2015 is coming to an end and so it’s time for posts like this again! There were a lot of pretty big releases this year from all sorts of places, and many of them were actually pretty great. I’m a little upset a few games I thought would be possible candidates for GOTY aren’t out yet (or are but I don’t have the money/time before the end of 2015 to play them), so I’ll make exceptions next year for specifically these three: Yakuza 5, Trails of Cold Steel, and Just Cause 3. If I like them enough compared to other stuff next year I’ll treat them as 2016 releases, though with American Truck Sim finally getting released along with some other titles I’m real interested in next year, we’ll have to wait and see. Pardon the clunkier writing compared to usual, been dealing with some pretty heavy dark shit recently.
I decided to include a couple new categories this time around (and expand a little on another) because I felt they were very much things worth mentioning, starting with this first one;
When Trails in the Sky Second Chapter was scheduled for a “winter of 2014 at latest” release and then later delayed until almost-December of 2015 a lot of people got mad at XSEED. Then those same people turned that anger towards Carpe Fulgur who was contracted to translate and localize the massive novel that Trails in the Sky Second Chapter is and failed to actually do it, the translation got work done but the localization guy was busy pretending “I’m sad” is an excuse not to do what he’s paid to do. While I understand that’s the case and CF certainly deserves to be hated and always has (not only lazy, but they’re known to censor shit indiscriminately as well, plus they’re meme-tier as far as translations and localization go – like the Commie Subs of games making up most of the script from their own heads rather than the actual original text, you should have hated them since they came to be awhile ago), the fact of the matter is that this is almost ENTIRELY XSEED’s fault. They outsourced something, didn’t bother managing it whatsoever, never checked and asked for current reports and proof of progress, nothing for almost a full fucking calendar year when the guy finally went and told them he hadn’t done shit. There is no excuse for them not continually checking progress throughout and making sure shit was getting done, none at all, whether the guy ran around using “I was sad” as an excuse as he did or whether he was just lazy, XSEED should have KNOWN THE WORK WAS NOT BEING DONE either way. Yet, just like always, the company and it’s staff showed a complete disregard for anything remotely professional like ACTUALLY DOING THEIR JOB. Yes, it is LITERALLY their job to continually check progress by third parties they outsource to – hell, that’s more important than checking in-house work.
Yes, it’s “just” video games, yes it’s “just” Japanese anime-esque video games at that, but no that doesn’t somehow make it something you can act like retarded kids about and not do your job for. XSEED is a legitimate company and should be held accountable for not doing their job in favor of shitposting on NeoGaf (why does anyone go there, let alone people in the industry?) and making retarded jokes on twitter and taking literally no responsibility for anything purely because they usually don’t censor things. They fucked up big time, and worse, they basically got away with completely shitting on their customer base because the consumers they have are retarded as shit just like most anime and JRPG fans. They have no respect for the consumer nor the product, they just know how to keep on the “good side” of this stupid fucking SJW war and so people pretend they can do no wrong, and they are very well aware of that – so they don’t even try to pretend to care anymore, let alone show any remorse. Will I buy their releases again? I don’t have much choice in some cases – but with very few exceptions I’ll be buying only during big sales and/or used copies or simply not at all. I’m not going to do a one-man boycott of one of the only companies I can get English versions of Japanese games from because it’d be meaningless and just make me miss out on stuff, but I’ll certainly never support them again in any other way and keep the financial side of things to a minimum as well. Luckily it looks like it’s not just me, the sales of Trails SC are apparently far lower than the first game – which makes sense given XSEED refuses to take responsibility, refuses to show any caring about what they failed to do, and of course charged more money for the sequel ON SALE even than they EVER did for the first release on PC as the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to the fans.
Best Game Coverage
Contradiction – Spot the Liar!, with Giant Bomb
I’m not at all a fan of “Let’s Plays”, Twitch streams, e-sports, speedrunning, or anything like that – but I do have a couple small exceptions that might fall into the first category (though mostly not if you ask me) and one CBSi-owned big one: Giant Bomb. I’ve been a fan for several years now and I’ll admit they have their problems, especially with certain staff members and others mimicking them to keep on the good side of the loud minority (as well as all of them having shit opinions usually). For the most part though, their video content is at least unmarred by all that bullshit and still top quality content, though I’ll admit lately from the SF group it’s been pretty questionable to just shit quality lately but hopefully that’ll change soon with their new office move being complete and GOTY stuff being completed. Anyway, “Contradiction – Spot the Liar!” is a game I never would have even spent one second looking at had it not been for GB East’s coverage, and it turns out it’s a really fantastic and special thing that deserves more attention and is the type of indie game that should be given praise, not some ‘retro platformer’ appealing to nostalgia – but a game with true heart and hard work put into it and with more charm in the end than anyone could imagine. Hell, I almost considered giving this a runner-up spot for GOTY up until my current one released anyway. It was only taken even further thanks to the great commentary from Vinny, Alex, and Austin throughout a journey most people wouldn’t have ever bothered taking without them and would have wound up missing out on one of the most unique and fun ‘hidden gems’ out there.
Best New-To-Me Games I Played This Year NOT From 2015
Persona 4 Golden
Well, I went over this in one of my longest reviews ever in detail, so have a read of that if you’re interested in why this game is not only the best in this category, but in my very top game experiences of all time. This is THE best game I played this year, one of my top ever favorites, and would be at LEAST the runner up for GOTY if not for it’s release date. A must-play for anyone with a Vita, even if you disliked the original P4 like I did (or loved, for that matter), this is a perfected experience with a lot of new content.
Take Attack on Titan, change the setting to a fucked up dystopia and your character into a prisoner in a panopticon under 24/7 surveillance from everyone and everything (including your customizable AI partner), and mix it with a bit of Monster Hunter minus all the boring shit. That’s Freedom Wars. The setting is really fucking well done and comes with a lot of innovative ideas for a game like having to earn every one of your rights from WALKING and SITTING DOWN to wearing certain clothes, leaving your cell, talking, being able to use certain equipment, etc. It’s got an interesting story thanks to that as well as some conspiracies going on and a mysterious ghost-like girl who keeps appearing.
Can’t forget the insanely cool gameplay. Your main method of movement around areas and of attacking the mechs is a grappling-hook style contraption on your arm. You can use it to drag down these hulking robots or grab an arm, fly on up, and start chopping and hacking away until you lop it’s limb off, then repeat it for a leg, another arm, the head, or try smashing or drilling through one of the pods to rescue someone. All the while the AI are doing the same, sometimes with three of you latched on grinding away at these things while another is on the ground trying to drag it down and keep it from running around or throwing you off of it while your AI guards are all letting loose with machine guns and rocket launchers. It’s an incredible feeling and it never stops being cool. Another must-play for Vita owners. I’ll probably review it eventually.
Speaking of cool, that’s all this game is. While people do hate on it for being a “QTE fest” it’s actually got a lot of real action gameplay segments that last a long time and come up very frequently, if anything this feels 100% like a Platinum game even though they didn’t develop it (very surprisingly), this just takes that to the next level. Asura’s Wrath is an insanely cool, super fucking badass, over-the-top spectacle of an anime…that you play. A simple story of revenge against Gods as a God, using only anger from being betrayed and framed, hate, rage, and deep love for your wife and daughter that were taken from you, one killed and one imprisoned and forced to live a life of suffering at the hands of her own uncle and family friends. What amazed me the most aside the INSANELY FUCKING COOL EVERYTHING was how the game legitimately gets you to share Asura’s feelings, you truly end up full of wrath to dish out towards these guys and you genuinely want to save his daughter, you get a real connection with him and he barely says a word the entire game. It also features my two favorite male voice actors in the industry as the two most prominent characters, Robin Atkin Downes and, while most of his ‘lines’ are furious yells he never stops doing, Liam O’brien, who both do a fantastic job.
This game is damn fun and beyond cool no matter what you’ve heard and is something everyone who isn’t an anime-hating shitdick should play – even if it is 100% spectacle. There’s an entire chapter where you fight with no arms and still manage to fuck shit up. Just saying.
