Following the poceedings at the 2014 Video Game Awards, I have been very excited to announce my own award ceremony for the blog. 2014 has been an exceptional year for video gaming, with the release of so many great titles, and the launch of many exciting new IPs and the firm establishment of the industry’s transcendence into the eighth generation of the medium. With the Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now on the market, as well as the many handhelds, microconsoles and PC game streaming services elevating the industry to greater heights than it has ever been before, this year has been an exhilarating insight into how far video gaming has come, as well as where it possibly could go in the near future. To have gotten involved in it as much as I have done myself in 2014 by starting up the blog and making my views and opinions about video games heard across the internet, reaching out to so many people and receiving the opportunity to work with YouTube personalities, reviewers and even developers themselves, has been nothing short of incredible, and I am looking forward to continuing doing what I love doing in 2015 and beyond. But without further ado, this week’s article will be a look back into what I believe to be the very best of what 2014 had to offer, and the categories of which these game excelled in better than any other.
Best RPG of 2014
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor, although not without its influences, is unlike most other RPGs I have ever played, introducing the revolutionary nemesis system, which in itself has opened up a plethora of new content to be added to the game in the near future, whilst also combining elements from some of my favourite games of all time, including Assassin’s Creed II and Batman: Arkham City. In the wake of the recent success of many licensed games over the past five years or so, Shadow of Mordor gives testament to the fact that if the source material is well respected, and the gameplay is well thought out and intensified to boot, then licensed games need not be titles that are simply rushed out to retail to coincide with a much bigger event concerning the brand, and that they instead can be an immersing gaming experience like no other. Congratulations to the developers at Monolith Productions, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what plans they have to take the industry by storm even further.
Best Racing Game of 2014
Mario Kart 8
For me, there was no contest concerning this award. Although the Wii U has been lagging compared to both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, games like Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors say to me that Nintendo are not shy about taking their longest running franchises into new and exciting directions; and in Mario Kart 8, there have been many directions taken by both the developers and the players. From anti-gravity sequences to a blend of new intricately designed courses to re-hashes of retro tracks across the rest of the series, Mario Kart 8 to me, has provided a gaming experience that the developers of racers such as Forza, Driveclub and The Crew could only dream about. No matter how similarly they may play out from one another, the Mario Kart games have still been able to excel in terms of gameplay higher than any other racing game ever developed, and for that, I offer my congratulations to Nintendo EAD Group No. 1 for making these experiences possible, and keeping fresh the most successful spin-off series in video gaming history.
Best Retro Game Reviewed in 2014
Having been from Europe, and never being given the chance to play this wonderful game when it was released back in 1995, I feel privileged to have tried this gem of a game for the first time this year, and commend the legendary Shigesato Itoi for his critically acclaimed masterpiece EarthBound. At the time taking players on a fascinating trip through an RPG in a modern world, deviating away from the typical fantasy of sci-fi setting made synonymous with the genre, EarthBound offered a very different gaming experience unlike anything that had ever been seen before, which still very much holds up to this day. Though much to my dismay, the series has featured less and less throughout Nintendo consoles over the years, with series protagonists Ness and Lucas only appearing in the Super Smash Bros franchise, EarthBound, also named Mother 2, has left an extremely lasting impression on gamers around the world, and has gone on to influence many of Nintendo’s most prominent franchises today, including Pokémon. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Shigesato Itoi, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata who worked on the game at the time, and the team at HAL Laboratory for their efforts, and wish Nintendo the very best of luck in 2015 and beyond.
Best Arcade Game of 2014
Pix the Cat
As the media transcends further and further from a casual or niche interest into something that is becoming accepted by more and more people as mainstream entertainment, and even as a valid art form, it can also be very stimulating to be shown that things can indeed be taken back to basics, and still appeal to not only the older generation with an appreciation for their routes, but to a younger generation who wish to experience an example of how games in the industry were tailored back when the medium was very much in its infancy. To me, the best example of this to have come along in 2014 is Pix the Cat; a game blending mechanics with the classic Pac-Man and the old mobile phone fan favourite, Snake. With loud visuals and addictive gameplay to appeal to both old-school and newer gamers, I was personally thrown by how excellent a retro experience Pix The Cat is, given how much industry standards have changed over the last thirty years, and for that I would like to congratulate Pasta Games for achieving this award, and I hope to see even more of Pix the Cat and other possible arcade game franchises in the future.
