Monday, January 2, 2017

Ben's Game of the Year 2016

Well 2016 has come and gone, and now I'm left sitting here looking back on all that has been released. Each year I always have myself do this, but for some reason this year is harder. Typically when I think "Game of the Year" there's at least one game that stands out above all others, but this year it isn't happening. So, instead of flat out listing a single game, I'm going to do a top list with games making up different categories, with what I guess I'd consider my top choice at the end.

Best Fighting Game: BlazBlue Central Fiction

This year there were actually quite a few fighting game releases (and re-releases), but there's really only one I can consider my favorite. BlazBlue: Central Fiction.

BlazBlue is a series I started many years ago back when the original was released on Xbox 360, and it's a series I've been invested in this entire time. I love the characters, I love the story, I love the gameplay, and each release just gets better and better. Although in some ways there have been some down grades (for example, music has been removed), these shortcomings are very easy to overlook when everything else has been expanded so greatly. With BBCF though, not only does it bring in characters like Es from XBlaze, and Naoto from the novel series Bloodedge Experience, but it's the game that ties all of these stories together in one final epic story conclusion. This is the game EVERYTHING in the series has been built up to, and it doesn't fail to deliver. Of course I really doubt this is the end to the BlazBlue series as a whole, but it does end the current story arc, and it's just nice to finally see it all come to an end. Again, this is a series I invested a lot of time into, and in 2016 I finally got to see the conclusion to it all. Plus on top of that, the gameplay has been improved as well.

While many of the characters play similar to how they were in the previous release (BBCPE), each has also gained some new moves, and have been slightly rebalanced to account for the new character additions. These new characters are also a very much welcomed addition, and the new gameplay mechanics were nice to see as well. While a lot of the game is simply carried over from the past entries, it doesn't change the fact that the game is still an improvement, and easily the best entry in the series yet. They've been improving this game for many years now, and BBCF is finally where it all comes together.

Best New Experience: Rez in VR

2016 not only brought us a large selection of new games, but it's also the year that introduced a new way of gaming to the masses -- Virtual Reality. While the technology has been around for awhile now, thanks to the PSVR more gamers finally got to experience it for themselves, and more VR games entered the market. This is where the PS4 remake of the classic Rez comes in.

Although Rez is a game that already has a cult following all it's own, thanks to the PSVR this game was taken to a whole new level. Rez in PSVR is THE game that anyone with a PSVR must try, as it is a one of a kind trip through cyber space that you'll never forget. The music, the fast paced shooting action (which can be controlled with either head tracking, analog sticks, or motion control), and all of the visual sights will be burned into your mind forever and make you want to return to it time and time again. It's literally impossible to describe what this game is like to anyone who has never experienced it for themselves, but once you have, you'll want others to try it as well. Sadly the game doesn't offer much when it comes to new content, but it does have a single "X Zone" stage to play through when it's all over. This new level removes the rails and allows you to fly around through space with free movement, and it is filled with crazy particle effects. While it might not be as fast paced and action packed as the main game, this mode is pure eye candy, and just another reason you'll want to play this one in VR.

Best Racing Game: Forza Horizon 3

The Forza Horizon series is just flat out amazing. Rather than being a track racing sim, the Horizon games take you to the streets, and put a huge focus on having pure fun. They throw you into a massive open world based on real world locations, they give you a wide verity of cars to drive and customize, you're given multiple radio stations with different types of music to listen to, and you're given multiple types of events and races to take part in. It's a game series you can spend hundreds of hours in doing whatever it is you want, and Forza Horizon 3 is easily the best entry in it.

Not only is Horizon 3 the best looking entry in the series, it also has what might be the best map design in the series, a larger selection of events to choose from, more cars to drive, it adds the ability to play through the game in online co-op, and above all, it gives you full control over the world! Rather than just being a racer, you are actually the planner of this massive racing event that is going on, and you have a say so in just about everything. Don't like a race event that's scheduled? Well, change it. Want to use specific type of cars for an event? Issue the order boss! The game even allows you to choose which radio stations you want to sign on in what order, so you'll be able to listen to the music you like sooner than you would in the previous games. There's also legacy rewards for those who played the past games, so returning vets don't enter this game empty handed.

To put it all simple, Forza Horizon 3 is a must play for racing fans, and thanks to its focus on pure fun, even those who normally don't like racers may end up really liking this one. It's very accessible, and thanks to the rewind button you can even undo your worse crashes without losing the race. It's a game well worth checking out, especially if you have an XBO or gaming pc.

Best Multiplayer Game: Overwatch

Overwatch is a game that shocked me. Originally I didn't have much interest in it when Blizzard first announced it, but after the betas started rolling out I was hooked. While I've always liked team based arena shooters, OW became something special. It had unique character designs, each character had unique powers and roles that insured each match was pure chaos, the different objectives on each stage were a lot of fun to try to achieve, and teamwork was handled almost perfectly. It's a game where everyone matters, but it's also a game that really relies on your pure skill and ability to work with others. It's a game that's easy to pick up at first, but one that takes time to learn and master. Different characters have different weaknesses, different characters perform better on different maps, and different characters work better with each other as well. While it's true you can find a few heroes that you like and stick with them, the game still forces you to assess the situation and decide just who it is you should be using at that given moment. It's just a lot of fun! Although I didn't expect much at first, OW became a game I quickly sunk a lot of time into, and spent many long nights playing with friends. It's also a game I plan on playing for years to come, so I look forward to it's future. Good job Blizzard!

