Games That Defined My 2015

2015 was one of the strongest years in gaming that I can remember. There were a ton of surprises, AAA games that lived up to the hype, and older games that were revitalized.

I sat down and tried to compile a list of my favorite games of the year, and in previous years, I always felt confident that those were my ten favorite games of that year, but this year was different. I felt bad for leaving certain games off my top ten, but there was simply no room. I guess that’s a good problem to have…?

When considering which game I enjoyed the most, a ton of factors came into play, and those factors would change the results. Which game gave me a story that I’m still thinking about? Well, this game did. Which game had the most memorable moment that I’ll always remember? Well, that goes to this other game. Which game had the most fun gameplay that I keep wanting to return to? Well, that’s this game. So on, so on.

I tried to narrow it down as much as I could. Two.

Two games that combine everything I loved about gaming in 2015 into two masterpieces. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Bloodborne.

Before we dive into that, check out some of the highlights from my year in gaming, as captured by my PS4.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN_20150907210951
The above scene was one of the most memorable, and haunting moments I’ve witnessed in a game.

Metal Gear Solid is my favorite franchise, not just in gaming, but in any type of media, ever. So it’s no surprise that the swan song of the series was my favorite game this year.

The Phantom Pain is the best Metal Gear game and it feels like series creator Hideo Kojima was finally able to accomplish what he set out to do nearly 30 years ago.

The gameplay is the smoothest I have ever played. It’s remarkable how easy it is to transition your plans and ideas into the game. It doesn’t handcuff you or hinder you in any way.

Metal Gear has gotten bad slack in the past for being heavily story driven, and taking control away from the player too much. The Phantom Pain is the antithesis of the typical Metal Gear game.

There are few moments of story where gameplay is stripped from you, which made the story moments feel important, and heavy.

And they were, as The Phantom Pain did things and went places that I have never seen a mainstream video game go. There were moments in that game that left me dumbfounded and others that left me flat out disturbed.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an achievement in gaming. It transcends the barrier between game and gamer and gave me feelings a video game has never done before.


BLOODBORNE

Bloodborne™_20150425145515
Bloodborne always looks this great.

I was nervous about Bloodborne. I had tried From Software’s previous titles, and could never get attached to them.

From Software is known for making some of the most difficult and unforgiving video games. That’s always turned me off to them.

I’m not into gaming for the difficulty or frustration.

Then I realized why people play these games… It’s rewarding.

When I finally figured out Bloodborne, I reached a certain boss who I was hung up on for two days. I had to take a break from the game for a week, and when I returned I was finally able to defeat the boss. The satisfaction I felt defeating that boss is what gaming is all about.

I’m *probably* never going to kill a giant deformed wolf monster in real life, but doing it in Bloodborne felt satisfactory enough.

My favorite thing about Bloodborne was the world, the creatures, and the lore.

Everything is very Lovecraftian, and the creatures are disgustingly fun to look at.

The story of the game revolves around the moon, which is just about always in sight and creates for beautiful landmarks, juxtaposed by a giant tentacle Elder God crawling on a building.

Bloodborne had the best style of any game I played this year, and the interesting world left me thirsty to learn more.


Maybe one day I’ll dive more into the other games that made this year so great, but for now, these are the two I felt like I took the most from.

Here’s my entire Top 10 of 2015. The rankings aren’t very strict, any of these games could by my number one on a certain day. They’re all great and all deserved to be checked out.

1.) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

2.) Bloodborne

3.) Shovel Knight

4.) Super Mario Maker

5.) Xenoblade Chronicles X

6.) Project CARS

7.) Rocket League

8.) Batman: Arkham Knight

9.) Until Dawn

10.) Her Story

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN_20150917134426
See you in 2016
Advertisements

Your Stories Will Always Remain… As Will Your Valiant Hearts

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is something special.  Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, Valiant Hearts is, at its core, a puzzle game.  Now I’m not huge on puzzle games, mainly because I like to turn off my brain when I play games, but Valiant Hearts isn’t just a puzzle game.  It’s an adventure, a family story, a message, and a history lesson all blended together into one endearing experience.

As the title indicates, Valiant Hearts takes place during World War I.  Gameplay is split between 4 characters, but I’d like to focus on Emile, who is French, and his German son-in-law, Karl.  Both of these men are forced into war after Karl gets deported from his family in France.  Gameplay alternates between serving the French army, as Emile, and the German army, as Karl.  It’s an interesting take on the war.  The game keeps an objective tone and doesn’t favor either side.  Instead, it focuses on the men themselves, and their personal lives.  The game isn’t about fighting or winning, it’s about surviving to be reunited with your loved ones.

