GMotY-Awards 2010

December 2, 2010

The year 2010 is approaching its last days and it´s time to look back at the best stuff that video games offered over the course of these 12 months. However, don´t be mistaken: This is not a game of the year-entry. Rather, it is a gameplay of the year-award, mentioning gameplay mechanics that made for terrific experiences. Even in critically well-received, hyped games, superb gameplay is often something not to be found. The following games went beyond the means of hype and scores and delivered certain elements of gameplay that made me give them this special mention. Of course, I´m only going to mention games that I played myself, so don´t take this as a “these and ONLY these entries are worthy!!1”, but rather give these games a second chance if you haven´t played them, yet. Also, I´d love to see some comments from you about which mechanics you loved.

These are the gameplay mechanics of the year-winners:

Metroid: Other M for its satisfying combat. A game that got mixed reactions, ranging from best to worst. Personally, I loved the fluid, smooth movement of heroine Samus Aran. What especially stood out, though, was this game´s combat. I´m a big fan of the Prime-games as well as the Zelda-series, but both these franchises have obvious weaknesses to their respective combat. Battling enemies in Prime 1-3 boiled down to tedious non-stop shooting, slowly lowering the foe´s health points, whereas in Zelda-games, each boss-monster has to be hit three times (or four, if Nintendo decides to surprise the player!) and that´s it. Engaging in boss-battles in Other M is like the sweet-spot between both of these concepts. It feels more like an actual fight like Prime-series´  bosses, but without the frustrating large amounts of health points. And it has you on the look-out for special weak points, without divulging into feeling more like a puzzle than a fight. It´s also balanced out by having Samus die quickly as well. Together with the auto-evade function, this created a super-fun, dynamic combat mechanic that felt like no other game this year.

Mass Effect 2 for interactive story-telling. Games as a medium are unique thanks to one simple fact: They´re interactive. They let the player change stuff that happens in all-virtual worlds. But while gameplay mechanics regarding character-movement are nothing special, granting the player freedom in terms of story is even moreso. Personally, its predecessor was even better in that it gave you more big decisions, but Mass Effect 2 is one of the few games that actually tackles an interactive narrative, and that over the span of a 30 hours+ title. In a time where games get shorter and shorter, more like watching a movie with in-between action-scenes, Mass Effect 2 is the definitive cinematic experience and handles story-telling just the way a video game should do.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for most immersive experience. There a fun games, games that are a great time-waster, games that are all about the “epic scenes”. And then there´s games that try to create an environment so incredible, believable and logical that it pulls the player deeper inside that world. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for Wii did a fantastic job at exactly that.  It´s probably the most tragic bomb on the Wii-system, even moreso because of Konami actively deciding not to advertise the game. Shattered Memories makes such perfect use of the wiimote´s pointing-functionality and combines that with impressive visuals, all one-upped by the terrific lighting effects. When the Wii launched, people thought that Luigi´s Mansion 2 would be a great fit for that, but Konami was faster than Nintendo and proved how great this control-style suits a flashlight-featuring game. Unfortunately, the game is only six to seven hours long before you see the credits-screen, but everything that you explore within that  never boring, never filler-ish time is immersive gameplay at its finest. On top of that, Shattered Memories gave another example of interactive story-telling for games that are not meant to be grand role-playing games. A special mention goes to Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, which achieved a similar rich atmosphere and only fell flat due to its less smooth, old-fashioned character-environment interaction.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Flip Out Galaxy. Admittedly, this is a title that´s surely going to be mentioned in a lot of goty-lists, but I wouldn´t have put it up here were it not for that one level. I got a little over 100 stars after getting the game on release-day, but then let it rest on the shelve. Some weeks ago I finally decided to go for “all” 120 stars and that´s exactly the only way to see this galaxy. It´s the last one. The final galaxy in the game that you unlock last. So, what´s so special about it? One simple fact: It made my mind go all “they didn´t really do that, right? They can´t! That´s … absurd!“. This level was not like the rest of the game, where although not easy, you always felt like playing a typical Mario-game. This one galaxy, however, was like one of those self-made 2D-Mario games you can see on Youtube. Not all the way like it, but search for “asshole Mario” and you get a feeling of what I´m talking about. That galaxy wasn´t nice, challenging Mario. It was “look, consumer, you complained about lack of difficulty in our games? Suck it!” And how I did! At one point I was close to crying, especially since I wanted to get that medal, too. Getting the medal quickly became really easy, but then there remained the last section of the level: By shaking the wiimote, blue and red objects would switch between back- and foreground. In that final part of the level, you had to wall-jump in-between several red and blue walls, each only being touchable by the player´s tightly chosen controls. Of course, missing a wall or activating it too late would result in a fall to death, no floor underneath. That was the single finest piece of level-design I´ve ever encountered in any video game. And guess what was that galaxy´s second star-mission? The same level, only now chased by shadow Marios that follow your very steps and hurt you when coming in contact. Damn!

