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Thunderbolt’s Most Wanted of 2012

At the beginning of every year we like to take a moment and share some of the games we’re most excited for in the new year. With the Game of the Year behind us, it’s time to get pumped up for what looks to be another fine, maybe even exceptional year of gaming. 2012 is poised to be another big year for gaming threequels, those from both franchises past and current. Fret not though, mixed in with the inevitable deluge of sequels are a few unknowns and wild cards – we don’t promise they’ll all be good, but we can’t wait to see how all of these turn out.

And without further ado, our Most Wanted of 2012…

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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

I used to love JRPGs, but then, something happened and I grew out of the genre; the RPG magic dried up, I was jaded by the conventions and overall trajectory of the genre. What I wanted in a JRPG was the same sense of wonder I felt as a kid exploring ancient ruins in Grandia or cruising by a floating city in Skies of Arcadia. Ni no Kuni looks like that game, finally, after many, many years. It’s cute, it’s colorful, but it’s also backed by the creative tag-team of Level 5 and Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). If anyone can suck me back into the genre, other than Atlus, it has to be these guys: I’m ready.

Binary Domain

I haven’t played Binary Domain, nor would I say I’ve been altogether blown away by the various trailers for it, but it’s weirdly stuck with me. My first thoughts were: Japanese developer, third-person shooter, sure fire disaster. But the Japanese clearly want a piece of the huge Western shooter market, and although Shadows of the Damned and Vanquish both failed to ignite much interest at retail, each proved the Eastern developers can make unique, memorable shooters. And that is exactly why Binary Domain intrigues me. It’s part Gears of War and part Isaac Asimov, then orchestrated by the flamboyant mind of Toshihiro Nagoshi, the man behind Sega’s venerable Yakuza series. If nothing else, Binary Domain will be eccentric.

Pid

Announced only a month ago, Pid is the first game from the recently formed Might & Delight. Not much is known about the “gravitybending action” that is purportedly the crux of the game, but what has been shown is subtle and beautiful. Continuing in the tradition of indie darlings such as Braid and Limbo, Pid looks like it will be more than capable of carrying the stylish platforming mantle come 2012. Also, keep this in mind, Might & Delight is primarily composed of ex-Grin employees, the same guys that made Bionic Commando Rearmed, and no, I don’t mean the sequel.

Sean Kelley, Associate Editor

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Far Cry 3

When the original Far Cry hit the shelves of PC gamers in 2004, it sprang a sleeper hit on an unexpecting industry that was waiting patiently for Valve to finally release Half-Life 2. Arguably a generation ahead of its time, hand-gliding through a near-open world tropical paradise put console games to shame. Though an outright success for a new IP, Far Cry was too ahead of its time in 2004. 2008′s sequel then disappointed countless fans by taking the series in an unwanted new direction. Although Ubisoft has yet to provide any real detail on Far Cry 3, its E3 2011 trailer showed a return to Pacific Ocean Paradise. With a returning emphasis on discretion and environmental manipulation, Far Cry 3 looks set to take the ailing series back to its roots and capitalise on its untapped potential.

Stuart Edwards, Staff Writer

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Prey 2

Wishful thinking. At the moment, this pick feels premature; based on the merits of marketing rolled out at E3. Prey 2 carries the lofty premise of an open- world bounty hunter game set in a neo-noir city. That sounds like a great thing but after last year’s Brink and Rage, I’ve become hesitant about these big-concept FPS titles stemming from Bethesda. They’re all idealistic in concept but we can only hope the execution begins to match.

SSX

What a difference a couple years makes. Since the release of that original trailer, SSX has seemingly transformed into something fitting of the title, ditching exaggerated realism in favor of something a bit nostalgic and arcade-like. The problem with real mountains is they don’t offer much in the way of unique player experiences. It’s not that a good realistic game can’t be made but that a better unrealistic one can be. By designing the slopes around divergent paths and other alterations, EA’s retained some of the ‘Deadly Descents’ vision of topographical mountain data while also staying true to the franchise identity mechanically. With all the shifting of direction, I’m cautiously optimistic. Perhaps now the only concern’s that we won’t allow SSX to move beyond the formula of Tricky. Thankfully, Tricky’s still tops.

