Best New Old Games of 2019

Eligible list items are games that:

  1. I enjoyed playing
  2. I’ve never played to the end before
  3. weren’t released within the current year
  4. aren’t a remastered version of a game I’ve played to the end before
  5. are completed or reach a satisfying state of completion within the current year

Note: In the case that multiple titles from one franchise are eligible, only one will be allowed to be on the main list.

Note II: Why don't I have ten games listed? Shit happens.

2019 personal goals:

  1. Focus on games that originally released before the current generation of consoles (Xbox One, PS4, etc.).
  2. Finish games I started playing long ago.

2020 personal goals sneak peek:

  1. Play through the rest of the main Final Fantasy games I haven’t played yet (I, II, IV).
  2. Focus on games on Nintendo systems, subscriptions be damned.
  3. Focus on critically-acclaimed games.

Honorable mentions:

  • 428: Shibuya Scramble - PS4 (2018)
  • Battlefield 1 - PC (2016)
  • BloodRayne 2 - XBOX (2004)
  • Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon - XONE (2018)
  • Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator - PC (2017)
  • Fez - PC (2013)
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest - 3DS (2016)
  • Full Throttle Remastered - PC (2017)
  • Injustice 2 - PC (2017)
  • Inside - PC (2016)
  • Marie’s Room - PC (2018)
  • Muramasa Rebirth - VITA (2013)
  • No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way - PC (2002)
  • Return of the Obra Dinn - PC (2018)
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider - XONE (2018)
  • Star Wars Battlefront II - PC (2017)
  • Tales of Vesperia - X360 (2008)
  • Watch Dogs 2 - PC (2016)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - PC (2017)
  • Yakuza 6: The Song of Life - PS4 (2018)

“Meh”ntions:

  • Assassin's Creed Origins - XONE (2017)
  • Borderlands 2 - PC (2012)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - PS4 (2016)
  • Day of the Tentacle Remastered - PS4 (2016)
  • Dead Rising 3 - XONE (2013)
  • Final Fantasy III - PC (2014)
  • Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice - XONE (2018)
  • Ico - PS3 (2011)
  • Snoopy Flying Ace - X360 (2010)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege - PC (2015)

Dishonorable mentions:

  • Battlefield 4 - PC (2013)*
  • Battlefield V - PC (2018)*
  • BloodRayne - PS2 (2002)
  • Diablo III - PC (2012)
  • Duke Nukem Forever - PC (2011)
  • God of War HD - PS3 (2010)**
  • Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days - PC (2010)
  • Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions - Colonies Edition - X360 (2008)
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - XBOX (2003)
  • Resogun - PS4 (2013)

* Discontinued playthrough due to progress-blocking bug (Battlefield 4, Battlefield V)

** Discontinued playthrough out of frustration and watched someone else’s playthrough instead (God of War HD)

List items

  • Note: Played "Game of the Year Edition"

    Related titles played: No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way - PC (2002)

    To craft a world influenced by 60s spy thrillers and handle the presumed sexist tendencies of the era so well, I was surprised how adept the main character Cate Archer pushed back against the stereotypes while maintaining a good-natured humor throughout. From beginning to end, Archer fights an uphill battle in the assumably male-dominant profession of spying whether it be through higher-ups questioning her skill or against the odds opposite her favor in the variance of missions she must undertake, all the while slowly gaining their trust in the meantime.

    While stealth was considered Archer’s specialty, I chose to shoot first, and loudly, if given the chance. Missions that require absolute stealth, with one in particular asking the player to not kill anyone, weren’t difficult but highlighted how basic the stealth mechanics were. Slow-turning cameras, patrolling guards, and avoiding one-way tickets to area-wide blaring alarms were not my specialty. Opting into combat usually meant nearby guards would amass my surroundings to become easy pickings as they ran straight at me, but that wasn’t always the case, fortunately.

