2017, The Year That Was (in video games I played)

2017 sure was a year, huh? A year full of anguish, anxiety, panic attacks, recovering from a knee injury, 2 different moves as I found a good job that took me into another state, watching every single pro sports team I like crash and burn, a slight dip into alcoholism, and constant reminders that time is fleeting and we’re all waiting to see what’s finally going to kill off humanity between the effects of climate change, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, or World War 3 starting when some teen in Duluth tweets “Tronald Dump” at the White House on a bad day, setting off a chain-reaction that leads to us bombing Turkey.

But of course y’all don’t care about that, you came here to read my list of games that I liked and maybe tell me why I’m wrong because I didn’t have the time/money/inclination to play your game, or I did but didn’t rank it high enough. Well as my dad would always tell me, you can’t always get what you want. At some point I will actually buy a Switch to play all the wonderful games I heard about, on top of the ones for systems I already own, but I played enough games this year that I think the list will hold up.

Speaking of which, here are games I played that just missed the cut, in no particular order:

  • Lawbreakers: Great gameplay, bad everything else. An 5v5 arena-shooter that had really good mechanics regarding movement in zero G and characters who had different movement abilities to use those free-floating pockets to their advantage. If it had just sat in beta for another half-year to test the characters and modes, the story might be different. But as it happened, things did not quite work out. Between the character designs that belonged more in UT 2004, to Cliffy B’s disastrous marketing campaign, to the lack of a proper offline or tutorial mode for new players, the player-base went into a death spiral and probably won’t emerge. At least we'll have the wiki page that I mostly contributed to.

  • Tekken 7: It’s a really good fighting game for those who want more Tekken, and now Akuma from Street Fighter (and maybe Geese from King of Fighters?) is considered part of the canon! The story mode was garbage and the training mode was really bare-bones, but maybe I’ve just been spoiled by anime-fighters, who have done a much better job in both cases lately. I love playing as Katarina even if she's turned out to be a pretty low-tier character.

  • Overwatch: Doesn't count for 2017, but Moira has been a welcome addition to the cast. If only I wasn't stuck in ELO Hell, that would be great, but Jay keeps insisting I swear this game off for...
  • Rainbow Six Siege: Another game that didn't come out in 2017, but I've been warming to. For all the complaints about DLC and loot boxes and having to pay extra money or grind a ton for content that is already in the game, I might be part of the problem as I've paid for the extra Operators here. It's like a more grown-up, unforgiving Overwatch with characters who are geared exclusively towards penetrating an enemy base, or entrenching it on the other side, so you don't have a problem with, say, some asshole picking a defensive character on offense. I highly advise finding a good group to play with, as there is a higher probability of randos yelling about Jews or the N-word over team chat compared to Overwatch.

Also, a dishonorable mention goes to Valkyria Revolution. They couldn’t decide on whether they wanted to make a musou-style game or an SRPG with more magic, so they ended up trying to smush both systems together and made it all worse. It had the sneaking and cover systems from the Valkyria Chronicles series that you could use if you really wanted to, but it made little difference compared to running at enemies and hitting them with your sword until they died.

If there was any challenge from the game, it was the level system that forced you to grind to beat the bosses, and that your AI friends would get crushed by those bosses because they did not understand the concept of not standing in the glowing spot of doom before getting KO’d. With the announcement of Valkyria Chronicles 4, I think we can all agree to just forget this game ever happened.

The Top 10 Games of All Time of 2017 (that I actually played)

10) Yakuza Kiwami

We all float down here, Kiryu-chan<3
We all float down here, Kiryu-chan<3

Currently stuck at this car chase scene where a Triad gang has somehow smuggled in enough weapons and vehicles that the JSDF should be getting involved, and all Kiryu has is a six-shooter that is magically capable of firing 15 shots before reloading with infinite ammo. If they’re going to put in that much effort then just let them have the kid, they earned it. Anyways, considering I never played the OG Yakuza, this was a nice follow-up to Yakuza 0 (which I’ll get to in a moment) and the Majima Everywhere system was a nice touch.

9) Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2

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Does it count if it's an expansion to an existing title? Well I'm counting it here. Possibly the best tutorial system you’ll ever find in any fighting game to date. Also, I appreciated the two new playable characters, as Baiken is extremely my aesthetic. Unfortunately, it turns out I’m a lot better actually playing as Potemkin. I still don’t really know what the story is and I’ve given up trying to figure it out, even with my above-average tolerance for anime bullshit. Shoutout to the GB FGC for holding a tournament in this like every 2-3 weeks, someday I'll be free enough to actually play in one of those again.

8) Cosmic Star Heroine

My accuracy's 100%, you just don't know what I'm aiming at!
My accuracy's 100%, you just don't know what I'm aiming at!

