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Eliwood8

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  1. Developer Playtonic's follow up to their throwback to 3D collectathons takes a step even further back, this time to side-scrolling platformers. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair draws clear inspiration from the Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES, but like the first Yooka-Laylee the game never feels derivative. A unique final level mechanic and two sides to every level gives The Impossible Lair enough character to stand out in the crowd of side-scrolling platformers on the Switch. In this game Yooka and Laylee are once again fighting against the nefarious Capital B, who has captured Queen Phoebee's Royal Beettalion Guard in order to control the Royal Stingdom. You'll need to rescue Beettalion Guards in each level in order to help you tackle the fiendishly difficult Impossible Lair where Capital B is hiding. Like the first game there is a clear love of puns at work here, which gives The Impossible Lair a classic sense of cartoony charm. The gameplay has a classic appeal as well thanks to traditional side-scrolling platformer mechanics. Yooka serves as the main character while Laylee provides support abilities—Yooka can run, jump, and roll into enemies to defeat them, and with Laylee's help Yooka can also twirl in the air for a little extra distance or ground pound through weak obstacles in the floor. The rolling mechanic in particular has a familiar Donkey Kong Country feel to it, especially when you're rolling off of a ledge to gain a bit more momentum so you can reach a distant cannon. What makes The Impossible Lair unique comes down to how hit points work. If you're hit while Yooka and Laylee are teamed up, Laylee will fly off of Yooka's head and flutter about in a panic, not unlike Baby Mario floating away when hit in Yoshi's Island. If you're able to grab Laylee before she flies off for good, you'll essentially "recover" your HP and, more importantly, retain the aforementioned abilities that Laylee provides—Yooka on his own feels comparatively weak. Trying to catch Laylee when she's flapping about is somewhat obnoxious but if you're good at it you basically have an unending ability to take damage and recover immediately (there are also Laylee bells scattered through each level that allow you to recover your bat friend). It certainly helps keep the action of the gameplay moving more than hunting down a mushroom or a handful of rings, and it doesn't make the game too easy since there are still plenty of ways to die and fall back to the last checkpoint. The main levels of the game are admittedly on the easy side of things though, which is what makes the titular final level, the Impossible Lair, so confounding. The bulk of the game is a pretty forgiving take on platformers with plenty of checkpoints and opportunities to skip levels if you're having trouble, but the final level is an unforgiving gauntlet of precise platforming challenges that quickly grows discouraging. The Impossible Lair throws you into various fast-paced platforming sequences as well as several boss fights against Capital B, all of which has to be completed in one run (dying sends you back to the very beginning). To mitigate the challenge somewhat you need to collect the Beettalion Guards from each level, each of whom acts as a hit point inside the Impossible Lair—instead of losing Laylee when hit you lose a guard, and you'll even lose a guard when falling into a pit instead of dying completely. So to be as well equipped as possible to handle the Impossible Lair, you'll want to rescue all 48 Beettalion Guards, though even with a full roster the final level can be maddeningly difficult. It's surprising to see such a jump in difficulty, especially one that can be so tedious since you'll need to trek through the early parts of the level again and again if you die near the end of the lair. Finally, the overworld actually plays a significant part in The Impossible Lair. Instead of merely a map to connect various levels, the overworld is kind of a level unto itself with various puzzles and challenges that you'll need to overcome in order to fully explore the map. Additionally, each level of the game actually has two paths, and to unlock the second path you'll need to solve some kind of puzzle in the overworld, such as flooding an area to turn a normal level into a water level, or literally turning the level upside down. The changes within the levels are significant, and figuring out how to trigger them in the overworld is a fun challenge that gives a lot more depth to the overworld than a typical platformer hub. Your play time with The Impossible Lair could vary wildly depending on how you play. Like Breath of the Wild you're actually able to jump straight to the final level immediately. It is, like the title suggests, a nearly impossible task to complete without the benefit of the Beettalion Guards, but the challenge is there if you want to test your skills. More likely you'll spend 10 to 12 hours completing every level to collect all Beettalions, and truly dedicated players will take the extra time to collect all coins and tonics in the game. Coins are needed to unlock gates in the overworld so you'll have to grab a percentage of them, but tonics are strictly for the benefit of augmenting the experience with buffs or new challenges. The inclusion of tonics is novel but the limited use of a vast majority of them makes collecting them a fairly underwhelming pursuit. Yooka-Laylee's colorful and cartoony art style translates well to the 2.5D setting of The Impossible Lair. There aren't many truly interesting visual designs in the game, but nor is there anything lackluster about them. Plus the game runs at a nice smooth frame rate, though the trade off seems to be some tediously long load times, especially when you first boot up the game. Still, a bit of waiting is far preferable to choppy graphics. The soundtrack meanwhile is undoubtedly a highlight of the game—not surprising with the likes of David Wise and Grant Kirkhope involved—and certainly does most of the heavy lifting to give The Impossible Lair a charming sense of personality. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair puts a unique hook on classic side-scrolling platformer gameplay, and even though that hook can be a little tedious thanks to a surprising spike in difficulty, the overall experience still captures the fun and charm of old-school platforming. A small set of abilities for Yooka and Laylee provides a wide variety of platformer challenges, all of which is buoyed by the addictive nature of exploring an in-depth overworld full of secrets to uncover. Even though it's such a change of pace from the first game, The Impossible Lair is a strong continuation of the Yooka-Laylee series. Rating: 7 out of 10 Beettalion Guards
  2. Can't believe the mad lad really threw in another Fire Emblem character. Even as a huge FE fan, eight characters seems excessive. I appreciate that Byleth uses an array of weapons at least, though I might have preferred to have a character that doesn't use a sword at all—if I had to pick a Three Houses character, Edelgard would have been interesting as a relatively slight but powerful character. I also would've liked to see something more unique with the Garreg Mach stage, like maybe the background characters act as hazards—maybe getting knocked into the air on the bridge causes the pegasus knight to slam into you. And I agree that ultimately the most surprising thing was that this wasn't a third-party character. Way to kill the streak at the very end. Love seeing Cuphead represented, and with a song no less, but it would have been amazing if he was DLC character #5. Sakurai counting on his fingers in binary: what a huge nerd, I love it. The fact that holding up three fingers represents 17 for the 17th FE game and also 3 for Three Houses is such a deliciously obnoxious and clever hint.
  3. - We Happy Few (PS4) I was so intrigued when this game was first announced, but the final product is such a disappointment. Even putting aside the noticeably poor frame rate or the fact that the game crashed on me like every couple of hours, the gameplay is just not polished at all. It's clear the developers took a big swing at making a huge, elaborate game with stealth, crafting, varied approaches, survival mechanics, etc., but it doesn't quite come together and ultimately feels like a lot of mediocre ideas instead of a single polished and well-realized idea. It's a shame because I still really enjoyed the setting and characters, but yeah this is a swing and a miss. - Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Switch) Didn't love how tedious the titular lair was, even with a full complement of Beettalion Guards, but otherwise there are plenty of fun side-scrolling platformer challenges to enjoy here. - Into the Breach (Switch) I didn't realize just how long I've slept on this game—I thought it came out last year but it was actually August 2018! Anyway now that I've finally given it a shot I really enjoyed it. Took me a bit of time to get used to the game's unique win/lose conditions, but I think I've gotten the hang of it now. - Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (PS4) Awfully satisfying to run around knifing orcs in the back, dominating the captains, and generally just being an absolute terror in Mordor. I also really appreciate how fluid the open-world mechanics are—so nice to be able to climb most anything, and quickly too. The story felt a little lackluster, but the gameplay makes up for it. - Donut County (Switch) What a delightfully weird little game. I liked it, particularly the humor which is done well—which isn't terribly common in video games—but it is a bit of a bummer that the game is so short with no replay value. Some kind of score/time attack mode might have been nice. Console: 5 Overall: 5
  4. Both 2D adventure games and roguelikes are a dime a dozen, so maybe the best way to stand out from the crowd is to combine the two into one experience, complete with pixel art and a charming soundtrack. Sparklite draws solid ideas from both genres, but the final result could have used a more unique spin to keep things engaging. In the land of Geodia, everything is powered by Sparklite, a glowing blue ore that serves as the lifeblood of the planet. But an evil overlord named the Baron has been hoarding Sparklite to power his war machines, and the pollution is causing plants and animals to mutate into dangerous monsters. Our hero Ada crash lands in Geodia and quickly sets off on an adventure to stop the Baron before his plans destroy the planet itself. It's a classic hero adventure, complete with a silent protagonist with a helpful assistant (in this case, a robot, not a fairy). The story is pretty bare-boned but there's a lot of charm in the side characters you meet, not least of which is a musician that asks you to help her rescue small birds that have gone missing in Geodia. Sparklite's writing may not stand out but what little there is is endearing. The gameplay feels like a mid-point between a traditional adventure game and a roguelike. The map is procedurally generated every time you leave your base of operations, but you don't lose equipment or story progress when you die (aside from minor consumable items which are usually easily replaced). This makes Sparklite much less punishing than a typical roguelike; even though you have to explore the map again every time you set out, the map is conveniently divided into five sections and each area isn't too large. It's also worth taking the time to explore since you'll be able to collect Sparklite which is the game's currency for everything, including valuable upgrades. Even if you reach a boss and die, the Sparklite you collected on the way will stay with you, helping you fuel future attempts. The downside is that the cost of upgrades is pretty high, and a typical journey to the surface of Geodia will probably only yield enough Sparklite for one or two upgrades. This is where the game's exploration gameplay loop comes into play, but it can't help but feel like padding out the game's short length. Exploration is fun the first few times, but when you need to do it over and over just to be able to afford to increase your health it feels like busywork. It doesn't help that the procedurally generated map drains some of the character from the environment—you can't have unique set pieces when everything needs to be able to fit together randomly. The combat in Sparklite also leaves something to be desired. Ada can use her wrench to smack enemies, and that's basically all there is to it. Attack, dodge away when the enemy winds up their own attack, repeat. There's little depth or excitement to the battle system, though you can unlock items like a crossbow or floating bombs to change things up a little. The only problem is that these items are so slow to use that they aren't very effective in the heat of combat. And with recovery items being surprisingly rare, it's usually not worth taking the risk to whip out a fancy item or gadget. Boss fights unfortunately aren't much better. They're certainly flashier but they're even more beholden to the basic pattern of attack and dodge, just with larger and more predictable attacks from the enemy. The game is at its best when it leans a little more toward a traditional adventure game. Scattered throughout the map you'll find vaults that are filled with simple puzzles and reward you with a new item (though you have to spend Sparklite to actually unlock it) and you'll occasionally find monster lairs filled with enemies or other challenges. Once again the randomly generated design of the game hurts the overall experience—these vaults and lairs are fun but feel disappointingly basic. Perhaps if the game wasn't randomly generated there would have been more opportunity to better flesh these out. One area where the game does not disappoint though is the presentation. There is some beautiful pixel artwork here, notably when it comes to the charming side characters you meet or the massive, imposing boss battles. The retro look may be old hat by now but it still looks fantastic. The music is also excellent with a lot of fun, lively songs that match the sense of adventure. Even if retreading randomly generated maps gets old, the soundtrack never does. Sparklite finds a comfortable niche between traditional 2D adventure games and roguelikes, but the end result might be less than the sum of its parts. The randomly generated elements of the game ultimately feel like padding while the classic sense of exploration and combat feels too basic. There's still an enjoyable adventure to be had in Geodia, but it doesn't quite live up to its potential. Rating: 7 out of 10 Sparks
  5. I think you'd like it! It has that 2D Zelda feel but with a unique time limit/speed run mechanic.
  6. How much of an action-adventure game can you finish in sixty seconds? As it turns out, a whole lot! Minit takes classic 2D adventure gameplay and puts a unique time limit on the player: every sixty seconds, you'll die and have to restart from the last safe house. Simplicity and speed is the name of the game here, and rather than feel like a restriction, it proves to be a wonderfully inventive way of framing an adventure. The story begins with your character (some sort of duck, maybe?) waking up in his house and wandering down to the nearby beach where he picks up a cursed sword that causes the sixty second time restriction. From there your goal is to find a way to break the curse while also helping out any townsfolk you encounter. Minit is not a story rich game, and in fact the sixty-second restriction can be a real hindrance to story-telling since it limits your ability to really soak in the plot or lore of the environment. Regardless, Minit doesn't offer much plot anyway, and instead has plenty of personality and charm from your brief interactions with other characters, most of which offer short, goofy bits of dialogue as well as helpful hints. Minit's sixty-second lifespan might sound a lot more confounding than it actually is. The truth is, you can get quite a lot done in sixty seconds when you don't dawdle, and obviously the game is built around the limitation as well, so there's very little fluff to waste your time. You might end up wandering a bit as you look for your next objective, but that's really the core appeal of Minit: see how much you can get done before you're pulled back to the last safe house and have to start over. You're given only vague directions on what to do next, so exploration is the real core of the game Plus, there are several safe houses over the extremely short length of the game, so you're never too far from your last checkpoint. It's also important to note that anything you accomplish is saved when you're revived—you don't need to grab key items again, they'll stay with you. The exceptions are monsters or breakable/moveable objects, such as cutting down bushes, but that's no different from a normal adventure game anyway. And as mentioned, Minit is designed to let you make the most of your minute, with the only truly tricky, multi-part puzzle being the final approach to the end boss. The developers clearly know their adventure game formulas—there's something familiar about the kinds of tasks you accomplish in Minit, but the time limit lets you see them in a fresh, challenging light. The result is a uniquely addictive adventure: every time you restart you'll want to make the most of the brief time you have. It's no surprise that Minit would employ a fairly minimal, simple visual style as well. The black and white visuals are striking, and also serve a valuable gameplay purpose—everything on screen is so clearly laid out that your eyes never have to hunt for what to interact with or focus on in any given area. It's another clever way of cutting out the fluff of game design to let the player focus on the most crucial elements. And on top of all that, Minit still manages to have a cute, quirky art style thanks to the odd little creatures that inhabit this world. The music is excellent as well. Thankfully it's not quite as minimalist as the visual design, and the handful of songs found in the game are delightfully catchy. The one area Minit might be lacking is in sheer amount of content. Sure it makes sense that the overall length of the adventure would be fairly short given the sixty-second time restriction, but it's still shocking just how quickly you can finish Minit—easily under two hours. However, the game is filled with little secrets to uncover, and you'll likely finish the game the first time with well under 100% completion, so players that enjoy seeing everything a game has to offer will still get plenty of replay value out of Minit. There's also a second quest mode that adds even harder restrictions—including just forty seconds per life instead of sixty—so there's at least a modest amount of replay value to enjoy. Minit cleverly distills the adventure formula down to its most essential parts, and puts pressure on the player to make the most of his or her time. The result is an extremely addictive experience—like any game where dying/retrying is common, you'll be eager to try again every time the clock restarts in order to explore a little further, see what else you can find under the time limit, and progress just that much farther into the adventure. Perhaps by its very nature the game is disappointingly brief, but that short time spent with the game is awfully unique and clever. Rating: 8 out of 10 Minutes
  7. After hitting the ground running with a stellar first year, the Swtich seems to have become port central, with tons of games originally released on other platforms getting a fresh start on Nintendo's hybrid system. A lot of these ports are high-profile titles, but every now and then a surprising little game will slip in as well—though in this case, the game also had the benefit of extensive screen time on Nintendo's E3 Treehouse stream! New Super Lucky's Tale from developer Playful Studios draws clear inspiration from the classic 3D platformers of yesteryear with colorful critter characters, tons of collectibles, and plenty of platforming challenges. It's a gameplay style that still feels timeless, though Lucky may not be bringing many new ideas to the table. You play as Lucky, a brave young fox who is assisting his older sister protect the Book of Ages, a powerful magical artifact. When a nefarious cat named Jinx attempts to steal the book, Lucky is pulled into the universe of the book and must traverse various worlds to collect missing pages before Jinx's gang, the Kitty Litter, is able to get their hands on them. It's a classic good guy/bad guy adventure, and even if it feels a bit cliché it should be perfect for the kid-friendly audience that the game is clearly geared toward—kids will certainly love the simple, silly puns and humor as much as we all did in games like Donkey Kong 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. As already mentioned, Lucky's Tale is structured in pretty much classic 3D platformer fashion—across multiple worlds you'll jump into individual levels with the main goal of reaching the end, plus three side goals which will earn you additional pages. There's some great level variety at work here: some levels are fully 3D and let you explore at your pace, some are side-scrolling, and a few operate under unique control schemes, including bonus levels where you might need to solve sliding block puzzles or navigate a maze by tilting the scenery. What Lucky's Tale definitely does well is keeping things compact. There's a lot to see in each world but it never feels