Random Statistics From my Game of the Years

A Link to the Past

After reflecting on my gaming life with my (more or less) complete list of Game of the Years from the year I was born up to 2015, I noticed a few things. Random things. Random things that must be statistically categorized.

To be more specific, the following are some random and fun (in my mind, anyway) statistics in regards to the games, series, and platforms involved with my Game of the Years. I originally was going to include these at the end of that aforementioned list, but already spent enough time writing it and wanted to move on.

Anyway, here are some finer details and random factoids regarding my selected games and runners-up. Because why not?

 

Series with the most Game of the Years

Super Mario Bros. 3

The Super Mario series has claimed the most Game of the Years from me with five winners: Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990), Super Mario World (1991), Super Mario RPG (1996), Super Mario Galaxy (2007), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010).

The only other series with multiple winners are The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Super Smash Bros. and Banjo-Kazooie, which have two each.

Platform with the most Game of the Years

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System and PC house more of my personal Game of the Years than any other platform, with five each. Though it should be noted that the Super Nintendo winners were all exclusives in their original release, whereas two of the PC winners were concurrently released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

The platform with the second most winners, somewhat to my surprise, is the Playstation 3, with two exclusives (Uncharted 2 and Ni no Kuni) winning in their respective years, along with the previously mentioned multiplatform games, for a total of four. The Nintendo 64 and Wii tie for third place, with three winners each.

Handheld Games

Another surprise I found out about myself is that, despite my general love of handheld games, I guess I’m not as invested in them as their console counterparts, seeing as no handheld games claimed a Game of the Year, and only nine appeared as runners-up (Pokemon Red & Blue, Pokemon Gold & Silver, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, WarioWare Twisted, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Mario Kart 7, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Animal Crossing: New Leaf).

Does this mean those are my favorite handheld games? Not necessarily. But it was an interesting tidbit that I couldn’t think of many others I would list. Kind of makes me sad. I should play more handheld games…

Developer with the most Game of the Years

Somewhat unfairly, Nintendo claims the most Game of the Years. I say “somewhat unfairly” simply because “Nintendo” is a rather broad description of the various development teams at Nintendo.

Six winners are labelled as being developed by “Nintendo,” while the two Super Mario Galaxy games by Nintendo’s Tokyo Studios bring that number to eight. Depending on how you view Super Mario RPG and Donkey Kong Country titles (which I listed under Square, Rare and Retro Studios), that number could go up by three more.

Other developers with multiple winners include Square and Valve with two apiece, and Rare, with three winners.

Indie Games

Undertale

Undertale, the most recent winner, is the only indie game I have so far given my Game of the Year honor. Shovel Knight and Rocket League were also included as runners-up. So it seems indie games are sneaking their way into my heart.

Series with the most runners-up (Besides Mario)

Mega Man 2

Not counting the Mario series, whose runners-up can be broken down into different sub-series (Mario Kart, Paper Mario, the platformers, etc.), the series with the most runners-up is Mega Man, with seven: Mega Man 3, Mega Man X, Mega Man 8, Mega Man Legends, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10.

The Legend of Zelda and, shockingly, Sonic the Hedgehog each have five runners-up to their name.

Series with a Game of the Year and runner-up in the same year

Mario and Sonic are the only series that have both a winner and a runner-up in the same year. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is my retroactive Game of the Year for 1994, while Sonic & Knuckles was a runner-up that same year. 1996 sees Super Mario RPG take the cake, with Super Mario 64 also being in the loop.

Genre with the most Game of the Years

Banjo-Tooie

Platformers claim an easy victory with a whopping eleven Game of the Years. Though if you consider 2D platformers and 3D platformers as separate genres (and let’s face it, they are, along with fighting games, one of the only genres with enough differences in 2D and 3D to qualify the different perspectives as differing genres), then 2D platformers have seven victors (Mega Man 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Donkey Kong Country 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze), while 3D platformers have four (Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2).

Second place goes to the action-adventure genre with five games (The Legend of Zelda titles, A Link to the Past and Wind Waker, along with Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, and Uncharted 2). In third place is the RPG genre with four titles (Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Ni No Kuni, Undertale).

