By Jeff Neuenschwander / January 24th, 2013
If you missed yesterday’s post for the oprainfall Awards, click here to see it.
Now, for the continuation of the oprainfall Awards.
The theme for the day is Aesthetics. The game will always come in one package but the individual layers are what we love about them. To talk about this a bit more, here is oprainfall writer and reviewer Devin Kotani, as he presents the Best Gameplay of 2012.
DEVIN: What is a game without gameplay? A movie? A video? Any way you spin it, the gameplay is a vital component for any game, and is, therefore, something that deserves to be honoured.
So without any further ado, let’s get into oprainfall’s 2012 award for Best Gameplay.
- Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles combines the exploration of vast fantasy landscapes with a real-time RPG battle system, along with hundreds of sidequests and a complex system of customization for the playable characters. There’s a great deal of depth to be found in Xenoblade’s gameplay, and more layers are added as the game progresses. The vast world and honed gameplay Xenoblade boasts makes it a worthy beginning to our list of Best Gameplay nominees.
- The Last Story
In The Last Story, players control Zael as he leads a band of mercenaries into battle. Containing an option for both manual and auto-attacks, The Last Story can feel as much like an RPG or an action game as you feel like. Add in some strategy elements, a unique use of magic spells, and even some elements from the third-person shooter genre, and you’ve got a (potentially) winning combination on your hands. You can even take the skills you’ve honed in the game’s story online via The Last Story’s multiplayer mode!
- Tales of Graces f
Tales of Graces f continues the evolution of the Tales series’ action-based battle system, and the battle system is where you’ll find most of Tales of Graces f’s meat. With dozens of Artes to learn, and titles to earn for each of the game’s seven playable characters, Tales of Graces f has a great deal of depth hidden behind its cutesy anime-inspired exterior. Oh, and those titles I mentioned? They all need to be leveled up, too, if you want all the nice bonuses that come with the effort.
- Mutant Mudds
This retro throwback of a platformer not only proves to be an excellent tribute to the platformer games of old, but also adds a couple of neat wrinkles to the tried-and-true formula. You can run and jump, just like in any other platformer, but you can also hover to extend your jumps and shoot your water gun at enemies. Add in a couple of upgrades, precision platforming, and a reasonable difficulty curve, and you’ve got something for platformer fans old and new.
- Rhythm Heaven Fever
So far, our nominees have all been action-oriented games. In an abrupt about-face, our final contender is a rhythm game. Released for the fading Wii console, there are no gimmicky motion controls in the rhythm game. Just tap the buttons on your Wii-mote in time to the beat! Sounds simple, but this isn’t a game you can win by button-mashing. The only mashing you’ll be doing is of your hand against your face when Rhythm Heaven Fever’s difficulty catches up to you.
And the winner is……
Considering oprainfall’s origins, is this really a surprise? Xenoblade’s massive world and deep battle system won over more of our staff’s hearts, and their votes, than any of its competition. Congratulations, Xenoblade Chronicles, and the team at Monolith Soft for winning oprainfall’s first Best Gameplay award! Yaaaaaay!
JEFF: The second of the aesthetic awards comes in the form of Best Story. Now, when it comes to creative mediums, the story can take on any form and be as simple or as complex as the story teller wants it to be. And it doesn’t even need to have any words for it to make sense; something unique about audio and visual mediums such as music, movies, and video games. To help us decipher these narratives, here is someone who loves him a good story, writer Ben Clarke.
BEN: The nominees are…
- The Walking Dead
In Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead series, we followed the story of Lee Everett, a former university professor, whose survival skills and humanity is out to the test when the world suddenly stands face to face with the zombie apocalypse. Moving away from typical tropes of the perhaps overly familiar zombie genre, The Walking Dead delivers an engrossing and heart-wrenching tale with incredible pacing and well-written characters. Telltale masterfully uses ambiguous in-game choices to craft a unique and very personal experience for each player. This game is guaranteed to leave even the most hardened player in tears.
- Xenoblade Chronicles
Casting away almost all classic conventions of a fantasy JRPG setting by throwing us onto the soil of the giant mech-like deity known as The Bionis, Monolith Soft makes it clear from the get-go that Xenoblade Chronicles sports no ordinary JRPG story. No doubt this epic tale was one of the main reasons oprainfall fought for its localisation to begin with. Once the game hit Western shores, regardless of what one might have thought of the game as a whole, most would surely agree that the story of Shulk and his friends, the Monado, the mechon and their world filled players with boundless awe. If any one game deserved the title of “epic,” Xenoblade, with its immense wonder and mind-boggling twists, would be that very game.
- The Last Story
Filling our nostalgic hearts with joy, Hironobu Sakaguchi delivers his own fresh take on the traditional JRPG story – creating an atmosphere and feel akin to the first time playing your first Final Fantasy as a child. The narrative, although smaller in scale to its campaign brother above, is large in heart – presenting us with some of the most lovable characters perhaps ever seen in a video game to date. With The Last Story, Mistwalker presents us with a condensed experience which, from beginning to end, never ceases to deliver a cozy, fun and emotional story. Let us hope it is not truly the last.
In the case of thatgamecompany’s latest masterpiece, what you see is what you get. Journey presents players with just that, a journey through a stunningly beautiful world together with an anonymous, silent player friend. The two of you create your own personal adventure as you gradually pace yourselves through Journey‘s minimalistic yet emotional story. The world is filled with so much mystery, symbolism and depth it will encourage players to relive this journey again and again to further appreciate this work of art. Journey stands as a stalwart example for how stories can be told in a way exclusive to the gaming medium.
- Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
Speaking of stories that are only possible to tell through video games, Virtue’s Last Reward also fits this description – in ways one cannot even imagine without completing the game. Following the fate of 9 unlucky participants of the lethal “Nonary Game,” players will witness many a dilemma as these incredibly well-written characters struggle to find trust as well as answers. Wading through each string of narrative, defined by the choices you make, will net you an increasing amount of pieces to the puzzle until you’re finally face to face with the twist that puts everything in place. The amount of detail put into this game’s story is astounding, resulting in a very rewarding experience.
AND THE WINNER…
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
Congratulations to Zero Escape: Virtues Last Reward! This masterfully crafted narrative by the master storyteller, Kotaro Uchikoshi, deserves all the praise it can get. Why? You’ll just have to trust us on this one and play this masterpiece for yourself.
AwardsCode of PrincessDouble Dragon NeonDownloadableDust: An Elysian TailGameplayGravity RushjourneyLa-MulanaMusicMutant MuddsRhythm Heaven FeverStoryTales of Graces fThe Last StoryThe Walking DeadWiiXenoblade ChroniclesZero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward