Game of the Year 2019 Users Choice
Felt like a weird year for games.. for me at least. Sort've to be expected with new consoles around the corner? Even just a couple months ago I didn't think I'd have enough newer stuff to talk about but the year has really come into it's own for me in with Divinity: Original Sin II, Blasphemous, and Death Stranding. Now I feel like I won't really have this list properly tidied up til the very end.
Should I get Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Eh, I don't know. I've also thought for years that a new, proper console Pokemon game would be the single best reason for me to finally pick up a Switch. From the looks and sound of it though, Pokémon Sword/Shield still isn't that. A bit of a weird, random flight sim kick in there, albeit brief. Ton of old racing game pickups, which I had expected to jot down general thoughts for some, if not all for this list. That was so long ago in the year now that I don't think I even could.
Dabbled in VR again with X-Plane 11, Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and Aircar. Another expansion for FF14; higher highs and lower lows. Quick stroll down memory lane with an FF11 classic server. Explored Cities: Skylines in more depth.
Yea, looking over what I have on this page so far, definitely a weird one. Some great games that I forgot I even played. Some stuff that is probably great but I didn't get enough time in, for whatever reason. But here we are, now. This time next year, I'll probably be writing this up with a PlayStation 5 next to me. I've loved my PS4, base and then the Pro, and have had zero issues with either. I think it's been an excellent generation.
I didn't really need to get a Neo Geo AES as it's mostly just fighting games, something I don't have much interest in. Except it was always this mythological system, with insane game prices and some stunning looking sprite work, some I would say still looks better than 2D games these days. So there was something alluring about it. Thought about it for many years and, for some reason that I can't remember, I finally said F'it and bought one. And because I was mostly buying it to physically have in my collection, I wanted one that was in at least good shape with the box. That of course commands a higher price, though not that much higher? Saw the pic (right) for this one and studied all the images closely, along with other listings for comparison. This one seemed to be in amazing condition so I pulled the trigger.
Eventually it arrived and as pictured. Nearly perfect. There is something special about the look and feel of the box and unit, perhaps because of all the stories, but also because it's just different than any other console I've owned. Had to buy one legit game for testing so I picked up Riding Hero as it's a racing game and one of the cheapest titles in the Neo Geo library. I also purchased a Neo Geo CD gamepad as that'd a control device I'm more familiar with, plus a new-in-box memory card unit. Followed by a Unibios 4.0 chip that I installed myself and then UniBios 4.0. Now, I'm kinda dumb for buying this, but not so dumb that I'm going to spend thousands on games: Enter TerraOnion's NeoSD Pro, a ROM/Flashcart solution. Very expensive in itself (nearly double the price of the console!) but still way more affordable than the real cartridges and boy it's a real quality piece of kit. Nice packaging with fit and finish to match. Was able to put every game released (I think) on it and all of it worked great.
After spending some time with the console, I decided I wanted to neaten it up a bit so I ordered some replacement parts: A set of Sanwa buttons with a ball to replace the cracking original. I spent awhile trying to find colors and fitment that would match as close to the original as possible. In the end, I think it turned out great.
So what about the games? First thing I want to know is: How does anyone play any of these games without cheats? I get that arcade games are designed to be money sinks but I'd imagine they'd want people to make it far enough and enjoy themselves that they'd want to continue popping quarters in. Instead, for me, I get Game Over after 30 seconds on most games and am like "Fuuuck this.. Why do they even make it if you can't beat it?" Luckily the NeoSD Pro lets you adjust dip switches and enable cheats so running through them with infinite lives and taking in all the beautiful artwork made it quite fun.
Ugh, took about 12 hours to put together this 5 min video but I think it was worth it in the end. While getting back into FF14 for the Shadowbringers release this year, I finally got around to finishing up the house. For years, the top floor was pretty complete and I may have even been hitting the item count restriction? SE doubled the cap at some point but I didn't quite have an idea of how I wanted to do the lower floor or I ran out of interesting furnishings to decorate with. Now in 2019, I reluctantly rolled up my sleeves, and dug in: Completely rebuilt both floors in, if I remember correctly, a span of 12 hours one day. And this was the result!
