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The nitty-gritty is a series aimed at discussing the utmost granular game design choices and mechanics that makes our favorite games tick. No expense is spared in talking with the most obscure of lexicon and jargon in order really appreciate the nitty-gritty features of our games that we sometimes don't even notice.
PlatinumGames are masters of the action genre. As soon as you hear that the developer is PlatinumGames, people immediately picture a high-octane, adrenaline infused experience where the highs are high and the lows still leave your feet tingly numb. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta 2 are two great examples of of Platinum's work. Both games are fast paced slugfests filled with grandiose set pieces and death defying encounters. On the surface both games should be mechanically similar yet when you start playing them they're very different. There are a lot of action games out there but what binds these two titles together yet makes them distinct? I want to talk about the nitty-gritty about what makes these games feel so good in practice.
Basically, Revengeance is ultimately a more offensive, aggressive playstyle while Bayonetta 2 is a more fluidity in movement, grace, and style. And while I ultimately want to gush about how much I love these two games, I want everyone to come out with an appreciation for how PlatinumGames can take a genre that's prone to repetition between titles and make them feel distinct. How does PlatinumGames make an action game where all you do is repeatedly wail on enemies, oftentimes with only one or two buttons, but still make every fight distinct and exciting?
Look at Revengeance and Bayo 2 from the outside and what would the average onlooker see? Probably high speed, visual noise with some semblance of violence. But when you dig deeper and really explore their combo system, you begin to realize that while both revolve on high speed action, they differ just enough to be a unique fighting experience. Probably an experience only someone with a long history of fighting and action games may sense granted, but a difference nonetheless.
So what do the two share that marks them as unmistakably P*? High frames per second. Call of Duty, as tired as the series may be, is always proud of its 60fps. There's a stark difference in control between the standard 30fps and the high watermark of 60. 30fps is pretty much a norm for most animation. Things appear to move normally when projected onto a screen and are perceived as such. Hit 60fps though and much more visual information is being conveyed to your senses. Halo has only recently joined the realm of 60fps and while the controls are the same, the gap between input and display will feel shortened. Popular buzzwords used like snappy and responsive are all we can use to describe how a game basically runs faster. And Revengeance and Bayo 2 run at these blistering rates in order to really communicate your thoughts and reactions to fast gameplay. It should be noted that Bayo 2 bascially runs at 60fps but will dip when the action gets heavy but this isn't really a concern until one or two encounters into the endgame where things get predictably wacky and flashy.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a great way to see the real difference in frames per second for yourself.
Another similarity is scale. Maybe other games will sick a big boss fight on you every level but in both Revengeance and Bayonetta, every other enemy is at least twice as big as you. Towering behemoths like gekkos and urbane are a regular occurence and its not uncommon to bisect majors enemies and generally reducing the big enemies you get used to fighting to ribbons.
Play both for awhile and the difference is much more pronounced if you reflect on your experiences with the different encounters.
Revengeace is aggressive, in your face, and emphasizes a rushdown, all-out attack mentality. A typical encounter with Raiden is to slice up your opponent as much as you can until you can finish them off in blade mode, exposing their nanofluids, and recharging yourself to restart your offense anew. Blade mode is a purely offensive mechanic, allowing for rapid, powerful attacks during time dilation, at the cost of rooting you in place. In fact, Revengeance focuses so much on offense that your only initial defensive option is to block except you can't hold up that block. The mechanic works more like a parry in that it must be timed, but when mastered, allows for immediately retaliation as your opponent either recovers from their attack or is staggered by your block. The first complaint new players will probably lodge is that Raiden lacks a dodge option, at least at first. This immediately sets Revengeance apart from other action games of its ilk since they almost always provide you with a get out of jail free card in the form of a dodge mechanic that is almost always usable at any point during your offense. Instead the game expects you to grasp the timing of the parry mechanics instead, which is an inherently more offense-oriented than defensive. Even when you purchase the evasive technique, it's built to attack as Raiden dodges with limited movement.
Revengeance typically rewards aggressive combat since your attacks carry a lot of weight, and parrying allows you to restart you attack immediately after blocking your enemy.
Compare this to Bayonetta. While Bayonetta is certainly aggressive, combat in Bayonetta is more fluid and stylish. She has a standard invincible dodge maneuver with her trademark Witch Time slow down to reward precise dodges. Bayonetta isn't about confrontational strategies but rather controlling the flow of combat to your advantage. Since certain combos allow Bayonetta to summon Wicked Weaves, which a giant, powerful, area of effect moves, players have to be mindful of how their combos flow, how strong each of their attacks are, and react to attacks by dodging them. Well timed dodges of course reward you with Witch Time, which in turn feeds additional offense. Bayonetta has a sort of give and take momentum as well as a mindful eye towards pacing and motion. Also, since Bayonetta has guns and a few other methods of ranged combat, Bayonetta is more flexible with spacing. The usual style and pace still applies though.
Bayonetta is like watching tai chi. It's fluid in movement, blending offense with defense through flowing evasion and punishing counterattacks.
Other action games certainly have their own unique strengths, but I love the speed and impulse of PlatinumGames' brand of action games. I know Capcom's brand of action rewards people who dig in deep and stretch their mechanics to the limit. It's apparent in the Devil May Cry series, God Hand, and frankly a lot of other series with a challenge like Ghouls and Ghosts, where learning how the mechanics work at baseline and how to abuse them to their boundaries is almost expected for record setting scores. But PlatinumGames has always felt empowering without overpowering you.
Capcom is also known for punishing you with huge demerits for even the slightest mistake. In Devil May Cry or God Hand, not messing up is a reward in itself while screwing up means getting your ass handed to you. Meanwhile, PlatinumGames lets the difficulty do all the punishing and rewards players who do well. Players who slip up aren't sent back to go without collecting money but players who do well are rewarded such as Raiden's blade mode or Bayo's witch time. Maybe that's why I love PlatinumGames so much. I strive to do well in a game and master its mechanics and Platinum won't withhold anything from me in my quest for perfection.
