It’s nearly the end of the year! And what would the end of the year be without some kind of “year in review” thing? Nothing. It would cease to end, and we would be trapped here forever. To put an end to this curse, Oscar & Peter bring you their gaming and anime awards for this year!
Awe-Inspiring Gaming Moment of 2015
Oscar: Realising how Huge and Open Xenoblade Chronicles X is
Xenoblade Chronicles is a game packed with awe-inspiring moments. But the biggest one for me was the first time I realised just how huge and open the strange, alien world of Mira is. Sure, there’s a wonderful view as you first step into Primorodia properly, but it’s not until you get the tutorials out the way and you’re just thrown in there that you realise the scope of the place. Humongous alien creatures roam the truly otherworldly landscapes, filled with strange jutting rocks, massive lakes, and mysterious ancient artefacts. And you can journey to its farthest reaches whenever you want. Exploration has never felt so good.
Peter: The Beginning of Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider has more than it’s share of awe-inspiring moments but it starts out with my favourite one, as Lara finds herself on a snowy mountain with absolutely drop dead gorgeous surroundings that made me stop and just look for a little while. This serene moment is soon interrupted by a rude avalanche that has you fleeing for your life on the side of a mountain. The gorgeous visuals, the slow and relaxing beginning and then the intense sprint to safety made for not only my favourite awe-inspiring moment of the year, but my favourite opening sequence of the year. At the end of that, I sat back and just went “fuck yeah”.
Flirtation Sensei of 2015
Oscar: Geralt from the Witcher 3
Dialogue trees are always tough. There’s always going to be those moments you select a choice and it seems like your character is going to go for something you didn’t intend. But, even in the toughest situations, Geralt can always smoothly turn the tide of a conversation into a lovely compliment, or bedroom talk, depending on the situation. And, he can talk his way though a lot of other more potentially violent confrontations, too. The dude might have two swords on his back, but his tongue is sharpest, and taught me a thing or two.
Peter: Kagura from Blazblue
Kagura Mutsuki, our resident lecherous sleazeball in the BlazBlue universe. Whether it’s hinting at hookups with Makoto or claiming Noel for himself, Kagura has a way with the ladies. When you’ve advanced your game to the point where you have a terminator style eye for scanning a woman’s measurements, surely you have all the qualifications to be a strong Flirtation Sensei!
Most Titillating Gaming Moment of 2015
Oscar: Watching the Uninitiated play Gal*Gun Double Peace for the first time
Gal*Gun Peace is truly something. We’ve had a lot of new people in the office lately, and inevitably the disc finds its way into the PlayStation 4 somehow. There’s a progression of reactions that almost universally follows from their faces not too dissimilar to the stages of grief. Shock, bewilderment, tears, quiet acceptance, and then usually a small smirk. I’ve not played the game yet myself, but I get enough enjoyment watching people play it for the first time that I don’t really have to.
Peter: Stumbling on Geraint trying to push a Gal*Gun Girl out of a window
I was just walking back to my desk one day and ran across my boss sitting there with his trademark ecchi grin. We know what that means around here; clearly he was up to no good once again! Upon further investigation I found him looking up the skirt of a school girl that was stuck in a window, gleefully groping her buttocks as he was trying to “help her” get out of this situation. I was shocked and appalled at what I had come across! And then intrigued. …and then I helped him do it.
Most Surprising Announcement of 2015
Oscar: Shemue 3
Sony’s 2015 E3 conference will probably always be remembered for its surprise announcements, but really nothing can top Shenmue 3. There’s almost no words to describe it. The feeling we all got when the opening notes to that music started to play. Goosebumps covered our skin. We all knew in those initial seconds, but we all dared not to dream. Then it was announced. Amazing.
Peter: Final Fantasy VII Remake
When Sony announced the Final Fantasy VII remake at E3 2015, my jaw dropped. There had been talk about it for a while now, but I never actually thought it would be a thing. And then they showed a trailer. My reactions went something like this; “No. No way… is it? IT IS! HOLY SHIT IT IS! IT’S HAPPENING! IT LOOKS SO FUCKING GOOD!!! BLAAAEEERRRGH!!!111”. That last part was me bliss-vomiting. Yes that’s a thing.