The tale of a secret agent woman on the run from the Agency she once served with pride when she stumbles across a terrifying secret on her latest mission. This one harkens back to the days of Chrono Trigger with the 16-bit sprites and the JRPG action with a twist, using attacks/items that you have to string together carefully in order to get through enemies in lieu of an MP system. Zeboyd Games has done impressive work here.

7) Ruiner

What was I supposed to do here? If only I wrote it down...
What was I supposed to do here? If only I wrote it down...

A game that I would’ve missed if not for Devolver Digital publishing it, Ruiner is a crazy cyberpunk action game where you play a helmeted dude just trying to get through a bunch of rooms with armed and armored goons trying to murder you while an unnamed girl calls you “puppy.” I guess I would snap into a murderous rage too after being jerked around by my cyberbrain by two different hackers. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission., but the action is spectacular on top of that.

6) Fire Emblem Echoes

Damning with faint praise
Damning with faint praise

This one went back to basics, a remake of the framblam before the multiple weapon triangles and timewarping kids and the anime bullshit both saved the franchise and made it a lot creepier to those not already "in the know." Also I really appreciate the addition of Mila’s Turnwheel as an in-game rewind button so I don’t have to keep soft-resetting every time someone dies. It found a nice balance between handing everything to you that you needed and being unfairly painful to get through (see Birthright and Conquest, respectively).

5) Children of Zodiarcs

Nothing! Don't look in the desk!
Nothing! Don't look in the desk!

With art from the lovely @aurahack! Zodiarcs is an SRPG that takes cards and dice and somehow makes it work to create a fun game, on top of the story featuring a small troupe of lovable scamps trying to stay one-step ahead of the bourgeoisie trying to take their relics and sell them for parts or whatever it is they do. I admit I have not actually finished this game yet, and it's a late entry onto this list, but I'm eagerly looking to play more.

4) Tokyo Dark

Does this look like the face of mercy? [Y/N]
Does this look like the face of mercy? [Y/N]

A short-but-sweet point-and-click adventure with several endings that I haven’t gotten yet. This one features the creepy and less-romanticized parts of Tokyo, which your Detective protagonist has to travel through to solve a supernatural case while trying to keep her sanity in check. Or watch her have a mental breakdown and get an alternate ending, if that’s your thing.

3) NieR: Automata

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I have yet to finish this game, but the combat is great, the fishing is a nice touch, and other things about the story and atmosphere I could say here except that I might accidentally be spoiling you like the internet has spoiled me on at least a couple of the alternate endings. Fuck you, internet. Anyways, I really want to play more of this game, so it goes to the top of the list on games I have played but not finished yet.

2) Yakuza 0

Harken back to a time where MJ and Spielberg both helped out a Japanese real-estate business.
Harken back to a time where MJ and Spielberg both helped out a Japanese real-estate business.

One of the few 2017 games I actually finished in 2017 along with Tokyo Dark and the #1 title on my list. This one takes us back to 1980s Japan, before the bubble burst and led to the Lost Decade, where there was so much money flowing around that you could literally beat it out of people on the street. Seeing as I only played a little bit of Yakuza 4 beforehand, this was a great introduction to the franchise. You can do almost anything in Yakuza 0: Run your own cabaret club! Start a nicer real-estate protection racket and pay a literal chicken to manage part of it! Bet on an underground catfighting ring! Get shitfaced and try to win at darts! Get bullied by a crazy grandma! Play mahjong only to realize how complicated it is for someone whose experience is limited to watching the first few episodes of Akagi years ago! The possibilities are almost endless! And that's on top of the fast-paced street fighting with context-sensitive Heat Actions! I never get tired of watching Majima's Essence of Friendly Fire.

And now, for your Number One Video Game of All Time of 2017 (that I actually played)...

1) Persona 5

Yes, it had a few missteps in English VO with the weird pronunciation. Yes, the space base and cruise ship Palaces went on longer than they should have. Yes, Haru enters the game a bit too late to form as much of a connection compared to the others on your team. And yes, there was that fucking cat who insisted you had to go to sleep all the time. But fuck it, I put about 90 hours into this game (not counting the times my party got wiped and I had to reload the save), and it was everything I wanted out of a JRPG: Awesome soundtrack, expansive list of mythological beasts and gods to use in battle, fun combat, a story with themes that are still relevant stateside (if not as much as their Japanese origins), and characters that I actually ended up caring about in some way or another. I know there will likely be a million spinoffs and merchandise that will tie in with the ongoing Persona-verse (already an anime and a dance-fighting game have been announced), but this title deserves them.

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Thank you for reading, drive home safe and don't tweet while drunk.

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