I know I haven’t made a post since April, but I really want to continue my tradition of thinking about all the games I’ve finish in the ending year, so here I am making my first post in a very long while. Hopefully this gets me out of my slump and I can try and write more posts from now on. Overall 2013 was a pretty good year for me as I’ve increased the amount of games I’ve finished to 28 (including everything I beat and completed)! Which is another step up from 2012’s 22! Granted I finished more short games this year as well, but still I’m quite proud. :D Like with last year’s Year End Musings, I will add a little title to each game to make it a bit more colourful and to avoid making this into a top 10 list. (Really how can people pick and choose? I love all my games for different reasons). As with previous years, this list includes games I’ve finished in 2013 and not just the ones that were released last year. With such a big backlog, I honestly only end up playing a handful of games (sometimes less!) from the same year. Anyways, onto the list~

fea mini bannerThe Sequel Which Managed to Exceed My Hype
Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

It’s no secret that I’m a big Fire Emblem fan, but rarely has a sequel managed to actually exceed my expectations, especially the bigger my expectations grow and grow they did for this title. There was a lot of coverage and it only fuelled my hopes and dreams. I love all the Fire Emblem games, but I wasn’t so enthralled with a Fire Emblem game since Rekka no Ken (just Fire Emblem in North America). Awakening brought back everything I loved and then some. I simply adore this game. I’ve lovingly poured almost 130 hours into it in 2013 if my 3DS yearly records are to be believed. It is without a doubt one of my favourite games of all times.

walking dead mini bannerThe Most Emotionally Intense Game
The Walking Dead: Season 1 (steam)

It was a hard choice between The Walking Dead and To The Moon as both really touched me, but I think Walking Dead has the edge here just because of how unconventional its ending was. While I still got a bit misty eyed at To The Moon‘s ending, I saw it coming from a mile away, and that did, if just a bit, make it stand out a little less in my mind. Meanwhile, I did not expect The Walking Dead to go where it went. It hit me so unexpectedly with such feelings that I just can’t help but consider it the most emotionally intense game I’ve played in 2013.

castle crashers mini bannerThe Most Enjoyable Multiplayer Game
Castle Crashers (steam)

This was another hard choice. This time between Castle Crashers and Sonic All-Star Racing Transformed, but I think I enjoyed the more co-operative approach of Castle Crashers a bit more than the all out competitive approach of Sonic Racing. Not to say I didn’t have fun with the latter, because I did, but I enjoyed it more when we played as a team with bouts of competition. It had just the right amount of both that we got our evil smacking each other fun and also taking down enemies together and sharing in finishing the game together fun. Best of both worlds~ :D Not to mention the really silly jokes in the game. Pooping deer, alien abduction, and that ending. Definitely something that can only be pulled off as a party-like multiplayer game.

crimson shroud mini bannerThe Game with the Most Unique Story-Telling Approach
Crimson Shroud (3DS eshop)

The story within a story approach is pretty well known in other forms of media, but I don’t see it done much with video games and I suspect that it’s most likely because this approach demands that the outcome is decided from the start. You know what’s coming because a character is re-telling/recalling their story and it takes out all player agency. No matter what the player does, the result will be the same. Given that player agency is the biggest strength games have as a medium over other story-telling mediums, it really is no surprise that this sort of story-telling framing isn’t used much in video games. However this approach does have some very nice strengths and Crimson Shroud ran with those strengths to create one of the best plot twists I’ve experienced in a game. Precisely because you think you know the outcome, the twist takes you by such a surprise. Brilliant, simply brilliant, but then this is Matsuno. He is one of the best video game story-tellers in my opinion.

Yoshi Island mini bannerThe Game that Aged Very Well
Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (GBA/VCH)

Yoshi’s Island is a very hard to find game now and I can see why, it is pretty much timeless. The heavily whimsical and children’s book inspired visuals hide much of the limits of the SNES, while at the same time creating a charming world. Meanwhile the gameplay is very simple, yet the more scavenger hunt approach to gameplay makes things a bit harder than they first seem to be. In the end, what makes Yoshi’s Island so accessible and fun is that the game let’s you decide just how hard you want it to be. Collect all the flowers in a level or just try and finish it? You decide. I am really happy Nintendo gave out a digital copy of the GBA port through their Ambassador Program or otherwise I may have missed this gem once more. I’m looking forward to the new instalment for 3DS and hope to hunt down the DS one too now. =D

MK Super Circuit mini bannerThe Game that didn’t Age so Well
Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA/VCH)