The bridesmaid

Kirby has four games listed under my runners-up (Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby Superstar, Kirby 64, Kirby’s Epic Yarn), but no Game of the Years. Hopefully that will change down the road, since I believe Kirby is the only longstanding video game character who has never been in a bad game.

This has me thinking that perhaps I missed out ranking a few more Kirby games as runners-up in the very least. I mean, Dreamland 3, Canvas Curse, and Return to Dreamland were all games I really enjoyed. I may have underrated the little guy, which means I’ve become everything I ever hated.

So there you go. Some random factoids I deduced from my Game of the Years. Hopefully you enjoyed this admittedly-needless-but-hopefully-fun post.

Why not check out those Game of the Years again?

My Game of the Years for Every Year of my Life

In September of 1989, the world became a substantially greater place. That is to say, that’s when I was born.

It wasn’t long until I developed a deep love of video games, with my gaming life stretching back as far as I can remember. As the years have gone by, my love of video games has only intensified, as has my knowledge of them (at least I like to think so).

Starting around 2003, I decided to care more about what games I thought were best, or at least my favorites (which are the same as far as I’m concerned. MY WORD IS LAW!).  Specifically, I started to think about which games stood out the most to me in any given year. That is to say, my Game of the Years.

Since that time, I have retroactively named my favorite games of every year I have walked this Earth. From my days as a humble baby up to the present, I have more or less compiled a list of my Game of the Year from then to now.

Since I recently named my Game of the Year for 2015, I thought now would be a good time to share my Games of the Year from 1989 to 2015. Keep in mind that I go by the years of each game’s North American release, because I’m American.

Admittedly, some years aren’t as definitive as others, with a couple of the years being a toss up as it currently stands (again, many of these are retroactive, so if I catch up on a game from a particular year that I missed out the first time around, and it proves to be the best game I’ve played from that year, it will take the cake).

I may as well say right now that I feel 1989 through 1997 are pretty much set in stone, as are 2000, 2003 and 2005 to today. 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2004 are marginally more flip-floppy, while I feel 1999 is currently feeling like a placeholder.

When the day comes that I feel those less decisive years become more definitive, I will create a new section of this site dedicated to my Game of the Years with more detailed descriptions of each. For now, I thought I’d shed some light on what I can in this post, especially seeing as I plan on revealing my favorite games of all time in the near future, I figured it made more sense to write about my Game of the Years before then.

So without further rambling, let’s hop aboard a DeLorean, boost up that Flux Capacitor, and hit 88 miles per hour. We’re going back to 1989!

Here are my Game of the Years from then to now (more or less). Continue reading “My Game of the Years for Every Year of my Life”

Top 5 Games of 2015 (Game of the Year)

2015 was a tremendous year in video games. We had AAA blockbusters, indie darlings, and games from all genres and categories reach great heights in quality.

Exceptionalist that I am, some games were undoubtedly better than others. Of all of 2015’s great games, these five stood out the most to me.

These five games, for one reason or another, proved to be the cream of the crop. They may not quite be the same games you’ll see dominate other people’s lists, but they are the games that had the most impact on me.

Without further ado, my top five favorite video games of 2015. Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2015 (Game of the Year)”

Video Game Awards 2016: Best Indie Game

Indie games have become a major part of the video game world. Though they lack the budgets and production values of AAA titles, indie games have finally gained the momentum to go toe-to-toe with the big names of the gaming world today.

I am not one of those people who simply thinks “indie = creative, blockbuster = trash.” In fact, I have found many indie darlings to be flat-out boring (I’m looking your way, Limbo). But I feel that we are finally seeing some indie games that live up to the hype that precedes them. As far as 2015 goes, the best indie game was a no-brainer.

 

Winner: Undertale

Undertale

Undertale is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. And more than likely the best indie game I’ve ever played. An RPG that draws inspiration from EarthBound, Super Mario RPG, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga could only ever be a wonderful thing. And Undertale does its inspirations proud.

Every monster brings something different to the table, every battle is interactive, and you don’t have to harm any enemy you come across.

Undertale succeeds in two key areas that so many other indie titles stumble: It tells a compelling story that actually feels artistic and not simply self-important. And it combines its narrative with deep and engaging gameplay.

