After a few less-than-stellar years, the usual transition years that come after a new console generation is released. That’s okay, though, because 2015 was a pretty damned good year for releases big and small. We were treated to a lot of solid games, including big, hyped-releases that either delivered or didn’t depending on your tastes, but undeniably made an impact. So here are some of the biggest releases for the next year, let’s see how they stack up.

You know, looking back at 2015 it’s pretty difficult for me to ignore just how good of a year that it was for games. Usually I make a lot of dumb purchases that I regret later on, which means buying games that I really wasn’t sure about only to play it a bit, kinda like it, then cast it aside after I grow tired of it. That absolutely happened this year, but it happened a lot less than has in past years. In fact, there were games that I actually enjoyed a lot. That’s huge, folks, I’m kind of a grump.

Just a heads up, don’t worry about spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this article. We wouldn’t do that to you.

Everything is official now; Hideo Kojima, the evil genius behind the Metal Gear series, has departed Konami and has started up his own game studio, aptly named Kojima Productions. This new game will be made in conjunction with Sony and debuting on PlayStation 4 as well as PC. The reaction to this has been, as expected, that of joyous rapture after Konami garnered ill will with treatment of the gaming god over recent months. All that is clear right now is that it won’t be the canceled Silent Hills, that’s it. So what Kojima will whip up is still seemingly up-in-the-air for the time being, leading to a lot of speculation.

Virtual Reality has always been a bit, well, nerdy. Prior to the Oculus Rift came around whenever the words “Virtual Reality” were muttered thoughts of bad 80’s and 90’s television and films come to mind, bad music videos, or worse -- the Virtual Boy. Yikes. So imagine the surprise when VR became the talk of the town again thanks to how our daily technology has advanced to the point where having a multiscreen headset with a proper frame rate all of a sudden was a reality. Not only was the Oculus Rift Kickstarter a success, but it showed the world that the new VR isn’t awful, it’s actually something that could change how we all consume media.

For a great deal of time games have been seen as “casual” or “hardcore.” Those classifications seemed vastly important for the past twenty years or so, with some games that require more time, effort and skill from the player seen as hardcore games, while other, less involved games would be the casual games. Casual games were, for lack of a better word, for the “casuals,” you know, those people who didn’t play games for long periods of time and just liked whatever had the shiniest features and the biggest ads?

This game is everything that i wanted Wind of Luck Arena to be, and more.

There are, on occasion, some great games that slip and fall between the cracks for every ardent gamer. For me, one such gem was Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation 3. Initially released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 it was met with rave reviews from RPG fans, but by the time that I had purchased a PlayStation 3 in 2011 and found myself catching up on all of the games that I had missed, sadly, Valkyria Chronicles was not one of those. The recent delay of Persona 5 has left me hungry for a new RPG to play through and a recent Steam sale saw a bunch of Japanese RPGs on sale, so I decided to buy up a few and go from there.

Xbox One backwards compatibility, now PlayStation 2 games being released on the PlayStation 4 and, regardless of previous ownership, costing money. This is the world that we inhabit currently, hot on the heels of the early days of this current generation of consoles being all about “remastered” re-releases of games from the previous generation. The latest announcement to cause big waves is the remake of the classic title Final Fantasy VII.

The carpet in my parent’s room was a brown shag, the kind that if you ran your fingers through it would turn a shade lighter or darker, depending on which way you moved it. That carpet became the backdrop for the warm summer nights of my childhood, occupying the space in my peripheral vision while I stared down at my Game Gear.

Shooters have been a staple in the gaming world for what feels like forever now. In fact, most games use some sort of shooting mechanic as the main means of furthering stories at this point, or for online gaming purposes. That’s fine, really, it is, but at a certain point there is only so much time that one can spend staring down the sights of a gun while ripping apart another digitized human being’s body before it begins to feel a bit ridiculous. Needless to say, I wasn’t super stoked for Rainbow Six: Siege before the open beta started up.

December looms heavily on the horizon and another year is about to be in the books. There are still a few major games set to be released in 2015, but most of the damage has been done and the heavyweights have all been released, leaving us to reflect on what kind of a year we’ve had thus far. In retrospect, the past few years haven’t been great when it comes to major game releases. Two years ago was the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, neither one launching with anything that great exclusively and one of the few “must haves” for launch being Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Think about that. Last year was a bit better, but nothing really sticks out as a game that will go down as one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it’s just that this year has been so good that is making me dismissive of 2014, but rightfully so.

420 Character Reviews: Brawlhalla (6.9)

This is a dumbed down version of Super Smash Bros that will have you clicking like a you’ve gone mad with bloodlust. Cartoonish bloodlust, that is. Maybe you want a gun toter, maybe you want a spear jabber… Or maybe you don’t care what physical form your fighter spirit takes on this day because you know that everyone is reborn time and time again in Brawlhalla for only one purpose - to brawl!

