SWERY is a game director best known for his work on games like Deadly Premonition, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, and The Missing: J.J. MacField and the Island of Memories. He's @Swery65 on Twitter.
I think it should go without saying that 2020 was an unusual year for everyone around the world. Amidst everything that's happened, I'm overjoyed from the bottom of my heart that Giant Bomb, who I love, has given me another chance to look back on my own year.
Just like last year, it seems like more and more games are being released every year. This year, we also saw the next generation of consoles (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X) along with a big update to the PC world with the Geforce RTX 3000 Series and the Ryzen 5000 Series.
In the world of VR, the Valve Index and Oculus Quest 2 were released, and the very first TV commercial for a VR machine was broadcasted in Japan. And, of course, new models keep coming out in the world of smartphones.
It really made me think about just how one's own unique ideals and tastes can influence which choice of hardware will best complement one's life.
Now, I'd like to put the spotlight on a few of the games I've played this year. Just like with last year, it's not going to be a straightforward 'top 10' list or anything like that--I'm just going to focus on several games I enjoyed from different points of view. My only hope is that this list may complement the lives all those who read it.
A game that healed me during COVID: PokerStars VR
I wasn't able to go outside due to COVID, and I especially wasn't able to meet up with any friends from overseas, but this game gave me a chance to have fun with my friends in VR. I think I spent more time drinking virtual beer and smoking virtual cigarettes than I did actually playing poker.
A Flight Simulator that Surpasses other Flight Simulators: Microsoft Flight Simulator
I didn't take a single trip overseas this year, but I flew through the skies with this game. Instead of visiting popular tourist attractions, I visited the venues of the conferences I go to every year, as well as the towns where I did research for Deadly Premonition, D4, and The Good Life, and submerged myself in my memories.
Amazing Japanese Indie Game: Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
When I saw this game several years at BitSummit, none of the rice cultivation elements were present. (Perhaps they hid them.) The finished product is a very unique game that mixes hack-and-slash action with Japanese culture. It's also a very well-polished game, which really surprised me. Another laudable point about the game is how it forces you to view the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website in the real world in order to proceed with the rice cultivation segment. I also liked how playing the game made me want to eat some piping hot rice.
Amazing Game Design #1: Death Stranding
I first played this game this year. I was shocked by the quality of the game design, and the next thing I knew, I had put a ton of hours into the game. In lots of open world games, gameplay and game events progress based on points (destinations) that have been scattered across a vast map. There isn't much to do while you're traveling from point to point, so the players are given cars or horses to ride. The developers can utilize a few tricks here and there to make sure the player gets wrapped up in battles. But the truth is, the fact that that time exists at all is a thorn in their side. In the worst case scenario, they just add fast travel to get rid of the traveling time entirely. But in Death Stranding, the traveling from point to point is the focus of the game. I was also shocked by the idea of being able to use tools set by other players through the online functionality. It really was a game built around the idea of 'connectivity.' I didn't like the story, but I think the game design is truly genius.
Amazing Game Design #2: Outer Wilds
The idea of repeating the last few hours before the world ends is one that has existed since long ago. But the fact that someone tied that into such an epic style of game as planetary exploration, and actually managed to make it work, was jaw-dropping to me. From the 'slow adventure' feel of the beginning, to your first departure after you put in the launch code, and then your first landing on a new planet... I really felt tense, as if I truly was traveling into outer space. I was so into it that I let out a scream the first time I landed on a planet that had tornadoes.
Amazing Game Design #3: The Long Dark
If you're thinking, "What? You're playing this game NOW?", just let me remind you that there's no rule against playing games that weren't released this year. A true masterpiece will always remain a masterpiece no matter when you play it. And the same is true for old movies, TV shows, manga, and novels. People will always continue to love them. Since this game is episodic, it might actually be more fun to play now than in the year it was originally released. It's a simple life simulator, but still manages to make the player feel tense in expert fashion thanks to the forest and extremely cold town it takes place in. There's never been a game in which collecting wood and starting a fire to warm yourself has been so important.
The game I wanted to play in Japanese: Hades
Amazing graphics and controls, and well-oiled hack-and-slash mechanics. It should go without saying that Hades is one of the year's top games from every point of view. However, I'm not a native English speaker, so I was only able to understand about half of the story. Reading the explanations for each move really started to become stressful, so I'd like to start over from the beginning with the Japanese version.