Us watching Sony’s E3 press conference:
The Most Frustrating Gaming Experience of 2015
Oscar: Metal Gear Solid V
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain should have been Game of the Year material. Easily. The gameplay loop is so astounding, it may as well be perfect. The story that’s in the game is a little bit of a mixed bag, though overall I liked a lot of it, including the “ending”. Except, it’s not the real ending, is it? The true ending of the game was cut. It exists only as unfinished cutscenes and concept art on the Blu-ray that comes with the collector’s edition. Who knows if it would have been good, but it promised a lot of thematic closure that would actually have ended the game properly.
Metal Gear Solid V is great, but it’s so frustrating that they came so close to finishing the game and then just decided “fuck it” and shipped it. The full story of the conflict between Kojima and Konami may not come to light for some time, but if it doesn’t have anything to do with Konami not letting the game actually be finished I would be very surprised. It’s just not finished, and that’s awful. Disgusting, almost, to just dump its remnants on a collector’s Blu-ray with the initial release of the game.
Peter: Metal Gear Solid V
Holy shit this game pissed me off. Don’t get me wrong, MGSV is a really good game. It’s so fucking good. But it could have been so much better. It’s not a finished game, the narrative isn’t done well (I can’t believe I actually want more Kojima exposition dumps) and the final chapter repeated missions to pad the game is just blatantly offensive. If Kojima had been able to actually finish this game, we would have been looking at the most sublime gaming experience ever created. Instead it’s just a good but flawed game. The unfulfilled potential in MGSV is one of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced in gaming.
The Biggest Gaming Let-Down of 2015
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
I always had my doubts about Ultra Despair Girls in the build-up to release, but when I first sat down with it I was pleasantly surprised. The combination of survival horror and hack and slash was a little basic, but it looked really nice on the Vita, and the story and dialogue was still pretty great, as you’d expect from a Danganronpa game (and it is, mostly throughout). But, the gameplay just gets worse and worse as it goes on, never sure of what it wants to be. Sometimes it devolves into just sequences of annoying puzzle rooms that wouldn’t be out of place in a more basic form on Newgrounds, other times it challenges you to defeat waves of enemies. It’s so confused, and that’s a shame, as the core story and writing is good. But the gameplay just becomes so irritating so fast.
Ultra Street Fighter IV (PS4)’s Release
USFIV on PS4 was supposed to be the new competitive flagship for Sony, Capcom and Street Fighter. The Capcom Cup was all ready to switch to the PS4 version. EVO was announced to be played on PS4. The FGC was getting ready to get on the PS4 bandwagon fully. And then the game was released and was a giant steaming pile of shit. Turns out Capcom had outsourced the PS4 port and clearly not paid enough attention. The result was glitches, sound issues, slowdowns and hard crashes abound and a game that was completely competitively unviable. It took months of fixing to get the game even somewhat comparable to the Xbox 360 version. It’s pretty good now (aside from the occasional menu slowdown and hard crashes in training mode when someone challenges you), but it was a long road.
Best Multiplayer Game
Easy to learn and difficult to master. It’s a phrase I don’t like using, but one that is so true for Splatoon, one of Nintendo’s best new IPs. Anyone can pick up and play. The basic game mode is super simple, just cover the stages in your team’s ink. But there’s a massive amount of depth in the different weapons and sub-weapons you can use, and the ability to hide in ink of your colour opens up stealth options literally anywhere.
Peter: Heroes of the Storm
It’s often considered to be baby’s first MOBA, but HoTS is a really good game. It’s a lot friendlier than the LoL’s and the DoTA’s of the world and will teach you a lot about how to behave and what to look for in a MOBA. It’s the game I’d recommend someone to play if they were just picking up MOBA’s. It has cool characters that you already know and love from Blizzard lore and it’s just pretty darn fun.
Best Co-Op Game of the Year
Oscar: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
How can any co-op be better than teaming up to take down gigantic and strange monsters? Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the most approachable and refined Monster Hunter yet, and while it is a shame there’s no home console version like the third entry in the series got, this is still the best Monster Hunter experience yet. Getting set up on the multiplayer is still a little bit complicated, but that just makes the people that turn up all the more game to quest with you. There’s true camaraderie here, and many fantastic online experiences to be had that you can truly call your own.
