Diehard GameFAN 2010 Staff Commentaries

So here we are, a few days before the end of 2010. As usual, several of the Diehard GameFAN staff have sat down and written up their own personal “Top 10 Games of the Year” list. This gives you, the reader, a chance to see each of our own specific tastes and preferences. It also lets us touch on our own personal favourites that might not have earned a 2010 Gaming Award Nomination, due to only having been played by a few individuals, or perhaps they were the only one that actually liked it. Join us as we look back at the best of 2010, be they highly marketed games from large corporations or smaller easily missed independent excellence.

Aaron Sirois’ Top 10
Staff Writer

1. God of War III (PS3)
2. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (NDS)
3. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP)
4. Battlefield Bad Company 2 (PS3)
5. Picross 3D (NDS)
6. Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing (PS3)
7. Bioshock 2 (PS3)
8. UFC Undisputed 2010 (PS3)
9. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (NDS)
10.Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip (PSP)

This year was an important step in my gaming life, as I finally got around to getting the PS3 that I had been longing for. I spent a good deal of 2010 simply catching up with various next gen games that I’d missed, like Ratchet & Clank Future and Bioshock. As such, I had a year full of quality gaming even before I started digging into the new stuff and thus it was harder than usual for games to stick out in my mind. That made it very easy to create my list in a way. I knew which games really stuck with me. For the ten spots, there were only eleven candidates in my mind. The game that didn’t make the list? That would be God of War: Ghost of Sparta. I enjoyed the crap out of the game, but it just couldn’t make the list for two reasons. The first is that God of War III dwarfed it into relative obscurity, and the second is a last second entry that knocked my socks off.

Coming in at number ten is a game I didn’t expect to like much at all. While I love the Hot Shots Golf series, tennis has never been my cup of tea. Thankfully, Hot Shots Tennis was a budget title and as such I decided to give it a try. It ended up being one of the most addicting experiences of the year. Between some great twitch gameplay and a wealth of unlockables, I sunk hours and hours into this game over the summer. The only reason I stopped is because my file got erased and I unfortunately haven’t had the time to go back and beat it all again.

I didn’t intentionally put a game with three nines in the title at the number nine spot. It just happened. I was feeling the itch to buy a new game, Mark gave the game a glowing review, and it was supposed to be one of the actually good adventure games on the DS. After spending countless wasted hours on crappy detective games, I was ready to believe. I was well rewarded. 999 is an exceptional game that can suck you in like your favorite novel and never let go until you’ve seen everything there is to see. I spent an entire day doing nothing by unlocking all of the endings. Seriously, if you’ve got a DS, go grab this game before it becomes hard to find.

UFC Undisputed 2010 had the daunting task of living up to a game that placed in my top four last year. Heck, I was still playing UFC 2009 up until the day before I got this! I’d have to say that it lived up to most of its promises. The gameplay is faster, deeper, and actually so improved that it is hard to go back to the previous game. EA Sports may have put in a good effort, but UFC was still the kings of MMA games in 2010.

If I were judging Bioshock 2 simply on its single player elements, it would not have made my list. Sure it was fun, but it didn’t have anything on the first game. The atmosphere just wasn’t there. However, the multiplayer made it an extremely worthy purchase in my eyes. It may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved blasting fellow players with fire, ice, and best of all, BEES! It was a game I went back to any time I got bored, and I’m not even against buying the DLC for it should the price ever lower.

When I played the demo for Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, I went into it thinking that there was no way the game could compete with the likes of Mario Kart. I was wrong. I got this game as soon as I could and demolished it. Racing games are a tough sell for me, and I grew up with Nintendo and PlayStation as opposed to Sega. Still, this was one of my most fun and addicting experiences of 2010.

Speaking of fun and addicting, I start off my top five with Picross 3D. If you didn’t read my glowing review of it back in May, I’ll fill you in. This is my pick for puzzle game of the year and up there for best DS game of the year. Heck, it sits in my personal top five puzzle games of all time with the likes of Tetris, Dr. Mario, Lumines, and Gunpey! It’s a budget title with more content than most next gen games offer and it remains challenging throughout. What more is there to say? The game rocks!

I had no plans to buy Battlefield Bad Company 2 even after I got my PS3. I wasn’t into shooters and didn’t think I’d get into it. Unfortunately, I had made a deal with my friend that I’d buy a game with him if he got a PS3. He finally caved, and I didn’t go back on my word. Thank god I didn’t. This became my first FPS addiction. Throughout June, if I was on PSN, I was playing this. For my money, this is better than any Call of Duty or Halo that I’ve ever played even if it has only four game types. What sold me was how teamwork was what won you the battle, rather than how quickly you could tap the knife button or exploit cheap weapons. I played this more than any other game this year, and that is saying something.

Going into Birth By Sleep, I couldn’t help but be anxious. While I loved 358/2 Days, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by it in some respects. My fears were for naught though. Birth By Sleep is quite possibly the best game in the series. It had new Disney themed worlds, an incredibly deep and rewarding skill system, and awesome mini-games whether you were playing them on or offline. I plugged over eighty hours into the game, which is unreal for someone like me who doesn’t play games to death. Ghost of Sparta may have been technically better, but this was my PSP game of choice in 2010.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is everything a fan could have hoped for and more. It delves deeper into the characters of everyone’s favorite prosecutor as well as Detective Gumshoe and Franziska Von Karma. On top of that, it introduced new characters that were actually interesting, unlike Apollo Justice. The story was exceptional, the gameplay better than ever, and it featured one of my favorite music tracks in the whole series with Shi-Long Lang’s theme. I’d stop playing just to hear that song. Heck, I had to stop writing now just to put it on. Anyways, I can’t wait for this game’s sequel, as this one nearly took the top spot for my 2010 list.

If you’ve ever read my work here, it should be of no surprise that we find God of War III at number one. It was the culmination of one of my favorite series ever, featured some awesome new additions such as the Nemean Cestus, Bow of Apollo, and the decapitated head of Helios as a damned lantern! I played through the game three times this year, and it is the only game I played through more than once. I just had so much fun with it that I couldn’t stop! 2010 wasn’t a banner year for games by any means, but as you can see there were a number of games that I adored. For God of War III to top all of them should show you just how much I enjoyed it. I hope the series isn’t really over, even if it means we get some lame ass cop out from the game’s ending.

Anyways, there you have it, my top ten for 2010. Here’s hoping that 2011 can match it!

Aileen Coe’s Top Ten
Staff Writer

1. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP)
2. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (NDS)
3. Sakura Wars: So Long My Love (Wii/PS2)
4. Trauma Team (Wii)
5. Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo – Hikari to Kage no Eiyu (NDS)
6. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (NDS)
7. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (NDS)
8. Ys: Oath in Felghana (PSP)
9. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (NDS)
10. Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP)

I had a hard time narrowing my list down to just ten. This might make it seem like 2010 was a good year, and in terms of how enjoyable the games themselves were, it was. However, looking at the contenders, I noticed a trend: most of them were sequels, spin-offs, or remakes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s still worth noting. Nonetheless, there were still a good amount of fun games this year.

I’ll tackle the honorable mentions first. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future concluded the first trilogy of Layton games with a bang and left me wanting the next game. Puzzle Quest 2 adhered kept more of what made the first Puzzle Quest game such a hit and could easily suck up hours of your life. Monster Hunter Tri provided plenty of online and offline play, albeit with a steep learning curve for those who haven’t played previous games in the series (though it’s one of the more newbie friendly entries). Picross 3D not only managed to make the transition to 3D well, but also turned out to be as challenging and addictive as its 2D predecessor.

Now, on to the list itself.

Phantasy Star Portable 2 gets the much sorely needed infrastructure support that the first game lacked, thus making online multiplayer more easily accessible. It also includes a number of tweaks and additions, including a new class that made the gameplay feel more polished. Even now, I still hop on every now and then for tackling some missions and finding more loot to deck my character out with.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies manages to pack in a ton of content and replay value into one little cart. There are a lot of options for class setups, and you can change those around as much as you like. Considering the emphasis on multiplayer, the lack of online multiplayer play support is amiss, but the game itself is quite solid, and there’s still a ton to do on your own even after you’ve beaten the game.

Ys: Oath in Felghana is a great remake that revamped Ys III from the ground up and made itself accessible to newer players while providing plenty of challenge for more seasoned players. XSEED even incorporates the translation from the patch into the game, which was a good move not only for their own benefit (as in, they wouldn’t have to do a translation themselves), but also from a PR standpoint and gave recognition to the work Deuce did on it. Like other Ys games, it has an amazing soundtrack, and the PSP version has three versions of it that you can switch between at anytime.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth brings back the titular fan favorite prosecutor, as well as a bunch of other familiar faces. It also shifted the perspective from first to third person, thus letting you actively run around the various areas in the course of your investigations. Even though you don’t spend much time in a courtroom, there’s still plenty of intense questionings and confrontations. I’m really looking forward to the next AAI game and where they take the series and characters next.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is a very solid dungeon crawler with a battle system that’s not too hard to pick up but does require work to master its intricacies and options for customization. The game can be punishing at times, but you never feel like the game’s being cheap. The plot is compelling without being intrusive (and the environments and music are eerie) and helps keep the dungeon romps from becoming stale. In addition, your alignment not only affects where the story goes, but also which demons you can recruit and whether they join in when you attack an enemy’s weakpoint. You can also unlock new demons through passwords, though of course the more powerful the demon the more expensive it is to redeem said password.

Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo – Hikari to Kage no Eiyu picks up from where Shadow Dragon left off and concludes the events from the first game (the two were originally on one cartridge on the SNES as two parts). It even includes the online shop and Wi-Fi multiplayer that was also in Shadow Dragon as well as the old Bandai Stellavision missions. While I had reservations about the inclusion of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu unit where there was none in the original, once I saw it in action I didn’t mind it as much. It’s a shame that it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll see this in English.

