2015 definitely won’t go down as a banner year for video gaming but that’s not to say there wasn’t a ton of high quality stuff to play, just that some of the most anticipated releases of the year failed to connect with audiences in general and me personally. PS4 continues to dominate the console landscape with the Xbox One right on its tail. Though each system has been out for a good long while now I feel like we’ve yet to see either hit its stride or to be able to crown a clear winner, just like last generation’s war between the PS3 and Xbox 360, where people’s console of choice was mostly made with a shrug. And then there’s Nintendo, whose WiiU continues on life support in the eye of the public at large but still manages to produce what could possibly be history’s strongest array of first party software. Still, there were a handful of games to get excited about this year, and here are mine…
“After the last few enormous open world games I’ve tackled (Shadow of Mordor, Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Mad Max), it’s nice to sit down with something that is just simple, pure fun and doesn’t feel like playing it is a part time job, and the unexpected but highly refreshing positive reception this game has received from the majority of the games media shows that I must not be alone. I don’t think I’ve gotten this much pure enjoyment out of a title since last year’s WiiU exclusive action romp Bayonetta 2, and it’s no coincidence, that was also from Platinum Games. The fact that this is finally the perfect adaptation of the much loved Generation One iteration of Transformers that fans have been salivating for since the 80’s is just the icing on the cake.”
“Rocksteady’s Arkham series supposedly comes to a close with Batman: Arkham Knight, recently released for current gen consoles. Following up Asylum and City with an open world adventure that gives players access to a fully-fledged Gotham, this time held hostage by the Scarecrow in a fear campaign lifted almost directly from Batman Begins, and traversable by the tried and true grapnel gun or the newly implemented Batmobile. That Batmobile has been been a serious bone of contention for many reviewers, not for its awesome Burnout-inspired driving capabilities but for its ability to transform into a full-fledged tank. Sequences where the Bat takes on automated drone tanks (remember, Bruce doesn’t kill) controlled by mysterious new villain and Scarecrow ally Arkham Knight have been heavily criticized as boring and repetitive ever since these mechanics were first previewed but I don’t really get it. I fully enjoyed these tank missions and found them, along with the previously mentioned driving, to be a welcome change from the series’ usual blend of combat, exploration and puzzle solving.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 23 years since the first Mortal Kombat ripped the heart out of the video game industry, and 9 games later it’s still going as strong as ever. 2011’s PS3/360 MK reboot (aka MK9) brought the series back to its early to mid-90’s glory after a PS2 era stretch that was serviceable but unremarkable. MKX builds on that game’s positive innovations and violently carves out its own identity as well.”
“It’s been a somewhat slow year for the venerable Japanese giant after last year’s unbeatable one-two punch of Mario Kart and Smash Bros, along with the news of the highly anticipated new Star Fox being pushed back until next year. I’m here to tell you none of that matters. Nintendo could sell this thing as its own dedicated $300 system and it would still be a critical and commercial juggernaut. Killer apps, triple A games, blockbusters, whatever you want to call them, this package completely transcends the very idea, and makes every other gaming experience on any system this year pale in comparison.”
“You can always expect a certain amount of polish from Nintendo, even when the tackle previously foreign genre like this one. I always intended to buy Splatoon when it was announced, I knew I’d enjoy it’s single player mode but doubted the online component would be anything special, given my own misgivings about the genre and Nintendo’s previous blunders in the field. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong about something. Believe the hype, Splatoon is an online shooter from Nintendo and it’s a gloriously perfect new franchise starter straight out of the gate. Don’t miss out.”
So what’s in store for 2016? Look for fighting games to return to the forefront as SNK dusts off the King of Fighters franchise, ARC returns with a new Guilty Gear in Xrd Revelator, Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat X continue to receive hefty updates, and last but certainly not least, Capcom unleashes the highly anticipated Street Fighter V .
And keep an eye out for our TV and Movie top five lists in the coming weeks!