Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Favorite Five Portable Games of 2010

If it wasn’t for Portable games, I doubt I would be as invested in the industry as I currently am. With all my traveling on various forms of public transit, portable gaming has kept me occupied on each trip, regardless of length. In fact, the first ‘system’ I bought was the Game Boy Color and I enjoyed every moment with that Purple unit. Because of my love of Portable games and my greater involvement in the Gaming Press, I felt the need to give praise to those pocket games I enjoyed during the past Calendar year. My list doesn’t include any games made specifically for the iPod since I only recently began playing games on that system and don’t view them in the same light as DS or PSP titles. This will most certainly change next year but their bite-sized nature just can’t compare to content of other portable games (don’t get me wrong, I play a lot with my iPod Touch)

Without further ado, here are my five favorite portable games of 2010:

Just Missing Out:

Dragon Quest IX (DS)
Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
Ys Seven (PSP)

5. Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem (DS)

The Puzzle Genre and Portable gaming go hand in hand and the Mario versus Donkey Kong series is the epitome of the two. Considering how the last game in the series went completely under the radar because of its DSiWare exclusivity, it was such a relief that Nintendo released a follow up a year later with twice as much content. The concept behind leading a group of mini-Marios through various puzzles is so simple but the way in which you can solve each level gives you reason to go back and play it again and again. Then once you’re done, the game opens up so much more content. Then if that wasn’t enough, you can download and create your own levels.

4. God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)

The God of War series is to Sony what Mario is to Nintendo. Kratos is the face of Sony even if he’s not the model person you want leading the way. The franchise already spawned an incredible first outing on the PSP a few years ago and this one takes the baton and runs twice as hard. It might not deviate too much from Chains of Olympus; the story here, one that opens up so much more to the Kratos mythos is something that fans of the console games should play just for the sake of adding more knowledge. Even when he’s dishing out so much damage, we get to see a Human side to the character that makes you understand more why he acts the way that he does. The game isn’t long so it works perfectly in the Portable gaming landscape; you’re done in about 6 hours but every minute is well spent.

3. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)

I am not afraid to admit it, but Hershel Layton is my homeboy. When I went to Japan in December of 2008, not only did I spend a few hundred Yen (a couple of dollars) on various Layton trinkets (including a Layton Key-Chain that I attached to my DS), I nearly bought the recently released game (which so happens to have been this very game) even though I probably wouldn’t have been able to understand it or play it. The third game, yet again shows what I love so much about portable gaming: easy to pick up, addictive and fun to play. The puzzles are just as creative as they have been in previous games and the story sheds more light on the Professor’s background, including the love of his life. I have introduced Layton to so many other people and I have yet to hear a negative response back from them. If you need to exercise your brain, you can’t go wrong.

2. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)

The first Metal Gear Solid game on PSP might be viewed by some as a great game but I was not one of them. I found it difficult to grasp the controls, the missions weren’t that enjoyable and as a whole, felt like it wasn’t suitable for portable consumption. What’s even weirder, I enjoyed the Metal Gear Acid series, especially the 2nd game. But with Peace Walker, I did a complete 180. While the changes aren’t that drastic, the cool story, open nature and additional content made me wanting more. Even after putting over 10 hours into it, you will still find things to do and places to explore. The variable control options fixed a lot of the problems I had with the first and the way the story unfolds is done in just a way that you never really feel bored or uninterested. It might not be cut-scene heavy like the console MGSs, the comic book style still offers the same interactivity. On top of interesting story, the added Co-Op options also give you more opportunities to find rare unlockables and discovering additional content.

1. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP)

When you invest so much time into a game and still manage to discover more, you know you have something special. The strategy genre hasn’t always been well received on consoles except when it comes to turn-based ones but this breaks that trend. Valkyria Chronicles II takes everything that made the first game on PS3 such an enjoyable experience, throws in high-school life and still delivers on what it is supposed to do. This is the perfect mash-up of Real-time and Turn-based strategy with missions that can be completed in a matter of minutes. It’s no walk in the park but the variety in your squad options, the beautiful visuals and great cast make it hard to put down. Even with the high-school setting, it never feels too childish and the way the characters interact with each other feels genuine. Best part, even if you have no previous background with the first game, you can jump into this and not miss a beat. I always thought that this would be a good game but I just never expected to enjoy it as much as I did and I whole-heartedly expect to play more until the third game reaches North America in late 2011.

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