Game of the Year 2016 Oh God I'm so late

If I've had a more disorienting year than 2016, I can't recall. I bounced from one game to the next without managing to finish the vast majority, whether I liked them or not; games I expected to hate I loved, and vice versa. As a result, the list is full of surprises this year! I may not have wrapped up as many of these as I thought I would, but I did manage to have a lot of fun with video games in 2016. Here's a list of which ones I felt needed to be singled out.

List items

  • I'm glad this game made the list at all. That it topped it is a shock. I've spent years now considering Final Fantasy to be kind of a dead series, for me: I don't really have the time to dedicate myself to an MMO, much less one with a monthly subscription price, and the single player offerings haven't held my interest since X. The setting of XV caught my eye first, with the juxtaposition of modern technology and traditional Final Fantasy creatures. The thing that immediately made me want to give this a shot, despite my doubts, was a "Chocobo Crossing" road sign next to a camper trailer. Simple, intriguing, and enough to make me hesitate at writing the series off for good. I'm glad I'm so easy to win over.

    Final Fantasy XV isn't just a good Final Fantasy game, it's one of my favorites. The story is fairly forgettable, in my opinion, and kind of poorly told- I'm not at the ending myself just yet, so I won't judge too harshly. It doesn't matter anways, because the heart of the game is in the four main characters; Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus. While those four might seem out of place standing next to a character named "Dave", they feel incredibly real in the ways that count. On a long road trip that comes to involve constant battle, the fate of the world, and political upheavals, these four never miss a chance to take shots at one another, commenting on the scenery roughly as often as they toss out good-natured ribbing at their friends. And they ARE friends, in a way that feels genuine, recognizable, reassuring. Drama abounds and the world teeters on the edge of disaster, but everyone is still going to make fun of the chosen one when he reels in a tiny fish. It's what they're there for.

    Even after all this time, after a ton of questionable decisions, a Final Fantasy game can still be good- great, even. It can grab me and keep me interested in a world, in characters, even get me to watch weird movie tie-ins to try and better understand the plot. I can spend ridiculous amounts of time hunting frogs in a swamp, or hunting for optional dungeons- not all of which are perfectly designed, mind you- to collect another optional super sword because some upjumped turkey demon ate the damn thing and ran away. I'm having a lot of fun with Final Fantasy XV. More than I ever expected to have, and maybe that's part of why I love this game so much- it feels nice to have my faith in a series restored. That's a bold statement, but after this, I think it's one I feel comfortable making. You've got me back on board for now, Square- let's see what XVI looks like, eh? I'm excited again.

  • The first Xenoverse had serious problems. The game was fundamentally broken in the later half, but I was content with a competent, pretty Dragon Ball game that let me make my own original character and play around at smacking saibamen and shooting spectacular (if innefective) light shows from my hands and/or face. Still, there was a point in that game where enemies gained super armor and unlimited energy from transformations that never ended, allowing them to dominate fights unless you built your character 'right' and spammed certain attacks to keep up with the power curve. I enjoyed it in spite of the glaring flaws, and was cautiously optimistic for a sequel to right these wrongs.

    And for once that hope was rewarded! Some beautiful people made a list of everything wrong with Xenoverse 1 and corrected it item by item, it seems. RNG based mission completion, terrible drop rates, unfair enemy advantages? Gone! Corrected, cleaned up, now go on your merry way and fire death beams at Saiyans until your heart bursts with joy. I couldn't have asked for more, and every complaint I had about the original was adressed by the sequel. There are still improvements to be made, for sure- I'd like a much more in depth character creator, but that goes for every game I play. This is the Dragonball game I always wanted, in most respects, and if you're a fan of the series I can't recommend it enough. If the first Xenoverse turned you off, I recommend giving this one a chance to win you over. Even if I didn't like the game, I'd still be hard pressed not to praise the efforts of the developers to make good by the fans; luckily, I love it.

