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The REAL unsung heroes of 2010 - What were they?


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Following on from Rudderless' link to that lol-worthy WSJ article recently (what the hell is a Gran Turismo?) , I got thinking about some of the true unsung heroes of 2010, some of the games that you enjoyed and hardly anyone else got to play. Any takers? I'll start...

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS)

For a forum which prides itself on its love of videogames, I was shocked and saddened to see not a single thread, not a single thread, pop up about this game from Atlus that was released on the DS in April last year. 'Ooh, ooh! Look at Catherine!', you all say. 'It's from the guys what made MegaTen and it's got tits in it!', you all say. But when the official sequel to Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, one of the best RPGs on the PS2 turns up, you don't bat an eyelid?! What's with that people?! Was it because it was on the DS?

Oh jeez, if someone could embed that for me, I'd be very grateful, I've forgotten how to do it with Youtube vids. The game follows a very similar gameplay template to Nocturne, but because it's not so Japan-centric I find it a lot more immersive. You play as a UN soldier sent to investigate the Scharzwelt - an area of black void spreading rapidly over the Antarctic. As you enter this dark dimension, you come to realise that it's the place where all of humanity's superstitions and religious figures are made flesh and bone. Figures like Baphomet and Ganesh, Quezacotl and Amaterasu are given energy and form by their worshippers on Earth, and it's up to you to recruit them into your team in order to stop the evil entity behind the Scharzwelt from invading. Philosophical and theological, but not as clever as it thinks it is, the game is nevertheless a riveting dungeon-crawling RPG with some awesome endings and hundreds of gods to collect, and is well worth picking up if you can find it on import.

I think it sold only 4 copies last year, but do pick it up if you can get your hands on it - it's like Pokemon lovingly remastered by the mad Arab Abdul Al-Hazred.

Any other forgotten gems that went missing among the throng last year?

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Minecraft, obviously.

As RPS' Alec Meer puts it:

Following the media trajectory of this free-form building and survival game has almost been more compulsive than Minecraft itself. Watching that slow burn from lo-fi obscurity to darling of indie sites to mainstream PC gaming acceptance to woah-hey-everywhere has been an ambient pastime for 2010. That was before the game even hit beta status.

It's been a lesson, I hope, for gamers and games critics who look down on anything indie (unless, of course, it's neatly packaged up and validated for them by Microsoft or Sony approval).

It was dismissed until it was successful enough that those same critics who had peevishly ignored it finally realised they were going to look like cretins if they couldn't offer comment on it. And hey, suddenly Twitter was alight with bon mots.

Does the mentality that, unless a game comes from a big-pig publisher, it's a stinker really still govern so? Come on! You simply don't have the right to sneer at all those cynical Call of Duty clones all the big boys are working on unless you're also actively supporting something that is different. It doesn't matter if you like it or not. You just need to be glad that it exists. That it can exist, despite the ongoing efforts of large corporations to make gaming a walled garden.

Minecraft proved that attending every industry party in town and endlessly posting expensive trailers doesn't achieve what it used to. The games business has changed. The world's appetite for games has changed.

Minecraft is but one of a great many games to break the old rules, but it did it so subtly and yet so massively that it can't help but stand above the others. Its ease, its cheer, its immediate appeal in both appearance and concept, saw it bust into the global gaming consciousness and achieve incredible success for its creator, Markus Persson. It didn't know its place. It didn't realise it was supposed to be small and obtuse and obscure and only for neckbearded, bespectacled PC gonks. It had the temerity to be something that anyone could play, and anyone could adore.

Minecraft busts just about every games-circa-2010 stereotype there is. Like it or not, doff your hat to it.

Now it's sold a million copies, and the rllmuk Minecraft thread is 200 pages of unanimous praise.

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Not strictly speaking a new game for 2010, but Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition (PC) is a release which I don't think got the recognition it deserved. Okay, so it's basically the game that we should have had the first time around, but it's rare to see a developer take stock as explicitly as Cyanide did with this - more than doubling the number of playable teams, adding a story mode, more stadiums, and stabilising the online side of the game. Kudos to them.

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I spent over 100 hours on Galcon Fusion - it's a bit like real time RISK in space. It's deeply flawed as it almost always resolves into stand offs but the potential for bluffing, faking out opponents and mind games is huge.