A game I love despite what anyone says: Cyberpunk 2077
After being delayed several times, it finally managed to come out just before the end of the year. And from the day it was released until today, it's been in the center of my mind. There are clearly some problems left to be fixed, such as how those who bought the console editions need refunds, but it's still clearly one of 2020's masterpieces. I love it, including all the rough edges, such as the glitches that make cars float and cause characters to get stuck in walls. At some point, people started to expect every video game to be 'perfect'. From the point of view of those who have a job to appraise games, erecting some sort of standard baseline certainly serves to make their jobs easier, and it also makes it easier for them to get other people to understand how they feel about the games, killing two birds with one stone. But creating a standard is also synonymous with becoming 'exclusive'. And personally, I feel it's dangerous from an artistic viewpoint. When the first magazine in Japan published a page about a bug that allowed Mario to shoot fireballs without sizing up, kids all over Japan desperately tried to recreate the bug in their own homes. I really miss that era. Games are entertainment. If you're able to enjoy a game before you get caught up in its score or other numbers, doesn't that make YOU the real winner?
Special Awards Play these if you get a chance!
Here is a list of the games I actually played in 2020.
Xbox Series X
- Bright Memory
- Lost Ember
- D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die (to confirm it worked)
- The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (to confirm it worked)
- Deadly Premonition (to confirm the X360 version worked)
PS4 / Xbox One
- ARK: Survival Evolved (again)
- Death Stranding
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- AI: The Somnium Files
- Coffee Talk
- CODE SHIFTER
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Ghost Of Tsushima
- Fall Guys
- Human: Fall Flat
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Deadly Premonition 2 (to confirm it worked)
- Deadly Premonition Origins (to confirm it worked)
- Among Us
Steam / PC
- Minecraft Beta
- Deadliest Catch: The Game
- DEEEER Simulator: Your Average Everyday Deer Game
- Knuckle Sandwich
- The Forest
- Project Winter
- Cowboy Yakuza
- PC Build Simulator
- AI Shoujo
- Planet Zoo
- Toejam and Earl
- Mystic Pillars
- Speaking Simulator
- The WAKE
- Desperados III
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Star Wars: Squadrons
- The Long Dark
- Golden Axed: A Cancelled Prototype
- Streets of Kamurocho
- The Outer Worlds
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla
- Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
- Outer Wilds
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Pokémon GO
- Minecraft Earth
- Death Come True
- Scribble Rider
- Dragon Quest Tact
- Game of Thrones
- Rise of Empires: Ice and Fire
- Tangle Master 3D
- Slingshot Stunt Driver & Sport
- Star Wars: Starfighter Missions
- Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes
- Disney Magic Kingdoms
- Save Them All
- Assetto Corsa
- The Forest
- Ultimate Fishing Simulator VR
- Echo VR
- Bigscreen Beta
- VR Kanojo
- In Death
- Marvel Powers United VR
- Raccoon Lagoon
- Pokerstars VR
- Vader Immortal EP1 EP2 EP3
- Half-Life: Alyx
- Real Fishing VR
- Job Simulator
- Dance Central
- I Expect You to Die
- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Turns out I played a lot of PC and VR games this year compared to other years. I wasn't going out of my way to avoid console games, but perhaps it was due to spending a lot of time at my PC desk due to remote work.
Incidentally, I managed to get an Xbox Series X, but couldn't find any glimmer of hope of getting a PlayStation 5. It depressed me. "I'm an active creator... This isn't good," I thought, as I checked the websites of every big electronics store weekly.
Due to COVID, I was hardly able to go outside, and didn't get to meet all my fans and creator friends around the world. Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was released, but I had to make an apology for some mistakes, so this year gave me a lot of food for thought as a creator.
Meanwhile, I got to spend more time with my family, awakened to Sunday carpentry, finished writing the novel I'd been working on little by little, had a lot of fun chatting with my friends online, grew out a moustache (then shaved it), changed my hairstyle up... I was certainly able to experience this year unlike any other.
Next year, The Good Life will finally be released. For everyone who's been supporting the game since its crowdfunding campaign, I made sure that the game is still very SWERY, while also having its own unique flair. I hope you'll all stay tuned!
I Love You All!!
Dec. 21, 2020