Another year of games is about to come to an end--And it has to be said, 2018 wasn't quite as thrilling as 2017. It was another shitty year of enduring an incompentent fish-lipped orange sitting in the highest seat of the most powerful nation on Earth. And having to wait for most of the year before all the big releases came out. So it's a good thing that 2018 at least conjured some good indies as well. I think it's fair to say that the indies have struck biggest this year. Well, let's give them the annual praise, shall we?
5 Good Games That Weren't Released in 2018
One thing I always like to do is play through old games I never managed to finish, or replay old titles I love. 2018 certainly wasn't an exception as I had a few games that needed finishing, and there was enough drought for me to do so. Here are 5 Good Games I played throughout this year that wasn't released in 2018.
I was never that big on Dark Souls when it first came out, it took me to playing Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 to go back and really appreciate it. The level design in the first Dark Souls didn't feel consistent or as intricate as Miyazaki's later titles. And there was just something about Demon's Souls that came out earlier that made it trumph it. the atmosphere and music was just right I think? Anyway, going back to Dark Souls now has made me appreciate it a lot more, it's definitely Dark Souls when it's good unlike the many, many, many copy cats or Dark Souls 2 that doesn't seem to understand the central factors. The oppressive Dark Fantasy world, and the NPCs that are all seemingly mad or talk like they want your wallet always make for such a fun time--A fun time getting your ass kicked as you've relaxed your skills a bit too much on hand holdy AAA titles. And it's now on Switch, so yay!
Quite a paradoxical title one might say, right? Well, Horizon Zero Dawn for all of the issues I had with its by the books boring open world, and droll NPCs with dodgy voice acting, the writing in the main story ended up being surprisingly good. The issues I had with the game is what made me put off, and refrain from buying it after I had played it last year. This year was different. For a post apocalyptic game, the reveals were interesting and thrilling. I suppose it is just as well, when acclaimsed writer/game designer John R. Gonzales (Fallout New Vegas) had worked on the game, combined with the pretty graphic capabilities that the Killzone veteran developers, and that of Ashly Burch's voice acting; And you have yourself a pretty good game. Still haven't finished it quite yet though, it's an open world after all.
Okay, so hear me out. I know how this looks, I put the same game from last year on the same list. But I got 2 reasons for it. One reason is that.. well I played it again this year dammit, and the second reason is also the reason why I replayed it. The game got itself a spiffy physical edition on the Vita by the way of Limited Run Games. In many ways, this game is the swang song of the neglected Playstation Vita. And this is the definitive experience of this wonderful game of cyberpunk dystopia, anime waifus, quirky characters and a delightful soundtrack of old 80s sci-fi movies. Go read my list from last year for a more thorough description of this game. Or go buy it! Preferrably both!
Hey, remember the early 2000s and late 90s? Those were some great times for first person shooters. Half Life is a pretty memorable game in that vein, and it set the precedence for what can be done with games. Former Gamespot guy Daniel O'Dwyer has recently released an incredibly well-done documentary on said game, and you should check it out so that you may understand why I'm putting No One Lives Forever on this list. Half Life introduced the concept of NPCs, lore and an overworld you could interact and partially explore to a genre that wasn't RPG. The idea that the scenery you are traversing through isn't just some backdrop for the action, but an actual world you are exploring. No One Lives Forever cashes in on this with its well written characters, that are all satirical takes on classic Bond spy-movie archetypes, great sense of humor and fun action, not to mention some interesting level design that follows the Half Life formula.
Both this game and its sequel can be downloaded for free on the net, you can find the link on Rock Paper Shotgun's site or elsewhere due to the license for the title having long since expired that nobody really owns it anymore. Do check it out, it's worth experiencing at least once.
1. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
If Persona, Shin Megami Tensei and Atlus overall wasn't a thing then Paper Mario TTYD would probably be my favorite JRPG of all time. Nevermind the combat being fairly straightforward, accessible though still quite a bit of nuance, or it being a Mario game. No, it's a Mario game with coherent and fascinatingly designed world. Rogueport, a seedy, crime-filled town of thugs and hooligans (surprising for a Mario game already) connects itself to a vast array of locales like the sunny town of Petalburg, the eerie Boggly Woods or even to that of a wresting arena located in the sky in form of Glitzville. Thousand Year Door takes Miyamoto's outdated designs of Fire, Ice, Woods or whatever the heck and dumps it in a dustbin. It takes Mario into new and welcoming territory, which Miyamoto and others have since abandoned because innovation is a such concept that has completely slipped them by. Whether you are solving Agatha Christie-based murders on a train, being a professional wrestler, or challenging a big mean dragon in his castle, Paper Mario succeeds on being a game that never feels like it runs by the books. There is no set routine, like most games have, where all the levels starts to feel like they are progressing the same way. Every level is completed differently, with their own quirks, and that is why the Thousand Year Door today is still the best Mario game in my mind.