Like Yoshi’s Island, Super Circuit was one of the twenty free ambassador games Nintendo gave out to fans who bought a 3DS before the first big price drop. Unlike Yoshi’s Island, this game didn’t age so well. I’m sure the button placement on the 3DS had something to do with it as well, but I also think it just didn’t age all that well either as controls felt not only clunky but unresponsive at times. It got to the point where I was dying on Rainbow Road because my hand was cramping too much, and I couldn’t get the controls to do what I wanted as a result. It’s not a terrible game, but it’s just not much fun. And since all the other Mario Karts are more fun, not much reason to play it.

explorers mini bannerThe Game that Surprised me the Most
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky (NDS)

I love Pokemon. I’ve been playing the mainline games since Blue. But I also know that Pokemon doesn’t quite excel in the story-telling and emotional aspect; which is ok because not all games need to be about story-telling. I like Pokemon for what it is. That’s why Explorers of Sky was such an unexpected surprise for me. I was expecting a light-hearted story to accompany me through the dungeons as I go about trying to recruit ’em all. Instead I was given a much more serious story that actually made me feel a little bittersweet at the conclusion. Yes, Explorers starts out very light-hearted, but once the revelations start hitting, the game takes a much more serious and sombre tone. It was a nice surprise and I definitely enjoyed the game a lot. So much so that I hope to give more of the Mystery Dungeon Pokemon games a go now.

sonic rush mini bannerThe Most Frustrating Game
Sonic Rush (NDS)

This was another hard pick as Aero Porter was pretty frustrating as well. Ultimately I think Sonic Rush frustrated me more because it took me much longer to overcome the final boss in Rush than it did to overcome the last goal in Aero Porter. Not to say frustrating games are bad as I enjoyed both, but just that Sonic Rush stands out to me in this way. Really it was only the final boss fight that frustrated me as I just kept dying and it took me a good long while to finally win the fight. The rest of the game was also quite challenging, but nowhere near as frustrating. I admit, I am not so good at more action-y games, so that probably had something to do with it… Still overall I enjoyed the game a lot and I am looking forward to more Sonic goodness.

aero porter mini bannerThe Quirkiest Game
Aero Porter (3DS eshop)

Like last year’s “The Quirkiest Game”, it’s rather hard to describe Aero Porter. It is a cross between an airport luggage sorter simulator and a puzzle game. It’s also rather difficult and a tad unfair. The game’s difficulty is very uneven and jumps up unexpectedly, which makes it frustrating at times. Still, I did enjoy it and it certainly is the most unique game I’ve played in 2013.  Actually, all the Guild games are looking to be some really neat and even experimental games! I am definitely looking forward to trying the others in 2014. :)

etrian odyssey mini bannerThe Game with the Music that Stood Out the Most
Etrian Odyssey (NDS)

It was a hard choice since there were so many games with gorgeous OSTs. Crimson Shroud had pretty gorgeous music and I rather liked Pokemon X‘s OST overall. But I think EO probably had the most striking OST. The music alone told so much of the story in EO. From the Green Woodlands’ calming but sombre tune to the Withered Forests’ very mysterious yet still sombre tune. You could really understand what the game was trying to say through the music alone and given how minimalistic EO is in terms of story-telling, the music ended up sticking out to me even more than in other games. Of course the other aspects of Etrian Odyssey were also quite well made. Outside the music and story, I also really loved the mapping system in the game. Something addictively fun about mapping out a dungeon as you explore it. Overall I really enjoyed EO and I am looking forward to sinking more hours into the post-game dungeon and into EO2 and onward~

tales of the abyss mini bannerThe Game with the Most Unique Protagonist
Tales of the Abyss (3DS)

Most games tend to have protagonists that fall into very obvious (and overused) trends. The silent protagonist, the no name warrior with a mild and pleasant personality, or the stoic badass. Abyss bucks those trends and gives us a very unlikable hero. It was a major gamble, but I think it pays off because Luke’s growth as a character is a delight to watch. I may also have bonded with him a bit more than I usually do with protagonists because his experiences hit very close to home for me. I also had some growing up I had to do (and probably still do), so I related a lot to Luke and he ended up being a very memorable character for me. The other characters were also delightful. I definitely liked that the heroine was more mature this time around, and even with the slightly silly revelations, I did enjoy the story quite a bit too. All in all, Abyss is definitely my gateway into Tales of. I am now looking forward to playing all the other games in the series.

to the moon bannerThe Game that Made Me Misty Eyed
To the Moon (steam)

Like I mentioned earlier, The Walking Dead did eclipse To the Moon in terms of emotional impact, but To the Moon was the game that got me misty eyed in the end. TWD was much more intense and high strung, and as a result I wasn’t able to get as saddened with the ending as I did with To the Moon. Granted I saw the ending of To the Moon coming from a mile away, but even still it got me and I ended up feeling such a mixed feeling of both happiness and sadness and even getting a bit misty eyed! Really both are such great games in terms of emotional impact. I do recommend both to anyone looking for a great story in the form of a video game. :)

