By Jazz 2 Comments
Another end of the year, another load of lists.
TBH I just doing this to pass the time while Smash installs.
Anywho - here's how my list works:
I currently own every modern console bar a ps4 - so you will not be seeing any ps4 games on this list, and to be honest apart from Spiderman I don't give a crap about Sony's exclusives. So no God of War, no Detroit, no Spiderman - none of that.
In all honesty I only played a couple of games that were released this year that I would even consider putting near this list - so many of these games will not be from this year - hence the title.
I also got a Switch this year - which is nice.
Here's a list of most the games I either finished or dropped that I played this year and felt a need to write an off the cuff response to these are by no means all the games I played but most of the ones I finished.
I'm currently recovering from surgery so apologies if this makes little sense or is too brief.
So here are the games that I played this year that I actually want to talk about in some measure:
Cards on the table - I think the original Xenoblade is one of the most overrated RPGs ever. I thought that the characters were beyond bland, the storyline was just a poor rehash of concepts from the earlier series and that the combat is just...fine. I'll give credit where credit is due and say that the OST is pretty good and that the environments are fantastic. With Xenoblade Chronicles 2 I'd hoped they'd fixed the problems with the original and improved what was good about the first game. Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope.
I'll say this again, just because I know how people are today, but IN MY OPINION this game is just a mess. Yes the environments are stunning, but it's not much fun to get around them when the map is one of the worst since SMTIV. Field skills go from being irrelevant to blocking off story progression without any warning. I could write an essay on how bad the characters are - only Nia gets any sort of growth throughout the game while the main character just...he's nobody. He doesn't whine, so that's great..but...that's about it. Everything that's been said about the character designs has been said. The only saving grace of the game, for me, was the combat...and for some reason they thought it would be fun to just break that in chapter 7...
I actually went back to Xenosaga 1 just to see if my memory was playing tricks. Apart from a whole load more cutscenes - the storytelling in Xenosaga's first hour far eclipses Xenoblade's whole story. Shit, Allen has more of a personality than nearly everyone in this game.
I finished XB2 in 40 hours or so...I made myself finish it due to how much it had cost me and the hope the ending might redeem itself...hahah no.
Im glad the game did well and that people enjoyed it - hopefully we'll be getting more (and better) RPGs in the future..but for me, this was not a great experience.
Monster Hunter World (Xbone) and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch)
I've been playing Monster Hunter for a very, very, very long time. Not all the way back to ps2 days but psp Freedom Unite. That's long enough for me to have an opinion here - and it'll probably surprise no one that I...er...didn't really enjoy World as much as I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic game that I'm sure will bring in many many new players..which is a good thing. For me, though, I just felt that it lack the spark of the earlier games.
My main issues were monster variety and the maps.
Let's start with the maps. I don't enjoy spending time trying to find my prey in a forest with multiple elevations - which meant that the first map just wasted my time constantly with running around these dumb areas. There's too much time spent traversing and not enough time in battle for my taste. With the original games, you can see which zone is which and where you need to be. Absolutely a personal preference but one that I felt strongly.
Then the big one. Monster variety. To be blunt, bar old faithfuls and the flashbulb dino I did not care for any of the new monsters. Where was Zinogre? No I don't want this crappy knockoff. Where was Brachydios? Where was that crazy owl and soap bubble dragon? Nergi what? It was all just so...serious? Even with the inclusion of later DLC I just couldn't get into it.
Generations Ultimate was the first game I picked up on the Switch - not Zelda (meh) not Mario (hard pass) not Splatoon (nope). I haven't put that much time into it given that I'd already played through Generations and XX recently, but Monster Hunter is the ultimate 'dry season' game that you can come back to whenever and pick up where you left off.
So again, glad MonHun is doing well...it's just not what I'd want. Maybe next time.
Dragonball Fighterzzzzzz, Blazblue CrossTag Battle and UNIL:ST
Another great year for fighting games. Who can forget EVO and the Cell roar? That was the hypest thing next to Lil Majin's King. Great stuff.
That said...I could not get into DBFZ for the life of me. It just..felt like a mess to play. Too much going on from too many sides. I had a similar problem with MvC3 but this took it to another level. It's a hell of a fun game to watch but...not really for me to play.
BBCTB had similar issues. I don't think anyone would say it was a beautiful game to watch but it could be fun..if everyone didn't scream at each other all the time. Thing is, picking this game up on the Switch last week - it's dead. Deader than Tekken TT2 on WiiU dead. I wonder how much that had to do with Smash, and how much it had to do with the game itself. Releasing a game without an Arcade mode in this day and age..nobody would be that stup...oh.
