GOTY 2019

What if?

That’s the question I always ask myself whenever I start to compile my thoughts of my favorite games I played for the year. The majority of games that I list as my favorites for a year differs vastly from the general gaming consensus. I always wonder if I have played the same games the majority of the gaming audience enjoyed and would wonder if I share the same opinions. Some years I feel comfortable with my GOTY games, other years I wished I played the consensus top games to see where they would make my top ten game list of that year. This year is the latter, where I wished I played some heralded games of the year but numerous factors got in the way from me getting around to those games.

This year was an interesting year hearing which games got a lot of positive attention and while I did purchase a number of those games with the intent, just like in years past I was not able to get to them for whatever reasons. Maybe I’d get around to those games soon in the coming year but there’s already a batch of games that have my attention early on. Never say never. Though I am disappointed that I could not get to play those highly touted games of 2019, I still managed to play some games and here on the ones that are my favorites for the year.

2019 Games That Fell Into the Backlog

  • Afterparty
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  • Children of Morta
  • Daemon X Machina
  • Dead or Alive 6
  • Devil May Cry V
  • DiRT Rally 2.0
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Indivisible
  • Judgment
  • Katana Zero
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
  • Metal Wolf Chaos XD
  • Observation
  • Outer Wilds
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Persona Q 2: New Cinema Labyrinth
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Wattam

2019 Games I Played But Fell Off

  • Ace Combat 7
  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • Trials Fusion

Other 2019 Games I Played and Reached to Conclusion

  • Ape Out
  • Baba is You
  • Gato Roboto
  • Later Alligator
  • Picross S3
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • Wargroove

Originally 2018 Release That I Enjoyed Playing on Platform Released in 2019

  • Golf Peaks (2018 on PC, played on Switch in 2019)

2019 Game I Stubbornly Played for Over 130 Hours and Drained My Soul

  • Etrian Odyssey Nexus

Game I Felt Really Bad Not Making My Top 10

  • Boxboy + Boxgirl

List items

  • [NUMBER 10]

    There are works you admire even if they do not hold an impactful impression after multiple views of the lens. Sayonara Wild Hearts made a very strong first impression as I was blown away the numerous ploys the game made the player play through to earn points at every stage. One stage you are riding on a tarot card going through some portal, then the next stage you are riding on a motorcycle moving around the road collecting hearts with QTE moments thrown in here and there that ties in with the music. After the initial glow of loving the cyber future art, the electro-pop soundtrack, and the wacky gameplay variants thrown left and right, my enthusiasm of Sayonara Wild Hearts went from amazement and bewilderment down to a solid admiration upon replaying the game’s stages.

    I still loved the bombardment of gameplay and certain sequences upon replay, I lost enthusiasm of the game once I focused on aiming to earn gold medals or higher scores. All of a sudden I was more concerned on how each game’s stages played out and lost the initial rush of being blown away on what I played through going in blind. Lost was being blown away driving a motorcycle through a forest shooting at homing wolves, drifting a car, navigating through a VR headset, etc. I still had fun doing the high score hunting phase of the game, but ultimately left me feeling alright instead ALRIGHT!

  • [NUMBER 09]

    Out of all the games I managed to play this year, this one making it at my top ten is the most unexpected. I took a chance when the game was on sale digitally on PSN and found this game to be fun to play despite its limitations. Lapis X Labyrinth is not your typical dungeon crawler where you command a party of characters to fight monsters, collect treasures, and traverse floors in an RPG setting. Instead, they take the dungeon crawling template and make it into a shallow yet enjoyable side-scrolling action platformer. The best part is your party markup, which you control one who moves at the bottom of the party totem-pole, which you have a party that you play as a moving human totem pole instead of four individuals. I always have a chuckle whenever I move and jump with four folks stacked on top of each other throughout the game’s numerous floors.

    There’s a lot of neat small things packed in Lapis x Labyrinth. No matter who you choose, your party movement is pretty quick, you can have non-active members assist individually or together in an all-out attack with a full EX meter, and switch on the fly. Combat is limited to light and heavy attacks but remains engaging with numerous enemies appearing all over the place. Each successful endeavor results in tons of loot that you can use to equip your party and exchange for leveling. The biggest knocks against LXL is its lack of evolution and frustrating level design. While the gameplay is fast and furious, that’s all you’re doing in the game. It doesn’t help the fact that the game has 90 floors to traverse due to story reasons. I was also frequently frustrated with the level design, with certain floor designs having dead ends ad frantically searching for the exit gate to progress. Nonetheless, I still managed to have fun constantly wreaking havoc as a four people tower tall party.

