Saturday, January 02, 2016

My favorite games of 2015 (that were released before 2015)

In the last post I published, I admitted I didn't play too many games in 2015 that actually were released between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of that year.

I did, however, play quite a few games that were released before 2015. Here are some words about the ones I enjoyed the most.

999 (DS)--Everyone seems to love this Chunsoft-crafted visual novel. So why did it take me so long to play more than a couple of hours of it (I've owned a copy for years now)? I wish I could tell you. What I can tell you is I'm thrilled I broke through that self-imposed barrier earlier this year. This time around, not only did I finally get past 999's opening chapter, but I finished each and every one of them--multiple times over. In fact, I eventually encountered all of this tense title's many endings and devoted more than 20 hours to doing so. Hopefully I'll find Virtue's Last Reward, the Vita version of which I just acquired, just as compelling.

Alien Syndrome (Game Gear)--I turned up my nose at this arcade port for years due to what I considered (at the time) to be its subpar visuals. Truth be told, I also wasn't all that interested in its seemingly brainless gameplay. For whatever reason, I put those initially negative (not to mention ill-informed) impressions behind me and gave this iteration of Alien Syndrome another shot a month or so ago and ended up having a blast. I'm still not a big fan of its boss battles, which are more than a bit claustrophobic on the Game Gear's tiny screen, but the rest of it this creepy run-and-gunner's content is surprisingly enjoyable when you give it a chance.

Astro Rabby (GameBoy)--Here's another old title that rubbed me the wrong way the first few times I booted it up. Once I wrapped my head around its gameplay, though, I really dug it. Sure, the bonus stages that pop up now and then are beyond aggravating, but they're easily ignored after you come to terms with the fact that you'll never, ever "beat" one of them. Also, the rest of what Astro Rabby--which aesthetically, at least, brings to mind that old PlayStation launch release, Jumping Flash!--has to offer is such a rush that they're quickly erased from memory.

Chrono Trigger (DS)--Stop me if you've heard me tell this story before: my big brother and I bought a copy of this groundbreaking RPG back when it first hit store shelves in our neck of the woods. Despite my love for the company-previously-known-as-Squaresoft and pretty much every game it pushed onto the market during the 16-bit and 32-bit eras, I never played through the SNES version of Chrono Trigger myself. (I did watch my brother play through a good portion of it--not that I can remember much of the experience now.) So, what do I think of this enhanced DS re-release after putting nearly six hours into it? I absolutely love it. The soundtrack is, as expected, a revelation, and the time-traveling story and relaxed Final Fantasy-esque battles are similarly first-rate.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My favorite games of 2015 (that actually were released in 2015)

Although I bought and played a lot of games in 2015, the sad truth is that not many of them actually were released this past year.

In fact, aside from the ones highlighted here, the only other released-in-2015 games I remember playing are BOXBOY!, The Legend of Kusakari, Nintendo Badge Arcade and Pokémon Picross.

Still, I think the trio touched on below are worthy of all the praise I can heap on them.

The Legend of Legacy (3DS)--If I were forced to point out my absolute favorite of the current-gen games I bought and played in 2015, this weird, distinctly Japanese RPG would be it. Don't take that to mean it's perfect or recommended for everyone or anything of the sort, though, as The Legend of Legacy often goes out of its way to be repetitive, tight-lipped (as in, its story is the definition of sparse) and hair-pullingly difficult.

Still, I put nearly 40 hours into The Legend of Legacy since I got my hands on a copy of it a couple of months ago, so clearly its developers did something right. Specifically, I consider the pop-up backdrops, watercolor aesthetics and surprisingly deep battles they created for this 3DS title to be spot-on.

I wouldn't have complained if they'd added a bit more pizazz to that last component, mind you, but even in its current, somewhat unfinished state, The Legend of Legacy is pretty great, in my humble opinion, and well worth the hard-earned cash I spent on it.

Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus (3DS)--Am I surprised that a lot of folks were let down by The Best Plus after digging into it? Not really. For starters, like me, they probably spent a long time looking forward to a new entry in this quirky series of rhythm games--and as we all know, that sort of thing usually leads to disappointment.

Two additional issues that surely pushed at least a few people down that same path: this title's "best of" nature (as in, most of its content is pulled from past Rhythm Tengoku releases) and its insistence on wrapping an unnecessarily chatty story around the included package of mini-games.

