(Originally written in 2014)
It’s the end of 2014 which means it’s time again for GOTY lists. 2014 has been a mixed bag of a year for games but a surprisingly strong one for Nintendo. Below are my top 10 games of 2014.
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- has yet to even be announced for Europe so I had to resort to using a North American PSN account and PSN cards bought from Amazon.com to get it but it was worth it. I loved playing the older Guilty Gear games, mainly the Guilty Gear X2 (or XX) series and the various revisions. Me and some friends used to play them a bunch back when we were in school and I used to beat them consistently with Ky Kiske. GGXrd is the first time the 2D fighter has actually used fully 3D models instead of highly detailed sprites though you might not know that at first glance due to Arc System Works brilliant cell shading that tricks you into thinking these are just 2D characters until the camera shifts in certain moves showing off the 3D models while also melting your brains. While lacking some characters from previous entries the ones I used are all here so I’m fine with the smaller roster. One of the most surprising thing to me was how much I enjoyed the story mode. It contains no fights and is essentially a short anime series but I found it enjoyable thanks to the fully English dub and a few really cool fight scenes.
I loved the first season of The Walking Dead and was eager to see the continuing adventures of Clementine and how she would cope following the ending of Season one. A lot of people felt this season was a step down and while that may be true I still found it very engaging especially following the growth of Clementine from a vulnerable little girl at the start of Season One to a capable young woman by the time Season Two draws to a close. I found the supporting cast pretty great too with some standout characters being Jane and a returning character from Season One. The ending I got the first time around didn’t feel too satisfying to me but when I reloaded and made a different choice I felt it provided great closure regarding a returning character and Clementine and I’m very interested to see what will happen in Season Three. Going by the endings of Season Two I’m interested in how or if they will rope Clem into it again.
Everyone loves Mario Kart right? I went through a phase of not really being into it. I didn’t much enjoy Double Dash, the DS one was good, the Wii one didn’t click with me, the 3DS one was pretty good but then MK8 hit and my god I was back on the kart. Not only does it look freaking beautiful, the combination of the MK7 gliding and underwater stuff and the new gravity defying mechanic made for some super fun and interesting tracks and the addition of the Super Horn finally gave us a counter for the dreaded Blue Shell. I’m also counting the (released at this time) DLC in this ranking, The addition of Link, Cat Peach and Tanooki Mario and the courses from that pack. Playing in the Blue Falcon on Mute City with the Captain Falcon Mii costume is probably as close to a new F-Zero as we’ll get for a while. The online Tournament stuff is great too allowing you and your friends or a community you are part of to set up an ongoing lobby that you can jump into and get into games with your community friends and the addition of the replay channel stuff has given birth to dozens of MK8 .gifs that show off the great animations of the racers.
Shovel Knight was such a joy to play through. Sadly the Wii U and 3DS versions were delayed but we were able to enjoy the PC version alongside the NA release. Shovel Knight is a fantastic blend of classic NES gameplay taking inspirations from the old Capcom titles like Duck Tales and Mega Man and nails them. The graphics are heavily based on the 8 bit style of the NES but with some subtle cheats that ends up looking like how you remember NES games looking rather than how they actually looked. Shovel Knight is challenging and rewarding with a bunch of unlockables and cheat codes, great music and fun level and enemy design with some weird but appreciated humour and references.
I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It felt like a classic PC RPG in the vein or Baldur’s Gate but more accessible. I stayed away from Dragon Age 2 after hearing how it moved away from the more strategic aspects of the first game and towards a “press a button and something awesome happens” style. Dragon Age: Inquisition however is closer to Dragon Age 2 than Origins but it does have a strategic view and options to play in a more strategic style. That said though I found Inquisition to be a very well crafted RPG with lush open areas, a needlessly large amount of quests, great characters and music. It was a relatively safe Bioware game in the style of Mass Effect or the earlier Dragon age games with choices to make and not much consequences but I really enjoyed seeing my choices made in Origins carry over. It was good to see Loghain complete his redemption arc and nice to see Morrigan again and hear her tell tales of my Warden.
