The Top Ten Games of Q3 2011

So, now that the third quarter of 2011 is behind us, it’s safe to say that it was disappointing to a lot of gamers. Games like X-Men Destiny were outright terrible. Both Street Fighter III: Third Strike HD and Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection were released with noticeable issues and lag. Games like Dead Island and Catherine were decent, but unable to live up to the massive amount of hype surrounding them (but what could, really?)

At the same time, September began the end of the year rush in which every company tries to put out their best products between September and November, causing far more competition and thus less disposable income to be had than if companies spaced their games out and put a high quality title out during the using summer drought. Q3 2011 also saw releases like Out of the Park Baseball 12, Gears of War 3 and Radiant Silvergun. All of these are incredibly well received games…that I unfortunately didn’t get to play this quarter because I was too busy reviewing horror shows like Vampire Saga: Welcome To Hell Lock. I bring this up because this list can (and should) only be made of games I played from Q3 2011. Sure I’ve played Radiant Silvergun on my Saturn, but that shouldn’t get the 360 version of RS a spot on the countdown (It will get it a spot as a GOTY contender though…).

So as always, this list is based on my own personal tastes and preferences of the games released in Q3 2011. I played thirty-six releases that came out between July first and September 30th, which is probably more than any sane person should. Feel free to comment, conjecture and complain about the list below and let me see your own list for the quarter. I’d love to see what I might have missed and see if you pick up anything listen on this countdown. If you’re interested in the previous Top Ten lists for the year, click here for Q1 and here for Q2.

Honourable Mention: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team

I’ll admit I was never into the tabletop version of Warhammer 40K> I preferred either the pen and paper game or the fantasy miniatures war game. I still kind of miss my old school Undead and Bretonnian sets. I never played. I just found painting them soothing. I also wasn’t very happy with ANY of the Warhammer video games I played before this -especially the two terrible ones for the PSX. So this probably has you wondering why I Kill Team a chance. Well the truth is, I’m a sucker for old school hack and slash shoot ’em ups like Smash TV and this had a nice budget price being a downloadable game and all. Add in the ability for four player orc killing co-op and I just couldn’t say no to it.

I’m glad I didn’t because Kill Team was a blast. Sure it was insanely difficult to solo through the latter missions of the game, but it got everything right about Warhammer that the fantasy RTS games got disastrously wrong. Add in four playable character types and six choices of Space Marines (Blood Ravens!) and you have yourselves a game that is well worth the $14.99 price tag attached to it. It’s frantic, it captures the essence of Warhammer 40K perfectly and it was a lot of fun to play. If you’re ever in the need for a good Librarian to help your Space Marine out, feel free to drop me a line via PSN. I’m always willing to slag a few greenskins.

#10: Back to the Future Episode V: Outatime

Well, I suppose it would be a list by yours truly if there wasn’t a point and click adventure game on it somewhere, right? Honestly, I’m surprised Episode V made it up this high. Much like Mohammad (who reviewed all five episodes for us), I was less than impressed with the Back to the Future games. In fact, I thought it was the worst Telltale episodic series yet. Two things helped Episode make claim the last spot on this countdown. The first is that this was a really lackluster quarter. The second is that Episode V was really, really good – especially in the story area. It probably also didn’t hurt that I was playing it on the PS3 instead of the PC and the series really felt designed for a controller instead of a keyboard like poor Mohammad had to experience it with. I’ll admit the only thing that kept me from
regretting my pre-order of the series (first game you could pre-order on PSN by the way) was that a portion of the pre-orders went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

From the return of Michael J. Fox to the role of not one but TWO McFlys to the puzzles finally being on par with what you would expect from a high quality adventure game, Back to the Future Episode V made up for all the issues I had with the previous four pieces. The voice acting was top notch as always using a lot of the original cast in the roles they made famous, including Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown. The ending was a LOT of fun and it promises a second season of games. My hope is that the next season of Back to the Future keeps up with the same quality as Outatime. Don’t let the series backslide Telltale.

Would Outatime have made the cut in another quarter? Probably not. The real question is whether or not any of the Jurassic Park episodes will make it into the top ten when that set of games is released in a few weeks.

#9: Bleach: Soul Resurreccion

Like #10 on this countdown, #9 is another odd duck. You see, I had never bothered to watch or read Bleach before this game, and I only reviewed it because DJ (who actually knew the series) was about to become a dad. I watch some of the anime and picked up a few issues of the manga off to familiarize myself with the characters and storyline. Guess what? I couldn’t stand either. It was like Dragon Ball Z but with more standing around talking. Ick. I guess I’ll always lean more towards anime series like Slayers, Robotech and Cowboy Bebop.

