2022：Childhood Callbacks at Eras’ Ends
Late November is bit early to some as end of the year, but not to me. So I am putting up my list at that time. Besides, it feels good to say that yours truly beat the Keighley’s to it by more than 2 two full weeks in 2022, even though it’s not a race. Anyway, hope you all enjoy the mad rumbling below.
Yours truly define their childhood as the period of time before they started to identify as a so-called “gamer” on their tenth birthday. January, the eighteenth, 2000 to be precious. Before that day, yours truly only occasionally dipped their toes into video games and did not pay attention to media covering video game. That child’s pleasure in the entirety of 1990s laid in linear and non-interactive media like movies, cartoons, comic books and so on.
2022 marks the ends of more than one era. With Jeff “the surviving founder” Grestmann left, Giantbomb is now a completely different beast from the site I started to frequently visit shortly after Ryan Davis’ untimely death back in 2013. Though as someone more driven to writing, my focus had been on the community generated contents in recent years. Still, with all cast members I knew back then left, Bombcast just got to be dropped. And with no Giantbomb’s E3 after show hosted by personalities I know, that big snake oil salesmanship fest is as good as dead to me.
Bombcast is not the only video game podcasts I decided to drop this year, as I am trying to cut back money and time spent on video games. One can only take on so many mandatory arena fights in products marketed as “Prestige”. With my cynicism towards this industry increasing, those IGN staff members’ usual overtly celebrating tune just does not do it for me any more, even though my rational part keeps reminding me that they are just trying to hold their jobs. As for former Giantbomb staff members’ Patreon pay walls, they are definitely on the chopping board when it comes to keeping gaming budget low.
Video game to yours truly is a vice instead of hobby. So despite my effort to cut back, I still managed to play a dozen just regarding new releases this year. Guess it can be considered cut-back compared to 2021’s a dozen and half. I picked out 10 technically indie titles that remind me of the simpler pleasure my younger self had in a seemingly simpler time.
Before getting the the ball rolling, I finally codified a custom I had since yesteryear: to exclusion with exclusives. When it comes to discussing video games, yours truly would rather talk about the software library those hardware platforms share rather than the so-called Prestige Exclusives. If you enjoy those, good for you since I do enjoy those occasionally. With more 200 hours put in, Fire Emblem Three Houses, a Switch exclusive, is the game yours truly played the most. But dare rub my face in the fact that you have it and I do not, then don’t blame me for breaking the hand that was laid on my head. So loathe them or adore them, the 2 Switch exclusives I played this year are not on the list.
Now let the celebration begin. No particular order. Yours truly put things in this order when they started writing and just left it as it was since it fits the flow of their thinking.
Sifu is a callback to action movies starring Jackie Chan at his prime. The reason is a bit more complicated than the visual level of fist fights. The game is marketed as a showcase for Pak Mei, a close-quarter strike focused discipline mimicking the motion of tigers. According to Chan himself, it’s the discipline he took up for his more realistic combat move on top of the acrobatic stage material arts.
Yours truly spent 3 weeks of February 2022 on Sifu before the difficulty select was patched in. I pretty much had experienced both Polygon reviewer’s frustration and other reviewers’ affection for this game. One is unlikely to like this game if it takes longer than a deadline to click with them, I will tell you that.
Much like Sekiro, the only From Soft product yours truly played, parry is key here. Dodging around the arena won’t get your far in Sifu. Go in, parry to create a opening then beat the light out of someone is the way to go. This is very much a game about close-quarter combat.
And with From Soft mentioned guess I might as well do some dumping on that popular front. To me, the so-called Soulsborne genre is not too hard, it’s just too long-winded. Tecmo’s first two polygonal Ninja Gaiden games are hard too but at least they can be beaten in the reasonable time of about a dozen hours. Sifu took yours truly 28 hours to get good and get through (The game would not show you the credits unless you take the extra mile and replays to show Wude.). None of those Soulborne product would let one off the hook that fast, and that’s why yours truly would not touch any of them, while they would happily take on something like Sifu say every 2 years.
Freedom Planet 2
This is an action game sequel with female leads, 8 years in the making. I consider it a callback to the more action-oriented cartoons I enjoyed as a kid. Yours truly knew Sonic the Hedge as a cartoon lead instead of video game character back in the 1990s after all.
Freedom Planet 2 is not a sequel one can enjoy without playing its predecessor. For one thing, about one third of the sequel has its character fearing the return of the first game’s final boss. What’s admirable about the sequel is the clearly better pacing of the cut scenes. With Bayonetta 3 absolutely fouled up its pacing, it’s nice to see someone actually improving themselves in 8 years.
