Dashed Expectations

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 2:55 am 
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Image We did it again, friends. We survived another year, somehow, and along with it came some glorious game titles. While I couldn't do a full Top 10 in 2014, I most certainly can this year. In fact, there were more than 10 that I really enjoyed this year, and I don't even have the current gen consoles. Was quite stellar all around, really, and would love to see what everyone else enjoyed. But for now, let's take a look at my 10 favourite titles of 2015!

As always with these lists, I'm not grading them based on how well the general public enjoys them, or some crazy setup involving graphics, story, control scheme, etc. This is nothing more than a Top 10 of the games I found the most enjoyable, personally. These are, simply put, the games I thought were the most fun to play. Let's kick it off!


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10. Splatoon
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Splattack!

When first shown off at E3 2014, I knew there would be something special. In a world of shooters where the only thing that matters is your K/D ratio, out pops one where the important thing is to get messy, or else you lose. Splatoon, a shooter from Nintendo of all people, puts you in the role of your own personal squid-kid as you run around the arena in a 4-on-4 match to ink up as much turf as possible, with the one with the most being the overall winner. What helps it stand out isn't just its unique objective, but how it plays out as well. Players can hide out in their own ink and quickly move around and possibly even sneak up on unsuspecting opponents, or make a hasty escape, or even climb up walls for a new vantage point, all based around this squid ink mechanic. In other words, your crouch, sprint, and reload are all set to one button, and it works! Matches are quick, simple, and enjoyable. I'd play more if it was more my style of game, though personally, I'm not the biggest on multiplayer competitive shooters, even ones with a premise as interesting as Splatoon's. Still, it's nice to come back to every once and a while, and the single-player experience was surprisingly fun as well with, quite possibly, the best final boss of the year.



9. Puzzle & Dragons Z
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Skydragon Battle

And I'm only talking the Z half of the game, not the Super Mario Bros. part. While Mario was decent enough, at first, it quickly became way too hard for some reason (the difficulty curve was way too high) and felt way too similar to the mobile game anyway. Puzzle & Dragons Z, however, which comes with the game in a dual-pack, actually expands and improves the original game in many ways. For the unfamiliar, Puzzle & Dragons is a Match-3 puzzle game with a slight twist in that you can take a single orb on the screen and move it around as much as you want for a set time limit. By making good use of this mechanic, you can set up devastating combos and chains that would otherwise be impossible in something like Bejeweled. Additionally, you also build a team of monsters, each coming with one of 5 different types that are strong against different enemy types, and the kind of orbs you clear will determine who gets to attack in a turn. Z, however, includes a few new features, such as branching paths in dungeons, a meter for special monster attacks, and even a full-on story mode! The gameplay is still very much the same as the free-to-play mobile title (though without any annoying Energy meters) but is still very much worth a look as a good bed time game.



8. Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
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Ravana's Theme (Phase 1 & 2)

The first true expansion to the MMORPG that died and rose from the ashes in a spectacular fashion. With Heavensward, our heroes (now officially titled the Warriors of Light) find themselves in the frozen northern city state of Ishgard where they involve themselves in a thousand year war between men and dragon known as the Dragonsong war. Seems straightforward enough, but as you can probably guess, not everything is black and white as hidden secrets, betrayal, and death of beloved characters gets thrown in as you dive deeper into Ishgard and Dravania's dark past. Along the way, players get access to three brand new jobs to level if they so desire and encounter many new and dangerous dungeons, Primals, et al. Basically speaking, it's A Realm Reborn, but with even more content, which is always a plus! I had a wonderful time on my journey to the top. Unfortunately, it's awfully lonely up there since, post game, there doesn't seem to much to offer that appeals to me, which is a real shame. I had this game much higher originally, but what I've heard about things such as the Relic Weapon has kept me from playing it again. Still, it's at least worth checking out for those interested in trying an MMO since, despite the faults, I still consider this the best MMO to play currently.



