2011 is just about over, and looking back, it has been a great year for SEGA games. Back in 2010, it was hard to imagine what could top titles like Bayonetta, Sonic Colors, Vanquish and the English version of Yakuza 3. Then came 2011 and a slew of awesome titles arrived. SEGA upped their game in digital distribution, popular franchises saw excellent sequels and spin-offs and SEGA’s mascot truly shined. In this extra special round table, SEGAbits writers will share their favorite SEGA games of the year. What did we like? Read on!
Sonic Generations has to be the pick for me this year. The game alone shows that Sonic Team and SEGA do listen to their fans, even if they aren’t quick to fix their mistakes. Sonic the Hedgehog series has been in slow recovery since SEGA went 3rd party. I’m glad to say that SEGA and Sonic Team are back on track with the blue blur.
Sonic Generations might not used the latest shaders and highest quality 3D models, but the game had one thing that 95% of releases this year lacked. Art style. Everything looks so damn great and colors are vivid. Not to mention replaying remixed levels from Sonic’s history makes me feel like I’m a kid again.
I know SEGA has been teasing Sonic going back to his roots all the time and frankly this is the closes ‘Retro Sonic’ we have gotten. The physics feel damn good to play and the remixed levels are pretty good.
If you have been waiting for a good Sonic game for years, pick this up. It still has its Sonic Team issues where parts of the title feel unpolished, but every 3D Sonic game has this issue. The good diffidently outweigh the bad on this title.
Runners-up: Yakuza 4, Guardian Heroes, Daytona USA, Shogun 2 and Sonic CD
Sega have released a lot of fantastic games this year, I’ve lost many hours on the likes of Yakuza 4, Sonic Generations, Renegade Ops, Spiral Knights and the Total War series in general. Not only do we have new games to choose from but updated versions of some of Sega most beloved classics and finally done very well, like Daytona USA, Guardian Heroes and most recently Sonic CD.
I really have been spoiled for choice in 2011 so this decision is a very difficult one to make. In the end I think I’m going to have to go for Guardian Heroes, It’s just so fun! Guardian Heroes is a game that very few people got to play and I myself hadn’t played it for many years, it was a game that I always had fond memories of, I remember playing it with an old friend when it first came out and being so jealous of his brand new Sega Saturn. That memory has stuck with me ever since. The re-release of Guardian Heroes doesn’t only give those of us with fond memories a chance to go back and replay a true classic and capture the fun of our childhood, it’s now readily available to everyone young and old for a reasonable price and I’m sure is making a whole host of new fans. And to Sega and Treasure’s credit, it has been very tastefully updated.
Runner up: Sonic Generations, Yakuza 4 and Daytona USA I simply cannot choose!
Not since Sonic Adventure 2 have I anticipated a Sonic game this much, and not since Sonic Adventure 2 have I been completely satisfied with the finished product. Putting all the nostalgia aside, Sonic Generations is a solid, incredibly entertaining game. Classic Sonic gameplay proved that Sonic Team can still offer up what made the Genesis titles great, while modern Sonic gameplay proved that Sonic Team has finally found the right balance of 3D speed and platforming.
The biggest surprise was how addicting the mission mode was. Unlike past titles, missions were incredibly varied and featured a ton of callbacks. Sure, I’ll never touch some missions again once S ranking them, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them. The music was top-notch, definitely album worthy thanks to the many remixes, and coupled with the ability to play past tunes over any stage, Generations is a Sonic music lovers dream.
Even when featuring low points from the franchise, Generations shines. Crisis City, a controller smashing stage in Sonic ’06, is finally the epic stage it once tried to be. Sonic Heroes Seaside Hill, once filled with the chatter of Team Sonic and Heroes gameplay, is now one of the best modern Sonic stages.
Generations is a game I’ll be replaying for a long, long time and deserves the title of SEGA game of the year.
Runners-up: Sonic CD, Daytona USA, Guardian Heroes and Virtua Tennis 4
Who knew back when the first Yakuza game debuted on the PS2 that it’d still be here 6 years later? The idea of creating a hybrid between games like Shenmue and Grand Theft Auto complete with 20 minute cutscenes, random battles, and item boxes may have seemed insane back in the day, but the Yakuza series has remained one of Japan’s most consistently successful new IP. While the series has struggled to find the same success throughout the rest of the world, its devoted fanbase was successful in bringing its main series entries to their territories when it was once thought to be a lost cause.
Yakuza 4 may have been one of the weaker entries in the series to date but it was still one of my top gaming experiences of 2011. Few other games offer such an immersive city to explore, so many tasks to complete, and such a great story to continue. Yakuza 4 featured four great characters, all of whom felt like real people who were easy to care about. It featured the same fun combat system, the return of many of the series’ wacky mini-games, and some of SEGA’s best music in recent years.
Though I ultimately rewarded Sonic Generations the higher score when I reviewed both of them for my blog/Gamefaqs, the game ultimately didn’t stand out as being nearly as memorable or fleshed out an experience. Yakuza 4 offered a strong story that was easy to sink my teeth into and a lengthy main quest with plenty of extras, and though the ending was cliché as all hell, it still left me more than eager for the next installment. Bring on part 5!
Runner-up: Sonic Generations
Back when SEGA announced the original Yakuza in 2005, I tought even Nagoshi could envision such a success. Six years on and the series has spawned four mainline titles and 3 spinoffs, with a further two titles in production, Yakuza’s unique style has helped the series standout as one of SEGA’s standout IPs these past few years. Yakuza 4 opted for a change in gameplay that many major series have a hand in at some point and that is the introduction of multiple characters. Each with their own unique fighting styles, based on speed, power and even countering, the difference in the characters does not just end there, but with their own distinctive personalities and motivations, this has to be my favourite handling of multiple characters since Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles.
