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NWR Staff's Favorite 10 Games of 2011

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

by Neal Ronaghan - January 6, 2012, 11:45 am PST

Toys? Video games? Saturday morning cartoon quality? Throw in some cereal and we're set!

Skylanders, on paper, looks like a mean-spirited cash grab from Activision, everyone’s favorite game publisher to hate. In reality, it’s a clever, innovative game with fantastically sound game design and an excellent hook. Yes, you’re paying $8 for little figurines that are basically just physical overpriced DLC, but the whole game, on both Wii and 3DS, is so damn charming and well put-together.

Toys For Bob, the masterminds of the concept and developer of the Wii version, put together a Nintendo-quality action game that is similar to the numerous LEGO games, except that it is actually way better than Traveller’s Tales’ endlessly derivative work. Your characters, each with their own lovely personality and set of abilities, level up and earn different moves depending on your choices. It also helps that each character is generally memorable. You’ve got such delightful characters as Trigger Happy, the gun-toting gremlin, Whirlwind, a unicorn that vomits rainbows, and Drobot, a cyborg dragon that shoots laser beams out of his eyes. The production values, which rival that of a good Saturday morning cartoon, are also excellent.

The character progression makes the levels even more interesting, especially as you switch between different characters on the fly to better suit the situation. With eight elements to choose from, there are a lot of other characters to use, though each copy of the game only comes with three characters at the outset (more sold separately).

The same addictive character building extends to the 3DS version, developed by Vicarious Visions. It stands as one of the best third-party 3DS games on the system. The platformer is in the same vein as Super Mario 64, as you have a variety of levels accessable from a hub world, each with different missions inside of them. It’s extraordinarily polished, and while it doesn’t have quite as much customization as its Wii counterpart, Skylanders on 3DS is still a fantastic game.

Was this game made for kids? Yes. Does it appeal to the kid in every person? Hell yes. Skylanders is a reminder of toy collecting, cute platformers, and all those other forgotten bygones of most twenty-something gamers’ youth.

Talkback

purevalJanuary 02, 2012

I am still absolutely kicking myself for not picking up Radiant Historia when I saw it on the shelf at a local Gamestop. I had not idea the game would be available for such a short time. I walked away thinking "I will just get it for Christmas, no since buying it now when I do not have time to play it." Sadly with the price it is going for now I will probably never get the chance to play it.

Tween20January 02, 2012

Of all the game I have played on the recommendation of NWR (and RFN in particular), this is the one I appreciate the most.  The set-up and execution of this game is perfect.  Definitely one of my favorite games of the year, and perhaps on the entire DS.

I don't discuss what I dislike about the game in this space, although I do cover it in the review. The combat is way overboard. General enemies should not be this difficult or frequent. I've not seen this kind of abuse by the grunts since Skies of Arcadia.


But god, this game is good.

Tween20January 02, 2012

Quote from: Crimm

The combat is way overboard. General enemies should not be this difficult or frequent.


I don't have the experience that you do in this genre, but I did not find it to be so.  If I needed experience, I fought.  If not, I ran.  And I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of figuring out how to multiply hits, so it never seemed so burdensome. Thanks again for the recommendation.

I had to restrain myself for the article, but as I've said elsewhere, I honestly think Super Mario 3D Land is the best game I've ever played.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorJanuary 02, 2012

I guess I lose my gamer card here.

I'm not really enjoying SM3DL.  I've tried and tried.  It's not *bad*, but... 'meh.
I'd rather just have another New Super Mario Bros.

Then, of course, Mr. "Super Mario World and Link to the Past" Suck likes it, so, perhaps, not all is lost. :D

I don't understand how anyone could prefer a New Super Mario Bros. title to anything made by EAD Tokyo. Sure, the multiplayer in the DS game is amazing, but I'd much rather see that brought back in a standalone eShop title and let the actual platformers be done by a developer with more creative ambition.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorJanuary 02, 2012

I'd love to see the DS Multi-player as an eShop download.  I could finally put NSMB back in the case... :D

But as far as the main game goes... I just don't care for the 3D gameplay (not the 3D effects).  Honestly, I've not been a fan of any of the 3D Mario games (64, Sunshine, 64 DS, Galaxy, Galaxy 2).  They're good enough that I keep buying them for some reason... but, I'd rather have a 2D game...

