Some Games of 2011

I didn’t play enough of the big games to make a “Best of 2011” list. I didn’t think I bought that many either, although my spreadsheet lists 57 items. Instead I’ll go through that list and pick out the games which had the most effect on me this year, in the order I played them, regardless of when they were released.

Robot Unicorn Attack: Christmas – iPhone
For some reason I think I bought this after Christmas. My first infinite run game since Canabalt. It lacked the purity and brilliant art style. But made up for it with different design ideals. Don’t miss one collectable. The need to play really well for three runs in a row to get a high score. The rhythm of jump, charge, jump, charge, repeat.

Doodle Jump: Christmas – iPhone
Despite having played 22 hours on the original Doodle Jump, I bought the Christmas version for an extra 59p. And have since spent another 15 hours playing it.

stupid wordpress needs this for formatting

Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi EXTRA – Xbox 360
The first time I played Ketsui was during my first Japan trip in 2010 in Taito HEY in Akihabara – probably the best arcade for shmups in the world. It lived up to my expectations of being brutally hard but possibly the best shmup ever made. Back in England, I couldn’t play it, but did make one trip to Blackpool to play it during the Replay Expo. Of course, I couldn’t get much time on it there. Finally, at the start of 2011, I ordered a Japanese Asian Xbox 360, solely to play this game.

Deathsmiles: Deluxe Edition – Xbox 360
But just as soon as I got my Asian 360, Rising Star games surprised everyone by releasing a Cave game in Europe. One that had come out the previous year in the North America, and two years prior to that in Japan. Despite not being fond of horizontal shooters I got hooked into this. Helped along by the fact that on the first week of release I could place 3rd in the leaderboards, despite not being a great shmup player. Seems like all the best players already had the Japanese release, and everyone else who bought it needed some time to build up their skills and strategies.

Gottlieb Pinball Classics – PSP
As well as the Asian Xbox 360, I bought another new console in 2011. The same year its successor was released, I finally bought  a PSP. Whilst I was waiting for my ordered games to arrived, I downloaded this from PSN. I loved the way you held the PSP vertically and got hooked on pinball.

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast – PSP
The game I always wanted a PSP for, despite owning it on PS2 and other versions on Xbox and XBLA. It is still absolutely brilliant. And, despite saying I’ll never play the PS2 version again after my save file got corrupted, I started to play that one too, just so I could make use of the PSP-PS2 connectivity. Two old machines linking together beautifully.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva – PSP
Then I got on with the Japanese imports. I’d liked a few Miku songs before (Black Rock Shooter) but wondered why she had such big popularity and why she has so many top-selling figures. Well, this game showed me the Miku charm for sure. I now have 5 Miku figures, with one more on the way. And the game is really good, and can be really difficult. Finally completing “The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku” on Hard difficulty felt like on of my greatest gaming achievements.

 K-ON! Houkago Live!! – PSP
This not only is a great rhythm game in the Project Diva mould, but is linked in to my favourite anime series. It is a shame it uses a lot of “image songs” I’d never heard before instead of the excellent season two songs. But it was really good playing each song with the different band members as you gain greater appreciation of each part of the song. Still haven’t finished it with all band members but I hope for a season two sequel!

Child of Eden – Xbox 360
A semi-sequel to one of my favourite games of all time, Rez. How could I resist. Despite falling far short of Rez (with worse music too), and annoying with its polarity switching and aping of classic Rez moments in an inferior fashion – this game still has its moments of pure beauty. The giant see-through glittering space whale! The moment when the giant see-through glittering space whale transforms into a giant glittering fiery space phoenix! The flowers. (Er, I actually bought this game twice, to get two different pre-order t-shirts, its just a shame they both are large instead of medium).

Mushihime-sama version 1.5 – Arcade
An out of nowhere release. Practically a “Black Label” remix of a game from 2004. This game improves upon the 2004 version in its standard modes. And then introduces the brand new “Max Power” modes which are just completely over-the-top fun. I was really shooting for the 1CC on my last day in Japan, but fell short on the final boss. I really really hope they port this over to the Xbox 360. The recent iPhone port of version 1.0 bodes well…

Infinity Blade II – iPhone 4S
I upgraded my half-broken iPhone 3GS to the 4S pretty much just as this game was released so bought it to see the power in the new machine. And it impressed, offering similar (if limited) visual grunt to the current gen consoles. The game itself is a highly addictive grind. I only stopped playing when it wiped my save file.
A bug that’s now apparently fixed in a patch, but all too late for me.

Zen Pinball – iPhone 4S
Possibly the best free game I can think of. The Sorcerer’s Lair table comes for free and is one of the best video pinball tables I’ve played. All the elements are there and there is so much to do in the table. There are plenty of mini-games which can only be done in the videogame and the whole thing builds up and up till you reach the final boss. My top score is 92.8 million.

Dark Souls – PS3
I bought this in the first week of December. It was the first time I used my PS3 for playing games since Yakuza 3 back in April 2010 (I only played six hours of that, so my Yakuza 4 special tin box just sits on a shelf looking pretty). And what an amazing game this is. I first played it one afternoon at a friends house, eventually taking down the Taurus Demon. When I got the game for myself, I had to do that all over again. I felt that run from bonfire to Taurus Demon was very much like a shmup. I did it hundreds of times, failing every time but twice. I knew the exact location of each enemy – and each enemy has the potential to kill you. It was all about the perfect run and improving your skills. I had huge fun further into the game too. I got addicted. I sat at work reading about the game waiting to get home and play it. I only stopped at the entrace to Blighttown because I was struck with illness for a week and then it was Christmas. I don’t think I want to get sucked into its depths again.

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 And that’s it for the highlights of what I bought last year!

A little shout out is needed to:

Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu (Version 1.5, Ressurection, Black Label, Black Label Arrange) – Xbox 360/ArcadeIt was a strange move to release the iPhone port first in the summer of 2010, so I eagerly awaited the Xbox 360 port which finally arrived in December 2012. So spend more time on the game this year. I knew I could get the 1CC (well, 1-ALL really) from the iPhone port, but it was took a little while to get it on the 360. But now, it remains the only one I can 1CC regularly, I’ve now done it various times in the arcade too. And also finally stumped up for the Black Label release, mainly for the Ketsui crossover mode. Oh, and then was surprised again when Rising Star Games brought it over to Europe. So bought it again. Um, I’ve also bought a wallscroll, clear file and artbook, despite the fact that its not even in the top three of my favourite Cave games.

 And of course, a big shout out to:

Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label
– Xbox 360/Arcade
I first bought this version 1.5 on the Xbox 360 in December 2009. It was the first Cave game I really played. It was amazing. A few days into January, and I bought the Black Label DLC and never looked back. Strangely for a game I played a lot at home, on my first Japan trip in May/June 2010, I spent a lot of time playing this in arcades. Upon returning back home, I started playing with my 32″ LCD TV sat on its side on the floor. And bought an arcade stick (of course the Mushihime-sama Futari branded one from Hori with a Seimitsu stick). I came ridiculously close to the 1CC. Finally, in August 2011 (a year and a half after I started playing it), I finally achieved the 1CC in Original mode with Reco. It felt like an anit-climax. I did it with 1 life and 3 bombs left. I could not repeat that feat. In October, in my second Japan trip, in Taito HEY arcade in Akihabara, I got the 1CC again. With Reco, 0 lives and 0 bombs left. I was buzzing. Sometime at the end of November, back in England, I achieved the 1CC for the 3rd time, again with 0 lives and 0 bombs left. I’ve never beaten the 447 million point high score of my first 1CC. I then started playing God mode. It was is awesome.

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Working!! – Gashapon straps

There’s not enough figures made for Working!! (Wagnaria!! in the US) despite now having two seasons. Most are Sega prize figures. However, whilst in Japan I spotted these gashapon straps. The Japanese love straps, no phone is without one, and they also put them on their game handhelds, bags, you name it. Oh, and gashapon is the Japanese term for those capsule machine toys. I managed to pick up three of them – Taneshima Popura, Mahiru Inami, and Matsumoto Maya.  Popura and Inami are the most popular characters but Maya just appears in the background and literally only speaks in two episodes over two seasons, so was very surprised they made a strap out of her!

