Games of the Year: 2014

This year got kinda weird.

List items

  • My Game of the Year this year is actually the re-release of Bayonetta 1 that comes for free when you buy Bayonetta 2. That's cheating, I'm sure, but fuck it! Bayonetta was my Game of the Generation last year, and Platinum gave me an excuse for it to not only be my GOTY in 2014, but my Game of the Generation for the second time running whenever the next consoles roll around! There are only a few unlikely things that could possibly stop that from being the eventual outcome of that far-off list, but I'll go over a few of them as I head into the rest of the winners this year.

  • Bayonetta 2 is damn close to being as good as Bayonetta 1; in fact, there are a few things in 2 that I happen to think are big improvements on the first game. The action is as smooth and gorgeous as you've come to expect from Platinum, and the environments range from beautiful to positively stunning. The Gates of Hell area, in particular, is comprised largely of a dark blue stone that has a faint shine in the light that's just... hard to describe, but breathtaking. Hell, the fact that the look of the damned floors made me stop in my tracks and admire it should tell you something about how great the game looks.

    Beyond that there are the new enemies; the angels retain their marble-and-gold outer shells and the meaty, leaky internals, which look awe-inspiring and disgusting as required. Demonic enemies get in on the action this time around, though, and I'm running out of adjectives to describe how fantastic they look in motion. Suffice to say that they do not disappoint.

    There's also the whole Umbran Climax system that is a ton of fun when you've got the magic on hand to make use of it; crashing through your enemies and summoning gigantic demons with every button press is pretty sweet, and did I mention just how spiffy some of those new demons are? Because you get to call in a Hydra in this game, and that thing's design is incredible. All of the designs are great, seriously; take the time if you've got it to look through the artwork and the model viewer after you beat the game, because it's all incredible.

    As far as reasons why I don't like it quite as much as the first game? Well, to be honest, I think the writing suffers a little; the story's more coherent overall, but Bayonetta herself seems a bit weaker (though that may largely be the result of her fighting stronger opponents than she did in the original game). There are just too many fights that you win, only to be treated to a cutscene where Bayonetta herself either loses the fight or is on the verge of losing and requires intervention. It's a minor issue and many games have similar situations, but Bayonetta's an incredibly powerful character, and it just rings even more hollow to crush a boss without taking a hit and then see an end-battle cutscene of Bayonetta seeming worried. I think a lot of that probably just has to do with the fact that Hideki Kamiya's no longer the dude in charge of the game, but I'm not gonna speculate too much.

    On top of that, the scope feels constrained; anyone who beat the first game knows how crazy that gets, and while the scale of power keeps rising in 2, you never get anything quite as outrageous in scope as the ending of the first game. It's disappointing, which is the one thing I never wanted to feel when playing a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time; though maybe that's inevitable.

    Looking past all of that, though, this game is still frigging incredible. Absolutely do not pass it up if you're a fan of the genre, and if you aren't and held off because it's Wii U exclusive, feel ashamed of yourself while you run out to pick one up and also buy this game. Seriously, do it now. Platinum needs the cash.

  • I picked this game up very recently- one week ago, in fact, give or take a few days. Regardless, just about every day since has involved a few hours of playing against my brother and/or my niece, who absolutely loves the game. We loaded it up, made Mii fighters for ourselves, and ever since we've been battling it out while she asks for information about the various nintendo characters who appear as fighters, or as trophies, or just in the backgrounds of stages. It's been some of the most fun I've had this year, and when it comes to these lists, sometimes it's as simple as that.

    ...Though it might be higher up if they'd included a story mode or something, Subspace Emissary style.

  • I very nearly didn't get this game. I pass on most Dynasty Warriors games that don't have EMPIRES on the end of the title these days, and honestly, I didn't expect a whole lot out of this particular spin-off. When I did end up with a copy, however, I wasn't just going to pass up the chance to play it.

    To start with, it's still a Warriors game; it doesn't have the tactical elements of the Empires series, sadly, but you're still carving your way through hordes of enemies and capturing bases and areas on the maps. It's just that, in this particular case, the enemies are Stalfos and Moblins, and the maps are classic Zelda locations re-designed into giant battlefields with some fucking awesome music in the background.

    I happen to like that kind of gameplay style, and I've long given up on trying to convince people that the Warriors games aren't all about just mashing one button to get through a stage; they don't listen. Instead of dealing with that, I'll just talk about how incredible the game looks; the use of color here might be some of the best I've seen in any game, period, and the character designs are so damn cool! Impa's maybe my favorite of the bunch, but there's something about one of Zelda's attacks in particular (Wherein she fires arrows into the air and gigantic, explosive beams of light rain down ahead of her) that puts the biggest grin on my face. There's also her rad triforce pillar-of-destruction thing, but the point here is that there's an undeniable style to this game that feels really satisfying.

    So... I dunno, I had a lot of fun with this game; way more than I thought I'd have with a more traditional type of Warriors game ever again. There's still some DLC on the way, characters and weapons and such- and by the way, with the way the game plays, each new weapon might as well be a new character in and of itself- so I'm anxiously awaiting whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

    I mean, the last DLC pack has two game modes. I don't wanna get my hopes up or anything, but an Empires mode where armies vie for control of Hyrule...? Probably not gonna happen, but damnit, you can't stop me from dreaming.

