Rec's Game of the Year 2016

2016 is one of the best years in awhile as far as games go. I feel like it's harder to play everything I wanted that came out this year, but I feel good about what I did play, I hit everything I really wanted to. This year is the swan song for the Vita and the WiiU, since I dropped those two systems this year. And since I went back to school it's just been tough keeping up with stuff. Thankfully I had all of December to catch up.

I had about 25 games that I started with, and cut things down to about 18 before things got really hard. A few honorable mentions: Yo-kai Watch 2 is a real slow start, but picks up and puts the first game to shame, wish I could've put more time into it. Inside is a cool experience that has great set pieces and is really memorable, everyone talks about the ending but there are many other moments that were just as good (shockwaves). Street Fighter V was a mess when it launched, and they've slowly been trying to crawl out of the hole it started in, but the game play is so good. I've mained a charge character for the first time since Street Fighter 2. Those were the last few edge cases, now onto my top ten of 2016!

10. Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV's cast of characters is great, love the conversations they have regarding dumb side quests like this.
Final Fantasy XV's cast of characters is great, love the conversations they have regarding dumb side quests like this.

I mentioned this a bit in my SOTY blog, but the wait for this game was something else. As someone who thought Versus XIII looked way better than regular XIII, this game getting forgotten was a shame. Then when it got re-revealed a few years ago things were all right again. The game actually came out, and to be honest I'm only about 15 hours in on chapter 3, and I know that the game has some issues near the end that I haven't reached yet, but I really don't care. There is just a sense of personality in this game that many other games in general, much less JRPGs tackle. The little animations during fights like helping each other do team attacks, the little cutscenes of your team hanging out when calling it a night, and even the little quips that have already become a little irritating. This game just feels more alive than other games. The combat is fine, the story is also fine so far, but it's just the little things that make this game stand out. I guess that's what happens when a game takes 10 years to come out, but I hope some of these things rub off on other games.

9. The Witness

I remember solving this one, such a great time doing that thing with the thing.
I remember solving this one, such a great time doing that thing with the thing.

I put about 40 hours into The Witness before I quit on it. Yes, I never finished the game. There came to be a point where I decided enough was enough, and would rather walk away while we were still on good terms than forcing myself to see it through to the end. I don't regret it, and I certainly will not go back to it any time soon. The island is a beautiful place, and the puzzles are amazing. Discovering new areas and figuring out what made each one tick was a great experience, time and time again. Everyone remembers where they got their first +1, and how great that was. The "world building" stuff fit in perfectly, even if none of it stuck with me. Even though I never made it to the end, the time I spent in that world is still one of my favorite things I've played this year.

8. Zero Time Dilemma

What he said.
What he said.

At the beginning of the game, you call a coin flip. If you choose correctly, your captive lets you go, and credits roll. Just another day in Zero Escape. The end of the trilogy was always going to be a rough ride considering all of the events they had to tie up, and boy do they resolve things in the stupidest manner sometimes. When it comes to killing each others and solving puzzles though, they deliver in spades. This game has some of the most powerful moments in the entire trilogy, and I appreciated the Metal Gear Solid 2-style shift where the game throws its own premise away and turns into something else, something I know many other folks hated. This is definitely the most inconsistent game in my top ten, but for every moment I groaned or laughed at, there was another equally fantastic moment. A great end to the trilogy.

7. Firewatch

Firewatch nails discomfort and tension better than a lot of horror games do, that's quite the achievement.
Firewatch nails discomfort and tension better than a lot of horror games do, that's quite the achievement.

In my middle school and early high school years, my family lived in a small town in central Minnesota that was surrounded by woods. Once in awhile, me and my friends would explore the woods and Firewatch did a great job of nailing that feeling of just being surrounded by trees and nothing else. Even better, the game managed to recreate the severe sense of unease and powerlessness one can get when in the woods. In our case we were less afraid of people and more of bears, but still, exploring the woods is definitely not for everyone. It certainly isn't for me. The big moment that shifts the tone of that game happened to me while I was playing at 3 in the morning. And yeah, that stuck with me. Having a pretty good story with great characters was just a bonus. Firewatch is a grim reminder that the woods are terrifying when paired with the human mind.

6. VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Streaming-chan is the realest. Hands down.
Streaming-chan is the realest. Hands down.

Speaking of great characters and fantastic dialogue, VA-11 HALL-A is a game that felt great to play. It oozes style and charm, and you meet some characters in that game. Sure, you mix drinks for people and learn about their lives, and that's great. But the thing that stands out to me is the world that game exists in. Through little details such as message board and news site equivalents, it manages to feel like a much bigger and fleshed out world, and in turn, that just makes your little bar even more of a home. I definitely appreciated the love (and deserved ridicule) the developer shows towards wrestling fans. I don't think any other game in 2016 was as comfortable to play as VA-11 HALL-A, if that makes sense. Also has one of the strongest soundtracks of the year.

5. Doom

Just give me a room full of enemies with enough shotgun ammo and I'll almost reach transcendence. I love the Super Shotgun.
Just give me a room full of enemies with enough shotgun ammo and I'll almost reach transcendence. I love the Super Shotgun.

I have no reverence for the series, and a lot of the story nods and tone kinda went over my head. That really doesn't matter though, because this game was a blast to play. The gameplay sequence was a complete breath of fresh air to the other shooters I played this year. Killing demon after demon in a smooth chain of events felt so damn good. I want to dig deeper into the game to find all of the secrets, codec entries, and little doomguys, and I never do that in games.

4. Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

The rebellion in the kingdom of Khura'in feels like it's going to be a throwaway story line but ties into the main game really well, and is responsible for some memorable characters.
The rebellion in the kingdom of Khura'in feels like it's going to be a throwaway story line but ties into the main game really well, and is responsible for some memorable characters.

After Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney, I was worried that the series was past its prime. Then the 5th game was a strong comeback, and Spirit of Justice, the 6th main entry, absolutely nails it. The game has struggled with juggling main characters and telling an overarching story, but Spirit of Justice manages to do both really well, better than most games in the series. The game does lean a bit too hard on plot points previously used in the series (having Maya Fey show up for the first time in years only to be immediately accused of another murder was just stupid), but when it's not doing that, it is amazing. Another thing I give this game credit for is the writing finally evolving and using your thinking against you. After so many games, the logic in the games was predictable, and while there were surprises, they felt more like gotcha moments than subverting your thought process. This game's final trial is one of the best written in the series, from start to finish it completely caught me off guard in ways I appreciated.

3. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty was so great this year. The campaign was my favorite one since Modern Warfare 2, with memorable characters, some pretty good set pieces, and enough cheese to keep the spirit of the old games intact (MARS AETERNUM!). Something I didn't expect from the campaign was its ability to absolutely crush me by murdering folks off like it was a horror movie. At the end of the game, my first thought was "Imagine if Mass Effect 2's suicide mission had the guts to do things like Infinite Warfare did." I admit, that's sort of a silly thought, considering you get way more time to get attached to those characters, but I felt like this campaign was a major step up compared to previous efforts and I like most of those campaigns. It's still a Call of Duty campaign deep down, and that's what makes me like it so much.

For a game that tries to be a lot more serious about its story, I can understand why folks think this one dimensional character is out of place. On the other hand: DEATH IS NO DISGRACE, MARS AETERNUM!
For a game that tries to be a lot more serious about its story, I can understand why folks think this one dimensional character is out of place. On the other hand: DEATH IS NO DISGRACE, MARS AETERNUM!

I also got hooked on the multiplayer for the first time since Black Ops 2, I bought the game on a Wednesday and managed to get to first prestige by the following Tuesday. The new gun system is pretty neat, and some of the dual function weapons are great too. The assault rifle that splits into two machine pistols makes no sense but is awesome! My only gripe is that the kill streaks are severely toned down, but after the rolling death balls from Black Ops 2, I don't blame them. It's still Call of Duty, but I really like Call of Duty, and this was a great one of those. (Sorry zombies, still don't care about you.)

2. Let It Die

This game is really cool. You can kill folks with an Apocalyptic Hockey Stick, a gauntlet fashioned out of a motorcycle called a Motor Psycho, or an Iron. You fight enemies known as Haters, there is a grim reaper dude named Uncle Death who skateboards, and this is all in an video game on a system known as the Death Drive 128.

Shotgun, check. Longsword, check. Tactical armor, check. Stylish execution, GORETASTIC!
Shotgun, check. Longsword, check. Tactical armor, check. Stylish execution, GORETASTIC!

Okay, to take a step back, there is something really fun about exploring the tower and finding new weapons, blueprints, enemies and more. It's technically a roguelike, but with an arcade like USE CREDIT TO CONTINUE system that I really dig. The bosses are horrifying monsters, or horrifying people, but they have their own cool backstories told through comic pages scattered within the world. Even bouncing out of the game has it's own great moments. The girl behind the counter, Naomi, is one of the most fun characters of 2016, and Uncle Death is there, and he's cool too!

