Shadow’s Six: The Best Games of 2014

We’re entering December… which means it’s time to count down the best games of 2014. This will cover anything from November of last year to the end of October of this year. That means that this will be the first of these lists to include the Playstation 4! Will any of its best make the cut?

There have been a lot of very hyped and very eagerly anticipated releases. And this has been an incredibly difficult year to evaluate. So many extremely fun experiences. But I won’t make you wait any longer… it’s time to unveil my top 6 games of 2014.

6) Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

Atelier Escha & Logy is the most recent in the long-running Atelier series, and the second game of the Dusk trilogy within the Atelier series. It is clear to see the care with which they’ve made this game when you play it… and while it does suffer from a few pretty annoying flaws, the game’s successes are so noteworthy that Atelier Escha & Logy deserves a place among the best this year has to offer.

The core of the series is its crafting, and it’s been amazing to watch as they’ve come ever closer to a ‘perfect’ crafting system. I think they’ve reached it with this game, I cannot think of anything left for them to work on. Add to that the game’s absolutely stellar soundtrack, intriguing and dynamic turn-based combat system, and relatively solid characters and you’ve got a recipe for success here.

5) Resogun

If you’d told me a few years back that I’d be putting a twin-stick sidescrolling shooter on a best of the year list, I’d probably have looked at you a little strangely. While I’ve never had anything against this genre, they’ve never been my favourites. There have been several, like Super Stardust HD, that I’ve enjoyed… but Resogun is the first one to really work its way into my heart.

The gameplay is approachable but difficult with an amazing difficulty curve that keeps the game just at the edge of your limits and offers just the right amount of challenge. The controls are absolutely flawless and it showcased the PS4 controller in such an amazing way. It just did so much right, and created such a cohesive and satisfying experience. Truly a game worthy of accolades.

What amused me is that, for a long time… this downloadable game – that I got free at launch with my PS4 – was the game that made me feel the purchase was worth it. It was a long time before that changed, but the fact that this game is the one I think of when you say ‘Playstation 4’ to me is reason enough for it to be worthy of this list.

4) Ys: Memories of Celceta

When I picked up Ys: Memories of Celceta for my PS Vita this year, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d seen some footage of the game, and had some vague ideas of what I was getting into… but I was not prepared for how engaging and exciting an experience this game would turn out to be.

It had been years – since Darksiders 2 in fact – since the ‘Zelda itch’ I have had been scratched, since Nintendo doesn’t seem to know how to make Zelda games anymore. Ys: Memories of Celceta scratched that itch in a superb way, following the pattern where it counted, but deviating from it in ways that just served to make the experience better.

And it is for this reason that Ys deserves to be on this list… it is everything I’d wanted from a Zelda game, but also everything I’d wanted from a Vita action RPG… and that combination just makes the child in me very happy.

3) Tales of Xillia 2

I’m swiftly falling in love with the Tales series. Graces was fun… Xillia was even better… and Xillia 2 is better still. This game did something I never thought would be possible: it made being in debt fun. Please, take no lessons from this… real debt is not fun. But in this game, you won’t care that you’re 20 million in debt, because you’ll be having a blast the whole time… well except when the debt collector calls, but even she’s not half bad.

The game’s female protagonist, Elle, is absolutely adorable and is handled so well – it’s amazing how attached you become to her, and how much you notice her absence. But more notably, even the characters who were starring roles in the previous game saw better character development here than in the first game.

Between the great soundtrack, the decent visuals, the exciting and fun gameplay, and the incredible character development… this game is just great. It’s fun, it has a good story, and I think no more needs to be said.

2) Child of Light

Ah, Child of Light… this game was incredible. It did so much right – story, gameplay, sound design, art style – but I’d like to focus here on a few specific things that I particularly enjoyed about this game…

First of all, I really liked the portrayal of the characters, especially the main character. Aurora is a Princess on a journey to save herself, her father, and her kingdom. And her character development is fantastic. She grows so much over the course of the game, in many ways, and she is never sexualized at all. I just loved her as a character. But just as importantly… all of the other characters are interesting too. Especially when you take into account the way all of the characters speak in rhyme, you just get some hilarious moments watching it all unfold.

The other thing I wanted to highlight was the soundtrack. This game’s soundtrack is absolutely amazing. There is no other word for it… and honestly, even the track I wasn’t too fond of the first time I heard it has grown on me. Literally the entire soundtrack has found its way onto my playlists in some form or another, and the band – Coeur de Pirate – that performed it is selling the soundtrack for a very reasonable price digitally.

1) Transistor

And here we have my #1… the best game of this year is SuperGiant Game’s Transistor. This was probably the only decision on this list that wasn’t one I agonized over… from the start I was fairly confident this would be #1. This game, as I said in my review, is a perfect example of what happens when a development team shares a vision and is able to execute it without anything getting in the way. And nearly everything this game does has something that just goes a step beyond merely ‘good’.

Nothing will ever be perfect, but this game is so pure in vision, that it’s hard to find fault. And, although this is a running theme among this list, this game’s soundtrack is just mind-blowing. The protagonist, Red, was a singer who has lost her voice… and the game’s music is supposed to be her songs – sometimes with and sometimes without lyrics – but the awesome part is how they used the music to create ambience. During certain points, a secondary track is added to the soundtrack of Red humming, for example. And, since they had a button on the controller they didn’t use, they also let you push that to get her to hum. Sounds silly, but it shows confidence – they didn’t NEED that button, so they found a fun use for it, rather than just shoehorning it onto something.

Additionally, the game has such a unique and fun gameplay system. It takes the best parts of turn based and action oriented system and elegantly combines them into a combat system that is not only strategic, but also never dry. It’s exciting, fun, and allows you to really cater everything to your own style. But I mean, really, the best way to sum this up is… if the only noteworthy flaw of a game is that its base difficulty might be a bit too high, you’re looking at something pretty special…

 

Whaddya think? Anything I missed that you feel should be on here? Anything you think I shouldn’t have included? Got your own list to share? I’d love to hear them if you do.

Also, keep an eye out in the next week for my Best Anime of the Winter and Spring seasons of 2014 – should be a good one!

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