Another year, another old game wave. Picked up a bunch of the games I've had my eye on for years and kinda splurged. Some I've owned before (I think?), some rented a bunch as a kid etc. It was earlier in the year though so I don't have fresh thoughts about them in my mind, but I did go through and play every one for a bit on my lovely 24" RGB modded Toshiba CRT (see GOTY 2017 list here for more info). Too many here to talk about all of 'em and some aren't even worth mentioning!
- Thunder Truck Rally (PS1)
- Porsche Challenge (PS1)
- Rage Racer (PS1)
- Bravo Air Race (PS1)
- Formula One '99 (PS1)
- All-Star Racing 2 (PS1) - Released in 2003, this was one of the last PS1 games ever!
- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (PS2)
- Wave Race 64 (N64)
- Metropolis Street Racer (DC)
- Test Drive: Le Mans (DC)
- Daytona USA (Saturn)
- Sega Rally Championship (Saturn)
- Sega Touring Car Championship (Saturn)
Although I only leveled one or two jobs to 10-12, that took plenty of time as it was on top of running all over the world unlocking outpost warps and doing side quests for gear rewards. It was fun! Love this game. I think the next step would've been to start grouping up in the Dunes for experience. I would be interested in SE opening an official "Legacy" server since I can't help but imagine my character data somehow being lost due to this being a privately run server.
Turns out I haven't written anything about American Truck Simulator since my 2016 list? I thought for sure I had complained about it at least once since it's release. Well then, it's overdue.
It's December 2019 and the state of Utah was recently released marking the fifth additional paid DLC expansion of the North American map. I want to note that February 2016 is when ATS was originally released. This game.. is so slow.. in every conceivable way. Don't get me wrong, I like these trucking games; according to Steam I have nearly 150 hours on ATS alone. That doesn't count the time I spent with Euro Truck Simulator 2, or all the old trucking games from the original Hard Truck in 1998 to 2002's Hard Truck: 18 Wheels of Steel. That last one is of importance here because it was developed by SCS Software, the very same SCS Software that has laid the Euro Truck and American Truck Simulator series before you. It's been a long time since I played those 18 Wheels of Steel PC releases, but if memory serves, they are very similar to what is on offer today, both in structure and appearances. What I'm trying to get at is that this series, the genre, has barely evolved in nearly 20 years. And it is beyond frustrating.
In particular, my frustration has been reignited by the announcement of Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2020. I'll speak in terms of ATS here, but I think my thoughts are applicable to ETS as well. The gameplay loop on offer is nearly devoid of entertainment. At most, it makes for a passive background experience while watching Youtube videos or listening to podcasts. And yet, again, I said I have 150 hours on this thing. My only real explanation is that there just isn't anything else available out there in this genre.
Imagine what Microsoft could do maybe leveraging some of that Bing satellite imagery it's using for FS2020 but for a general road network layout of North America? What if this game, this "simulator", had actual physics? What if it was something like an MMO and players could operate shipping companies, effectively the same thing as a guild or clan, and play together? If there was a global economy/point system or something. My mind runs rampant with ideas, even simple ones that leave me baffled as to why the games haven't changed with the times. What are the point of weight stations as is? It tells you whether or not to pull in; if you do, you roll up to a glowing marker, hit Enter, it tells you your weight and off you go. You can't ever exceed a weight limit or anything. Why don't the trucks get dirty after driving thousands of miles? What is the point of building and buying your own trailers when it seems to make you less money when doing those shipments? Surely they could make a lot of money through cosmetic micro-transactions and in-game advertisements--which I might add, would not look out of place on highway billboards and such.
I mentioned the additional states they've added since release but also.. Why even bother at this point? This engine, the platform these games were built on, was pretty ancient and crappy when it was released. Years later, it's even worse. They've opened up maybe 20-30% of the United States at this point? At this rate, we'll all be dead by the time they make it to the east coast. IMO, they should've abandoned this whole thing and started over on more modern tech. Release an entire US map at launch with as much density as possible within reason, then continue to flesh out and add more routes and cities through patches. Hasn't ETS and ATS been pretty successful for the company? Where is that money being re-injected into the games because I don't see it..
There are so many more complaints I have and just as many ideas for a new game. Another factor in my frustration is I started a new job a little over a year ago working at a truck dealership. I drive all over the state of NJ, five days a week, and constantly see and look at trucks. I deliver to everything from backyard mechanics to huge shipping depots. There is SO much they could implement here. And I'm just really disappointed with where it's at and I wish someone like Microsoft with their resources, could take the reigns and really deliver us a solid package.
