Best of 2014

Relevant platforms I have access to:

  • Apple iPad
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Microsoft Xbox One
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • PC
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Sony PlayStation 4
  • Sony PlayStation Vita

Notable add-ons of 2014 I’ve played this year:

  • Batman: Arkham Origins' "Cold, Cold Heart"
  • BioShock Infinite's "Burial at Sea - Episode Two"
  • FTL: Faster Than Light's "Advanced Edition"

Games that didn’t make the cut:

  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft - Just didn't hold my attention.

Games I meant to get to but didn't:

  • The Banner Saga - It's not keeping my attention very much. May be because I spent a ton of time with a game like it, Fire Emblem: Awakening, which has some interface options I wish this game had.
  • Hitman GO - Had a possibility of getting onto this list, but I'm having a hard time relying on my iPad on anything other than busywork and tumblr to stray into anything game-related.
  • Strider - Basically began to force myself to play this game so that it would meet the basic criteria of getting onto this list, but forcing yourself to play a game you don't want to is never a good idea so I stopped playing this.

“Oversights”:

  • Assassin's Creed Unity - I'm done with Assassin's Creed.
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Zero interest.
  • Dark Souls II - Got to a bonfire within Blighttown in Darks Souls, died two times afterward and realized that I hadn't been having fun playing up to then. Thus, no interest in its sequel.
  • Destiny - Once again, I'm not interested in primarily shooty games, especially when playing along with others is encouraged as I am a primarily single-player gamer.
  • InFamous: Second Son - No interest in InFamous after InFamous 2. Shallow reputation system and boring gameplay sugarcoated with pretty graphics.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - I'm more of a Splinter Cell kind of guy. However, Metal Gear Scanlon has spiked my interest in the series. Will wait for the actual sequel which may have this included in it, but who knows.
  • Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor - I have a great aversion to Lord of the Rings, thus no interest.
  • The Sims 4 - Normally, I'm pretty excited to pick up these base games day one, but I guess my love for the franchise has fallen off. Maybe I'll pick it up when all thirty of its expansions are included.
  • Sunset Overdrive - No interest.
  • Super Smash Bros. - Not a fan.
  • Titanfall - No interest in primarily shooty games. Especially if it's "left trigger-right trigger" shooty.
  • Watch Dogs - Since its reveal about two years ago, other than the promise of bringing "next-gen" to "next-gen" at launch, which it ended up not doing, I never really understood the appeal. Maybe the sequel will be pretty cool.

FINAL LIST

List items

  • As a casual fan of the original, its memory still lingers as not only one of the greatest character action games I’ve ever played but one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. So when a sequel was announced for the Wii U, I made sure to grab that system solely for the purpose of playing this game. It not only carries with it the legacy of its predecessor, literally and figuratively, but refines it, and the weaponry is as varied as ever.

    While my grasp on enemy types is still fresh and loose, attack tells can range from obvious to subtle gestures calling for the attention of the player and readily rewards them with “Witch Time,” AKA “Bullet Time,” when dodging attacks at the last split second. That, in itself, is Bayonetta’s bread and butter, forsaking the usually awkward jump or simple run away tactic to deal with enemy barrages that come with other character action games, and replacing it with a smooth acrobatic maneuver as simple as a backflip or spin that slows down the action, yet does not hamstring the mind games that also comes with character action games where memory and reflexes are key.

    5/5

  • With absolutely no expectations, this game managed to blow me away. Let me preface this by confessing my deep and seething hatred for Super Paper Mario, possibly the most disappointing game I've ever played considering my love for Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64. It took me a few hours for me to realize that Super Paper Mario wasn't what I was looking for and it would take years for another one just like it, one interesting enough, to gain my attention. I did not expect that it would be this game, in where it mattered - the battle system.

