Tag Archives: Nintendo Switch

Celeste Review

An inspirational climb to greater heights.

January has never been a heavy hitting month for video game releases – it functions as a relative calm before the storm. However contemporary showcases have proven to be a delightful exception to the rule, transcending January into a mainstay of quality. January 2013 saw the release of one of the best modern JRPGs in recent memory, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and January 2017 introduced the franchise resurrecting Resident Evil 7: biohazard, a franchise reviver and one of the best games of 2017. This past January also had a masterpiece simmering under the radar, the independent platformer with tremendous heart, Celeste. While its sense of scale is rather diminutive compared to the previously mentioned January entries, its level of quality never faltered, making it an undeniable front-runner for game of the year. Plated with its impeccable level design, brilliantly simple mechanics, and slew of deviating paths and hidden goodies, Celeste transcends into a remarkably defined staple of the modern 2D platformer. Its pitch perfect gameplay and refined mechanics are enhanced by its impeccably crafted pace and gameplay implementation, introducing new twists and turns at every corner, significantly upping the ante with each new chapter. Aside from its mechanical prowess, Celeste boasts one of the most beautifully crafted narratives to ever grace the gaming sphere, a creative element typically undermined or absent in mainstays of the genre. Celeste’s inspiring coming of age story is a breath of fresh air to the expanding portfolio of 2D platformers. While these two fundamental structures of Celeste are inherently separate, both exude an unparalleled level of quality, becoming prime examples of their craft and are seamlessly harmonized as a result. Celeste is not only a remarkable start to the new year, it is arguably the best modern 2D platformer, standing tall amongst the meteoric heights of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Ori and the Blind Forest.

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Video Game Awards 2018: Best Platform

Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that, somehow, I haven’t given out an award for best platform in previous years. While I hope that, maybe someday, I can give some kind of retrospective of what I believe to be the best video game platforms throughout the years of my life, for now, let’s just retroactively award Best Platform for the previous years that Wizard Dojo has existed.

2014 Best Platform: Wii U: Yes, the Wii U. Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros. and DKC: Tropical Freeze in the same year? 2014 was the year to be a Wii U owner.

2015 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Bloodborne alone was probably reason enough to ascend the PS4 to the top of the mountain in 2015, but it also featured other high profile greats as well.

2016 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Overwatch and Dark Souls 3 may have also been available on other platforms, but PS4 also had Uncharted 4. So it gets the edge.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to 2017. In such a landmark year for video games, it seemed like just about every platform was a viable contender to be the best of the year. But, of course, I have to pick one.

 

Winner: Nintendo Switch

Has any video game console had as stellar of a first year as the Nintendo Switch? Right out the gate, it boasted what is probably the best Legend of Zelda game, and it quickly followed suit with other greats like ARMS and Splatoon 2, as well as a re-release of the exceptional Mario Kart 8, and the surprise of the year in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, before wrapping up the year with the phenomenal Super Mario Odyssey. To believe some people still try to use the whole Switch has no games “argument.” Seriously, when was the last time a console fired on all cylinders throughout its first year in the way the Switch did in 2017? Fingers crossed that the Switch’s sophomore year can replicate at least some of this consistency.

 

Runner-up: SNES Classic Edition

Runner-up: Playstation 4

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Gameplay

Gameplay is the glue that holds a game together. No matter how good a game’s story might be, no matter how much content a game tries to cram in, if the gameplay isn’t engaging, it’s all for naught. As such, naming the best gameplay of any given year is kind of a big deal.

There were certainly no shortage of fantastic games in 2017, but in the end, one had to be more fun to play than the rest.

 

Winner: Super Mario Odyssey

Come on! How could it not be Mario? Sure, there have been other series that have matched Mario’s playability on occasion (some more frequently than others), but there’s not been another series that has so consistently mastered the fine art of gameplay quite like Super Mario, and Odyssey is arguably the most fun entry in the series.

You can possess a T-rex for crying out loud! A freaking T-rex!

It’s not just that, though. Super Mario Odyssey reaches the heights it does because it has so many ideas constantly at play, end executes them so excellently. The aforementioned T-rex is just one of many creatures and objects Mario can “capture,” each one bringing with them their own gameplay. Then we have Mario himself, whose moves have never been so versatile, and possibly never so fluid to perform.

Super Mario Odyssey was largely touted as the spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine as a new “sandbox” entry in the series, and while that’s true to an extent, its design and gameplay feel just as influenced by Super Mario World and the Galaxy titles which – with all due respect to 64 and Sunshine – were on another level gameplay-wise.

Every kingdom of Odyssey is filled with countless things to do, and every last one of them are fun. Sandbox? No no no, Super Mario Odyssey is a toybox; giving you all the tools you need for the ultimate playtime.

Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Runner-up: Persona 5

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Content

These days, video games are packed with content. Whether it’s alternate modes, post-game content, or various side objectives, games due their damnedest to make sure there’s always something to do. 2017 was no exception to this, with game after game cramming in whatever they could to make sure gamers were never bored. Of course, there can only be one winner.

 

Winner: Super Mario Odyssey

With all due respect to the vastness of Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, and the seemingly never-ending length of Persona 5, it was Super Mario Odyssey that had something fun to do around every nook and cranny. Odyssey is one maybe a handful of games where there’s simply never a dull second. Like the best Mario games (specifically, World and Galaxy 2), Odyssey liberally sprinkles in creative idea after creative idea, with none of them overstaying their welcome. And by combining that inventive mentality with the more “sandbox” style of 64 and Sunshine, it turns every Kingdom into a virtual playground.

Hundreds and hundreds of Power Moons are hidden away for Mario to find. And the reward for collecting them? More Super Mario Odyssey! It seems like no matter how much you accomplish in Odyssey, you’re always uncovering more to do.

Better still is that Nintendo seemed to have designed Odyssey with every audience in mind, intentionally implementing moves that allow speedrunners to “break” the game if they’re crafty enough, while other players have plenty of options to take their time. Then take into account all the different capture abilities and gameplay styles, and Super Mario Odyssey is like an endless well of fun. I mean, you can ride around the city in a motor scooter! You don’t have to, but it’s there, and you can!

To top it all off, Super Mario Odyssey has perhaps the best post-game content out there, expanding the adventure by quite a large margin, while also introducing all the more variations of gameplay. And now with updates making their way into the game, Super Mario Odyssey is simply a title that never lets up.

 

Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Runner-up: Persona 5

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Local Multiplayer

Though the rise of online multiplayer has left the good ol’ local variety in a dwindling state, there are still some games out there that showcase the sheer joy of playing with or against a friend on the same couch. Though their numbers may be fewer these days, local multiplayer titles can still provide some of the most fun experiences around. 2017 provided a handful of titles that were prime example as to why that is.

 

Winner: ARMS

“My favorite character, Twintelle. Such a magnificent view!”

As stated, the local multiplayer scene isn’t what it once was, but Nintendo are still kings in the category (sometimes to the detriment of their online games, but it’s nice to see someone still cares about the local stuff). ARMS should join the ranks of Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon as one of the great Nintendo multiplayer franchises.

Combining a 3D fighter with shooting elements, ARMS features fighters with extendable limbs (or hair, in the case of Twintelle) in wide battle arenas where they duke it out from a distance. Featuring a colorful cast of characters to boot, ARMS is another showcase of Nintendo’s indelible quirks in game and world designs.

Add in the fact that, like Smash Bros., ARMS is a fighter that supports more than two fighters at a time, features a number of different play styles and mini-games, and ARMS is the next great multiplayer Nintendo franchise.

 

Runner-up: Divinity: Original Sin 2

Runner-up: Cuphead

Video Game Awards 2018: Biggest Surprise

Sometimes, you just know when a game is going to be good. You can just feel it in your gut. Other times, however, a game may leave you scratching your head at first appearance, only for it to turn into something truly wonderful once you pick up the controller (or place your hands on the keyboard, as it were).

As far as 2017 was concerned, there was one obvious game that took me by surprise in the best possible way.

 

Winner: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

When I first heard the leaked news of a Mario and Rabbids crossover I, like many others, was dumbfounded. It just sounded so absurd it had to be some kind of joke (or worse, fanfiction!). Not only are the two franchises quite different from each other, the difference in quality has been nothing short of a night and day affair (what with Mario starring in many of history’s most beloved games, and the Rabbids…well… not so much).

Who would have thought that such a bonkers crossover would not only end up to be true, but also be one of the best Mario offshoots out there? And of all genres, it’s a strategy RPG! And the characters use guns! It’s still hard to believe this is a real game.

But a real game Mario + Rabbids is, and a damn good one at that. By placing the Mario characters in an unfamiliar setting (taking obvious inspiration from XCOM), crafting a surprisingly deep battle system, and finally giving the Rabbids the quality title they were so desperately in need of, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle proved to be a most pleasant surprise.

 

Runner-up: Sonic Mania

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Remake/Re-release

Video games are a medium that moves forward quickly. While such rapid progress can be a good thing, it also comes with the caveat of many audiences missing out on what came before. Thankfully, video games have gotten to a point where they’re taken more seriously and, as a result, the industry is more focused on preserving the classics than it was in the past. Older games are now commonly found as downloadable titles on consoles and PC, while some lucky entries are given the full-on remake treatment, which is a far more appreciated concept in games than in movies, due to the fact that the overall game tends to remain the same, but with a few modernized tweaks.

The video game world sees many such re-releases in this day and age (something that – unlike many people – I don’t have a problem with, given the aforementioned reason of preservation). But there can only be one that stands above the others.

 

Winner: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

I was tempted to give this to the SNES Classic Edition, but decided that option seemed a bit like cheating. So instead, why not crown the best Mario Kart ever made better than ever?

That’s exactly what Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is. It takes the most polished and refined entry in one of gaming’s most beloved multiplayer series, and improves on it by making some small but meaningful tweaks, as well as rectifying the original release’s one notable flaw (by means of returning Battle Mode to its roots. If it ain’t broke, right?).

Featuring a few additional characters, returning items from old entries, and just a few extra refinements, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a shining example of how to re-release a modern classic (if it just featured more race tracks and removed Pink Gold Peach and Princess Daisy, it would be perfect).

In short, Mario Kart 8 was already the finest entry in one of Nintendo’s best series, and its Deluxe version ascends it to being one of the finest games in Nintendo’s history.

 

Runner-up: Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy