Posts Tagged ‘fifteen’

Happy Fifth Birthday Wii U- Oh, OK Then

Wow, what a nifty device!

Ranking my favourite games on a Nintendo console right around some major multiple-of-five anniversary has been one of the most consistent things I’ve been able to do on this blog, not to mention one of my favourite kinds of post to write. But never before have I been able to so comprehensively make one such list on the first possible milestone. The Wii U is well and truly done and has been for months, but here we are on its five-year anniversary of release in Australia on November 30th, 2012, and I’m already able to count down my ten favourite games on the thing.

I believe it is Animal Crossing: New Leaf that features a reference within Nintendo’s own studio system to the Wii U’s failure. If you obtain a Wii U console in-game and approach it while it’s on display, you get the pithy message “Great artists aren’t always appreciated in their own time.” It’s a chuckle-worthy bit of self-deprecating humour, but it does contain a grain of truth. Due to its terrible opening 18 months, where a combination of hubris, awful all-around marketing and general industry panic resulted in a more-or-less sealed fate, the Wii U’s “time” was short and unimpressive to the masses. Luckily for the few people who did own one, however, not only did the Wii U boast the widest range of first party Virtual Console titles in the retro gaming service’s history and a pretty wonderful social media environment in the form of Miiverse, but when Nintendo’s back was to the wall, the company sure produced some amazing games. These are my absolute favourites.

Just a quick warning: I cheat on this list. Three times. Without regrets. It’s technically a top 13…

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10. NES Remix (1&2)

Right off the bat we start with two games in one entry, but here’s a sobering thought: NES Remix is the only Wii U-exclusive game to see a sequel on the same console. That’s not why they share a position on this list though – That’d be because they are essentially two halves of one package that come with a combined price tag a fraction of what a full retail release costs. The NES Remix twins represent some of the most fun you can have with a group of friends on the Wii U – and without a strict player number cap to boot. Despite an ostensibly single-player presentation, you can lose lives so quickly in these games that they almost beg to be played in a pass-the-controller group setup. That’s almost exclusively how I played it, at least. Chopping up absolute classics with nonetheless dated mechanics and throwing them into a blender with other, perhaps less stellar 1980s games is a surprisingly effective recipe for uproarious chaos, and I really hope we haven’t seen the end of this mini-franchise.
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9. Nintendo Land / Game & Wario

At first glance, this is a devious rule break, but there’s method to the madness. For as long as these two games have been out in the marketplace (so most of the Wii U’s lifespan), I have maintained that if you splice half of Nintendo Land and half of Game & Wario together to make one five-player party game, you get one of the very best and most unique experiences on the Wii U. Though Nintendo Land gets no shortage of hate for its poorly-received launch game status – and Game & Wario tends to get forgotten entirely – there are some genuine gems to be found across these two wacky titles. The Luigi’s Mansion-inspired ghost game in Nintendo Land was played more times in my house than most other entire games, such is its unironically ingenius 4-vs-1 multiplayer slant, and you can say something similar about Game & Wario‘s Fruit – which pits a room of watchful bystanders against one nervous player trying to blend in amongst a screen full of AI characters. Taking into account the Mario and Animal Crossing themed attractions from the former game and the Pictionary-lite mode / insane ring-toss variation from the latter, it really baffles me why Nintendo never officially paired the two collections in some capacity. No first-party release after these two showcased the one-of-a-kind potential that the Wii U’s control setup could offer.  
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8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Persona. It’s a word that will make almost any JPRG fan sit up and take notice, and it absolutely should have been found somewhere in the rather confusing title of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite a premature announcement trailer that hyped up a bona fide Fire Emblem crossover with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series, the gameplay loop and visual style of this buried gem has much more in common with the storied SMT sub-series Persona, which has only recently broken into the wider gaming consciousness this year. Though it was spoken of within gaming circles as the game to play if you just couldn’t wait for Persona 5 on the PS4, it turns out that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is no mere entree, and despite sharing much of the same structural Persona DNA it has plenty of worthwhile appeal all its own. In fact it is just as effective when played after Persona 5 is over, because its manically optimistic energy seems like the perfect antidote to the melancholy that the 100-hour PS4 epic can exhibit at times. Though Tokyo Mirage Sessions leans into its J-pop industry aesthetic so emphatically that it is bound to put some people off, it has plenty of critical things to say and just as importantly, the battle system, upgrade paths and character arcs are extremely satisfying. And the in-game menus are laced with neon lime green, which is a hearty bonus.

