Joe423

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My favourite games of the last decade - part 1.

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Hello! I'm really in a writing mood for whatever reason and I have the perfect excuse to post another blog following my favourite games of 2019 and what better way to celebrate the end of this decade than to look back at all the fantastic games that have came out over the last ten years.

Having spent a good chunk of time creating a list of almost every game I can remember playing that was released in that period and finding myself confronted with well over 100 games, a lot of which I do have strong feelings about, I've decided to split this into two parts. Part one will be a selection of five categories - Biggest Surprise, Best Visual Design, Best Soundtrack, Best Multiplayer and Best Story. Most are self explanatory but I'll add a bit more of what I'm considering before each. Each category will have five (three for best surprise) unordered "winners" in addition to a list of the games I've considered - I want to give a shout out to as many games I've enjoyed as possible.

Part 2 will be the meat and potatoes - a top 20/25 (I haven't decided yet) of my favourite games of this decade.

Hopefully you enjoy reading this, it's quite cathartic and fun to consider how many good games have came out since January 1st 2010 (and there are a lot more that I haven't even played - I'm looking at you, Super Mario Galaxy 2!). 10 years is a hell of a lot of time... I don't think I've thought about DS and PSP games this much in a while. The 3DS and Wii U both came and went this decade! The poor old Playstation Vita has some representation here as well (well... one particular game, I think we all know what I'm talking about.)

In terms of whether I'm considering remakes and re-releases - standard HD updates are NOT considered. Any re-release offering substantially more content (for example, Persona 3 Portable or Devil May Cry IV Special Edition) have been included. Enough of the preamble - let's get started!

SPOILERS ABOUT OLD GAMES IN THE FOLLOWING

BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE DECADE

Where did this game come from?! Woah, this game is actually good? Why do I keep playing this?! Whatever the reason, we all get surprised by video games occasionally. Here are three of my biggest surprises of the last decade.

Velvet Sundown - PC - 2014

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Does anyone remember this game? God, I have 30 hours on steam playing it. It's so dumb (and as far as I know, it has sadly shut down) but for the month or so around release that I played it, it was incredible. There truly was nothing else like Velvet Sundown. Role playing with a bunch of strangers as these utterly bizarre characters, the cheesy jazz that plays in the cabin, goddamn Boyle, the Microsoft Sam voices! I still haven't decided if this game was good or not and sadly, due to it being shutdown completely, I guess I'll never really know... but I'll say it again, it truly was one of a kind.

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Sleeping Dogs - PC - 2012

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I think if there is any community that knows exactly why I love this game, it's the Giant Bomb community. Special thanks to one Vinny Caravella for showing us all just why this game is so great. This falls squarely under the "How is this game so good?" - it looks like any standard mid 7th-generation open world crime game, just set in Hong Kong. The developers were an unknown as well (at least they were to me) but Sleeping Dogs delivers on so many levels. The combat is fun and accessible with a decent amount of depth to it, the driving is fantastic and then you get to the crazy. Sleeping Dogs straddles this line between Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row so successfully that things like Wei Shen jumping from car to car and the crazy Yakuza-esque beatdown moves feel so much more impactful. The cast of characters are surprisingly great as well, with fantastic performances from so many. Don't forget that incredible original PC port with the amazing textures and THAT RAIN! It still looks great now but seriously, games looked this good in 2012?!?! It's a shame we'll never get a follow-up to old Wei Shen's amazing adventure but we'll always have this game.

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Undertale - PC - 2015

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Okay... so back in my 2015 game of the year list, I noted everything that surrounds this game. It's not the best game of all time - I'm sorry guys, it just isn't. I don't think I've played a single second of it since I completed it back in 2015. I never played the sequel (is Deltarune a sequel? I don't actually have any idea). I didn't play any of the re-releases or updates. I was absolutely delighted with my Undertale experience and felt no need for anything else. Enough of the babbling though... Undertale came out of nowhere for me. I'd never heard anything about it until I saw the GBeast quick look on the game and thought "Hey, that looks a bit like Earthbound." I won't open the Sans = Ness theory, don't worry... Undertale is a charming, fun little game with a fantastic soundtrack and a big heart that really did make a big impression on the gaming community at large. These characters have representation of sorts in Smash Bros. and even professional wrestling now! I love games like this. Not everything needs three years of E3 trailers and a lot of times its better now to have it.

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Honourable Mentions: Zero Escape Series (999), Catherine, Bayonetta 2, Antichamber, Civilisation V, LA Noire, Ori and the Blind Forest, Sonic Generations

BEST VISUAL DESIGN

A lot of developers like to pump out polygons and go for photorealism but let's be honest... we're unlikely to be talking about any of those games for their graphics in the future. Visual Design when considering the decade is thinking about what's going to be timeless. We all still think Crono Trigger and Jet Set Radio look great, right? Here are five games that I love the look of that will age like fine wine. Do I need to discuss the games? I don't think so, I'll let these screenshots do the talking.

Persona 5 - PS4 - 2017

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Ori and the Blind Forest - PC - 2015/16

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Cuphead - PC - 2017

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Journey - PS3 - 2012

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Guilty Gear Xrd - PS4 - 2014+

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Honourable Mentions: 999, Person 4 Golden, Tearaway, Danganronpa Series, Catherine, Ni No Kuni, Bayonetta 2, Super Mario Ofyssey, Yakuza 0, Octopath Traveller, Bastion, Devil May Cry 5, Dragon Quest XI, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV, FEZ, Hollow Knight, Hotline Miami, Monaco, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Resident Evil 7, Transistor, Spelunky, Undertale.

BEST SOUNDTRACK

Video games music is so integral to allowing a game to have a lasting impression. I still listen to the soundtracks from the following games a lot, even if I haven't touched the game since release. Good video game music generally seem to fall into one of two categories... they're very evocative of the environment that they occur in or they're absolute bangers. The best video game music falls into both.

Hotline Miami - PC - 2012

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Hotline Miami still remains the absolute gold standard for video game music. The soundtrack is grimey, disorientating and almost suffocating which aligns perfectly with the hyperactive coke-fuelled murder spree that the player has to begrudgingly participate in. Add the tension that comes with the the fact that one mistake guarantees almost instant death and you're onto a winner with Miami's electronic godsend. The music also aids the games story telling process as it perfectly fits the main characters descent into madness and hallucinations. What a neat little game.

Highlights - Miami is the most soothing music in the game, fittingly only playing once the nightmarish level ends. Horse Steppin is the musical equivalent of a downer, sleepy and otherworldly. Miami Disco is both tense and exhilarating.

Shin Megami Tensei IV - 3DS - 2013

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Now this is a bit out of left field. SMT IV the game is very good, it's a challenging RPG with some interesting moral choices and has a real style to it that pops despite the 3DS's horrible resolution. SMT IV the soundtrack is incredible, perfectly evoking both the eastern mikado kingdom where the heroes quest initially begins before descending into grungy electronics to perfectly reflect the destroyed but still futuristic Tokyo that the game primarily takes place in.

Highlights - Tokyo Overworld remains my absolute favourite JRPG overworld music, ever. It's a beautiful, sweeping arrangement that perfectly captures the ruined Tokyo and the scale of the journey that the hunters have to overcome. Ashura Kai Shop is a fantastic electronic bop that fits the underground sanctuaries very well. Arcade Street may have actually been the streetpass theme... nevertheless, just listen.

Persona 4 Golden - PS Vita - 2012

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I don't think I need to comment on this games soundtrack, it's a Giant Bomb classic. Who knew J-pop could be so great?

Highlights - Your Affection is the poppy overworld theme that we all love... I don't need to say anything else, right? Signs of Love is the theme that you're greeted with almost every time you return home in the game and it feels like a warm embrace. Sky Full of Stars is a fantastic, Golden exclusive arrangement that plays as you journey out at night.

We all still listen to this OST, right?

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Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 - 2010

Remember the category. Music! Firstly, Final Fantasy XIII actually came out on March 2010 and thus will likely be the oldest game I talk about in this round up. Man, the decade is long, right? I was in high school when this game came out. Final Fantasy XIII is not a good game. It's very monotonous, does not respect your time at all and spends about 25 hours in a tutorial before extending the game just as you want to quit.

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Final Fantasy XIII does have an absolutely incredible soundtrack though, one of the best in the entire series. It's fantastically evocative of both Cocoon and Pulse and sounds like something they would actually play in this world. If it wasn't for the soundtrack I never would have finished this game.

Highlights - The Gapra Whitewood is an absolutely beautiful arrangement and potentially one of my favourite pieces of video game music ever. It's incredibly ethereal and fits the whitewood area fantastically. Blinded by Light is one of the all-time great JRPG battle themes and doesn't get boring over the 60 hours or so that you have to endure this game. Snow's Theme ramps up wonderfully and really fits the all action type of hero he is initially presented as.

Persona 5 - PS4 - 2017

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Double-trouble! Persona music is great, it really is. Persona 5's jazzy arrangement manages to sound very different from Persona 4 and Persona 3 and fits the modern-day tokyo setting to a tee. Atlus better be paying Shoji Meguro his dues.

Highlights - Last Surprise is another contender for the all-time greatest JRPG battle theme - listen to this jam! Beneath the Mask is the theme of the game, in my opinion and fits perfectly with Tokyo at night. I profess to playing this a lot when I actually visited Tokyo for the first time this year... When my Mother was there is a fantastic dungeon theme for Futaba's pyramid, with a melancholy undertone to the theme that fits the characters state of mind at that point in the game perfectly.

Honourable Mentions: Fire Emblem Fates, Persona 3 Portable, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Journey, Catherine, Grand Theft Auto V, Kingdom Hearts 3, Sonic Mania, Sonic Generations, Transistor, Devil May Cry 5, Dustforce, FEZ, Final Fantasy XIV, Hollow Knight, Lone Survivor, Life is Strange, Nier Automata, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Stardew Valley, Undertale, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey.