There wasn't a game this year that hooked me like Let It Die did. The more I played, the more I found to love about it. It has an amazing cast of weird characters, and it plays really well, which is not something I expected from something with Suda's name plastered on it. The fact that this game is free is absolutely insane for the depth it provides, and it hits an RPG style grinding wall way before it hits the Free-to-play wall. There's also base building if that's your thing. The soundtrack is the best of the year, combining Akira Yamaoka's work with a lot of popular Japanese bands. This game is really, really cool.

1. Overwatch

Overwatch was going to be my game of the year when I first played it back in November of 2015. That's all there was to it. The cast of characters is varied as far as playstyle and personality, and everyone has their favorites, but the game encourages you to dig past that, and it is increasingly rewarding learning more characters. It feels sort of like a fighting game, where certain match-ups work in your favor, and how you have to adapt your strategy to counter your opponent. I started the game as a big fan of using D.va, Symmetra, and Reaper, and by the end of this year I can say I feel good enough with every character to be competent with them. Learning new characters was satisfying and it was really great to be able to do things like destroy a back line with Tracer, or be able to use Mei's terrible terrible abilities for good rather than evil. The sound design being the best of the year in how it conveys information to you, and the way the game hides the usual shooter scorekeeping does wonders for perpetual scoresheet watchers like myself. The game does have its frustrating moments, but that blame goes on the people, not the game itself.

Another major thing that kept Overwatch at the top of my list for so long was the amount of support Blizzard gave it over the year, more skins baby! Really though, the seasonal modes were fun diversions. Junkenstein's Revenge is a nice template for a story if they ever go that route, Mei's Snowball Offensive is a tight experience that balances everyone in a way that game doesn't normally do. But the biggest edition was the arcade mode, adding modes like 3v3 elimination and permanently adding the mystery hero mode. As someone who stopped playing regular Overwatch, the arcade brought me back in a big way. It's great bouncing from regular Overwatch games to arcade stuff to keep things fresh.

And while it doesn't technically count because it's not in the game, things like the character shorts and comics do a great job of continuing to build those characters and that world, the future of Overwatch looks great! And it's one game I'll continue to play and support as time goes on.

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Rec's Video Game Song of the Year 2016

Hello, everyone. I'm back from the void to do another one of these! It is yet another top ten list, but what better way to end the year than with the best music in games this year. The last time I did one of these I think my username was RecSpec, and in the time between then I hosted a radio show called 777 Radio that dealt with game music and trying to...well I don't know what I was trying to do, educate people I guess. I learned a lot that made me appreciate video game music in a different way. That doesn't really affect this list though, it is still the top 10 songs I liked from games this year, whether they sounded dope in a boss fight, trailer, or just sounded cool on its own. This year was a pretty banner year for game music. I think my list started at about 35 songs, cut down to 18 games. Then finally to ten.

Previous Winners of this prestigious award, in case you've missed previous entries.

2015- "Megalovania" by Toby Fox, from Undertale.

2014- "Kill Command" by Masafumi Takada, from Danganronpa 2

2013- "A Stranger I Remain (Maniac Agenda Mix)" by Jamie Christopherson from Metal Gear Rising

2012- "Tatakai" by Takeharu Ishimoto from The World Ends With You: Solo Remix

2011- "Exile Vilify" by The National from Portal 2

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Before we begin, an honorable mention goes out to the Squid Sisters from Splatoon who released their first album this year. It's pretty good! It even has solo efforts from both Callie and Marie. Here's hoping for more Splatoon music in 2017. くコ:彡くコ:彡くコ:彡

Over the years, I've found it easier to just put all of the songs in a playlist and embed that instead of putting a ton of Youtube embeds that will destroy browsers and end up dead by the time next year rolls around. So click play on the playlist and read away! It starts from 10 counting down to my favorite video game song of the year. Make sure to post your favorites in the comments as well. Now on with the list! Here are my top ten video game songs of the year!

10. "Final Remix" by Tsunku♂, from Rhythm Heaven Megamix

Rhythm Heaven games always have a fantastic final remix that mixes up a lot of songs from the minigames throughout the game, but the final remix from the latest entry that came out this year has a very awesome twist to it. The first part is your usual remix of songs from the game, but the second half of the song goes into a medley of all of the main themes from the entire Rhythm Heaven series. Rhythm Tengoku, Rhythm Heaven, Rhythm Heaven Fever, and of course this game. Not only that, but in the game, the minigames that make up those parts of the song are from their respective game. So for example you play a bunch of minigames from Rhythm Heaven Fever to the main theme from Rhythm Heaven Fever. It's really cool. And as always, the song is a whole lot better with the sound effects.

9. "Enter the Battletoad" by Celldweller and Atlas Plug, from Killer Instinct Season 3

When Mick Gordon left Killer Instinct to do other Doomier things. People wondered if Killer Instinct's soundtrack was going to take a huge hit in the third season. Those worries were unfounded, as the duo of Celldweller (Dead Rising 2 and 3) and Atlus Plug (many Ubisoft games) managed to step in quite nicely. The soundtrack has a different feel to the previous two seasons, but overall it's still pretty good. My favorite track from the soundtrack was the remix of the original Battletoads theme for Rash, the playable toad. Their original compositions and remixes have been great.

8. "Vs. Classic Yo-kai" by Saigou Kenichirou, from Yo-kai Watch 2

The original Yo-kai Watch soundtrack was pretty good, but it all had the same sort of folksy feel to it, there wasn't really anything that stood out. So when I heard this boss theme from Yo-kai Watch 2 I was blown away, it's a really great boss theme that didn't get used much throughout the game, which is a shame. It really goes for a dramatic boss battle feel while still maintaining the traditional charm of the rest of the Yo-kai Watch soundtrack.

7. "Potdino- Head-Banging" by Toshihiko Horiyama from Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

"This is Dahmalan Death Metal!" One of the best witnesses in the Ace Attorney series is Pees'lubn Andistan'dhin, who sings his testimony. While there is limited voice acting in Spirit of Justice, there is no speaking with this testimony, which makes the moment where this guy is singing his testimony while shredding even better. It sounds insane out of context, but it is one of the best moments in the game. You can see it in action here, minor spoilers for the first case of that game. Props to the sound design team for pulling that feat off, it's really clever.

6. "Reincarnation" by Kiria (Nanjou Yoshino) from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

I regrettably didn't play too much of this game, I just really can't get into JRPGs these days because of my busy schedule. However, I did play long enough to get to the first big concert scene of the game and I was blown away. Based on the premise of this game, an idol concert was bound to happen eventually, but the cutscene and performance was really cool, and stuck with me throughout the year. It's ridiculous and over the top, but I loved it. There are other performances like this throughout the game by different "artists" and they are all pretty good. A fantastic soundtrack from a game I wish I played more of.

5. "Guzma's Theme" by Minako Adachi feat KYOtaro from Pokémon Sun and Moon

Speaking of games I wish I played more of. I didn't touch Sun and Moon at all. I committed to Yo-kai Watch 2 and I don't have time for both. However, I couldn't help but check out the soundtrack after how much I loved X/Y's. The obvious standouts are the Team Skull tracks. The other music is great for the series. But the hip-hop influence makes these really stand out. The main one that stands out is the theme of the big boss Guzma, a really cool track. It makes me really want to play this game.

4. "Skies of Honor [Alternative]" by Hideyuki Fukusawa, from Street Fighter V

Say what you will about the state of Street Fighter V, it has one of the best soundtracks of the year. I know what you're thinking: How many times can you listen to Ryu and Ken's themes? Well, a lot, and the remixed character themes are among the best they've ever been. But, the original music is what really pushes the soundtrack. The new themes are great and everyone knows about RAAAASHIIIIIDOOOOO, but my favorite music from Street Fighter V has been the stage themes. The second round music from the airplane stage Skies of Honor is so great. The beat picks up and lyrics kick in and it just adds intensity to fights. This is also Rashid's home stage, so Rashid is killing it with the music. A strong runner up is the crazy Halloween stage music. Street Fighter V's soundtrack is so good.

3. "Operation Black Flag" by Sarah Schachner, from Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

When I do my Game of the Year list tomorrow I'll have a lot more to say about Infinite Warfare, but the soundtrack helped it become one of my favorite games of the year. Operation Black Flag is the biggest "Let's do this" theme in the game, and parts of it are used as a multiplayer theme too. I'm a big sucker for the grand sweeping music used in these games, so it's no surprise that this landed on my list. This is Sarah Schachner's first time with the Call of Duty franchise, and I hope she stays around.

2. "Let It Die" by Survive Said the Prophet, from Let It Die

Let It Die, the game, has 100+ licensed tracks from many different Japanese groups and artists, all of the tracks are called "Let It Die." It's pretty crazy, and it's the strongest soundtrack of the year, even before you factor in Akira Yamaoka's score. The song I picked for this list stand out because it's the backing track for the cutscene where you first see the Jackals, the most terrifying enemies in that game (Think insanely overpowered Black Phantoms from Souls games but they come after you based on a time limit like the ghost in Spelunky). It is a stylish as hell cutscene, and that's why it stuck with me so much. That entire soundtrack is a gem though, from instrumental work, to metal, to punk, to some pop. It has everything. Let It Die is such a great game.

1. "Somnus" by Yoko Shimomura, from Final Fantasy XV

This is probably unfair, because this song has been in and out of my head for about ten years. It is the main theme from Final Fantasy XV, and the same theme that was used for the first trailer ten years ago. It's Shimomura at her finest, and the version with vocals is still my favorite version. I haven't played enough Final Fantasy XV to hear a lot of the soundtrack, but this song is fantastic. Of course it's my favorite video game track of the year, since the game it was attached to finally came out. Ten years, it's crazy. As I said, it's probably unfair, but this is my favorite video game song of the year.

Thanks for reading, and yeah, I left off a lot of good songs this year. I even made a list of the songs I left off. If I've left off your favorite, I'm sorry, it was a really great year for video game music though.

What was your favorite song this year? Let me know in the comments below, it's always fun seeing what sticks with people. Thanks for reading!

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Splatoon's Squid Sisters had a live concert last night, and it was amazing. くコ:彡くコ:彡くコ:彡

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At Koshien (A Japanese high school baseball tournament), Nintendo also held a big Splatoon tournament featuring teams from all over Japan. Watching high level players play Splatoon is a lot of fun, and I would recommend it if you get a chance, but the bigger news was that there was going to be a live concert featuring Callie and Marie, the two squid performers that deliver the news every time you load up Splatoon.

Hatsune Miku held her first live concert in Japan back in 2009 and there have been many more concerts in this vein since then. Even in the US it's not that unusual. We've had virtual Micheal Jackson and Tupac perform posthumously. Even the previously mentioned Hatsune Miku performed on The Late Show with David Letterman. What's impressive is that Splatoon hasn't even been out a year yet, but that game has taken over Japan by storm. I mentioned in my GOTY blog that the game does an amazing job building that world, and since the game's release it has slowly grown into something crazy. Something that can allow a live concert featuring two in-game characters. After the first two blocks of the tournament, the concert happened (this was at about 3:30am EST), and it was a great show.

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The show started with a news broadcast similar to the ones in the game talking about the concert (The Squid Sisters speak their non-existent Nintendo gibberish language, but the subtitles were in Japanese). Then the show began proper, and I'm not going to lie, it was weird at first. After a bit you get used to it, but seeing these characters sing and dance while the crowd is going nuts is an awesome sight. They performed their 4-5 songs in the game, and the live band absolutely killed it, they were extended variations of the songs in the game. The animators behind this also did a fantastic job, I was expecting mostly in-game animations with some lip-syncing, but they had dance routines for each song, with callbacks to some of the ingame stuff (aka the Splatfest dancing). It wasn't a long concert, but seeing it livestreamed with the crowd going nuts (on NicoNico comments appear on the stream if you let them, so you got swarms of 88888888 (applause) and squid emotes. くコ:彡くコ:彡くコ:彡

As someone who loved Splatoon and its soundtrack, this was a joy to watch. It also made me wonder how far Nintendo could take Splatoon in the future, in-game and outside of it. Splatoon 2 (Spla2n) on the NX would be a huge thing for it in Japan. Nintendo has slowly put out official merchandise for the game, and it seems like a no-brainer to eventually put out clothing based on the items in game. The future is bright for Splatoon. Two things I would personally love to see: First, a Splatune Live CD; second, blow this up, add all of your fictional bands and make a full fledged concert out of this. Hightide Era, ABXY, and DJ Octavio along with the Squid Sisters in a Splatoon Music festival would be big. Here's a video of the concert to see it for yourself.

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RecSpec's Game of the Year 2015

I'd had a lot of trouble writing an intro for this year's GOTY blog. It's been a weird year. I didn't play that many games, I skipped most of the AAA stuff this year after The Taken King came out (Which is an expansion, so not eligible, and I probably wouldn't put it on here if it was). Almost much every game I finished and liked was up for consideration. Shoutouts to Her Story and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for being great but missing the cut, I can only fit ten.

10. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

D-Dog learning how to fulton people turned him from joke buddy to best buddy.
D-Dog learning how to fulton people turned him from joke buddy to best buddy.

Metal Gear is such a weird franchise now. I lost faith in Kojima's storytelling after the ending of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the events of Peace Walker. Watching Revengeance do the old Metal Gear thing better only made that stand out more. I read all the spoilers for MGSV because I had no intention of buying it until MGO came out a month later. The ending I read was so dumb that I had to see it for myself. The game did nothing to change my opinion on Kojima's storytelling, but let's talk about that gameplay! I thought Ground Zeroes was a neat demo but was bored with it, so I had my doubts about more of that for MGSV. I was wrong. Figuring out ways to stealthily take out checkpoints and bases was fun, and even though it was just a much better Peace Walker, I really liked the gameplay in there. It's just a shame that everything else around it didn't keep up. It's probably not a good thing to say the best story beats of your game is unlocked through cassettes after getting the true ending. I played Peace Walker, so a lot of the stuff people found disappointing about chapter 2 wasn't new to me. I guess that's the best thing I can say about MGSV. There was a lot of disappointing things, but I was ready for it, so I could focus on the best part. I don't even want to talk about MGO, I just hope they iron out the problems with it eventually. As someone who loved the first two MGOs, that probably hurt most of all.

9. Life is Strange

The accurate teenage dialogue makes me cringe sometimes, but this is a great line.
The accurate teenage dialogue makes me cringe sometimes, but this is a great line.

Life is Strange has great characters, an overall decent story (until Chapter 5), and a really cool concept with the rewinding feature. I don't know if playing the whole game over Thanksgiving weekend gives me a drastically different perspective, but I feel like the game peaks pretty early with the rooftop scene. I do appreciate the game being weird. Time travel is a hard thing to work with, and it's bold to try and fight the "None of your choices matter" dilemma most adventure games with choices run into. I appreciate the game being ambitious over the actual story it was trying to tell. Probably the best ending of the year though. I had issues with the story throughout the game, but managing to put a satisfying ending in there fixes a lot of problems.

8. Yo-Kai Watch

Just look at that goofy face, he's the best!
Just look at that goofy face, he's the best!

Pokemon killer, this ain't, but this game doesn't need to be. This game manages to replicate the feeling of the Pokemon anime, something the games never really did. It's less about being the best, and more about everyday life in this world. Yo-Kai are ghosts that inspirit other people in town, and throughout the game you encounter so many types, and they each have their own little story, it's really charming. My favorite is definitely Jibanyan. Before becoming a yo-kai, Jibanyan was a cat who got run over by a truck, therefore, he haunts the intersection he died in, trying to fight trucks. Why? Because his owner was a girl that thought he was lame for getting run over. So Jibanyan wants to prove that he's not lame by defeating a truck. He's the best. The collecting aspect relies on randomness too much, and the gameplay is unfortunately basic until the end of the game. The main takeaway is definitely meeting new Yo-kai. Here's hoping we get Yo-Kai Watch 2 (released in Japan a couple years ago). This is a really great start.

7. Until Dawn

The in-game psychiatric evaluations are a smart break in the action, so twisted.
The in-game psychiatric evaluations are a smart break in the action, so twisted.

Heavy Rain was my game of the year in 2010, and hands down my favorite game of the last generation of consoles. This game is the real successor to that game. From the group of characters you slowly get attached to, to the way that everyone can die and will die. That tension is something I've missed. This game does a lot of cool stuff to add to the stress, like totems that show events from the future and having a great mystery surrounding the location. There are a ton of threats, and you aren't sure exactly what is going on until much later in the game when the cards are shown to you. I played this recently and haven't really got to dig much deeper, checking alternate endings, finding more items, etc. If I had, this game would be way higher on my list. Go into this as blind as possible if you can, grow attached to people, and watch them horribly die because you messed up. A fantastic horror game, and one I'll be playing a lot more of.

6. Mortal Kombat X

Brutalities are a great way to end matches.
Brutalities are a great way to end matches.

The last Mortal Kombat successfully rebooted the series, and made people cringe all over again with its fatalities. Mortal Kombat X managed to surpass that, with some gruesome fatalities that made me go "You really need to see this" like the first game did. Shock factor aside, they added a lot of cool things that made everything before the fatalities fun. The three different variations on each character was a nice way to let people adapt while keeping their main character, and the re-imagined Brutalities turned one of the dumbest Mortal Kombat features into one of the best. In a series that has added some of the dumbest characters in fighting game history, it was a pleasant surprise seeing a bunch of new characters added that not only felt like they belonged in the game, but were fun to play.