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2016: The Year of the Japanese RPG?

As we arrive at the end of another January, and the videogame industry begins to awaken once more from its holiday release slumber, it’s already evident that 2016 is going to be a tremendously big year for games. We are already knee-deep in a veritable feast of high profile indie goodness, with the likes of Oxenfree, Darkest Dungeon and most notably the long-awaited The Witness just available this past week, and both Unravel and Firewatch just around the corner. Beyond that is a host of widely anticipated blockbusters that look set to define the current generation of videogames. The Division. Uncharted 4. Quantum Break. Overwatch. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. No Man’s Sky. Many, many more.

Virtual Reality will finally become an, ahem, reality this year, with multiple companies trying their hand at convincing the gaming mainstream to pay attention to their lead VR product. Nintendo has an uncertain but very exciting year ahead as they look to unveil the mysterious NX console, at long last, simultaneously branching out into the mobile gaming space. It’s all rather delectable if you ask me.

And yet, when you look ahead at what’s slated to release this year, there are the makings of one more trend – one likely to be overshadowed by most, if not all, of the above in terms of media attention. That is, of course, the sheer volume of Japanese Role Playing Games – or JRPGs – that Western gamers will be able to get their hands on throughout 2016. Fans of ridiculous narratives, stylish presentation and checkbox-completionism, rejoice!

Widely considered a dead genre as recently as half a decade ago, not only has the JRPG survived to this day, but through the occasionally cartoonish force of will of a handful of developers, 2016 looks to be the biggest year for the genre since the burgeoning days of the first PlayStation, at least in terms of Western – especially European/Australian – release dates. Delays notwithstanding (and they will happen to some of the games I’m about to talk about, mark my words), 2016 is so packed with Japanese RPG promise that I could theoretically just play JRPGs – lengthy as they tend to be – and nothing else this year yet still be fairly satiated going into 2017. That won’t happen, of course, but it’s still a staggering thought given the scraps JRPG fans have had to feed off for the majority of the last 10 years.

If you feel a top ten coming on, you know me too well… and you’re close. Here come no less than fifteen JRPGs which, at the time of writing, are primed for a 2016 release and have at least a half-decent shot at coming out this year. If anything, it’s a little sad to think of how selective I’ll need to be with which ones I play in order to get any of them finished at all:

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Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS)

It all kicks off with this little game – a JRPG from Square Enix with ambitions far beyond those of your standard Final Fantasy spin-off. It’s already available for purchase (though in limited physical quantities) and its efforts to blend the addictive loot grind of Monster Hunter with the ever-appreciated traditional FF job system is holding it in fairly good stead on Metacritic thus far. It remains to be seen how long its series references and central gameplay loop will keep me and my friends playing together, but something tells me it won’t be the fault of Final Fantasy Explorers when I stop playing it – The blame will probably sit with the next game on this list.

When’s It Out? Two days ago here in Australia, at least officially. Indeed, it has already begun…

How Keen Am I? Considering it’s already in my hands and heavy on multiplayer, very keen indeed.