BEST MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer games are a strange one for me. I play games with my friends in fits and bursts and haven't really done so regularly since midway through the decade. I haven't played any of the big multiplayer games (Fortnite, PUBG, Dota 2, LoL) to any real extent with Overwatch being the sole exception. Multiplayer games are never really something I gravitate towards but I have enjoyed a lot of them over the decade. The games I end up playing are a bit of an eclectic mix with the sole exception generally of shooters. Multiplayer is probably the category with the most subjective slant - a lot of the games I like for multiplayer are a complete time and place thing (GTA IV is my favourite multiplayer experience ever, for example).

Street Fighter V - PC - 2016

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This game does mean a lot to me and I've gone over it a lot in my 2016 game of the year round up but essentially, this is the first fighting game I truly got into in a major way. I followed majors and watched events regularly (and continue to do so). I continue to try and get better at the game and look to learn as much as I can about each character. I've played over 850 hours of this game, with it being my most played game on Steam now by a large margin. It's not the best game ever and it still suffers badly in terms of reputation from its shoddy launch but the 2020 game, Championship Edition, is a million miles away and I urge anyone who passed over it originally to give it another try. Gill is in the game now!

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Blazblue Central Fiction - PC - 2017

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This is kind of the other side of the coin - it's a game I never would have played had I not got into fighting games. Blazblue is notoriously system heavy and hard to get into and I did find it a bit of a struggle initially to really understand what I was doing but the game clicked for me in a way that almost all the other anime fighters didn't. I enjoyed the movement, I enjoyed the character variety and again I enjoyed learning how to actually play the characters. The sad thing is the community is never going to last long in the west - I did manage to play it a bit in Tokyo though (and got my ass handed to me). I'll be ready day 1 for the next mainline Blazblue game.

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Smash Bros Ultimate/4 - Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wi U - 2014, 2018

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Is it odd that I kind of regard these as the same game? They're pretty much exactly the same gameplay wise... Ultimate just managed to release on a console that was a success. I'll never fully get into the competitive aspect of Smash bros, I find the controls relatively unintuitive and frustrating and the platform fighter aspect doesn't grab me in the same way that a 3D fighting game hasn't managed to grab me yet. I'm a 2D player until I die, I guess. What Smash has given me is hours of fun on and off throughout the decade (Brawl included). I'll never take it seriously and that's okay, it's just a fun time for me.

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Sid Meier's Civilisation V - PC - 2010

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And I mentioned left field earlier. Anyone who has played multiplayer Civ knows how enthralling it can get, how the hours in your evening can just melt away into nothingness. I had a lot of great fun with this with my friends in the first few years of the decade and the game will always be close to my heart. I love the singleplayer too but something about multiplayer, about surprising your friend with a war declaration or something ridiculous like that, is just too great. Singleplayer can't match it, really.

I also played a lot of Europa Universalis IV multiplayer as well but Civ V's slightly shallower learning curve made it a lot easier to actually get people to play with and it gets points for this.

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Risk of Rain - PC - 2013

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Risk of Rain is a fun, challenging multiplayer rogue-like. Unlike Spelunky, for example, multiplayer is a key component of the game and doesn't ruin any of the runs you wind up having. Infact, RoR seems to be tailored to multiplayer - I don't remember having anywhere near as good an experience playing it by myself. Plowing through the different maps with a friend and beating the final boss was always incredibly fun, as was trying new characters and finding new power-ups. Unfortunately I've not been able to try Risk of Rain 2 at all but I'll always have a fondness for this game - props to the team who semingly made it in their University dorm room?!

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Honourable Mentions: Monaco, Dungeon Defenders, Awesomenauts, Guilty Gear Xrd, Blazblue Crosstag Battle, Final Fantasy XIV, Europa Universalis IV, Euro Truck Simulator, Football Manager Series, Velvet Sundown, Overwatch, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne

BEST STORY

God, this has been an absolute marathon. Finally, we come to the best stories of the decade. A lot of a games rely on their story, visual novels for example, whilst other games stumble onto something enthralling without it being the main focus. I think when you look back at a decade like this, the moments in a game are what you consider meaning the story is probably the second most important aspect in a game behind the gameplay itself and just ahead of the OST. I guess that's a discussion for another time, though.

The following games completely nailed their story telling and stuck with me. Whether it was the plotitself or the characters in the game, something sunk its hooks into me. I've definitely rewatched moments from these games many times over the decade.

Persona 4 Golden - PS Vita - 2012

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Ah, Persona 4 doubles up - I guess Persona 5 was the only other game to do that. Good job Atlus. Again, like the OST, I don't think I need to say anything about this game that hasn't already been said. Arguably the most famous content produced on this site is a play-through of this game! The characters are charming, the localisation is witty, the antagonists are sufficiently threatening and shocking and the humdrum of everyday life in rural Japan is captured wonderfully. I love this game.

I even like the majority of the golden exclusive content - I know people dislike Marie but I thought she was okay and those new events help to add so much to the characters. Plus those Winter outfits and the new years celebration are very cute.

Yakuza 0 - PS4 - 2017

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Yakuza came into my life fairly late into the decade - I played my first Yakuza game midway through 2016. Thank god for that, I would have missed out on this game otherwise. Yakuza 0 is a thrilling crime drama with absolutely incredible characterisation that goes so many different places and drags so many different emotions out of you that it's incredibly hard to put it down until you've seen everything. Even the side stories have great characters. Majima in particular is an absolute delight and one of the stand-out characters of the decade (thankfully, I'm not doing that category or this would go on forever.) Whether this is your first Yakuza or not, it's hard not to take something from this game as long as you're willing to give it a chance. Great localisation too!

It's worth noting that the other games have great stories as well but 0 is absolutely the top of the pile.

The Witcher 3 - PC - 2015

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Witcher! I waxed lyrical over this game in my 2015 GOTY list and I'll likely wax lyrical over it some more when I get onto part 2 so I'll keep this brief. Witcher 3 manages to succeed in making every single stupid little thing that you find yourself doing feel meaningful. Why is Geralt helping some three building village with their Rotfiend problem? The game will articulate it far more than it really needs to. The main plot line is a deeply personal story about reunion played with a backdrop of war, otherworldly plotting and diplomatic tension and you care about each aspect that CD Projekt Red presents to you. Then you add the two best pieces of DLC of the decade in Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, each with their own fantastic characters and stories?

It's hard to go wrong with this game. Enough for now.

Zero Escape Series - DS, 3DS, PSV - 2010, 2012, 2016

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The Zero Escape games are a trio of visual novels produced by Aksys games that all feature 9 unfortunate individuals trapped in a game of life or death, seeking to escape. It's a simple setting that proceeds into a fantastic science fiction plotline featuring numerous parallel universes, time travel and so much more that I've probably forgotten. 999 and Virtue's Last Reward in particular are absolutely fantastic with great characters and incredible tension. Sadly, the series doesn't exactly stick the landing fully in Zero Time Dilemma but even with that, the series is a ride worth taking.

Excuse the meta again but man, the DS was around this decade, wasn't it... 10 years is a long time it turns out.

The Walking Dead Season 1 - PC - 2012

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Ah, Walking Dead, how I miss you so. A part visual novel, part adventure game produced by Telltale Games, the Walking Dead Season 1 was an absolute masterclass in story telling. The zombies provide an effective background to a story that is almost entirely about the characters - everyone here can probably remember their own time spent with Lee and Clementine. It's unfortunate that the following series didn't maybe provide as much of an amazing experience as this did (I haven't actually got around to the final season) but this game will always serve as a reminder that in their prime, Telltale were the masters of the video game story.

It also has arguably the greatest ending of any game of the decade (provided you selected it) - Lee teaching Clementine an important lesson that pretty much defines her character for the future games.

Honourable mentions: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Birthright, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Persona 3 Portable, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Danganronpa Series, Nier Automata, Catherine, Grand Theft Auto V, Yakuza 4/5, Yakuza Kiwami, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy XIV, Bastion, Transistor, Bioshock Infinite, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, Kingdom Hearts 3, Hotline Miami, LA Noire, Life is Strange, Portal 2, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Resident Evil 7, Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs, Walking Dead Season 2-3, The Witcher 2, Undertale, Ori and the Blind Forest, Devil May Cry 5.

Man, that was a long ride. Well, it's only going to continue. I'll hopefully see you on Part 2 where I run through my X favourite games of the last decade (still need to decide that all important number...)

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My favourite games of 2019.

Hey all, another year has passed and another bunch of great games have came out. 2019 felt like a really strong year in terms of video games which makes it slightly unfortunate that I've not been able to play as many 2019 release as I would have liked - hence, this list will be slightly different again, just like last year. Apparently I missed out on a game called Outer Wilds? I'll get around to it for next year...

There will likely be spoilers here, you've been warned.

JOE'S FAVOURITE NON-2019 GAMES THAT HE PLAYED IN 2019

Resident Evil Series

Yeah, so I got caught up a bit with the RE2 hype but I can't bring myself to play the second game chronologically in a series first. So I did what all good video-gamesmen do and played pretty much every surrounding title.

REmake is a fantastic game that really pushes the survival element of survival horror. I didn't actually realise how, for lack of a better term, hardcore these older games were - limited saves?! Every single bullet counts in this game. I completed Jill's story and moved on to REmake 2 but I'll eventually give Chris a try. I feel this is a game that will only get better on subsequent playthroughs, given you have a better grasp on the layout of the mansion and the rules of the game.

RE4 still holds up - what surprised me most about this game was the fact that it didn't necessarily feel like an action game despite the obvious shift in emphasis... each room and encounter felt like its own puzzle where you had to think and couldn't just spray and pray - games can still learn a lot from RE4.

I've developed a soft spot for RE0 - probably helped by the incredible save theme. I think more likely because the game uses a lot of the same rules as REmake but I was prepared this time. The highs aren't as high and the lows are lower but I think this is still a game worth checking out.

