GOTY 2015

Hello and thank you for visiting my profile page to read my personal Games of the Year list for 2015. Each coming year presents its own set of challenges for me to deliberate, compile, and summarize my own GOTY list and this year was no different. Aside from my usual challenges of squeezing in the time to play against work, other hobbies, and other normal obstacles, I did not have the writing touch that I had in writing my GOTY list last year. Not only that I come away a bit unsatisfied with my writing work on this year’s GOTY game summaries, the crop of games that I had to deliberate over onto this year’s list was quite underwhelming. I spent most of my gaming time this year clearing older games from my backlog, which included two lengthy JRPGs and a run of shorter-length older games for much of Q2 and Q3. You could say the games that landed on my list were lucky enough to be played by me in this year.

For those who have read my previous GOTY lists will notice a lack of high profile, widely acknowledged games back then and it’s no different here. You won’t see Bloodborne, Life is Strange, Metal Gear Solid V, Mortal Kombat X, Undertale, The Witcher 3, and such other titles deserving of the praise on this particular list. I will do my best to summarize on why the games I chose the following games were lucky enough and worthy of my personal praise here. My GOTY format is the same as last year’s.

List items

  • -TEN-

    There are things that sound great on paper but doesn’t quite translate well when implemented in reality. The ideas that the developers of Hotline Miami 2 sound great coming from its solid first game: challenge the player in locking them into one style on most levels, significantly increase the size of each stage with more enemies and leaving the player fewer safe spots for them to catch their breath. Unfortunately, those changes had an inverse effect on my enjoyment of HM2 compared to its predecessor. Instead of a game that allowed multiple ways and styles for all types of players to clear a level, HM2 handcuffs everyone into playing it the only way HM2 wants them to.

    The changes to gameplay from HM1 to HM2 can also be tied in with the change on how they presented the story. In HM1, the game pits an unknown man taking strange phone messages to carry out a hit at a particular location. HM1 also didn’t have many cutscenes, but in those few cutscenes is where HM1’s vague and sparse storytelling of how far and deep the violent hole compliments the choose your own violent method of bloodying your way through each level. HM2 repaints the story through use of numerous set pieces and characters; thus the shackles of where HM2 forces the player to play under the locked style that character specializes on a level. I can understand from the viewpoint that it makes HM2’s levels feel like a HM1 challenge mode and not allowing the same freedom that could make HM2 easier if the HM1’s freedom is allowed. But instead of making it feel like a slight uptick in difficulty within the HM1’s stage design scope, HM2’s significant size increase in its stages makes the challenge of each stage even more daunting, up to the point where it seems impossible to get through any part of the stage.

    It sounds silly to pin HM2’s increased level size as a significant hindrance, but being unable to view the entire level even with the ability to pan out from your character’s position is big problem in HM2 because knowing where the enemies stand and what their patterns are is essential information to know before planning your next move. It’s always a pain when you think you’re in the clear and then suddenly die from an unknown enemy because he was out of your scope of view. Part of HM’s appeal was the trial by fire aspect of clearing a level. HM1’s compact yet clear stages is a prime example of where the trial by fire aspect works very well. HM2’s grandiose levels completely makes the trial by fire aspect moot, making the player be more cautious rather than coming out guns blazing. Another huge consequence of HM2’s large levels is its level checkpoints. Thanks to the larger stages, dying becomes a huge consequence in many ways as it spawns you all the way back at the start of the checkpoint and you’re forced to navigate through its extremely challenging obstacles all over again.

    HM2 even ramps up the neon Miami presentation and its heavy synth soundtrack to bombastic levels. While I didn’t mind the constant bombardment of the neon Miami, I still preferred the subtle presentation of HM1. HM2 still has plenty of moments on its own and the design changes the developers took into this game makes sense, but it ends up being more more of a bigger mess than a bigger take of HM1. I do commend them in delivering HM2 from a different perspective rather than putting out HM2 as more stuff on top of what was done on HM1.

