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Yours Truly's 2019 Game of the Year Awards

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  • Every so often, a game comes out that rewrites things. Not just "peanut butter and chocolate" stuff, but truly, fundamentally shifts the world of video games on its axis. The fluid intelligence and epic MINDBLOWINGEDNESS of BiY is the latest of this one. It's maddening in that way all revolutionary games are on top of going places even someone with experience coding is finding difficult. It is giving you the very language used to make cheat codes and making that as it is the rules. You are like unto a god, but a young, clumsy one.

    I may actually finish it one day too!

  • Disco is as much of what isn't than what it is; it's the opposite of an Open-World game. It's not the product of frothing-at-the-mouth Communists. It's not the endless perfection that shall be hewed to henceforth for that matter.

    But what it does do is take a rookie effort and do things CRPGs will be learning from (not aping, learning from) and go down in history as the one game, the ONE GAME that managed to ascend to the realm of Planescape: Torment.

    And it does so without ever getting stuck in a rut. The game isn't depressive or treacley, so the stories of Working-Class Woman or Gaston Martin don't end up trying to clumsily grope at your raw emotions. They simply are and make up a neighborhood by doing so. They could have been crude stereotypes to tell a Sociolology 101 story but they avoided it. That is discipline.

    What's also discipline is the ability of the game to focus the prose, making sure every flowery purple jaunt is to elucidate what is unshown, stuck with coarse, dirty language, or lampshaded here and there to keep it honest. I liked that.

    But the two things that I'll truly take from this is the Skills being complete party members inside the protag's head and Kitsuragi. Having the Skills have personalities, that go from rarely uttering basic feedback at 1 to being super-oppresive in their prescence at 10 (to the point of blanking out dialogue options) was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. No two gameplays are the same given the builds; I've had people find the game full of ugly bigotry, power-plays, and colorless existance with a PSY at 1 whereas mine was at 6 and the vignettes, views on the people and places you encounter, and understanding of what things meant a rainbow of realization. Kitsuragi is, without going too purple, too good for this game, or rather the world of the game. I've never seen such a decent, decent individual that managed to avoid a simple cardboard existance. He thinks, he judges, he hopes, he strives, but only brings those opinions out if needed to do the right thing.

    I do agree with the take that the end 1/5 is railroaded too much, and some plot threads are tied up inelegantly, and the largest world-building conceit (Pale) doesn't ever really connect with much other than as a lore dump, (not to mention the movement system and a few crashes), but for a first time effort? Not a patch on them for it.

  • As a connoiseur of Trails, I try to stick the landing between nit-picking and blind faith but CS3 I can say is easily the 2nd best Trails I've played.

    Take what you tried to ignore from CS1 & 2, purge 97% of it, put it back into those games, then flesh it out to a full 110 hour triumph. There are for example, NO waste scenes so characters on-screen have agency and are never ignored or forgotten. They managed to take a bajillion plot threads hurtling in from 7 previous games and got them interweaving in harmony as the plot itself hurtles past mid-point for the series. Rean is finally, FINALLY the character he was supposed to be: hurt, wisened, caring, yet no one's fool. Not to mention Old Class Seven fully earn their places and break free of the ball & chain that is the tropes before. New Class Seven is a treat; they feel from the get-go to have roles, but not rigid archetypes. When you have them in the field, they seem interested in learning, bickering, thinking, conversing, etc like a full ensemble even when the rest of the massive cast is up in front of them; they simply pick back up after reacting to what just went down like their characters aughta.

    It's also incredibly DENSE. Even more so than previous games, there's dozens of wheels turning and paying off from side-quest to series narrative over and over with no stopping. In fact, it intensifies as the game goes on like Sky FC does WHILE being so dense. It's a refreshing and exhausting ride, dense and intense.

    And oh my Christ at that end like, 7 hours. Masterful ever-escalating crazy and drama, each topping the last. Even characters in the know were taken aback by this it got so wild! Lovely.

    The music was, as I said in my SOTY post, a step down from 1&2 (which are some of Falcom's absolute best) but that only means it's merely "great". I've been told it's a "remake" of 1's soundtrack where they felt tasked to replace 99% of the music and that's quite accurate. Still: JDK.