Peter: Rocket League
My favourite co-op game of the year is Halo 5!– no wait a minute… I’ve still not quite processed that. I guess I’ll go with Rocket League. That’s co-op right? Kind of? Well that’s what I’m picking so fuck you! Rocket League is great fun if you have a good team that works together. It’s the most fun I’ve had with any of the free monthly games on any platform this year.
The Most Exciting Gaming Moment of 2015
Oscar: Realising the Yakuza series is actually really good
Sometimes I can be a bit of a weird guy when it comes to playing games sequentially. Unfortunately this made it tricky for me to go back and try the Yakuza series for a while, though they always interested me. Unfortunately the HD collection of the first two PlayStation 2 games was Japanese only. It was only this year, then, that I played the first Yakuza for the first time. It’s amazing. With Yakuza 5 just coming out in the west, Yakuza 0 announced to be coming over soon, and Yakuza Kiwami (the remaster of the first game) on the fence, now is a great time to be a Yakuza fan. Realising there is such a large amount of great Yakuza games to play has been an exciting highlight of the year for me.
I’VE GOT A BATMOBILE MOTHERFUCKERS!!! BRRRRRRROOOOOOOMMMMMBRRROOOOMMMBRRRRMMMMMM!!! BOOOM!! CRASH!! SPLAT!!!! Shit, I done spilled my drink!
When I first got put behind the wheel of the Batmobile in Batman Arkham Knight, it was amazing! It grew kind of old as the game went on, but those first 30 minutes of just racing around Gotham City in the Batmobile were amazing. Probably the biggest, dumbest grin on my face all year.
The Most Satisfying Victory of 2015
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence
A game of Nobunaga’s Ambition can last quite a while. Carefully I had forged alliances in Central Japan, crushing those who opposed me and expanding my, well, sphere of influence. Forces in the North of Japan were strong, and bristling for a piece of me. The South were largely preoccupied with their own conflicts, particularly two large forces. Tentatively I tested out negotiations with both of them, waited for one to get the upperhand over the other, forged a treaty with the stronger and helped them crush the other. This thrilling, perfectly timed strategy won me the majority of Japan, allowing me to enact a ban on war and win the game. Absolutely terrific.
Beating the final fight in Halo 5 was the most satisfying for a couple of reasons. Partially because I was getting bored and just kind of wanted it to be over, and partially because I was playing on Legendary with no co-op partner for THE FIRST TIME EVER. Yeah yeah I know I can get Xbox Live people to join BUT IT DOESN’T COUNT! I want my co-op partners next to me on the couch so I can smack them upside the head when I have to carry them through an area. I’m too old for this online shit, I need to look you in the eye when I tell you how much you suck.
The Best Anime of the Year
Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)
There was a lot of great anime this year, and some of them excelled in different ways to Hibike! Euphonium, but no matter what I just can’t get Hibike out of my mind. Whereas other anime had iffy moments and some weak endings, Hibike is just a really great complete package. It’s a lovely coming of age story based on a light novel series about a group of first year high school girls that join the concert club. The club consists of a host of interesting characters, and follows them as they attempt to make the nationals under the instruction of their young but brilliant teacher. It’s just really nice and heartwarming.
Knights of Sidonia
I finally got on that Knights of Sidonia bandwagon. It’s been out on Netflix for a while and I’ve heard it was good, but when I tried to sit down with it last year, I just couldn’t get into it. An episode and a half later and I was done. I decided to try again this year after the second season came out, and I loved it! I don’t know how that works but that’s what happened. I binged hard and finished both seasons in a couple of days. It’s really really good!
Biggest Anime Let-Down of the Year
Attack on Titan the Movie Part 1
As with Peter I’ve written about this one already too in my review of the film. In a way this shouldn’t count, as it’s a live action adaptation of the popular manga and anime. But it does count, of course. I’m always up for allowing an adaptation to change the source material. I’ve always thought that in some ways the live action Death Note films are superior to the anime and manga (and the live action TV series is pretty good too). This changed a lot, but none of the changes seemed to make sense or do anything other than take away from the things that are interesting in the original. The digital effects are pretty good, as you would expect from Shinji Higuchi, but it’s bogged down in lame, bad character drama that literally nobody will care about. Stick with the manga or anime. Season 2 is out next year.