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Games Completed 2011

Each year I keep a list of all the games I’ve completed. The criteria for making this list is somewhat dodgy. Other games you could call complete aren’t added and some people wouldn’t call some games I list as completed.  This list doesn’t represent the games I spent the most time playing either. There are many many games I play but don’t complete. Anyway,  last year I  only completed 15 games. A huge step down from last year’s 41, and the year before’s 39.  As you can see from the list, I only completed shmups and Sega games this year. Quite a few 1CC I didn’t blog about. I’ll be doing a post on the games which have struck me most this year later.

  • Vorpal – Xbox 360 (Live Indie Games) – 03/01/2011 – medium, Jade Harlaq
    Space Invaders: Infinity Gene – Xbox 360 (Live Arcade) – 03/01/2011 – medium
    DeathSmiles – Xbox 360 – 21/02/2011 – 1CC, Rosa, 1L3B, EX off
    DeathSmiles: Mega Black Label – Xbox 360 – 27/02/2011 – 1CC, Rosa, EX off
    Manx TT SuperBike – Saturn – 05/03/2011 – Arcade, both tracks
    Hatsune Miku: Project Diva – PSP – 12/04/2011 – medium
    Trouble Witches Neo! Episode 1 Daughters of Amalgam – Xbox 360 (Live Arcade) – 14/05/2011 – many many continues
    Sega Rally Online Arcade – Xbox 360 (Live Arcade) – 20/05/2011
    Child of Eden – Xbox 360 – 19/06/2011
    Dondonpachi Daifukkatsu ver1.5 – Xbox 360 – 29/07/2011 – Type B, Strong, 1CC
    Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label – Xbox 360 (DLC) – 13/08/2011 – Xbox 360, Original, Reco, 1CC, 1 life, 3 bombs
    Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label – arcade – 15/10/2011 – Original, Reco, 1CC, 0 life, 0 bombs, Taito HEY
    Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu ver1.5 – arcade – 31/10/2011 – Type B, Strong, 1CC, 1 life, 0 bonbs, Taito Station Akiba
    Dodonpachi Ressurection – Xbox 360 – 10/11/2011 – Type B, Strong, 1CC, 0 life, 3 bombs
    Bug Princess (Mushihime-sama) – iPhone – 16/12/2011 – Original, Hard, M-Power, 1CC, 0 life
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French Kiss – Saisho no Mail (Type A) – Review

French Kiss is an AKB48 subgroup consisting of popular members Kashiwagi Yuki, Takajo Aki, and Kuramochi Asuka. If you don’t know who AKB48 are – they are simply the biggest girl group in Japan (both in terms of members, currently at 59 full time) and sales (a quarter of a billion dollars last year just in CD sales). From this single release, French Kiss to me feel like a subgroup of AKB48 that could easily take off in the West. The three members look amazing together and their style, both in terms of looks, CD covers, and music is fairly similar to Western (well, British anyway) girl groups.

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Happy New Year 2012!

20120101-031547.jpgA brand new year is upon us, and for some unknown reason, I’m posting an image of some chestnut shells I ate on New Years Eve. I haven’t been blogging a lot lately, there’s a lot of posts I want to make, but I’m half finished writing some I wanted to post first. Maybe next year I should just write the new posts and leave the half-finished ones alone and see if I return to them. I’m going to go through each category I claim to blog about (well, they are in the top menu bar anyways) and tell you about my thoughts on them in 2011 and what I plan for them in 2012.

Music

I thought 2010 was bad for new music releases, however, there has been nothing truly inspiring released this year. Maybe because I simply pick up each new release from my favourite old bands and the names in instrumental music I keep up with. There has been some new albums from those old bands, but of course, they are never as good as when they  were in their prime. And those instrumental acts are getting similar too. I haven’t been seeking out any new music, and even though I still attend quite a lot of gigs, I normally just take on someone else’s suggestion. I’ve also been getting more into Japanese music. I’ve been a AKB48 fan since early 2010 but ever since my 2nd Japan trip, I’ve been utterly obsessed with them – on forums constantly and watching a performance by them almost every day. It’s taken over my other hobbies recently and doesn’t look likely to stop for a while. The only thing I know in music other than AKB48 in 2012 is the return of The Stone Roses – I’ll need to get myself a ticket to one of their gigs. Oh, and Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) should hopefully return to curate the delayed ATP.