If every indie title could be a fragment as fun as Undertale, I may just have to grow a neck-beard and declare myself a hipster. But Undertale is a shimmering diamond in the rough, so it looks like I’ve dodged the neck-beard bullet.

Runner-up: Rocket League

Video Game Awards 2016: Best Music

I dearly love video game music. Some might call me crazy, but video game soundtracks are the majority of music I listen to (the rest are film soundtracks). I hold video game music in very high regard. As such, naming the best video game soundtrack of any given year is a big deal for me. But as far as 2015 goes, there was one clear winner.

 

Winner: Undertale

Undertale

It’s hard to think of many video games that are as much a labor of love as Undertale. The brainchild of Toby Fox was – aside from some art work – created entirely by Fox himself. This includes the game’s stellar soundtrack, which is one of the best in years.

What’s amazing is that the fantastic Mr. Fox claims that he has had no prior musical training, and that he more or less just played what he thought sounded good. You’d be forgiven for thinking Undertale’s soundtrack was done by a number of professional musicians. Dude’s got skills.

Undertale manages to capture a retro feel with many classic video game inspired pieces, and also includes some very tearjerking scores as well. In a game full of highlights, Undertale’s music may be one of the biggest highlights of them all.

Runner-up: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Undertale Review

Undertale

Undertale is a game all about the unexpected. On face value, it may appear to be just another indy title with a passion for the retro. But this brain-child of one Toby Fox looks to subvert RPG norms in fun and inventive ways. It’s most blatant inspiration is EarthBound, though it also evokes Super Mario RPG and the Mario & Luigi series on equal levels. All of which are apt inspirations for an RPG that wishes to be unconventional. What’s all the more unexpected is how well Undertale lives up to its inspirations.

The “hook” of Undertale is simple enough in concept: You don’t have to kill anything. But the depth of this concept is what gives Undertale its uniqueness in both gameplay and story.

In terms of gameplay, Undertale looks very much like EarthBound, complete with retro-style first-person battle screens. But players are able to go along with or against RPG conventions with the options to fight or act.

By fighting, you can defeat the monsters, earn experience points, and level up, as is RPG tradition. But if you choose to act, you can find a non-violent way to win the battle, whether it be striking up a conversation, initiating a dance-off, or giving a simple compliment. Once you’ve won the favor of a monster, you can choose to “spare” them, ending the fight without gaining experience points (though you can still earn gold).

Neither option is more difficult than the other, however, as most monsters are not easily swayed or defeated. No matter which route you choose, you will still have to endure their attacks. It’s within these segments where the influence of the Mario RPGs shines through.

During enemy attacks, the game takes on something of a “bullet hell” setup. The player’s “soul” is represented by a tiny heart, which the player can guide within a window. The enemy attacks are present as various projectiles, which the player can avoid altogether, provided they have the ability to guide the heart out of harm’s way.

Like in the Mario RPGs, every enemy provides its own unique challenge, meaning that avoiding their attacks feel like mini-games unique to each monster.

UndertaleThough each enemy fights differently, Undertale’s battle system has a few consistent rules to keep things together. Enemy attacks that are colored white will damage the player. Blue attacks won’t harm you so long as you hold the heart still, while orange attacks are the reverse, and will be harmless if the player willingly moves the heart through them. Some monsters have attacks that can be turned green, which then heal the player.

The battle system is an utter delight, and one of the most fun and interactive I’ve seen in an RPG. It’s probably the only RPG I can think of outside of the Mario series where the battles provide a constant sense of surprise. This variety is reflected equally in the aforementioned “act” options, which are unique to every monster’s personality.

The story is another highlight of the game. Undertale tells the story of a long-forgotten war between humans and monsters, where the humans emerged victorious and banished the monsters to a subterranean realm. The monsters can’t break the seal keeping them in the underground, but humans can find their way to this world of monsters through a single mountain.

Players take the role of a child who happens to fall into the monster world, and must go on an adventure to find his/her way home. An adventure that takes many twists and turns and, ultimately, questions the child’s morality.

