April – Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
April was kind of a barren month for game releases, as publishers were wise enough to steer clear of Mortal Kombat and Portal 2, so I was stuck picking either this or Patapon 3. In the end, though, I had to go with what’s widely considered one of the finest RPGs to ever see release. Sure, this is approximately the 400th time that it’s been ported in some form, but this is arguably the best the game has ever looked. While the idea of rendering the game in 3D polygons on the DS was pretty neat, I’ve got a big ol’ soft spot for the timelessness of 2D pixels. On top of that, the soundtrack was rearranged to sound cleaner than the SNES original, although you can still switch back and forth to whichever version you prefer — pretty neat stuff.
Of course, The Complete Collection includes more than just the main game that many still hold up as the best the FF series has to offer. You’ll also find The After Years, a former WiiWare exclusive that takes place, you know, after the main game, as well as a brand new Interlude that bridges the two stories together. While those two additional stories don’t quite match up to the 1991 classic, there’s no denying that you’re getting an awful lot of bang for your buck for $30.
If the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D has taught us anything, it’s that the ability to take one an all-time great game with you on the go is always welcom. Square Enix have already made $900 jillion on reselling FFIV over and over, but as the definitive version this deserved a little more attention than it got. At the very least, it would’ve been nice to see it outsell Just Dance 2 or Michael Jackson: The Experience (which it obviously did not).
May – MotorStorm: Apocalypse
Ah, MotorStorm. The franchise is truly one of Sony’s best racing franchises. Well, it’s pretty much the only one that isn’t Gran Turismo, but the games are still a hell of a lot of fun in their own right. The original launched just months after the PS3, giving Sony fans a taste of what their new systems were capable of, and Pacific Rift took the game out of the desert and into a gorgeous tropical island setting. Both games featured several different car classes, dictating the path a player should take on any given course.
So it was a bit surprising to learn that the third game in the series would not only be set in an urban environment, but one that would be crumbling around racers as they zipped around the track. If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because Split/Second took a similar approach just a year prior. While it didn’t totally jive with what fans expected out of the franchise, at its core it still played like MotorStorm.
Unfortunately, the series has never been one to light up NPD’s charts; while the original was the fifth-best selling game in March 2007, Pacific Rift failed to reach the top 10 for November 2008 (the game released on October 28th). Apocalyspe took after Pacific Rift by also failing to make a dent in the top 10.
Whether people have simply lost interest in the franchise, thought it was too similar to Split/Second (which also sold poorly), or the tragic natural disasters in Japan were just too fresh in the minds of gamers, it seems that MS:A simply never stood a chance.
June – Shadows of the Damned
You may or may not have noticed, but June 2011 was a battle for dick joke dominance. In one corner, the 14-years-in-the-making Duke Nukem Forever. In the other, scrappy underdog Shadows of the Damned, put together by a who’s-who of Japanese development talent. At this point, you should be able to guess who won that one.
It’s not often you get to buy a game that’s been in development longer than a sizeable chunk of the gaming audience has even been alive, so the release of Duke Nukem Forever was kind of a big deal. Hell, I still can’t believe that it actually exists. But while no game can possibly live up to a decade-plus of hype, DNF simply wasn’t a good game. The game was fugly, it was riddled with awful pacing and level design, and, in hindsight, maybe Duke was never really that funny in the first place. Yet people gobbled that shit up … to the tune of 376,300 units in June, to be exact.
As for Shadows of the Damned? It sold an anemic 24,000 copies, and that’s combining the sales of both the PS3 and 360 versions. Apparently the idea of Suda 51, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka making a game that nailed the B-movie aesthetic that DNF had so terribly missed the mark on wasn’t intriguing enough to gamers. These are dick jokes with character, dammit.
We all love to sing the underdog’s praises, and I had to nick a few titles to make the list work. Which of your favorite games this year didn’t get enough attention? Sound off below, or let us know in the forums.