Legend of Guardians for Flying. A rather odd choice, I realize, but not a wrong one either. The license game about owls is nowhere near being a special game, a must-play, so to say. But it manages to do one thing very right. That one thing being the feeling of flying through mid-air. A lot of video games that take place in the sky exist, but only a vast minority gets “it” right. Legend of Guardians made it, and has you experience overseeing gigantic areas from high above, rushing downwards at enormous speed, only to make a sharp turn upwards to glide over the ground. It combines a satisfying feeling of being up there with gorgeous environments (that, unfortunately, lack interactivity). I really hope to see the day where a big, epic action-adventures includes a fun, dynamic, rich flying-mechanic. Until then, Legend of Guardians does a great job at giving you that.

That´s it. Sure, I played a lot more games this year than just these five, but these five examples of gameplay mechanic stood out the most to me. Maybe I forgot something, then I won´t hesitate to update this article. Either way, I hope to have shed some light on games that did something very right and maybe you feel like wanting to share your own GMotYs in the comments. Thanks a lot for reading The FlyingFisch and merry christmas and a happy new year!


The Nintendo-show 2010

June 16, 2010

The big three´s press conferences are over. Time for reflecting on what new they brought to the table. But, actually, who am I kidding, let´s jump straight  into the most important game being shown:

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was revealed. That´s the full title of the new Zelda-game for Wii. When Shigeru Miyamoto presented it live on stage, there seemed to be control issues, but as later reports seem to prove, those issues were due to all the light sources in the audience, so not something that will be a problem for anyone playing at home. But let me tell you that I´m disappointed overall. The graphics are what grabs your attention first when seeing that game, and it´s a weird mixture of good and bad design. Link looks fantastic. This is the perfect Link-design as far as I´m concerned. What´s really great, too, is how the game uses some kind of light cel-shading, very similar to the cutscenes of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. Basically, this is The Wind Waker mixed with Twilight Princess, and it´s glorious. But then there´s also the bad. First of all, the new Moblins (I assume these are the new Moblins) look horrible from a pure design point of view. They have ugly, round noses as if they were from a Bugs Bunny-cartoon. And while defending themselves not too bad, they have such short legs that it looks weird how they walk or “run”.  Secondly, I hate the environment. Don´t get me wrong, if you see a screenshot and just judge the visuals from that, it looks good. But I´m looking at the environment from a gameplay perspective. And what I see are non-interactive trees and, the worst of it all, artificial walls that encircle the whole area and that, most likely, can´t be climbed upon. The area in this E3-demo is supposed to be a forest, but it doesn´t feel like one. It feels like a forced playground, not a natural one. And when you see a big mountain in the far in one of the videos that is a perfect cone, it looks like a dumbed down game-world.  So that´s really disappointing so far, but, of course, we only know that one, small area, and I have to give Zelda the benefit of doubt.

What was really cool and a positive surprise were the controls. My personal favorite: Link can now run! Or dash, or whatever you call it. By holding down the A-button, Link will run faster. It seems you can also run up walls and jump out of running, but I haven´t seen that myself, yet. The most important aspect of controls is, however, the sword. And really, they seem to use Wii Sports Resort-controls here. I´d say that there´s an intentional lag when you swing your sword, so it´s not totally as 1:1 as WSR´s sword-controls, but it´s good enough. And when you don´t swing too quickly, the sword really follows your own movement. Enemy-behavior seems to be built around this new feature, so now you have to find openings and slash vertically, horizontally or diagonally, depending on the enemy´s defense stance. The coolest addition to the sword´s skills: By holding up the sword, you can charge it. If you swing it now, it´ll send out a small energy wave that can cut grass. Great! But the sword isn´t the only item that got improvements. Bombs can now be thrown in two different ways, either like usual or you can roll them, much like a bowling ball. Also, there´s a mark that helps aiming bomb throws. The sling shot is back, too, and can be activated simply by pointing at the screen, not item change needed. Speaking of item change, you now simply press a button, draw the wiimote towards an item that´s shown in a ring-menu, and you have it activated. No slow pause-menu anymore. There also have been two brand new items. The whip lets you cut grass and grab items from enemies. Looks really smooth and can be controlled by doing natural movements with the wiimote. The best item, however, is the beetle. This is really like a spy toy. Link sends out a flying beetle. You will then play from the perspective of that beetle, controlling him by tilting the wiimote. Not only is that great for exploration, but the beetle can also grabs items from the ground. One video shows how you grab a bomb and then fly it to a stone wall, making it explode. The one implementation of controls the surprised me the most, though, was the bow and arrow. They really dared to include WSR´s archery controls here, or something close to it. With all my negativity about the environment and some of the enemies above, I´m really excited to see how that changes the game flow. Afterall, that means you cannot quickly shoot an arrow anymore. You have to strategize.

