It’s that time of year again when SIMON’s angels gather together to talk about the bests and worsts of the year. I’ve been a little bit lax in posting n 2015, but godwilling that will change in 2016. My New Year’s resolution this year is to try to post at least once a week. So expect the following from me: game reviews and 1st impressions, anime reviews, toy reviews, where have all the good guys gone, and my impressions on board games too! Look forward to it! So onward and into my impressions on the video games no matter how old or nw that I played in 2015.
Also just to throw this out there, I’m probably going to put spoilers in here so read at your own risk:
I played a lot of video games this year (which is honestly why I’ve been so lax in posting), but with that comes a fair bit of diversity in my opinions on what I played this year. I excluded my playthroughs of Digital Devil Saga and Shin Megami Nocturne as they are titles I have played in the past and beaten many many times before.
The best games I played this year. This is a really tough category for me. I played a LOT of games and where as I normally give my top three on these kinds of things there are four that really stand out to me as being straight out top of the line. Mario 3d world is the game that I have wanted since the super Nintendo. I adore pretty much everything about this game, I love the cat suits, I love the co-op mode, it feels like a classic Mario game with a new skin, and I really enjoy the plug for Toad’s treasure tracker as well. This game is overall amazing…..but is it better then DA: Inquisition? Wow! I love the characters that have gathered together in this game Cullen, Dorian, Iron, Bull, and Varric, all gathered under one falling apart roof. It’s a welcome change to play a likeable cast in a video game. The controls are smooth as silk, and whereas the story is simplistic that isn’t actually a bad thing, when you start trying to overcomplicate you plot you start to get things lie FF7 which make no damn sense no matter how you slice it. It took me awhile to play Fire Emblem Awakening (this was a franchise I really wanted to like, but couldn’t quite get into years ago) my sister started playing FE:A though and it sounded ridiculously charming, so I gave it a go. I’m not even joking when I say I beat it in under a week. The humor is mostly really fresh, and it has a cast full of likable tropes (and a few unlikable ones too. I just can’t stand Tharja. I’m sorry) The flow of the fights is really natural, and overall the game just has a nice feel. The last one and the game that overall threw a wrench into my list was Rain. It’s a download only game by the company “Acquire”. In the spirit of Ico it’s an action adventure game with a little boy and a little girl going against forces they don’t understand, not to save the world, but to save themselves. The ingenuity behind the game is brilliant to say the very least.
Worst Games of the year I’m sure to hear some flack for. We can start with Persona Q which was in and of itself an adorable game that made me want to play Etrian Odyssey. However it’s a skin, it’s Etrian with a Persona skin, because there is nothing under the surface. Anything that you may have liked about the cast of Persona 3 was obliterated into ridiculously fake fan service. The Persona 4 cast however already were fake fan service so they’re okay. Over all it felt like the casts were nothing more then shadows of their true selves….. My next one I was assured would “Restore your faith in Square Enix” I will point out only once that it’s in my top three worst games that I played this year. The World Ends With You stars an amnesiac in a death game……. Oh god help me. The fighting system is Kid Icarus Uprising before there was a new KI game. You have to toggle between controlling the character on the top screen with buttons, and the bottom screen character with the stylus. I don’t mind games being difficult, but what in Captain Crunch’s name is this even supposed to be? Add in the fact that out of the four characters you have as party members two of them are fairly dislikable. It’s a hard game to play with an FMA payoff. And speaking of FMA syndrome my last worst game that I played this year is Ni No Kuni. I hated this game. The characters were trite and cliché, the story was trite and cliché, the humor was borderline painful, and any game that ends with giving the end boss a hug, deserves to be nailed to my barn. I tried, I tried so hard to find a redeeming point in this title, but the only thing I liked was catching monsters, and that being the case….I will stick to Pokemon. Thank you.
