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Lucas Stephens’ Top 10 of 2012

Sonic Transformed

There can be only one number one! Here’s my Top 10 of 2012!

#10 Max Payne 3

It seems like I’ve waited eons for this game. I know gamers who’ve had children and are well into elementary school between Max Payne 2 and 3. I just wish the game was well worth the wait. I did enjoy it, but the game was disappointing in certain areas. Its gritty presentation was excellent, but its bullet time felt dated. The inclusion of cover changed the way Max Payne played, but considering you couldn’t live long anymore by just floating around in slow motion meant cover was actually appreciated. I’m still baffled by the fact that I couldn’t use grenades, though. As far as story telling goes, that’s where I loved the game the most. It was a thrilling ride from chapter to chapter.

Sound Shapes

#9 Sound Shapes

I best described this as Lumines meets Super Meat Boy. It’s a quirky platformer, like Super Meat Boy, but it has rhythm-influenced gameplay like Lumines. You’re a little sticky blob that rolls about the level, and the music changes the behavior of different platforming elements. What I really enjoyed about it was seeing lyrics suddenly materialize into platforms as they were being sung, and then disappear shortly afterward. This meant you had to use your ears just as much as your eyes to get through some of these levels. I loved the art direction and level design, but because of the overly liberal use of check points, it made the game a bit too easy, and it could have done itself good to be a few hours longer.

#8 Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

I love rhythm games, and one of my favorites was Elite Beat Agents on the DS. Although its note tapping gameplay wasn’t as good as EBA, I still really enjoyed Theatrhythm. Plus, hearing music from the past 13 mainstay Final Fantasy brought up so many wonderful memories. A few people have complained that the game shouldn’t have used the 8-bit original songs from the early Final Fantasys, but I disagree. I felt it gave the game a sense of purity and when your selling point is nostalgia, your best bet is to keep it as true as you can. I was really addicted to this title and I seriously had to force myself to stop in order to play other games.

Uncharted Golden Abyss

#7 Uncharted: Golden Abyss

I’d be lying if I said the graphics weren’t a factor for this game being included in the list, but look at that screenshot! Look at all the attention that was put into Drake! This was the first game I played on my brand new Vita when I bought it back on February 15th, and I was literally amazed at its technical prowess. It basically took the graphics of the first Uncharted and crammed it into a handheld, and it had some pretty damn good water effects as well. Graphics aside, the game was pretty fun tool, although it didn’t hold up as well to the PS3 Uncharteds. That’s a very large order to fill, and considering it was a different team that developed Golden Abyss, I can’t hold it against them that it didn’t turn out as well as Among Thieves.

#6 Mark of the Ninja

Stealth is something that’s hard to do in video games, but Mark of the Ninja nailed it perfectly. It punished you if you screwed up and rewarded you for your skill. Its presentation was very stylistic, painting its canvas half full with black. I also loved how there were so many ways to approach obstacles and I really enjoyed all the different tools the game gave you. Had I the time, I would have played through it again on a harder difficulty. The only major complaint I had with the game was its ending felt a bit too abrupt. If you have a 360, you should definitely check out this XBLA title.

#5 Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed

I purchased the Wii U version of the game, but I kind of wished I didn’t. It was plagued for weeks by game-breaking bugs which made a few World Tour modes and a couple online modes unplayable. I stuck with it, though, and I found that this was the best Mario Kart game that didn’t involve Mario. There are a lot of kart racers out there, but they simply don’t stack up to the Mario Kart brand. The first Sonic racing game changed all that, and the sequel kept pushing that strength forward while adding vehicle transforming elements. It had brilliant track design, speed and colorful graphics. Once the game was patched, it made everything okay, and now the inevitable Mario Kart U will be facing some serious competition for the first time.

#4 Kid Icarus: Uprising

Originally scheduled as a launch title, Kid Icarus saw a year and half’s worth of delays, but it was well worth it. Nintendo spared no expense, no amount of time or resources into giving the original Kid Icarus a phenomenal sequel. The presentation of this title is some of the best on the 3DS, and its gameplay is both excellent and deep. There are so many different weapons to acquire that it’s staggering. Add in AR cards to collect and trade and you have yourself a title that can keep the 3DS in your hands for a long time. The only thing I didn’t really like so much was the controls when Pit took to ground. It just wasn’t as comfortable as I hoped, and I didn’t like the idea of having to use the stand that came with the game.

Professor Layton

#3 Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

I remember watching live launch coverage of the 3DS. The Miracle Mask was one of the launch titles, and I was so jealous, because I wanted it for my 3DS when I bought it a couple months later. But, I know localization is something that can’t be rushed, and Nintendo localizes like no one’s business. So, I waited, and I was treated with my favorite Professor Layton in the series. I love the franchise, but after four games that pretty much did nothing different, it was in danger of growing stale. The Miracle Mask alleviated this with its all new presentation. Being able to see the environment in 3D was the much needed breath of fresh air the game needed, and it even had an expedition level that let you take control of Layton and move him around in a series of caves. I loved everything about this game, and now I wait even more eagerly for the next installment.

#2 Rayman Origins (Vita)

I bought this game for my Vita, and I loved every second of it. The Vita’s beautiful screen was the perfect match for the game’s gorgeous graphics. It was literally poetry in motion. The animations were so fluid, just like a cartoon. I loved the music and the game’s sense of humor and charm. The game had fantastic level design and some rather hard challenges. I also really enjoyed the treasure chest chasing segments, because they reminded me of Super Meat Boy’s precision platforming elements. I would have loved to get Rayman Legends on the Vita as well, because I prefer platformers on handhelds, but as it looks to be a Wii U exclusive at this time, I have no choice but to get it for the Wii U. Still, I anxiously await its sequel.

New Super Mario Bros. U

#1 New Super Mario Bros. U

This is my personal Game of the Year for 2012. What better launch game for a new Nintendo system than a Mario game? I’d have personally preferred a 3D Mario, such as a new Galaxy instead, but I’d be wrong to turn away one of the best 2D Mario platformers in years. After playing the ridiculously easy New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS, I was relieved to experience my teeth being kicked in by NSMBU. It’s so nice to actually have a reason to have extra lives in a Mario game again. I loved the new things they did with the level design, and I absolutely loved the visuals. Nintendo’s decision to finally display in high-definition made a world of difference. This is the most gorgeous game on the Wii U so far. Also, it was good of them to include extra challenges to tackle when you finished the main game. My only major complaint was the soundtrack was too familiar, and there was a lack of new power-ups.  Now, bring on Super Mario Galaxy 3!

Born and raised in Denver, CO in 1979, I've been playing games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I was weened on Atari, then Nintendo and Sega, and currently own just about every console and handheld made. I'm an avid hip hop fan and I love to read books. Favorite authors include Dean Koontz, Stephen Hunter, and Christopher Moore. I'm also an avid movie watcher and I try to collect as many Blu-Rays as I can.

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