+ VR is still a very compelling platform or medium with loads of potential. With Half-Life: Alyx on the way, perhaps the market is about to get a healthy boost in interest.
- I really need to build a new PC if I want to get solid performance out of a VR game. The 'ol Intel i7 2600k and GTX 1080 just isn't going to cut it anymore. And a new rig along the lines of what I'd expect to build will be very pricey.
(Sneak peek: I actually built a new PC in Dec '19 after I wrote most of this list up, but I'm going to save that for next years list.)
Been a long time since I had any real interest in a flight simulator. I think I still have my copies of Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2000 & 2002 in their big PC boxes. At least as a young kid, I was primarily in awe of their visuals and intrigued by the complexity. Fast forward about 20 years and, at least at a glance, they didn't appear to have made any leaps and bounds in fidelity with often flat 2D terrain and dreary lighting. Sure, the planes themselves started to look better but not much else. Meanwhile, generations of hardware have come and gone with substantial increases in technology.
Finally, seemingly out of no where comes Microsoft with Flight Simulator 2020 at the E3 press conference. I was curious, yet cautious at first as it seemed a little too good looking to be true. A few months later, various Youtubers from the flight sim community were invited to a private event to get an early hands-on. To everyone's delight, the reports back were that it was indeed as good as it looked and how they are doing it sounds rather futuristic.
Where does X-Plane 11 come in on all this? Well, FS2020 isn't available of course, and during one of my boring weekends, I started watching the new footage and then other current sims as a comparison.. and then peeking into the Twitch streams.. being somewhat weirded out because of the incredibly niche but passionate players (they'd probably prefer to be called pilots I imagine.) So now I've got this itch to try something, flip some switches, press some buttons.. oh X-Plane 11 supports VR? Hmmm.. I guess I could try using my Thrustmaster A-10 Warthog HOTAS.. Do I I want to spend $60 on this sim when I know it doesn't look as good? Once an idea is in my head though, it almost always gets the better of me.
And here we are: I initially bought the Logitech/Saitek Yoke and Throttle quadrant and rudder pedals, then shortly after came across the Honeycomb "Alpha Controls" Flight Yoke, which I think I had briefly seen in my research but assumed it was very expensive. Turns out it was only a little more than the Logitech stuff. Shame on me, I fucked up. Now I've got that and trying to get into the FS2020 Alpha test. 15 hours in XP11 and about as much if not more time spent on Youtube watching tutorials on start up procedures, ATC systems, ILS/VOR approaches, Googling' real airport diagrams and planning flights with legit online tools, downloading a dozen mods and gigabytes of hi-res satellite imagery to overlay my state. A pile of various switches, potentiometers, rotary encoders, and some Leo Bodnar boards at my side because you can never have enough buttons and switches when it comes to simulators. Fortunately, I've drawn the line at spending $20-40 for a single third-party plane add-on or $40 for weather or scenery add-ons (..but that weather one would be cool I bet.)
While X-Plane 11 doesn't have all the pretty bells and whistles that FS2020 is promising, I at least feel like I'm learning and acquiring knowledge and equipment for whenever it does eventually come out. I'm sure I'll fly around in it a bit and then be done after a handful of hours lol
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PS1) - This was actually at the very end of 2018 but it counts. Put some real hours into Lunar which caught me by surprise as for the most part, it seems these older JRPGs don't get their hooks in me like they used to. The animated cutscenes looked great and I think the music was good as well. It was cool to try a JRPG with turn-based combat that didn't function quite the same as all of the Squaresoft stuff I'm used to playing. I can't remember how far I made it in the game or why I stopped.
Cities: Skylines (PC) - This is obviously a revisit but this time I tried some more of the mods stuff out there. Bought a couple of the DLC packs I didn't have as well. Managed to find one of my old save files and continued building on my last big city. I really started to dig in and tweak the traffic patterns at particularly busy intersections. Recessed the main highway that goes straight through the city which came out pretty great. Re-did one of my big "central park" type areas with the new Park add-on. And eventually built an amusement park/boardwalk area (as best I could) on the beach front.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (PS1) - This was interesting to put some hours into (maybe 15 or so?) but good lord did it drag and that was probably still just the very beginning of the game. Maybe too raw of a JRPG for me, especially these days.