  • -NINE-

    There are games where you can feel that it has the potential of being a great game, only to have particular aspects of the game preventing it on being as such. I could not shake off the constant thought of the game continually shooting itself on the foot, almost overshadowing the game’s surprising strengths. Part of the game’s glaring flaws comes from treading the same territory that’s been executed many times over in the long and crowded JRPG genre. Despite the frustrating experience of having to go through the game’s less than stellar spots, I concluded Stella Glow was still worthy to make my list due to its strength in gameplay and a decent story and spots sprinkled in from time to time.

    From the onset, I knew that I was gonna be in for a rough ride with the characters and how the story was going to be delivered. Folks entrenched in the JRPG genre will immediately recognize a lot of tried and true items that Stella Glow treads over: a rag-tag group of characters with their own quirky personalities and overcoming personal difficulties, the constant good versus evil dialogue, the odd jokes, (insert hot springs scene), and the typical climax of evil on the cusp of victory then… you get the idea. I wouldn’t mind it if they were executed well, but Stella Glow doesn’t quite pass the execution test, therefore making it hard game to play through at numerous stretches, though there are some neat story cutscenes and plot twists here and there that relieves some of the mundaneness. Luckily most of Stella Glow’s sludge is contained within its story, characters, dialogue, and not on its gameplay.

    There hasn’t been much evolution done on the grid-map strategy-RPG genre, but at least Stella Glow doesn’t screw up much in this department. In fact, I feel it’s SRPG gameplay that’s a lite version of parts of Tactics Ogre and parts of Fire Emblem with a little something of their own mixed in. You have the TO-style of special skills for each character along with the importance of where each character faces. The FE-part comes in where the idle character can provide buffs if they’re placed next to the acting character. Stella Glow adds its own flavor with the Conduct command mechanic, where if all conditions are met and depending on which special character is involved, executes a “special skill” whereas it provides an either/or or mixture of buffs to the player’s party and/or debuffs to all enemies on the battle map. I love the inclusion of challenge objectives for an added challenge with special weapons/armor/items as a reward for doing the above and beyond objectives. It all combines into a fun strategy RPG to play even if it’s still runs on the old tried-and-true grid-based SRPG. Thanks goodness there’s also a lot of battles packed into the game (required plus optional grind battles) that also soothes the much of going through the muck of its story and characters. There are a few hiccups in SG’s SRPG gameplay though, particularly with curious AI decisions and multi-phase story battles where you don’t know what you’re supposed to accomplish during a certain phase of battle.

    It’s a hard game for me to recommend to others because of the deluge of less than stellar JRPG story tropes in play, even if the total time play is a bit lower than average for a JRPG. But underneath all the annoying JRPG trope gut is a decent story along with an enjoyable strategy JRPG game that takes the good bits of other SRPGs and mixing it in with some neat features of its own. Stella Glow is like an item which you want to really spread the word for its strong suits, but there’s too much filler packed with it that prevent you from fully endorsing the product.

  • -EIGHT-

    If there was a company and game genre in which I’d like to see more of arrive into North America, it would be Cave’s games in the bullet hell shooter genre. After only getting a small taste with Deathsmiles 1 & 2 and Akai Katana, I’m glad to hear that Cave will release more of their offerings we never had a chance to get to through PC in the near future. Their first offering is Mushihime-sama, a shooter around a female-princess battling against hordes of bullet-hell insect enemies. Though there isn’t a ton of content packed in the PC release, but it’ll definitely fill the void of a lack of bullet-hell games available to play in the past couple of years.

    What set Cave’s bullet-hell shooters apart from their strength of setting a particular theme for their games. Mushihime-sama goes heavy on the bug theme, having the heroine ride on a golden beetle while fighting against a number of insects and the bullet hell patterns they provide. It was nice to blast through a variety of different enemies/insects through the game’s five stages. Each stage has their own setting and cast of insects, such as a stag beetle popping up from the ground, or getting through swarms of centipedes in another stage. Not to mention all of the enemies look pretty even though they’re attempting to kill you. I also like that all bullets are uniform in one color (purple) and stand-out from the scrolling stage environment to simplify down to indicate to the player that these are the only things to concern avoid getting hit by.

