Top 10 Games of 2015

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2015 is over and done-- Resolutions have been made, by-gones are by-gones and we're ready to get pumped for a whole new year of promising games and other things obviously... and particular certain releases of certain games I've long anticipated for a few years now. But before I can get comfortable I thought it'd be appropriate with a retrospective on the year that has come and gone. So here it is. Top 10 Games of 2015

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  • LIKE A DRAGON! My game of the year; 2015 will be remembered as the year that presented me to one of my now new favorite video game franchises, namely Ryu Ga Gotoku(Like a Dragon) Yakuza.

    Having just finished Yakuza 4, I was all geared up and ready to play Yakuza 5 and man does it live up to every excitement I had to simply get started on it. The premise of the Yakuza series is a life-like and incredibly detailed recreation of modern Japan, specifically the Red Light District of Kamuchiki (Kamurocho in the game) that is the central premise for most of the games. Yakuza can best be described as something between Metal Gear Solid and Shenmue, on one hand it has engrossing cutscenes and incredibly well rounded-larger-than-life and relatable characters, and on the other end it has the modern Japan-setting with its richly detailed environment; There's just so ridiculously much to see, explore and interact with in this semi-open world game.

    The amount of mini-games in Yakuza 5 is face-grating-teeth-smashing-tiger-dropping-bear-punching-snow-ball-fighting-karaoke-singing-virtua-fighter-playing-saki-drinking-manga-readingly insane. It one ups Yakuza 4 on a lot of aspects and takes things even further by giving us more cities to explore, among them being Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo and so on -- It's crazy, and thinking back on Yakuza 4, I don't believe I've even tried all the mini-games yet.

    Among the more prominent mini-games in Yakuza 5 would be the in-game arcade version of Sega's Virtua Fighter 2 and Taiko Drummaster -- Neat and incredibly welcoming little distractions to add to the game's vast collection of mini-games. There's also a first-person-snowball mini-game which is essentially a first person shooter but it instead being snowball fighting, aside from that there's a Ramen Cooking Mini-game, a timing-based comedy routine and chicken races. The list just goes on, here are some

    Batting Center

    Darts

    Billiard

    Bowling

    Sea Fishing

    UFO Catcher

    Pachinko Slots (Aladdin A, King Camel, Aladdin Destiny, Virtua Fighter)

    Mahjong

    Shougi (Japanese Chess)

    Roulette

    BlackJack

    Poker

    Baccarat

    Dice Game

    Chinchirorin

    Koi Koi

    Oicho-Kabu

    Arena

    IF8R (Inner Fighter 8 Road Battle)

    Golf Driving Range

    Photo Sticker

    GUNRHEIN

    Onsen

    Air Hockey

    Karaoke

    Fishing

    etc.

    Yakuza's crazy amount of side content is well established at this point, I imagine, but there's also something I happened to mention earlier, that it shares with Witcher 3. The depth of its side missions, they range from forgettable to largely memorable -- In Yakuza 5's case, the game makes every side missions and 'sub-story' feel important to its characters. All of them manage to show a whole aspect one might not otherwise notice with the main characters, and their allies whenever they are involved, that's among the many things that make Yakuza 5 feel so rich in terms of its writing. I wanna go into detail with these particular "side mission" events that exist for each playable character in the game while also talking about the story for a bit. Yakuza 5 takes place 2 years after the events of Yakuza 4, and returning players will find most of the cast from that game returns as prominent main characters, with the sole exception of Tanimura (a shame too), but as long as the game still has Shun Akiyama then everything will be alright.

    Recurrent main character, face-smashing-entrepeneur, foster father of orphaned-now-pop-idol-in-training Haruka and resident caretaker of one orphanage in Okinawa, Kazuma Kiryu return yet again.

    This time now as a civillian taxi driver in Fukuoka; Kiryu having once again decided to try and retire from the bloodshedding life of a Yakuza by changing his name to Suzuki and signing up as a taxi driver to help pay for the vastly scaled funds of his orphanage-- sadly, circumstances leads to our hero getting swept up yet again by another drama related to his former Tojo Clan that threatens to disturb the peace between members of organized criminal organizations across the country, which in turn will affect and hurt his friends as a consequence. Kiryu accepts the responsibility of his life as a Yakuza and gets himself involved with the conspiracy to protect his loved ones that pits him against rival organizations like the Omi Alliance and traitors within the Tojo Clan itself along with the usual street garbage who's dumb enough to challenge him on the street. Circumstances will of course lead to the whole cast finding themselves involved with the major conspiracy. Oh, and if you've ever played a Yakuza game before, expect there to be at least 1 twist along the way.

