Between worst and best anime stuff it’s time for a break with VIDEO GAMES.
I couldn’t pick between these two other games for 5th and I felt bad so I’m including neither and instead I’m gonna include this very necessary honorable mention as the “5th” game of the year even though it’s not from this year (I played it all this year and it released barely in time to not be a 2016 release anyway). OOPS. This is ordered from 5th to 1st (GOTY).
Honorable Mention: Yakuza 5
This would be on here probably as the GOTY but it technically released in the very last weeks of 2015 so while sometimes I’m willing to give exceptions I just felt like playing it straight this time around and not doing that even though it’s a 100+ hour game that released with barely enough time to play that long and that I didn’t get around to it till later anyway because my dad was literally dying in my living room. This game is fucking brilliantly made and is easily the very best release in the franchise to-date (at least released in English so far, we’ll see if 0 or 6 surpass it soon enough though) and I have to say it’s honestly probably one of my top 5 releases of the entire PS3 generation. It’s nearly flawless and just has so much incredibly fun and enjoyable content that you get to experience with these really great characters – it’s also such a great fucking payoff having played the last 4 games, as this series is known for continuing an overarching plot and it does so again here. Thankfully that includes the characters aging – we finally get to play as Haruka, who has been around since the original game as a little like 6 year old who is now a teenage idol-to-be.
There is SO MUCH VARIETY IN THE GAMEPLAY it’s unbelievable not just the immensity of how much is there but how fucking good every single bit of it is from the main stuff like fighting being so different as each character (and literally being a dance battle rhythm game as Haruka) to all the side content ranging from taxi driving to running a hostess club and everything inbetween – all of which is not only incredibly fun and well made but also typically has a whole full story built around it. This is a must-play game and I love the shit out of it as well as the entire Yakuza franchise, and again the games really do build on one another in one big overall story and even with events from prior ones being very important – if you’ve never played them be 100% sure to watch all the cutscenes from the prior games that they luckily provide in this (and most) releases. You won’t get 100% of the info but you’ll get all the most relevant stuff, and Yakuza has a surprisingly very fucking deep and complex story, so it’s important! Incredible story full of insane twists and turns and loads of genuine emotional moments, amazing cast including the legendary Dragon of Dojima, fantastic and very varied gameplay, hilariously over the top (and aware of that!), and just so goddamn fun. Play it.
World of Final Fantasy
This is a game that absolutely oozes fanservice, near literally every single thing in it is referential or straight up pulled from prior Final Fantasy titles from the super popular to more niche releases (for example Dirge of Cerberus and Crystal Chronicles both have main supporting cast characters here) and it boasts a huge number of characters, places, and especially enemies that fit that as well as music. Not only that, but the new original characters are fantastic as well and one of the most fun elements of the game. Reynn and Lann are both lovable immediately especially because of their top-notch chemistry with one another and how much they feel like believable siblings. Tama and (especially) Serafie are just too darn cute. Hell, this entire fucking game is adorable in every way possible – yet still is a legitimate real game. It’s not just a fanservice game, nor is it a Disney-tier thing, it’s legitimately really fun and has a very unique combat system to keep you busy when you aren’t laughing or being charmed, as well as a pokemon-style collection system for what monsters and friends help you in combat and on your pancake stacks.
This is not JUST a game for fans of FF or for those who have played all or most of the games, this is a game that will definitely give you more from it if you HAVE that experience, but even if you’ve never played a title in the series before this game is really fun, cute, and just unbelievably fucking charming. I absolutely recommend checking it out and being prepared to just relax and have a laugh and a big grin the whole time because of just how fantastically done every little thing is done in this game. I can’t repeat enough how amazingly charming this game is and not in a “for kids” way, absolutely anyone of any age would love the experience this provides.
American Truck Simulator
This definitely isn’t one you’ll be seeing on most people’s GOTY lists but that’s their loss. As a huge fan of European Truck Simulator 2 for years, the announcement and (finally after some delays) release of ATS was such an exciting thing and boy did it pay off. While it lacks currently in variety of trucks and states (both being worked on diligently and being patched in as they’re able to) the world is huge especially after the recent free patch upping the scale to 1:20 making an already large world even bigger – and that’s with just California, Arizona, and Nevada! Truck wise I’m happy with what there is and with everything they keep adding in – and of course there are incredibly talented modders who make all sorts of very detailed and accurate trucks (I choose not to use any trucks that aren’t officially in the game though, personally).
