Posts Tagged ‘Videogame’

Best of 2016: Top 5 Game Consoles

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2016 was a year of transitions for console gaming. With at least one – possibly two – machines on their way out and another pair going through significant physical changes, there was a lot on offer for owners and prospective owners of the five main dedicated gaming consoles alike this year. Because it’s fun to do so, I will now rank them once again. Exclusive games on each were plentiful, helping to draw lines in the sand between the consoles, but I’m also counting versions of non-exclusive games that I feel are different enough from their siblings to warrant a mention. Needless to say, new versions of existing hardware weigh heavily as well.

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VR BEST OF 2016 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 strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

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5. Wii U

(LAST YEAR: 3rd)

 

At the start of 2016 there was a pervasive feeling that the Wii U was on its last legs, but we had no way of knowing just how barren the year would be for the ailing console. Its relatively bare schedule of major releases throughout the year only kicked off in March, and though Pokken Tournament turned out surprisingly well, a slightly-tuned HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess wasn’t exactly the kind of release to attract new buyers (even if that remaster was pretty damn good). Then April marked the death knell for the console, as that brought with it the combined disappointment of Star Foz Zero and the announcement that the Wii U’s successor – then codenamed NX – would release in March 2017.  From then on, only three first-party games came out on the platform at all. Admittedly, Paper Mario: Color Splash and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE were fantastic, but that simply isn’t enough to make a year worth celebrating, sadly. Onward to the Switch, then?

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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 10 Gaming Moments

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It follows that an insanely good year for games means an insanely good year for gaming moments, and that was definitely true for 2015. From incredible story beats that stuck in the heads of many, to smaller touches that blew away expectations, to personal milestones unique to each player, this year bred positive videogame talking points at a wonderfully consistent rate. Here are the ten that stuck out the most for me.

Most of these are not story-related, but there are spoilers here for certain games.

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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.

SPOILERS DEFINITELY FOLLOW.
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10. What Makes You S.P.E.C.I.A.L? – Fallout 4

I didn’t get very far in Fallout 4, for a swathe of complicated reasons that can easily be summarised in the phrase “It wasn’t for me.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the game handles its weirdly lengthy install in a classy, fitting and very entertaining way. Armed with a grainy filter straight out of a 1950s movie theatre and some superbly drawn black and white animation, the game introduces you to each of the seven sections of your in-game skill tree via a series of whimsical – and brutal – vignettes that are great fun to watch. Depending on the speed of your hard drive and the platform on which you play, you may find that the length of these consecutive clips matches up almost exactly with your install time, which is a nice bonus.

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Best of 2015: Top 5 Game Consoles

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Here we go again with my opinion on how the big videogame consoles stacked up against one another over the calendar year. It was a hell of a year for console gaming, and as someone who has access to them all these days, I’ve got to say it was tough at times to choose where I wanted to spend my time playing.

This is a difficult list to explain, as it largely comes down to how I feel about what each console offered to consumers that was unique from its contemporaries. That said, the main quantifiable factors that usually go into this list are volume and quality of console-exclusive games (read: Steam not counted), major console-exclusive features in multi-platform games and any relevant improvements to the experience of using the console made year over year. There’s a lot to say, so let’s go.

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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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5. Playstation Vita

(LAST YEAR: 5th)

In a year that saw Sony admit its first-party support for the PlayStation Vita was all but dead, the company’s third-party relationships really came through for the beautiful console in a big way. If you’re a fan of high-profile indie games and/or interesting Japanese fare, the Vita had you covered in spades throughout 2015. A PlayStation Plus subscription was just about enough to keep Vita owners covered for fun and intriguing experiences over the course of the year, as exclusive or not, there are few digital games I can bring to mind that don’t improve just by being on Sony’s magnificent handheld. I played Broken Age, Grim Fandango Remastered, Lost Dimension, Hatoful Boyfriend and Stein’s Gate on Vita in 2015 and couldn’t imagine playing them any other way.

Of course the bona fide exclusives were few and far between – pretty much just Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls and Persona 4: Dancing All Night in terms of exclusives that made any waves whatsoever – and the Vita-playing experience didn’t really change in a meaningful way. So unfortunately I can’t match my enthusiasm for the handheld in 2015 with a high position on this list. It sucks that the Vita also suffered a discouraging number of delays this year, both in the port and original game categories. I just want Severed to come out, already!