    Kiryu's day-to-day routine involves driving a cab, as mentioned, and while it might not sound fun at all I can safely assure that it is. Kiryu’s Major Side Mission involving his job as a cab driver is quite engaging in its own right. It ranges between racing missions, where he’s being challenged by a juvenile group of street racers who causes trouble for road users, pedestrians and taxi drivers alike. Kiryu takes it upon himself to take on these scum himself.

    The more races Kiryu completes, the more Kiryu gets to know his co-workers, especially his boss Nakajima who’s nothing short than a true buddy for Kiryu in times where he could really use one— Probably one of the best new characters in the series. The street racing missions eventually unravels a deeper story about; tragedy, honour and friendship bloomed through a kindred love for street racing. It’s no less than touching as it also fleshes out all of the minor characters in Kiryu’s story. On the side there are also actual taxi-related missions, that ranges between driving customers properly and lawfully through town to reach their destination and others that simply involve casual talk with your customers to ensure their ride is as comfortable as possible; The missions that involve actual driving asks the player to be as mindful as possible on their driving, stopping at STOP signs and using the turn signal whenever making a turn which is actually fun – It’s just so refreshing to play a mini-game like this that ultimately also feels rewarding as it usually leads to some interesting little short stories involving these people you’re driving. Kiryu’s responses to the customers and his driving will ultimately affect how they react and feel about the experience. He has to pick his words carefully when delving into their private matters to ensure they don’t lose spirit both in him and themselves.

    Ultimately, it becomes an interesting trivia quiz mixed with some civil driving simulation, fleshing out both Kiryu and his passengers alike, and it’s pretty frickin awesome. Oh, but the fun doesn’t end there – As soon as you take control of Taiga Saejima, who’s once again incarcerated for some mobster related issues though this time it has been arranged off his own accord, the major-scale conspiracy forces Saejima to break out of prison to find answers due to recent news of his sworn blood brother having been killed as a result of it. Not being able to accept it, Saejima breaks out of prison with his newly acquainted prison buddy Baba. Although a successful escape is cut short when Saejima and Baba bumps into an incredibly large-monster bear named Yama-Orosi, on the frozen mountain near the city Tsukimino, who’s infamous for having terrorized a nearby village for years due to rumours of it having a taste for human blood following old incidents of missing hunters. Saejima, being the Tiger of the Tojo, doesn’t relent and takes on the bear by himself, armed only with his fist alone. He manages to literally punch the bear into submission; it gives up and walks away before he eventually succumbs to the immense cold of the mountain.

    They are rescued by a hunter named Okudera, who introduces Saejima to the hunting mini-game, which is another fun side story, akin to Kiryu’, it is richly detailed and complex with lots of its own side quests and objectives. You have to micromanage your supplies before venturing out on the mountain, pick the appropriate snow equipment as you unlock more of it, and the proper rifle to hunt—If you’re feeling lenient you can also choose to hunt solely with Holes and snares to capture a variety of small game, like rabbits and foxes, which will also fetch a nifty price for the skin and meat at your local merchant. The mini-game functions like a neat mixture of action-game & third person shooting; you’re instructed to be precise and careful with your aiming when trying to stalk up on a prey and put it down for good. A well-placed shot to the head will usually always do the trick to the likes of deers and moose’s but when facing a bear you have to be adapt at dodging and shooting… or even better, delivering a well placed punch to the groin whenever they stand up on two legs.

    Now as you’ve probably figured out by now, the hunting is also more or less Saejima’s own source of indisposable income. You hunt animals to sell their pelts and meat for a price that will allow Saejima to access the various other side activities and items of the nearby city of Tsukimino—His and Kiryu’s cab business are among the most interesting of the side activities as they add whole new layers to the game’s world, and story, they are both larger major narratives outside of the main plot. Other characters, like Haruka (who’s also playable now) have her own comedy routine mini-game and dancing stuff that also revels in its share of interesting side characters. Akiyama has his hostess business to attend and newcomer, Shinada has a batting game side activity meant to compliment his previous occupation as a baseball player.

    Ultimately, all of these larger side mission dramas fleshes out each of the playable characters with its own set of wonderful little side characters; It represents the authentic charm of Yakuza’s world and good writing in the best possible way imaginable—It builds upon the concept of substories from previous games and with Yakuza 5 it culminates into one big entirely separate story next to the main plot. The Yakuza team deserves my utmost respect for creating such an engaging series that consistently manages to feel new, refreshing and exciting with each revisit of Kamurocho and old characters as well as meeting new ones.