Rubber Ninjas is a single or two player game made by Matteo Guarnieri of Rag Doll Software. The 3D gameplay is based on a previous title of Guarnieri’s, Ragdoll masters. This game was released in 2009 and the Rag Doll Software team has been relatively quiet ever since; however, they have recently announced development and porting of new games and the porting of their games to mobile as of this past summer.

They came in peace… He didn’t give a shit. “Get Off My lawn!” - He yelled! Step into the shoes of old man whatshisbucket as he defends his lawn from “illegal” aliens. Considering that these buggers (Formics?) showed up in their flying saucer, I’m going to assume that they haven’t stopped by the International Space Station to undergo quarantine, testing, and sterilization before entering our atmosphere and, uh, crossing our borders. They might be carrying the lethal form of that space virus that simultaneously melts and eats your flesh at the same time. That’s illegal as fuck! Just look at that spaceship and the car they’re driving onto your lawn - these aliens aren’t here for your jobs that you aren’t willing to do anyways. Don’t worry about it.

Over the past few years the gaming world has become more aware that women aren’t objects, although the debate still rages on about artistic freedom, the merit of games that do choose to objectify women and other cultural norms. Not everyone agrees with third wave feminism and many gamers are frustrated that it has spilled over into their realm, but the reality here is that this is that these discussions are valuable and worth having. Part of the cost of this new, collective conscious seems to be that Koei Tecmo has decided to not bring over Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 to the US and other western countries, confirming the fears that many gamers had in the first place. The thing is, it isn’t the fault of feminism or our new collective conscious over treatment of women, it’s cowardice.

Much like by following a few simple precautions you can prevent forest fires, you can make the game industry more honest. Or, well, you could at least make big publishers like EA waste a lot of time and money. Getting famous people to play news games has always been something up the sleeves of the game industry. Hell, back in the 80’s we got Fred Savage starring in a feature film with some of the greatest product placement of all time for Nintendo by the way of the Power Glove and making Super Mario Brothers 3 the big reveal in The Wizard. People who grew up in my generation still, to this day, remember Lucas’s line about the Power Glove and not that it was a pretty crappy, expensive peripheral.

This game, Caromble!, is Breakout with a futuristic twist. Each box (brick) that is hit releases an iota of magical pixie dust that you have to pick up to score any points at all. You can power up the bumper for a charge shot or send the ball for a spin shot to get extra points from the pixie dust. Of course, the boxes break and release power-ups and I-shouldn’t-have-picked-that-up hazards. If you pick up a white power-up you can grow your bumper or even gain an extra charge, life, or ball. If you accidentally pick up a red hazardous power-down, though, you might end up with a pixelated or zoomed in screen.

Telltale Games announced that they will be bringing back their Game of Thrones series for a second season late this week, which brings about some tough questions, for me at least, about what gamers really want. A cursory glance at Metacritic shows Telltale’s Game of Thrones sitting at a 73, which for recent Telltale adventures serves as a new low, considering series like A Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead and Tales From the Borderlands have all received much higher scores.

420 Character Reviews: The Secret Of Tremendous Corporation (8.2)

You sidescroll and click your way through this story as a new intern at the Tremendous Corporation, which has a monopoly on the gaming industry. You enter the large office building looking forward to making games - but instead you are told to make coffee… But then ninjas kidnap your coworkers to search for the “Secret” that will bring gaming back to its heyday, to the masses. Should you be looking too?

I love Fallout 4. Thus far I am pushing ten or so hours inside of the wastelands of Boston and finding it to be thoroughly enjoyable. Fallout 4 is everything that was expected of it, which is to say that it’s a Bethesda open world RPG with their Fallout touches. That means VATS action, bottlecaps, fetch quests, fetch quests and oh yeah, fetch quests. The graphics are, of course, significantly improved and the shooting feels tighter than Fallout 3’s janky shooting, which is great. Hell, even the crafting works better and the base building stuff can be kinda fun at times as well. The thing is, which this formula works, it also shows that games are begging for innovation. If you want to see a lack of innovation look no further than the swarms of raiders that infest the wasteland.

Just over a month after our very first Stoned Gamer Tournament at the XO Gold Cup, we're already announcing our second tournament and it will be held on December 12-13th inside the NOS Events Center at this year's Blazers Cup!

420 Character Reviews: Wind of Luck: Arena (8.7)

Ahoy landlubbers! Dare ye sail the seven seas to loot, pillage, and plunder as ye please? Heed me wizened words - Give no quarter as dead men tell no tales. Calypso forbid that ye end up bein’ captured in yer long clothes and measured fer yer chains. Ye would almost rather be scuppered. As the arena ends, only a few crews make it home to splice the main brain with a nipperkin of bumboo fresh from the bung hole.

Space, the endless sky above, is the final frontier according to popular sci-fi lore. Few games allow you to get a taste of that, though. Endless Sky is a top down spaceship simulator that allows you to trade, fight, and flee at your will. You play through the game as an up and coming captain looking to make his mark on the world.