Another night for late night thoughts. Dtoid is certainly bustling this past month. I take back what I said describing Dtoid's comic book age phases. The very beginning was probably just Dtoid being small but tight knit. Let's call this the Pre-golden age or maybe the Classic age. Eventually there's got to be a Renaissance right? Maybe Renaissance is a better description now than the post-revival age? So Classical age, Golden age, Silver age, and what? Renaissance age? But there's never a shortage of discussion in Community Discourse. I mean, Robert Summa? I'm putting on my skepticals.
But enough about that! I realized I forgot some Hyrule Warriors DLC wish list items! While Shade revealed to me that a Hilda palette swap does exist (and its unlockables early in the Master Quest map too. I already got it), I still left out some choice ideas. It could function well too because Wind Waker isn't acknowledged nearly enough in Hyrule Warriors and the next two ideas are from that world.
Tetra and Spirit Zelda!
Why two distinct Zeldas? Because Tetra functions as Tetra and transforms into Zelda for certain attacks. Spirit Zelda on the other hand would be interesting in that you only see her a few important times. Most of the time, you'll be in control of a Phantom armor, and the armor can in fact be different depending on the weapon you choose!
Spirit Zelda can have access to different suits of armor as her weapon, from an old suit of armor, Darknut armor, to finally Phantom armor. Now I'm just spitballing live as I type this out, but in addition possibly moving like a Darknut in terms of combos, her special attack could be made as a callback to her game of origin. After all, Volga transforms into his dragon form during the game and Lana rides a Deku Sprout like the cavalry. Why not have Zelda in her Phantom armor leap onto a suddenly spawning Spirit Train as it mows down everything in front of you?
That can be a freebie Nintendo. Now how about Tetra?
Tetra can move like Shiek. She is after all a nimble pirate of the sea and prefers a small dagger to a large cutlass. Her agility can be used to provide her with blazing fast, mobile strikes like how Shiek constantly moves forward in her combos to strike with her kunai. The different is that Tetra will transform into Zelda and fire her trademark light arrows.
The jury is out on whether she'll transform into Zelda for specific attacks or if Tetra will shift into a sort of Zelda mode like how Zant charges up a meter to go crazy-bonkers-insane with his magic and scimitars. It'd be simple if she'd use Zelda as combo finishers but it could be possible to make Tetra a stance based character and give her elements of Ruto's ranged tidal wave attacks but better. Or change her move set entirely into a combo that involves a rapid barrage of light arrows with range functionally similar to Link's fire rod.
Isn't that cool? How about some extra costume ideas. Just stop and think about it. Shiek fights with a harp. And who else uses a harp in Wind Waker? Yes, Medli. Yes, Medli alternate costume for Shiek. Ain't that wild? How about Wind Waker Ganondorf costume for Ganondorf? His sleeves fucking rocked it. They both use dual swords too, so how about complete the look by turning his twin great swords into twin cutlasses? Yes, awesome Strider.
Thank you Strider.
The Gardevoir Experience
The second bit of news is the reason I decided to do a late night thoughts. Also, this idea is partially to celebrate Gardevoir's inclusion to Pokken Tournament and go along with everyone's excitement of everyone's favorite rule 34 subject. But deep on the web exists this enjoyable doujin called The Sirknight Experience, with Sirknight being Gardevoir's Japanese name. Now if you've already closed the window because you saw the word doujin and thought you were going to be bombarded with Gardevoir hentai, know that this doujin isn't a hentai and that it doesn't even portray Gardevoir as some sort of bubbly, girlfriend-esque image.
Check it out in one of its first uploads, on Psypokes! Images here presented cut for brevity and context. Just see it on that link though!
The Sirknight Experience is an enjoyable, short doujin that portrays Gardevoir as a stereotypical middle aged Japanese office lady. That type of character trope is the constant butt of insufferable office gossip, is coming to the conclusion that they're over the hill, and is unmarried but always looking for Mr. Right. It also stays within its comfort level and uses the Japanese names for all the named Pokemon, which isn't always apparent because some Pokemon have the same name in English and Japanese like Latios.
Anyways, a quick summary and review of the doujin is that Sana the Gardevoir is experiencing a mid-life crisis: she's getting old and still hasn't married, let alone a boyfriend. She's actually 40 and can't find the right man. Not only is her boss setting her up on sketchy dates but her co-workers gossip mercilessly about Sana's prospects, despite the risk of getting Thunderpunch'd by her. Pokeblocks however, are all the rage and it seems to be the magic bullet everyone's been looking for because her friend Feebas suddenly evolves into Milotic.
"Bitch, I can hear you."
Also, I don't know why Gardevoir has a proper name with Sana while I'm pretty sure everyone is just called by their species name. I guess it makes sense in the end to give Gardevoir a cohesive name since she changes forms a couple times in the story.
Just as Sana begins to really doubt herself, we're introduced to her childhood friend Bakejirou, better known as Typhlosion in English. He's naturally the type who is not just Sana's childhood friend but was also the victim of bullying as a Quilava, to which Sana as a Kirlia would protect him. It's at this point where they catch up at a noodle stand where I really begin to love this doujin. There are tons of details for Pokemon fans to appreciate, from the Slowpoke acting as a seat cushion, the Wobuffet crying into his food with Meowth, to the fact that Feebas evolved into Milotic because it was taking beauty Pokeblocks. Every interstitial scene is packed to the gills with extra details that any fan of the series will just love, especially because we get to see our favorite Pokemon act like humans with day jobs, except they breath fire or are floating hunks of metal.
I just realized they're eating fucking Slowpoke tails. Team Rocket's blasting off again!
Also, why is Typhlosion patrolling the streets on a scooter? It's just barely worse than a mall cop on a segway.
Anyways, Sana is caught wondering if Pokeblocks are really the answer when the local shady merchant confirms to us that no, only the Feebas-species can evolve that way but if you've seriously played the games you'd know that. The shady merchant, a Cacturne (the only character in the doujin with defining physical characteristics by the way. Everyone else uses accessories while this Cacturne has purple hair), tells Sana that she has a secret method to help her regain her youthful looks and therefore, the confidence to really hook a man. Particularly to hook her crush, the hotshot Latios who just got hired at her company.