So with that in mind it’s probably surprising that Soul Resurreccion made it to the list. I only understood one out of every three words in the story as it was extremely unfriendly to newcomers in that regard, but if asked a person who had never played King of Fighters ’98 or Street Fighter II what the story was after they played it briefly, they’d probably be just as lost. The engine however, was what helped Soul Resurreccion make the list. It was a really fun mindless hack and slash game that reminded me of a third person Gauntlet with occasionally really bad camera angles. I had no idea what I was killing or even who I was playing as (except for a few characters) , but I had fun doing it. The game LOOKED like an anime with brilliant cut scenes and excellent visuals that did the franchise justice. It used the actual voice actors from the series and the music was extremely catchy as well. Story Mode offered fourteen missions, Mission Mode offered another twenty-eight more and in order to platinum the game, you’d have to play the game for AT LEAST 98 hours. How insane is that? With twenty one different playable characters, and a ton of options, Bleach Soul: Resurreccion was one of the best licensed anime games I’ve played since the Hamtaro series for the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance (Seriously, they’re really good. Even Matt Yeager liked them!) and considering how many BAD anime games are out there, it’s nice to see one that is quality, even if it’s not for a series I’m a fan of.

Best of all was the character customization system. You earn XP as the game goes on for each character, and it can be used to develop your character in many different ways, such as more health, more damage, a longer special power bar and so on. There are so many ways to customize your character that it’s a Bleach fan’s dream come true. It’s similar to the customization system in Digital Devil Saga, but with an added emphasis on leveling up other characters in addition to the one you are using.

Would Bleach: Soul Resurreccion have made it into the top ten in a more competitive quarter? Probably not, but that doesn’t make it any less fun and a must own for anyone who likes the series or manga.

#8: Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter

At the end of Q1 2011, I openly admitted my love and addiction to Dragons Age: Legends, a tactical Facebook RPG that was a spin-off from Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. Well, six months later, I’ve found another really good Facebook game that old school PC RPG fans will love. It’s Heroes of Neverwinter, a Facebook game based off the recently released Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter Campaign Setting. It’s free to play and you never have to purchase anything with real money as eventually, it’s all available in game. It’s very similar to early SSI Gold Box AAD&D video games like Pools of Radiance but with fourth edition rules. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of 4e at all, but I’ve always said it would make a great video game engine if applied right. Well, after the horror that was Daggerdale I had my doubts that it could be applied correctly. Thank Moradin Heroes of Neverwinter proved me wrong.

I log on at least once a day to play an adventure. I’ve maxed out three characters, Kheldon the human cleric who insists he is a dwarf, Lady Hardwang the transsexual Eladrin and Chlyamidia the Eladrin thief. I’m currently working up Anus Mcgee, the Dragonborn Warrior to level five. It’s a nice old school above head RPG that captures the D&D experience better than anything since Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2. You can use your friends’ character to go adventuring with you and random strangers can hire your own creations if they are on par with them level-wise. Currently Lady Hardwang is one of the most requested allies in the game (based on the dozen or so friend requests I get on Facebook a day and the insane amount of times she’s used by other people in a 24 hour period) because she has the highest initiative out of any player character so far…which is also why I gave her such a terrible, terrible name and I’ve been pretty involved with the community, watching praise being showered on the game and a lot of complaints whenever the engine is changed in some way.

In the game perfect? Not even close. You’ll max out at Level 10 quickly and then there’s nothing to do but make a new character and start over. There are only four races and four classes (no elves or dwarves BTW) and the current interface is terrible compared to the original one, but it’s still a fun game and one of the best free games I’ve seen on Facebook so far. Unlike a lot of Facebook titles that are just occasionally clicking a button every few hours, Heroes of Neverwinter is an actual true RPG in every sense of the word and it’s can be a lot of fun. Hell, you can even make your own dungeons for people to play in…although the creation system isn’t very good. Hey, at least the option’s there, right? If you’re looking for a free RPG to play, it hard to think of anything better than Heroes of Neverwinter. Dragon Age Legends? Once they added PvP and Raids, I lost all interest in that. I like my RPGs to be co-operative, not competitive – and this is coming from someone with savant like min/maxing abilities.

#7: Wicked Monsters BLAST!