Now it doesn’t happen very often but sometimes our favorite games are not in fact the best ones we’ve played, case in point my favorite RPG is Digital Devil Saga, but I would argue that the best I’ve Ever played is Lunar Silver Star Story. So taking a step away from the best and worst my favorite games this year…. When I first got my playstation 4, it came with a year of playstation plus, I thought that was kind of cool until my husband said “they never put anything good on there” well actually two out of three of my favorites this year were downloads from plus, so I guess it worked better for me then it did him. Unfinished Swan is an extremely unique and innovative game. There are difficult puzzles, a cohesive story that you want to see the end of, and items to collect to receive upgrades. It plays like a first person shooter, but instead of weapons you have paint, and it’s not like the rapid firing of Splatoon, and yet it still holds you rapt as you wait to discover what is next! The second I’ve already talked a little bit about and that is Rain. This game is brilliant and beautiful. The story is simple and sad, and the melancholic music playing throughout fits it beautifully. The characters don’t even have names, but you want them to win, the ending of this game is ridiculously touching and a must for anyone who wants a great story in their game. Lastly is Tomodoachi Life, this game is as filler tastic as they come, but creating your own Miis is a lot of fun, watching how they interact, and solving their problems is a lot of fun. It’s enjoyable and a very sweet game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the super vindictive Animal Crossing New Leaf. Unlike in Tomodachi Life you don’t want to help these people or watch their community grow. The characters especially Tom Nook are just plain mean and I didn’t like it at all. I desperately wanted a story for Smash Brothers Wii U. To be perfectly honest fighting games aren’t really my thing, I haven’t been particularly good at any of them since Tekken 3, as such when I play one I want it to have a reason to be worth me struggling through it. Brawl did, and that’s kind of what I was expecting, so this one really just wasn’t my cup of tea. Lastly is Persona Q, I think this game offended every sense that I have.
Best Co-op games that I played this year. Okay well I’m going to be honest first and foremost co-op practically means tragedy in my house, we have a tendency to get each other killed more often then not. The two highest death counts go to Mario 3d world where in my sister and I clocked in 700+ times of getting one another killed. “I’m not sure how to get that stamp, well it’s okay I’ll just throw Peach at it.” being a frequent thing. But the game is way too much fun to let something like sibling rivalry get in the way. And the other is Rayman Legends. Which if you don’t die over and over again your probably doing it wrong. These two easily hold my spots for best co-op games! I also thoroughly enjoyed… I think it’s called conquest mode (?) in Dynasty Warriors 7 where you were allowed to play co-op as characters you’ve unlocked. I liked playing as Guan Suou and my sister as Lu Xun. This is practically comedy if you take the games story into account.
Were there’s a best there is also always a worst. Getting killed is a part of playing co-op in my house, but I at least like to feel like I’m accomplishing something and having fun. Regrettably that isn’t the case in Yoshi’s Wooly World. I found this game in spite of how bright and colorful it is to be dreadfully boring. I didn’t find it to be challenging aside from the special levels and unlike in Mario the power ups made it too easy. Ah this level looks like it’s going to have lava, I should make myself heat resistant! Oho this level is in the air so I’ll make it so I bounce at the bottom of the screen. That’s not fun or entertaining. It’s cheap and dull. Then there’s Tales of Zestiria which is so far a fairly sub standard addition to the Tales series, except I can’t play as the characters that I want to play as. As the two people with the controllers you pretty much have to play as Slay and Rose, neither of whom are the character I would chose to play as but it’s really annoying when you are playing as I dunno Mikleo and the AI gulps you up into a transformation. Nothing against the two humans in the party, I actually like them both quite a bit, but it’s kind of lame to only have two choices and the rest of your party playing the role of equipment. And lastly is Hyrule Warriors which like Zestiria is a fairly fun game. But only if you happen to have a pro controller on hand. If you try having player two use the wii mote things will go from ok to epically bad.
Best Characters I surprisingly had no difficulty in crunching the numbers on this one. A few names crossed my mind, but three of them stood out above and beyond the rest. Dorian Pavus is my reigning champion. He hides a lot of darkness under sparkles and flirtatious remarks. He’s actually a fantastic character and truly fun to interact with. I completely love him. I also labeled him as my number one character with facial hair. So yay Dorian! Character number two is Kaim from Lost Odyssey. I don’t feel like I have every known a video game character on as intimate a level as I know Kaim. We fought and struggled together, we were happy and we cried together, but more importantly we spent years and years, hundreds of them even, together. It was a truly amazing and eye opening experience. And the last is from a game that I hated, but if I gave World ends With You one redeeming quality it is Shiki Misaki. She is a girl who died in an accident, and her entry fee to try to reclaim her life was the thing most precious to her. We find as the story progresses that what she lost was her sense of self. Shiki who is a young fashionista in the world of death actually took on the appearance of her best friend, Shiki has short bobbed black hair and glasses, not the long red locks we’ve come to associate with the character. Watching her struggle to be herself in spite of everything is a very unique experience that I never saw coming in this game.