Trauma Team mixed up the usual formula of the series with the introduction of four new kinds of procedures to break up the glut of surgeries. They were varied enough to be fun, the controls worked for the most part (endoscopy can be a bit finicky at times) and the diagnostics and forensics sections were especially welcome additions. While the plot does break away from the “terrorist organization creates new viruses and sets them loose” line that previous games have used, and realism was touted as a selling point for this game, some parts of it still needs a heaping dose of suspension of disbelief. Regardless, the characters and comic book styled cutscenes are still enjoyable to watch, and like in New Blood you can tackle operations with another player.

Sakura Wars: So Long My Love blends strategy RPG play with visual novel/dating simulation and puts a new (well, new in the sense you don’t really see it anywhere else) spin on both, and it’s a ton of fun to play. The PS2 release of the game even includes two discs for English and Japanese voiceovers, which enabled me to play this since I was able to borrow the English version from Chris while he played the Japanese version (though I would have and still would gladly shell out for my own copy). This very fact that the game is so amazing is depressing because this is likely the only game in the series we’re getting, with what Sony shooting down a release of the PSP ports of the first two games and the next game being a browser-based game.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was brought over by the same people who localized Theresia, so it’s probably little surprise that this is another good suspenseful visual novel. I tend to eat up games like this, so when Mark praised it highly in his review, I went and picked it up. Upon starting it up, I was instantly sucked in. I spent the whole time being suspicious of everyone and trying to guess who was Zero and how everyone was connected. I got the “To Be Continued” ending the first time I beat the game, and that drove me to start up a new playthrough right away because there was still so many questions unanswered. The way the game encourages multiple playthroughs by drip feeding you answers and revelations was brilliant, and you can easily get some good mileage out of this game, which is especially impressive given that these types of games are usually linear and thus a one-and-done deal.

Valkyria Chronicles II manages to translate much of what made the first game great into a portable format. Granted, the story and presenation doesn’t feel quite as epic as the original’s, but they work well for what they are, and the cutscenes are still nice to look at. The graphics don’t suffer too much from being on a less powerful system, and the gameplay maintains the unique blend of RPG and RTS that makes the series stand out so much. The class branching system provides more options for customizing your troops, and while some grinding for credits is needed, you can easily switch up your troops to suit the situation in upcoming missions. The secondary characters also receive more fleshing out through classmate missions and various scenes that pop up. Even after you beat the main storyline, there’s still plenty to do, even without the DLC, and the extras unlocked via password certainly don’t hurt. While it doesn’t quite beat out its predecessor, it still manages to be quite good, and the third game looks as though it’ll continue that trend.

A.J. Hess’ Top Ten
Staff Writer

1. Mass Effect 2 (360)
2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360)
3. Halo: Reach (360)
4. Alan Wake (360)
5. Civilization V (PC)
6. Darksiders (360)
7. Limbo (360)
8. X-Men Arcade (360)
9. Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening (360)
10. Splinter Cell: Conviction (360)

I’ve never been as happy with the Splinter Cell games as I wanted to be, but Conviction changed all that for me. Part of it was the story, taking Sam Fisher out of the agency and putting him on the lamb as a dangerous loose cannon. Most of the reason was the newer controls, especially the “mark and execute” system. I know some people complained about the lack of control in these events, but queuing up the hits and watching the game drop people in the most violent fashion possible did a lot to overcome those complaints.

I forced myself to play through Dragon Age: Origins last year, and while I didn’t hate it, it was frustrating as hell. About three-quarters trough the game, I realized it was because I was trying to fight in the frontlines with a rogue instead of a warrior, and the game changed for me. I gave it a second chance with a character that fit my playstyle better, and fell completely in love; enough to start gobbling up DLC. Awakenings is the closest thing that Bioware has released to a classic expansion pack, where you’d pay a large fraction of the price and get something that added considerable heft to the original title. Once you realize how good this game is, you’ll want more. Awakenings provides the most “more” you can get, until the sequel shows up. People who still haven’t experienced the truly dark fantasy setting of Ferelden should look for the Ultimate edition, which carries all of the DLC and the original game.

“X-Men! Go and save the city!” It’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of one of the best examples of over-the-top arcade action coming to the consoles. This game ate so many quarters from my childhood that I feel like I should get a free code for it now that I’m an adult. Even though Konami didn’t do a whole lot of-okay, any-updates to this game, I’m so happy to be playing it from my couch instead of standing around in a dark, hot arcade. It’s a happy piece of childhood, and a ton of fun to play, even if it is still designed to eat quarters.

Limbo is an art-house videogame. There’s no other way to describe it, and no need to go any deeper. The dark, eery setting, the monochrome presentation, and the frequent and gruesome murder that your character undergoes combine to make something exciting and terrifying all at the same time. This is one of those gaming experiences that comes along once in a long while and makes you sit up and take notice. Limbo lets you put so much of yourself into the game and make the story what you want it to be, which draws the player deeper into the game than any cutscene or narration can.

For every step away from the survival aspect of horror that games have taken recently, Alan Wake took two steps toward it. Players who wanted story, who wanted to play someone with no idea what they were up against, and who wanted to be actually scared found a gem in Alan Wake this year. This game was the closest I’ve ever felt to playing a Stephen King story. Granted, the game blatantly ripped off/paid homage to a bunch of his stories, so there is that. Putting a character in the lead who was scared of everything, who didn’t know what was going on, and who-and I feel this is perhaps most important-was not a skilled combatant who could draw on his special forces training at will made this game feel like an amazingly fresh entry into the horror-game genre.

Darksiders was a game I expected to hate. Poorly made action games are a dime a dozen, and you only have to look at Dante’s Inferno to see what happens if you get it wrong. Darksiders really wowed me though with an amazing artistic vision, wonderful voice acting, and a gleefully devastated world to play in. War was massive, sullen, and appropriately powerful. The game took an “and the kitchen sink” approach to design, throwing a ton of references to other games into the mix. Hell, it featured a level straight out of Portal. Darksiders left me satisfied but wanting more, and had one of the best cliffhanger endings I’ve seen in a long time.

Civilization was one of the first computer games I ever played, and strangely enough, I promptly ignored all of its subsequent iterations. For some reason though, I decided to give Civ 5 a try, and promptly fell in love. This is such a great title, and even though we didn’t review it this year, the curious can be happy knowing that this is a strategy game for the ages. Everything about this game screams depth, but the user interface has been designed to be completely simplistic. That’s gaming magic. Even when strangely hilarious, historically impossible things happen, like Hiawatha attacking the Japanese Empire using assault rifles, it just adds to the charm.

Halo: Reach might be the best Halo title since the first. In the single-player game, Bungie kept the Flood safely out of sight, which meant the fight was purely Covenant vs. humanity. Seeing multiple Spartans in the fight for the first time was a treat, even if they were all in a race to have the best death scene. The way the game ended by wrapping itself back to the beginning scene was a clever bit of storytelling that took me by surprise. On the multi-player side of things, the game has got legs. I’ve barely taken it out of my tray since September. The ranking system and the credits for playing in matches keeps me hooked, and the nice thing is that you’re only spending those credits and advancements on cosmetic changes for your character. Reach is the Halo game you’ve wanted on the 360 since the console came out.

For my money, the story in the Assassin’s Creed series might just be the best in modern gaming. This is a series that keeps getting better every year, and if it wasn’t up against a certain other game, then it would certainly have garnered my vote for game of the year. Even if this title wasn’t the quantum leap from the first to the second game, the setting and the duality of the modern and classic periods and the continual tuning of the controls make this game an utter must-play. Topping the game off is a multiplayer mode that is utterly addictive and unlike anything you’ve played recently. Assassin’s Creed as a series is doing a story that may only be able to be told in a videogame, and it just keeps getting stronger with every iteration.

I think it’s kind of funny that my favorite game of the year came out in January. Shows over guys, you don’t need to release anything else for the next eleven months. The first Mass Effect was a technically-flawed but truly wonderful game that gave players the sci-fi action that cats crave. The sequel came along and blew the first game out of the water. Bioware took the cumbersome inventory system and fired it out the nearest airlock, making room for more story and more action. Purists might argue that too much of the role-playing elements were removed, but they would be overlooking how much the streamlining of the combat and inventory helps this game. You’re free to walk all around the galaxy as the nicest, sweetest Commander Shepherd you can imagine, or start pistol-whipping anyone that looks at you funny. The renegade/paragon option in the conversations is immensely satisfying. The story moves along at a great pace, with a final confrontation that you may or may not survive. Bioware re-wrote a lot of its own rules in this game, and playing it over and over again only makes you want Mass Effect 3 to get here sooner. Hats off to you, Bioware.

Ashe Collins’ Top 10
Staff Writer

1. Mass Effect 2 (PC)
2. Transformers War For Cybertron (PS3)
3. Fallout: New Vegas (PC)
4. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
5. DJ Max Portable 3 (PSP)
6. Torchlight (PC)
7. Tales of Monkey Island (PS3)
8. Age of Zombies (PSP/PS3)
9. Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP)
10. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP)

I’ve spent most of my year playing MMORPG’s on and off, specifically Dungeons and Dragons Online, but I did find time to play some other games between job hunting, being slammed at work during the holiday season, and just general laziness.

Valkyria Chronicles II isn’t high up on my list, but it is on my list for various reasons. It’s a sequel to one of my favorite games on the PS3. It gets docked for being put on the PSP instead, but it makes it on the top ten because Sega didn’t abandon the series altogether and at least tried to give us something more in the series. The gameplay and the fact I can take it on the go made it even more fun.

I had my arm twisted into buying Phantasy Star Portable when it went on sale for cheap and I wasn’t disappointed. I like that Phantasy Star Portable 2 actually included a proper infrastructure so I don’t have to run a third party on my PS3 connected through a Japanese user id to play with other people. They made some changes and it really made me enjoy this game in the series even more than the last.

Age of Zombies was one of those cheesy minis that you shouldn’t like, let alone love, but I couldn’t stop playing this shooter. It’s got a permanent home on my PSP memory stick and on my PS3. Even my wife scratches her head over this one.

