I know, it’s like 16 days into the new year and I simply haven’t made an attempt to write anything related to video games. (albeit in a very long time, irregardless of ‘game of the year’ lists.)
But, here is my attempt to fix that. Because I’m going to be honest, a lot of my focus toward the end of the year was to just produce video things. I think I would have to credit my friend Geoff for that. After being a regular contributor to his twitch talk show for almost the entire time it was on, I ended up catching the streaming bug pretty hard myself (Although these days it seems to be mostly about Overwatch, Truck Driving and cleaning up dead bodies.)
And putting more focus into content for my NewsFriends podcast, as well as freelance video jobs I literally had zero time to think about anything to write.
So I went home for a bit, and I had time to think.
First and foremost, the top 10:
A very last minute and controversial decision to kick something else off the list by adding a Musou game. I think a musou game being in a top 10 list is pretty controversial to a lot of people. So here were are.
I didn’t have a lot of VR experiences in 2017, but Superhot VR has been the number one reason. It’s easily accessible, and too much fun to put down.
Playing this is essentially me saying, “I passed up the chance to play the original gameboy version, because I didn’t actually enjoy the series back then. So I’m making up for it with this, and it’s actually surprisingly good.”
(Otherwise known as the ‘annual picross game added to the list by default.’) I will never apologize for adding Picross to the list, but I do apologize for it not being higher.
It is fun, and I’m still actually playing it. But despite all of the cool and interesting things that Odyssey brings to the table, the biggest notch against it is saying out loud, “YEAP, this is a Mario game alright.”
When talking about Yakuza 0, I don’t want to fall into the trap of calling it ‘The best game that no one has played.” it’s a very tempting phrase, and Yakuza has a long history of not actually selling in North America.
I love Yakuza 0, because it’s still doing what it does so well which is be a badass crime drama. Where dudes are just dude-ing all over the place. It’s the long running series that Shenmue III can only hope it will be (and it probably won’t).
It manages to tell a prequel story that isn’t ham-fisted. Because it just focuses on characters that you should care about in the original Yakuza. Plus this game also let’s you finally play as Goro Majima and it isn’t a complete shit-show of fan service.
At this point, Puyo Puyo Tetris is actually a pretty old game, with it’s first release being as far back as 2014. luckily the game finally seen a North American release with a version being released on the Nintendo Switch. (as well as a digital release on PS4)
I do like to think I’m a connoisseur of Tetris games, because it’s the one game I always have on me as far back as a release on the original gameboy. The special thing about PPT is that I like the feel of them whenever a Japanese company is behind the development. Something I don’t think EA or Ubisoft could really get right.
But this being a game developed by Sega also meant that they could slap their Puyo game alongside it. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of nor do I have a good understanding of Puyo, they really created something unique with it’s different modes that help me appreciate Puyo a little.
Plus, Playing Tetris with friends is always a non-stop thrill ride that gave me absolutely one of my favourite moments of the year.
Every time I play a new Fire Emblem game, I always feel like saying the phrase “wow, I never thought I would enjoy a Fire Emblem game.” Which is a really dumb thing at this point if we’re talking as far back as Awakening. But this game finally got rid of the thing that I’ve hated about the series and it was the weapon triangle that felt so detrimental to the gameplay.
It would force me to use a small handful of unit types and I would never want to take chances. Those games always felt like it was punishing you for just choosing them before you get a chance to use them.
Even though that’s still a thing that Echoes tries to do, it’s much more manageable. Every unit gets a chance to be used. The other thing that’s great about Echoes is that since it’s a remake of an old Famicom game, they essentially honed in their storytelling skills with cutscenes, VO and additional mission.
Essentially they created a Fire Emblem game with the most coherent story it’s ever had.
I do have my biases of being a Resident Evil gan, but I think I can put all that by the door, in saying that RE7 is not so much a return to form, but an improvement to a series that has lost its horror edge for quite a long time. Even though it does find it’s way to tying things back to the overall story of the series, it takes new characters into a new scenario and refreshes the series.
RE7 is an allegory for what the games used to be and what they’ve evolved into. Throwing you head-first into that old spooky feel, and taking slow steps toward reminding the player what modern RE games have been about. From running for your life down spooky corridors to solving puzzles and having enough ammo in the end to mow everything down.
