Most persistently replayed game:
* Warriors Orochi
Now I’ve played a fuckload of Orochi this year, in about 3 bursts. Disgaea I’ve played on two consecutive Christmas Days and that shit is PERSISTENT in your gaming life once you get hooked in. Lucky I need to level for Mid-Boss, so I can play some other shit for a while. The award, however, goes to PGR4. I play PGR six times a month, or thereabouts, and probably will continue to until a fitting substitute comes out. Might be Race Pro, you know. Anyway, PGR4 happens every single time I binge on one of two things:
* Documentaries about supercars
* Listening to SICK engine notes on Youtube
These will both guarantee a firing up of PGR4 to hammer some ghosts around a random track. It’ll only last an evening, but it happens again and again and I fucking love it. Just wish I could customise my driver dude properly and do more shit with replays.
* Bangai-o Spirits
* Saints Row 2
* Fallout 3
All three of these games have had me both roaring with laughter and cackling with glee in remarkable quantities. For a couple, it’s intentional. In one, it’s much more often not. One is a colossal mindfuck in terms of how truly awesome it is and the other two are very fucking American indeed. Bangai-o is one long turbodash of lulz and fist-clenching FUCK YOUs. Its lulz are mostly based around fucking shit up with immense overkill or humiliating bat-bounce horseplay. Profound as they are, they’re hardly varied. Saints Row 2, on the other hand, spits lulz like a proper cunt. The chaos of its emergent mayhem is a fabulous genrator of belly laughs, witnessed by a standard throw-the-pimps-into-traffic jaunt turning into all-out gang war and by expertly selective targeting, ending up with my three ninjas standing in the middle of the road and wildly shooting at pedestrians. If I’d catalogued every lulz in some disgustingly obsessive journal I really must start, it would go on for FUCKING AGES. This leaves Fallout 3 and even though you might be thinking I’m like doing that thing where the one I leave to last is the winner, you’re wrong. Fallout 3’s glitchiness and profusion on innocent cannon fodder is its prime sauce of laughter and as awesome as cleansing a town of every killable NPC is, it’s nowhere near the almost reptillian basal joys of Saints Row 2. Hey it might be the lowest you can go, but it’s only by behaving as an animal that you can really get rid of the pain of being a man.
Most colossally upsetting disappointment:
* GTA IV
* Fallout 3
* WoW: Lich King
Fallout 3’s storyline glitch was my biggest awwww of the year by a long stretch. My sadness at not getting to rinse the BoS and the Enclave for cool shit is chasmic. It’s left a gaping hole in my sense of satisfaction - and I mean on a day-to-day basis - that I’m constantly on the verge of starting from scratch. The shitty grind puts me off it, as does undergoing the existential trauma of amorally combing the wasteland for prey and trinkets, not to mention the utter collapse of enthusiasm once you hit level 20. MAYBE I’LL WAIT TILL THE PATCH. GTA IV I have bitched about more than enough this year, but it still ranks for me as one of gaming’s most spectacular clangers, like suddenly setting Need For Speed in space, or removing the best wrestling-based fighting engine of this generation and putting in specials based around magically appearing record decks and rapping. The worst disappointment this year, though, is the frankly spectacular success Lich King had in bringing several friends back to the WoW fold on a fucking full-time basis. They’re like battered wives returning to an abusive husband after a year in a halfway house, after spending three months on a psychiatric ward. There’s only one way to express how I feel about it - :(
Bestest retro occurance:
* Dodonpachi on a PSP
* Parasol Stars on a real PC Engine
* The intro to Konami Arcade Classics DS
Seeing something as pixel-magnificent as Dodonpachi running at 60fps on a PSP screen is a sublimely spiritual experience every bit as powerful as that shit abductees go through or born-again christians undergo when they fall over and start speaking in tongues. I pretty much did that the moment it booted, only with loads more semen than you’d expect and a much more severe head injury as a result of the fall. I actually fainted when I realised the controls can be easily swapped around along with the screen orientation, meaning I could comfortably play the game in TATE mode. That shit blew my cock and balls off. My cock and balls. They just totally blew off in a single explosion because of how fucking amazing it was to see Dodonpachi, in TATE, on a portable console I can hold in the palm of my hand. My cock and my balls. Right off. The fact I made the rom myself made the whole thing extra-special and to be truly honest, the whole thing will live with me for the rest of my life as a ‘holy fuck’ moment like no other.
