So many games played, so little time to write about them. It’s just laziness on my part. And perhaps a bit of us getting carried away posting about Xenoblade Chronicles. This is my attempt to clear out a hefty blogging backlog, by highlighting some of the best/most interesting games I played in 2015 (and then didn’t blog about). Prepare to be amazed by how much goes unreported on this blog – and these are solely games I played in 2015 by the way!
Dragon Force (Saturn)
This qualifies as one of Maya’s top games of the year, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a strategy RPG with similar gameplay to the Ogre Battle games, except… except unlike most other SRPGs, the entire game occurs on just one map. That means there are no individual levels or stages – the world is your stage and your goal is to conquer it. It’s scary enough to make a conservative player out of anyone! Enough defeats on the battleground and you could find yourself hounded out of your territory, on the run with nowhere to go and an unwinnable game scenario. At that point there’d be no choice other than to restart your entire game over from scratch. I’m really exaggerating the sense of threat here (it’s actually a surprisingly easy game), but you get my point hopefully.
Dragon Force takes this cool idea and pairs it with a battle system that manages to be both visually impressive and strategically challenging and unique. The battles pit teams of generals against one another, with each general carrying up to 100 troops who follow your orders to achieve various strategic goals.
I can’t think of any other game that inspired me to photograph the TV last year. Nor, for that matter any other game featuring the word “constipation”. Although, now you mention it…
Trauma Team (Wii)
This is one of, if not the single biggest omission on the site this year. Seriously, what a game. I enjoyed what I played of Trauma Center: New Blood on Wii, but Trauma Team goes above and beyond in terms of what to expect in a sequel. In simple terms, imagine the leap from the original Mario Bros, to Super Mario Bros – it’s that sort of territory. On top of the polished and proficient “surgery simulator” gameplay of previous games, Team (thanks to the addition of, you guessed it, a team) adds several entertaining variations on surgery, plus a House-inspired diagnostician mode, plus, best of all, a Phoenix Wright-inspired murder investigation mode. The last of these modes could stand alone as its own game, that’s how good it is. The sheer extent of the additions here (not to mention their quality) is staggering.
That’s why it’s a genuine shame Trauma Team wasn’t released in Europe. Since Atlus don’t publish games here, we saw year long waits after the U.S. release for each of the previous two Trauma games on Wii. In the case of Trauma Team, because of its release coming at the tail end of the Wii’s lifecycle, it skipped Europe’s clutches altogether. We may have gotten the three Operation Rainfall games earlier than the U.S., but I’m not sure that makes up for this. Trauma Team is a gem that easily justifies the hassle of importing.
Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii)
Zack and Wiki could easily be mistaken for any number of insubstantial “cutesy” games, but beneath that child-friendly veneer is an ambitious puzzler featuring some of the most fiendishly tricky puzzles around. There were a few “hey, that’s not fair” moments, but for the most part the solutions for the puzzles here are sound. Back when this game came out I got a fair ways in before giving up, having gotten stumped one too many times. This time around I was prepared for a mental beating, and my expectations served me well. My chest swelled with pride during the credits – I finally beat it! I enjoyed myself considerably more this time around with Zack and Wiki. Wonderful stuff and a real one-off of a game.
Sky Odyssey (PS2)
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this game in a charity shop early on in 2015. Having not heard of Sky Odyssey before, I only decided to pick it up because it was published by Sony. And, unlike that one time with FantaVision (never speak of it again), it worked out well – this game is fantastic. On the accessibility scale of flight games, Sky Odyssey is exactly where I want it: pitched just in the middle between flight sim impossible and arcade game pick up and play. (I’m playing Grand Theft Auto 5 right now, and the flight controls in that game are remarkably similar to those in Sky Odyssey, so that’s nice.)
Really this game excels with its sense of adventure and challenge. To that end, a memorable level early in the game gets you to tether yourself to a moving train to refuel your plane. It’s all good until the train reaches the tunnels! Later in the game you move further and further away from civilisation, exploring unpopulated islands and hunting down treasure. At this point the game is all about surviving the elements – tornadoes, mountain peaks, falling rocks – and at the same time trying to score points by doing tricks! Even without any combat entering into Sky Odyssey, the overall experience is considerably more tense than something like Pilotwings.
Long story short, Sky Odyssey may not be for everyone, but it’s a rare pleasure where something that couldn’t possibly have been made with you in mind feels like it was. The full package.
That wraps up part 1 of this feature. Never fear, part 2 should be making an appearance soon with more great and quirky titles I enjoyed this year, and yet still, for some reason, didn’t write about. What is wrong with me?