Eco (PC) - Love the concept. It's like Minecraft but what if everything you did to the world functioned more realistically. Also, there's a meteor heading towards the planet and you need to try and build a rocket to blow it up before it reaches the surface.. Provides some sense of motivation, right? Then there is this deep progression system of trade skills.
Unfortunately, the progression seems to have been tailored toward multiplayer? So it's been extremely slow moving by myself. I want to play more of this but it requires a lot of time. Part of the unique design is that they have a whole system of player run governance for use in multiplayer servers. With a bunch of different people, you can focus on a specific trade for yourself and then trade/buy/sell materials and products with other players. You can all vote for leadership and policies relating to pretty much anything. It's great in theory. But I'm just by myself so..
On top of all that, this is a pretty robust simulation so my PC struggles a bit to run the thing. I'd like to get farther in it but I don't really have the time.
Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom (PS4) - Ehhh.. This was sort've a cross 2018/2019 game. Saw it mentioned by various people. Looked and sounded good in videos. I have that other Wonder Boy game for PS4, but it's still sealed. Thought I'd give this a shot and.. I think it's more evidence that these sort of platformers just aren't for me?
I made it through the first few levels and eventually kept dying on just some basic enemies. The idea of a difficult or "tight" platformer seems to just annoy me. It doesn't seem fun. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind but yea. That's about all I did.
It's a shame because it is pretty and the music seemed decent, if not repetitive.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled (PS4) - A late entry here, I picked CTR up for $15 on a Black Friday sale. Wondering if kart racers aren't my thing now. The original PS1 release seems to be fairly well regarded, so they made this remake/remaster, and I thought I'd give it a whirl. After only a few races I was frustrated and turned it off. I do not like how the drift/boost system is handled. The idea that you slide and time three button presses should work alright, but the way the karts turn combined with course design/scale means any time I tried to drift, I would immediately swerve into a wall or something. The way you have to be turning while pressing the hop button also felt off. Most of the time I'd hop into a turn and then it wouldn't engage the drift because I wasn't full lock on the stick. I was actually faster if I just focused on driving normally and using power-ups. I feel I should note I was playing the Adventure mode on "Medium" difficulty but it seemed very hard.
Later in the day I decided to give it another shot; I cleared the first boss and a handful of races after. Most of them took multiple attempts. The drifting initially felt better and then crap again. I changed my kart characteristics to emphasize speed and decreased handling way down. It seemed like this helped as the kart was less inclined to dart in every direction and touch walls and having more speed meant I could move through these large, long curves on the tracks. Then the courses got tighter and/or had no walls so you'd fall off. This meant any sort of drifting usually resulted in me flying off course. Enemies would constantly barrage you with weapons etc etc. I wasn't having fun.
The game looks pretty great though? I bought the Mario Kart 8 on the Wii-U way back when and maybe never completed a single race due to Nintendo not letting you customize the controls. Pissed me off so much and I've never played it since. I might give CTR another go today, maybe try lowering the difficulty. Anything that would allow me more margin for error with the opponents would make it more enjoyable.
Rage 2 (PS4) - I must've played this for maybe an hour? Two? Felt so generic and uninspired, I had zero interest in continuing to play. I think I pre-ordered it way back when it was first announced with that decent looking trailer? Wanted to get the $10 Amazon discount before they took out that Prime member perk. Something like 8 months later it arrived and whatever. Meh.
- Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS (PS4)
- Knack II (PS4)
- Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition (PS4) - Already played a fair amount of this on PC a couple years back. Never finished it. I'd like to revisit it in some form. Picked it up alongside Divinity: Original Sin 2, $20 each.
- Zoids Assault (X360) - Pretty sure this is a tactics game with Zoids? I liked watching the show(s) after school when I was a teen. There are a few Zoids game but I decided to go for this one. It's not sealed per-say but I never got around to actually trying it as I didn't have my 360 hooked up.
- Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4) - Black Friday $25 pickup
- Monster Jam: Steel Titans (PS4) - Black Friday $15 pickup. Tried on PC and seemed better than I expected. Waited for it to get cheap. I'd like to show it to my nephew.
- Children of Morta (PS4) - $20 pickup on sale