By Jeff Neuenschwander / January 23rd, 2014
Welcome back to the 2nd Annual oprainfall Video Game Awards. If you missed the first part of the Awards or want to experience them again, click here.
It’s Aesthetics Day here at the 2013 oprainfall Awards. Today, we will be handing out awards based on story, music, gameplay, and even additions made to the overall game. We begin with how the game plays, both as a whole and with others. Here to present the awards for Best Gameplay and our new Best Multiplayer category are Translation Manager Will Whitehurst and Editor Tyler Lubben.
|2012 Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles|
WILL: Great graphics and superb sound are fine and dandy, but one can get those out of a really good film. Conversely, gameplay is what makes or breaks a game, and these nominees have all challenged the oprainfall staff in the most unexpected and delightful ways. It doesn’t hurt that these five games all just happen to be Nintendo titles (and one published by XSEED in North America), which proves that even after almost three decades, the first-party juggernaut still has quite a bit of spark. Here are the nominees for the Best Gameplay Award…
A Link to the Past is considered by many to be one of the best games in the Zelda canon. A Link Between Worlds, its lovely 3DS sequel, honors its namesake and updates its gameplay for a new generation, with a major focus on non-linear progression. Dungeons can be cleared in any order you wish, at first. Instead of searching for items in dungeons, Link can rent or buy them from the bumbling salesman Ravio, with the caveats being that rented items disappear when his hearts are gone, and bought items are very expensive. In dungeons, Link can become a drawing and slip through cracks to look for even more secrets and travel between Hyrule and the new world Lorule. Add the neat use of 3D throughout the game’s challenges, and you’ve got a surefire nominee.
The Wii’s swan song was our final campaign game, not just due to its mature atmosphere compared to other games on the console, but also its inventive spin on the Metroidvania genre. Lead character Aeron’s weapon, the Oraclos Chain, is controlled with the Wii Remote, and the motion control makes for some satisfying monster kills that push the ESRB Teen rating’s limits. Speaking of limits, Pandora’s Tower operates on a strict time constraint. As Aeron kills beasts in towers for monster flesh to save his girlfriend Elena from a curse, she slowly succumbs to it until Aeron gives her more. After exploring the towers, Aeron can talk with and give gifts to Elena to solidify their relationship, which gives the game its multiple endings. In the end, the hardcore nature of this thirteen-tower journey’s gameplay was well worth the wait.
Platinum Games’ titles exhibit a certain spirit of innovation, and The Wonderful 101 is no exception. Yet, its gameplay mechanics are some of the riskiest the studio has toyed with. Its combat system, centered around human-based weapons called Unite Morphs, utilizes the familiar action motifs found in previous titles like MadWorld and Bayonetta and combines them with Pikmin-like RTS elements. The Wii U GamePad is used ingeniously throughout the game, too, both as a sketchpad for Unite Morphs and as a second screen. The fantastic and varied boss fights include ship levels straight out of Star Fox and robot boxing matches that recall the likes of Punch-Out!! Platinum’s sheer mix of influences in The Wonderful 101 makes it quite a unique game—with gameplay to match.
After Shin Monsho no Nazo skipped the West, fans of Intelligent Systems’ stalwart strategy games felt left in the cold. The highly anticipated Fire Emblem: Awakening lessened the burn with its modernization of the series’ trademark gameplay. While the game still features small sprites on a grid battling it out, it also brings a litany of new, improved, and returning features to the table. For starters, the main character is your very own customizable avatar. Paired units on the battlefield can increase their offense and defense through Dual Strike and Dual Guard attacks, respectively. Units can also grow emotional ties with each other and are even able to get married and have children. And if you’re not looking for a challenge or hate to see your units go—and believe me, I wouldn’t blame you for the latter—the series’ trademark permadeath can be eliminated with Casual Mode.
Super Mario 3D World takes the classic Mario formula and adds some new twists, creating an enjoyable experience no matter how you play it. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are the main characters—25 years after Super Mario Bros. 2 featured the same lineup, no less. While Mario is decidedly average, the other three have different strengths and weaknesses, and seeing which characteristics work well for different stages is part of the fun. New powerups like the Cat Suit and Double Cherry add even more variety alongside old standbys like the Fire Flower, Boomerang Flower, Tanooki Suit and Super Mushroom. And once you beat the game, there are three more worlds’ worth of further challenges. Whether you’re a casual player who simply wants to clear the level or a hardcore completionist who wants to find every green star and stamp, Super Mario 3D World has something in store for you.
AND THE WINNER IS…
The Wonderful 101
Well done, team! This super-heroic adventure has a dizzying amount of elements to its gameplay, but Platinum Games was able to make everything work—or, shall I say, unite up into an extremely fun and challenging experience. Thus, oprainfall is proud to crown The Wonderful 101 the winner of our Best Gameplay Award for 2013!
TYLER: I’m a guy who loves a good single-player experience, but I also love playing with my friends. Games that offer great multiplayer features can turn a game into a completely different experience when more people are added to it. Plenty of games accomplished that over the last year, but here are our top choices for the Best Multiplayer category.
And the nominees are…
As a matter of course, fighting games tend to automatically have great multiplayer gameplay. It doesn’t get much better than going head-to-head against an opponent and beating the crap out of each other until only one comes out victorious. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is no exception, once again pitting a cast of beefy dudes and busty babes against each other in a battle to find the strongest fighter. The advent of online multiplayer has been a boon for fighting games, making it easier to find opponents for players who would have to go it alone otherwise. DoA5U adds some fun new features to its already deep multiplayer system, such as two-vs.-two tag team battles in online mode, adding a welcome new layer of gameplay for eager fans.
The formula for the long-running Monster Hunter series hasn’t changed much over the years, but there’s no reason to mess with success. A vastly improved version of the 2010 Wii title Monster Hunter Tri, the game includes oodles of new monsters, weapons and quests for players to tackle. Working your way up a food chain of massive monsters, all the while upgrading your weapons and armor to get progressively stronger, is some great fun. With great importance being put on quick reflexes and pattern recognition, MH3U can be a challenge for just about anyone going alone, so taking a few friends along can always help even the odds. When there’s a huge dragon staring you down, you’ll be glad to have someone by your side.
If it’s a good ol’-fashioned crime spree you’re looking for, Payday 2 is the game to scratch that itch. The Payday games are a series of shooters where a team of criminals break into a variety of locations to…“liberate” money, gold and other items of interest for their own gain. The games have also had the unique characteristic of being quite difficult (bordering on impossible) as a single-player experience, as the AI teammates simply could not make up for having an actual person behind the controls. This became even more evident in Payday 2, where a heavier emphasis was put on vastly different skill trees. While it’s still possible to go in guns blazing on most heists, if you want to take a stealthier (and more profitable) approach, a full player-controlled team with a variety of skills is all but required. Being able to quietly enter a bank, neutralize the guards, control the crowd and make off with all the money you can carry without the authorities ever being contacted is an extremely satisfying experience, one that’s practically impossible if you try to go it alone.
As I said, fighting games tend to automatically be great multiplayer experiences. However, that experience can sometimes be soured when your opponent has a steep advantage over you, with a deeper knowledge of the characters’ combos and other mechanics. Divekick seeks to remedy this by reducing the number of buttons used down to just two. Players can jump (or “dive”), kick and dodge. With a smaller selection of available attacks, gameplay becomes much more strategic, leveling the playing field a bit between fighting veterans and newcomers. As such, playing Divekick can be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved and will less likely end with someone snapping their controller in half when you pull that 80-hit combo on them.
Super Mario 3D World
Co-op is a formula Nintendo has been trying to perfect in their Mario games for years now. The DS games had some interesting connectivity features between systems, but the home console titles were a different story. While it was fun to have up to four people playing on the same screen at once, the gameplay could get…hectic, at best. Whether with malicious intent or not, the limited space of the 2D plane meant there was usually a pretty good chance someone was going to be knocked into a pit or fire trap. Fortunately, with the arrival of Super Mario 3D World, this problem seems to have finally been remedied. A 3D environment means there’s a lot more room for multiple players to work in, meaning everyone won’t be jumping all over each other trying to advance. Fewer tears means more fun, making Super Mario 3D World a great multiplayer experience.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Monster Hunter games are synonymous with the word “multiplayer,” so it comes as no surprise that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate would take the top spot for 2013. Sure, the single-player game is just fine on its own, allowing players to go through the solo story of saving a remote fishing village from the threat of some pretty mean baddies. They go through, learn the ropes of hunting and get a pretty basic idea of how to be a good hunter. But playing alone pales in comparison to the experience of going online and undertaking quests with a group. Whether you’re working together perfectly to bring down a Brachydios like a well-oiled machine or blundering through trying not to get steamrolled by an Uragaan, playing with a team offers something the single-player mode simply can’t emulate.
A Link Between WorldsBioShock InfiniteDead or Alive 5 UltimateDivekickFire Emblem: AwakeningHatsune Miku: Project DIVA FMetal Gear Rising: Revengeancemonster hunter 3 ultimateNew Super Luigi UNi No Kuni: Wrath of the White WitchPandora's TowerPayday 2Pokémon X & YSenran Kagura BurstShin Megami Tensei IVSuper Mario 3D WorldTales of XilliaTearawayThe Last Of UsThe Legend of ZeldaThe Stanley ParableThe Wind WakerThe Wonderful 101Ys: Memories of Celceta