But that was not all, the massive expansion to Kamurocho has helped breath new life to a city that is no doubt begun to show its age to veteran players, but it is done in such a way, for me at least, that exploration is key to the title. Infact it is done in such a way certain characters have to use alternate routes, be it the rooftops, the streets themselves or the mall and underground sewers. But perhaps one of my favourite aspects of the title is story rather than gameplay and that is the pedestal thatthe Dragon of Dojima, the series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, is placed. More often then not, when multiple characters is placed, the status of the primary character is lowered to help ensure the new characters standout more but this was not the case here. If needs me, Kiryu would put his foot down (Literally) to exert his authority and just another reason I love this title.
Despite coming to this conclusion, this was such a great year that it was tough in the end to decide which game I would pick. SEGA has provided some fine examples ranging from the excellent ports of Daytona USA, to the PC exclusive Shogun 2 and to a continued resurgence for their mascot in Sonic Generations. But for me in the end, combined with a well structured plot, four charismatic heroes, hours of additional gameplay… Yakuza 4 is not only my SEGA Game of the Year, but my personal Game of the Year.
Runners-up: Virtua Tennis 4, Daytona USA, Sonic Generations and Football Manager 2012
Picking a game of the year this year was the hardest it’s been in a very long time. Last year, Bayonetta was the clear winner, but this year? SEGA excelled in everything from downloadable titles to HD console blockbusters. Sonic Generations built on Sonic Colors’ success to create the best Sonic game since at least 1994, if not the best game of the series. SEGA offered up a load of amazing content on downloadable services ranging from Daytona USA to Guardian Heroes to Renegade Ops to Sonic CD. The big console games? You’ll see Yakuza 4 mentioned several times on this list, and we also got a vastly superior port of House of the Dead Overkill, easily the best light gun game of this generation. As great as these games are though, for me it came down to Sonic Generations, and the game I’ve chosen: Shinobi.
Out of all the games I’ve played this year, Shinobi was easily the most surprising. When it was first revealed for the 3DS a few weeks prior to E3, I wasn’t sure what to think. The graphics looked mediocre, and SEGA’s track record of resurrecting the classics has been spotty at best. Golden Axe: Beast Rider anyone? On the other hand, Shinobi 3 was my favorite Genesis game and I had long been holding out hope that the series would be receiving some sort of resurrection. When I finally got to play it at E3, I received a nice surprise it was good! It was better than good, it felt like a proper homage to the type of old school gaming Shinobi 3 had perfected so long ago.
I’ve now played through a substantial amount of the retail release, and since then my opinion of the game has only improved. This is how you do a hardcore game! The difficulty is brutal and the game doesn’t pull any punches from the very first stage. In order to beat this game on anything other than Beginner’s difficulty, you need to have superb platforming skills and ninja like reflexes. Once you understand how to incorporate the parry, sword, and kunai throwing mechanics together you’ll find a game that rewards hardcore players like few other action games do these days.
The game also has some nice SEGA reflexes. In the very first level, if you look around, you’ll find Gilius Thunderhead frozen in a block of ice. Free him, and he’ll give you an extra life for your trouble before charing off screen to go kill Death Adder. One entire level takes place inside the aircraft carrier from Afterburner, which caps off with the best SEGA cameo I’ve seen since Bayonetta: Oboro Musashi fighting jet pack ninjas on the back of the Afterburner jet, complete with the classic music from the arcade game. You don’t get this kind of SEGA love every day. In addition to this you get loads of references to Shinobi 3, which was the clear inspiration for this game.
I haven’t beaten Shinobi yet. Much like a lot of other games from the 16 bit era, I encountered a level that has simply been too difficult for me to beat. This forced me to restart the game at the Beginner’s level so that I can complete it for review purposes, though let me say this mode isn’t quite as fun as normal mode, which restricts your lives and makes you restart a level after a game over. A lot of the tension from being on your last bar of health or last life is gone when lives are nullified.
If you’re a fan of Shinobi 3, or happen to own a 3DS and don’t require super help guides and golden tanooki suits to beat a game, I highly recommend you check this little gem out. You won’t be disappointed.
Runner-up: Sonic Generations – Sonic is back, baby!
Of course, Sonic Generations was not just my most anticipated game of 2011, but one of my most anticipated games of all time! Thankfully, it lived up to it’s hype and delivered a game of such Sonic Fanservice that I doubt any other Sonic game will top it anytime soon. Between this game and Sonic Colors, it’s great to see Sonic back on his feet in games that can rival Mario’s.
But that wasn’t the only Sega game to meet or exceed expectations. Yakuza 4 easily lived up to it’s hype and Captain America HD surprised me with it’s quality so much it became the first PS3 game I ever platinumed. This was also Sega’s best year ever for downloadable titles. I sadly ignored Renegade Ops during E3 only to find out how awesome it was when I played the demo at San Diego Comic Con. Christian Whitehead provided the best port ever made in Sonic CD and there was some great Saturn love Shown with Guardian Heroes, Sega Rally HD and Daytona USA. All in all, a great year for Sega!
Runners-Up: Captain America (HD), Yakuza 4, Renegade Ops, Sonic CD and Thor (HD)! (Just kidding on that last one.)
What will 2012 bring? A lot of great games! Nagoshi’s Binary Domain, Platinum’s Anarchy Reigns and a retooled and improved Sonic 4 to name a few. SEGAbits wishes our readers a happy new year, see you in 2012!Ad: