My 2013 Video Game Retrospective & Completely Necessary Awards!

2013 was a bit of a turning point for me and my relationship with video games– at least I’d like to tell myself that. I started the year trying to really play as many of the games talked about for game of the year as I could. I normally don’t try to do that since money exists, and the games I already want already come with a significant cost. But it’s really lucky I did, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have picked up a game like Fire Emblem Awakening, of which I may have put more time into than any other game this year.

Then again, I certainly haven’t played ALL of the common GOTY-candidate games. I own a Mac instead of a PC, so I missed out on most of the indie titles that have been making waves. Well, all but Gone Home, which I should probably get to playing today or tomorrow… Alongside the indies, I haven’t played Tomb Raider, Metro Last Light, Assassin’s Creed IV, Tearaway, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Ace Attorney, Towerfall, State of Decay, Saints Row IV, Rayman Legends, an assortment of other games I probably won’t mention, and everything for the PS4 and Xbox One. So I suggest taking that into account while you read this.

Game I Didn’t Play of the Year: Gone Home

Multiplayer Game I Didn’t Play of the Year: Towerfall

So, obviously, when I’m talking game of the year, I’m really only talking about the games I’ve played this year. The games I’ve enjoyed. And the games I respect for what they’ve done, whether I enjoyed them or not.So I’ll begin by talking on the system that, prior to this year, was something I rarely played in favor of the home consoles. No, not PC, I told you, I have a mac for some artsy reason. I’m, of course, talking about the 3DS.

Prior to 2013, the only games I ever spent time on on the 3DS were Kid Icarus Uprising (my favorite game in 2012), Super Mario 3D Land, and Mariokart 7. The most played game on my 3DS (as the 3DS keeps track of these things) is still a DS game – a game of which I will refrain from naming for posterity’s sake. As 2013 drifts out of my consciousness, what will retain is my close addiction to Nintendo’s handheld. Month after month, it seemed a new game came out for the 3DS that will hold serve for a piece of my top 10 games of 2013. And no matter how many new and great games came out on other systems, it seemed, no matter what happened, I was always coming back to the 3DS.

System of the Year: Nintendo 3DS

It began, as I mentioned, with Fire Emblem Awakening. I didn’t pick up Awakening at first. A friend of mine got really excited about the game and after a week or two of reading reviews, watching quick looks and more and more friends sprouting interest in getting the game, I finally picked it up. And then I couldn’t stop playing it.

Handheld Game of the Year: Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening basically became the only game I played from February through May. Prior to that, I tried catching up on some games that I missed at the end of 2012. Which basically means I spent all of January playing Far Cry 3.

2013’s 2012 Game of the Year: Far Cry 3

When I came back from winter break, I actually came back with an Elgato Capture Card. This, of course, led to more than a few interesting situations, including but not limited to: me accidentally abandoning the entire thought process of my provided human brain to insult an entire ethnic group, and 4 college students packing into a single dorm room to realize how tragically awful Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was. We reached only one conclusion…

2013’s 2006 Game of the Year: Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

In between all of this–and in the few weeks prior to picking up Fire Emblem Awakening–I also managed to finally get to the ICO HD Collection that I’d purchased sometime last year and beat Shadow of the Colossus. It’s pretty damn good. Though playing it again later in the year with folks that don’t play video games definitely shed a new light on it. Either way, I still highly suggest that game. Just… just don’t overthink it until you’re done.

2013’s 2005 Game of the Year: Shadow of the Colossus

In between Fire Emblem Awakening and the games I got into in the summer months, I’m surprised how many games seemed to have slipped my mind, even thought their placement in end of the year discussion remains greatly relevant. I am, of course, speaking of Bioshock Infinite. It’s really interesting how slowly my care for this game has feigned over the past few months. At first I was absolutely enamored with it, although gripes abounded from the whole ludonarrative dissonance thing. Inevitably, I fell into the camp that doesn’t agree with how the game handled its portrayal of minorities and the underrepresented. Art-wise, it’s still breathtaking at points, though like my opinion of the game, its visual beauty grows darker and blander the more time passes within it. At this point, I don’t think I’d include it in my top 10, and am having a harder and harder time trying to discern whether there’s anything the game is even attempting to say.

Game that Wants it Too Much: Bioshock Infinite

I didn’t actually play many games between Fire Emblem and the end of my college semester – well, besides than Bioshock Infinite – but I had bought more than a few, and by the time I finally returned to my parent’s house, I had more than a few games in my backlog to get to, and I resolved to beat one a week. Thankfully it was easy to accomplish this because the first game I chose to play was Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch… oh right. My resolve went out the window after the first week.

Ni No Kuni

To be truthful, I actually did beat Ni No Kuni in a single week. Well, it was more like 8 days, but I managed to beat it in that time even with 50 hours spent in the game. I may have been more than a little crazy doing what I was doing, but Ni No Kuni made it easy. I would sit in front of the tv, assume I had spent a good ten minutes in the game before looking up at the clock to realize I had been engrossed in the JRPG for over 5 hours. Whatever “slow start” that reviews had made mention of in game were quickly lost on me as I lost myself in the story, in the world of Ni No Kuni. The characters, the beautiful art style modeled after the legendary Studio Ghibli, the simple, but mostly entertaining combat, and the Pokémon-esque monster-raising style easily made me overlook whatever limitations the rest of the game may have had.

Greatest Timesink: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Perhaps Ni No Kuni broke my will, because I couldn’t play the next game in the lineup the following week for more than a single hour without wanting to do something else. It’s either a testament to how engrossing Ni No Kuni was, or a testament to how mundane DmC: Devil May Cry felt in such a direct comparison. It’s a weird thing to say about a JRPG vs an action game, but for me, that’s exactly how it was. The critically acclaimed art direction of DmC felt shallow and drew me out of the experience most of the times I played it, resulting in short spurts of time spent playing the game before setting it down and deciding to play something else. It’s a shame really, since I don’t even think all that negatively of the game, and perhaps if I went back to it now, I’d feel entirely different about it. Only time will tell.

Best Art Direction: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Even with the growing lack of patience for DmC, I didn’t entirely give up until another PS3 game invaded my free time. Of all the games I played in 2013, The Last of Us managed better than all others to stay in my mind throughout my time. In fact, it’s one of the few (if only) games I actually wrote about in specificity. It had more than a few interesting mechanical parts that players rarely see, mostly involving the camera. And while its gameplay can become a bit repetitive and sometimes feel unfair (f*ck the clickers), while its levels are all very linear, everything in the game was polished, detailed and on a tech-level, sound.

Best Technical Prowess: The Last of Us

Truly, a sh*t ton of money put into this game.

A Lot of Money Was Put Into This Game Award: The Last of Us (HM: GTA V)

When I was through with The Last of Us, I was feeling a little empty, and to fill that void, I needed a light game that I only needed to play for an hour or two a day. Animal Crossing: New Leaf was supposed to be that game. It was the only single-player game I played for the rest of the summer. I may have spent the most time per play session last year on Ni No Kuni, but I may have spent the most total time in a game with New Leaf (or maybe Fire Emblem). Collection is the name of the game, but it’s the interaction that made it enjoyable. Seeing what others have, trading items with others. The interactions were really small in nature compared to other multiplayer games like say a Call of Duty, but in that sense they were definitely more meaningful. I would almost give it an award for Multiplayer game of the year if that didn’t go to a game from 2001 that I played a whole lot, but not nearly enough to ever be sick of it.

2013’s 2001 Multiplayer Game of the Year: Super Smash Bros Melee

There were only a few other games from previous years that I played for the first time this year. One of them was the other half of the ICO HD Collection, which was, well… ICO, and the other was a director’s cut of one of the games that truly made the hours I spent with it in 2012 some of the best. And while some of my friends were not as entertained with it as I was – and while some of the changes were less than ideal – it’s still one of the most intriguing games I’ve played in years.

2013’s 2010 Game of the Year: Deadly Premonition

Truly this was the year of JRPGS-

Genre of the Year: Japanese Role-Playing Games

Hell, even Earthbound found a way to get released-

2013’s 1995 RPG of the Year: Earthbound

And near the end of the summer months came one game that I have not played and am not sure if I’ll ever play. It seems that every year, I buy a new Shin Megami Tensei game and then proceed to never play it. Currently, my collection includes Devil Survivor: Overclocked, Persona 3 FES, Persona 4, and now Shin Megami Tensei IV. I don’t expect to finish any of those 40-80 hour games in the near future without a free year given for each of them.

Franchise Eternally Stuck on the Backlog Wagon: Shin Megami Tensei

As the summer wound off into the school year once again, the amount of time I spent gaming diminished as well. Or at least I’d have myself believe. The few months in between then and now were filled with many good games, though most if not all were not what I’d put in my top 5 games of the year. It started out with Puppeteer, an interesting new platformer that, while not as precisely made as what recent Rayman and Mario games have been, is certainly a unique twist that charmed me for the times I played it. It wasn’t a “beat in one sitting” game. In fact, I still haven’t beaten it in its entirety. Still, it is charming nonetheless.

GTA-V-big

Grand Theft Auto V came out a week after Puppeteer, however I held out to buy it for a few weeks later. Unlike most people, I’d actually never played a GTA game before. It was a mildly pleasant experience. No matter how repulsed I was of the characters – except Franklin, he’s my favorite – I kept coming back to it. But I didn’t keep coming back for the characters, or for the story. I came back because I liked going around the world. To me that’s all GTA has going for it, and I would heartily enjoy it if it weren’t so empty. The most I can ever do is just drive around, mistakenly or purposefully get the police on my tail, and then die, losing $5000. Thankfully, $5000 can’t get you much except more ammo to use to get the cops after you, to kill you, to lose $5000, so there’s not much trouble there. There’s a wide open world in GTA V and absolutely nothing to do with it. Sure, it’s larger than three of Rockstar’s past biggest open world games combined. Sure, it’s got the ability to switch from Franklin to two other characters I never want to play as. Sure, I can do tennis, yoga, and golf. Though, none of which anyone should do unless they want the creators of GTA V laughing at them… It’s really cool, but boring – empty. It does a lot, but it doesn’t do enough.

Game that Doesn’t Seem to Want it Enough: Grand Theft Auto V

Another week into playing GTA V, another game crept along that I had had my eye on. Beyond: Two Souls kept my attention all throughout. Though in retrospect, it wasn’t anything special – it didn’t offer much interaction, was entirely linear, and included sequences that weren’t necessary in the slightest. Still, upon finishing, I felt somewhat happy with my purchase. To be honest, I had considered cancelling my preorder of Beyond: Two Souls prior to getting the game. Or at least returning it upon purchase. But also THAT CASE.

Best Special Edition Casing: BEYOND: Two Souls

Other than that, BEYOND: Two Souls merely reminded me that I hadn’t played Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead.

2013’s Game of the Generation: Journey

You thought The Walking Dead was going to get an award there, didn’t you? Anyway, the feeling of satisfaction I had with finishing Beyond may have had less to do with actually finishing the game, but that the day after beating it, Pokémon X & Y came out. Pokémon is Pokémon, so I’m sure there’s not much more I need to say about it. I enjoyed the breadth and updates to the new game, both mechanically and aesthetically. Of course, the best improvement is the interconnectivity. Playing Pokémon with friends over wi-fi has never been so easy.

