These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was my primary reason for buying a Wii at launch. It left me feeling disappointed and greatly annoyed. Five years later, beating The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on my second Wii (after selling my first just days after beating Twilight Princess) leaves me with nearly the opposite effect: I loved it and am slightly giddy to write a review about it before the end of the year.
I was definitely not feeling the game a few hours in. Twilight Princess’ first hour is awful and Skyward Sword’s is arguably worse, and the ramp up feels tedious. My list of annoyances was longer than any kind of enjoyment I was getting out of the game, but once the game does ramp up, it does it incredibly successfully.
So as the Wii’s last hurrah, Skyward Sword leaves a great impression, here’s my review of the latest Legend of Zelda game, released in November. This is our second full review of the game, following Nate’s from last week. I re-read his review in preparation for my own, and have to say I agree on basically every point. So hopefully this review won’t be longer than it needs to be, but if you have some time, do read his write-up.
The lasting impression from my recent introduction to the original Legend of Zelda was its unstructured progression. With only a ghost of a narrative driving the action and few barriers to limit wanderlust, the course of my trip through Hyrule was almost entirely up to me. Having played Ocarina of Time before any other Zelda game, I was surprised to see just how hands-off the original was.
In contrast, last month's Skyward Sword may be the most linear Zelda experience yet. The newest quest sees Link flying from one compact landmass to the next with hardly any room for side trips. The vast sky of islands is sparser than Wind Waker's nearly endless ocean, and even the surface world below is but three masses of land separated by impenetrable mountain ranges and deserts and forests. This is a Zelda where the path to the next waypoint is often the only path.
Every game in the series since the eighties original has trended towards structure and direction as story progression and ability acquisition gained a greater share of the Zelda spirit. Aesthetic similarities and recurring tropes aside, The Legend of Zelda and Skyward Sword could be mistaken for two wholly separate franchises. For better or worse, Skyward Sword feels like the end state of a slow evolution that Nintendo has been cooking for twenty-five years.
With so many Legend of Zelda re-releases in 2011, I've had several excuses to reacquaint myself with the series for the last six months. I awakened Link for the first time, replayed bits of the first Zelda game I ever experienced, tried out a solo retrofit of the franchise's multiplayer experiment, and even charted my way through the legend that begot legends. For me, 2011 has been the year of Zelda.
Through this trip back through time, I've reevaluated my regard for Nintendo's beloved adventure franchise, and just in time for the newest iteration. Skyward Sword, at a glance, looks like just another Zelda, which is enough for most fans but insufficient for me. On top of that, the game boasts a distinct watercolor style, a sky/land dichotomy, and what appears to be an origin story for many of the franchise's trademark elements.
What has me excited is the motion-controlled combat. I loved the MotionPlus combat in Red Steel 2, and Skyward Sword uses the gyroscope add-on to provide needed nuance to Zelda's normally dull swordplay. Comparisons to Punch Out's puzzle-like duels have me salivating all the more.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience much of that in Skyward Sword's opening sixty. That's disheartening enough, but Skyward Sword doesn't stop at mere disappointment...the game outright insults me. Take a look:
We’re just a few weeks away from the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which in turn caps a pretty amazing holiday buying season for console games. Gears of War 3, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and Skyward Sword are all being released within just weeks of each other.
Every year, more and more huge titles are crammed into the holiday schedule, grade inflation becomes rampant, wallets are emptied, and I seem to miss out on more and more games. But this year, I’m missing out on them mostly because I just don’t have any time to play games these days. I’d love to play Arkham City and give Battlefield 3 a try, but I’ve only managed to play four whole hours of Professor Layton and the Last Specter in the past week, which is why our content has been a bit dry lately.
Which leads me back to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I’m usually frothing at the mouth for the latest adventure of Link, but through a combination of Twilight Princess still stinging and just being sick of the Wii, I’m not preordering the game. I have preordered every console Zelda game since Ocarina of Time back in 1998.
Like scampering down the stairs on Christmas morning, the excited search for a steady video feed before E3 conferences is filled with anticipation. The annual summer happening is one of the few times on the gaming industry's calendar when we can look forward to some surprise delights from the many publishers playing the role of Santa Claus in business suits. Simply put, it's the industry's biggest event in the year.
As such, the editors of The First Hour tried to guess what unexpected pleasures would manifest at the event. Some were sure bets, like Microsoft showing off Halo: Reach. Others were more risky, like F-Zero hitting the 3DS at launch. And some were planted firmly outside the realm of possibility, with Shenmue 3 topping that list as always.
When all was said and done, The First Hour hit a few out of the park...but mostly struck out.
After Nate’s excellent and complete wrap-up of the five big conferences, I’m going to cover some of the games that caught my attention over the last few days. While we knew the existence of some of these games before this week, our knowledge of them was pretty thin. Hopefully you’ll be seeing these games on the First Hour in the coming year (and hopefully we’ll recommend you keep playing them!).
This list is nowhere near complete, neither as a list of great E3 2010 games or even with games I was impressed with. Hope you enjoyed the show, I sure did.
The question at the beginning of E3 always seems to be, "Who's going to win this year?" The gaming community eagerly watches the big press conferences for showstopping announcements and game demonstrations, looking to see which company will have the edge for the next twelve months. E3 2010 featured five big press conferences in its first two days: Microsoft, EA, and Ubisoft on Monday, and Nintendo and Sony on Tuesday. So much has happened in the past 48 hours that I think it's important to take a moment and recap each company's showing. I've definitely missed a few announcements and details in this quick-and-dirty summary, but I think I hit all the major points.