I'm Keeping Track of Every Game I Played in 2020
New year, new decade (kinda), same list of games I played for at least an hour or more.
New year, new decade (kinda), same list of games I played for at least an hour or more.
Specifically, the Switch version of Dragon Quest I, which is basically the iOS version. It's largely fine, but the graphics used for battle, sprites, and the overworld do not mess well together and could really use some kind of toggle between "new" and old sprites. Or, at least, the GBC sprites. There's also this slight 'stuttering' when the player character walks on the overworld that I can't tell if it's me or the game. The artwork used for battle is really well done and the backgrounds are beautiful, just wish there was more of it. I think the GBC version is still my preferred method to play, though any copy I would buy now on eBay would probably have a dead battery that would need to be replaced.
The Switch version has a couple of oddities that make the game weirder. The Faerie Flute and Erdrick's Armor are easier to locate in this version, being shining items on the ground which means you can try to pick them up immediately. The Faerie Flute doesn't do anything until nearly the end of the game, taking up a pretty valuable inventory slot. Erdrick's Armor leads to a rough boss fight if you're underleveled which just means you'll get destroyed and lose half your money. Hope you weren't saving up for anything special!
Anyway, Dragon Quest I is a speedy game that can be beaten in a handful of hours. It's the perfect palate cleanser JRPG and a good way to start off a new year. Beat some monsters, buy better gear, save the princess, save the world. It's simple, but it works. It's not the best game in the series (which changes depending on when you'd ask me), but it's a really tight 10-hour game and sometimes something simple is exactly what you need.
I know Order of Ecclesia is very highly regarded but somehow having two attack buttons that you have to rhythmically cycle between has always and will always break my mind. I found a large portion of the game difficult, mainly because the game never really clues you in to enemy weaknesses or how important matching your weapon type with an enemy is. Still ended up beating it, but it's probably my least favorite of the DS Casltevanias.
Great story, looks fantastic, man is the combat such a bummer after Yakuza 0. Something about it just felt off and made me yearn for the days when I could swap between battle stances. I can't remember how the story ended because I think it ended in the dumbest way possible that I immediately erased it from memory.
I wound up beating Hollow Knight at some point during this nightmare year and the finale cemented the fact that I just didn't enjoy large parts of Hollow Knight as much as many other people.
Not nearly as tightly paced as Dragon Quest I or as free-form as Dragon Quest III, DQII is the awkward middle child that's just doing its best. I enjoy it and it's probably the most important game in the series for all of the new ideas introduced, but many of those ideas are better explored and executed in just about every other JRPG since.
Still lovely, still haven't beaten it yet.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team always seems like the perfect Mario & Luigi game until you start playing it and realize that it just goes on for what feels like forever.
I managed to beat Cuphead with liberal use of the auto-tracking shot and smoke dash. Somehow. Tons of fun, wish it wasn't so dumb about it's "simple" mode.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a very good metroidvania. It's not exactly Symphony of the Night, but it's closer to that than the hundreds of imitators. Figuring out the weapon abilities before the game tells you about them is endlessly fun for me.
Hey did you know Super Mario World still fucking rules?
So does Link to the Past?
My second favorite roguelike this year, after Hades. I always like the idea of deck building, in theory, but the intense theory crafting around it tends to give me choice paralysis. How do I pick from thousands of cards and whittle them down to a deck of 60 or 100 or what have you. Slay the Spire starts you off with a small handful of cards and really makes it clear that you should, baring some crazy runs, keep that deck small. It's great.
I finished the second act of Kentucky Route Zero and am falling ever deeper in love with it while making sure to savor what there is by taking breaks between Acts. There are a lot of themes flying around, but the main things I'm picking up on are the inherent brokenness of the American Dream, the uncaring hand of capitalism, and the unflinching coldness of bureaucracy, all mixed up in this magical realism landscape where a giant eagle moves houses at night and a mathematician can actually find work outside of academia.
Something that's been really resonating with me is Lula's whole story. A brilliant artist whose imagination exceeds their ability to create, at least at first, and ends up just working an office job for reasons unknown. I'm also a real big fan of Floor 3: Bears. There was something serene and beautiful about the first visit to the Bureau of Reclaimed Space, the visit to the warehouse that they shunted the church to, the congregation having dwindled to a single janitor who felt the need to keep everything going, and then the visit back to the Bureau. I also love the entire museum section in the second act that switches the narrator from Conway and Shannon to the occupants of the museum as they muse on who these mysterious strangers are that wandered into their midst. It's so good.