After explaining the basis for experience points and growth (i.e. how every RPG ever works), Cacturne sells Sana on the idea of sucking those nasty extra experience points out of her in order to regain her youth. But despite indeed coming out of the mysterious process looking a bit younger and getting all sorts of good reactions (she fucking turns down Deoxys-D. High standards much?), she finds out Latios isn't into final stage evolutions. While Latios' co-workers says he has a first evo complex, we might be more familiar with calling him a lolicon. I watch a lot of anime but somehow the impact feels way worse now.
So after ponying up for extra sessions to suck out enough exp to turn Sana into a Kirlia, she nabs the man of her dreams and even dresses up in a sweet female trainer cosplay. But we soon find out that Latios really is as gross as we thought because not only is he a lolicon but he's also got a huge soft spot for polygamy. Even after getting absolutely rekt by about a dozen of his scorned girlfriends plus his actual sister Latias, Sana is still sympathetic enough to carry Latios to the Pokemon Center. If it weren't for her hip giving out on her.
This entire family has weird taste.
Turns out it was too good to be true. The experience points being sucked out of her only reduced her abilities and powers, making her appear younger as she devolved. In truth, the matter of experience points had no bearing whatsoever on her actual age. So despite devolving into her Kirlia form, she still had the body age of a 40-year-old. Sana's rage induced retaliation was only a wimpy attack and she gets quickly dispatched by Cacturne's needle arm (this was of course made a long time ago when it made sense that a grass/dark-type would wipe the floor with a psychic-type. Nowadays Gardevoir's been retconned as psychic/fairy so the outcome would be very different, before even considering the mega form). She not only sucks out what remaining experience points out of Sana, but she's using the weird juices being sucked out by her crony Gulpins to cook up meth! I mean, rare candies! Or meth candies? No, it's rare candies, because it's pure, crystallized experience points.
Watashi wa kikendesu!~ I am the danger!
Typhlosion shows up though, having tailed a Kirlia he recognized as Sana. When it looks at first that the once cowardly Quilava gets laid out like an amateur, he quickly rises to the occasion as Typhlosion of the Flame Wheel Corps and puts a beat down on Cacturne.
In the end, Sana, as a Ralts, is given not just a stern lecture from her friend Typhlosion but a jar of rare candies that could transform her back. While she has the option to become a Kirlia and go back to [that creep] Latios, Sana comes to terms with how she is and goes back to being a Gardevoir, knowing well that she has Typhlosion, who will always be there for her. It not only ends on a cute note, but also on a classic anime/manga trope of a guy feeling a girls boobs on his back a he carries her off. Only we all know Gardevoir has that tough looking horn thing that's probably much less enjoyable to feel in your back.
Your welcome Gardevoir lovers of Dtoid!
It's been a longtime coming, but since I never know when to let go, the Fapcast is coming back for an episode. And while I loathe to do short form posts, I figure you've seen enough call for questions to be used to them. This episode will have me, your arrogant host, Phil, resident dickmonger, and a special community guest! Can you guess who it is? If you've seen me or Phil on Twitter, you probably already know.
But enough about that! What should you ask us? Well, in the spirit of everything goes because I never know just how many questions I actually get, just about anything. Other community podcasts seem fine answering inane questions like what kind of bread they prefer on their sandwich so I guess we could answer them too. But if you must focus on something, this episode's community segment will spitball on the brand new year and the new blood that's been pouring in these past few months. In my opinion as someone who's been around for three to four years, the time directly before me could be described as the golden age, where Dtoid grew and hit its stride. My period would probably be the silver age, when Dtoid hit its peak and held an identity. And we may now be entering the post-revival age, where there was a lot of reorganizing and restructuring of how the site views itself and how the community views it. We're now seeing lots of new regular participants, ongoing cblog series and views, and many new ideas entering the void of the Dtoid's rebuilding. Have anything to say about the way the site's been going? Think anyone in particular has been making the community a bang up place? We record Friday evening and send them in!
Sound off in the comments! You can also reach us at twitter @CblogFapcast, as well as the hosts of the show, @Striderhoang and @MikeMcPhil!
Believe it or not, I really love Hyrule Warriors. Actually, that's probably not such a stretch seeing the comments for each new DLC release. But Hyrule Warriors has really grown on me as something Nintendo has always been really good at and has done multiple times already: creating self-referential celebrations of their games. Everyone knows Smash Bros. is basically a celebration of Nintendo's video game history and these days its dawned on me that Mario Kart is a celebration of the history of Mario games with their character rosters, tracks, and items. And since no one would ever expect a Zelda game that isn't an action-RPG, Hyrule Warriors fills a surprisingly well-rounded role as a Zelda celebration with all its combat and monsters to beat up.
There are exactly two different opinions to Hyrule Warriors: people who are fine with Dynasty Warriors and people who aren't. Even if you love Zelda to the point of giving Hyrule Warriors a shot, that means you were fine or at least not actively repulsed by its gameplay. Which is a shame for people who don't like repetitive hack and slash action games because there's the game is packed with cool references and action-oriented re-imaginings of classic Zelda items and characters. For example, who would've thought the wind waker baton could've made a great weapon but here I am, commanding the winds to create cyclones and decimate entire armies. In terms of a celebration of Zelda, its just like past Nintendo games, even though it wasn't made by Nintendo but Tecmo Koie. The story uses a plot device that allows many major Zelda characters from across time to be in the same place such as Ruto from Ocarina of Time or Zant from Twilight Princess. There is a treasure trove of weapons with unique combos, effects, and properties on top of the character's gimmicks, not to mention a few major items are important sub-weapons for all characters, so I get to see Ganondorf's huge gerudo-ian mitts trying to use a bow and arrow.
So why do I like Hyrule Warriors? First of all, Zelda celebrations, like I said. I get to see Zelda herself use the Dominion Rod from Twilight Princess and crush hordes of moblins. Second, the hack and slash mentality actually carries over surprisingly well for a fan of fighting games. The different repertoires of combos all have unique effects and uses such as how Link's 2-hit to strong with the gauntlets juggles enemies well for extra damage. Or there's the fact that certain characters play completely differently despite having only one or two weapons. Link has over 4 weapons with different attacks and combos but even though Ganondorf only has his great swords, he has a unique charge mechanic that gives him a powerful area attack which is a constant part of his gameplan.