I've vowed not to touch it this year for the sake of my sanity though.

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Sleep is Death; I remember reading about it on an indie site and tweeting to people about how great it sounded, and then Campfire_Burning picked up the baton and spread the word to rllmuk. Almost immediately after I read about the concept - a "director" and a player take it in turns editing and taking part in a 2D world - I thought it had awesome potential for online fun and immediately put my pre-order down. Too bad I didn't spend enough time learning the editor's finer points... :(

EDIT: and Action Escape Kitty.

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Resonance of Fate (PS3, 360)

Being a JRPG released mere weeks after Final Fantasy XIII it's not too surprising this didn't garner much attention, but much to my surprise it ended up being one of my favourite games of the year.

This game isn't anywhere near as traditional as "JRPG" tends to suggest. It certainly features some staples of the genre — namely a story that takes a turn for the indecipherable, metaphysical bullshit at the end — but in many ways it's antithetical to convention. Rather than a cast of pubescents you're met with a real rogue's gallery of non-heroes, the aesthetic is that of a delightfully garish steampunk carnival, and rather than menu-driven line dancing the combat has you orchestrating a tactical bullet ballet. In stark contrast to the aforementioned FFXIII it's also perfectly comfortable with dumping you into its world with almost all tools at your disposal, perhaps something of a foolhardy move given the initial complexity of its various systems.

Anyway, it can be readily found for around £15 these days. Buy it then go read the thread so you know how to play it.

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Pretty much all of my favourite games from 2010 apart from Bayonetta are unsung to a certain degree:

999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors - December release, no PAL version confirmed, marginal genre. A few days after completing it I realised it might actually be my favourite game of all time next to Portal and MGS3. It's not for everyone, but people who get into it will love it. Lots of buzz on NeoGAF suggests this one could yet be a sleeper.

There's no official trailer, this is the actual intro from the DS game. Only so much you can do to make a visual novel appealing!

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories - It's only fault was being on the Wii. The technology wasn't holding the game back and it's the best use of the Wiimote I can think of, but it was largely passed up anyway. The way the game changes depending on your actions without outright telling you is incredible, so much so that I know people who have played and finished it without knowing what could possibly change other than the ending.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvQNVksqDlg

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon - This is a tricky one. Again it's on the Wii, but the actual gameplay was weak. It's strength was the excellent atmosphere and the simple yet touching storyline. I've grown considerably more fond of this one months after completing it as the gameplay fades from my mind!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7HFO37RtwI

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match - KOF in general will forever be unsung, but bringing out a revision to the best game in the series whilst fixing the lame backgrounds and dreadful music? At a time when fighting games have a huge amount of buzz and people might be starting to drop off from SSF4? All for a mere 800 points? This could have been KOF's time to shine! Lots of interest on release from new players, nobody cared a few days later because SNK fucked up the netcode yet again. A great game and possibly the best KOF to date (not played 13 yet) but very few will be able to experience it.

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Hydro Thunder Hurricane on XBLA..

It was part of 2010's big XBLA promotion, yet it went by pretty much unnoticed (the 1200 price point probably put loads of people off).. hell it didnt even get its own thread on here!

Thankfully having enjoyed the DC original I took a punt on it and boy am I glad I did! It was not only one of the best Arcade Racers of this year (think NFS: Hot Pursuit pipped it in the end) but for me one of the best this generation.

It didnt have to rely on flashy graphics or effects. Just fantastic over the top track design, brilliant handling, a whole bunch of really challenging events, and some serious competition in the form of the friends leaderboards (which were integrated into the HUD as you raced, Trials HD style). Seriously though, the amount of content put a lot of "full price" releases to shame! Which was only to be further improved later in the year, when the first (and probably only) DLC pack was released.. which gave 3 brand new tracks, a bunch of new boats and a whole series of new SP events.. all for just 400 points I might add!!

Thankfully a few more people got to experience the games charms when it was reduced to 400 points over Xmas.. but even still it hasnt got the recognition I feel it deserves. Well done Vector Unit.. and heres hoping their next game follows in Hydro's wake!

EDIT: 5000th post Yay!.. and its only taken me 8 years to make them! :unsure:

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Criminally ignored:

Wario Ware DIY

User created content has been the 'hot thing' for a while but most don't do it as simply or as elegantly as Wario Ware: DIY.