    Also in the realm of my dreams/things that could stop Bayonetta 1's reign of terror: Smash Brothers Warriors. Get on it, Nintendo!

  • This game should, by all rights, be higher on this list. The sad truth of the matter is that I moved last year, and now have a tremendously shitty Internet connection, one which all but bars me from online play, especially when it comes to fast paced fighting games. It's basically an unending nightmare of torment for me.

    I adored Persona 4 Arena, played a ton of that game; the best friends I have, I have because of that game and a certain IRC room that still looms in the dark corners of Giant Bomb's history, waiting for a chance to strike. It was tremendously disappointing not to be able to play Ultimax with everyone, doubly so because I feel like Kanji's gotten more dangerous in this version and wanted to put the fear of a good Instant Kill back into their hearts.

    It's still a great game, though; I mean, everything that was good about the first one is still here, and on top of that I get to beat the hell out of the cast of Persona 3? And also I can beat the shit out of ADACHI? Literally the only way it could be better would be if I could also do command throws on the Protagonist from Persona 3. Totally worth the price, and also worth the price of all the dumb DLC that I bought, and also the hours of frustration spent in Score Attack unlocking Navigators for the Golden Arena... Yeah. This game is pretty great- and one day, when I escape the Sisyphean torture that is battling with my Internet Connection, people are gonna remember why they hated divebomb command grabs.

  • Here starts my Honorable Mentions section; it's where I put games that I probably wouldn't have on this list, had I played more games this year overall. Deception IV is something that I picked up on a whim, because I remember joyous days of playing Deception 2 and sending people fucking FLYING with giant stone feet and electrocuting streams of water and chucking flaming buzzsaws at people. Good, wholesome entertainment.

    Deception IV holds up. It's got a bunch of new systems in it that I only half understand, but when I can stick someone in a bear trap, then have spears erupt from the wall and drag them over so that a pendulum can launch them onto a spring-floor that puts them in position so that a vacuum fan can pull them into the path of a giant angry animatronic knight's mace... point here is traps are a lot of fun. Just the act of planning out elaborate scenarios and then leading unsuspecting aggressors into a nightmarish rube-goldberg-esque chain of humiliation and destruction... it's a great game. I still haven't finished it, but it's outstanding nonetheless.

  • Dark Souls 2 is my second Honorable Mention, and it's kind of a huge disappointment for me. I mean, sure, lots of people go on and on about how the first game was better for whatever reason, so I'm not going to bother with that; I still had fun with Dark Souls 2. It's just that in a lot of ways, I think it kinda changed for the worse; limited enemy respawns- which leads to very limited chances to get certain drops- and more stats to worry about, less choices of class when you start the game, a new durability/repair system... I just couldn't really get into it the way I did Dark Souls, and later Demon's Souls (yes, I played them backwards, and yes, it was weird).

    It's still on the list, because it's still good, but to me it's significantly less memorable and enjoyable than Dark Souls was.

  • I got this for my niece, who loves to draw. I used to love to draw, until all the joy and hope left my body and I became a withered, cursed husk of a person who lived only to feel regret. As such, when I saw how much she enjoyed it, I figured I'd give it a shot; I mean, fair warning here, I played very little of this game. I didn't do any of the challenges, I just messed around in the free draw section, but... man, you oughta see that kid's progress in her picture album. She's gotten really good at drawing pokemon! It's pretty incredible. So, I guess this game's not really here for me, but the niece loves it, so it's earned a place.

  • Now we're in the "I'm cheating my ass off and don't care" section of the list, also known as "Games I didn't play enough of until this year to mention in one of these lists". The Wonderful 101 is maybe the only Platinum Game I'd say can stand on the same level as Bayonetta, and that's not praise I'd make lightly; this game is outstanding, amazing, beautiful! It's so weird for the genre that I didn't even realize how to play it, at first; I spent a large portion of this game getting the crap kicked out of me and not knowing what it was I was doing wrong. And, I mean, it's not perfect (in my opinion)- there are a lot of sudden gameplay changes that I couldn't get the hang of, and a section where the game just becomes Punch Out with mechs... but I've never played Punch Out! I got the shit beat out of me and was more confused than entertained.

    Still, despite my bumpy ride through the story, it was maybe one of my favorite stories ever; I'm not even gonna limit that by saying it's a good Video Game story or anything, I just fucking love this story and world so much it's hard to put into words. Wonder Red is right up there on my list of all-time favorite protagonists, and he's such a perfect encapsulation of a classical hero that it's mind-boggling how well he works. Here's a guy who works as a kindergarten teacher, moonlights as a superhero, leads an international team of badasses, always tries diplomacy before he resorts to violence, puts the mission ahead of his personal feelings, and is unflinching in his resolve to save everyone he possibly can- it's like looking at an alternate timeline where everyone didn't become jaded assholes who need their heroes to be dark and gritty.

    The whole game is absolutely amazing, and I'm ashamed I didn't finish it sooner and give it the credit it deserved at the appropriate time.

  • The second and final entry in my "Games I played way too late" section. See the top of the list for everything you need to know.