I also love the expressiveness of the characters on Nintendo's HD console. I didn't get a chance to play Skyward Sword which featured a more expressive Link and Zelda. I look forward to either getting a disc or seeing a VC release of it now that Nintendo has figured it out. But I also jumped on the sale they had on the retail exclusive costume packs and there's something so absolutely charming about seeing Twilight Zelda smile so radiantly. In fact, I so rarely get to see my favorite Zelda characters smile and that's kind of weird because Hyrule Warriors is in the context of an actual war while most other games are adventures against the backdrop of a thinly veiled peace. When Link crushes monsters with the Spinner, he fist pumps! When Zelda uses the wind waker baton, she smiles and giggles! When Ganondorf kicks open a treasure chest, he has a sly smirk!
But most of all, I love the weapons you can use. This ties back to the Zelda celebration and references. The lore really gets acknowledged by the game when you use it yourself. The weapons are the whole reason I wanted to talk about Hyrule Warriors! So without further ado, here are some of my favorite weapons and by extension, characters in Hyrule Warriors. My choices are judged by a criteria of design, their visual flourish in combat, and actual effectiveness in battle. I also throw in my ideas for future weapon and character ideas too, because just like Smash Bros. there's always something else you wish for.
Link may be the baseline character with no special effects but he also has the largest variety of weapons to make up for it. All his weapons are really interesting to use like the fire rod or riding Epona. I actually love the gauntlets + ball and chain combo. But the spinner barely edges out its electrical element cousin for its sheer area of effect utility. I absolutely love the idea of Link using his golden gauntlets to not only crushing armies with a wrecking ball but also beating redeads senseless with his thunder fists. But the spinner, true to its name, spins everywhere, and tears up everything around Link. The spinner also ups the ridiculous factor, even compared to the gauntlets' ability to dig up and pile drive huge black monoliths into dodongos.
The spinner you see, comes in an infinite supply of itself which seemingly appears conveniently out of no where. The strong attack kicks out his current spinner into place, which then becomes a projectile when Link kicks out his next spinner to ricochet the last one. Link can also spawn a row of columns that sticks his opponent magnetically before bowling them over. He even spawns a gear tower from Twilight Princess out of no where, rides up it, then crushes it, creating an explosion!
Also, he can kickflip it in front of him, punch it, and send it flying forward like a Beyblade death missile. That move looks way cooler than it sounds, so I tried using a Beyblade reference to help you realize how ridiculous it is.
What's better than a giant's knife? How about a giant katana? Impa basically uses her own version of the giant's knife like she's right out of a samurai period movie because she keeps the thing rested in its hilt over her shoulder until she draws it for quick, fast cuts the break the pavement. It draws obvious design inspiration as a katana than a broadsword, and yet its immense size in the Zelda universe is less Buster Sword and more Biggoron's Sword.
The sword itself is really cool. But the water magic Impa infuses it with is equally, if not cooler. She can conjure a bubble of water to draw her enemies in, arrows of water to rain down, and even a small armory of swords made entirely of water to slash and rend her foes. But not that Impa is some mage, because the way she handles a sword as big as herself is much more entertaining than simply watching someone strongarm it. She swings with its inertia like its a flail and even continues the combos with her feet to preserve its deadly momentum. Her strong attack also lets her dash in on her target and quick draw them, which is one of the better utility moves in the game compared to janky projectiles or a different kind of strong attack.
Like the spinner, this item is extremely niche and didn't serve much purpose outside its intended dungeon from Twilight Princess. Also like the spinner, its really good as a weapon of mass destruction for Zelda to destroy entire armies. The rod has two modes: hammer statue and owl statue. While the rod let's fly an orb of light to pummel enemies, one of the two statues will follow its own preset path of destruction until you perform a specific combo that instantly summons it in front of Zelda do something like a hammer combo or a pinball bounce attack. The statue together with Zelda herself lets her cover an enourmous amount of space. It's like two fighters in one!
Zelda's other weapons are extremely different. The rapier has a light stock mechanic which augments her attacks when she's charged with light. It provides powerful area attacks but requires a lot of forethought to use effectively. The baton is the Wind Waker, which allows her to sweep enemies with gusts of wind, but it has surprisingly bad reach. Neither hold a candle to just how much mayhem the Dominion Rod can do thanks to the large size of the statues and senseless havoc you can make from just a few choice combos.
Also, her special focus attack simply causes a statue the size of a skyscraper to topple over onto her enemies. It's a simple, big magic trick but still pretty funnyto watch it fall onto a Gohma or say, Ghirahim.
Lana is about as divisive as Hyrule Warriors. She's very out of character with her perky personality and actual voice. You either may hate her as an eyesore or love her because she smashes dinosaurs and gives a victory wink to the camera. She also hums the Hyrule theme while using the summoning gates weapon so forget what I said earlier, you should love Lana.
But this isn't about the summoning gates. This is about the spear, in actuality, an overglorified deku stick. It doesn't look at all like an actual spear, but it does look like a stick! It can also summon the Great Deku Tree to mangle its foes in its branches, summon homicidal Deku Sprouts, and turn into one of my favorite items of all time, the deku leaf! Which of course you use to create hurricane walls of wind to plow through platoons and zip kick enemies while floating with it. It's seriously the best combo ever.
It's the little touches that matter. Not only can you ride a Deku Sprout like the calvary, your defense guard becomes the Kokiri shield. Awesome.
Ravio/Hilda alternate costumes for Link and Zelda
At first, I was trying to think of ways to integrate Ravio and Hilda as standalone characters. After some time though, I figured it be easier to consider them as skins and introduce the weapon ideas by themselves.
Admittedly, Hilda is just Zelda but purple. Ravio though is a great costume, with a vague rabbit hood, scarf, and cloak set. If Link can cosplay the postman and show of his legendary... legs, then Link can cosplay as a comparatively modest but interesting Ravio. What do you know about the postman, huh? Link can cosplay as the interesting, conflicted, and cowardly Ravio, who is an alternate version of him from Lorule. Wouldn't it be cathartic to see Ravio finally become the hero he could've become?
Oh, and spoilers I guess for Ravio.
The Ice Rod
There have been a lot of different magic rods in the game. In Link Between Worlds alone, there are three elemental rods plus a whirlwind rod. But the ice rod stands as something unique to contribute to Hyrule Warriors.
