Long time, no see.
It’s been a while since I last spoke, and for good reason. See, I’ve mostly lost my passion for this blog, and I don’t want to write some half-baked pieces. I know I promised a three-part Why Story Matters saga for my triumphant return, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. With my final year of high school wrapping up, I’m hard-pressed for time. I want to give that trilogy the time and work it deserves. I want it to be my best work yet when it comes out.
This post is a year-long work in progress. Over the course of the year, I’ve been collecting my thoughts on all of the games that I played. I planned to do this from the start of the year. I almost forgot, had it not been for my good buddy ThatPlatinumDude and his recent post about his top 5 games of the year. So here’s mine. Be warned, not all of the games were released this year, and this list reflects my opinions of the games I played this year.
#5 – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS, DS)
The first entry on the list happens to be a very old game that I only finished a day before writing this post. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the first game in a treasured series, released in 2001 and later ported to many consoles (including the 3DS which I played this game on via the Ace Attorney Trilogy). The game puts the player in the role of Phoenix Wright, a new attorney who must investigate murders to find evidence that he can bring to court in order to clear the names of his clients. Players interview people involved in order to try to piece together what really happened, and then must go to court and find holes in testimonies to reveal the truth. I picked this game, along with its two sequels, up for $30 on the 3DS eShop right before I left for a trip to California, and it was the best decision I made. I played the entirety of the first game while on this trip, and am excited to report how addictive it is and how well it stands up today. Finding contradictions and refuting points was a blast and made the entire game seem like a large puzzle waiting to be solved. On the flight home, I played the entirety of the final case because I couldn’t put the game down. The cast of characters is memorable and interesting, the cases are mysterious and worth seeing until the end, and the puzzles were difficult enough to make me feel intelligent for figuring them out, while not being a cakewalk. If you have an interest in visual novels or the law, by all means, pick up this game.
#4 – Titan Souls (PC, PS4, Vita)
I covered Titan Souls extensively in my review of the game, but I must praise the game briefly here. Titan Souls is an action game where it is one small boy against almost 20 large creatures, where everyone dies in one hit. All you have is a single arrow and your wits to slay these beasts. Death will come over and over and over again, but pressing on is one of the most rewarding experiences of the year. Sure, the game is short. Yes, there isn’t much to do once the game is over and you know all of the weaknesses. However, the experience of playing the game is one I’ve only felt a few times, and I still feel it slightly, months later. I spent a few afternoons grinding my way through the game’s achievements, and it was so much fun to try these hard challenges, from splitting the blob titan into all of its divisions before killing it, to shooting the yeti in the butt in just a few seconds. Only a few achievements allude me to this day, but I will never forget my time spent with Titan Souls.
#3 – Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, XB1)
Would you look at that, another game that I reviewed this year. Check out the full review here for my complete thoughts on the game, but a brief bit here. Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the first games I played this year, and there’s a great sense of atmosphere when I played the game that I distinctly remember. The soundtrack by Garreth Coker is phenomenally moody and melancholy, the art style is a whimsical and magnificent piece to behold, and the effects and work done on the game’s presentation really draws players into Nibel. The controls are tight and Ori feels wonderful to play as. The Metroidvania style is brought revitalization in Ori and the Blind Forest as it creates the sense of godliness that I always wanted in those games, but was never given. I never felt able to overcome things in the end of Metroid Prime, but I definitely felt on top of the world when I played this game’s ending. The speedrunning sections are a great showcase of this feeling of mastery and empowerment, and other games of similar style released these days need to take note of Moon Studios’s work of art.
#2 – SOMA (PC, PS4)
I went into SOMA extremely excited, as seen by my preview piece on it earlier in the year found here. It was looking to be both scary and intriguing, and it delivered on both fronts, but mostly the latter. The fear was definitely real throughout the game as Frictional put all their skills that they had shown in Amnesia: The Dark Descent into this game. The sound design is flawless, creating genuine dread in me as I crept through the halls of PATHOS-2. The monsters were varied enough and infrequent enough to cause me to freak out every time they drew near and keep me on my toes as you only saw the same monster once or twice. The sense of atmosphere here is one of the greatest in any game I’ve played to date. I highly recommend headphones when playing, as the game was meant to played with them on and the lights off. As for the story, SOMA was by far the greatest story I experienced this year. The depth of the characters and the world is unreal, with so much to explore, listen to, and read that it became overwhelming. I oftentimes forgot I was even playing a game, using the mouse and keyboard to explore and investigate what I felt was real. The game offers questions to not only the main character Simon, but also the player, on what humanity really is. I was genuinely in love with the feelings that the game created within me, and it had me thinking about more than just the game itself after the credits rolled. By the way, that ending was incredibly impactful and sent chills up my spine. If you get the chance and like a great sci-fi experience, pick up SOMA.
Before I reveal my #1 game I played this year, here are some honorable mentions and some quick bits about them.
- A freeing adventure
- Fun to explore the heights of this planet
- Cute character
- Addictive gameplay
- Easy to learn, hard to master
- Sit down, play a game or two, leave
- Cool (though not fleshed out) fear mechanic to cater the game to peoples’ fears
- Decisions do have consequences
- First half of game is genuinely creepy
And now for my favorite game of 2015…
#1 – Bayonetta 1 and 2
My number one game of the year is actually two games, both of which were not released this year. So let me give a little background to my journey with this game. Last year, I saw a lot of great reviews for Bayonetta 2, citing it as one of the best games on the system. Naturally, I had to get the game. So when I received it for Christmas, I put the first game (included with the second) into my Wii U and I played it… for a few days. And then I put it down. It wasn’t until this year in November that I would pick the game up again. I participated in Extra Life with my friends, a 24 hour gaming marathon. For some reason, I felt compelled to put Bayonetta back into my system. That night, I played through half of the game, on and off, as my friends cycled into the room. They questioned the insanity that was going on before their eyes, and I kept enjoying the game. It was hectic, insane, and so much fun. I almost finished the game that night because of how great it was. After that night… again I put it back down. Fast forward a month, and Bayonetta is announced for Super Smash Bros. This was just the kick I needed. That night, I turned the Smash Direct off and finished the first Bayonetta. It was amazing, and I immediately delved into the sequel. And boy, was I not prepared for that ride. I finished it in a matter of a week, and I am so glad that I did because it was the best game I played this year, by far.
Though I find Bayonetta 2 a much greater game than its predecessor, I am including both as my top games this year because they are bundled together, and because I experienced them as one. Think of Bayonetta 2 as the original, but with subtle improvements on everything. So when I talk generally about the first game, just imagine all of that but times 3 and it’ll be the sequel. The beat-em-up combat is not difficult to learn, but you are sure to slip up occasionally. However, it is extremely satisfying to dodge an attack and have time slow down around you as you pummel your enemies. Simple combos turn into magnificent spectacles of fists made of hair punching angels. Exploring rewards players by unlocking more about the universe’s lore and some weapons, too. Bosses come in every level and range from giant fish to dragons, all with creepy baby faces on them, but all are incredible to fight. Overall, these games are not serious and just plain fun, and it was a pleasure to be able to experience them this year. If you can’t tell, I suggest you buy these games immediately.
That’s it. Sorry if I disappointed some of you, but them’s the facts! Have a great 2016, and here’s to a lot of great new games.