Category Archives: Discussion

E3 2016 – My Top 6 Game Trailers

My Top 6 Games of E3 2016 – in Trailer Form!

This year’s E3 was surprisingly more engaging than I expected it to be. For the most part, it did feel like most companies were still playing catch-up with their half-baked announcements from last E3, but almost everybody pulled out at least one surprise on me. And that’s far more than I expected moving in.

Below are my 6 best favorite trailers and games from the show… and a few that were curiously absent from the list, and why they were.

Severed


Before the show on Tuesday, Nintendo put out a few indie game trailers, and this one caught my eye especially. Apparently it’s already out on the Playstation Vita, but it’s not a Persona game, so I didn’t notice it then.

What I notice now is a game with an absurdly eye-catching art-style, a chilling tale, and some interesting twists on typical RPG mechanics. It didn’t hurt that it’s from the people who brought me the astounding Guacamelee, now available on most platforms.

Ever Oasis


Midway through Tuesday, people started getting word that Nintendo had something new to show us on their Wednesday stream. I waited with high hopes, and unlike a lot of people in the comments, I was not disappointed. It seems that Nintendo finally gave the studio Grezzo a chance at their own title. If you don’t recognize that name, I don’t blame you, but they’ve caught my eye with their 3DS remakes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, as well as a number of Street Pass games. It’s also apparently headed up by the guy responsible for Final Fantasy III‘s job system, and a number of famous titles like the original Final Fantasy games, and the Secret of Mana series.

What we’re getting from this esteemed pedigree is a game that looks one part Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, one part Kingdom Hearts, another part Harvest Moon, and maybe even a little bit of Minecraft, to make for an awesome looking RPG. The art style seems to be putting some people off, which I can’t argue. You don’t like what you don’t like, I suppose, but I very much like this.

Titanfall 2


What astounds me the most here is that the developers of Respawn have taken the predictable approach to a Single Player story in their sequel, and thrown it out the door in favor of something a lot more interesting. The Titans are now a character in Titanfall 2, and they couldn’t be more intriguing.

Not to mention you’ll be fighting more than other dudes and robots, but crazy life forms as well. It looks like a perfect mix of Metroid PrimeCall of Duty, and The Iron Giant.

Death Stranding


I don’t know where to begin with this one. I normally despise gameplay-less trailers. A teaser at E3 is nothing more than a proof of story concept, and that can only excite me so far when a game’s play is the majority of the reason to come to it. But then comes Hideo Kojima (who should have ended Sony’s E3, not some shitty zombie game) with this mind-fuck of a trip to tell me how it’s done. I don’t know what this game is, hell I barely even understand what it’s about, but I”m on board 100%. As long as it doesn’t turn out to be some dead sea-life match-3 puzzler, creepy sky-shadow auto-runner, or a point-and-click-on-Norman-Reedus’-naked-body simulator.

I take that last one back. I’d play that.

Resident Evil VII


So what this trailer I’ve linked you doesn’t do, is what Sony did during their press conference, and that’s surprise the fuck out of me.

What they started out with is some gameplay of a dude crawling through a dark house, with no context of why or what was there. Me and my friend who was watching with me were quick to chide this game for being a PT wannabe, and some wishful developer’s Nth Scary House VR Simulator.

Admittedly, the trailer did look nice, so my chiding wasn’t entirely accurate, but I shut my damn mouth when the title of this game was revealed to be Resident Evil VII.

At this point, it was one of those “You had to be there” moments, so I decided to link you the official trailer instead of the one that was at Sony’s press conference, but rest assured, it still looks like a step in the right direction for the bloated corpse of the Resident Evil franchise.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It’s not just that this game looks gorgeous with it’s Wind-Waker inspired grapics. It’s not even that this trailer shows off the game’s impressive combat. What really inspired me with this trailer was the sheer breadth of activities covered, and the knowledge that this was only a look at the surface of the iceberg. If this didn’t excite me, spending all day watching other people play the game with extreme jealousy did. The opening minutes of the new Legend of Zelda are intriguing to me in a way that almost no other Zelda has ever been. I’m ready for this adventure, and if you see this trailer and are somehow immune to it’s awe, I don’t know that we can still be friends.

Now, The Curiously Absent

Persona 5


So here’s the thing: this isn’t a bad trailer. It’s an incredibly awesome trailer for my most hyped game. So why is it down here? Because it’s just the same trailer we got from Atlus of Japan 2 months ago, with an official set of subtitles. No English voice actors, no context to what’s actually happening in the game’s text. Just nothing I hadn’t already watched two dozen times.