Yes, it would probably shoot shards of ice and summon spears of ice to pop up from the ground. It's intended use in-game though is dropping ice. What if its special attack, after filling up your special bar, was another callback? After all, Link conjures a flaming dragon reminiscent of Volga through the fire rod. So logically, what if the special attack for the ice rod was dropping a frozen replica of Blizzeta?
Just let that sink in for a moment. Activate your special attack and in addition to freezing your enemies in activation, you literally freeze the ground around them before its mirror sheen reveals Blizzeta is moments away from a total megaton impact. I'll take my checks in direct deposit Nintendo.
Vaati gets so little recognition nowadays. It may be because the entire subseries he's in, known sometimes as the Four Swords series, was done in conjunction with Capcom. Maybe Nintendo wants to make sure the series gets swept under the rug so people don't entirely catch on to the fact that Capcom was responsible for such great cult hits. But Vaati doesn't deserve this shabby treatment. Or maybe Capcom is holding joint rights to him and keeping him indoors Spider-Man style. Also, do you realize what this means for Marvel Vs. Capcom 4?
Ganondorf is capable of assuming his monstrous shape in certain combos. Vaati should also be able to do so himself since he's known traditionally to be a demon. Vaati's also always been known as a wind mage, so it's possible for Vaati to function like a better version of Zelda's baton weapon. And it's obvious his special attack should at least partially transform into his cyclopic form and really decimate the field. His personality has always seemed very Ghirahim to me, before Ghirahim. But let's face it, we'd just be interested in seeing a 2D character make it to 3D.
Roc's Cape and Pegasus Boots
Roc's Cape used to be such a novel idea. Leap across holes and chasms! But ever since Ocarina of Time and its 3D landscape with automatic jumping, it rendered the idea useless. Even in recent top-down Zelda games, map design never asked for the ability to jump as far like Roc's Cape might ask you to.
The Pegasus Boots have fared better in terms of survival. Which is where Hyrule Warriors comes in to bring Roc's legendary cape back to relevancy. By itself, maybe it just allows impressive jumping and gliding. But what if we combine it with a re-imagining of the Pegasus Boots? Magic boots that not only impart agility but immense kicking strength. Now throw in the cape for impressive gliding and air mobility and you have yourself a masterful kicking weapon in the same vein how the gauntlets is two weapons as one.
It could function as a cross between the spinner's ability to attack all around itself with high speed and the baton's wind strikes. But there's only two characters who'd fit the weapon's motif properly. Either Impa, with her athletic speed and build or Lana with her demonstrated history of acrobatics. Hell, one of Lana's guard point finishers just has her stomping on monsters with electrified feet. I love Impa but I feel Lana could make the visceral rush of flip kicking enemies into the horizon with what are essentially jet boots that much better with her own apparent appreciation of Zelda lineage.
Holy cow, I've been meaning to throw this out for months but something always gets in the way, whether it's timely writing prompts (Giving Thanks, Gift of Gaming), big creative itches (finishing Pokemon, GOTY 2014), or just plain good old fashion real life probs yo (date days, holiday work season, school). But finally it's the new year, it's off peak at work (fuck that damn mouse and stocking merchandise), and an open schedule to write, dare I say, for fun?
Anyways, differences in culture always fascinate me. North American west coasters can wear shorts in October and just sweaters in January but Canada is the kind of place where you'd wear what? Three layers of clothing? So whenever I think about the UK, my brain stops working. America has GameStop and UK has... GAME? Man, I thought GameStop sounded dumb. Listening to Secret Moon Base and hearing Stevil say words like quid and what's a corn dog really drive home how universal and global games are and how I'll gladly label foreigners as weird while I drive 10 miles for pretty much anything, from shopping to pretzels.
I live in Southern California. Home of surf, sun, and celebrities. I don't live like the 2000's perennial The OC (now that's an old reference) but I can drive 20 minutes to the beach. But games can be different too, despite everyone all over the world playing them. Even four hours away in the central valley where my girlfriend lives, life can seem so alien. Fast Internet isn't as common and more people are at the mercy of either monopolies or slow Internet.
You can never have too many
I live near no less than 4 GameStops within 30 miles of each other. But despite that I still either go to a department store like Best Buy or download a game digitally. There are still a few mom & pop game stores but they mostly subsist for relic hunters or hardware repair. I live in range of service like Verizon and Time Warner for Internet. I used to use Verizon DSL but when I started working and earning my own paycheck in my parent's household, I pay my own premium on cable internet because fuck casual American DSL. I may be paying more for a paltry 18mbps down rate but when most of Asia can get 50mbps in their own Starbucks I just want what I can get within a reasonable budget. A lot of my multiplayer gaming these days is mostly online like you'd expect. Still, I also live near and work at Disneyland. My friends oftentimes set up multiplayer game sessions and even this past week I missed some sets of Smash.
In my immediate neighborhood, there's more elderly than youth but that doesn't mean I'm surrounded by old folks. I also live near a middle school. But the real source of community and interaction for me is my alma mater, California State University of Long Beach. Finding someone to game wirelessly with handhelds is easier in any school granted but I can name several campuses including my own that are within a 30 to 45 minute drive: UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, and a bevy of local community colleges. At least during my time at college, in my area, fighting games had a healthy market share as it was the favorite method of playing together. Nowadays, I know Cal State Long Beach's gaming club has expanded into eSports like RTS's and MOBAs. God bless our old school arcade with 3rd Strike but a massive rainstorm flooded it out and it was never the same when they replaced it with a PC and console gaming cafe.
Conventions like Anime Expo, Anime LA, and E3 are annual regulars for locals like,bringing a massive influx of gamers. It's also worth noting that I've been to Blizzard and Activision before as they're in the SoCal area. SoCal also has its fair share of fighting game scenes and surviving arcades like Round 1, Super Arcade, and lots of places that are variations of Family Fun (ironic considering the sodium levels you could detect in a typical fighting game). I loved Arcade Infinity as well when it was still up and running. It was sad to see it go but the owner was at odds with the landlord and the city of Rowland Heights.
