I didn’t play a ton of games this past year. What I did play though was amazing and filled me and my house with tons of fun, thought, nostalgic moments, and hope for things to come.
One of my good friends introduced me to this game, and in exchange I introduced him to a lot of great Nintendo games. This one isn’t so much a video-game as it is a card-based game.
Basically you have a set of cards with a variety of nouns on them. You know, people, places, or things. Players choose a certain number of the cards they’re dealt to add to the group pool. Two teams are created and the teams take turns guessing the content of the card one of their teammates is trying to reveal to them. Three rounds are played with the one deck of cards. The first round you’re guessing the cards based on the description given by your one of your teammates. They just can’t say the words of the card itself. After a minute of guessing the cards, you hand the remainder of unguessed cards to the other team. This goes back and forth till all cards are guessed and points are tallied. Round two uses the same deck of cards, but now you can only use one word to describe the cards. Same as round one, you go back and forth till all cards are guessed and points are tallied at the end. Round three you can only pantomime or act out the card. Since it’s the same deck for all three rounds, it’s helpful to pay attention to all the answers, since they’ll be the answers for all three rounds.
Topics range wildly and can get kind of awkward from time to time. They also get very specific. You might get a card with a meme on it, try describing “Ceiling Cat” without using those words, or acting it out nonetheless. You’ll also get political figures, scientific principles, or even video game characters. My first time playing the game, I got dealt my favorite card. It’s subject was Mother Brain.
4) Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Oh man, I don’t know what I was doing getting myself into this game. It’s so big. It’s so open. It’s so not me at all. I typically shy away from RPGs, big or small. But from what I saw of this one, I couldn’t stay away. When I say that, I mean “what I saw”. It was literally the style and overall gorgeousness of this game that made me want to get it (and I’d be lying if I didn’t say the idea of piloting a mech around this gorgeous world didn’t draw me in too).
Once I picked it up, the battle system didn’t seem as daunting as other RPGs in my past. Teammates typically take care of themselves and help heal and whatnot when needed, so I was pleased I didn’t have to order them around so much. It’s also realtime battle which is much less stoic than I feared. The depth that still overwhelms me is the responsibility to choose jobs, outfit my crew, and the openness of it all. I still like a lot of guidance in a game, with the exception of Metroid games. The holidays got the best of me before I could get too far in this game. I couldn’t deal with shopping for family members gifts and shopping for party members equipment all at once. I’ll be returning to it shortly though.
In general, it’s a fun game, with fast paced battle, but long lived story elements. The battles aren’t forays into mindless button-mashing quite. They do require some thought into what attacks are best for certain moments. The depth in character and team development will have you reading the manual to make sure you know it all. But more than anything else, the scope and breadth of the world will make you want to explore every nook’s cranny of the map. and you will be terrified of monsters well past your current level, if you see them coming.
3) BoxBoy! (3DS)
I want more from Hal Laboratories! Is it safe to say this is Nintendo’s skunkworks division? Let them come up with crazy ideas and flesh them out? No, that’s not a question. Let them! they do amazing things. Kirby, Earthbound, Super Smash Bros. and now BoxBoy!.
This is an excellent puzzle game with loads of charm and even more loads of puzzles. The puzzles area decent balance of logical and spacial. You’re a boy that’s a box and you can extend boxes from yourself to span over chasms, into crevices, and even shield yourself from peril. Each level gives you limits on how many boxes you can generate in order to get through its many snares. The levels have all the polish you expect from Hal or Nintendo. They ease you into concepts and then push you just far enough out of your comfort zone that you have to think, but not so much that you beat yourself over the head trying to work it out. Besides who would think to beat themselves over the head when there’s such relaxing music and monochromatic style.
I highly recommend this game to anyone. Besides, after a while, you get cute costumes for your square little friend. And who, of you, doesn’t like cute square black and white costumes?
2) Mario Maker (Wii U)
Oh Mario, how far you’ve come. Shown off at E3, it was exciting to dream of the Mario levels I would make one day. I think they initially showed it switching between the original Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. What we got though was vastly different.
This was a pleasant case of Nintendo under-promising and way over-delivering. Not only did we get 4 styles of Mario games to shift between, but each one had Over and Underworlds, Ghost Houses, Castles, and Underwater modes. Think about that, Nintendo had to recreate styles for worlds that didn’t exist in other Mario titles. Not only did they make things like Ghost Worlds for the original Super Mario Bros., but they also scored music for them. They regressed the style of classic characters into even more classic games. Have you ever seen a Wiggler in Super Mario Bros. 1 or 3? You have now. And it’s not just the creation and re-creation of content, but the interactivity of it all. Nintendo put mechanics in place between every object, and the world has made this game their playground.
The best part though, is that you and I the maker. We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams. People have dreamt up things I’m sure even Nintendo dared not think of. The levels we make, get inhabited by players around the world and our names roll in the credits at the end.
1) Splatoon (Wii U)
Splatoon was something that called out to me the first time I saw Nintendo demo it at E3. It reminded me initially of “de Blob” for the Wii with it’s turf painting antics. But as I watched more, and saw the travel mechanics of turning into a squid a swimming up walls I was completely transfixed. The game seemed popular, based on Nintendo’s Treehouse streams, so I had high hopes. When it finally released, to my jubilation, it was a pretty fun game.
The core shooting mechanics were there. The unique ways you could traverse through maps made it stand out. And the clothing system that enables stat buffs gave some needed depth early on. As the months progressed, we got tons of free updates. More maps, that were greatly needed, were well worth the wait. More weapon classes and types enables players to better find their fighting style in the games. And more multiplayer online modes made it a more well rounded game for skilled players. This game has come to be a great one to play in my house. Not only for myself, but my wife as well. She’s become quite skilled and while she says she owes it to me, I think she could trounce me if se were given a chance.
Invest your money in this one, Nintendo showed their investment with all the free updates that came after release. This is a good sign of what’s to come from Nintendo in the future. More groundbreaking, genre re-defining games.