2013 Multiplayer Game of the Year: Pokémon X & Y

Before talking about which of these games I think is game of the year, I’ll talk on the game that came in 2nd. November saw a rush of games getting released, including two systems that I didn’t feel like paying for. Of all those games released in November, and even December, not one stayed on the level of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. This was the only game this year that I played straight through – with only a few hours of sleep in between. It helped that it was a bit shorter than most games, but in no way did that detract from the experience. Link Between Worlds never left me disheartened, never left me feeling under or overpowered, never felt too easy or too hard, and at no point whatsoever did this game make me feel bored. Every dungeon, every area, every puzzle felt so well and perfectly designed. The new wall-melding mechanic tricked the processes of my mind in the most delightful way. As the only game this year that I have completed and collected 100% of, there’s certainly a possibility that Link Between Worlds may at some point in the future take up my #1 game of the year spot. Maybe it will be “2014’s 2013 Game of the Year”. But as it is, Link Between Worlds is my second favorite game this year.

Link Between Worlds

Best Game Design: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 

Before I get to my game of the year, I have three things for you.

  1. Here’s the true best browser game called Spider that you should entertain yourself with. Play it for at least 15 seconds.
  2. I lied earlier, the game I played the most this year was Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) on my iPhone. ZERO REGRETS
  3. Uh… do people like lists? Here’s a list:

Game of the Year List:
5. Sonic the Hedgehog (1991, iOS)
4. Animal Crossing New Leaf (3DS)
3. The Last of Us (PS3)
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

1. Game of the Year:

I played all sorts of games this year. I was surprised with how many JRPGs were able to take over my life. Surprised how many 3DS titles littered my game of the year discussions. Surprised that old franchises, which had never crossed my radar, enveloped me in their worlds and kept me locked into them for months. I was surprised how much Aliens: Colonial Marines sucked – that one was a joke, I saw it coming. But no matter what happened. No matter what game I played, what new experience presented itself, what new system clouded the public mindshare… no matter what came up: I kept coming back to Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem 2

If all you knew of this game were from what others have told you, Awakening was either a very good Fire Emblem game or the best strategy game this year (apologies to XCOM: Enemy Within). The majority of the gameplay is turn-based, moving units around a grid battlefield like chess pieces, each unit fighting in RPG-stylized battles when running into an enemy. With your chances of winning increased or diminished due to unit stats, weapon advantages, individual items, individual abilities, and a power boost based on units familiarities to the allies they are fighting alongside, the combat is certainly deep. Each battle took around 20-50 minutes each depending on the enemy and the importance of the battle, finally stacking up well over 100 to maybe even 200 hours by the end of the year.

But what made Fire Emblem Awakening so intriguing a game to me was how much it actually made me feel attached to each individual unit as a character. By fighting alongside ally units, each character can grow friendships with the other members, leading to ‘support conversations’ acting to wonderfully characterize each unit involved. For virtually all of these interactions, those between characters of opposite sex can lead to marriage, which, while tactically advantageous, was, to me, far more of an endearing event. The importance of connecting to the characters becomes readily apparent to the player in classic mode, when the concept of permanent death hangs over your every move. Countless times, I had to turn off my 3DS, turn it back on, and begin a battle from the beginning simply because I couldn’t deal with the idea of one of the characters I had grown to care for flash out of existence. My only wish is that the other characters in the game would show as much pain over a character’s death as I did. It’d make it easier for me to know a fictional video game character sympathized with my feelings about another fictional video game character. But honestly, it’s hard not to choose the game that boasts great gameplay while also being the most socially acceptable dating sim ever created.

2013 Game of the Year: Fire Emblem Awakening

In conclusion, I learned 3 things this year:

  1. I like every game I play unless it sucks REALLY bad.
  2. I’m easily influenced by good critical writing and Bioshock Infinite is the main victim.
  3.  I like games where I can make the characters marry each other. I am therefore going to go out and impulse buy Rune Factory 4 now. I will assuredly regret this decision later.

I hope whoever decided to read this found some enjoyment out of it. I’m sure I provided absolutely no insight into any of these games. Also I’m sure you’re either agreeing with me as proof that your opinions are correct or discrediting everything I’ve said simply because you disagree. That’s how these things work, right? Cool.

Goodnight.

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