2016 could be a real crazy year. We have Nintendo, over there making something crazy, whatever it may be with the NX. We still know nothing about that console, and as one of the people that thinks it’s likely it’ll come out this year, that’s crazy. It could take the world by storm. Also, we’re looking at a Microsoft still behind Sony by a good leap and bound in regards to hardware sales meaning they may have some moves ahead of them that will be crazy, but that’s just more speculation on the unknown.
What’s even more interesting is the fantastic line up of first party games coming from all of the big three. We have Zelda and a ton of unanswered questions from Nintendo, Uncharted and Horizon from Sony, which Playstation VR dropping somewhere in the middle of that, and Microsoft has Quantum Break and Gears of War. Those a huge names from all of the hardware manufacturers, while still leaving plenty of other titles as well as indie exclusives out. I’m really anticipating a handful of games, but here are seven of them.
As maybe the world’s biggest fan of Alan Wake (actually working on a playthrough of that right now) I am very excited to see what Remedy comes up with next. I love Alan wake with a furious passion, and even though I’m pretty skeptical about this whole TV-show deal, I really like the way Remedy approaches storytelling. Even Max Payne, which I didn’t get to until long after its time in the sun, had threads of great storytelling ideas that weren’t well executed on. But for the time, it was a really ambitious approach to the tried and true way of telling stories in video games. Plus the game just looks dope.
Whether this TV show that’s included with the package works or not I think is the biggest hanging question. I think the game will deliver a solid package, just going off what I’ve seen of it. Time mechanics meets shooting seems like a fun tool to play around with. But if we can get a good villain’s story from this show like they’re promising, maybe it’ll be more than just solid.
Finally. Finally we can answer the question: what is Firewatch? But really, after Gone Home, I am really, really excited to see more first person exploration/adventure games come out. What the team behind Firewatch has been saying is this story plays out more like a thriller, and that has me pretty stoked. It’s also really cool that the driving force of interaction between your character and the only other real character you talk to is over a walkie, simultaneously creating a sense of loneliness and companionship. I love that, it’s very reminiscent of the original Bioshock, and I’m hoping Campo Santo goes places with it.
This is the first time we get to start seeing games that are an actual reaction to what Gone Home did and the impact it left. Maybe this won’t be a love story or something that’ll break your heart 10-ways to Sunday, but I’m still really happy more of these games are happening, and they’re changing that formula in fun and exciting ways.
From the moment Below was announced, I thought it was going to be special. The second I played it at PAX East 2014, I knew it was going to special. The preview I wrote way back when pretty accurately describes what Below is trying to do: the meeting of Zelda, Dark Souls, and a viciously difficult Rouge-like, all in one. Looking down at the world feels like you’re looking at a massive pallette, an open canvas to explore, helped by just how gorgeous the game is. Taking those first hesitant steps past the bonfire that you light at the beginning of the game is always nerve-wracking, because everything will change if you die and have to return.
And in the 30 minute demo I played, I died quite a bit. It definitely took the trial and error aspect of the original Dark Souls and knocked it up to 11. The world is dangerous, varied, and goddamn beautiful. I can’t wait to lose myself and hours to whatever Below ends up being. For me, above most other things, it’s the reason to own an Xbox One (or PC) this year.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
I mean, what’s not to be immediately impressed by? Giant dinosaur robots? Check. Cool looking female lead? Check. RPG + Open world mechanics? Check. All we need to know now is just what the scope of Horizon is.
It’s a big mystery exactly what’s going on in this game, though the premise is pretty straightforward. The world ended and has now begun anew. You’re hero gets to explore that world, and judging by the trailer they’ve put out there, it seems there are a lot of different ‘clans’ in this world with very different technologies, architectures, and styles just in general. Honestly, that has me the most excited. Something maybe along the lines of Tomb Raider (the reboot) in gameplay and ideas, meets and expansive and varied world full of beauty and robot animals, that just sounds right up my alley. Even if the brunt of the gameplay is taking down monsters for materials and making better, more efficient robot-killing weapons, I’m way into it.