Tales of Monkey Island was a no brainer. I loved it on the PC, but bringing it to the PS3 as a bundle made my day. It controls just as well and I can play it on my big screen TV. This one is definitely still one of my favorites from Telltale.

One of the ones that surprised me was Torchlight. I figured it’d be just another one of those action rpgs that sprung up that I reviewed throughout the year, but this one stuck with me. It had some great design work done to it, had an interesting set of quests and played amazingly well. Believe the hype on this one. It’s well worth giving it a try.

I’m not big into the rhythm and music games like I used to be, but when I got to review DJ Max Portable 3 I got sucked in again. It’s simple but challenging controls and gameplay kept me interested and despite being a digital only title, it hasn’t left my memory stick since I got it. I think I’m just going to need a bigger memory stick.

To be honest while I enjoyed Portable Ops on the PSP, it felt, well it felt a bit too different from MGS, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When they announced Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker I was more skeptical, but then I got to play it. Back was the more classic sneaking from the MGS games that I loved but it had the ability to bring in real friends on missions to help you out. Even then you could still play it totally single player like the series had been on the bigger consoles to that point, excepting multiplayer. It’s a great game that had me hooked from the point I realized I’d be building my own Metal Gear.

While my wife loves Oblivion and Morrowind, I’ve always been more into the sci-fi end of RPGs, so Fallout New Vegas was a no brainer. Sure there are some bugs in the game, but I didn’t come across as many as other people while I played, and not starting in a vault for a change was interesting. I wish there had been a few more tweaks to it so it didn’t feel like another expansion to Fallout 3, but it is a solid title that I’d recommend to anyone.

I actually groaned when I first saw the preview for this game. I didn’t think they could make it decent at all and I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Not only was the story mode fantastic in Transformers: War For Cybertron, but they had a decent multiplayer when it would stay connected anyway. I really hope Activision lets the devs on this one tackle the sequel, because not only did they capture everything I look for in a Transformers title, but they did a damn good job of putting it all in there and still making it feel like Transformers.

Last on my list is Mass Effect 2. This is my number one pick because this is easily the best game I’ve played all year. Not only is it solid story-telling that Bioware has delivered time and again, but the refinements over the first game were amazing. I was kind of sad they dropped the ball if you were carrying over a romance from the first game as they barely make an appearance, but the new cast of characters and options in that area more than make up for it. The Renegade and Paragon interrupts have made their mark and are popping up in all sorts of places I’d never have expected. Look for the Raiders of the Lost Ark Renegade Interrupt and you’ll know what I mean. I’m sure when next year rolls around Mass Effect 3 will be topping my list, unless they do something colossally stupid.

Branden Chowen’s Top Five
Freelance Writer

1. NCAA Football 11 (360)
2. Heavy Rain (PS3)
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops (360)
4. Battlefield Bad Company 2 (360)
5. Major League Baseball 2K10 (360)

Anyone who knows me well understands that I have this disease that forces me to buy a ton of video games (or books, or movies) and not have enough time to play all of them. This year, I spent the majority of my time writing movie reviews, thus my video game playing time was shorter than in the past. Because a Top ten list would be mostly filler, I’ve cut the list in half to have actual quality games on the list that I thoroughly enjoyed.

There was some debate for that #5 slot, as Pac Man Championship Edition DX for the Xbox Live Arcade and Wheel of Fortune for the Wii both made a good case to trump Major League Baseball 2K10. Pac Man Championship Edition DX is one of the more fun experiences I’ve had this year, especially with XBLA releases. It has excellent arcade action, lots of replayability, and nice, vibrant, HD graphics. Wheel of Fortune, though a casual Wii game, stands out in my memory because it is a great representation of my favorite classic game show. In the end, though, I couldn’t leave Major League Baseball 2K10 off the list.

There is no denying that MLB 10: The Show is the more complete baseball game out this year, and the most realistic. When it comes to baseball, like basketball, I prefer the game be fun more so than completely realistic. Major League Baseball 2K10 is just that: fun. Admittedly my time outside the My Player section is limited, but that mode alone made the game worth my $60 purchase. The pitching and batting mechanics are unique to this series, and some may call them “gimmicky”, but they give me more control over what is happening on the diamond, and in the end, make it a more immersive experience. That immersion factor alone is why I preferred Major League Baseball 2K10 over the Playstation 3 king, MLB 10: The Show.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for Xbox 360 is an example of a company getting online multiplayer right. This is one of the only online shooters I enjoy playing, and will continue to overtake the Call of Duty series on my consoles when I want to play online, which is why this ends up in my #4 slot of the year. The online gameplay, complete with destructible environments, is slower-paced, and rewards gamers for playing a smart match, working together to destroy the enemy. Not only this, but I have a friend whom I play with online, which makes the experience that much better.

Battlefield might win the multiplayer battle, hands down, but what matters most for me is the single player experience. Call of Duty: Black Ops (360) has a wonderful campaign mode that, although relatively short, made the game worth buying. I love the use of licensed music in the game because it is able to bring out that 1970s feel. The guns, while good, are not the best in the series, but the graphics are top notch. This is another game that is simply fun to play, which is all that matters to me in the long run. The story was interesting and coherent, unlike last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which places Call of Duty: Black Ops as my #3 game of the year.

Heavy Rain blew me away from start to finish. The demo had me chomping at the bit for its release, and it sits on top of my pile of PS3 exclusives. The first thing one notices about this game when he or she turns it on is the stellar graphics. These are, by far, the best I have seen in any video game, with the rain graphics topping even Bioshock’s water graphics. The story, though obviously flawed, grabbed my girlfriend and I and forced us to finish to find out where it would go. I didn’t see the end coming from a mile away, and it pulls at the heartstrings. This game is beautiful, and is the best narrative game I have played since inFAMOUS. If I weren’t such a sports fanatic, this would easily be on top of my list. This is a PS3 exclusive that makes me proud to own the system.

Usually by this time (December) I have moved from football to hockey in my video game repertoire, and I usually stick with hockey through the summer. This year, though, things have changed. NHL 11 has not garnered my love yet, in part because I wasn’t able to find good sliders until this past week, but more in part to the fact that NCAA Football 11 (360) is such an incredible experience. Back in August I posted my deepest review to date, and it covers virtually every though I had about NCAA Football 11 at the time. As I played even more, though, I was able to appreciate an aspect of the game I merely touched on for the review: TeamBuilder. Using that same team I tested the mode with for my review, the Rochester Warfrogs, I have played through two seasons and a half season (without simulating a single game) and am on the path for a National Title this season. I’ve devoted over 60 hours into this title this year, which is infinitely more than any other 2010 release. On the field, the gameplay is spot on, and by far the best football experience to be found. I tried giving Madden NFL 11 its fair shake, but something was missing from that title, and it is a purchase I regret (though I would love to see GameFlow make it in to NCAA Football 12). The year 2010 might not go down as a memorable one in terms of sports gaming, but NCAA Football 11 is still the one game I had the most fun with all year, and it is looking to take a lot of my playing time until next year’s iteration drops in July.

Christopher Bowen’s Top Ten
News Editor

1. NBA 2K11 (PS3)
2. Limbo (360)
3. Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo – Hikari to Kage no Eiyu (NDS)
4. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (PS2)
5. Etrian Odyssey III (NDS)
6. Cave Story (Wii)
7. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (360)
8. Deathsmiles (360
9. MLB ’10 The Show (PS3)
10. Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP)

What a strange year.

From a big release standpoint, 2010 sucked. There were too many big budget titles with too many numbers at the end of their titles, and not enough ideas. Everyone seems to want to copy everyone else, and while that’s really not that different from years past, it seemed particularly gregarious in a year when the quality wasn’t there. This was a year when the top success story was a company that got famous by blatantly stealing the work of other companies and using venture capital funding to bully those companies out of business.

Therefore, 2011 wins one title from me: The Year Of No Ideas.

But is that really the case? Because it seems like I can address another title for it: Year of the Indies.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana was an amazing game on the PC, which I was able to truly enjoy with the help of a patch. Unfortunately, the problem with the patch is that it requires dealing with NightWolve, who is so batshit insane that you want to quarantine him. I’m glad XSEED brought over Falcom’s classic Ys III remake so that the rest of the country could enjoy it – and one of the best ten soundtracks ever – without having to be held hostage by some racist birther nutjob. It’s an amazing game, and anyone who hasn’t gotten it yet should definitely do so.

MLB ’10: The Show is two amazing games in one. Both the franchise mode and Road to the Show – still the best single-player mode out there – are massive time-sinks, so much so that it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve actually completed a full MLB season (they’re 162 games plus playoffs). It would have ranked higher if it wasn’t for the bugs, which likely came about from Sony letting go a lot of SCEA San Diego’s QA staff, but the fact that a game this buggy rated on my top ten at all indicates how good it is.

I only picked up Deathsmiles recently, but it deserves the praise it’s recieved. It’s an awesome side-scrolling sh’mup with some tight controls and an interesting premise. It’s also essentially two games in one, once you consider the black label edition.

I compared Pro Evolution Soccer ’11 to a long lost lover that I fell in love with in my review of the game, and that analogy still holds up. They did just enough to separate the game from FIFA without taking away what makes PES so enjoyable. Combine this with FIFA’s inexcusable bugs, and it’s good to finally enjoy PES again. I still kind of suck at it – much more so than I did the old PS2 games – but I don’t love it any less.

If Cave Story came out for any other service except WiiWare, I’ll bet it would have finally gotten the attention it deserves. I don’t get how it hasn’t. Not only is the WiiWare game worth $10 for a great little Metroidvania-style game, but the PC game is FREE! Imagine the guy that sells books while looking like the Riddler (Matthew Lesko) screaming it in giant neon letters: FREE! How free is it? I first played it on Linux. There’s even a version for graphing calculators! Just play it already, for God’s sake!