Into every life though a little rain must fall, in this case that rain is less stellar characters. The first offendee is Captain Honor himself Angeal Hewley. Now I understand that the enhanced Jenova cells in his body were driving him crazy, but the problem with Angeal is that whereas Sephiroth came off completely bat shit, Angeal just doesn’t. He actually comes off as a completely rational and in control individual, and it’s not just him but the Angeal chimera uhhh things do too. So completely insane (see rational) Angeal abandons his star pupil in the middle of war torn Wutai (glossed over) and goes looking for Genesis. Okay…umm I guess? So the guy goes on some crap goes down and he completely emotionally breaks poor Zack with his “you have to be the one to kill me” crap. This guy sucks, and people all over the internet are like “he’s so cool and honorable” and I’m just sitting here like “ew”. Back to the World Ends we have Joshua, Joshua who not only is the ever cliché living human in the spirit world, but he’s shifty and selfish, and kind of a dick. He’s also the mastermind orchestrating the entire game which just makes the whole thing even more cliché and ridiculous. And then there’s Genesis Rhapsodos, I could have gotten past the fact that he looks like a ps2 Dante knock off, I could have gotten over the Lovless quotes, but then he had a freaking gunblade. My husband says Genesis has the worst fashion sense ever “who would wear that lipstick with that earring” but I have far more pressing issues to deal with, like why did this character even need to exist? I mean I know I rag on FF7 a lot… and harp on how there isn’t a single character who has any greater meaning, but this guy took the cake, and ate the whole damn thing. I just don’t get it. Angeal I don’t like, but I can see why they made him, he’s an integral part of making Zack who he is, but Genesis, he’s like Beta Sephy and is lame as all hell.
My favorite side character of the year was pretty easy to narrow down as well. He was self sacrificing and noble in spite of how the people around him saw him. I can’t think of a more loyal companion from a title this year then Bugaboo from Shin Megami Strange Journey.
Who do you think is the more amazing hero, the knight ordered to save the princess? or the average citizen who sees someone in trouble and rushes to their aid? It’s not that I dislike the classic white knight, but my hero of the year is the boy from Rain. Without a moments hesitation when he saw the little girl outside being chased by a monster he ran to her aid, and he does so time and time again, there are points where he clearly fears for his own safety but he is always willing to try and save this girl. What’s truly amazing is if I were going to pick a back up answer I think it would be her, she likewise saves him on numerous occasions risking everything. It’s amazing getting to be a part of the interactions between these brave heroes.
My best villain of the year is not one that I like, which is a relief. I’ve found that over the course of the last ten years or so both video games and anime have tried to make me sympathize with the villain and to be perfectly honest it’s kind of driving me a little bit crazy. Gongora from Lost Odyssey though has no redeeming qualities, he didn’t have tragic flashbacks, he wasn’t friends with the heroes, and thank god he doesn’t have bishonen features. He is an ugly, manipulative, sinister bastard who would rather kill thousands of people then let the heroes get away. He’s smart and slimy and completely and utterly deplorable. Thank you so much Japan for making this guy!
While talking about the bests from what I played last year I would be remiss to not include in there somewhere a few moments that really stood out. The first and foremost being Cullen Rutherford’s prayer near the end of Inquisition. With the church in shambles and only a few lit candles scattered about Cullen seemed so painfully sincere in this scenario. I loved it just as much as I have loved watching him grow and develop over the course of these games. Hopefully these lists will see his name again with the next installment. On a significantly less dignified or sullen note (I could not find a picture of this one) my favorite in battle scene this year goes to Zackary Fair for head-butting Genesis. Thank you Zack for fulfilling what I as a real person can’t do. My last one goes to Mikleo from Tales of Zestiria for breaking the standard I’m following you trope. Normally in this scenario the character that was left behind would end up becoming some sort of detriment, Mikleo however not only saves the group, but proves himself to be a valuable piece of equipment.
