Top five video games and anime of 2015 - Spring and Summer contenders

We are now more than halfway through 2015, and I feel that my contenders for this year’s best anime and video game picks are currently fewer and further between than in years past. I have only come across a couple of games that really blew me away, and one in particular was a title that I did not expect to impress me as nearly much as it managed to. There are, however, a few major titles releasing this Fall and Winter that may very well find their way on to the final, year-end list, including Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Star Fox Zero. On the anime side of things, there’s certainly been a clear front-runner since the year began, while other series have managed to offer me pleasant surprises with shorter episode counts.

- Video Games -

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth - Persona Q combines the dungeon-mapping and exploration elements of the Etrian Odyssey series with the familiar faces and Persona abilities from the third and fourth numbered entries in the Persona series. Persona Q is, in many ways, a game that is directly aimed at established fans of the series, offering callbacks to events that transpired in Persona 3 and Persona 4 Yet, it does well to establish an engaging narrative all its own. The lack of Social Link depth is unfortunate, but all the same, Persona Q is one of the most jam-packed and wonderfully enjoyable spinoff games of its caliber.

Splatoon - The fictional hosts of this game, Callie and Marie, tell players to stay fresh, and that’s exactly what Splatoon is – a fresh culmination of third-person shooting, action-adventure, platforming, and slight puzzle design, all wrapped up in a wildly inventive, punky aquatic vision of Tokyo, where online multiplayer is the primary focus. The soundtrack is kickin’, the neon ink colors bright and a blast to splatter over every inch of the map, and the community focus incredibly strong.

Shadows of the Damned - Delivering a simpler, more singularly-focused tale than other Suda51 creations, Shadows of the Damned sees the grindhouse-inspired demon hunter Garcia Hotspur racing headfirst into the depths of hell to save his true love. Weaving a curiously cohesive string of environments together to create a fresh vision of hell, and offering tight gameplay the focuses on three core weapons and their occasional uses for solving puzzles, Shadows of the Damned is a surprisingly solid entry in the legacy of Grasshopper Manufacture, even if its crude sense of humor falls flat from time to time.

- Anime -

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Egyptian Arc) - What is currently poised to take the cake as this year’s best-of-the-best anime, the second half of Stardust Crusaders has managed to ORAORAORA the competition and climb the ranks as one of my all-time favorite anime series. It’s a masterful follow-up to the first half of Stardust Crusaders, an adaptation which was already an incredible improvement over the wonderfully-realized animated telling of the first two arcs of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The series keeps on improving as it progresses, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this love letter to the Jojo’s fanbase.

Ninja Slayer - Despite a rocky start, this goofy, sometimes off-the-wall homage to action anime of the late 1980s and early 1990s has proved consistently entertaining since. Drastic changes in animation style and quality poke fun at limited budgets from the era that Ninja Slayer draws so much of its inspiration from, and the exchanges of greetings that foes share prior to each violent encounter puts a smile on my face as character designs proves increasingly more silly. Ninja Slayer knows when to play its cards properly, balancing wacky humor with kickass action sequences.

Mobile Suit Victory Gundam - Victory Gundam has aged surprisingly well given its early 1990s debut. Sure, there are a handful of gaps in logic and corny sequences, but by and large, Victory Gundam plays the part of a spiritual successor to Zeta Gundam, pitting a rebellious group of ragtag teens and young adults against the cruel and violent expansion of the Zanscare Empire. The hand-drawn animation also impresses with its lack of reliance on stock footage, and the soundtrack haunts with its soft, yet still imposing melodies.

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine - A throwback to the classic action and espionage of one of anime’s oldest and most iconic series, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine combines flash and flair of a bygone era with contemporary writing techniques for a smart, sexy, and thoroughly enjoyable telling of the earliest encounters between Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, Inspector Zenigata, and the titular Fujiko. The art style is gorgeous, retaining the traditional character designs with gorgeous lighting effects, harsh shadows, and an overall presentation factor that continues to impress with subtle impacts on the larger product.

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