This was a weird year in that there were basically no JRPG releases aside from Atelier Lydie and Suelle, like almost literally nothing else aside some more awful Trails of Cold Steel 5 or 8 or whatever number its on now. I still played a lot of games though, but given my favorite genre wasn’t really involved this is a little tougher than usual.
Worst Game I Didn’t Play
Red Dead Redemption 2
This is a game of nothing but slow animations and holding X to watch yourself ride your horse automatically next to any given NPC for up to 45 minutes straight talking slowly (or being silent) and without any chance of fun because if you dare to move yourself you’re automatically out of the mission area and have to start that 45 minutes all over again where nothing happens and the game has a built in auto-switch to the cinematic camera because it knows it is not a fucking game. I’ll probably gamefly this some day but boy, you can’t really claim video footage of this one doesn’t get the entire game across – it’s nothing. You do nothing, nothing happens, and you spend hours upon hours upon hours upon hours just sitting there listening to some fucker drone on and on about shit nobody cares about. This is a non-game. I thought the first RDR was pretty okay, and I do enjoy the GTA campaigns, but this seems like less of a game than an average visual novel – and far less interesting than one too.
I’d like to have some positivity towards maybe the open world stuff as that tends to be where a lot of fun is in Rockstar games, but it seems like even that suffers from the incredibly slow meandering bullshit animations and everything just being such a goddamn slog. And remember, this is coming from someone with over 100 hours in trucking sims and another 50 or so in a mechanic sim, but fuck if this doesn’t seem like the most boring thing on the planet.
Obviously, I haven’t played it, maybe there’s something nice about the pacing, but this seems like a case where it’d be hard to be wrong given even fans of the game are admitting most of it you just sit there watching your horse walk itself and call it a “really amazing experience“.
It does look visually really nice at least, I might gamefly it some day just to go around the world for a little bit.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
When I got my original Playstation it was a gift along with Crash, but the second game I ever played on it (and picked out myself) was Spyro. I never played 2 or 3, but I really enjoyed 1 at the time so I was excited to see how these simple games held up not so much over time but over my personal aging. Turns out Spyro is still a really solid and very fun and charming platformer and has some of the best story hooks in gaming (“you’re the only one who can fit in the hole so you go do it” or the main antagonist in 1 only existing because someone said he was ugly).
This was my first time playing 2 and 3 and I have to say 3 is easily the best of the games. It takes what made 1 so enjoyable and takes it way further, adds a lot, and brings the only stand-out element of 2 (the little themed stories of each world) to the game as well. The 2nd game I didn’t really enjoy much at all, it had no cohesiveness and the level design and everything just felt bad.
The biggest issues I had with this were mostly bug issues with trophies – I don’t REALLY care about trophies all that much but they’re a good incentive to go extra far with some games. I was hoping to platinum all 3 of these but in every single one I got a glitched trophy and so I just didn’t even bother going after the rest. I still 120%’d 1, completed 2, and am working on 100%’ing 3, but doing all the extra stuff for platinum isn’t worth it when I can’t get the trophy anyway because some random one broke. This seems like a really rare issue so it’s not a big deal but it still blows if you get unlucky.
If you haven’t played Spyro before, or have but it’s been awhile, this is really worth the already discounted price that it released with.
Valkyria Chronicles 4
This is maybe somehow the most real and respectful look at the impact war has on the people involved in it in video games. This is still in that same faux-WWII war but on a different front than the one you’re familiar with, as this time you’re invading into not-Germany rather than being on the defensive to try and destroy the capital and end the war with one swift blow. But VC1 wasn’t very believable about how the war was, it was just “we are the good guys so we are good and we win and anything bad that happens to us is a tragedy because we’re the good guys”. It was a fucking fantastic game and still one of the top games of the entire generation it came out during, but it didn’t really care about the war – it was focused more on “racism is bad look everyone that is racist is either an evil nazi or, if they’re on our side, is piece of shit until they stop being racist completely out of nowhere” and the only real drama came from the death of a cast member from a random dude shooting them right as racism ended! It was a very “anime” look at war – who cares about the war, lets have fun with a pig with wings and flirting also we’re all perfect!
One of my favorite things about THIS story is that it isn’t some moral do-gooder bullshit like the original Valkyria Chronicles – this is a much more realistic, gritty, and bleak look at war without the more ‘anime’ side of things being as heavily involved in the writing. The war is the story, not “my little sister is adopted and a fucking Jew everyone hates but won’t because they will all become good people!”. The entire war effort is portrayed from the start of the invasion to the end of the war and every step of the way its filled with so many emotional, powerful, and truly meaningful moments written with what feels like personal experience in war behind it. It felt genuine, especially with the impact of the war on the characters and the amount of death and violence involved throughout, in a way even more hardcore war sims miss out on especially by making the focus always be the war and the effects of war itself rather than ever FULLY becoming about the cast (while still making them all great).
