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For the second year running Nintendo have shown why they are still, after all this time and after the ups and downs, they are one of the most reliable and unique companies in the business. I always approach any sort of Nintendo conference with a certain amount of trepidation. Let us not forget those torturous E3’s of a few years ago with Wii Music and that failed Zelda presentation.

However over the last year Nintendo has shown that they aren’t afraid to poke a bit of fun at themselves and they aren’t afraid to have a little bit of a laugh along the way. And that couldn’t be more evident in this year’s event. Robot Chicken kicks things off in great style. With a cartoon Regie introducing things before being waylaid by Bowser and Wario.

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Things are now picking up a gear as the scene changes and we are then taken to a black room with Reggie and Iwata duking it out in an over the top martial arts fight to the death before picking up their respective controllers to fight it out on Smash Bros. that’s rights. Mii’s are coming to Smash. However not just any old Mii’s. It’s soon explained that you will be able to choose from three different classes which in turn gives your Mii access to around thirty different moves. We also catch our first glimpse of Nintendo’s new physical toys. These are called Amiibo and we are shown how they integrate themselves with Smash Bros. Scanning your Amiibo will bring them in to the game to either fight alongside or against you. The more you use them the more their attributes will increase. They were pretty tight lipped about anything else. However we were told that there will be support coming to Mario Kart 8 soon. This of course was accompanied with a Luigi death stare.

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It was after this announcement that the games and surprises started coming thick and fast. First up was Yoshi’s Wooly World. An attractive enough proposition. Think the aesthetics of Kirby’s Epic Yarn mixed with the sensibilities of a Yoshi platformer. Like I said it’s a nice enough looking game but definitely one for the younger audience.

Next up was a surprise game that I was very excited to see. Especially as a massive Super Mario 3d World fan. Remember those awesome little Toad minigames that were scattered throughout the world map? They were great right? But if I remember correctly they were very far and few between and criminally underused. Well fear not because it looks like we are getting a bigger and better version of those games in a standalone adventure entitled Captain Toads Treasure Tracker coming to Wii U. This will be hitting the console Christmas time 2014.

Then there was another big surprise. I mean we all knew a new Zelda was on the way, but I think we were all expecting it to be Nintendo’s final mic drop moment. Well anyway, as you’ve probably guessed the new Zelda was announced. First of all we were treated to a gorgeously green, lush and vibrant vista.  Aonuma tells us that everything we can see, which is a lot given the draw distance, we can travel to. He tells us that the world will act as one big puzzle. Aonuma then fades out and the camera zooms in on a very Skyward Sword looking Link astride Epona as they are chased by a very Twilight Princess looking villain. As the chase comes to a head Link leaps from Epona and unleashes an attack from a bow which seems to change the elements it possess on the fly. The screen fades and we are told to expect it 2015.

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Then we are introduced to a few more familiar faces of games that we saw at last year’s E3. My game of the show from last year, Monolith’s X, has been renamed and is now flying under the moniker of Xenoblade Chronicles X. we are shown a very beautiful trailer that consists mainly of cut scenes rather than actual gameplay, and given a release window of 2015.

Another familiar face, and a very beautiful one at that, comes in the form of the gloriously hard-core Bayonetta. My favourite character action game of the last gheneration got announced as a Wii U exclusive last year and now has a sumptuous new gameplay trailer along with a date. Look for it in the autumn later this year. Oh I almost forgot. It also includes the original Bayonetta in its entirety! Not too bad eh? Throw in the fact that Platinum games seem to be having fun with some of Nintendo’s other characters by throwing in Peach and Samus costumes and it looks like you’ve got one incredible package.

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Another game that I did not see coming was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse which will be coming to Wii U. Now I haven’t been excited about a Kirby game in years. However the last one that did genuinely impress me was Canvas Curse on the DS released waaaay back in 2005. After watching the trailer it would be a safe bet that this is a direct sequel to that game. Fingers crossed it is as innovative and fun as the original.

A few other dates got announced during the show. Look out for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hitting stores November 21st. these dates were also accompanied by some exciting new trailers as these classic games get new life breathed in to them.

We also had a bigger more in depth look at Hyrule Warriors. The Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash up. And I must say seeing it again seven or so months on it is looking more and more like something I’d pick up. It was revealed that Princess Zelda and Midna (of Twilight fame) would both be playable characters. We were also told that the game could be expected in stores on September 26th.

Nintendo’s last big game that they showed was Mario Maker for the Wii U. This does look impressive. Maybe not on a graphical level, but from someone whose seen what a community can create on the likes of Little Big Planet, a platfromer series that has nowhere near the technical fidelity of a Mario game, I am very excited to see what tough mind boggling challenges people will make. This is a game strictly ties to 2D Mario however so there will be no recreating stages form 64, Sunshine or Galaxy. However it did appear that you can switch on the fly between the classic pixel art of Nes era Mario and the more contemporary hd version seen in New Super Mario Bros U.

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Last but not least was yet another character reveal for Smash Bros. Not just satisfied with giving us the Mii’s we can also expect Palutena of Kid Icarus fame to be joining the fray. Palutena marks the 32nd character to be confirmed for the ever increasing roster.

And that about raps it up. I’ve been typing fervently trying to keep up with all the announcements they were rolled out so quickly. And from a company that really did look like at one point was going to have a weak 2014, there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of games on the horizon for the end of this year and early 2015. Seems like it wasn’t such a bad idea picking up a Wii U after all. Now I just need to buy a 3ds again…..

 

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So as I lie here in bed, partly hung over, partly sleep deprived, thinking back on the sensual overload of gaming news I just witnessed a few hours ago. I feel the need to get some of this adrenaline out of my system and write down all the things that made it difficult for me to get some shut eye last night.

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So let’s start with Microsoft. The big boys came out strong last night and like they promised their presentation certainly was all games games games. In fact the ninety minute show was so jam packed with announcement after announcement you barely had time to catch your breath.

Sunset Overdrive was without a doubt the game for me that reeked of potential. This exclusive showcased a very funny trailer that had the Insomniac trademark humour stamped all over it.

Furthermore there did seem to be a bigger focus from Microsoft on indie games this year (I wonder why) and without a doubt the one that left most people salivating at the mouth was the 1930’s inspired animated Cuphead. As a fan of old school Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons I could not be more hyped for this!

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There were of course other exclusive announcements that we were all expecting. There were your Halos and Fables. However Microsoft did deign to throw in a few unforeseen surprises in the form of a new Crackdown game and the beautiful new offering from Platinum games, Scalebound.

Finally, and as per usual, there were the cross platform games that Microsoft either revealed or had exclusive gameplay clips to show. COD Advanced Warfighter of course looked stunning and the new direction is very intriguing, if a little Matrixy. However the reveal that I don’t think anyone was expecting, and certainly got my blood pumping, was Rise of the Tomb Raider. No gameplay was shown but a very enticing pre rendered trailer left me aching for more nonetheless.

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Then there came the EA press conference. A little bit of a mixed bag for me. Ok so let’s get what I didn’t like out the way first. As incredibly exciting as it was to see games confirmed such as Critereons new arcade racer, Star Wars Battlefront, Mirrors Edge and the new Mass Effect game. These were pretty much behind the scenes interviews with developers and either showcased concept art or at the most very early rough footage. This was especially disappointing in the cases of Mirrors Edge and Star Wars as these two games were announced last year and progress seems to be achingly slow. As a consumer I don’t want to hear about a game that’s still maybe three years away and has not a lot to show for itself. I’m fine hearing about it on a website but maybe the main stage at E3 isn’t the place.