If Nintendo re-releases this game some day from their shadowy pits, then you owe it to yourself to play it.
Cheers everyone! 2017 is slowly coming to an end and I feel it's been a year that has kept on giving. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it's probably one of the most succesfull years for games in a long, long time. We've gotten a new Zelda, a new Mario, and technically a new Metroid all in the same year. But forget about the usual suspects for a moment, and let us instead talk about all the new exciting games coming out of Japan and the indie scene that has attracted a larger crowd than usual. I thought to spice things up with my list with some choice categories/awards I'll give to a few games this year, but also toast to a bunch of great movies and music I've seen and heard in 2017. But first I wanna do a few call outs to some great games not released this year
If there is one word that summarize my taste in video games then it's probably "weird". We tend to always associate 'weird' with something negative, but from my point of view it is just "different". To me, people who play Call of Duty for a living are 'weird' but let's just leave it at that. I've gotten my hands on this very early PS3 title that probably skipped most people by. It's a game called Folklore, and as the name would imply, it's a game where the world is based around fairy tales and myths, specifically that of the Celtic Otherworld and Irish Mythology. The game takes place in a small town called Doolin in Ireland, where you play as one of two protagonists, a girl named Ellen who is searching for her mother, whom she believes to be alive and well in Doolin (think Silent Hill 2) and Keats, a reporter for an Occult Magazine who is looking into a mysterious phone call from a woman in distress, telling him to come to Doolin.
The game's Japanese traits comes to light during the gameplay, while Folklore primes itself as an intriguing supernatural murder mystery, it shuffles between being that and a flashy action game. Both Keats and Ellen come to learn how to harness the power of the various Folk they capture to transform into Super Sentai Warriors or some shit like that; It's a Japanese game after all. The combat actually reminded me a lot of the Tales of.. games, where you apply Arts to each of the 4 buttons on your controller and the idea is to mix up different folks that specializes in different subjects, be it defensive, offensive or buff specialized abilities. Or at the very least use a Folk that can damage enemy Folk's weakpoints. The customization is pretty neat, and seems to pay homage to the likes of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou vs The Soulless army, where you use different demons alongside your regular attacks to chain up combos. It sounds neat on paper but halts in execution, as the combat becomes tirelessly repetitive after a while.
In that regard it reminds me a lot of the first NieR, it has a lot of good stuff, intriguing murder mystery, unique artstyle, excellent soundtrack, but slightly held down by barebones combat and having to play the game with both characters before you can access the final chapter. Basically like NieR, but I've managed to look past it and really enjoyed my time with it.
This game was to my understanding, Giantbomb's GOTY 2016, so that's a lot of praise for a game I had no expectations to and wasn't sure I was gonna like. Hitman Blood Money remains one of my favorite games, and Absolution was a real disappointing follow up to such a great game. The new game, confusingly titled as "Hitman", exceeded my expectation by going back to what made Blood Money such a great game. Emphasizing sprawly and creative gameplay, as opposed to storytelling, you are once again able to kill your target in various different ways. Hitman might be a little too lenient on you, giving you 'train-wheels' esque opportunities to help you kill your targets, but they are a feature that you can easily ignore. But it is hard to ignore kills that come with unique dialogue, and kill animations for the various targets. But don't worry, they are not exclusive to opportunities alone.
If you loved Hitman Blood Money then you'll love Hitman 2016, with the new updates and no longer being relient on an online connection, you've got yourself a solid game.