    “Where was the transition to some stage mock-up and selection of attacks Mario had in the previous games,” I wondered. "It couldn’t just be me jumping onto enemies repeatedly racking up some combo counter in the corner, is it?" Oh, but it was, and the gimmicky nature of switching between two planes of existence in Super Paper Mario. "You’ve got to be fucking kidding me," and so ended (delayed) my desire to purchase a Nintendo Wii, with the sole intention of picking Super Paper Mario along with it, returning my niece’s Wii and copy of Super Paper Mario back to the Blockbuster I rented it from the very same day.

    Like Paper Mario, South Park was something influential but a forgotten part of my childhood. I’d like to say that my time away was due to my “growing out of it,” but if this game is any indication of the quality of the show now, I guess I’m still a kid (in heart). Fart and racist jokes abound, traditional role-playing game elements are thrown into the world of South Park creating the Paper Mario I didn’t realize I was waiting for.

    Timing an extra button press upon contact during attacks is the game and the absurdist humor is what keeps you guessing where things will go. As expected, the game explores, nay, lightly touches upon some very mature themes, sometimes combining them, for maximum effect in the hopes to offend the faint-hearted thus nailing down the inner workings of South Park perfectly, and caused a few laughs and nods of approval on my end. Its indiscriminate humor alone is its greatest weapon yet its greatest detriment, people will miss out on its very simple to understand combat system and a once-in-a-lifetime bug-free (in my case, at least) game from Obsidian.

    Anyway, Odsidian does what Nintendon’t (make real Paper Mario games).

    5/5

  • Note: Smaller entry featured on Ranking of Final Fantasies

    I'm admittedly very surprised with how much time I've spent with the game and have enjoyed of it, and not groaning about the poorly-written (but very well-acted in specific spots) characters. I suppose I'm used to the near-nonsensical ramblings they can get into sometimes thanks to XIII-2 where you were given numerous chances for Serah to say immensely inane shit, which honestly made that game much easier to stomach considering my irrational distaste with the the idea of Serah being the main character, much like the existence of Vanille.

    Dialog choices may not be a part of this game to make it enjoyable in that "special" way this time around, but I think they've achieved their most dynamic battle system yet in the XIII trilogy. Rather than taking a more preparatory approach, there is an even greater reliance on timing your guards and attacks during or after specific actions your enemies deliver which makes for more intense and attention-driven battles, unlike previous entries where it was just a matter of holding down one button and shifting paradigms from time to time when the situation called for it.

    All in all, Lightning Returns is quite fabulous, such as Lightning with her multitude of outfits. It's certainly not without its caveats though. By knowing that there is a time limit, despite being very manageable, you may likely opt to run straight to the next NPC to progress a quest and ignore the ambient dialogue spouting off in every direction, at least during your first run-through. A very different change of pace with how I approach JRPGs in general thanks to it, but forced a play style I usually fall back to once I've gotten to grips with a game since it leads to me being very efficient on dealing with quests, some of which led to some surprisingly very mature themes I don't think many Final Fantasy games have touched upon.

    4/5

  • It wasn’t until I noticed the goodies packed along with the special edition bundle when I finally decided to buy this game despite having no desire to even play it beforehand. Delivery day came along and, what I thought was going to be a huge detriment to my enjoying the game, the map function was above and beyond my expectations. It not only plays a central part to the game itself but sports enough tools to make certain every step taken is completely accounted for. Especially with how the dungeons are designed, it made trekking through for various quests or materials expedited processes.

    The game overall took me over 50 hours to complete, with Chuck Tunoku on the Safety difficulty, which merely acts as a death safety net as enemies aren't affected in any way and will continue to be the pushovers they are. A large majority of the game is spent in the dungeons, pushing through groups of enemies and solving simple puzzles that may force you to recall simple math you probably learned in high school. In comparison, a small portion of the game is dedicated to the Persona 3 and 4 characters pulled into this ordeal.

