Staff Discussion – Biggest Surprises And Disappointments Of The Current Generation

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It’s time for our newest staff round-table discussion. I’ve shoved a nearly impossible task at our contributors this month, and they’ve come through with flying colors. We have three new additions that will be participating in our little discussion. Our Editor of Entertainment, Kyle, has been working hard to add some muscle to his department. He’s found two new writers to help him carry the burden of all things Television and Film. I’ve also been busy looking to recruit, and have found a formidable journalist that’s been covering MOBA and PC games for sometime around the nets. The reason I mentioned new writers? Well, you’ll notice that Mat, Louis, and Nick are all part of our discussion, so I wanted to give them a brief introduction. This time the group contemplates two very loaded questions –

Name the game you were most pleasantly surprised with this generation (this generation applies to any time between the Xbox 360 launch and now, including PC and handhelds).

Dylan
– That’s probably the easier question of the two for me to answer. It’s a recent game I’ve played (and talked about at length). Hotline Miami just released on the PlayStation 3 and Vita last month after it’s earlier release on the PC. The games simplistic design and intuitive controls make it very approachable, but the crushing difficulty of some encounters challenge you to constantly adapt to situations, or quickly pay the ultimate price. It’s old school look and approach to gameplay will definitely turn some people away, but it’s easily not only my biggest surprise in quite some time, it may be one of my very favorite gaming experiences this generation.


Dale
– I’m going to say a tie between Red Dead Redemption and Tomb Raider. Red Dead did an amazing job of porting the GTA style open world play to a game that takes place a century earlier in the wild west. The story was great. The graphics were superior to most games that were out at the time. And the gameplay was a ton of fun. That was the first game I’d played from beginning to end in about 3-4 years, and was the beginning of a gaming renaissance for me. Tomb Raider was equally surprising for different reasons. Square Enix effectively revived a dead series and made it into one of the 10 best games I played on this entire console generation. The graphics were great. The gameplay was smooth as silk. And the detail and care put into revamping the story and Lara Croft’s character came through in a big way. I’ll buy the next Tomb Raider game on release day and that’s something I rarely do with any game.


Kyle
– InFamous. It always looked intriguing to me but not really enough to buy it so when it became available for free due to the hackers taking Sony to school, I decided why not (mostly because the other games weren’t the greatest) and I was pleasantly surprised to find a really good game. In case you hadn’t noticed by my lack of contributions to the gaming part of the site, I don’t really game a lot and when I do, it’s usually sports games. But the InFamous series really kind of changed that because I enjoyed it a lot and have been branching out more and more in terms of what games I’ve been interested in playing. I don’t really think that would’ve happened if I hadn’t play InFamous. I guess what I’m saying is: thank you hackers?


Ryan
– Definitely Bioshock: Infinite. Besides the graphics being gorgeous, the music being perfect, and the gameplay itself being extremely good. This game did something for me that a game had not truly done since Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation 1. It had one of the greatest stories in video game history which not only left everything up for interpretation and debate, but actually made me want to experience a single player game all over again for the first time since I dispatched Sephiroth with Cloud Strife. All of those things combined are definitely what made the game great, but after playing Bioshock 1 and Bioshock 2 and expecting a 3rd iteration of the same thing and getting the complete opposite while combining the above elements is what made it the biggest surprise from this generation of consoles for me.


Mat
– Most pleasant surprise of the last eight years of gaming for me? The series that comes to mind immediately are the Ace Attorney games, starting with the Nintendo DS version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in 2005. When I borrowed it from a friend on a bit of a whim I was just expecting a fun diversion and instead got my first taste of what would grow to be arguably my favorite series of games going today. I tend to gravitate towards games with a good story and memorable characters, and so it was a perfect fit. The fact that the dialogue was frequently hilarious, thanks to a very talented localization team that was equally skilled at writing diverse and distinctive character voices and slipping in brilliant semi-obscure references (“That monkey doesn’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk!”), was the icing on the cake. From Trials and Tribulations onwards I’ve bought every single game on its US release day and avidly played them all, and the release date for the next one couldn’t come sooner.


Louis
– My pick for best surprise, out of all the games that came and went this console generation is an easy one. I can’t think of a game that came out of nowhere and stole my heart more than Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Released originally on the Nintendo DS before it was remade for the PS3, Ni no Kuni is a JRPG created by Level-5 (creators of The Professor Layton series and a few Dragon Quest games) and Studio Ghibli (one of the most popular anime studios worldwide). The only way I can really describe Ni no Kuni is that it’s the ultimate love letter to the RPG‘s of the 90’s. You need only play an hour or two, or even skip through a few videos of a playthrough to see the clear influences from some of the classic games from the genre. It combines the monster capture & training from Pokemon, with combat reminiscent of the “Tales of” series and a story that’s just hard not to fall in love with. It tells the story of Oliver, a young boy that loses his mother and soon finds himself in a completely different world, populated by all manner of strange people and creatures. To go into any more depth would be an injustice to the game, because man, this story is great. And it hits you right in the feels. My final game, including post-game content ended up at around 60+ hours and that’s without bothering to 100% the game. And in a time where JRPG’s are becoming few and far between, Ni no Kuni came along and said “Hey, no, this is a great genre and has so much potential. The classic JRPG can still be great”. It’s something I’ve been wanting for such a long time, a hole in my heart that I’ve had to keep plugged with constant FF7 replays. In a world filled with Call of Duty clones, I think we’d be a lot better off with a few more Ni no Kuni’s.


Nick V
– This may come as a total shock to many people, but when I bought Mass Effect, I wasn’t actually expecting an incredible game. Sure, BioWare was the developer, but I bought the game mostly because I asked the retailer what a decent 360 exclusive would be. Remember, this was when the PS2 was still around and getting decent games. I was expecting a variation on the KotOR feel, with table top RPG based combat in a new universe. Instead, the first Mass Effect game gave me an expansive experience with totally new species – some of which were not bipedal or even necessarily mammalian – and a combat mechanic that combined third person shooters with RPG style powers in a logical way. The fact that the technology that you’re using, and the galaxy’s past, are directly tied in to the plot, made me play through every single mission. The replay value here is huge, especially if you tweak morality and relationships. Of course, as with many trilogies, the second game wound up being the best, but the first game made me love the Xbox 360. As such, it really defined this console generation for me.


Nick G
– Aside from the many idie games that I’ve simply loved over the course of this time frame, the game that I didn’t expect too much out of, but was pleasantly surprised would have to be Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. The game quickly became an icon of its genre. The concepts, the battle system, the depth of the game just make it stand out. The game is a lot more difficult than most games on the market today, but is that much more rewarding. The fact that the latter was also ported to PC is a big win!

Now, there’s a game I expected to do well and it did, that would be Bioshock: Infinite. I knew the game was going to be great when the first trailer was released, then everything went quiet for a while. I ended up seeing the actual gameplay footage in a movie theater during my vacation and I immediately pre-ordered the game as soon as I got back. I was satisfied with every dollar I spent on the game – the game felt smooth, kept me entertained throughout the campaign and blew my mind at the very end. This is one of the first games that felt like an interactive movie for me and I gave it a nearly perfect score. The only issues for me were the default key bindings, which I quickly changed to my liking.


Zach
– The game that I was most pleasantly surprised with was DmC: Devil May Cry. After hearing a lot of negative things about it, mostly how Dante didn’t look the same as his predecessors (I have to admit that I was on the negativity bandwagon) but none of that mattered when I finally played it. The gameplay was really fun and it seemed like it was easier to pull of longer combos on enemies this time around. The story for me was a little so-so but other than that everything was good.

Page 2 – Most Disappointing

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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