Runner-up: Atelier Lydie & Suelle
I will spoil a big part of late-game story here, so if you haven’t played to completion I recommend skipping this particular award.
Honestly, VC4 was filled with things that I’d consider the best moment of the year, especially the last goodbye to the most important ‘member’ of the war effort. However, the sequence involving the literal nuclear bomb was the most stand-out, super tense, and completely filled with this torrent of emotions from what you’ve gone through the entire game up to this point that has you unsure of what you want them to do but at the same time yelling at the TV to PULL THE GODDAMN LEVER JUST FUCKING DO IT YOU CAN’T STOP NOW YOU HAVE TO END THIS. It only works so well because the story and cast are written so fucking well that you genuinely end up caring about them and also the world they’re in, so both detonating the bomb AND not detonating it are things the player feels strongly about in both directions. It really is this great push and pull for the player, you have no say in it but while it’s all happening you don’t know how to feel or what you really want them to do because it ends up this genuine moral conflict for you as well (plus makes you really want to consider what these actions would cause the characters to go through after making such a decision) and ends up being just a fantastic and emotionally exhausting sequence unlike almost anything else in the medium.
Minerva’s late involvement in the whole situation really raised it beyond what usually would happen there, adding probably the most important layer to it that made it so powerful – really throughout the game she was the primary factor for almost all the most impactful and emotional bits while also having the most realistic development from the war. I don’t want to spoil so that’s all I can say.
Best Overlooked Game
Metal Gear Survive
Probably the best survival game made to-date as well, Metal Gear Survive is a sad story of an incredible game ignored simply due to Kojima not being involved. Ironically, this does everything Kojima promised MGSV would yet didn’t have a single bit of…and it does it all VERY well. I honestly loved the hell out of this game – both single player and multiplayer were really fucking fun and addictive and continually evolved the more you played. The base building was some of the best I’ve seen in games, the story was more Metal Gear than 5 ever even attempted to be, and it’s an actually good horror game because it can get really creepy and unsettling at times from the atmosphere, the indoor environments especially, and a general feeling of being under-prepared and facing an unknown with loads of haunting things awaiting you.
I did a review of this game already that covers why I feel pretty strongly positive about this title and I’d recommend reading it because maybe it’ll get you to spend the very little it probably costs by now (it wasn’t even full price at launch) to get it. I really think it’s worth it and, again, if you have even slight interest in survival or base building – or actual exploring (you have to create the map by exploring and, yes, you get fucking lost and it is GENUINELY HARROWING) – then this is something you should try.
Best Male Character
(Atelier Lydie & Suelle)
This dude is probably one of my favorites in Atelier history. He’s just some fucking dead pirate captain who acts like he’s gonna get in your way but keeps helping you because he’s a nice guy and EVERY TIME YOU TALK TO HIM HE YELLS HIS FUCKING NAME BECAUSE HE’S MOTHERRFUCKIN CAPTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNN!
Best Female Character
Valkyria Chronicles 4
I already mentioned her a bunch, but really, Minerva is a truly stand-out character both within VC4 and in a more general sense. Her writing is incredible and, at least in the English dub, she is voiced perfectly and with loads of emotion behind every word.
She goes through such a rarely seen full arc of a character without stopping for anime or Hollywood cliches to create an unrealistic and bland “she was cocky and now she’s not because she learned the reality of war” type of thing. Instead, she grows through the blood of her comrades and, while she sometimes stumbles, she almost always becomes hardened by the events that unfold and goes in the opposite direction of what you’d usually expect. Rather, she practically follows the arc of an antagonist’s backstory rather than a typical hero’s, and it makes for a really great foil with Claude who, while he isn’t some obsessively good perfect boy like Welks was in 1, sometimes makes the wrong decisions to, at least at the time in his mind he believes, avoid more death or hesitates to make the hard choices.
While Claude becomes more and more aggressive and disdainful towards the empire he still manages to keep himself intact instead of letting himself fully be turned into something just as evil as he views the empire. On the other hand, Minerva willfully tosses her humanity aside and goes full Miller in the MGSV trailers because she is determined to spill as much blood from Imps as she can for everyone who died under her command (and pretty directly due to Claude at that). They developed her internal rage and hatred so well and really gave her character so much depth and so many changes that had huge impact on her and the overall story throughout, which was also surprising given she originally appears to be more of a supporting cast member.
