The Famitsu 40/40 List: 2011 Perfect Score Update

Final Fantasy 13 2 Japanese CoverWe last checked in with Famitsu, the premier video game magazine in Japan, in April 2010, right after they had awarded Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a perfect score. It was Famitsu's 14th perfect score in their 20+ year history, but what really caught my eye was that half of them (7 at the time) had been given out in just three short years! Something had changed at Famitsu as it seems to difficult to imagine that there are that many more perfect games per year (even if the individual reviewer doesn't consider a 10 perfect, they're still handing out the score relative to everything else released).

And while I was hoping this wouldn't become an annual event, in the 20 mere months since my article we add four more games to Famitsu's perfect score list: Pokemon Black and White, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. I'll be honest and admit the inclusion of this particular Final Fantasy game spurred me to write this update.

For the unaware, Famitsu assigns four reviewers to major titles, with each reviewer giving a score out of 10. A perfect score would be 40 out of 40 points totaled across four reviews. The first 40/40 review was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, presented 12 years after the magazine's first issue. Let's have a quick word about the four new titles and update our graph.

The List

Before we begin, I'd like to quickly point out that I'm not picking on Famitsu because they give out perfect scores. There are many magazines and sites that have given out magnitudes more 10's/five-stars/A+'s over the years, heck, we give out our fair share of them. I'm picking on Famitsu because for 20 years, a 40/40 was a very rare event. Something has changed at Famitsu, whether it's reviewer turnover (likely), money exchanging hands (not implausible), or we give them the benefit of the doubt and games really are that much better (in my opinon, Sturgeon's Law still applies). Research could probably be done on the subject, but I'll leave that to a brave, bored soul.

Here's the current 40/40 list, you can see my write-up on the games before Pokemon Black and White here.

  1. Skyrim CoverThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
  2. Soulcalibur (1999)
  3. Vagrant Story (2000)
  4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
  5. Nintendogs (2005)
  6. Final Fantasy XII (2006)
  7. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
  8. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
  9. 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de (2008)
  10. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (2009)
  11. Monster Hunter Tri (2009)
  12. Bayonetta (2009)
  13. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009)
  14. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
  15. Pokemon Black and White (2010)
  16. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
  17. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
  18. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (2011)

And now for the new games:

Pokemon Black and White (2010)

This double game release receives just a single 40, and is only the third portable game ever to receive it after Nintendogs, Dragon Quest IX, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. I haven't played a Pokemon game since Ruby, so I don't have much of an opinion on the game or the series beyond loving the original. Is Black and White deserving of a perfect score? Undoubtedly more than Nintendogs, that's for sure.

Leave a comment on where you feel Black and White falls in the series? Is it really better than the previous iterations?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)

Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword CoverAs one of the game's I'm currently playing, I definitely have an opinion on Skyward Sword. Is it a perfect game? No. Would I reward it a 10? No. Can I see others rewarding it a 10? Sure. Can I see four out of four reviewers all at the same magazine reward it a 10? Not as likely. I believe that if money is ever passed between publishers and Famitsu, Nintendo is one of the least likely companies to participate, but there sure are a LOT of Nintendo games on the 40/40 list, and I don't think they're all 40/40 material.

As for my thoughts on the newest Zelda game? It is really great, but has some major flaws that would need some epic overcoming in the latter half of the game for me to even consider a 10. After four dungeons I'm floating around an 8/10, but this is all unofficial and tentative.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Widely heralded as the first Western game ever to receive the mythical 40/40 mark, Skyrim is receiving near universal acclaim. It's easy to point out some kind of bias in that it took 25 years for a Japanese magazine to reward a non-Japanese game a perfect score, but that's not the point of the article. Skyrim will probably be the consensus game of the year by the time 2011 is done, so Famitsu has some ground to stand on here in defending their score.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 (2011)

The original Final Fantasy XIII narrowly missed a perfect score, nailing just 39 (three 10 reviews, one 9 review). I've never played the game, but I feel like I would either love it or hate it with passion. And since FFXIII-2 isn't even going to be released in Japan until later this week, hardly anyone can confirm or deny whether this is the proper score for the latest Final Fantasy game. My guess, from SquareEnix's latest track record, is that the score is incredibly overblown, but only time will tell. Chances are the western press won't react as fondly.

Famitsu Perfect Scores 2011