    Many of the elements of the characters’ respective games are not only present but refined, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were melded into the next main Persona game. While it may be a huge undertaking, I wouldn’t mind if there were more moments between the main persona users dealing with a specific character’s issues with others chiming in rather than relying on the main protagonist to elucidate change. “Strolls” are as close as the game can get to spending time with characters to up their Social Link which allows various characters to hang out and add to the mayhem of Chie’s love for meat, Teddie’s immense pervitude, and Blu Hairman’s apparent lethargy.

    4/5

  • It was nearly one hundred hours passed before I decided to complete the final mission and call it quits. Not that that was what I was waiting for, but there is a plethora of content to consume, whether worth it or not. Expecting a game this large from BioWare is unprecedented, and so called for my usual disposition on how to treat their games unwittingly: check every nook and cranny for loot.

    That type of ideology became my undoing, as I scrapped my first playthrough wrought with little mistakes that nibbled at me that could have been easily avoided and so stepped away from the game only to come back to it a week later in favor of a less pressured playthrough. Despite that, with the help of the search environment hotkey, I looted what I could, exhausted every conversation with companions, and made sure that everywhere I went that I removed some icon on the map.

    Unlike the last game, I didn’t hate over two-thirds of the main characters. Coming in, none of the party members looked interesting enough to trot along with, aside from Vivienne and Iron Bull. Surprisingly, I found many of their characters ranging from firm to charming. Rather than sticking to a full set-in-stone party, I ended up having two permanents members due to partially literal novel obligations, Cole for his being in the third Dragon Age novel and Vivienne for being, to put it blunt, black, and a rotating fourth chair with slight discrimination toward the one party member I didn’t like. Well done, BioWare, you just had one party member who sucked this time.

    What is unfortunate, however, is how many little problems can stack up and make for one disappointing yet good game. The equipment/crafting interface, the deliberately slow run speed (and with the misnamed “Sprint” function that should actually be called “Gallop”), and, most of all, the tactical view. It's tough to really make a case for this considering how obviously consolized the controls are, and how completing the game on Hard never required me to ever rely on it. It could just be how the game was designed to allow any party make up to be effective and not have the player worry about healing but more about defense. A welcome change, in my view.

    Defining Dragon Age by its gameplay does its universe a huge disservice. The lore and characters are huge time sinks worth jumping into, since there is so much of it. It is not so unfortunate a sacrifice to double down on characters’ backgrounds than developing a deeper and satisfying combat system.

    4/5

  • Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call has literally everything the original had content-wise and much more. The game itself, however, remains largely the same with a few tweaks here and there which allow more control options alongside the original’s intended stylus approach with dedicated button inputs or a combination of the two. Nonetheless, I stuck with what I was already comfortable with - using the stylus to tap, swipe, and hold my way to victory.

    There really isn’t much else to say for a rhythm-based game considering how determinant the quality of the music selection can be. As a late fan of the main series, I’m no stranger to the music of Final Fantasy VII onwards (minus the MMOs), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to appreciate the music from earlier entries and offshoots I haven’t played myself. The size of the selection is staggering and the chances of finding something you’ve heard before is likely included. Unfortunately, Event Music Stages (EMS) make a return despite being complete shit stages.

    Thankfully, they don’t show up in in this game’s upgraded version of Dark Notes (so far) from the original game, Quest Medleys. This mode carves out a path with seemingly random songs and multiple pathways to reach your goal, to defeat the final boss at the end. This mode puts your chosen characters and given skills to the test, with the final stage being a Battle Music Stage (BMS), my personal favorite type of stage, to procure loot to further your characters’ stats, essentially grinding for better or worse. While I haven’t been spending too much time in this particular mode, the sheer library of songs this game has is immense and won’t be something I’ll shelf anytime soon.