Anyway, it’s exactly what it says – a trucking simulator. You drive a big rig and pick up then deliver cargo from place to place, sounds boring I know but there’s just something intensely relaxing and enjoyable about it. It’s a game you can use to wind down, relax, or even soothe yourself if you’re panicking over something – but it’s also one that’s just plain fun in it’s simplicity and has some really beautiful views at times. Turn on some music, a podcast, or an audiobook narrated by Tim Curry and you’re good to go – and go you likely will, as most people who pick up ETS2 or ATS out of curiosity or even to shit on it end up with 100+ hours easily because it’s ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD. Is it for everyone? I’m gonna go ahead and say fuck no, but it’s definitely something everyone should try out. It can be as simple or complex as you want, can be played with mouse+KBM, a controller, or of course an actual wheel and pedals, and is something you shouldn’t assume you wouldn’t like without giving it a shot and realizing how lost you can get in just driving.
Dragon Quest Builders
This is a game I had no interest in and no expectations for…until the demo that I tried on a whim when it first was available. Then I noticed I spent over 20 hours in a pretty limited demo and realized I had already fallen in love with it. DQB is, less than World of FF though, very charming even to someone like me who historically has hated dragon quest blindly to the point of never even trying any of the games (admittedly stupid, but whatever, I got over that once Hero Yoshihiko came out and was so fucking great) and someone who (actually played it though) hates Minecraft. Yet, something about this mash up of the two is just fantatsic. It’s fun, charming, and feels so good to build up your little towns. The addition of actual characters in the game as opposed to Minecraft and other similar building games really helps, not only does it spice up your town by giving it much more personality as well as people to interact with (and that build stuff for you!) but it also helped them add in actual STORY and QUESTS which definitely upped the quality of what would otherwise just be putting blocks on one another. You can also make some really great stuff which results in a lot of “let me see YOUR version of this town” with other people who have the game because you want to really see how they’ve gone about building their stuff, and the world feels vast and fun to explore with multiple areas and biomes you’ll progress through with the fun and exciting plot as you meet more and more silly and intriguing characters along the sometimes rather dark path. One thing I can’t personally really talk about much also is that the game apparently is a non-canonical sequel to the non-canonical ending of DQ1 where the player can choose to accept a deal with the evil dragon king and, in this case, he did! Because of that the game also takes place with some locations and things you’ll recognize if you played that (apparently), and of course it features everyone’s – even mine – favorite Dragon Quest “enemy”, the Slime.
Game Of The Year
Final Fantasy XV
I’m writing a full review up (very slowly) for this so I don’t want to go into too huge an explanation because I want to really get into that there, but I will say that this game was everything I hoped it would be and even far beyond those expectations. It’s a fantastic masterful game that finally brings the concept of “it’s the journey, not the destination” to the forefront and WITHOUT making that destination any less for it, in fact it strengthens it. You’ll see a lot of people saying the game is bad but if you look into it almost every person who says so will also say how short it was or how they beat it at some low level – basically saying they rushed through and just went from main story mission to main story mission. It sounds like a lame excuse from a “Square Enix Defense Force” member or something – but the fact is that some games CAN be played wrong, and this is absolutely one of the games that’s the MOST true for.
FFXV is all about the journey, all about your – the player’s – bonds with these four guys that are somewhat made from story missions but heavily created through your own “moments” with them throughout all the side content and exploration as well. The payoff at the end while also a great story and great ending to that story, is very heavily based on your personal connection with this group and closeness to them – something you can only really nurture by just spending time playing the game. Without that the entire point of the game and the ending is lost. This is not a game to rush through, it’s a game to soak in and truly understand that when they said “it’s a game about these guys on a road trip and their journey” they really meant it. By the end of the game, if you actually put your dues in, you’re hugely rewarded for it in very meaningful emotional ways. Yet people expect that to just happen even if they don’t bother participating in befriending this cast and getting to know them and go through harrowing, fun, and crazy experiences with them – ignoring that it works just like in real life, where you have to put in effort and time to get anything genuine out of relationships with other people as well as let the characters do the same with one another (the chemistry is great and feels genuine, but only if you actually see it obviously).
As for the other elements – well, again, I don’t want to go too deep into this so I’ll go fast. The main story – I thought it was actually really good, exciting, gripping, and had a lot of really huge twists I didn’t see coming at all in the final chapters. I loved the cast, I don’t just mean the main 4 guys, but everyone from the main antagonist to literally just every character involved in the story at all in any way. Especially the ladies. I mean damn they made some INCREDIBLE WOMEN in this game – both in looks and in lovable personalities, including ones I thought I’d hate or not care for. Luna is the only one that was kind of just “alright”. The combat in this game is fantastic as well, it has a simplistic seeming quality to it yet in practice it’s actually pretty deep, varied, and VERY fun and fast paced as well as just awesome to watch.
FFXV is a game that after nearly 80 hours I still haven’t gotten remotely burnt out on or tired of. It’s so fun and every moment with the guys feels rewarding no matter what you’re doing, it’s the type of game you don’t want to end even after it already has. Truly a masterpiece and something that if I ever rank my top JRPGs again (that one I did is pretty out of date and even when I wrote it it kind of was) it pretty certainly would be there.
Also, I got the platinum trophy for it.