RE7 is easily the scariest game that I've actually finished. Again, every bullet matters - this is pure survival horror. I don't have much else to say about it.

I also played a bit of RE3 but going from REmake 2 to that is just too jarring. I'll get to the remake next year... One final word regarding RE5. I can see this game being fun in multiplayer but in singleplayer it's a complete chore. The encounter design is terrible - it controls exactly the same as 4 but the encounters are not geared towards that control scheme at all. It's a mish mash of half-baked ideas. I doubt I'll ever try it again. I didn't play RE6.

Devil May Cry 3 and 4 Special Edition

So yeah, a Devil May Cry game came out this year and well... you can see where I'm going with this. I actually did a write-up of my playthrough of DMC1 and DmC on this site. Whilst I appreciated 1, I didn't exactly like it... I picked up 3 around then and dropped it after an hour - "BORING" - how wrong I was. Both DMC3 and 4 are fantastic and really fun to play through. Surprisingly, I probably ended up liking DMC4 more than 3 - I like fighting games and 4 reminded me a lot of that genre. You have a bunch of characters to learn with some really cool mechanics - Dante alone will take hours and hours to get good with. The level design and story are definitely better in 3 but the depth of the combat system in 4 hooked me.

Street Fighter V

I still play this game a lot. I still watch this game a lot. Championship Edition seems really cool. I will continue to play and watch this game.

Blazblue Central Fiction

I wish more people played this game. I wish it was getting a sequel and not Guilty Gear.

JOE'S TOP 5 (and more) GAMES OF 2019

Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge a few games.

Luigi's Mansion 3 has a lot of charm and a lot of heart but it just didn't grab me like I hoped... I wasn't particularly fond of the progression system feeling like segregated levels rather than one big area. The gold feels completely arbitrary and collecting it feels like busywork. It's not that challenging either. I'll definitely finish it but...

Fire Emblem: Three Houses - this game rules. I fell in love with it for the 10 hours I played... unfortunately I was away from my switch right when it came out and by the time I came back to it I just never got around to playing more. It's not you, it's me.

Kingdom Hearts 3 - this game came out at the wrong time for me. I remember how excited I was for the last Kingdom Hearts game I pre-ordered - Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep in 2010. Yeah... If this game came out then I would have loved it. I still liked it, it's just that Kingdom Hearts isn't as important to me as it once was. I still nearly teared up at the ending and watching the 358 Days Trio and BBS trio reunite still affected me. It's just... it's been too long. The mechanics in the game aren't too enthralling either and the lack of some of the Final Fantasy characters from 1 and 2 was pretty glaring. I loved those Big Hero 6 and Toy Story worlds though.

Without further ado... my top 5 games of 2019.

5. Tetris 99

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I think it's worth stating that my taste in games have changed in the last few years as a result of various things but primarily I have less time to lose myself in large story intensive games. Not to say that I won't, but I feel like part of the reason I play fighting games is because I can find 45 minutes or so and just play the game. I don't need to set aside time to play them. I also want the games I play to have a learning process in a sense - if I can go in and tear through the game instantly then it's just not going to grab me. I always loved Spelunky, Dark Souls and the like but I think I can finally articulate what I like about those games. With that in mind, let's get to Tetris 99.

Tetris 99 is a battle royale version of Tetris that essentially has you playing Tetris against 98 other people, trying to survive as long as you can. It's pretty much the definition of a quick, skill based game and fits exactly into what I was saying above. I can dive into it for 30 minutes to an hour, have a good time and improve. I was looking up t-spins, watching high level players and trying to learn more about Tetris in a way that I never have. It's a credit to the core game that I wanted to improve because I wanted to win. I've not won yet, I've came second a few times but I know that I can through practice and learning which is exactly what I want.

4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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I found myself muttering to myself "This game is actually really good" as I played through this. Ignoring the talking to myself for a second, I was right. This is a really good game which I didn't actually expect. All the pre-release stuff didn't look great and I just wasn't interested. I bought it when it went on sale after seeing some good press and remembering that I actually loved the last game they made - Circle of the Moon (shout-out to that, I inexplicably left it off my best of 2018 list).

Bloodstained is enjoyable because it doesn't hold anything back - it has the same metroidvania loop of explore and fill out a map as much as you can and then find something that allows you to fill it out more but it offers a lot of interesting systems in amongst this. The most obvious is the shard system - destroy an enemy and there is a chance that you'll steal its power. The thing is, these abilities range from completely useless to overpowered and broken but the game never prevents you from getting anything and using it. Go wild! I like a game that's confident enough in itself to give you dumb abilities to use.

3. Resident Evil 2

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Yeah, I guess this was fairly obvious from the preamble. There are three key aspects that REmake 2 nails that make it such a delight to play. Atmosphere, encounter design and level design. The game is absolutely dripping with tension, aided by the police department, sewers and research facility that the game takes place in. The levels are claustrophobic, dark and winding which make the enemies seem even more frightening and your supplies seem even more scarce. Each encounter is a puzzle to work out and it's very difficult to brute force through the enemies given the scarcity of ammo and the specific ways that enemies have to be targeted. Mr. X manages to feel omnipresent and terrifying without ever becoming frustrating - a very difficult line to straddle.

In addition to this, RE2 looks great, with fantastic texturing and character models (and a PC port that is incredibly well optimised). The game also controls incredibly well and whilst the puzzles are a bit on the simple side, they remain enjoyable. The characters themselves come with a great dub and remain interesting and the stories throughout the two playthroughs are strong. There have seemingly been more updates since the games release which I'm itching to go back in and try. It's just a good time.

2. Final Fantasy XIV (Shadowbringers)

So in a sense this is cheating... I haven't actually played Shadowbringers at all this year. I have played a hell of a lot of Final Fantasy XIV though. I can't believe I'm actually putting an MMORPG in a game of the year list... weird.

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I played all of a Realm Reborn, all of 2.x, all of Heavensward, all of 3.x and now a good chunk of Stormblood and whilst I've been in and out of it, I've never dropped completely because I can't get enough of the world of Eorzea. I used this game as an opportunity to finally try an MMO properly, similarly to how I used Street Fighter V as a means to finally get into fighting games and I'm glad I did - at high levels there is a surprising amount of depth to the classes (I'm currently a Paladin, level 65 or so) with a lot of strategies to consider. Thankfully I chose Tank - I need to actually learn the game to play this class and avoid being a liability whereas I feel any other time I've tried an MMO, I've gone for DPS and never actually considered the dynamics of a party.

The world is alive and the story is surprisingly deep and complex - unlike singleplayer Final Fantasy games, XIV has the opportunity to really flesh out its world and characters due to the continual nature of its medium and it thrives because of that. The game still looks great with a lot of personality in the character designs and some absolutely beautiful locales, especially in the expansion packs. There are parts that drag - midway through ARR and early 2.x the obvious contenders but I've been able to force through them and the highs - end of 2.x and almost all of HW - have been spectacular. The music stands out again - all my favourite games have great music. Tranquility and the theme of Ishgard instantly come to mind for me.

I'm going to keep playing this - not because I feel some weird sense of duty to see it through to the end of Shadowbringers but because I've fallen in love with the game and the world.

1. Devil May Cry 5

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Devil May Cry 5 is an action game chock-full of satisfying and complex mechanics that you can combine to your hearts content. The depth Nero and Dante have in terms of playability is fantastic and then you add V, who whilst not as fun, is a different type of character who forces you to completely alter how you play - it almost matches DMC4 SE. The game urges you to replay it and keep upping the ante with the difficulty - you don't even access Nero's full move set until you've beaten the game at least once.

Again, the level design could be a bit better; again, it's frustrating how you can only play some characters in some levels but I felt these criticisms were just minor and the fact that you have these characters to learn and get better with plays exactly to what I'm looking for in a game. Add enjoyable personalities and some of the best music of the year - Nico's Theme and Devil Trigger being obvious highlights. I even ended up liking V's battle theme a lot. The game does the term "Stylish Action Game" proud. The models are also incredible - seriously, just look at Nero and Nico! Add in a story that whilst a bit dumb, does conclude a lot that started in DMC3 in a satisfying way whilst also setting us up for Nero to fully take on the mantle. It was great to get that final Dante vs Vergil battle - just one more fight...

I kind of want to go play this again now. What a game.

I actually struggled on the top 3 ordering for this year... but just typing this out, so much of Devil May Cry 5 stuck with me. I'm smiling just thinking about it. I feel like it maybe hasn't been given the credit it deserves... maybe that's just me. Let's give a shout-out to Capcom though - what a year. Monster Hunter as well which is apparently fantastic and now REmake 3? Is there a better company in video games right now?

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My top 10 games of 2017.

2017 was a good year for video games. Here are some of my favourites. As always, spoilers will be touched upon so read with caution.

10. Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)

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Yakuza Kiwami is the first of two Yakuza games on this list and definitely the weaker one. Despite this, it still presents a dense crime drama full of the twists and turns you would expect from Yakuza. The game is at its best when centred on Kazuma and his estranged former best friend, Nishkiyama – Nishiki in particular is developed fantastically through Kiwami exclusive scenes. It’s hurt not by its own faults, albeit the balancing with regards to combat especially health-wise is the worst I’ve ever played but by the fact that it’s a budget priced sequel to 0 – it has less to do, the characters and motivations aren’t as interesting and there was only an 8-month gap between the two. I’d still recommend it for anyone who enjoyed 0 and the peaks it did have were as exciting as anything on this list

9. Blazblue Central Fiction 2.0 (PC)

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Blazblue Central Fiction actually released last year on consoles but there are two reasons I can put it here. Firstly, the PC release came out this year. Secondly, the 2.0 update which released here is as much of an update as Rev 2 and Season 2 are for Guilty Gear Xrd and Street fighter V respectively. Blazblue clicked well for me – it’s arguably not as hard to get to grips with as Guilty Gear is and the character movement in particular is a joy to play around with. The game is, thankfully, reasonably well populated on PC assuming you go out of your way to find players besides match-making. I can’t really say much else besides it’s another good fighting game.