I’m generally not a fan of first person dungeon crawlers. I never got too much into Wizardry when I was a kid, and didn’t beat Phantasy Star until GameFAQs came along with fully done maps. To say I dislike mapping is an understatement. Yet despite all this, I fell in love – and am still in love to this minute – with Etrian Odyssey III. Admittedly, this is probably because it’s slightly easier than the first two games – meaning it’s still a motherfucker, instead of being a motherfucker with AIDS like the first two are – but it was able to get its hooks into me for good when I finally made it down to the third floor. Now that I’m in the third stratum, I can’t look back; I have to finish it. Though I have to say, the fact that Mark was able to beat this and review it within a week means he’s a cyborg. That’s the only way it’s possible: Mark B. is a fucking cyborg.

Sakura Wars: So Long My Love is both enlightening and depressing at the same time. It’s enlightening because it’s such an amazing game. It has virtually rewritten how a JRPG should play out, despite the fact that it’s five years old. It has charming characters, a great story, and doesn’t subscribe to the whole, “more emo is better” train of thought that people like Tetsuya Nomura have been shoving down our throats since Final Fantasy VII took off. It’s depressing because I know we’re likely not going to get another one in America. Sony rejected the UMD version of the first two games because they called it a “visual novel” – first, who the hell is doing approvals there, and second, what the hell does that make Disgaea Infinite – which means we’ll never see it here because Nippon Ichi has all but given up on what is a costly localization process to begin with. But that’s OK, it’s not like Sony was the company that put the final dagger into Working Designs… oh, wait. And hey, it’s not like the biggest releases going into 2011 are all going to be sequels and casual Facebook games… oh, shit.

Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo – Hikari to Kage no Eiyu (*phew*), which I will henceforth call New Monshou, is a great game that perfectly draws to a close the actions started in Shadow Dragon. Best of all, it’s a game worthy of being picked up even by people who played the old Monshou – of which there are about twelve left, but still – to death. Not only did you get the second book of Monshou no Nazo, the old Super Famicom game that put the original Fire Emblem and a new story together on one cartridge, but you also got an online store, new additions to the gameplay, and the old Bandai Stellavision (think really, REALLY old games console specifically tailored around DLC, over a 2400 baud modem) missions, all with the same great engine Shadow Dragon got. It’s an amazing game, but what’s depressing is that people ask me all the time if I think we’re going to get this in America, and right now, I’d have to say no. The biggest Fire Emblem fansites all downloaded, beat, dissected and then insulted the ROM within 24 hours, and there’s already a fan translation patch – albeit a bad one – out. Why should Nintendo bring it here? It’s not Pokémon; the sales won’t justify going over the piracy. When fans ask why we can’t have it, they only have themselves to blame. It’s your fault, Serenes Forest.

Limbo is the first game in years that literally had me scared. Not just “oh, that’s scary”, but literally screaming “OH SHIT” in my house. What do you do with someone who’s a massive arachnophobe? You spend a good portion of the game having him avoiding a gigantic spider fifteen times larger than his character, one that can skewer him at will! You want to talk about immersion? How about a game that literally had me slumped in my chair after I was done with certain puzzles. Yes, it’s short, and yes, the gameplay doesn’t push any envelopes; it’s a puzzle platformer at heart. But it doesn’t have to. Before anyone complains, yes, I liked it better than Out of this World.

My #1 game isn’t just my favourite sports game this year, I think it’s arguably the best sports game of all time. Forget what NBA 2K11 did with putting Michael Jordan into the game. That’s nice, but ultimately, it’s icing on a very nice cake. What impresses me is that no other game simulates playing professional basketball as well as this one. If you make a bad pass, you will get it picked off. If you can’t cover anyone, they will take you all day. If you give up an open jump shot to an NBA player, they will bury it. What I probably enjoyed the best was the fact that L2/LT – the “intense” defense modifier – isn’t the lock-down button it was in the past, and that iso-motion moves – crossovers and the like – aren’t automatically ways to get to the basket like they were in the past. The game is smart, plays a mean game of basketball, has the best commentary I’ve some amazing commentary that is witty, focused and plentiful, and also has the best franchise mode on console sports. I’m not ready to call it the GOAT yet – I need some perspective – but it’s a two way battle between this and NHL ’10.

These games make me happy, and almost make me forget that Zynga not only exists, but is likely going public soon. Almost.

Chuck Platt’s Top Ten
Senior Writer

1. Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
2. Total Extreme Warfare 2010 (PC)
3. Dead Rising 2 (PS3)
4. Red Dead Redemption (PS3)
5. Shank (PS3)
6. Moto GP 09/10 (PS3)
7. Dragon Age: Awakening (PS3)
8. Just Cause 2 (PS3)
9. Trinity Universe (PS3)
10. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)

Expectations are a bitch. Several of the games on my list were heavily hyped and/or anticipated AAA titles. Final Fantasy XIII had the extra weight of being the first Final Fantasy of this hardware generation. It has a lot going for it: pretty graphics, good voice acting, interesting combat. The real problem, for me, was the linearity, especially coming off the fantastically non-linear FFXII. I liked FFXIII enough to include it here, but not enough to call it great or anything.

I never, ever would have guessed this game would beat Final Fantasy XIII on my year end list, but here it is. Trinity Universe is the sort of strange JRPG that really makes me love gaming. The only real knock was the lack of production values, which made it seem cheap in comparison to the bigger games this year.

A game that I picked up on a whim, JC2 is like an action film from a different planet. It is surreal and violent and odd. I loved every minute of it.

Not as good as Origins, Awakening gave players the chance to keep playing as their Grey Warden for one more adventure, a proposition I found impossible to resist. Sure, it was short and nowhere near as cool as the original, it was fun while it lasted.

The best motorcycle racing series delivered a heck of a lot of content for a small price. Moto GP 09/10 was the best racing game this year.

Bloody fantastic. Bloody awesome. Just plain bloody. My review of Shankwas enthusiastic for good reason: Shank is a blast to play and deserves a sequel.

What can I say about Red Dead Redemption? Rockstar took a genre that has never worked, wrapped it in the best production ever, and made a truly memorable classic. It would have placed higher on my list, but the multiplayer was not as good as the next title.

Dead Rising 2 was my life in video game form, with a bit of flair. I hope Capcom keeps making Dead Rising games as good as this for years to come.

In January, I was sure TEW 2010 was my game of the year. In October, it was all but a lock. Then, Gran Turismo 5 came out. Perfect? No. The center of my life this winter? Yup. When I schlepped to the GameStop to pick up my pre-ordered copy of Gran Turismo 5, I did so fully aware the game was not complete. In essence, GT5 shipped as a public beta that you had to pay for the retail version to receive. I am truly boggled that there are so many complaints about that online. Truth is, I have been playing this game with every available moment, and a few less than available ones, since it was released because it is the most exhilarating racing game I have ever experienced. Sure, it has been patched three times in as many weeks, with a fourth scheduled for week four. Sure, there are some features that are wanting. The whole, however, is greater than its parts.

Guy Desmarais’ Top Ten
Staff Writer

1. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
2. NBA Jam (Wii)
3. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
4. Rock Band 3 (Wii)
5. Goldeneye (Wii)
6. Plain Sight (PC)
7. NHL 11 (360)
8. Ivy the Kiwi? (Wii)
9. Perfect Dark (360)
10. Super Mario All-Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition (Wii)

2010 was a pretty busy year in terms of gaming for me. I bought many new games, but I also spent much of the year playing retro titles while waiting for the next new release. For example, I have spent more hours than reasonable on a new Ogre Battle 64 campaign, and the anticipation for the release of the Goldeneye remake made me dust off the old cartridge and go through it once more. I realized that when you know the maps by heart, it’s easy to finish this game within an afternoon, so at least not much time was lost on that.

My number ten spot goes to one of these retro games, which received a repackaging for a new generation. Super Mario All-Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition is nothing more than the SNES version with a deluxe instruction booklet included. The price to pay is small though for a game that brings back so many memories, and at the same time, having this game in my top ten marks a spot for all the other retro games I have been playing all year.

Perfect Dark for XBox is different because it is not just a re-release. The game was ported in glorious HD, and included online multiplayer for up to 8 people. This made me realize that I have not been keeping up with the skills of a new generation of players, and that while I may have been the king of multiplayer on the N64 versions, I was better off just staying offline and beating my friends instead.

Ivy the Kiwi? is a surprise entrant for me. I had never heard about the game before receiving it for review purposes, and I expected some kind of throwaway casual game. Instead, I found a fun little concept which mixes action, puzzles and exploration in an inventive way. This title has a lot to offer, and while it is easy to finish the main levels in a couple of days, there are enough things to unlock to keep coming back.

Of course, I had to include NHL 11 in my top 10. The series did not innovate as much as it did last year, but the subtle improvements were enough to still make it one of the most entertaining games of the year. The most notable improvement in my opinion is the revamped body checks, with the impact being different depending on how you hit your opponent. Building a team from scratch using players randomly given to you from a set of cards was also fun and offered a lot of replay value.

Plain Sight is another game which I hadn’t heard of before receiving it. The concept is eye-catching, since it involves ninja robots self-destructing in order to accumulate points, and the innovations it brough to the death matches genre, such as needing to balance the risk points versus the possibility of losing them all if you wait too much, made it a fresh experience. My time spent playing online last year was spent on Left 4 Dead 2, but this year, Plain Sight was the one.

The Goldeneye remake left me cold at first. When I first played it, it quickly became clear that this was in no way the Goldeneye I loved and mastered in the 90s. However, after spending more time with it, I came to appreciate what it did differently, such as the new weapons, the new mission objectives and the huge maps. The multiplayer experience is still fun offline, but the online version is one of the best on the Wii, bar none. It doesn’t require the use of the Friend Codes, and it’s easy to just jump in for a quick game.

Rock Band 3 marks the first time that the Wii version isn’t gimped when compared to the other consoles. You can finally import songs from previous versions of Rock Band, the music store is updated in a timely manner and all of the modes and challenges are present. The game brought in some artists that were sorely missing, such as Queen, and the introduction of keyboards allows the game to up the cheese factor with some numbers from Tears for Fear and Foreigner. There’s something for everyone here, and if a genre is lacking songs, the DLC selection is large enough to satisfy just about every taste.