Now what’s really funny is that two of my lamest moments come from two of the same games that cover my bestest moments too. So without further ado, my number one worst goes without hesitation to Tales of Zestiria’s Lailah. I’m pretty sure that this girl was in fact supposed to be cute and charming, she instead comes off kind of grating. She’s got this vow of silence about a specific subject and instead of saying something like “oh I can’t talk about that.” She rambles the most ridiculously inane things. The first time she did this downright pissed me off and earned her a spot on this list. Number two goes to dadada DA: Inquisition! Yep that’s right as I was trying desperately to defend Haven my Inquisitor decided to pretend he’s Mulan. I was offended by this. I mean seriously we couldn’t come up with anything better then an avalanche? And my last spot goes to The World ends With You for having more plot twists then the movie Ghost Ship. Omg Joshua killed me! Wait it was Sho Minamimoto who killed me I’m so bitter and angry. Wait hold on I was killed by Joshua, I just can’t stand this game.
I decided that comedic moments needed their own special category. There was some really stiff competition for comedic moments this year, but as per the norm a few stand out above and beyond the rest. Like the first time that DA: Inquisition made me laugh my ass off was when I got to the goat. Yes that’s right my first official job as Inquisitor was to judge a man who attacked my castle….by throwing a goat at it. Whereas the Duchess in a box was amazing the goat is just absolute win for me. This year I also finally got around to sitting down and playing Earthbound, which I might add is a fantastic game. The moment though that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it would have a spot on my list was when these two words appeared before me: zombie paper. You know like fly paper, but for zombies. They spread it all over the bottom of a circus tent. Pretty much the most epic thing ever. Until you start social linking with Frederick anyway. You see Freddy is a super serious knight whom takes his job very seriously. His job being unofficial party nanny, he will do anything and everything if it means making things easier for Lord Chrom. This includes walking ahead to pick up any pebbles in the road, starting and maintain campfires on cold nights, and making recruitment posters. The reason Fire Emblem gets a nod here in fact is because of Frederick’s Chrom poster and equally important his Lord’s reaction to it. Freddy plays his cards perfectly and that overzealous personality concealed in someone so straight faced is comedy gold.
Not everyone is going to bat a hundred though. A few titles and they know who they are can’t even bat ten. The protein war in Persona q took the first step in making not one but two good characters look painfully stupid. I haven’t always had the best relationship with Akihiko senpai, arena tried really hard to murder this character for me. But I survived, just to get to this crap. I know Akihiko kept himself fit, but protein is seriously the only basis for his personality in this game. Okay next I’m going to pick on a free to play download game which is already kind of low hanging fruit, but in the DS version of Pokémon Rumble World you eventually get to the point where someone is trying to kidnap the Princess. Except it’s not actually the girl that they are after but some Pokémon, I’m sure it was played for laughs, but I personally just didn’t find the scenario to be particularly amusing. Skulls of the Shogun is pseudo tactical rpg, and where as the game itself is fairly fun they hit one of my biggest negatives, and you know it’s big when it causes me to drop a Mario game of all things. Painfully bad punny moustache jokes. I really hope that is a thing that dies a firey death very very soon.
I gave up on Final Fantasy actually being good somewhere around game ten, as soon as the franchise hit double digits my interest didn’t wane exactly, I really wanted to like the newer games, I just didn’t. So when I got my hands on the demo of Final Fantasy 15 I was genuinely surprised. It was fun, charming, and the characters were likable. I was completely gobsmacked. I loved it and am now really looking forward to playing the actual game. I hope that it holds out and keeps my affection. This is easily my biggest surprise of the year.