It is a game that is unique only to itself and I honestly hope it stays that way.
Unsurprisingly, BOTW is my game of the year. well, let me paint a bit of a picture.
back in 1998 I, like every other kid, was looking forward to the game that was finally worth owning an N64 for (if you also weren’t counting games like Mario Tennis, Harvest Moon and Quest.) Ocarina of Time was an amazing realization of what Zelda could be in 3D, but not even that long after Zelda has been stuck as the same game over and over again.
Much like saying “YEAP, this is a Mario game.” I would always find myself saying “YEAP, this is Zelda,” but I always felt bummed out by that.
To me it felt as though Zelda was missing something.
Since it’s release BOTW was my top game this year because it got rid of all those old things that have been Zelda-esque for so long and created a living breathing world that I could just get lost in every time I play it.
And for me it’s not even the open world. It’s not the ‘go where ever you feel like going’ a la original NES game. This game had me with the sheer amount of it’s population. I didn’t feel alone in this giant world. I was always bumping into NPCs wandering around, camping out, or getting into their own fights. And sure, this isn’t the first game to do that by any means, but the idea that this was a Zelda game creating a world that is actually lived in, really takes me back.
And the thing is, I still have more of this game to play. I have hours of dlc that I still need to get through. But as I said before, I get lost in it. Every time I start up BOTW, it pulls me in and I explore.
I’ve been down these roads so many times already, and even though it’s become so familiar, it just doesn’t get old.
And now other crap..
Gradual disappointment of the year
I don’t know if I need to say something like “Full Disclosure: I consider myself to be incredibly defensive over the original Nier,” because Nier: Automata kind of… sucks.
And this is the weird part… Earlier in the year I made a nice video about how much I enjoyed it (I believe the video is called something like “Nier Automata is very good“) Because when I played it, I liked it. The gameplay was great, story beats were interesting, it was a fucking Nier game and I wanted to root for it because Square Enix gave a shit.
But then I guess I missed the mark on what this game was supposed to be, because the conversations everyone else were having about the game was changing my perception and actually bumming me out.
The majority of the audience was much more interested in sexualizing the characters every moment, and when discussions about the games story actually happened, it made me realize that the story of “understand humanity through robots/androids” is kind of a boring trope, especially when you add layers of anime bullshit with a lille bit of “The Matrix” thrown in for good measure.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. Automata does unique things and there are some fabulous call backs to the first game, but it has fallen prey to fandom and infatuation so hard that it turns me away.
Hell, I ended up kicking this game off my top 10 list and substituted it with a musou.
Soundtrack of the year
There has been a lot of good games, and a lot of fabulous game music, and it’s been a little hard to think about what as been the best. Some would say that an obvious no brainer for best OST would go to Persona 5. I want to agree with you, but it doesn’t actually take my top spot.
I once had a conversation with my friend Tyler about how the OST of this game wasn’t as good as the first. But the more I played it, and the more I listened to individual tracks, Tyler was surprised to hear that Splatoon 2 was my favourite OST of 2017.
I guess I’ll put it to you this way. I often say that Jet Set Radio/Future is some of the best game music of all time. It’s simply because the soundtrack is entirely complimentary to the world it inhabits. Regardless of where it is, and where it comes from it just fits into place as a believable thing you would hear in this space.
Splatoon 2 is that.
Okay sooo… compare it to Persona 5. A beautifully crafted soundtrack yes. It’s fuckin jazzy, bumpin, gets you dancing, GETS YOU PUMPED. but it doesn’t really mean anything to the world. It’s just there to be the wrap around. I don’t believe it fits the world because I would bet every playable character is unique and has different musical tastes. essentially the sounds would have to be reflective of that.
Splatoon 2’s music fits the world. Hell, if it didn’t center around splattin’ if would just as well be a battle of the bands game. The inklings and performers all have a common interest and they’ve created a sound that the inhabitants of this world are interested in. That’s the kind of shit I look for, It’s not necessarily about how it makes me feel, it’s about how it works in the game that it’s in just as much.
That’s it. There’s not a lot of additional categories for more GOTY stuff because I either didn’t think that far ahead or I just don’t care enough. EITHER WAY, Here’s to a more productive 2018.
( Shilling here to remind people that I got an awesome news podcast that people should check out it may occasionally be game related, but is otherwise fun.)