Another sight, though it's not unique to my area, is the local swap meet. Mine is the Golden West College's weekend swap meet, which is home to two or three unique video game peddlers. Personally I don't trust a place that'll charge me upwards of $15 for a SNES game. I think it reeks of someone who've trying to snag an uninformed casual or a window shopping granny. But like any sweep meet/flea market, you never know what you'll find and the mystery is half the fun.
So that's the majority of my area. I live 45 minutes away from Los Angeles but in addition to that time sink, traffic is killer there. There are a couple of interesting things to say about that place but I don't go there often enough to care so much. Maybe you have something interesting to share about your home about gaming. I can hardly imagine a place with limited Internet or living close to a surviving arcade. But hearing about other people's set ups can be interesting.
Hey guys! You enjoying those PCs and next-gen consoles? Sorry, current gen consoles. Xbox One and PS4 have been out an entire year and they probably no longer have that new console smell. PC always gets interesting games and shitty ports while Xbone and PS4 are seeing brand new games and stupid old franchises. Not me though! My laptop is suited to low-end experiences like Psychonauts, I've still been steadily playing my 3DS which has lost some steam, and bought a Wii U which has been gaining steam. Of course, there's a cap to all that steam because this is Nintendo we're talking about because of course its fucking Nintendo.
This year was a bit awkward in terms of judging the best games. The first half of the year, I still had an Xbox 360 and enjoyed games that weren't even released this year. Then during the later half of the year, I put it towards a Wii U and had to play catch up to some of Nintendo's big Fall beginning line up. I still haven't caught up because I'm not made of unlimited money but I think I tried admirably. In the meantime, here's my list of GOTY with some filler near the end for games I played this year but weren't released this year. Always go to where you want to play games after all.
Shovel Knight is a masterful example of true throwback game development. We've come a long way from 8-bit gaming but do we really want to play literal, actual 8-bit games to relive our childhood? There are a lot of commodities that I'd miss like expanded sound boards and saving. Shovel Knight skillfully triggers the nostalgia section of our brains without hurtling us back into the dark ages of game development.
It's blocky and pixilated! And yet it moves smoothly and has the color range of something modern. It has all those classic sounds and tunes we love! And yet it composes music that goes far beyond what a paltry NES could ever hope to achieve. It moves perfectly, plays perfectly, and has a surprising amount of charm. Like Mega Man's robot masters but better, everyone probably has a favorite. Treasure Knight was mine! And that's because stages are crafted with laser precision and attention to presentation. From Polar Knight's twilight ice caps to Mole Knight's lava filled caverns, every setting, enemy, and step of the way feels perfectly deliberate. The backgrounds, animations, and especially sound design and music, are so easily enjoyable without the guilt that it's nostalgia whoring.
It's hard to believe more is on the way. Free DLC, adding to the world, changing how we see it, and continuing the high watermark of quality in general. When it was already such a perfect game, Yacht Club Games is truly making this a labor of love.
Shovel Knight has no glaring flaws worth mentioning. And it also paradoxically triggers the love for things long past and what games are capable of doing now. I love this game because its timeless. I could've played this game 20 years ago and loved. I played it this year amongst games with lens flare and 1080p HD graphics and I loved it. Its not dated at all because every bit of its art and design makes it enjoyable to experience no matter what year it is. And there's never a substitute for great levels, great characters, and great design.
It's these qualities that make Shovel Knight my true choice for game of the year.
Both the Wii U and the 3DS versions deserve to be mentioned together. They weren't just a game that was released in October and November respectively. It was a season long experience with yearlong reveals, shocking unveilings (Pac-Man!? It's not April 1st!), starting with a portable game I took everywhere, then the definitive HD release.
Like any game that pits your mettle against another, it was a long journey from figuring the game out, picking a main, and learning the ins and out for the diverse move sets. But of course every Smash game since Melee has been celebrating Nintendo's, and now for the fourth game, video game's history. You've got 600 plus trophies depicting a long line of iconic characters, rapidly changing and detailed stages, and over 400 tracks of music in between the two games. That's before we get into things such as improvements to sociability like a whopping 8 players duking it out at once, local wireless fights on the street, and not to mention the return of in-game snapshots complete with in game painting.
It is in essence what every Smash game is but improved: a love letter to Nintendo games and the video game experience, wrapped around a flexibly fun and hardcore fighting experience.
I almost forgot this was released this year, outside of Japan anyways. Who knew this once mild mannered JRPG would show us all that we could still have fun with a genre we've grown so accustomed to making fun of?
It's sometimes described as a Final Fantasy game made for people who hate Final Fantasy. Or maybe it's a Final Fantasy game made for fans who are tired of the genre? Regardless, the classic formula, reinvigorated by an exciting new take on turn based combat, is incredibly well made. Simply take the concept of normal turn-based combat and introduce the ability to freely bank your turns or take out a line of credit on extra turns changes combat in fun ways. Instead of a boss simply having access to powerful spells and a larger health pool, bosses and monsters can have unique behavioral patterns such as defaults a few turns before braving twice for extra powerful wipes. Wipes you can survive if you recognize the pattern, guard and default through the assault, then return the favor. After all, your dedicated healer doesn't have to waste turns simply defending. Healers in Bravely Default can bank their turns in order to perform emergency first aid from unexpected damage.
The last act may be tedious but that doesn't mean the combat is any less fun, the customization for jobs isn't any less interesting, and the characters are still enthralling despite the stall in story. I grew to love Agnes, Tiz, Ringabel, and Edea as well as the recurring cast of enemies with an incredible amount of depth. If beating an enemy summoner sounds simple, just wait until a piece of their back story is revealed as a painful drama you'd never be aware of unless you'd spank her in battle twice. And even if you don't take a liking to the canon drama, there's still the head canon you develop about your unique warriors of light, such as my Ringabel always being the chivalrous defender, Agnes being the compassionate healer, and Tiz being the reckless glass cannon. Edea for me was a variety of roles though, but she always looked good doing it.
Before Bravely Default came to us, JRPG seemed like a derogatory slander. But it singlehandedly proves that there's still room for a classic formula if you know how to pull it off. And thanks to that, there may be more where that came from yet with Bravely Second in our futures.
Since this game was first unveiled last year, I had not fully realized its conceit was basically the puzzle stages from Mario 3D World. All I knew was that this game is as charming as the devil himself. How could I resist the undaunted smile of Captain Toad?