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That being said the new Battlefield: Hardline game looked absolutely stunning. It looked like what Payday could have been if it had had the mighty force of EA behind it. A tense looking game of cops and robbers with what appeared to be (in classic Battlefield style) an entirely destructible city, Hardline looks set to impress with it’s over the top Michael Bay inspired carnage. If you need further proof just find the video of the crane collapsing into a skyscraper at the end.

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And of course it wouldn’t be an EA conference without your dose of sports titles. Fifa, Madden and NHL were all here in their shiny glory. However the sports title that got everyone pumped was definitely the new iterartion of UFC. This game was also accompanied by a very sweaty and brutal demo featuring the immortal Bruce Lee.

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Then came the Ubisoft conference. A personal favourite of mine as this publisher has gone from strength to strength in recent years. I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a sharp presentation it could have cut diamonds. Returning for her third year of presenting Aisha Tyler was an absolute joy to watch. Very comfortable in her role she was very happy to throw expletives, sexual innuendoes and racial slurs around like nobody’s business. And the audience loved her for it.

So highlights then. Where to start? Well of course Farcry 4 was a brutal and beautiful introduction to this new, terrifying world to explore. We were introduced to the new antagonist who was a sight to behold and looks to rival Vass in his villainy.

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Assassins Creed Unity also got a lot of the spotlight. Indeed it was its second showing this evening. And on the one hand, yeah it looks like a lot of the older iterations in the series. However there is no denying that the oomf being given to this game form the next gen consoles is at the forefront. Draw distance, amount of npc’s on screen and resolution are all stunning and feel truly next gen in what they accomplish. The focus on being able to play missions with up to three other friends online is also a very tempting offer.

Other next gen titles which were on show were next gen mmo squad based shooter The Division which still looks as it did a year ago. And the epic and extraordinarily ambitious driving mmo The Crew. If you were to just check out one of these two games then The Crews mellow and relaxing trailer featuring driving across all the different environments America has to offer is a must.

And then came the absolute spell binding gem of the show. Valiant Hearts. This new ip from the infinitely talented Ubi Art studio looks like it will be one truly special game. Set during the trench warfare of World War I, it appears that you take on the role of a medic’s dog as he roves from owner to owner, all of which are of different races, creeds and backgrounds. Think Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies crossed with the art direction of Triplets of Belleville.

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And Ubisoft went out on a bang. BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL 2!!!! Nah, unfortunaly I’m joking. I think that game has without a doubt gone the way of The Last Guardian. Instead we were treated to the first Rainbow Six game in six years. The demo played out well enough. A squad of four gamers breached a house to rescue two hostages. It looked interesting enough however it did feel a tiny bit muted after the bombastic glory of Hardlines.

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And finally Sony has come BACK to E3! Once again and for the second year in a row Sony came out and proved why they are the best in the business. Why their fans love them so much and why the PS4 is the bestselling system. I’m not going to lie I was very skeptical going in. I didn’t know what Sony had left to show. Boy oh boy did they come out swinging. In fact, not only did they come out swinging, they came out swinging with adamantium grafted to their bones and Wolverine claws flailing.

There is soooo much that they came out with. It was literally game after game and surprise after surprise. Games wise it was all killer no filler and apart from a slight stumble in the middle where we were treated to about twenty minutes of being told how many time the share button has been pressed, it was a performance that completely eclipsed last year’s show.

There was so much good information that I think the only way that I can convey just how much was shown is by doing this in short sweet bullet points. Otherwise I would be in danger of rambling for another five pages.

  • Things started off with a trailer for Destiny. Nothing particularly new but nice to see that a glacier white PS4 will be getting released as a bundle with the game.
  • Infamous Second Son stand alone dlc where you can play as neon wielding bad ass Fetch?!? Sign me up! This was straight out of left field and couldn’t have me more excited to jump straight back in to that world.

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  • Little Big Planet 3! Did not see this one coming! To be honest it was a bit of an awkward demo. But it was nice to see new ideas being implemented as well as new characters.
  • A stunning demo for The Order 1886. The frame rate and graphical fidelity has been really tidied up since the last gameplay footage we saw. Looks suitably terrifying and is definitely back on my radar.
  • An absolutely awe inspiring gameplay demo of Farcry 4 was shown. Complete with wing suits, grapple hooks and weaponised elephants. Not to mention the incredible announcement that on PS4 and PS3 you will be able to invite anyone to your game who is on your friends list….EVEN IF THEY DON’T OWN THE GAME! An incredible announcement and again exclusive to Sony platforms.
  • Shu came out to introduce the darkly gothic and grossly beautiful new game from From Software. Bloodborne looks set to be just as unforgiving and brutal as anything else from the Souls series.
  • The makers of the iconic Journey also introduced us to their new project. A game that very much looks like a spiritual successor and aquatic version of the aforementioned game. Abzu looks to be one of the most atmospheric games of the show.

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  • GTAV is coming to PS4. And in a startling move not only will you be able to transfer your online saved data from your PS3 to the PS4 but also from your Xbox 360. Well done Sony. Well done.
  • We got told that not only is the Ratchet and Clank movie coming along nicely, but we can also expect a completely ‘rebuilt from the ground up for the PS4’ version of the first R&C game to be revealed soon.
  • No Mans Sky pretty much stole the show with it’s ground breaking and infinitely ambitious….ambitions. A timed platform exclusive it shall be coming first to PlayStation.
  • We also got treated to the first in game footage of Mortal Kombat X. It looked like a very next gen version of Injustice. But hey, if it ain’t broke. Suitably and gloriously violent.
  • My personal announcement of the show. Grim Fandango baby! It’s coming back in a remade version exclusive to PlayStation. Indeed my right hand is still bruised from where I punched the chair I was sitting on in excitement.
  • The Last of Us showed up in a spoiler filled trailer. It looked incredible, as expected, and we were also treated to a release date of July.
  • The new Metal Gear Phantom Pains was as promised, a harrowing and brutal watch. Things have never looked more mature for this series. A lot of screaming, child soldiers and Snake with a blood soaked face.
  • Batman won me back with an absolutely mind-blowing gameplay trailer. Gotham has never looked so vertical, gothic and dark. It really looks like it will be a pleasure to explore.
  • And we were also treated to our first proper teaser trailer for Uncharted. What else can I say except ‘HYPE’! We see an older more world weary Drake replaying a conversation with Sully in his head. He looks tired and alone. Things definitely look a lot darker thematically in this latest instalment.

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And there we have it. These are the things that stuck out for me the most at E3 last night. As I said in the beginning this isn’t an in depth look at everything. Just the things that tickled and stimulated me.  I haven’t even talked about #Driveclub, Forza, PlayStation TV or the mad scramble for Battlefield beta codes. This has been one of the biggest E3’s of all time so far. Which is saying something considering last year was the big console reveals.

And as I look through bleary red eyes, after only three hours sleep and then staring at a laptop screen for a further three, I realize I’ve got Nintendo’s press conference to watch in five hours. I need to refuel. Thanks for reading and goodnight J

Here we are people. The big one. The 2013 Game of the Year. I won’t hold you up but *spoiler alert* GTA V is not on this list. Why? I didn’t think it was that great. It probably would have featured in a Top 20 list, but these games are better…

10. Saints Row IV

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The game that out GTA’d GTA. Saints Row has everything except the graphical polish. An absolutely banging soundtrack. Some of the funniest and most outlandish dialogue seen in a game in recent years. A brilliantly stupid and self-referential scrip. And most importantly it was a sandbox game that knew how to be a sandbox game. No invisible walls, no barriers. You want to speed like lightening across the map whilst cars explode and get telepathically thrown out the way? You can. You want to leap hundreds of feet into the air before gliding across an entire city only to hit the side of a building and then run up it vertically to the very top? You can. You then want to jump from the top of the building and levitate in the air before plunging down to the earth fist first and unleashing a nuclear blast that annihilates everything in its path? YOU CAN! You want to do all of this to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing because you’re trapped inside an alien matrix and can therefore pick up radio signals in your head?? Guess what? YOU CAN!