    Mushihime-sama also lives up to the bullet-hell shooter name by delivering the bullet-hell. Stages get progressively harder and crazier with the array of enemies and bullets spewed from wherever and eventually covering the screen. The boss battles are no slouches themselves as they deliver their own brand of hell into some extremely exotic bullet patterns and sometimes full purple bullet hell screen of death. The PC release offers players various different modes and difficulties on how much bullet hell players want to administer onto themselves: from the novice mode with its set of difficulties, to the abomination of arranged mode and the trials of find the small spaces in between all the bullets on screen, and includes Version 1.5 as DLC for those who want a refreshing take on the game after they had their fill with the original version.

    Mushihime-sama is a pure bullet-hell shooter and nothing more. You won’t see some of the classic shoot-em-up staples such as navigating through tight corridors and recognizing enemy group patterns. Originally an arcade release, there isn’t a ton of content with the game itself as it only consists of five stages with small modifications to each stage per the mode and difficulty options, plus the V1.5 DLC. You’ll likely explore the entire game within an hour, but at least that hour of play will be a white-knuckled, bare-bones experiences of rampaging through one of Cave’s offerings.

  • -SEVEN-

    There’s always the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to classic games being re-released in some fashion onto current platforms. Metal Slug 3’s PSN re-release already has the ugly baggage tied with it due to being released on so many platforms before alone and included in the Metal Slug Anthology compilation. The release is compounded for its bad value of $15 for a very short stand-alone game that is cheaper or more valuable elsewhere and perception of cashing in on a bare bones version of the game. Luckily, the game has gone on sale a few times already and at sub-$10 prices is where I’ll champion why the PSN version of this SNK arcade classic shooter is worthy: excellent emulation quality and essential features.

    There’s a lot mode under the hood in the PSN version of Metal Slug 3 that is not apparent by its mere fact of being re-released on the PSN platform. The release is cross-buy and shared trophies between the three PSN platforms (PS4/PS3/VITA), online co-op, leaderboards, four different graphics options that suit your viewing preference, customizable controls, and instant save states. Tied in with the game’s essential features is its outstanding emulation quality of MS3. The game plays smoothly with no technical issues in regards to controls, slowdown, etc., looks fantastic (especially on the VITA screen), and sounds great. Code Mystics deserves a lot of credit for their quality emulation work and features on top of it that easily gives Metal Slug 3 the quality treatment it deserves.

    Metal Slug 3 is considered by most as the best game in the Metal Slug franchise. It’s hard to differentiate what makes one Metal Slug game different from another, but MS3 stands out for pushing the silliness meter to the max with non-human enemies and plot, a variety of different weapon power-ups and a number of vehicles to ride on, and a new character to choose to play as while maintaining the hardcore old-school arcade difficulty of its six shooting stages. The only significant issue of MS3 (and the franchise as a whole) is the inability of eight-way shooting on foot and the modified way to shoot enemies below you. [In Metal Slug, only power-up weapons and vehicles have eight-way shooting, which makes them extremely valuable to maintain as long as you can. To shoot enemies below you in MS, you actually have to jump then press down+shoot to do so.] Some folks may also feel frustrated with the game’s difficulty, where Metal Slug 3 overwhelms the player with numerous enemies, bullets, bombs, and stage platforming to encounter throughout an entire stage. Overall, Metal Slug 3 still stands the test of time as one of those arcade classic games that’s difficult but fun to play with a lot of style.

    It’s a treat for folks who have already played the game to witness the excellent emulation quality along with the value of PSN cross-buy and online co-op and for others who have never checked out a Metal Slug game before. There are many versions of Metal Slug 3 out there, but this year’s PSN release is clearly the best representative version of it.

  • -SIX-

    This was a weird game for me to evaluate considering that I have not put in a lot of time into fiddling with the game creation tools and playing user created levels, but that did not hinder me from still enjoying most of what I managed to play with SMM thus far. I was amazed to view all the creativity that users have been able to produce from the game’s available (and growing) toolset and made me appreciate and acknowledge how well thought-out Nintendo’s official levels are in looking in hindsight from the game toolset and user created levels. Super Mario Maker is kind of like the hands-on museum experience on how Mario levels were constructed by Nintendo’s level designers in the games featured.