If you haven’t seen it, the intro to Konami’s arcade comp on DS is a must-watch and is full of brutally charming nostalgia, right down to fetishising Gradius’s boot-up screen, which I only got to see when the early Konami games started getting emulated on PC. It’s really, really amazing shit for a retro-head. A bit like all of Katamari, only with sprites from all the best Konami shit you saw down the arcade as a kid. Beautiful as it is, it didn’t blow my cock and balls off. It’s also emulation again, so it’s total lightweight bullshit that’s easily blasted into orbit by paying an inordinate sum to play Parasol Stars on an original PC Engine.
I was lucky enough to have a mad friend caring enough to fucking buy me a fucking PC Engine for my birthday. This kicked off a frenzied round of HuCard buying, with Parasol Stars being in my first package. At £58, it’s the second most expensive thing I’ve bought this year after replacing my 360 after my shoddy old one was killed by Ninja Gaiden 2. It says a lot that the PC Engine still works after 20-odd years of service. It’s a truly, truly wonderous thing to own and its petite delightfulness is stupendously complimented by the HuCards. Wheras the pure 8-bit delight of the PC Engine restores my cock and balls to health, the artwork on the cards regularly blow my cock and balls off again whenever I look at them. Here’s the top three:
* Parasol Stars
R-Type 1 and 2, however, have such disgustingly shit HuCard artwork that I’m ashamed to look at them. Really. They’re total shit. Total. Shit.
Biggest mindfuck of ultimate awesomeness:
* Bangai-o Spirits
* Muchi Muchi Pork!
Bangai-o has been batshit mental from the start. Play the first 10 levels of the original and you’ll see it’s much better than the deliciously knowing humour or supremely exploitable game systems of Disgaea, and it really takes something to put Disgaea in the shade, but the additional madness coursing through Bangai-o Spirits is truly exceptional. Even though the plot and characters of the original were fucking brilliant, they dumped them for ultra-hardcore, bare-bones madness like some racetrack special or something. Disgaea is and will always be incredibly awesome, but it needs to have no story and a baseball bat to catch up with Bangai-O. Muchi Muchi Pork! isn’t really that mental. It’s just a brilliant Cave shooter with curvy, big-breasted women and lots of pigs. It’s here to fill up the space, really. It is a bit mental, but in that Parodius way, as that’s amost what it is. Both it and Disgaea are expressing madness through a calmative filter that makes it ok, but Bangai-o Spirits is truly a sick game. I mean sick as in sick in the mind or fucked in the head, as it’s a real headlong charge at the limits of fucking shit up onscreen in fucking mental land, but that’s the true beauty of it. The kind of madness to wholeheartedly respect and be thankful for, rather than dismiss as unfathomable mentalism.
The one thing you must fucking buy, even in you don’t own the hardware to play it on:
* Korg DS-20
* Ketsui Black Label DS
* Any vertical shmup on 360
All three of these are extremely admirable examples of the fight for THE CAUSE. These are our battlefields gentlemen, and we must might with our wallets and by seeding their existence and relevence to our crusade in the minds of those who may have the auspices to bring them to our shores and ensure their future continuation. Korg DS-20 did actually come here, and isn’t quite as good as a 909, 808 and 303 emulator, but it’s a beautiful thing to emerge out of the DS’s muddy morass of non-gaming software. Ketsui Black Label is also a stunning occurance and a piece of invaluable treasure to be cherished and adored unconditionally but really, we must buy those 360 shooters. Shmups are best played in stable conditions on big screens, so as wonderous as Ketsui Black Label is, it’s the likes of Ketsui, Dai-ou-jou, Raiden 4 and the others that we must buy.
Best game of the year:
* Virtua Fighter 5
* Virtua Fighter 5
* Virtua Fighter 5
We’re not fucking about here. It’s the best game ever made.