I have this terrible habit of feeling like I need to explain myself when I do a top and bottom 5. But I shouldn’t have to, really. It’s not meant to be some kind of objective declaration from on high of what you are and are not allowed to enjoy – it’s MY top and bottom 5. So I can make Thief my worst game of the year because my affection for the series made the reboot the most offensive game to me in particular. And I can give the top spot to Shadow of Mordor not because it’s an utterly amazing game but because it has a few innovative ideas that appeal to my interest in organic interactive storytelling, so I think it is, at least, the game most deserving of attention. If you disagree, you’re free to make your own top and bottom 5 and put them on your own popular video review series.
But I digress. I usually take this space to give some honorable and dishonorable mentions, but 2014 was such a generally crappy year that only one honorable mention springs to mind, and that was South Park: The Stick Of Truth, which brought back fond memories of when Paper Mario was still good.
As for the dishonorable mentions, most of them escaped the ritual humiliation of the bottom 5 mainly by being too bland to be hateful. Perhaps, thinking about it, that makes them the most hateful of all, what with the banality of evil thing. Speaking of which, Evil Within felt ultimately like a waste of time but at least had its moments. Assassin’s Creed Unity might have deserved more of a paddling, but that didn’t feel like a terribly future-proofed choice. Most of its issues were tech- and bug-related, which given time might be patched out, leaving a game that is merely bland and me looking like a wally.
Actually, if anything deserves a special dishonorable mention this year, it’s Ubisoft as a whole. They earned plenty benefit of the doubt from me over the years. Whenever they mis-stepped I’d just mentally scream ‘PRINCE OF PERSIA SANDS OF TIME‘ to myself and feel consoled that they’ve got to be one of the good ones. But what remained of that good will was mostly drained away this year. Maybe they used the toilet immediately after EA at some point and caught something nasty off the seat. Between Unity, and a Far Cry 4 that failed to live up to the promise of its predecessor, and of course WATCH_DOGS, the crowner. One of the first major new IPs of the new generation and which went absolutely bloody nowhere. Rather prophetic, perhaps.
But the last thing I wanted to address was Super Smash Bros, why I haven’t reviewed it, and why I will all but certainly continue to not review it. I thought my reasons would have been clear, but considering the amount of people who keep bringing the sodding thing up, I guess there are always newbies who need to be told how things work around these parts.
So, for reference’s sake, my first reason for total lack of interest in Ess Ess Bee is because it’s a fighting game, which is one of my least favorite genres. I don’t like them because either you get through them by randomly smashing buttons, or you spend ages perfecting the use of esoteric button combinations and then get beaten by someone randomly smashing buttons. If I want to actually apply skill to a combat situation, I prefer something more along Dark Souls’ lines: much enemy variety but the basic rules are fairly universal, you watch for tells and make split decisions on whether to attack, shield, or dodge. You don’t have to memorize that character B’s Flying Gonad Hurl (down, forward, high punch) is best countered with character Z’s Sideways Noogie Flap (back, back, down, vomit on controller).
Secondly, it’s multiplayer focused, which isn’t my bag. I play games to relax and unwind and other human beings make me tense, whether I’m supposed to compete or co-operate. More relevantly, though, my main gaming interests are very single-player-centric concepts like narrative design and exploration, which SSB very deliberately has none of. I was happy to review something like Mortal Kombat 9 even thought it’s a fighting game because it had a story mode, and I think it was worth stating that the story played out like it was written by Power Rangers scriptwriters who’d just been informed that they weren’t getting a second series.
And finally, I’m not interested in Smash Bros because of the obvious bias against Nintendo that I have, or rather, that the fanboys have been informing me I have on a regular basis for the last seven years, and which I will continue to deny despite the apparent futility. Look, this isn’t difficult to rebut: if I had a grudge against Nintendo, I would absolutely take the opportunity to review Smash Bros in order to abuse it for my own sick gratification.
When you say ‘bias’, you mean that I don’t share the automatic frothy-mouthed rabid loyalty that Nintendo seems to demand of anyone who wants to claim to like it even a tiny amount. And no, I do not. What can I say? I am an unashamedly mercenary consumer, and what ‘loyalty’ I owe to a game developer extends only as far as their ‘loyalty’ to me, i.e., as long as they make games that I like. I used to like Ubisoft, now I don’t. I’ll stop liking Valve the moment they, too, put out stuff I dislike. Valve, of course, continue to dodge that particular bullet by not putting out any games at all, what a bunch of cunning sods.
Besides, there are plenty of Nintendo games I’ve liked. I generally enjoy playing Mario platformers, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t. I even liked Mario Sunshine, for Christ’s sake. And I like Zelda Wind Waker for its grand explorative feel. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it. Mario is in Smash Bros, but he’s not there to platform. Wind Waker Link is there, but not to explore oceans in a boat. In fact, I’d argue that none of the characters in Smash Bros were best known for being melee fighters in their original properties.
And that’s what makes the Smash Bros thing feel like a hollow exercise to me: it’s a game that entirely exists because of nostalgia for older games, but which contains none of the gameplay of any of those older games for which we might be nostalgic. It’s just demanding loyalty to characters for their forms, and not for their functions.
So there you go, a brief review of Smash Bros to explain why I’m not going to review Smash Bros. Oh wait.