By Jeff Neuenschwander / February 7th, 2016
The Xbox category is always a difficult one to vote on, mostly because we don’t have a lot of Xbox gamers. This year was especially difficult as, with some contributor turnover, we seem to have fewer Xbox gamers to help with this. BUT… I intend to give something out, even if it’s just a token award. To present this, we bring back Quentin.
BEST XBOX GAME
2012: Dust: An Elysian Tail (Xbox 360)
2013: Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One)
2014: D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die (Xbox One)
QUENTIN: 2015 was the year that Microsoft began to turn the Xbox One around. Backwards compatibility. Streaming Xbox One games on your Windows 10 PC/tablet. A faster dashboard. The HoloLens. A price cut to $349.99. However, there was one area that the Xbox One really did lack in this past year…And that’s when it came to exclusive games.
And as for the Xbox 360…Well, it was finally started to get faded out in favor of the Xbox One.
At the end of the day, we wound up with really just a couple games that could compete for the title of Best Xbox Game for 2015. To be honest though, I’m sure you can guess which game took the crown.
First… some notable releases.
- Halo 5: Guardians
In Halo 5: Guardians, Master Chief is back. It has been four months since Cortana died. After Master Chief and his team disobeys orders to follow up on a cryptic message, they are all listed as AWOL and Fireteam Osiris is tasked with finding and capturing them.
Sounds awesome, right?
And for the most part, it is. The multiplayer is fantastic and is leaps and bounds above the mess that was Halo: The Master Chief Collection in 2014. Forge in this game, as always, is a lot of fun to build and then play in.
However, the new protagonist, Spartan Jameson Locke, just is not that interesting and you stop caring about him rather fast. Additionally, the squad that you spent most of the game with just does not have that great AI. Lastly, the absence of couch co-op and even the ability to hold a LAN party is something that is both surprising and sorely missed.
All of these factors show why Halo 5: Guardians doesn’t win.
- Rare Replay
Rare has had quite a long history in the video game industry. Its first game was Jetpac, way back in 1983. Over the ensuing 30-plus years, Rare published on its own, had a partnership with Nintendo (who owned a minority share within the company at that point), and then with Microsoft after they bought them out.
Needless to say, a lot of games have been made by Rare, and you get to play almost all of the best in Rare Replay. Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Viva Pinata are all in here. What about Jet Force Gemini, Battletoads, and Killer Instinct Gold? Yep. Included as well.
Certain games, such as Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country, however, were (understandably) excluded due to licensing issues.
But its about more than just the games. There are also mini-challenges to complete (ala NES Remix), an option to play a lot of the older games as they would have been on the original hardware, and a documentary that goes into both the history of Rare and its games (released and unreleased).
When you put it all together, it seems like a shoo-in.
However…it is ineligible.
To win in this category, the game must be an Xbox 360/Xbox One exclusive. And in this case, the games that make up the collection have all been released previously. Therefore, it does not make the cut.
OKAY, SO THE XBOX WINNER IS…
Rise of the Tomb Raider
When we left Lara at the end of 2013’s Tomb Raider, she had evolved from a girl who was hesitant to kill a deer into a woman was willing to fight against the supernatural to save her friends.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider picks up one year later after the events at the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Struggling to understand just what happened one year ago and clearly exhibiting signs of PTSD, Lara turns her attention towards a new project: the lost city of Kitezh and the promise of immortality.
If you played 2013’s Tomb Raider, you will see that it has been improved on in nearly every way. There are more optional tombs. New weapons and an expanded crafting system. A bigger open world to explore. And lastly…Konstantin. The villain of 2013’s game frankly wasn’t that memorable. In this game, though, Konstantin definitely is someone you will want to discover just how broken he truly is as Lara continues her adventure.
If you want to experience a sequel that retains everything that was good about its predecessor and then subsequently improves on it, then this is the game for you.
And that is why Rise Of The Tomb Raider is this year’s Best Xbox Game.
