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Top ten lists in theory should be easy to write. You simply pick ten things and write about 'em. But I had a far tougher time planning this blog than I should have. Part of it was because I enjoyed 2016 far more than a lot of the doom n' gloom preachers seen across social media. Part of it was because plenty of Game Informer members have already wrote lists on their favorite games from 2016, and mine will inevitably have overlap with them. But mostly, it's because 2016 was simply an outstanding year for video game software in general. No matter your preferred video game genres, there was likely at least one release last year that really appealed to your taste. Well, unless your platform of choice was the Wii U or Vita, but that's a topic for another day...
Final Fantasy is truly a special and bold video game series. While it has stumbled a bit over the course of its 30 year history, its willingness to create a new universe, cast, style of gameplay, and story theme with each new installment is nothing short of admirable. While there are a handful of direct sequels and and spin-offs that cash in on the popularity of some of its characters, for the most part Final Fantasy always demonstrates a desire to try something new with each new main installment, and in an industry full of derivative sequels that's a wonderful thing, and as a result, a lot of people attribute a different Final Fantasy game to being their favorite.
Video games have come very far from their humble origins. They're no longer merely a means of mindlessly spending a few minutes pursuing a high score and gobbling up quarter after quarter from players (though with the advent of microtransactions, that second part is debatable). Like many other fictional mediums, for some, they've become a powerful bonding tool, an adhesive that can bring people together across any kind of divide. For Corey Austen, video games, particularly The Legend of Zelda series, were a passion shared with his younger brother Matt, and a media through which the two could embark on exciting adventures together and create memories they wouldn't soon forget.If you frequent Game Informer, Mr. Austen's name is one that may sound a bit familiar. This past September, he was part of a ragtag team of streamers who managed to raise a whooping $5,000 for SUDEP research while playing numerous entries of The Legend of Zelda series. SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy), is a phenomenon that the medical community still knows little about, and is a dangerous side effect to epilepsy that many, even some who are epileptic themselves, don't even know exists. To this end, Mr. Austen's stream was effective in both raising money and awareness for this tragic and largely unknown facet of epilepsy.
Pokemon, like many Nintendo franchises, is fairly comfortable adhering to the same established formula with each new release. While the games are of consistently high quality, they all follow a paint by numbers gameplay model; you assume the role of a 10 year old novice Pokemon trainer, choose a starter Pokemon, travel across a region, defeat the Pokemon teams of other like minded trainers and Gym Leaders, until you finally challenge the Pokemon League and become the strongest trainer in your region. The only difference between each Pokemon release then, is the region or setting it takes place in, and the available Pokemon that you can catch.It's a formula that gets the job done, but many Pokemon fans have traveled this road time and time again and yearn for something a bit different With Pokemon Sun and Moon looking to adhere to the established mold rather than break from it, some have given up hope on a traditional Pokemon game that experiments with the beloved series formula a bit.
In recent years, Naughty Dog, the developer once famous for creating colorful 3D platfomers starring furries...er, bipedal animal protagonists, has become famous for another strength - crafting layered, nuanced, and believable characters and character interactions. In both the Uncharted franchise and their newer IP The Last of Us, Naughty Dog has crafted characters that defy many of the tropes they originally seem to embody and mastered the art of realistic character dialogue and banter that does wonders to making each face gracing the screen feel like a living person.
Over the past twenty years, Pokemon has added more and more critters to its ever expanding roster. Much to the chagrin of some older fans, what was once a reasonable roster of 151 monsters now extends well over 700, with even more set to debut on the scene later this year with the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon. "Catching 'em all!" is certainly harder now than it ever was before. However, among those hundreds and hundreds of monsters to collect, a select few are the ones that often get brought up the most during discussions and debates about the series.I'm talking about the starter Pokemon.Through the years, many loyal fans have written about the importance of the starter Pokemon in an individual's experience with the games. No matter which game in the series you're playing, you have a choice at the very beginning of the adventure as to which of three Pokemon you want to begin building your party with. Once you choose one, it's impossible to obtain the other two unless you trade with someone else who chose differently. This means that not only is the starter Pokemon you choose the beginning of your ever-growing team of friends to train for battle, but they have a personal connection to the player because you yourself chose them, often over two other equally appealing Pokemon.
As the Wii U continues to ride off into the sunset and the NX ever looms on the horizon, owners of the current Nintendo console struggle to find uses for it through 2016. With Star Fox: Zero turning out to be a potential disappointment that crashed and burned for some, many Wii U owners will likely turn to the tried-and-true online titles that the system has graced us with the past few years, While the Wii U has been light on game releases since it launched, standout online titles like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Splatoon, and most recently, Super Mario Maker have ensured that my system does have its power button hit from time to time in my homes.It's the most recent of these titles that has seen the most use in my household though. In my best games of 2015 blog, I pointed out that thinks to theoretically providing a limitless amount of new 2D Mario levels to play, my Super Mario Maker disc has found an almost permanent home within my Wii U. This still hasn't changed; the beauty of Mario Maker is that levels are relatively simple to create (obvious, shameless plug - here are the mediocre levels I made!) , and the community itself is simply ingenious. While there are some obnoxious trends within the (literally) millions of Mario Maker levels out in the wild (such as auto-playing levels that require no player input), there are also some very ambitious ideas among them as well.
One would think that in an age where electronics and digital media reign supreme and people yearn for darker and more complicated narratives that superheroes, once confined to print and one-dimensional tales, would be a dying breed. Those people would be wrong.If anything for a variety of reasons, Marvel and DC's beloved heroes and villains have soared to newfound levels of popularity in recent years. In the case of Marvel, it's largely due to a succession of quality superhero films with stunning special effects and gripping character performances in a film industry that is otherwise suffering from a drought of great movies. Of course, the fact that Disney, one of the wealthiest mega-corporations of all time purchased them helps too... On the other hand, while Bats and Supes are the only DC heroes that enjoy widespread mainstream popularity, fantastic films like the Dark Knight trilogy, some entertaining and campy television shows, and a wealth of new stories and animated movies have helped age-old mascots like Batman and Superman and more continue to be household names for years to come.
From the day it was announced that Fire Emblem Fates would be divided into two separate games, I was torn. Not because I found structuring the game this way to be a "cash grab" or a means to milk consumer's wallets; in fact, I actually relished in the potential the business model had for both the Fire Emblem series, and other Nintendo franchises as well. Each game was offered as a full experience, and playing through both meant getting to see two sides of a complex conflict, each from a unique perspective.
One of the most common and legitimate criticisms against Nintendo's modern business practices is that the company is sitting on a treasure trove of beloved franchises and IPs that haven't had a new installment in years despite the fan demand for them. In scouring the webs, it's fairly easy to find articles, social media rants, Youtube comments and the like demanding Nintendo publish a new F-Zero title, release a "true" Metroid game, or finally create a sequel to Startropics!...Okay, maybe not that last one.Still, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Nintendo has grown increasingly reliant on its three most popular franchises, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon, at the expense of some of their less successful, but equally loved IPs. Yet strangely enough, amidst all this fan demand for the revival of old game franchises, there's one series on the decline that's seldom talked about.Warioware.
Of all the video game characters in existence, Mario is perhaps the most versatile of the bunch. He is essentially the Mickey Mouse of the gaming industry, in that he can be thrown into just about any scenario, and it somehow won't feel out of place. In his 30 plus years of starring in games, Mario has run across ceilings in gravity defying platformers, explored the gut of his arch-nemesis, impersonated a doctor studied hard for his Ph. D., hosted parties and golf matches, and so much more!
Last September, what can be presumed to be the last Metal Gear game to ever be made arrived on store shelves, concluding the story of a series 28 years in the making. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain differed from all of its predecessors though, in that it focused more on having smooth, intuitive and flexible gameplay in an open world than having a compelling narrative. The Metal Gear Solid franchise is infamous for having cutscenes that last over 30 minutes and beat players over the head with story revelations, but The Phantom Pain forgoes much of that in exchange for compelling gameplay.