Most Anticipated Games of 2017

List items

  • The follow-up to a game I could never stop thinking about and never wanted to end. Nothing will replace the place in my heart for Persona 4, but from what I can tell, I'll need to carve out a spot next to it come April 4th.

    Every aspect seems improved in some meaningful way; characters face more complex personal issues, combat has additional depth without sacrificing any of the elegance, dungeons have polished designs, and the soundtrack is much more mature and nuanced compared to the Hip Hop and J-Pop of the prior two entries.

    Early reports are pretty ecstatic over the Japanese release, and while I don't think it'll necessarily be the "best" game of the year, it will unquestionably be the most substantial gaming experience of 2017 for me.

    Edit: For better or worse, P5 sets out to perfect the formula established in Persona 3, and after about 23 hours I can say with confidence that this is the best game in the series by a mile. However, the final product feels limited by that very formula, and what it gets right only serves to highlight what Persona has always gotten wrong.

    It's just plain disappointing that characters still talk in succession, that there's only one main battle theme, that dialog options cannot steer the direction of a conversation, that social links don't have dialog unless you are about to rank up, that you can only date girls, and that the game has no teeth unless you bump it to Hard or Merciless. Anyone who has finished a Persona game in the past will be able to "read the Matrix", and that ultimately make the game feel a little less magical.

    That all said, I feel this the "Uncharted 4" moment for the series: the same game at its core, but supercharged by a newfound focus on story and character development. While I wouldn't say Persona 4 had a bad story (P3 is another discussion), but it never treated its driving narrative seriously, and the game has an laughable tone-deafness that was charming but not necessarily admirable.

    Not so in Persona 5, which regards its mature, engrossing tale with the utmost respect. In general, this is a dramatic improvement. It's effortless to like our heroes and admire their motives, as well as hate their enemies and want to take them down. But that sense of focus also means the game has a habit of restricting freedom in order to weave in exposition. P5 has no qualms about telling you to go to bed multiple nights in a row, and that's just not what I've come to expect from a series built around time-management. It also gives you a hard time when you try to goof around between Palace ventures, which is something I insisted on doing between Dungeons in P4. P5 just doesn't let go of the controller as willing as the prior games. Thankfully, it has a valid reason to do so.

    In addition to the story, the general writing and presentation has seen a major upgrade throughout. The voice acting is the strongest of any English dub I've encountered, with Cassandra Lee Morris stealing every scene as Morgana. The famous dialog options are constantly hilarious and clever, and characters curse in a way that no longer feels forced or "edgy", but authentic. I also appreciate the routine subversion of tropes: for example, Ann Takamaki's awakening is setup to be a damsel-in-distress situation, but she winds up taking command and turning the tables through sheer willpower. There's an awareness that pervades everything and makes the whole proceeding seem much more mature and intelligent.

    Overall, this is a worthy successor to P4, and unquestionably the best place to start for a series newcomer, but there's also room for improvement for Persona 6.

  • The original Freedom Planet was a criminally underrated, overlooked gem from 2014. FP2 looks to be the older, wiser, more practiced version of the bombastic original, and if Galaxy Trail can successfully bottle up the energy of FP1 into a tighter package, this is a GOTY contender.

  • It's simple formula looks primed to fix everything that's ever been wrong with the 3D Zelda series. I'm not the biggest fan of open-world games - I find the majority of their play-spaces to be devoid of personality and artistry - but if anyone can buck the trend, it's Nintendo. Like Jeff, I believe this is potentially the game-to-beat this year.

  • The Super Mario Galaxy series is just about perfect in my book, so as far as I'm concerned, the studio that produced them can do no wrong until proven otherwise. Odyssey seems positively absurd and ambitious in the same ways, so there's a good chance I'll be absolutely blown away. Again.

  • Naughty Dog might wear the crown when it comes to storytelling in video games, but BioWare is still the best when it comes to characters. Andromeda has a real shot at marrying their brilliant dialog with combat that's beyond serviceable, and that's precisely what I'm looking for in an action game at this point.

  • I wasn't in love with the original RDR, but I definitely dig the setting and potential gameplay that can be found in the digital western frontier. After the seminal Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar have my full attention. I just hope the online portion doesn't overshadow the campaign.

  • I am well past interested in any of Uncharted's gameplay offerings, but Uncharted 4 told a story engrossing enough to rekindle my interest in the series. Losing Neil Druckmann as the lead writer is off-putting, but I trust Naughty Dog when it comes to storytelling to the ends of the Earth. Hopefully with the retirement of Nathan Drake, ND takes the opportunity to rethink the gameplay formula around Chloe.

  • Windjammers is a riot, but a pain in the ass to setup on MAME. Moving it over to PS4 and adding online play is my every prayer answered.

  • Destiny was more potential wasted than most games have collectively. With Destiny 2, I expect a veteran team at Bungie to learn from their mistakes and create the game everyone thought the original would be. Moreover, a PC port would make me doubly interested.

  • The Stick of Truth was a terrific game that didn't stick with me, mostly because I don't have an attachment to the world and characters of the TV show. That said, my favorite episodes involve the kids playing make-believe, so TFBW has an opportunity to be a great episode of South Park, made playable.