In a world dominated by violence, shooters, and heavy themes, Treasure Tracker is the bright spot that isn't some childish baby game. It is a cheerful game that doesn't ask me to rush myself but rather take it all in. The fact that wrestling the camera around a diorama like stage is a testament to what the game sets out to achieve successfully. Slow down, smell the roses, explore your world, and take it easy. Don't expect to 100% a level on your first try. Enjoy it on your first run, and casually explore the nooks and crannies.
Those nooks are precisely why Treasure Tracker is a gift to me. There's tons of personality not only on the characters but the levels too. Each level is a unique diorama that presents a unique challenge like pressing buttons with the Double Cherry or float up and down a clear beachy basin to pull level triggers.
Come for Captain Toad but stay for the levels! At a budget price, it more than pays itself with charm alone.
Mario Kart 8 was our sneak preview to what to expect in enjoying Smash 4. We've had the same exact experience before but never before in such a compelling presentation. But I can't just say MK8 is incredible due to HD graphics and 60 frames per second.
Anti-grav karts aren't a cheap gimmick. Mario didn't just slap on Back to the Future hover wheels and call it a day. The track design is some of the most elaborate and creative I've ever seen. A track as simple as a circular loop is more interesting when half of it lifts itself completely vertical. You can ramp off jumps from a wall and land onto level track. And there's more than one track where you race against your rivals who are completely upside-down to you. Some of my favorite tracks are humongous speedway jams in one direction down a behemoth of a track like Mount Wario or Special Cup Rainbow Road. And anyone outside Nintendo's influence probably won't believe me when I say MK8 has an excellent soundtrack but you haven't lived until you've heard Mario Kart 8's rendition of Mute City. There's a saxophone and it goes completely bonkers.
Mario Kart is only the same experience to you if you keep a narrow view. The incredibly inventive track design, especially in redesigning retro tracks to include anti-grav segments, plus the completely redone music and orchestrated music, are the real treat of this installment of Nintendo's main stay kart racer.
Titanfall is a conundrum to me. I stopped playing really early but every memory I have of it was enjoyable. Scaling a high tower for the ultimate sniper perch, wallrunning into goons to lock on with a smart pistol, and completely running laps around fools with a Stryder while dropping electric smoke.
Titanfall never claimed to have good single player. I must have more in common with the rich than I thought because I think people with no internet are either mythical creatures or bottom feeding mud fish, just like how the rich don't care about the poor. But if it were up to me, I'd praise Titanfall for its nerve to focus on multiplayer and forgo a typical single player experience.
The real story is how Titanfall encourages players to run rather then camp, and the emergent gameplay that comes from moving around a map like there's a bomb strapped to your chest. Then when you get a Titan, it becomes MechWarrior but good. Strafe, punch, dash, gun, and missile your way to metal monstrosity bliss with a multitude of tools. Nothing to me is more fun than Stryder dashing into an Atlas, popping electric smoke, and dashing out to unload a Seattle storm front of Arc Cannon blasts while they fry in a blinding haze.
Something needs to be said about a multiplayer game capable of making the experience fun for terrible players. Bots ready to be picked off before your glorious Titan drops. And burn cards became an instant hit. Who cares about careful balance when you have a one time use privilege to whip out infinite cloak or bottomless satchel charges or a sniper rifle with x-ray vision?
In case you can't tell, Titanfall deserves to stay relevant. Advanced Warfare might have exo suits but Titanfall still has mechs, wallrunning, and burn cards.
A real close contender for top dog GOTY but I simply got started late. Even 6 to 8 hours in though I know Bayonetta 2 is basically the culmination of all of Platinum's hype-as-shit games and all of my skills as an action junkie. Of all of Platinum's titles, Bayonetta feels like the most cohesive package of pure, unadulterated hype and fun. I love all of Platinum's work but there's always something worth talking about (Vanquish's abrupt ending, lack of power creep in Revengeance, Wonderful 101 having a tough sell, Korra's camera work and slow start). Bayonetta 2 has awesome combos, meaningful weapon spreads, very manageable camera angles, and the presentation to compensate for the classic bonkers, indecipherable/who cares story. Even though story has always been something Platinum glazes over, Bayonetta gives us epic demon-angel struggles and time bending combat.
Games are supposed to be enjoyable when all is said and done and Bayo 2 is built from the ground up to be a pleasurable experience. Blazing fast action, gratuitous set pieces, a strong and hard-to-hate female lead, and controls that respond in an instant to the demanding setting. It helps that Bayonetta 2 is designed to reward good players as opposed to the Capcom philosophy of punishing bad players (Devil May Cry). There's something to be said when I finish a chapter and feel like I can do better and play it again. Racing games are supposed to be like that with time trials and leaderboards but Bayonetta 2 makes me want to push the boundaries of my skill and do better. I can do this scenario with one less hit, a few seconds faster, and eventually I'm on my way to trying for a perfect run with zero damage and seamless combos. It helps that I'll have fun experimenting with different weapons, different moves, and different combos across a wide range of punching bags that fight back.
Bayonetta 2, truly Nintendo did us a huge solid that no one has yet to thank them for. Thank you for coming into our lives Bayonetta 2. And thank you Nintendo for saving this title.
Easily the most silent 3DS release on this or any list. Azure Striker is basically the new Mega Man from Mega Man himself, Keiji Inafune. Azure Striker capitalizes on its newfound introduction with a unique attack: his buster shots are weak but tag potential targets. Gunvolt can release a weak pulse of electricity around him but when there are tagged enemies, electricity automatically arcs to them for constant damage. You can tag multiple enemies for multiple arcs or one enemy several times to stack the damage. Combined with familiar Mega Man design aesthetics but with a revamped approach to accommodate Gunvolt's unique method of attack and you have something that's enjoyable as a fan of the blue bomber without feeling like I'm just playing more Mega Man.
Even though your skill set is built with a method to negate damage as long as you have electricity and you have a way to instantly recharge your meter, the game still finds ways to challenge you despite some perceived imperviousness. Like true Mega Man games though, levels are designed to really encourage you to push your skill to the limits in order to score record setting points, break times, and encourage you on a combat system that is built to ask yourself just how you're going to go about doing it.