    I have problems that likely staunched its shot at 1st. First: WHOA, FRAME RATE. This is like the PS4 here. There's not that much on-screen. Secondly, bad habits continue to sneak into the game's dialogue. Like, do not do Tita that way. That's supposed to be a dead baby joke to be funny; it ceases to be a joke, it's only for the creeps. And don't be problematic with Angelica like that. I got to cringing when they were on the screen like that expecting some nut who sees those otherwise lovable characters that way to get their rocks off.

  • Almost Human, makers of fine, Game of The Decade-Quality Grid 'Em Uppers of Merit, had a few of their number try their hand at a SRPG and wouldn't you know, it's as brilliant as you'd expect

    Druid doesn't waste time with alot of character building or long fights, it's in that mold of a 3-4 member Fire Emblem Meets Into the Breach where one mistake can get you killed, the mission variety is sky-high, and things can get fucked in the best of ways.

    I can see where the Gem system can turn some off; blow your gems on boosting usage of Fire spell only to find all enemies get healed by this or having to rekit your crew up for more defensive options to clear a fight easily that would destroy you on the first go-round is kind of simplistic, yeah.

  • The Other PS:T attempt this year, and like Seas, is verbose, wild, and staving off that Roguelike problem better than the last go around.

    See, Seas had a problem with rote money-making endeavors. You hewed to them, made your cash and upgrades, THEN went down those long, loving words to the theater of the mind. Skies fixes alot of that with more money-making options where acquring the non-monetary currency is more paramount and running routes is only potentially a life-or-death struggle (and usually only in that hellhole Blue Kingdom). And it takes you places; from a mine where Time itself is wrenched from the stone, to a Parliament adrift both politically and physically, to a bizarre prison you truly leave a changed person, to an odd and previously-explained dangerous afterlife.

    Then there's the absurdist Britishness soaking everything. From 19th century class struggles to bizarre reactions to a world where humanity is less than a curiosity, to the maddening winds of the cosmos, having that absurdist stiff upper-lip really shining here stronger than ever really helped this game.

    Still could have used some work on enemy behavior; even with high Veils enemies "wander" into aggro range anyways.

  • A kickstarter title I was waiting years for paid off. Got That Kikuta Goodness, got great art, the Valkyrie Profile gameplay, and a stunningly diverse cast of fun-playing characters. I'm sold!

    I wasn't really expecting how effervescent and chatty it was. Maybe I thought it would be closer to the tone of VP1 given its inspiration? These folks got jokes. It never got out of control though, just forgot this was a Lab Zero game and they do serious when they gotta, heh.

    I did have problems with the on-field turn-based combat (you'd fall off and reset things a ton), but yo, that dude took his urumi and sliced up those dudes then made it his turban!

  • I need to stop being a n00b and return to Git Gud on this. The 26 minute speed runs alone embarrass me.

  • Between this and "FFT Salty Bet" on Twitch, having one of my oldest classics return in multiple forms is a treat.

    I like what they did both with classes and how they mete out the game's "job points". JP is easier to earn than XP what with the bleed-over effect between characters so you can get to building broken teams faster without that steep road to 60.

    Plus they ask about metrics which is always commendable in this day and age.

    "They made another one of those" are not dirty words.

  • Sort of a 9-course meal of your favorite foods, you kind of get tired and stuffed around the end.

    Nexus, probably my last 3DS game, and unlike CS3 above, overstays its welcome. By the 12th stratum, you find yourself noticing the tricks and tribulations borrowed from EOs past and wondering when you'd reach the end. That's not good for a dungeon crawler where the ingredients are so high quality.

    Now, there were some good new stuff here. Great new tunes, a neat new class, a great great penultimate boss, plus just mixing and matching classes from twelve years of dual-screen exploring never ceased to be fun. It's arguably the best place to go for EO newbies for those reasons alone if they're OK with taking it slowly and avoiding the side stratums. You know, before the carts get pricey and the eShop shuts down.

  • Jank is love. Because when you see Jank, you know a dev said "yes, the movement is squirrely, and the enemies barely connect right, and the animations fall apart, but gosh-darn it, we have A Vision!)

    And for Outward, that vision was for us to run like scared bitches from all manner of terrifying monstrosities, limp from hunger, and scrounge for cash. Because make no bones about it, this game will piss off many people who don't deal well with restriction-based game balancing.

    But its' really well-done restriction. Checking your bags, repairing your gear, brewing up potions, setting traps for monsters, the game makes survival a zen rather than a worry once you meet it half-way. Next thing comes breaking it once understanding you treat fights like hunts rather than combat encounters. Great music too.