9. Rayman Legends

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If Rayman has done anything this generation it’s reinvigorate a tired genre that most of us had left for dead. The 2d platformer. Indeed Rayman Origins had come just the year before and made what many consider to be the perfect example of the game type. So how do you improve on that? How do you make perfection more perfect? Well I don’t have the answers to these questions but someone at Ubisoft obviously does. Rayman Legends is not just an amazingly tough and challenging old school platformer. It is stuffed to bursting with extra content. It’s an amazing multiplayer game. There are online leaderboards complimented with a set of ever changing online daily challenges. Every single level has its own ‘invaded level’ a remix of elements from that world to form a super tough timed level that can only be completed by the most skilled and truly devoted players. There is a whole optional world of original Origins levels but given that Legends sheen. There are brilliantly funny rhythm action levels that have you jumping and punching to the beat of such classics as Eye of the Tiger. And a whole host of extras waiting to be unlocked. Seriously, if you want bang for your buck, the bang doesn’t get much louder than this!

8. Bioshock Infinite

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After a prolonged development period it really was starting to look like Infinite was going the way of the dodo. After constant delays and stories of people getting laid off things were starting to look bleak. However the day finally came when Infinite was released and it was magic. Evoking the same emotions of mystery, surprise, beauty and decay the original Bioshock had done years ago. Infinite was a game made for HD. It was stunning. And the effortless way in which Booker zipped around stages shooting both weapons and plasmids was mesmerising. The music and the art design also complimented each other wonderfully which just made this world, this Olympus, feel more tangible than anything that had ever come before. And that ending! Strap yourself in when those final scenes play out, your world is about to get turned upside down!

7. Tomb Raider

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Lara Lara Lara. You were so very very close! Close to what you might ask? Well, and I don’t say this lightly, but toppling Nathan Drake from his throne. As one of the most visually stunning and perfectly balanced games on this list Tomb Raider had all the right ingredients for a perfect action game. It was just missing two special little something somethings. And they were, interesting characters and a plot I could give a damn about. I don’t want to dwell on it but Tomb Raiders cast and story was a bunch of rubbish. Which is a real shame as everything else on the table, the action, the set pieces, the combat and the stealth were nigh on perfect. Hopefully there will be a bigger focus on tightening these bolts in the inevitable sequel! It’s good to have you back Lara J

6. Ni No Kuni

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This has been the JRPG I’ve been waiting years to play! Literally! Apart from Persona’s 3 and 4 which were released on the PS2, I can’t think of a single game in the genre that I’ve been as obsessed with since. FF XIII was terrible and XIII-2 was ok. Xenoblade was fantastic but a little drawn out. I wanted a classic feeling JRPG and I wanted it now! And boy oh boy did Ni No Kuni deliver in spades! One of the brightest and most beautiful games in recent years NNK was, and is, a wonder to look at. And when you look at the talent behind it it’s no wonder. Bought to you by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli this really is a match made in heaven. All the while evoking elements of Level 5’s previous game, Dragon Quest VIII, whilst retaining a unique identity entirely of its own, Ni No Kuni is a work of art. Pure and simple lovely charm with the edge of a tough RPG for the hardcore. Hundreds of hours of stuff to do, hundreds of side quests and hidden bosses to fight, this really is a game you live in. Putting the disc in is like opening the door to Narnia.

5. Legend of Zelda a Link Between Worlds

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I was very very sceptical the first time I saw a trailer for this Zelda game. Especially after seeing how well a 3DS Zelda game could run after the Ocarina of Time remake. Did we really have to return to old school top down Zelda? Well I’m so glad we did. If there is one thing that I need to remind myself of from time to time it’s that Nintendo don’t screw up their first party titles. A Link Between Worlds was at once nostalgic and new. The mechanic by which Link can turn himself into a painting and merge onto walls entirely turns the genre upside down and makes for some of the best puzzles in the series. The best and most precise Zelda game I have played in a very very long time! Well done Link! You deserve your place on this list!

4. Fire Emblem Awakening

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Not only one of the games of the year but, in my opinion, the defining game in this long running series. As I have mentioned before, this generation has seen a complete revival of the turn based strategy genre. And I do believe that Awakening is the pick of the litter. And probably the best game on the 3DS. Fantastic hardcore strategy that requires the player to really plan out their moves as permadeath is a very real threat. Beautifully animated and voice acted anime cut scenes that wrap around a fantastically told and well-paced story. A brilliantly addictive job system, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the early Final Fantasy games. And finally a game that really delivers on the 3DS’s street pass promise. That amount of interactivity and extras that you gain just by walking around town with your 3DS on standby pretty much makes this game infinite.

3. The Last Of Us

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Harrowing. Christ on a bike this game was distressing. Never mind the bleak, barren and desolate future bought to us by Naughty Dog. The characters themselves were dragged right through the shitter. So the Last of Us then. A third person action/survival horror game bought to you by the studio that is behind the exceptional Uncharted games. This game was a trial to play through. Not because of any sort of flaws in the design but because you yourself suffered with these characters. The emotional toll that this game took was staggering. I’m not going to go into any great amounts of details as I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you that haven’t played it, but the fact that my friend Kurt took half a day off of work just to come over to my house to talk about it as soon as I’d told him I’d completed it speaks volumes about the games story, atmosphere and character. Throw in a perfectly competent, tense and interestingly explored multiplayer and you’ve got yourself a winner. If you own a PS3 you owe it to yourself to play this game. It defines a generation.

2. Guacamelee

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Let’s get one thing straight. It broke my heart to put Guacamelee at number two. This had been my Game of The Year since first completing it when it was released in early 2013. Everything about this game is old school metroidvania style gameplay tweaked to perfection. I did do a full review of this game and you can read my thoughts on it here, https://bridgeburnergaming.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/guacamelee-review/

Suffice to say if you want a bright, beautiful challenge with interesting puzzles, fantastic combat, look no further than Guacamelee. Especially as of right now it’s free to download on the PSN if you are a PS+ subscriber.

So that WAS my game of the year. And if you’ve read the review then you must be thinking that it must have been something truly special and unique to topple Guacamelee off of its throne. And you’d be right….

1. Tearaway

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So here it is! Game of the year! Numero uno! The best of the best! And do you know what? I never saw it coming! There were certain games that came out in 2013 that you knew, just knew, were going to be on this list. Even before playing them you had a vague idea that Tomb Raider and Bioshock were going to be getting talked about come the end of the year. But not Tearaway. With little to no hype surrounding its launch and reading mute previews, I wasn’t even planning on buying this game. It was only due to the fact that Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet crfeators) were making this game that I had heard of it at all. Even the trailers and gameplay videos looked a bit dull. And then the reviews started trickling out. And what reviews. Many outlets even stating that this was the best game on the Vita! Better than Persona 4?! REALLY?! I knew I had to check it out.

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And I was so glad I did. This game is incredible. And it does two things very very well indeed. Firstly it breaks the third wall like no other game I’ve played. The game itself is a linear platformer which controls and feels very much like Psychonauts in places. However using all of the Vitas unique functions it puts you in the game. Literally. From introducing you as some sort of god character by using the front camera to continually have you in the sun looking down on proceedings. To having your actual fingers burst through the papery game screen to interact with the environment. The game also innovates. Constantly. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a Nintendo game due to the amount of unique, new and interesting concepts it delivers. And none ever outstay their welcome.