Torchlight 2

The original Torchlight was completely refreshing, presenting a sleek and accessible take on a well-worn genre. It’s been one of the better experiences I’ve had in the last couple years – there were simply no complications in the way it presented loot-based dungeon crawling. It’s everything one wants from the genre without the fluff. I’m not sure how a sequel could go wrong, even in a year with Diablo III. It’s probably saying something that – while I’m definitely interested in Blizzard’s end product – I’m equally excited to get back to the pure and satisfying experience of Torchlight and expand that experience over co-op.

Calvin Kemph, Associate Editor

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Syndicate

I have lots of reasons to be excited for the upcoming Starbreeze-developed Syndicate reboot. Besides my love of first-person shooters, I have a personal connection to Starbreeze that keeps me interested in their work (my first press trip ever was for The Darkness and I’ll always cherish that memory). But the number one reason is the game sounds and looks badass. Syndicate‘s plot of corporate control and corruption is particularly appealing in the era of the 99%. The early trailers for the game show off what looks to be a very polished game, unflinching in its violence and confident in its tone. Franchise fans might be a little disappointed with the shift in direction, but I have high expectations for this one.

Game of Thrones

I can’t say I’m entirely confident that this game is going to be very good, but I’m still excited for it. Like many others, I’ve spent the last year digging into George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, so I’m pretty excited to live a life (or two) in Westeros in the upcoming RPG. That said, the title is coming from Cyanide Studios, which historically doesn’t have a strong track record and is most noted for creating sports sims rather than action-RPGs. Their previous work with the universe, the RTS A Game of Thrones: Genesis, was tepidly received by critics in 2011. I’m really hoping this is Cyanide’s breakout game, but steeling myself in the event that it isn’t.

Matt Wadleigh, Deputy Editor

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The Darkness II

To be honest, the first Darkness was a fragmented experience for me. The final stages were pretty helter skelter and trips to the underworld never ran dry of tedium. Nevertheless, it’s a rarity and a delight to see a game forge its own path in conveying a different, yet effective, take on a successful comic series.

The Darkness II is definitely shaping up to piece together the scattered wants and needs derived from fans of the predecessor, with a more in depth look into The Darkness entity, a refreshingly new visual shine, and of course, more ways to eviscerate. Give in.

Owlboy

Still no updates from D-Pad Studio’s most anticipated adventure. What was once announced for a Q4 2011 release, has been replaced with an ambiguous aim at 2012. But I’ve been sold since playing the demo. It isn’t just the setting, the retro aesthetics, or the lovable characters, it’s just that simple reminder that it’s been far too long since we’ve been given a solid sidescroller.

The King of Fighters XIII Online Patch

Though NESTS Kyo and Mr. Karate are on their way, King of Fighters XIII fans are more excited about one thing, and one thing only. Atlus has announced that they are currently brewing up an online patch that not only hopes to make for a smoother netcode but also addresses numerous issues such as being unable to cancel pending matches versus those of poor connections. No release date has been announced yet, but Atlus assures that every effort is being made to get this bad boy out ASAP. Given SNKP and Atlus’s affinity for attention to detail, more time spent is a good thing.

Stew Chyou, Staff Writer

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Grand Theft Auto V

I have no idea what Grand Theft Auto V will be about. It looks like it’ll be set in a city similar to Los Angeles and will feature an older protagonist who is dragged back to a life of crime. To be totally honest I’m not too concerned with the details of GTAV, I’ve played enough games by Rockstar to know that I’ll be purchasing a quality product. Take Two have indicated that GTAV will be ‘a bold new direction in open-world freedom, storytelling, mission-based gameplay and online multiplayer,’ and I completely believe them. It feels unusual to be this excited about a videogame and I feel rather stupid writing so passionately about a game I know almost nothing about, but there you have it. GTA isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – but it sure as hell is mine.