Best Video Game Soundtrack of 2014
Child of Light
Made with a modified version of the engine currently being used for Ubisoft’s Rayman franchise, telling a beautiful and fascinating coming-of-age story reminiscent of the many great works of Hayao Miyazaki and modifying the turn-based RPG formula into something truly incredible, Child of Light has been one of my favourite video games released in 2014, but the game’s soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal compared to most other video game soundtracks I have ever heard. Purely orchestral and changing in tone with the tone of the happening of the game, Child of Light’s soundtrack adds to the title’s atmosphere in a way that not many other video games have done, comparable to some of the great composers in video games, such as Koji Kondo, Kow Otani, Dave Wise and Nobuo Uematsu. Destiny may have won the award for best soundtrack at the 2014 Game Awards, but to me, that was doing the soundtrack of Child of Light a great injustice, and I would like to congratulate Ubisoft Montreal, as well as the game’s composer Coeur de Pirate for their work on bringing this magnificent title to life, and to TV screens across the world, establishing how wonderful an art form video gaming can truly be.
Best Shooter of 2014
Launched by Halo’s original developers Bungie Software, and going on to enjoy the most successful launch period of any IP in video gaming, Destiny, although coming short on story in my opinion, still offers a very enjoyable and intense first-person shooting experience excelling that of the likes of some of the longer running first-person shooting franchises today, such as Call of Duty, Battlefield or Medal of Honour. Destiny was one of the most highly anticipated games of the eighth generation since back when it was showcased along with the announcement of the PlayStation 4 in February of last year, and I think it has certainly delivered one of the best gaming experiences on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One so far. I do think there will be a lot of work to be done if Bungie want to take the next step to take the franchise to even further heights in the future, but the first game was most definitely a very worthy starting point, and an excellent gaming experience, and I would like to congratulate Bungie Software for delivering what was a very tall and highly anticipated order.
Best Indie game of 2014
Chronicles of a Dark Lord Episode II: War of the Abyss
Ever since the release of Minecraft, and since the game has made the transcendence from being a simple shareware title to taking its place in pop culture and becoming one of the best selling video games of all time, the indie video game development scene is stronger and more popular now than it has ever been, with a plethora and aspiring new developers and companies looking to bring their games to wider and mainstream audiences, and showing people that they don’t necessarily have to have cutting edge graphics, but that the most important aspect should be the gameplay, which I thoroughly concur with. In my opinion, no other indie game released this year has perpetuated that better than Kisareth Studio’s second game in the Chronicles of a Dark Lord franchise; War of the Abyss. Hearkening back to the classic turn-based RPG formula synonymous with the likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, games like CoaDL II have been like a breath of fresh air to me, since I first feared that this style of play was going out of fashion, and that no one wanted to play those kinds of games anymore. But thankfully, with this game, along with both Child of Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth, the formula has been kept very much alive, and I would like to congratulate Kisareth studios, and thank their CEO Tanya Lee Botelho for her efforts, as well as appearing on the blog with our Q&A. 2014 has been a more successful year for the blog than I could have possibly anticipated, and I have people like Tanya to thank for making what I’ve been that much more enjoyable.
Game of the Year 2014
InFamous: Second Son
Early on in a generation, some exceptional titles come along, and become system sellers in their own right. They either perpetuate new ideas of what video games should be, or excel better than any other what we already perceive as being a great video game. They set the tone for how exciting a new generation can be, and what consoles are worth buying and sinking your teeth into. Sucker Punch Productions took their InFamous series to new heights with the release on Second Son, introducing new settings, new powers, new abilities, new gameplay mechanics, new side quests, new stories, and of course, a new hero/villain in Delsin Rowe. InFamous was the whole reason why I decided to align with the PlayStation 4 over the Xbox One in the first place; it spelled out to me how committed Sony were to bringing new and exciting gaming experiences to living rooms around the world with PlayStation 4, and how they wish to continue to do so throughout the shelf life of their latest home console. Ever since I first played the game at the lock-in event earlier in the year, I had inkling that this game would be a classic, and I was not disappointed when I finally got my hands on the finished product. 2014 has been a highly successful year for Sony and the PlayStation 4, and it is my hope that they can continue to deliver gaming experiences on the same level of excitement and immersion as InFamous: Second Son. I would like to congratulate Sucker Punch Productions, and I am honoured to bestow upon InFamous Second Son the first annual SG88 award for game of the year 2014.