    There’s a new mode that can be activated while in “Red Heat Mode” where the character unleashes devastating attacks in form of punches, kicks and throws that are all vastly more powerful than your average attacks. You’re also able to experiment even further with your combos, a pair of punches, finished with a finishing kick can now be followed up with a throw in-mid combo where Kiryu, or any other character, will grab the enemy in the mid air and throw them into the fray of other enemies. It paves way for some awesome crowd control shenanigans, useful when dealing with big groups of which there are plenty in Yakuza 5.

    Yakuza 5 has so far settled as one of my favorite action games of all time and among my favorite games from last gen. It builds upon the established formula even further to an incredible satisfactory degree. My time with the series might not have been long but it certainly will be in the nearest future. If you don’t mind buying digital, and you have a PS3 with the proper HDD space then you owe it yourself to play this game. Otherwise, wait for the release of Yakuza 0—I know I will! FEEL THE HEAT!

  • No game, aside from number 1 of course, has had me as hooked unto its bossoms as that of Tales.. from the Borderlands--Or as I'd like to call it: Telltale's best game yet. In like of the old LucasArts adventure titles, Tales understands what the old dog does best-- Humour.

    But even better! The characters and writing solidfy's the game's place on the top. I don't think there was a single character that I didn't like in this game, even the over-the-top-pompous villains like Hugo Vasquez are incredibly charming and easy to like. Oh, and let's forget about Borderlands regular lovable badboy (SPOILER ALERT) Handsome Jack who returns to the fray in a quite.. interesting fashion.

    There's not a whole lot of things to say about Tales since outside of the story, characters, there's no real gameplay beyond the usual bare bonesy adventure game mechanics; the kind of adventure game that isn't really an adventure game at all. Tales might not light any fireworks in the gameplay department but it lit lots of other things in regards to the fun factor. Rhys & Fiona are among my favorite protagonists in a long time and Vasquez partnered together with Patrick Warburton's awesome voice ruffles my jimmies (in a good way).

    So thank you, Telltale -- Please drop the promise of a Season 2 of Game of Thrones and make more Borderlands please. Because if anything, you know Borderlands better than Gearbox themselves do and that's a scary thing to think about. It's, however, the truth -- Take your place as number 2 on this list

  • This is without doubt the best non-visual-novel-banging-women-simulator I've ever played, and I've never played one before, never before have asses been rendered quite so smoothly as the Witcher 3-- So drop your pencils designers, it ain't gettin' better than this; You play as Geralt of Rivia who is set upon a quest to find his non-waifu Ciri while simultanously hooking up with a selection of women, where among the many he gets to plug his little "Witcher" inside, he hopes to find his true dream waifu so he might finally settle down and have lots of ugly little mutant children.

    ---

    Joking aside, The Witcher 3 is actually quite an engaging action RPG centered in a dark-gritty pre-industrial fantasy world in the vein of George R. R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie, where main character Geralt (a Witcher by trade) finds himself involved in a quest set upon him by Charles Dance, to track down his surrogate daughter, while simultanously having to deal with the fallout of a civil war and a big stupid lad dressed in an improbably large dustbin, along with his eldritch abomination friends--All in the midst of tryin to track down a frying pan for the local fish wife, get a cat down from a tree, and cutting the knob off a griffon.

    You see what really sells the Witcher 3, much like its previous iteration, was its competent writing -- But even better, there's something 3 has done that tops the previous games altogether; It's its female characters, whom are all more well rounded this time around.

    Triss Merigold, who was sucking for all her might (in more ways than one wink-wink-slurp-slurp) in Witcher 2, in contrary to prior impression feels like a whole different character in Wild Hunt; she is actually quite interesting-- I'd go so far to say that I barely recognize her.

    She actually strikes me as quite similar to that of Dragon Age's Leliana this time around; a virtuous woman who just wants to do right by as many people as she can (particularly magic-users).

    On the opposite end of the spectrum you have her polar opposite in the form of Geralt's old love, Yennefer, (who's had her share of references and being the topic of lots of conversations in prior games) a confident and take-charge kind of woman, which is a refreshing sight to behold--She comes off as mix between Selena Kyle and Zatanna from DC Comics, in terms of overall characterization and design, which I can totally dig with a nine inch bladed shovel. In retrospect, the only female character whom I really cared about in the Witcher series until now was Shani; mist all of the 90% female NPCs with big enough cleavages you could lose your dog in, she stuck out as quite compelling; her characterization and relationship with Geralt and his friends in the first game made her feel authentic, relatable and generally easy to care about beyond the obvious sex. She didn't feel like a price or trophy to be won in form of a PG-13 sex scene, despite appearances, but rather a character with her own goals, dreams and beliefs to pursue. Sadly, she only returns for a quick 'nobbin in the expansion pack, so we'll have to settle for the side dishes but let it not be said that they themselves aren't fun too because they are in this game, surprisingly(but welcome) enough. They all feel generally at home and even the new character, Ciri, sticks out as surprisingly strong even if the game tries a bit too hard to make you care about her she is ultimately a really fun character.