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Bravely Second (3DS)

Several pundits single out 2013’s Bravely Default as the game that put an exclamation mark on Square Enix’s turnaround as a game publisher, following years of baffling decisions and wandering through the metaphorical creative wilderness. I reviewed it on this blog, back when I did those, and I adored the game’s fantastic blend of classic Square RPG mechanics with very modern ideas, not to mention its phenomenal audio-visual presentation. Bravely Second looks to give fans more of the good stuff while cutting down on previous weaknesses, and I can’t wait to dive back into the world of Luxendarc.

When’s It Out? February 27th, meaning Second follows the example of its predecessor by releasing months earlier in PAL regions than in the Americas.

How Keen Am I? I put a tick over 70 hours into the first game, and yes, I finished both endings despite that final looping stretch. So yeah, I’m excited.

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Best of 2015: Top 15 Games

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I just couldn’t do it.

There was just no way that this year, with the incredible quality – and indeed quantity – of videogame releases throughout 2015, I could possibly restrict this annual list of mine to a mere top ten. So I cut one of my earlier lists down to a top five – particular as I am about these sorts of things – and expanded this baby.

Not only is this the 2015 list that took me the longest to write, it’s also the one that took me the longest to order. I’ve gone through dozens of rearrangements of this one – especially in the top four – and though I’m happy with how it reflects the past year, what is on this page to some extent only indicates how I feel about things right now – ask me again in a week and it may have shuffled around.

The platform on which I played each game on this list appears in parentheses. A game only qualifies for my list if I either a) finished its “main story”, or b) played at least five hours of it – whichever came first. I restrict myself this way to ensure I’ve given a game a fair go, though the rule does disqualify a number of games in which I dabbled, such as Kirby & The Rainbow Paintbrush, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Code Name S.T.E.A.M, Just Cause 3 and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, all of which probably would have made the list had they not come out at really awkward times for me personally. Additionally, remasters and remakes don’t count this year, because, well, you’ll have to see.

Without further ado, let’s reminisce about the embarrassment of riches to which gamers were treated this year:

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VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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15. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)

The fact that I finished the main story of Batman: Arkham Knight is the greatest compliment I can pay the game. The weekend that I lost to the caped crusader initially involved other plans, and those plans promptly dissolved once I began to lose myself in Rocksteady’s incredibly good-looking open world vision of Gotham City, not to mention its intensely personal story of a mentally deteriorating Bruce Wayne. I even liked the Bat-tank stuff – for a few hours at least. After a while the game’s over-reliance on the tank sections did wear me down enough to keep Arkham Knight out of my top ten, but I couldn’t leave it off the list altogether, because despite its flaws the final chapter of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy is a quality package.

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A Decade of Dual Screen Splendour

Turns out I couldn’t do my normal Oscars thing this year because of work commitments, which saddens me. Nevertheless, as pathetic as it might sound, I’ve been waiting for this very day for years now, just so I could put this article up.

The original model – A thing of stunning beauty that made you want to throw up a little with just one look.

It is truly astonishing that a decade has already passed since the release of the Nintendo DS in Australia. On this very day in 2005, almost three months after its American release, the Big N bestowed a truly ugly yet quietly revolutionary portable gaming device on the PAL region for the first time, with a European release to follow a few weeks later. This hefty silver beast came packing not one but two screens, one of them touch-enabled, along with an unassuming microphone for voice input, more buttons than Nintendo had ever put on a handheld before, a built-in instant messenger app and full backwards combatibility with Game Boy Advance games. It was a thoroughly weird hunk of plastic and metal (this was still years before the iPhone, after all) that initially appealed to little more than Nintendo’s faithful.

I was one of said faithful, and my sister and I were there on launch day to pick up our first run versions of the DS, complete with that bundled-in demo cartridge of Metroid Prime: Hunters tantalisingly known as “First Hunt”. Between such a tasty graphical showcase and the joy of Super Mario 64 DS, Nintendo’s fresh console represented a huge step forward in graphical muscle over the GBA, and my teenage eyes lit up at the prospect of what experiences could possibly be on the way for the bizarre clamshell. Many of my friends were bewildered at the very sight of the monstrosity and my attempts to explain its appeal initially sucked, but I didn’t particularly mind if the system wasn’t popular, visually pleasing or particularly comfortable to play for long stretches – I knew it would bring great games to the table.