Richard Murphy, Staff Writer

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Until recently this title was of moderate interest. Videos of slicing people and melons punctuated by a consistently intangible release date were both exciting and worrying. When it was recently revealed that Platinum—the geniuses behind Bayonetta—would be taking over development, however, it became my most anticipated release of 2012. While a sequel to Bayonetta is not forthcoming, I’m just as willing to accept Raiden’s return as a worthy substitute. With the ludicrously action-packed trailer filled with brutal swordplay evoking almost all of Platinum’s previous work, it looks like this title most certainly has come back with a revengeance.

Mass Effect 3

That the Mass Effect trilogy is ending is a source of great anticipation tinged with sadness. While I await the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s battle against the Reapers with baited breath, it will undoubtedly be with a sense of sadness that this truly epic saga concludes. The jump in quality from the first game to its sequel was almost inconceivable, metamorphosing from a somewhat clunky RPG with shooter elements to an almost flawless shooter with RPG elements. The shorter release cycle between the second and third games means that another such leap in quality is unlikely, but more of the same would be nonetheless welcome. Some underwhelming Kinect implementation, the questionable addition of multiplayer and a lack of space combat are nitpicks rather than real concerns as hopes that Mass Effect 3 could possibly match the high standards of its predecessor begin to bloom.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

The first episode of Sonic 4 was a fairly enjoyable, if underwhelming, attempt at returning Sonic to his roots. But a lot has happened since then, with both Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations hinting at a gradual return to form. Why, then, is Sega returning to the far inferior Sonic 4? The news that it will be running on a new engine is promising and the return of Metal Sonic is a source of delight for fans of Sonic CD, but more importantly Episode II will either serve as a confirmation of Sonic’s continued improvement, or a damning suggestion that the recent successes were nothing but blind luck. Call it perverse curiosity or flippant anticipation but, for better or worse, I can’t wait to see what happens.

Tarek Robertson, Staff Writer

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Metro: Last Light

The first game was surprisingly polished, though it did have its flaws. The enemy types were interesting, but limited. I’m still not sure how the gas masks worked. But, for every minor flaw there was a major advantage to back it up. It was easy to become apprehensive walking through the shadows of Russia’s underground, and equally tense traversing the wasteland above. The trailers spell promise and with any luck this sequel will be able to smooth out the kinks of the original.

Max Payne 3

I admit, when Rockstar first released screenshots, I was skeptical. Max Payne 2 is without a doubt one of my favorite games of all time, and I’ve been waiting patiently for a sequel. So when they showed the bald guy running through the sunlit slums of Brazil, it seemed a little at odds with the dark nights of New York City. Even the weather was in stark contrast to the blizzard in part one and the rainstorms of part two.

It was later when they released their gameplay trailer that my hopes were brought back up. The voice of James McCaffrey, combined with the Payne’s seamless moves brought my hopes back up. It’s not the same Payne, at least not aesthetically, but underneath that bald, toughened exterior beats the heart of the original.

Nick Vracar, Staff Writer

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Amy

Pardon the pun, but zombie games are in desperate need of an injection of life in them. They’ve become dull and predictable, their edge worn away with so many me-too clones. It’s been a long time since zombies were actually scary, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m excited about Amy: a title that brings gamers back to the roots of the survival-horror subgenre. I’m tired of plowing through hordes of the undead with silly weaponry like machetes and flamethrowers, it’s high-time zombie games (and horror games in general) got scary again.

Ninja Gaiden 3

When Tomonobu Itagaki directed the revamp of the classic Ninja Gaiden on Xbox, he and Team Ninja created a bonafide action masterpiece that played harder, faster, and better than everything else on the market at the time. Since Itagaki’s ugly split after Ninja Gaiden 2, the fate of the series was left in question until a third installment was recently unveiled with Ryu Hyabusa battling terrorists. I’m looking forward to seeing what Team Ninja has up their sleeves for this series of man’s man action games and hope Ryu can slice his way into the hearts of gamers once again.

Anarchy Reigns

Platinum Games is quickly becoming my favorite developer of no-holds-barred action titles, such as Bayonetta, Vanquish, and MadWorld and the insanity looks to continue with Anarchy Reigns. I know the people at Platinum can put together a single-player title, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the online realm with something that can’t help but stand out against the many samey online shooters.

James Dewitt, Staff Writer

What games are you looking forward to in 2012? Sound off in the comments!

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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