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Finally the icing on the cake. As you may have garnered from the pictures, the whole of Tearaway is made of construct paper. And guess what? You can make everything in the game. everything. As you take photos of whited out characters and objects, you then unlock the actual craft paper print outs which are uploaded to a cloud account which you can then access and print off at your leisure. Name me another game that lets you do that!

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So there you have it. Suffice to say that this has without a doubt been one of the best, if not THE best, years for gaming. I could have easily done a top 20 for the best games released this year and still have had a tough time choosing which ones to include. And next year is looking even more crazy! What with last gen still going strong and the current/next gen consoles starting to pick up the pace who knows what’s going to happen?!? I can’t wait and I’ll see you there!

Happy new year from BridgeBurnerGaming xxx  

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And so here we are. At the end of a very very long journey. That last bit was a little grim wasn’t it? All doom and gloom? Well don’t worry. Like I said, the golden age is just about to start…

And so I was living in Bristol. I had been there for about a year and I had been making new friends and enjoying my new life a lot. However there was one thing that was missing, and that was Simon. However, as mentioned before, I could be quite hot headed and I was too stubborn to do anything about it. Soon after this though I received a message from Simon on Facebook. And I’m going to be honest it really humbled me. I won’t go into the details here but it explained everything, and he told me about what had happened concerning the move and why he felt he couldn’t confide in us. It all now made sense and I now felt like a bit of a dick. He finished the message by saying how much he wanted to recover our friendship of old and come and visit in Bristol. I was straight on the phone to him. We hammered out some details and arranged for him to come and stay in a month or so. What does all this have to do with Playstation? I hear you ask. Well as we were now ‘friends’ again society states that one has to then fix all the damage done on a social technology level. And so Facebook friend requests were exchanged again. As were PSN names. And what I saw when Simon accepted my Playstation Network request shocked me to my very core.

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As I stated in the last piece I was primarily a 360 gamer at this point in time. Most of my friends in Bristol had 360’s and I had become a little bit of an Achievement Hunter. For those that don’t know, an achievement is a little score you get for doing a particular thing in an Xbox game. For example you might get rewarded with 100 points for completing the game on hard difficulty. Or it can be something silly like getting an Achievement in The Simpsons Game by pressing the start button. I wasn’t completely addicted to getting these, but I was revisiting a lot of my old games as it was nice to be rewarded and get bragging rights for playing things differently and experiencing the game in a different way.

Now Playstation didn’t have Achievements. They had recently introduced a similar system called Trophies. Every PS3 game at this point shipped with a specific number of bronze, silver and gold trophies that, exactly like XBOX, would be awarded to the player every time you fulfilled the requirement. The only difference was that with Playstation Trophies the player actually got a further reward by completing the trophy list. The much coveted Platinum Trophy. This differed greatly from the 360 as you didn’t get anything after getting all standard 1000 GamerPoints that were in a retail game. The numbers just got added to your ongoing total. However with PS3 all the trophies you earned got you experience which levelled up your player profile. And a Platinum trophy not only net you a hell of a lot of exp but also looked pretty darn cool. This also started the argument about what was better, the number of platinum’s a player had or the trophy level they were at. I personally think that it’s the number of platinum’s and, even if it’s a shitty game, you still have to dedicate so much time and skill to getting that trophy.

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But at this point I didn’t know that much about trophies or their function. All I knew was two things. One, they were the Sony equivalent of GamerPoints. And two, Simon had loads more than me. Seriously, because I had barely used the machine I had maybe a couple of trophies. Simon had hundreds. This would not stand. And so quite literally there and then my first trophy whore war began, as did the chain reaction of my love for the PS3. I had recently bought the Ghostbusters video game and I remember putting it in to the system straight away, checking the trophy list, and then replaying the game with what I had to do to get some of these trophies in the back of my mind. And it didn’t stop there either. I worked at Sainsbury’s at the time and in our car park was a Blockbusters. I loved this place. So many cheap second hand games so little time. I began going in there every lunch break seeing what I could find to get a platinum trophy in. phone in hand I had recently discovered a fantastic website, www.ps3tropies.org, which had guides on it for all ps3 games with trophies, gave you an estimated time to platinum the game, a detailed walkthrough and difficulty rating. This was my bible. Now many of my friends often berate me for my trophy addiction. There is no beating around the bush, an addiction is what it was at this point. And on the one hand I entirely agree with them. Yes trophies mean nothing. But on the other hand in my quest to outdo Simon I played some fantastic games and had some amazing experiences that I would never ever have come across had I not been on this journey. Games like Wolverine were a genuine joy to play. However due to reading middling reviews of it I would never have ordinarily touched it. Hell I used to actually sneak out of work for an hour at a time to run back home and play it just to get some trophies. I also came across other games that blew me away which I would never in a million years have played. If you would have told me years ago that one of my favourite games this generation would have been a movie licenced game based on a kids film I would have laughed heartily in your face. However Where the Wild Things Are was an amazing experience that, believe it or not, could easily be compared to the Team Ico games. And the only reason I initially went to it was trophies.

Beyond!

So suffice to say I quickly rose in the trophy ranks and started playing my Playstation more and more. It was also around this time that another defining factor in my PS3 experience came to light. I had been listening to IGN’s gaming podcasts for years. All the way back to their pc based AFK podcast. I didn’t listen to them religiously, only when I checked, on the off chance, that there were any new episodes of the Xbox podcast Three Red Lights or the broader videogame podcast Game Scoop. I enjoyed them enough. It was something fun to listen to on my walks to and from work or the forty minute commute I had to do back in Kent. The hosts on there always seemed to have a laugh and a good time and it was an easy way to keep up to date with the industry and what games were coming out. It was when browsing the IGN website one day that I discovered there was a Playstation podcast that IGN did called Podcast Beyond. And so I downloaded it, thinking that I might as well listen to it now I’m playing the PS3 more. Everything changed. I think that it was Podcast Beyond that made Playstation for me a lifestyle and no longer a hobby. Hosted at the time by Chris Roper, Beyond blew all the other podcasts out of the water.

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And I think I can narrow it down to one reason. Passion. These guys LOVED their Playstations. Be it PS3, PS2 or PSP these guys were so enthused by these devises and how they worked, where they came from, who made them, what they could do, that it was hard not to listen to an episode and become totally infected with their excitement. And it was funny to boot. Mainly due to the maniacal Greg Miller, I would often find myself laughing out loud as I listened with my headphones in on the way to Sainsbury’s. And hell if Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida is a regular listener they must be doing something right. Right?!

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So it is fair to say that my love and addiction was in avalanche stage at this point. It was just getting bigger and bigger and Sony seemed to be getting things right. And then Uncharted 2 came along and my faith and loyalty to the Playstation brand was 100% sealed. Spoiler alert but Uncharted 2 is my game of the generation. And I wasn’t even initially that excited about it. It came out on the same day as Brutal Legend which I was much more interested in playing. However, not one to mess about, I had bought a copy of each and spent the next few days playing through Legend. It was ok. Not a patch on Tim Schafer’s previous works and definitely didn’t hold a candle to Psychonauts. But it was alright.

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I then clearly remember waking up one Sunday morning and making myself a steaming hot cup of coffee. As I took the first few tentative sips downstairs in the kitchen I suddenly remembered I still had some Uncharted to play. Splashing some cold water on my face I went upstairs and popped the disc in. let’s see what all the fuss is about then. And see I did. In fact this is one of the few games that I have sat and played from beginning to end in one sitting. I was completely and utterly blown away. Everything this game was doing I had either never seen it done to this standard or it was completely fresh. I won’t go into too much detail as this isn’t a review but I will say this, the last time and game floored me in this way was when I first played through Half Life 2 Episode . It’s THAT amazing!

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It was from this point that the Playstation 3 truly became the console it always deserved to be. There always seemed to be some Playstation exclusive on the horizon that would be pushing the machines limits further and further. And these weren’t just great looking games but again most of these games are ones that have come to define this generation. God of War, Ratchet & Clank a Crack in Time, LittleBigPlanet 2, Demon Souls, Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Whitch, Sly Cooper 3, Infamous 2, Playstation Allstars and so so many others. Indeed it seemed for a very long time that the only way in which the 360 was trumping the PS3 was in the amount and quality of games it was offering exclusively from its online marketplace. Games like Shadow Complex were the only thing that kept me flicking the old machine on every now and then. However I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as Sony had their retail games strategy down to a T and started focusing on their digital developers those tables got flipped pretty quickly indeed sir! And again I feel I should point out that these download only games are not just good or even great, a lot of them are truly special and unique. Some of these have gone on to win Game of the Year awards over their multi-million dollar retail cousins. So if you do have a Playstation and want to know the best of the best on the Playstation store then be assured that there are a metric tonne of mind-blowing titles. Such as Guacamelee, Flower, Journey, Sound Shapes, Wipeout HD Fury, Shatter, Joe Danger and many many more.

Vita up my balls

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As this saga draws to an inevitable close it feels only right to talk very quickly about the PS Vita. A more recent addition to the Playstation family, this is one of the Sony devices that has got it right from day one and is still trucking at a good pace. I was so excited when I saw the Vita get announced. I loved my PSP but it never felt like a true extension of my home console experience. The Vita did. It felt like a handheld where the developers had listened to every criticism and made every effort to adjust and innovate where they could. You could say it’s the Assassins Creed 2 of consoles J this was everything and more I want in a handheld. Dual analogue sticks? Check. A unified account which links directly to your PS3? Check. Console standard graphics? Check. I won’t run through the whole list of what this baby could do but suffice to say it felt like I was leaving the store with a mini PS3 in my pocket when I bought it at launch. Hell you could even get trophies on it which added to your main score! Talk about hype! Not to mention that there is an entire catalogue of games on there that are cross buy and cross save. Meaning that, for example, you buy hotline Miami once on your PS Vita, you can then download it again at no extra cost on your PS3 and seamlessly transfer your saves across via a cloud storage system. This really is the perfect handheld. Not only do you have console standard games such as Uncharted or Killzone on there but there is also an ever growing library of phenomenal Indie games taking root on the system too. Furthermore you can also download all the PS1 classics and PSP games onto it too. It had always been a dream of mine to have a version of Final Fantasy VII in my pocket. And now that dream is reality! And probably its crowning achievement is whoever it was at Sony HQ making the decision to include it in Playstation Plus.

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What? Wait hang on! I haven’t spoken about Playstation Plus yet?!? Christ on a bike I’d forget my own head! Ok! Playstation Plus is Sony’s ace in the hole. It’s consistently the best deal in videogames. Basically you pay a flat rate of £11.99 every three months and every two weeks the Playstation Store gets updated with a load of free games that you can download at no extra cost. You get to keep these games for as long as you’re a member. And its not only games but you are then entitled to get discount off of a lot of things in the store and loads of exclusive themes and avatars are at your disposal too. Still on the fence? I was too. It wasn’t until I actually got a free trial and started downloading that it hit me full on in the face just what an amazing bargain this is. Still don’t believe me? I’m sitting in front of my TV at the moment and I can tell you exactly what you get right now. Grid 2, Guacamelee!, Remember Me, Giana Sisters, Dragon’s Dogma, Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet Karting and XCOM. That is a stellar list no matter how you look at it.

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You download just one of those games and that service has paid for itself. But is doesn’t stop there! Oh no. like I said the Vita is now included in this service. So if you own a Vita guess what? MORE FREE GAMES! Sonic All-star Racing Transformed, GTA Liberty City Stories, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush and Guacamelee again (cross buy remember). And in two weeks’ time that will be updated and there will be a slew of new games to get. So you see the Vita just makes sense. It is the handheld that not only the people need but the handheld that the PS3 needed. Pay attention Nintendo! This is how you do it! Oh and I almost forgot. The Playstation 4 is now included in that subscription too.

Playstation 4

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So how do I end all of this? How do I bring it to a close? Questions that have been gnawing at the edge of my mind ever since I started this journey. And only now has it dawned on me. I don’t. Playstation isn’t just something that is going to end for me. I will always be playing Sony Consoles until my dying day. The Playstation 4 is here now and all that means to me is that it’s time to start forging new memories. And indeed some are already getting made. I bought my PS4 on launch day. My friend Kurt came over to my house and we both experienced what was, for me anyway, the best console launch I’ve ever had. Hanging out with a best friend with beer and pizza. Shooting the shit and entering the next generation the way it should be. With a buddy and a bud. Two days later it was broken. Was I upset? Yeah a little, but I knew I could get a replacement and I know that this is only the beginning. There will be problems down the road. Of course there will. But as the PS3 has proven, with any relationship you need to try. You need to persevere and take the good with the bad. All the best relationships are the ones that require a little hard work. There will be ups and downs but if you can look back on your time together, into the golden glow of the past and say ‘wow, look at what we’ve done. Look at what we’ve achieved’ then it will have been worth it.

Beyond

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What makes a game truly great?  Realistic graphics?  Challenge and replayability?  A good story?  Memorable characters?  For me, truly great games combine a little from all of these aspects, but In truth, even a Game of the Year can drop one of those and still be excellent.  But what unites all titles that are as memorable as they are enjoyable, is a great soundtrack.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve played good games with bad music and vice versa but if you look back at the legendary games from the past few years, each one has had a unique, atmospheric and thematic soundtrack to back it up.  Gaming is truly a media that indulges the senses and what you’re hearing could almost be described as being just as important as what you see on the screen.

So with that thought, I decided to list my favourite videogame theme tunes of all time.  At first, I wanted to go with just five so I could really break them down.  Then, realizing that was impossible, just 10 to keep the list concise.  But even then, I couldn’t stop adding more.  So here it is; my top 20 videogame tracks!  They’re not in any particular order, as I found picking a favourite to be all but impossible, and I’ve decided to keep it to one track per franchise, as to be fair (otherwise I might as well just make a top 20 Final Fantasy tracks list!)

Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission

Most people will agree that ME2 was the best in a superb sci-fi trilogy, with some great characters and scenarios, and a backstory that successfully builds on the original game’s story.  So, to go along with this, I picked Suicide Mission.  This track truly encompasses the nature of your party’s task:  to strike at any enemy no-one’s ever beaten, in a place no-one’s ever returned from with only a motley crew of misfit renegades united by the willpower of one woman (or man, I guess).

And you know what?  With this epic marching procession of strings and spacey synth behind you, you might just pull it off.

Fez: Home

Fez is an incredible game, with a perfect retro feel built around an original mechanic.  The game itself is very bright and colourful, with the world being a decidedly un-menacing one with no enemies, unlimited lives and few dangers outside of gravity.  That said, the more the story progresses, the more you get an idea of just what the world comprises of, which is a little more shady.  Home is the theme that plays in your home village, and at first it’s just a sweet and bright ditty that goes well with the safe and populous environs.  But without spoiling it, by the end of the game it becomes more of a nostalgic, bittersweet song.  That this track goes perfectly with both feelings marks it out as something special.