Best Action Game
Attack on Titan 2
The first AoT game on consoles (not the handheld pile of shit) was actually spectacular and got the feeling and fluidity of movement and 3DMG across to the player really well. AoT2 really just builds on that by perfecting it as well as adding a lot more to the overall gameplay and throwing in a much more fully realized story mode including your custom character into the main story of the whole franchise thus-far (up to a few early bits of season 3) and the whole relationship stuff with all the characters really elevated things within the game and even in my experience of watching season 3 after playing this so I recognized a lot of faces most people would have forgotten by now and knew personalities of people we barely learn about in the show. It even has a really great final cutscene for your character that was a great choice on their part. Basically it has a great story and it plays REALLY FUCKING GOOD and there’s nothing else that really plays similarly so it’s a pretty cool and addicting experience and the story really gets you immersed as a true member of the survey corps alongside all your favorite characters.
Best Old Game
I know I’m literally the only person who gives a shit about VRC but it’s just been one of my only sources of comfort since everything got so fucking bad a little more than half a year ago. It’s also the only thing that makes me laugh nearly as often, and especially as hard, as it does – depending on who I’m watching or what it is they’re doing sometimes I’m stuck in tears and choking from laughing too much almost nightly. On the other side, it’s extremely relaxing, at times even moreso than trucking. I finally decided, though it seemed very scary, to actually just play it myself recently…and in 2 weeks I spent 98 hours in the game and I already made a whole bunch of friends in it as well.
It’s helped me a lot with all the recent horrible stress as well as my overall agoraphobia, social anxiety, and autism issues by letting me sort of ‘go outside’ without really doing it and being in social environments without AS much fear – but also it is an endless source of new unscripted just natural content to continually watch or be involved in that is always fun, relaxing, or fucking hilarious or chaotic. Most importantly, it’s the only thing like it and still the last bastion of what the internet used to be.
Sadly I can’t afford any VR headset, plus even mixed reality ones wouldn’t run on my computer apparently, so I’m stuck just KBM and I can’t really speak on a mic (though I might try to) because of all my disabilities. However, even so thoroughly gimped its really fun and on the first day I installed it I was in there for almost 13 straight hours and I already have become totally addicted to it even if all I do is stand around other people or sit in a fake bar doing nothing. It does feel a little weird being one of the oldest people around most of the time (most users seem to be in their early 20s and some are a lot younger and somehow afford VR), but I’m also typically the only fucking turbo retard around in most scenarios in life as it is so it was easy to get used to.
Having no VR or mic makes it hard to communicate when I do actually really want to, but I’ve managed well enough so they’re far from a total requirement if you’re okay sort of being to the side of things or spending a lot of time in worlds with usable pens to write with. In fact, I’ve had no trouble making lots of friends and not even being sidelined from conversations or doing stuff because of it at all, it’s surprisingly easy to still interact and meet new people even without usable arms or a voice. Honestly it makes it easier for someone like me, as it takes out the scariest parts of dealing with other people…plus, it’s a bunch of cute anime girls and that works a lot better than “imagine everyone is a potato/naked/etc” that people tend to say for advice when dealing with a crowd.
It’s ended up getting me a whole bunch of new friends who are all really fun, incredibly nice, and honestly the sweetest people I’ve ever known even to the weird old man running around as a cute loli in tiger pajamas. Even people who go around with avatars made specifically to harass and/or crash users and other silly bullshit, which I just call VR shitposters, have ended up really friendly (and they only blast me with their animations if I tell them it’s okay first, which I always do because it’s funny as shit).
I really love this thing, whether it’s a game or not, I’m not sure – though you can absolutely do almost anything you can think of in it. Watch movies or anime (somehow by chance the first group of friends I made included a few weebs and one of them who builds worlds and made one where he plays about 6 hours of anime every weekend in a custom built theater for his friends), play RPGs (including tabletop), play card games, explore a billion user-created worlds from the cool to the hilarious as well as try out all the thousands of avatars, get lap dances from cat girls who have full body tracking, sit around at a bar ‘drinking’ with friends and watching bartenders do tricks, playing this murder game where nobody knows who is who but someone tries killing off others without getting caught, dancing, drawing, etc. Of course you can also MAKE all those things (and avatars) if you want to learn how to. It’s really an amazing thing though because you can do whatever you want but you’ll find yourself often just sitting around doing nothing with a bunch of random anime girls all also sitting around doing nothing with you and somehow that’s really relaxing and enjoyable.