    4/5

  • It’s been awhile since I played Civilization V extensively, but its core mechanics are still what allows me to understand grand turn-based strategy games such as this, which, unsurprisingly, is very similar to it in basic concept and execution. People aren’t wrong when they voice their disappointment with how similar it is to its predecessor, laden with now and forever futuristic hexagons, on the map and even on some leaders’ dress attire, and in how it plays in general. But I feel that’s where the direct comparisons end. As it is now, it bears some elements of a fully expanded Civilization 5, yet it isn’t quite there just yet, but why would you want that, it is in space after all.

    Despite that, a few renamed units here and there and different colored tile sets, and that’s Beyond Earth for you. But not quite. Beginning with techs you normally have to spend turns researching in a normal Civilization game, your workers come prepared for whatever base terrain your people have landed on, so no researching how to build mines and the like and relying on knowledge of what material swords are composed of. Most war units no longer rely on whatever available resources you have, but your grasp on your people’s attunement level with the given planet, or as they calls it - affinity.

    If anything, Beyond Earth has made unit maintenance more convenient thanks to affinity, no longer asking for the player to build different and more able-bodied units or call back any obsolete units for an upgrade, as they all upgrade on the spot wherever they may be. Rather than a huge selection of units for you to play war with, they evolve and thus leave behind less menu clutter, so no caravels and triremes and frigates divvying your experience points gained from ravaging the handful of alien lifeforms.

    What is possibly the biggest loss the game suffers from is its lack of given idiosyncrasies. No longer do you have Gandhi be an atypical aggressive jerk, you now have amalgamations of some general populaces or unions between similar peoples - “Polystralia” and “Slavic Federation,” for example. And with that, the loss of “world music” so to speak. While this game is the perfect podcast game, I, nonetheless, made sure to listen to the music, and after playing through four games, I haven’t really noticed much of a difference between the different sponsors I played as. They all sound like music that could have been in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but dropped into this since I suppose the inclusion of aliens makes it fit.

    Even if it’s more Civilization V, the push toward quests and stage-based victories make for a less aimless and more attentive game than it does its predecessor, and with that it creates a flawed near-soulless experience that does enough differently to keep my attention.

    3/5

  • Pushmo World goes back to the basics while introducing new types of blocks to play with without over-complicating things like Crashmo did. Not much else can be said about the game otherwise, however, this time it's easier to find others' Pushmo online by allowing player creations to be downloaded upfront rather than having to find QR codes to scan of various pixel art posted on different forums.

    As of the time of this writing, the game has stumped me a number of times and so, hopefully, once I come back to those puzzles something in my mind will just click and it'll all make sense and I'll think myself a fool for missing something so obvious the first time. Such is the life with Pushmo, where even the most simplest-looking puzzles can create a fervent confusion that I cannot comprehend.

    4/5

  • The impact this franchise has mustered on me since the first one I'd played extensively, Mario Kart 64, has been very little. It feels like dozens have been released since then, with the last I've played of was Mario Kart Wii and winning a single race against a self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboy through what seems like sheer luck.

    Perhaps its biggest rib is how the game can be based on just that, luck, which is especially infuriating when you're on the last leg of a track and the AI decides to fuck you just before the finish line and you end up getting second or third place. I suppose it's something veteran players have to or have already gotten used to, and having that clouded over my mind was never going to clear the way for me.

    Despite that lingering on my mind, after completing 10 or so cups across two different engine classes, this has only happened to me twice. Each very, very close to the finish line thus making me lose my front-of-the-pack placement, which surprisingly didn't make me lose my mind.

    The game plays very well, good timing and a loose grasp on the basics is enough to make me feel like any mistake I make is completely my fault but also something that can be rectified in the next lap. Kart customization feels like it can account for many different play styles, having utilized a different kart (and character) in each cup I've played so far, noticing the difference between hops and the time before they lean into a turn make for a surprisingly engrossing experience.

    4/5

  • Despite the preconception that Lara Croft would be leading a set of adventurers this go around, I chose to play this game completely by my lonesome. It made for some awkward moments when Croft would caution others of contraptions she’d disabled when it was just her cartwheeling and jumping around like a maniac. Other than that, the game tested my grasp of its simple mechanics by slowly mixing them up as I got further along this game, which lasted me about four hours.

