Sunday, 29 December 2013

CeX's Games of the Year, 2 – 4

The fourth best game of 2013 on our list is another early release that immediately caught the attention of gamers globally. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was a wonderful addition to the otherwise dwindling role-play genre. Maybe gamers are starting to lose patience with games that require vested time commitments and prefer the quick in-and-out games but here we have a magical adventure full of wonder, mystery and incredible gameplay. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was not one to miss.

What made Ni No Kuni so appealing straight away was Studio Ghibli providing the visual production for the title. Anyone who knows anything about animation will know about Studio Ghibli’s influence on the medium (My Neighbour Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc), so it was an absolute honour to have them work on a PlayStation exclusive. This of course paid off because Ni No Kuni was easily one of the most beautiful games of this year.

Looks can only go so far but luckily for Ni No Kuni, it also possessed one of the most enchanting story lines of 2013 too. The main protagonist Oliver was a lovable child and all the incredible characters you met along the way were full to the brim with life and personality. Ni No Kuni was a true example of how to invest gamers emotionally into a world they have created.

The final piece of the puzzle is of course gameplay and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch excelled in this department too. Some have described the gameplay as open-world Pokemon-like battling as you collect creatures and use them to battle, and that’s a reasonable comparison. Maybe GameFreak could learn a thing or two here and implement it into their franchise! Back on topic, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is one of the most special releases the PlayStation 3 ever had and is a must play.

In at number three is the spiritual successor to one of the most popular action-adventure games ever made, A Link to the Past. The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds was initially meant to be a recreation of the classic title but production forced the game in a new direction. While heavily inspired by its predecessor there are enough changes here to make this instalment of The Legend of Zelda series probably the best one to come out on a handheld device ever.

It’s fair to say that very few The Legend of Zelda games wouldn’t make a top 10 list of the respective year they came out – but A Link between Worlds stands out significantly. Most notable is the design decision to allow players to choose what order they complete the game’s various dungeons in. Traditionally The Legend of Zelda guided you in a sequential order but gamers are now free of this style of gameplay and are allowed to tackle the game as they see fit.

Of course exploration is a big part of the game and you won’t find a better world to explore than Hyrule, or the dark world alternative Lorule. A special and unique artistic design follows the series wherever it goes and while it’s not as striking as say WindWaker there’s still something incredibly special, both visually and through audio, to engage with.

The most impressive thing about The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds is that it could have been so easy for Nintendo to rest on their laurels, play it safe and re-create a traditional title. Instead however, we have a game that may not exactly blow the series wide open, but it provides that excellent balance of nostalgia and new ideas and concepts that helps keep the series feeling fresh and alive. This is absolutely one for 3DS owners to get stuck into this Christmas.

Number 2 – Super Mario 3D World

We’ve come down to number 2 and it’s none other than Super Mario 3D World – a remarkably structured, well balanced, heap of fun. This is the go-to local coop multiplayer experience of 2013.

It’s incredible to think that after all the years of Mario games, there’s still possibility for improvement and innovation. While the concept is familiar, the product itself is refreshing. Super Mario 3D World expertly balances fun single player action and competitive cooperative gameplay – something that Mario titles have struggled to do since going multiplayer. This is hands down, the best multiplayer Mario experience bar the Mario Kart franchise.

In terms of presentation the Mario universe could only go from strength to strength on the Wii U. Beautiful artistic design and vivid colours explode from the screen but it’s perhaps the subtle textures and the real attention to detail that makes Super Mario 3D World so beautiful for the senses.

Just like The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds, the most impressive thing about Super Mario 3D World is Nintendo not resting on their laurels and once again providing a reminiscent yet fresh experience. Perfectly balanced with challenging gameplay, incredible level design and presentation makes Super Mario 3D World the best Wii U game available and the second best game of 2013.

Igor Kharin.

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