Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Dec 312014
 

2014 is coming to a close, and what did it look like in the world of gaming? Well, opinions are mixed, but I personally had a great gaming year! It’s time for me to look back at the top 5 games I played this year. Like last year, these aren’t necessarily games that released in 2014, but they must be games I played and completed in 2014.

You probably won’t be too surprised by the names on this list.

Honorable Mentions

For the most part, this year’s list is solid, but I would like to give a quick shout-out to two games that could easily have ended up in my top 5 if I’d actually finish them this year. First, Alien: Isolation, my beloved survival horror game. I really enjoyed what I played of Isolation, but a self-imposed temporary exile from horror prevented me from finishing it this year. I’ll return to it soon.

Then there’s Fantasy Life, which I was pretty excited for. What I played of it proved to be fun, adorable, and addictive. Very addictive. So addictive I set it aside to hurry up and play a shorter game first. As soon as I finished The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, it’s back to Fantasy Life!

And of course, I’ve played many more great games throughout the year, but we aren’t here to talk about all of them. So without further ado…


The Top 5 Games I Played in 2014


5. Tales of Xillia

King Gaius is one of the main reasons Tales of Xillia is one of the best games I played this yearTales of Xillia was the first game in the “Tales” series I ever played, and it convinced me to try the rest. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked. Fun RPG mechanics, a great sense of humor, and some fascinating characters turned Tales of Xillia from a game I was unsure about to an experience that has remained with me.

Particularly my love of Gaius. What can I say? Designers fill games with attractive characters for a reason, you know…

Ahem.

I received Tales of Xillia 2 as a Christmas present, and I can’t wait to see how well the sequel holds up to the original. Will Xillia 2 make an appearance on my Top 5 list in 2015? Come back a year from now to find out!


4. Hatoful Boyfriend

I shouldn’t need a disclaimer, but I feel the need to repeat it anyway: I’m not joking!

Marketed as a “pigeon dating sim,” Hatoful Boyfriend is better than it has any right to be. I bought it as a joke, to laugh at how ridiculous it was. Now look at me. I recommend it to everyone. I read the tie-in manga. I’m admitting right now that I enjoyed a game about dating birds more than I enjoyed Tales of Xillia!

A big thing about this game is that it’s not what you’re expecting. I mean, it is a game where you play a human girl finding romance in an all-bird school. It’s also a lot deeper and emotional than you’d expect from that premise. And once you play through all the routes, once you’ve spent enough hours with this game to think you finally understand it… it will challenge everything you thought you knew.

If you haven’t played Hatoful Boyfriend, you really ought to give it a chance. And if you have, don’t forget to check out this little conversation you might have missed.


3. Bayonetta

Bayonetta's awesome style is one of the reasons it deserves a spot on my top games of 2014 listAfter the way I gushed about it, it’s probably no surprise that Bayonetta is on this list. Whether you play the original release on PS3 or Xbox 360 or the new Wii U version included with Bayonetta 2, this action game is a gem you shouldn’t overlook.Bayonetta has suffered from its share of controversy, all of which is a bit overblown, if you ask me. What really matters about this game is that it’s tough, intriguing, over-the-top, and above all else, FUN.

We’re talking about video games here. “Fun” should be a priority.

Bayonetta can be punishing, but its difficulty has a strange balance that allows you to muddle through even if you’re no good at remembering combos yet provides a hefty challenge if you want the best rankings. Add in a sense of humor, great characters, and an interesting (if convoluted) story…

I can’t praise Bayonetta enough. It’s not that it has no flaws–it has some frustrating elements, for sure–but the good far outweighs the bad. Only my looming backlog of games prevented me from attempting a completionist run.


2. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Inquisitor Barnham is my favorite of the new characters introduced in PL vs. PWYou probably expected this one, too, after I described the amazing crossover between the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series as “almost perfect.” While I played it, I thought it might be the best game ever, not just one of the best I’d play this year. I had enough issues with the ending for it to lose such a hallowed status in my mind by the time I finished. Would I have held onto that opinion if the ending was different? It’s hard to say. Regardless, it’s still the second best game I played this year.

I’ve ranted so much about what I disliked about the game (the ending), it’s easy to lose track of just how great this game was. And it really was fantastic. The styles of these two series came together perfectly, and Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright introduced some great new characters, such as Inquisitor Zacharias Barnham.The story was fantastic, the Layton puzzles were decent (although the instructions were bizarrely confusing for some), and the Ace Attorney trials were incredibly fun. Using hint coins in trials and mob testimonies are two of the features I loved. Since it’s been confirmed that Dai Gyakuten Saiban allows the cross-examination of two witnesses at once, I hope group testimonies will return…

Let’s make it simple. If you’re a Professor Layton and Ace Attorney fan, play this game. If you’re a Professor Layton fan, play this game. If you’re an Ace Attorney fan, play this game. If you’ve never played either, play this game and see what you’re missing.