    It was as fleeting as it was enjoyable. The types of scenarios visited are overly custom to noted fictional archaeologists: beautiful, yet drab. They, of course, were pertinent to the types of puzzles at hand bringing back old favorites such as spike traps, ancient machinery, and gusts of fire slowing your advances. Each boss implemented these contraptions very well and kept me on my feet; simple, yet clever.

    4/5

  • Being a fan of Persona (to a limit) it was difficult for me to pass up the continuation of where the last game left off, to see the true culprit behind its events, and get first-print copy bonuses as well.

    However, I treated this game as a visual novel, declining to partake in the story battles about halfway into the Persona 4 side of events and leaving it up to the game's AI, thus I am in no position to judge the quality and extent to which they have changed up the formula from the last game.

    Rather than divulging story details, I'll confess it was nothing extraordinary and only served my desire to see these characters I've grown attached to interact with each other again. So now, it's time to wait for them to dance.

    I cannot in good conscience assign a score to this game, but I'm certain I would have enjoyed playing it as it was intended, and so I leave this title here as a sort of honorable mention. I'm certain had I the fighting chops to continue playing the game, it would be a great time.

  • >>>>>>>>>>GAMES THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT<<<<<<<<<<

    (PC version)

    Given the pedigree PlatinumGames had achieved with Bayonetta, having a cyborg ninja handed over to them only meant great things. Despite my unfamiliarity with the series, the intensity and bewilderment on display may as well make as much sense as the main Metal Gear Solid games given how confusing Hideo Kojima's storytelling is due to overheard secondhand information. Rationality be damned, not having a symbiotic relationship with the fiction of Metal Gear didn't make me enjoy this game any less.

    One of the more surprisingly impressing elements in the game was its audio mixing. Entering a boss battle with the instrumentals to some butt rock with the vocals quickly swelling up into the mix when the battles begun made me feel like I was recording some footage for an AMV I was cutting up. However, rather than having a disappointing look on my face, an expected smirk never overstayed its welcome.

    Much of the trademark ridiculosity of PlatinumGames is there - the timing of cameras zooming into some guy's face laughing his supremely evil anime laugh along with over-the-top voice acting which is always toeing - nay, jumping - the line between four different levels of a gravelly voice and one of inquisition and quiet understanding - but the easy to learn, hard to master gameplay is not there.

    Going into this, I had expected some excruciatingly-exact level of timing involved to hinder my enjoyment of the game but parrying proved to be of very effective means in my case and thus came out of most regular fights relatively unscathed. Otherwise, relying on the ninja run was my best bet in not getting completely savaged. Unfortunately, that was kinda it strategically. I suppose its short playtime made sure to keep me wondering if it's gonna get any tougher rather than drag on and overplay the blade mode mechanic.

    What am I saying? That never got old.

    4/5

  • While I can simply lay into this game by remarking that it's just "more Trials," the thing is is that I can say that about any other games part of long-standing franchises I've enjoyed playing, so it boils down to "does this hold up?" In Trials Fusion's case, it's certainly a matter of honing what's already been fine-tuned to hell in previous installments with the new addition of tricks, which I find to be the natural development for Trials to take on, albeit one that can take a bit of getting used to.

    In any case, this game continues trends set by its predecessor(s) by having a terribly catchy start menu song and wacky track exits that leave you wondering what these games really are trying to achieve.

    The hints of a background story is littered along the tracks by talking AIs that may compliment you on your skillful play or how badly your play is apparently depleting "biomass reserves" or something of the sort. I suppose it was a matter of time before Trials would add an even crazier aspect in the form of a dystopian motorcycle utopia rather than primarily relying on the overwhelming carnage wrought upon your rider upon track completion to add on top of the satisfaction of grabbing a gold medal on a difficult to complete track.