Valiant Hearts has my favorite instance of collectibles in a game to date.  Each level has a set amount of hidden collectibles and it’s up to the player to dig them out, same old routine.  However, the collectibles are mini-history lessons.  All the items are artifacts and relics from World War I.  Collecting the item will give you a brief summary on what it is, or what it was used for.  For instance, I found a urine soaked handkerchief outside of an abandoned trench.  I learned that soldiers used this to protect themselves from mustard gas when a gas mask wasn’t available.   Some collectibles are actual real-life letters written to and from loved ones, and pictures as well.  It’s all incredibly powerful and eye-opening to the hell these people went through.

The entire game has a somber, somewhat futile tone to it.  War is painful for soldiers, families, civilians, anyone and everyone.  Valiant Hearts does a great job of reminding the player this.  It isn’t just a puzzle game, it’s a beautiful memorial to all of those affected by a terrible tragedy.

Favorite Cover Art from the Game Boy Color and N64

I was surprised by how many ports the Game Boy Color had.  Almost every GBC game was also on the N64.  Not to mention, I hardly remember getting any GBC games as a kid.  I guess Pokemon Silver was all I needed, can you blame me?

The N64 was a different story though.  It’s the system I remember the cover-art for most fondly.  I spent hours upon hours analyzing the front and backs of the boxes at my local rental store while my mom looked for God knows what on the other side of the shop.

It was interesting to look back at these games and to find some I don’t even remember, but seeing the cover brought everything back to me.  I saw covers for games I still haven’t played and caught myself thinking “Huh, I should give that a shot.”  It still has its effect over me.

Oh, and Shadows of the Empire might be my all-time favorite cover, along with favorite subtitle.


Game Boy Color


N64

Favorite Cover Art from the NES, SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy

When I was younger, before the internet was the necessity and utility it is now, there really was no way to tell what you were going to get when you bought a game.  Sure, you could get your hands on whatever gaming magazine was available, but even then a lot was left up in the air.  I remember my cousin being super excited to get a copy of Mario is Missing, he thought it was a continuation of Super Mario World.  Needless to say, hearts were broken.  

Covert art for video games were possibly the biggest way to sell your game at the time, as it was all consumers really had to go on.  I literally judged a game by its cover as a kid, along with several others.  Sometimes it paid off, sometimes not.  Years later tons of these cover arts are burned into my head.  Some are great, some are stupid, and some just make me feel nostalgic. 

For a while now I have wanted to compile a list of all my favorite cover art and what better spot to do than on my blog?  I will say that most of these I pulled from my brain, I did browse a few galleries trying to refresh my memory though.  This list is in no way a “best” cover art, just my personal favorites from my childhood.

NES

SNES

Genesis

Game Boy

E3 2015 Games of the Show

Since the conferences wrapped up I had been thinking about a potential game of the show, and eventually, things began to take shape.  I had a hard time choosing just one game, there were too many that looked fantastic.  I did manage to narrow it down to three, from there I ranked them and came to a conclusion I was pretty happy with.  I sat on it for an extra day just to make sure, and I still felt pretty good about this lineup.  Instead of just picking one though, I want to list all three, as they all deserve credit and recognition.


Honorable Mention

Halo 5: Guardians

H5-Guardians-Warzone-ARC-Mixed-Medium-jpg-980x551

I played Halo 4 and couldn’t tell you anything about it.  It was definitely my least favorite entry in the series.  I knew a new Halo game was coming, but the excitement wasn’t there for me, that spark had died.  Then I watched the Microsoft conference.  At the very least, the story of Halo 5 has the best pitch out of any of the series.  You play as a Spartan group hunting down Master Chief, with play alternating between both parties.  I really want to see how that hunter/hunted game play works, especially given that we’ll be able to play as both characters, there’s potential for some really great moments.  A return to the squad based story, similar to Halo Reach, is really exciting also, as that was one of my favorite Halo games.  The story isn’t the main reason why Halo 5 grasped me though.  The new multiplayer mode, Warzone, looks like a revolutionary mode that I’m dying to play after seeing videos of it.  It’s a mix between PvE and PvP.  It can be boiled down to a regular conquest game mode, but the twist is that there are now waves of AI controlled creatures roaming the map trying to kill both teams.  The AI actually looked difficult too, they didn’t appear to be pushovers like seen in Titanfall, as I saw them kill the player a few times.  In addition, there’s a new inventory, and weapon select mechanic that basically allows you to buy weapons, equipment and vehicles, based on how well your team is doing.  The updated controlling mechanics that Halo has been missing out on, like aim down sights, combined with all this has me incredibly excited for Halo 5 Guardians and has nearly sold me on an Xbox One all by itself.