Now, what could possibly beat a game I loved much?

The number one best game I played in 2014 is… *drumroll*


1. Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta strikes a pose for her glorious return in Bayonetta 2, my top game of 2014This isn’t cheating! They are two entirely different games–and their differences are part of what puts Bayonetta 2 in the #1 spot over the original.For the most part, everything that made Bayonetta great is present in the sequel. It’s as if the people at Platinum Games sat down and said, “Okay, let’s take Bayonetta’s best points and make them even better.” It’s the same wild, crazy action in locations even more beautiful than those in the first game.

The plot also takes a more straightforward approach–only in comparison to Bayonetta, though–and presents such a great story, it will actually change your perception of the first game. Definitely play the original Bayonetta first.

It also fixes Bayonetta’s most frustrating aspects. Gone are the instant-death QTE sequences! Gone are the penalties for using items! (Instead, you earn bonus halos for not using items–a small difference, but an important one.) Witch Time is more responsive, and overall the game is a bit friendlier.

And easier. Whether this is a good point or not is up for debate. Never fear, though–Bayonetta 2 isn’t an easy game, it’s just not as merciless as its predecessor.

What a year. I tried games I never thought I’d like and found a few wonderful surprises. I started writing my own game and finished the first draft of a new novel. What will 2015 have in store for us? We’ll find out soon enough.

Happy New Year’s Eve! What are your favorite games you played in 2014?

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Dec 292014
 

Just a quick update today, as I’m happy to announce that two more of my drabbles have been accepted by SpeckLit! I promised more yokai stories after “Rokurokubi,” and a 100-word yokai drabble will be released in just a couple of weeks. “Ame-onna” will appear on SpeckLit on January 9.

The other, believe it or not, is actually a comedy. My lighthearted “Test of a Knight” will be out on March 26.

Now, I hope you all enjoyed your holidays, if you celebrate, and are looking forward to 2015. The end of the year is almost upon us, and a special blog post is on the way… just like last year.

See you then!

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Dec 222014
 

I don’t read graphic novels or manga very often. I haven’t even read the Ace Attorney manga, an oversight I need to fix. But today I’m going to talk to you about a manga based on a game I praised very highly.

Yes, I’m going to talk about Absolute Zero.

The fantasy counterparts of Hatoful Boyfriend, in Absolute Zero (Anghel's world)

“The forbidden epic of the angel of Judecca”

If you haven’t played Hatoful Boyfriend, you might be very confused right now. Let me explain. While it’s true that Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel/dating sim about a human attending a school for gifted birds, it has many other elements.

For example, once you play through several routes, you’ll unlock the ability to pursue Anghel. Anghel has a unique view on life. In his mind, he is a fallen angel, you are Edel Blau, and there’s an evil sorcerer at work… If you’ve played Anghel’s route, you know it plays with fantasy RPG elements, and while it’s technically all explained in the BBL ending, Anghel’s world could easily be considered its own, separate story.

And that’s where this story comes in. Absolute Zero is an official manga by Moa Hato (the creator of Hatoful Boyfriend) and Damurushi, set in the fantasy universe imagined by Anghel.

It starts with the story of Anghel and Edel Blau, but visits several other characters in a collection of stories or chapters (or a “digest of scenes,” as the manga’s intro describes it). It also contains a gallery with information about each of the characters in this alternate universe. Like Anghel’s route, Absolute Zero is a combination of serious fantasy and goofy comedy.

For me the highlight has to be the part when naive alchemist Lute Infini accidentally summons the demon Wallenstein. Wallenstein attempts to make a Mephistopheles-esque pact with him… except Lute is just an adorably clueless dork.

The conversations that ensue are priceless.

Lute Infini (Ryuuji Kawara) and Wallenstein (Shuu Iwamine) in the Absolute Zero manga

Wallenstein may regret this more than Lute…

The only problem with Absolute Zero is that it’s quite short (but also quite cheap, only $1.99 on Amazon). These little snippets of stories are enough to get you interested and leave you wanting more. If there are more Anghel-verse stories out there in English, just point me in the right direction!

Overall, I’d recommend Absolute Zero to anyone who enjoyed Anghel’s route and wants a longer peek at his version of events. It might not mean as much to you if you haven’t played Hatoful Boyfriend–on the other hand, it might just make you more curious about what this game is all about!

By the way, Anghel fans, have you seen the missable Hatoful Boyfriend conversation between Anghel and Nageki? It includes some interesting bits of foreshadowing…

Curious, isn’t it?

Let me know your thoughts on Hatoful Boyfriend, Anghel, and Absolute Zero (and on how adorable Lute/Ryuuji’s cluelessness is) in the comments below! Who else is hoping for a Steam release of Holiday Star?


Buy Absolute Zero at Amazon.

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