    I appreciated Nintendo’s slow and steady approach to level creation from the start. I probably would have been quickly overwhelmed if the entire toolset was available for me at the start and would never have produced the levels I managed to published during my limited time. The initial limited toolset can be the game’s big test to the user to see if they can master creating a level with a smaller set first. After some time, the additional unlocked content can slowly be acclimated with the player’s increased creativity level in producing longer and/or more exotic levels. Everyone works in different ways when it comes to producing something from scratch, but I liken SMM’s approach to level creation to a semester long class. Learn how to produce a basic level first, then build upon that with subsequent attempts.

    On the other side, playing through a myriad of user levels presents its own set of surprises, both good and bad. I haven’t played too many user created levels, but you can definitely get a feel for what levels are well-designed and fun to play whereas other as not so fun for whatever reason. There’s a fine line with the trend of over-the-top and/or insanely difficult levels and whether those type of levels are well-constructed, creative, AND fun to play. But in playing and viewing levels of different shapes and sizes has only made my appreciation for Nintendo even more on how painstaking and well-thought out the official Nintendo levels are in many of their classic platforming games. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to experience through the variety of levels of varying lengths and difficulties, good and bad.

    It’s been interesting to see the positive turnout and enormous momentum Super Mario Maker has maintained since its release back in September. Folks on the building are continuing to crank out fun and/or sophisticated levels with layers of creativity and intelligence. While folks on the playing end continue to amaze me with their own set of intelligence, creativity, and perseverance to get through those crazy expert difficulty produced levels. Even though I have not rode the wave of momentum as others have, I can definitely appreciate what Nintendo has done to share their toolset for gamers to create their own little Nintendo magic.

  • -FIVE-

    Atlus’s crop of Persona 4 spin-off games had varying successes in attempting to branch the popular franchise off outside of its JRPG Persona trappings. The last of the group brings comes in the way of a music rhythm game developed by the Persona team themselves (after the initial developer hired on was let go). P4DAN succeeds where the other spin-offs faltered in the story department, but itself falls a bit short in the gameplay and content departments. The game ultimately succeeds in being an attractive product as it caters well to Persona 4 fans and to music rhythm fans in spite of the game’s thin content (small music library, short story) and hiccups around the music rhythm gameplay.

    P4DAN’s music rhythm game is solid in spite of some issues in and around its gameplay, and it really shines well once the player gets accustomed to it. I had no issues with the game’s note charts throughout its game library, and the game shows its colors when you get on that streak of hitting the notes at the right time with the game’s excellent song library. I would be more into P4DAN’s gameplay if a few display designs in and around it weren’t so distracting to deal with. I was able to resolve my issue with the busy colorful background masking notes by decreasing the brightness of the background to its lowest level, but the combination of having a bunch of special and scratch notes cluttered together in charting causes its own issues of notes overlapping each other is a bit frustrating to parse through during some quick note sequences in a song. The game’s overall note charts on its library is mostly fair correlating with the four difficulty levels and are fun to play for the most part, though All Night mode goes overboard with its charts for the sake of being immensely difficult.

    P4DAN’s other big content outside of its free dancing mode is its story mode. I have been unimpressed with the stories on P4’s other spin-off games, but it seems like Atlus may took those criticisms into consideration and sharpened its pencils to pen a solid story for DAN. I took P4DAN’s entire story as a P4-lite, whereas it captures a portion of P4’s story hallmarks of an interesting mystery with personal strife, bits of cheeky comedy, reinforcement of bonds, and battling an immense threat. P4DAN’s story also benefits for being short and to the point without the need to bloat it’s story with overwrought detail for the sake of making it worthwhile. A secret bonus prelude chapter is a nice little fanservice gift for those who finish the story mode.