Biggest Disappointment + Worst Game of the Year
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
MGSV easily has some of the best trailers ever made for a game and while I never LOVED Metal Gear Solid as a series, I had always liked them a good amount (aside 3, fuck 3) and enjoyed them. These trailers made me more excited and hyped for this than I’ve been for nearly anything, the story was looking to be incredible while being far darker and more serious than usual. Even the “demo” – Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes turned out to be a great game that I ended up loving and playing again and again even attempting to get the highest ranks possible (something I usually would never care about) and figuring out new ways to do each mission.
The real full game though? Shit. First off, all the cut content both in the story and in gameplay mechanics, everyone has heard of this by now so I don’t need to detail it. However, my personal bigger issues come in the form of what we DID get. The story was a mess, it could have been good but the game design made that impossible – all you get for story instead of any cutscenes or dialogue are tapes. Peacewalker had lots of tapes too for EXTRA information, silly shit, and a lot of discussions with Miller and the others. However, there were still lengthy in-depth cutscenes throughout the game, and that was a PSP game. This has absolutely nothing aside “turn this tape on while you’re sitting in a helicopter doing jack shit and listen to Ocelot, Miller, or an old fuck drone on about something that most of the time doesn’t matter because the story in this game barely has relevance at all”. It’s a game made for the gameplay in a franchise known entirely for it’s story – a truly stupid decision, not to mention a waste of Kiefer Sutherland who does a great job the few times he gets to say anything.
And worse, this is a a game made for gameplay that fails to deliver good gameplay, so this game offers almost nothing. You repeat the same 2 or 3 missions about 100 times with slightly different coats of paint on them at the same exact copy pasted locations in the incredibly drab, empty, lifeless ‘open world’ that lacks any sense of ‘world’ because it’s just fucking nothing for miles over and over and over again. Not only that, you do them the same fucking way every time or mix it up and do it the ONLY OTHER WAY you can. Either run in blowing shit up and shooting everyone or sneak in quietly, truly a game of player choice and diverse options at your disposal – like Assassin’s Creed and Watch_Dogs! The “story” missions are the same shit as the side ops, the side ops are all the same boring fucking thing again and again, and there is jack shit else to do the entire game. Never a reason not to use Diamond Dog, never a base even on par with the one in GZ, just a turd-brown world full of jack shit but the same tower in every outpost with the same guards doing the same things every time.
Can’t forget to tie it back to the trailers though – everything about them that was amazing? Just like I should have known from the man who wants nothing more than to be a middle aged white American listening to dadrock and who pledges allegiance to Hollywood every morning, the trailers Kojima edited himself all turned out to be complete and utter bullshit just like film ones. Powerful lines taken from 20 second boring scenes, sequences that DO NOT EXIST IN THE ENTIRE GAME, and lots of editing trickery to make it seem really dark and heavy when it actually isn’t at all.
What makes it all even worse is that even in this state the game had some cool stuff, a handful of early-game great missions, and things I really loved about it such as the Quarantine Mission and the meetings with a certain character hidden away and easily missed in a room on the medical platform, and of course the fantastic work of Robin Atkin Downes reprising his role as Miller and delivering lines better than anyone else in a game in recent memory…just nothing remotely enough to make up for everything else at all. And MGO3 was just a complete turd, which was just as disappointing. MGSV TPP is probably one of my biggest regrets in gaming and I could feel the buyer’s remorse sink in very fast, but not quicker than the really bad feeling of having looked so forward to this game. Honestly, just thinking about it this much has made me feel bad again, and guilty for having spread the hype.