5. Rocket League

Learning to hit aerials is so rewarding.
Learning to hit aerials is so rewarding.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Have you heard of it? It was one of my favorite PS3 games and a predecessor to this, but nobody played it. When Rocket League was announced I was excited but assumed that it would be like the first one and ultimately ignored. And then it blew up. The game is easy to get into but you are able to pull off amazing things if you put the time in, and there have been many times where plans to play other things got erased because of this. The game's popularity allowed the developers to put time into creating a lot of new content, which kept the game fresh. The modifier mode with Pinball and Moonball rules were a ton of fun, and the current Snow Day playlist with hockey are smart spins on a great formula. Really looking forward to seeing how they keep building on this game.

4. Hotline Miami 2

Boss fights aren't new, but are smartly used in this game
Boss fights aren't new, but are smartly used in this game

I really liked the first Hotline Miami game, but I played most of the stages the same, I didn't feel the need to change up my strategy. Hotline Miami 2 forces you to play as different people and adapt to different situations, and I loved it. From being a character that could kill people with his fists to having to use a variety of weapons, I thought Hotline Miami 2 was pretty fresh through and through. While the gameplay was on point, that was expected. I didn't expect the deep and crazy story with this game. You play as a ton of characters, and eventually seeing how they connect to each other (and with the characters from the previous game) is really cool. Figuring out how to get through each level as efficiently and ruthlessly as possible with an amazing soundtrack is still the calling card of this franchise, but the interesting characters and story push it to another level.

3. Splatoon

SPLATFEST!
SPLATFEST!

Splatoon is so damn cool. Yeah, the gameplay is really well done, and uses motion controls really well, but that's not why Splatoon is cool. It's the world of Splatoon. When you start each session, you are greeted by a news broadcast starring Callie and Marie, telling you what maps are currently in the rotation. After they sign off ("Stay fresh!"), you hit the plaza, and it's awesome. Seeing various Miiverse posts as you walk around seeing other players character is one of the best things of the year. From seeing a completely different game take over drawings in the Plaza (Undertale), to watching the community mourn when Satoru Iwata passed away, it was always a neat experience. Sure, it's not that different from exploring social media when you think about it, but the way it was presented is great. It reminds me of the Scramble from The World Ends With You, except those are real people's thoughts you are reading. The game's story details the conflict between octopuses and squid, and is secretly a struggle reflecting the in-game music industry. The music in the game is performed by various in-game bands as well. Just a lot of thought went into creating it. Last but not least is the Splatfests, monthly contests that have you choosing a side and fighting for that side to claim superiority. It's the logical evolution of Everybody Votes. The buildup to the first Splatfest was one of my favorite things this year, they day before, there were trucks in the Plaza. It had this Animal Crossing feel that something was going to happen soon, and then it happened and the plaza completely transformed, it was a huge party, with miiverse pictures everywhere and all of the maps taking place at night. Nintendo managed to take what was fun about Animal Crossing events and apply it to a different game. It's so damn cool

2. Undertale

Undertale actually has a neat timing based attack system you never really use unless you play the evil route.
Undertale actually has a neat timing based attack system you never really use unless you play the evil route.

Undertale has you meeting a bunch of animal friends with a great soundtrack and a touching ending, but that's boring. Let's talk about the Genocide run. The genocide run is where you kill all of the monsters and bosses instead of befriending them like the game encourages you to. While that seems like a minor change, once you successfully trigger the run by killing all of the monsters in the first area, the game warps into a twisted alternate to the other versions. I was expecting a similar game than the nice version, but that doesn't happen at all. In an early part of the game you go through a maze set up by one of the other bosses, in the evil run you stroll through it, literally, straight through, like a serial killer. The characters comment on your lack of emotion and how something seems wrong with you, and a town full of nice monsters in another playthrough is abandoned because they are afraid of you. You don't become an anti-hero that ultimately does the right thing, you become the villain, and everyone in the world is out to stop you. It is neat seeing how the game changes based on this perspective, you one-shot bosses because you are ridiculously overpowered. When characters in the game strong enough to fight back eventually do, they are easily tougher than anything else in the game, because they are the hero, not you. The last actual boss battle in this run is the most satisfying gameplay sequence of the year, because it's a twist on another boss battle, but exponentially different because of who you're fighting. It's twisted, but the evil run is the best part of this game for me, and a big reason why I love this game so much.

1. Tales From the Borderlands

The main characters in Tales From the Borderlands are easily some of the best in the entire series.
The main characters in Tales From the Borderlands are easily some of the best in the entire series.

I really like the world of Borderlands, but the story in the shooters are not so great. Everyone seems to be a one note character for laughs. Tales From the Borderlands manages to separate themselves from this by introducing a bunch of brand new characters and actually giving them depth. The entire first episode was a brilliant surprise, and showed that the series had a ton of potential. Rhys, Vaughn, Fiona, Sasha. Like previous Borderlands games, there is your team of four characters that all succeed at various things, and this is a big reason why Tales works great for fans of the shooters. It manages to connect things from the main series, without making it seem like pandering (for the most part. Remember those loader-bots in Borderlands 2 you killed thousands of? They added a personality to one and he is the best character of the year. Characters I hated from previous games (sup Scooter) actually become likable, and I started caring for them, which sounded insane before this game came out. The majority of the story focuses on new characters (with one exception) and it does a brilliant job. It runs on the same old Telltale engine, but manages to play with the formula in ways that you don't expect, and are truly funny. As a whole this game is funny, which is really hard for games to get right. A late game shootout is probably the funniest scene in the entire game because of how ridiculous it is, and the game plays it straight. People have raved about how awesome the opening sequences are, but that's only part of why this game is amazing. It is a very well-written game that manages to combine two tired things (Borderlands stories and Telltale games) and make something beautiful out of it. I couldn't wait for each episode to come out, and worried that the next episode would bring the game crashing down, and it never did. When you realize what is going to happen in the final chapter, it just feels perfect.

Congratulations to Tales From the Borderlands, my Game of the Year
Congratulations to Tales From the Borderlands, my Game of the Year

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Rec's Video Game Song of the Year 2015

The year 2015 was a very strong year for video game music. However, this year is slightly different than previous years. The use of licensed music is becoming a bigger deal than it has before. In the past, I would usually not count those because they weren't made for the game. I think I made the exception for Hotline Miami that year, but I have to drop that rule this year. An example: I discovered some 80's music I hadn't heard before because of MGSV. Sure, a specific song may be 30 years old, but if I associate it with MGSV and it stood out for me, why should I disqualify it because of that (For the record, no 80's music will make this list). There is a certain art to picking the right song for the right moment in the game, even if that song wasn't made for the game.

With that change, here are the rest of the rules. Ten songs, with number 1 being the best. The song has had to appear in the game at one point, so no fan remixes or soundtrack only releases. A game can only be represented once on the list, that way a game with an amazing soundtrack doesn't dominate the list. I'm going to embed a playlist with the top 10 to make it easier, it's already in order, starting from 10 counting down to 1. This will have no specific spoilers, just where the song is used (aka: final boss, ending, etc). With all of that said, on to the music!

10. "Last Battle- Kakugo wa Iika!" by Kenichiro Saigo, from Yo-Kai Watch.

Yo-Kai Watch is a game where you go around this city and help people with their problems, and the soundtrack matches up with that most of the time. Nothing too exciting, but it's peaceful. The boss themes in this game are really great, and the one I'm picking is obviously from the final battle in the game. It sort of has that familiar feeling a lot of final boss songs have, the slow somber intro before picking up, the callback to other themes in the game, and that last rally near the end that really drives you. A great fit for the final boss.

9. "Sho's Fever Time" by Masafumi Takada, from Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

It's a bummer that this game kinda sucks, because the music is great in it. The title theme is really catchy, but the stand out is the song that plays when one of the main characters changes to her alternate personality. Maybe the regular gameplay being bad helps this stand out more because playing as Genocide Jack is really fun (Song is named after the Japanese name, Genocider Sho). The chiptune arrangement on top of the guitars is a great mix. As mentioned in previous SOTY blogs, Masafumi Takada is one of my favorite composers, so it's not a surprise seeing him on here again.

8. "Throw Another Banjo on the Fire" by Ridiculon, from Super Meat Boy (PS4/Vita version)

Yes, Super Meat Boy has been out for years, but if you didn't know, the PS4 and Vita release has a different soundtrack because business reasons, I won't get too deep into it here. And yes, I know that the original Super Meat Boy soundtrack is really good and it's a shame that it got replaced. However, if you can get past that, there is some really great music on the new Super Meat Boy soundtrack. I was surprised because the same thing happened with Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, and I never got into it with the music being a big part of that. This song is awesome. It starts with a banjo and a bass, and then it slowly picks up, and then it changes to an electric guitar, which is really cool. I don't know, more banjo music in games would be pretty awesome.