The game has always been prime for it too! The punk-do-it-yourself ethic was always part of Wario Ware's presentation and my home-made efforts fit nicely alongside the ones already there. Distorted and crudely implemented mario games feel like natural additions.

But the fact the tools are as easy to use as they are, is what really impresses. I made a 'drink the coffee' minigame in the time it took to show off to my friend in a coffee break.

Best creative game since Banjo Nuts N Bolts.

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Very easy.

Silent Hill Shattered Memories

Had a tiny fanbase and recognition in comparison to how incredible the game was and what it did for narrative based games. It didn't help that everyone was arguing around the same time whether Heavy Rain was an incredible milestone in games or the indulgence of shitty writing multiplied by QTE's, a game that completely outdid all of Quantic Dream's debated merits was out there and pretty much given very little attention. Being on the Wii didn't help either mind for the the less open minded.

In fact talking about the game shows me up as being a pretty shitty writer because I struggle to express how it made me feel and describe how intelligently it realised the world and how it involved the player so masterfully as part of the narrative without making it feel like you just forced decisions to reach different cutscenes and that was as deep as it would get. I can blab away about the story and narrative of most games with no trouble (inc Heavy Rain), so I think that shows how it is beyond pretty much all other games in that regard.

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Nier

I hesitated to put this as there's a few people on this forum that loved it but it seems massively underappreciated in my opinion. Parts of it are appalling and baffling (did anyone bother with the gardening sub game?) but the story is one of the best that I've played in ages and the extra detail you get from the additional playthroughs / endings can be heartbreaking. I would put the story alongside Planescape Torment as amongst the best that gaming can offer.

And the music's brilliant too.

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Trainyard for iPhone. Simple mechanics, expertly built on as the game progresses, beautifully executed thoughout. Exemplifies what I love about indie downloadable titles - one of my favourite games of 2010.

This had passes me by so I downloaded and spent the last 2 hour in it - great stuff. I guess it's my first sung hero of 2011.

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Pretty much all of my favourite games from 2010 apart from Bayonetta are unsung to a certain degree:

999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors - December release, no PAL version confirmed, marginal genre. A few days after completing it I realised it might actually be my favourite game of all time next to Portal and MGS3. It's not for everyone, but people who get into it will love it. Lots of buzz on NeoGAF suggests this one could yet be a sleeper.

There's no official trailer, this is the actual intro from the DS game. Only so much you can do to make a visual novel appealing!

[vid link]

I'm just playing through Psychonauts for the first time ever. Is 999 comparable to the 'storybook' style gameplay seen in that game and Snatcher. Because if so, I'm there. I stayed away from Hotel Dusk as it's meant to be frustrating so if 999 does it right it's a must-buy for me.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon - This is a tricky one. Again it's on the Wii, but the actual gameplay was weak. It's strength was the excellent atmosphere and the simple yet touching storyline. I've grown considerably more fond of this one months after completing it as the gameplay fades from my mind!

[vid link]

I've had my eye on this; so it had an English-language release then?

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Nier

I hesitated to put this as there's a few people on this forum that loved it but it seems massively underappreciated in my opinion. Parts of it are appalling and baffling (did anyone bother with the gardening sub game?) but the story is one of the best that I've played in ages and the extra detail you get from the additional playthroughs / endings can be heartbreaking. I would put the story alongside Planescape Torment as amongst the best that gaming can offer.

And the music's brilliant too.

I think Nier's one of those games that improves the longer it's been since you played it. It's not often that much fun to play, but the story really is excellent, and the music is beautiful. Emil's got to be one of the most tragic game characters of all time.

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I'm just playing through Psychonauts for the first time ever. Is 999 comparable to the 'storybook' style gameplay seen in that game and Snatcher. Because if so, I'm there. I stayed away from Hotel Dusk as it's meant to be frustrating so if 999 does it right it's a must-buy for me.

Amazingly I haven't played any of those three games. 999 is a pretty straight visual novel with point and click puzzle elements, the majority of the game is reading text with occasional dialogue choices. Those decisions will lead you to a certain ending, but you won't be seeing lots of game over screens for making the wrong choice like you do in Hotel Dusk. There's also much less freedom than in Hotel Dusk. It's not as action orientated as Snatcher seems to be either. I have no idea how Psychonauts compares!