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-Final Fantasy VII: Main Theme

It’s not easy to pick one song from the Final Fantasy series to stand above all others.  Uematsu’s work is so iconic and works so well with the games that one could easily sit down and write this list just for FF games.  So what to pick out of the series?  The main theme of Final Fantasy VII isn’t actually my favourite theme in the series, nor even the game, but it does such a great job of encompassing the feel of the game.  Used as the world map music, as well as during some important story cutscenes, the various tones of the music have a good mix of unsettling, calming, courageous and threatening tones that it easily makes it onto this list as the most thematic.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Rules of Nature

MGR:R’s music is just about the best collection of action themes you’ll find since Devil May Cry, and for a game where you spend most of your time running up walls and literally cutting things into slivers, that’s important.  Of all of the tracks, Rules of Nature, the theme which plays as you fight the upgraded version of Metal Gear Ray, really stands out.  During the beginning of the fight, the purely instrumental version plays, which is itself a mix of fast-paced rock and electronic that gets the heart pumping.  Then, as Ray tries to crush you with a building-sized sword… ‘RULES OF NATURE!’ and the lyrics kick in.  If you don’t start rocking out right then and there, you are probably medically dead.

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-Sonic & Knuckles: Lava Reef Zone (Act 2)

Ever had a theme song that is so good, you play through the entire game just to get to where it’s played?  During my childhood, a time long before things like Youtube, file-sharing, and enough spending money to buy soundtracks, this is exactly what I used to do.  In my memory, this theme sticks out as one I’d fight hard to get to again and again.

So, you’re running around the inside of an active volcano, fighting all kinds of robots, drilling machines, devious traps and the environment itself.  And finally, you get to the mid-boss, a device made of tendrils that spew laser bolts and a gigantic hand that rears from the lava to try and crush you.  You beat it, then mysteriously, the volcano around you seems to dim.  The lava beds dry into volcanic rock and the only light comes from the machinery scattered around… and the looming face of the Death Egg above.  It’s a perfect mix of layered threat and mystery that mirrors the strange beauty of the level itself.

Dragon’s Dogma: Imminent Triumph

Another game with an excellent soundtrack all-round (Capcom does this alot, huh?), it was difficult to pick just one.  But there could only ever be a single, truly outstanding piece of music from this game, though it owes a lot to the circumstances it’s played in.

Much of the game sees you facing down opponents many times your size, and each time you do, the backing music is suitably ponderous, overwhelming and laced with threat.  Especially when you fight a true dragon for the first time:  Your teammates’ magic and weapons barely mark it, and it can down any one of them with a single swipe or bite.  It even grabs your loyal pawns and bends them to its will, so you have to fight your own at the same time as the monster!  And then it starts breathing flame…  But you fight on, and eventually through sheer grit send it plummeting to the ground.  It’s not dead, but its weakness is exposed.  Filled with renewed vigor, you and your team descend upon it, and Imminent Triumph plays in the background.

Just… perfect.

-Onimusha 2: Encounter with the Lady

There’s been a lot of high-strung, epic action themes on this list, so my next entry is for something infinitely softer and yet just as awe-inspiring.  The perfect combination of synth string, oriental melody and atmospheric drone is soothing, yet tense.  The cherry blossomed beauty of the scene forms in the mind’s eye as you hear this track, even as the underlying sadness in it takes root.  A little melancholy perhaps, but really beautiful nonetheless.

-Age of Mythology: If You Can Use a Doorknob

The Age of Mythology soundtrack is famous for oddly-named themes that seem to have nothing to do with the circumstance around which they are played.  This is no different, but it’s a mighty theme regardless.  Played upon your victory, when reviewing the game’s statistics, one cannot help but imagine themselves being paraded through your victorious city, garlanded and cheered by the adoring masses.  Final Fantasy victory theme, move aside; this is what triumph sounds like!

-Persona 4: The Almighty

Anyone who’s read my top 10 games list knows how much I love Persona 4, and a lot of that is down to the soundtrack.  Even though some of the ‘school days’ type themes can get tiresome, pretty much anything that plays while you’re in the TV world is pure gold.  Especially when the characters confront their shadows, the creepy and tense Border of Insanity slipping into I’ll Face Myself when battle is joined.  Yet above these, The Almighty gets my vote.  Without spoiling the story, it plays during a very important battle, against a seemingly-unassailable enemy.  And the track has that great plodding pace to bring across the idea of immense scale and desperation, which builds up into a faster-paced, almost flighty midsection.  You are above the clouds, fighting for all mankind with your friends by your side… and this piece conveys it perfectly.

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-Zone of the Enders 2: Leo! Leo!

In comparison to the more famous Metal Gear series, Kojima’s excellent mech-battler was overlooked for the most part.  However, it is an excellent pair of games that makes interesting use of cell-shading to create a stylistic, anime-esque atmosphere, with fast-paced action to match.  The soundtrack was equally excellent with a movie-like combination of sweeping orchestral and futuristic synthesized beats.  For this track, you’re hurled into a battle with returning first game protagonist, Leo Steinbuck, in a very familiar-looking mech.  It’s a great fight that pits your admittedly superior machine against someone who knows its strengths and weaknesses and pushes his own craft to the limit as an expert pilot.  The fast tempo of the song and urgent background wail/chant combo press the aggressive and relentless nature of Leo’s attack.

So there it is; part 1 of my favourite videogame themes list.  It only gets better from here, so stick around for part 2!

Giant Enemy Crabs

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My first few years engaging with Sony’s newest black box on the market were much like that of Sylvester Stallone’s early Hollywood career. Rocky. At this point in my life (around about 2006) I had recently purchased an Xbox 360. And I frickin loved it. After getting so excited for the PS3 and then witnessing that infamous E3 reveal I had cast aside any aspirations of ever purchasing one. They looked bulky, the price was straight up dumb, no rumble feedback and the motion control looked abysmal (especially on games such as Lair). No my friends the Xbox was all I needed. With amazing games such as Mass Effect and The Orange box, which actually worked on the 360 compared to its outsourced PS3 counterpart, why would I ever need to even consider Sony’s device?

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My first actual hand on with the PS3 was also a lame experience. I was living in a shared house at the time and my friend Simon (Guitar Hero from part 1) had bought one close to launch and wanted to bring it over to show me. He did. I hated it. The one thing that did impress me from the off was how quite it was compared to the 360. You could barely hear it. But everything else was so weak. After Simon excitedly thrust the controller in my hand I gawped. It was as light as a feather. But not in a ‘isn’t technology great, this thing weighs nothing’ kind of way, more in a ‘holy crap I’m going to break this fragile piece of plastic if I so much as look at it’ kind of way. This coupled with the fact that the L2 and R2 triggers felt flimsy as all hell also didn’t help matters. And then came along Resistance Fall of Man. Impressed I was not. This was next gen?!?! Timesplitters on the last cycle looked better than this muddy grey piece of garbage! I couldn’t actually believe that people were buying this. The Xbox had Halo and Gears of War on it for crying out loud and they looked stunning. I then gave Simon the controller back and vowed to myself to never fall for the allure of a Playstation 3.

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However a year or so down the line after a colleague of mine at Starbucks looked at my payslip and told me I had been on emergency tax for the last year I got a tasty rebate. A tasty rebate in the shape of a thousand pounds!!! So what was the first thing I did? Well the first thing was a trip to Forbidden Planet in London to buy all 26 volumes of the Dragonball and Dragonball Z manga. And then, a few days later, spend the remaining money on a brand new Playstation 3 with some new games. The system had been out for a while now so there were a few games that I had heard were good and what with Metal Gear Solid 4 looking stunning and around the corner I knew that it was an inevitable purchase anyway. So I took my system home, plugged it in and played my two new games. Ratchet and Clank Future and Uncharted Drakes Fortune. And again if I’m honest, I felt a little underwhelmed. Ratchet just felt like an up scaled version of a game that could have easily been done on the PS2 and, apart from the amazing character dialogue, Uncharted didn’t feel like it was doing much the Prince of Persia trilogy hadn’t done before. And so I went back to my 360. The months rolled by and then Metal Gear Solid 4 arrived. I pretty much ran to my local Woolworths to grab a copy and then sprinted back home. So many reviewers had been giving this game ten out of tens! This was it! The justification for spending all that money on this hunk of circuit boards! This was going to be the game of the generation! And was it? No. it was ok. Again not terrible, but a very pale counterpart to previous iterations. And so MGS4 was completed and the console turned off again. This time for about a year.