  • [NUMBER 08]

    Pikuniku won’t win many accolades for being a simple platformer at its core, but there’s a certain charm and delivery of its presentation that’s Keita Takahasi-esque. It has those childlike color art, simple soundtrack, and silly sound effects that evokes Katamari Damacy, but Pikuniku throws in a nasty curve to its innocent looking world with its story. Great cartoons do a great job for being silly and nonsensical where kids can enjoy while throwing in certain clues and items that adults can identify and revel in the absurdity that those themes were written into kids content. That’s where I got a lot of enjoyment out of Pikuniku.

    The game as a whole is not going to blow anyone’s brains out. Gameplay is primarily simple platformer with some puzzles, secrets to encourage exploration in its small world, and some neat mini-games thrown along for a curious play or two. In spite of it’s cute aesthetic, short length, and simple gameplay, the game has an odd charm with the player controlling a red blob monster who only has two legs to spring and kick like Dhalsim and curl up into a ball to move. The game’s kicker comes from its story, where Pikuniku wakes from a slumber, befriends some characters and saving their villages from an evil corporate boss. The story beats, from it’s hilarious intro to the end, is the game’s strongest suit. It elevates Pikuniku from being just a nice game into a nice game with some unexpected content.

  • [NUMBER 07]

    A unique entry into the long-running Kunio series, River City Girls takes the franchise and gives it maximum girl power polish yet keeping the core Kunio trappings in-tact. On the Kunio end of things, the Kunio-like character art, combat, dialogue, and map design are all well worn territory and executed well. Those who are looking for a Kunio game under modern game trappings will likely be satisfied on how WayForward has faithfully executed the Kunio stuff intact. On the River City Girls end, the presentation can be a bit much. While I love the game’s soundtrack, some of the story and dialogue in this game are a bit much. I’m also not a fan of the manga stylized font though having the story told through manga panels at least is a nice thought.

    I love everything that’s tied in with the Kunio experience. The combat is definitely the game’s strongest suit, where you can earn additional moves and gain access to create impressive combos. Helping out the combat is the faithful and beautiful Kunio-like pixel art, smooth animations, and sharp controls to execute attacks and combos. There’s also a few neat Kunio nods, from the Double Dragon twins as dojo shop owners to Abobo as a major boss is a nice touch. The only gameplay design flaw that is a constant annoyance fighting by the door icon and automatically shifting the player to the next area. The boss fights are challenging and have additional conditions to make it more than just a straight up fight against another enemy with beefier attacks and health.

    My recommendation of River City Girls comes straight from its Kunio roots. I really wanted to enjoy the power girl aesthetic and applaud having more females take leading roles in video games, but I did not like the choices around its power girl theme and a few story beats and dialogue between the main protagonists and the various characters. None of it was overbearing to the point of me being dismissing the game, it was just a nagging thorn I had to deal with while enjoying the game’s excellent core. If you want an excellent side-scrolling brawler to give in, River City Girls mostly fits the bill.

  • [NUMBER 06]

    Astral Chain was the most exhilarating and frustrating gaming experiences I ever had recently. The highs you expect from a Platinum game are there, though in my opinion they’re reigned in and appear in spades. I do appreciate Platinum taking some chances and working outside of their comfort zone with this release, but not everything they produce is worked out to their potential. I found a lot of variance in enjoyment of the game’s total package, in particular the pacing and intensity of its story, the surprising amount content, and even its gameplay which is typically a Platinum strength mainstay. When those areas hit, they hit hard; when they miss, they feel like an uncharacteristic big miss.

    In terms of its gameplay, at its peak you are multitasking your arsenal of Legions along with the protagonist’s skills to suffocate the hordes of enemies with an unrelenting fury of attacks. One the lower end, the limited attacking options and range to handle certain hordes of enemies can be frustrating to deal with, especially those that include airbourne and projectile enemies. It’s also frustrating the need to flip to other Legions and weapons in the middle of battle as you may find yourself stuck dealing with hordes of enemies and timing the pattern to switch over. I also had trouble targeting specific enemies and also the camera angles at times in the midst of battle. Astral Chain’s intent and having the protag and Legion work together to perform a variety of offensive and defensive options is neat in concept and when able to execute works really well, I feel the increasing intensity of battle makes it hard to constant have that tango play flourish and work as intended.

