Greetings to all gamers out there, it’s the middle of November again. Guess what that means? Oh who am I kidding? Every respected gamer knows exactly what that means. It’s the month we all go bankrupt. This console generation has had this problem since its first stride back in 2007. Don’t remember? Here’s a quick recap what November 2007 looked like:
- Assassin’s Creed
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
- Mass Effect
- Rock Band
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
- Unreal Tournament
And still, four years later, it seems that every single publisher out there feels the urge to release their games during the Christmas season in order to make the best sales, so every year we have a late summer/early fall drought, followed by a typhoon of Triple A titles in November.
The result is usually upset gamers that have to make financial decisions that force them to miss out on opportunities they would have taken otherwise, and upset developers that their games don’t sell as well as they wanted due to them not taking their competition into account. For game reviewers, this is always a busy time. They’re the ones who have to binge through these games so they can tell everyone whether they’re good or not, and ultimately make their decision for what deserves Game Of The Year.
For us at Toy-TMA, it is especially difficult. We don’t have a large staff of people to easily disperse the load, nor do we receive free review copies of games a week in advance. We’re just three guys who have to buy/rent these games at full price, then play and review them on our own time between other jobs that pay our bills. So starting now, I dedicate this new tradition every November: A List of Holiday Games I would love to play and review for you all, but just don’t have the time or money to do so.
In no particular order…
Kirby’s Return To Dreamland
Okay, so this game actually came out late October rather than November, but then again, that’s as close to being in November as you can get. Not to mention it was sandwiched between Batman: Arkham City and Uncharted 3, both follow-ups to arguably the best games of 2009 (and that we somehow reviewed on schedule).
Now, I did play Kirby’s Epic Yarn last holiday, and I adored it. Cute story, fun platforming, gorgeous visuals, tons of variety, and some pretty quirky boss fights. Sure it wasn’t the most epic or memorable game of my career, but there was something definitively new and refreshing about it. Kirby’s Return To Dreamland however is a return to form (if the title was not already a dead giveaway to that): Kirby’s classic suck-em-up/power-swiping ability returns with fierce determination. And he’s brought his friends: Metaknight, Dedede and Waddle Dee (wait, I’m confused, aren’t all these guys former adversaries?). All three join the fray in four-player co-op, each with their own unique skill set.
A game like this one would think to be pretty promising. If only it could have been advertised better. Nintendo didn’t even mention it (or any other Wii games for that matter) during their press conference at this year’s E3, so I had to stumble onto it by chance. (Like Chris’ coverage of his trip to Pax.)
Saints Row The Third
I love me a good sandbox game. But I’m more a superhero fantasy kind of guy than into those gritty urban realistic sandboxes. Yeah, I’d take electric-wire-grinding or web-slinging over hijacking a car any day. Though there is one urban sandbox game that did catch may fancy this holiday, and that is Saints Row The Third, which basically looks like GTA, but on waaaaaaaaaay better drugs. Yeah, I seriously doubt there are going to be any side missions where you have to shove burgers into your fat friend’s face (unless of course the burgers are made of bombs, but I digress). I have not played either of the previous two games, but from what I’ve seen from the previews of SRt3rd, a gang war between two groups that call themselves the Saints and the Syndicate, that will pit you against government SWAT parodies, furies, zombies, and a Mexican Wrestling gang leader voiced by Hulk Hogan? Unapologetically crude sense of humor mixed in? This is the kind of whacky time wasting nonsense I haven’t had since Bulletstorm back in February. And because of the farcical tone, I don’t feel like I’m obligated to play every previous entity before this one so that I’m not missing out on some elaborate continual storyline.
But for when I do want elaborate and deep continuity…
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Okay, I’ll admit I’ve been a bit rough on the Assassin’s Creed series as of late, more or less due to my disdain of the games’ central protagonist. The more I look into it however, there is a deep sense of intrigue in this story’s very Inception-like plot, with all the memories within other memories. AC Revelations marks the chapter of the story where we will [ideally]have revealed to us what the hell is going on at the center of Desmond, Ezio, Altiar, Sixteen, the Animus, the Assassins, the Templars, the First Society, the pieces of Eden, and just about every other thread to this game’s web of conspiracy.