    In the sequel, which improves gameplay/quality of life across the board, I found myself disappointed with objective and, in turn, level design more often. Maps were relatively compact yet felt sprawling and confusing to navigate and even worse when facing enemies who could endlessly respawn or simply can't or won't die unless they're pumped with a massive amount of bullets to only get stunned as a reward. Despite these annoyances, it’s a short-lived series based on a sparsely visited concept I wish was executed better because what's there left me wanting more.

    4/5

  • Note: Remake of Yakuza (2006)

    Related titles played: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life - PS4 (2018)

    After having played through four Yakuza games, it's about time I witness the story that began it all with the added benefit of generations of improvements the series has undergone since the original on PS2. While details from montage videos summarizing earlier games in Yakuza 4, my personal introduction to the series, were understandably hazy, that didn’t stop me from being absolutely enthralled with the yakuza goings-on and formal introductions of many characters in Kiwami whom appear later in the series.

    As expected, the combat remains brutal and fulfilling to the point where groups of enemies begin to look like bowling pins that you can topple over in just seconds but what really makes these games such a joy is the constant reinvigoration of Japanese city life and the substories within.

    There are a few major story beats that aren’t fully explored in the main path but through substories that chase false leads and eventually resolve loose ends that can provide a sense of satisfying happenstance. A majority of them, however, are funny asides or misunderstandings that lead to the protagonist’s ever ideal outlook on life while putting others in their place or counseling them to a more fulfilling and honest life.

    Unfortunately, despite being overjoyed by the fan service they committed to in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (Y6), I couldn’t help but feel that Kiryu deserved a better exit. I’ve no qualms with the overarching narrative as it was a fitting gesture to focus on the driving force behind him: family. But with the debut of a new engine came the oversimplification of combat by taking one step forward in the style department and three steps back in variety. With each iteration, my anticipation to fight grew and grew between the hefty expositions the games are apt to do but with Y6 the most effective strategy was to enter heat mode and spam one button until everyone’s health bars disappeared.

    4/5

  • Note: Remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden (1992)

    Related titles played: Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest - 3DS (2016)

    As a relative newcomer to Fire Emblem with Awakening as my first, the depth behind the combat, changing classes, and even the benefits behind pairing specific characters became a great source of my anxiety-induced choice paralysis. Worrying about whether or not I was doing something correctly or as efficiently as possible put battles under an eyeful of scrutiny that made preparation phases feel like half the battle, not only strategically but time-wise as well. In this remake to a 1992 game, not only does it greatly diminish the period before battles begin, it comes at the cost of the many mainstays developed in the last few Fire Emblem games with a few notable and much needed features I hope they develop more in the future.

    Among them, which happens to be present in the most recent entry to the series, the ability to reverse moves taken, player-made or not, in an effort to tone down unwanted outcomes or potential bullshit that might occur. Bullshit including, but not limited to, moving a character and ending their turn by mistake, avoidable deaths, or even healing the wrong person. In any case, it’s a sensible feature to include despite the veteran outcry believing its inclusion is making the games even easier when the addition of a “casual” mode removing permanent deaths is already an option. While its likely use is to pave the way to more desirable situations, it also encourages riskier play and variance in strategery by using skills that aren’t simply about increased direct damage like conjuring AI-controlled allies or swapping places with another.

    Since the game is a full-on remake and, I assume, faithful to its source material, everything from the weight-based combat to the basic map design to the funnelled class system all feel very simplified in comparison to other recent Fire Emblem titles. However, pulling back on these systems made me all the more eager to play. Instead of the usual anxiety plaguing my decisions in long and arduous battles, I was earnest to play in the many small skirmishes that litter the world. While most were insignificant and straightforward, unfolding my 3DS from standby didn’t feel like picking up a book where I left off in the middle of a long chapter.

    4/5

  • Related titles played: Assassin’s Creed Origins - XONE (2017)

    No other series has won and lost my favor again and again as much as Assassin’s Creed (AC) but Odyssey managed to land the much-needed pivot that began with Origins. Engaging player involvement through familiar role-playing game elements like levelling and loot only complemented the mass of activities the series constantly outputs and thrives because of it. However, Origins fell flat in producing a player character, setting, or narrative that was anywhere near as interesting, at all, as Odyssey’s which brought the series back in my good graces once again.

    Odyssey’s narrative is a very personal one from start to finish and didn’t have to adhere to a somewhat constrictive or establishing title like “Origins.” In fact, the name “Assassin’s Creed” feels like the last thing on this game’s mind when the story boils down to a family seeking vengeance from the cult that tore them apart; not explicitly assassins versus templars. I’ve never considered their everlasting battle for control a narrative hindrance since they provided an easy way to paint differing sides black or white but the lack of it didn’t cross my mind until after the end of the game. Whether that omission is for the better or not for the future of the series remains to be seen.

    If they can continue providing a setting as beautiful and as fascinating as ancient Greece, that’s good enough for me. Traversing the lush scenery on horseback in lieu of fast travel didn’t feel like time wasted when it’s filled with a plethora of quests comprised of deceits and questionable outcomes. The choices, or illusion of choice, within impacted too little to change my stealth-until-noticed playstyle but it was easy to figure out exactly what determined my chances for less than ideal closures after the fact.

    Unlike with previous entries of the series, I never grew tired or incensed with the combat. For the longest time, entering open conflict would mean taking a wait-and-see defensive approach until these two recent AC games. Instead, going on the offensive isn’t boring but varied thanks to abilities that welcome fantastical moves of somewhat overpowered nature but encounters were still dangerous enough to keep me on my toes. Odyssey more than the former embraced the mythos behind its setting’s history rich with mythical creatures to butt heads with that called for refreshing, and sometimes annoying, tactics beyond my comfort zone.

    4/5

  • Related titles played: Tales of Vesperia - X360 (2008)

    As a newcomer to the series with Tales of Vesperia and now Tales of Berseria, what really made these games stand out to me are their main protagonists. With Yuri from Vesperia, I was surprised to see how willing he was to kill someone almost nonchalantly, and not through the game’s battle system but through solitary cutscenes no less, to make reaching his goals easier. Eventually, his story is consumed by changing his tune to saving the world because he must.

    Otherwise, with Velvet from Berseria, her approach to everything came down to her selfishness, as did the others around her, right up to the very end to fulfill their self-given duty or even curiosity to see things through. However, during what is a major turning point for her character, she’s overwhelmed by her misguided motivations and almost breaks while bewildered party members stood aside watching these events unfold uncertain of their leader’s diminished psyche. While the game looks like a remaster of a previous-gen game, the 3D anime expressions along with the English voice talent really pulled through and made Velvet’s transformation soar.

    Normally, there’d be that one party member I vehemently dislike but none are to be found here, and yes, even the perverted one skirting the line is bearable enough. No Ryuji Sakamoto in sight, thankfully, or to keep it franchise-related, no Karol Capel in sight, thankfully. Character-catered side quests delve deeper into each character’s resolve and inadequacies and provide a better understanding to their motivations in finding their justifications to go on. Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends.

    The combat system is easy enough to understand and engage with. There are elemental weaknesses to exploit and maximize damage and the sort, but to care about that in the many long, unimaginative, boring dungeons was a monumental task. Like I mentioned earlier, this game looks old despite releasing on current-gen consoles and to trudge through these large, bare plains only felt like padding on what is otherwise a largely character-driven story, which is a great one at that and hard to discount the total package more than I should.

    4/5

  • Note: Re-release of Final Fantasy III (1994)

    Note II: Same entry is featured on Ranking of Final Fantasies

    Related titles played: Final Fantasy III - PC (2014)

    After numerous false starts, deciding which version to play came down to convenience at the small expense of my sanity. Thanks to the PlayStation version, my greatest complaint revolves around the exclusive loading times, which may not sound like much but staring at a black screen for three seconds minimum while loading in and out of battles and menus felt like an eternity’s worth of time was lost. It’s hard not to think that that was enough to color my experience for the worse but the actual game does a great job at outweighing the bad with the good.