Although I'm just as guilty as anyone in being turned off by those "problem areas," I still walked away from The Best Plus happy that I added it to my collection. The new characters more than hold their own against those who were showcased in previous Rhythm Tengoku installments, and the new mini-games, while perhaps not as stellar as their predecessors, are well beyond passable.

In other words, there's plenty of fun to be had with The Best Plus if you lower your expectations a smidge and then just go with the flow.

Undertale (Mac)--Full disclosure: at this point in time, I don't consider Undertale to be a better (or more enjoyable) game than any of Nintendo's three Mother (aka EarthBound) titles. Granted, I'm pretty sure I've only experienced a fraction of what it has to offer so far.

Also, although I may not be as enamored with this unique RPG as some others are, there's no question I've loved every second I've put into it. The touching--and almost shockingly dark--story and pleasantly odd art style on offer here are obvious high points, but I also really appreciate Undertale's fresh take on old-school RPG battle scenes. As a result, I very much intend to blast my way to this game's finish line in early 2016.

Now that I've blathered on about my favorite games of 2015 (or at least those that actually were released in the last 12 months), please feel free to talk about yours in the comments section below.

See also: 'My favorite games of 2014 (that actually were released in 2014)' and 'My favorite games of 2014 (that were released before 2014)'

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 games I bought in 2015 that I've regrettably (some might say embarrassingly) failed to play

Here's an admission that should shock almost no one: I bought quite a few games--both old and new--in 2015.

Even less shocking to those of you who've been reading this blog for even a few weeks: I've only played a handful of those pick-ups so far.

I'll spend some time chatting about the ones I've actually spent time with in a post that'll be published in a couple of days. In this one, though, I'll blab about some of the ones I've regrettably (and embarrassingly) ignored.

Clock Tower (WonderSwan)--I was so excited when I finally acquired a WonderSwan system (along with five WonderSwan games) a few months ago. I've been buying WonderSwan games for a number of years now--read about some of them in these previously published posts--but until my black WonderSwan Color arrived on my doorstep in mid-October I was unable to play them. Anyway, you'd think that all of this would've prompted me to cram my freshly obtained Clock Tower cart into the aforementioned portable as soon as possible. After all, I've wanted to experience some version of Human Entertainment's point-and-click horror game for ages. Alas, it's still on the to-do list. As is the case with all of the games mentioned here, though, I'm planning to rectify matters in 2016.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS)--I'll be honest here: I wasn't entirely sure what to think of this turn-based strategy game when Nintendo first unveiled it. Sure, Intelligent Systems' involvement thrilled me, and I also loved that they dared to take the genre in a unique direction with the comic-book setting and steampunk aesthetic on display here. On the flip side, though, I wasn't so enamored with their seeming obsession with garish colors. Still, I pre-ordered a copy as soon as I was able--and then promptly neglected to even open it after it was delivered.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS)--True story: I've wanted to play Majora's Mask ever since I conquered the original Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time back in the day. For whatever reason, though, I passed on Majora's Mask when it was released in 2000. Actually, I believe my brother and I owned a copy of it at one point, but I never went through its adventure myself. With that in mind, I happily pre-ordered this 3DS remake-of-sorts and then ... you know how this story ends by now, right?

Taiko no Tatsujin V Version (Vita)--When I first heard that the folks at Bandai Namco were prepping a new Taiko no Tatsujin game for the Vita, I was stoked. I own and love all three of the Taiko titles that were released (in Japan only, sadly) for the DS a few years back, and that affection pushed me to purchase iterations for the PSP and 3DS, too. So, why not add V Version to the pile, too, right? Unfortunately, I didn't give my Vita the attention it deserved in 2015, so this and other releases basically fell by the wayside. Hopefully that won't be the case in the coming year.

Yomawari (Vita)--Of all the unplayed games name-checked in this post, this one bugs me the most. Why? Yomawari is "my cup of tea," as that old saying goes. Specifically, it's cute, it's scary and it's portable. Yet it continues to sit in the same stack as the titles noted above. Admittedly, one reason I've been dragging my feet when it comes to booting up my copy of this Nippon Ichi production is that I'm a bit worried the in-game text will be over my head. Even if that proves true in the end, though, I won't know it for sure until I've actually given Yomawari a try, wouldn't you agree?

With all of that out of the way, what are some of the games--new or old--that you picked up in 2015 but failed to play?