Welcome to the biggest entry in the history of the blog yet, and the biggest to be. It's split in parts for easier reading. Browsing through my GameStop receipts from the last 12 months, I'm realizing how amazing this year's been in terms of buying games. Taking all official mobile games for the Windows Phone - "official" meaning games with Xbox LIVE support - and downloadable games for all platforms including the PC into account, I've bought nearly 90 games this year, most of them for the Xbox 360, which I purchased last December. Like I've stated several times before, I was never supposed to buy anything for the Xbox 360 besides the Mass Effect trilogy - which is now also on the PlayStation 3, ironically. However, I quickly found the Xbox 360 very useful. Although it doesn't have much exclusive games that I'm really interested in, certain multi-platform titles have proven to be MUCH easier to find for the Xbox 360 than the PS3, and they're often available at a smaller price. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Shadows of the Damned are just a couple of examples I've stumbled on during my quest to become a credible current-gen collector.
I was in a romantic relationship with a fellow gamer through the summer, so it's no wonder that I bought new games nearly every week from April to August. Not only did I visit GameStop by personal choice very often, I also accompanied her on her shopping sprees - which certainly did not involve new shoes or clothes. Just recently I was committed to a person who wasn't exactly a gamer herself, but respected and supported my hobby enough to have dedicated to this update with the strength of a dozen games, including the NES games. For the first time in almost seven years, I own real NES cartridges, and no matter how crappy half of the few titles are, they're centerpieces in my collection, and next year's update will most definitely feature new 8-bit games as well. It's a new beginning, and this time it's 'til death do us part!
Although this update covers digital purchases for the PC and Windows Phone, these games will not be listed in VGArchive; they're here because I wanted to share thoughts on a few of 'em, and couldn't just disregard the rest. Let's start with these.
I've never been much of a computer gamer - stated for the umpteenth time - and although I own actual retail versions of many successful games from yesteryear, I believe I've never paid a dime for any of them. I've paid for, or been given a few digital games for the PC this year, and the big question is, what kind of PC game(s) could possibly make me cough up the dough?
Final Fantasy VII | Square Enix | 2012
Notes: Digital (square-enix.com) | EU
Comments: Come on. You seriously thought I would pass on the re-release of my favourite video game of all time? Fans have begged for a Final Fantasy VII remake for years, and unfortunately, this is the best Square Enix has to offer; an audiovisually remastered version of the original PC game, which won't run properly on current-gen PC's even when patched to the max. To add to the sense and value, they added in achievements, but forgot to elaborate that they're not the actual Achievements that Windows Live, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone users are accustomed to, rather Square Enix's own variety of accomplishments. Paid almost a ten for the game without knowing that. It's still the best game ever made, but I had already owned everything there is to own about it for well over a decade before this version's release. I was seriously writing a "Looking back at" article about the game in the wake of this version's release, but gave up on it, 'cause I've already said everything there is to say about Final Fantasy VII, and more.
Portal | Valve Corporation | 2007
Notes: Digital (Steam) | EU
Comments: The last ten years, whenever I've taken the slightest look to what's happening in the world of computer gaming, I've heard everything I wanted and did not want to know about game X by Valve Corporation. Some (read: most) are into Half-Life or Counter-Strike, but more conservative, and dare I say, thinking, players, are into Portal, which is a very unique first-person puzzle game, rather than an FPS. Today, Portal's a legend, with an even more legendary sequel in Portal 2, which was released on consoles as well, whereas the first one is only available as part of the console version of Valve's The Orange Box. Here's the big one: I've never played it. I plan to begin some day, just to see what people are fussing about. I got this one as a free gift from a good friend on Steam.
Star Wars: The Old Republic | BioWare | 2011
Notes: Digital (bioware.com) | EU
Comments: BioWare was making an Old Republic game after skipping The Sith Lords. Awesome. They decided on an MMO with a monthly fee. Less awesome. In under a year after its release, Star Wars: The Old Republic became free to download and play, with few limitations that hardly have an effect on a casual player. Quite awesome. I don't know if The Old Republic really counts towards my near-complete BioWare collection since it's a free, digital download, but at least I'm getting to play it, and from what I've seen so far, it's a quite good game, possibly criticized and simply overlooked due to WoW's increasing popularity and in turn, BioWare's decreasing popularity. I don't really know the specifics of what the critics and fans are saying, this game just screamed out "download me!" as soon as I heard the news on Facebook.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory | Ubisoft | 2005
Notes: Digital (Steam) | EU
Comments: OK, so this is so ironic that it's almost funny. I used to own Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow on the PlayStation 2. I think it was Game Revolution that appointed Pandora Tomorrow the game of the year (2004), and Splinter Cell remains one of the most popular ongoing video game franchises. I HATED Pandora Tomorrow. What can I say, I'm a Metal Gear fan. If a stealth game doesn't immediately feel as good to me as that standard, it's shit, or at least a fart. Well, I've grown up since then, and I respect Splinter Cell, but I've never quite caught wind of what's so great about it. Haven't played this game, but I'm planning to, to possibly catch that damn wind. Why did I buy it, then? Well, I wanted to unlock private messaging in Steam, and to do that, I needed to buy something from Steam. Chaos Theory was the cheapest game available and of a familiar brand, so I gave up 3-4 euros for it, and now I'm a happy private messager on Steam.