    While there may be a huge ensemble of characters to choose from and follow, settling on whom was best in combat seemed to favor those who could reliably output damage to multiple targets at zero cost. Otherwise, some party members’ distinct skills relied on luck to be effective thus rendering themselves useless in my eyes, however they were still appreciated even if some are merely different takes on blue mages. To put it simply, utilizing common fighting game inputs to do special attacks is just too cool of an opportunity to pass up in a Final Fantasy.

    Structurally, FFVI’s world can be split into two discrete narratives switching focus between former tools of the empire after a catastrophic event. The first half begins in generic JRPG fashion with an amnesiac character seeking a purpose before throwing out most conventions I expect from the series. There were some moments that felt more parody than not but at the same time a celebration, or possibly a farewell, to 2D Final Fantasy, which I especially felt during the ending sequence. However, one of my favorite takeaways has to be the emphasis on the origin and dangers of espers.

    How espers, or summons alternatively, are treated in this world reminds me of another time when an established series custom was foisted into the spotlight and expanded to unveil the inherent horrors of incredible power when harnessed for evil. Black mages in FFIX were written to this effect and remains as one of my favorite themes explored by the series to date. FFVI divulged experimentation and energy sources through entities called espers revealing the inhumane cost for massive power.

    4/5

  • Note: Played "Definitive Edition"

    It’s been a long time coming but I finally finished this game. And no, I didn’t jump into the version some considered half-baked or what have you, I jumped into the Definitive Edition from the beginning and found myself surprisingly satisfied with what I thought would repel me: 3D platforming.

    Each segment dedicated to jumping came down to timing, worrying about whether or not I’ll land on the next platform only crossed my mind in the beginning. Having a set amount of dashes and jumps clearly influenced the design of each dungeon and the final tower, the area where I stopped playing and abandoned for over a year. Leaving the game at this state, mere hours away from the final boss for so long, looked to be a daunting task.

    However, getting back into the flow of things wasn’t difficult at all as the combat is simple and relies on matching colors to maximize damage and the like but what opened up the combat was the core/frame system that determine the special moves robot companions can unleash. Beforehand, frugality hamstrung my combat potential so special move usage was rare but fights were manageable for the most part until the final tower where I essentially needed to learn how to crowd control effectively.

    I hope this isn’t the end to ReCore as it’s a great foundation to build on. My inkling toward Metroidvania-likes has only become easier to identify since Batman: Arkham Asylum when I didn’t even know of the concept yet. That careful corralling of mechanics and ever-present mystique to areas beyond my ken offer a satisfying breadcrumb trail I simply cannot resist.

    4/5

  • In what amounts to a collection of short stories, some of even shorter lives of the family Finch, how they’re presented is top notch. The various forces out of their control, whether through depression in one of its many consuming forms or just plain neglect, are visited in such a fashion by allowing the player to relive the final moments of each ill-fated Finch. While some divulge in the fantastical, their figurative intentions are clearly tragic in nature.

    4/5

  • If you told me this was a remaster of a game that was released only a year after Dragon Quest VIII, I wouldn’t think twice. From the visual style to the music to the combat system, Dragon Quest XI is unabashedly a game from the past built today but that’s why I love it. It’s a series that has NPCs constantly remark on how doofy the main protagonist’s face looks and somehow that joke still makes me smile every time, a lot of small things like that made me smile like no other series has, spin-offs included. Unfortunately, what’s holding back my praise and true feelings on the actual experience isn’t because of the game itself.

    After credits rolled after the second act, it was obvious that there was more to see but I felt it was the best time to take a break to deter the possibility of burnout so I can savor the rest at my leisure another time. However, during my hiatus announcements regarding the additional, and exclusive, content for the Switch version were far too substantial for me to ignore in my now undefinitive edition. In my return during the closing months of 2019, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was now experiencing only a part of what is still an amazing game so rather than force myself to resentfully plow through to the end, I thought it best to call it quits and embrace the fun time I had before. This game deserves my best and I won’t let myself bring the game down with me.

    5/5