Giant Bomb has a really good hands on demo with this new multiplayer mode, check it out here.


 

Honorable Mention

Horizon Zero Dawn

EvZ1c4C

This game came out of nowhere and was the best surprise of the show for me.  I was never a huge Killzone fan, so it’s really exciting to see that studio doing something that seems radically different.  Everything about this game interest me.  The story is being presented as “post-post-apocalyptic,” so dire and far in the future that man and civilization has been reverted to a new Neolithic Era.  Remnants of our current civilizations lurk, but it’s uncertain to what extent.  The world is wandered by what appear to be mechanized beasts, varying in sizes and hostility.  The plot is intriguing, what happened, what are these creatures, what powers them, and so on.  The demo shown at the Playstation conference showed off a bit of gameplay.  The gameplay looked really good, as it showed off stealth and a great third person perspective, all while hunting creatures.  There was also a prompt to loot the destroyed creatures, but that was not elaborated on, so I expected there may be a looting or crafting system built into it as well.  Reports state that it’s an action RPG at heart, so there should be an in-depth leveling system included.  I’m a really big fan of the visual style.  The colors and art looked great, and really made me interested in the world even more.  This was the one game I came out of E3 dying to know more about.

Here is the debut trailer.  


 

E3 2015 Game of the Show

Super Mario Maker

screenshot1

I decided the game of the show should, ultimately, be the game that “wow’d” me the most.  That distinguishment belongs to Super Mario Maker.  Every time I saw a demo of it, I would find something new to marvel at.  The near-instant Mario skin swapping won me over first.  I can make a level and see how it would look as either a Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros level and test to see which style it plays best on.  I thought this game looked interesting when it was announced at E3 last year, but I was afraid there would be typical Nintendo caveats that held it back from being the game it could be.  Nintendo answered all of my fears this year.  I was afraid the physics wouldn’t change with the game skin, which if you’ve played the Mario games, you know is a huge deal and difference.  The physics and controls completely change depending on the skin you’re using.  For instance, if you’re on the New Super Mario Bros, you will have the wall jump, or the spin jump if playing on Super Mario World.  Then, I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to make worlds or that you would be limited to making very short, boring, dull single stages.  There was a limit to how long a level could be, but it was a perfectly fine amount.  Also included is the ability to make explorable pipes for players to enter in your stage.  On top of all of this, you can indeed make your own worlds with multiple levels.  I thought that game would be a failure if I couldn’t make the original Mario game inside of it, and it appears I absolutely can.  Next, I was afraid the online capabilities would be lacking, because that’s the Nintendo way, right?  Not only is the online what I wanted it to be, it’s more.  You can upload your levels and worlds for others to play, and play other user creations without having to download them to your hard drive.  You can also browse user created content by what’s hot, what’s new, hardest, and many other options.  I love that it gives you the percentage of success on any given level.  Also, players can leave hints around levels for other players, similar to the Souls games (I never thought I would compare Mario to Souls).  Nintendo’s awful press conference couldn’t even deter my interest in this game, so that’s saying something.  If I could have any game from E3 tomorrow, I’d have to go with Super Mario Maker.  Thankfully I won’t have to wait too much longer, as it releases September 11th.

Just see for yourself how smooth and great this game looks. 


That’s a wrap on my E3 2015 coverage!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for whatever is next.

 

Let’s Laugh at My E3 2015 Predictions

Originally, this was going to go up tomorrow, with my game of the show going up today, but I decided I needed a little more time with the game of the show, so I’m swapping things around.  Anyways, I was so, so off with all of my predictions this year.  But hey, that’s the fun of it all, and I was delightfully wrong in many cases.


Microsoft

Gears of War HD Collection will definitely show up, given all the leaks, but they’ll announce a new, formal Gears game for Xbox One as well.  Nothing more than a title card though.

Kinda Right!

Okay so first off, I had a misunderstanding of what the Gears of War re-release was meant to be.  I thought it was a remake of the entire series, but it was just the first game.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever.  I’ll give myself half credit for that one.  They did announce the new Gears game, but showed off a decent sized demo.

Halo, Halo, Halo.

Right!

Well duh, but I wasn’t expecting to be as into it as I was.

