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Community Spotlight: Rabla's Top Games of 2014

5 comments Rory Young - 3:53pm (PST) Like (1) Share

Our resident go-to for titles that are so Japanese that it hurts

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As part of Neoseeker's Game of the Year celebrations for 2014, we're spotlighting several community members' lists of their favorite games from the year. These are are community-written articles and the opinions there-in do not necessarily reflect those of Neoseeker. With that said, we certainly believe they show just how diverse the tastes of the community are, as well as just how much everyone here on Neoseeker loves games -- from the writing staff through the moderators and down to the casual new members. Thanks to everyone for contributing.


Greetings, readers of Neoseeker! I am Rabla. If you know me, it's probably from some of the many RPG forums around the site. If you don't, well, I like RPGs and stuff. I have been asked by my good friend bluexy to talk about some of my top games which I've played in 2014, but initially I had some problems coming up with how to do this.

When I think of this sort of thing I automatically go to "Top Ten" listings, however I had a problem doing this because there are a few games (Bayonetta 2, Shadows of Mordor) that I knew would be competing for number 1. Yet I hadn't personally been able to play those games outside a few short sessions on friends' copies. Since it'd be unfair to do this without me actually getting a good play of them, I wanted to do something other than a ranked listing.

With this, I had to come up with some non-ranked alternative to cover many of the games I did play. So, without further ado, let's get to what I'm calling in my head: The Rabla Awards.

Best RPG from 2013 that Only Recently Came Out in Europe: Shin Megami Tensei IV

Shin Megami Tensei IV, the latest big title in the franchise, came out quite a while ago for most of the people that will read this. It was a mid-2013 title in Japan and America, but took until the end of this October to finally come out in Europe. After over a year of avoiding spoilers, I was finally able to play this amazing little title. It's an incredibly well-made RPG with a FANTASTIC setting, and some painful, stressful, at-risk-of-throwing-my-3DS-across-the-room tough battles. It's perfect; I love it.

As someone who entered the SMT fan-base mainly through Persona and Devil Survivor, getting to play this was a real fun jump in the way it plays and the writing. I'd recommend it to any RPG fan who hasn't already got it.

Best Game I'm Not Very Good At: Shovel Knight

I'm not really a platformer fan, nor do I have any sort of nostalgia for old NES-era pixel art games. So if you asked me why I backed Shovel Knight on Kickstarter near immediately, my answer would be, "I forget." But when it came out, I got into it and it's SO GOOD. It's also really tough though.

The stages are really fun to play and the characters are really well designed and interesting. I love playing it. I'm terrible at this. This is not my genre at all. But I've been slowly chipping away at it, getting stages down every now and then, and I'm at the final three stages before the final boss. Maybe I'll beat them in the next few months. And since the Kickstarter was so successful, by the time I'm done with that, even more content will be added. So I'll get to drag my terrible lack of skill through this adventure for months to come, and I'll love every minute of it.

Best Game that Met My Fanboy Expectations: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

I wasn't really into fighting games until a year or so ago. I played Tekken 4 and 5 because we used to play the arcade machines at a club in my town and eventually we bought the PS2 copies, but I only played them casually. The game that got me really into the genre was BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend, when it came out on the Vita. Then, lo and behold, the developers of this game I liked were collaborating with Persona, my favourite RPG franchise? Hell yes!

While the original game has its flaws I still really enjoyed it. But it was the announcement of the sequel version that made me super excited. Ultimax is an extremely tuned, polished version of the first game with big additions and fun changes -- and it is a blast to play. I used to get on with Kluck (another Neo member and long friend of mine) and we'd just play matches for hours on end, jumping from character to character and brawling it out while chatting over Skype.

The way the game tied up the story makes me think the fighting side series is over for now, but hopefully some sort of Persona 5 Arena Unlimited can get green-lit after Persona 5 and Dancing All Night come out. Please add Elly from Persona 1 I need my best girl.

Best Visual Novel that is Amazing it Actually was Localised: Planetarian:The Reverie of a Little Planet

Planetarian is a kinetic novel (this means its a linear story without choices, in visual novel terms) from 2004, developed by Visual Art's studio Key. It's the story of the Junker, living in a post-apocalyptic world, who encounters a robot girl in a planetarium in a forgotten city. It's a fantastic story and only costs like ten dollars, available on Steam right now!

Why's a 2004 game on this list? Because the games Key makes were notorious for not being open to studios willing to bring them over to the huge western fan-base. This year, a small little studio called Sekai Project did the impossible and somehow licensed Planetarian, which caused a week-long party in some communities. I had played this game multiple times before, but bought the game on Steam the moment the date ticked over and the game was live.

If you haven't played this, or you want an entry to the many new visual novels appearing on Steam recently, this is a very nice and short title to start with. This year, Sekai Project are bringing over Key's huge title CLANNAD, which recently just had an extremely successful Kickstarter end. If you like Planetarian, you'll love CLANNAD.

Best Game I Accidentally Put On this List that was Actually from 2013: The Stanley Parable

I didn't know about this game until earlier in the year when my Neo-friend Pheonyx bought it during one of Steam's regular sales. Looking at it myself, I thought it looked super interesting, but didn't get around to buying it until just recently in the Christmas 2014 sale. It was super funny and very very clever, and a great use of three or four hours.