One of my favorite genres is mystery, I love a good mystery. So a game I had been eyeballing for a while now called Trace Memory was something I was really looking forward to. And it had a dash of supernatural to it too, this should have been right up my alley. A few things kept me from really loving this game though. Point one the characters were fairly banal, two do I need to get into another unhealthy amnesia rant (the only singular and solitary amnesiac ghost I need in my life is Yami, ok?), three and probably the most important is I beat this game in five hours and thirty two minutes, four I just found out there’s a sequel. 😦
Lost Odyssey is an easy shoe in for one of the best stories of the year. I liked that dealing with the amnesia in the game was a focal point of interest that took dozens of hours to uncover everything. I also liked the fact that if you aren’t a completionist you don’t need to find everything. The game centers in on Kaim an immortal warrior with no idea why he is as such unkillable. This four disc drama is about him finding his wife and grand children, making friends who will even in spite of immortality affect his life forever, it is at the heart of things a beautiful game with a fantastically written story and just enough quirk thrown in to keep it interesting. Unfinished Swan is about a boy named Munroe who’s mother recently passed away leaving him orphaned. We find out that his mother was a painter but she never finished what she started, he most prominent of these works being a swan (hence the title). In a manner akin to Alice in Wonderland Munroe follows the swan through a door he’s never seen before. This leads him on a journey of discovery that shows just who this young man really is and what we take for granted in the world. The words Strange Journey could be used to describe both of the two above games, but it’s actually the title of our third best story. Strange Journey would make a Hollywood blockbuster horror movie of the highest caliber. It takes a military group and follows them into the Schwarzwelt which upon initial inspection is believed to be akin to the nothing in Neverending Story. It is not in all truth, it’s a world of demons, angels, and other supernatural beings warring on top of stages that exemplify human greed. There’s a shopping mall, a burning battlefield, and a club, amongst others. The story has betrayal, camaraderie, and if you chose to go that way it may even have love. The horror is brilliant and fans of the genre are sure to be intrigued, though as a fair warning the difficulty is killer.
For the worst stories of the year we’re going to take another look at two old friends and one newcomer. Now I’m not going to lie, I loved Project X Zone. This game was wacky and fun, but that gives it’s story a major hit. Like none of these characters were surprised by each other of offput at all. Like this was just another run of the mill occurrence. “Oh my gosh I’m such a huge fan of yours!” For some reason rather then just having characters do base introductions they were all like buds already with the exception of the Valkyria Chronicles kiddos who actually had their names given out. Also ever cloning bad guys? are you kidding me? Seriously?!?!?!?! Persona Q takes another hit, not because I hated the story but because it’s another one under the smt flagship about someone (always a girl) warping reality so they could have friends. And yes I know it was Zen that created the world, but it was on Rei’s whim so please leave that argument at home. Digital Devil Saga Sera manipulated the virtual world to give Ai’s not only personalities but to put herself in that world as well (it’s a big complicated self insertion fanfic) and Persona 1 had the entire alternate reality based o your sick school mate Maki’s wishes. If I go buy Persona 5 and SMT 4 final are they going to be the same shtick again, cause I’m getting real bored with the same game over and over and over. Lastly is Final fantasy 7: Crisis Core. I love Zack, I have for years and intend on maintaining that, but the inclusion of literally pointless characters into the FF7 universe just made an already convoluted plot feel worse. Couldn’t we have just focused on the Wutai War, or the rebels in the ever growing Avalanche instead of Genesis and Angeal clones (by the way that is totally not how clones work). Anything but the contrived bs we got would have been fine.
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon was not in my humble opinion a very good sequel, oh it wasn’t a bad game, but it held your hand way too much I think. However were as I thought the game could have afforded trying to stand on it’s own two feet I will say that I think the ending was executed beautifully, the pure cute factor of the final cinema won me over and I am more the willing to admit it. Link’s Awakening is possibly the most bitter sweet ending of a Zelda game, in me humble opinion. Throughout the entire game Link struggles to fight monsters, help the people with their problems, and all in all be the generally great guy that he is. This game though ends with you finding out that what you’ve been fighting all along are nightmares, and that the people you befriended and aided are nothing more then the dreams of a much larger creature. After the end fight the island and all it’s citizens disappear and Link is left once again stranded out at sea. In the last shot of his face that you see though as the Wind Fish flies over his head, you see that he understood the necessity of his actions and he was pleased to have been able to save at least this one creature. Rain has this point where you are certain beyond all reason that the girl is gone, she can’t be saved, but still you hope. And as our young lead wakes from his long nightmare (is that a theme here) you watch him run across the now familiar streets to try one last time to save her. The two are finally able to see eachother for the first time and a rainbow shines overhead reminding us that anything is possible and leaves Rain not only with one of the best endings of this year, but one of the best video game endings ever.