    I feel P4DAN could’ve had a higher ceiling the issues around the rhythm gameplay were tweaked and looked into a bit more along with a bigger music library to play from, but the game is still good on what it delivered. P4 fans get to see the investigation crew out for a nice strong side story, see them dance out to their designated songs, deck them out in a number of neat costumes, listen to some awesome P4 remixes, and playing a music rhythm game that’s not too strict to start for non-rhythm gamers. Music rhythm fans will have their fill with the library along with a solid rhythm challenge to test their eyes, ears, and hands onto.

  • -FOUR-

    [Note: My summarization of EO2U is based on my play though the game’s classic mode.]

    Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold should have resonated with me more. I was glad to see the subtle but substantial improvements EO2U made from EO1U in terms of the touch screen map UI, grimoire stones, and the new method to produce dishes to attain a particular puff for the party during battles. After navigating through the game’s first floors, I knew that this EO journey was going to be a lot more treacherous that the previous two EO endeavors. EO2U’s classic mode was classic EO through and through, but I didn’t come away feeling like an explorer enjoying my way through the game’s labyrinths and the battles and challenges it ensued unlike the previous other EO games I have journeyed through.

    My previous EO endeavors struck the perfect balance of excellent dungeon design that is equal parts fulfilling in exploration and challenge, engaging missions and quests, an excellent set of classes that alone are distinct enough to set a specific role in the party yet synchronizes well with the party in terms of skill sets and battle strategy in play, and thrilling battles against tough monsters (FOEs and bosses). EO2U still executes what it does well, but does not quite achieve that right balance compared to what I felt EO4 did exceptionally. The area I was most disappointed was the game’s level design, which felt more like the genre it’s mired in as a dungeon crawler rather than having a nice mix of challenge, floor gimmicks, and walking exploration. EO2U also increased the number of classes to choose from, but yet felt like many classes don’t feel quite distinct from each other (beast/protector; hexor/dark; dancer/sovereign). Lastly, I hated how some of the boss battles bogged down to getting around one strong gimmick instead of recognizing varied attack patterns.

    Despite its flaws, EO2U is still a strong game. On the technical side, I loved some of the subtle changes EO2U made from EO1U. Subtle improvements to the touch screen map toolset include increasing the number of colors from four to eight, which is nice to discern the number of different things on each floor for FOEs, different surfaces, etc. and the added touch of highlighting arrows whenever a wall crack has been opened to know which ones the player has gotten to and which ones yet to reach to open up. The force break function is a welcome addition to the EO battle system, whereas the player can choose to break the force function in use during battle for a dramatic effect. The ability to develop dishes from particular food ingredients harvested from the labyrinth that provide buffs for the party (battle buffs, increased material intake, passive benefits during travel in the labyrinth) is another nice addition to EO2U. The gameplay element that’s gotten the biggest improvement from EO1U to EO2U is its handling of Grimoire Stones. Instead of locking a player with one stone that has a number of skills and their respective levels, EO2U has up to five slots where a player can equip one stone that has one skill at their assigned level. EO2U’s Grimoire Stones set up allows the player a lot more flexibility on how they prefer to equip their stones to amend to their particular class. This is something outside of EO4’s sub-class function that I’d like to see continued into EO3U and possibly into future EO games after 4.

    EO2U is still an EO through and through. While the maps aren’t quite as nice as previous EO games, they’re still fun to at least scour through a few times. The EO battle system is still great and most tougher fights are engaging enough that’ll easily suck a good chunk of time to fight through. The game’s missions and large number of side quests are well integrated into the game, adding onto the game’s excitement into exploring floors, acquiring specific materials, and special battles through the assigned tasks. Players have freedom to experiment and cater their party and skills that caters to their playstyle in battle. Unfortunately the mixture of stiffer difficulty from tougher battles, tougher level stage design, and uneven classes and ultimately the lack of breathing room and the sense of adventure makes this EO adventure more of harsh expedition with a number of nice moments instead of a great sense of adventure filled with thrilling moments throughout.