Runner-up Game of the Year
(more like runner-up for disappointment of the year, actually)
Well, this WAS going to be Trails in the Sky SC, but then chapter 8 happened…and then it got great again in chapter 9 until it went back to as bad as chapter 8 and then started dropping to even worse territory for the grand finale (in chapter 9) and ended up not only disappointing but incredibly un-fun, obnoxious, and a total chore that I ended up not even finishing because the penultimate section was godawful then the final section was a copy pasted 1:1 rehash of that penultimate section and it was fucking godawful in every way and surrounded by the most plodding bland dungeon design. There’s no way I could possibly say it deserves anything on this list when through such a big portion of the game, let alone the big climax, all I could think was “is this fucking over yet?” and “do I really have to fight this identical boss for the nth time even though I just did 5 hours ago?”, oh and “soul blur spam is really the best way to kill these guys too?”. I wanted to quit so many times very seriously and ended up even practically spamming through dialogue just to get this game over with, so this is not the runner up for GOTY, maybe it’d be more fitting to be runner up as a disappointment even though everything up to these last ~30 hours was fantastic…but I feel the whole last two chapters are enough to substantially drag down the entire game. In fact, it dragged it down enough to make me just fucking not finish it – and where did I quit? The very final boss because it just was not worth it anymore. It hadn’t been for ages and finally I reached the point where I stopped forcing myself and realized I kind of hate this game and I don’t need to finish it because I’ll just spam through the text and ruin the ending for myself anyway because all I want is for it to end so I can stop being frustrated with the impressively awful quality of the final two chapters.
I’m gonna try beating it before the end of the year given I literally just have this final form to kill left, but it sure is boring, unfun, and not worth it. Sad, given the first game was fucking immaculate and one of the best games ever…while this has a shittier plot, way worse writing, godawful pacing, the worst boss fights possible that it makes you do a boss rush of THREE TIMES IN A ROW with nothing inbetween or any changes to any of them, a three stage color-puzzle for a final boss, and is just fucking terrible. Plus you don’t actually defeat any of the bad guys, every time you do they just run away and are perfectly fine and the story is so fucking stupid that you can’t even get upset by it. Honestly up to chapter 8 it wasn’t all that great either, but it was pretty alright and while it didn’t live up to FC it was good…but once 8 hits the game becomes one of the most unfun, dragging, bland, repetitive, and worst experiences of the year.
*I did go back and beat the boss now, it changes nothing of what I said but just fyi.*
I didn’t write a replacement choice up because my dad very literally just died in my living room on Christmas day after having cancer quickly eat away at him (type 4 brain cancer, type 4 kidney cancer, and type 4 lung cancer) and multiple surgeries (including removing whole chunks of his brain, one kidney, and parts of one lung) for it all very recently but being terminal because it was impossible to fix or manage in the stages they all were by the time they found it. I’m not really in the mood to think of which game I’d put here now or to write about whatever it would be. Sorry! This might also be why my Anime of the year posts and such won’t be up on time, though they might be.
Game of the Year
The Witcher 3
What, an open world game? And maybe more strangely, a non-Japanese (though still not actually western) game? Yup. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Witcher series, playing since the first game, hating the second, and now obviously loving the third. I’ve even got some of the books the series is based on and liked reading them a lot too. I’m not very into western-style fantasy but something about it’s eastern-european roots must have given it what I needed to love it and make it something very unique. As for the game as a whole, I literally have no – and I really do mean ABSOLUTELY ZERO – complaints from me. It’s not just being a fanboy either, hell I’m not only a bigger fan of Trails, Atelier, and even Tales – but here I fucking HATED the second game in this series, it’s one of those things I’m even still bitter about how bad it was, which just goes to show how good this game really is if it could overcome that and then end up one I loved so damn much.
This game is something special in every way, from the incredibly beautiful graphics and world that they help build to the fact that, for once, someone managed to create an open world that actually works because it all feels natural, real, and full of things to do or exploring that’s worthwhile. Every area feels as it should too, you don’t come across even a small town that doesn’t feel, on some level, “real” and lived in that has it’s own community and micro-culture. There’s a seemingly endless amount of content that’s all really enjoyable or fun to do, ranging from what is essentially fetch quests like any game to full-on investigations of murder scenes to discern what or who did this and to hunt them down and put them to justice. It’s also a game that also ‘for once’ makes your decisions have an actual real impact constantly throughout the game. This isn’t Mass Effect or Fallout where you’re picking “be a saint” or “be a sack of shit”, you’re making choices that are almost always gray without an objective right/wrong/better/worse choice, and those choices always have some meaningful impact on the world or the story either right away or far later – sometimes both (no save-scumming to save you if it doesn’t come into play until 30 hours later). The combat is exciting, fun, and takes strategy and forethought, making you learn the enemies and their weaknesses as well as where they live to prepare ahead of time before heading in to this or that certain type of area. The music is fucking fantastic and dynamic, even playing different music based on the type of enemy you’re facing.