In the roundtable later that day Miyamoto told some more details about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It seems that Link is living on a floating island and will have to travel to a land below, because that land on the ground is befallen of evil.  The sword you saw is indeed the Master Sword. The game is in its final development stage, so it´s doubtful how much of my personal gripes will be addressed. At least it seems that there´s going to be orchestrated music, though Miyamoto didn´t say it clearly. To come to an end with the new Zelda, I´m sure it´ll be a great game. But I also fear that it might be more of the same, rather than the break up that the Zelda-series needed. Putting boss-enemies like that scorpion in the demo on the overworld is nice, but it´s not “shaking up the structure” of Zelda-games. And I really hope that the environments in the final game aren´t as artificial and constructed as in this demo. It looks a lot like Super Mario Galaxy, and while that´s okay for an abstract Mario-game, I want something different from a Zelda-game. Which is a natural, believable, lively world. But that´s not something I or anyone else knows about right now, so for the time being, I´m happy about the controls and movement-enhancements and look forward to seeing more about the world of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The other Wii-game that now has my full attention is Disney´s Epic Mickey. Warren Spector himself talked about the game on-stage and showed the game. I have yet to find out how long the game is supposed to be and how big the realm of personal choice actually is, but what was shown looked great. The thinner-ability especially. Erasing parts of a level, creating new parts at another spot looked fabulous. And the highlight was when Mickey entered a so-called bridge-zone. Those zones are used to travel from one area to another. In the case of this presentation you had to guide Mickey along a 2D-platforming sequence that looked perfectly like the Walt Disney-classic Steamboat Willy. So even if the 3D-portions of the game wouldn´t be that good, the 2D-portions would easily make up for it. The E3-presentation focused on showing basic gameplay-mechanics, so we don´t know yet how exactly the evolution of Mickey between hero and mischievous mouse works. There is also a story-trailer that was released later on that showed prerendered scenes, introducing the story of the game.

The visual highlight for Wii, however, was Kirby´s Epic Yarn. Yeah, Nintendo finally showed a Kirby-game for Wii! The game uses a very weird look, where everything is made of lines/threads. Kirby can interact with the world, resulting in even more strange effects. Really has to be seen to be appreciated as much as this game deserves.

And that´s it for the Wii. Well, at least for what is worth to me. One of, if not the, biggest disappointments was Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii. The game itself is fine, it´s classic Donkey Kong-platforming, fans will love it. But why does anybody need RetroStudious for developing such a game?! This game looks so standard-Donkey Kong, nothing has been influenced by RetroStudios. Nintendo could have had this game developed by anyone and it´d have been the same. But instead, they chose RetroStudious, who are famous for their incredible 3D-level design, and have them make a 2D-platformer. This simply sucks. A lot. Really hope that RetroStudios have been working on another game. Oh well.

The dominating factor of Nintendo´s press-conference 2010, though, was the 3DS. And it rocks. We don´t know yet all of the details about Nintendo´s new handheld. What it´ll cost, what the menu-structure will be like, what battery life is like and so on. But what we know sounds and looks great. For many gamers the most important thing: Graphics are fine, about GameCube-level, maybe a bit worse. But well enough for a handheld. I can already see myself spending most of my gaming time in the future with the 3DS instead if my Wii and 360. To allow for ideal controls, the 3DS features an analog-stick similar to the PSP´s, but initial impressions are that it´s a lot better than that one. As could have been predicted, only the top screen is 3D-capable, while the bottom screen remains a touchscreen. The size of the touchscreen is the same of the current DS, but has a slightly higher resolution. The top screen is in 16:9 format and features the same vertical resolution of 240 pixels like the bottom screen, but has 800 pixels in width, which will be devided by two to 400 pixels due to 3D. So one image for each of your eyes. And that 3D-effect appears to be phenomenal. As was predicted, it´s not 3D that pops out of the screen, but rather 3D that gives the screen depth, letting you “look inside the screen”. Something I really wanted also became reality: Nintendo works together with certain studios to bring 3D-hollywood movies to the 3DS. It remains to be seen how you get to see these movies. Buying movies on cartridges would suck, but we shouldn´t rule out that possibility. That´s it for the 3DS-hardware.