BlackNMild2k1January 02, 2012

I think SM3DL is fun, but far from the best. It was also far too easy if you ask me. I breezed through the majority of it rather quickly really only dying because I was trying to rush through it.

I think my favorite Mario of all time right now has to be SM64. Nothing beats that first Mario in 3D experience for me. SMB3 or SMW was probably my favorite 2D mario though.

KDR_11kJanuary 02, 2012

SM3DL has the advantage that it works REALLY well as a handheld game. Also I could never get into SM64, those level designs just feel extremely wonky.

frostybro24January 03, 2012

prices for radiant historia on amazon start at $55 used... holy shit

xcwarriorJanuary 04, 2012

So not fair that you can't find Radiant Historia for a price that doesn't involve taking on a second mortgage. Why didn't I buy it the day it was $20 on Amazon. DOH!

Manthony ChopkinsJanuary 04, 2012

Been trying to find this game at a reasonable price for awhile now. I should have picked this one up when I had the chance.

BlackNMild2k1January 04, 2012

$34.99 w/ Music CD @ Best Buy
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Radiant+Historia+with+Music+CD+-+Nintendo+DS/2107079.p?id=1218309756787&skuId=2107079&cmp=RMX&ref=06&loc=01&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=2107079

ridiculous pricing everywhere else. $50-$80something.

NbzJanuary 04, 2012

MK7 is without a doubt the most fun I've had playing a Nintendo game online. The communities are such an excellent feature which I think more Nintendo online games in the future should contain. I'd agree heavily with its lack of innovation, but I'm not really too bothered by it. The only thing I would have liked is a more fleshed out single player experience. Once you have unlocked all the characters there is no real reason to ever touch GP mode again. I really wish they would have brought back the mission mode from DS, because atm I'm only using this game for online play and I would have loved to have some extra stuff to do when I don't have internet access.

ejamerJanuary 04, 2012

Nice deal - getting the CD bonus is great and actually worthwhile for this game.

Evan_BJanuary 04, 2012

I find it hard to agree with this... I've written my own review of the game, and I just found it to be extremely lackluster from the perspective of most Mario platformers. And I'll say this now and let the rage pour upon me, but the Tanooki suit is ridiculously overused in this game, if only because it corrects the majority of the flaws in the game- cheap deaths dealing with camera angles, difficult grunt enemies, and overuse of bottomless pits.

:D

EyothrieJanuary 04, 2012

Its backordered, and I wonder if Best Buy will even get in a new shipment.  I was under the impression that the bundle with the CD was first print only

KDR_11kJanuary 04, 2012

Somehow I just lack the desire to play Skyward Sword. Between motion controls that just don't work for me and constantly make me swing in the wrong direction (for reference, I had no trouble with games like Red Steel 2, Wii Sports Resort or Zangeki no Reginleiv) and the constant talk about how badly padded it is on various podcasts I haven't played further than finishing the second dungeon. Hell, the new controls aren't even analog and many of the obstacles that I've seen rely on the bomb bowling were extremely hard to pull of, in large part because I couldn't control the aiming direction for the things finely enough. Combat hardly works for me, roughly half of my initial swings go the wrong way (usually right into enemy defenses) so I prefer to not Z-target (the AI seems less quick to react when it's not Z-targeted) and just waggle, I get more hits that way. Knowing what to do but failing at it because the controls seem inadequate for the challenge is pure frustration.