7. "Spanish Sahara" by Foals, from Life is Strange

I really thought Life is Strange plummeted off a cliff in the last episode. It lost a lot of what made the previous chapters great, and just became spectacle for the sake of it. It was dumb. That said, they absolutely stick the landing in the end. The ending I chose was one of the best moments in the game, and this song went with it perfectly. This song was licensed, but it feels like the scene was tailored to go hand in hand with this song. I had a lot of problems with the last chapter of Life is Strange, but this redeemed it, 100 percent.

6. "The Beginning of the End" by Takeharu Ishimoto, from Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

Final Fantasy intros used to be a grand spectacle, maybe they still are, but the last one I personally remember was the unforgettable intro to Final Fantasy X with the metal song "Otherworld." The introduction to Type-0 manage to evoke the same feelings that Otherworld, Liberi Fatali, and the Bombing Mission did before it. I have been waiting for a localized version of Type-0 for years, and I have heard parts of this song before through Theatrhythm, but when the real deal happened, it was still mind-blowing. That intro takes place during a war, and it is bleak. With soldiers getting mowed down and even Bahamut being shot down. When the last part picks up with the heroes showing up at the end, I was back.

5. "Kiss the Sky" by Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra, from Tales From the Borderlands

Borderlands is famous for their introductions with licensed music. Cage the Elephant's "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" for the first game and "Short Change Hero" from Borderlands 2 as examples. It's not a surprise that Telltale would keep the tradition going, and every episode has it's own introduction. The surprising thing is that these intros are among the best part of each episode. Not a knock against the game because it's fantastic, but anticipating the musical openings became almost as big as wondering what happened in the story. "Kiss the Sky" is the intro song from the second episode, and it did two things. First it showed us that yes, there will be a new one with each episode, and second, yeah, they could top the amazing first episode's intro with "Busy Earnin.'" Picking a song to represent this list was basically going "Which intro was the best" and as far as the music goes, this is my favorite.

4. "Shiokara-Bushi" by Shiho Fujii feat. The Squid Sisters, from Splatoon

Splatoon already gains major points from calling the soundtrack Splatune. Splatoon is known for the fun multiplayer, but the single player has great boss battles that makes slogging through the other missions worth it. Splatoon has an really cool final boss, the design is cool and he is one of my favorite characters of the year. A "Radio Override" with this song is activated near the end of this fight, and it is definitely one of the best moments of the year. The song is really catchy. and trying to gun down the last boss with this playing is a ton of fun. Splatoon has actual fictional music artists in the game, and it's always cool seeing games acknowledge the music inside it. The Squid Sisters have dethroned K.K. Slider as Nintendo's musical star.

3. "A Phantom Pain" by Ludvig Forssell, from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Aside from the main theme, "Snake Eater" is probably the signature song of the Metal Gear franchise. A goofy song that is an homage to Bond movie intros. I was thrilled to discover that there is an original song that pays homage to 80s music in The Phantom Pain. I played on the PS4, so I didn't have the luxury of putting custom music on my helicopter, so I had to use what was in the game, and because of that, "A Phantom Pain" became my helicopter music for the whole game, and it was a much better game for me because of that. Taking off and leaving the mission area as that guitar solo kicks in is probably my favorite thing about that game for me. Like great pop music, the lyrics got stuck in my head and I couldn't stop singing it for a couple weeks. Sorry "Sins of the Father" and "Quiet's Theme", this is the best song in MGSV.

2. "Roller Mobster" by Carpenter Brut, from Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but the follow up to Hotline Miami has an great soundtrack. It wasn't hard picking a top track, because the second I played the mission with this song, I knew. The slow ominous intro goes perfectly with the start of this mission, just before the action picks up, and when it does, it's spectacular. This song just goes with the mission so well, it's frantic, it's fast paced, it's loud, it's everything you want Hotline Miami to be. It helps that the mission this is with is one of the coolest ones in the game, with you using a group of characters to pull it off, it was the peak of Hotline Miami 2. Nothing topped it.

1. "Megalovania" by Toby Fox, from Undertale

Undertale has the soundtrack of the year, hands down. Sadly, I don't think many people encountered this song on their own through the game. This is the music from the final real boss battle of the evil playthrough, and it's a hell of a finale. This song has a neat history, originally being boss music for an Earthbound hack, and in some popular webcomic before eventually becoming boss music in Undertale. Later on this week I'll go into more depth about the evil playthrough in Undertale, but it produces one of the most challenging and satisfying boss battles I've done in quite some time. It may take a couple times to survive to the part where the music kicks in, but when you hear that intro kick in and read "You feel like you're going to have a bad time." just before the main melody kicks in, it's fantastic. Before I could beat the boss, I just kept listening to this, thinking about it, how I was going to kill this boss. "Megalovania" is my video game song of the year.

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Rec's Video Game Song of the Year 2014

In an effort to right the wrongs of previous years, I'm writing about the top 10 list of my favorite video game songs of last year. I talk about it in the 2013 SOTY blog, but in short: I made this list in December 2014, but I'm writing about it now, in December 2015. There are 11 songs on this list. Because hindsight is awesome, and I can do that. It's my list. I'm using the format I used last week (my old format), so apologies about the 11 embedded YouTube videos.

That being said, I remember 2014 better than 2013. And it was sort of hard filling out this list last year. Or maybe that was my fault for not looking hard enough. At this time last year I had an Xbox One and a WiiU, no PS4 yet, but there were no exclusives worth picking up at the time. Some really strong soundtracks though, even if a couple are from games that came out years ago in Japan. That's enough table setting, on to the list.

HMFTF: "Ride the Fire!" by Daisuke Ishiwatari, from Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-

I hate this song, but it is definitely deserving of the Honorable Mention From the Future. I bought a PS4 in January of this year I think, along with it I bought Guilty Gear and...I think that was it. The soundtrack in this game is one of the best of the year, with riffs and solos for days. Almost every character's theme made it into my daily playlist, but this song stands out for a completely different reason. If you are playing as Sol Badguy, he has a super called Dragon Install, where he transforms. When you do that, this song starts playing, and the first time I encountered that it was so damn cool. When he transforms you hear "READY OR NOT!" and it's on. Yes, the official book says the lyrics are Ready or Not, and not Rated R, Ride it On, etc. Unfortunately as the year went on I could only associate this song with my brother kicking my ass with Sol. Personally I would probably pick Elphelt's theme as my favorite song (Recommended listening: Marionette). That doesn't change the fact that this song is the one that stands out the most when I think about Guilty Gear Xrd, a great song made even better with its use. I still hate this song.

10. "Bowser's Castle" by Atsuko Asahi, from Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 had an okay soundtrack, I don't remember a lot of songs standing out for me that aren't remixed F-Zero tracks sadly. I did like how this song starts with the guitar riff at the beginning and then slowly adds in the brass which became the signature for that soundtrack. It was a great mix of the two. One thing the soundtrack sadly doesn't pick up is how every music track speeds up for the final lap, and it made this song even better.

9. "Clouds" by Daedalus, from Nidhogg

Had a strong Nidhogg resurgence last month because of Divekick adding The Fencer from this game as a character. Nidhogg still holds up and that goes double for the soundtrack. The stage variety is crazy in Nidhogg, and the soundtrack keeps up with all of it. As you might have guessed, "Clouds" plays in the sky stage, and it is a gorgeous song. A great beat starts it off, and it's just a great chill song.

8. "Skyloft" by Masato Koike, Yuki Matsamura, and Hajime Wakai; from Hyrule Warriors

I've never played Skyward Sword, but this remixed version of Skyloft's theme in that game is easily my favorite song in that game. Masato Koike is behind some of my favorite tracks in the Dynasty Warriors series (not to be confused with MASA, two different people), so it's not a surprise that his work combined with classic Zelda music would turn out awesome.

7. "The Last Array" by C Paul Johnson, Martin O'Donnell, and Michael Salvatori; from Destiny

This song represents what Destiny could have been. This song and mission was the high point of the beta for me, and after playing this how could you not be excited for the full game. You know how the rest of that story goes. This song is fantastic, with a slow start that builds and builds until the whole orchestra is going. Sadly, like the rest of Destiny, the game peaks on Earth, the music never quite reached the same level. As you're defending the array from the ships and waves of enemies coming in, this song adds to it. The story of Martin O'Donnell's departure is all over the place, and it's sort of a shame, because the pieces he left behind are great.

6. "Tectonic Tetro at War" by Hideki Abe from Puyo Puyo Tetris

Surprise surprise, my GOTY from last year landed on this list. Hideki Abe has been the composer for the Puyo series since Fever, and it was really hard picking a representative from this game. The remixed versions of the original Tetris theme and Sega's Tetris theme were great, but I had to give the nod to this song, which represents the "boss fights" of this game against the Tetris crew.