Kid Icarus is back! Nintendo finally did it and show a new Kid Icarus-game for 3DS. The full title is Kid Icarus: Uprising and is kind of a shoot’em up with hack’n slay-scenes. Very reminiscent of Sin and Punishment. Not my cup of beer in terms of gameplay, but it´s really nice to see Nintendo finally give the fans what they wanted. And they´re using Pit´s great model from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, too. Not to mention that the graphics will be really nice looking on a portable.

That was, however, but one of a ton of incredible announcements for the 3DS. Nintendo really has all third-parties´ support on this little system. Tecmo is developing Dead or Alive 3D, a franchise that never before was released on a Nintendo-system. Capcom works on a new Resident Evil-game and Konami has Metal Gear Solid 3DS in the works. Then there´s Splinter Cell from Ubisoft as well as an Assassin´s Creed-title. Square Enix has a new Kingdom Hearts-game and an untitled Final Fantasy-game in development. And many, many more. And now you´re asking how Nintendo can top this all? Not necessarily by releasing Animal Crossing 3DS, which looks like another cheap cash-in, but by developing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS. Not just a port, but a remake that will be visually enhanced and even be improved in terms of gameplay. For example, Eiji Aonuma mentioned how changing the boots in the water temple will be a lot quicker in this version of Ocarina of Time.

That´s it for Nintendo. Normally, I´d go on to talk about the other two, Microsoft and Sony, too, but their conferences were terrible. Sony´s was a bunch of already known games and some hardly convincing Move-games, while Microsoft did what Nintendo did in 2008. I guess Halo Reach could be interesting. Unfortunately, no mentioning of Mass Effect 3.

To conclude, this was one of the best E3s in years, if you like games that are not HD. As disappointed as I am with Zelda: Skyward Sword, I´m sure that next time we see it, it´ll look much more interesting. And with an Ocarina of Time-remake in the works, I´m on the safe side anyways. What´s most surprising, though, is that I´m totally excited about a lot of third party-games for 3DS. It´ll be so nice to play games with GameCube-like visuals on such a small handheld, and I can´t wait to play Dead or Alive 3D or Final Fantasy on that system. My only doubtful hope now remains that the 3DS supports music-and video playback off an SD-card. If that becomes reality, the 3DS will be the perfect handheld. Ah, who am I kidding? It most likey already is.


See you in another life, brother

June 7, 2010

Only eight days remaining. Then the biggest moments will be over. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony will have finished their E3-press conferences. And that will mark only the beginning. As for me personally, I´m close to losing it because of the hype about Zelda Wii and the 3DS. And that hype is only going to get worse from now on. That´s why this will be that last blog-entry before E3.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you all will enjoy E3 2010, video gamers´ biggest and most important event of the year. Whatever megatons await, we´ll get to know about it all starting with June 14th and be finished on June 15th. Guys, have fun,

we´ll meet again on the other side.


Zelda Wii – E³ 2010

April 24, 2010

Here is a little present to all Zelda- and video game-fans out there. Thanks to my own obsession regarding the Zelda-series, I can hereby show you a video, made for the purpose of getting into the mood for the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010, that´s going to take place from June 15th to 17th. Without any further explanations, here´s the link. Have fun!

Zelda Wii E³ 2010 – Video


Nintendo´s mystery that is 2010 Q3/Q4 and the time after

February 25, 2010

Nintendo´s Media Summit 2010 is over – and it actually delivered! Kind of. American gamers can rejoice, while Europeans have to deal with an unknown date for Metroid: Other M sometime in Q3, and many other smaller games haven´t even been mentioned. Still, everyone got dates for Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies, Monster Hunter Tri and, most importantly, Super Mario Galaxy 2, which will be out at the end of May/early June, which is a lot sooner than many people expected. There is reason enough to be suspicious, though.


The first half of 2010 is definitely packed on the Wii. We already got Endless Ocean 2, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and we´re getting Red Steel 2, Fragile: Farewell of the Ruins and Monster Hunter Tri. Not even mentioning a Mario- AND Metroid-game. All of that for just the first half of the year. That makes one wonder: What does Nintendo have up their sleeves for the second half of 2010?

