Valiant Hearts is a game that makes me question the very nature of video game reviews.
It takes us to a time and place that video games rarely explore; Europe during the First World War. There we follow the stories of four people who have all found themselves mixed up in the war against their will. There’s Karl, a native German living in France with his wife Marie, who is called back to Germany to serve. Marie’s father Emile, who gets drafted into the war by France. Freddie, an American living in France who joins the war in order to seek vengeance for his fallen wife. And Ana, whose nursing and driving abilities aid her in a quest to find her kidnapped father.
Oh, and there’s of course a loveable medical assistant dog named Walt, who crosses paths with each of these characters throughout the game.
Part of what makes this game so very hard to review, is just how beautiful it is. Valiant Hearts’ art style takes cues from several prominent graphic novels and classic Disney films, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really seen anything quite its equal in any other medium. You can get an idea of just how gorgeous this game is by looking at pictures of it, but to truly appreciate the full extent of its artistic majesty, it must be seen in motion.
Earlier this year I managed to upset a few people by suggesting that Nintendo was making an error by not even bothering to acknowledge the Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon. I believe the phrase “click-bait” was tossed around.
Despite some of the more enthusiastic claims to the contrary, it wasn’t my intention to insult Nintendo or its fanbase to any serious degree. It’s just that as a fan of Nintendo who happens to live in the modern world, it became frustrating to see another instance of them falling so far behind the times, in terms of adapting to, and even taken advantage of, modern internet gaming culture culture.
Nintendo’s going through some rough times at the moment, that admittedly have very little to do with whether or not they gave Twitter shout-outs to Twitch. But for a company with a history of sticking to their ways to a fault, it was disheartening to think that they were not learning from the past, and were very much willing to repeat it.
Like the ending to a good Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, sometimes its satisfying to see it all come together.
In a previous post, I mentioned that not enough was being done to cherish the games and franchises of days gone past, and ensure that they have a healthy presence in the future. In another word related doo-hicky about Unreal Tournament 2004, I also lamented the notions from developer Epic that suggested we would not be seeing another Unreal Tournament game anytime soon.
In both instances, it was troubling to realize that no matter how beloved, influential, successful, and full of potential a gaming series may be, ultimately its place in the future is not certain.
This is the 30th, and final, part of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
At no point was Half-Life 2 just a game.
Following the cliffhanger ending of the legendary Half-Life, the idea of its sequel was a pipe dream. One that’s grandeur and impossibility seemed to grow with each year, as the hype train rolled along with a fury never before seen by the industry.
At the time of its release, Half-Life 2 stopped the world (not to mention, the still young Steam service). November 16, 2004 was a day that seemed surreal to many. The sight of Half-Life 2 on your computer was a real “pinch-me” moment. Even before you booted it up, that sensation it provided damn near justified the 6 year long wait.
After its release? Well, we’re living in that world now. One where Half-Life 2 has achieved god-like status, and the mere idea of a follow-up has become a cultural phenomenon on-par with any actual release in the series so far.
This is part 29 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
To me, there’s a strong difference between “loved,” and “beloved.”
Beloved is a word that implies more of a deep, unquestionable fondness for something. Even when you love something, you can readily admit to its faults. When something is beloved, though, it’s reached this point where your affection for it is well-beyond reason, yet at the same time, seems to be a perfectly logical emotion, based on the thing itself.
A big part of the reason that Nintendo has one of the more…shall we say ‘enthusiastic’ fanbases out there, is that they tend to deal heavily in the production of games aimed at achieving the beloved status. That’s certainly the case with Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.
This is part 28 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
In 2004, I can safely say I knew nothing about the Warhammer 40k universe, aside from the fact that it existed. This may not sound like a big deal, but among my friends, it was a mortal sin.
From what I was able to gleam of that whole universe, it seemed interesting enough. The trouble was that every time someone would try to fill me in on the particulars regarding it, they would launch into this half-hour diatribe that you tend to encounter when you mix super-fandom and a fictional universe with years and years of history to cover.
The result of these sit-down conversations was the distinct feeling that I was on the brink of something fairly intriguing, but could never really get the proper introduction required to really bridge the gap, and get me to the land of fandom properly.
But then came a real-time-strategy game set within the Warhammer universe called Dawn of War. With it arrived an introduction trailer of particular merit. This one, in fact:
This is part 27 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
The argument of which Grand Theft Auto game is the best, is one that I’m constantly thrilled to find myself engaged in, simply because there is a strong argument to be made that any of them deserve the title.
Maybe you prefer the overhead, arcade style simplicity of the original installments. Perhaps the revolutionary third title holds an inescapable nostalgic appeal for you. If Vice City‘s 80′s throwback era charmed the pants off of you, who could blame you? Then again, GTA: IV‘s dark tones or GTA: V‘s air tight mechanics and technical majesty, may just be your cup of tea.
There’s a case to be made for any in the GTA series to be the greatest, as each possess their own unique quality which separates them from the pack, and ultimately boils that discussion down to the tried and true qualifier of personal preference.
Now, that being said, if you ever try to argue with me that there is any GTA game bigger than San Andreas, then prepare for a verbal thrashing my good fellow.
This is part 26 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
You know, I really wish this was a retrospective on The Sims rather than The Sims 2.
Why? Because I’m feeling lazy today and, if you’re feeling lazy yet are slightly obligated to continue a retrospective column, there are few games easier to dwell on than the original Sims.
It’s a treasure trove of easy nostalgia and mind-blowing figures. Not only do many gamers have fond memories of the title, but as it was quite a few people’s first taste of emergent gameplay (i.e. Make your own fun gameplay in a world without many borders), those same memories have that unique quality of being both personal to each user, and culturally shared by everyone else who experienced The Sims.
This is part 25 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
As a general rule, any year you get a Zelda game is a pretty damn good year.
Why? Well, unlike say, oh I don’t know…Star Wars, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Alien, Austin Powers, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man, Transformers, Silent Hill, Madden, Bomberman, Resident Evil, Sonic and quite a few other franchises from the various corners of the entertainment world, Nintendo is careful to make each entrant into the Zelda series not only worthwhile and true to form, but usually a reasonable contender for the best of its kind yet.
And during 2004, we were gifted with not one, but two brand spanking new Legend of Zelda games to drool over.