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Gallia to arms!

That is until a game started getting a lot of hype in the magazines and websites I was reading called Valkyria Chronicles. Coming straight out of Japan this was a stunning and gorgeously cell shaded tactical RPG. And this DID look like the game I was waiting for. And so I waited and waited. I downloaded the demo as soon as it hit the Playstation network and my eyes were blown away. This was on a level with Okami in terms of sheer beauty. This looked like a watercolour painting bought to life! And the gameplay! Oh it was perfect, new and innovative.

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So I patiently awaited release day and when it finally got here I walked to Woolworths only to be told they didn’t have any in stock. I wasn’t too surprised as this was quite a niche game. Anyhoo I rang the nearest Gamestation (I say nearest, it was a whole town away and involved an hour and a half round trip on a bus) and asked if they had any. They had one copy which they agreed to put to one side if I picked it up that day. So on the bus I got, and forty five minutes later I was paying for my copy of the game. I was brimming with excitement and anticipation. Forty five minutes after that I was walking in through the front door of my house, hurriedly trying to get the game out of the damn cellophane. A further five minutes later, after brewing a cup of coffee, I was putting the game into the PS3. Three minutes later and the game was installing its data! I was so hyped! So ready to finally get some use out of this system I had paid so much for, to finally be playing a game that I actually wanted to play! One minute later and my PS3 had broken.

Don’t go into the light

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I felt like I had been thumped. How could this have happened?! Xbox’s broke, PS3’s were at least meant to be reliable. I had barely used the thing! I had different lights flashing at me and the heat pouring off the console felt like a Balrog was breathing in my face. I was instantly pouring over websites to try and find out what had happened. Some said that the disc drive was broken, and that seemed possible. It was playing DVD’s but it wouldn’t even register if I put a game in. Other sites claimed that it had probably overheated. I panicked. I put the PS3 straight into the freezer. Anything to try and get this problem rectified. Eventually, after about an hour of trying to fix it like a lunatic, I rung Gamestation. I knew that the manager had a PS3 and he would probably know what I should do. I was on talking terms with Milo, as I did frequent Gamestation quite often, and he used to come into Starbucks on a regular basis. I explained the situation and he asked if I still had the box and receipt for the console. I said that I did and he said that if I bought them back, even though I was well over the return date for faulty items, he would swap them for a new console. What a gent. And so I got the box and packed the PS3 up. Now if only I could find that receipt. Surprise surprise, I couldn’t find the damn thing. I spent an hour tearing my room apart looking for it and of it there was no sign. Great. Yet another obstacle and this time I looked royally screwed. I rung Milo back and explained the situation, fully expecting him to say that there was nothing he could do, but maybe he could help me with trying to fix it. And that is when, in my eyes at least, Milo went Super Saiyan. He told me not to worry about it. Just bring it back in the box and he’ll do the swap anyway. I could have cried. So I rung Simon and explained what had happed and he agreed to drive me to Gamestation to swap it (he was good like that) and not only did Milo swap it over for a new console but the new console had about 60gb more storage on it than the last one, AND it came with one of the new Dualshock controllers that actually vibrated and had a bit of weight to it! I was so chuffed. So eventually I went home set up the new system and played through Valkyria Chronicles with no hiccups. And it was, and still is, one of the best games I’ve played this generation, and it was only on Sony’s platform. Finally my relationship with this machine was starting to look up.

The trouble with Simon

And so my time over the next few years was spread pretty much evenly. I still favoured the Xbox, but the amount of quality titles on Sony’s platform was slowly improving with games like Infamous, Ratchet, God of War and Demon Souls steadily being released, things were looking up. However my personal life was taking a bit of a nosedive. Guitar Hero Simon was meant to move into our shared house with us. But we hadn’t heard from him or hung out with him in months. We were constantly trying to get a hold of him to find out what was going on and as various moving in dates came and went it became clear that the move wasn’t going to happen. Unbeknownst to me Simon was going through his own troubles at home that we didn’t know about. So being the slightly hot headed individual I can be I took this as a personal sleight, and pretty much cut Simon out of my life. Phone number? Deleted. Facebook? Unfriended. Playstation friends list? Blocked. I didn’t take any pleasure in this. Simon was one of my oldest and closest friends. The Yin to my Yang. To make matters worse a few months later the restaurant I worked in burnt down. I was out of a job, as were my other two housemates Chris and Matt who had both worked at Woolworths. After not being able to find work my only option was to move in with my dad. The only trouble with that was my dad lived in Bristol on the other side of the country. It would mean a completely new start. I wouldn’t know the area or know anyone. However with things the way they were at home it felt like it was what I needed. And so I gave myself a few months to tie up loose ends in Kent and hang out and play games with my housemates. At least the games couldn’t piss me off right?

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Wrong. The PS3 was still up to its old tricks. Soon after the release of the incredibly original Little Big Planet I had decided to set up shop in the living room with Mat and spend well over twelve hours of the day creating my own level. And if I say so myself the amount of blood sweat and tears I put into it in that space of time could have filled an Olympic swimming pool. I was just adding the final touches in the evening when Chris (who had procured a job at Waterstones) came through the door. Like an excited puppy greeting his master after being left alone all day I jumped at him wanting him to be the first person to play it in its entirety. As he started playing I watched him avidly to see if he was enjoying it. He was! Shit! Maybe my calling was to become a games designer?

‘Oh’ Chris then said. ‘Is this meant to be happening?’

I quickly looked at the TV. The whole thing had literally fallen apart. The level that I had made with my dreams and soul had broken like a cheap Ikea wardrobe. Then after spending about half an hour frantically trying to fix the level to no avail, I walked over to the PS3 in a dazed state, confused and angry, I hit the off button. This wasn’t just the games fault. As a Sony exclusive this was also, in my tired brains view on things, Sony’s fault and therefore the PS3’s also. I didn’t turn it on until a year or so later when I was living in Bristol and I heard from Simon. And that was when the golden age of Playstation 3 started…

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To be concluded in #PlaystationMemories Part 3

In The Beginning was The Word. And the word was Playstation.

PS1

Where to begin? My dad bought our first Playstation from our cousins circa 1998. We were a little late to the party and our system came with such classics as Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo. As our first 3d console these were very exciting times for me and my younger brother. And although Tomb Raider was impressive and fun we felt like we were missing a little something after sampling the delights of Mario 64 and Goldeneye on our friends consoles. However, for myself anyway, I would never look with green eyes at another system after I bought a second hand copy of Final Fantasy VII from our local Electronics Boutique.

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This was where gaming became a legitimate obsession for me. As we were both at school my brother Dom and I were only ever allowed an hour or so play on the PS1 in the evening after all homework was done. For anyone who has ever played a JRPG will know that this is nowhere near enough time to properly sink your teeth into some of these massive games. And so started a tradition that would literally last years. For pretty much the entirety of my life at secondary school, every evening I would go to bed at about 10pm and set my alarm (which I had hidden down the side of my bed along with all my adult VHS tapes and a burst Stretch Armtrong) for 1am in the morning. I would then quietly wake up and get dressed. Sneak along the landing and down the stairs. Still to this day I remember the floorboards to avoid as the creaking would risk waking the parents up. Quietly unlock the door leading to my dad’s study. Again being careful not to let the keys rattle. Open the top drawer of his filing cabinet which was where the PS1 was kept under lock and key. Then as quiet as a mouse I would set it up in the living room and game until about 5am, put everything away, sneak back upstairs, sleep for an hour then get up and go to school. Like I said I kept this up for years and many times my brother, Dom, would join me as he just loved to watch the stories unfold. We saw many great epics through together, Final Fantasies VII through IX, Alundra, Grandia and many others. And this is probably the series of memories I hold closest to my heart whenever I think about Playstation.

