Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Games of 2014

The year is coming to a close, which means it is time for Game of the Year voting. Rather than creating mine own poll here, I'd rather talk about the different games I've played this year that have risen above the rest and really stuck with me. This year has been a great year for games, despite all the problems this past holiday season brought on, so let's take a look at the cream of the crop for 2014:

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc / Goodbye Despair

As games continue to grow as an industry and technology continues to increase, the number of definable genres continues to grow, almost to a point of confusion. The Danganronpa franchise falls into this diluted genre category, with the first two games are a combination of point and click adventure, light novel and trial sequence gameplay, and though it sounds like a weird match up, they work wonderfully well. 

Crazy characters in astounding situations makes this franchise an instant cult classic.

Each of the games puts you in the shoes of students kidnapped and forced to compete in a sick and twisted version of Battle Royal or the Hunger Games, but rather than taking each other on in direct combat, the students are forced to kill each other in secret and try to get away with the murder. The story is twisted and over the top, but that's what makes it so good. The original game, Trigger Happy Havoc, sets the tone for the franchise and gets the story going, introducing players to the trial combat and the weird cast of unique characters while defining the twisted style of the game. And while the first makes the biggest splash, Goodbye Despair does a fantastic job of taking your expectations built from the first game and completely flipping them with surprising success. 

Added trial combat makes the second game more engaging, with better twists and turns mid-trial.

The unique story that does not feel the need to meld to conventions and the interesting characters are what make these games so good and hard to put down. On top of these characteristics, the style of the games sets it completely apart form anything like it, including the Zero Escape franchise or Ace Attorney.

A third game has already released in Japan, and though it is taking a step away from the light novel style and instead goes for the Resident Evil 3rd person survival game, I personally can't wait to see more of this fantastic universe. 

inFAMOUS: Second Son / First Light

inFAMOUS is a franchise that grew incredibly well on the PS3, so when the announcement that Sucker Punch would continue with the franchise on PS4, I couldn't wait to throw my money at Amazon. Second Son is not only the best iteration of the franchise when it comes to gameplay, it has set the stage for the wonderfully crafted DLC First Light and hopefully more inFAMOUS to come. 

Smoke is a great introduction to the numerous powers Delsin gathers in Second Son.

Second Son took the core gameplay from the franchise and dialed it up to 11. Rather than sticking with one power through out the game, you are able to gain up to 4 unique powers, each with a different feel that made simply running around Seattle a blast. The story may have been weaker than previous attempts and the campaign length may be a little shorter, but Second Son makes up for it with the way it improves the franchise. Traveling around town is no longer limited to jumps and grinds, but fast travel and speeding across the skyline as a streak of neon. The similar small side activities are still abundant, but they are broken up by more involved sidequests and collectibles, such as the Graffiti tags or hunting down security drones for blast shards. For every one thing that Second Son stumbles on, it introduces three new, fresh ideas.

The arena battles are where First Light truly shines.

What Second Son established, First Light built into a more compact, refined package. Rather than getting all of the powers of Second Son, you only get Neon, but that's a small complaint considering how amazing Neon is. Playing as Fetch in a smaller campaign, you get to feel for this relatable character who is simply trying to help her brother and deal with what she believes are her shortcomings.  There are some new sidequests for her and the world of Seattle is great to explore once again, but the real showstopper of First Light is the arena battles, tasking you to take on wave after wave of enemies to get the highest point count. Aside from gathering points, there are arena challenges to complete that make you tinker with how you play the game.

Hopefully, these two iterations are not the end to this fantastic franchise. On PS3, inFAMOUS was addictive and great to play, but ultimately just starting. If Second Son and First Light are any indication, Sucker Punch has plenty more to offer for the world of Conduits.


Supergiant Games broke onto the scene back in 2011 with the indie hit Bastion. Moody and evocative, Bastion proved that the studio itself was capable of creating a unique experience. Transistor, the follow up to Bastion, is where the studio really shines.

Taking place in a futuristic world, you are tasked with helping Jazz singer Red get her voice back, and hopefully help her lover, who is now trapped inside a blue sword meant for her. The thing that makes Transistor so great isn't one thing, but all of the little things that add up to make a fantastic package. When you stop time to plan your turn, Red hums. All of the attack and ability systems are built around Computer Science terms, including New Game+, which is called 'Recursion'. 

But aside from all of the small things, Transistor also has an amazing combat system. The ability to stop time and plan your next moves is amazing and really gives you a power trip. It isn't until later enemies that you realize just how refined the system is and that saving your time is worthwhile. When the combat system clicks, it's truly masterful. 

And the music. God the music is just fantastic! Not once have I listened to a video game soundtrack more often than I have this particular soundtrack. Each track brings back a perfect memory of a small battle or challenge I took on in the game. Seriously take the time to listen to the video above. It is well worth it.

Transistor is a short game with lots to make it great, but it is also one of the games this year that just stuck with me. From the amazing soundtrack to the cerebral story, I can't seem to get it out of my head, and I love it all the more for it.

Freedom Wars

This past fall was rife with terrible launches, especially for games meant to be played online in one form or another. Surprisingly enough, PS Vita, the little handheld that could, released one of the best online experiences I've had in a long time: Freedom Wars

Dragging down abductors and severing pieces off of them one by one is just so damn addictive.

Freedom Wars is a Monster Hunter style game in which you're trapped in a prison and must take on missions to whittle down your sentences of 1 million years. Everything about that sentence terrified me when I first heard about the game. I am not a fan of 'hunting style' games. I understand they are meant to be played together, but I prefer to play games alone most days as well as not fight monsters with hugely inflated HP maxes just to go and fight another similarly looking monster with even more HP. But Freedom Wars taps into something special.

The Thorn really makes the game feel unique compared to other action games, adding versatility and speed to what is normally a slower genre.

Maybe it's the grinding with addictive combat. Maybe it's the mission based system, with each mission taking roughly 15 minutes to complete (until you reach the end game). Maybe it's the speed of the traversal and combat, which is just fast enough above your typical hunting game to feel nice. But the combination of interesting combat, challenging missions that were just hard enough to be played alone or with friends, and the amazing community of players who played with me for hours on end over the course of the month that it took for me to Platinum this game that really drove me to fall in love with Freedom Wars. Sony would be crazy not to have a sequel to this excellent game in production, and it easily reaches the top of my PS Vita list next to Tearaway and Gravity Rush.

These are just a few of the games I played this year, but these are the games I just can't stop thinking about. 2015 is looking like it will be just as exciting as this past year.

What are a few of the games that have stayed on your mind this year? Do you like any off of my own list? Leave some comments down below. Keep your eyes on The Jesters Court for more gaming news coming into the new year and, as always, keep the conversation going. 

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