That said, I’ll probably watch it many more on the game’s trip to my console, early next year. So it’s not all bad.

Paper Mario: Color Splash


Speaking of things that are not all bad, the new Paper Mario looks pretty. Unfortunately that’s where my adoration for this game ends because I am -not- going to play Sticker Star 2. The combat looks like the same we got on the DS Paper Mario game, and that was pretty awful. Complete with stupid trial-and-error boss puzzles, a lackluster setting, and no colorful sidekicks to pal around with, and there’s just nothing here I’m interested in. Paper Mario used to be one of my favorite franchises, but lately it’s just so much crumpled up refuse.

Mass Effect: Andromeda


So maybe it’s not the trailer I’m mad at, but EA in general. We have to sit through 20+ minutes of FIFA, and 2 minutes of Mass Effect. I get that FIFA makes -way- more money, but I don’t care. I wanted more aliens and guns, and I didn’t get them. So now I have little to no more information than I had going into E3, and therefore have nothing to be excited about. That’s a real damn shame, especially for a franchise that needs to prove itself to thousands of people who (wrongfully, I believe) feel burned by the end of the previous trilogy.

So that’s my overall opinion of this year’s E3. Any games catch your interest? Feel free to comment and discuss what worked and didn’t work for you.

Review – Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Only Happy for So Long…

by Randy Marr

The most recent game in the Animal Crossing comes to us in the form of a spin off titled Happy Home Designer. You play a villager who joins up with the Happy Home Academy in order to help townsfolk build their dream home. Using a new set of furniture organization tools on the bottom screen, and armed with a slowly growing catalog of furniture to choose from, you must fulfill each villager’s request in decorating their pad. Or not. It’s your game, do what you want.

And there in lies the first problem with Happy Home Designer: the lack of structure. On one hand, it’s nice to be given a series of blank canvases to work your interior decorating magic on, but after the 10th, 15th, or 20th time, you’ll start to crave some rules. A challenge. A point structure. Anything that can give you purpose to cramming furniture into some chicken’s new house.

Build your own school, if you want.

The new way you organize furniture in the houses of your clients is effective, and is hopefully a glimpse into the future of organizing your personal house in future Animal Crossing titles. In fact, this whole game feels like somebody came up with a great new system for organizing furniture, and rather than making a new Animal Crossing game on the WiiU or for whatever the “NX” is going to be, they instead made a game based solely around that function.

That in and of itself wouldn’t be terrible. In fact, the idea of freely creating a house now and again is pretty fun for a little while. Given that the game does nothing more than expand upon a couple of elements from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, while completely removing most of them, a full price is hard to swallow. Not only that, but the supplementary Amiibo Cards lead to inflating the price even further.

Only a few of the many cards.

The Amiibo Cards are ultimately useless in this title. For the most part, every character that’s on an Amiibo Card can be found in game, so there’s no need to have a card for them once you’ve found them. Alternatively, the cards do make a great way to hunt down your favorite villagers (*cough*Tangy*cough*) and have direct access to them, but that only diminishes the card’s overall value. And at a dollar a card, there’s not a lot of room for Nintendo to be bringing down the value. Some special characters, such as K.K. Slider and Saharah, are (as far as I’ve found) the only characters that can’t be found through regular gameplay and must be scanned in with an Amiibo Card.

What feels like a neat R&D experiment appears to have turned into a full fledged game without a lot of actual substance to justify the price. Add on the 100 Amiibo Cards in randomized packs (for just the first wave) and you’ve got an insane amount of money spent with no real reason to do so. It’s a bad value, through and through.

Review – Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Aesthetically pleasing, mechanically adequate.

by Randy Marr

It starts with a rumor. Then people go missing. Now it’s up to Yu Narukami and his friends to take the center stage and solve the mysterious incidents happening just before Rise Kujikawa’s big come-back tour. Who is Kanami Mashita? Where are the rest of her dance troupe? Just what is The Midnight Stage?

Persona 4: Dancing All Night seeks to answer these questions through one of the oldest forms of expression: dance. It might sound a little corny, and in the end, maybe it is. But this game brings the heart, the darkness, and the style that fans of the Persona series have come to expect and love. (Hey, if Buffy and her investigation team can do it, so can Yu.)

