Sunday, January 10, 2016

Top 5 Video Games of 2015

Not the best year for gaming, but still a solid one.

So with 2015 finally at an end, I had a lot of hopes for the year going into it. Did it live up to this expectations? Well it was going to, but then most of the best titles of the year were delayed into 2016. Whoops. Games like Uncharted 4, Zelda Wii U, Quantum Break, Might No. 9, Star Fox Zero, and many other games with a lot of hype were delayed and unfortunately left most of the year pretty barren. There weren't that many outstanding games to play this year, with most of the big releases of the year being few and far between. Hell, for the holidays, I can name only about two or three AAA games that were released that were actually half way decent.

Still, that's not to say that the entire year was a wash. Out of the few AAA games that were released this year, the ones that did were still fantastic. Plus, a lot of the slack was picked up by Indie developers with a whole slew of experimental titles that received critical acclaim. And then there's Nintendo, who was just being Nintendo and doing their own thing as always.

So this year, I really had to scrape together a Top 5 list, if only because I didn't play that many new games this year that weren't remakes or remasters. It mostly was a three way combination of a lot of the games I wanted to play being delayed into 2016, being in England for four months without a dedicated system, and the fact that a lot of games I played this year just weren't that great. I spent way more time playing games from 2014 than I did 2015. But still, that's no excuse, and I was still able to make a Top 5 list. Now I didn't play every game that was released this year, so if your favorite game didn't appear on this list, chances are I just didn't get to play it. So without further adieu, here are my Top 5 Video Games of 2015.

HM: Huniepop (PC)
You all probably thought my April Fool's review was a joke, right? Well, it was all authentic.

Except for the cabbages. The cabbages may have been exaggerated.

I will fully admit that Huniepop is not a fantastic game and is pretty much an adult dating sim game mixed with some porn. It's all true and there are 12 girls to romance, and I romanced the hell out of all 12 of them. But the reason why this game gets my honorable mention is solely because of the experience I had playing it.

When we first heard about the game, a friend and I did the only thing we could do and played it together. We spent many a sleepless nights just playing the game and romancing each woman and taking part in puzzles with each woman and eventually doing the nasty with them. We had many a good laughs, and we still talk about how hilarious the game is. Every joke that was in the review was a running joke when we were playing it. Our playthrough got so intense that we had a final four hour gaming session until 3:00 a.m. just to beat it. Which we did.

If anything, play this game with a group of friends. There's enough material in here to make you laugh for days, and divvying up a certain amount of characters to each player makes the game all the more fun. You get invested into the woman you're trying to romance, which makes for even more hilarious dates and scenarios. Nothing beats giving a woman perfume and Tabasco sauce to really get her going.

God I'm lonely.

#5: Evolve (PS4, XBONE, PC)
And here is my obligatory PS4/XBONE game of the year. This year it's the multiplayer shooter that everyone forgot almost immediately, Evolve. 

Evolve has a lot of problems, the biggest of which being its online community. As in there is none. No one is playing this game anymore for an online only multiplayer shooter. That kinda shoots the game in the foot from the onset, mostly because I love a good single player game. I rarely play games online and when I do, they're not in competitive scenes. The only single player mode that the game has is a paltry five mission "campaign" that is done in about an hour. If you're playing alone, Evolve is a waste of time. 

When you're playing with friends though, like I was, then this game is an utter joy. I've been able to play the game with three other people on PS4's in local co-op games where all of us were humans against superpowered CPU monsters, and those matches were intense and completely awesome. It's a huge price point to get what I think is the definitive way to play Evolve, local co-op, but it's so good when it actually happens. We played nearly daily when it first came out, and while it's been a while since I've played the game with them, I can't help but think that with new monsters and teammates to play as, the game has only gotten better. I still wish that there was a solid single player mode, but it can't be helped and there's no point wishing for a feature that isn't there. Evolve might be a very barebones shooter, but it's four player squad based gameplay is a blast with friends. 

#4: Persona 4: Dancing All Night (VITA)
The first game that I didn't get a chance to review, Persona 4: Dancing All Night was a game I had no intention on getting when it first came out. I love the original Persona 4 to the point where it's one of my favorite RPGs and technically one of the strongest JRPGs of the past decade. It had such a great story and such good gameplay that just the idea of taking the characters and putting them into a dancing game made me cringe on several different levels. 

But then I actually sat down and played the game and, shock of all shocks, I actually really enjoyed it! Yeah the story was a waste of time and it felt like it dragged on for longer than it should, but the actual gameplays and tracks available were vibrant and full of life. This is essentially a Hatsune Miku clone with a Persona 4 skin, but the game is still functional and a hell of a lot of fun. There's nothing quite like seeing a bunch of the characters from an already happy and optimistic game dancing to peppy techno and J-Pop. 

One of the best things about the Persona series has always been its compositions by Shoji Meguro, and several of his tracks are available here. The majority of the tracks are remixes, some good, some bad, but the majority of the songs I really enjoyed. Plus if you've ever played the original game, there's nothing like seeing Nanako dance to the entire Junes song. 