8. Sonic Mania (PS4)

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I’ve played 2D Sonic games as long as I can remember playing video games. Whilst I’m sure Super Mario 64 was the first game I ever played, Sonic 1 was definitely at least the second. Sonic 3 and Sonic CD are two of my all-time favourite 2D platformers. Sonic Mania follows right on from them, it’s Sonic 4 in all but name. Momentum and control-wise it just feels right. Thankfully, the level design and actual platforming elements are well designed – Sonic isn’t all about speed despite what Sega’s recent games would have you believe. If you’ve ever enjoyed 2D Sonic or even have a nostalgia for early Sega as a whole, play Sonic Mania.

7. Cuphead (PC)

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I really can’t praise the design of this game enough. It looks incredible, especially in motion – pictures don’t do it justice. Weirdly, the last game to impress me in the same way was South Park: The Stick of Truth – they’re some of the only games I’ve played where it literally looks like a cartoon. Cuphead is more than just style though and this is important: I’ve played a number of games where the aesthetic is the predominant part of the game and the mechanics are half-hearted and uninteresting. Cuphead is a game first and foremost – you really need to master the options, simple as they are, that you are given to best the bosses and you need to at least grasp them quickly – I can’t think of any boss, besides the very first vegetable farm, where I didn’t require at least 10 tries to beat it. The decision to limit the game to short-bursts, whether they’re 5-10 minute levels or a boss, is fantastic and helps to limit the potential frustration. At 7-10 hours, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either. The soundtrack… well, I’ll leave it at that. What a great little game.

6. Hollow Knight (PC)

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Onto another smaller game, at least from a development point of view – I feel like Cuphead and Hollow Knight really brought smaller games back in a big way, similar in quality to the initial explosion with games like Castle Crashers and Braid. Hollow Knight is a deep, dense metroidvania. The game is filled to the brim with areas that are both hauntingly beautiful and with an atmosphere that imposes a constant threat of danger. Mechanically, the game is relatively simple – jump and slash, but uses almost a souls-esque type of progression in terms of how you recover but also the need to find and reclaim your ghost after deaths. The music is beautiful and I do it more justice by linking it rather than orating.

This game is long, too – a full playthrough to the true ending took 20-25 hours of my time, completing around 75%. Like Cuphead and Ori before it, Hollow Knight uses its visual quality to enhance what is already a fantastic game, rather than allow the game to ride on the quality of the visuals.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

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I really wasn’t bothered about this – I didn’t buy it on release, I only got around to playing it a few months ago as I purchased a Switch in order to buy a different game. Well, thankfully I did get Breath of the Wild, because it’s spellbinding at its best. As someone who absolutely adores Majora’s Mask and Link between World because of the way they move away from the standard Zelda formula, Breath of the Wild ticks nearly every one of my personal boxes. Hyrule is alive in this game in a way it has NEVER been. EVER. Not in Ocarina of Time, not in Wind Waker, not in Twilight Princess. Hyrule and the citizens within it are as integral to BOTW as Termina and its inhabitants were to Majora’s Mask. The game also manages to circumvent many of the standard open world issues – no movement constraints as long as you have stamina (you don’t need to glitch up the side of mountains!) – fast travel is convenient, horse riding is useful but not necessary beyond the initial trip – Nintendo has taken on board almost all the criticisms that have been made about open world games and as someone who is really done with them, this was so important for me. Breath of the Wild has the unique ability to feel fresh and new but still feel very familiar – the old Zora’s domain music from OoT, the dragon roost island music from WW are particular highlights. Gameplay wise, Combat is as good here as it has ever been in Zelda.

That’s not to say it’s perfect – please make weapon durability more lenient, Nintendo, it isn’t fun. Also add some real dungeons, it would really make this game complete.

4. Nier: Automata (PC)

Automata is an experience. Is it the best game here? No. The mechanics, whilst enjoyable, are pretty limited and basic which is especially disappointing as it’s from the studio who brought us Bayonetta and MGRising. The game is very pretty with a great UI but some of the areas just don’t look great. It’s a bit too easy.

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But, it’s an incredible experience. Automata uses the video game medium to push its story in a way I haven’t seen since Metal Gear Solid 2 – it’s one of the only game stories that WOULDN’T work as a movie. It has to be played to really get the most out of it. The characters and sound design are top of the class. The ending sequence and the actual consequences surrounding it are something that can only be experienced. Trying to type about this game feels pretty useless. Just buy it, give it a chance, open your heart to it and it’ll give you something.

I do have to draw attention to the PC issues though, they’ve negatively impacted my experience with the game to the point that I have to place it here, I just can’t put it alongside the following three games. Every time I leave this game for a few months and come back to it, it’s crashing for some new reason. Every driver I get seems to break it, it doesn’t like AMD cards. FAR fixes a lot of stuff but needs constant updating. It’s a shame. Please try to look past it if on PC or if on PS4 you’ll be fine.

I've actually had these 10 games more or less listed but couldn't put my blog up until now as I was so conflicted about the order of my top 3. I love all these games. They’re all some of my favourite games of all time and all of them would be number 1 if released in almost any year besides this (only Witcher 3 can really compete from the last few years). So, I cheated a bit. I have three number 1s

1a. Persona 5 (PS4)

Before I get into the nitty gritty of the first of my favourite games of 2017, I need to preface. Persona 4 (and Golden alongside it) is one of my top five favourite games of all time. Easily. I adore that game. On September 24th 2013, I watched the whole of that dumb Persona countdown and saw the 20 second teaser: “You are slave… want emancipation?” I followed every teaser afterwards, scrounged the internet for every piece of news, watched every full trailer multiple times. Persona 5 actually existed! Then it finally came out.

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Persona 5 somehow did it. Three and a half years of hype, a belief that this HAD to be the best game and it somehow delivered. Gameplay wise, this is a better Persona than anything before it. The battle system feels complete, far closer to standard Shin Megami Tensei games than the watered down one we got in 4 and 3. The beautiful UI allows you to keep track of every confidant, every mini-game, every location that you need – it’s a joy to do things in this game. In terms of plot, this is a more mature and adventurous game than either of the two before it. No longer confined to school which really exists in the background in 5, the Phantom Thieves interact with people all over Tokyo and exist on a worldwide stage. The characters are very rag-tag and find themselves drawn to each other due to their inability to fit in anywhere else – it feels far closer to P3 than P4 in that respect.

The soundtrack is excellent as expected, Meguro does it again. The game will dig its claws into you and not let go for another 80-100 hours. I’ve recently started replaying it again to prepare for this piece and it’s just as enthralling a second time around. Thanks, Atlus.

1b. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

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Super Mario Odyssey is a triumph of design and mechanics. I can’t overemphasise just how good the controls are in this game – if I think it, Mario can pretty much do it. Mario thrives as a 3D open world exploration based platformer. The game gave me a weird sense of nostalgia (most likely heightened by the surprise return at the end) – it was almost like I was coming home. I play Mario 64 as a 2 year old and this was just me returning to my roots. I remember running around about five different kingdoms in this game, grinning from ear to ear – the game actively made me happy. It’s hard for me to emphasise exactly why I love this game so much – yes, the mechanics are fantastic, the game has plenty of moons to collect, the worlds on the whole are great, the music if memorable. Yeah, it does everything a platformer needs to do to be great but Odyssey did even more than that. It celebrated the Mario series and reminded me just why I loved these games as a kid and why I’ll continue to love them for the rest of my life.

1c. Yakuza 0 (PS4)

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Yakuza 0 came out all the way back in January and it stuck with me all the way to December. It’s the pinnacle of this series. Much like Persona 5 and Nier, it’s the characters and the experience that drive it. Kiryu, Nishiki, Makoto, Sera, Reina, Sagawa, Kuze, Awano, Shibusawa, Dojima, Tachibana, Nishtani, Oda… some of them have a sense of justice, others are downright evil, a few are unfortunate enough to be dragged along for the ride but they all push this story. Am I forgetting someone? Of course, Goro Majima is the star of the show. Someone who isn’t afraid to show his fears, his insecurity – a perfect counter to the stoic Kazuma Kiryu and the best video game protagonist in… I can’t even think of the last protagonist that I loved as much as Majima. I’m going to list moments so be aware of spoilers, moments that have stayed with me. Majima’s introduction. Nishiki’s decision and subsequent failure to put Kiryu out of his misery. Oda’s betrayal. Kuze’s capture and interrogation of Tachibana. Makoto and Majima’s takoyaki. Kuze’s tunnel battle followed by Awano’s threat. Kuze’s final stand. “There can only be one dragon.” Every cutscene in the ending.

The gameplay is good as well – the battle system is satisfying and Kiryu and Majima play very differently. We haven’t even got into the numerous side activities – the Cabaret Club in particular introduces you to some of the most likeable characters in the game and allows Majima to display the softer side of his character that is so important.

Play this game.

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My Top 10 games of 2016.

Another year... another bundle of games that I played a lot of, games I wish I played more of and games that I haven't got to but will fill my backlog for the foreseeable future.

First, I want to give a little hand to some of the games that didn't come out this year that made this list even more difficult to create by dragging me away from 2016's latest and greatest. Thank you Yakuza 4 and 5, finally you've entered my life and I don't know why I put the series off so long. Thank you Final Fantasy XII and V, two of the greatest JRPG's I've had the pleasure of plowing through. Thank you Football Manager 2016, every few years I come back to your warm embrace and spend 100+ hours grinding through stat sheets and you gave me more than enough in the early summertime. Thank you Galak-Z and Persona 4 Dancing all night, I'm sorry you didn't make it on time for last year's list but revel in the fact that the earliest part of 2016 was spent with you. The Witness and The Walking Dead Season 3, I've just got started with you and have really enjoyed my time so far but this list can't be put off any longer.

