While I have not written up one of these articles for the last couple of days due to illness, it is now time to continue The Otaku’s Study annual End of the Year Awards for 2013. Last time I looked at the biggest conundrum of the year, which came from the Australian Classification Board when they classified Atelier Totori Plus as R18+, deeming it to be more violent than Grand Theft Auto V also released during the year.
I try to make The Otaku’s Study not only about appreciating the latest and greatest titles, but also occasionally looking back at the classics that deserve (and sometimes don’t deserve) to be recognized and played by everyone regardless of the current gaming generation. One of the ways I hope to do this annually is by going through my collection of old games and deeming one a year for each console to be deemed my “Games From Consoles Past of the Year”.
Taking into account that I only entered the gaming market a few generations ago, I don’t have a lot of the older consoles on hand. Therefore at this point in time only the following consoles will be covered in this award series: Nintendo 64, Nintendo Gamecube, Gameboy, Playstation 1, Playstation 2, Playstation Portable and the Nintendo Wii. The Playstation 3 and Xbox360 despite becoming “last generation” consoles last month will still be supported as major awards UNTIL a majority of developers no longer support the consoles.
The evil Baby Bowser has cast a spell turning Yoshi’s Island into a picture book. Worse yet, the Super Happy Tree has been stolen, making the island dark and gloomy. Players must take control of six Yoshis, each a different color, and travel through six pages (worlds) of platforming adventure to recover the tree and return the island to normal! Featuring huge character models and bright, vibrant colors, the game’s various environments (such as woods, caves, mountains, and oceans) come alive in a uniquely gorgeous 2½-D look. Eat fruit, avoid enemies and obstacles, and throw eggs from the Yoshis’ never-ending supply in your quest to stop Baby Bowser’s plan from succeeding. If you’re good enough, you can aim for higher scores by being picky about the fruit you eat. And who knows, you might even find the mysterious black and white Yoshis!
The Nintendo 64 alongside their other fifth generation console counterparts brought us a number of interesting games, however in taking advantage of the 3D capabilities of the console, Nintendo seemed to stray away from the side-scrolling platforming genre that gave them a strong rapport with gamers in earlier generations. One of the few games in the genre that did capture my attention and warranted dozens of hours of my time was Yoshi’s Story.
Ditching many other well known Super Mario franchise characters including Mario and (Adult) Bowser, Yoshi’s Story lets you take control of a group of different coloured baby Yoshi’s who set out rescue the “Super Happy Tree” and the well-being of Yoshi-kind from the clutches of Baby Bowser. Each playthrough of the game is fairly short requiring you to complete only one stage in each of the six worlds, but depending on how many hearts you unlock in the stage prior you can unlock up to four areas in each world to play through – increasing in difficulty as you go from 1-4. Given you can only play one stage per world on a single playthrough, it encourages you to replay the story mode several times, then provides a level select mode to best your score.
Gameplay involves eating 30 pieces of fruit within a stage for which it is plentiful. Just as with the area selection you can quite easily complete the game in half an hour if you eat everything in your sight, but choosing to eat your Yoshi’s favorite fruit (Based on Yoshi colour) or going the extra mile and only eating melons will net you not only a higher score but give you more opportunity to navigate your way around some rather creative and challenging levels. Add several secrets hidden around each of the worlds (Including two extra Yoshi Eggs), Trial Mode and some rather interesting boss fights I think they did more than enough to earn the title of The Otaku’s Study Nintendo 64 Game of the Year 2013.
Previous Winners: Snowboard Kids 2 (2012)
Super Mario Sunshine
When Mario, Peach and an entourage of her loyal Toad friends set out for a tropical vacation on lovely Isle Delfino, they’re in store for much more than a relaxing holiday. A mustachioed maniac has mucked up the entire island, and Mario is accused of committing the crime. Armed with a hi-tech water cannon called FLUDD (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device), Mario sets out to clean the island, clear his name, and solve the mystery of the villainous vandal.