The two things that ascend Undertale’s story to the realm of great video game narratives are its writing, and the way in which it takes full advantage of its medium.

The writing can be downright hilarious. Undertale is not only the funniest game I’ve played since Portal 2, it’s one of the funniest games I’ve ever played, with an absurdist sense of humor that once again echoes the likes of EarthBound and Mario & Luigi. Yet the game is also able to tell a compelling and even tragic narrative that brilliantly contrasts the game’s humorous writing.

UndertaleUndertale is also one of those rare games that understands how to tell a story unique to the video game medium. There are so many games out there that simply want to replicate movies, but Undertale is a story that plays out in a way that could only happen in a video game. Every decision the player makes in every battle (and some outside of battles) will have an impact on the story and characters. The game even includes three different final bosses, depending on whether your choices are righteous, villainous, or somewhere in between (with the third option providing numerous different endings of its own).

Visually speaking, Undertale is simple but charming. The retro look is appealing and well done, and the character designs are original. Though some of the environments can admittedly look a bit sparse.

UndertaleThe soundtrack, composed, of course, by Toby Fox, is one of the best in recent years. The music of Undertale can range from retro and catchy to atmospheric and melancholic. It is distinctly a video game soundtrack, one that can capture a range of emotions without feeling the need to simply replicate the style of a film score. It’s beautiful to listen to.

If you love RPGs, Undertale is an absolute must-play. It even follows in the footsteps of its inspirations EarthBound and Super Mario RPG in being an RPG that’s fun and accessible even for those who aren’t fans of the genre. It’s one of those rare indy games that lives up to the reputation that precedes it, and a damn fine RPG under any criteria.

 

10

Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2016

Now that it’s December, 2015 is nearing its end. Along with preparing for the holiday season (and subsequently, the one-year anniversary of this site), Star Wars, and New Year’s Resolutions that I’ll probably stick to for five days, December also serves as a time to reflect on the year ahead.

This future-hype naturally finds its way into the world of video games as well. So as we all prepare to look back at the best games of 2015, we also look forward to our most anticipated games of 2016. And I am no different!

The following are my top five most anticipated games of 2016. They may look a bit different from most people’s selections, but for one reason or another, these games all have my attention. Let’s start with a runner-up then get to the top five!

Runner-up: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Honestly, I had six games that stood out that I could choose from, so I feel guilty about placing any of them as a runner-up. But since a “top 6” list just sounds goofy, someone had to take the fall. Since Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam comes out in January, I don’t have much more of a wait. So that bumps it to a runner-up on this list of anticipation (just go with it).

Aside from Paper Mario: Sticker Star, there hasn’t been a bad Mario RPG. Though Dream Team was a considerable step down from Bowser’s Inside Story, I have high hopes for Paper Jam. Being a crossover between Mario’s two ongoing RPG series, Paper Jam has the potential to bring a new sense of creativity to the Mario RPG formula.

I do have to wonder where Mario RPGs will go from here though. After you have both series cross paths, it seems like it would be a good time to give Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi a break, and maybe start a new direction for the Mario RPGs. But maybe that’s just me.

Now on to the top 5!

5: Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3

Platform: Multiplatform

Dark Souls is one of the better modern franchises in gaming (even if I kinda suck at it), and I’m really excited to die repeatedly play this new entry. I do kind of hope it adds more to the series than Dark Souls II did though. As great of a game as it was, I don’t want the third entry to just do what the first two already did. I hope DS3 can take all the good things from the series (of which there are many) and add some new twists into the mix as well.

What makes the Dark Souls series great is that it really feels like a modernized version of the kinds of games you’d play on the NES back in the day. It’s incredibly difficult, focused entirely on gameplay, and features a kind of progression that would feel at home on an 8-bit console. Yet it also feels brand new. The series has so far continued this trend through three games (remember, Demon Souls was the first game, Dark Souls was the second), and I’m confident it can repeat its success for a fourth time.

4: Star Fox Zero

Star Fox Zero

Platform: Wii U

Lack of multiplayer aside, Star Fox Zero looks to be the return to form I’ve been waiting for from the series. The gameplay looks like a modernized Star Fox 64, none of the weirdly sexualized characters from the subsequent games are present, and the story is going back to basics. It pretty much looks like the proper follow-up to Star Fox 64, which has somehow not yet happened in almost two decades.