I'm a big Banjo-Kazooie fan and it's one of the N64 games that I would consider equal to Super Mario 64. However, out of all of Rare's N64 (and later) offerings, I'm ONLY a big fan for Banjo-Kazooie. It's an extremely tight game that has only one small instance of backtracking that keeps the player moving ever forward. The collectible design leads the player through the level with clear paths and routes to follow and is a great example of why well made collectathons can be fun. Donkey Kong 64 is an absolute mess of a game that effectively killed an entire genre and Banjo-Tooie is bloated and meandering while having unimaginative level design and less varied collectibles. Conker's Bad Fur Day is, uh, bad and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts is a game that I actively hate.
Which leads me to Yooka-Laylee. It exhibits a lot of the same charm without the bitterness and cynicism that completely turned me off Nuts and Bolts. The gameplay is about the same as it was during the N64 era with the same awful camera. I know there's a mechanic to increase the size of the levels somewhere that I haven't found yet, but considering how big the worlds already are, that's a bit concerning. I already don't have a good sense of where I am and the visual signposting isn't the best.
I was all on board until the game had me start trying to do timed challenges with its extremely poor projectile firing. Nah, Yooka Laylee, I'm good, thanks.
Low-key crafting vibes to chill out with. Ryza is a very relaxing experience, just never look up any fanart of her. The other Atelier games seem neat, I'll have to check them out once i finish with this one.
I fell into the FFXIV hole for a bit during the early stages of the pandemic, making a Roegadyn punchy-lady named Rolling Whirlpool. I played the free trial for a while and had a decent time slogging through the content of Realm Reborn and then decided to pay for a month. However, because I paid for that month and only that month, I'm not allowed to play any more free content even though the free content has been expanded past Realm Reborn and into the DLC. Bummer SquareEnix, just let me play what I was already playing.
A very good Phoneix Wright game with an insufferable antagonist prosecutor for most of the game and some severe character assassination for basically every prominent woman. Athena, I love you, but I hate what they've done to you.
I had a roommate in college who was obsessed with Civilization III. He would spend hours curled up in front of his shitty laptop, chin resting on his knees, refusing to clean up his desk littered with food left on stolen plates from the gymnasium used as an alternate cafeteria, almost never showering. I had a lot of resentment for Civ III, I loved games at the time but when I wasn't failing Physical Chemistry, I wasn't settled in front of the same game for hours on end.
Look. I get it now. Civ VI is fantastic, the Switch version especially.
Highway Blossoms is a very endearing romantic visual novel between two women who happen to meet on a highway in the desert of Nevada. Extremely cute.
I don't think I've ever had such a love-hate relationship with a game studio or one of their products before. Supergiant has made two of my favorite games ever in Hades and Bastion, but no matter how many times I try Transistor I just fall off. Pyre leans more toward Transistor than Bastion for me. The narrative is interesting, I love all of these characters, the world-building is great, but I just do not like the gameplay. Ethereal basketball should be my jam but it's just kinda... boring? Rote? At least Transistor was fun to play.
Assassin's Creed Origins is so much game that it's a bit hard to take in. I did finally finish it, but I'm terrified to look at how much time I spent just wandering the Egyptian countryside. Bayek is an all-time great protagonist.
About once a year I think, 'hey maybe i should play some old infinity engine games' and then try to play something slightly more modern and go 'oh no, oh god i hate this'. Something about CRPGs just do not click with me.
"What if we gave Kirby a mech suit?" shouldn't work as a game, but it's Kirby, so it's a delight.
Mostly played through the original game again so I could see the difference when I played as Plague Knight. Still an amazing game, one of the best platformers ever created.
A very good Shantae game, but honestly, Shantae's signature transformation abilities are much less interesting to me than Risky's abilities in Pirate's Curse. Having to stop the flow to transform kills all momentum for me.
I swear to god I'm going to pilot a mech in this game even if it kills me. I need to fly the mech. I NEED TO FLY THE MECH.
Some kids were Mario kids, some were Sonic. I was ALWAYS a Mega Man kid growing up. Didn't matter how bad or how dumb, how many side series there were. If there was a Mega Man game, I was gonna play it. I played the hell out of the first four Battle Network games (even playing the punishingly difficult Network Transmission on Gamecube) and it was only my mother saying "you've played a lot of those games, maybe ask for something else for your birthday" that got me off the series. As such, I never played MMBN 5 or 6.
5 is pretty decent so far! It introduces an interesting territory control minigame that sees you in a giant maze trying to penetrate through enemy defenses with a group of allies (but mainly through net-battling). Otherwise, it's basically just more Battle Network.
I love mecha anime, he says, so let me play the mecha strategy game. Oh no, he says, I haven't watched some of these series so LET ME WATCH EVERYTHING SO I DON'T GET SPOILED.
this is how they get you.