Gunvolt isn't afraid of presentation either. Boss masters are fully voiced and have dramatic introductions and attack patterns, reminiscent of over the top fight animes. It sounds goofy to describe one boss' attack is called Lazy Laser and he actually calls out its name before attacking but it won't be as goofy when you realize he just sits back while he causes a huge ass laser beam to cover the whole screen by way of crisscrossing dimensional portals. But that's alright because you have your own super powerful, limited use attacks to use as well, right down to your own attack call out animations.
While the lore and story are a bit stupid, what Mega Man story is smart? As far as I'm concerned though, games like Gunvolt and Mega Man are about the relationship between you, the stage, and the boss characters, and Gunvolt accomplishes this very well without even needing to be considered a full retail game.
Broforce is simple in conceit, ridiculous in practice, and just plain fun when you play it yourself. What if your favorite action movie heroes got thrown into a pulpy, cheesy action set piece and shot their way through hundreds of vaguely defined terrorists while pulling off all their iconic moves like a burst firing Auto9 or bare fisted kung fu strikes through hordes of identical enemies?
Can you argue Broforce is shallow? Maybe. But when I get to set people on fire as B.A. Baracus or shred people with Ash's chainsaw arm, what else is there to ask for? I find that I hate PC gaming because bigger properties of course demand more time. This is paradoxical to how I feel when I get on a PC because I want experiences quickly without waiting too much. I want to enjoy Super Time Force Ultra's zany humor but I can't fast read through its hilarious but tedious textboxes. It's either read it slowly for its effect or skip it entirely. Broforce rectifies this need for a fast and furious arcade experience by making all its humor occur incidentally with the game itself. How enemies squeal in fright when they fall long distances, how everything gets reduced to a bloody pulp from excessive gun fire, how corny and deep the voice of the announcer is, and how checkpoints are marked with patriotic American flags and the goal line is marked by killing a suit wearing devil.
Another comparison to Super Time Force is how it handles character select. There's a curve to getting how STFU works with its character select and time reversing mechanics. But Broforce challenges you to be a true bro and just gives you a random bro when you rescue POWs. Does that sound unfair? At their core, each bro has an insane way of plowing through dozens of nameless terrorists and robots, whether it's a spray of machine guns or spamming dynamite all over the battlefield. The greatest fun is finding out who you got and what kind of mayhem you'll be spreading like an STD in a 70's backstage party. Will it be Brobocop's lock-on bullets? Or Brommando's missile barrage? What about Mr. Anderbro's bullet time? Did I mention the hilarious shock value of seeing your favorite action heroes' names twisted with bro? Brobocop is obviously my favorite but Blade becoming Brade must be simeltaneously dumb and great. And Indiana Brones? For some reason I think that's pure genius.
An under represented 3DS game. While its certainly still the easy Kirby game everyone expects, it can be surprisingly challenging in certain sections. The hidden levels and some bosses can genuinely push you and some puzzles will make you scratch your head. Not a lot of course, or even the majority. The real draw for me is charm, like Captain Toad.
Each stage has something new to introduce you to and feels like a fresh experience, even if its going to be easy. Not to mention the 3D effect is actually somewhat worthwhile which is a compliment not a lot of 3DS games get. Being specifically designed with a Mutant Mudds style of background/foreground 3D is cool but the fact that background elements will also actively interact with foreground elements is cool to see in action, such as when you're carrying an electrified pole that extends into the background. You'll even need the 3D sometimes to judge depth in certain fights and puzzles.
Triple Deluxe also carries a criminal amount of bonus content that's borderline Smash levels of extra. Hundreds of keychains to collect that celebrate Kirby's history, boss rush mode, Kirby Fighters, Dedede's Drum Dash, and even a full on Dedede mode to time trial in as King Dedede himself. The brand new variety of powers also lends itself a level of care and favoritism while each power has its own level of use and interest. The archer is extremely useful but there's no discounting the leaf or bell powers either.
I am the biggest hypocrite in the world. I actually do like Dynasty Warriors but I already knew that because I liked the first Dynasty Warriors: Gundam. Still, not many care about Chinese period history. Finally playing as Impa and Samurai Showdowning 40 enemies at once with a giant's knife quickdraw special attack is ridiculous and fun. Watching established Zelda character just mow down armies should just be a shameless, awesome bullet point to alleviate all the stress that comes from arguing about how little Zelda games have changed but how much we still like it. It's notable to mention that Hyrule Warriors' DLC plan has been nuts too. True Form Midna? Epona as a weapon? Link in hot pants? Jesus Christ.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sappire
I've played this game last year. No, actually, 12 years ago. But battling eco-terrorists who think its a good idea to awaken climate changing monsters has its own little charm, especially when they give it a major contemporary face lift with characters like a smug, battle hungry pirate or a computer nerd fascist who threatens to bury you. Seeing new mega evolutions amongst the likes of Swampert and Metagross are also their own little small victories (steel-type's coming back yo!). Not to mention being the first Pokemon game available post-bank which let me enjoy the story in a unique way with all the low level Pokemon I'd kept but never got around to leveling up.
It's still basically Pokemon XY though. At least XY had major metagame shifts. This remake only brought minor shifts due to the resurgence of old move tutors. But you don't care that I can finally teach Storm Drain-Cradily Seed Bomb, do you?
Metal Gear Rising: Revengance
Thanks to the magic of sales, I played Platinum's last big game before Bayonetta 2 this year. I mentioned it in the Bayonetta entry but while I absolutely and unconditionally love Revengeance, there's never much incentive to purchase new combos or weapons asides from upgrades to health and blade mode. The boss weapons, though interesting, don't really hold a candle to simply keeping your sword and using its heavy attack to slip that sword in between your toes for some crazy foot-sword slicing absurdity. Your combos won't change too much compared to what you can unlock in Bayonetta.
I must emphasize though that though I'm saying all this for a game that isn't even from 2014, slicing fools with a hype-inducing high frequency blade, using blade mode to mincemeat anyone not on your side, engaging insane boss encounters, and generally leaving a path of destruction as a cyber ninja is truly the video game equivalent of cranking the 10 point dial to 11.
Super Mario 3D World
It's Mario. Whatever. I played it this year, not last. But they know what they're doing. Besides, cats are awesome.