    The other major aspects of Astral Chain also have that hit and miss are its story and content. The game’s first half aside from the intro motorcycle sequence and setting the mystery, the story drags as the early going pertains the protag attaining more arsenal. The story suddenly goes into hyperdrive from the second half onward, and does it ever go. It’s probably the most gonzo a Platinum game story has ever gone although it does delve into that anime storytelling mess amongst the story’s climax. Astral Chain also has a ton of content packed into each stage. Much of that content is optional I feel most of that content is filler that doesn’t yield much reward.

    Despite my complaints and struggles with the game, I found Astral Chain’s highlights and chances the developer took to flex their creativity in the genre they constant stalwarts in. Astral Chain doesn’t make a great initial impression, but if you can ride out slow paced start the game eventually works up that PlatinumGames action, even if it’s a bit janky.

  • [NUMBER 05]

    Not being the Zelda afficianto (having only played through LttP and LBW), I jumped into this remake with curious optimism as I hear from a subset of the franchise’s audience that Awakening is their favorite one. The game did deliver that classic old-school Zelda journey though I wasn’t quite as passionate with my journey here compared to my other two. Looking at this release from the outside after completing it, I marvel at the remake’s scope of trying to update a game that originated as a Game Boy game. I also appreciate the fact this Zelda game didn’t take very long to complete, which I am more grateful to play games that I can beat in less than ten hours or so at this time of my gaming life.

    All of the Zelda trapping you played from other games or at least heard of are replicated here. You traverse through a small open world, doing through numerous dungeons in order to get to the end with a number of secrets and side jobs to discover and partake in. I appreciate the remake’s scope of leaving LW’s content as it is, so players can capture what it was playing this game through modern gaming conventions. I personally love the remake’s art even if it caused a bit of a rift upon amongst the audience. The only damning and surprising flaw with LW remake is the clunky frame rate and blurring effects while travelling in the overworld, which is surprising to experience in a Nintendo developed game. Otherwise, this is a perfect game for anyone to jump in to play a good Zelda game.

  • [NUMBER 04]

    This was an unexpected end of the year game I never thought to pour hours into. I loved hearing the premise of turn-based battles based on dice and decks. After a few runs and understanding the nuances of the playable characters, the game got me in like a fish that just got hooked. It captures that addictive JRPG turn-based characteristic on strategizing which moves to go with over the course of battle. On top of attacking and healing, the numerous amounts of ailments that the combatants can inflict at each other adds an impressive layer of depth onto battles to battle around. Unfortunately, as a game that involves both dice, decks, and ailments, certain conditions can easily turn a battle from comfortable advantage to instant defeat. Knowing that, I kept at it loving the surprising depth of every battle, character quirks, and the additional challenges stacked on top for each playable character after a successful run.

    I love how tense each battle can be, evening starting battles can be deadly threats depending on numerous factors. The game’s battle depth is multiplied with the character your playing, the additional challenges stacked on top of them, the deck of abilities at hand, and the enemy’s abilities. The great and crazy aspect of Dicey Dungeons’s battles are while there isn’t a ton of enemy variety and each enemy carries the same set of abilities, how you approach to battle them is different on the state of your health heading in and your abilities at hand. I love how they extend replayability for each playable character where each new episode they add a twist. The warrior, which the game assigns as the easiest character to play, has a curse ailment and is equipped with two battle axes at the start of his second episode through the dungeon.

    My only sour experiences are the battles where the enemy gets a perfect roll to not only swing the advantage of battle to them, but also can win the battle outright within that one perfect roll. The pain and frustration grows if you lose to unfortunate RNG against the boss and you’ll have to run it all the way back again. Other game shortfalls are the lack of enemy variety and the abilities they fight with and navigating the dungeon floors is knowing which enemies to fight to gain access to shops and health and defeating all enemies to reach max level before battling the boss. Despite those complaints, this was my quick thinking man’s game that I can play for a short session and quickly get my strategic battle thrill for the day.

  • [NUMBER 03]

    I thought we had reached the ceiling on what can be done with Tetris. I was wrong. Multiplayer Tetris is nothing new as local multiplayer has been included in numerous Tetris game throughout the years and recently released games included online multiplayer. Tetris 99 brings only one significant addition to the table, but boy is it a major addition that somehow recaptures the joy of playing Tetris in a new light. Wrapped in a Battle Royale concept, Tetris 99 pits 99 players into a match to see who gets to win in a battle of Tetris. What makes Tetris 99 more than what a regular Tetris fight against 98 other players are the few mechanics in player in sending and preparing for incoming garbage and skews the importance of Tetris (still holds significant weight) in favor of constant attacks of line combos, spins, and general board health. The thrill of battling others and trying to Tetris your way out of trouble is always a thrill to have in Tetris 99.