AA Investigations bannerThe Most Nostalgic Game
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (NDS)

It feels a little weird to call the Ace Attorney series nostalgic since it’s not that old, but given that Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney had almost an entirely new cast, Investigations felt rather nostalgic because you got to see all the old characters again. Overall it wasn’t as strong an entry into the series as the main games, but the characters definitely made up for that in my opinion. Although I may be a tad bit biased since Edgeworth is my favourite character in the series and I’m a big shipper of him and Franziska. >:3

ghost trick mini bannerThe Game with the Most Adorable Doggie
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (NDS)

I like a lot of things about Ghost Trick from the well executed twists to the interesting take on puzzle/logic gameplay, but the one thing about Ghost Trick that sticks out the most is Missile. He is the most freaken adorable doggie ever and I love himmmmmm. If I ever get another dog, you can bet your milk bones I’ll be naming him Missile! >:3 That aside, the overall cast for Ghost Trick was very strong and memorable. The exaggerated animations were the right choice in my opinion, and definitely made the characters stand out even more. Also the game used one of my favourite story telling elements too and in a very good and logical way. It all around was such a great game. Definitely one of my favourites. It was a good year for adventure games and VNs it seems! XD

hakuoki bannerThe Game which I Thought I’d Never be Playing in English
Hakuoki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~ (PSP)

I’m still in shock that Aksys was gutsy enough to bring over an otome game! Hell, not only this one, they brought over another one too! (I just haven’t gotten around to it). I was going to call this the game with the best husbando, but well, that would be a lie since Chrom from Awakening has that title for the year! Heisuke is a close second though and I really loved his route. I still have most of the routes to play, so who knows how I will feel in the end, but Heisuke had the best relationship with Chizuru so far. They felt like equals and he was so cute and sweet to her. >w< Outside the romance angle, it was also a pretty interesting game from a historical perspective. I liked how it blended real historical events with supernatural twists. Here’s hoping for more otome goodness in 2014~ (Yes I will be picking up the PS3 re-release of Hakuoki as well. Making it the third copy I will own. Yes this is how dedicated I am to this poor under-represented niche. I hope we see more from Aksys, although even if we don’t, I’m happy they even took the chance).

Pokemon X bannerThe Game Which Put my Fears to Rest About Moving from 2D to 3D
Pokemon X (3DS)

Yes I was one of those people that was worried about the inevitable move from 2D to 3D in the mainline Pokemon games. Pokemon is a special series to me since it was the game that nurtured my love of video games. I’ve been playing since Blue and the pixel style of Pokemon was a good part of the charm of the series. I still think it is, but Pokemon X did a great job moving the series into 3D. The game looks great and the visual upgrade seemed to almost refresh the series. Overall I enjoyed the game, but I did think it was a bit of a step back from Black/White in terms of story-telling and giving the player a more compelling rival and gang. The game was also much easier than Black/White. Still I think the music was exceptionally good in X/Y. Usually I’m rather mixed about the Pokemon OST, but with X/Y, I love it. So overall it was a solid entry and made me a bit less hesitant about future games moving in different artistic directions.

blackwell bannerThe Best Gaming Discovery of 2013
The Blackwell Series (steam)

The Blackwell series is comprised of a series of point and click adventure games that revolve around Rosa and her family and their mysterious tie to a ghost named Joey. The series isn’t super remarkable, but it’s one of the few point and click adventure games still holding strong to pixel art with an interesting main duo and quite the potential for some interesting lore and world building. It didn’t leave as big an impact as The Walking Dead or To The Moon, but unlike those two, it was one of the few games I accidentally stumbled across (the other two were recommendations) and I hold it as my best gaming discovery from last year. The series is still on-going and I am eagerly awaking the next instalment!

Other Games:

  • Yoshi (NES/VCH) – This was another one of the free ambassador games I got. It was a short but quite fun puzzle game. I think this was also the first chronological appearance of Yoshi? So interesting to go back and finish all these old classics. That’s probably what I will continue with into 2014 and onward. So many great games I missed out on!
  • Sonic & All-Star Racing Transformed (steam) – This was a pretty fun multiplayer game. I just wish I was a better at it. I managed to finish the main mode, but still a lot of tough challenges to finish for a completion. Hope I can do it!
  • Mario’s Picross (GB/VCH) – This was a Club Nintendo reward for one month and I decided to give it a try because I heard a lot of praise for Picross. So glad I did. Picross is quite a fun logic puzzle and I am definitely going to try and get the other games now too!

And that’s my gaming list for 2013, hopefully 2014 is as interesting~ How was your 2013 gaming? :)

-SW

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