Videogames

This year I’ve practically stopped playing games apart from in one genre – shoot-em-ups. And then, just by one developer – Cave. I’m still not very good at them, although have a few 1CCs notched now (which I haven’t blogged about). I still haven’t kept up with all their console releases, despite buying an Asian 4GB Xbox 360 Slim to play more of them on, despite owning a PAL Xbox. I also purchased a PSP this year (behind the times) which has been great fun. And recently, I upgraded my iPhone 3GS to a 4S so have been checking out some of the games there. In 2012 I’m seriously tempted to get a Nintendo 3DS (now that its cheap and some decent games are out), and also a PlayStation Vita when that becomes cheap and there are some games I want. Also, I’m hoping for an Xbox 360 port of Mushihime-sama version1.5.

Photos

I’ve been a bit slack on taking and sorting photos. Now I have a decent phone camera again I might take some whilst out and about – I need to explore new places recently. I’ve got loads of holiday snaps to sort out too.

Figures

This past year I’ve bought loads of scaled figures and nendos, culminating in a huge bunch of purchases during my 2nd Japan Trip. However, the more I have, the less I appreciate them. And I’m running out of room to display them nicely. I don’t even change the poses of my nendos any more. Still, there’s a few nendos coming out early 2012 that I’ll buy but maybe I should put scaled figure purchases on hold until I sort out a nice display solution.

Anime

This year I’ve been watching more series weekly as they air (although only half the amount of series that I like the look of from the previews) rather than marathoning through old series. As a result, I’ve only watched about the same number of series as last year, despite watching anime for twice as many months! I got really into Evangelion this year (behind the times again) and my favourite series from 2011 was definitely Usagi Drop. So many real human emotions. I’ll post a list soon of all the anime series I’ve completed in 2011 with thoughts. I haven’t finished the Fall 2011 series that I’m watching yet so will post thoughts on those in due course too. As for 2012, I’ve only got two series on my eye for the spring season. But I have lots of series from 2011 and some box sets to catch up on. Also, this year I’ve started reading manga. I have a huge shelf full now – I’ve been planning to blog about that for a while now, but the shelf keeps getting bigger, and I’m not finishing off enough series.

Japan

This year was strong – I made my 2nd Japan Trip! I spend a lot of time in Akihabara but also visited loads of other places. Tokyo (Roppongi, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku), Osaka, Kyoto, Toyosato (for the K-ON! school), Tsukuba, Kawaguchi-ko (for Fuji-san and Evangelion World), Nikko. There’s still loads of places in Japan I want to visit, even in Tokyo itself (like Odaiba for instance) and I need to make some pilgrimages like my Shenmue one to Yokosuka that has been on the cards for 10 years! I don’t think I’ll make my 3rd trip next year but hopefully in 2013. I should post more themed pictures here, but honestly, I find posting a large amount of photos a pain in the arse using WordPress.

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Akihabara Map

Akihabara is heaven for Otaku. Full of anime, manga, figures, videogames, idols, maid cafes, and more. There’s so much to see and do. But people sometimes struggle to find what the want. I picked up this map on my last visit which may help you. Click the image to see full resolution. Its a little out of date so doesn’t have stuff like the AKB48 cafe, new Kotobukiya and Volks stores etc on there – I’ve annotated some of the highlights over on figure.fm.

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Nils Frahm, Alexander Tucker at Band on the Wall, Manchester, 08/11/2011

Just a couple of days after arriving back from Japan, I decided to go to a gig. Nils Frahm had made by favourite record of 2009 (Wintermusik), and although the follow-up (The Bells) was disappointing, I needed to see the show.

So, after leaving work early for a rest before the show (still a bit jet-lagged), I arrived just as the 2nd act, Alexander Tucker, had started playing. He played some electronic/doom/drone (with occasional ethereal vocals) which was fairly standard but I found it pleasant. Just the tonic I needed after my recent diet of J-Pop.

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