Next, to the 2016 games I look forward to playing when the time finally comes. Hitman, I kept putting you off but finally I've been convinced that you're the game for me. The Last Guardian, I wait 8 long years for you, surely I can wait a few more days. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, it's not me, it's you - releasing this late in the calendar (in Europe) in a year where I already haven't given my 3DS enough love just wasn't going to work...

10. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright

I want to give you more time... I really do...
I want to give you more time... I really do...

My anticipation of this game perhaps hurt it more than it helped it. I absolutely adore Fire Emblem Awakening, I put more than 60 hours into it and Birthright promised more of the same and maybe in the last three years, my taste in games has changed more than I thought. Birthright is a fantastic SRPG with entertaining characters, the same art-style as Awakening and one of the best OSTs I've heard all year. Something just didn't work for me though - it was too similar. I felt like I could see the Awakening characters basically reimagining themselves in front of me and I just couldn't get attached to the cast of Birthright in the same way. I also couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something - Birthright is one of three games and considering I can barely finish this one, I have no desire to go and play the other ones. I don't want to knock Birthright too hard, when I enjoyed it I really enjoyed it but it just didn't live up to the hype I had for it.

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9. American Truck Simulator

Wonderful
Wonderful

I genuinely can't believe I'm typing this... I was going through all the 2016 games I'd played a decent chunk of and came across this - "Oh yeah, haha.." I thought to myself but then I turned it on for a second... "Oh wait.." I thought, "...this is THE game." American Truck Simulator is amazing, relaxing, enchanting - how can any game compete with the open road? Seriously, ATS puts me in a zen-like state and perhaps it's because i'm a European who has never been to America but driving through California and Nevada excites me in a way that driving through Germany and France never did. I'm genuinely finding it hard to say why I like this game so much but some of you will understand - if you're one of the people who thinks they will like this, buy it. It's beautiful.

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8. Overwatch

THIS GUY IS MY JAM.
THIS GUY IS MY JAM.

Okay. I'm going to level it with you. I haven't played that much Overwatch. I'm not an expert, I barely play any class besides Lucio, Pharah and D.Va and I can't remember the last time I even touched a first person shooter before I played Overwatch. Despite that, Overwatch is one of my favourite games of 2016 which pretty much says it all. I haven't had this much fun playing a shooter since Team Fortress 2. Overwatch pretty much hits all the same points - beautifully animated characters that are full of life, fun objective based gameplay and a community (at least from what I've experienced) that is chill as fuck. I haven't ventured into ranked mode or whatever and I doubt I ever will because Overwatch is a game for me to have fun with and that's it. At the end of each game I get told that I played amazingly! Thanks Overwatch.

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7. Final Fantasy Record Keeper

you owe me some mythril for this, dena.
you owe me some mythril for this, dena.

A what... what platform is this on... MOBILE??? I'm cheating a bit, this released in 2015 globally but the game that came out then and the game that I am enjoying now are so different that I can justify myself. Yes, a phone game made it onto my most enjoyed games of 2016. It happened. The future is now. Seriously, I'm a Final Fantasy nut and this game tickles my nostalgia in the best possible way whilst having gameplay with some real depth. Heroes from all your favourite Final Fantasy games (From I-XIV, Tactics, some of the awful sequels and even WoF in Japan and Advent Children) coming together in bite-size ATB chunks, beating the hell out of your favourite monsters and villains whilst playing all the classic music... AHHH! Now, I can't ignore the Free-to-play stuff - some people don't like the stamina system and the gacha system is frustrating (albeit I played Brave Exvius as well, if you want some real frustration with draws try that) but I've never spent a penny on this game, never really felt tempted and still have numerous level 80 characters and some of the best relics in the game. I can't leave this game off the list. It's really fun.

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6. Zero Time Dilemma

The best parts of Zero Time Dilemma are as intense as anything in video games.
The best parts of Zero Time Dilemma are as intense as anything in video games.

Now this is an interesting one because, as a massive fan of 999 and Virtue's Last Reward, I felt disappointed by this game. The conclusion is unsatisfying, the models and animations are so stiff and stupid compared to the beautiful sprite work from 999 and even the 3D portraits in VLR that I don't understand why Aksys wasted their time. Some of the twists just exist for the sake of having a twist, none of them hit anywhere near as hard as the twists in the other games but... despite all of my criticisms I still sat next to the wall whilst my Vita was charging waiting for it to turn on so I could get back into it. Even though I had my problems with it, most of the story in this game is enthralling and filled with tension, just like the other Zero Escape games and the characters for the most part are well written and interesting. The villain is menacing and mysterious and the puzzles are tricky without being frustrating and interrupting the flow of gameplay too much. I'm glad this game exists even though it doesn't do the other games the justice they deserve and it's still a great visual novel.

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5. LET IT DIE

SENPAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
SENPAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

"Hey Senpai, you climbed that tower yet?!" Nope, I haven't but I'm going to keep trying, dammit! Seriously, where the hell did this game come from? It's an incredibly strange comparison but it's pretty much my Undertale of 2016 (ironically it's in the same place, 5th, on my GOTY list) as I had no hype for it, I didn't even know it existed until Jeff mentioned it on the podcast so I downloaded it with no expectations and was entranced by it. LET IT DIE is like... a dark souls rogue-like with style seeping out of every orifice it possesses - my man Uncle Death is one of the coolest cats you'll ever meet. The gameplay is satisfying, whether you're smashing the enemies heads in with a hammer or firing fireworks at a hater and the PvP aspects are fun albeit it is a bit annoying to come back every so often and find your base ransacked, I don't play everyday so I'm always welcomed by about 8 failed defenses. My only misgiving is the potential free-to-play pitfall that I haven't stumbled into yet. It's getting more and more expensive to ride that elevator and I can see it becoming incredibly frustrating if I make it far enough in but until that actually happens I'm going to enjoy the ride.

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4. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

Rest easy, friend. I'm going to miss you.
Rest easy, friend. I'm going to miss you.

Okay seriously... a mobile game is one thing but a piece of DLC? Seriously?! Really, it's hard for other games to compete considering I already spent a good chunk of last year waxing lyrical to anyone that will listen about how much I adore the Witcher 3. It was my 2015 GOTY and it would make a top 10 list (if I ever made one) of my favourite games EVER. Blood and Wine has more depth to it than most of 2016's games which isn't a slight on them. Ignoring the DLC, Witcher had things like the UI update making it easier to play, the numerous software updates that made running it in 2016 easier than it was in 2015 and more that made the base game even more of a joy to play. Now onto BaW - we have the beautiful lands of Toussaint which are so different to Velen and the Northern Realms that it's almost like Geralt stepped into another universe. Characters like Detlaff and Regis join the impressively large list of "Witcher 3 characters I adore" and then there is the side activities like the tournament side quests, helping princesses with curses, dealing with a cheeky little shoe-shiner and much much more. The main story is intriguing but also heart-wrenching as you make some of your toughest decisions to date and Geralt's sense of morality really comes to the fore. The way Blood and Wine concludes with Geralt simply smiling is one of the best single moments I've played in any game ever. That's how much Witcher 3 has touched my life. Thank you so much for this CD Projekt, I'll never forget it.

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3. Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator

I need to preface the next few games by saying this: I liked fighting games but in 2016 I became obsessed with them. I read frame data, I watched streams, I spent time in the shower thinking of set-ups. Like holy shit, I adore this genre in a way I never thought I would. Now onto number 3.

New mechanics and characters, still beautiful.
New mechanics and characters, still beautiful.

Xrd Revelator is fucking beautiful, plays like a dream and sounds amazing. Every aspect of this game is top of the class in the genre and I just can't give enough credit to it. It's a different game to Street Fighter, far more complex on the surface but at its core a lot of the same ideas of spacing and footsies apply despite Revelator leaning far more towards set-ups and okizeme. Basically, in Revelator you want to score a knockdown and make it so your opponent can't escape from your offense which as a beginner is incredibly hard to deal with and even understand. The diverse roster of characters are all very fun to play and a lot of the goofy stuff in Revelator - walking around the lobby and fishing for example - gives it a sense of personality that other games can't compete with. Despite it being an anime fighter and thus not incredibly popular in the west, I get games easily enough in France 01 and get to test out my Raven against a lot of different players and styles. On the single-player side, which isn't really a big deal to me but is to others (we'll come to that), Revelator has all you need - an arcade mode, missions, combo challenges, a full length anime movie, unlockables, replays, everything! If you're looking for a singleplayer fighting game, this is your best bet. Really, it's a better game than Street Fighter V but I personally just don't enjoy the style of game as much as the Capcom fighters (despite loving it.) Revelator is a hell of a time, please play it if you're even slightly interested.

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2. Street Fighter V

A fitting picture for Street Fighter V Season Chun
A fitting picture for Street Fighter V Season Chun

Okay, this game was pretty much a mess. It launched with barely any content at all but... I just didn't care. I just needed online and a training mode and I was fine. I was already on the cusp of fully immersing myself in fighting games and Street Fighter V was just the game that I needed to turn me from observer to obsessive. The game itself is a bit easier to get into compared to USFIV but the characters are all very fun to play with a variety of different styles. The online mode has worked pretty well for me albeit I have seen issues people have had and there is work to be done. I've enjoyed maining Nash, moving to Mika after being inspired by Fuudo and loving her and now switching to give Cammy a try after the season 2 update and I feel that despite the problems it has had, Street Fighter V is here and it will stay. 8 frames, "early access" etc are all criticisms I understand and agree with but I've played it more than any other game this year. This ranking isn't just due to the game itself, otherwise I'd probably have Guilty Gear ahead of it, it's everything else this game has given me. I've been watching loads of the Capcom Pro Tour, enjoying talking strategy with the rest of the FGC online, following pros and tech gurus. I cheered when Phenom defend the EU and won a premier almost as much as I do for my football team. I loved finally watching EVO as a fan after getting introduced to it when our own Luffy won it a few years back. I loved seeing NuckleDu win it all after the year he's had. I loved hearing Infiltration say "download complete" after taking EVO and then going out 0-2 at Capcom Cup in the shock of 2016. It's not just the game, SF V and fighting games in general have become such a big part of my life that if I didn't put it this high, I'd be lying to myself despite the grievances I and a lot of the community have with this game.