Most light gun games are geared for adults. Titles like House of the Dead, Vampire Night and Carnevil all feature you blowing away undead creatures with guns. Even ones that don’t feature monsters like Time Crisis or Lucky & Wild are for older games. There really isn’t a lot for the all ages bent. 1994 changed this with the awesome Point Blank, but since then, things have been a bit quiet on that front. Until July of this year when a publisher I had never heard of (Valcon Games) released light gun game for the Wii by Thai development team Corecell technology. This under the radar title was released for only $19.99 and so I said, “Why not?” After all, I love light gun titles and I knew I’d probably be the only reviewer in the entire industry to give this a chance, so I bought it. It turned out to be one of the best Wii games I’ve played all year.

Wicked Monsters Blast! is basically a collection of cute little light gun mini games that you can play with your friends. They’re charming, albeit it a bit easy – but then the game is made for kids and casual gamers. Campaign mode gives you a story and cut scenes for each of the playable characters and there are a lot of references to other games hidden in here including Time Crisis and King of Fighters ’94. Heck, there’s even a boss fight against a Furrie Rugal lion dude. With eight unlockable characters, twelve different mini games and three modes of play, this is one of the best budget games released for the Wii, or any system for that matter, this year. As well, it’s either this or Exerbeat that has my vote for the best Wii exclusive game of 2011, but then I am still waiting to play Skyward Sword and The Kore Gang, so that can easily change.

The bottom line is that I was shocked at how much fun I had with this game. It was a game my girlfriend actually requested I play because she just enjoyed watch it and the story bits involved the adorable little characters that populate the world of Wicked Monsters Blast!. It’s great in small doses when by yourself or as a party game for your friends that don’t play a lot of video games. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but it fills that decade plus void since Point Blank and if you own a Wii, it’s worth playing, even if it’s not one you decide to keep long term.

#6: Elemental Monster: Online Card Game

At only 99 cents, Elemental Monster: Online Card Game might be the deal of the year and one of the best PS3 exclusives of 2011. It’s an incredible easy to learn game that uses CCG (Collectible Card Game) mechanics and has a far superior interface to the Magic: The Gathering video games that have been released to the 360 and PS3 in the past few years. Even better, you don’t HAVE to buy anything past the initial 99 cent cost, and even that is waived for Playstation Plus subscribers. If you do want to invest more money into the game, you can purchase packs of twenty-four cards for a cost ranging from $2.50-$5.00 or online tickets. The good news is that you don’t have to buy the tickets to play online against human opponents – tickets just let you enter special matches where both the winners and losers earn cards.

Elemental Monsters offers fifty battles against the CPU in campaign mode and unlimited battles against people online. Crafting a quality deck takes a lot of skill and there are tournaments with specific themes or angles to prevent a single deck from ever being too powerful. There are also many different options when it comes to deck building and because of the sheer volume of cards, you can spend more time trying to make the perfect deck than actually playing the game against people. Add in a platinum trophy for those that are into collecting things like that, and it’s hard to say no to this game – especially with its price tag.

On the surface Elemental Monster might look like a shallow game and the price tag of only 99 cents might have you skeptical as to the quality, but in truth creating a great six card deck takes a lot of skill. Elemental Monster: Online Card Game really is one of the best games of Q3 2011 and is the one game I can say that everyone with a PS3 needs to buy. After all, it’s only a buck.

#5: Dragon Age II: Legacy

Stacking made my Top Ten list for Q1 and it’s QLC, The Lost Hobo King made it in Q2. Dragon Age II was another game that made the list back in Q1 and now its DLC follows suit. This of course has a weird hybrid in my head where Hawke, Merrill and Varric are Matryoshkas bouncing around defeating the blight through puzzles rather than hack and slash violence.

I won’t lie – Legacy had problems. When it was first released it was so buggy that it wouldn’t even synch up with your account to give you the trophies/achievements that you had earned. I waited a full week to play it, hoping that would give Bioware the time to polish things, but Bioware being Bioware meant that it took about a month for them to patch it. It was also very short, especially compared to DLC content put out by companies like Doublefine Games. What there WAS however was a lot of back story, some fun quests and the two best boss fights in all of DA: 2. The end result was a lot of fun and I was surprised how much I had missed Hawke and his motley band of allies. I know there was a lot of rancor for Dragon Age II on the internet, but I had a lot of fun with it and Legacy was no exception.

I loved the back story around Hawke’s father and the mystery over whether he was a blood mage or not. I enjoyed the strange in-fighting with the Grey Wardens. I was happy to have Bethany back and to hear a lot of the new banter as your team ran around looking for things to dismember. I also liked that if you used the team of Bethany, Anders and Varric, you received far more back story than you would have otherwise, once again giving you a reason to replay missions but with different allies. Was the story fluff? Yes. Most DLC is. But it was a lot of fun.