While I am not entirely prepared to give this series my full attention, I was able to spy a glance at roughly the game’s first hour from a friend’s play through. It begins with Ezio, who has now gone from his teens to middle-aged in just three short games, in the final stages of his Assassin career, which bring him to the heart of Constantinople where he will lay waste to the rising Templar order that has been slowly taking over in the Ottoman Empire. With new territory comes new allies, and a new weapon called the hook blade. It can be used to extend Ezio’s reach in climbing, slide across hook lines stretching across the city roofs, and can grab enemies and throw them to the ground in battle.
There are a few other new mechanics, such as Ezio commanding a group of Assassins in a street-wide stakeout against raiding Templars, which my vary in appeal from person to person, as well as the bomb-making, which… actually turns out to be a tedious process all around. Besides a few missteps, there is a ton I do want to explore further in this series. Not to mention it has an online multiplayer that actually seems half appealing.
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Let’s make something perfectly clear: Skyrim has absolutely nothing to worry about. As the successor to Oblivion, the massive open world RPG that was a frontrunner for Game of the Year back in 2006, (just barely behind Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, both of which take place in Medieval Folklore settings oddly enough), Skyrim is selling selves full of copies for the 360, PS3, and Microsoft Windows by the hour. Gamers with no lives have probably already clocked in 100+ hours. It is officially the title to beat for 2011’s Game of the Year.
Be that as it may, I personally do not have 40, let alone 100, hours to spare to immerse myself in such an epic, large-scale experience that commands such high prestige this holiday season. Especially with Twilight Princess’ own successor, Skyward Sword, releasing just this weekend, a title that will more than likely be in complete ownership of all my sanity for a while. Like I said, we gamers have to make choices this holiday, and me, being the Zelda fan that I am, had to go with the one that will allow me to be Link flying on a giant bird to an island in the sky.
And now for the one that grieves me most of all.
I remember this year’s E3 coverage when I got my first real look at Rayman Origins and I reached an epiphany: While I pride myself on being such a huge fan of cartoon-style platformers, with some of my favorite all-time games being Donkey Kong Country, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Sonic the Hedgehog, I have never once played a Rayman game. Shocking right? Debuting just before the Golden Age of 3D platformers from the N64/PS1 generation hit its stride, Rayman was one of the very last definitive 2D platforming games ever to be released on the market. By the time its sequel came out (along with making the leap to 3D), Rayman had made a name for himself and become the official face of Ubisoft. Over time though, as new projects started to trickle in such as Prince of Persia, followed by Assassins Creed, and those annoying Rabbid tie-ins, Rayman has taken a backseat for far too long.
So when I saw this game at E3, I immediately said to myself, “Okay! I am DEFINITELY buying and playing that game. NO WAY am I missing out on this franchise any longer.”
…And then the launch date came out: November 15th. Dead center of the Triple-A Typhoon Month.
WHY NOVEMBER!? WHY MUST YOU MAKE ME GO BACK ON MY WORD!?
The one consolation to all this is that Ubisoft was kind enough to release a Demo, now available for download on PSN (and probably Xbox Live as well), so I have at very least gotten a taste. Origins is quite possibly the most beautiful 2D platformer I have ever seen. I cannot recall ever seeing colors this rich and vibrant since… I don’t know, maybe Wind Waker? The controls for running, jumping, and combat are so simple to learn, I felt like I’ve been playing the series my whole life. Not only that, it’s yet another game you can play with your friends. Can’t wait to share this with as many people as I can.
And that, ladies and gents, are the five games that got away from me this holiday season. Here’s to high hopes that I can make time for each of these titles sometime in 2012, and for those of you who have played them, I’m all ears. Were they everything they seem cracked up to be? Are any of them your Game of The Year? Or do you have other games this Holiday you personally feel you missed out on due to financial and time constrictions? Don’t be afraid to share.
To all the games we actually do have the pleasure of experiencing, here’s early thanks to you. Along with all our readers out there.