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1A. Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

It's better than ever, play it if you haven't. The new areas are fantastic. I don't need to write anymore about this game.

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1. Final Fantasy XV

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It has been 10 years since we saw Noctis for the first time and somehow, someway Final Fantasy XV delivered for me in a way I never thought it could. I had to draw attention to that development cycle because it has hung over this game and Square like a shadow for the last 10 years but FINAL FANTASY XV IS NOT THAT GAME. It has elements and such but it's a different beast and sweating over what isn't there has caused some people to ignore what is there. I come back to the open road - the endless possibilities. The road trip setting for this game just worked for me, I absolutely adore it. The four main protagonists are developed in a way that other Final Fantasy protagonists haven't. Prompto seems to be a standard goofball but then I saw him spend an evening with Noct discussing his fears and feelings, Ignis loves cooking but I got to see him try and get his glasses back from a black chocobo, Gladio is a tough bastard but has an unrelenting desire to eat Cup Noodles. They feel real in a way I thought Final Fantasy and Square could NEVER pull off. I can't ever remember fast travelling during the main story in this game because I was worried I'd miss Prompto spot a photo opportunity or the guys discuss 5 star characters or whatever came to mind, I loved being part of it. The overall story has some faults but I can easily look past it because the connection these four guys create is just wonderful to witness. It did have some great moments despite it faltering a lot, Chapter 10 is one of my favourite moments in regards to video games in 2016 - it made my heart ache. Add in the beautiful world of Eos and the old soundtracks you can chill to in your car, I just felt like this was a world I wanted to be part of. The dungeon design is masterful - I enjoyed all of them (besides Costelmark tower which went on a bit) because of the dialogue between the characters but also the level design. Every dungeon feels unique and they're all fun - probably the best dungeons in the entire series. The combat is fast, fun and (despite being a bit easy to cheese with items) can be challenging, with some of the later bosses requiring me to really make use of my partners techniques and the Royal Arms i'd acquired with Noct. Writing this just now makes me want to dive back into it which is truly the mark of an excellent game.

It's been a long time coming but Final Fantasy XV delivered for me, it gave me what I wanted and it felt like a Final Fantasy game. I'm incredibly excited to see what's next for these characters in the form of DLC and also to see what Square does next for the series.

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My Top 10 Games of the Year for 2015.

Well, it's the last few days of 2015 and that can mean only one thing - it's time to put on some music and rank video games.

10. Titan Souls

Titan Souls minimal pixel art really makes the bosses stand out.
Titan Souls minimal pixel art really makes the bosses stand out.

Titan Souls caught my attention due to my love of Shadow of the Colossus. Thematically it's almost exactly the same - you're dropped into a large, pixelised world with no real explanation on what to do and you kind of stumble into the first boss. Like SotC, you only fight massive bosses but the twist here is that they only take one hit on their weak point to best - this makes the game more of a puzzle game than an action game where your trying to figure out how to unveil the titan's weak point in order to strike the vital blow. Another twist comes from the fact that whilst they have one weak point, you literally have one weapon - an arrow you shoot and have to continually find and pick up. Titan Souls was a fun little package at the start of the year and despite the short length, I'd happily recommend it.

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9. Cities: Skylines

My cities look a lot more...
My cities look a lot more... "square" than this - but just look at the potential!

City building simulators were struck very hard by the disastrous Sim City that launched in 2013. The stage was set for someone to grab the baton and create a true successor to Sim City and Paradox Interactive, creators of the excellent Europa Universalis, Victoria and other grand strategy games, took up the mantle BIG TIME. Cities: Skylines is a very deep city builder with a fantastic amount of options and really does encourage you to mess around with what you have and create. It's just fun. Despite personal frustrations with building a city for five-six hours then realising that something I did in the first thirty minutes fucked me over, Cities is fun enough to start again and again. With a thriving mod community and an apparently excellent first DLC pack in "After Dark" (which I really need to try), Cities: Skylines is getting better and better.

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8. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

Still probably the scariest villain/object/potential disaster ever created.
Still probably the scariest villain/object/potential disaster ever created.

This game... oh Majora's Mask, how I love you. What hasn't been said about this game? It's the best Zelda game, period. I said it. The world building and characterisation in this game still astounds me. In other Zelda games, Hyrule is a backdrop, some nice scenery. Termina is alive. The NPCs are no longer just NPCs but actual characters that you want to help and want to learn more about. The soundtrack is excellent as well. Thanks to the 3DS we finally get a definitive MM running at a decent frame rate as well! Ignore the people who may say "IT ONLY HAS 4 DUNGEONS" - okay, they're right but the dungeons are all fantastic and the parts between the dungeons are so much better than any other Zelda game it's almost crazy. This game would probably be higher but it's just a remake and it would be a bit unfair on actual 2015 games. Majora's mask... is a fantastic game you guys. It's one of the best games ever made. Do yourself a favour and play it if you've put it off for some reason. Play it again on 3DS if you've played it on N64. It's great.

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7. D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die

Leaving this image without context is a good representation of what you're in for with D4.
Leaving this image without context is a good representation of what you're in for with D4.

Hey... wait a minute! This game came out last year! Well, you're right but I don't have an Xbox One and D4 finally made it over to the PC in 2015. David Young's adventure is goofy in all the right ways. The gameplay, whilst obviously kinectless, translates well to the mouse. The characters are memorable, from Duncan and his mannequin to Phillip Cheyney the classy flight attendent (who has one of the best themes I've heard in ages). In fact, D4's soundtrack is just brilliant. It captures the feeling of an actual episodic TV series better than any episodic game out there. LISTEN TO THIS THEME. I wish I could have heard it more than twice. Which leads me onto the biggest shame about D4 - Swery was only able to make 2.5 episodes for "series 1". I have no idea about the status of a series 2 but here's hoping because I really want to see how this concludes. There's just something about japanese games like D4 that I just can't help but be endeared by. Seriously, if you're looking for something that's actually different and not just presented as different then buy D4.

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6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

If Snake was allowed this much personality for more of the game... it could have been special.
If Snake was allowed this much personality for more of the game... it could have been special.

I have a lot of things to say about this game. It looks great (I played on PC), it plays great, it sounds great but I just can't shake the feeling that something was off about it. Metal Gear Solid V is a fantastic game, no doubt about it, but is it a fantastic Metal Gear game? I'm not really sure. It's definitely very different. I wasn't a big fan of the structure - I'm not a fan of peace walker and this game presented a lot of similar problems. I also felt that there wasn't enough incentive, besides doing fun stupid stuff, to actually develop a lot of the weapons. I used the tranquiliser pistol at the start and I used it at the end. It just felt a bit sparse. When MGSV was on its game - the end of chapter 1 for instance - it was absolutely thrilling but when it was off - a lot of chapter 2 - it was a slog. Annoyingly, considering how good Kiefer Sutherland was when he actually spoke, Snake was almost mute. Kaz and Huey provided some fantastic exposition when they were allowed to as well... Quiet was there. Ocelot was in and out. Eli had the potential to be a fantastic character but wasn't given the scenes to do it. I don't know - MGS4 had way too many cutscenes but this was the other side of the coin. They needed a balance and MGSV didn't provide it. I probably sound like I dislike this game, I don't. V is probably the best playing action game ever, no joke. The amount of things you can do in it is staggering. It's just really fun and if it had any other name I wouldn't be so harsh. I just felt that Kojima's last Metal Gear had to go out with more of a bang and more of a conclusion to the Big Boss saga.

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5. Undertale

Don't you dare choose the wrong option!
Don't you dare choose the wrong option!

The most controversial game of 2015! Or something... This game, at least for me, literally came out of nowhere. The first time I saw Undertale was on Giant Bomb East's quick look! Thanks guys. Let's start by ignoring the gamefaqs poll, ignoring the rabid people who think this isn't a game for "real gamers" or something. Ignore all the hype, melodrama, fanart and everything else surrounding this game and get down to it. Undertale is a great game and a great experience. The characters are funny, awkward and well... likeable. The artstyle suits the game to a tee and that's what you want. The world that Toby Fox created is intriguing and just fun to be in. The music... well, the OST is incredible. From the Snowy plains, to the Shop, to Sans theme and literally every other piece, Undertale does what an OST should do - set the scene. It's just a joy to listen to and without the OST I don't believe this game would be anywhere near as good. All the elements of Undertale just come together in a great way and it's my favourite type of game - a surprise. I wasn't "hyped" for it, I wasn't desperate for it to be amazing, I wasn't comparing it to previous games in the series or anything. I just enjoyed it for what it is. The fact that it managed to create almost two cults - the rabid fanbase and the group of people who will do anything to hate it - shows just how much of an impression it has managed to leave on the community and say what you want, that's rather impressive.

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4. Super Mario Maker

I really want a picture of one of my levels for this one... Oh well.
I really want a picture of one of my levels for this one... Oh well.

If I had to describe this in one word - endless. Literally endless. I absolutely adore the 2D Mario games and here we have a game that grants me an unending supply of levels. Who could argue with that? Mario Maker is so simple the name tells you exactly what is happening. Create Mario levels and play them. It's a concept that Nintendo could have really botched but the amount of tools they give you is fantastic - with four tile sets to mess around with. The biggest praise I can give SMM is the fact that I made one level on LittleBigPlanet and it was absolutely terrible, I've made 7 on Mario Maker and I was happy with them. The interface is so intuitive and it's probably the best use of the Wii U gamepad that I've seen. It just goes to show you that the most important part of any game is the underlying concept. Mario Maker is so simple, yet it's so brilliant and probably the best Nintendo game I've played since Super Mario 3D Land. I really need to play more of it. Here's a very basic level I made with a (well at least I think) fun concept: 4B9D-0000-002D-0DA8 - don't look at Miiverse if you don't want spoiled.