The Witcher 3 is well above just the game of the year for me, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life. There’s just something about it that makes it feel practically perfect in absolutely ever facet, makes it one of the most immersive games of all time, and sets the bar not only for open-world games but for story based games in general. This game has more world building, detail, and story strings (that are fully fleshed out and well concluded) than even Trails in the Sky (the first one) which is one of the most deep and immaculate titles in that department, and it manages to never lose it’s focus, ruin it’s pacing, or anything else even when the player has such a vast amount of top-quality content available to do and see. While juggling everything else, it manages to keep it’s world believable and consistent, hell even something as small as NPCs have realistic schedules and routines they keep to. Being consistent in a fucked up world also means that there are rarely times you’ll help someone or do something and come out of it feeling good – the game does an impeccable job of making you constantly question your decisions, your actions, and making you come to terms with the fact that things are fucked even if they turn out mostly good and forcing you into realistic scenarios where you won’t know what to do but you have to choose between two shitty things and figure out which is better or more ‘right’ (and whether or not right is more important than better or vice versa) and you’ll really stop and consider it because you’ll want to make the decision you’re most okay with living with on a personal level as if it really matters.
Everything has so much depth to it too, even some small side quest will end up with a lot surrounding it by the end of it, nothing in this game is lazy, half-assed, or the bare minimum, not even “Hey, save me from these monsters” because that very same person might have been tied up and left there not by bandits, but by a town you haven’t yet visited (though you possibly could have) who left him to die because he was a bandit who continually attacked the villagers for all they had and raped their women with his band of men, and by saving him…well, that town might no longer be more than rubble in your game in a few hours because he chooses to get revenge by slaughtering every man, woman, and child while also burning it to the ground. Then you might run into him again, bragging about it, and in my case I took that chance to murder the shit out of him. Not only things like that, but even your bestiary has so much information for every type of monster, explaining the lore behind them, where they live, their habits, their strengths and weaknesses, and even how they came to exist. There are even times where your decisions have further lasting affect beyond the end of the game – and while they may not matter in the game they still carry some weight because of how immersed you end up in the world.
All of this is ignoring the actual main story which is also fantastic, a seemingly simple tale of chasing what is essentially a daughter figure to Geralt to protect her from some very dangerous other-worldly foes that are after her, and the adventure this leads you on as you try and find her and ‘help’ old and new acquaintances along the way who all have their own very in depth full and immersive stories (while doing a lot of side stuff and Witcher jobs to make a living or earn favors). Plus you get to kill a lot of crazy shit and you can even hang the head off the side of your horse because you’re a cool fucking dude, and there are times where people will try ganging up on you in, say, a pub and you’ll just unleash the fury and start lopping heads off. And before anyone mentions the “shit combat”, I really don’t understand the complaint and I’ve tried very hard to – yet every time I try having a discussion with someone about it to figure out what they mean by it they just keep saying “it’s shit!!!!” when I felt it was one of the best things about the game alongside everything else. It’s fun, responsive, involves actually thinking ahead and preparing as well as on-the-fly strategy.
This is a game where you really can genuinely see the effort and love put into it throughout every step you take in it, and most importantly all that work and heart paid off with one of the best games of all time. Oh, speaking of effort and love, I almost forgot Gwent, one of my favorite minigames in anything – it’s possibly better than even Triple Triad. It’s a deceivingly simple card game that starts out pretty easy and you learn throughout the game as you gather more cards has a lot more strategy than you’d expect, luckily there are a lot of people to play and a lot of cards to collect because it never wore off it’s welcome – there’s even a whole quest chain that involves robbery and murder it leads you into.
Plus, I mean The Witcher’s got Geralt of Rivia. There’s really not a lead character out there with as much unique charm, dry wit, and just plain cool-factor as him.