This is definitely something I didn’t think I’d enjoy as much as I did. Not only am I not a massive Alien fan (I really like the movie though), I’m also not much of a survival horror fan. I somehow found this game super enjoyable though. The game perfectly captures the look and feel of the Alien movie and is one of the best movie to game adaptations I can think of. The tension of being stalked by this unkillable alien horror and having to duck and dive under desks or behind crates or into vents or lockers was great. The sound design was fantastic and this is definitely a game I would recommend you play through with a good pair of headphones. It’s essential to listen to the audio cues of the alien’s movement through the vents above you to know when it’s safe to move. Some people found the game too long or too hard but I found it fine. The difficulty wasn’t a problem if you take it slow and steady and the length only felt too long to me right at the end where it felt like it would have been fine ending at a few points before the actual end. The only part I didn’t really like was the very first encounter with actual other humans, before you even meet the Xenomorph. I found it difficult and frustrating due to the lack of tools at my disposal but in the end I got past that group by simply hiding behind a box and waiting for them to pass. It was just a case of me other thinking the encounter.
Dark Souls II has a bunch of problems that result in a game not as good as its predecessor. Things like the way the world connects not making sense, or the straight up unfair magnetism on some enemies hit boxes, or even things like the world looking a bit drab and lifeless due to the removal of the better looking lighting engine (and the clear remnants of that system in the stacks needless sconces littering Drangleic’s now quite well lit nooks and crannies). But the game is still a Souls title from From Software. It still has the great combat and boss encounters, even if there are a few too many multi-boss bosses. I’ve put many hours into this and enjoyed them all. I do still think an elevator going up a windmill at the top of a mountain somehow leading to a castle in a lake of lava with volcanic crags for miles and miles around is utterly stupid.
Transistor is the second game from Supergiant Games following Bastion which I also loved. Transistor has you play as Red, a singer in the city of Cloudbank, as she journeys to uncover the mystery of what lead to her voice being stolen and what exactly this Transistor even is. The game offers a unique combat system that is both fun and deep and can be played both in a turn based style or a more active way. You can power up your abilities with different functions giving you a lot of combinations for attacks, both in your active load out and the actually properties of those abilities. Transistor also features an outstanding soundtrack by Darren Korb with vocals from Ashley Lynn Barrett and great visual style.
I love Super Smash Brothers. I love Nintendo characters and I love being able to fight with them and I love for well the game plays. The game looks great with every character making the jump to HD perfectly and the game take a page from Brawls book and returns with a massive library of backing tracks to fight to. The online is greatly improved from Brawl as along with slightly better netcode there are now more options for online fighting including my preference of For Glory, a 1-on-1 mode on Final Destination (just a flat platform, no obstacles) style stages. There are a huge amount of challenges to complete, Mii costume and fighter customisations to unlock and of course about a billion trophies to collect and that isn’t saying anything of the 50 characters to master including Namco’s Pac-Man and Capcom’s Mega Men. And the potential for more character via DLC like the announced return of Mewtwo. The game is also the best playing for a long while. It might not be as fast and fluid as Melee was on the Gamecube but it’s a damn site faster than Brawl and with the removal of the terrible “feature”, tripping.
I thought character action games couldn’t get much better than the original Bayonetta for the 360 and PS3 but then, somehow, Nintendo swooped in and helped fund Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2. Long thought dead at the hands of SEGA, Nintendo somehow thought it was a good idea to pay for Platinum to make this game and release it exclusively on the Wii U. Bayonetta is completely unlike anything you’d associate with a Nintendo console let alone published by them but I’m so happy they did. Bayonetta 2 takes out some of the more annoying things form the first game like the multiple (bad) minigames and insta-death QTEs and even removes the ugly desaturated look. The game is now brighter and more colourful and just more fun. It opens strong with a day out shopping getting ruined by some angels and just gets better and better. Though the game doesn’t end as strongly as the first game it does have just as many hype moments including a truly epic one on one fight against the games rival character.
Bayonetta 2 also has a fantastic online co-op mode that not only runs very well but is a blast to play. I always wanted something like this, a co-op character action game where me and a buddy are dodging shit left and right, triggering Witch Time, pulling off combos and juggles and just wrecking fools together. You can pick from a variety of “verses” including mode specific boss fights against AI controlled Bayonetta and Jeane and every boss from the actual game. AND there are multiple character to pick from including Rodin!
All in all, I think Bayonetta 2 isn’t just my favourite game of 2014 but my favourite in it’s genre. Everything it does is just bigger and better than the previous entry. The only issue is that the cover of Moon River is severely underused.