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.
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.
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.