This was one of the strongest console launches I can ever remember. For a first-year, Nintendo pumped out some fantastic games, as well as the strongest third-party support they have had in a decade. The system still has room to grow, but so far it’s impressive.
The Switch had a good year but was mostly filled with more ports and remasters, and Octopath shows Square still love Nintendo and can make amazing RPGs. While the game still feels old-school, there’s enough story and great characters to keep you hooked for hours.
This is one award you do not want. Many games can be disappointing due to development hell, or just a lack of inspiration. Many AAA titles and beloved franchises have fallen to disappointing depths for many a reason. While many people may agree there were other disappointing games this year, to me they weren’t depression worthy of how utterly horrid they were.
Star Wars Battlefront II
Out of all the sickeningly disappointing games this year, this one takes the cake. The game plays well, looks amazing, and is everything we wanted in the sequel, but EA decided to lock away new characters and introduce criminal worthy progression systems to unlock these characters with hours of unnecessary grinding. While these have been patched out, releasing a game thinking this is OK at all is a shame and not what gaming is about.
I can’t believe this series had gone on for this long. It was a super fun game back on the Nintendo 64 and continues to be so. The great thing about Mario Party is that it doesn’t fix what’s not broken. People love this game for the competitive nature and the super fun mini-games. Mario Party 9’s mini-games are pretty solid and some of the best yet, it just lacks content.
The game consists of about 7 boards, but instead of everyone moving around individually you’re all stuck in a vehicle. This makes things fun because you are all heading in the same direction and one person can decide everyone’s fate. The boards are fun and offer a lot of variety. Bowser’s Space Station has a jackpot and jackpot spaces. If you land on a mini-star space it adds to the jackpot. If the jackpot reaches 20 mini-stars a mini-game is thrown at you to determine who gets them. There are mini-bosses in each level, traps, hazards, and other fun things on each board. Blooper Beach has two islands that consist of negative stars and mini-stars. You are stuck on this 6 space island until someone lands on the space to get out. Everyone loses stars or gains them until that happens. This is what I mean about one person can decide someone’s fate. It’s like going on an adventure together and you have to stick together.
However, I wish there were some other boards that allowed individual movement. You can unlock new vehicles with points in the museum, but there’s just not enough variety here. The great thing about having so few boards is that when you memorize them things get challenging and you can get really good and have an advantage over your player. With everyone staying together the person’s whose turn it is is captain. There are captain event spaces where that person gets to choose who moves during the board mini-game. It’s really a lot like Monopoly where one person will be way ahead, and then suddenly lose at the end. That’s so great about everyone sticking together, but it does have downsides.
The mini-games are the best part of Mario Party and there is a lot here. They all use the Wiimote in a unique way and each is different and a blast. Unlike other Mario Party mini-games, very few are unbalanced here. Everyone has a fair advantage and most require actual skill thanks to the Wiimote’s design. Some games have you tapping buttons really fast, shaking, pinching and grabbing stuff, carefully tilting things around, and many others. Some Bowser boss fights get really fun and challenging where everyone has to work together sometimes, then against each other during other times. One mini-game has Bowser throwing dice onto the platform. Each side has a player’s face, but one side has Bowser’s. You want your face to show up the most, but not Bowser’s. You have to decide to work together or against each other in order to get the most attack points.
A real big let down is that there’s no online play. This game is really only fun with other people and is completely boring by yourself. It’s great to relax with, but the AI is usually cheap and not fun to play mini-games against. I also wish there were other characters, boards, and more extras for the $50 price tag. The graphics look great, there’s just a lot of aliasing which is to expect with the ancient Wii hardware. If you have a lot of friends who you play games with at home, this is a must-have.
Wii had a very rough year with just a few console exclusives. With the WiiU out now, this may be the last year we see Wii with its own award category. The few games that were out for the Wii only were pretty strong, but I think the winner is obvious.
When a company breaks JRPG cliches and formulas you will get every RPG fan’s attention. Xenoblade has an awesome combat system, great characters, and story, plus it looks great. We need more JRPG developers following Xenoblade‘s footsteps. This is by far one of the best Wii games this year, and best on the console, period.