When I was hired, one of the fun parts of the process was seeing the different preferences play out between Mark and I. He comes from more of an arcade/console background. I grew up playing MicroProse simulators. We like very different things. So when it came to our picks of 2015, it was always going to be fun seeing where we diverged.
I swear to god: I did not see things playing out this way.
First, some context. I've not played a Dynasty Warriors game before, and I've not encountered any of the spin-off series. I know about them tangentially, much in the same way people might have heard about Shenmue but never played it, or Dark Reign, or Ikaruga, you get the idea.
Secondly, I find the whole "Game of the Year" process to be a touch asinine. Most people do these days. So let me be entirely upfront by saying that I'm not qualifying One Piece Pony Warriors, or anything else I'll be earmarking throughout the week, as the best games of the year. They're simply the ones that stuck with me the most, the ones that made me the happiest, the games that left a smile on my face.
Undoubtedly, those won't match up with your likes and dislikes. But then again, I'm a bloke who puts raw coffee grains directly into yoghurt, so it's probably widely understood that my preferences are going to be a touch different.
For all their faults, anime fighters these days look bloody good
But sometimes things land at a decent time. And nothing exemplified that for me more this year than Koei Tecmo's release of One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, a One Piece-themed spin-off of the Dynasty Warriors series.
It's not just because someone cocked up and priced the game for US69 cents on launch, although I strongly doubt I would have bought the game at launch without the generous discount.
What was more helpful was the fact that the game released just 48 hours before I was due to get on a plane to Japan, the first holiday I'd taken in years and the first time I'd ever been to the country. But I put the game on ice for a few weeks because I hadn't read through the currently available manga, and when I returned to Sydney's sunny shores a few near the end of September, I'd read through nearly 800 chapters, been to three separate theme parks featuring One Piece characters and merchandise, and could instantly identify everything that flashed on screen.
That helps immensely, because by Christ is this game stupid.
Just don't ask
It's dumb in the way, I've since realised, most Dynasty Warriors games are. You're not killing anyone. You never kill anyone, even though people die in the manga. Nobody dies in One Piece Pirate Warriors, even though you're headbutting people's skull with the full force of a meteor crashing into the Earth at a million miles an hour.
The camera is also one of the most poorly designed I've ever had the displeasure of experiencing. Half of the game literally involves you spamming L1, just so you can re-center the view to see what Luffy is beating the snot out of. Why the developers didn't just let you zoom out the camera a little more I'll never understand.
And that's not to mention the amount of pop-in — it's near constant on my PC, with everything on the highest settings — or the crashes in the very final chapter of the storyline that forced me to put the game on ice for over a month. And while I understand that Luffy (or Monkey D. Luffy, as per his full title) is the hero of the story, the rest of the characters could have been better balanced to make the remainder of the roster more interesting to play.
But I've still had an absurd, inordinate amount of fun regardless. It reminded me of a weekend last year, when I was sick, grumpy and felt utterly soulless. A Steam sale was on, and I spotted one of the better Naruto Shippuden NINJA STORM games on sale. I figured I was paying US$20 for about 15 hours of content, with some nice cut-scenes, pretty graphics, 60fps and a bit of downtime with the cast from the original anime.
I got exactly what I wanted — and it was great.
Sometimes that's all games have to do. They don't have to be "game of the year" material. They don't even have to be great, as One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 undoubtedly showed. They just have to be fun — and while many, many people will struggle to understand the appeal of such an immensely silly, stupid franchise, One Piece has now taught me why people have an appreciation for the Dynasty Warriors series.
I ran around and punched thousands of dudes in the face. Fire lit up on the screen. The action was fast. The camera was awful. But it was fun. It reminded me of Japan. And it gave me one of the happier experiences of the year, something I was happy to see through all the way to the end. So naturally, it's one of my games of the year.
It's funny how that works out.
Like Mark, I'll be going through my games of the year over the course of the week. I doubt I'll just stop at five, but then you're all probably used to my degree of insanity by now. What do you think of the Dynasty Warriors series — and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3?