If Star Fox Zero does indeed end up being this generation’s Star Fox 64, then it will be well worth the wait. Now I just hope the game’s delay into 2016 means they’re adding a multiplayer mode.

3: Mighty No. 9

Mighty No. 9

Platform: Multiplatform

Though the Red Ash Kickstarter fiasco might have put a sour taste in gamer’s mouths in regards to Keiji Inafune’s Comcept studio, I’m still super excited for Mighty No. 9.

It’s hard to believe Mega Man hasn’t appeared in a game outside of Super Smash Bros. for over five years. But if Capcom won’t let us have the Blue Bomber, at least we have a spiritual sequel to look forward to.

Mighty No. 9 really does look like a Mega Man title, and hopefully the gameplay and level design can live up to that heralded series. As a huge bonus, the game looks to feature several different additional modes to add some replayability and change up the experience.

2: The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Zelda Wii U

Platform: Wii U (but maybe NX)

The latest “proper” addition in The Legend of Zelda series looks to be the most ambitious entry yet. It could be one of the last great Wii U games, or one of the first great NX ones. Or both.

The Legend of Zelda is one of gaming’s greatest series, and a new home console entry is always a big deal. But this one in particular seems to be aiming to change up Zelda conventions, and hopefully, as we learn more about the game, that becomes more apparent.

Though I really wish Nintendo would give the series another art direction as daring as The Wind Waker, I like the new cel-shaded look. It looks a lot like a more advanced take on what Skyward Sword did visually. But while Skyward Sword used its visuals to guise the aging technology of the Wii, this new Zelda actually looks to be taking full advantage of its hardware.

My two great hopes for Zelda Wii U is that it really does change up the series, since Zelda games, great as they are, lack the consistent sense of newness of its sister series, Super Mario, and that the main adventure is only as long as it needs to be. I’m actually among those who loved Skyward Sword, but I admit that game would have been better if it were trimmed a few hours shorter. There’s no need to stretch a game’s length just for the heck of it. I’ll take a 10 hour game that feels complete over a 60 hour one that feels largely comprised of filler.

Anyway, it’s Zelda. Of course I have it on this list!

1: Yooka-Laylee

Yooka-Laylee

Platform: Multiplatform

Rare made some of the greatest video games of my youth. With a resume that includes the likes of Donkey Kong Country 2 (arguably the best 2D platformer), Banjo-Kazooie (arguably the best 3D platformer until Mario went to space), Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, and so many other classics, it’s a wonder how the developer has fallen so far from grace over the last decade.

Yooka-Laylee is something of a dream come true for me. The new studio Playtonic Games – founded by a small group of some of Rare’s finest former developers – debuted the game as a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series in a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. And so far, everything about the game is looking like a modernized version of the Banjo-Kazooie style of platformer.

Playtonic has been vocal in saying that the game isn’t merely a re-skin of Banjo-Kazooie, however, and that Yooka-Laylee is making the winning formula new again. The collectibles will all serve a purpose, the game will have a greater sense of freedom in exploration, and players will have some forms of customization in gameplay and progression.

After Nuts & Bolts more or less kicked Banjo-Kazooie fans in the… nuts & bolts, Yooka-Laylee looks like the proper follow-up to Banjo-Tooe that I’ve waited fifteen years for. It was even the first game on Kickstarter I’ve helped fund. The only other game I’ve funded since was Red Ash. And well, let’s just move on.

Yooka-Laylee simply looks to bring back a style of game that’s been all but forgotten in the last few console generations. Given the minds behind it, I have a lot of confidence they’ll be able to pull it off. Really, there’s no reason why Yooka-Laylee wouldn’t be my most anticipated game of 2016.

Red Ash’s Kickstarter Troubles

Red Ash

Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s Kickstarter campaign for Red Ash – a “spiritual successor” to the Mega Man Legends sub-series – isn’t doing so well. It’s likely that it will reach its funding by the end of the campaign, but only just. However, people are now beginning to question whether it will end up getting funded at all.

