Top 10 Games of 2015

With the end of 2015 fast approaching (and my MGSV: Ground Zeroes article taking longer than I’d like), I thought it would be apt to compile a list of my favorite games that I played this year. 2015 has been a pretty strong year for games in general and I’m pleased to see so many great games continue to come out, especially for the Wii U.

There are certain rules that each game and I have to follow in order to make it to the list. I’ll try to stick to these as best as possible.

  1. In the case of a non-multiplayer-only game, I must have played its single player experience to completion. This does not require a 100% of all of that the game has to offer. Instead, it is completion of the main quest or main story.
  2. In the case of a multiplayer game, I must describe how I played it. Whether cooperative or competitive multiplayer, I will detail whether I played with friends, matchmaking, or online or local multiplayer.
  3. I must have accomplished Rule 1 in 2015. The games on this list are not all 2015 releases. It is a list of what I played in 2015, not what came out this year.

The above rules, particularly number 3, disqualify certain games from the list. These, along with others that I feel are particularly noteworthy but didn’t make the cut, will be mentioned at the end. This has really been a year packed with cool experiences. Coupled with my exploration of older games, the selection process was pretty tough.

Be warned, as always: there are spoilers below. While I tried to stay away from spoilers, the games on the list may contain some minor story details. There are, for sure, spoilers for older games such as The Stanley Parable, Metal Gear Solid 4 and more. If you see a game’s name that you haven’t played yet, I suggest turning back. I guarantee nothing in the way of spoiler-free text.

Let’s do this.

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Praise Be to Amaterasu: Theming in Ōkami

SPOILER ALERT: Ōkami IS SPOILED BELOW

By the time Ōkami came out in 2006, I was already prepared for the next console generation. Instead of playing Clover Studio’s latest release, I spent my evenings on my Xbox 360 in Coagulation and Gridlock. The Burning Crusade was in full swing and I was leveling a young blood elf hunter.

It’s safe to say that Ōkami flew under my radar, as it did most for most people. In 2007, the original release had only sold around 270,000 copies. Despite overwhelming critical acclaim, people just would not buy the game. In the end, critical success doesn’t mean commercial success. Games such as Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil, while appreciated, spelled death for their companies.

Despite that, a re-release on the Wii did garner more sales and Ōkami has secured its place as a beloved title in the hearts of gamers everywhere. It’s one of the few games to approach an adventure in the same vein as the Legend of Zelda series. Miyamoto and the gang’s influence is felt throughout all the fields of Nippon.

While its influences are clear, Ōkami still manages to be unique and unwaveringly true to itself as a complete and coherent work. Little, if any of its parts, are vestigial or extraneous; they work together to create a greater whole.

Continue reading Praise Be to Amaterasu: Theming in Ōkami

The Importance of Control Schemes in the “Metal Gear Solid” Series

Be warned, there may be spoilers below.

I’ve been playing the Metal Gear Solid franchise over the summer in order to get ready for the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I rushed through all of the main games in the series. I still need to watch a Portable Ops video to catch up, then do the same for or play Peace Walker. Then I can finally play Ground Zeroes and be caught up to speed.

For most of these games, it’s been the first time that I’ve played them in years. I played MGS as recently as last year but I probably last played MGS2 sometime before 2006. I think it was the same or 2008 for MGS3.

When I played them all again, I turned a critical eye to my old friends. Experiencing the series in such quick succession allowed me to be cognizant of all the changes and the different ways each game played because of them. My habits from MGS2 two hours before would not transition well to MGS3. This allowed me to really understand what I appreciated about the Metal Gear Solid games in a more contemporary context.

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Thoughts on Patch 6.2 and “Content”

Patch 6.2 for World of Warcraft released on July 22nd, 2015. After the atrocity of 6.1, this is the first major content patch for the faltering Warlords of Draenor expansion. It promised more than a selfie camera. Raids, a new zone, and content galore!

I’m only going to talk about a few things today. I’ll be excluding Timewalking and Tanaan Jungle for a later post. I’ve been preparing for and then moving over the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to get this post out whenever I could. I also think that those two features can have a dedicated article each.

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Locomotion and Momentum in “Spider-Man 2”

Saying that Spider-Man 2’s web-swinging is loved sells it short. In 2004, Treyarch struck gold. To date, it is the most visceral and enjoyable incarnation of Spidey’s unique movement that I have experienced. Unlike many Spider-Man games before and after Spider-Man 2, Treyarch created a way to web-swing that forced Spidey’s webs to attach to solid objects while also conserving his momentum between swings. Combined with a wide range of control over Spider-Man’s movement and jump height, it creates an organic, high skill cap form of movement throughout the recreation of Manhattan.

Demonstration of a variety of Spider-Man’s techniques. Credits and thanks to creator.

Subsequent games struggle to recreate this level of control. Increased presentation values can sometimes make contemporary web-swinging look better, but they often lack other key components of Spider-Man 2’s engine, such as collision for webs, even while they borrow other aspects. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a prime example of this. While they do borrow one of Spider-Man 2’s lauded features and force your web to attach to physical buildings, they do not employ collision for the web itself. At 1:08 of this developer playthrough, Spider-Man launches a web that lands somewhere above the tunnel entrance, but he swings through the tunnel in a straight line. In Spider-Man 2, your web would catch and bend on the upper lip of the entrance, sending you straight into the roof.

Recently, I finally stumbled across another copy of Spider-Man 2. I bought it without hesitation. When returning to old games, I’m always hesitant, unsure whether some aspect of gameplay that I loved was either actually good or nostalgia. It delighted me to see that the web-swinging lived up to memory.

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On “Xenoblade Chronicles”

Back at Christmas, I finally received Xenoblade Chronicles. I had spent a lot of time looking for it and despite seeing it online a few times, I never ponied up for the cash. I was pretty excited to finally play it. It’s hailed as an evolution of the JRPG genre, a breath of fresh air from the perceived static Japanese development scene, and hours upon hours of gameplay.

Is it all its cracked up to be? Is it the next step for JRPGs? Is it their equivalent of Christ’s second coming?

Sorta.

I’ll try to keep this light on spoilers, but as always, be warned.

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