Shacknews has returned to begin a year full of gaming coverage. It all starts with the continuation of our annual tradition, where each staff member lays out a number of games that they're anticipating for the new year.
Batman: Arkham Knight
More than any other game on my list, Batman: Arkham Knight feels like a known quantity. I love when games are little delightful surprises or when I'm not sure what to expect--many of my picks are mostly borne out of sheer curiousity or ambition--but Batman is the comfort food of gaming experiences. I already know how it will play, and all I want is to beat up and/or terrify some hapless thugs. I am vengeance, the night, etc.
Even so, Batman: Arkham Origins proved that Rocksteady is the true gatekeeper of the Arkham-verse. I'm sure I'll be in for some surprises regardless. The Batmobile looks to be a fun traversal method that still takes advantage of the existing tools, and I have enough faith in Rocksteady's storytelling chops to be curious about the central mystery of the Arkham Knight's identity. Plus the studio always finds ways to litter in references to the comics for those of us familiar enough to catch them, so playing is like a spot-it game for nerds.
Mario Maker probably won't be as robust or flexible as I imagine it in my head. The possibilities are virtually endless! I want creators to be able to mix and match elements from every Mario game, including the Mario-not-Mario game Super Mario Bros 2. I want them to be able to string together stages to make a full game, including warp pipes and whistles. I want to see the implications of a Hammer Bro tossing out Shy Guys with racoon tails. I want it all. It's not going to be that.
What it will be, in all likelihood, is a fun way to tinker with one of the firmest gaming foundations that exists. Mario mechanics became a classic staple for a reason, and Nintendo recognizing the mod and creator scene with a game built around a toolset will finally let us take part in the creative process. I firmly believe that Level 1-1 is among the most elegantly designed chunks of video game ever produced, and soon we'll all get to see just how hard it is to make something that gracefully executed.
Nintendo needs to take forward-thinking steps to make sure this fulfills even some of its potential--namely, by curating and highlighting stages and making sure there's a robust community to support creators. If it does, this could be a real classic homage.
Mighty No. 9
As a general rule I don't support video game Kickstarter campaigns. I think it would be problematic if I had to recuse myself from coverage. But if ever I were tempted to, it was for Mighty No. 9. I began my foray into writing about video games with a small Mega Man fan site, and I've been sad to see Capcom slowly giving up on the character even as so many other games get nostalgic HD remixes or series reboots. Keiji Inafune's decision to file the serial numbers off his own creation isn't particularly subtle, but it's about as Mega Man as you can get these days, and I'm okay with that.
The preview videos have looked great, striking the proper balance of old-school gameplay with a few new twists. Better yet, its successful crowd-funding is nothing if not a flashing neon sign to Capcom about how it's mishandled its own property, so maybe this will finally spur them on to give us Mega Man Powered Up 2. A guy can hope, right?
No Man's Sky
What the heck is No Man's Sky? It's a space sim, of sorts, with exploration elements and procedurally generated worlds and space-dinosaurs. At this point we all know the bullet points. The teaser videos have done a lot for selling us on those. Still, I have no idea how a typical session of No Man's Sky will go. I sit down, start up the game, and then...? I'm intrigued, and excited to go exploring, but after so much hype I'm afraid of what the game will actually be. I'm cautiously optimistic, but curiosity alone lands it a spot among my most anticipated.
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
When Nintendo gets a Zelda game right, it's really something special. A Link Between Worlds was not just one of my top games of that year; it made me happy on a deeper level than most games manage, because I finally felt confident that Nintendo got it. After years of trying to recapture the flawed, good-for-its-time magic of Ocarina, the franchise's key-holders finally seemed to understand what made those early games so inspiring.
Eiji Aonuma has been frank about what he perceives as some weaknesses in the current formula, and I'm inclined to agree. The new approach is an open world and a design philosophy that emphasizes curiosity and exploration--you know, the same design philosophy that opened the original game by sticking you in the middle of a field without any weapons, goals, or explanation. I love elements of the Zelda mythos, but mostly I just want to step into the laced brown boots of a plucky kid going on an adventure. Give me that feeling again and it will be a contender.
Those are just some of the games I'm looking forward to in 2015. Look for the rest of the staff to chime in throughout the week. But I'm also checking to see what you're all waiting to see in 2015. Be sure to join the conversation in Chatty and let us know your most anticipatd games of the new year.