5. "Go! Go! Zeppeli" by Chikayo Fukuda, from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle

Another great soundtrack that went all over the place. The reason I picked this song was because of the vibe it had, between the piano, accordion and the guitars it's a departure from the other heavy guitar songs that made up most of this soundtrack. Then again, I read all of Steel Ball Run (Jojo's 7th Arc) last year, and that probably had a lot to do with my choice. Same reasons though, just a nice departure. Here's a connection I didn't make until writing this: The composer of this soundtrack also did the music for Asura's Wrath, another great soundtrack. She's pretty good.

4. "The Spine" by Darren Korb, from Transistor

Ashley Lynn Barrett has an amazing voice. Korb nailed it again with the soundtrack for Transistor, but the vocal tracks are a mile beyond the rest. I remember when I put together this list last year having to decide between "The Spine and "In Circles" and I went with Spine because as a standalone song, it was the superior one. From the chorus to the ending, a lot of high points in this song. I really like the idea of a character who is a singer/performer in-game having their own music (which will come back again in 2015's list), and yeah, Barrett's performance as Red is great.

3. "Climax Return" by Masafumi Takada, from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Another soundtrack where picking one song was hard. In the end I went with this remix of the main theme. The main theme is awesome, but the way this specific version is used makes it my favorite song in the game. If you aren't familiar with the game, Danganronpa has trials where you're trying to figure out the killer. At the end, when you have figured it out, the game makes you put together manga retelling the events of the crime. This song plays as the main character is going over the details of the crime, ending with the "you're the killer!" bit. Imagine if Jessica Fletcher had a remix of the Murder, She Wrote theme playing as she revealed the killer, and that remix was done by the composer behind No More Heroes. Case closed.

2. "Major Boss Battle" by Woofle, from Freedom Planet.

My one game-related regret from 2014 is not being able to do a good job of convincing more people to play Freedom Planet. Freedom Planet is one giant love letter to Sega games in the 16 bit era and is the best Sonic game since Sonic CD. Even if it is unofficial. Great boss themes in this game, but I picked the stage ending boss theme because it's great boss music. The bosses are straight out of Treasure games, and the one fight I tie with this is when all three main characters are teaming up to fight a snake riding a robotic cheetah. Hearing this song just makes me want to play more Freedom Planet.

1. "Kill Command" by Masafumi Takada, from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Both Danganronpa games released last year, so I don't have a problem putting a song from each game on here. Unlike the first game, I had no trouble picking a song from this game. This song is a remixed version of the investigation theme, which the first game did too. Instead of a smooth jazzy bit, they add some guitars and really change the tone to a dreadful one, and it's awesome. Another reason why this song is so great is because of how it's placed. Without being too spoilery, people are dying all over, and a person I didn't expect to die bit the dust. And not only did they die, they died in a ridiculously brutal fashion, even for that game. Once you realize that just happened, this song kicks in. After playing the first one I was waiting for the remixed investigation music, and it did not disappoint. I think the first game did this too, but I like how later in the song the trumpet used in the original version comes back. This song has everything.

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Rec's Video Game Song of the Year 2013 (Yes, 2013)

This is a weird one, I know. Since 2010 I've kept track of my favorite video game songs each year, and ranked the top 10. I used to write a blog with it, the last one being 2012. I didn't write one in 2013, I think by that time I had burnt out on writing or realized that writing for myself was pointless. I don't know, two years ago was a long time ago. I still ranked the songs though. I remember starting to write this blog two years ago actually, that's strange. The main reason I'm writing this is that looking at my GOTY blogs was fun as a record of what I liked five years ago (Heavy Rain is still the best my favorite game of last generation. Anyway, here are the top ten songs of 2013. I'll be doing 2014 next week, and that will lead naturally into 2015 the week after that. The list is from 2013 but I'm writing this in 2015, so while the list is the same, the opinions are current. (Note: I think it would be dumb to talk about the songs without actually linking, so I have youtube videos for each song. Which is what I used three years ago, but looks like a pain now. Sorry, I'll work on a more elegant solution to that when I do 2014 next week)

10. Phantom~ UNKNOWN by Noriyuki Iwadare. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Dual Destinies

Phoenix Wright games always do a great job of revealing their main villain, but I think this is the first time in the series that they actually gave the villain their own main theme as a villain. Ace Attorney 3 did but not to the same extent because it was someone you already knew. Phantom starts slow and dramatic then picks up and becomes pretty tense. Great music for the final showdown in that game. That showdown was one of my favorite things in 2013, and the music made that. Those stupid masks.

9. Beyond by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Beyond: Two Souls

As mentioned above, Heavy Rain is my favorite game of the last generation, so I was bummed out when Beyond: Two Souls was a mess. Lousy story, characters that didn't work, it was just bad. However, one bright thing about that game was the amazing theme for it by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe (finishing the work started by Normand Cobeil who passed away). I remember the trailer from the demo and this theme playing at the end, and I was so excited! What a shame.

8. Soul Melody ~Main Theme~ by Yasunori Mitsuda. Soul Sacrifice

We were still in the middle of the Monster Hunter drought in 2013, so I played a lot of terrible games in that genre trying to fill the void. Soul Sacrifice was a pretty good game, and one of my favorite things about it was Mitsuda's soundtrack. The main theme starts out heavy, and then just stops midway through. Then it builds up with triumphant horns and the chorus near the end. Was great during battles.

7. Boss by Harrison Pretat. Divekick

I played fighting games for years, but Divekick was the one that pushed me into getting an arcade stick for the first time and taking it seriously. Divekick was a huge hit during this year's Thanksgiving, so the fondness is still there. What can I say, I'm a sucker for final boss songs in fighting games. Those guitars are great.

6. Lorule Theme by Ryo Nagamatsu and Koji Kondo. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

I've never played Link to the Past, so the nostalgia this song may bring to some was lost on me. I really like the overworld theme of Lorule though, and that intro just makes it better.

5. Battle Flavour by Yosuke Kurokawa. Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God

This game by Compile Heart (Japanese name Sei Madou Monogatari) is a retelling of the original Madou Monogatari, except it doesn't use the characters from the original (aka the cast of Puyo Puyo) because Sega owns the rights to them. It is a very odd game. This game was a roguelike, but was actually a dungeon crawler with items, so more roguelike than games like Spelunky, FTL, etc. I don't exactly remember. The game had a pretty typical soundtrack for those Compile Heart games, a lot of vocal themes. The boss battle theme in this game is great, even if the lyrics are about cooking. It's really catchy!

4. Battle! (Lysandre) by Minako Adachi. Pokemon X/Y

Team Flare's theme was all right, sounded a lot like the rest of the battle music in X/Y. But when you actually fight the leader of Team Flare to this remixed version, it's amazing what adding a bassline can do. Really though, X/Y had an amazing soundtrack, a lot of the major battles were made better by the music. They delivered on every front, but I have to give the nod to Lysandre's theme because remixes are awesome.

3. It's Not Ero! by Isaac Shankler feat Senah Kim. Hate Plus

Another song that was made by the trailer it played over. Hate Plus is the sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story, and even though I liked the soundtrack from the first one, I did not expect a pop song for the sequel, not at all. It's a really fun and catchy song with really smart lyrics. And even though I got hooked on the song from the trailer, the game itself does a fantastic job using this song. I was grinning when it played.

2. Capricious Wind by MASA. Dynasty Warriors 8

As far as music goes, Dynasty Warriors is one of my favorite series of all time. Since 4, I've loved each soundtrack and couldn't wait to see what they did with the next game. Dynasty Warriors 7 did something new by creating a theme for each kingdom (Wu, Shu, Wei, Jin), that it used as a leitmotif. Each kingdom's main battles will have a variant of the theme. Dynasty Warriors 8 did the same thing to an extent, but with one exception. They mixed the themes of the Three Kingdoms together in one song. This one. If you've ever played Dynasty Warriors, you know that the battle of Chi Bi is one of the most significant battles because of the involvement of all Three Kingdoms. The way this song mixed all three themes together would make this song great on it's own, but there is one other thing. In the game, if you are playing as Wei, the game is set up so the iconic fire attack happens at the same time the song picks up. It absolutely floored me the first time I heard it. Stuff like this is what made Dynasty Warriors 8 my GOTY of 2013.

1. A Stranger I Remain (Maniac Agenda Mix) by Jamie Christopherson and Free Dominguez. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

When I was playing through Metal Gear Rising, the game hadn't hooked me after an hour or two. Yeah the part with the Metal Gear Ray was neat and all (RULES OF NATURE) but it looked like that was it. Then the battle with Mistral happened. That was a hell of a turning point for me, the game finally felt deserving of the Metal Gear name. That boss battle was crazy enough, but the boss music definitely pushed it to another level. Rising had dynamic music, so it was just the instrumental version for the most part. Once you hit the final section, the lyrics kick in, and holy shit. It's so damn good. Just add on the fact that the song comes to an end as your doing the Zandatsu to finish off the boss, and I knew, that game was something special. The way it used music in the boss battle would continue throughout the game. That soundtrack is easily the best of the year, and if I didn't have a one song per game rule most of this list would be taken by Metal Gear Rising. Great songs on their own elevated to an even higher level by their use. A fun note, when Bioshock Infinite came out I bought it, then ignored it to make an edit of this song.