Dozens of your favorite tracks from Persona 4 and it’s various spin-off games have been brought together, many have been remixed, and all have been plugged into a very Dance-Dance Revolution-like formula. Notes scroll from the center of the screen outward towards one of 6 buttons, and you just have to press them in sequence. There’s also a little scratch circle that demands you flick the thumb-sticks to build up your Fever Meter for an extra special visual treat during the song. It’s not going to go out and impress fans of rhythm games as it’s fairly simplistic and straightforward, but it’s perfectly serviceable and wholly approachable. This serves to ensure that fans of Persona who have never picked up a rhythm game will be able to get enjoyment out of the title’s story without being barricaded by impossible tasks.

The story mode of the game feels like an improved take on Persona 4: Arena‘s storytelling style, while telling it’s own tale. Yes, there are branching paths, and yes, it’s mostly told in a visual novel style. But the visuals are crisp, the faces animate cleanly, and there’s far less exposition and more fully-animated cutscenes. You’ll be done somewhere around 8-10 hours with the story, but it’s perfectly laid out. By the climactic sequence of the game, every song selected is exactly the right song it needs to be leading to an all-out rush of a finale.

When Persona 4 originally came out, I thought it was a great title that felt maybe a bit rushed to capitalize on the success of Persona 3. Then I realized the dark charm hidden within it, and was instantly in love. I’ve since spent 7 years falling head over heals for The Investigation Team over and over. But Persona 5 has finally shown it’s head. It’s coming next year, so Yu and his crew are finally going to have to pass the torch. Persona 4: Dancing All Night feels like the absolute best way that Atlus could have sent off one of my favorite video game casts.

Feature: E3 2015 Sunday Recap

The Nintendo World Championships and Bethesda start things off strong.

E3 may not technically begin until Tuesday, with most people calling Monday “Day 0,” but Sunday seemed to start off the celebration of all things gaming for this writer with Nintendo and Bethesda bringing some interesting guns to the start of the show.

Nintendo kicked things off with a 20 minute Smash Bros. presentation that saw 2 new fighters added: Roy from Fire Emblem and Ryu from Street Fighter. There was a leak that took the wind out of those announcements, but it didn’t make Ryu’s well-executed inclusion any less important for the Smash series. Also included in the announcement were new stages like Sakura Castle from Street Fighter II, a ton of new music, some new Mii Fighter costumes, and more. Overall it was a pretty packed 20 minutes with something you would have expected to be saved for Nintendo’s proper Digital Direct coming Tuesday. It kinda makes you wonder what they still have up their sleeve.

Then came the Nintendo World Championships 2015 event where 16 competitors played through a gauntlet of Nintendo games to be crowned the first Nintendo World Champion since 1990. Overall the event could have used some work, namely on the identifying who was who during the gameplay front, but the World Premiere of Blastball was interesting. In this new game, you’re in a futuristic looking mech that shoots around a giant death-ball, trying to get it into the opposing teams goal. It’s like Soccer (sorry, football) meets Metroid Prime in some really neat ways. It doesn’t look to be the biggest game of the show, but it’s always nice seeing something debut like that. But once Super Mario Maker was revealed, all the nitpicks and other surprises went down the drain. This was easily the best way to demo the game: have some of Nintendo’s finest create specifically tailored levels and have expert speedrunners try their hand at them. It made for a thrilling show filled with twists, laughs, and a whole lot of childish glee.

My favorite E3 moment thus far from the Super Mario Maker segment.

Bethesda came out for their first ever show, and overall I don’t think it was that great. Before you take the pitchforks to me, let me explain.

Doom was doing absolutely nothing for me. The atmosphere of the game just doesn’t strike any sort of a cord that I relate too, the visual design was all around unimpressive, and the action just seemed more exhausting than exhilarating. If it wasn’t for Snapback (or as I call it, Super Doomio Maker), a whole new style of modding tool for Doom, I would have passed the whole game off as “Just not for me” and moved on. At least that last bit got me excited.

I’m sorry, but Battlecry just looks awful. The visuals were drab, despite their attempt to inject color into it. The animations were janky as hell. And overall I just got the feeling that this was going to be some Team Fortress 2 meets a MOBA as produced by an independent team of 5 people kind of project, only it was being given it’s own studio by Bethesda. It just… Nope. Don’t think so.

Elder Scrolls Online is just not working for me on a conceptual level, so nothing there was interesting.

