This week, the New Game Plus cast and crew reveal their favourite games of the year. Today, we venture to the alley behind the studio to uncover Trey Green, one of The Other Guys, and find out his top games.
For a lot of gamers, this has been a weak year. Many are unable to see past the strew of HD remakes and ports, or were disappointed by the truly mixed bag that mainstream releases have proven to be. As such, a lot of people are having trouble pinning a game of the year simply for lack of viable choices. That is, unless you are a gamer who plays mainly Japanese games. Then the real trouble is picking one out of the torrent of amazing releases this year.
It has proven one of the stronger years for J-gaming in a while, with many solid new games, some reassuring and long awaited localisations and big hopes for the future as many series celebrated new highs. We have seen a slew of anime fighting games blast across the market, the Musou/Warriors franchises managed mainstream success, we got a few solid JRPGs and we’ve seen the Vita slowly earn its keep as a console. There are way too many worthwhile games to list here but chances are if you know even half of them you are still grinding through them as we speak.
My top 5 represent the games that I have sunk a lot of time into or that really stuck out to me. I won’t disclose amounts of time spent per game because honestly I don’t want to think about it.
Yeah, okay, I’ll start with the most cringe inducing title. But Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix is a great collection of games, and if you can just let yourself get over your need for constant serious business and the colour brown, you can be swept back to a time when gaming (AND LIFE) were just about adventure and fun.
The graphical bump to HD meant no nostalgia bubble-bursting or eye gouging, the music and voice acting was crisp (especially on the Disney side) and the gameplay and controls, having come from other Playstation consoles, felt natural and work well. This was everything you want in a HD remake — with the added bonus of the games being more than a year old!
The fact it included the two best games in the series in their previously unreleased English ‘Final Mix’ formats meant that even as a nostalgia run, the game offered something fresh, making this a great choice for new and old fans alike. Check it out and let the power of friendship give you a hit right in the feels.
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Hyrule Warriors]
Hyrule Warriors initially caused a bit of debate, but players overwhelmingly ended on the side of this mish-mash of worlds. Zelda fans may be taken aback by the change of genre, but Dynasty Warriors fans, or even people on the fence about them, would have found plenty worthwhile in this utterly charming Warriors setting.
With the typical spit shine of a Nintendo title, this game performed its little heart out, despite being on the Wii U, the little console that could. It managed to be one of the prettiest Warriors games yet, remaining true to the aesthetics of the Zelda games while mixing in exciting and dynamic battle animations. The music was on point and had all the nods you want it to; I will admit that lack of voice acting drove me nuts, but Zelda fans are used to nothing but the endless shrill cries of Link by now, surely.
If nothing else, Hyrule Warriors was value for money. There was just so much to do — like, almost too much. The Adventure mode provided dozens upon dozens of hours of content if you wanted to beat everything. And may the Triforce help you if you add all the DLC. But seriously, buy the DLC if you enjoy the base game, because it adds a tonne to the experience and is worth every penny.
It was tough choosing between this and Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- as the representative of anime fighters, but conveniently for me Xrd hasn’t had a local release yet, so I will hide behind that.
The updated edition of Persona 4 Arena introduced a full rebalance, new moves, new characters, a new special Shadow form for most of the cast and a whole new story mode. It’s a truly beautiful game to see in motion, pushing sprites about as far as they can reasonably go. The game offered both English and Japanese voice acting, as well as a soundtrack of remixed classics, sure to please fans.
But more than that, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax managed to provide and foster a very rewarding learning curve. You quickly outgrow the basic ‘bash A’ combo and before you know it, you’ll be sneaking Persona attacks in before finally mastering all the little mechanics the game has to offer. All of it felt natural and approachable in a way most other games failed to offer, especially as a new player. This made it one of the more viable new fighting game franchises to get into. Above all else, it was a real blast to play.
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Bayonetta 2]
Bayonetta 2 is the game people never thought would happen, on the system we never expected to see it on. Fans waited years for this game and, oh boy, was the wait worth it.
This long-awaited sequel managed to improve on just about every aspect of the original; it took away all the frustrations and brought in new mechanics and ideas to the table, all while keeping the heart of the original well intact. From voice acting to music to animations, everything was carefully considered and well executed. It received critical and fan acclaim for pretty justifiable reasons.
Plus if you can find the special edition, it comes with a Wii U port of the original game, complete with some very cool bonuses. It is a surprisingly solid port all things considered, and given that it is more or less for free, it is a great excuse to re-explore the original and lead into the spectacular sequel.
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Samurai Warriors 4]
Am I a bad person for having two Musou/Warriors games on my list? Maybe. But this is one makes it because for the first time in a while, we had a Warriors game that really made mainstream gamers start to think there was more to the genre than just mashing attack — and that is a pretty big deal.
Celebrating the series’ 10th anniversary, Samurai Warriors 4 brought some major changes: A whole new attack system, the ability to quickly swap between two characters mid-level and a custom character chronicle mode. The visual effects on the PS4 version were outright stunning; they added a new flair to slicing through enemies in bulk.
Perhaps where this game stood out was the need to now actually consider battle flow and strategy. Because the game let you switch between generals, it often forced you to find the best way to pace yourself and bunnyhop around the levels. No longer could you run across fields as a lone maniac cutting everything in your path; you needed to direct your partner around and switch appropriately to avoid being overrun. Well, to a degree; get strong enough and you could just melt enemies, but there was a certain pleasure in finally reaching that pinnacle all unto itself.
So why did this take my top spot over every other game? Because it ticked every box for me. It was a completely new entry into the Samurai Warriors series and it took a lot of people by surprise with just how amazing it was. It had a pretty staggering localisation timeframe being released in Japan and then in English only 7 months later. It was a sequel that really revolutionised the format with some huge changes to the way the game is experienced, but not at the cost of alienating fans. It was the first Warriors game released on a next gen console that really made me feel like the series was taking steps forwards rather than just upping the texture-count a little.
I’m sure there are games this year that other fans of Japanese games will remember for longer and more fondly, and if that is the case it just proves what a great year it was for the fans. But I think Samurai Warriors 4 did the most to bring it all forward and, more than anything, it gave us all a taste of what we can hope for in the next gen.
2015 in Japanese gaming — bring it on.
Come back tomorrow for more games of the year from the NG+ cast and crew, or watch New Game Plus’ Game of the Year episode