That brings us to, by far, the best fighting game I've played in years that isn't Tekken. Undernight Inbirth Late:ST. If you like fighting games and haven't touched this gem yet, please go buy it. It strips the anime fighter of most of its over the top systems and relies heavily on footsies. It's closer to classic Street Fighter than current Street Fighter. Hopefully its inclusion in CrossTag raised its profile so those raging Persona and RWBY fans might actually be interested in something else (doubtful).
Fatal Frame IV (Wii with Eng patch)
Hands down the best game I played this year.
Only released in Japan (I believe it was going to be released in the West but they refused to patch the game and thus....) this is my favourite of the series. There's none of the creepy twincest nonsense that showed up in 3 nor any obvious fanservice that I noticed.
The story is a prequel to the original game that follows 3 characters as they try to understand what happened to them 10 or so years earlier. Controls are mapped to the nunchuk and wii remote. The remote acts as both flashlight and camera controls and I found it very easy to use. There are a couple of puzzles that require pinpoint accuracy with the remote which can be really annoying, especially when they are timed and on the last boss fight.
There's a longer review on my list above, with spoilers, so if you're interested keep that in mind..but please do check this game out if you can. It's fantastic.
Sakura Wars: So Long My Love (WII)
First off - turn off the voices or play the ps2 version of the Japanese.
Right. Sakura Wars is a SRPG game crossed with a visual novel and a romance game. I think the series originated the concept actually...like Persona? Well..this is where most of the modern DNA of that series comes from.
Set in 1920s Steampunk New York - Sakura Wars tells the story of the New York Combat Revue. A group of highly trained theatre actors who also pilot mecha to stop evil demons and the demon lord Nobunaga from destroying the world etc etc. I swear I've killed Nobunaga more than any other historical person. The game is split between Visual Novel segments where you advance the plot and romance the ladies of the Revue, and SRPG battles against enemies.
In all honesty, the battles are probably the worst part of the game. They go on far too long, especially at the end which is just battle after battle after battle...what makes up for that is the writing, characters and music. The characters are, well, fantastic. I ended up with Subaru and it surprised me how well Subaru was represented given that the game was originally released back in the late 2000s. There are some issues with Subaru's representation as a non-binary person, and I'm sure someone who knows far more about that subject would find other issues but given when the game was released and the way the character is respected by the cast it was...a nice surprise. If you're open to something a little different to Persona, or with the new Sakura Taisen game having been annouced are interested in the series - So Long My Love is your only choice in English - so give it a look.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares (Vita)
From respectful to...Compile Heart? ergh.
Mary Skelter is a Dungeon RPG in the style of Wizardry, Grim..err..not lock but Grim something, Might and Magic or Etrian Odyssey. It's a really really good one, too, if you can get past the Japanese fanservice that seems to infect nearly all of these types of games.
Themed around fairytales, MSN sees you (the only guy) and your harem of fairytale girls (snow white, sleeping beauty, red riding hood) attempt to escape from a prison. The game leans very heavily into the horror aspect of the Grimm fairytales and because of that, it can be a fun ride. Sadly the mechanics of the game involve covering the girls (who fight) in your blood in order to calm them down or allow them to go into a berserk state. This, of course, leads to clothes disappearing and lots of rubbing once you get back to base...because of course it does.
With that out of the way, the game systems themselves are easy to follow and tbh this game makes for a very good introduction to dungeon crawlers, especially with the ability that lets you return to your base whenever you might die or just need to go back. The dungeon designs aren't over the top either and the enemy designs range from standard to pretty great. Even the blood mechanic, which appears to be a cheap attempt at titillation, actually works well within the systems of the game.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a good game, which is well worth playing..as long as you can deal with the fanservice.
Now for two games that are among the worst I've played this year - if not down right offensive in one case:
Dynasty Warriors 9: Xbone
A mess. A complete and utter mess. Adding an open world to a mission based game was a complete mistake. Last years Legend of Sanada had a partially open world that allowed you to gather resources, but everything else was still mission based. That worked really well. This did not.
Muv Luv: Alternative (Vita)
One of the highest rated Visual Novels ever...which goes on and on and on and on.
And then there's (mostly censored) tentacle rape by aliens, and then the way the character talks about it afterwards.....sorry. I just found the way they dealt with the character and subject matter so offensive I couldn't continue with the game. First time that's ever happened.
There are some other games I'd like to mention like The Last Story (great Wii RPG), Octopath (only really just started it), Hunter:Call of the Wild (certainly best atmosphere), Starlink, Celeste...but I'm recovering from surgery and to be honest I think I've said all I want to say.