There was an announcement for Elder Scrolls: Legends. This is a new free-to-play trading card game that runs on PC and tablets and boasts a trailer that was almost identical to Blizzard’s original Hearthstone trailer. In fact, the whole project sounds like an attempt to cash in on the Hearthstone name, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve only got the funds to dedicate to one money-sucking card game.

Speaking of trying too hard to be Blizzard, Bethesda also announced “Bethesda.net,” a new service that will be your go-to source for “all things Bethesda.” Sounds exactly like Battle.net, the client that Blizzard uses to house all of it’s games. I’m always leery about having another dedicated publisher program on my computer, especially after Ubisoft’s ill-conceived uPlay initiative.

So, my saltiness on Doom not withstanding, that was a pretty bad press conference. That was until Fallout 4 happened. If anybody manages to beat that in-depth look at the insane features planned for that game, we’ll have one of the best E3’s in a long time. Total weapon and armor customization, building your own settlement piece by piece, an insane looking story, second-screen gimmicks. This game has it all, baby. The overall presentation was a bit bloated, but I came away from it feeling that I have a most anticipated game of E3 before the show technically even begins. We’ll see what else everybody is bringing, but man. Fallout fucking 4.

What did you think of the opening round of E3 information? Are you excited to see what everyone else has to offer, or did Fallout 4 give you everything you will ever need?

Editorial: Why Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the Most Dissapointing Smash Bros.

I don’t think it’s the worst, or even bad at all. But I can’t help feeling let down by the latest brawler from Nintendo due to a few huge missed steps.

If you’ve followed my work, you may have noticed a small obsession between me and the Smash Bros. franchise. I can’t help it. Ever since I spent countless hours playing the Nintendo 64 original with friends, I’ve been hooked on Nintendo’s mascot beat-em-up. Each new version, rare as they actually are, came with years of excitement that eventually lead up to a new batch of countless hours wasted playing the damn thing. That was until Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still wasted countless hours, but I haven’t felt the same thrill that I used to.

If I had to give this article another name, it would be “All the things wrong with Smash Bros. for Wii U.” I’m not saying Smash Bros. Brawl and Melee didn’t have their own problems, but I feel that the potential for this game was hamstrung by a number of design and developmental issues that ultimately weaken the experience.

The Characters

While I generally think the newcomer cast for Smash Bros. for Wii U is ultimately one of the strongest in the series, there are still some sore thumbs that stick out in the overall line-up that need to be addressed.

The first is the unnecessary omission of Ice Climbers. It’s been documented that the only reason the parka-clad duo was removed was due to limitations of getting them to run on the 3DS version of Smash Bros. I get that it’s a big roster, and the Ice Climbers aren’t particularly loved by the fanbase in general, but it felt like a bit of reckless character weeding and only showed how Smash Bros. for 3DS would begin to hamstring the development of it’s Wii U counterpart.

There was originally going to be a section about how Lucas was removed as well, but he’s apparently coming back as DLC so we’ll let that one slide.

What could have been.

Ganondorf continues to be a big sticking point for me, as he was in Brawl. At least then we got a new look for Ganondorf, and a general redesign that helped to separate him from being a perfect clone of Captain Falcon. However, with Smash Bros. for Wii U, we really had a chance to set up something new with Ganondorf. Maybe we could have had his pig monster form throwing a trident and flame-bats every which way. Or better yet, Toon Ganon could have entered the fray. Instead, however, we just got the same Ganondorf from Brawl, with no real respects to any other Ganondorfs that have yet to grace Smash.

Ultimately, the character roster isn’t bad. There are far more disappointing aspects of the new game.

The Stages

The 3DS incarnation of Smash rears it’s ugly head in the worst way when it comes to the development of Stages for Smash Bros. for Wii U. Where as Brawl had 31 brand new stages when it came out, Smash Bros. for Wii U. only had 28. I know. 3 stages, what a deal, right? But consider the 25 new stages that were introduced for the 3DS version. Granted, some like Guar Plains and Final Destination exist in both, so it’d be more like 20, but even still. That would be 20 more stages we could play on the console, including some of my favorite stages of this whole 4th generation of Smash, SNES Mute City and Spirit Tracks.