  • -THREE-

    Many folks come to expect the following common themes in a platforming video game: colorful art, cartoony atmosphere, easy to learn with gradual increase in difficulty in forthcoming stages. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the few platformers to buck the recycled themes while maintaining some of the requisite hallmarks of the longstanding genre. It even manages to carve out its out marks with its own beautiful brand of artistry, lush orchestration soundtrack, interesting power-up mechanics, and manages to tell an endearing story with a surprising twist in the end. Ori shakes-up what and how a platforming game can be presented as, backing that up with excellent production values and gameplay.

    Ori immediately thrust upon its storytelling at the start, giving the player some background on Ori’s origin, upbringing, and conflict at hand. I thought it was going to take a cue from Bastion where it was going to narrate every action Ori took, but it takes a subtle approach as the narration only pops up whenever a certain area is reached. There are few words spoken whenever the narration is spoken upon, it does more than enough to push the plot along. Another neat little touch is the use of the cutscenes and lack of spoken word to tell the story. Everything is tied up with beautiful art, animation, and soundtrack. It’s nice to play a platformer that has a bit more substance outside of just navigating through a nice looking stage.

    Matching Ori’s excellent production is its platforming gameplay, where you can immediately feel it touches upon the marks of an excellent platformer with sharp controls and excellent level design around basic platforming and additional techniques earned along the way. I enjoyed the synergy between the game’s level design with the new techniques earned, whereas an area that was previously inaccessible can now be accessible with the newly learned skill. I also liked that a lot of areas make the player utilize all the skills acquired to date to full effect. One under-the-radar but ingenious and important gameplay mechanic is the ability to save at almost any place in the game. Underneath all of Ori’s beauty is its surprisingly challenging gameplay, and the ability to immediately save at almost any point prevents folks from getting too discouraged from repeating over the same difficult platforming sequences over and over again.

    Ori and the Blind Forest still has a couple of blemishes in an otherwise excellent game. Even though I loved the synergy blending the level design with its platforming techniques, a mixture of some challenging and not so apparent platforming sequences make throughout the is a bit frustrating to fight through. It’s also a shame that a few areas cannot be revisited after their completion, which is a bummer for folks who’d like to complete everything under one file. You also do not direct have a boss battle at all even though you battle through tons of common enemies in the game, though the platforming sequences against the “boss” is still fun. In summary, it’s great to see Ori present itself more than a plain but beautiful and fun-to-play platformer.

  • -TWO-

    Project Mirai DX is more than a direct spin-off of the main Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games. It diverges from Project Diva music rhythm gameplay while maintaining some of the underlying gameplay elements from it, and I found Mirai to be much more enjoyable for it. Mirai loses a lot of what makes Diva it is, particularly the notes scattered all over the screen and the guessing game what notes the player is supposed to press in its correct sequence, but gains a stronger focus on the note chart by having all the notes locked into place on a locked path. Mirai’s gameplay with fun charts, a sizeable song library, two styles to play (button and stylus), strong charm, and being on the 3DS makes Mirai replayable and carries the torch as my pocket rocket game of 2015.

    There are numerous reasons why Mirai resonated with me much more than Diva outside of the locked note chart path that kept the notes in place. The biggest benefit I got from Mirai over Diva was that it allowed me to better sync myself with the song and prepare for the impending sequences of notes, which translates over to being more engaged with the song and increased replayability over the game’s library. The option to play every song through the stylus or button layout is nice for folks who prefer to play Mirai under their preferred style or challenge themselves in playing both styles. Most importantly, the songs and their respective note charts are mostly fair and fun to play that carries the life of the game going far after all of the collectable items are unlocked.

    While the core music gameplay is excellent, there are a few facets around it make it frustrating to play at times. I don’t complain much about song lengths, but something about Mirai’s songs makes it feel like they stretched out longer than they should have been. It’s not much of a problem on easy and normal difficulties, but constantly aggravating on hard difficulties as the lengthy songs make it uneasy for anyone to maintain their concentration throughout. I’ll also criticise some curious note charting on some song’s hard difficulty as Mirai’s way to muscle bound players into a barrage of constant doses of crazy note sequences. I also find it strange and unfair that the stylus and button charts do not mirror each other. The stylus method is easier on all fronts as they only have to deal with three color pads, holds, and swipes on hard, while button players have to accounting for the four face buttons and directionals on the d-pad, the constant button sequence barrage and the combination of button, arrows, and holds flip-flopping between buttons and arrows.

    Despite its flaws, Project Mirai DX’s strengths as a streamlined version of Diva’s music rhythm gameplay with its solid sizeable song library and the challenge of playing it on both styles is enough for me to earn my regards. The numerous side content of collecting room items, mini-games, editing song videos, etc. are just icing on Mirai’s cake. It does very well on what all previously great music rhythm games have done before: a large library, appropriate note charts that sync with the song, clean presentation, and fun to play in any length of time.

  • -ONE-

    Nintendo is one of the rare companies to capture the joy of gaming with their tried and true combination of pretty presentation, top-notch production values, and enchanting gameplay. I never would have thought they would be able to flex their creative muscles to produce an engaging online shooter game tied in with the silliness of squid puns, squid kids, and splatting colorful ink all-around. The Wii U isn’t quite the hotbed for online competition with few games offering of such service, but Splatoon immediately fills in that gap in the Wii U library well and also making a strong case for itself as an essential Wii U game to have for the console. It’s impressive that a company that has been knocked around for its lack of online gaming sense to produce one of the year's most engaging online video games.

    Splatoon continues Nintendo’s tradition of making great games that can cater toward both the casual and competitive players. On the casual end, players can enjoy playing Splatoon’s excellent single player adventure where they utilize the ink in ingenious ways in a 3D platforming adventure as well as provide a starting player experience with the game’s controls before heading out online, and a local one-on-one battle mode. The game’s main casual online mode, Turf War, is excellent for folks who just want to have a taste on how online battles are and shake out to be. I love the idea that a person doesn’t have to excel solely in defeating members of the opposing team in order to win Turf War, where the objective is for your team to cover more of the arena’s team ink over the opposing team. Turf War is also excellent to test out new weapons and perks in action after testing them out in the game’s training room, as well as learning all unique features of all battle maps. I’d vouch that Splatoon is excellent is improving play and confidence for a beginner player if they are having fun and attaining success with sustained play and gradually moving up to stiffer competition in ranked if they so choose, such as the case with myself.

    There are a lot of things I found underneath Splatoon’s basic ink shooting gameplay that makes it fun under serious competition. The game does a nice job of having numerous weapon and perk options that both suits a player’s playstyle, yet not having certain combinations too powerful. Online ranked battle modes changes up how a player approaches maps with its own brand of team objectives and adding significance of strong teamwork to win in such matches. Every map has it own neat nuances for players to attempt to take advantage of to gain the upper hand against the opposition. Numerous gameplay updates has helped tweak the balance of the game with adjustments to certain weaponry and perks. It’s refreshing for me to kind of see how the little gears behind the working product contribute to how well the game is and reflects on the amount of time and attention I have spent on it.

    Splatoon’s package is draped in Nintendo’s top-of-the line production and presentation values in and out of battles. It’s online netcode is excellent as a majority of matches I have played rarely is affected with lag or disconnects, the controls are shockingly easy to grasp with the Wii U Gamepad, and the continued additional content of free new weapons and maps is nice for those who still have interest with the game. I love how soon the map gets covered in ink over the course of battle and how the colors stand out and contrast over the map, complemented with each player’s unique clothing style and battling over a fun soundtrack that’s alright for splating. I also enjoyed the play on squids and other aquatic items with shopkeepers, battle map names, and the game’s surprisingly popular hosts Callie and Marie.

    Splatoon still has a few imperfections in an otherwise excellent game. There are slight issues with matchmaking with other players that are within the same playing level as you even with the maintenance updates along with the inability to back out of matchmaking screen once you’re locked into one. Most of the new weapons added onto the game through the updates are rebranded existing one with different bombs and special ability attached to it. Small issues aside, Splatoon is an excellent game that has all of Nintendo’s trappings wrapped into an online shooter. It’s a game that I grew concurrent and still immensely enjoy playing up to the end of 2015... and continuing into 2016.