Quote from: KDR_11k

Somehow I just lack the desire to play Skyward Sword. Between motion controls that just don't work for me and constantly make me swing in the wrong direction (for reference, I had no trouble with games like Red Steel 2, Wii Sports Resort or Zangeki no Reginleiv) and the constant talk about how badly padded it is on various podcasts I haven't played further than finishing the second dungeon. Hell, the new controls aren't even analog and many of the obstacles that I've seen rely on the bomb bowling were extremely hard to pull of, in large part because I couldn't control the aiming direction for the things finely enough. Combat hardly works for me, roughly half of my initial swings go the wrong way (usually right into enemy defenses) so I prefer to not Z-target (the AI seems less quick to react when it's not Z-targeted) and just waggle, I get more hits that way. Knowing what to do but failing at it because the controls seem inadequate for the challenge is pure frustration.

Are you playing the game in a brightly lit room? I've heard that can interfere with the controls; otherwise, they've worked like a charm for me.

The CD is first shipment only. Jonny's copy is from the second run and he did not get the CD.

KDR_11kJanuary 05, 2012

Quote from: TalesOfFan

Quote from: KDR_11k

Somehow I just lack the desire to play Skyward Sword. Between motion controls that just don't work for me and constantly make me swing in the wrong direction (for reference, I had no trouble with games like Red Steel 2, Wii Sports Resort or Zangeki no Reginleiv) and the constant talk about how badly padded it is on various podcasts I haven't played further than finishing the second dungeon. Hell, the new controls aren't even analog and many of the obstacles that I've seen rely on the bomb bowling were extremely hard to pull of, in large part because I couldn't control the aiming direction for the things finely enough. Combat hardly works for me, roughly half of my initial swings go the wrong way (usually right into enemy defenses) so I prefer to not Z-target (the AI seems less quick to react when it's not Z-targeted) and just waggle, I get more hits that way. Knowing what to do but failing at it because the controls seem inadequate for the challenge is pure frustration.

Are you playing the game in a brightly lit room? I've heard that can interfere with the controls; otherwise, they've worked like a charm for me.

I'm playing in the same room that I always play Wii games in and never had trouble with. The issue is with swings (and a lot of unnecessary control drifting that comes from using the motion plus for things that the IR can simply do better), at the speed of a swing there's no way for the IR to keep track of what's happening so it's all on the motion plus and it simply reports the wrong swing direction (e.g. I swipe horizontally and the game does a vertical slash). Often I end up with a completely wrong orientation of my item after one swing (especially with the bug net) and need to let the IR recenter the controls.

CyrianJanuary 05, 2012

Quote from: Eyothrie

Its backordered, and I wonder if Best Buy will even get in a new shipment.  I was under the impression that the bundle with the CD was first print only

I wouldn't get your hopes up.  A lot of people on the CAG forums apparently had issues with Best Buy cancelling a lot of orders from Black Friday.  I ordered one just in case but I'm not really expecting it to ever come.

Manthony ChopkinsJanuary 06, 2012

I'll have to agree with Zach about Mighty Switch Force being the best eshop game on the 3DS. I only wish that there was more levels. It did take me awhile to beat some of those par times. I'm also curious as to what you meant by letting chance decide which of those three eshop games were the best?

finchiekinsJanuary 06, 2012

This is a good list! Switch Force is way good, and i agree SM3DLand is fantastic.
I love Radiant Historia, but i also have to say the late enemies are WAY too tough. I was actually cringing whenever i ran into one, because it'd usually be when i missed the initial hit. The punishment for getting into a surprise battle is too strict. I do not want to wait for enemy turns. Even the regular battles (without the player getting the initiative) would frequently only give Stocke a turn first. The good thing was that it really made the player use his or her abilities strategically, but sometimes it just isn't fun.

purevalJanuary 06, 2012

After hearing a few staff members voicing their displeasure over Mighty Switch Force I am surprised it made this list, especially over Pushmo. I really feel that Pushmo was the best Nintendo game to come this year, over even Zelda. I am a die hard Zelda fan boy (I bought the 3DS one before I even knew IF I was getting the system so I could get the soundtrack) and I feel Skyward Sword is garbage. If I ever meet whoever decided that harp mini game was a good idea I will probably end up in prison.


Meanwhile I have been loving Pushmo, I can honestly say I could have bought the 3DS just for it and been happy. Shame it did not make the list, but oh well.