The Nintendo 64 era of gaming was about discovery, with Nintendo opting to explore the classic Mario platforming mechanics in a 3D world (Super Mario 64). With the classics pulling good reviews, it seems like the developer / publisher tried to experiment a bit with their characters during the Gamecube era – which inevitably led Luigi to go exploring a mansion with a vacuum and Mario to travel a town and linked areas spraying water with a backpack water cannon – the FLUDD.
While they didn’t necessarily need to be there, the water mechanics present in Super Mario Sunshine provided a number of new challenges for gamers to enjoy. When you considered this with the return of a number of classic mechanics such as being able to ride Yoshi and what seems to be them taking what they had learned from Super Mario 64 to heart, Nintendo managed to provide an overall enjoyable experience. As with Super Mario 64, it was a lot of fun to collect all 120 Shines.
Previous Winners: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (2012)
Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise
Especially later in its lifetime the Nintendo Wii had many decent RPG’s released for it that I considered being the winner of my Nintendo Wii Video Game of the Year 2013 award. However given the consoles more family-friendly gaming appeal that has seen it outsell both of its generational counterparts, I have instead decided to give this award to the more approachable and less serious title Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise that was released in Australia last year.
While providing “short but sweet” gaming experiences, Beat the Beat still offered enough appeal and challenge to warrant many hours of gametime, with enjoyable music and cute visuals to back it up.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
As I have mentioned on this site several times before, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins was the very first game I played in my lifetime, and I finally had the opportunity to track down my copy and give it a whirl again. Featuring many improvements from the original Super Mario Land game released in 1999 this title featured greatly enhanced visuals, a save feature, introduced Wario for the first time in the Super Mario franchise AND offered an ample supply of stages and bosses. Especially considering that this was the only game I owned for quite a few months after being gifted the Gameboy…. it got replayed many times.
Worthwhile picking it up on the Nintendo eShop as a virtual console title for the 3DS.
Previous Winners: Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (2012)
Given that I only owned a Nintendo 64 during the fifth generation of video game consoles, I don’t have any overly nostalgic memories of Playstation 1 era of video games. However for a game of the generation, it is hard to pass up on the platforming gameplay present in Crash Bandicoot – one of the first titles developed by Naughty Dog who have since moved on to bigger current-generation projects such as Uncharted and The Last of Us.
While there is a lot to love in this game, it is also a somber love as future releases post-Naughty Dog era failed to live up to the hype and standards set by the originals.
Previous Winners: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (2012)
Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time
The Playstation 2 provided I think the greatest range of RPG’s out of any console from any generation, especially over the seventh generation that not only had a distinct lack of RPG’s but developers and publishers alike didn’t fully embrace the concept of HD Collections for them despite a fantastic selection they had to work with. But I digress…
There is one RPG that stands out from the others in my collection and that is Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time. While it could have been less favorable if we received the original Japanese release of the game, the “Director’s Cut” edition provided everything from an interesting storyline, strong RPG mechanics, decent visuals and even a multiplayer versus mode which took advantage of the active battle system provided in this title. It isn’t a flawless experience, but is certainly more ambitious than Star Ocean 4 and guzzled up more than 80 hours of my time enjoying everything on offer.
Previous Winners: Shining Force EXA (2012)
Persona 3 Portable
Persona 3 Portable could have easily been seen as a cheapened version of the original Playstation 2 release of Persona 3, lacking the FES chapter and having all navigation outside of Tartarus. In that sense it is exactly that – a cheapened port of its former self. However the issue with ports usually is that the core gaming experience remains unchanged and you are essentially playing the same game all over again.
Even today I have to commend ATLUS for making the decision to keep the entire “male protagonist” campaign unchanged, but also providing a refreshing and almost completely new “female protagonist” experience. While the overarching plot doesn’t change, the alternate interactions between characters, new social links and more offers a strong reason to play through the game a second time – while providing some female fans with what they have wanted since its original release.
That’s it for the awards today! Tomorrow I will be looking at the “Secondary Awards” which includes Assorted “Game of the Years” for each of the major current consoles in addition to manga, book, visual novel and North American Anime Release of the Year 2013 over separate posts.