FE Awakening on the other hand lacked significantly in the ending department, for starters your avatar choices make no effect on the ending. That’s rather annoying, why bother giving you dialogue choices if they don’t mean anything? Second the end boss was easy. Like ridiculous easy, I killed Grima in 2 hits, one from Frederick and one from Chrom, who were in the same unit at the time. I admit that I liked the book, but it doesn’t matter because the inclusion of Inigo for example into Fates via some sort of time travel kerfuffle nullifies everything that it says those particular kids did. It’s like Nintendo is giving us a giant middle finger again. I am so sick of continuity being randomly pushed aside. Persona Q ends with Rei and Zen thankfully moving on to the afterlife together which is good, hopefully that will keep them out of any other franchises ( I bet they both come back as future personas just to piss me off). above and beyond that though we get Pokemon the movied with ‘no one remembers what happened syndrome’. Mind you it’s the only way to make it make any sense but good god man. I really liked Growlanser and I was very curious about the join the villain ending, come to find at the heart of matters it turned out to just be a “oops I did something bad I better fix it” ending. This was sorely disappointing.
When I bought Edge for 1.99 on the Nintendo store, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from it. There within though I found hours of puzzling my way through with as few deaths as possible. The controls specifically are amazingly fluid and very easy to work with. It makes for a very easy play. Unfinished Swan has great controls too, they hold so well even as the game changes the rules on you there is never a point where I thought it felt clunky or weird. Lastly for great controls is Stealth 2: A Game of Clones, like Unfinished this game changes it’s own rules frequently and in a unique twist if you can’t keep up with the twists it’s your fault as the player, trust me I’m horrible with the inflate-a-mate, but the controls are still smooth and they explain everything in detail.
Kid Effin Icarus on the other hand was deliberately designed by demons in the seventh layer of Hell. I can’t even begin to fathom what the people at Nintendo were thinking when they designed a handheld game that you NEED a stand to play. Isn’t that a little counterproductive? The World Ends With You takes an easy second place, because trying to control both characters is ridiculous and the fact that they share a hp bar is just painful. Yes you can set your top screen to auto, but you shouldn’t have to put half your party on automatic. The game should just be designed better then that. Add in the fact that both screens are always really cluttered and it just gets annoying. Last of all regrettably is Rain, I think I’ve made it rather clear that I love this game, but glitch controls will get the better of you more then once.
Level designs are another thing that I really love paying special attention to and here are a few more that for one reason or another stood out really strongly. The Labyrinth in Unfinished Swan is really interesting because of the system of the game and having no idea where your going, as an added bonus if you make your back to the start of the level you can reclimb the stairs and view your handiwork from on high. It’s pretty boss. One of my least favorite things is when I’m playing Super Mario Maker on challenge mode and I get hit with a don’t move musical level. I’m playing because I want to play, not because I want to listen to “Uptown Funk” to the tune of enemies bouncing. On the other hand though Rayman took this idea and did it right so you the player have to time your jumps and rely on your own skill to get through a level set to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. Major kudos to the Rayman crew for those levels. Lastly but far from least is the town of Moonside in Earthbound. In an already off the wall game, Moonside takes everything you knew and completely inverts it. It’s a crazy weird experience that proves that you never truly know what’s going to come next in this franchise.
I would feel bad doing worst level designs, I feel like I would give every single one this year to Yoshi’s Wooly World. So instead I’m going to talk about the most vexing levels. Limbo gets the ball rolling with an inanely offputtingly intense level of this big ass spider chasing you down. He will impale his long spindly spidery leg through your head if you move to slow. This happened to me time and time again. Strange Journey has vexing dungeon after dungeon, but there is none worse then Horologium which is a sick twisted amalgam of all of the previous levels. Trapped floors, moving floors, every main boss you fought before, secret door, and an end boss that killed me in two turns. This was horrible! For as horribly painful as Strange Journey was though Braid takes the cake for vexing level designs….with….well everything it did.
I almost forget to mention my most anticipated game of the year. I am almost certain that I am the only person in Iowa at least that is anticipating SMT 4 final. I want this game a lot more then I really would have antipicated. So bring it on Japan! I really want to see how this guy ties to Akira!
And the last thing I’m going to talk about is the cast that I overall miss the most because I live in America and am not allowed to have more of them.The cast of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. I want more of these people and they have more games, but Japan won’t share them.