Runners-up: American Truck Simulator, 100% Orange Juice – they still continue to add more and more while also doing a lot of fun events as well. The support for this game is incredible when its so niche and gone on so long now. Still really fun and cute too.
Best ESports Moment
Most Proud Moment
Slaying Bazelgeuse in Monster Hunter World
This was an actual real task to take on – it took like 2 weeks of attempts to finally get it done with just me and my friend, both not at all prepared or the right classes to deal with this beast – and also being WAY UNDER LEVELED as well as taking it on by choice WAY before you even get a mission to do it. It became this really genuine actual legitimate rivalry between us and this monster; it was really goddamn cool, like our own Moby Dick. The game does nothing to really create that feeling like in terms of being programmed in or anything, but spending so long and trying so hard over and over to take this creature down really led to a personal connection between both players and this AI/NPC monster. Taking it down was really fucking hard and took real effort and strategizing (especially, again, because we were way under-leveled, the wrong classes, and under-equipped) but it was one of the most worthwhile and rewarding feeling things in a game ever because of it. I felt real pride in doing it with a little bit of sadness for this rival we had clashed with so many times, and it will be one of the best memories in gaming of all time for me.
Most Shameful Moment(s)
Anime ‘Girl’ Lapdances
Full body tracking and jiggle physics have really changed the world, but I think Goku’s side-eye explains these situations well enough without comment.
Top 5 Games Of The Year
5. Hitman 2
I loved the “first” Hitman (you know which I mean), and this is pretty literally the same game but with a few enhancements, a bunch of new levels, more of the mysterious storyline being revealed, more weapons, sean bean, etc. It’s like a huge expansion (to the point you can even install all the old maps into this game if you want and own the prior one, which is pretty great). I’ve been a fan of this series since the ACTUAL first Hitman way way way back and the first of the reboot (“Hitman” from a couple years ago or so) was really just such a perfect step forward for a basically dead franchise, and 2 takes it up a notch with a lot of great additions, a bit more comedy, a much more well designed way of following through the various story missions, and some great new ideas for locations. Speaking of which, I’d have to say my favorite of the locations (even including the ‘first’ game) would probably be the race track and the suburbs.
Really there’s not much to say aside “It’s Hitman but even better” – and if you haven’t played Hitman (the new or any of the old) then you absolutely should. These aren’t action games, but a sort of really unique ‘puzzle’ of sorts. You have to plan ahead and figure out how to do your hits and, if you want – which usually does make it way more fun – try to manage and do it without getting caught at all or killing any innocents, as well as trying all the REALLY GREAT ‘story missions’ which give you basically a guided over-the-top experience with special dialogue and situations that only exist if you follow them, creating fantastic replayability.
The only negative thing I really have to say about it is that the multiplayer stuff blows complete ass. I was really excited about it when they announced it and then it turns out it’s two shitty modes; one is just this race to assassinate the same random target faster for like 5 targets and you don’t even exist in each other’s game aside as ghosts, and the other is this stupid sniping shit I tried for like 3 minutes and quit out of. When they said ‘co-op’ I figured they meant actual co-op.
4. Atelier Lydie & Suelle
Almost any year Atelier has a new title released is a year Atelier ends up on my top 5 – this time around is no exception. Lydie & Sue is a fantastic closer for the “Mysterious” trilogy – not only is it full of really well done bittersweet emotional stuff from the death of their mother, and especially when it came to watching this dad having lost his wife, but it’s also got loads of the typical Atelier fun (even including things involving the dead mom), some of the most creative worlds to explore, wonderful characters, and does a fantastic job at giving the trilogy’s cast their own little endings to their stories as well.
As far as gameplay goes this is probably the best both in combat and in synthesis – which tends to be how Atelier is, each game better than the last as they evolve the formula every time and experiment with new ideas.
3. Dragon Quest XI
Like the next two games, I reviewed this already, so it’s sort of hard to explain again without wanting to just say “go read the review” or retyping something just as long, so for all of them – including GOTY, I might not go on very long. In short though, DQXI was my first ever step into the main Dragon Quest games – having only played (and recently) Builders and Heroes 2. Builders, the live action parody of DQ and JRPGs “Hero Yoshihiko” which is FUCKING HILARIOUS, and the fact they finally were making a new one for a real console got me to finally try it out.