JRokujuushiJanuary 06, 2012

Quote from: TalesOfFan

Are you playing the game in a brightly lit room? I've heard that can interfere with the controls; otherwise, they've worked like a charm for me.

I heard about the IR issues, so I jammed a bit of cardboard under the Wii remote condom to cover the IR sensor.  At one point when I was flying the beetle, I was trying to make a slight turn to the right and the beetle made a noticeable turn of about 30 degrees to the right.  It worked properly after I recalibrated it again, but that just goes to show the IR sensor isn't the only thing causing problems.

Also, I've noticed that there have been many times when I've tried moving the sword into position to swing it, but I move it so fast that it registers as a swing, and it doesn't register my intended swing because Link's still in the middle of his swing animation.  Honestly, it's quite annoying.

ejamerJanuary 06, 2012

Nice to see Spyro getting some love. Yes, the game figures are a terrible rip off. I'm not convinced that the content isn't entirely on the disc, and you are just paying exorbitant prices to unlock what most developers give away.


But as toys the expansion characters are very well made, are a cool way to store and transport your in-game progress, and perfectly capture the collectible fever that kids (even grown-up kids) love to indulge in. If the Skylanders games weren't so well done I'd have a very hard being so positive about this obvious cash grab... but they are well done and worth playing.




Between this and DJ Hero, it's almost enough to make me regret my comments about Activision being by far the worst publisher of crap this generation.

purevalJanuary 06, 2012

I must admit I was unsure on Skylanders, but my son loved them and my mom got the game and a few figures for him for Christmas. He loves and after playing it with him so do I. My only complaints are that you can not find the figures anyway right now, they are completely sold out. Also that they put rare silver "chase" ones into the mix, which makes adults buy them up and act worse than the kids. Great game though.

hoho23January 13, 2012

I'm so happy. I had bought Skyword sword and 4 hours into the game my wii didn't want to read discs any longer. Today i inserted the game for one last try on my launch day Wii and to my pessimism it displayed the Zelda SS art and play game button. So glad I can finally get back into it and not have to cringe when my friends and the NWR podcast staff speak about the game without me being able to play it.

EyothrieJanuary 13, 2012

Xenoblade was well worth the hassle of importing.  It was my favorite game of 2011.  You guys that haven't played it yet are really in for a treat

Fatty_The_HuttJanuary 13, 2012

Quote from: hoho23

I'm so happy. I had bought Skyword sword and 4 hours into the game my wii didn't want to read discs any longer. Today i inserted the game for one last try on my launch day Wii and to my pessimism it displayed the Zelda SS art and play game button. So glad I can finally get back into it and not have to cringe when my friends and the NWR podcast staff speak about the game without me being able to play it.

This happened to me too. I swear Zelda SS is bad for old Wiis. It only happened after we started playing SS.

Chozo GhostJanuary 14, 2012

Quote from: xcwarrior

So not fair that you can't find Radiant Historia for a price that doesn't involve taking on a second mortgage. Why didn't I buy it the day it was $20 on Amazon. DOH!

Wikipedia says a reprint of this game is coming out in March 2012. Of course since this is Wikipedia someone might have just put that there without it being true, but at least it gives some hope anyway.

ejamerJanuary 17, 2012

Take the Wikipedia note about a planned reprint (which was: made by a user whose only other edits were made in 2010 about Phineas and Ferb, removed due to a lack of sourcing, and apparently more "in the know" than the official Atlus forums) with a massive grain of salt.


The game is still out there for between $30-40 if you look around at retail outlets. Keep your eyes open and grab one if you have the chance.

ejamerFebruary 06, 2012

Quote from: Cyrian

Quote from: Eyothrie

Its backordered, and I wonder if Best Buy will even get in a new shipment.  I was under the impression that the bundle with the CD was first print only

I wouldn't get your hopes up.  A lot of people on the CAG forums apparently had issues with Best Buy cancelling a lot of orders from Black Friday.  I ordered one just in case but I'm not really expecting it to ever come.

Atlus mentioned a reprint on their twitter, and according to other NWR users preorders are showing up for online retailers. *fingers crossed*

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