Rumors are circulating around a new title being announced by Platinum, it’d fit good in the Microsoft presser.

Wrong!

The Platinum game was a Transformers game, and didn’t even show up at a conference.

With Windows 10 coming, Microsoft will find a way to work it in with the Xbox crowd, in a cool, but useless way.

Wrong!

I honestly can’t remember.  If they mentioned it, it wasn’t a big enough deal for me to remember, evidently.

I’ve somewhat distanced myself from Microsoft in the last few years, if you couldn’t tell by my “predictions.”  Their conferences have been flat and they really have nothing to show for it.  They have the most to gain in their presser, so I’m looking forward to it.

So?

They gained a lot from me.  I was very impressed and it was a great conference.  Much better than their previous years.


Sony

THE LAST GUARDIAN.

But no seriously, this is the year, right?  Last year there was a ton going on involving the game, with someone stating it was dead, then Shu stating it wasn’t, right before E3.  I could see that encouraging Sony to throw something out there to show it’s alive and well, especially since nobody expects it again and it’d shock the world.  Nevermind, I changed my mind, it will never happen.

Right and Wrong!

I really did expect it to happen for a little while prior to the show, but then I realized how ridiculous that was, so I decided it wasn’t going to happen.  It happened!

Titanfall 2 will be announced on the Sony stage.  It won’t be exclusive, but Sony will be making a statement by revealing it to the world on their stage.

Wrong!

Respawn wasn’t even presenting anything at E3 this year, I’m positive it’s still coming though.

Sony dropping the Vita to a ridiculous price and committing to marketing it as a PS4 accessory.

Wrong!

The Vita was mentioned once by name in the entire conference and it wasn’t for a price drop.

PS Now catalogue expanding to Playstation 2 titles.

Wrong!

PS Now was not mentioned at all.  Thankfully for Sony, any type of PS Now announcement that wasn’t “It’s free!” would have looked really bad following up Microsoft’s backwards compatibility bombshell.

PS4 system update that includes access to PS Classics.  Chalk this one up as wishful thinking, more than a prediction.  It was a bummer discovering the PS4 didn’t have access to the classics.  With the announcement during the Playstation Experience that a new version of FFVII is coming to the PS4 with trophies, it makes it seem like the originals won’t be making the leap unless they receive this sort of special treatment.

Wrong!

No mention to an update at all, but hey I mentioned FFVII right here.  I feel like that gives me some points for foreshadowing.

I expect Sony to keep applying the pressure they have been in previous years at E3.  I’m afraid their movie studio will play a larger role this year with the upcoming Ratchet and Clank movie.

So?

I don’t know if I’d call it applying pressure, they didn’t announce much of anything for this year.  Great announcements overall though, and a great conference.  No mention of movies or poor Ratchet and Clank.


Nintendo

They’ll give us an actual name for the new Zelda and a lengthy demo.  Just to assure us things aren’t burning down since they had to delay it.

Wrong!

There was a single mention of it and that was it.

Ditto for Star Fox, but the big reveal will be that it releases this holiday.  Please have a good online component.

Right! But I’ve got some bad news…

Star Fox headlined the conference, but about that online component…

Pokemon Wii U.  Okay, maybe just a new one for 3DS.

Wrong!

Not a mention of Pokemon in this conference.

An all new, original Mario game.  Mario was completely absent from Nintendo’s event last year, so he’ll return in big fashion this year.

Right!

I guess I forgot about Super Mario Maker.  They celebrated the 30th anniversary of Mario, so I’d say he returned “in big fashion.”

More Xenoblade, please!

Right!

There was a bit of Xenoblade and it made me want it even more.

It’s really difficult to predict what Nintendo will show, given that they have made such a big deal out of their random Nintendo Direct shows.  Nintendo doesn’t really need E3 to announce things at this point.

So?

I don’t think anyone could have predicted this show.  It had a strange amount of third party stuff shown.  Hopefully a few Nintendo Direct Shows can make up for their showing this year.


Other

As soon as I saw the Fallout 4 trailer I felt that it had to come out this year.  Now there are tons of rumors and retailers leaking that it is indeed due out this year, so I expect that to be a huge announcement.

Right!

I actually predicted a November 28th release.  November 10th was the announced date, so I wasn’t too far off.

Star Wars Battlefront and/or Rainbow Six Siege will get alpha/beta demos soon, maybe exclusive to one of the consoles.

Wrong!