Playing it myself and hitting a bunch of endings, then having friends over and letting them play it and watch, it's a great experience and the team behind it deserves their kudos. I wrote half of this before double-checking when the game actually came out. It came out in 2013. But whatever, this is my list and I do what I want.

Best Adventure Game I Watched Someone Else Play: D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die

I didn't play this, but I would totally buy an Xbox One to play the stuff I didn't get to see and to play any future episodes. This is a super weird crazy adventure game by SWERY which is the story of a detective who can travel into the past. It's set up as a "Season" and it contains four "Episodes," playing like a TV show (it has an opening sequence and ending credits on each one).

The cast is extremely colorful and eccentric, and a lot of fun. I can't talk too much about the story, but the basis of the events is that before the game the hero's wife died, leaving the last words of "Look for D" to solve the mystery of who killed her. Now the hero is suspicious of anyone whose name starts with D and is exploring the past trying to connect events and find the elusive murderer. Unfortunately, it ends on a cliffhanger at the end of Episode 4 and the game isn't doing very well, so there's no guarantees about future seasons. So, if you can, go get it!

 

I think that will just about do it. Six cool, varied games you should definitely try to check out. Lots of fun, and I'm sure everyone will enjoy at least one of these. Check out the rest of the Community Spotlights, and look forward to Neoseeker's official Game of the Year award!


Rabla is a six-year veteran of the Neoseeker community and while he isn't an official moderator, he's the life and soul of the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn forum these days. Follow him on Neoseeker @Rabla or on Twitter @Rabla_.



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Community Spotlight: Dragoon's Top Games of 2014

6 comments Rory Young - 3:17pm (PST) Like (1) Share

If storytelling that captures the imagination (and the heart) is your ideal...

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As part of Neoseeker's Game of the Year celebrations for 2014, we're spotlighting several community members' lists of their favorite games from the year. These are are community-written articles and the opinions there-in do not necessarily reflect those of Neoseeker. With that said, we certainly believe they show just how diverse the tastes of the community are, as well as just how much everyone here on Neoseeker loves games -- from the writing staff through the moderators and down to the casual new members. Thanks to everyone for contributing.


Hi. I’m Shayn, Dragoon on Neoseeker, category moderator for PlayStation 4, moderator of the Doctor Who forum, and occasional wiki-person. 2014 was a host to some interesting games, with a lot of emphasis on cross-generation and not many developers placing their chips purely on one generation or the other. Big examples from the last year include Thief from Square Enix and Ubisoft releasing a game on both generations simultaneously in the form of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (for past generation) and Assassin’s Creed: Unity (for current generation).

While the year's overall quality may have been somewhat lacking, there were some gems that cropped up during 2014. Here are some of my favourites – in no particular order.

Child of Light

Child of Light was a stand-alone game released exclusively on the PlayStation Store for PS3, PS4 and later on Vita. Developed on a brand new engine, the game was a testament to Ubisoft and really demonstrated the quality of games they are able to make, and harkens back to the golden years of Rayman. First of all, anyone who has even looked at Child of Light will tell you how beautiful the game looks. The visuals were something completely unique and a refreshing change of pace to anything else that was on the market at the time, giving it a beautiful fairy tale theme that completely worked in its favour.

While not a particularly long game, the story is brilliantly narrated, even if the rhyming couplets that comprised the speech were, at times, a little contrived and forced. The battle system takes inspiration from a classic turn-based RPG’s such as Pokemon and Final Fantasy, while granting their own unique spin by way of the time meter placed at the bottom of the screen indicated the time between moves used.

However, the truly amazing thing I found with Child of Light, and surpassed anything else, was the score. It remains one of my favourite CDs of last year, and is beautifully composed by Coer De Pirate. I’d definitely rank this as a must have for any PlayStation owner.

Tales of Xillia 2

The sequel to my favourite Tales game ever (yes, that includes Tales of Symphonia) didn’t disappoint. I did feel that some of the new game mechanics, especially the Corpse Shell, added a level of Deus Ex Machina to the story – basically, when in doubt, activate and spam as many moves as possible. But I was more invested in the continuation of the story of Reize Maxia and Elympios and how the two nations were ingratiating with each other, or not as the case could have been, anyway. The story, at least, didn’t disappoint. I felt the silent protagonist to be a little bit of a let down, not allowing us to get to know this character, and only allowing us to hear his voice upon completion of the game and opting for another run through.

The choice system was also ultimately redundant, making little to no impact on the story. At one point you can opt to finish the game slightly early, copping out of the final boss fight. However should you want to take this path you need to choose a specific set of choices and really try and aim for it – which felt a little 2-dimensional to me. Other than that though, great combat, an aspect that draws me back to Tales games year after year, and a good ensemble of new and returning characters.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Initially skeptical of purchasing the game after the abysmal experience I had with Final Fantasy XIII, I was convinced by a few friends to make the purchase and it didn’t disappoint. The game is fantastic, simply put. The choices in character creation are diverse, the races and sub-races allow for a wide range of choices, from Hyur, to Mi’Qote, Lallafel, Elezen, and more. The story doesn’t really interest me to the point that I actively skip the cut scenes and most main scenario dialogue, but it’s the gameplay that keeps me hooked.