  • I don't feel so bad about not finishing Monster Hunter Generations. I gave it enough time to grow attached to all of the changes they've made, one of my favorites being that they no longer artificially inflate the damage numbers on certain weapon types. Seeing the actual stats of my weaponry makes me much more confident in my upgrade choices, and less obfuscation is usually a good thing in my book. A more drastic and probably much more important change was the introduction of Hunting Styles. It's hard for me to state just how big of a change this was, but I'd liken it to the variations in Mortal Kombat X- there are 4 styles now, and while one is the classic style you're used to, every other style gives you a different moveset, sometimes with fairly drastic alterations. This applies to every weapon. For me, at least, it's effectively quadrupled the ways that I can play the game, and allowed me to use weapons whose traditional movesets I couldn't stand. It's a big deal!

  • Where's my option to join Advent and put down this stupid human rebellion, already? I'm sure there's a mod or thirty that'll help me get there, but it's just not the same. Also, last time I tried to play, the game was more than a little on fire thanks to a poorly implemented controller support patch. Someday I'll get around to re-installing the game and sorting out compatibility issues to make it playable again, maybe seeing what all of the DLC has to offer. I had a lot of fun with the base game regardless of those problems. Sure, there were framerate issues, and fall-damage triggered an animation bug that turned everyone into static images teleporting across the map, but I didn't particularly care: Part of it was because blasting aliens strategically is still really fun. Another part is because my team was comprised half of friends and family, and half of characters (poorly) recreated from Life is Strange. Watching the Blackwell Academy staff and students shoot their way through an alien dictatorship like an acid trip version of Red Dawn was worth the price of purchase on its own.

    But seriously though, where do I sign up for cool alien gene treatments and sick tron armor? I'll subjugate humanity so fast it will make your head spin if I get superpowers out of the deal.

  • God Eater is a franchise I got for the same reason as Toukiden: I like Monster Hunter a lot, and I wanted more of it, with more monster variety, in different settings. If you gave me a chance I'd just mash all these hunter-esque games into one big super game where I wore clothes made out of everything under the sun, but since that's impossible, I'll just play damn near every one that comes out, especially if it's on the PC. God Eater 2, while great, does let me down in a few areas. First and foremost, it's WAY more anime than the previous game. Sure, you had your cliches and bizarre character designs there, but it was never so overwhelming as it is in 2. Idol Singers become a key plot point somewhere in there! It's kinda the worst.

    But then, that's the style they're going for, and the game is nothing if not stylish. I enjoy the gameplay as much as I did back in the first game, and the addition of Blood Arts kept me interested and varying up my moves to earn new attacks throughout my time in this weird devour-centric post-apocalypse. The only other thing bumming me out is a personal issue; I never found an outfit I really liked for my character, and that drove me up the wall with frustration. I'd complain about losing the cast from the first game, but it turns out they show up a few missions in and stick around until the ending, so I wasn't upset for long in that regard- and I VASTLY prefer them to the miscreants you get on your team to start the second game. This game's rad, despite the flaws, and in a way it makes me wish that God Eater Resurrection hadn't been such a complete package: It's a rare case of a re-release outshining the actual sequel.

  • With Special Guest Star: Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth.

    I deeply regret that I didn't finish either of these games- and in the case of Cyber Sleuth, I didn't even put all that much time into it. I spent a while not understanding how the leveling worked, failed really badly at a boss fight, and upon realizing my mistakes, I found something else to occupy myself with and promised I'd get back to it later. That didn't happen, sadly. When it comes to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I just fell off somewhere around the middle of the game, daunted by the time requirements and stressful situations at work. Again, just an excuse, because I never ended up going back to finish it, either.

    And it sucks, because these two games would probably be topping my list if I hadn't been so damn wasteful with my time this year. Stylistically I'd say they're leagues above anything on this list outside of maybe Let it Die- and they're more aesthetically pleasing than that, so they've got a natural edge. I loved them both, with Cyber Sleuth employing a cleaner, sleeker futuristic vibe and TMS painting a pastel colored nightmare in each dungeon, bizarrely fusing the SMT and Persona art styles and putting a slightly more friendly face on things (but retaining a distinctly unsettling undercoat). Hopefully, in the next year, I can get around to playing these games and giving them the props they deserve. In the meantime, they've more than earned their place here, and I feel guilty I couldn't give them more of my time.