Hopefully you can get a better answer from the thread on the game if you're interested! ^_^

I've had my eye on this; so it had an English-language release then?

It did indeed, fairly early last year with no fanfare. It seems to be holding it's value quite well but Play have it for £15.

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Amazingly I haven't played any of those three games. 999 is a pretty straight visual novel with point and click puzzle elements, the majority of the game is reading text with occasional dialogue choices. Those decisions will lead you to a certain ending, but you won't be seeing lots of game over screens for making the wrong choice like you do in Hotel Dusk. There's also much less freedom than in Hotel Dusk. It's not as action orientated as Snatcher seems to be either. I have no idea how Psychonauts compares!

Hopefully you can get a better answer from the thread on the game if you're interested! ^_^

I generally avoid threads like that due to spoilers. Yep, even tags don't stop you getting too much info on it, in my opinion! Your recommendation's enough; from what you've said about the style, it's a must-buy for me. Psychonauts is very similar to Snatcher and neither have a great deal of action in them (although they could have lived with having zero action in them, in my personal opinion). A great story, well presented and with the universe you're exploring meticulously described and fleshed-out by Kojima.

It did indeed, fairly early last year with no fanfare. It seems to be holding it's value quite well but Play have it for £15.

Blimey. Was that even mentioned in its original thread? Must have sunk like a stone.. which I guess is the point of this thread. So: thanks!!

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Minecraft wasn't particularly unsung, seeing as every fucking blog and every fucking podcast went on and on and on about it until I eventually paid £8 for it and played it for 20 minutes and wondered what the hell everyone was talking about.

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Silent Hill Shattered Memories.

The ending of that game had a huge impact on me and it's a wonderfully written and designed piece of interactive entertainment. It annoyed me to see people fawning all over Heavy Rain and Alan Wake when there was the best of its type there in front of them on a console that most people simply didn't want to fire up.

It's 2010's Dead Space Extraction.

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Did you play Heavy Rain or Alan Wake Scott?

I didn't play Shattered Memories, just wondering how the three compare and what similarities they have.

I thought Heavy Rain and Alan Wake were both heavily flawed but very interesting, is Shattered memories the same kind of thing?

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I thought Heavy Rain and Alan Wake were both heavily flawed but very interesting, is Shattered memories the same kind of thing?

I'd say that's mostly fair, although I'm not sure about "heavily".

Of the three Shattered Memories probably does the best overall job with its story and characters. It's also a very curious game in the way it adapts to the player's input: your experience through the game can be pretty different to someone else's but the branching is more or less seamless; rather than choose-your-own adventure it's more like the game takes on the role of dungeon master.

It's definitely worth playing if you can get hold of a copy. And this is coming from someone that played it on the PSP: apparently it makes fantastic use of the Wiimote.

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Did you play Heavy Rain or Alan Wake Scott?

I didn't play Shattered Memories, just wondering how the three compare and what similarities they have.

I thought Heavy Rain and Alan Wake were both heavily flawed but very interesting, is Shattered memories the same kind of thing?

Shattered Memories has its flaws, but they're not in its storytelling, which is superb. It's got better writing than both of the above games, and the final reveal is beautiful. If it hadn't already been picked here, I'd have suggested it as my choice for an unsung hero. Deadly Premonition was arguably too much of a cult success to be regarded as such, but Shattered Memories was bafflingly ignored, despite largely positive reviews. True, Konami barely did more than release the game, but it's a shame no-one seemed to take a chance on it based on the franchise name. Those who did take the plunge on here mostly loved it, I think. A few dissenters, but then you get that with everything, especially any game that involves motion controls to any extent.

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I'd hazard a guess that Shattered Memories, despite the novel uses of the Wiimote, would have done better on the 360/PS3, or at least as a multiformat title. There's still an audience out there for Silent Hill, and they'll still buy a Silent Hill game if it gets good reviews/word of mouth and enough marketing to make them aware of it.

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999 is a lot faster paced and more entertaining than Hotel Dusk, and it has some pretty decent 'escape the room' sections. I found Hotel Dusk really very very boring, but 999 is pretty well done if you like that kind of game.

I'd agree with Shattered Memories, very inventive game.

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