Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Lucas White

January 1, 2015


2014 was a messy year for reasons in and around the gaming community (and also just a tough year in general), but the video games themselves have been great. I’ve even found myself enjoying a few more AAA games than usual, despite the tragi-comical bungling of almost every other big release. Without further waffling, here are some video games I played in the year 2014 that I liked to play a lot.

10. Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

Okay, hear me out for a second. We always need more wacky genre games, and Akiba’s Trip is the first of its sort on the PS4. Nutty arcade-y brawlers with anime-style affectations are the kind of thing that would benefit significantly from high resolution visuals and high, stable frame rates. Also, Akiba’s Trip is shockingly good. Usually, “wacky anime-style genre game” means “creepy, pervert otaku pandering bullcrap,” and on paper Akiba’s Trip looks like the worst of the bunch. It isn’t. Ripping clothing off your sort-of-but-not-really-but-actually-yes-they’re-vampires enemies to kill them with sunlight is surprisingly complex for a brawler, and the inevitable punchline is less ogling, more slapstick. Akiba’s Trip is a far cry from swill like Senran Kagura, on multiple fronts, and it deserves recognition for bucking trends.

9. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

It’s Binding of Isaac except everything works, and there’s even more items, more secrets, more enemies and a whole new audiovisual coat of paint! Nicalis didn’t always strike me as the most ambitious group, but it sure put an immediately visible effort into this one.

8. Short Peace

This interesting project was something I almost forgot about, but the moment I remembered my head filled with all the same great feelings from when I played/watched it. Short Peace is actually a multimedia collection, the intent being to tell a bunch of Japan-themed stories across the media of film, animation and video games. The video game portion is a silly runner game from Suda 51 and the talent behind Tokyo Jungle, but the whole gimmick of the project, the organic sum of each part, really sells video games as the next step in visual storytelling, or at least growing with the true potential to run with the big boys.


7. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

The first Theatrhythm was a neat proof of concept, but it was a little messy and had a super-disappointing tracklist, rendered more frustrating by a bunch of DLC. Curtain Call pulls out all the stops, hitting you with all the classics and reserving the DLC for deeper cuts, including some surprise non-Final Fantasy tracks. Seeing more characters in the game’s goofy style was a treat, and having most of the music available right out of the gate made going through and unlocking other stuff more fun and relaxing. Also, the multiplayer is ridiculous.

6. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

I wasn’t feeling it for the first hour or so, then suddenly I looked at the time and realized how much of my life had disappeared without my noticing. Danganronpa rules (the sequel… not so much). It takes the whole “visual novel about Japanese students killing each other” thing and runs with it in an interesting stylistic direction, making it feel fresh without trying too hard to turn it on its head. The result is a surreal, sometimes-comical take on the genre, using its bipolar tone to add extra strength to the serious moments, and doing enough interesting world-building to make the stakes feel legitimate.

5. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong Country is a series with a ton of personal, sentimental value. So of course Tropical Freeze made my list the moment I learned Nintendo and Retro brought David Wise back out of hiding to help work on the soundtrack. Donkey and the other Kongs look amazing in HD, and the new emphasis on camera movement makes the classic barrel-blasting segments that much more impressive. Adding Dixie to the mix is a great nostalgic button-pusher, and introducing Cranky as playable is just the best idea ever.


4. Mario Kart 8

I haven’t been too hot on Mario Kart since Double Dash!!, but Nintendo really went out of its way to do something great with the franchise’s high definition debut. Mario Kart 8 is, without compare, the best-looking game of 2014. Each track is gorgeous and full of life, with details so far-reaching you’ll notice something new every time you play. The kart racing is as intuitive as ever, and some of the new items are game-changers. The DLC packs are a great addition as well, adding non-Nintendo franchises for the first time, which seems like a no-brainer.

3. WWE 2k15

My interest in pro wrestling has only grown stronger in the past year, and my horizons have greatly expanded beyond the wall’s of Vince McMahon’s “sports entertainment.” WWE 2k15 has fueled that hunger in even more ways than last year’s game. Including NXT talent has expanded the roster in more ways than one, and the extra push Visual Concepts gave to the engine is thoroughly impressive. The dearth of options compared to last year unfortunately drags 2k15 down a few spots, but the core play is so perfect at emulating the pace and impact of a real WWE match, there’s no way I won’t be playing this all year.

2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

I seriously could not care less about Tolkien, but man, is this game a hoot. It’s one of those cynical, design-by-committee AAA mash-ups of everything, except something magical happened in the process and Warner Bros. churned out the most competent, fun-to-play open-world action thingies I’ve ever played. The controls are, unfortunately, a little too complicated for Remote Play, but everything else about Shadow of Mordor (minus the stagnant storytelling) is executed with clinical precision.


1. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

I was worried I wouldn’t get much time with the game before the year tapered off, but thankfully I was wrong. Guilty Gear is back, is tremendous, is gorgeous, is brilliant. The tricks Arc System Works pulled off with the Unreal Engine are absolutely mind-blowing, especially on PS4. It straight-up looks like 2D, digital animation and still handles flawlessly. Each returning character has interesting new tricks, and the new characters are either fascinating or hilarious. Xrd, while gorgeous, was originally developed on aging hardware, so it isn’t quite the huge, generational leap forward Street Fighter V looks like, but it sure is ending the year with a bang.