December has always been one of my favorite months, but not just because of the egg nog. I mean, egg nog is essential to happiness and life in general. I’m talking about the classic, alcohol-free egg nog. Egg nog is my soul and for some sick reason is only available in December, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Or is it. I don’t know anymore. Actually, I think I’m gonna go get some egg nog.
I love finality, and December is the epitome of it. Reflecting on the highs and lows of the past year is a neat way to keep perspective. It also shuts the door for good on the past year in preparation to open the door for next year. The whole “fresh start” concept, while stereotypical of every new year, always keeps my spirits up. I like to go on an encore tour of the past 365 days so that I can categorize it as finished, and then move on to greater things. Not sure if that made any sense when I put it into words.
So in a single blog, I wanted to cover some of the games I played last year, some events that I thought were interesting, and my time at Destructoid. I very rarely actually play games the year of release, so the majority of my list is made up of titles from the past couple years. Regardless, I think I tried more games in 2015 more so than any other year, so I’m going to start there. After I get some egg nog.
The Ones I Wanted To Talk About
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Fist and foremost: I absolutely adore the DKC games. Especially DKC2, which not only is one of my favorite titles ever, but also was the first true platformer I ever played. Every second is pure joy, and the music made everything better.
I was incredibly excited for Donkey Kong Country Returns, and my expectations were surpassed. I don’t know how Retro Studios did it, but they blew it out of the park. On the other hand, I really missed having David Wise around for the soundtrack. Therefore, imagine my excitement when they announced Wise and Retro would join forces for a Wii U installment. DKCTF is the modern DKC I always wanted. They took DKCR’s polished platforming, gave it some more visual flair and variety, and put it all to David Wise’s incredible tunes. Levels are designed in a way that encourages exploration, but there’s always a faster route for speedrunning, which is a personal guilty pleasure. You can play levels so many different ways that I found myself returning to my favorites multiple times for fun. It’s the ideal modern-day DKC experience. As of now, it’s my favorite Wii U game.
Team Fortress 2
TF2 is my main, bro. It’s one of my favorite games ever, and I’ve been playing since 2013. The reason I’m bringing it up here is because 2015 has been an incredibly important year for the title.
Valve, in 2015, launched quite a few major updates, all of which brought the expected: new cosmetic items and taunts that the community gushes over. But underneath the flash, there were some seriously massive changes to not only the game, but also to how Valve interacts with the community. We got 11 new maps made by the talented community mapmakers, a brand new Valve map, and four Halloween reskins. This is a massive step forward for everybody; Valve is no longer a silent figure behind a mask, and I’d argue that the community holds just as much prominence as the head honchos. The fans are shaping this game into something better with Valve’s help, and I couldn’t be happier.
And about the massive changes? My God. Valve brought a ton of items to the ground and rebuilt them from scratch in preparation for matchmaking. And by “a ton,” I mean almost everything, which is sure to ruffle some feathers, and it undoubtedly did. Some weapons got really controversial nerfs or buffs that seemed to work against class balance, while others were praised to no end. Everyone had something different to say about the balances, and while not all were happy, it was awesome seeing the community come together on something like this.
TF2 is in puberty. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on right now, and Valve has been trying out all sorts of new things, from contracts to new game modes to banana hats. Adulthood could potentially come roaring in 2016 when matchmaking releases, which is supposed to bridge the competitive community with those that just play for fun. That could potentially bring some new people onboard and push TF2 in a new direction, but I’m excited to see what happens.
Just realized how much I wrote. Whoops. I want to write a blog at some point going into this more, but that’s enough for now. In short: A game released in 2007 just had a huge year in 2015, and in said game you can wear a banana on your head.
I’m sure someone has made this joke before, but who knew cleaning could be this fun?
Dustforce is one of the deepest platformers I’ve ever played when it comes to controls. You have to master every aspect of the movement if you want to come out on top, and often times the game expects perfection. While it can be frustrating, it’s hard to reach that point thanks to soothing visuals and a soundtrack I still listen to months after I stopped playing. I achieved the coveted SS rank on all of the levels except for the final batch of challenges, which is the definition of insanity.
More than anything, I appreciate Dustforce’s simplicity and passion in its environment. The game always feels soothing, and I sometimes I just stopped at certain points in levels to admire the music. Something about the game just feels magical and surreal, and as cheesy as that sounds, I truly feel that way. It’s the same feeling I get when playing Mirror’s Edge, the same feeling I get when waltzing around Professor Layton’s towns, and the same magic that Proteus has. I love every second of it.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance cringe
Names are usually a good thing. I’m not a fan of the reboots we’ve been getting the past few years that just name themselves after the first game in a series (looking at you, Tomb Raider). But this? Let’s just pretend KH3D’s subtitle never existed.