This is in a stark contrast to Inafune’s last Kickstarter attempt, Might No. 9 (the spiritual successor to the original Mega Man series). Mighty No. 9 was an immediate, roaring success, being funded within two days of its campaign’s launch, and is often credited with popularizing the recent trend of crowd-funded games.

One would think Red Ash would have had at least a little bit of the same impact. After all, Mega Man Legends has a pretty strong cult following, and countless people were disappointed with the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. With Inafune’s previous success with Mighty No. 9, along with fans’ demands for a follow-up to Mega Man Legends, you’d think that Red Ash shouldn’t have had any problem reaching its goals. But it has. Red Ash struggled to get even halfway to its initial goal, and it’s safe to say that the stretch goals are a bit of a pipe dream at this point.

This is a shame, since I think, overall, Red Ash looks like a promising concept. In fact, it’s only the second Kickstarter game I have personally backed, the first being Yooka-Laylee (I do fiercely regret not backing Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained and the new Toejam and Earl though). At the same time, there were some hugely questionable decisions with this campaign that have obviously played a part in Red Ash’s troubles. Here are my top five reasons why I think Red Ash has had so much trouble getting off the ground.

 

5: It’s maybe not quite Mega Man Legends enough?

Okay, so this first reason is actually about the game itself, not the project. This reason is also more speculation based on my personal impressions, so I can’t speak for everyone here.

Honestly, I love the look of Red Ash’s characters and the idea of its world, but it also doesn’t really feel like Mega Man Legends. It looks like a fun, anime-inspired concept, like Mega Man Legends was, but it itself doesn’t feel like Mega Man Legends itself. Since its position as a spiritual sequel to Mega Man Legends was Red Ash’s major selling point, the different vibe from the game might have been off-putting for many.

I know it’s a spiritual sequel, so it can’t be exactly the same. Nor would I want to see Keiji Inafune just recycle the same exact ideas for a supposed new IP. But with Mighty No. 9, the connection to Mega Man was obvious. It simply said that if you love Mega Man, you’ll love Mighty No. 9. But I don’t see that here. Perhaps Red Ash would be more reminiscent of Mega Man Legends if we had more complete information on it. But with what’s been shown so far, it’s hard to make the kind of connection I think Keiji Inafune was aiming for.

 

4: Two Kickstarter campaigns at the same time

Here’s where things boil down to the Kickstarter campaign itself. Or should I have been typing campaigns throughout this whole thing? Because Red Ash has two of them. The main Kickstarter is for the game itself, the second is to help develop an animated mini-series based on the game.

Keiji Inafune is one of my favorite people in the video game industry. I love his creations and I love his passion for his creations. I understand why he wants to turn his creations into big franchises that encompasses different media. I get that, and I respect that.

"The anime based on the game! .....That isn't even funded yet."
“The anime based on the game! …..That isn’t even funded yet.”

The sad fact though, is that this wasn’t a good opportunity to jump headfirst into franchising his creation. Mega Man Legends was never Inafune’s best-selling property, and it had the Mega Man name attached to it! So when making a spiritual successor that has no direct connection to a previous work (other than some reused character names from Mighty No. 9), and with crowd-funding playing a big role in its production, it may have been better to hold off on the animated series until after Red Ash proved itself worthy to branch out into the world of animation.

If you’re at a place where you need crowd-funding to help a project, I think that should be enough of a sign to not get ahead of yourself. It’s true that Mighty No. 9 has now been announced to have a feature film and an animated series in the works, but those were announced after Mighty No. 9 proved to be a success. The Red Ash campaign thought it would be in the same boat as Mighty No. 9 from the get-go, but that was always a gamble.

I know if I want to see an animated series based on a game, I kind of want to love the game first.

 

3: Too soon

There’s also the factor of Kickstarter-fatigue to consider. In the last two months alone, Kickstarter has seen three record-breaking video games: Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Shenmue 3. All three games fill different gaming demographics, and most gamers who are willing to give their money to back these projects probably already gave a good amount of cash to at least one of them, if not all of them. Frankly, this just seems like poor timing.

