Five Favorite Games of 2013

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We’re already two weeks into 2014, but I wanted to talk about last year and my favorite games of 2013. First off, I’d like to stress the fact that I haven’t played every great game of 2013. Far from it actually. I skipped a lot of games and I don’t own a PS3, PS4, Vita or Xbox One. What I have here is a list of the 5 games I had the most fun with.

5. Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale (3DS)

This is a game I haven’t seen on any GOTY lists, but I loved it. It’s a short, simple game about growing up in a small Japanese village in the ’70s. You play as a young boy who spends a particular summer day exploring, solving mysteries and card battling with friends. And there are giant monsters that battle Japanese superheroes – can’t forget about them! The game does an amazing job of capturing the innocence of childhood and the magic of summer vacation. The visuals are beautiful – comparable in style to a Studio Ghibli film. It also has one of my favorite soundtracks of the year. I would love to see an extended sequel.

4. Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)

2012 – The Year of the Bow continues into 2013! I played the original Tomb Raider on the PS1 and haven’t touched the series since. I never cared enough to play the sequels, but for whatever reason, the reboot caught my eye. I beat this game during a weekend-long Redbox rental. It’s fast paced and over with quickly, but the crazy over-the-top action kept me entertained from beginning to end.

3. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

2013 – The Year of Luigi! After a strong case of New Super Mario Bros fatigue, I was happy to see them expand the 3D Land formula, which I really enjoyed. 3D World has wonderful game design, with new things thrown at you constantly. Even when you “finish” the game, it keeps on going. Meow!

2. Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)

I’ve always enjoyed GTA games, but this one is a cut above the rest. Say what you will about GTA, but I’m a sucker for open world games. I couldn’t get enough of Los Santos – probably because I grew up in Los Angeles and loved the constant sense of deja vu. GTA V features the best characters in the series. The three character structure works really well and leads to some great interactions between everybody. Sure, GTA V isn’t without fault, but I couldn’t pull myself away from Los Santos.

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Zelda is my all time favorite game series, but I’ve really disliked the last few games. Luckily, A Link Between Worlds brings Zelda back to its glory days. Although you revisit the same map as in A Link to the Past, this game sees the biggest shake up to the Zelda formula in years. They abandoned the recent trend of crippling hand-holding and let you get right into the action. Within minutes, I was swinging my sword and the entire world was open for exploration. And even though it’s a world I’ve explored before, the new wall-paper mechanic works so well that it breathed new life into exploring. To top things off, the soundtrack is amazing and I can’t wait to receive it as a Club Nintendo Platinum reward in 13 years (har har).

Runners Up – They didn’t make top 5, but I loved them all.

  • Fire Emblem: Awakening – Great strategy game. A must own for 3DS.
  • Gone Home – I usually don’t like video game stories, but this one was great. Short and sweet.
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – The environments were fun and varied, and the ending tied everything (including the controls) together nicely.
  • Saint’s Row IV – Saint’s Row is pure, stupid fun. The superpowers made other open world games seem slow and tame in comparison.
  • Pokemon X/Y – I’ve been playing Pokemon since Blue Version. This generation was the biggest leap forward the franchise has ever made – especially due to modern online features that make trading and battling what they should be.

Bravely Default Demo Impressions

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Confession time: I’ve never finished a Final Fantasy game. Or Chrono Trigger. Or Secret of Mana. Or Xenoblade Chronicles. Still, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the JRPG genre even though I hardly ever finish them. I find plenty of reasons to give up. Sometimes, it’s repetitive and tedious gameplay. Sometimes, it’s not being able to keep up with overly complicated and poorly explained game mechanics. Sometimes, it’s when a game throws a wall at me and expects me to grind for a few hours to progress. Sometimes it’s as simple as not being able to maintain interest throughout a 100+ hour game. I’m glad to say that despite my JRPG history, I am pretty confident that I will finish Bravely Default.

Bravely Default does a great job of balancing old-school JRPG gameplay with modern, player-friendly features. The game allows you to tweak virtually every portion of the gameplay on the fly. If you are dying and need to make it back to an inn, you can change the enemy encounter rate to 0% and avoid getting killed on the way. Or if you want to grind (ughhh), you can double the encounter rate and quadruple the battle speed to make things go by faster. Also, the difficulty can be changed mid-game, at any point. If you are having trouble with a boss, but don’t feel like grinding, turn the difficulty down a notch. Combine all these features with well placed save points and the ability to skip cutscenes, and Bravely Default looks like one of the most player-friendly JRPGs I’ve ever played. Like I said, Bravely Default is an old school game and I expect it to include JRPG staples like grinding and long boss battles. But with the extensive player-friendly settings I don’t see that being a problem for me.

Bravely Default is a Final Fantasy game in everything but name. It has random turn-based battles, Phoenix Downs and a job system that includes Black, White and Red Mages. It will feel very familiar to anyone that has played a JRPG before. The highlight of Bravely Default’s otherwise generic JRPG battle system is the addition of the Brave/Default system. By choosing to “Brave” or “Default” in battle, you can store up power to unleash in a later turn. It sounds simple and it is. But it works well and I found myself excited to watch my team unleash massive attacks after building up Brave Points. It also adds a refreshing layer of strategy to a well-used style of gameplay.

I really enjoyed the look of the demo, especially the town design. I love the shift to 2D when you enter a town. I’m excited to see what the full game will offer in terms of town design, which is one of my favorite things about JRPGs. Another highlight of the demo was the music. From what I’ve heard so far, the songs were catchy and memorable. Really, the only thing I disliked about the demo was the structure, which basically consisted of several fetch quests in a row. I was rightfully alarmed, but happy to learn that this is not how the full game will be.

As far as demos go, Bravely Default is one of the best I’ve ever played. If you are even considering this game, do yourself a favor and download the demo right now. It is a standalone experience, so you won’t have to replay any missions in the full game (but you will be able to transfer over certain earned items). I did everything there is to do in the demo and finished with a time of six hours. Six hours! For a demo! That’s longer than many full games. I’m excited to play the full game in February. I’ll be buying my copy the day it comes out and I hope to add Bravely Default to my short list of finished JRPGs.

2014 Nintendo Predictions

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Here are my Nintendo predictions for 2014. Some are safe bets, like Pokemon Z. Others are wishful thinking. Lets see how many come true.

  • Pokemon Z is announced to nobody’s surprise
  • Super Smash Bros Wii U and 3DS have different release dates 
  • X is given a proper title and delayed until 2015
  • Another major 1st party Nintendo IP gets the “Other M/Hyrule Warriors” treatment
  • Majora’s Mask 3DS is announced with an early 2015 release date.
  • Advance Wars 3DS is announced
  • Pokemon X/Y receives new mega evolutions as DLC