Game of the Year 2015 Day 1 of 3

2015 will go down as one of the better years in video games. I actually struggled to trim down my top 10 and nominees across all my categories.

Today’s categories feature two Nintendo titles that I didn’t spend enough time with despite the fact they’re in my wheelhouse.

The 2015 Game I Wish I Bought & Played In 2015

Winner: Splatoon

Splatoon Box Art

Nintendo’s third person shooter made waves with its unique and innovative approach to the genre. It looked interesting every time I laid eyes on it but as soon as I glanced at the price of $69.99, I was immediately turned off. The early criticisms concerning the lack of content fell by the wayside thanks to Nintendo’s continued support with free maps, weapons and modes.

I should have pre-ordered it with Amazon.ca’s E3 promotional discount but hindsight is 20/20.

Runner ups: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Until Dawn

 

The 2015 Game I Wish I Spent More Time With

Winner: Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker Box Art

Super Mario Maker should be an endless supply of platforming fun and I should have been tackling course after course but I haven’t. I played several of the pre-made levels and sampled a number of user created ones. I even made and uploaded a level but I haven’t played nearly enough to even give it a an honest review. As silly as it may sound, I think I would have played it more if I bought it digitally.

As for the other nominees? I spent a solid month or so playing Rocket League but it fizzled away as soon as the third quarter approached. Psyonix continued to support it with paid cosmetic items and free gameplay content but I never found the opportunity to revisit it despite my intentions.

It may seem a little silly to nominate The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in this category but I really wanted to play the expansion DLC.

Runner ups: Rocket League, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Checkpoint: New Nintendo 3DS XL Edition

A New Nintendo 3DS XL was always in the cards but not at the price of $229.99. But when Amazon.ca fudged up and discounted the “New Red” version down to $139.99, I couldn’t refuse.

I actually ordered this nearly 3 weeks ago and had my doubts that Amazon.ca would honor their snafu but to my surprise it arrived. After a couple of days of using it, here are some rapid fire observations

Hardware & Styling

  • Glossy finish is a fingerprint magnet
  • Lighter than the original 3DS XL
  • Slightly larger footprint than the original 3DS XL
  • Screen hinge is significantly sturdier
  • Slide pad/joystick has a bit more resistance
  • Receded front loading cartridge a better decision (I’ve accidentally unloaded the cartridge on the 3DS XL because of the flushed nature of the cartridge slot)
  • Relocating the volume controls to the left side of the screen was also a plus

Performance

  • I love how quick everything loads compared to the original 3DS XL
  • The screen quality is noticeably better
  • Speakers are a little louder
  • 3D is noticeably more stable but it’s still not perfect

I would also like to note how long it took to perform a wireless transfer from my old 3DS XL. I watched three and a half quarters of Thursday Night Football before the transfer completed. Fortunately, Pikmin were on screen making light of the excruciatingly long transfer process.

I still have more to test out including the C-Stick and the additional shoulder buttons but all I’ve done was play Theatrhythm. I have Xenoblade Chronicles but I’m not quite ready to check it out yet.

I’m almost done with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I can see the final confrontation in the distance but I just have to wrap up some story threads before embarking on it. Next, it will be Halo 5 with Call of Duty: Black Ops III not far behind.

LTTP: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

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LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for me to catch up and write about games I missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.

Super Mario 3D World was a fantastic game. One of the many reasons why I enjoyed it so much was the inclusion of the Captain Toad levels. They served as a break in the traditional 3D platforming action but quickly became a highlight in its own right for its charm and methodical puzzles. Nintendo noticed the reverence for the little treasure hunter and decided to flesh out the little hidden gem into a full game.

I heard it was a little light on content for a $44.99 retail title so I waited for a sale to pop up. For $34.99? I was happy with what was on the disc.

The game’s levels were split into four books. The first book consisted of straight forward puzzles but subsequent books steadily ramped up the complexity and demands of the bonus objectives. It’s the same approach that Nintendo implemented in its platformers; the challenge lies within the extras whereas the main course remained attainable.

I was a little surprised to discover that the Wii U Gamepad was required to play this game. Early on it simply mirrored the TV; I had forgotten about the other gimmicks found in Super Mario 3D World.

Using it as a view port to aim and fire turnips with was harmless fun. I was tolerant of the touch screen oriented levels but I was annoyed with the levels that asked me to blow into the mic. Asking me to blow into the mic to move platforms while darting across platforms surrounded by lava was awkward and cumbersome. I lost too many lives while trying to complete the challenge objective for “Magma Road Marathon”.

Treasure Tracker was best tackled in chunks. I could have finished a book’s main courses in a single sitting but I would have felt underwhelmed by the lack of challenge at the end of book. I found it more satisfying to taking on each challenge objective immediately after an initial run.

It’s tough to get upset over Treasure Tracker because it’s such a charming title. The cutesy mannerisms of the Toads and the expressions of Shy Guys and Charging Chucks were given such an incredible level of craftsmanship that I forgot that I was playing a Wii U title. The relatively limited scope allowed Nintendo to give each asset the five star treatment that we’ve rarely seen up close. It’s easily one of the best looking titles regardless of platform.

After Batman: Arkham Knight, I needed a palette cleanser to take my mind off the rainy grime found in Gotham. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker fit the bill perfectly. It wasn’t the most challenging or inventive of titles but the puzzles exercised the methodical part of my brain that I appreciated. “Okay. I need to manipulate this and that, then do this.” Working my way through those levels was relaxing, gratifying and put a smile on my face which is all I could ask for. You could say I could have achieved the same feelings through a mobile game like Hitman: GO or Monument Valley but there’s something special about playing a quality Nintendo game on the big screen.

Verdict:
I love it

Ratings Guide

Your E3 Wishes Granted

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“It’s a hearts and minds game.”

It’s a phrase that I heard uttered after Sony’s E3 2013 press conference and suspect after this year’s E3 conferences from all publishers, we’re going to hear more and more of it.

It began with Bethesda’s late Sunday evening presentation where they showed off lengthy demos of Doom and Fallout 4; Pete Hines kept the pace brisk but slowed it down when it mattered. Todd Howard was brought on stage to speak to those who were forgoing Game of Thrones and other Sunday night programming to watch a streaming presentation. They knew who they were talking to. He dropped F-bombs when appropriate and tried his best to pitch Fallout: Shelter as a mobile game for those who scoff at F2P trappings.

It was an impressive showing for a publisher who never put on a show before. But was that a one off? Of course not.

Monday began with Microsoft and the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility. They followed up with Xbox One Elite controller targeted at the hardcore audience with its swappable components. They would mention its exorbitant price tag away from the cameras but the message was clear: “We’re catering to you, the gamer.”

Electronic Arts gave us more Mirror’s Edge and intentionally reminded us that we’re not going to see Faith pick up a firearm in this game. They tried their best to make their sports and other properties appealing but they knew why we’re here and why we would stick around after Pele and the Hoop God made their appearances. It was no coincidence that Star Wars: Battlefront was played on a PlayStation 4. A PC would have brought skepticism about the console version’s quality. They made sure that we saw those PlayStation prompts.

Ubisoft made us laugh and continued the trend of “one more thing” with the reveal of Ghost Recon: Wildlands at the end. Alicia Tyler continued to win fans over with her enthusiasm and energy. Her debut on Ubisoft’s stage may have been awkward at first but I felt she won everyone over. The annual Ubisoft message isn’t always palpable but she livens it up considerably.

And then there was Sony who transformed themselves into the genie of E3 by granting three wishes. Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue III and The Last Guardian all made appearances on their stage. Not all three were exclusive to them but it was damn obvious that they wanted the PlayStation 4 attached to all of these. There was no lengthy TV show pitch and while it would have been nice to see VR on the big stage, I felt it could have been another Move situation if they demonstrated it on-stage; fine for those who already bought in but a tough sell to those who’re peering from the outside.

Nintendo’s digital event was marred by the fact that it didn’t have much to say this year. Nintendo reminded us that NX is a 2016 thing and we should be content with the likes of another 3D FPS Metroid game on the Nintendo 3DS. They pushed more Amiibos and celebrated Mario but it was evident that Nintendo’s 2015 was considerably weaker.

Square  Enix showed the people what they clamored for with Kingdom Hearts 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided footage, they flexed their quality mobile offerings by leveraging a known quantity like Hitman Go and they promised Rise of Tomb Raider would have tombs. They even brought in PlatinumGames to work on a new Nier title while promising JRPG fans that they are committed to JRPGs with the creation of the Tokyo RPG Factory studio.

Square Enix served as a nice summation of everyone else’s E3 presentation. They focused on what worked and showed their audience that they’re understanding what their fans want — or at the very least — starting to listen. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get that Final Fantasy XII HD Remake that I wanted or Half Life 3.

Nearly Everyone Did Well

I have some marks to give out to the E3 press conferences. I’m rating pace, content and the delivery of said content.

  • Bethesda: A-
  • Microsoft: A
  • Electronic Arts: C+
  • Ubisoft: B-
  • Sony: A
  • Nintendo: D+
  • Square Enix: B+

Some personal notables:

  • ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn were the two new intellectual properties that immediately grabbed me.
  • A new Nier? Yes, please. The first one was unique but flawed. I’m glad Square Enix are bringing in action experts to help
  • Star Wars: Battlefront surprised me with how well it performed on consoles and if I’m not mistaken, DICE are targeting 60FPS.
  • I hope Tomb Raider Go lives up to Hitman Go’s lofty heights.

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