7. Axiom Verge
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Amnesia

So many games out there have tried the whole "it's just like Super Metroid' approach, but Axiom Verge is probably the first to actually run away with it in such a way that, at first glance, you could probably confuse it with a new Metroid game! Lost in an alien world, our scientist protagonist will gain access to numerous different weapons and accessories to battle the horrifying creatures and make his way through this lost landscape. What makes it stand on its own, though, and the thing that really impressed me about Axiom Verge, is the way it not only plays around with classic glitches, but runs with it as a gameplay mechanic! Early on, you get a sub-weapon that let's you alter specific blocks and enemies. Specifically, you "glitch" them in a way that completely changes their property. For example, an enemy that floats gently upwards can be glitched so that you can safely walk on it, or a wall can be glitched so you can walk through and find a hidden room full of jumbled messes of code. It's a wonderful thing to experience! Not to mention that many of the other weapons completely subverted my expectations of what I was going to use in the game (such as a drill instead of bombs to break blocks). The only reason I haven't praised it more is because I really haven't played that much of it. Maybe in an attempt to look just like Metroid, it might have gone too far down that path to the point that I feel nothing really sets it apart from others of what I've described as my favourite sub-genre, aside from the aforementioned glitch mechanic. Well, that and looking at the screen actually caused my head to hurt on occasion. It's not a pleasant game to look at.



6. Super Mario Maker
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Underwater (Super Mario Bros.) Edit Mode

Super Mario Bros. is, quite possibly, the most influential video game of our time. Its gameplay is timeless and still stands tall to this very day. So needless to say, a video game about making our own levels in that style (and those of 3, World, and U) pretty much had me jumping for joy, complete with BOING sound effects. Well, not at first. I was a tad worried since other games with level editors, such as LittleBigPlanet, proved much too daunting with several tutorials, but Super Mario Maker actually guides you very easily with its tile based system that, while gives you lots of experimentation, still keeps things simple so anyone can make it and everyone can play it. My levels aren't that great but I still had great fun making my own Marios and, at the very least, gave me a much greater appreciation for the amount of work that goes into designing a good, fun level in official Mario games. But even if you aren't interested in the Maker portion, there is still the fact that you can literally play over 3 million different levels right now! Are they all good? Oh, heck no, but there's enough out there that at least made me say "You know, I had a really great time." Definitely worth checking out! I only wish there was a better search system in the game itself. There is the online portal but still...



5. Undertale
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Bonetrousle

Ah yes, the Indie darling everyone loves to the point in ended up winning GameFAQs cute little "best game ever" poll. I'd hardly call it that, though. In fact, I'd say the actual "game" itself isn't even all that fun, hence its lower than usual placement in a Top 10 of 2015. It's an RPG with a cute little twist on battling, in which part of the challenge is trying to find ways to Spare your enemies by trying to become their friends as opposed to outright killing them like every other RPG out there tells you to do. Still, after encountering the same number of enemies over and over again, dealing with the exact same bullet hell patterned attacks, I slowly realized that the gameplay itself wasn't driving me to continue, and I did in fact stop a couple of times. The opening segment is rather infamous, actually, for being too slow paced and dull. I started with the bad and went with the good for a reason, because what it does well it does very well. Specifically, the way the game interacts with you, the player. It throws these characters in your face that, in any other game, you'd slay without any question. But here, these creatures are given depth, personality, and a purpose in living, from the smallest frog to the biggest boss, with things you wouldn't even be able to find out without multiple playthroughs. And it is through these multiple playthroughs that you begin to realize: The game is playing you as much as you are playing the game. To go into further detail than that would be spoiling major plot points, but needless to say, there is a very good reason it has as big a following as it does: Lovable characters, an interesting plot, and the desire to see everything through should provide more than enough determination to get the end credits.



4. Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
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Mystery Jungle

You all have known me for several years now. It's no secret that the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon franchise from Spike-Chunsoft means a lot, personally, to me, mostly for the characters and ideas that spring from them and less because of its gameplay. It's no surprise that I'd put this high on the list, really, unless it was outright bad. Still, I had to show a bit of humility and actually look at the game as a game itself, which is certainly fine but nothing groundbreaking. Like all the others, it's a Rogue-like in its purest form, with randomized dungeons and a turn-based system as you explore a grid-based map, finding randomly generated items, fighting randomly generated enemies, to find the randomly generated staircase. In that sense, it sounds like it doesn't add anything at all besides just being, quite easily, the biggest in the franchise. But as an avid fan, I can tell you there were things that made me actively want to come back and want to 100% this title. With the Looplets and Emeras, the game takes its random nature and runs farther with it by making it more akin to something a little more modern. Sometimes, you'll find Emeras that offer some situational benefit, such as not being able to be put to Sleep or Poisoned. But then you find things like Barrage or Type-Bulldozer that make you an ungodly powerhouse! It actually makes going to these dungeons exciting! Back on the subject of 100%ing, one thing that isn't random anymore is recruiting new team members, which are actually chained together in a chart that encourages you to follow along and help with their specific requests. It's never been easier to get the dream team you wanted! But, that does come with some setbacks. Some Pokémon, outside of your main characters, will occasionally "sit out" and be unavailable because of reasons and, really, if you don't like the gameplay in the past, you won't like it now either. It's story, while not bad, also suffers from a terrible pacing issue. In the end, though, having clocked nearly 100 hours in, I am perfectly satisfied with, what's arguably, one of the best in the series, right up there with Explorers.



3. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
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Battle / Ancestral Steppe

Now for a game with an incredibly high barrier of entry with a learning curve so steep, it might as well be called Mt. Everest! Still, for those who managed to climb their way up the steep hill that is Monster Hunter, they will find a game all about really challenging boss battles and getting the best gear possible, such as myself! And MH4U is probably the best in the series! Not only does it have the largest amount of fightable monsters in the main franchise to date (a record initially held by PSP's Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) but it also throws in some new, fun mechanics that make the battles feel more intense, top among them is the "mounting" mechanic, a move that basically let's you pretend you're in a rodeo as you try to subdue a monster for easy hits. In fact, the greater attention to terrain with lots of vertical movement is actually a great change that adds to the game rather than hinders like how 3's underwater segments did. Not to mention some new combos and mechanics to existing weapons, as well as introducing two brand new weapons in the form of the Insect Glaive, a weapon all about mounting and gaining buffs, and, my personal new weapon of choice, the Charge Blade, a weapon that combines the swiftness of Sword 'n' Shield with the power of a Great Sword. The big question though: Is it easy to get into? Not from the game proper, but there are so many guides and tutorials out there online that I think newcomers have a much better time than ever. Still, you do kind of need to go out of your way, which I'm sure will put a lot of people off, and it still takes a very long time to get to the really good stuff (that is, hunting big game). Not I, though, as, when you hunt with a group of friends, it becomes a heck of a time! I only wish I could have played this in HD like 3U...



2. Ori and the Blind Forest
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First Steps Into Sunken Glades

I must confess: There was another reason I didn't get into Axiom Verge as much as I thought I would, and that's because I already felt burned out from this kind of game with something I deem to just be much better overall: Ori and the Blind Forest. You might remember that I was really sad that the game got delayed to 2015, but regardless, it is here now and what a trip the game turned out to be! While the game doesn't quite keep the same tone that the opening leads you to be of being this solemn and depressing experience, it nevertheless was enjoyable enough for me to want to get, not only 100% collectibles, but 100% achievements as well, which I inevitable did! Not something I normally do. Anyway, it's another exploration platformer, but while the majority of them, such as the aforementioned Axiom Verge, had a greater focus on combat and closed off environments, Ori is much more open with a huge emphasis on platforming instead, to the point of getting even towards Super Meat Boy levels of cruelty. The enemies in the game won't kill you anywhere near as quickly as the dangerous environments will. In fact, the three "bosses" of this game are nothing more than a simple "get out before this place kills you" instead of any fights. Even the major antagonist is something you never fight! It's because of this different take on the genre that I praise it so highly. And the exploration part isn't held back either, with lots of hidden nooks and crannies to find for upgrades to health, energy, and skills. And I think it goes without saying that it looks gorgeous, like a moving painting. Truly one of my favourite looking games of the year. Still, it can't be number one for me if only because it commits what I consider the cardinal sin of the genre: It locks you out of specific areas, areas that house collectibles, after you complete certain tasks. That, dear friends, is unforgivable to me! Not to mention that the game literally locks you out of playing that save file any more when you see the end credits! However, there is hope on the horizon as a "definite edition" is supposed to fix these very issues I have, plus a few others. Those looking to try, I'd advise you wait until then, though those who did buy it, no worries as a considerable discount is said to be offered to those who did get Ori prior.



