A game doesn’t have to be a complete package to catch our eye. Sometimes, it’s just a small event or single moment that we remember most. These are our favorite gaming moments of 2015, from Kojima Productions and The Unfinished Swan.
As 2015 draws to a close, PFX is ending the year with a look back on our favorite games and gaming moments of the year, plus a look forward to 2016. We previously wrote about our games of the year. Here are the gaming moments that stuck with us most.
My favorite moment of the year is one that occurred within the industry rather than a specific game, and that was the reformation of Kojima Productions. The months leading up to the launch of Metal Gear Solid V were filled with rumors and leaks of Konami’s internal workings, none of them pleasing. Without digging up all the dirt all over again, the end result was that Kojima and his team were more or less removed from Konami. The latest Metal Gear Solid game seemed to suffer from the internal shifts, which many felt was unfinished as a result of these issues. Kojima and his team, the masterminds behind the legendary franchise, were seldom heard from after a point. It was soon revealed that Kojima and many of his team members would no longer be with Konami following the release of their last game; it was a bitter end to a major gaming legacy.
Thankfully, that has also led to new opportunity. Kojima, and many key players from his team, have reformed as an independent version of Kojima Productions, free from Konami and with the support of Sony. While I am a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid games, it is time for the amazing creators behind the franchise to create new worlds for us to explore. On December 16th, 2015, it was officially announced that Kojima Productions was relaunched as an independent studio, working on a brand new franchise, and their new logo was unveiled:
The logo and the studio’s new website are all we have to go on so far. However, if these things are an indication of what is to come, it seems Kojima will be heading into thicker science fiction territory, which is something that I would welcome very much.
What is truly promising in all this is that the end result of Kojima’s last game, Metal Gear Solid V, was still one of the best video games we’ve enjoyed in terms of pure mechanics and controls, despite the well-deserved criticism of its other aspects. If I had to choose a favorite moment specifically from within a game, it would have been one of the masterfully crafted levels of this game, which hit all the high points of the franchise for me. The combination of the masterful visual polish and game play seen in Metal Gear Solid along with the team’s new-found freedom and opportunity promises to deliver one of the most exciting new IPs seen by the industry in a long time.
Thanks to Playstation Plus’s free monthly games, my favorite gaming moment of the year came from a title originally released in 2012, The Unfinished Swan. The Unfinished Swan is all about how the player maneuvers a world he cannot see. The first level is likely its most iconic: a completely white space which the player paints black in order to see the outlines of the world, and therefore to know how to traverse. But my favorite gaming moment of the year came in the third level, when that mechanic got turned on its head.
Whereas the black paint provides clarity in the game’s first level, it hides even more of the already dark, forested third level. Though this may seem trivial, the first time I threw paint balls into the night, expecting light but receiving nothing, I was immediately disheartened. I felt like the power I had been given earlier in the game and which I had become accustomed to had been taken away, which was compounded when, walking towards a light in the distance, I fell down a crevasse and into further darkness.
Shortly thereafter I came upon some more lights to guide my way, but emphasizing that this isn’t a playground anymore, the glowing red eyes of spiders started peeking out of the shadows. I’m not a fan of spiders so I found this a bit spooky, but as there hadn’t really been any enemies in the game up to that point, I wasn’t concerned. Good for setting the mood, I thought, but nothing to worry about. Until claw marks slashed across my screen, giving me a jolt and making me feel as anxious about avoiding those virtual spiders as I am real ones.
So how did powerlessness and anxiety result in my favorite gaming moment? First off, this was the point I started to appreciate how the earlier levels were designed with care to make that third level as effective as it was. Without the player previously using paint to clarify their undefined surroundings, they wouldn’t have expected as much when they appeared in darkness. Also, the second level doesn’t use black paint but rather water. Had there not been that switch, there would likewise have been no expectation of such later on. Plus, both the first two levels build up the player and provide a certain level of comfort, so the discomfort of the third level hits harder.
Secondly, those moments were followed up by my biggest gaming surprise in 2015, when I came upon a portal to a blueprint-like world so jarring that I honestly thought at first that the game had broken. But no, everything was working perfectly. Blueprint World was really there, waiting for me to enter. As one might expect, that section was all about creation: the paint ball mechanic turned into a way to make building blocks which, when placed in certain sports appear back in the forest so you can advance through the level, can also be just played around with. And although it was short, it was in the perfect spot; just when you want to feel safe, you not only (temporarily) leave the forest, you get to play.
All in all that lasted, I don’t know, 15 or 20 minutes? The remainder of the level wasn’t quite as impactful, but those 20 minutes stuck with me more than any other gaming moment this year.
Kojima Productions image source: Kojima Productions