The short of it and those still hang in 2021
2021 turns out to be an interesting year when Game of the Year awards say more about the award giver than the awarded:
Game Award went to It Takes Two, as Keighley and his crew continue their quest for video game auteurs;
IGN being more of an entertainment site gave GOTY to the purer entertainment product titled Forsa Horizon 5;
Game Informer awarded Halo Infinite. Feeling like a one foot in print outlet desperate for relevancy so they went for the People Choice on both Game Awards and IGN.
Gamespot crowned Deathloop. They had been championing “Live, die, repeat and repeat” game since 2009 with Demon’s Soul winning that year, even with a whole new crew.
Polygon’s game of 2021 is Inscryption, a relatively underdog awarded by a site filled with articles making underdogs more interesting.
Best part about it is that my list below would contain none of those. Here are 10 games I see through until the credits and wrote about plus several I did see through but did not find the time to write about. I will try to keep it short here and you all are welcome to read the longer pieces of my mind through the links.
While I like comics, I never have too many incentives to play video games based on those. I prefer video games modeled themselves after comics and Tales of Arise did so very well, just look at its menu art. With its antagonist-based story arches, fine balance between comedy and drama, it’s a solid JRPG not only appeal to fans of the genre but also maybe make fans out of newcomers. It consumed September of 2021 for me, like Fire Emblem Three Houses did with August of 2019 and Hades did with October of 2020. Thus it’s No.1 with a bullet
1.5 Legend of Tian Ding
While Tales of Arise is after comics in terms of contents, Legend of Tian Ding is one also in form. The main menu is rendered like a comic book. Comic panels are used to make up for the dramatic details those between PS 1 and 2 polygonal models cannot do. The titular Tian Ding is basically Spider-man but instead of helping cops, stealing for the people and his J Jonah Jamson figure is a cop.
This is a game in which you play brawling pick pocket rather than a scheming thief. It’s an action platformer. Being a thief means you can steal enemies’ weapons and beat them with it. It’s a stylish game that I would recommend to anyone who would give chances to indie titles.
2. Hitman 3
Less is usually more when it comes to end of series. I can jokingly say that Hitman 3 is a re-release of 2016’s Hitman and 2018’s Hitman 2 with new contents. But those new contents are so gripping that I play through those until 4 in the morning. After 2 trilogy enders not sticking the landing (namely Batman Arkham Knight and Shadow of the Tomb Raider), it’s nice to see one stick the landing.
After a spring of re-release, the summer of 2021 seemed to me as surprising bountiful. One of those bounties is Death’s Door, a pretty Zelda-like in the mold of Link Between Worlds. Now I had tried Tunic I would definitely recommend Death’s Door over the fox game. Unless you prefer managing stamina, this bird game is more fun when you can strike all you want.
This is a Castlevania-Symphony-of-the-Night-like and also another surprise from this summer. It modeled itself after NieR but doubled down on tragic stories and improved the combat. Dark fantasy fans should not miss this gem.
4.1No More Hero III
I played this Suda 51 game literally minutes after I beat ENDER LILIES, the engaged combat of which had somewhat worn me out. Then I booted NMH3 on the Switch, selected the God Mode like Berry Sweet difficulty and just enjoyed some cool bullshit wash over me. This a-little-better-than-average action game is a perfect plate cleanser after a better and challenging one.
4.5 Record of Lodoss War -Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth-
Record of Lodoss War -Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth- is another Castlevania-Symphony-of-the-Night-like released through and out of Steam early access this year. This one based on the Japanese D&D campaign turned light novel series had pretense that it was chapter based and each chapter was added as updates. The pixel art is nice and I like my time with it.
The mother of Metriodvania is finally back this year with a good installment. Lack of checkpoints in game and waypoints on map can be painful to a spoiled modern mind for gaming, but it can be so fun when you know where to go.
This Super-Metroid-like is the reason why I thought Metroid Dread is not modern enough. With in-game checkpoints, in-map waypoints and production value powered by Unreal Engine, this PS4/5 and PC game might be your cup of tea if you don’t own a Switch.
This can be seen as Namco Bandai’s attempt at a Platinum like character action game. While it’s not perfect or even great, Scarlet Nexus can certainly mop the floor with most Platinum products in terms of story-telling, world-building and stereotypical yet enjoyable character developments. It’s the super hero story I once hoped Attack on Titan would be.
This is the re-release fresh to me this year. It can be repetitive at times, but I’m glad for the chance to visit a cult classic from 2010 without resorting to digging up older hardware. Plus, the new contents here are very impactful to player of this game new and old alike. This mouthful of title is a ride one needs to experience.
7.5 Bowser’s Fury
I was as late onto the Mario train as 2017’s Odyssey resulting in me not able to fully enjoy a 3D Mario game without camera control. Galaxy is fun but I wish it allow camera control so I can swim in the game better.
Enters Bowser’s Fury, or Fury World as the Japanese call it sounding more like an additional to Super Mario 3D World. The mini open world meeting free camera control is so much fun. This short and sweet experience is also the first Mario game I did everything in.
If you want a horror visual novel and found Doki Doki Literature Club too slow of a burn, I would recommend Tsukihime, if you are willing to go through some hustle, and its half of a remake A Piece of the Blue Glass Moon, if you can read Japanese like I can. It’s nice to see Type-Moon taking a break from plotting to bleed those Fate Grand Order whales and released this visual novel of triple-A caliber.
8.5 Famicom Detective Club the Girl Stands Behind
If you think visual novel equals “read along” and “dating sim”, then you should try Famicom Detective Club the Girl Stands Behind. If hair must be split here, this game is more of a text adventure. One needs to pay attention to their line of inquiry to advance the story and investigation. The Girl Stands Behind is mechanically improved over the other Famicom Detective Club game subtitled the Missing Heir, the defect of which will be discussed down the line. If you want a fun whodunit on the go, the Girl Stands Behind on Switch is recommended.
I debated with myself whether to put this re-release without new contents here, but after reading Leviathan Falls, I think Mass Effect trilogy is more relevant in 2021 than the lackluster Halo Infinite. The Expanse series never left science fiction bullshit it borrowed uncriticized and in this ninth and final book all arrows were pointed towards the militaristic Mass Effect trilogy. One needs to stop hoping for those cowards at Disney greenlighting a pro-Empire Star Wars and play Mass Effect Legendary Edition. The trilogy had been under criticism for it’s for real life imperialism, and I doubt a game made by Quantic Dream can be more fun than some Bioware made at its prime.
If you want a game to fulfill the power fantasy of super soldier doing something meaningfully, useful and impactful to the world they reside in, stop eyeing Halo Infinite and play Chorus. It’s an arcade space dog fight game that would give you a sense and closure and a pat on the back by its end. Plus, it has more biomes than Infinite.
Here is a game as easy going as its title suggests. Reading along some short and funny bits of this game based on best selling comic and hit animated series is pure joy, if you can understand the language. Even though the site still does not have a product page for it, I would recommend this as an entry point into visual novels. After all when we try to get people interested in reading, we usually start with something short.
10.5 Famicom Detective Club the Missing Heir
Also developed by Mages, the Missing Heir is opposite of easy going. I am not just talking about the “Knives Out but bodies just keep piling up” story here. At one point, player/reader needs to go between a crime scene and a contact’s home three times before the plot advances is utterly bullshit. But if you can overcome it, the Missing Heir can be quite the page turner.