Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jester's Top 5 Wii U Games for 2015

December ending signals everything from Christmas cheer to New Year's parties and even more than that. it mean top five and top ten lists.  So why not kick things off with my picks for top 5 Wii U games of 2015!!!

Okay, yeah, it's going to be mainly centered around Wii U, but that's how it goes when you only have one current gen system. Trust me though, if you don't already have a Wii U system, these are the games that should make you rush out and grab one immediately.

#5:  Runbow

As soon as I turned the game on, from the music alone, I knew the design team had gotten things right. It was fast, it was energetic, and it promised a rollicking good time--and Runbow absolutely delivers. Fantastic music, energetic game-play, and a satisfying and solid online experience are just the starting highlights of Runbow. I've been a fan of the runner genre since the Bit.Trip series, and any time a variation or new entry into this genre pops up, I have to give it a try.  Some I've liked, some I've hated, but Runbow I absolutely love.

You run along in a mad dash to get to the end of the level before your opponents. Fall behind or into a trap and you're out.  But the traps and pits aren't the only hazard.  As you run along, a swoop of varying colors fills the screen, altering the landscape in its wake. Jumping across a pit via orange blocks just as a swoop of orange fills the screen? Those blocks get lost in the background and your character drops to his death.

With an absolutely huge cast of characters to choose from (you can race as Shovel Knight!), more characters to unlock, and a host of downloadable characters across various properties; you aren't limited to the luchador looking fellow from the main screen art.  I haven't even covered Behemoth play; which is the near endless challenge mode that sees how long you play/race for before you tap out. If you find yourself liking a racing challenge but don't want the typical kart or car to zoom along in, then this game is the game for you.

Whether you're into runner games or not, this game is a must have from the eShop, that's about as simple as I can put it.

#4:  Yoshi's Woolly World

Pretty much everything about Yoshi's Woolly World I can sum up in the following way:

With dozens of Yoshis to find, numerous worlds to explore for hours on end, and hundreds upon hundreds of things to collect; Yoshi's Woolly World offers a fantastic blend of cheer and chagrin. The mechanics of gobbling enemies and popping (pooping?) out eggs is a familiar one by now.  Even hitting a smiling block to get the instructions on how to fire eggs and ground pound feel like a visit from an old friend.  Another "old friend" that pays a visit is the encouragement of a little OCD (Obsessive Completion Disorder). 

I found myself trying levels again and again just to 100% them levels even after beating them and getting all the yarn spools needed to assemble the Yoshi hidden in any particular level.  Miss a flower?  Better play again and find it! Take a few hits mid-level? Better try harder to not get hit next time.  But despite needing to start over and over again, I never once got to the point that I didn't want to try again. "Yoshi" has peppy music, great control, and an addictive quality about it that had me losing hours.  

For an adorable game about exploring a world of yarn and fluff, Yoshi's Woolly World has a nice mixture of making you grin happily at the sweetness of it all sometimes while at the same time making you want to scream in frustration as you get oh-so-close to getting 100% completion...only to take a bit of damage at the last second and end with a 99%.  You won't leave swearing though. After all, that might hurt the Yoshis' feelings.

#3:  Fatal Frame Maiden of Dark Water

I was never a fan of the Resident Evil series.  I've tried time and time again to get into it,and never really have. So when I heard that Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water was coming out, this time to the Wii U, I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to try it out, as I had come to the conclusion that survival horror just wasn't my thing.  However, when I found out that you could try the first level/story arc for free, I figured I may as well give it a shot.  I am so, so glad I did.

Fatal Frame boasts  a wonderfully unsettling atmosphere, great story-line, ambient music that doesn't over-sell the creep factor, and jump-scares that feel legitimately terrifying rather than a cheap way of startling you. Ordinarily I don't like getting scared from a game, but in Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water's case I'll make an exception because it's so beautifully done. It deftly uses the Wii U pad in a way that few other games do.  I loved using the pad as a camera in order to exorcise ghosts. I loved the sense of dread that crept over me as I explored the mist ridden forest. I loved knowing that as my character was getting wetter and wetter from the falling rain I was more likely to be attacked by spirits--and there was nothing I could do about it except prepare to "fight" them with my camera.  

If you're like me and not really a fan of the horror genre, perhaps Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water was the game you were waiting for all this time and just didn't know it.  For a game in a genre I don't normally like to even rank on a list with me is an accomplishment, let alone the #3 spot over cute and cuddly Yoshis. I want to play this game more. I want to see how the story ends, even if it means having to fight against my own fear to do so.

#2:  Mario Maker

Minecraft, Shmimecraft--gimme Super Mario Maker!  Seriously though, what can I say about this sandbox game that everyone else on the planet hasn't already said?  If you ever thought you could do better designing a Mario level, or thought you had a great idea for one, or just wondered how funny it would be to face off against two Bowsers at the end of a level--this game was made for you. 

You are the master game-level designer as you don't so much just play the game as you design it.  One of the great things about the game is that it doesn't just throw you into the thick of it by giving you all available options once you start up.  You can't just start slapping together that level with double Bowsers.  You have to earn extra icons, power ups, enemies, and other items by putting in the time and you earn them as you progress and design levels with the basic tools given at the start.  Herein lies a great deal of the genius of the game. It teaches you how to create the levels by limiting you, forcing you to get the basics of game level design before progressing with more complicated elements.  I always loved a well designed level in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, and getting the opportunity to design my own level makes me appreciate those levels all the more.  