More often than not with RPGs once you make your decision at the start of a game as to character class, you have to stick with it *glares at other GOTY nominee Dragon Age: Inquisition*, but with A Realm Reborn you are free to change at any point in the story you deem fit. The changing nature of the class system is what keeps the game fresh. Whilst waiting for a dungeon once (anote to anyone thinking of getting the game, dungeons take ages to find teams for if you’re DPS) I decided I’d just start leveling up my character in another Discipline of War, no questions asked. This is truly one of the most appealing things about the game.

What keeps me coming back isn’t necessarily the game itself – it’s how friendly everyone is. Sure, there are a few idiots on the game, when isn’t there on a MMO game, but for the most part everyone is really welcoming, friendly, and willing to help in your time of need. Often times I’ve entered dungeons, mentioned this is a first time for me here, and they give me useful bits of advice throughout. It’s a great community, and I really could go on for ages about how wonderful this game is to play with all the different stuff to do, but honestly it would take too long. Just take it from me, and anyone else who has played the game, it’s pretty swell.

Pokemon Omega Ruby/Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

First of all, I played Omega Ruby, the superior version.

This game did the name remake a justice. Taking some of the notes of the disappointments we have from Pokemon X and Y, Game Freak and Nintendo tried their damnedest not to make those same mistakes again, and they didn’t... mostly. C’mon Nintendo, where was my Battle Frontier!? Usually liking to take the time through Pokemon games, catch and train as many as I can, altering my teams countless times before entering the Elite Four, this time I was just too addicted to finish it in any less time than 2 days. 2 days!

Hoenn was never really my favourite region for the fact I disliked most of the additions to the Pokemon roster back when Ruby and Sapphire were originally released, but the addition of the new Mega Evolutions made things a little more interesting. The story, though, is where the game really excelled. I mean, Primal Devolutions? How awesome is that? I can’t wait to see where and if they take that concept any further with future installments, but honestly I wouldn’t be too disheartened if it remained exclusive to Groudon and Kyogre.

I will also just say THANK YOU for the Delta Episode, it was far better than the Looker stuff from X & Y. Far, far better as post-game content goes. 

Dragon Age: Inquisition

My first Dragon Age title... sort of. I played a bit of Dragon Age: Origins back in the day and even re-bought it on PSN before the game was released, but nothing could have prepared me for how addicted I would become to this game. Just ask anyone who knew me at the time, I wouldn’t shut up about it. The lore, the characters, the locations, the missions, the side missions, the scenario, the villains... everything just really resonated with me, more so than most other games have done in the past.

The openness of it all really grasped me and made me feel like most of my decisions mattered. From choosing an alliance with the Mages over the Templars, to decide to make Cole more Human than a Spirit, to standing behind Leliana as she stood for Devine, to hating the guts out of of Solas until the very last freakin’ scene. I felt everything mattered, and it’s rare for a game that allows the gamer to shape the world about them through their actions, at least in my experience. Dragon Age is another game I could spend hours praising, but I simply don’t have the time or emotive language to do so. This is a game I believe you have to try for yourself just to really ‘get it’ as to how amazing it is.

There it is, my little list of not much importance. Best of luck to all the ‘"real" nominees on Neoseeker’s Game of the Year list, which looks to be a promising selection. 2015 already looks to be a good year for gaming, and I for one can’t wait to get started!


Dragoon is five-year veteran of the Neoseeker forums and currently holds the position of category moderator for PS4 Games, moderator of the Doctor Who Forum, and Wiki Super (when he's got the time). Follow him on Neoseeker @Dragoon or on Twitter @shayndickens (no e).



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Nintendo ending Club Nintendo rewards program, plans for "new customer loyalty program" in the works

25 comments Rory Young - 10:11am (PST) Like Share (1)

Club Nintendo was just too cool of a thing to survive this industry

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Nintendo has officially announced that their Club Nintendo rewards program is coming to a close. Don't panic just yet, Nintendo faithful, because Nintendo isn't just pressing the eject button. Club Nintendo users will be able to continue earning Coins through March and redeeming those coins through June. Additionally, new rewards will be added to the program in February. Consider this just an advance notice that maybe it's time to cash in those coins. 

Nintendo of America Sales & Marketing VP Scott Moffitt offered this very heartfelt and very prepared statement regarding the ending of Club Nintendo:

"We thank all Club Nintendo members for their dedication to Nintendo games and their ongoing love for our systems and characters. We want to make this time of transition as easy as possible for our loyal Club Nintendo members, so we are going to add dozens of new rewards and downloadable games to help members clear out their Coin balances."

No reasoning for the closure of Club Nintendo was provided. However, Nintendo did provide assurances that a new customer loyalty program was in the works and would be announced at a later date. Expect to hear news as Club Nintendo starts wrapping up. The ideal situation would of course be for one service to run directly into the next, so hopefully there's news prior to April -- when Club Nintendo stops giving out coins for purchases.

For those unfamiliar, Club Nintendo offered rewards for dedicated Nintendo gamers who registered their games, systems, and other Nintendo products through the Club Nintendo program. Folk could then use their earned coins to purchase special rewards offered directly through Nintendo. This stuff included mostly collectibles like music, statues, toys or smaller merchandise.

What comes next? Perhaps in our digital age Club Nintendo grew just a bit too large and making all of this merchandise what is basically free distribution became too much of a stress/cost. I'd expect whatever program comes next has a much more digital footprint. Or heck, maybe they'll throw in some Amiibos? Nah, they're selling out on those. I guess we'll wait and see.

That's that, Club Nintendo users. I'd wait and see if there's anything worth snagging in the February run of Club Nintendo rewards, then maybe wait to see what coins I could gather through March, and finally just cash out after that. No use in letting those coins go to waste! Fare thee well, Club Nintendo, you painfully complicated and only slightly rewarding thing, you.

Thanks to Eiche for the tip!

 
 

Community Spotlight: Insanity Prevails' Top Games of 2014

11 comments Rory Young - 10:10pm (PST) Like (3) Share

Insanity Prevails, but his picks are consistently great

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As part of Neoseeker's Game of the Year celebrations for 2014, we're spotlighting several community members' lists of their favorite games from the year. These are are community-written articles and the opinions there-in do not necessarily reflect those of Neoseeker. With that said, we certainly believe they show just how diverse the tastes of the community are, as well as just how much everyone here on Neoseeker loves games -- from the writing staff through the moderators and down to the casual new members. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

Back in the old days of 2002 a young pup was having a lot of fun with a Nintendo 64 game called Pokémon Snap, but was having a spot of trouble with a particular 'mon. He would eventually find his way to Neoseeker in search of an answer and somehow remains here to this day. Of course, I've long since found my way out of the Pokémon Snap forum, although gaming in general remains as a long standing passion of mine. Over the years I've worked on and developed other hobbies, some of which I can safely blame entirely on Neoseeker such as my love for anime, taking to writing and dabbling in other content creation. Much of this is reflected in the places I hang out on Neoseeker, with forums like Pokémon and Site Related being the most prominent.

2014 has proven to have had its ups and downs in gaming. It's hard to ignore some of the high profile games whose releases were swiftly followed by reports of buggy gameplay or being unplayable entirely, with companies like Ubisoft and Blizzard ending up in the firing line. The usual hype machine happily built some projects up to being something they could never live up to, fostering disappointment even in the games that turned out to be good. Several key series also found themselves without a big hitter, either releasing the previous year or being pushed into 2015. Yet other killer titles were more than happy to fill that void, creating scenarios where gamers were counting down the days until their favoured title hit the shelves. Amiibo became a thing, which is pretty much Nintendo's take on the Skylanders concept to the frustration of parent's bank accounts everywhere, but for me just being able to collect little figures of them alone was enough to garner interest. PC gaming found itself growing in strength as well as companies seem more willing to embrace this gaming market while marketplaces like Steam became more welcoming of otherwise niche titles.

This list isn't about the PC though. I'm someone with a massive back catalogue of games to play, which means that when I put in a preorder then that game has to be promising something pretty damn special to convince me to ignore that ever growing pile of games. This year the 3DS provided three such titles where my mindset switched over to an "I want it now" mentality, drawing on a combination of fond memories of older titles and an enticing drip feed of news before release. Here are my thoughts on how well that turned out.

Mario Golf: World Tour

When it comes to spin-offs no video game character can even come close to the sheer reach that Mario has achieved over the years. Not satisfied with bounding from platform to platform he has since tried his hand at role-playing, racing, matching three of a kind, mini-games and a wide variety of sports. Golf is one such sporting endeavor that I first experienced on the Nintendo 64, taking a fairly serious spot and applying the usual Mario magic to engage those who weren't looking for a serious simulation. The handheld entry on the Game Boy Advance similarly held my interest but the GameCube version wasn't quite able to deliver the same kind of experience I wanted. Nevertheless, as news seeped through on the 3DS entry I felt excitement building once again, hoping to recapture the excitement I felt from the first game with some tasty new upgrades.

When I played the demo early on I could feel that the game wanted to embrace the style applied to the rest of the series. The usual cast of characters were present giving the visuals all the extra flair it warrants, even if I did have to fork out extra to play as Rosalina (no Amiibo hoarder's going to taint my appreciation of her elegant design). The mechanics are designed in such a way to be easy to learn while offering that slight extra degree of control for players wanting to curve their shot around that tree. The courses offer a mix of standard designs to get players into the swing of things and moving onto the more eccentric options like shooting for the green underwater or navigating your ball through a minefield surrounded by lava. Then there is the local and online multiplayer component, allowing fans to take each other on both in direct matches and through various official and unofficial tournaments. Sure, I had absolutely no chance of taking the top spot in those contests, but picking up trophies for doing well was still a great experience.

The more I played though the more the experience faltered. Those crazy courses provided a lot of entertainment trying to get the ball to the green, but actually putting the ball in the hole was another matter. Perhaps it's part of my own changing tastes, but the wildly erratic slopes and dips in the greens on these kinds of courses can make scoring well very difficult if you don't happen to drop the ball right next to it on the approach. The Castle Club held potential as bringing in the highlights of the previous handheld golf entry but seems to suffer from a lack of content and was forced to pad itself out through repetition. The game also seems to forget it's on a handheld, as you simply have no option to save in the middle of a course. If you can't work around it then you're left having to put the console in sleep mode, which strikes me as very odd when the older games had no such problem offering this.

Sadly, this has resulted in it slipping onto that pile of games that sit by my computer, forever to sit in obscurity until such a time that curiosity gets the better of me and I try to figure out what they are.

Pokémon Alpha Sapphire

From one powerhouse series to another, there can be no denying just how important the Pokémon series has become to Nintendo. I've been with the games since Yellow on the classic Game Boy and, aside from one blip during the Kanto remakes, have thoroughly enjoyed each one. Remakes of the Game Boy Advance entries weren't my ideal for the follow-ups to X and Y, but I was nevertheless excited to find out just what the new mechanics could do for the region of Hoenn and seeing what new content Game Freak would work into the title.