Donkey Kong Country Returns took everything that was good about the original and expanded on them. The game is much longer than the SNES original, and the graphics are magnificent. The real improvement on this game though is the multiplayer mode. It is like New Super Mario Bros. Wii without the ability to kill your partner as often. It’s easier to play with beginners this way, and if things get too difficult (and they will), then the more experienced player can just take over, still dying about fifty times in a row. It’s a tough game, but it’s fun.

NBA Jam is everything I had hoped for. It brought back the NBA players as superheroes capable of dunking a ball from midcourt, and the result was a sports game that is was exciting as it was hilarious. The pace was frantic, but the controls were still easy to pick up despite some new moves being added to the player’s arsenal. It is still better when played with a second human player, be it cooperatively or against each other, but even the single-player mode adds enough variety to keep things enjoyable. Recommended for playing drunk with your friends, as the announcer’s hilarious calls get even better, and it’s just a great party game all-around.

Finally, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was my favorite game of the year because it took everything I loved about the original and cut out the bullshit to go straight to the fun parts. The hub world was gone, some of the tedious puzzles were removed, and there were more challenging platforming parts than ever. There are also more worlds, with each planet only offering about three stars on average, meaning more variety and lots of different challenges. The addition of Yoshi is also welcome, since we don’t get the Super Mario Sunshine version, which was nothing more than juice-spitting machine. This time, he could actually be useful, floating in the air for a while, taking a hit for you and eating baddies as you would expect him to do. If you have never played a Super Mario Galaxy game before, then you might as well start with SMG2. It is the definitive version.

Michael O’Reilly’s Top Ten
Senior Writer

1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC)
2. Mass Effect 2 (PC)
3. Red Dead Redemption (PS3)
4: Apache Air Assault (PS3)
5: Mafia 2 (PS3)
6: Just Cause 2 (PS3)
7: Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)
8: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (PS3)
9: God of War 3 (PS3)
10: Metro 2033 (PS3)

Metro 2033 was part Doom and part Fallout. The survivors of a nuclear war live in the Moscow Subway, and something new is attacking the people. Whole stations have been lost to the new menace, and it’s up to you to find out what’s going on. The game was fresh and interesting. I am eager to see 2034.

God of War 3 screams EPIC the moment you load it up. The developers went out of their way to think big with this one. No longer contrained by the underpowered PS2, they threw Kratos into situations where BIG isn`t nearly big enough. A fine ending to the trilogy, and one I will play again.

Assassin’s Creed 2 was a fantastic game. It built on the foundation laid by the first game and made it something spectacular. Now a year later, we find that Ubisoft have gone and done it again, making a game which builds on its predecessors strengths while adding its own to the series. Had I gotten to spend more time with this game, I might have ranked it even higher on my list, but as it stands the game is something I will enjoy as often as I can.

VC2 brings more of the goodness that saw Valkyria Chronicles win our game of the year in 2008, but in a more condensed and portable form. I can`t really describe why I liked it as much as I did, the story is not nearly as entertaining as the first one was, and the setting is even more absurd this time around, but the combat is just that entertaining.

JC2 is a game the completely redefines the definition of vast when it comes to distance in a game for me. That, more than anything else, is what made me think of Just Cause 2 when compiling my list for 2010`s best games. Open world sandbox games have always held a promise in my mind that someday open world will mean the entire world. It’s just how these games have progressed. First you had GTA 3 with its city, then they gave us states in San Andreas. Now finally a developer has taken on the challenge to give us an entire country. There is nowhere in the country of Panau that you cannot get to if you set your mind on it. It may take you a while, but with ingenuity and patience you can go from Snow capped mountains to rainforests to arid deserts. The rest of the game is pretty damn solid too! With his unlimited supply of parachutes and a batrope which can grapple onto just about anything, Rico Rodriguez is the character I want at my back when chaos is required.

The sequel to the first Mafia was a disappointment to some people. It wasn`t to me though. With a great story and impressive graphics, the developers really sucked me in. As I gave the game a perfect score for its audio, you know they did something right on that front. I loved how the game had seasons. I loved how weighty the cars felt. They weren`t floating along, they had some meat on their bones. And for a game that featured driving so heavily, it was vital that they did it right. I`d say they did enough right to get on my list of the top ten of 2010.

While I only played Apache Air Assault recently, it soon went from. “Oh neat, a helicopter game.
to, “Oh Sweet! A really good helicopter game!” As I stated in my review, the game is very similar to those simulations of the past, Gunship and James Apache Longbow. My only wish is that the game sells well enough to get a sequel and possibly some DLC, because it clearly deserves them both.

Red Dead Redemption could very easily have been my game of the year. John Marsten was a brilliant character. The story you experience through his eyes is both entertaining yet almost alien in its differences from today. Rockstar did a fantastic job of bringing the old west back to life. My only disappointment is that they could have gone even farther. The more you play the game the more you see things they could have done with it. Still, while it`s no Unforgiven, it`s at least a Hang Em High.

Any other year and Mass Effect 2 would have been my pick for game of the year. It certainly qualifies as my RPG of the year. Watching the introduction to the game, seeing what happens with Commander Sheppard and the crew of the Normandy just kicks you into high gear. Then you start the process of discovering what has changed in the time between games, where people are and what has become of everyone. The writing is fantastic and so too is the voice acting. Graphics are stellar and the audio bows to no man. In short – a damn near perfect game. If only the final boss hadn’t been so cheesy.

With well over 200 hundred hours sunk into the multiplayer portion of Bad Company 2, I’m declaring this my game of the decade, never mind 2010. It just doesn’t get old. With vehicular combat as well as four separate character classes, each with their own unlockable weapons, DICE and EA have gone and made the ultimate Battlefield game. The only negative I can think of is how little support the game received from the developers once the game shipped. No new maps for months on end meant that the community was allowed to dwindle. But happy days are here again. There are four new maps out and soon the Vietnam DLC will be released. Kudos to DICE for making a brilliant game that deserves every award it won’t get.

Mohammad Al-Sadoon’s Top 10
International Correspondent

1. Red Dead Redemption (PS3)
2. Mass Effect 2 (360)
3. Football Manager 2011 (PC)
4. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011(PS3)
5. Super Street Fighter IV(PS3)
6. Warhammer 40k:Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising (PC)
7. Civilization V (PC)
8. Persona 3: Portable (PSP)
9. Battlefield Bad Company 2 (PC)
10. Recettear: An Item shop’s tale (PC)

Even with a life changing move to New Zealand, I managed to keep up with my video gaming hobby rather well this year, which speaks volumes about how messed up my priorities are.

Originally, I didn’t think I’d like Recettear as when I hear the word “anime,” I force those young’uns to sit down and then proceed to rant about how “moe has destroyed anime” and how shit was real “back in the day.” However a bored afternoon and one small demo later and I was completely converted to the cause of Total Global Yayification.

I’m still at a loss to explain how two dudes from the Something Awful forums managed to convince an indie Japanese company to let them translate a their weird and cute capitalism simulator but they did a better job of localizing a Japanese game then many professional companies. Rock on Carpe Fulgur.

The last time I played any title from the Battlefield series was way back in 2005 when Battlefield 2 hit and since then, EA hasn’t allowed DICE to make a proper Battlefield game on PC (2142 doesn’t count) and instead focused on console games.

And while Bad Company 2 has the taint of being a multiplatform title, my PC elitism subsided enough to enjoy an extremely well crafted shooter. The removal of airplanes and the merging of classes were actually an excellent design decision. DICE managed to produce one of the best sounding wargames of all time. This is as close to war as you’re going to get on a computer screen.

It’s been a long time since I’ve truly enjoyed a JRPG I made the jump to the Western side of the RPG spectrum quite a few years ago when I got tired of manic depressive tranny boys with nothing better to do but die or endless grinding in archaic game systems. This kind of made me a little hesitant to buy Persona 3:Portable because the main character looked like a manic depressive tranny boy with nothing better to but die but eventually I folded and bought a cheap used copy of the game.. partially due to everyone screaming at me of how the entire Persona series is the best thing to come out of Japan since that cute piggy bank that shaped like a cat stealing your money. What I discovered was an RPG with a great sense of style, an interesting and morbid story and makes the whole “high school during the day, monster killer at night” shtick work perfectly. Whenever Persona 4:Portable is announced, I’ll have that hot piece of gaming pre-ordered.

I love pretty much anything Sid Meier slaps his name on and I’m pretty sure that most of the gaming world agrees with me. However, what always bugged me about his flagship Civilization series is that the way military conquests were handled. In Civilization 1 through 3, it was the giant stack of doom. In Civ IV, it was slightly modified stacks plus a retarded culture border system that drained conquest of all usefulness. In Civ v they FINALLY get a decent system implemented, No unit stacking and much fewer units means more tactical gameplay, good job Firaxis.

I admit that I bought the Dawn of War II pack on Steam for this and not just the expansion Chaos Rising so it’s sort of cheating to place this in the 2010 list BUT OH WELL! I love Relic. Those Canadians have made some of the best RTS titles ever made and I’ve been following them since they made Impossible Creatures and Homeworld. At first, I really didn’t think the whole “Let’s mix Company of Heroes with Diablo II” idea would work but minutes into the campaign I was slamming down on the enemies of mankind with jetpacks and mutilating them with chain sword, massive guns and giggling with glee at the body count and gore levels. All this is accompanied by an epic orchestral soundtrack complemented by screams, explosions and cries of “FOR THE EMPRAH!” THIS is a man’s strategy game.

Now, I liked vanilla Street Fighter IV and was disappointed when Capcom decided to revert to their bad habits and make a “Super” version of their title. I decided to wait until they released “Super Street Fighter IV Turbo EX: Edition of Champions” but following a promise from Capcom not to mess with additional upgrades and a lowered price point, I picked this game up and wasn’t disappointed. There were loads of new characters, stages, music and stories. Hakan and Juri are excellent new characters in the Street Fighter canon, especially Hakan cause he’s weird as shit.

For the past few years, I’ve had to wallow in shame whenever I mentioned I played Pro Evolution Soccer over EA Sport’s more dominant FIFA series. BUT NOT THIS YEAR! Konami finally got their shit together and produced a top notch footy game with some of the best graphics in any sports game this generation. Sure there are some flaws like shitty commentary, poor loose ball detection and weird first touches but overall, this is the return of the king! So bring on 2012!

I haven’t played a Football Manager game since the 2009 edition as I was pretty happy with it (and still continue to play it) but the changes in how negotiations were handled tipped me into buying the 2011 version and what I discovered was the best Football Manager yet! How do those guys at Sports Interactive conjure up this digital mastery year after year? I have no idea but watching your players stroke the ball around the pitch in 3D match view is a thing of beauty.

I was a huge fan of the original Mass Effect and the sequel was my most anticipated game of 2010. While I was slightly disappointed they decided to shift more into the shooter territory rather than bolster the RPG aspects, everything else in the game received a major upgrade. Graphics, controls, dialogue and cut scenes were all first class througout the entire game and I even kind of liked probing for minerals too! The best thing in the whole game is that I finally had the option of romancing Tali. I’m weird like that.

Despite being a huge fan of western movies, I really didn’t think very highly of Red Dead Redemption. I was already disappointed with how GTA IV turned out (“Want to go bowling, cousin?”) and I was one of the few who played the first game in the series, Red Dead Revolver. Suffice to say it wasn’t very good and I didn’t expect the sequel to be much better.

Then the game came out and everyone who played it was blown away by how good it was and I made it my first purchase with my brand new PS3 and I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the few videogames that perfectly encapsulates what a spaghetti western should feel like and John Marston is probably the best character the dudes at Rockstar have ever written. The only flaw that I can see is that due to the game’s GTA style open world environment, the game’s story couldn’t reach the heights of some classic spaghetti westerns which could have been achieved with a more scripted style of play. It will be interesting to see how Rockstar deal with this when they release their long awaited film noir police game , LA Noire, in 2011.

Overall, I really enjoyed 2010 as a videogame year and many of the games I enjoyed were actually titles I brushed off back in January. Here’s hoping 2011 has just as many surprises in store.

Sean Madson’s Top Ten
Staff Writer

1. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
2. Mass Effect 2 (360)
3. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP)
4. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP)
5. Rock Band 3 (360)
6. Dead Rising 2 (360)
7. Red Dead Redemption (360)
8. Darksiders (360)
9. Alan Wake (360)
10. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360)

If there’s one thing to say about 2010, it’s that not only was there a steady stream of excellent titles this year, but they were far more spread out than previous years. Almost every month had at least one game to look forward to, which made staying caught up on all the new releases that much easier. This isn’t to say that I am caught up (I still have to play through God of War III and Dragon Quest IX, among others), I at least don’t feel as overwhelmed as I normally do around the holiday season.

Another thing I noticed in comparison to last year, I had a much more difficult time limiting my list to just ten games. In doing so, I somehow omitted any games for Nintendo consoles as well as downloadable titles. A quick shout out to Metroid: Other M, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game for their status as, “awesome-but-not-quite-top-ten-awesome.”

As much as I played Halo and other multiplayer FPS titles in high school and college, some of the modern games just aren’t doing it for me. Perhaps I’ve grown tired of hearing the derogatory remarks of my often juvenile opponents, but I’m no longer excited to play games like Halo: Reach or the annual Call of Duty releases. This is why Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was such a refreshing title for me last spring. Since many of the game’s multiplayer modes are so heavily reliant on teamwork, the game’s community seems less volatile and more willing to work towards a common goal. Granted, much of my time online was spent playing with co-workers, but even alone I could enjoy talking to my teammates. It helps that the single player was both humorous and well paced, making this game a total package.

Alan Wake wasn’t even on my radar for much of the year, making it a welcome surprise when I picked up the collector’s edition a few weeks ago. The gameplay reminded me (strangely enough) of a darker version of Luigi’s Mansion and although it was repetitive at times, was a total blast to play. The storyline is what really hooked me, as it played out like a well written, interactive horror novel. Despite the game’s questionable resolution that sets it up for the DLC (which in turn sets it up for a sequel), I can forgive it for the enjoyable journey it was getting there.

Taking all of your favorite things and throwing them into a melting pot can spell disaster, especially when you’re talking about games as diverse as the Legend of Zelda, God of War, Prince of Persia, and even Portal. In the case of Darksiders, however, this odd mixture of game mechanics pays off in spades. Don’t let the lack of originality fool you. This was a wonderful title that borrows all the best things from some of my favorite games. Now if only my other favorite things in life could blend together this well. Cheeseburgers and ice cream, anyone? No? I thought not.

Speaking of odd mixtures, Red Dead Redemption was a mixture of things that I’m not particularly a fan of: Grand Theft Auto and westerns. It somehow takes very likeable characters, plops them in an open world setting, and turns you loose. All while introducing multiplayer as well as fun gunslinging and lasso mechanics. And to think, I would have overlooked this one completely had it not been for the sake of doing a review. Touche, Rockstar. Touche.

I had a lot of complaints about the original Dead Rising. Namely the fact that the game is one big escort mission, the fact that the entire game is timed, and the fact that you have limited opportunities to save. Dead Rising 2 also has all that stuff and yet I still loved it. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the A.I. Of the rescued civilians has gotten a tune up and the addition of being able to combine weapons offers a whole new wealth of options in zombie disposal. Being able to slay zombies with a buddy is icing on the cake.

Rock Band 3 was practically a shoo-in for my top ten. I can’t even attend a party without a RB title being dragged out. I remember when Rock Band 2 had first come out and I said to myself that the only way they could improve on the formula is by introducing a new instrument such as a keyboard. Well, the keyboard is here finally, and although it can’t be used by a fifth of the songs on the disk, it’s still a welcome addition. I expect my instrument peripherals will be seeing a lot of use in the months to come.

Like many others, I was sad to see that one of my favorite PS3 games would not be getting a followup on the same console. Rather, it would be on a portable system instead. My fears quickly subsided once I finally had the chance to try Valkyria Chronicles II. Sure, the story wasn’t as good and the inability to save during battle on a handheld game made me scratch my head a bit. But the gameplay was as good as ever and was even improved in some areas. Not to mention the level of content was staggering. Here’s hoping that VCIII can carry on the tradition.

Even though the portable versions of the Kingdom Hearts franchise have been all around good and gradually getting better, they’ve never really been great. Until now. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep nailed the formula so well, that it deserves to stand alongside KH and KHII as the must play titles in the series. The franchise is starting to pick up momentum, slowly becoming one of the major pillars in Square-Enix’s lineup. As long as future titles can maintain the quality of this one, I’m okay with that.

I generally like Bioware games (Dragon Age: Origins is my current vice right now) and the original Mass Effect was no exception. It created a detailed sci-fi universe that had me exploring every planet that it would allow me to, all while accompanied by well developed characters that I actually gave a damn about. This is how you do an RPG… or a third-person shooter… or whatever you want to call it. To think that Mass Effect 2 took all that and made it better. The gameplay was more refined, the characters were even more interesting than the previous cast, and every decision you made influenced whether or not you or your crew even survived the game. It was love at first playthrough.

I’m betting my fellow staffers are rolling their eyes at my number one pick. However, there were a few things I had to consider when I made the choice. First of all, I sunk about a hundred hours into Final Fantasy XIII and there were still things I had left unfinished. Keep in mind, I feel so far behind in regards to my backlog of unplayed games that I typically will play the minimum amount required to finish a title before moving onto the next. This level of time investment in one game is almost unheard of coming from me. That’s saying something.There’s also the fact that I took off an entire week of work in anticipation of this game and of that time off, I played it all day, every day. Now here’s the million dollar question: would I do all that again? Yes, I would. FFXIII may be far from the best that the franchise has to offer, but its addictive combat system had me hooked from the beginning until well beyond its conclusion. That’s more than I can say for its MMO counterpart, Final Fantasy XIV, which failed so hard in my eyes that I can’t even stomach playing during all of the free months that Square-Enix keeps giving me. So, does FFXIII have its fair share of flaws? Yes. Is it hard to recommend to other people? Definitely. Do I care about all that? Not one bit. I would gladly replay it just as I have its predecessors.

And that’s my top ten of 2010. As others have said, here’s hoping that 2011 brings as many wonderful games my way as this year has. I’m looking forward to another year with more hits than I can fit on a top ten list!

D.J. Tatsujin’s Top Ten
Head of Public Relations

1. Dead Rising 2 (360)
2. Game Room (360)
3. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (360)
4. DJ Max Portable 3 (PSP)
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (360)
6. Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (360)
7. DeathSmiles (360)
8. Plants Vs. Zombies (360)
9. Comic Jumper (360)
10. Deadly Premonition (360)

Coming up with ten titles this year was quite a stretch for me. Even though there were a decent number of really great titles, most of the games I played this year did little to assist them in a rise above mediocrity. With that being said, being a bit more studious this semester, I just found myself running low on free time and 2010 was “the year of digital for me.” I received most of my enjoyment from quick bursts of entertainment in this year’s games and here is how my picks break down:

Slot number 10 is akin to a “wild card” pick for me – Deadly Premonition was a value title that slid under the radar for the Xbox 360, bringing a very Twin Peaks-esque horror mystery to the system. When you take a first glance at Deadly Premonition, there isn’t much to take in, but what seals the deal for me is the colorful cast of characters and zany dialogue. I mean, the main character spends his car rides talking about movies with an imaginary friend and he forecasts his day by observing what shapes the cream in his morning coffee take. Those used to J-horror actions games such as Blue Stinger will be able to adjust to the nuances of the game quicker than others, but what Deadly Premonition shows you with its expansive world and cast is there is a lot to dig up from underneath the game’s oft-putting surface and the action isn’t too shabby either.

Out of all of my picks this year, Comic Jumper was probably the one I didn’t expect taking such a liking to at first. The reason the game works so well is it produces a universe so coherent and fleshed out, one could actually expect Captain Smiley to be a real-life, full-fledged comic series. This happens because, in reality, the series is the childhood work of one of the team members. Throw in some challenging run and gun action, a ton of extremely interesting unlockables and a load of humor and you have one of 2010’s most interesting action titles.