Little wonder that this game has been winning awards left and right.  Takashi Tezuka, Mario series co-creator himself was even surprised at the level of creativity and inventiveness that has been spawned online by users.  I don't know how or even if the creative team from Super Mario Bros can top this game in the Mario universe, but it'll be interesting to see them try.  


Blisters are forming on the palm of my hand, my thumb, and several fingers are on my hands as I type this. Why? Because I lost another night's sleep playing what I consider the best game of 2015.  Turning the typical online multiplayer shooter on it's head, Splatoon has me fully hooked. I've always steered clear of the online multiplayer shooters, having long ago felt left in the dust when Halo and Call of Duty were just coming into their own. In fact, I would go so far as to say that seeing a parade of similar grey-wolrd, cover-based shooters pop out for the Xbox and Playstation systems has kept me the steadfast Nintendo fan that I am. So when Nintendo first announced Splatoon, I was intrigued that they were doing something that I normally shunned.

Nintendo hadn't really had a new IP in years, and mutiplayer shooter seemed an odd direction for them to take, but not too surprising as every other console maker had been popping them out for years.  At first I was largely ambivalent to the idea, maybe even a little disappointed that Nintendo had decided to hop into this particular corner of the market. However, as the "global test fire" neared, my interest built to the point that I made sure I was free to take the time and participate in this unique, worldwide demo.  Little did I know that I was already hooked after that first time.  When they announced a second test fire/demo, I had errands to run that day. But as soon as they were complete, I raced home and enthusiastically played the last 20 minutes of the second world-wide demo.

The basic premise of the game?  You are an inkling, a tween-age squid-kid hybrid who obsesses about fashion, fun, and endless games of paintball.  You can chose from various head, body, and footwear that offer different abilities which come in handy during the battles. Though there are an ever-growing number of stages available, only four stages available during each time block.  Two for the regular "cover the arena in ink" battle and two other stages for ranked battles which range from a capture the flag type game, to cover certain zones, to a "tower-ride" battle.  What sets Splatoon apart, aside from the characters and color, is that rather than the objective being to rack up kills, you need to cover a greater percentage of the stage than the opposing team, or "bad guys," as they are called. (Naturally, your own team is always the good guys).  This is where the success of the game really lies.  Why pop in one of the dozens of Call of Duty clones, or Call of Duty itself when you can break free from the normal bleak, gritty cover-based-shooting and enter a world full of breath-taking color and shine?  Not to mention the fact that content for the game, FREE content, from new stages, weapons, and gear are being added at a fairly regular rate.

Before I start prattling on much more, I will mention I've already written a fairly extensive review of Splatoon and still have nothing but praise for the game. In fact, if I were to say anything new, I would have to add that the music I dismissed as passable in my original review has come to grow on me. I was only mildly interested in the tunes early on, but nowadays I find myself absentmindedly whistling them and rocking along as the music plays.  Even the main theme seems as familiar to me these days as the title track of a Mario Bros or Zelda game.

Even without a new Zelda, new Star Fox, and who knows what else on the horizon, Splatoon alone deserves to move Wii U systems out retailers' doors.

So what didn't quite make the list?

Honorable Mentions:

Human Resource Machine

Good gravy I wish I knew how to do computer programming, I think I would enjoy this game more if I did. Still, I had a fun enough time watching my wife play and the gang at Tomorrow Corporation have done it again blending great game-play, unique game design, and sublime storytelling. It would have made my top five easily, but I feel like I need to actually be able to play the game for it to get there. Still, it was fun for the few levels I could manage before my more math/computer programmer minded wife need to step in and basically play the game for me in order to beat it. Still, it deserves props for making my wife enthusiastically play a game from start to finish. I don't know if she's ever done that before...

FAST racing NEO

This is very nearly the F-Zero game I've been waiting for--Nay that world has been waiting for. With glorious 60fps, a techno soundtrack, dozens of courses, several different vehicles to fly/drive, and even an online mode--I truly enjoyed this late 2015 entry.  I love logging on and racing, I love the smooth and responsive controls, I love the fact that a tiny slip up can send you exploding down the track with little hope of catching up unless your opponents make the same mistake or worse (challenge is a good thing people).  What I don't love though is that there seem to be glitches in online/multiplayer mode that cause everything from players in the "race friends" mode getting dropped to my Wii U outright freezing and needing a reboot. If it weren't for this the game might have nabbed the #5 spot. Maybe an update will fix issues or add more racers, but as it stands it needs "one more rewrite" as my dad likes to say.


The only thing edging this great little shooter out of the top 5 comes from the fact that despite it reminding me of Robotron, one of my favorite arcade games of all time, it has a little too much going on during on screen action. I enjoy the music, the power-ups, and the fast and furious game-play. However, I wish the color of your gunfire and the color of an enemy death were a bit varied. As the levels get higher and the game harder, I found myself dodging unnecessarily or unwittingly running into enemy fire. I lose a chunk of evening every time I turn it on, but ultimately put it down in frustration when I die time and time again thanks to a minor graphical oddity.

So, there's my list of top Wii U games of 2015. I hope and expect to see a few well known franchises on this list in the future (crosses finger for Legend of Zelda greatness) and some unexpected surprises, though it will be hard to top getting me to like an online multiplayer shooter and a survival horror game.  Here's looking forward to an awesome 2016!

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