Yours truly have an increasing preference of action games when one can take on fight or flight instead of the main stream fight-or-quit type. Halo series used to allow that but Infinite took that option out of our hands. Side scrollers are the only ones offering that without resorting to open world these days. Plus, I just prefer map shaped level select than those “see the mountain that you can go to” bs. How long must I pull and hold the left stick in a direction matters to me, okay.
Olli Olli World
The 2 days long Early Access with pre-order of Sifu aside, Olli Olli World is the game released on the same day as that beat’m-up. And those 2 actually bounce off each other quite nicely. Sifu is about powering through the one’s patriarch’s parade while Olli Olli World is about pleasing one’s forgiving peers. While previous 2 Olli Olli games require good landing, the polygonal World would celebrate one getting through a level. No one is mean here.
The comic book like presentation of Olli Olli Word certainly brought me back in the days. It reminds me of those Mickey Mouse comics were my parents willing to pay for during my early school days. They wanted me to read something wholesome and not featuring violence. Cut scenes in Olli Olli World have that same vibe, even when you are telling that people to shut up.
There are things yours truly experienced as a child in 1990s, then there are things made in 1990s that yours truly did not experience until much later. Those include point & click adventure, adult pleasing anime and cinematic platformers like the next 3 items on this list.
A 2022 release so impressive that “retro” gaming club podcast Abnormal Mapping did for their ninth anniversary. It’s point-and-click composed of pixels that would not be out of the place among early 1990s releases.
Norco is about hustling through a cyberpunk nightmare. Being rendered with pixels just give it a grotesque sense of beauty. No one in the town named Norco is happy, and that’s the point. This Roaring Twenties we currently live through is not making most of us happy, yet there is comfort in knowing that. Even though Norco is set in a rather distant future, knowing the fact that we are all just hustling through a harsh reality is comforting. Especially when that harsh reality is pretty in a somewhat maddening way.
Yours truly usually do not get into the maddening kind of beauty, but the harsh reality of 2022 did a number bigger than they can handle on their mind. So point and click through Norco is a fine video game experience.
This the first item on this list yours truly picked up because they like its demo on February’s Steam Next Fest well enough. Speak of things made in the 1990s but yours truly experienced much later, the so-called anime for adult like Cowboy Bebop is among them. This game pay tribute to that show with Steve Blum as the lead and the story, like Cowboy Bebop’s, is pretty much about a gang of crooks rethinking their life choices.
This game is actually closer to Olli Olli World than say DOOM Eternal. The first-person shooter aspect of it is quite limited. No gun model, so no gun porn like them polygonal extravaganzas have nowadays. Guess programming enemy AI must be a pain in the behind, since this game got no moving targets in its level design. Much like the side scrolling skate board game, the goal here is to move to the ends, it just involve shoot and destroy some immovable objects.
Neon White is not a particularly creative game but a rather rare one. How many good first-person platformers can you recall after all? It feels like a Suda 51 or Grasshopper Manufacturer game with some more polish on the mechanic front. And with cheaper price tag, no reason to skip this gem.
FAR Changing Tides
This is a sequel yours truly looked forward to after they played the first game in 2021. Also this is the second one I tried out during Steam Next Fest back in February 2022. You can say that I got my feet wet first before buying this on Switch.
Changing Tides is not a narrative sequel. In fact, it does not show itself setting in the same world as Lone Sail until merely minutes before credits roll. The tune is rather different as well. While Lone Sail feels like a chill road trip, Changing Tides has its sense of urgency. The player character literally crashes into the first scene of the game. With their home flooded, they got to get a ship into shape soon and bug out. The sea in this sequel is also much more treacherous than the desert in the first game.
Changing Tides is bit more dreadful yet remains hopeful by the end. With diving under water and a brief bit of flying in the sky, this is one of them going bigger sequel as well. It might not have the chill vibe people went to the first game for, yet it’s still high recommendable to people who enjoy cinematic puzzle platform.
The only Mega Man game yours truly ever saw through was the polygonal Mega Man Legends, so those pretty boys in shinning armors in the X sub-series are hardly known to yours truly.
But with Saint Seiya being the first piece of “Japaniamation” I remember seeing, my first impression of anime is pretty boys fight when wearing shinning armors. Inti Creates had put 2 of those showcases in front of their audience in 2022.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3
With Capcom’s generally lukewarm attitude towards Mega Man, especially the X/Zero branch, the developer of those game Inti Creatives decided to make their own with a gentler learning curve and more weeb appeals. Thus, Gunvolt was released in 2014. By 2022, it had become a trilogy.