While I held no doubt that much of the gameplay would mirror that of X and Y pretty close, I was very eager to try out the new Mega Evolutions introduced for ORAS. Yes, 6-0-ing scrubs with my Primal Groudon would be the ultimate "haha," no, of course I was looking forward to seeing the likes of Lopunny and Pidgeot find their chance to shine. Along with the return of the move tutors to greatly expand move-pools of Pokémon obtained in the 3DS titles, these helped to change up the battle scene, if not as drastically as a generational shift. Contests made a grand re-entrance as well, giving players a reason to team build with an entirely different goal in mind. How mind boggling it is to find basic moves like Tackle suddenly enticing to put onto move-sets while switching level grinding from battles to force feeding your creatures PokéBlocks.

Exploring the region as part of the story managed to get so much right but still hit some notable obstacles along the way. Certainly the beginning of the adventure is a lot of fun, showcasing many of the successful staples of the series that makes exploring regions fun. The latter parts of Hoenn though are filled with water routes, which are often very open and barren aside from the odd NPC trainer paddling about making them boring to go through. The bigger issue is the much greater need for HM moves to progress through the story, which greatly hamstrung team and move selection as players are forced to use Pokémon that can learn very specific moves and forced to keep them in the move-slots to continue onward.

Yet, it is Alpha Sapphire that I continue to play while Y barely gets to see any activity these days. For the problems I encountered in the story, I cannot deny that there is simply more to do in Hoenn that it is worth bearing those burdens. The endgame competitive and trading element is also stronger, with Mega additions and tweaks to make the experience that much more engaging.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

No title on the GameCube sucked away more of my time than Super Smash Bros. Melee and for good reason. Not only did it present a playable cast from various Nintendo franchises, but dropped them into a fairly unusual game style that was just immensely fun to play. No, I couldn't wave-dash for the life of me, but I was a master at flailing around in the middle of a kerfuffle and successfully triggering a bomb that blasts everyone away. Having missed out on Brawl-ing on the Wii I was extremely excited when news broke that a fourth game was releasing and that it would hit the 3DS as well as the Wii-U. Release day could not come fast enough.

The roster for the game is very satisfying. Like anyone there were omissions that I was saddened over, but these were overruled by what characters did make the cut. Rosalina? Palutena? Robin?! Additions I was keen to play as alongside returning favourites made for an awesome battle, heightened by the attention to detail when creating the move-sets for the fighters that make reference to the source material. Old game modes return with new twists along with the stadium mini-games. Smash Run is the new kid on the block and is basically Smash's answer to City Trial mode in Kirby's Air Ride. That is to say it's an awesome mode that involves scrambling around a large stage collecting stat buffs in preparation for a random final event, hindered only by the need to customise characters ahead of time and the lack of an online option for it.

The online component is perhaps the most exciting part of Smash. Being able to just jump into battles with people all over the world and get to smashing is worlds apart from simply setting up a match against the computer. What's better is how they even seem to acknowledge the two sides of Smash - if you're here for random chaos then For Fun is happy to oblige, while For Glory is there for all your competitive needs, making battles a pure test of skill. You can play with strangers, set up battles with friends or kick back and spectate a random match if you want to take a break from making Pikachu do his best Team Rocket impression. Yes, at times the connection is iffy and causes battles to lag-spike or simply run slow which can really ruin the battle, but for the most part the experience is smooth enough to make "just one more go" far too tempting.

Playing from day one there was never really going to be any doubt. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is easily the best game to come out of 2014, delivering just the kind of brawling experience follow-up I've been waiting for since Melee. Now please excuse me, I need to go do something important. Ness isn't going to smash himself off the stage.

Insanity Prevails is coming up on his twelfth anniversary as a member of Neoseeker's community. He hails from England and currently moderates the Pokemon Trading forum, among others. Check out his Neoseeker profile here.



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Community Spotlight: Lorx's Top Games of 2014

8 comments Rory Young - 4:01pm (PST) Like (6) Share

Our first community Game of the Year list has arrived

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As part of Neoseeker's Game of the Year celebrations for 2014, we're spotlighting several community members' lists of their favorite games from the year. These are are community-written articles and the opinions there-in do not necessarily reflect those of Neoseeker. With that said, we certainly believe they show just how diverse the tastes of the community are, as well as just how much everyone here on Neoseeker loves games -- from the writing staff through the moderators and down to the casual new members. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

Hi all, I'm Lorx. I'm one of the super-moderators here on Neoseeker in-charge of the forum community and I've been asked by the editorial staff to pick out what games stood out to me in 2014. I'm mainly a PC gamer with some time on a few choice 3DS and PS3 exclusives, which will be reflected in what games I've chosen. I'll start off with a look at what the year looked like overall and then dig in to my top games.

This year was really quite wonky. There were an abnormally large amount of games that crashed and burned rather badly upon release in some way, especially among big budget companies. Assassin's Creed Unity is still widely broken on PC, Watch_Dogs an abysmal time on PC as well, and of course Sonic Boom released this year as well and that's just a whole different story. This made AAA titles that simply didn't get a sustained market like Titanfall look quite good in comparison. Many of the major powerhouses were games from years past which were continuing to pump out content and new installments of long-continuing series, like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Call of Duty. However, there are some standout titles which look capable of mattering into 2015 and beyond. Games like the ones I'll be shedding light on here showed us there were some great titles to be had. This upward swing in topic brings us to my top games of the year, listed in no particular order except for...