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Best of 2015: Top 5 Gaming Trends

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Time for a brand-new list. As much as I’ve enjoyed writing the list that has been in this slot for the last three years, my Top 10 Game Cases, I found that I had to come up with a smaller list this time around to make up for the forced expansion of another list later on. And on that intentionally vague note, let’s talk about some of my favourite trends that defined 2015 in videogames.

No real qualifying conditions to mention here – These are just some of the patterns that I noticed forming in and amongst all the announcements, news and actual content that found its way onto gaming machines all around the world this past 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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5. Games Actually Worked

2015 wasn’t just a massive improvement over 2014 in the videogame sphere because of the sheer volume of great releases. It was also a gigantic improvement in the way said games performed. Perhaps it was a product of all the big-name delays out of last year, but the titles to which gamers were treated this year actually ran fairly smoothly with very little catastrophic bugs to speak of. Sure, there was the odd exception, but they were just that – exceptions. Compared to the veritable parade of dead-set unfinished late 2014 games, 2015 was a breath of fresh air, and as much as it sucks that this is worth talking about at all, credit where credit is due.

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Best of 2014: Top 10 Games

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And so it is, on the first day of an impossibly exciting new year, that we arrive at the ‘big two’ to round off the year that was 2014. This is my top ten favourite videogames released in Australia in 2014. For a game to qualify for this list I need to have either finished it or played at least five hours – whichever comes first (yes, that does eliminate a lot of really good games – we aren’t all superhumans). For clarification’s sake, significant game remakes count – “remasters” do not. So no, Final Fantasy X HD doesn’t count, because it’s a beat-for-beat upscaled port of a decade-old game.

I tend to define myself nowadays by playing as many games as possible, even if that means I only get to play a small slice of each title, just so I can have some sort of opinion on them and be part of a wide gaming conversation. Because I live for that stuff. But these are the games I actually played, and I mean really played, in 2014. When your free time dries up and you need to be more selective with where you put it, as mine did in 2014, your tastes as a gamer tend to boil down to a more easily definable quantity. And when I look at this list of ten games, there is an overwhelming pattern that shows up.

With maybe one or two exceptions, every game on this list falls into one of two categories: heavily story-driven playable narratives, and games where multiplayer interaction is the single defining trait. I hadn’t realised it until I wrote up this list, but it seems I am looking for experiences that bring people together above all else these days, and when that can’t happen, I’m drawn to well-written stories. We’ll see if the glorious slate of huge-name 2015 releases changes that. But for now, please enjoy. The platform on which I played each entry is in parentheses.

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VR BEST OF 2014 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 spooky. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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10. Pokemon Omega Ruby (3DS)

Among other things, 2014 was the year that I finally attempted to quantify my appreciation for Nintendo’s many wonderful franchises, and when the main series Pokemon games ended up on the top of that list, being forced to look at that “number 1” next to its name gave me pause. My lifestyle and priorities have changed recently, as they tend to in, you know, life, leaving me with very little time to devote to the competitive battling scene that has defined the last decade of my Pokemon playing existence. Thus I feared that I would begin Pokemon Omega Ruby and get next to nothing out of the experience, and yet its almost as if Game Freak saw this coming, because the game is amazing, boasting some of the best use of the 3DS’ StreetPass feature I’ve ever seen, giving new playthroughs fresh life with the DexNav and adding just enough extra subtlety to an already half-decent narrative to keep it engaging right up until its genuinely stellar post-game content begins. And of course, it’s still an absolute ball to play with and alongside friends.
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Best of 2014: Top 10 Gaming Moments

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Videogames are built on moments, whether those moments be built right into the fabric of the game or simply emerge from the experience of discovery and/or sharing gameplay with others. They are the difference between games you simply play and games you remember. 2014 was positively packed with instances that made gamers start conversations with “How good was it when…” These are the ten that stick out the most in my mind.

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW for a number of story-focused games, so be warned.

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VR BEST OF 2014 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 spooky. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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10. Final World – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Throughout the majority of my time with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the story set-up that gave DK and his friends the motivation to traverse the game’s gorgeous and tough levels – I was simply enjoying the challenging gameplay flow, the sweet level design and the satisfying boss fights. That was until the final world, when I realised I had been island hopping rather than just exploring different parts of the same island like in the first DK Country Returns on Wii. I realised this because, after spending most of the game waiting for the “Freeze” part of Tropical Freeze to show up, it suddenly appeared in the form of the entire original DK Island. Each of the 8 worlds from the Wii game appears as a single level in this world, complete with returning music and signature design elements mixed with ice level tropes. A really *cool* touch from Retro Studios.
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