But honestly, it’s not just a numbers game. The quality of stages on the Wii U Smash is just low. Palutena’s Temple is a gigantic and unwieldy level that fails to impress visually, Yoshi’s Woolly World just isn’t fun and fails to capture the magic of the visual style in the upcoming platformer by the same name, and Orbital Gate Assault is just plain janky. Very few of the new stages impress on any real scale, and while I appreciate the experimental stages like Jungle Hijinxs, they ultimately don’t land as stages I want to play on. Then there’s the stages that are neat, like Wily’s Castle, Pyrosphere, and Guar Plains, but have this pesky boss that you just can’t get rid of. They take stage hazards to a new and aggravating level of unfun.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem, but it’s likely a costly and ultimately unworthy one: develop the 3DS stages into Wii U stages and sell them as DLC, along with brand new stages as promotional material for new games. But heck, I’m just dreaming at that point.

And while I’m ranting about the quality of the stages, fuck Pac-Land. I’m sorry if anyone has a nostalgic trip for that stage, it’s a hot, burning MSPaint nightmare and it needs to be ejected from the game in the next major patch.

Maybe I’d want to play on some of these stages a bit more if there were other reasons to come to them…

The Music

It wasn’t until Smash Bros. Brawl that the music of the Smash Bros. series really came into its own. Before that, the music was mostly bland remixes of the most obvious tunes, and there was a very strong limit to what was selected. But when Brawl happened, the music exploded into a wide range of songs, original and remixed, from countless Nintendo games. Most stages had more songs than you could shake a conductor’s wand at, and most of them were great. Smash Bros. for Wii U ultimately tried to repeat history, but it was ultimately unable to make that musical lightning strike twice.

With Brawl, we had great pieces like the Fire Emblem Theme, Corneria, Meta Knight’s Revenge, and Bramble Blast (which turned out to be one of my favorite video game tracks, having never played Donkey Kong Country 2.) There’s no real spectacle in this new soundtrack. No sweeping orchestral pieces, no hilarious vocal arrangements, AND a truncated version of The DK Rap. Next to no songs top even the middle-ground in Brawl‘s overall soundtrack. At least I’ll always have “7 PM/Main Street” track from the new game.

Probably the worst part of the music is that a large chunk of it is locked behind content you don’t want to play.

The Unlocks

I still haven’t seen half of these unlock.

It’s 2015. Why are we still unlocking content in our fighting game that is essential to playing the fighting game. How many times have you been to a tournament for a game, only to find that they don’t have your favorite character unlocked? (or worst, they’re DLC?) I know some people like the thrill of unlocking things, but in this Age of Ultron The Internet, nothing is a secret 5 minutes after the game releases, if it even makes it that far. It’s just not reasonable to lock your characters, and in the case of Smash Bros., your stages behind any sort of wall.

And the biggest offender in all of this is the Custom Moves.

They were a great idea: Give each character 2 alternates for their Special Moves to really change up how they play. Many tournament communities are taking this as a great way to add variety to the character line-up, and it really throws the Meta into the air. In fact, EVO, arguably the biggest fighting game tournament scene in the world, will be allowing custom moves later this year. How they are going to do this is a mystery to me as it will require them to unlock all of the moves on multiple machines. Have you tried unlocking custom moves yet in Smash Bros. for Wii U? There’s no sure-fire way to get any particular move, it’s all randomly distributed via the numerous modes throughout the game. That is, numerous modes save the one you’re here for, which is the core game itself. No, instead you have to go play Trophy Rush, Master Orders, or the Mario Party like Smash Tour to grind out 8 moves per character, for each of the 47 characters. (48 minus Palutena, who for comes with all of her moves unlocked for some reason.) On top of that, the unlocks are flooded with Equipment, a terrible new feature that’s banned from tournament play because it completely breaks characters in new and terrible ways. Overall, this is an insane, and ultimately boring undertaking for anyone trying to bring out this amazing new feature added to Smash Bros.

Maybe I’m just becoming more nit-picky as I get older, but I hope you can see some of the numerous issues poking me in the rib every time I boot up the new Smash Bros. I blame a large part of it on the feeling that they had to make the 3DS version simultaneously, as it seems to have detracted from their overall work. Also, their sales. I’m willing to bet Smash Bros. for Wii U would have sold more units, and consoles, if the 3DS version didn’t exist.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on the game? Are there other things that are bothering you? Feel free to post a comment.

Feature: Top 5 Indie Characters for Smash Bros.

Who’s your favorite “Nindie?”

Recently, it was announced that Smash Bros. for Wii U and for 3DS would be getting some DLC in the form of characters Mewtwo and Lucas, as well as some costumes for the Mii Fighters. It was also announced that a new poll would go live where you could vote for a character- any character- to be dded to the Smash Bros. roster down the line.