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RecSpec's Game of the Year 2014

This year was fun! I bought an Xbox One and a WiiU, the Vita and 3DS were strong, and there were a ton of great games. I am not one of those who would say that this year was a weak year for games, but maybe I'm just easily amused. Every time I figure out what my Game of the Year is, I'm happy. Remembering all of the good games I played and why I loved them is awesome. Japanese games that got released this year count if I didn't play them at Japanese launch.

10. Hyrule Warriors

Bow-wow!
Bow-wow!

I’m not really that big of a Zelda fan, but I do love Dynasty Warriors. This game was a brilliant combination of the two, fusing the Warriors gameplay everyone loves to hate with the Zelda universe. The best thing about the whole thing was the amount of detail in here. From the awesome character/boss intros to the chimera of a soundtrack that merges signature styles together, if you even have a small appreciation for Zelda, you will be highly entertained. But what cements it on this list for me is the Chain Chomp being a weapon. Link’s Awakening is my first and favorite Zelda game, and I’m happy to see it represented.

9. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

It is really hard to find pictures that don't spoil anything from this game.
It is really hard to find pictures that don't spoil anything from this game.

“It’s Zero Escape meets Persona meets Ace Attorney!” That is all I heard about this game. Being hyped to death by people who only watched a let’s play instead of playing it. People had their favorite characters and couldn’t stop talking about it. No way it could live up to that hype when it finally came out here right? Well, it did. An amazing set of characters, a brilliant premise that makes ANY spoiler potentially devastating, and a gorgeous soundtrack from the mind that gave us No More Heroes’ awesome soundtrack. I met people, grew close to them, found them dead, found out they were murderers. What a cool game.

8. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

This is all dust.
This is all dust.

I will never play World of Warcraft, or regular Warcraft for that matter, but turn it into a card game and I’m there. The best thing about Hearthstone is the way I got attached to my Shaman and the creatures in my deck. Once I finished the tutorial and unlocked all of the basic cards, I never touched another class unless it was to do a daily mission, and I eventually stopped that too. I was only playing as the Shaman, with my Mana Tides and Overloads and it was really engrossing for a while. Never did get the Golden Shaman, maybe one day.

7. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Slowing down an enemy and then eating it with the Chomper is extremely satisfying.
Slowing down an enemy and then eating it with the Chomper is extremely satisfying.

Two EA shooters tried to win my heart, this one succeeded. I never really played Plants vs Zombies (at this point I realize that this is a recurring theme of this list, and I apologize), but I love the classes and the costumes. There are a lot of different ways to play, and it’s a slower paced game, which is a nice change of pace from every other shooter in the history of games. The co-op is neat, but I spent most of my time in the competitive modes. Calling an airstrike on a base and then picking off the survivors with the Cactus is a blast, but so is kicking a bomb into a crowded area and then rushing in as the All Star. The colorful world and characters make this one a lot of fun to come back to.

6. Sunset Overdrive

The Fizzie boss battle looks amazing as you're playing it. Even better, it plays as good as it looks.
The Fizzie boss battle looks amazing as you're playing it. Even better, it plays as good as it looks.

So imagine a game set in the world of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 without skateboarding. One that replaces the Jackass humor with a constant barrage of smart self-aware jokes. It feels like it hits the balance of references and jokes that Borderlands never does. Getting around the world is exciting when you learn the right abilities and figure out how to tie them together. The combat is also pretty neat with the right combinations of powerups and weapons, but the traversal is the star here. The game has some of the best bosses of the year, using the mechanics in new and cool ways. All of this aside, it’s the writing that will make me remember this game. Fizzie, you’re the real asshole.

5. Freedom Planet

Hard to tell from a screenshot but the game looks gorgeous in motion. Some of the boss battles are stunning.
Hard to tell from a screenshot but the game looks gorgeous in motion. Some of the boss battles are stunning.

Freedom Planet is probably the best Sonic game to come out in a long time, and it’s not even a Sega game. What started as a Sonic fangame eventually turned into a love letter to platformers of the 90s. It pulls a lot of elements from some of the best games in the 90s, you have the speed of Sonic, the boss fights of Gunstar Heroes, and sometimes it’s a little like Ristar. Some of the boss battles and platforming are tough at first, but once you know what to do you can skillfully cruise through them extremely fast. I had fun replaying a lot of the stages in the game. There is even a story that is overall pretty well done, even if it’s a bit cheesy at times. The different characters played very differently, and it was fun finding new ways to go through stages. One of the best platformers of the year for sure.

4. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle

Come for the David Bowie look-alikes, stay for the music references (the thing in the back is Killer Queen)
Come for the David Bowie look-alikes, stay for the music references (the thing in the back is Killer Queen)

I got into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure this year. I watched all 52 episodes of the current anime run and read the entire manga series up to the current point. The manga started in 1986! The demo of this game was the main reason I got into it. I mean, I had the Capcom game, but never paid much attention. This game caused me to get into the whole series. It’s your typical anime fighter (Think Naruto and Dragonball Z anime fighters, not Guilty Gear and Persona). The gameplay isn’t Street Fighter, but the references and stuff for the fans of the series is top notch. The presentation is amazing, and has the proper respect for the source material. Even if you’re not into Jojo, the sheer spectacle of it all is enough to warrant a look. This was made by the team behind Asura's Wrath, and if anyone knows sheer spectacle it’s them. One character can use his super to cause you to fight in space, while another uses the American flag to teleport you to another dimension and cause a paradox with your alternate self. Even if you never plan to watch an episode or read a chapter of Jojo, the game stands up well enough on it’s own for a fun multiplayer session, even if the fighting isn’t the centerpiece

3. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Again, really hard to post screenshots of these games.
Again, really hard to post screenshots of these games.

As much as I loved the first game, the second one completely blew it out of the water. The same similar scenario, people trapped on an island and being forced to kill each other to escape. In this game though, the characters are much better and some of the murders are absolutely brilliant. This game is always a step ahead of you, you may find something wrong or off about it, but trust me, that’s intentional. Like the first game, because of the premise, it’s hard to talk about much because of spoilers, but I have to say the 5th Trial/Investigation is one of my favorite things I have ever played. From the build up to the murder, to the actual murder and investigation to the trial, everything about it is nearly perfect. That alone would put this game on my list, but everything else surrounding it is great as well.

2. Destiny

In all seriousness, Destiny has been talked to death. It hooked me, what can I say? I have one character, my level 29 Hunter. I have only done one nightfall, and zero raids. I don’t like playing with people, and I just play solo. Mainly, I like playing to find new stuff and level up my Dead Orbit reputation, and I enjoy Destiny’s multiplayer more than Call of Duty and Titanfall. I’m not going to defend Destiny’s questionable choices, but I liked it a lot.

1. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Fuck Tetris. I never liked that game. Growing up, I’d always try to get back into it only to go back to my mindset. I even bought the absolutely brilliant Tetris DS, which I appreciate as a well put-together game, and until this year it was the best Tetris experience out there, but once again, yeah. I didn’t like the lines thing, I didn’t like how a missed block can block a perfectly good Tetris opportunity.

I begrudgingly learned concepts like Perfect Clear patterns and T-spin triples because of this game, despite my previous hatred towards Tetris.
I begrudgingly learned concepts like Perfect Clear patterns and T-spin triples because of this game, despite my previous hatred towards Tetris.

What does this have to do with Puyo Puyo Tetris? The game is a crossover between Tetris and Puyo Puyo (popular puzzle game in Japan that most Americans only know as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine). There is a story mode, and to get to the end you have to play through various stages and rulesets. Now, based on the name of the game, one would assume it’s half Tetris and half Puyopuyo right? So for one to finish the game you’re going to have to play Tetris. Now you see my problem. So I thought to myself, I’m going to just bullshit these Tetris stages and get to the good stuff, much to my chagrin, I had to learn how to play Tetris to advance. I should have just said goodbye and left, but I really, REALLY like Puyo Puyo, so I had to finish the game. So...I learned how to play Tetris. Even worse, I started to enjoy Tetris just a bit. I learned T-spins, learned the best way to clear a lot of lines at once, and so on. I’m 27 years old and have hated Tetris my whole life and Puyo Puyo Tetris finally got me to end my vendetta.

Try PuyoTetMix once and then run away before your brain melts.
Try PuyoTetMix once and then run away before your brain melts.

Personal history aside, PPT is a beautiful puzzle game. The Puyo stuff is amazing as always, but adding Tetris allowed Sega to go crazy and make some insane modes. There is a swap mode that has you playing Tetris for awhile and then switching to Puyo, like a puzzle version of chessboxing. A mode that has powerups like Mario Kart which can cause your opponent to mess up. And I’m not even going to start talking about PuyoTetMix, which is something best locked away in a laboratory (It’s Puyopuyo and Tetris on the same board, and it’s crazy and indecipherable). Having Puyo Puyo vs Tetris matches actually work really well.