WINDOWS PHONE 7 (12)
To some of you, Windows Phone 7 might sound "old", but I don't really care, 'cause the same mobile games are available for everyone, for now at least. I bought the Nokia Lumia 800 a couple of months back - I would be lying if I said there was no external pressure involved, but I admit it was high time for me to leap to the modern times. I love my phone, and it has a good variety of quality games available - what's best about a Windows Phone is that there are a lot of games with Xbox LIVE support, meaning you can get Achievements to add up to your Gamerscore, and even some of THOSE games are free of charge, which is so against my previously justified prejudice of Micro$oft that it actually hurts. Anyway, here's my current Xbox LIVE collection for the Windows Phone.
AlphaJax | Marker Metro | 2012
A free Scrabble clone, and not a very interesting one, judging by the brief time I've spent with it - it works like letter chess. The only mode worth playing is the multiplayer mode, in which you're matched with some random online person, and you have all the time in the world to play - unfortunately, not all the time in the world to pay attention.
Angry Birds | Rovio Entertainment | 2011
For three years, I've watched this phenomenon grow and found myself nearly grabbing several people by the throats and asking what's so damn great about those birds!? Soft drinks, candy, clothing, toylines, playbooks, toilet paper (well, could be!), board games, a mobile game turned video game for multiple major platforms! So, when's the movie coming out...? Anyway, I paid the measly 99 cents they asked for it - I thought it was quite a fair price for such a popular product. ...So I found one of the most addictive games I've ever played. I like to call myself a fan (the black one's my favourite), and I own Angry Birds-related merchandise. Would NOT have believed this to ever be true, just a few months back. I also have the two other games recently released on the WP7, Angry Birds Space and the magnificent Star Wars crossover, but for some odd reason, they don't have Xbox LIVE support.
Breeze | Microsoft Studios | 2012
A free game by Microsoft themselves, imagine that - not even the only one on the list! Breeze is very true to its name - this casual title reminds me a lot of one of PlayStation Network's best, Flower, but in a 2D environment and without gameplay nearly as smooth. The basic idea's the same - you play as the wind to move a single flower around - but the goals are a bit different.
Bug Village | Glu Mobile | 2012
It's like SimCity for kids and chicks (sorry), with cute insects for constructors and habitants. It's too cute for my tastes, there's a little too much stuff on the screen at all times for my tastes, and I'm not really that much into the genre besides the classics, but at least the game's free of charge.
Final Fantasy | Square Enix | 2012
At €6.49, it's a financial risk - but a risk you're willing to take, if you're a Final Fantasy fan. The 25th anniversary edition of the very first Final Fantasy game for the Windows Phone is magnificent. It really doesn't differ a lot from any previous remake, as it's pretty much a port of the Dawn of Souls remake for the Game Boy Advance, but it's my first peek at a mobile version of the classic game which grew into my all-time favourite franchise, and I must say I've had loads of fun with it. The control scheme is the work of geniuses, and the music sounds perfect. The Achievements are a little dumb (like, who in the hell enjoys speedrunning the game in what, six hours?), and it's a little too easy to be called the best mobile game out there, but it's a great game.
Flowerz | Carbonated Games | 2010
A free game developed by puzzle experts Carbonated Games. Flowerz is a cute puzzle game with a very simple concept, but it can sneak up on you and quickly turn into a monster with ultra-high difficulty. I tried my best to beat just one of the two modes in the game (Normal / Advanced) for a time, but I found it impossible. Since it's free, it doesn't hurt to give it a try - it's a quality game.
Fruit Ninja | Halfbrick Studios | 2010
A surreal ninja training game with a lot of "interesting" fruit trivia, based around the assumption that all ninja must hate fruit. It's only 99 cents, it has many game modes, it's simple and highly addictive, but after just a few hours of training, you might find the game a little too simple and easy. It's still more fun than I believe Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance is going to be. ;)
Minesweeper | Babaroga | 2011
What can I say? It's Minesweeper as you've known it since 1992 - nothing more, nothing less. It's a part of Babaroga's back-to-basics series which also includes Sudoku. Much less entertaining than that game, though - I've never found the game too addictive, and if it's OK to say I don't like it, I'll say it. It's free, though.
Shuffle Party | Microsoft Game Studios | 2011
Shuffleboard bowling for your mobile phone, if you're interested. It's dull, the gameplay's not really up to the standard, but it's free and it comes with Achievements - so you probably have it already.
Sudoku | Babaroga | 2011
Another minimalistic game from Babaroga, only this one's good - it's Sudoku! The funny thing about Sudoku is that there was a time I couldn't stand/understand its greatness, but I finally got addicted to Sudoku puzzles some years ago, and couldn't pass on this free game, especially since there are Achievements involved.
Trivial Pursuit | EA Mobile | 2012
Well, here's a recent conversion of a game I got addicted to as a 7-year old - it's not that I would've known much of anything, but I guess the colourful outlook of the game appealed to me. Trivial Pursuit is one of my favourite board games of all time - if not THE best there ever will be - and this version checks out just fine, it's way better than any of the classics ruined by Gameloft. Entertaining game modes, fair Achievements, lots of different questions, no Yes/No answers that plague the real game. €2.99 ain't a bad price at all.
Wordament | You vs. the Internet | 2011
Judging by how much I've played it, the most addictive game on my phone, and it's free of charge. It's a traditional word puzzle where you need to find hidden words from a 4 x 4 grid. It's basically a single-player game, but you can't play a local game - an Internet connection is mandatory, and you're always pitted against every other player in the world, which can make high score attempts, as well as some Achievements, pretty frustrating. Also, the game's dictionary can be pretty weird, especially in themed puzzles. It won't approve of words like "Latin" at all, and won't always count "Sea" as a ship-related word, but approves of words like "Glasnost" and "Persalt". These were some of the lighter examples.