With that new information in mind, it seems like a lot of indie developers want in on some of that sweet Smash action. I’ve decided to compile a list of five of those characters that you should vote for in the poll. You can feel free to vote for your favorite game character here, but I recommend waiting until AFTER you’ve read my article, in case it gives you a better idea.

5. Commander Video

The star of the Bit.Trip series got his start on the Wii Shop back in 2008. The series has been going strong, with Bit.Trip Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien releasing as a Wii U launch title. To show that Nintendo has some love for the Commander, he even appears as a trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. While he may not have a lot on the surface, if you factor in some of his other Bit.Trip games for themes, he could have some cool retro pixel powers and throw bars of gold at his opponents.

Maybe he could just replace Sonic since he’s a better runner anyway. SHOTS FIRED!

4. Shantae

Shantae has been around since the Game Boy Color. Her creators at WayForward have developed a ton of great games on the Nintendo platforms, and I considered a fair number of their characters from games like Mighty Switch Force, but it always came back to Shantae having the better move pool and being more recognizable. The half-genie would be a well-deserved addition to the Smash Bros. roster.

3. Max

Another indie developer that every Nintendo fan should know is Renegade Kid. Their games Dementium and Moon proved that the DS could do a lot with a little, and on the 3DS, some of their best work has come in the form of Xeodrifter and Mutant Mudds. From all of those, I chose Max from Mutant Mudds for his retro-goodness and variety of moves. From an Up+B rocket pack recovery to an arsenal of water canon-based moves, he’s got a lot to offer.

2. Shovel Knight

The Cyan Shoveler is almost -too- well suited for Smash Bros. He has an arsenal of abilities to borrow from his game’s unique boss line-up, a series of his own power ups, and a built in palette swap in the form of alternate armors. There’s no reason for him to not already be in the game, as far as I’m concerned.

1. Quote

It’s hard not to call Cave Story a Nintendo fan’s ideal indie game. At least it’s one of mine, so that’s why Quote got the number one spot. The adorable robot from the Cave Story series is a one-boy-army packing all sorts of weapons that could be converted into the Smash Bros. formula. My favorite idea is his recovery: make it a Down+B combination where he busts out his machine gun and fires it downwards to push up into the air! Plus, the floating island he hails from would make an excellent stage. Imagine fighting on platforms hanging over the game’s signature dark blue clouds with the full moon while the title music plays. Glorious.

But those are my five “Nindies.” What indie character would you/have you voted for to get into Smash Bros? Leave a comment to discuss!

Feature: Games in Review for 2014

My Top 10 Games of 2014

Game of the year awards are dumb, so here’s mine:

10. Persona Q

One part Etrian Odyssey, one part Persona, all parts amazing JRPG action on your 3DS. There’s nothing about Persona Q not to love. I don’t have a lot more to really say about it other than if you’re a fan of JRPG’s at all, you really need to check this game out.

9. Transistor

The creators of Bastion hit their second game out of the park with Transistor. The sci-fi noir setting is beautifully complimented by it’s synthetic soundtrack and gorgeous art style. Together, it’s easy to get lost in the world. One of the things that struck me about the gameplay was the way the damage penalty forced you to try different combinations with your abilities, which in turn opened me up to new ways to play. I never really had a one combo that I stuck with because I was always reinventing them. It was a truly unique experience.

8. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight isn’t just relying on a nostalgia kick to lure you in and take your money. It’s using classic game design and melding it with modern gameplay conventions to make for a truly unique experience that will satisfy 8-bit game lovers and modern game lovers alike.

7. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

I didn’t think Blizzard could top Mists of Pandaria in terms of the quality of their content, but it turns out I was wrong. Warlords brings with it a killer storyline, better dungeons, and the biggest reason ever to log into the game every day: garrisons. There’s so much to do, so many improvements to older systems (like professions), and so much to see that I think this is, without a doubt, the best expansion for Warcraft yet.

6. Smash Bros. for Wii U

Anybody who knows me probably won’t be surprised to find this on my list. I’m a huge fan of the Smash Bros. series. Not only is it a fantastic game, it’s a wonderful reflection over the past decade and beyond of Nintendo that reminds me why I love that company. Yeah, maybe it’s just Nostalgia Simulator 2014, but god damn if it isn’t one of the best looking games this year.