The boss fights and the ability to choose three new powers (out of twelve) for a new super weapon were great. Honestly, DA 2 never challenged me when I first played through it but the two boss battles in Legacy were finally tough. In fact, with the very last one, only Bethany and Hawke were standing at the end. The game even through in some point and click adventure game style puzzles, which is always a sure fire way to make me happy.

Again, Legacy probably wouldn’t have made the list if many of the big name games released this quarter weren’t so disappointing and the field wasn’t thin to begin with, but it was still one of the high points for Q3 2011 for me.

#4: Captain America: Super Soldier

Look I love Captain America. He’s my favorite Marvel character and always has been. I’m not a collector of stuff by any means, but you’ll find such oddities as a Captain America cookie jar and even a cake maker in my house. That being said, even though the awesome Next Level Games was doing this Arkham Asylum clone, I didn’t have high hopes for it. Why? Because licensed Marvel movie games are amongst the worst released every year. Iron Man 1 AND 2 were both “Worst Game of the Year” contenders and this year Thor: God of Thunder is a shoo-in for at least a nomination. As well, Ol’ Steve Rogers had already had two really fun games released this year in Marvel Vs. Capcom and Captain America Pinball, so the odds of lighting striking THRICE? Not very good.

Well surprise, surprise – Captain America: Super Soldier was a lot of fun – far more than it had any right to be. The shocking thing is that had Next Level Games been allowed free reign instead of being tied so closely to the movie, the game could have been even BETTER. You get to romp all over a Bavarian castle and neighboring village, all while stomping Hydra agents into the ground. You’ll also get to encounter classic Captain America villains that weren’t in the movie like Baron Strucker, Madame Hydra, the Sleeper and Baron Zemo. It’s a nice treat for Cap fans like myself and it’s also one of the few games I’ve bothered to Platinum. I’m not into trophies, but there was something about Captain America: Super Soldier that left me playing until I had them all. Mind you after I did platinum the game, I traded it in, but I trade in most games and it’s something I could easily pick up again in a few years and have fun with it. It was one of the highlights of July, which is typically a dead month for video game releases, and one of the better games released this quarter. If you haven’t played it, try and pick it up instead of letting it slip back under your radar. It’s a lot of fun but also probably forgettable unless you’re really into Marvel comics characters or Captain America specifically.

#3: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Innocent Sin

Long time readers are probably shocked this isn’t my #1 game for the quarter, or even all year for that matter. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been playing Innocent Sin since ’99/2000, and so it as much as I love the game, it’s not shiny and new to me like it is for everyone else. Combine that with the edits and less than quality English localization as you have a game that disappointment me almost as much as it gave me warm fuzzies that English speaking/reading gamers can finally enjoy it.

If you really want to hear me wax on about innocent Sin, you should probably click on the review link in the title. It’s long and informative and you can see how I’m a little TOO passionate about this game. I’m not normally a fan of turn based RPGs, but this game is something else. From wacky demon bargaining antics, to a more tactical style of combat than you normally see in this sub genre of RPGS, the engine behind Innocent Sin really helps it stand out from the legion of other turn based RPGs out there. Add in one of the best stories in the history of gaming (albeit it one weakened by the translation) and you have a game everyone should experience. It’s also nice to see the PSP getting some love at this point since games for it are few and far between these days. Between this and Corpse Party the PSP gets to end its lifespan with two fun horror games which I never thought would make it stateside.

Again, Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a game worth playing. If I hadn’t played it several times over the past decade, this would be an easy #1 on this countdown. Instead it takes the bronze for this quarter, and that’s still pretty impressive. In a quarter where we had some truly terrible ports of classic games, it’s nice to see that Innocent Sin can still hold its own.

#2: Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland

I’ve never been a big fan of the Atelier series, so it shocked me that I not only loved Atelier Rorona, but that it was my second favorite game of 2010. I became engrossed in the story. I spent way too much time seeing what were the best alchemy requests, investigating new dungeons and trying to get everything maxed out. Without a strategy guide or any online searches, I managed to get the True Ending on my first try. So it’s no surprise that Atelier Totori was something I was looking forward to. Although I didn’t enjoy it as much at Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori was an incredibly adorable game and one I had to force myself to put down. I loved the returning characters, fell in love with the new ones and for the first time since Valkyria Chronicles, the game managed to make me feel sorrow and sadness for a video game protagonist.