Game-wise, we know of Xenoblade and The Last Story. Xenoblade does have a chance, as it is supposed to be released this spring in Japan. Tales of Graces should be coming overseas, as well. Then there´s Epic Mickey from Disney. And that´s it. That still is missing a real blockbuster for the end of the year, which is why many people started to think that that´s where Zelda Wii comes in. Satoru Iwata and Eiji Aonuma already mentioned that the game´s supposed to be released in 2010, but nobody really took that for granted until now. With all bigger known Nintendo-games coming out in Q2, though, that picture changed. Zelda Wii now seems like the obvious choice for Nintendo´s big Q4-title. And we also know that the 5th gen Pokemon-game will be released in 2010. Maybe we´ll be surprised and see an oversea release soon after the Japanese release date?

2010 looks really good on the software side…so good, actually, that it makes one wonder what´s after. All big known Nintendo-games will be out at the end of the year. Nothing left to release. It´s unlikely that we´ll see another Mario- and Zelda-game on the Wii, and filling 2011 with more niche franchises like Starfox, F-Zero and Pikmin (and Kirby) isn´t really a smart business decision.

It has been speculated many times, but it really looks like 2011 is the year we´ll see a new Nintendo-hardware. Whether that will be a handheld or home system is in the unknown, but some kind of hardware seems likely. It becomes all the more likely if you consider my theory about Nintendo engaging a hybrid-console concept, where there isn´t a clearly defined generational cycle anylonger. The one developer we haven´t heard from for a long time is RetroStudios, and taking all this time would suddenly make sense if it´s for a gorgeous launch-title of a new system. After all, an HD-game of the quality of a Metroid Prime is not something that can be done over night.

In the end, all of the above speculation is for fun only, because it´s the “Now” that is interesting at the moment. So let me, again, remind you to buy Fragile. And maybe GDC will reveal new interesting stuff.


New year – New hopes

January 2, 2010

An old year ended, a new one began. The gaming industry isn´t developing exactly the way I´d want it to, but every now and, you find these little, underhyped gems that cannot get any of the spotlight. A game I´m totally into right now is Drakensang, a western RPG for the PC. I usually don´t like these classic Dungeons and Dragons-games, with their rather weird combat-system, but Drakensang does a great job at putting the player into this medieval fantasy-world, so it doesn´t make the game any worse at all. Did a little research, and seemingly the game sold about 100.000 units in Germany, which the publisher considered a big success, which makes me wonder how such a gorgeous, depth experience can make money with only that low sales numbers. It´s classic Pen and Paper, set in the world of Aventuria from the famous DSA-series. Which means that there has not made up yet another random fantasy-world, but used a rich, already existing setting. I´ve played the game for about 25 hours and I´m nowhere near the end. To summarize, I´d compare the game to Mass Effect, with less focus on cinematics.

Now, for the year of 2010. Most games I´m looking forward to are Wii-titles. Other than the obvious one (Super Mario Galaxy 2), there´s a bunch of third party-titles coming that could turn out being must-haves. If you ever clicked back to this blog´s very first entry, you´ll know that I´ve always been looking forward to that game: Fragile. The action-RPG is finally being released this spring. From everything we know this game appears to feature clunky combat and a heavy reliance on rich atmosphere. In other words: ICO 2. It has to be seen if Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon can live up to these expectations, but as gaming enthusiast, you should keep an eye on that title.

The biggest release in early of 2010 is obviously Mass Effect 2. It´s also when the biggest niche-title is released, Endless Ocean 2. Mass Effect 1 and Endless Ocean 1 tied as my Game of the Year the year they came out, so it´s an awesome start. I have no idea about what exactly Endless Ocean 2 is going to offer – new locations, actually dangerous animals, etc. – but I´m hoping for more mind-cracking locations like the Deep in its predecessor.

These two games have no release-date yet and it´s not even sure if they´ll be released at all, but from the little footage that was shown, I´m interested. Monado and Cosmic Walker. Monado looks like a more anime-esque Final Fantasy 12, and for all that´s worth, it looks like a great, classic RPG with a neat combat-system. Cosmic Walker was shown for like three seconds and never mentioned afterwards. The little we´ve seen, though, gets up my hopes. The game could turn out being this and that, but above anything else, it could turn out be a Endless Ocean in space-like game – which I´d die for.

That´s it so far. There´s a lot of big, hyped games coming out in 2010 as well, but you most likely have  heard enough of those by now. The one big game that isn´t announce yet is The Legend of Zelda Wii, but god know if that sees its release in 2010. Maybe if Nintendo follows my previous predictions of launching the Wii-successor in late 2010, and Zelda becomes the first hybrid-title for both Wii and Wii Too. Oh, and just before finishing this entry: Let´s hope 8ing comes back to senses and develops a proper Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! EX4…and finally improving the game-series as a whole.

Happy new year, everyone!