Everybody wants 60 frames per second and 1080p visuals on their new PS4 and XBOX One, but it’s sitting right here on last-gen level technology running without a hitch. It’s thanks to a solid artistic vision and technical know-how that this game looks better than almost anything I’ve played this year.

5. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker

It may not have been the biggest game, but Captain Toad still filled a big hole in my gamer heart with color, laughter, and legitimately clever puzzles. I’ve spoken before about what this game means to me, so just suffice it to say that I have no qualms saying it’s one of the best games to have come out in 2014.

4. MarioKart 8

Until Smash Bros. came out, I hadn’t spent as much time with friends in any other games combined as I did with Mario Kart 8. And I still enjoy going back to it, especially thanks to the incredibly high-quality DLC they released in November. The absolutely gorgeous visuals, the gripping gameplay, and the amazing design of the tracks keeps you coming back. Battle-mode aside, which is the worst the series has ever seen, Mario Kart 8 stands well above it’s predecessors in a long line of pretty great games.

3. PT

I’m not sure whether putting this game on this list says something about me, the horror game wheelhouse at large, or the video game industry at general, but here it is. I’ve effectively nominated a movie trailer on YouTube for Best Picture at The Oscars in saying that PT, which literally stands for Playable Teaser, was one of the 10 best games last year.

PT was a great horror experience. You walk through the same hallway over and over again, slowly noticing subtle changes each time, and watching as things descend into madness. The atmosphere is top-notch compared to full-price horror games, relying more on mood and subtlety than jumps and loud noises. But most impressively, it got me excited for the first Silent Hill game in over 5 years, as it turns out this whole experiment was one big teaser for the upcoming Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro production, Silent Hills.

2. Bayonetta 2

Every bit as insane as the first game, and in most cases: more so. The smooth, yet chaotic combat returns with stunning visuals, a bonkers story, and even an interesting multi-player mode to check out. Character action game fans need to take note: this isn’t just one of the best games of the year, it is among the best in the entire genre.

1. Hearthstone

To clarify, this list isn’t me trying to rank the 10 best games, it’s just ten great games that came out this year that I played and that I want you to play. So while the previous nine weren’t ranked in any particular order, I did consciously put Hearthstone at number one for no other reason than because it’s the game that I really have loved the most and spent the most time with in 2014. Between the Naxxramus single-player content and the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion, I’ve had a stellar time with Blizzard’s free-to-play card game, and will continue to do so well into 2015.

There you have it, the ten best games that came out last year. If you have any you’d like to throw in, please feel free to do so in the comments. This is all in the spirit of getting people to play better games, and unfortunately I couldn’t play everything out there. But I’d love to see what other recommendations of games I should play that you have.

Discussion: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

The impact of color in the darkest nights of winter.

Like many people, I have issues. Specifically, I suffer from regular depression, and it’s compounded during the winter by Seasonal Affective Disorder. I don’t say that for pity, or because this is about to be a rant about what a unique snowflake I am. I say it because I know I’m not the only person who does, and I hope that by reading why Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (and by relation, other Super Mario games) mean so much to me during these long nights.

There’s something that Nintendo’s EAD studio puts into their art design that I haven’t been able to fully articulate in words, which is why this article is inundated with pictures of the game Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It looks infinitely better in motion, but I just want you to try and see what I see; color, simplicity, and a certain glamor that is unrivaled in the video game industry. This subtle, inviting visual style makes Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a safe place to be, even when things are at their most hectic. It’s a trait shared with the game that spun off this series, Super Mario 3D World, also for the Wii U. Last year, that was that game that kept making my jaw drop with every level’s visual design bursting with color on the screen. This year, though, it’s all about Captain Toad.

There’s something nostalgic about the colors Nintendo uses, and the way they use them. And I’m not just referring to the “oh Nintendo just relies on nostalgia form their previous games to make money” mentality that a lot of people have fallen into, complete with untold amounts of cynicism and blindness to other developers who do the same thing. It’s a real nostalgia that brings back memories of Christmas and seeing all the houses decorated in an array of brilliant lights, shining atop a field of fresh snow. It reminds me of fireworks blasting in the warm June sky. Every scene is a rush of positive memories and emotions that come flooding back, and so each level fills me with fuzzy feelings. How am I supposed to not like a game that does that? It is literally giving me the feeling that this time a year does so well at suppressing, and makes it nigh impossible to feel sad.