How could I not be intrigued by a game titled Plants Vs. Zombies? How could the plants even have a chance? With PopCap at the helm, the team not only makes the premise work, but has also pieced together what I believe to be the finest Tower Defense game ever made. Joining the Xbox LIVE Arcade format, the title receives a huge shot in the arm with additional modes, mulitplayer features and a ton of replayability. It’s scary how much there is to do in this title and it should keep most players coming back time and again.

DeathSmiles actually appears for the second year in a row on my list, thanks to being introduced in the Japanese territory in 2009. With Aksys doing the publishing honors for the title in the U.S., I get the exact same game, except in English. Multiple characters and game paths will keep players coming back for more and the dual direction shooting allows for some intense firefights from both sides of the player. The bosses are also large and in charge, making DeathSmiles the finest shoot ’em up title for the year. Let’s hope we get to see the sequel hit our shores as well.

Coming into the year, I was afraid to put anything in my consoles featuring Sonic the Hedgehog, but when the year kicked off with Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, my curiosity led to the enjoyment of one of my favorite titles for the year. Sumo Digital actually created a competent kart racer full of colorful and recognizable characters and placed them on well-designed tracks. Full of different game modes, power-ups and online features, All-Stars Racing hangs on to be one of the very few kart racers able to keep pace with the beast known as Mario Kart.

My love for River City Ransom is probably a large reason why I can resonate with Scott Pilgrim so well. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is an instantly gratifying beat ’em up action for up to four players and the concentration on leveling up characters and hoarding money to purchase goods to permanently raise stats leads to some nostalgic moments. Everything from the graphics to the sound to the gameplay exudes classic charm and even if you’ve never read a single Scott Pilgrim comic or ventured out to see the movie (the game follows the comic more and I found myself enjoying the print version better, anyway).

DJ Max rang in at number 10 with me last year with its first U.S. release of FEVER, but when Pentavision aimed at a worldwide release for its newest title, DJ Max Portable 3, rhythm gamers received what was easily the best music game experience of the year. Full of challenge and original music to discover, DJ Max provides players with hours of gameplay thanks to its challenge courses and score of unlockable content. The series has also been known for being rich with its media and DJ Max Portable 3 doesn’t disappoint on this front with beautiful videos, menus and banners. DJ Max Portable 3 is one of those rare treats for both the eyes and ears and given the weak performance of the PSP this year, the title stands tall as one of 2010’s best.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is my second-favorite video game of all time, so it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine why I could get sucked into Harmony of Despair. Even though the title falls really flat as a single-player experience, the team of HD finally nailed down what an expansive multiplayer Castlevania experience could potentially be. Even though there are only six environments to tackle, each is massive in design and the wide mix of characters and items to collect will have players hitting the stages numerous times, similar to Phantasy Star Online. It wasn’t a perfect title, but it hit all of the right chords for me and kept me coming back time and again.

While this might not be a popular choice, there are very few games I spent more time with this year than Game Room. While it serves as a stretch in that Game Room is a micro-transaction collection of classic game titles, I’ve found nostalgic solace in a number of the applications offerings. The service has seen a number of ups and downs, especially during the stretch where a number of asinine VCS and Intellivision titles were being thrown in for no reason, but those abandoning the Game Room may want to check out again with the new updates to see how much more intuitive the menus and rankings are. For me, the recent selections have been great as a number of obscure Konami cabinets have been offered and this is what I wanted from the service – bring out those old arcade titles I can’t find anywhere. If we could just enjoy a few more publishers on the format, Game Room could be retro heaven.

Finally, my number one pick for the year has to go to Dead Rising 2. Much like other games on my list, Dead Rising 2 wasn’t perfect. It had issues, but, in the end, I had fun playing it. A lot of fun. The combo cards add a neat twist and a number of cool toys to play with and by easing off the time management and difficulty, players can actually enjoy a bloody massacre of the zombies littering Fortune City. With so much to do and so many subtle hidden items to discover, Dead Rising 2 is a game that can be played many times over while still being able to find something new each time. When you further consider the ability to team up with a friend, Dead Rising 2 becomes a blast to play and sticks out as my most memorable gaming experience of 2010.

Mark B.’s Top Ten
Senior Editor

1. Mass Effect 2 (360)
2. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (NDS)
3. Dead Rising 2 (360)
4. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (PS2)
5. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage (360)
6. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (360)
7. Splatterhouse (360)
8. Deathsmiles (360)
9) Yakuza 3 (PS3)
10. Bayonetta (360)

I don’t know how 2010 is going to ultimately be judged, in terms of overall quality, but I can say that I’ve had a good amount of fun this year. A lot of fantastic games came out that, if I had a longer list, would be all over it, including the wonderfully Mario Kart inspired Blur, the fast paced nail’d, the hard hitting Vanquish, the dungeon crawling Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the challenging and fun Monster Hunter Tri, and more. Unfortunately, I only get ten spots to highlight my favorite games this year, so let’s get to it.

It’s hard to remember the games of the beginning of the year at the end of the year unless they stand out, and that’s something that Bayonetta does in spades. Taking the gameplay of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is a ridiculous and memorable character who is absolutely shameless and incredibly badass, and the game is a riot. The game discards any semblance of trying to be grounded in reality and creates a universe where invisible angels that look like your worst nightmares attempt to assault a lead who can turn her clothing into dragons and breakdances while firing guns out of her feet, and if I have to explain why that’s awesome, you should yell at your parents for not encouraging your imagination when you were a kid.

The Yakuza series has become a favorite of mine. Taking the elements that would have made Shenmue awesome if the game hadn’t become eighty million pounds of boring and sticking them onto a series of organized crime stories, the franchise has become my favorite modern Sega franchise. Yakuza 3 continues that trend by bringing the franchise to the PS3, which tacks a visual upgrade onto a fantastic combat system and plot, and the results are everything I wanted. Kazuma is still a compelling, complex character who is likable despite his penchant for shattering faces, and it’s exciting following him through his adventures, enough so that I’m looking forward to Yakuza 4 already.

While shooters turn up on the Xbox Live and PSN services, finding one that’s truly special is quite rare anymore, or so it feels like. Deathsmiles is one of those rarities, a shooter that is not only “great”, but is great IN SPITE of the ridiculous concept of “super powered gothic lolitas fighting weird demons”. The game is aesthetically amazing, the mechanics are surprisingly involved, and the fact that the game actually has a solid storyline and MULTIPLE ENDINGS (!) is, with that alone, a major step forward for the genre. The game comes with multiple revisions as well, which just feels like an added bonus on top of everything else, and the overall package is like something Working Designs would have released back in the day. Here’s hoping we see Deathsmiles II over in the states next year.

As I noted in my review, I’m a huge fan of the Splatterhouse franchise, so anything that was associated with that was likely to make my list of favorite games of the year. That said, Splatterhouse ended up being surprisingly good, given all of the drama surrounding it, the bad first impression it left on me at E3, and the undesirable change of Rick’s appearance. It helps that it comes with the first three games on the disc, and it doesn’t hurt that a lot of the in-game music is remixed versions of the tracks from the older games. The game has its flaws, as I’m not a huge fan of the metal soundtrack or the nudie pictures of Jennifer throughout the game, but underneath the blood and nudity and shock value antics, there’s a game that gets what the franchise is about, and while it doesn’t always show that, it does so enough that I enjoyed it so much that I felt I HAD to include the game as a result.

Well, I’ve lost close to two whole days of my life to Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, so I obviously liked it. Surprisingly enough, a multiplayer Castlevania game works on a level I can’t describe, as running through a level with friends, slaughtering Dracula and friends to level up and get new gear is surprisingly close to mimicking the MMO model, but in a way that doesn’t offend in the same way something like Worlds of Warcraft might. It helps that all of the characters have their uses and values in battle, and that the game is a blast with multiple players. Unfortunately, they’ve also shown that they’re going to go the Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom route of nerfing characters because players aren’t using them in the way the developers intended, so I’ve abandoned the game entirely, but I enjoyed the game for a good six months at least.

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage seems like Koei’s first steps towards trying to change things up a little from the normal Dynasty Warriors concept, and if such is the case, it’s a good one. Granted, I’m a fan of the franchise, and the idea of a dude punching someone so fast his fists become a blur, followed by said punched dude exploding, is awesome. That aside, though, Ken’s Rage actually feels like an evolution for the series, due in large part to the fact that the game isn’t exclusively about taking over bases and obliterating millions of dudes, and features more standard third person action segments that feel, well, refreshing given the game in question. It also doesn’t hurt that there are a large amount of characters to play as in the game, nor that each character comes equipped with a whole mess of skills to unlock, and it’s great that the game feels authentic to the product. Also, shattering Jagi’s face is satisfying, so there’s that.

Seeing as how Sakura Wars: So Long My Love is the only game in the series we’ll be getting (THANKS SONY! DROWN IN A RIVER OF PISS!), it’s good that it’s fantastic. I mean, I like dating simulators, but if you like Bioware RPG’s chances are good that you do too so you can shut up. Sakura Wars manages to make the dating simulator aspect work beyond how you’d expect, however, by complicating the dating simulator aspects. Not only do you have to pick the right choices based on the person you’re talking to, but there are mini-games involved in doing so that limit the time you have and make the act more complex. It doesn’t hurt that the strategy portions of the game are also a lot of fun, nor that the plot is quite engaging and surprisingly well written. It’s really a shame that this is likely the first and last time we’ll ever see a Sakura Wars game in the US, but it’s a very good thing that we saw one game, at least.

I like cutting zombies in half with a chainsaw-laden boat paddle, so it’s about time that a video game spoke to my needs, which Dead Rising 2 does. I mean, look, I could talk about the improved gameplay mechanics, the improved survivor AI, the online multiplayer, and everything else that makes this game great, but come now. Kayak paddle. With chainsaws taped to the end. Really? Do I need to spell this out?

