Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ben's Game of the Year 2015

Has it really been another yet? Man, time is flying by too fast. Well, just like in years past, it is once again time to go over the year and decide what I would call my "Game of the Year." Really, this year isn't an easy one, but at the same time some games I would choose didn't even make it to the top of my list. This year we saw the release of so many big name games, but not every single one stuck with me as much as I had hoped. So with that being said, here's my honorable mentions.

Fallout 4 - This one shocked me. I liked Fallout 3 back when it first came out, but I never really got into the series, nor was I able to get far into the sequel New Vegas. In general Western RPGs aren't for me, so when I started playing FO4 I was expecting to quit early in. Well, I was wrong. I ended up loving the story, I loved the new mode that lets you build towns and hideouts, I loved the fact that it was voice acted, and I also loved that every single piece of trash laying in the wasteland was actually useful in some way. Instead of going into a building and only picking up important things like ammo and weapons, in this one I'd run in and take EVERYTHING in sight. Desk fans, mops, buckets, paper folders, light bulbs, soda bottles, old cans, and so on. Every piece of junk you could find could be used, and I loved it. Really the only thing keeping this from being my GOTY choice is the fact that I haven't finished it 100%, and because I felt my actual choice was a bigger part of my life this year over all.

Tales of Zestiria - Now I haven't finished this game, but I felt that I should still mention it. As a Tales of fan, I've played nearly every title released in the west, and I've even went as far as actually 100%ing few of them. Even so, I can't say that I have liked every single game in the series, and I've never really been hooked on one of these games since Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360. Sure I liked Xillia enough to complete it (and get all trophies), and I liked it's world enough to get Xillia 2. I did have fun with Graces f, and I did like the games I went back to play such as Tales of Legendia. The thing is, even though I liked them well enough, they all had something I didn't like, or they gave me a reason to stop playing for long periods of time. With Tales of Zestiria, that isn't happening. While it has many problems (like the lack of party options), it's a game I've really been enjoying, and I love the cast and characters. Every time I turn it on something happens that makes me smile, and I find myself lost in it's world for hours. It may not be the best Tales of, but it's an entertaining game, and has pulled me in just as Vesperia did all them years ago. I can't call it my GOTY, but it's a game that came out this year that I love.

Need for Speed (2015) - I'm a fan of the Need for Speed games, but it's been a long time since one came out that hooked me. I did like The Run for it's arcade action style gameplay, and the newer Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted were fun, but they weren't games I played non stop, or even kept playing longer than a day or so. They were nice and all, but they didn't have that "magic" that made me like the series in the first place. It's something I haven't seen in the series since the days of Carbon (which is a game many people may not even remember), and by this point I was losing hope. Well, Need for Speed 2015 is the game that finally did it. Going back to it's street racer open world gameplay, NFS (2015) is an exciting arcade racer that lets you nearly everything you may have loved from previous titles. You can explore the large open world city, you can take part in all of your standard race events (including sprint races), you can compete in the returning drift events, and you can also customize your cars. It's all of Need for Speed's good points put into one package, and it's the game that will bring hope back to the series' fans. Sure it has some issues, but the good outweighs the bad.

Others - Besides them three, other games I felt deserve belong on this list, but didn't quite make it, are as follows: Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Witcher 3, Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward, Steins;Gate, Metal Gear Solid V, Bloodbonre, Halo 5, Trails of Cold Steel, Persona 4 Dancing, and Rockband 4. Each of these titles were special to me in some way or another, but due to different reasons I couldn't choose them as my GOTY. Some, such as S;G, are actually older titles that have been released on other platforms, while others are simply expanded or reworked versions of an older game (Rockband 4, and to an extend Heavensward). They were great titles, but ultimately I decided against using them.

So, what is my Game of the Year then? Well, it has to be none other than...

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

It wasn't easy, but after looking back on my entire year there was only one game that kept me engaged for a long period of time, and only one that kept me coming back even after I had "finished it." Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the Nintendo 3DS, is that title.

I've liked the Monster Hunter series since the third main title was released on the Wii, but I was never fully into it. I would spend enough time on the game to get to the end story wise, and I'd typically stop somewhere during the end game content. With Tri (3) I got to the end, and got through most of High Rank online, but due to my Wii breaking and save locks, I never got to finish the last hunts or work my way to the max rank of HR 999. As for the portable games on the PSP, I just stopped playing in general. Having no one else to play with kind of got old fast, and other games would pull me away. Sure, I had fun with them and enjoyed them enough, but I wasn't hooked on them as much as other people, and I never had a reason to go back. Something similar happened with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but in that case I did finish the end game; I only stopped because I was getting tired of going with random people. So, I have always been a fan of the series, but I've never actually stuck it out to get extremely deep into them. Until 4 Ultimate that is.

With MH4U I instantly fell in love. I bought the game and the brand new Nintendo 3DS (just so I could control the game easier and have a larger screen), and I started spending hours each day only playing it. I'd come home from work, get on MH4U, and then get off when it was time to go to bed. During the snow storms (that trapped me at home) I spent nearly all day playing it, and during the weekends I found myself only playing it as well. The game sucked my life away, and it only got worse once my friends had gotten it.

After reaching the end game on my own, I managed to talk two friends into getting the game (one of which used to be a writer here), and the whole thing started over. I actually stripped myself down, put on the "newbie" gear, and then actually went back through the entire online mode with them on co-op. We went through nearly every quest again, we farmed monsters for gear for them, and finally we caught up to where I had left off (in the end of G rank) and took on the new challenges together. We spent months going through the game together, and in the end we had nearly completed it -- the only reason we even stopped was mainly due to my health issues, and because of two of us started playing Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward. Even so, I still pick the game up from time to time to play, and there's always the chance that we'll be going back to it before the western release (assuming there will be one) of Monster Hunter X.

So, why did we become hooked to this game? What makes it so good that others should play it? Well, truthfully it isn't a game for everyone. It's a hunting game where you will spend a lot of time killing the same big bosses over and over again, but for anyone who does like this sort of thing it will become addicting. Putting your skills to the test is a lot of fun, and a lot of great moments will come out of it. There's a lot of different weapons to chose from, there's a wide verity of monsters to fight, the areas you fight in are unique, there's a massive crafting system (for both equipment and items that will help you on your hunts), and the new ability to quickly climb up walls and jump on monster's backs is a great addition to the gameplay -- so is the new air based weapon type. There's also the new "apex" and virus monsters that will give you a run for your money, and the new "super mode" you can activate using stones is a nice addition as well. The fact that there is more than one town was a great addition, the new system that replaced the farm to double items really sped things up, and the online mode was nearly perfected (with only some issues setting it back). All and all, the game is a must play for fans of the series, and it's one new comers will be able to jump into much easier as well. It's easily one of my favorite games from the year, and possibly what I'd even consider my favorite 3DS game. So many memories came from playing this game, and I'll always treasure them moments. From the time a monster ravaged our team only to stand over us and rawr and walk away (before landing the last hit to finish us off), to even when "d" kept joining our group only to die three times in a row within the first few minutes. While it may have angered us at the time (especially considering we spent hours failing due to it), we can now look back on these moments and have a good laugh.

Thank you Monster Hunter for all the good times and the bad. Hopefully we'll see you again soon in the new year.