    In all honesty though, Witcher 3 has an alarmingly large cast of interesting characters that ranges from either gender, which helps compliment the argument for its good writing. But that's not really the gist of it all-- It's actually also layered in the treatment of its side content, quests and the overall RPG aspects. Witcher 3 handles its quest as competently and beautifully as my number 1 on this list. It understands that every side quest should feel important, and leaven an impact (an impression upon the player), it shouldn't feel like busy work but rather something that feels consensus to the context of the story-- In Witcher 3 you have things like contracts that actually makes sense in regards to Geralt's role as a contract monster slayer, and most of them features their own little stories, dialogue exchanges, and memorable characters, even a few cameos from some old friends.

    I give Geralt a lot of shit for the irritating voice acting, stoic demeanor, and how I just generally don't care all that much him but even I can say that I enjoy the cameraderie he shares with his fellow Witchers in Witcher 3 along with those friends of his-- There's a good chemistry that only serves to compliment the writing even further because that's where it excells the best.

    What I've managed to finish of the main story so far hasn't been as engaging as the second game, but the introduction of Ciri has spiffed up the excitement -- Ciri comes off as pretty cool character, and joining her are the likes of the Bloody Baron and Jonny(I believe his name was?) the godling--Fun, memorable, side characters who fleshes out the morally grey world that is the Witcher.

    On a final note, there's the gameplay--Witcher 3 has taken the next step into being a fully fledged open world but with less of the faffing about collect-a-thon trifle bullshit from the average open world game. To reiterate a previously stated point, the Witcher 3 understands how to implement side content properly, and its gameplay in terms of combat and abilities management are also less of a clusterfuck now. The combat seems quite simple, and straightforward, while also feeling sleek and awesome to play; It probably warrants a playthrough on Hard as it definitely helped my experience immensely. You have to be careful with the swings you take on hard, be sure to dodge and block incoming sword attacks from surrounding foes; I found that it was always the giant monsters, whom you fight out on contracts, which presented the meatiest challenge.

    Oh, and can I just say that Gwent is great? We need more fun mini-games in RPGs like pazaak in KOTOR... that's what we get in exchange for the asinine emphasis on wanting to be MORE CINEMATIC with the likes of BioWare.

    All in all, CD Projekt should be commended for a job well done on a great game and consequently great little series and richly developed expansion packs to boot. Keep up the good work guys.

  • I gave you blood, blood, gallons of the stuff,

    I gave you all that you can drink and it has never been enough.

    I gave you blood, blood, blooooooooooooooooooood,

    I'm the kind of human wreckage that you love!

    I was never a fan of the Souls series -- In fact, I fairly quickly gave up on Dark Souls because it just didn't capture me with its world and insane difficulty, and this is coming from someone who loves God Hand (a vastly more difficult game than Souls) along with the likes of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. The Souls series is the kind of series that appeals to the kind of man who prefers to take his gameplay experience with a pair of clothespins attached to the nipples, and would be ever so delighted if you'd be kind enough to just twist them 180 degrees around a bit, so he can really immerse himself into the experience.

    Bloodborne is easier on the eyes; What really sold me on the game was the promise of trench coats and axes that could turn into scythes at will which you'd use to slay werewolf creatures in Victorian London. I was sold then and there, it looked amazing and it is amazing. What i really love is how after I slayed a monster, and my character is all drenched in blood and as you slowly tilt the analog stick forward and pan the camera so it's facing the player character; You can see how she strolls all menacingly along the floor, with piles of blood all over her clothes, looking like the meanest badass in the room who is about to deliver some corporate punishment.

    aren't really difficult games; They are just rather strict on the learning curve with their controls, patience is virtue -- Bloodborne plays more aggressive with its combat than its sister series, and I gotta say that I prefer it this way. It feels more exhilarating, and you're still required to time your attacks and dodge--All enemies will always be a threat to you no matter how strong you become which is good because it means the game isn't fooling around and neither should you. At least not when you're playing Bloodborne, mister.

