Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS)

I haven’t even gotten the True End yet, but this game has already left revelations that just came out of nowhere for me. I’m sure there is more mind blowing in store for the true end too, given this is the sequel to 999 and that game’s true end had quite the twist! I will also say that this game is a close second favourite of all time. Really 2012 has been a good year in terms of what I’ve played. I will also say that barring the bugs, this game is a labour of love. There are 24 endings, each for every choice and the English voice acting is superb! The localization is once again top notch too. Thank you Aksys!

edit: completed last night (before I managed to finish this post, but after I wrote the above) and yes, more mind blowing revelations on the True End.

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The Game that Surprised Me the Most
Katawa Shoujo (PC DL)

Yeah, I will admit I was expecting the worst when I first heard about this project. I mean 4chan isn’t exactly sensitivity central, but then I heard people say it’s not that bad and being the curious person I am, I decided to give it a go. They were right, Katawa Shoujo is written in a way that doesn’t demean disabled people. I will even say that some of the routes had a few interesting ideas going for them too. I even wrote some impressions for three of the routes this year. Unfortunately, I haven’t played through all the routes, so I can’t make broad claims about the game as a whole. I got distracted by Pokemon Black 2 and I never managed to go back to it. Hopefully I can finish the final two routes: Hanako and Rin in 2013. ;)

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The Game that Changed My Perception of Downloadable Games
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again (DSiWare)

Yes, I was one of those people that thought downloadable games were short and not very extensive (well at least for Nintendo systems). Minis March Again proved to me how wrong I was. The game has lots of levels and it can be quite a difficult game when it comes to the latter levels. Totally finishing the game is hard too because the final two levels require that you get a lot of golden stars and getting golden stars is tough after the first few levels. I haven’t been able to reach enough golden stars yet, myself, but having such a challenge definitely helps keep you playing for hours to come. Even without these final two challenges, the game is still quite extensive. At least it packed a lot more content than I was willing to give it credit. I definitely won’t be snubbing any more 5$+ digital download games anymore, that’s for sure!

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The Cutest Game
Kirby’s Dream Land (GB/VC Handheld)

Well no surprises here, Kirby is, after all, damn cute! And his first outing was adorable too. The worlds were whimsical and had a cuteness to them that I loved. This is actually the first time I’ve played a Kirby game, but I enjoyed it a lot, so I am definitely going to check out more games that star the cute pink ball. The game was rather short as I beat it within two days, but I still haven’t touched Plus Mode, and I did get it for free by redeeming my Club Nintendo points, so the shortness never bothered me. In fact, I found it refreshing because I have so many RPGs that are at least 30 hours long, that from time to time I like playing a game that takes less than 5 hours.

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The Toughest Game
Rondo of Swords (NDS)

Not to say all the other ones were easy, but out of all the games I’ve played and beat in 2012, I do think Rondo of Swords was the hardest. There were particular chapters that were such a pain in the behind. In fact, I still haven’t managed to trigger the good end for Route A because the specific requirements for chapter 30 that you need to fulfill to trigger that end are rather sadistic. ;__; I’ve currently put it on hold due to being busy with Virtue’s Last Reward, but hopefully I will finally manage to trigger the good end in 2013! Barring the game’s unbalance, it is actually very unique and quite fun. I haven’t seen anyone do something like the Route Maneuver System for an SRPG, so I definitely appreciate how original this game is. There is also a lot of characters and some of them are quite charming. Also there is a beastwoman. They know my weakness!

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Most Nostalgic Game
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN/NDS)

I grew up with a Sega Genesis and Sonic 2 was one of the few games I had. I could never beat it back in the day, so when I saw the Sonic Classic Collection for NDS, which contained Soinc 2, I knew I had to get it. Playing this game again was a pretty big nostalgia rush, and finally beating it after all these years was such a nice feeling. Compared to Sonic 1, Sonic 2 has aged very well. Overall, I had a good time with this game again, even if part of that was probably due to the nostalgia. :3

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The Quirkiest Game
Art Style: PiCTOBiTS (DSiWare)

PiCTOBiTS is another game with high nostalgic value. However, being that I didn’t play many NES games nor did I play a lot on the NES, Sonic 2 got a stronger reaction out of me in terms of nostalgia. That said, PiCTOBiTS can still stand on it’s own, even without relying on nostalgia. It’s such a quirky puzzle game that I cannot really describe it without leaving something out. It is a game that just must be experienced to understand. In fact, game footage makes it look kind of boring and I was about to pass on it as a result, but I asked around and everyone said it was an addicting puzzle game. They were right. Once you actually play PiCTOBiTS, you get what the game is about and why it’s so darn addicting. It also took the tetris formula and turned it on it’s head, which is such a strange but fun way to play. Also the dark stages, my goodness! Those stages are evil! (But oh so fun to try and finish them. I haven’t managed that yet though).