Transistor 

Getting the obvious out of the way first. It's hard to be the next title released after a major hit from a developer. It means being judged not on the merits presented within the game space itself, but also in comparison to the previous game. That Transistor managed to be a worthy title to come up alongside Supergiant's previous release of Bastion is quite astonishing. Bastion was ridiculously well received by players and critics alike, and Transistor managed to take on many of the aspects which are unique to the company's style -- while still being a fresh and new experience.

Transistor has a killer soundtrack by Daniel Korb, a really engaging story, and still has the unique art-style which the developer is making themselves known for. This is coupled with a rather deep combat experience which allows for many different kinds of play-styles to emerge, as not only is a player's skill load-out incredibly customizable, but it's also able to be played as a real time action game or as a more strategy-centric title, taking some cues from turn-based titles. Out of any game released in 2014, this is a game I would label as the standout release in most every category. If you have not played it, definitely pick it up here in the next month or so. We're in the post-holiday release lull anyway, a perfect time to look back on this game and understand why it was received with such open arms.

Dark Souls II

Going from a worthy successor to a grand title to one which has a bit of a problem fitting into it's predecessor's shoes, next up is Dark Souls II. This is a very iterative sequel, if you are at all familiar with the first Dark Souls then this game will be very familiar, which makes talking about it a little more specific as to changes made. Lets get this out of the way first: the first Dark Souls had flaws. That's not to say it's bad -- it's fantastic. Many consider it a stronger title than Dark Souls II, but it had some flaws in how it worked, which the new development team tried to find solutions for. In doing so, they made a game that is... more flawed than it's predecessor, with the largest being its change in how online matchmaking functions. So this game gets some flak from the fan-base, but it has definite strengths which make it stand well of it's own right.

At the end of the day it's a really astonishingly good game that just can't quite live up to it's predecessor, a slight damper on what is otherwise quite a strong release. Perhaps the most important strength of all in terms of what they changed would be weapon diversity. There's lots of interesting and cool items to be found, the combat definitely benefits as a result. Online play is well thought out as well, even though much of it hadn't changed since the previous title we saw the developer actually find a way around the cardinal sin for online games -- segregating players. When From Software released DLC, players who don't own it can still join in on players who do under specific circumstances, which is a solid way to get around that cardinal sin. And while From Software is not the first to use it, the implementation is very solid, and I hope we see it noticed by other developers facing similar design challenges.

Really though, most everybody knows what Dark Souls is as a series -- a hardcore action game that will punish players who don't think about what they're doing. In this way, the series still delivers true to it's word and is well worth playing. If you haven't picked it up yet, a GotY-ish edition named Dark Souls II: Scholar of the first Sin is releasing in a couple months for next-gen systems and PC, which I highly suggest picking up.

Nidhogg

A very small game, simple, not impressive from a technical standpoint in any way, but really well-crafted and the most fun I had in a LAN atmosphere the entire year. It's quite easy to pick up, and is both engaging to play against friends, as well as watch. I think what separates this game to me from other quirky small releases this year is that it's mechanically sound.

Games like Mount Your Friends, I Am Bread, and Friday Night at Freddy's -- these games all were quirky in some way and caught the attention of Youtube (in some cases this was perhaps the intention from the ground up), but Nidhogg is the one I found truly fun and engaging beyond the spectacle placed before me as the player. I've played many rounds of it's tournament mode over the year, and every time the gaming session ends in laughter and a feeling of time well spent. It's a really good game for engaging with others and being a part of a group. This game is worth playing if you ever find yourself in that kind of environment.

Valkyria Chronicles 

This game? That really niche strategy title that was released on the PS3 back in 2008? Yes, that game. I'm cheating here really, because this game was released on the PC in 2014 without major upgrades -- it's just a port. But this is a game that widely flew under the radar of a lot of people, so when I have the chance to plug it, then I will always take that chance. This game is a mix of a third-person shooter and a turn-based strategy game. Think of it like Fallout 3's VATs system combined with Fire Emblem. It's a unique gameplay experience that's fairly well-crafted. Not the most balanced thing in the world, but it is a single layer game, so that's not really a big deal.

This is a game that really shouldn't be missed if you're a fan of strategy titles, and the PC release is the perfect excuse to go back and look at it once more. On top of it's unique gameplay it has actually a surprisingly good story. It begins with what could best be described as any old anime plot, but grows into much more serious themes, touching on WWII concentration camps and racism in a way which I haven't really seen a game dare to try before. It's a foray into territory we rarely see properly represented in video games and this game does quite well. Making it unique both in gameplay and story, all under the visual aesthetic of art drawn on a canvas, courtesy of the custom graphics engine which was built for the game, aptly named Canvas. I've used this word plenty of times so far, but again, this is a very unique title, you won't find much like it elsewhere, so if it sounds interesting, definitely give it a go.

Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire

Marketing teams get paid to hype games and certainly there's something to be said after 2014 that they can perhaps oversell their product, but in this year no game had more hype with me than ORAS. I've been playing Pokemon games since their original run back with Red/Blue/Green, but Generation 3, the Hoenn region, is my quintessential childhood Pokemon game. It's the one I spent far more time with than any of the others, and my favorite region to date in almost every respect. So when Generation 4 came out, I was already looking forward to when I would see my favorite region return.