  • Z-moves. Mega evolutions. Parallel dimensions! ULTRA BEASTS. Pokemon has gotten kinda weird since I was a kid, or at least that was how I felt after bouncing off of X and Y. I was uneasy about the direction the series was heading, and after some really unfortunate purchasing decisions I'd made earlier in the year- looking at you, Fire Emblem Fates- I was considering just letting this game pass me by and getting second opinions from friends before taking the plunge. Then I found out I could get this adorable owl that would turn into a crazy cool archer, and also was part ghost, so I broke down and bought it on release day. I'm a weak man.

    I haven't 'completed' the game as such. I'm lingering in what I've been led to believe is the pre-elite four section of the game, though even that's in question. The latest entries have not at all been shy about shaking up the classical pokemon conventions, having done away with Gym battles and badges in favor of a more open and varied method of progression through the region. There's more of a focus on story here, and while I'm not a fan of every side character I've come across, the world they've built up feels a little more real than I'm used to from the series. The new pokemon are solid additions to the roster, and those changes that I was worried about in the beginning turned out to be, for the most part, steps in the right direction. Just don't be a crazy person and try to actually catch 'em all.

  • Something about relaxing in the arcade under the watchful eyes of Uncle Death and Detox has managed to soothe my soul in a way that few games have, this year. I've tried a few Souls-like games out, and while they're all fun, only Let it Die stops to remind me to take it easy, kick back, and not care if I get murdered a few hundred times in the first few floors: it's just a game, man. It's an oddly comforting vibe from a free-to-play game that seems to get most of its income from charging you to revive yourself upon death. Between the free to play currency provided daily upon logging in and the relaxed mood the game has towards dying terribly, I haven't felt compelled to spend any real-world cash myself. I appreciate the damn near unparalleled style, the bizarre writing, the intriguingly grotesque world, and the varied and fuckin' OUTSTANDING soundtrack, but it's the casual attitude of the game that I think I like the most.

    Uncle Death just wants you to have a good time, man- and it turns out that goes a long way towards making it happen.

  • I've only owned this game for a couple of days. I spent most of the time since I bought it working, and in my attempts to play the game I've managed to get away with almost exactly nothing. With some serious effort and the world's most useful lead pipe, I did eventually manage to escape Paris with one win under my belt- but that was only after some twenty trips filled with accidentally crushed stylists and hastily stabbed journalists stuffed into dumpsters.

    Hitman is a series that I've always been fond of, and my lack of skill has always made the game somehow more enjoyable than if I were actually a smooth and cautious death dealer. While I do enjoy a perfectly planned caper that culminates in an unseen getaway, there's something timelessly satisfying about a frustrated knife toss from the bushes. Eat it, Novikov.

  • I've never been super into Blizzard games. The last one I remember spending a lot of time with was Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, and that was mostly because I got it for Christmas once upon a time. I managed to avoid being pulled into the hype surrounding their releases for years, but what is there to say? Overwatch was (and remains) a genuine phenomenon. You couldn't get away from it! People all over were either talking about the character designs, or the animated shorts, or how much of a fucker Bastion was. Since I've now got a reasonable disposable income and an unreasonably beefy computer, I couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon just this once- and I'm pretty glad that I did! It's not my favorite FPS, and it's been a few months since I threw myself into the fray, but I found myself way into what it had to offer nonetheless. It's fast, it's bright, and it's incredibly enjoyable whenever Tracer isn't lighting me the eff up from behind.

    I'm not great at the game, mind you. I like Widowmaker because the character design is rad, and she combines many things I love- Poison, land mines, grappling hooks, and being a bitch. It's a great combination, though it's yet to translate into much success for me. Still a ton of fun, though.