As with any attempt at compiling a definite Game of the Year list, there will invariably be deserving titles that, for one reason or another, go overlooked. 2016 was certainly no different. Despite being a relatively quiet year for Nintendo releases, there were still plenty of marquee titles across both Wii U and 3DS that simply overshadowed many games that were just as deserving of accolades. What are some of the titles the Nintendojo staff think should have received more recognition in our awards?
As a diehard Pokémon loyalist, I have always been wary of anything that seems even remotely similar to my favorite franchise. While Yo-Kai Watch can definitely fall into that category at times, there’s just something inherently likable about Level-5’s RPG franchise. I enjoyed the first game when it released in North America last year, but the sequel, Yo-Kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls and Bony Spirits, has even more depth and a fantastic sense of humor. Unfortunately, I feel like it’s still struggling to find a fanbase outside Japan. It certainly didn’t find as much favor with the rest of the staff!
I’ll be honest: the game is far from perfect. It needlessly rehashes some things from the first game and the overall narrative could use some stronger direction. It also tries too hard to mirror Pokémon at times when it really doesn’t have to. In spite of these flaws, however, it’s a really charming world filled with entertaining characters, and it’s a great game to ease younger players into the mechanics of RPGs. I really hope Yo-Kai Watch 3 reaches these shores, or we see another title on Switch!
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale really surprised me when I played it back in March. The game has a wonderfully charming feel that I’m just not used to in many contemporary games. In some small ways, the game makes me think of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Not in terms of gameplay, per se, but more in how Pietro and his companions have some similarities to Link’s tightly knit group of friends, and there’s also something to be said of the sense of intimacy that a handheld RPG fosters. Plus, I really loved the mix of RPG and Harvest Moon farming mechanics. It’s a warm, fun little game that I wish more people would have experienced; it definitely deserved a nod.
I’d also like to have seen Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice get some love on the downloadable front. Capcom might have turned this series digital-only in the West, but it hasn’t lost an inch of its quality as a result. These are the same deep, engaging games that they’ve always been, and this latest is one of the funnest in the series. Some of the charm that the original DS (technically Game Boy Advance) installments had thanks to their large, gorgeous character sprites has been lost with the transition to 3DS, but it’s nothing that should keep anyone from jumping on board again with Phoenix and his band of goofballs. Forget the awards; just go download this game now to encourage Capcom to start making cartridges for this series once more!
My choice of snub might seem somewhat odd, but I’m going with Hyrule Warriors Legends for 3DS. Yes, it’s a port of what was already a fairly well received game, so I can’t really blame people for not jumping at the opportunity to heap more accolades upon it– especially if you were playing it on older 3DS hardware. Without the extra processing oomph of the New 3DS, the game’s framerate proved less than optimal. However, even with all that in mind, I feel compelled to sing this port’s praises.
Nintendo has a history of covering slower release schedules with ports across platforms, and Hyrule Warriors Legends does it astonishingly well, not just in terms of making a playable game, but in terms of creating worthwhile value. Not only did this port contain all of the previously released DLC that was available for the Wii U original in addition to throwing in new characters and content, but it also unlocked all those characters for the Wii U version as well. This is a port that actually expands the content of the original! Also, on a more personal level, I just feel that Hyrule Warriors works incredibly well as a portable game. Sure, the weaker hardware might hurt the technical performance a bit, but the general flow of the game makes is great to have on the go.
I have to agree with Robert on this– I really wish that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice got a mention this year. The series has always been a highlight for me on handhelds going back to the DS, and even though the gameplay hasn’t strayed too far from its roots in that time, the variety of wacky supporting characters and inevitable plot twists still keep me entertained to this day.
I also really enjoyed Star Fox Guard as well (much more than Star Fox Zero, to my surprise). I wonder if that can be considered as part of Star Fox Zero in our Game of the Year list though due to it being packed-in together at launch? Hmm, perhaps.
The biggest irony of 2016 is the games that were greeted with the most vitriol ended up being some of the year’s best releases. Such was certainly the case with Paper Mario: Color Splash and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, both of which were initially met with varying degrees of backlash (the E3 trailer for Color Splash is one of the most disliked videos on Nintendo’s YouTube channel), and ultimately secured a spot in our Best Wii U Games of 2016 awards. But I think the game that defied its expectations most is Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Fans weren’t exactly thrilled when Nintendo first unveiled the title, due primarily to the fact that it was a cooperative take on the Metroid franchise rather than a true, new installment (which we haven’t seen since 2010), and as a result immediately trashed it, with many going so far as to start a petition for its cancellation.
Of course, once one actually sat down with the game, it became abundantly clear just how unwarranted the backlash was. Federation Force may not be the kind of Metroid title fans have been clamoring for since Other M, but it is still a well-made and engaging cooperative shooter, with enough traces of Metroid in its design to justify its place in the series. And unlike Zelda’s most recent cooperative adventure, Tri Force Heroes, which was nearly unplayable without two other companions, Federation Force is also enjoyable as a solo affair, thanks to its smart and flexible MOD system. In fact, playing through the game alone gives it a decidedly different feel; the more methodical pace of soloing a mission is reminiscent of a bite-sized Metroid Prime. It may not have earned a nod in our Best 3DS Games of 2016 category, but Federation Force is absolutely one of the year’s highlights and deserves a look.
What are some releases you think deserved more recognition in 2016? Let us know in the comments!