    4/5

  • Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney brings together each respective franchise's most well-known protagonists together in what one would assume would be a battle of wits, but in reality brings them together in name only by relying on each franchise's trademark gameplay trappings and stitching them together with little to no convergence.

    At first glance, you’d probably think there would be Layton-esque puzzles and other such nonsense being forced upon you while in Ace Attorney legal battles, but no, that is based on my imagination of pitting the two together based on the title alone. The game slowly introduces you to each pair of protagonists in their natural habitats. A static image for Layton and co. to pull puzzles out of and Phoenix Wright slamming his fists because he isn’t having his way. Two very different and welcome things as far as I’m concerned, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and doesn’t coincidentally.

    From then on, the game switches between the two distinct gameplay elements of the two games. Investigating crime scenes could be considered what Layton typically does, walking about but also making a puzzle out of things and pointing out curiosities, but the similarities end there. The game is largely based in legal battles, especially in the latter half, which, personally, I’m perfectly okay with. Ace Attorney games, I feel, have a better track record in closing the loop on what bullshit they can stir up, but, unfortunately, this game fails to match up to its standards.

    While it’s difficult to really say who was ultimately the true “storyteller” during the development of this game, the story merits the trademark twists and turns each franchise is known for, putting forth multiple angles for the player to work out within minutes, only to be wrong (for me, at least). However, when things finally heat up, the game turns for the worse, a twist so out of nowhere that literally left me speechless and difficult to put my thoughts about it to words even now. To keep it short, it was a twist that completely renders everything you've done for naught and definitely soured my time with it.

    3/5

  • By putting myself along with video game and anime characters into Bootybana Island, I had hoped the frequency of putting ourselves into bizarre and unlikely scenarios would offset the minigame nature of the game. Unfortunately, that desirable ratio was not achieved considering how many times inhabitants of the island wanted me to slide stuff into their hands or play the dozen or so minigames packed in.

    Perhaps, it was a matter of time before I realized that that was going to be the game so taking in how much of the crazy stuff I had hoped to see were in dreams, meaning I usually missed them while being in dreamland myself, and creating strife among the islanders by providing negative enforcement among other things, things were going to stay stale.

    Crazy events like myself marrying Franziska Von Karma and Reggie Fils-Aime marrying Chie Satonaka and having a child were certainly things I was looking for going into this, but then the minigame frequency or the shuffling through menus to feed someone or gift something with had to happen and make one boring slog of a game, even if it's perfect to play in the background so to speak as you listen to podcasts or watch something half-heartedly.

    3/5

  • While I've been chasing after the same impact and enthusiasm I've had for these games since completing Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, this game managed to surpass my very low expectations after completing it. Everything you want in a Professor Layton game is here: a story with twists and turns, characters' reliance on puzzles to hinder your goals, calling elevators "lifts" and other such nonsense.

    What is a shame, however, is that we have yet seen a Professor Layton game without Luke Triton as his trusty companion, whom has been in each game acting as an assistant of sorts to Layton throughout the franchise. While providing the back story to his consignment with this prequel trilogy, the sheer idea of having one without him is the most compelling to see considering how final their goodbye was in Unwound Future.

    Anyway, that is neither here nor there, these games follow a very specific formula, one that hasn't expanded its scope beyond perhaps two locales that Layton and co. spend the entirety of their time in. In the Azran Legacy, however, you gain control of an airship in search of five eggs placed in five different locales to discover the secret the Azran have left behind throughout this prequel trilogy.

    Unfortunately, bigger isn't always better. Other than having a few character models that look downright terrifying and questionable, not one left an impression on me. Not even Granny Riddleton thought they were worth hanging around with and left a cat in her stead. In any case, these games are out to tell a story, much as it was filled with intriguing twists and turns, most felt shooed-in or predictable and never urged a most ungentlemanly tantrum these games haven't seen since Unwound Future.

    3/5