1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
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Primordia

There were quite a large number of open world games in 2015, weren't there? I ignored most of them for one reason or another (usually because I wanted to play other games in those franchises for plot reasons) but I at least made room for one, and boy what a one to get into! If you remember a few years prior, I had Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii listed as an honorable mention simply because I never got around to playing it despite wanting to. I recently did find time and it became my favourite RPG of all time! With X, I did not want to make that same mistake again, hence why this Top 10 is a bit late compared to previous years'. I felt I needed to give this game its due since I didn't give it to its predecessor, which honestly might colour my opinion of this game a bit too much. Nevertheless, I will try to be as fair and as balanced as I can. When I first found myself on Planet Mira, I wasn't sure how to feel just yet. Xenoblade was a game that was very deliberately structured to tell an engaging story involving a party of 7 unique and memorable characters, but X let things out in the open for players to freely explore. That's not to say there isn't a story, since there absolutely is one (and it's full of the same quirks fans of Monolith Soft have come to expect) but it honestly doesn't feel like the focus here. It had me worried, honestly, but as I played more and more, I found myself more and more immersed in the world and wanting to see just what other secrets I could find. I would look at the grid map on my GamePad and wonder just what lay over in that general direction off in the northwest. And boy does exploring really take some effort here. At an estimated 400km² of land to explore, that makes it one of the biggest worlds out there to explore (though still not quite Daggerfall level) and, unlike several other open worlds out there that is full of empty space, Mira is just brimming with life, with dangerous beasties everywhere you turn. It's actually quite hard to find a place you could consider "safe" to just take a breather. And you're going to want to take many since the landscapes are just wonderful to look at, just like the Wii game prior! The quests you can collect are numerous, the customization you can perform is limitless, and the moment you first get into a Skell is one of the single most exciting moments of the year. Honestly, there are just so much good to talk about, it's hard to bring up the bad (which it certainly has, such as the music for example...not that big a fan of it). Wii U owners should really add this to their library, no questions asked!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:39 pm 
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It's awkward when you can only really talk for three out of ten, with an interest in a fourth. lol

Splatoon really interested me because outside of Metroid Prime, we never really got any shooters, and Metroid Prime was more 'adventure' than 'shooter'. Splatoon is quite imaginative in a world of CoD and Battlefield (RIP) dominated shooters, and it's pretty fun. Haven't gone to multiplayer yet but the single player is well thought out, and not just an after thought.

Super Mario Maker probably makes some of the best use of the Wii U gamepad, and I love how it gets 'better' as you play with more options and levels.I agree on the level maker, LittleBigPlanet daunted me with its own, along with it not being...that interesting, which surprised me, guess something didn't click there. But Super Mario Maker's guiding system and array of options is great. It's also a fantastic way to celebrate the plumber's 30th anniversary, can't believe it's been that long. Growing up and wanting to be a game developer, this one really speaks out to me and has a great charm.

I didn't really play Xenoblade Chronicles X, but playing the original on 3DS right now (if only I had the Wii copy...), and listening to what friends are saying who also played the original, it looks great. If it really did build on the original, already a great title in its own right, then I feel X should be something spectacular and worthy for Nintendo owners. "I'm really feeling it!" indeed.

