2012 - Wishes Unfulfilled
Back in January, I shared some of my hopes and wishes for 2012 and looked at the potential highlights of the year ahead. I revisit these posts now to see which of my dreams were crushed in a year that featured E3 furniture braining, Bioware pandering to a vocal minority, Microsoft turning the 360 dashboard into one massive ad, Nintendo of Europe relegating guts and muff to the early hours, EA expanding into the arms trade, and Sony forgetting to push its new system. A pretty good year then.
"Next Gen Desirables"
My January self looked forward to the Wii U and hoped that Sony and Microsoft would talk next generation at E3, but hold their consoles until late 2013, early 2014. By all accounts, the Wii U is what we had expected and has enjoyed a relatively successful launch, though nothing compared to the Wii back in 2006. Sony and Microsoft have remained shtum about their next consoles, but rumours persist that we will have the next Xbox by the end of 2013. Sony can't afford to lag too far behind with the PS4, unless it wants to continue playing an unwinnable game of catch-up.
I had also hoped for region free gaming and backwards compatibility in the next set of home consoles, but I was to be disappointed. To no one's surprise, the Wii U is region locked, though it does offer backwards compatibility with the Wii. I really hope region free gaming is standard with the PS4 (seems likely) and the next Xbox (less likely). Reports from earlier this year suggest that the next PlayStation will not play PS3 discs. This sounds like an awful idea, which is exactly why I think it’s probably true.
I still want Sega to give Shenmue 1+2 some HD love. However, I'm already bored of Shenmue 3, in particular the more vocal fans who continue to insist that Sega gift a valuable IP to another, more willing developer. We really should give these people their own businesses to run; I’m sure they'd do great.
"A New Franchise that will Endure"
While the search must continue for the next Mario, Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, Final Fantasy etc., 2012 was a far better year than last for new IPs. Some of the most entertaining games of the last twelve months were brand new properties, such as Binary Domain, Spec Ops and Sleeping Dogs, even if few of them seem likely to spawn sequels. Dishonored ranks high in most game of the year lists, but it doesn't strike me as having the makings of a blockbusting franchise. Capcom have already confirmed that Dragon's Dogma will be getting a sequel, following a promising debut and encouraging sales. While it's unlikely to become the next Monster Hunter, Capcom have the know-how and the resources to build upon its surprising success.
"Monkeys, Motorbikes and Gabe"
No new Timsplitters, no Road Rash rehash and no Syphon Filter. Bollocks to it all.
"Something to Rock the Boat"
i. A game which makes me think “yes, this is why we need Kinect/Move”
Not even close, and I very much doubt things are going to change this generation. PS Move is usually either party game fodder or an unwanted addition to a game better suited to a standard controller, although Wonderbook may yet prove the exception and be a hit with the younger audience. I am yet to see anything out of Microsoft that would make me consider, even for a second, buying a Kinect, and I can't help but laugh every time I see a "Better with Kinect" ad.
ii. SEGA trump the big three at E3 by unveiling the Game Gear 3D
SEGA did a lot of belt tightening in 2012, shuttering much of their western operations, narrowing their focus to key franchises and casting doubt on future localisations of existing series that have been exported in the past, such as Yakuza. These are probably not the best of conditions for a Game Gear 3D, but in an industry where a £175 portable Neo Geo is an actual thing, you can't completely discount it.
iii. Assassin’s Creed takes the year off
Hahahahaha. You wish! I'd bet money that Ubisoft are already working on Assassin's Creed 3: Brolations for a November 2013 release.
iv. The Presidents of Nintendo and Sony are forced to battle to the death in the Capcom Thunderdome, all for the exclusive rights to Monster Hunter
I do not know if this took place behind closed doors, but if it did, then Iwata-san must have emerged victorious, scoring a fatality in the third round. Rumours of a Vita Monster Hunter will never go away, but with 3DS and Wii U instalments already in place, Capcom has made its position clear .
Highlights and Realities of 2012
Casting a critical eye over the last twelve months, I realise that 2012 looked a lot better when viewed from January, looking forward to a year full of potential highlights. Countless big franchises were set to continue with new instalments, and I was even feeling optimistic about Final Fantasy XIII-2, but things didn't exactly go to plan. Pushing your game back to the first half of 2013 became fashionable, creating what might be the greatest first half line-up since the last great one, whenever that was. Aliens Colonial Marines, Bioshock Infinite, DmC: Devil May Cry, Fuse/Overstrike, Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Rising were all due in 2012 but were instead shifted to the following year. Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us were never confirmed for ‘12, though we had hoped, and it's looking like we will never see Final Fantasy Type-0. Fuck knows what's happened to The Last Guardian.
Unpopular endings aside, Mass Effect 3 was an excellent game, even if it didn't quite reach the heights of Mass Effect 2. I had convinced myself that Final Fantasy XIII-2 would learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, but instead it was so repugnant that it put me off video games for much of the summer. Black Ops 2 was mildly disappointing, whereas Far Cry 3 has done nothing but impress as a late-in-the-year-contender, so long as you ignore the narrative. Story is usually a vital part of any game, but it is far less important when you can hunt a pack of dingos from a Hang Glider.
There were some highlights that I didn't expect. I'm not sure if I knew that Sleeping Dogs even existed this time last year, yet it would become one of the most entertaining games I've played in a while. I had picked out Alan Wake's American Nightmare as a reason to turn on my 360 at some point in 2012, but it was Trials Evolution, a game that I had tried on a whim, that ensured my least loved console received some attention in a year that was 90%+ PlayStation. I was far from convinced that I would own a Vita in its maiden year, but ended up buying one at launch. Even more surprising is that Lumines Electronic Symphony was the Vita game I spent the most time with, clocking in at almost thirty hours.
I'm hoping to post something festive on Christmas Eve, so be sure to check back on Monday. The final post in my 2012 in Review series, The Best & Worst of 2012, will then follow some time between Christmas and the New Year.