    Tetris 99 has a few gaping holes that I wish I learned of upon early in the game and to make newer players make known about the mechanics in play during a match. A training mode that explain badges as damage multipliers, how many KOs are needed to earn a full badge, the four main attacking options and manual targeting, knowing when the incoming garbage Tetris will appear, etc.. The current offerings of additional content are weak and doesn’t add any significant value or change to the game’s main conceit. I also have lost some interest in playing Tetris 99 on a consistent basis since its release earlier in the year, only returning when there’s a special event held. Not to mention most folks who are still playing Tetris 99 are monsters at this point, though the addition of Invictus mode mitigates that somewhat.

    The times that I have gone into to play a short session of Tetris 99 have always been a pleasant experience. Matches populate quick, I rarely experience mid-match disconnects, and lag hasn’t been prevalent in my 100+ battles through its main mode. Rematches are offered immediately after defeat and you can immediately jump into the next match instead of having to wait out the current match you were knocked out of is another nice feature. Though Tetris 99 is very light in content, it makes that content count. It’s gotten me to play it throughout the year since its release and serves as one of those games where you can just jump right in, play for a couple of matches, and get your fill of battle royale Tetris. I’m astounded I was able to win regular Tetris 99 36 times and Invictus twice.

  • [NUMBER 02]

    RE2 remake is my very first foray into Capcom’s famed horror franchise and in spite of my numerous troubles during my game where I almost gotten to the point of breaking down to bump the difficulty down, I somehow gritted my way through the game to finish the Leon-A route. As a gamer that can only afford to put forth so much time and effort into a game, there were times where I felt the game was being unfair in providing lack of certain resources at particular sections. Luckily I played this game where I had more available time than usual, thought about my situation after death, and somehow got through by challenges through a new approach or by sheer perseverance with some luck on my side. As I finished Leon-A, I let out a large breath of relief. The scares and horror imagery were there and did their jobs, but overcoming the challenge of surviving through a hordes of relentless zombies with limited resources at the game’s intended difficulty is a major reward and makes finishing a run feel earned and exciting. Lest I forgot to give the development team major kudos for their extensive work to make RE2 remake THE model for other studios to follow on how to properly update an old classic to meet current gaming standards. Even though I haven’t played the original version of RE2, their work on the remake convinced me to play a RE game, a franchise where I wasn’t too keen to play but respected its status in the gaming history.

    Aside from the challenge on how to control my resources and inventory throughout my first run, an underrated but strong aspect of what made RE2 special was giving the players enough information at every point of the game the next steps they need to take to progress. A small examples that stood out to me was walking at the end of one of the police station hallways where a lock combination was scribbled on a whiteboard to unlock a specific locker. I always loved the breadcrumb trail of what to do next. The other lowkey but impressive feat of the game is its map and inventory systems. The map was a highlight in color coding when there’s more to do in a room or if there’s nothing left to do there. RE2 remake’s map system should be the model map system that other developers to take note of, especially if there’s a game with lots of items and actions involved. It prevents players from having to waste time needlessly revisiting rooms where everything there is exhausted. The inventory system gets kudos for marking items irrelevant after their intended use is done. I love at the start of the game where the game tells you that this item can be discarded, freeing up an invaluable spot in your inventory for something more essential.

    There isn’t much that I can truly strike as a significant flaw against RE2. The story isn’t great but gives enough backdrop for the player venturing into the different areas. Character movement is sluggish but I understand that’s part of RE’s DNA. Certain stronger enemies and bosses were a pain to deal with. Everything else in RE2’s package is top notch, from the beautiful and realistic character models, to zombies being a hard target to shoot at AND to take down, Mr. X’s reign to post a constant threat and to push the player to progress and the excellent sound design signifying he’s nearby is an awesome subtle touch. It may not be my favorite game of 2019 but getting me to play it is an impressive accomplishment in itself. Surviving through the run was the cake that brought it altogether. I still gotta go through Claire-B but after that, bring on RE3 remake.

