Posts Tagged ‘videogames’

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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Best of 2016: Top 15 Games

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Now for the home stretch.

2016 was ultimately a much better year for videogames than it might currently feel like it was. No really, I mean it. Some of the latter-year triple-A releases may have failed to hit the mark with large enough audiences, and the pacing of the videogame release schedule in general was super weird (What on earth happened to the trend set over the last couple of years that June/July/August can be a smart period to release games? Why was Ubisoft the only company releasing anything big in the first three months of the year?). Yet when you look at a list of all the titles that hit over this bizarre 12-month period, there’s a hell of a lot of quality there. The indie and JRPG scenes in particular had phenomenonal 2016s, multiple games with years upon years of hype delivered on at least some of it, and there were plenty of surprising hits that came seemingly out of nowhere. Welcome to this countdown of my favourite 15 videogames of 2016.

The letters in parentheses after each title indicates where I played that game.

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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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15. ReCore (XBO)

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At the start of the year I might have expected I’d soon play a 2016 game with 3D platformer collect-a-thon roots, but never would I have thought I’d find it inside that Xbox-exclusive Keiji Inafune/Armature game announced at last year’s E3. It turns out that ReCore is more of a platformer at heart than any retail 3D action game released this decade, and its airborne control mechanics feel wonderful. It also packs a massive world that encourages exploration and plenty of colour-coded shooting boss battles that aren’t afraid to get difficult, with customisable robots thrown in for good measure. Some confusingly restrictive systems and a lack of environmental variety may weigh it down as it plods through its latter stages, but ReCore is still one of the year’s most pleasant surprises for me.

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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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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation VI

Games
Pokémon X
Pokémon Y

Platform
3DS

Region
Kalos

New Pokemon
72
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+7. Sweet divergence

The mantra of the development team behind Pokémon X and Y was simple: Bring back lapsed Pokémon players from different generations by capitalising on the headline that the Gen VI pair would be the first Pokémon games to be rendered in full polygonal 3D. To maximise this, an intimidating number of new Pokémon was not necessary – instead the developers decided to give special attention to older generation Pokémon wherever possible, while introducing fresh ‘mons at a nice steady rate. And they started to put this design decision into action very early on in the story. On the first long grass route in the game, you can catch an astonishing six different Pokémon, both old and new, and by the time you hit the first Gym, that number has almost tripled. While this may seem unremarkable to some, it means that Gen VI achieves the exact opposite of the problematic situation I outlined in my Gen IV post – odds are your team will be different from those of your friends in the early game. Ergo, early multiplayer encounters are exciting. And that is a titanic plus in my book.

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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation V

Games
Pokémon Black Version
Pokémon White Version
Pokémon Black Version 2
Pokémon White Version 2

Platform
DS

Region
Unova

New Pokemon
156
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+6. Generous seasoning

I wanted to make an entry devoted solely to the auto-prompt that pops up when you run out of steps on a Repel item in Gen V and beyond, but I definitely don’t have the space.

In a rare example of consistent visual iteration within the Pokémon main series, Gen V built on the significant attention to day-night cycles that Gen IV exhibited so thoroughly by introducing a seasonal cycle. Not quite one-to-one, the cycle saw the region of Unova change seasons at the start of every real-life month, changing up the look of several pivotal routes, slightly altering the encounter rates of certain Pokémon, changing the appearance of Deerling and its awesome evolution Sawsbuck, and even granting/removing access to certain items or events. I kind of wish the developers went even further than they did with the concept, affecting more than just isolated areas, but I’m still very happy it was included.
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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation IV

Games
Pokémon Diamond Version
Pokémon Pearl Version
Pokemon Platinum Version

Platform
DS

Region
Sinnoh

New Pokemon
107
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+6. It’s all in the details

I remember quite vividly the day I brought home my copy of Pokemon Diamond to play. It would be an understatement to say I had followed the game’s Japanese release rather closely, and yet I was still surprised, not to mention floored, by the sheer number of tiny yet noticeable changes the game brought to the series as the first entry I could enjoy on my already treasured DS. From the way my Turtwig appeared to physically eat a berry in battle, to the slightly randomised animations of certain moves, to the vastly improved bag and PC Box structures, to the way buying 10 Pokeballs would just grant you a free Premier Ball, completely un-advertised, all these small touches added up to give me the same wide-eyed feeling of wonder I had experienced four years prior with Gen III. And at that point in my life, I had not thought that was possible.

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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation III

Games
Pokémon Ruby Version
Pokémon Sapphire Version
Pokemon Emerald Version

Platform
Game Boy Advance

Region
Hoenn

New Pokemon
135
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+7. Starker contrast

When a new generation of Pokémon games is announced, said games inevitably come in pairs, and there is inevitably very little difference between the two versions. While it may not quite be an exception to the rule, out of all the main series releases Gen III arguably brought the loudest suite of differences between its corresponding games. The third generation arguably has the single most robust lineup of version-exclusive Pokémon in series history, and they begin to show up very early on. What’s more, Ruby and Sapphire are still the only games to offer a version-exclusive villainous team, which changes the flavour of the story, the types of Pokémon you face in enemy battles, and even the type of natural disaster that befalls the region late in the game (not to mention its accompanying music track). Only Gen V even comes close to that level of contrast.

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