Well, I was right about that last part at least.

After all, just shy of 18 months later the DS Lite was released. Bringing with it brighter screens, a much smaller form factor, swathes of games with a wider range of appeal than ever before and some deviously clever marketing, the infinitely better version of the DS grew steadily in popularity until it exploded into the mainstream alongside the Wii in the latter half of the decade. The rest is history – the DS became Nintendo’s highest selling console of all time and the success of simple touch screen games paved the way for a smartphone gaming revolution. And unlike with the Wii, the release of so-called “casual” games on the DS did not affect the ongoing creativity and quality of meatier games on the system. All throughout the console’s life cycle, from the original model to the Lite to the camera-enabled DSi to the supersized DSi XL, great games just kept coming out. Some of my favourite videogames ever made their home on the DS, and so without any further rambling, here are my personal favourites. No less than 20 of them, in fact.

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20. Trauma Center: Under the Knife

I’m going to start with the entry on this list that I’ve most recently discovered. As good an argument as any for the extraordinary staying power of the DS’ unique library, I started playing this gem only a few months ago after picking it up for dirt cheap on a whim. And it’s awesome. Though typically weird for an Atlus game and just as typically difficult, the first in what is apparently a series of Trauma Center games is engaging and rewarding in a way I’ve not seen in any other videogame. The relatively unique stress of performing surgical tasks while your patient’s vital signs rapidly tick away, all against the backdrop of an insane science fiction story, feels fresh even in today’s wonderful climate of creative indie experiences.
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19. Metroid Prime Hunters

Though I have much stronger nostalgic feelings for the aforementioned demo of the game, the full version of Metroid Prime: Hunters was certainly nothing to sneeze at. Arriving over a year after said demo, Hunters built on the experimental foundations of the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to deliver a gorgeous competitive multiplayer-centric title where the campaign was just the thing you played when you had no buddies around. With a diverse selection of alien bounty hunters from which to choose, each packing a different transformation for mobility and stealth, Metroid Prime Hunters was crammed with ideas way ahead of its time, and honestly represented a concept too ambitious for the limits of the DS hardware. I’d really like to see a sequel on a console with more than one directional input. People who claim the controls of the 3DS’ Kid Icarus Uprising stopped them from playing probably never owned Hunters.
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18. WarioWare Touched!

A quirky launch title for the DS, WarioWare Touched! was my entry point into a Nintendo franchise I now regard as one of my top five of all time. I was positively floored by how much fun could be garnered from a stack of basic-looking microgames lasting mere seconds with only the vaguest of instructions to point the player in the right direction. Touched! was one of the absolute best indications early in the DS’ life of the insane potential of touch screen gaming (it even did Fruit Ninja before Fruit Ninja) and its incredibly bizarre personality shone through every manic twist and turn. There are better WarioWare games out there, but this one is really special to me.

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Get Spooked: The 20 Most Unexpectedly Scary Moments of Non-Horror Videogames

So I wasn’t planning on writing anything special for Halloween, but it’s really freaking hot in Sydney at the moment and the coolest part of my house happens to be right in front of this computer screen, so let’s do something spooky.