At some point I should mention that Treasure Tracker is about playing the titular Captain Toad and running through small, floating dioramas in order to find gems and collect the star at the end of every stage. Most stages have a fairly simple point A to point B puzzle to get the star and move on, but the real challenge lies in hunting down every gem and completing each level’s secret mission. It’s fairly simple, but the puzzles ramp up to brilliant early on, and get genuinely difficult before too much longer.

The games aren’t perfect. Captain Toad has some issues with juggling the Game Pad and the main screen, especially when it comes to interactions with things like wheels that need to be turned. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m too busy gorging on warm fuzzies to identify the problems this game has. I just want you to know that I don’t think they matter in the face of the brilliant, pocket-sized spectacle Nintendo has created here.

If you’re facing some Winter doldrums, or are just in need of something a little less bloody (and a little more functional out of the box), I cannot recommend Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker enough. Though I would recommend you hold off if you haven’t played Super Mario 3D World first. Like any spin-off, it just makes the experience more meaningful if you’ve covered the source material first.

How about you? Have you had a chance to play Captain Toad? What do you think? Drop a comment and let me know!

The 5 Best Music Tracks So Far in Smash Bros. for 3DS

Smashing your eardrums with awesome.

Smash Bros. for 3DS is out of the bag. Some folks in Japan got their hands on a copy of it early and have been streaming all sorts of features and reveals, and it’s nuts. I’m doing my very best to avoid it, but it’s all over the internet right now. I just want to hang out until tomorrow during the live stream Nintendo is holding to kind of get an “official” release on any last minute things. Then I think I’ll be satisfied without needing to dive into the rest. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m saving that stuff for a write-up tomorrow. Tonight, let’s bask in the glory of one more list. Let’s talk about the best music they’ve shown off so far for Smash Bros. on the 3DS.

Continue reading The 5 Best Music Tracks So Far in Smash Bros. for 3DS

Smash Bros Hype: The 5 Newcomers I’m Excited For

The first five I’ll probably check out

 

Finally, I was able to put down streams of the Japanese Smash Bros. for 3DS demo long enough to write another article. Here’s a look at the 5 new characters I’m most excited to investigate! Please note that I’m only drawing from confirmed characters, so certain leaky types are going to have to wait until later to be praised.

5. Mii Fighters (Brawler, specifically)

In any fighting game that offers it, I always go with the Create-a-Character. No matter how limited it may be, I’m much more interested in creating my own characters than using preset ones. Smash is the exception to this, but I’m still very excited to investigate customizing my Mii to be a Brawler. I also tend to pick characters with an up-close and personal fighting style, so unless he turns out to be a Captain Falcon clone, I’ll be enjoying the fisticuffs Mii Fighter has to offer.

4. Mega Man

I didn’t grow up playing Mega Man games like a lot of people. I didn’t pop in until the X series on SNES, and Legends is my favorite off-shoot. But I still appreciate the Blue Bomber in all his forms, and this one looks to be handcrafted for maximum fan service. He also appears to be a super unique fighter with a lot of tools at his disposal, so I’m interested to check him out.

3. Wii Fit Trainer

Before, she was just going to be a fun character that came out of nowhere, but when I learned she’s also a charge character I became much more interested. For those who don’t know, she uses the Deep Breathing technique to charge the power of her attacks. It goes in combination with her Sun Salutation charge-up shot, making for a dangerous combination. I enjoyed playing Lucas in Project M, who had a similar mechanic, and I’m hoping that the Wii Fit Trainer works in a similar manner. I look forward to finding out soon!

2. Robin the Tactician

Ever since I played Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’ve wanted The Tactician, or Robin, as a Smash character. It turns out that Mr. Sakurai and I were on the same wavelength with his design, too, because Robin does everything I imagined he would. He throws out spells and fights with the Levin Sword, creating a mix-up that makes him wholly unique from other sword fighters. I’m hoping he has a “Hood up” alternate appearance, but I somehow doubt it at this point. Oh well!

1. Villager

I’ve been an Animal Crossing fan for years now, and I’ve always wanted the Villager to make an appearance. In my head, he utilized his tools a bit more to do his work, like recovering with the fishing rod as a whip/grapple mechanic, but Mr. Sakurai’s realization of him is even better. The way he moves, the weapons he uses, and his Final Smash are all brilliant. I look forward to weeding out my opponents one at a time in the near future.

What Newcomers are you excited to play as? Anybody in particular catch your eye? Feel free to drop a comment and keep the discussion going!