420 Character Reviews: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One (1.8)

If the soundtrack is the best thing about your game then you have a massive problem. Being lured by my love for Afro Samurai, I went into this hoping I could somehow relive the glory that was the first Afro Samurai series -- pessimism would’ve been the best virtue here. The voice acting is rubbish and the combat is horrid. You gain skills points throughout your quest; who cares? It’s all meaningless. 2007 is gone.

Whenever I hear about “game changing” features in new games my eyes tend to roll back. Usually said features aren’t really changing anything, instead they are just rather ho hum features that we’ve seen before with their own, small twist on them. Character creation is nothing new, in fact, when it comes to Bethesda RPGs it is the norm. At some point in the opening portion of the game the game is going to take a brief reprieve to allow you to define how your on-screen character looks. They’ve always been pretty good and had a good deal of options in the past, but Fallout 4 takes the idea of character creation and really honed in on what it takes to make a character look realistic, while still giving you control over most of the appearance.

420 Character Reviews: Unturned (7.0)

Are we there yet? This game is all story with no challenges or obstacles, just like a road trip ought to be. Immerse yourself in an artful rendition of our very human world and step into the dusty shoes of a man we have all seen in passing, but never stopped to get to know. He drives for the elusive Kentucky Route Zero - an underground road filled with legend and Americana. How do you find the middle of nowhere?

Competitive gaming isn’t something that I’m necessarily into. Mostly because the games that tend to be played in the competitive world aren’t my cup of tea. I’m not that into MOBAs, not into Call of Duty or Counter-Strike. That being said, it’s impossible to ignore just how big of a deal they are becoming. Unlike traditional sports that require different levels of organization and physical abilities to play, most games that are played in competitive gaming are easily accessible to anyone and everyone depending on the platform they choose, making the connection for gamers a lot more personal. Watching players who are very good at a game that you understand quite well yourself creates an instant understanding for most, much like those inclined to play sports will have more incentive to religiously follow their favorite sports.

Sunday, 08 November 2015 00:00

Decipher the Human Species as a Dog in HOME FREE

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I have thought about the survival instincts on my dog, Q-Tip. He’s not an aggressive dog when it comes to cats, other dogs, humans, baby humans, the mop, the broom, or even the vacuum. He also hates New Year’s Eve and the Fourth Of July -- I try to stay in to comfort him while the fireworks go off over our heads. Q-Tip is a medium sized dog who once ran from the chihuahua that terrorizes my street -- it was hard, but I kept loving Q-Tip even after that. Is it my failures as a dog father? Would he have been better off growing up in the streets of Houston? Absolutely not. If I continue to wonder how my dog would have fared out in the harsh, urbanized world I have the opportunity to simulate his experience with Home Free.

Everywhere I look of late the talk is about Fallout 4. This is in the face of a new Halo release and Kojima’s love letter to Metal Gear fans in Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain having been out since early September. While Fallout 3 was a pretty big deal, the popularity of Skyrim undoubtedly helped to push more players towards Bethesda’s other games, mostly Fallout 3, leading to Fallout 4 being one of the biggest releases of the year.

Since as long as there were professional wrestling games I’ve been a huge fan of them. Of course, I grew up watching pro wrestling so it wasn’t some tremendous stretch, but I had a lot of friends who either didn’t know a single thing about wrestling or didn’t like it. They still played wrestling games, though. Most gamers who were old enough to be playing games in the N64 era will probably have some sort of memory of the old AKI games that were released here in the United States. Everything from WCW/nWo World Tour to WCW/nWo Revenge to the WWF games like Wrestlemania 2000 and Revenge.

Most of our childhoods were spent in front of a computer playing The Oregon Trail while your incompetent teacher filed her nails at her desk. Yes, this happened to you, too. For those of you who haven’t heard of The Oregon Trail: Read this article and then stand in the corner for thirty minutes. No marijuana for you, either. Once you have completed your punishment, only then you can come back here and continue reading this thing. Don’t think you can fool us. We at The Stoned Gamer follow your every move. We know everything. We’ll add on some Hail Marys -- watch out.

Now, I’ll start this off by quickly explaining that I don’t own an Xbox One. I probably won’t until the price drastically drops or there is something on there exclusively that I just can’t miss. Until then, I probably won’t play Halo 5. So no, this isn’t an article about how I think that Halo 5 is bad, how the gameplay hasn’t improved or anything else. Instead, this is more of a matter of creativity and how the gaming world has seen growing pains of sorts that involves immediately turning towards Hollywood levels of ridiculousness.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015 00:00

Revisit The Fears of Silent Hill with Mist Valley

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You all remember how you felt when you played Silent Hill. It was a terrifying experience, every single second. I keep trying to convince myself to buy it at my local retro-gaming shop but then I tell myself that my money could be better spent on Argentine beer. In reality, I believe that I am terrified to relive that game again as an adult because it will only exposes me to the fact that I can never be tougher than Silent Hill. There’s a part of me that wants to stay away from the thought of Silent Hill, unfortunately, nobody mentioned it to the team of sadists working on Mist Valley.