Many in the Japanese games industry talk gloom and doom for their future, but if they’d all just shut up and make games as crazy, funny, action-packed, and unique as Shadows of the Damned, everything would be fine. Headed up by the beloved-by-critics Suda51, with support from big name developers including Resident Evil’s Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill’s Akira Yamaoka, this exuberant look at a journey through the bowels of Hell was head and shoulders above everything else that cropped up on home consoles this month.
The bloody, shadowy action was more entertaining than FEAR 3, the unique design aesthetics made us forget about Alice, the eclectic soundtrack is one of the most memorable we’ve heard in a long time, and the comedy was legitimately funny, unlike the painfully shitty Duke Nukem. Shadows of the Damned first won our hearts by being the most playable game from Grasshopper Manufacture to date, no doubt helped by the input of Mikami, as the controls take what RE4 did for over-the-shoulder shooting and ran with it. Despite being equipped with only three different firearms throughout the game, the shooting never let us down.
As we braved through more of Hell in SotD, we found to so many other reasons to enjoy our stay. Almost all the boss fights had some clever trick that kept things interesting, with some battles a genuine challenge that made each win feeling earned. We loved how sometimes SotD would suddenly surprise us with some gameplay twist that was truly bizarre and unpredictable. Likewise the game impressed us with how it kept its formula fresh while simultaneously maintaining a familiar feel to the action. But what we’ll remember most is Damned’s mastery of the not-so-subtle art of the dick joke.
Shadows of the Damned never met a dick joke it didn’t love, with the risqué gags told so often and with such giddiness that you just have to give in and enjoy them. Unlike the mean jockishness of Duke Nukem Forever’s humor, Damned’s juvenile jokes have a childlike innocence to them that you can’t hate. SotD has over-the-top action, an unpredictable pace, and more dick jokes than you can shake a phallic symbol at. What’s not to love?
In the grand scheme of things, Ocarina is a bigger, better game than Shadows of the Damned. But it wouldn’t be fair to award “Game of the Month” to a remake instead of a brand new title, so we’re bumping this admittedly excellent 3D conversion down to runner-up. Like we said in the review, this is everything you loved about the groundbreaking original – the puzzles, the story, the expansive Hyrule Field and countless secrets hidden in every room – gussied up for another moment in the spotlight. Further improvements, like controls and inventory management, were also addressed to make this the definitive version of an already outstanding adventure. As with any Zelda, there are a handful of minor complaints along the way, but they’re insignificant when compared to the staggering amount Nintendo (and 3DS dev Grezzo) got so perfectly right.
Jun 30, 2011
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