Horizon comes from a studio that hasn’t really connected with me before, but Guerrilla is really stepping out of their comfort zone with this one. It’s clear the desire to do something new and different has been with them for a long time, and this is finally their chance to stretch their creative legs. At least in concept, as a studio with an overall short track-record, attempting something as ambitious as this, it’s impossible not to be excited at the very least on an academic level.
The Legend of Zelda (2016)
As the guy who said Skyward Sword was his game of the year for 2011, I can’t not be excited about Zelda 2016. Now, to be fair, as much as I have soured on Skyward Sword, I stand by at the time that it was very much my favorite game to release that year. This new Zelda title, well it has mystery just written all over it.
Aside from the fact that we know virtually nothing about this game, other then a lot a mumblings of ideas and some official-off-screen footage, there is a lot to speculate here. The last major Zelda title released was A Link Between Worlds, a hugely ambitious title for Zelda. It was a sequel to one of gaming’s most beloved games of all time, and it worked. It simultaneously played on that nostalgia (if a little too much) and added tons new to the tried and true series. The ability to approach any and all of the Dark World dungeons in whatever order you wished was seriously a huge departure for that series. Buying all your items? Ludacris!
Maybe some of that ambition and risk taking has transferred over into the console team? We can only hope, and at the same time, only speculate. Aonuma has been very coy is saying this world lets you approach anything from any angle. It makes me think about the quirky out their systems in Skyward Sword, like leveling up and evolving your items. That was weird, huh? Your gear got better as the game went on, instead of just introducing more and more mechanics. As poorly as it ended up being implemented, I could totally see a more evolved crafting system make it’s way into Zelda 2016.
I have so many theories about this title, and I can’t wait to see where the pieces fall. I will say this, I definitely and firmly believe that this is coming to Wii U and Wii U only. Food for thought.
Fire Emblem Fates
The Fire Emblem series really wriggled its way into my heart as far as creating some of my favorite games ever that I never expected to even like. When I gave the series a shot way back when on the Game Boy Advance, I wasn’t even sure what I was playing. But low and behold I would return to the series on GameCube, and Wii, and DS, and once more on 3DS. Fire Emblem Awakening is not only an incredible game, it’s probably one of my favorite games ever.
Taking what they’ve learned that and carrying it over into Fates, while also finding one of those “best-of-both-worlds” solutions in a Pokémon model, you can now play the traditional straight-laced Fire Emblem game and the more varied open-ended, grind-friendly Fire Emblem Awakening-like experience depending on which version of Fates you pick up, Conquest or Birthright. I’m getting both, but don’t look to me as a shining lead example.
The characters, their relationships, and what you can make out of Fire Emblem now is something special. It puts it in the arc of the Persona-like games as far as intimate and well developed heroes are concerned, and that’s something special to me, for sure. Plus the mechanical bonuses you get for doing this even incentivises those monsters who hate making relationships in video games. A best of both worlds, like I said!
This is it. Here we are. Best for last, right? Persona 5. I’m in a lot of different places with this one. On one hand, I’m terrified that it just can’t live up to my expectations. That it can’t be as special to me as Persona 3 or 4. On the other hand, I look at P-Studios track record and I see how incredibly talented the folks there are. I’ve said it before, but they’re the best developers in the east to me, by far. They improved on a formula that I thought couldn’t be with Persona 4 from Persona 3 FES. That’s saying something.
On the other hand, I look at my expectation, which is, “hey, I just wanna play another Persona game, and have all the perks that come along with that,” and think that they’ll knock it out of the park. They’re two for two with me, and remaining the team that made P3 & P4, I am pretty sure they’re on a good path.
But wanting a new Persona game comes with a lot of baggage. A crazy Japanese story based, quite often, in ancient mythology? Totally should be there. A theme that lives and breathes within all concepts of the title? Well it sounds like this time around it is the emancipation of society, which I think is totally awesome. Oh, and characters, social links, falling in love, that all should be covered, and as much as I think they know what they’re doing with whatever their new social link system is, they’ve also been quite hush-hush about it all. A little worrying, but again, ye who have little faith, right?
I don’t know if Persona 5 will necessarily be the game I want/need it to be, but I am confident that at the very least it will be a great RPG. I’m also confident that we will finally see it here in 2016. The time is now.