    The story and atmosphere help bring the game's dark and uncaring world to life; It's the kind of storytelling I really like, the kind that isn't all stiff and in your face about it and there's a dick joke in there somewhere, but it's not virtually nonexistent either. If it didn't seem evident then it probably will as you progress but just as much as the setting appears and feels, the story is quite tragic and much like Silent Hill 2 your choices sort of dertermines to what degree of tragic it is headed. I like it and vastly enjoy it-- I know for a fact, that I'll be getting back to it in the upcoming year. Take your place on the pedestal as number 4, Bloodborne.

  • A game held with universal contempt for not being quite a non-game enough like say, Guns of the Patriots. In all honesty, I understand the issues that exist for this game. Story-wise it certainly feels lacking, all the more evident with the existence of a cut story section involving a prominent character from the game and the resolution to his story. But I feel The Phantom Pain couldn't have done anything worse than Guns of the Patriots already did; All things considered the story was already finished with that game and we didn't really need Peace Walker or A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME V for closure's sake, as much as padding it all out even further until it turns into an unstable gelatinous mass.

    But I'll never say no to a A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME with gameplay like The Phantom Pain's. It's without the doubt the most complex and the most fun in the series thus far and I will never understand anything to the contrary. I will especially never come to understand that aspect of the fanbase who holds it lower than the likes MGS2 & 3, whose clusterfuck-arcadey controls can best be compared to that of reversing a golf cart through a hedgemaze. To aim a gun, you have to first press and hold the R1 button to go into first person mode, then you have to scroll through the inventory with the R2 button to find the gun in order to equip it -- After that you hold the Square button to aim the gun and then for some reason release it when firing, making it incredibly unintuitive to unequip the gun again after you're done firing. I'll remind people that this was back when the Japanese controls were also still evident, so instead of the action button being the usual X button it is now circle and so on and so on -- The cream of the crop is of course how you're unable to move while firing; Oh sure you can move if you hold down square, outside of first person mode, and then press and hold the X button while moving the stick forward. The prerequisite character you're playing (Snake, Raiden or whatever) will then run while holding out his gun in a stance that resembles that of a small child playing duck hunt who doesn't have a lot of faith in his aiming ability. Basically what I'm saying is that the controls were just dumb.

    The Phantom Pain perfects the gameplay from Peace Walker with some of the most intuitive stealth mechanics I've seen in a while. It reminded me of the days I played Hitman Blood Money and it kept me hooked for a while, and in true HIDEO KOJIMA GAME fashion it is the little details that stick out and really makes the game replayable (among other things) --On top of that I could easily ignore how poorly written a lot of the characters I used to like was in the game. Main villain Skull Face turned out to be quite the disappointment after the rather stellar role he played in the prologue, Ground Zeroes, but it turns out that he was just another panzo villain ala Hot Coldman, channelling some of the sillyness of Colonel Volgin though without the charm of the latter. Even I can admit that Snake's own support characters are entirely unmemorable this time around which brings me to the CODEC conversations which are probably the only things I miss just a bit, if only because the alternative that is cassette tapes doesn't quite work as well as it should have -- The reason why is because they feel segregated from the plot, even though what is being said tapes are key plot points to understand what is going on; so essentially it's like you're playing a Final Fantasy game from modern Square, where Enix doesn't feel like filling you in on what the hell is going on in the story, but instead offers you a pamphlet that summarize the little details, which you have to acquire yourself by doing some obscure tedious tasks. The cutscenes are not missed but admittedly the CODEC is.... a bit, if only because I want to hear Snake say the goddamn line, yo. David Hayter's absence is sorely felt and with regards to how little Kiefer's character seem to be involved in the overall story, one wonders why he was switched out in the first place?

    Having said that -- The Phantom Pain still managed to be among the most memorable experiences for me this year, and that's in a positive way, I'll remind you-- That's why I think it deserves to be here.

  • An indie game of all things loved by the millions, heralded for its unique sense of humor and playing style – You’d be forgiven for thinking that out there somewhere, someone would have already repeated the quirky saying ”Citizen Kane of Games” in a discussion related to Undertale. Unlike The Last of Us, Undertale seem to have received shared critical acclaim from fans and critics alike. But why wouldn’t they love it though? An illegitmate offspring of the popular Earthbound and Shin Megami Tensei series; One top of it being a low budget-kickstarter-funded game with incredibly rich details to its core gameplay mechanics and plot alike that seamlessly flows well together. The elements of Earthbound and SMT are quite evident. From the former it takes a contemporary looking child-protagonist who finds himself involved in a large-scale insane conflict, with a cheeky sense of humor about itself that is actually quite funny outside of occasional internet meme references, and from Shin Megami Tensei it takes the Demon Negotation system; Wherein the player character has the option of negotiating with the enemy monsters who are all characterized with their own quirks and personalities, this can be done so through various means, especially in the earlier Persona games where the negotiation could lead to potentially hilarious moments between the characters--Yes you can indeed try to seduce, or compliment, the spawns of Satan to victory.