Not only are a lot of gamers’ wallets probably running on empty, but after three big success like the aforementioned titles, people may have just been burned out on the whole “Kickstarter games” thing. Red Ash could have used more time to reignite people’s interest with the platform. Which brings me to my next point…

 

2: Mighty No. 9 isn’t out yet!

This seems to be the primary source for most of the finger-waging aimed at Red Ash. Mighty No. 9, the last Kickstarter game by Keiji Inafune and his Comcept studio, won’t be released until this September. Although Mighty No. 9 looks promising, people kind of want to actually play and love the game before they dish out more money to the same studio. You have to deliver on one promise before making another.

This further displays the poor timing of the Red Ash Kickstarter. Way too soon after a series of record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns, and too soon before Mighty No. 9’s release.

After all, Mega Man Legends was what it was because of Mega Man’s legacy. Red Ash hopes to have a similar essence with the legacy of Mighty No. 9, but it isn’t even out yet. You can’t hope to build on one game’s legacy when that game hasn’t made its full impact yet.

 

1: No gameplay!

"This sole piece of concept art is as close to gameplay as we've seen of Red Ash."
“This sole piece of concept art is as close to gameplay as we’ve seen of Red Ash.”

Here is the big one, as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve watched the Kickstarter video, you’ll see some rough ideas for cinematics presented in black and white concept art, some nice character sketches, and a bunch of people talking about ideas for the story and world of the game, with a few not-so-subtle hints about Mega Man Legends.

But no gameplay.

So they have a Kickstarter campaign for a video game, but the only hint of gameplay we have is a vague promise that it’ll probably be similar to Mega Man Legends. But how similar? What’s the same and what’s different? Will it be fun?

You can’t just ask people to send money for a video game without giving them any information on the actual game and expect it to be very successful. Let’s compare this to Yooka-Laylee which, from the get-go, showed some pretty detailed gameplay. Sure, Yooka-Laylee will see more polish and touching up in the year+ until its release (this wait will kill me), but with Playtonic’s Kickstarter, they showcased a basic idea of what Yooka-Laylee will be, how it will look, how it will sound, and how it will play. They mentioned some elements of the world of Yooka-Laylee, but their campaign was ultimately all about the game itself.

There’s just so much that’s still so vague and mysterious about Red Ash, and people don’t want to give their money to a rough idea. They want to invest in a video game.

 

There are some other problems with the Red Ash Kickstarter that I haven’t mentioned, but plenty of others already have. The sad thing is Red Ash should have been the next Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained or Shenmue 3. But it isn’t even close to being comparable to any of them.

This is a crying shame. Mega Man Legends is a cult classic that holds a special place for many, and it’s a series that deserves to be continued, whether through a direct sequel (I’m a dreamer) or a spiritual one. There’s so much that should be right about Red Ash, and I really, really hope it gets funded. But if it doesn’t, it won’t be all too surprising at this point. The campaign has just been too sloppy.

One has to wonder how this all ended up so rushed. Keiji Inafune and Comcept worked wonders with Mighty No. 9. They had it all planned out, and it paid off big time. But with Red Ash, it seems they just jumped head first into Kickstarter before they had anything worthy to show (other than some cool art).

Red Ash should have been something special, and I would love to see it become a franchise. But it should have happened over time, after it had a great game to build on. Now we might not even get the game we want.

 

My Top 5 Games from E3 2015

E3 has come and gone once again. Amidst all the big announcements, awesome games, and presentations that aren’t nearly as bad as people are making them out to be, the event itself, while not without its highlights, was ultimately one of the lesser E3s of recent years. But, even if the show didn’t quite reach greatness, it still gave us a glimpse of some great games. Here are my top 5 games presented at the show…but first, some runners-up! Continue reading “My Top 5 Games from E3 2015”

Shovel Knight Review

Shovel Knight

On the surface, Shovel Knight might resemble any one of the countless retro-inspired indy titles that have been released since Mega Man 9 made 8-bit graphics popular again. While most such NES-inspired indy games seem to completely fallback on nostalgia, Shovel Knight is a much wiser game. It doesn’t bother to hide its inspirations of Super Mario Bros. 3, Castlevania and, most prominently, Mega Man. But Shovel Knight understands that there were more to these games than 8-bit sprites and chiptunes. These games aren’t remembered for nostalgia alone, and they continue to endure because of the genius of their game designs. Shovel Knight seeks to replicate a similar genius, and while its inspirations are obvious, it does so in its own way. If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for thinking Shovel Knight was a NES classic from gaming’s earlier days.