Microsoft announced Xbox One users will get early access to a beta for The Division, close but no cigar.  I believe they said the demos will start in August or September, which isn’t really what I meant by “soon.”

The Division gameplay featuring actors.

Right!

Ubisoft is so attached to their “let’s listen to these players communicate in-game the way nobody ever communicates in game chat” ideas.

Release dates for Mirror’s Edge and Kingdom Hearts.

Right and Wrong!

February 23rd for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and nothing on Kingdom Hearts III.

Valve will show off their home stuff.

Wrong! 

The whole PC show was a nice try but a joke.  Maybe it’ll be worth something next year.


 

Well there’s always next time.  Half-Life 3, Star Wars 1313 and Mother 3 announcement next year at the Sony conference, calling it now.  They just didn’t have time for them this go-round.

Stay tuned for my E3 2015 Game of the Show post tomorrow!

E3 2015 Day 3 Thoughts (Plus Final Thoughts)

E3 is over!  Here are my impressions from the final day.


I finally got to see a demo of the new Fatal Frame game, subtitled Maiden of the Black Water.  I haven’t played a Fatal Frame game since the Playstation 2 days and I’m not a huge fan of Japanese horror.  I was always intrigued by the Fatal Frame games though.  I thought the mechanic of using a camera to take pictures of ghosts to destroy them was both great and bone-chilling in a horror game.  This new game being on the Wii U makes me extra interested in that mechanic, the Wii U was made for a game like this (or Pokemon Snap).  The demo at the Nintendo Treehouse was funny to watch, as the game is M rated.  It featured group suicide and a bit of gore, which was  great juxtaposition to Yoshi’s Wooly World.  I’ll definitely get it once it’s out just to support something different like this on a Nintendo console.

Disney Infinity has been on my radar recently, for two reasons.  First, because I have no idea what it is, and no matter what I read or what videos I watch, I’m still not quite sure what that game exactly is.  That piques my curiosity more than I wish it would.  The second reason is because of the damn figures and my inner-child/collector that wants them all.  I haven’t gotten any yet, but I do want to get some Marvel characters to go next to my Toon Link and Fox amiibo.  Now that Star Wars is entering the fray and the Boba Fett and Darth Vader figures look amazing, I highly doubt I’ll be able to resist much longer.  My only problem is spending the amount of money it takes on something like that, that I’m clueless about.  Not to mention with the insane gaming release calendar coming up for the rest of this year and next.  If there’s a lull in my gaming schedule I can definitely see myself picking it up and giving it a go.

I saw just a little bit of Fire Emblem Fates for the 3DS.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved Fire Emblem Awakening and this just looks like a continuation of that, with improvements.  The first thing I noticed was that it moved and played a lot smoother and faster, with less loading it seemed.  That could be because it was being played on the New Nintendo 3DS, I’m not sure.  Regardless, it looked great.  They also fixed the buddy system mechanic, in Awakening it would be random if your buddy would defend or attack for you.  Now, you can set if you want them to defend or attack, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I can assure you that it’s a game changer.

The final game of the show that caught my eye was Rock Band 4.  I loved Rock Band, then like everyone else, grew out of it.  Now, I’m starting to feel the itch again and wouldn’t mind diving back into the plastic drums.  Which is perfect, because Rock Band 4 was shown off this year and it looks great.  They’re doing just enough things different so that it isn’t a shocking difference, but it looks like it will be enough to get me back into it and keep me playing for a while.  Not to mention my previous instruments and all of my DLC I bought (more than I care to admit) will still be playable on it, which is wonderful news.  It releases this year, I’m not sure when I’ll have time for it, but I’m certain I’ll eventually play some Rock Band 4.


So that’s a wrap on E3 2015.  I have no hesitation in saying this has been the best E3 I’ve seen, which is funny considering last week I said I expected “no jaw-dropping moments.”  This E3 supplied some moments I really don’t think I’ll ever forget.  I thought this year was going to be one of the best years for gaming ever with all the great releases, but now I feel that same way for next year, and even into 2017.  This was also my first E3 that I’ve covered through blogging, what a great year to start with.  I really enjoyed being able to talk about and explain my thoughts on what I saw, as opposed to live-tweeting everything.  Tomorrow I will have a post about what I thought were the top three games of the show.  I thought it’d be impossible to narrow it down to one, but I managed to do it.  Then I felt bad if I left the others out, so I’m going to give them all some spotlight.  Following that, on Saturday I will have a fun, mystery post involving E3, so stay tuned and thanks for keeping up with me during E3 2015!

Sayonara E3 2015!