Prior to its release I’ll admit I was actually pretty excited for Rise of The Tomb Raider. Its predecessor, Tomb Raider (2013), was a great game, but also one with the potential to be expanded into an exceptional one. Unfortunately delivering meaningful progression is hard, and whilst Lara makes the same right moves she did last time, she also gets caught in a few traps when exploring the dangerous tomb of sequel making.
It’s strange how a developer that underwhelms in one genre can totally deliver in another. The example I’d usually cite is 5pb, who made the sub-par fighting game Phantom Breaker, screwed up their port of CAVE’s DoDonPachi DaiOuJou, and then made Steins;Gate – one of the most gripping and intelligent visual novels I can think of. But Dontnod Entertainment are now also proof that creating an immersive and interactive story is a completely different skill to making a solid action game. Life is Strange is from the makers of Remember Me, and whilst that was a game that could ironically be described as forgettable, the same is certainly not true for their latest title.
Simply going on quantity Rare Replay sets a new standard for the compilation videogame. The collection is made up of thirty titles spanning a length of time not far off the entire duration of videogame history. Beginning with Jetpack in 1983 and ending with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in 2008, it moves from retro to modern and strikes an interesting balance between old and new games.
F-Zero GX was developed by the video game equivalent of a supergroup. Ten years previously the idea of Mario and Sonic developers joining forces to create the fastest and most intense racing game ever made would have been considered about as likely as Sony and Microsoft teaming up today to end world poverty. Oh, and Namco were along for the ride too. The collective genius of these insanely talented people resulted in a unique and masterful game, and twelve years later it’s still at the top of its genre.
Although Western support for the PlayStation Vita is at an all time low, the system’s popularity in Japan has resulted in a steady stream of JRPGs and anime style games. This includes Bandai Namco’s effort; an entry in their long running Tales franchise, and a re–imagination (that’s what the ‘R’ stands for I think) of their 2008 Nintendo DS game; Tales of Hearts.
One of the reasons the Wipeout anthology is so enduring is that it’s very difficult to summarise it with a single definitive title. From the original trilogy made in conjunction with The Designer’s Republic, to the PSP titles and their HD remaster, there’s plenty of room for picking a favourite. Yet Pulse is one of the game least likely to earn this title, and the entry in the series that delivers familiarity more than any other.
In many ways the karting genre has been forever doomed. That is to say, outside of the original Mario Kart series. No other game has ever managed to step out of the shadow cast by the title that established it, or the sequels that propelled it forward. This in itself is quite odd; no one would call Bioshock a Wolfenstein 3D clone, or dismiss Forza as nothing more than a glamorous version of Pole Position. But most genres have evolved and outperformed the titles that originally defined them, and these originals have ceased to be the influential names they once were. Kart racing is different. Mario is still on top, and like every other karting game ever made, the challenge Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour faces is to define itself as something more than a slightly worse version of Mario Kart.
In twenty two years the Mario Kart series has changed surprisingly little. Sure, the 2014 entry carries with it the performance boost you’d expect from a console significantly more powerful than the Super Nintendo, but the structure is predictable and the mechanics are familiar. Yet Nintendo has innovated around the game’s core, and this along with the companies ‘better late than never’ approach to DLC helps deliver an experience that doesn’t reinvent the franchise, but does succeed in defining its best modern entry yet.
Senran Kagura is quickly becoming the most controversial series no one is paying any attention to. Hidden away in its niche genre is a game that from the outside appears indistinguishable from any other obscure Japanese anime release. But Senran Kagura’s overt sexualisation of its all-female cast is perhaps enough to surprise even fans of the genre, and to everyone else it’s likely to come across as perverted to an extreme level. The biggest shock? That behind the oversized boobs and dirty dialogue is a competent brawler that’s actually quite a lot of fun to play.