Playstation 2. The not so difficult second album.

Playstation

Years later I scrimped and saved and finally managed to get enough dollar together to buy a Playstation 2. And this time it was personal. This would be the first console that I had bought off my own back. A very ceremonial occasion in any young person’s life. I remember that it must have been around about the time of my fifteenth birthday my dad was taking me and my friend Ben up to London for the day and I had all the intention in the world of bringing back a PS2. After going from shop to shop and checking out bundles we finally came across one in a Virgin Megastore which was perfect. A brand spanking new PS2 with a copy of Zone of the Enders. Now not only did ZOE look amazing in all the trailers I’d seen but it also came with something I was even more excited about than the game itself. A goddamn playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2!!!! And not only did I get this but my friend Ben, for my birthday, had bought me a copy of Final Fantasy VI which came with a goddamn playable demo of Final Fantasy X!!! needless to say I was in nerd heaven. And then later that night Ben and I stayed up till the very early hours of the morning, pilfering his parents alcohol as we often did, playing those demos again and again and again.

zoe

Now the Playstation 2 era was very important to me for another reason. This was around about the time that I started to get interested in the industry. I started to buy magazines to read up on news, previews and reviews. I was interested about who these people were that made these games I loved so much. One of the magazines which I read cover to cover again and again religiously was British based magazine PSM2. It was these guys that made me want to write about games. And not only was this a fantastic mag with reviews that I more often than not agreed with (I could have killed someone however after they only gave Grandia 2 something retarded like 18%!!!) but this magazine came with a dvd jam packed full of trailers and video reviews. Now if you’re a younger reader you’re probably thinking ‘big deal, so what’ but you’ve got to remember this is before smart phones and before broadband and all this wireless malarkey. We had dial up and if you wanted to watch a trailer for the new Ratchet and Clank game you’d have to settle in for a couple of hours with a warm cup of coco as the son of a bitch buffered! And so I would watch and re watch the trailers and reviews on these dvd’s constantly every morning as I ate my cereal and waited for the school bus. And some of these trailers just used to blow my mind! The stand out ones for me came with my very first issue which were the absolutely ground breaking and cinematic epic Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer from TGS  2001, and the effortlessly cool trailer for SSX Tricky set to Run DMC’s signature tune.

psm2

Talking about the Metal Gear franchise, another standout moment for me during that generation’s cycle was waiting for the Metal Gear Solid 3 demo. That’s right. The demo. Not the game. That was still months and months away. I remember that it was meant to come on the demo disc with the Official Playstation Magazine. I think that two months in a row I pretty much ran to our nearest newsagents to find it, and both those times it turned out that the demo had been delayed. I was devastated. That is until when the third month rolled around I popped into the shop and low and behold there it was! The MGS3 demo bundled with a copy of the mag! I snatched a copy straight away and paid for it there and then. There was however one small problem. I was on my way to work. I couldn’t possibly be at work at Starbucks AND play the MGS3 demo could I? Of course not. So I came up with a cunning plan. I walked to work, bear in mind the weather was terrible, snow and ice everywhere, and then just as I approached the coffee shop door put on an incredibly convincing limp.

‘Oh my god what’s happened?’ my manager cried as I stumbled through the door.

‘I slipped and fell down the steps at the train station’ I replied. ‘Can I sit down? Everything hurts. Can I see how I feel in half an hour and if I’m still in pain can I go home?’

‘Of course you can’ my manager dotingly said ‘just have some water and take it easy’.

And so half an hour slowly ticked by. Eventually I got to go home and by the end of the day I could do the entirety of the MGS3 demo blindfolded on European Extreme difficulty.

And this wouldn’t be the last time I pulled a sickie for a game that generation. I vividly remember feigning a migraine at work at Pizza Express so I could go home and play Jak X Combat Racer. I think that was possibly the last time that I actually took time off to play a game. Do I regret any of it? Hell no! Would I do it again? Well I guess if naughty Dog ever pulls their finger out to make a Jak & Daxter 4 who knows?

jakx

So suffice to say the PS2 had me hook line and sinker. There are just so many emotions and memories tied to this console that I could probably go on to write an essay. And you can hardly blame me. This console still has one of the strongest line ups of software to this day. There are too many games to list. Standout ones would of course be Grand Theft Auto, Grandia 2, Final Fantasy X, The Ratchet and Clank Series, Ico and Shadows of the Colossus, Okami, Timesplitters, Kingdom Hearts, Devil may Cry, Rouge Galaxy, Dark Cloud/Chronicle, Dragon Quest VIII. The list just goes on and on and on. As I mentioned Jak X Combat Racer before you’ve probably guessed that I’m a huge fan of the series. You would be correct. And it was searching for online reviews of Jak 3 shortly after it came out that led me to the website IGN. Little did I know at the time how important, not only in my hobby but in my personal life, this website would become to me. (But more about that in part 2)

guitar

One last memory, which is fittingly probably my last that the PS2 had, is Guitar Hero. Now I know that this game wasn’t exclusive to the system but I owned it on the PS2. I still remember like it was yesterday picking up Guitar Hero 2 and going home and getting one of my oldest friends Simon over to play. We both have very similar tastes in music Simon and I. We always said we were born in the wrong decade as the eighties would have suited us down to the ground. Guns’n’Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Skid Row. That was our jam! And so it became an almost weekly tradition that we would stock up on Marlborough Reds, Jack Daniels and get pissed and rock until the sun came up. The standout memory from this music and booze induced haze was the high score chasing that occurred on Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon. Often when I was at work I would get a text from Simon saying he’d beaten my high score. Which would mean I would then have to go home after a 13 hour shift to try and get back on top again. I still remember trying to go to sleep those nights and just seeing the different colour buttons running down my closed eyelids. Good times.

It’s like Playstation but on the go!

psp

Ah the Playstation Portable. Now I don’t have a lot to say about this little beast. It’s not that I didn’t like it. Quite the opposite. I loved this machine. It did however pale in comparison, in my opinion, to the Nintendo DS. That being said there were some absolutely phenomenal games on this system that could have only been done on this handheld. Graphical powerhouses like Final Fantasy Crisis Core and Grand Theft Auto Liberty City and Vice City Stories were milestones in handheld gaming. No to mention other fantastic early hits like Daxter and Ratchet and Clank Size Matters. However the truly great games were very few and very far between. Which was a shame as I think if it had had more support and a more consistent stream of quality titles the PSP would have easily given Nintendo a run for its money. I only really have three stand out memories of the PSP and they’re all a little drab. One is playing Breath of Fire on my sofa whilst in a pretty rough relationship. Another is playing GTA Liberty City Stories at work at Pizza Express and marvelling at the similarities between the mafia’s pizzeria in the game and the one I was currently sitting in. and the last is getting chocked up at the end of Crisis Core when you realise the inevitable fate of Zack.

crisis

So there you have it. These are my Playstation Memories for the early days of Sony’s foraging into the home console and handheld markets. It feels like it ended on a little bit of a muted thunderclap at the end there, and I apologise for that, but little did I know about the storm that was approaching that would rock my world and change my life forever…..

To be continued in part 2