Shovel KnightShovel Knight works like many platformers from the 8-bit era, though its titular character has two primary means of attack: A simple strike with his mighty shovel or – pulling a page from Scrooge McDuck – a pogo stick-like jump. Shovel Knight also gains magic items throughout his adventure, akin to Castlevania, which grant him additional attacks or defensive actions.

Naturally, wielding a shovel as a weapon also means that Shovel Knight can dig up dirt to find gold and gems, which he’ll need in order to buy upgrades to his armor, shovel, hit points, magic points and the aforementioned magic items. But be weary, because defeat means that Shovel Knight loses a chunk of his collected treasure. If Shovel Knight can return to the spot he fell he can reclaim it, but should he fall again before regaining his lost treasure, it’s gone. The game lacks a traditional ‘lives’ system, so game overs are never a concern even in the game’s most difficult moments, but losing your collected goods is a fun, modernized compensation for the traditional game over.

The gameplay really is as simple as that. Run, jump, shovel, dig. But the game uses these simple mechanics to their fullest, and through some incredible and varied level design, it ends up being a deep gameplay experience.

Shovel KnightThe stages are strewn together through a Super Mario Bros. 3 style world map, separated into four different segments. Shovel Knight allows players to select which order they want to tackle the levels in each segment, but every main stage in each must be completed before moving on to the next segment.

The main stages are lengthy platforming romps that not only grow progressively more challenging, but also more creative. Each main stage is capped off with a boss fight against a different themed knight (all of which includes the title of “Knight” at the end of their name, in a nice tribute to Mega Man’s Robot Masters). Additional challenges, boss fights and optional stages can be found on the world map, should you want to go the extra mile for completion and treasure.

Like many such indy games that build on old school blueprints, Shovel Knight is a challenging game. But whereas many of its peers feel the need to throw insurmountable obstacles at players right out the gate to prove their difficulty, Shovel Knight instead has a nice difficulty curve. It starts off with a simple introductory level to ease players into the game, and continuously becomes more difficult as the game goes on. This helps Shovel Knight’s difficulty feel more fair and, as a result, more fun than its contemporaries.

Despite Shovel Knight’s challenge, it finds a brilliant means to cater to players of varying skill levels through its checkpoints. The levels all feature numerous checkpoints, so more easygoing players don’t have to fret about starting a stage over should they run into a particularly difficult section. But those wanting to test their abilities can destroy the checkpoints – gaining additional treasure in the process – to render them moot, meaning they’ll have to go through the whole stage all over again should they fall. It’s a simple but genius mechanic that adds an interesting twist on difficulty and balance.

The game features an appropriately simplistic story, with Shovel Knight traveling to defeat the knights of the Order of No Quarter in order to unlock the Tower of Fate, hoping against all odds to defeat the evil Enchantress and rescue his (presumed dead) partner, Shield Knight. What’s interesting about Shovel Knight’s story is that, simple as it is, the game finds time to provide some quiet story moments to make Shovel Knight a more sympathetic character than most of his 8-bit kin. And despite what the game’s title and its hero’s weapon of choice might suggest, the game and its story never once feel tongue-in-cheek. It earnestly pays homage to retro games and their simplicity, never falling prey to cheap and easy parodies.

Shovel KnightNaturally, Shovel Knight also includes a soundtrack reminiscent of the 8-bit classics that inspired it. Shovel Knight’s soundtrack is full of personality and energy, and can be compared favorably to many of the Mega Man soundtracks, which is no small feat. It also takes advantage of modern hardware by allowing more colorful visuals than the 8-bit games of yesteryear.

It’s hard not to be wowed by everything Shovel Knight accomplishes. Its tight, polished gameplay is complimented by fantastic level design, a nice difficulty curve, fun visuals and stellar music. It not only draws its inspiration from Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Castlevania, but it can sit comfortably alongside them in 8-bit glory.

 

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