Looking past the name, I really enjoyed Kingdom Hearts 3D. About 6 months ago I wrote my Final Fantasy blog and I brought up how KH Re:coded was actually a lot of fun for me. I can confirm that KH3D surpasses it in every way, especially in the combat department. I love fluid character movement, and even though Re:coded is an action RPG, things still felt sort of choppy, and I missed the full 360-degree movement. KH3D added flowmotion, which lets you bounce off walls and zip around at incredible speeds with the full range of control. In short, it feels fantastic. The maneuvers are consistently fun to pull off, and made combat a blast. I don’t pay any attention to the story, but the music and enviroments were also phenomenal. Similar to Re:coded, I stopped near the finale due to the difficulty, but the ride up until that point was really fun.
Tales from the Borderlands
Something I’ve noticed in both this blog and the FF blog: I tend to cringe when reading my own writing about games, especially when using words synonymous with great games. Graphics, music, atmosphere, and story are prime suspects of this, but they are hard to avoid if I want to praise a title.
And here we are at Tales from the Borderlands, a game that deserves praise, and I want to use every single one of those words to describe how phenomenal it is. So instead of doing that let me say this: Tales was my first Telltale game, and my first Borderlands game. I bought it after watching the sublime Episode 4 trailer and reading Dtoid’s review. I’ve stayed away from Telltale’s titles because blood and disgusting events can sometimes be really off-putting for me, even though I play the blood fest that is TF2. And in the end, Tales had a couple of those moments, but not enough to push me away. Instead, I was hooked, and fell in love with it from beginning to end.
As Tales continued toward its finale, it never forgot how to make me laugh, and it maintained relationships that I never expected from a spinoff of a crude, bloody FPS. All of it clicked together, and the ending got me teary-eyed. I’m usually not one to reach that point in games or movies, and yet there I was. Everything just works.
Other Games I Played
· Super Meat Boy – Oh look, another platformer. Golly gee. I’ve been meaning to play this one ever since its release and I finally got around to it. That said, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Everything feels incredibly tight and Meat Boy is nice and nimble, but the humor, music, and depressing environments just didn’t do it for me. I beat it along with the Cotton Alley levels afterward, but I have no interest in playing the harder variants of the levels.
· Stanley Parable – Brilliant. Go play it.
· Little Inferno – Burning meaningless objects in the fire wasn’t hugely enjoyable, but it was worth it thanks to a neat story and a sequence of events near the end that I really wish was its own game. It still has that World of Goo charm.
· Splatoon – I would’ve written more about this one, but Dtoid has a huge fanbase for it already, so I think I’m spoken for. Splatoon is crazy unique and really fun. Everything feels really fluid, especially for a console shooter. I’m glad it’s doing well.
· Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call – This game only fuels my interest in Final Fantasy. Playing through these incredible songs in the form of a rhythm game is a dream come true, and Curtain Call nailed it. The quest mode is really neat as well. I highly recommend it to anyone remotely interested in rhythm titles.
· Proteus – I did quite a few more playthroughs in the past year. If you haven’t played it yet, it takes an hour to beat, but each time you play the world is randomly generated. A walking simulator in the truest sense, and a sublime experience at that.
· When DICE announced who Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s composer is, I couldn’t stop smiling. Solar Fields made the first game magical, and I can’t wait to see what he does with Catalyst.
· Samorost 3’s teaser trailer turned me from interested to full-blown hyped. Oddly enough, it’s not even a minute long.
· It was really nice seeing people positively respond to the past year. In 2014, many people online seemed unhappy due to the buggy releases and such, but this year, everyone seemed to find a niche. Also, I’m happy that small indies such as Undertale are as prominent as some AAA releases.
· Iwata’s death hit me hard. He did a lot for the industry, and he left a very positive mark. Seeing everyone come together at the time of his passing felt heartfelt and genuine. Even in TF2, lots of people were putting “Thx Iwata” tags in their nicknames. Thanks Iwata.
· I got a PS4. More so than anything, I want to play Final Fantasy X and Mirror's Edge Catalyst. I got FFX/X-2 HD, and I am beyond excited to star playing. In addition, thanks to some recommendations I heard from my last write-up, I now have a DS copy of Chrono Trigger sitting on the shelf when I'm ready. Hype.
· I found Destructoid this year. And about that…
My Time At Destructoid
I joined Destructoid in the spring after reading it for a couple months. When I eventually wrote my first blog, I was blown away by the reaction to it. I still have trouble reading it because it feels so cheesy, but apparently people liked it, and that made me really happy. I became a lurker again for months, but I actually found myself formulating stuff to write about in my head; I just never committed the ideas to paper. I’m hoping that in the next year, I’ll write more about games, because I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this and the Final Fantasy blog.
I really like it here. Destructoid seems much more tight-knit then a lot of places, and the community seems weird and awesome in the best ways. I’ve never been part of an Internet community before, but this seems like the place to be.
Happy New Year, everybody.