    Unlike either precedent game series mentioned above, Undertale can be completed entirely without fighting a single monster and it's not even that difficult as long as you're going into the game with a prepared mindset. Admittedly, I've found myself killing a few of them by accident, as I initially didn't understand its quirky combat mechanics at first. Now I'm older, wiser and more experienced though Undertale doesn't give a shit about whether you're prepared or not. You'll live with the consequences of your actions, bitch. Visually, that's where its strength lies, it's tongue-in-cheek approach to story and characters, being alarmingly competent at managing to portray both depressing drama and quirky humor in one sitting--Undertale represents the kind of nice surprises that jumps up every now and then, amist all of the mediocrity, with some inovative ideas that actually work out quite well. It definitely deserves its place on this list.

  • In my line of work a Persona game always deserves to be on a list like this if it can get away with it; it'd be a crime if it wasn't, but notably not on the top because there's still a sense of integrity to my opinions.. at least I like to think so. But you know, we all like different things, these lists are all about what we liked and games that just happened to keep our attention for longer than 1 single playthrough. I went in to Persona 4 Dancing All Night expecting things like amusing dialogue exchanges between the lovable cast from Persona 4 and a great soundtrack and it delivered on all aspects of my expectations.

    What I expected was a silly game that paid homáge to a great RPG series; its soundtrack in particular and that's exactly what I got.

    Persona 4 Dancing All Night is probably the best among the spin-offs, even if its story quality is somewhere between midget height and 50ft below sea level. It has at least 1 new memorable character, unlike the shallow edgyhog cartoon villains of Persona 4 Arena and Ultimax, but closer to the quality of characters like Rei & Zen from Q. It also manages to be a bit dark too in the vein of Persona 4, but ultimately retracts from that part entirely when you get to the end and have an epic dance off with the prerequisite spawn of Satan for this game. The characters don't act like shallow flanderized knock-offs like in the fighting games, or even Persona Q, which is ultimately what makes it 1-up Persona Q quite a bit. Sure, Persona Q understands the JRPG and dungeon crawling aspects quite well, but in terms of characters (which is a pretty important aspect of this series) it falls flat on its head amist some jagged rocks.

    Having said that, I wouldn't say DAN is a GREAT game. It's replay value is entirely dependent on how much you enjoy the soundtrack of the games, which I so happen to do (I listen to it quite often on the stereo), the story is at best worth 1 playthrough where the real re-play value is found in the Free Dance mode and I've been having my time of life with it. Trying to best Hard Mode with a perfect score is actually quite exhillirating in fond memory of Catherine's block puzzle gameplay. I have no prior experience with Dancing games, but Dancing All Night has managed to enchant me with its challenging and reflex based button prompt mashing, where I JUST NEED TO GIVE IT 1 MORE TRY and then I'll finish the damn song with the best score I wanted.

    The soundtrack features remixes of old tracks from prior Persona games featuring the Persona 4 cast, alongside the main theme of Persona Q "Maze of Life". Some of these remixes features guest composition by renowned awesome composers like Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) & Norihiko Hibino (Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2, MGS2 & MGS3) along with other Japanese artists. The ones done by Yamaoka & Hibino are probably among my favorites, along with the stellar remix of Heartbeat, Heartbreak and SNOWFLAKES from Persona 4 Golden. You might find a few tracks that are less memorable than others, but ultimately I found them all to be fun to play.

    Oh, and who wouldn't be intrigued by dancing to Signs of Love with Yosuke in nothing but swimshorts with a stupid Power Rangers helmet on. GOTY material right there, folks.

  • Now this game is quite fascinating for what it manages to do -- I'll start with saying that it's a Frictional Games game, which means that any frigid notion of self-defence has been issued a restraining order that'll most likely last until the sun goes down for the last and final time. You play as a bloke called Simon who suffers from a fatal car crash, where circumstances leads to him signing up for an ominous experiment in a rundown lab that can potentially help heal the brain damage he suffered from the accident, because you know these arrangements always work out beautifully for all concerned.