So yeah I never really played Pokemon Mystery Dungeon besides some random times at demo kiosks, it looks cool, but I'm really a mainstream Pokemon type of dude, hell I only just branched out onto the console games again. But I can see your points on Super, it looks interesting such as Barrage, and none of that random stuff. Plus it's in THREEEEEEE DEEEE!

I should make my own list sometime, I've been...interested. Would not be a top 10 but just a general list of stuff I played.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 2:51 pm 
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Image Glad you took the time to read this! Appreciate it.

Image Now then,

Quote:
Splatoon really interested me because outside of Metroid Prime, we never really got any shooters, and Metroid Prime was more 'adventure' than 'shooter'. Splatoon is quite imaginative in a world of CoD and Battlefield (RIP) dominated shooters, and it's pretty fun. Haven't gone to multiplayer yet but the single player is well thought out, and not just an after thought.


Exactly what I was getting at. It's refreshing to see a unique take on the genre. I don't play as much as when it was fresh (...heh) but again, it's more my interest in the genre than outright disdain for the game.

Quote:
Super Mario Maker probably makes some of the best use of the Wii U gamepad, and I love how it gets 'better' as you play with more options and levels.I agree on the level maker, LittleBigPlanet daunted me with its own, along with it not being...that interesting, which surprised me, guess something didn't click there. But Super Mario Maker's guiding system and array of options is great. It's also a fantastic way to celebrate the plumber's 30th anniversary, can't believe it's been that long. Growing up and wanting to be a game developer, this one really speaks out to me and has a great charm.


It sure took it's time, but I'd say Super Mario Maker is the closest thing to a "Wii Sports" the Wii U is gonna get. Great GamePad usage and a simple enough premise for most to understand. It doesn't quite hit the same level, but it achieves exactly what it set out to do.

Quote:
I didn't really play Xenoblade Chronicles X, but playing the original on 3DS right now (if only I had the Wii copy...), and listening to what friends are saying who also played the original, it looks great. If it really did build on the original, already a great title in its own right, then I feel X should be something spectacular and worthy for Nintendo owners. "I'm really feeling it!" indeed.


It certainly is an improvement in many respects, but at the same time, it has its own unique identity that makes both games worth playing. The original is much more traditional whereas this new one is more open ended.

By the way, here's one more point I forgot to mention in Xenoblade Chronicles X's favor that I think you might appreciate:



Wesker is in it!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:22 pm 
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The Great B-Man wrote:
Image Glad you took the time to read this! Appreciate it.
Why of course.

The Great B-Man wrote:
Image Now then,

Exactly what I was getting at. It's refreshing to see a unique take on the genre. I don't play as much as when it was fresh (...heh) but again, it's more my interest in the genre than outright disdain for the game.


Yeah after a while, I did get tired of some shooters...some. It's mostly when that's all you're doing. Games with shooter elements like Uncharted hold my interest due to other things, you could say the same for RE, or at least RE4. I didn't get Splatoon till later either, due to price drops.

The Great B-Man wrote:
It sure took it's time, but I'd say Super Mario Maker is the closest thing to a "Wii Sports" the Wii U is gonna get. Great GamePad usage and a simple enough premise for most to understand. It doesn't quite hit the same level, but it achieves exactly what it set out to do.
Perhaps, yeah. I feel like Super Mario Maker doesn't hit the same level because of accessibility since Wii Sports is clearly more casual, and Mario is hardcore in comparison. But I digress, I feel this is a lot toward perspective.

The Great B-Man wrote:
It certainly is an improvement in many respects, but at the same time, it has its own unique identity that makes both games worth playing. The original is much more traditional whereas this new one is more open ended.

By the way, here's one more point I forgot to mention in Xenoblade Chronicles X's favor that I think you might appreciate:



Wesker is in it!
Interesting to know. I need to play the rest of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, or maybe just get a Wii copy somehow cause I really do wanna see it on the big screen....

Wesker?! In my Nintendo? I'm sold!

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"See, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they'll eat each other. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."


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