Lo and behold, many years later, it has returned spectacularly. Most of the changes are for the better as well and I found myself appreciating a lot of what was changed, especially the Eon Flute and how some areas were bought to life with new visuals. As an example, Sea Mauville specifically is a fantastic sight to behold with vivid colors and a landscape which just screams explore me! My only major gripe is the choice to auto-walk in segments of the story, for instance when completing the 5th badge you have the option to teleport to the "start" of your journey to the 6th. I find fault with this because Hoenn is designed with many shortcuts, it's a dense world with multiple paths to any given objective, and things like that only serve to 'shrink' it, not using the strength is has in it's geography. But really, this is nitpicking, and that I have to nitpick to find fault is certainly telling. ORAS is a successful new imagining of the Hoenn region and I'm glad it's finally here.

Honorable Mentions

These games didn't quite make it into the above list for one reason or another:

  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Already had one cheat title listed, didn't want to do two. This was ported to PC in 2014, amazing spectacle fighter and an even better soundtrack. If you like spectacle fighters or are a PC gamer who wishes they had access to Bayonetta or God of War, pick this up.
     
  • Smash Bros 4: What is perhaps most impressive is the quality of the 3DS port. It doesn't feel shoddy or lacking in any way, which is definitely not what I was expecting. Beyond that, it's a solid game and exactly what anybody would expect a SSB game to be at this point.
     
  • Alien: Isolation: I'm not a fan of the horror genre, but this is one of those rare games that stood out for remembering that suspense is scarier than stuff jumping out from a hiding place suddenly. It needs a mention as it was quite good, but simply not my cup of tea.
     
  • Shovel Knight: Actually still playing this, just picked it up the other day. Had a lot of positive feedback upon release and I'm beginning to see why, but I'm not even close to done with it, so it's not on the list.
     
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes: A short but really well crafted experience. It's quite impressive how much they manage to do with a single map. Really interested to see how well The Phantom Pain does now that the first taste of the new experience has been released.

Lorx is an 8-year veteran of the Neoseeker community and currently holds the position of a  Super Moderator, the highest-ranked position granted within Neoseeker's community. Check out his Neoseeker profile here, or follow him on Twitter at @Lorx_n.

 
 

Super Mario Bros. line of Amiibos announced to follow current Super Smash Bros. run

6 comments Rory Young - 12:23am (PST) Like Share

Taking bets on how many Mario Amiibos will be available by the end of 2020

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Nintendo has struck gold with Amiibos. Figurative gold made of plastic and painted by machines overseas. Amiibos are hugely successful, despite being relatively useless as supplementary game peripherals. They're popular because they're outstanding collectibles, capitalizing on legions of nostalgic Nintendo fans. The admittedly huge Super Smash Bros. run of Amiibos comes to a close this spring. Nintendo isn't just going to let that lapse without announcing another run, so...

During this morning's Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced the next run of Amiibos! To follow-up the Super Smash Bros. run with its Mario and Luigi and Peach and the whole gang will be a run for... Super Mario Bros.! Featuring such unfamiliar faces as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser and introducing Toad! All of the figures will be posed in entirely different ways, so collectors will be forced to buy them all. Everyone should have expected this by now.

The final wave of Super Smash Bros. Wii U figures, including Robin and Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening, PAC-Man, Wario, Ness of Earthbound fame, and Charizard will be released in May. The second to last wave, with Rosalina, Bowser, Lucaria, Toon Link, Sheik, Ike, Shulk, Sonic, Mega Man, King Dedede and Meta Knight will hit in February, but everyone probably already knew about that.

The Super Mario Bros. series of Amiibos, oddly enough, has a more specific release date of March 20. I guess this will be a run of reliable sales, whereas the final Super Smash Bros. wave might be a bit more of a riskier venture? I guess that's fine for now, but when Nintendo's releasing the fifth Super Mario Bros. run of Amiibos, folk might start getting a little frustrated. Or they'll just sell out and sell out forever and Nintendo will live happily ever after.

 
 

Introducing Pokemon Shuffle, it's Pokemon, it's free-to-play, and it's a match-3 puzzle game for 3DS

6 comments Rory Young - 11:07pm (PST) Like Share

This is the first sign of the apocalypse

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It hurts me to say so, but the biggest Nintendo 3DS release announcement of this morning's Nintendo Direct may be the one the least amount of fans are talking about. Nintendo certainly thinks it's a potential big hit, as it followed up the big Fire Emblem announcement to open the show. I'm talking about Pokemon Shuffle, of course. It's kind of Pokemon, it's a match-3 puzzle game, and it's definitely free-to-play, though that might mean something different than the literal definition. It seriously cannot fail.

Pokemon Shuffle is also arriving soon. Nintendo announced that the puzzle game will be downloadable starting in February, which means we only have a month before we find out whether playing any other games this year will be pointless or not. 

Nintendo has dabbled a bit in free-to-play already, with their most notable release being Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. As a free-to-play game it was kind of a mixed bag, but in practice it was a pretty brave and inspired reflection on the format. That's probably another conversation for a different place. What matters is Pokemon Shuffle is authentically free-to-play. Like, iOS try-hards are crying that it might start stealing their market kind of free-to-play. Like, I'm actually pretty disgusted kind of free-to-play. The good stuff.

In Pokemon Shuffle, players will be given a certain number of moves or matches to use in order to defeat a Pokemon. With each match, the health of the Pokemon goes down. Of course, the tiles the player uses to match are Pokemon themselves, so matching certain Pokemon will take advantage of typing strengths and weaknesses. There's also mention of evolution, including mega evolution, and other Pokemon mechanics in Pokemon Shuffle. What kind of monster has Nintendo created.

We'll find exactly what kind of (pocket) monster Nintendo's created this February, when  Nintendo launches Pokemon Shuffle for free on the Nintendo eShop.



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Nintendo Direct highlights Story of Seasons trailer, harvest the farming simulator in March

2 comments Rory Young - 10:42pm (PST) Like Share

This farm's been passed down generation to generation

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Here on Neoseeker, people value a properly tended farm. Our community is welcoming, accepting those in Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, or even non-farmers in say Fantasy Life. We want our simulator fans to feel at home. That's perhaps why we're so excited for the upcoming release of Story of Seasons on the 3DS. During this morning's Nintendo Direct, an all new trailer for Story of Seasons was shown which I think will encourage a lot of new players to give it a shot.

Story of Seasons is developed by Marvelous AQL and is the true successor in the Bokujō Monogatari series. For those unfamiliar, that's the franchise that up until recently has been known as Harvest Moon. There's since been a division between the Japanese developers and the North American localizers, resulting in the Harvest Moon series rebooting under new developers. Marvelous AQL, however, will continue making the same farming games that have been so popular over the years. This year, that game is Story of Seasons.

The trailer, shown to a very mellow and relaxing tune, welcomes players to Oak Town and then introduces some of the features that await them. These include character customization, a variety of stories to be discovered by interacting with NPCs, exploring towns, finding romance, and of course building and working your own farm. It's all quite a bit too adorable. It's almost like there's something going on behind the scenes at Oak Town. Okay, okay, I'm kidding, this isn't a horror games masquerading as a farming simulator.

Story of Seasons will launch exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS starting in March later this year. The game's currently going through the localization process at XSEED Games, so everyone can trust it'll be in top condition when it arrives later this year.



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Etrian Odyssey undone, Nintendo and Atlus announce Etrian Mystery Dungeon to arrive April 7

1 comments Rory Young - 7:59pm (PST) Like Share

The Odyssey ends for now, but the Mystery is only beginning

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How another Etrian game slipped past our radar last year, I do not know. I'll blame the holiday fugue. Luckily Nintendo and Atlus are watching out for us, announcing today that their Etrian Odyssey spin-off dungeon crawler, Etrian Mystery Dungeon, is planned for release in North America on April 7. The first run of the game, including pre-orders, will package in the game's soundtrack, too!

Etrian Mystery Dungeon is exactly what the title implies. It mixes the character building and skill trees of the Etrian Odyssey franchise together with the rogue-like Mystery Dungeon. Oddly enough, judging from the early trailers, it looks a lot like what I'd imagine Etrian Odyssey would be with a third-person camera. Of course, that's an over simplification. Switching the camera won't add the endless replayability of a rogue-like, like you'll find in Etrian Mystery Dungeon.

Other than the gameplay changes, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is still 100% a Spike Chunsoft product. The chibi style of the more recent Etrian remakes will be returning, as well as the rather noticeable look of the dungeons (I swear I've seen this plant before). It'll have that same classic JRPG feel and sense of humor. It appears to be Etrian through and through. It's just great to see that team get to experiment a bit with the help of the Mystery Dungeon brand.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon will launch on the Nintendo 3DS starting April 7. Check out the gameplay trailer shown during today's Nintendo Direct for a better look at what the game has to offer. Oh, and Atlus revealed one of the playable classes in the game today -- the Landsknecht. That trailer may be fore the more dedicated Etrian faithful.

 
 

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. arrives on 3DS starting March 13, enables Fire Emblem Amiibos on New 3DS

0 comments Rory Young - 5:55pm (PST) Like Share

Abraham Lincoln has a mission for everyone: buy more Amiibos

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Of course Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. would show up in today's Nintendo Direct. Nintendo's been pushing this eccentric strategy game for some time now, which must mean they think they've got something special going on here. While Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. was relegated to the lighting round of upcoming 3DS releases, there were a couple of very special announcements for the game. First is that the game will launch on March 13, a month after the New 3DS becomes available.

Second is a much more exciting bit of news for Amiibo owners. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will work with all Fire Emblem Amiibo characters, so long as the player owns the upgraded New 3DS that works with Amiibos. If they're set onto the 3DS, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will unlock the Fire Emblem Amiibo character as a playable character in-game. Now Marth can fight side by side with Abraham Lincoln, just like the history books tell us.

For those unfamiliar, the currently available Fire Emblem Amiibos are Marth and Ike, with Robin and Lucina to be released soon. All four of these characters will work with Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a turn-based tactical action game that's highly similar to the recent release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Instead of space warriors, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. features historical figures and iconic figures in literature. Think Cowardly Lion and Tom Sawyer. Somehow they've joined a group of steampunk heroes to defend Earth from invading aliens.

Don't rip out your wallet just yet. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. won't be available until March 13. Keep in mind that if you want to use the Amiibo features, you'll need to upgrade to the New 3DS XL, which launches February 13.



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