    During the experimental brain-scan, Simon blacks out and eventually awakens a whole century later, where one would probably wonder how he'd still be in one piece after so long. He regains consciousness in the Site Upsilon branch of PATHOS-II, a seemingly abandoned underwater research facility, with no knowledge of how he got there. It's the template recurrent for most of Frictional's games, the sense of vulnerability and obliviousness to the insane affair that transpires around you. In contrast, however, to that of Amnesia you're not completely alone for the entire game, well eldritch-stalking-abominations notwithstanding, Simon does come in contact with someone named Catherine, who instructs him to come to her location in Lambda station. While exploring PATHOS-II, Simon learns that he woke up in the year 2104. In 2103, a massive comet had devastated Earth's surface, leaving PATHOS-II as the last outpost of humanity. So that about summarizes the premise appropriately.

    The sense of anxious loneliness is still evident despite the occasional call-in from your support contact, but it's not quite as "impacting" as it probably should have been; A comparison to that of the Shock games is in order, particularly System Shock -- The horror aspects are evident in both, but they aren't quite as.. well scary, as other games that brands themselves as horror. SOMA treats its horror like a lion handles the gazelle-- It becomes a bit tirelessly predictable, and sometimes obnoxious to witness, when the elder Cthulhu spawn of Satan shows up to eat all the pies. I'd say it distracts me quite a bit from the parts that actually make SOMA so great. It's not the horror but rather its discussion on hard sci-fi concepts, like human philosophy, conciousness and identity -- Oh, and it does it quite well. It's depressing, in a good way, like your Silent Hill 2 but doesn't handle the horror quite as well as the former here. But that's okay, because what SOMA does manage to do is executed flawlessly. It should, however, be said that the game still manages to be quite unnerving so for those who aren't a fan of scary games but prefer an engaging story, you might want to think twice before jumping into this one.

    It's hard to talk about anything but the story for a like SOMA, especially because gameplay-wise there isn't much else to it other than your standard first-person horror game mechanics. You explore environments for clues and audio logs (Shock-games style) to figure out what has happened and how you may proceed into the next cosmic monstrosity that will jump out of the nearest closet. What is somewhat alarming for SOMA is the continued habit of avoiding to look directly at the monster that is chasing, while in retrospect this aspect worked for the Lovecraftian styled insanity spectrum that was the Dark Descent in SOMA feels rather obtuse to avoid getting near, or even looking at the monsters, while simultaneously figuring out where the hell they are; Nevermind the fact that the monsters this time aren't even spectral demons from beyond the veil of time and space, but rather physical sausage monsters who had sex with a diesel engine. I'd go so far to say that the monster's presence feels contrived for no better reason than to complete the status quo-- There's little under the horizon for the lack of self-defense gameplay this time, which makes me sad for someone who loves horror games like Silent Hill. All in all, while SOMA pushes no envelopes in terms of gameplay it manages to tell a story that really got me and although it might not necessarily warrant a 2nd playthrough like other games similar to it, it does stick around in my mind as quite memorable.

  • Nintendo you got to stop channelling Sony with your blatant disregard for your own platforms sometimes; The Wii-U is out, it's on the market, so it doesn't help anybody that you decide to overall neglect it in favour of your new elusive project, the NX. You gotta try to sell it no matter what before moving on to the next thing in order to save face over the fact that it wasn't a complete waste of time and effort. I suppose the continued support for the Virtual Console and an eventual HD re-release of Twilight Princess is something, but not the kind of backing I was thinking as it only serves to reflect on the decline of the poor Vita that also only helped by the occasional ports and niche Japanese titles. The Wii-U is also the last reminder of the late Satoru Iwata, whose enlightened positive charisma is what has kept Nintendo's high spirits and popularity in tact even to this day despite not having much of an original thought for over 10 years in terms of exciting IPs.

    It's failure to measure up to the standards of its peers is thankfully combated with its support for indie games and neat third party titles that would otherwise have not been given the time of day by other manufacturers. Last year was Bayonetta 2, and this time we have Xenoblade Chronicles X.

    Xeno X is a spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, which in turn was a successor to Xenosaga and Xenogears released on the PSX and PS2. Contrary to what one might initially think it is not a sequel to the 2011 released Wii game. X is a mecha-JRPG that shares similar mechanics and aesthetic style to that of its predecessor but that's where all the similarities end -- The little story I managed to decipher from my time spent with the game tells the tale of humanity being put to on the brink of extinction after an enigmatic alien race lays siege on Earth, effectively destroying the entire planet; During the subsequent fallout, one measly little colony ship manages to escape the planet's destruction. The aliens eventually manage to catch up with the escaped ship, and in the ensuing battle, it crashes unto an alien planet that for all intents and purposes looks just as "way-out-there" as that of Bionis from Xenoblade with all its weirdly designed creatures that all look like something out of a Capcom game.