It’s import only and will probably stay that way because Ubisoft can’t stop mucking up the Tetris license over here, but if you like puzzle games, this is mandatory. This game single handedly caused my vita to get as much playtime as any of my consoles this year. This was my Game of the Year shortly after it came out in February, and nothing came close to dethroning it. Puyo Puyo Tetris is my game of the year.

Congratulations to Puyo Puyo Tetris, my Game of the Year!
Congratulations to Puyo Puyo Tetris, my Game of the Year!

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FGC Tourist: Marvel on Da Beech and Playing Your Best.

There was a fighting game tournament this weekend. It would be easy to miss if you were watching speed runs or Fez II dissolve into the internet, but there was one. I’ve gotten real crazy for fighting games and have been trying to watch more tournaments. I still really don’t know much about everything FGC but that’s a blog for another time (I am but a tourist). The VideoxGames happened (aka Da Beech, not sure if that’s endearing or an insult), and there are a lot of things you can take from it. I personally was interested in how Triforce (yes, the power glove guy) was billing this as an Evo killer, then falling into the rabbit hole surrounding EMP and yeah, that’s also a blog for another time. I’m writing this today to try and make sense of the Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 finals, where (OH!) collusion occurred, and the fallout from that. Actually there was very little fallout, mainly things to think about.

The most exciting part of the match was ChrisG's Wright trying to land Bridge to the Turnabout.
The most exciting part of the match was ChrisG's Wright trying to land Bridge to the Turnabout.

The overlooked thing is that up until the end, the Marvel finals were actually pretty good. The 2013 Evolution champion EMP Flocker beat both Filipino Champ and NYChrisG (Last year’s Evo champion and this year’s Evo favorite, respectively) in great matches, proving that yes, Flocker can beat them. Things started to get weird in the Losers finals (match set up to determine 3rd place, winner goes on to grand finals) when Chris G used a team that he usually doesn’t use (Wesker, Ryu, Hawkeye). Now that alone isn’t enough for a red flag, but he did manage to come back from a 0-3 deficit to win 4 matches to 3. Especially since his opponent was FChamp using one of his best teams. All speculation of collusion ended at the grand finals. Flocker and ChrisG had a rematch, and we all went to "Da Beech". Just kidding, it was a complete joke match. From the start it was obvious that neither player was playing their best. It is figured that both ChrisG and Flocker (and maybe FChamp) decided that no matter who wins, they would split the prize money evenly. This is where this all stems from.

There was a lot of outrage from many different sources. Mad Catz was one of the big sponsors for the event, and Mad Catz’s Mark “MarkMan” Julio called them “a joke” and vowed that if any Mad Catz sponsored player ever threw a game in that fashion, they would be suspended. Despite this happening, Mad Catz will sponsor the VideoxGames again, but if another instance of this happens, they will pull their sponsorship. Capcom’s Niedal “Haunts” Crisan voiced his opinion on Twitter: “Honestly, as a streamer, when you bust your ass all weekend and thats the thanks you get from the players, its one of the worst feelings.” I can respect this point of view. The people behind the scenes of the even do their best to put on the best show possible, and if the people on stage brush that aside, it’s easy to feel disrespected.

You just hate to see this kind of thing remind you of the Black Sox
You just hate to see this kind of thing remind you of the Black Sox

Aside from sponsors, there have been a lot of viewpoints from viewers, mostly outrage because the last match was garbage. That’s understandable, you spent the last two hours or so watching every match leading up to this, and for the finale to be a joke, an intentional joke no less, why wouldn’t you be pissed? The stranger conversation seemed to be on the topic of pot-splitting. From the chat on the stream to various forums and twitter, a good number of people seemed to be fine with pot-splitting as long as the players played their best. That makes no sense. How can you expect players to play their best if you take away one of the biggest incentives to do so. We can’t assume that everyone is playing for “the love of the game.” Now, I know that this isn’t something new to fighting game tournaments, but there are a lot of people fresh off Evo looking for more tournaments to watch, and to see something like that just hurts their interest. To get the best out of people, wouldn’t you enforce things to make sure people weren’t blatantly throwing matches? You can’t track if someone is playing their best as well as where money is going, so why not go that route?

That leads to the biggest thing I wondered about the whole thing. How do you measure that? How do you measure people “playing their best”? If someone picks a character they normally don’t use, does that mean they are throwing the match? Maybe they are picking a character an opponent has trouble with, or maybe it’s an ace up the sleeve for this specific situation, who knows? The VxG finals were blatantly obvious, but the match before it? I’m not too sure. People give ChrisG a lot of crap for playing the high tier Morrigan/Doom/Vergil team, but then they give him more crap for not playing it, thinking it's sandbagging. There's no winning. Again, all you can do is try to enforce it and make the punishment for being caught severe enough to try and keep people from turning out a shitty match.

While somewhat painful to listen to, Jessica Nigri and Gootecks on commentary wasn't a complete disaster.
While somewhat painful to listen to, Jessica Nigri and Gootecks on commentary wasn't a complete disaster.

Compared to the fine tuned machine that was Evo, of course the VideoxGames wouldn’t look as sharp by comparison. I personally have no interest in listening to Jessica Nigri reading the naturally stupid comments off the stream (kudos to Haunts for trying to avoid that trainwreck). But it seems like everyone had a good enough time, and a majority of the matches were fun to watch. Reminds me a lot of the Pro Bowl in the NFL, usually a garbage show, but maybe it’s not for us. Maybe the weirdest part is how this small tournament had better payouts than Evo. In the case of Arcade Edition, VxG paid approximately $6000 to the winner, Evo only paid $5500 according to EventHubs. This is a weird thing about fighting game tournaments, outside of Evo and the Majors, there are a ton of other tournaments. It’s actually quite neat, and only time will tell which of these or worth watching. I’m still just trying to make sense of it all.

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My speculation on the 5th character.

The biggest news coming out of evo was the announcement of Ultra Street Fighter IV. They announced 5 new characters, and only revealed 4 (Rolento, Elena, Hugo, Poison). We know the four that are announced already are ports from SFxTekken, the fifth one is a character "never seen in Street Fighter before" (So it's not Alex, quit saying that). So who could the fifth person be? Here are some of my guesses.

Asura- Based on how lazy Capcom appears in this, bringing Asura to Street Fighter is another easy move for them. They could just use the work from the Asura's Wrath dlc to do it. I would love this because it would mean that Asura's Wrath 2 is coming. Why else would you just randomly throw Asura in there? (Aside from it being easy, of course).

Sexy.
Sexy.

Box Art Mega Man- Never seen in SF before? Check. (I don't think SFxT counts) Port. Check. Other reasons would be to hype Mega Man returning, and to be stupid.

Now for the above 2, Ono deconfirmed them on twitter. However, Ono loves to troll, so take that with a grain of salt. With those two ruled out, let's get a bit weirder.

A Darkstalker- As much as I love Darkstalkers, the series seems to be dead. Sales of Ressurection were a disappointment, and they've been teasing Darkstalkers for so long, it seems that ship has sailed. However, if they decided to bring it back, what better way to announce it than a new DS character. I would love this so much. As for the character itself, easy money would be Demitri or Morrigan. Imagine Midnight Bliss on the Street Fighter folks, it's been done.

Haggar- This has been speculated across chats and twitter, it would close the loop (He's the only hero from Final Fight not in a SF game so far). And since you're adding two Final Fight villains, why not?

Scorpion- Worked for Injustice. Even though I would find this hilarious, no chance. Moving on.

Somebody from SNK: All evidence out there so far suggests this being the right answer. Why? First, King of Fighters is probably bigger than it's been in a long time, XIII sold really well, and the huge showing at Evo 2012 (Not to mention this year) only exposed that to more people. Based on steam data, KoF13 is probably coming to Steam. King of Fighters celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, and what would be a better tribute from Capcom than putting an SNK character in there? Better yet, what better way to promote a new Capcom vs SNK game? This week they're putting CVS2 out on PSN, kinda out of the blue don't you think? It would be a safer bet for Capcom's new fighting game than Darkstalkers, and what better fighting game to kick off the next generations of consoles. Don't say Killer Instinct.

So, after all that speculation, I predict that the 5th character will be from SNK. Probably one of the main people (Kyo, Mai, Iori). It makes the most sense. Unfortunately, we're dealing with Capcom here. So if it ended up being a Resident Evil or other crazy character (Scorpion!), I wouldn't be surprised. But with all of the stuff mentioned above, someone from SNK seems like a pretty safe bet.

Imagine this guy being a secret boss in Ultra SF4
Imagine this guy being a secret boss in Ultra SF4

Am I crazy? Or is it going to be one of the others I mentioned above. Someone else maybe? What do you all think?

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