If you’ve ever had a videogame-related discussion with me, or even read some of this blog, you might pick up on the fact that I don’t mix well with deliberately scary games. Horror films are one thing – I can deal with those to some extent, though I don’t actively seek them out – but interactive horror experiences are quite another. I just don’t understand the idea of wanting to be scared by something. This may mean I’ve missed out on some of the most talked-about videogame titles of the last few years, such as Slender, Outlast, the Amnesia games, P.T. and more recently The Evil Within, but hey, there are other things to play.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t ever been scared by a videogame before, of course. There are quite a few games out there that, while not deliberately branded as horror, smuggle in some deviously spooky moments. These are arguably even more affecting because you don’t expect them. Some are jump scares, and some are just thoroughly unnerving. Here are no less than twenty of the most memorable ones in my personal gaming history, in no particular order. Of course, some of these are based on the fact that I was a child when I first played them, which made me more vulnerable to such moments, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are forever imprinted on my mind.
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Get Out! – Donkey Kong 64

If you’ve played DK 64 before, you’re probably already hearing that ominously deep, aggressive voice in your head right now. In the game’s second level, raiding a pyramid tomb for a golden banana or two brought up a sudden and inexplicable sniper crosshair, accompanied by a loud shout and some crapped pants. A bit of a cheap shot by developer Rare, but an effective one.
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The Basement – The Last of Us

The Last of Us is not a horror game, despite what some people might say – it’s more of a dramatic interpersonal drama. But jeeeeez, don’t ever make me play that basement sequence with the power generator again. It just ain’t happening. Combining low light with any amount of water is already a pretty heavy nope situation for me, so throwing in a rush of bile-spewing fungus zombies that spawn at exactly the wrong time is just… aagghh.
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Baby Boss – Luigi’s Mansion

His name is Chauncey, apparently, and he’s one of the ghostly bosses in Luigi’s debut solo adventure on the Nintendo Gamecube. He’s also a one-year old baby whose blood-curdling scream just should not be in a Nintendo game aimed at “all ages”. Fighting him in his room, complete with cot and creepily spinning mobile, is the most genuinely scary moment of an otherwise pretty lighthearted adventure.
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Mega Ultra Blast Cast Ep.15 & 16


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I haven’t posted a podcast link in a while, so here’s a double dose. The first two episodes of the Mega Ultra Blast Cast for 2014 plow through a ton of gaming and movie news, stopping along the way to offer some alternating opinions on the PS4 from a couple of new owners known to their friends as Shane and Delaney. Episode 16 goes closer than ever to the magic hour-long mark, finishing agonisingly short, and features a slightly more professional new intro mixed by Dazidia, Soundcloud artist extraordinaire. Enjoy!

If you feel so inclined, go for a run, take a scenic drive or just curl up on the couch and play some games while you listen to the opinions of three Sydneysiders feeling the love.

You can play the whole episodes right off this page if that does it for you:


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Or you can go to the Soundcloud site/app and listen from there:
https://soundcloud.com/mega-ultra-blast-cast/mubc-15-welcome-to-2014

https://soundcloud.com/mega-ultra-blast-cast/mubc-16-44-seconds-overtime

(To download and listen offline, follow the link and then click the download tab)

As always if you enjoy what you hear please share the cast with your friends – Until next time!

VR Zelda Month: Top 15 Non-Dungeon Music

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It took me a long, long time to decide on what pieces of Zelda music went into this list. Much harder to compile than the dungeon music list, and in fact probably the most difficult list of them all, putting together a collection of the best overall tracks in a series as musically rich as The Legend of Zelda is a truly daunting task. So it’s a good thing people have opinions.

Despite how amazing they tend to be (or, perhaps, because they tend to be so amazing) I have disqualified end credits themes from this list. They tend to just be medleys of tunes from whatever game they happen to hail from, anyway.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome. Spoilers may follow.
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15. Outset Island – The Wind Waker


What better way to start this countdown than with the wonderful background track from the very first island in The Wind Waker, a Zelda game many people rank as the best in the series for music? The theme of Outset Island is just so fitting of Link’s initial naivete at the, well, the outset of his journey. The gentle flow of the melody is grounded by that persistent deep and inoffensive brass rhythm, yet matches so well to the ambient sounds of ocean swell against the beach. What’s more, it features a callback to the music of the opening area to Ocarina of Time, the Kokiri Forest, with a delightful flourish at 1:30 in the above video.
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