    As you can probably imagine, Xeno X's story plays more or less like anything else out of the "Hand guide to most common sci-fi story ever". Humanity breaches the final frontier to search for a new home and so on and so on; the story still has its occasional interesting twists and fun characters but nothing awe-inspiring. The exaggerated English working class accents from the predecessor is conspicuously absent which is such a shame because I felt it was part of Xenoblade's charm -- It probably doesn't help that this partially makes it harder for me to care about the characters because they essentially sound like your average JRPG character. I chose to pick Tara Platt as the voice for my protagonist, so that's a thumbs up at least, but et jost ain't da saiyme without REYN BAI-BAY--After all, can't 'ave a REYN-bow without REYN BAI-BAY.

    All said and done, in terms of story, we've been there before but considering the story is also more or less in the background this time around, it's probably better to assume it's the gameplay and world that really captures the attention. You'd be right for thinking so, anyway. Xeno X is probably one of the most beautiful games on the Wii-U, it is quite massive and colourful. The combat is actually quite thrilling for all of its MMO aspect, it's the good kind of MMO however, and the kind that isn't drenched with a bunch of dickspurs who filters the upper left side of the screen with PG-15 drivel.

    Gameplay is centred around auto attacking so all concentration is focused around micro managing your abilities, which sometimes requires timed activation to deal the best amount of damage in vein of Earthbound or Paper Mario. Unlike Fallout 4, it seems to take a while before you actually get to move around in your choice of mecha-powered-super-armor and once you finally do it feels great.

    The soundtrack is actually another point about the game I didn't care all that much about -- I should probably also mention the soundtrack, which is actually among the aspects of the game I didn't care too much for at all. It comes off as incredibly hammy and generic to a point where I don't know if it's being deliberately ironic; I mean, if you wan't to smear shit in your face to make an ironic statement then more power to you but you still smell like ass. It's also the reason for why I don't like Metal Gear Rising's soundtrack.

    In retrospect, a lot of it reminds me of the main theme to the vanilla version of Dragon's Dogma, where mournful standard RPG piano music paved way to a generic guitar riff that sounds like someone held the strings up against a sewing machine while spewing unironic J-Rock lyrics. Yoko Shimomura's absence is sorely felt and missed.

    Having said all of that, Xenoblade Chronicles X is still an incredibly fun experience to play if one has an open mind for a fun game with only a small amount of story -- Oh, and there's co-op too so you can totally play it with other people although how well it plays is up to the inevitable machinations of fate i.e. your wifi-connection.

  • There's a common belief that any game that doesn't present itself with intuitive gameplay mechanics in the form of various orchestrated-timed button-mashing sequences couldn't possibly be considered a game.

    Her Story is a game in the same sense that any old school adventure game series were and still are games -- It is also a damn good game for what it wants to be, I'll remind you. It's brought to us by one Sam Barlow, who previously worked on Silent Hill Shattered Memories for the Wii, the perhaps only competent western-developed Silent Hill game; I for one will always commend it for its promising approach to psychological profiling mechanics that also manages to slightly scratch the same psychological itch of the Team Silent games. Sadly Shattered Memories, while still carrying an excellent soundtrack from the legend Akira Yamaoka, was held down by its lack of any poignant symbolic horror and atmosphere. Barlow's work on Shattered Memories feels at home with a game like Her Story that centralizes around that concept entirely without worrying about the baggage of Silent Hill. It's probably a better detective game than L.A. Noire ever was, which suffered from the cruel fate of being a game developed by Rockstar where the status quo dictates that the game must be governed by faffing-about open world aspects and shooting sequences. In retrospect, Barlow himself commented on his disappointment with L.A. Noire from which the idea of Her Story came to be. It's right up there with Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment as one of my favourites in regards to detective games. You play as a faceless, nameless, detective who's been tasked to review files of an old case from 1994. Your job is to filter through video clips from interviews, containing answers from questions asked to a British woman about her missing husband, by searching a database in an old computer. The questions themselves are edited out so the player is tasked to figure out the proper context of each of them, they are also not listed or categorized and thus can only be found by using proper keywords related to what the interviewed suspect is talking about.

    It's a clever design choice that allows for maximum freedom for the player, as it is ultimately also up to the player to figure out when they have enough evidence to piece a story together that interprets its context and meaning. You decide how it plays and should play for yourself, there are no real answers, only interpretations much like any other retrospective depiction of a major crime you'll see in either history books, novels and so on. Her Story definitely deserves a place here.