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The Game that didn’t Age so Well
Super Mario Bros. (NES/VC)

Now before you get your axes and pitchforks, I’m not saying Super Mario Bros. is a bad game. Quite the contrary, I think it’s a good game. Just, it doesn’t control as well as all the other SMB games and there are collision detection problems too. So in short, it didn’t age so well. It’s still a fun game and no doubt an important game for Nintendo or Mario fans, and video game enthusiasts all over the world. So by no means am I trying to say that it shouldn’t be played anymore. In fact, I think it can still be enjoyed today because I enjoyed it. You just have to play it with an understanding that this was the first game and there were still a few kinks in the formula at this point.

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The Game that Lived Up to its Reputation
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)

I never had an N64 growing up and I was a little hesitant to try Zelda until recently because of “traumatic experiences” with Oracle of Ages (let’s just say that sixth dungeon was impossible for my younger self). But boy did I hear a lot about Ocarina of Time. I was almost a little scared to play it because usually games with big reputations tend to be overrated due to nostalgia. Not so here, Ocarina of Time delivered and I loved every bit of it. The fact that I’m still a action newbie probably helped me appreciate this game just like younger fans appreciated it back when it was first released. The perfect blend of action and puzzle solving coupled with the almost atmospheric story-telling left me in love with the world and lore of Hyrule. I am looking forward to playing more games in the series and hopefully going back to Oracle of Ages and finishing it now.

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The Game that was Just as Hard as I Remembered It
Super Mario Bros. 3: Super Mario Advance 4 (GBA)

It was a hard call whether this or Sonic 2 was more nostalgic, but I did play Sonic 2 much more growing up, so I settled with giving this game the honour of being just as hard as I remember it. The save system on this GBA port is a god sent! I really don’t think I would have been able to finish this game without it. Level design-wise, I do think it is the hardest Mario game I have played to date. (No I haven’t played Lost Levels yet). Incidentally, the Bowser fight wasn’t that bad. I did enjoy finally beating another game that I was unable to beat in my childhood too. It feels so good going back to these and actually finishing them. Overall, probably one of the best 2D Mario games. I can’t say whether I like it more than Yoshi’s Island yet (probably not), but I can say it’s definitely a solid game that I can recommend to anyone. :)

Other Games:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (DSiWare) – This appeared on my list last year as well. Back then I mentioned that I still had to finish Hero’s Trial. I managed to do so early this year. Those Trials, in particular the final one, were tough. It took me a good few tries to finish it, but it was satisfying once I did. Like I stated last year, the controls were chuncky and as such, it’s probably one of my least favourite Zelda games, but it’s still fun for what it is. A shame I can’t try out multiplayer, oh well~
  • Mystery Case Files: Million Heir (NDS) – I picked this game up some time ago on whim because it was only 20$ and I was always a fan of the I Spy books. I can’t say the game was amazing, but it was good for what it was. The story was a bit silly though.
  • Mii Plaza: Find Mii II (3DSDL) – Nintendo released a sequel to the original Find Mii, which came preloaded on all 3DS, for free in late 2011 (if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me). It was the same as the original except a lot longer, so basically another nice little extra. Again, I enjoyed it for what it was. I managed to finish the regular quest 2 times already, but I still have a long way to go in order to unlock all the hats.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Villange (NDS) – I finished this game a while ago, but I got stuck on one of the weekly puzzles and put it on hold. I finally managed to get through that puzzle and the rest of the weekly puzzles this year, which means I finally completed Curious Village. It was a very nice game. I liked the presentation, story, and brain teasers. I don’t believe I’ve seen a game blend them like this before. I hope to start Diabolical Box some time this year too.
  • Face Raiders (3DSDL) – Another little game that came preloaded on the 3DS. I was having trouble with the final level, but I managed to finish it after a few tries. It’s nothing special, but it definitely is a quirky game.
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (NDS) – One of my earliest DS purchases. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I finally managed to start and finish it this year. It’s a very interesting blend of RPG and puzzler. The story was pretty bland and the “random” battles got tedious after a while, but it was still a pretty fun game. Also, damn cheating A.I.! I believe if the random battles were always optional and the A.I. wasn’t so cheap, it would have been a much better game. Still the novelty of melding an puzzle game with RPG elements carried the game through till the end. I don’t think I’ll ever re-play it because in the end I do think it’s too tedious for another playthrough, but I definitely don’t think it’s a bad game. I might even play a few free battles from time to time.
  • Pokemon Dream Radar (3DSDL) – This is a unique little game that can only really be played with Pokemon Black 2 or Pokemon White 2. It’s almost like an additional application for those two games, except it is itself a game as well. It plays a lot like ghostbusters. Basically you capture pokemon in augmented reality by shooting at them through the 3DS. All captured Pokemon and items can then be transfered over to Black 2 or White 2. What impressed my about Dream Radar, however, was that there was a mini story that you play through and finish by capturing the Kami (Storm) trio. This small aspect really added a lot to the game and made it much more enjoyable. Also since it only cost 3$, I didn’t expected anything too deep or engaging out of it.

Well that’s all the games I managed to finish in 2012. How did everyone else fare?