The Irregular at Magic High School
I’ve written about this extensively before. Let’s just say that I like a little bit of actual tension in my anime’s, and this one just devolved into a little boy power fantasy circle jerk as the main character ascends to borderline godhood for no apparent reason. It started out being quite interesting though, which is why I found it so frustrating.
Best Back Catalogue Game of the Year
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
It boggles my mind how I didn’t play this until this year. I guess, having played some of the GBA and DS titles I just thought I had experienced the Metroidvania Castlevania enough. I was wrong, of course. Symphony of the Night is on a whole other level. Gorgeous visuals that still hold up today, and an awesome soundtrack. The exploration based gameplay is fantastic, and rewards looking everywhere, unlike some games (including other Castlevanias) that feel like they punish you for making a wrong turn.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Yep, didn’t play it fully until this year. I’ve had it on my shelf since 2011, and I even played it a couple of times, got 11 hours into it and 8 hours into it, respectively. But I always got distracted by something else and never finished it. Earlier this year I sat down with it and powered through it, and had a great time doing it! It’s an amazing game! Although I spent the entire game feeling like it would have been better if I wasn’t forced to use motion controls.
2015 Game We’ll Still be Playing Next Year
Xenoblade Chronicles X
This game is huge. Absolutely massive. Exploring Mira is just so great, though, that I’m going to be seeing this one through to the end for sure. Even if it’s just so I can put enough time in to get one of the mechs. I’ve already put enough time into it to have the catchy-yet-cheesy soundtrack stuck in my head whenever I close my eyes, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Disgaea 5 is my placeholder game this year. Whenever I don’t have anything else to play, I play Disgaea 5. It’s excellent for that as the addictive and interesting strategy gameplay works well in short burts or long mindless grinds on those I-have-nothing-better-to-do days. The vapid story doesn’t really interest me and isn’t important so it’s fine if I go a few weeks or a month in-between play sessions. I think I’ll be playing this game on and off well into summer of 2016.
Most Hype Game of 2016
The Legend of Zelda
It was meant to come out this year, but you know what? I’m not even mad. I’ve had more than enough huge games for this year, and I’d really rather they put the time in to get the game just perfect. I really love Wind Waker, it’s one of my favourite Zelda games, but it will always be haunted by the ghost of what could have been if it hadn’t had so much cut content. The new Wii U (or maybe even NX) Zelda looks like it might redefine what the series is about. Whatever they do, I don’t really care. It’s the next big, full-scale, home console Zelda, and that alone is reason enough to be excited. Bring it on, I’m ready to play *holds Wii U GamePad up so it’s parallel with the TV*.
Street Fighter V
What can I say? I CAN’T WAIT! UUHHNNG! I was fine with the wait as I hadn’t had my hands on it much during the beta phases or at tradeshows. Every time the beta had been on, I was away at an event, and every time it was at an event, I was working, so I never had the chance to really sit down with it. Until beta 3 this past week that is. I spent a couple days figuring out what my boy Ken is all about in SFV and now I am hooked. The return to old school fighting game principles of hard reads and commitment is a nice change of pace, and I’m excited about the esports aspects of online play for SFV. I’m going all in on this game. See me in SFV son! February can’t come soon enough!
Most Hype Anime of 2016
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable
I recently saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens at the cinema, which had a trailer for Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice before it. I realised in that moment that I was far more excited for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4 to be animated than I was for either of these big blockbusters. I’m usually hesitant to get too excited about anything, but David Production have already proven themselves with the anime adaptations of the first three parts of JoJo, so it’s probably safe to look forward to this one. I only read Diamond is Unbreakable recently, and it’s really good. The new characters and setting are great (each new Part of JoJo is a new thing). I can’t wait to see the strange town of Morioh and its weird inhabitants brought to vibrant life. This will be a great jumping on point for a lot of people too, as it’s with Part 4 that Araki’s designs move away from muscle men to more lean, somehow even more fabulous types; and the small town murder mystery vibes are approachable to all. April can’t come soon enough, but there’s still plenty of JoJo to catch up on using Crunchy Roll.
More Attack of Titan Season Two
Come on man, it’s gotta be this year. Go to! I don’t think I can handle another year of waiting. What else is there to say at this point. JUST GIVE ME IT! RUB IT ALL OVER MY FACE!