The aesthetic is also vibrant and pops out way more than Guitar Hero Live does, with each track changing its visual theme and stages ever so slightly. I guess you can call this my guilty pleasure of the year, but I don't think there's anything guilty about it. It's just a fun and happy dancing game on the Vita, and don't we need more Vita love in our lives?

#3: Xenoblade Chronicles X (WII U)
If there was one game I was looking forward to most this year, it was Xenoblade Chronicles X. I lvoed the original game, and just the idea of a sequel had me salivating like nothing else this year. When the game actually released, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough time to play it before making this list. Turns out I was able to get it done in time (or at least enough to form a solid opinion about the game), and lo and behold, here it is!

XCX is the grandest game of the year in my opinion. The world here is simply massive and unlike any other world I've played this year. Seriously, the fact that the Wii U could create worlds this large and detailed astounds me. Add in to the the ability to pilot a giant mech, and you get a game where just the basic action of walking across the map is a huge adventure worth sinking an afternoon into. 

The actual gameplay is very similar to the original Xenoblade, but with a few well needed tweaks. There is a lot more character customization on offer here, which is greatly appreciated. You could customize moves, class types, your weapons, armor, the cooldown times for certain abilities, then you can design your mech to an astounding degree. It just polishes an already fantastic formula to a near perfect shine. 

The best part about the game though has to be the huge amount of sidequests on display. I'm not someone who likes to do sidequests unless the game deserves it, but this game made me want to complete every sidequest. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure I spent more time completing sidequests than actually tackling the campaign, which is still a lot of fun. Xenoblade Chronicles X immersed me like no other game this year, and you deserve to play what is arguably the best RPG on the Wii U.

#2: Undertale (PC)
Undertale may be the best India game I've played all year. I also find it's fanbase absolutely detestable, and I hate the fact that people refuse to play this game because of how awful the fanbase it. Trust me, I understand completely. However, that shouldn't stop anyone from playing this fantastic game. 

I don't think that Undertale is a perfect game, nor is it the best game that came out this year, but it's a game that I feel like I want to go back to again and again just because of how lovable the characters are, how delightful the humor is, and how the game just makes me feel emotions that David Cage wishes he could convey. You don't need cutting edge, state of the art technology to convey strong emotions or ideas. You just need a lot of creativity and passion, and Undertale personifies that sentiment in spades. 

Who could forget characters like Papyrus, Sans, and Toriel? Who could forget the annoying dog and the first time you met Flowey? Who could forget the final boss fight, or doing your first Genocide run, or your first Pacifist run? There are some many moments in this game that leave a strong impact that I can't even begin to summarize all of it. Look, it might sound like I'm gushing about the game, but Undertale is one of those games that doesn't come along every so often. It's a game that pushes boundaries in all of the right ways, but will sadly not be replicated for years to come. It's lightning in a bottle, and as much as I may dislike the fanbase, at least they're flocking to a game that's good instead of a game that's crap an enforces negative tropes and game design. 

Bottom line, if you're sick of hearing about this game, there's not much I can say to stop that. But if you're willing to give this game a try, you will not regret it in the slightest. 

#1: Yoshi's Woolly World (WII U)
So this might have been the most popular game that came out this year. Hell, this may not even be the best game that came out this year. But this was the one game that I had the most fun playing all year, which is all I really care about. I will always take pure, unadulterated imagination and creativity over processing power and tired mechanics. In that regard, Woolly World fully deserves my praise as the best game of 2015. 

While it may appear to be a simple remake of the exquisite Yoshi's Island, that alone would have made it a good game, but the developer, Good-Feel, went further than that. They gave the game a complete wool makeover that's very similar to Kirby's Epic Yarn, yet even better due to the Wii U's extra processing power. Each stage has its own unique theme and design to it, oftentimes sporting a completely different gameplay mechanics like auto scrolling, a maze, or even invisible platforms. Each stage made me want to explore and see what was behind every nook and cranny. 

And oh boy are there a lot of things to do in this game. Not only are there six worlds with eight stages in each, but each world has a secret stage that can be unlocked by collecting all 5 flowers per stage for a grand total of 40 flowers per world. Then you have yarn bundles that unlock more Yoshi colors to choose from, a boss rush mode, secret stages, secret beads that contain stickers, and a difficulty curve that is easy to play, but difficult to master, and you have a game that literally anyone can enjoy. 

The soundtrack to Woolly World is equally fantastic with each stage having its own unique theme. I can't think of a single bad track in the game, and even the tracks that I don't care for add enough ambiance and mood to justify its existence. Then you have all of the replayability, amiibo support, challenges, as well as secret stages, and you have a game bursting with content, personality, and charm up the wazzoo. 

Every game that I have on this list has something that I enjoyed. Evolve had great co-op. Persona 4: Dancing All Night had a great soundtrack. Xenoblade Chronicles X had breathtaking visuals. Undertale had amazing charm and personality. Yoshi's Woolly World combines all of those elements together to make one singular, amazing experience that I want to dive back into and play again. It's a game that I can 100% feel confident is saying is my personal Game of the Year. 

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