  • [NUMBER 01]

    Ever stumble upon a particular subject and fall into a sink of information for a few hours because of the unusual and interesting facts you discover along the way? That was Remedy did in presenting Control at me. I was kind of into Remedy’s ambitions with Alan Wake and Quantum Break, but they finally nailed in Control. Not only they crafted an alluring environment to dig every little nugget into with The Oldest House, but also found the perfect combative gameplay features to make it both fun to snoop around and play. While a number of things that Control throws out into play don’t work out and the performance issues on base consoles is a major bummer that cannot be excused, I had a rapturous time with Control.

    Some argue Control’s combat as one of its weakest features. I agree the combat gets repetitive, the excitement and challenges they present were still exciting to battle for me throughout my entire playthrough. The game always throws in different enemy types for you to combat, focing the player to utilize the multiple powers at hand to deal with them. You can stay to take cover, throw projectives to initiate the offense, throw grenades back at them, use shield to get a breather, levitate, and melee to get in decent damage and to push back an enemy in a close encounter. The different gun variants also play a role on how to deal with an enemy encounter. It’s also cool that you don’t have to collect any ammo for your gun, just a simple cooldown to reload. Remedy has always tried something unique in combat and I think they do well enough here. It’s not perfect, but it does the job sufficiently (moreso in my opinion) and isn’t a major factor that hampered my experience.

    I cannot sufficiently summarize what made Control so mesmerizing during my time with it. You got the setting, where everything is encapsulated within The Oldest House. It’s crazy to believe everything that happens in Control occurs in The Oldest House alone. Then they cram The Oldest House with so much silly correspondence collectables by way of memorandums, Darling’s taped presentations, Trench’s visions with his thoughts, TV shows, etc. that it gives you enough of a picture on how The Oldest House operates and uncovering clout on the mystery with The Hiss and the Haden siblings. There are so many memorable moments of joy found within every new item, reading its contents, then quickly adding that content to decipher what piece of the puzzle I got and where it fits within the picture. Rarely does a game made silly, irrelevant collectables so fun to gather and gives a game another layer on top of rest it does.

    Remedy has been known to throw in some style in their games and Control is no exception. Max Payne 1 & 2, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break has shown Remedy show some cool stuff, they pull all the stops in Control. The huge, cool looking font title card whenever you visit a new area, STYLE! The beautiful colors of the various Oldest House areas, STYLE! The gun switching between its two modes by itself, STYLE! The Board’s communication shown only by an upside black triangle shape against a stark white background, STYLE! Trench’s visions of repeating silhouettes with a blue light backdrop, STYLE! Ashtray Maze sequence, STYLE! It’s impressive on how stylish Control is without the use of striking art and crazy means of delivery to execute it.

    I also like the game’s pace and progression on unraveling the mystery. It felt natural as I progressed through the game, exploring a new area, encountering a new face, hitting a new obstacle and the game was there to backup and deliver some new breadcrumb trail to keep me at it. A neat example I can come up with is when Jesse goes to the first location for a new crystal to produce more HRA sets, only to find it crushed. When she returns to report the news, one of the lead Control members tells her she can get another one all the way at the Black Quarry. I shared Jesse’s amazement that within The Oldest House is a large quarry that’s been heavily excavated. Jesse’s internal monologues throughout was a nice narration touch to give the protagonist some color and adds to the wonder of The Oldest House and the trail to find her brother and ultimately The Hiss.

    I don’t have many qualms against Control about its content and gameplay. I agree that its checkpoint system stinks and is one of the few major missteps. It sucks whenever you died that you respawn at the last control point and have to repeat the same trek to get back to the place you died at. Most times you’ll have to deal with a group of enemies making that repeat trip, which makes the trip more annoying and tedious than it should be. The in-game map isn’t great in delinating where the connections between sub areas within a major area are. Control’s performance issue on base consoles is the real strike against it and a shame it runs suboptimally there. I played Control on a base PS4 console with the 1.04 patch and while the reports of constant frame rate issues from launch weren’t as frequent during my play, the moments where the frame rate chugged and the insanely long load times respawning from death and fast travel is unfortunate and a constant inconvenience. The stark performance difference between the base and pro versions of the X-Box One and PS4 consoles show a need of additional time in quality control so that no game should have that much discrepancy in performance quality. It’s not an excuse anymore in these times.

    With that note duly noted, I’m still amazed on how much Control packed in and how much of it worked well beyond my expectations. It’s overwhelming, but one that I welcomed because they just clicked with me instantly. It didn’t take a JRPG length to pack it all in too. It plays great, the action is solid, but it’s a sense of world building, story telling, and wonder that make Control WORK. It was the game I had the most fun investing my limited time into and easily cements as my top game out of the games I played within 2019.