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3. Life is Strange

I was thinking I'd choose a picture without Max and Chloe but...
I was thinking I'd choose a picture without Max and Chloe but...

I bought episode one of this in January and I only bought 2-5 during the latest steam sale. Gotta thank Giant Beast for getting me interested in this again because Life is Strange is probably the best episodic series I've played since Walking Dead: Season 1. I just fell in love with all the characters and these types of games succeed and fail on the strength of their characters. The voice acting is very well done for the most part, the stereotypes are funny enough to not annoy me and Max and Chloe manage to form a bond that makes you care about what happens to those characters. I've mentioned OSTs a lot on this list but I'm going to do it again because Life is Strange's hipster rock and almost indie folkrock OST is superb. Again it comes back to setting a scene and the music does just as much as the characters to give Arcadia Bay, the setting, a sense of identity. One thing that LiS does as well that some Telltale games seem to have moved away from is letting the player feel in control - you can walk around and explore the enviroment you're in to your hearts content finding a lot of things that help to add context to all the characters and that's all I ask for in these types of games. I don't want to be whisked from cutscene to cutscene, choice to choice - I want the ability to stop and smell the roses if I ever want to and Life is Strange gives me that. Even if you dismissed it, like I did, Life is Strange is worth playing.

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2. Ori and the Blind Forest.

I wouldn't hesitate to call this the best looking video game ever.
I wouldn't hesitate to call this the best looking video game ever.

Ori is wonderful. Here's a game with probably the most beautiful aesthetic I've ever seen but with the substance and tight, technical systems to back it up. There's an argument to be made that some indie games rely too much on artstyle and can't back it up with mechanics but Ori gracefully leaps over all those potential pitfalls because it's an absolute dream to play as well as look at. It's a relatively standard Metroidvania - relying more on platforming than action - but it's just an enthralling journey from start to finish. I'll have to mention OST again (games have really done well in the music department in 2015) because Ori's is gorgeous - here's my personal favourite, "the waters cleansed". The story is simple but you do care by the end of it. I'll admit, I thought that Ori would slip out my mind after playing a bunch of other games but it's stuck with me - I just can't see any other game coming close to it in terms of pure mechanics. It might be a bit short but it doesn't overstay it's welcome and I can see myself playing through it again... I might actually get started after I finish writing this up. Play Ori and the Blind Forest you guys.

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1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

There is a wonderful world out there, ready for exploring.
There is a wonderful world out there, ready for exploring.

This is it. This is the best game of 2015. Whether you're travelling through the Isles of Skellige hunting a drake for a village or trodding through the swamps of Crookback Bog in search of witches, you're always on an adventure. That's what Witcher 3 does. It makes you feel like you're on an epic quest. It's the first open world game in so long where I've been completely engrossed in the world - realising at 2 am that I've been playing for five hours straight. Other games in the genre fall into the chasm of having a lot to do, barely any of it is interesting or fun but even the smallest quests in Witcher 3 have a story to them, a reason that you want Geralt to go out of his way to help these people. The main quest line as well, it isn't another "all powerful mute person going around and saving the world" - it's a deeply personal journey where two people try and find someone they love. Along the way you meet a whole host of characters, some new, some returning, all entertaining and interesting. The Northern realms are beautiful, mythical and alive - it isn't just your playbox, this is a real world with people with real problems and Geralt is an interesting character with his own ways of looking at things. Some of the scenes - the battle at Kaer Morhen for example - are absolutely enthralling and absolute top of the line AAA scenes. The only problems may be the bosses, they don't feel too climatic and fall into repetitive patterns but that isn't enough to detract from Witcher 3. Add in the best DLC of the year - Hearts of Stone and you could be playing this game for what feels like forever. Oh wait - I forgot. GWENT. THE BEST MINIGAME SINCE TRIPLE TRIAD - IT'S ALL ABOUT THE HEART OF THE CARDS. Witcher 3 is just brilliant, it's the game that just keeps on giving and to me at least, it delivered on all of its promise and provided a fitting conclusion to Geralt's saga. Play this game!

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Earthbound, Mother 3 and the concept of Destiny - Part 1.

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I originally posted this article on my blog which you can follow here if you want: http://experimentalrambling.tumblr.com/ - I'll aim to upload the second part on both whenever I get around to it.

Earthbound is a fantastic game, one that despite being 20 years old (happy twentieth!) feels like it could still come out today. Despite relatively standard mechanics, Earthbound manages to take a genre - the JRPG - which can easily fall into a trap of being stale and predictable and instead of trying to be “different”, it takes the players expectations and uses them in some absolutely brilliant ways. (spoilers ahead)

Shigesato Itoi, the creator of Earthbound, managed to knit together the plot in a way that’ll appeal to two different audiences: the casual audience who may not be avid JRPG players, as well as the JRPG enthusiast. Now, most JRPGS have the same basic structure.

1. The Hero/Heroin wakes up in their hometown and within a few minutes are whisked off on an adventure i.e. Pokemon - Call from Prof. Oak, Final Fantasy VII - Hopping off the train.

2. They will most likely gain the aid from the supernatural i.e. Final Fantasy VIII - the power to use GFs, Chrono Trigger - the power to travel through time.

3. They’ll meet companions i.e. literally every JRPG from Final Fantasy onwards.

4. They’ll fight through a bunch of dungeons, the story propelling them from area to area in a linear manner.

5. Eventually, the Hero and their companions will defeat the Evil that they have been trying to beat for most of the game.

Just about every JRPG features the above 5 steps with different sub-categories within them and Earthbound understands this - it doesn’t even try to hide it.

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Ness starts by getting a call to adventure via a knock on the door - he meets Buzz Buzz, an insect from the future, who tells him he’s one of the special chosen four and his destiny is to beat Giygas (the evil of the game) and that the road will be tough. Literally within the first 10 minutes all of the genre tropes are laid out, Itoi saying to the two different audiences either “Hey, this is the quest that this kid is going on,” as well as “Hey, you’re playing a JRPG, you know the drill.”

The rest of the game revels in its meta knowledge of the genre - mentioning controller buttons, the name of the towns being one-four as well as seasons (most JRPGS take place over the world y’know) and continually Ness is reminded of his destiny - beat Giygas - because eventually if you play the game long enough you’ll beat Giygas, the only way to subvert destiny is to turn off the game. The player even gives his/her name to the game and is actually the last person to “pray” and help the four beat Giygas, their last act of pushing Ness and his friends towards their destiny.

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Now, that’s all fine and Dandy - Earthbound is an incredibly smart game that knows it’s a JRPG and plays around with the concept in tons of “quirky” (ugh, the greatest disservice to Earthbound is its status as a “quirky game” when it’s smarter than nearly every game I’ve played) ways, but what about Mother 3? Well, you’ll have to forgive me because whilst I love Mother 3, I haven’t completed it in 4-5 years so my memory will be a bit hazy but Mother 3 is a JRPG that plays like a JRPG but instead of playing around with common expectations, Mother 3 subverts those expectations. Why? Well, I’ll play it and I’ll get back to you…

Earthbound is Mother 2 though and Mother 3 despite being so different is a direct (?) sequel. They’re tied together by one major character - someone who was rejected by destiny and instead of accepting it, Pokey Minch tried to subvert it.

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Pokey wasn’t chosen by destiny, he wasn’t even factored in yet he becomes arguably the most important character of Earthbound and Mother 3. Everywhere Ness foils Giygas’ plan, he finds Pokey. Pokey, who claims “he hopes he isn’t part of the four” right at the start of the journey, decides to spite Ness at every turn. He steals a helicopter from Ness, he steals the phase distorter and uses it for his spider machine at the end of the game and why? Well, we only get a real hint of Pokey’s reasons from Magicant, a world created by Ness. The Pokey in Ness’ mind says he “envies” Ness and the player isn’t given any reason to disagree with Ness. Pokey’s richer than Ness, has a bigger house than Ness, met Buzz Buzz with Ness yet Ness is a hero and Poker is rejected?

Like a kid throwing a tantrum, Pokey decides to try and stop Ness yet rather than falling away in the early-mid game like the multitude of other people helping Giygas, Pokey stands alongside Giygas when Ness fulfills his destiny and manages to escape with his incredible machine - arguably becoming more “powerful” than Ness despite being seen as a complete nobody in terms of the overall picture.

At the end of the game, Pokey sends Ness a letter telling him to “come catch me”, yet Ness has no real way to do so. Even if he wanted to, Ness has fulfilled his part of destiny and unless another meteor strikes and another insect tells Ness it’s his destiny to find Pokey, he isn’t going to be able to do it. The guiding hand of destiny - the player themself - has no way of guiding Ness towards Pokey. Somehow, Pokey has managed to free himself of his destiny, something even the almighty Giygas wasn’t able to do and in theory, he’s become untouchable - not even destiny could beat Pokey Minch.

Once I’ve played through Mother 3 and refreshed myself we’ll continue on this train of thought and show how Mother 3, a game that’s plot is spearheaded by Pokey rather than destiny, completely subverts every expectation the player has of the game based on their own experiences in Earthbound and JRPGs in general.

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Okami: The Legend of Ammy?! - Part 2

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Part 1.

Hey guys, Okami happened again today - I cleared a dungeon to say the least. I apologise if this may seem a bit rambling at times but I'm still figuring out the best way to actually write something like this.

A Microsoft Paint interpretation of the disguise Amaterasu used to infiltrate the Moon Cave.
A Microsoft Paint interpretation of the disguise Amaterasu used to infiltrate the Moon Cave.