Best Wii U Game: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

I know, I know... The Wii U really hasn't seen much action over the past year, but one game came out that I just had to talk about -- a little game I liked to call "Persona Emblem."

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a very niche game, that will only appeal to a specific group of people, but it's actually a very good game. Sure the story of idols dancing and singing and fighting evil monsters from another worlds sounds strange, but hey, I thought the same thing about Persona 4 Dancing All Night, and that game ended up being pretty amazing as well! Needless to say, the story isn't the strongest point in TMS, but it's still good enough to keep going, with likable characters.

If you've ever played a Persona game before, then you'll know what you're in for here. A group of teens gain the ability to summon a creature that gives them power (in this case by fusing), they'll tackle dungeons, battle monsters, and make their way through their daily life in modern japan. It's a set up a lot of people love about the Persona series, and a lot of it is still in this game. Although the time limit and daily activities have been removed, full side stories and dungeons were added in to replace them, and rather than having personas to summon, the characters fuse with Fire Emblem characters instead. Mixing and fusing monsters together has been replaced with a new weapon building system, where you can learn the skills each weapon comes equip with, and rather than simply using the old persona/smt weakness system, the Fire Emblem weapon triangle is thrown into the mix as well. This time hitting weaknesses will actually cause other members of the party to attack with follow up attacks, and if another member is able to follow up said attack with their own, it's possible to create a massive attack combo to clear out the arena quickly. Because of this the combat system is very fast, and strangely addicting. Dungeons are also unique as well (rather than randomly generated rooms), filled with puzzles to overcome, and plenty of reasons to return to them thanks to the game's side activities. Really battling in and completing these dungeons are easily the best part of the game, and are well worth trying out if you're a fan of JRPGs. Again the story is a bit... Strange... But the gameplay itself is rock solid. Of course Persona 5 will be stealing the show this year, but 2016 goes to the unlikely TMS.

Best Vita Game: Zero Time Dilemma

Although a lot of people seem to count the Vita out, it's a console that still gets many (MANY) releases each year, and a lot of hidden gems. Although I would love to put Trails Of Cold Steel 2 here as it's "best game of the year," I decided against it for multiple reasons. For one, Cold Steel 2 is actually part 2 to a game that came out last year, and it's actually the 7th part of a massive overall story. Honestly I'd consider it one of my favorite games of all time, not just of the year, but also considering it's a game that was released quite a few years ago in Japan, it's not really a game of 2016. So that being said, my choice was changed to none other than Zero Time Dilemma.

Saying this is kind of hard for me. There were many other Vita games that came out this year I enjoyed, but I guess ZTD is just special to me. You see, the previous two entries in the series (999 and Virtue's Last Reward) also go down in my book of "greatest games of all time," but ZTD itself does not. On one hand I waited many years for this as it's actually part 2 to VLR (which ended in a cliffhanger), but on the other, because of that it wasn't as shocking or mysterious. I went into this game seeing mostly characters I knew, and I already had a general idea how it was going to end. None of that was really a mystery to me, nor did the game provide me with the same level of shocks as the first two. Honestly it was a bit of a let down in that department; however, it was still a great game. Putting aside the things that let me down, ZTD was still one of my most enjoyable experiences I had with the Vita this year, and it was a game that had me hooked from start to finish. I played the game non stop from start to finish over the course of two days, and I even bought two copies of it because my original shipment was delayed... And I don't regret that. To me, this game was worth buying twice, it was worth spending the time on, and when it was finished I was satisfied with it's outcome. I was glad to finally put an end to the series I had started so long ago, and I now look forward to it's future -- or more specifically, the 999 enhanced port. Sure, it wasn't the best game ever, but it was still great. A must play for fans of the series.

Game of the Year: ????????

Ok, so here it is... My choice of Game of the Year. I'm actually pretty mixed on my feelings with this, but I'm just going to say it and explain my reasons. It's Final Fantasy XV.

Before anyone freaks out, let me explain. Final Fantasy XV is in no way a perfect game. The story was changed from Versus XIII, a lot of characters were removed, content was cut, and a lot of the game was just trimmed down in general. Gone is the adventure we were expecting, and instead an open world road trip is in it's place. I would be lying if I said I wasn't let down at least a little, but on the other hand I can say that I still enjoyed this game. A lot.

To me Final Fantasy XV is my game of the year. I put so much time into this thing, and each time I turn it on the hours just flow by without me even realizing it. I loved the characters, I loved the open world (even if I wish there were more to it), I liked the combat system (as I also liked Type-0's which it evolved from), and I did enjoy the story. It was a game I simply had a lot of fun with, and it's a game I plan on continuing as the updates and new content rolls out. I was also lucky enough to snag a copy of the Ultimate Collectors Edition back when it first went on sale, and I'm pretty happy with it as well. Sure the movie may not be the best thing ever, but the CGI was really good, and it's story was at least enjoyable. On the other hand, it was also nice to own a physical copy of the free Brotherhood anime, and the OST and soundtrack were a nice bonus as well. Of course the real reason I wanted this was for the crazy detailed play arts figure (which is now on display in my house), and that didn't disappoint me either. I'm glad I paid the extra money to get all of this, and I'm glad I spent all of those hours playing the game as well. While it doesn't beat Final Fantasy XIV as my favorite entry in the series, I'd still call it one of my favorites, and I'm really looking forward to what's to come. No, this game isn't perfect, but that's okay. My experience with it was perfect, and that's all that matters to me. As it should for anyone else. There's no such thing as a perfect game, but if your experience with it is, then that's all that should matter to you as well.

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