With the world nearly ended twice in the previous 2 games, developers clearly chose to set the third game decades after with a new female lead named Kirin so newcomers would not be overwhelmed. I mean the Japanese title of this game does not have the number “3” in it. Original Gunvolt became more or less the “win” button, summoned on gauge. The new girl is a melee focus Zero like character opposing the er, gun trotting Gunvolt.
Gunvolt series installments have the habit of having a happier ending locked behind some replaying and the third Gunvolt game have the most doable one of them all: instead of collecting fragments of a McGuffin from previously cleared stages, one simply jumps back into the final boss fight, goes the extra mile to non-lethally pacify instead of lethally eliminate said boss and they will get the happier ending with more sequel potential.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2
Akyura in pink armor originally appeared in 2014’s Gunvolt as the Zero to the titular hero’s X. He became one of 2 player characters in the 2016 sequel then got his own game in 2019. But he did not become the melee focus Zero figure until his own 2022 sequel. Gunvolt series has buzzwords like “story on par with Light Novels” in its Japanese marketing. Now the series’ earlier 2022 release goes for the crossover of both Japanese Light Novels for weebs and Hollywood comic book inspired cinema: Another World with explanation of Multiverse.
Guess one single alternative reality is more than enough for a smaller game such as it is. On top of that, with an adorable new NPC residing that other world, you got a serviceable story miles ahead of Bayonetta 3’s mess.
In Inti Creates’ quest for everyone to see through their games, there is a heal button ready for all time. And I guess developers who have to resort to visual novel style cut scenes finally got the memo about auto-forward in this one. This is also the first 2022 release yours truly saw credit roll. Without it this list would not exist.
With “video” in the name, video game is considered as a fairly visual focused media. However audio is as if not more vital to it, just look at or listen to how many iconic pieces of video game music out there. Well, the last 2 items on this list are things associated with things I heard as a kid, one regarding contents, the other regarding form.
Another 2022 release so impressive that Abnormal Mapping did an episode on. Though technically it’s a remake of an older free game. This cute little horror game sure reminds me of a story my dear old mom told me. My 4 years old self would stop and admire every painting in an art museum she took me to. I barely remember the trip but with the amount of funnybooks I read in the 28 years between, I believe I do enjoy looking at drawings and imagining things out of them.
Anyway, iB is a game about a 9 years old girl lost in an art museum and trying to escape the hellscape emerged there. Some puzzles are more demanding than others as yours truly cannot solve those without taking notes. It’s “pay attention and it would be piss easy” kind. The cute horror vibe is what people come to games such as those for. So come down the art museum, with different ending to unlock, you can have more than one couple-of-hours-long tours.
As another gem came my way through February’s Steam Next Fest, Beacon Pines’ story would actually be too scary to tell my younger self before their bedtime. That child got scared shitless by the bizarre opening of Batman and Robin back in 1997 after all. Now at 32, finding most of Hollywood cinematic horror laughably tame compared to Cixin Liu’s hard science fiction, yours truly spent 2 long sittings to see Beacon Pines through, with all 10 Steam achievements unlocked. “Sittings” might be the wrong word, since the game is played on a Windows tablet while yours truly is lying in their bed before sleep.
The player character in this game is a deer boy named Luca Vonhorn (Yeah, game sure loves its pun), who has the habit of befriending cat people of his age. After his mother went missing, he got to uncover the secret of his town Beacon Pines to survive.
Beacon Pines, among other things, is a effective paranoia thriller. It’s a visual novel with narrative branches, characters would know something then meet an ill fate in one branch then in another branch they would still unknowingly approach someone dangerous. There are Charms, key words in the visual novel bit to choose. This is not a game with multiple endings. Much like how Sifu would not let you see credits until you go some extra miles, Beacon Pines’ credit would not roll until the voice over narrator finds herself satisfied. If you want a horror tale to experience whether in spooky season or summer, you can do a lot worse than Beacon Pines.
2022 reminds me a lot of 2009, when I got an Xbox 360. After all, both years have their respective Call of Duty game subtitled “Modern Warfare Two”. They both saw a Bayonetta game if you count the original’s release outside English speaking regions in 2009. It indicates that the so-called AAA side of this industry is no longer for my 32 years old cynical ass, it’s for someone younger or at least more willing to buy into the snake oil salesmanship.
But the industry still has different niches so even a cynic who wants to shout FU to all the Big Three for different reasons can have their fun. I managed to have more than 10 nice fixes this year and next year’s excitement seems to lie mostly in the unknown expect Resident Evil. Apparently I like that game enough to be interested in the remake.
To lowly consumers like yours truly, final products should be all that matter. And final products would be I focus on going forward instead of the hype.