Okay, we last left off with Amaterasu and Issun entering the third dungeon of the game - the Moon Cave. Orochi (the big bad) has seemingly returned and he wants to eat Kusi, who I forgot about having not seen her since last year. Now, I'll admit to being rather disappointed by the dungeons in the game so far. The Wind Shrine especially didn't seem to have much going for it and was rather linear from the beginning to the end but the Moon Cave? This one's a doozy. Before I got there though, I had to drop down to the Calcified Cavern and get a disguise, as we're entering Orochi's lair which is full of Imps - the enemies you fight throughout the game. Sadly, I can't get screenshots from the PS3 (Is there any easy way to do this?) but the game had me used my brush to paint on a sheet - you can judge the results for yourself, but I think I nailed the Imp look. Now that I think about it, it would have been hilarious to draw a dick. #ryckert.

Anyway, onto the Moon Cave itself... this is more like it. 7 FLOORS. Even if they have literally nothing on them the sheer scale of a dungeon like this is always fun. Continuing along the Zelda path I think you're looking at something between Snowpeak Ruins and Temple of Time. It's incredibly vertical but under your disguise you can actually converse with the Imps (leading to some funny dialogue including one Imp who claims he "was born to work this lift") and this leads to the main gimmick of the dungeon. The Imp chef wants you to scour the caves and find his four secret ingredients for the appetizer he wants to give Orochi. This leads us through the dungeon on a glorified fetch quest which due to taking place in a dungeon doesn't feel like a fetch quest.

The Imps aren't all bad. These guys are really fun, I hope they pop up later in the game.
The Imps aren't all bad. These guys are really fun, I hope they pop up later in the game.

Now, let's move onto some real talk about the mechanics of the game. I'm actually surprised how un-intrusive I've found them. The quickness between entering and leaving brush mode is a godsend as that could be potentially very annoying and the game seems to know what I'm trying to do at least 80% of the time. This dungeon had some nice puzzling with the new technique, Inferno - being able to draw from a source of fire to burn things. The enemies also factored my new technique into account with the ice-wheel imp being as easy as you'd expect to take down with fire. One thing I have noticed is that due to the nature of random encounters, some areas can be rather barren. A lot of the times a big area just has a gate that you enter for the encounter. It's a bit nitpicky but I suppose that's the nature of the way this game deals with encounters.

Anyway, having recovered all four ingredients I was ready to take the elevator manned by the dedicated Imp up to Orochi's room for the big battle. I got there, he appeared and I was greeted with a barrier I couldn't break through. Enter Susano! Somehow despite my God brush techniques not leaving a scratch, his wooden sword destroyed the barrier leading to a relatively simple two stage boss fight. I used water spout to make him drink and ran up his back to attack a bell and move onto phase two.

"You see that massive Dragon-God Ammy? Make him drunk and burn him!"

Here, I used water sprout again before burning all 8 of his heads with Inferno for massive damage. Surprisingly, like humans, Orochi didn't like being burnt whilst drunk. Cool. Susano then sliced all eight of his heads off despite being a coward for most of the game and we saved Kusi! Awesome. Party time! Literally! I went back to the first village, fireworks were going and I had to talk to everyone to advance. Susano and Kusi were nowhere to be found and thankfully Issun was there to imply what they were away doing for the brain-dead people who couldn't work it out.

Apparently Orochi split off into most like 4-5 pieces and went to other areas of Nippon... WAIT, THE GAME ISN'T DONE? I wonder if I'll have to go to temples or something like that? Nah, no chance surely? I'm definitely heading to a capital city next, maybe they've got the credits for me? Who knows. See ya next time.

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Okami: The Legend of Ammy?! - Part 1.

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I encountered an incredibly strange situation recently - I was looking for something to play on my backlog and noticed that for the first time in a while I don't really have a backlog. I'm playing a few things but they aren't like... you know, that BIG SINGLE-PLAYER GAMEthat you feel like you have to complete and it just hangs over you until you complete it. Nope, that particular game isn't on the menu for myself right now. It made me feel weirdly empty. It also led me onto the subject of this blogpost...

Y'see, I bought Okami HD for exactly 5 UK pounds and 49 pence from the Playstation Store last year and started a file. I remember it being an incredibly slow starter, I'm talking Persona 4 levels of setting the scene - but don't worry, dear reader, I was prepared to wait.

And wait I did - I even completed the first dungeon in this Zelda-ass action adventure game and was really enjoying it but... I just stopped. 5 Hours and 37 minutes in. Sometimes that happens right? Something comes along and suddenly a game is in the growing pile of "Games that seem cool but I didn't finish." Maybe it was the supposed 40+ hour length? Who knows. Okami just wasn't right for me at that time, but well... it's kind of what I'm looking for now.

Basically, I'm loading my last save...

Okami HD is one of those games where you pan the camera around... a lot.
Okami HD is one of those games where you pan the camera around... a lot.

So, I jumped back onto the file with absolutely no context or idea of what the hell I was doing or what I was doing next - "CHARACTER X IS STRUGGLING WITH A BRIDGE" the quest log barked at me which might as well have been incomprehensible. So, as I scurried my way over to someones 9 year old FAQ on GameFAQs I had Amaterasu (the player character/wolf/dog/GOD) wander around and take in the sites and sounds. Man this game is GORGEOUS. I'm continually surprised at how good art direction can make games like this seemingly timeless.

Anyway, like most people, all I needed was a nudge in the right direction and off I was onto the next objective - getting to some windmill or something. Seems like a dungeon. Man this game is a lot like Zelda. The last 3D Zelda game I played through was Ocarina on 3DS and every bit of Okami reminds me of that and other Zelda games. You'll get to the town, you'll hear somethings up in some incredibly sacred place for the people (Replace Jabu Jabu, every temple ever, Dragon Roost Island etc. with the Wind Shrine (which probably is a Zelda dungeon somewhere).) and after fulfilling a side-quest you're in the Dungeon. Said sidequest had me looking for some legendary Canine Warriors (yeah, besides me. Dogs are big deals in the world of Nippon) and it was actually really helpful for getting me re-acquainted with the world, the characters like Susano and Issun as well as the controls and mechanics (random encounters and all).

The Sparrow Clan are cool as hell, the big guy only says
The Sparrow Clan are cool as hell, the big guy only says "Chirp" whilst they run a hotel. I bet they ran the rest of the rodents out of the business. YAKUZALYF.

I even got to meet the Sparrow clan who seem to be pretty much an anthropomorphic Yakuza. This game is pretty cool. After a lot of running around I got to the dungeon and man... I dunno if I've said this before but this game is a lot like Zelda. It even has a floor-based dungeon map. Instead of finding a bow or something, I found a brush stroke that allowed me to control the wind. Makes sense for the Wind Shrine, I guess. I even used that technique to complete some PUZZLES. You know, like Ze-okay I'll stop. This dungeon did seem a bit short and easy but the boss was pretty cool and had me use my new technique in a very Zelda-like fashion. Instead of a heart container fragment of solar energy I got a weapon that seems overpowered as hell.

Okami seems to be moving, I'm right onto the next dungeon now and have now clocked about 9 hours on the save over the last few nights. I'm definitely invested now, I don't know if I'll make this a running series where I'll look at it in increments or if I'll just post a review at the end but I'll definitely put something up.

We're in it for the long haul, Ammy.

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Video Games are a thing, and I've played some!

So, lemme tell the world about some games and stuff I’ve been playing recently in as succinct a way as possible.

DARK SOULS 2

Pretty good ya know, I kind of wrote it off last year as “UTTER SHIT HAS COMPLETELY LOST WHATEVER IT WAS I LIKED ABOUT DARK SOULS” when really I just got a bit bored with it. I don’t think it’s as good as 1 but it’s still fun and the online aspect is really cool. It is a bit boring though, the environments are all a bit meh and the bosses are too frequent and unmemorable. Like, there was one where I just fought a bunch of skeleton enemies… really? 4/5

PERSONA 4 ARENA ULTIMAX

Definitely better than the first one, the animation’s still top-notch and the sprites are still gorgeous. Love the music, love the dumb lobby bit where I can chill and get my ass kicked as it plays some Persona 4 Golden music. Cute. I like playing Ken and Yukari even though they’re probably really hard to play as and I’m no good at fighting games. I hate the fact that 8/10 matches are against Yu or Sho. Oh well. 4/5

KENTUCKY ROUTE ZERO

I still don’t know if I like this game. It’s a bit monotonous and plodding but then it does something like the singing scene and introduces a character called Junebug. I haven’t finished it. 3/5(?)

PERSONA 3 PORTABLE

I played this as a direct response to liking Ken and Yukari in P4U… I really like the female route and social links. It’s still really badly paced though. Tartarus is incredibly boring - it feels like a chore. I suppose having to spend your evenings fighting monsters would be annoying but they didn’t have to make that part of the game boring. Also sometimes everyone’s like “hey go fucking entertain yourself for like a whole month because who even knows what’s coming next!” I dunno. Also apparently you can basically groom Ken. Ew. 4/5 for having a social link with a dog which makes up for the terrible melodrama.

BAYONETTA 2

Okay… I finished this in early january but like… it’s so good. It’s like… man. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the best controlling game ever. I got a Bronze on normal mode on a chapter then got a Gold on the same chapter on hard mode. THAT’S PROGRESS - HEY DEVELOPERS, LEARNING CURVES ARE GOOD AND MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GOOD. 5/5

LIFE IS STRANGE: EPISODE 1

I dunno about this game.. the writing isn't great and the main time rewind mechanic kind of makes choices seem not very important. I really liked the school setting though and the further they got away from there the less I became interested. I didn't like Chloe's(?) character at all. At least it had a fantastic reference to the... incredible Final Fantasy: Spirits Within... I doubt I'll buy the other episodes. 3/5

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