I wasn’t disappointed, in fact it was far above what I expected and was incredibly fun, memorable, and full of charm. Honestly it might be one of the most charming things I’ve ever spent time with. However, while the art is cute and the story simple, there’s still a lot of great world building and an actually pretty serious story that is presented very well throughout the whole thing. The charm is sort of a double-edged sword though, as it really damages the immersion which, to me, is a huge part of what makes JRPGs so great. When every single line is a joke it pulls you out of it and you play knowing you are playing a game rather than play and feel like you are experiencing a story in another world.
The biggest reason this is only number 3 though is the post-game…rather, the last third of the game. The game has a false ending, then a real ending – it’s great at that point – but after the real ending you’re tasked with a pointless and mostly irrelevant third “this is the actual real ending” to continue the story to get to, but it’s just stupid and the moment you walk up to the first monster you see you get fucking decimated. I said it this way in my review – but this last 3rd is basically the extra-difficult bonus dungeon you unlock in most jrpgs, except it’s forced to get the “full” story of the game, so technically I never beat this!
2. Monster Hunter World
Another one I reviewed already. I had a near impossibly difficult time deciding between this and my GOTY, but while MHW is unbelievably fun and rewarding to play…it has no story and the only “character” really is your handler who has no name or any relevance aside being cute and eating a lot. It’s more of a pureform “video game” – it’s a game, you play a game because it’s fun to play a game, but video games can be so much MORE than just that and that’s what held this back from GOTY which had both incredible gameplay AND an incredible story.
Monster Hunter is something that has always been hard to get into – people mistake that for being super complex, which it can be, but the real reason was simply due to practically never releasing a game on a real console since a very long time ago. This is not AS complex as people make it out, but it is a game with a lot to it…and having to claw your hands on some shitty little Nintendo handheld and play with the ugliest smeared-shit graphics really killed any interest in the franchise for most people outside of Japan, myself included.
MHWorld finally alleviates that issue as well as a lot of other hardware related issues like the horrible fucking non-stop loading you’d have to do, horrible menu design and layout, and of course it looks fantastic.
As for the game itself and why it’s this high up the list – it’s just a very unique and EXTREMELY addictive thing. You pretty much repeat the same shit 300000 times and yet it never gets old and is always exciting as fuck. Maybe you’re taking on a Diablos for the fucking 20th time and even have all its attack patterns and whatnot memorized – it doesn’t matter, the thrill is still there in sort of a Dark Souls type of way where what really matters is the execution of everything by the player and, in this case, the other players joining him.
I’m not sure what to say here because I said it all in my review – and, much like the GOTY, it was one of my longest reviews ever because I just have so much to say about it and all of it is so worth explaining in depth. I really loved this game and I can’t wait for them to hopefully make another one. There’s really nothing else like it – not even other MH games or the clear “inspired” (ripped off) games. This has a very specific feeling to it and it is one you absolutely should experience. It’s fucking cool as shit and makes you feel that way too.
Game Of The Year
Valkyria Chronicles 4
You saw me gushing about the story, the cast, and even the sequences/moments in this game this entire post, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise. VC4 is a nearly perfect game and I already wrote one of my longest reviews ever about how amazing it is in every way. I’m not really sure how to do it justice here in shorter form because I really put a lot of work into that review and at the same time kept it as short as I could and it still ended up massive.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is just an absolutely amazing game in every aspect. The gameplay is still completely unchallenged with pretty much no competition – I mean literally in that there really aren’t any other games LIKE VC at all even since the first, but also in that it is incredibly polished. I never ever got tired of playing this game and they went so far out of their way to make sure EVERY SINGLE MISSION – yes LITERALLY EVERY ONE from start to fucking finish – was DIFFERENT. You never play a mission that is too similar to the last, sometimes it’s a smaller gimmick like needing to shoot these clock towers, but other times it is something much bigger and that impacts your entire strategy. A big part of that is due to the fact you are the invading force – which not only created a really cool story perspective, but gave a reason for every mission to be so varied and for the locales/scenery/weather to continually and at times very dramatically change.
Then, of course, there’s the story and cast which I’ve already gone into pretty well in this post itself – let alone the review; one of the best and most real war stories in gaming along with Minerva who may be in my top 30 or so favorite game characters because of the amazing attention to detail and development with her.
I completely loved everything about this game and there is no possible way they could have made a better true sequel to the Valkyria Chronicles name. More importantly for the status of GOTY, it was just fucking fantastic in every single way it could possibly be and with such a powerful fucking story and great, unique, and detailed gameplay. This is a must play and honestly I think it’s a lot more than just GOTY – in fact I might say it’s pretty close to being the very best of the generation, much like the original.