overwhelming or drawn out—the levels are just long enough to keep things engaging and varied without overdoing it. There are also some fun challenges created around Lucky's limited moveset, which notably includes burrowing through the ground to uncover hidden objects or slip under fences. The mix of 3D and side-scrolling levels also helps to keep each level feeling fresh, even if the core gameplay is still clearly built around the typical tropes and challenges of 3D platforming. This is also a fairly short game, or at the very least it's not the same kind of experience as huge collect-a-thon platformers. There are just five worlds (plus a bonus post-game world) and you don't even need to complete every level in a world in order to unlock the boss fight and progress. If you wanted to zip right through the adventure, it's only a few hours long. Of course, this type of game is made for 100% completion players, so you can expect a decent six or eight hours to collect everything the game offers. That still feels a little on the short side but the trade-off is few levels of fluff or padding. That said, Lucky's Tale also has a few problematic quirks. Camera angles can be a little funky at times, notably during boss fights when it's even more important to ensure you have a clear perspective on where you're moving and jumping to avoid attacks. Lucky's moves in the side-scrolling levels can be a little tricky as well. These stages generally require a bit more precision than their 3D cousins, but Lucky's double jump and particularly his burrowing movement can feel a little imprecise. Thankfully extra lives are pretty plentiful in Lucky's Tale so you're unlikely to run out completely. In fact, even with these small control quirks the game is quite easy—again, clearly aiming at a younger crowd—so a few awkward deaths thanks to the controls isn't terrible, but it is annoying. Lucky's Tale also has some slight performance issues on the Switch. For one thing, load times are just a bit too long for comfort, particularly on the short puzzle levels that can be completed in under 30 seconds but then you have to sit through a lengthy load screen before and after. The game's frame rate is also not quite as smooth as it should be. Frame rate dips aren't too common though, and thankfully never interfered with the gameplay, but they were noticeable. Even if the game has some technical hiccups, the actual art style of the game is delightful. In the same way that the gameplay doesn't necessarily push the medium of 3D platformers forward, the visuals don't seem to be doing anything particularly new or unique. That's okay though, 'cause Lucky and his friends are still pretty adorable, as is the Kitty Litter gang. And although there are few stand out moments or scenes, the background design for each stage is still pretty fun. The music isn't half bad either, and definitely captures the vibe of late 90s/early 00s 3D platformers, though, again, there aren't likely any tracks you'll keep humming after the game is over. New Super Lucky's Tale relies upon some tried and true platforming mechanics to deliver a charming, pleasant little adventure. The game clearly skews toward a young audience which means there are few truly engaging challenges and it may not have the same depth as similar 3D platformers, but that doesn't make Lucky's adventure any less enjoyable. Anyone looking for a quick, light, cute platformer should be well satisfied with New Super Lucky's Tale. Rating: 7 out of 10 Tales
  8. Saving space. I wonder if I'm going to play a single 3DS game this year. Might be strictly console games for me in 2020. Eliwood8's Games Beaten in 2020 Console: 5 Overall: 5 Full games list:
  9. Glad my crippling addiction to gaming can be so thoroughly chronicled in these threads. And yeah we ought to keep the tradition going. My backlog doesn't seem to have gotten any smaller (especially after getting new games for the holidays) so I'll still be chipping away at it.
  10. Hopefully they do. It wouldn't even need to be terribly different in terms of gameplay mechanics, just more tasks and goose-based mayhem.
  11. You're right, I should believe in myself.
  12. - Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch) Well this was fantastic, glad I had time to play it just before writing my top games of the year. The soundtrack is going to be stuck in my head for weeks (in a good way). [image] - Cadence of Hyrule (Switch) Great crossover—hope we see more Nintendo/indie developer partnerships like this. Also finished Octavo's path for that game challenge. [image] Octavo's Ode - Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch) Fun puzzles and bosses but the combat got a bit dull by the end of the game. [image] - Sparklite (Switch) Love the presentation of the game, but more engaging combat would have made the gameplay loop more satisfying. [image] - Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PS4) Warming up for Borderlands 3. I tried Aurelia this time which was a lot of fun once I got her ice skill tree built up—super handy for clearing mobs since I didn't even have to look at them for the icicles to do their thing. Screw the final boss of Claptastic Voyage though, what a pain in the ass. [image] Challenge game complete: Cadence of Hyrule: Octavo's Ode C : 118 H: 2 P: 0 M: 0 O: 120 Challenges: 22 points Probably my last update of the year—I don't anticipate finishing any other games in the next two days!
  13. It's that time of year again folks. Time for me to wrap up the year with a look back on my favorite Nintendo games with the 3rd annual Ninfora Game Awards. The Switch's third year may not have seen the addition of explosively popular titles like Breath of the Wild or Smash Ultimate, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a ton of great games to choose from in 2019. And what a year for getting RPG ports—not all of them are listed below but there have been some huge RPG titles added to the Switch library this year, enough to keep this RPG fan entirely too busy. Add on the big name Nintendo-developed games and a healthy amount of third-party support and you've got a pretty great year for Switch owners. Best Classic RPG: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age You have to respect Dragon Quest for finding a formula and sticking with it. Sure there are important quality of life improvements over the years, but at its heart Dragon Quest XI S feels like a classic RPG, and that's probably why it's so easy to lose yourself in the game for a hundred hours. It also certainly helps that this game is really made for the fans that have stuck by the series for decades—the whole concept of revisiting past games for side quests is just a fantastic love letter to the entire franchise. Even though there have been several classic RPGs re-released on the Switch this year, there's no one better than Dragon Quest for that familiar charm. The "End of an Era" Award: Shovel Knight: King of Cards Over six years ago, an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign promised a meticulously crafted side-scrolling pixel art adventure with not one, not two, but three DLC expansions, all free for backers and early adopters. Just a few weeks ago that promise has finally been fulfilled with the release of King of Cards and Shovel Knight Showdown, the 4-player battle mode. I'm sure no one thought it would take this long to see the Kickstarter's stretch goals fulfilled—least of all the developers—but if anything can be said about the four Shovel Knight campaigns, it's that every single one of them has been worth the wait. King of Cards once again delightfully redefines the Shovel Knight world with far more than a simple sprite-swap, and Showdown's chaotic charm relies heavily on the community's love for these knightly characters. It's incredible to think that Yacht Club Games has been working on the original game and its expansions for over half a decade, but it's clear that their skills as game developers have only gotten better and better, and whatever they move on to next will be a game worth waiting for. Best Genre Mash-Up: Creature in the Well There are actually a few notable genre mash-ups on this list, but I have to give credit to Creature in the Well for being the most inventive one. A hack 'n' slash dungeon exploration with pinball mechanics is undeniably original, and best of all it's a blast to play as well. The game combines the simple satisfaction of a pinball game with the addictive drive of a dungeon crawler, keeping you well invested in exploring every corner of the game's world. It's great to see that developers are still able to come up with such surprising and fun gameplay mechanics as Creature in the Well. The Biggest Pikachu Award: Pokémon Sword & Shield Pokémon's leap to a home console system might not have been the game-changer that fans were hoping for, but it did have some big additions. Puns aside, Pokémon Sword & Shield does add some fun new features, most notably the Wild Area which is about as close to an open-world Pokémon experience as we've seen yet and makes the Pokémon catching process feel a little more natural and free. Of course, there are also areas where Sword & Shield feel like a step back for the franchise, but there's no denying the excitement of Dynamaxing a Pokémon in the middle of a packed stadium full of cheering fans. Best Advance Wars Game: Wargroove Even though I love the Fire Emblem series and its newfound success in recent years, I can't deny that I'm sorely disappointed that developer Intelligent Systems seems to have entirely abandoned the Advance Wars franchise. Over ten years without a new game is certainly not a good sign, at any rate. So I was particularly delighted to see the similar grid-based strategy gameplay and sprite graphics of Chucklefish's Wargroove, a game that unabashedly wears its AW influence on its sleeve. That's not to say that Wargroove is merely a derivative game, though. There are plenty of unique mechanics to enjoy here, and the strategy gameplay is as wonderfully satisfying and engaging as the best that AW has to offer. Maybe we don't need a new AW title as long as Wargroove is keeping the spirit of the franchise alive. Cutest Game: Yoshi's Crafted World From Woolly to Crafted, Yoshi games can't help but be absolutely adorable. It should be little surprise, considering the franchise started with the unique crayon aesthetic of Yoshi's Island, but Yoshi's Crafted World ups the ante with an entire craft store's worth of materials to build the scenery of this adventure. The visuals are totally charming, and even if the core gameplay hasn't changed much over the years, it's still an engaging—if easy—platformer. And it makes Yoshi's adventure particularly suited to young gamers, even for a company known for making family-friendly titles. Best Card Game: SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech I couldn't have been more excited to see developer Image & Form was finally tackling a SteamWorld RPG, and the fact that combat was card-based only further piqued my imagination. After all, if there's one developer that knows how to make unusual gameplay concepts work, it's Image & Form. And I certainly wasn't disappointed. The card-based battles are wonderfully engaging and offer a wealth of strategies without being overwhelming, which makes every battle action-packed and addictive. Add in a rich RPG story—one with far more depth than any previous Image & Form title—and SteamWorld Quest becomes an absolutely unmissable Switch title for 2019. Most Stylish Game: Astral Chain If there's one thing you can say about Platinum Games titles, it's that they have style. Of course, they also have wonderfully rich combat systems that put all those stylish graphics and attacks to great use, and Astral Chain takes things one step further with its unique dual-character combat. Like so many Platinum games, the real joy of the experience is not just defeating enemies but doing it with panache, and chaining attacks between your human character and his or her Legion is wonderfully satisfying. Even if the story in Astral Chain feels a little underused, there's no denying the addictive depth of the combat system. Best Use of Music: Ape Out Note that this award isn't for best music (although the game does have a fantastic soundtrack) but specifically for use of music, because Ape Out features a brilliant "reactive music system" that essentially allows you to create your own improvised jazz number through your actions in the game. Every time you grab an enemy and throw them into a wall you're treated to a satisfying cymbal crash. As your panicked dash through the laboratory speeds up, so does the soundtrack's tempo. It's an awfully clever way of integrating the music into the gameplay, and combined with Ape Out's stylish graphics and addictive gameplay, makes the game a true standout for the year. Best Mario Luigi Game: Luigi's Mansion 3 It’s always a treat to see Luigi take center stage over his brother. Even after having an entire year dedicated to him a while ago, Luigi still manages to get stuck on balloon duty while Mario is on a globe trotting adventure. But with Luigi’s Mansion 3, the mean green machine is back in the player one seat, and this time he’s even brought along another Luigi to help him. This latest ghost-busting adventure finds a nice balance of new and old for a fun-filled adventure that is more silly than spooky—a perfect continuation of Luigi’s solo adventures. Catching ghosts and collecting cash remains as charming a game formula as ever, and this hopefully won’t be the last we see of the Poltergust. Most Delightful Crossover Game: Cadence of Hyrule I can't imagine there are many things more exciting, as a game developer, than getting the chance to work on one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. And not just work on it, but to put your own unique style and spin on it, and have the resulting combination work so beautifully. Cadence of Hyrule meshes the world and charm of Zelda with the addictive, rhythmic gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer in a way that feels totally natural and yet delightfully unique as well. The fact that the soundtracks of both franchises are brilliantly combined and remixed by composer Danny Baranowsky is just icing on the cake. It's a real treat to see a Zelda adventure through the lens of another gameplay style, and hopefully Cadence of Hyrule leads to other unique Nintendo crossovers in the future. Best Digital Toy Box: Super Mario Maker 2 How do you improve upon a creative toy box of user-generated content? Add cat suits. Super Mario Maker 2 does a fantastic job of building upon the course creation insanity of the first game with the addition of plenty of new features, including a Super Mario 3D World theme (and hopefully more themes in the future…?). It's also a real testament to how fun the essential building blocks of a Mario game are that literally anyone can come up with fun, inventive levels to play. Nintendo easily could have slapped a bit of new paint on Super Mario Maker and released it on the Switch to widespread success, so it's great to see how much effort went into making Super Mario Maker 2 feel like a worthy sequel with a wide selection of creative content. Most Satisfyingly Difficult Game: Cuphead Forget the dark and horrific scenery and monsters of games like Dark Souls—the best setting for an incredibly difficult game is clearly 1930s animation. The rest of the world may have been enjoying (and tearing their hair out about) Cuphead for a couple of years now, but Switch fans have only recently had a chance to die hundreds of times in an attempt to fight an overgrown flower. What Cuphead does so well though is keeping the experience fun and engaging even when it is so challenging. The gorgeous animation and audio is a big part of that, but regardless, Cuphead makes super-difficult boss fights incredibly fun—and, of course, incredibly satisfying once you finally beat them. Best Surprise: Collection of Mana Seiken Densetsu 3: one of the white whales of gaming localization, an SNES RPG that never made it outside of Japan, despite, seemingly, the strong success of its predecessor, Secret of Mana. Well, it may have taken over twenty years, but fans finally got the chance to experience the game (now called Trials of Mana) as part of the Collection of Mana, a must-have Switch game for fans of classic action-RPGs. To finally get the chance to play Trials of Mana in a properly localized English version was easily a highlight of this year's E3. And who knows, maybe we'll soon finally see a localization for another popular third entry in a classic RPG franchise… Most Immersive Game: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Horror games only really work when you allow yourself to be immersed in the setting. You can't just be a passive participant, otherwise the scares and atmosphere won't have any impact. You have to put yourself into the mind of the main character, and never has that been more appropriate than with Senua, whose head is already filled with other presences. When you fully immerse yourself into the setting and story of Hellblade, the effect is a truly unique gaming experience thanks to the incredible care and detail that the developers put into building an adventure around someone suffering from psychosis. It's an unparalleled experience. Best Psychedelic Rhythm Game: Sayonara Wild Hearts It's so much easier to get drawn in by a rhythm game that uses songs you already know since the game can use the emotional investment you already have to keep you engaged with the gameplay. So it's particularly impressive that Sayonara Wild Hearts, with its original soundtrack, can create such a deeply mesmerizing experience that keeps the songs in your head for days. That's not even to mention the fact that the game is so short, and yet still manages to pack so much energy and soul into its delightfully surreal visuals and infectious music. It's easily one of the most unique games of the year, not just in terms of its style and aesthetic but in the way it connects to the player through an interactive emotional journey, and that easily makes it a must-play title for the Switch. Best Goose Game: Untitled Goose Game Maybe the more appropriate award for this one would be "Most Meme-able Game," since it seems like half of Untitled Goose Game's appeal is in its widespread internet popularity. But even without the incredible amount of memes and jokes surrounding the goose, this is a ridiculously charming and charmingly ridiculous take on stealth gameplay, one that has you mildly annoying and inconveniencing people instead of murdering rooms full of guards. It's also a perfect example of the fact that you don't need exhaustive gameplay mechanics if you've got personality. Honk. The "Punk's Not Dead" Award: Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Travis Strikes Again probably wasn't what people really expected in a new No More Heroes game, but there's no denying that it has Suda51's distinct sense of style. Off-kilter characters, 4th wall breaking meta humor, and one incredibly bizarre premise for a story ensure Travis Strikes Again has all the flavor of a No More Heroes title, even if the gameplay has traded third-person action for top-down hack'n'slash combat. Perhaps more importantly for some fans though, this game ensures that the No More Heroes series isn't dead yet, and we can look forward to another adventure through the garden of madness next year. Best Remake: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening This version of Link's Awakening definitely gives Yoshi's Crafted World a run for its money on the Cutest Game award, but the best aspect is probably just that this is a fantastic remake of a classic game. The core experience is perfectly preserved, but there's enough new content to make the adventure still feel fresh. Plus there are some invaluable adjustments like making certain items always equipped that just makes the flow of the game smoother. The game's strikingly cute visual style may be the first thing to jump out at players when starting up Link's Awakening, but it's the classic Zelda gameplay and quietly heartfelt story that leave the real impact. Most Confounding Puzzle Game: Baba Is You You know that feeling when you've been stumped by a particularly tricky puzzle, and then eventually something clicks in your mind, the pieces fall into place, and you're left with an eminently satisfying sense of accomplishment? That's basically every level of Baba Is You, an almost maddeningly complex puzzle game that has you rewriting the rules of the game in order to reach the goal. Pushing words around allows you to make walls no obstacle at all, or turn deadly lava into a harmless splotch of color. Baba Is You is incredibly clever, so clever that you'll often be tearing your hair out trying to find a solution. But when you do, that's when Baba is best. Game of the Year 2019: Fire Emblem: Three Houses I know, I know, I'm a big Fire Emblem fan so it's not much of a surprise that this would be my pick for Game of the Year. But Three Houses isn't skating by simply on its name. This is a massive game, and one that proves to be wonderfully addictive from the first minute to the last. The huge emphasis on interacting with characters outside of battle is something of a logical progression for the series, even if it does seem a little strange at first to spend so much time not actually fighting. But the huge cast of likeable characters quickly alleviates that feeling, and you'll find yourself invested in these characters' backstories and interactions, from the comical to the dramatic. The core combat system features only minor changes, but there's no need to fix what isn't broken, and instead Three Houses simply refines the addictive combat mechanics that make Fire Emblem so engaging playthrough after playthrough (particularly appropriate here, with three different paths available). Strategy RPGs may not be for everyone, but when they're this good everyone should at least give Three Houses a try—you might end up addicted to a 100+ hour game like me.
  14. I'm terrible at picking a single game for things like this so I'm going to cheat a little bit and include a runner-up each year: 2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Red Dead Redemption) 2011: Batman Arkham City (Mass Effect 2) 2012: Xenoblade Chronicles (The Last Story) 2013: Fire Emblem Awakening (Bioshock Infinite) 2014: Bravely Default (Dragon Age: Inquisition) 2015: The Witcher 3 (Xenoblade Chronicles X) 2016: Overwatch (Fire Emblem Fates) 2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Super Mario Odyssey) 2018: Octopath Traveler (Marvel's Spider-Man) Spoiler for my GOTY picks coming Monday! 2019: Fire Emblem Three Houses (yeah you probably already knew this one) (Dragon Quest XI S) Game of the Decade is even harder to decide! I guess I'll have to go with Breath of the Wild.
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