BEST PC GAME
2012: FTL: Faster Than Light
2013: The Stanley Parable
2014: Wasteland 2
While it seems like the console exclusives get all the hype, PC games can be worthy of the same treatment. Sure, you may have to trudge through the sludge to get to the good stuff, but it can be worth it. Just look at the three previous winners: FTL: Faster Than Light, The Stanley Parable, and Wasteland 2. All three are tremendous experiences created by indie developers. And two of them — FTL and Wasteland 2 — are massive crowdfunding success stories. Today, one more title gets added to that exclusive list.
The nominees are:
Here’s an interesting story: this visual novel originally released on the PC in Japan back in 2004. It was the best selling PC game of the year in the country and was eventually ported to consoles like the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP and PS Vita, but hadn’t come West. However, that all changed when Sekai Project successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to translate the PC port, nearly eclipsing its goal 4 time over. And when it released, we just fell in love with the story Tomoya Okazaki and the characters he came across.
- The Fruit of Grisaia
Hey, how about that? Another Sekai Project crowdfunded localization. This romance visual novel is the first of a trilogy of games that SP took to Kickstarter to fund in 2014. The Fruit of Grisaia is the first of the trilogy, originally releasing in Japan in 2011 for PC and was ported to the PSP and PS Vita before the PC version could come over this past year. The story follows Yuuji Kazami, a former assassin for the government, wanting a normal life as he attends a school that has only six students: himself and five girls, each one with their own story you can delve into.
- Her Story
The first time I heard about this game was when someone nominated it for Best PC game. I had no idea what it was until looking it up. Her Story, developed with financial help from Indie Fund, is an interactive movie that tells the story of a woman from 1994 being asked about her missing husband. The story features several twists and turns, including who the player really is. Viva Seifert does wonderfully well as Hannah Smith, the woman recorded in the footage. And Sam Barlow hits the nail on the head with his first independent game production.
Remember how I told you that a multiplatform game considered best on one console could be in a final? Well, consider this the second time we’ve used that rule (see State of Decay in 2013 for the first time). This is also the only game on the list that isn’t a crowdfunded game, coming to use from the amazing little-company-that-can, XSEED Games.
Trails in the Sky SC is the second chapter of the Trails in the Sky metaseries within the larger Legend of Heroes franchise. It was released on both PC and PSN but the experience was deemed better on PC by those that played it. While credit for the creation of the game goes to Nihon Falcom, Marvelous USA, under their XSEED Games banner, deserves kudos for the extensive localization job done with this game, having to go through more than twice the amount of Japanese characters than in the first game, which had over 1.5 million characters. But somehow XSEED was able to do it — as well as release another Legend of Heroes title, Trails of Cold Steel, on PlayStation consoles — giving us an excellent follow up to one of our favorite games. Here’s hoping they can find a way to do Trails in the Sky the 3rd.
Ah, this year’s indie darling. This game came quite literally under the radar from the very beginning, making a modest but still respectable $50,000 on Kickstarter back 2013. And when it released earlier this year, the game took off. It has been given praise by several publications and has been considered one of the best games of the year, much to the chagrin of some. But you know what, it absolutely deserves the praise. This is a game that takes everything you know about RPGs and turns it on its head. You can play it as you would a normal RPG, killing everything is sight, or you can befriend everyone and save all the monsters in the Underground.
AND THE WINNER IS…
This was incredibly close. The vote kept going back and forth between CLANNAD and Undertale, with either one claiming a stake to the title at one point. However, there could only be one as one of Japan’s best selling PC games just edged out the PC indie darling in a tiebreaker to claim Best PC Game of 2015.
BloodborneClannadDisgaea 5: Alliance of VengeanceDungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Sealeiyuu senkiFinal Fantasy Type-0 HDGame of the YearGuilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-Halo 5: GuardiansHatsune Miku Project Mirai DXHer StoryHyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black HeartHyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3: V GenerationMoe ChronicleMonster Hunter 4 UltimatePersona 4: Dancing All NightRare ReplayRise of the Tomb RaiderSenran Kagura 2: Deep CrimsonSplatoonSteins;GateStella GlowSuper Mario MakerSword Art Online RE: Hollow FragmentTales of ZestiriaThe Fruit of Grisaiathe legend of heroes trails in the sky scThe Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3DThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntUndertaleXenoblade Chronicles XYoshi's Woolly World