The best thing I can say about XIII-2 is that it takes the stellar combat of XIII, makes that better, and then throws literally everything else out of the window. Gone is the story that tells two disparate stories based on if you watched the cutscenes or read the logs, the 30 hour tutorial, and Lightning! Instead you get two characters who are actually fun to be around and a bunch of cute monsters to watch fuck up your enemies. It's great, but I also spent four hours trying to catch a blue chocobo so maybe I'm just broken inside.
Persona Q is where the cast of Persona meet the gameplay of Etrian Odyssey and no one ever shuts up for longer than thirty seconds. Everyone is reduced down to a sole character trait. Chie likes meat, Misturu is an asshole, and Teddie is just irresponsibly horny on main. Fun, but oh my god everyone let me try to solve a puzzle myself instead of just yelling the solution at me.
Made it to the fourth stratum now, I think. Still running the same team, running into the same issues of a lack of burst damage, but starting to settle into my lockdown team. Once my pugilist has maxed out her lockdown skills, should be easier to start setting up decent combos. Just...may take a while to get there.
Iiiiiiit's Etrian Odyssey! But the first one this time and with a story.
I have a lot of mixed feelings on Pokemon Sword/Shield. On one hand, Pokemon has never looked better, the world is massive, and the small gameplay tweaks are phenomenal. On the other, look, I spent most of my life collecting Pokemon. I used to have a complete Living Pokedex with at least one of every Pokemon. Not being able to bring all of them forward, even if I know in my heart that this is probably the right call, absolutely kills me inside.
Hilariously messy, completely broken, one of my favorite Final Fantasies.
"at least I learned something from all of this..."
"never pay more than 20 bucks for a computer game"
"i don't know. i'm not sure why i said that."
What if we took the overwrought long-term myth arc from X-files but somehow made it worse and also play like ass? That's Control, baby.
Around halfway through Second Chapter, by my own reckoning. I adore Estelle, she is one of the best JRPG protagonists ever. Her growth, her strength, her character arc are just so head and shoulders above everyone else. She is phenomenal and everyone should play these games.
The RE2 Remake is a real delight, though I think I might prefer the original just a bit more?
Every so often I get back into Street Fighter V for a hot minute, promptly get my ass kicked nine ways from Sunday, and then repeat the cycle about six months later.
The death of Titanfall 2 happened during this year, where the player base all but dried up. So long Titanfall 2, I will miss you dearly.
AI: The Somnium Files is a pretty decent visual novel though holy shit the main character is extremely thirsty.
I am very bad at keeping schedules and routines up if I even skip one day. Maybe a good goal for next year will be to Ring Fit more often.
Naturally, I bought the Collection of Mana and spent most of my time playing the original Game Boy game, because I am always the most on my bullshit.
I must have played this at some point during 2020 but it's almost been completely wiped from my brain. I finished VA-11 Hall-A and enjoyed my time with it - I wish it explored a bit more of the world state beyond "cyber-distopia" but Alma, Dorothy, and Rad Shiba are great. I'd love to see more of them.
I could write a lot about Hades has cured me of my roguelike disease where I have one successful run and then completely stop playing. I could talk about how great the characters and their designs are, how stellar the combat is, how after clearing the game once you basically see the code of the Hades universe that leads to cascading runs of success, stacked one on top of another. I could talk about how absolutely fantastic the God Mode of Hades is, that allows players to see all of the content a game has to offer without condescending or belittling anyone's skill level.
But what I think I'll say is that Hades is the game I needed during 2020. It is one of the best games I've ever played.
There's one puzzle here where an art collector has arranged his pantings in a way that spells out their worth in the negative space that was so fucking stupid that I had to put the DS down and take a walk, jesus christ layton what the fuck.
There is no reason why FF7R should be as good as it is.
This is hard to write about, but I had a number of NES games stolen from me. And by "a number", I mean all of them except for Super Mario Bros, which was inside my NES at the time. We bought a house and I moved my NES games up to the house early to keep them safe because I was worried about packing them up. And then they went missing after the contractor we hired to fix a ceiling in the new place ghosted on us.
I spent almost all of my life collecting those games and had a lot of memories associated with them. Mega Man 2 I traded a holographic Pokemon card for in sixth grade. I bought Metal Storm for about twenty bucks in 2007, before the price for that game exploded. My dad and I used to play Top Gun together, always trying to land that damn plane. My cousin and I stayed up all night once trying to beat Mike Tyson, with me finally beating him by decision at 2 in the morning. I bought my copy of Final Fantasy from a Goodwill for $2 and was able to fix it myself (mainly by cleaning it well).
The memories are still there, but they hurt a lot more now.
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