So, I played like five DS games this year, and two of them were demos at the Natsume booth at E3. I’m not really interested in Dragon Quest or Pokemon titles, honestly, and if we hadn’t received a review copy of Etrian Odyssey III I lwouldn’t have bothered with it. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors really… spoke to me when I first saw it, however. I knew next to nothing about the game, but the amazing artwork and the demo on the official website were enough to sell me on the game… and I’m glad they did. At its core, 999 is basically your typical adventure game with some atypical puzzles, but what drives the game isn’t the mechanics, but the outstanding storyline and character development. Few games have moved me on the level that 999 did, and the fact that the game did so without voice acting, or fancy graphics, or high production values is a wonderful thing. Bar none, 999 was the best DS game I played this year, and in any other year, would likely be at the top of my personal list overall.

But this isn’t any other year, this is the year Mass Effect 2 came out, and to say that I’ve been playing it off and on for the entire year is not an exaggeration. Third person shooters are a dime a dozen, and Mass Effect 2 offers a shooting experience that’s as enjoyable as any other, but the fact is that Shepard is a fantastic character, and his crew members equally so, to a point where I can point to this over others in the genre and say that I care what happens in this universe. I’ve bought all of the DLC for the game, and I’ve come away from each bit of add-on content feeling that the purchase was a good one. I mean, at the end of the day my favorite game of the year was a multi-million dollar sequel to a hyped game, and the game in question was itself hyped up, but this was one of those rare experiences where the hype did not let me down when I picked up the game and played it, and I think that deserves rewarding.

Jonathan Widro’s Top Ten

1. Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing (PS3)
2. After Burner Climax (PS3)
3. Sonic Colors (Wii)
4. Limbo (360)
5. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
6. Kirby Epic Yarn (Wii)
7. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
8. God of War 3 (PS3)
9. Bayonetta (360)
10. Rocket Knight (PS3)

For platforming fans, 2010 will go down as the best year for platformers in modern gaming history, and perhaps ever. The re-explosion of 2D was in full force this year, with not only major players like Nintendo and Konami but also new developers tackled 2D in all new ways.

Clearly I had a soft spot for arcade-style games from Sega, with both Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing and After Burner Climax dominating the first part of my year. After Mario Kart Wii was such a disappointment, I was hopeful that Sega could produce a truly next-generation kart racer, and they did just that. Sonic Racing is a tuned, balanced and fun platformer with stunning HD graphics. It’s too bad slow sales prevented deeper DLC support, but Sega made a game for fans and delivered in a big way. After Burner Climax is beautiful and fun, and despite having only 15 minutes of game, can be played and re-played endlessly.

Sonic Colors was Sega’s best Sonic game in a year of many – it was better than Sonic 4 in a big way. Imagine it in HD! Limbo took a black & white take on 2D puzzle gaming to amazing success. It was hard not to be drawn in by the game, which ended up as a sleeper hit over the summer.

Nintendo delivered three incredible platformers in 2010 with Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby Epic Yarn and Super Mario Galaxy 2. All three were both familiar and unique at the same time, and each took a different but enjoyable take on platforming.

It’s hard not to also note some of the amazing 3D Platformer/Action titles in 2010, notable God of War 3 and Bayonetta. In a year where it seemed like dozens of like-games were released, these two stand apart with cutting edge graphics, and deep and responsive gameplay. Enslaved0 was also a really strong entry.

Finally it was a strong year for arcade racing titles, with Split/Second, Blur, ModNation Racers, Hydro Thunder Hurricane and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. All providing solid takes on arcade racing with new spins.

Alexander Lucard’s Top 10
Editor In Chief

1. Trinity Universe (PS3)
2. Atelier Rorona (PS3)
3. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (Wii)
4. Sakura Wars, So Long My Love (PS2)
5. Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver (NDS)
6. Darkstar – The Interactive Movie (PC)
7. Costume Quest (PS3)
8. ZHP: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman (PSP)
9. Cladun: This is an RPG (PSP)
10. Heavy Rain (PS3)

2010 was a weird year for me. This was one of those years were most of the games released were pretty decent and/or fun, but there was nothing that was truly jaw dropping or amazing. Compare that to last year where there was an inordinate amount of crap put out, but when something was good, it was AMAZING. I reviewed sixty-two games this year and although I wasn’t floored by anything I certainly enjoyed most of what I played. Sure there were disappointments like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and some really crappy games like Grotesque Tactics and Walk it Out, but most of what I played through in 2010 was enjoyable…if not memorable.

There are a few honourable mentions here. Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith was all but Phantasy Star V in name. Endless Ocean: Blue World was a fine sequel to the first game, Ys Seven became my favorite game in the series since Books I and II, and both Marvel and DC put out enjoyable brawlers based on their latest cartoon shows in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet. However much like these honourable mentions, most of my top ten games are obscure or niche titles since the big budget releases really held no appeal for me (except for Fallout: New Vegas and Valkyria Chronicles II, neither of which I’ve had the chance to play yet.). I should also note that are two noticeable trends in my list. The first is that nearly every game had a good dose of (or was primarily) comedy. The other is that six of the ten games are JRPGs, which is unusual since I grew up with Western RPGS on my PC like Planescape, The Bard’s Tale, Fallout and more. Whoever said JRPGs are a lost cause hasn’t been playing the right games.

Although I had problems with some of the story and acting in the English version of the game (Seriously, the French acting is so much better), Heavy Rain was the game that brought adventure games back from the PC where they’ve primarily hung out for the past decade. I’m a big fan of the genre and so I loved getting a big budget multi branching point and click title. Again, aside from a few issues with continuity and plot reconciliation, this really should be how the adventure format should proceed. Unfortunately even Sony and Quanticdream abandoned the genre as quickly as they embraced it and the DLC Heavy Rain Chronicles never came to pass.

Cladun: This is an RPG was a fun combination of action RPG gameplay and roguelike’s randomly generated dungeon. It was one of the most unique (and twisted) games I’ve played this year and it’s telling that this budget RPG had more character classes and customization than full budget console titles. Also I made both Optimus Prime and Laharl. Now that’s a tag team!

Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman definitely wins the award for the weirdest name for a game this year, but it was also one of the best. It was a great rougelike that offered the usual Nippon Ichi insane humor. Again, there was a lot of character customization here (which is mainly what I look for in a RPG) and a story that had me laughing from beginning to end.

Costume Quest is the first RPG by Tim Shafer. This was another downloadable mini RPG, but the plot and gameplay was big draw for me, as was the Halloween theme. You can definitely tell this was by the guy that gave us The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle. Now if only we could get Doublefine’s storytelling to combine with Quanticdream’s programming .

Darkstar was a game ten years in the making. This was by far and away the best Adventure game I’ve played in two and a half years and the best Full Motion Video title since, well…possibly ever. The fact I generally hate sci-fi should be all the more telling that the game is up this high. With a great script, some fun puzzles and the cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 getting some acting credits, Darkstar proved to be well worth the wait.

Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver starts off my top five and would probably be even higher if I hadn’t spent a good portion of 2008 and 2009 working on it, playing it and writing about it, combined with spending much of this year doing the same thing. Pokemon burnout baby. Still, HGSS is one of the best games of the year, even as a remake, and it reminded many a Pokefan just why they fell in love with the franchise a decade ago.

Sakura Wars: So Long My Love falls into a similar category as Pokemon in that it would have been higher on my list if I hadn’t played and beaten it several times since 2005. I loved seeing it in English and was happy that Nippon Ichi brought it over. Here’s also where I give a big middle finger to both Atlus and Sega for always teasing the release of the series but never following through. Also two of them to Sony for not allowing Nippon Ichi to bring both I and II over on the same UMD for PSP. Visual novel, my ass. Once again American gamers miss out on what is one of the most successful and popular series of all time, because a lot of higher-ups at publishers are idiots.

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom was a wonderful fighter and although I found both versions of Street Fighter IV to be a bit lackluster compared to II and III’s many editions, this game not only reminded me why I love Capcom fighters, but it also gave my Wii quite a workout. Between this game, Endless Ocean 2, Secret Files and Haunted House, my Wii got more use than my DS. Ouch.

I was surprised how much I loved Atelier Rorona, seeing as I’ve been lukewarm to most of the Atelier series to this point. With over thirty ending combinations, an open world/sandbox feeling and a ton of stuff to do, I was surprisingly addicted to this game from beginning to end. I loved the entire cast and crew of the game and each play through was guaranteed to be dramatically different from the last. This was my surprise hit of the year and it was definitely a game I didn’t expect to like, much less love.

My #1 game this year surprised me on paper. I mean generally when I hear, “Idea Factory,” I cringe. However, they were only one third of the development team behind this game. Gust, makers of the aforementioned Aterlier Rorona, Mana Khemia and Ar Tonelico titles (All quite popular with the staff here at DHGF) and Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea teams helped co-develop the game. Although there is truth to the adage that too many cooks spoil the broth, this time the end result was magic and one of the most underrated and underplayed games of 2010. The battle engine was the best in a turn based JRPG since Shadow Hearts and required you to actually have precision timing and skill rather than just selecting actions from a menu. The game offered wonderful characters from other games like Disgaea and Atelier Violet, but it was the original characters that made me love this game. Demon Dog King Kanata is my favorite new character of 2010 and although he’ll never appear in another game, I’ll never stop wishing he would. The game is just non-stop laughter and it’s one of the few RPGs that never ends, even after you beat the story. Hell, there’s two different stories to play through and both play quite differently from the other. I could go on and on, but Trinity Universe was the game that made me smile the most in 2010 and that’s really what counts. If you get the chance to pick it up, do so. You won’t regret it.



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3 responses to “Diehard GameFAN 2010 Staff Commentaries”

  1. […] *This was originally written for DieHard GameFAN. It can be found here. […]

  2. AFN Avatar

    I like all of the Battlefield Bad Company 2 love. Expected to see a bit more love for Kirby however

  3. […] who you ask. I personally loved the game, and put it as my number one game of 2010 when we did our Staff Commentaries […]

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