Atelier Totori features several endings, including character epilogues for each of your allies if you unlock them. You can choose many different paths to reach your endings too. You can become a great alchemist, travel the world becoming a warrior, sail the oceans in search of your long lost mother, and more. Of course, if you’re going for the true ending you need to balance both equally and be a master of time management. Either way, you have so many options and paths before you that it might seem a bit overwhelming at first.

Atelier Totori requires far more min/max’ing of your time and efforts than Atelier Rorona and it’s a much harder game to achieve the True Ending in. So the game offers more of a challenge while still looking (and sounding) just as charming as its predecessor. This odd little relationship sim/turn based RPG/time management hybrid is one of the best PS3 exclusives of 2011 so far and it’s sure to impress fans of traditional JRPGs as well as those looking for something a little more unique.

#1:Disgaea 4

The Disgaea series has always been popular around here. It was our first ever “Game of the Year” back in 2003 and it was the first entry into our Video Game Hall of Fame. In 2006, Disgaea 2 won our RPG of the year award, but it couldn’t quite live up to the original. Disgaea 3 was fund and a step in the right direction, but it was basically a PS2 game on the PS3. In a year with games like Fallout 3 and Valkyria Chronicles”>, the SRPG franchise was showing its age. Nippon Ichi took a look of the criticism about the series to heart and in August, they released Disgaea 4 stateside. To say that Disgaea 4 was an improvement was an understatement. Disgaea 4 is easily the best (and deepest) SRPG since the 16-bit era when we had things like Tactics Ogre and Shining Force.

Like all Disgaea games, there is a very strong emphasis on comedy while still keep the dramatic tropes that RPGs are known for. The end result is a game that makes you laugh as much as it makes you care about the characters. Speaking of the cast of Disgaea 4, Valvatorez the sardine obsessed vampire is the best character to come out of Nippon Ichi’s twisted collective yet, even surpassing Laharl and Zetta. The story does a wonderful job of mocking the inherent flaws in Democracy, which is all the more fitting as we kick another round of Presidential campaigning into high gear here in the US of A. The game is visually stunning, as if the game was hand drawn animation instead of interactive electronic entertainment. You have fluid cut scenes and even the battles, which have historically been the Achilles Heel of SRPGs, look amazing. Instead of pixilated sprites waging war on a grid, you known have character models that look as good as what you would normally see in a cut scene. The visuals are just amazing – doubly so when you compare it to the graphics of Disgaea 3. What a difference three years can make.

Man, I could go on and on about all the new things added to the game. You can send members of your party into other people’s games where they can cameo as Senators. You can invade other games in a light hearted Demon’s Souls parody as pirates. You have the new Cam-Pain Headquarters and even the ability to make your own maps and try out ones made by your friends. Honestly, there isn’t a deep or more time consuming game released in 2011 and arguably in this console generation. Disgaea 4 is simply unbelievable. It’s not just the best game of Q3 2011, but it’s a definite Game of the Year contender and the best PS3 exclusive of the year. Of course, Q4 is the biggest of the year so that can easily change, but for now Disgaea 4 is a front runner for several awards this year. Don’t forget there’s both a Premium and a Super Premium Edition you can pick up if you’ve failed to get this game already. Experience firsthand why Disgaea 4 is one of the best games of the year.

So there we go. Q3 2011 might be the weakest quarter of the year so far, but there were still a lot of fun games released during it. Again, feel free to leave me lists of your own so I can see what games were your favorite from this summer. Below is the full list of the thirty-six new releases of Q3 2011 that I’ve played – ranked from best to worst.

#1. Disgaea 4
#2. Atelier Totori
#3. Innocent Sin
#4. Captain America
#5. Dragon Age II: Legacy
#6. Elemental Monster: Online Card Game
#7. Wicked Monsters Blast
#8. Heroes of Neverwinter
#9. Bleach: Soul Resurrection
#10. Back to the future Episode V
#11. Warhammer 40K: Kill team
#12. Cladunx2
#13. Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
#14. Ugly Americans:
#15. Galaga Dimensions
#16. Misfortune
#17. Bloodrayne: Betrayal
#18. Catherine
#19. Athena
#20. The Baconing
#21. God of War: Ghost of Sparta HD
#22. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
#23. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
#24. Hamilton’s Great Adventure
#25. Street Fighter III: Third Strike HD
#26. Renegade Ops
#27. Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Rock
#28. From Dust
#29. Altered Beast
#30. Golden Axe 2
#31. X-men Destiny
#32. Supremacy MMA
#33. Vampire Romance: Paris Stories
#34. Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection
#35. Body Count
#36. Star Raider



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