Believe it or not, because I certainly can't. 2017 was the year that got me hooked on Gravity Rush, back at the start of the year I had a part-time job working overseas on a ferry. I didn't bring much of my stuff with me except for my IPad and my Vita. On my Vita I had Gravity Rush lying around, having not really played it yet. I was abroad for 2 weeks so I thought it would be a perfect time to dedicate some of my own to play Gravity Rush. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The protagonist Kat is one of the most likable female leads I've played in a video game; The way she interacts with people, and her cheerfulness is such a delightful change of pace on top of all the gritty serious protagonists we've gotten used to. The gravity-bending mechanics is the game's selling point, it reminds me a lot of Sucker Punch's inFamous, with how much fun it is. You have full control of where Kat goes, horizontally or vertically, and it's great! It's the best Superhero game without really being a "superhero" game. My biggest gripe is that some of the controls on the Vita are a bit wonky, which thankfully have been fixed by BluePoint Games with the Remastered version on PS4. You owe it to yourself to play Gravity Rush.
Not released this year is a sad understatement. Ishin has not been released in the West at all, sadly, and I'm starting to doubt if it ever will. Ishin is the second samurai spin-off to the mainline Ryu ga Gotoku/Like a Dragon or Yakuza as it is called in our circles. It's a game that takes the established formula from the main series, and pulls it in a different direction. Instead of punching people into submission, you are cutting them with a katana as a good old fashioned samurai. Ishin is the first game in the series to introduce 4 different combat styles, which involve anything from a mix of a gun and a sword, to an ordinary sword style, to a fisticuffs style to a style where you solely use a gun. The combat is familiar to those who've spent a lot of time beating down dudes with a melee weapon in other Yakuza games, but this time it places more finesse on the sword fighting. You can do combos now in the Wild Dance style (where Kiryu employs both a gun and a sword). The way you dance around dudes as you slice and shoot 'em up is as amazing as anythnig else I've seen in Yakuza's flashy beat 'em up combat.
Ishin's story is heavily ingrained in Japanese history, as we are playing as the historical character Ryoma Sakamoto, who is trying to avenge his sensei and foster father's murder at the hands of a mysterious assassin who employs a fighting style reminiscent of that the fabled Shisengumi military unit. Ryoma thus sets out for Feudal Kyoto, to infiltrate the Shisengumi under the guise of Hajime Saito (the fabled Shisengumi Captain) and find the man responsible. The game plays around with history at the expense of good drama, and it does so really effectively. You get a cast of historical figures that are all portrayed by various different Yakuza characters from across the series. It's a game worth playing for any fan of the Yakuza series.
A while back on Destructoid I wrote a massive blog on the game Catherine, and its fascinating premise centered around adult relationships. Most games aren't too keen on exploring that aspect, at best you will always find the hero getting the girl at the end.. but what comes after that? In a lot of ways, it's easy to imagine Catherine as an epilogue to the Persona games, Vincent could very well be a Persona protagonist who has to deal with a whole ton of different issues than a high schooler. Catherine is a puzzle platformer, created by the same team behind Persona 3-5, which revolves heavily around relationships, dealing with such things as unexpected pregnancies, the impetus of commitment and cheating. Vincent Brooks is our protagonist, an early 30s-something guy, who is in a stable relationship with the frompy but generally normal Katherine with a K, but finds himself getting drunk and seduced by the wild and a bit 'mental' girl named Catherine with a C.
Throughout the game's story you find yourself roaming the hub area and the bar Vincent frequents every day, The Stray Sheep. Here you talk to the various patrons, as they relay their life stories on you, as well getting drunk, while a smooth voice over, narrated by Jamieson Price, shares some neat alcohol trivia with you. When you're not roaming the bar, you're in a nightmare realm, solving puzzles and coming up with techniques alongside other sheep to conquer the puzzles. Catherine is a game that shouldn't be as good as it is, the gameplay seems simple but it is actually quite challenging, and not in the way that makes me want to give up, but the kind that pushes me to constantly go forward. I've played and finished Catherine before on Xbox 360, a few years ago, but only just recently have I gotten my hands on the Stray Sheep Collection for PS3 and started to finish every aspect of the game. It's a game I can easily play again, and one I can warmly recommend.
VA-11 Hall-A is a hard game to talk about without spoiling anything concrete, and mostly because of its visual novel nature with some minor tidbits of gameplay. It's one of the most engaging and atmospheric games I've played in some time. You play as a female bartender called Jill in a gritty and dystopic futuristic neon-lit city called Glitch City. Vallhalla is the title of the bar, where our protagonist works, and instead of picking dialogue options in a conversation tree, you are mixing drinks to the various colourful patrons that frequents the bar. You might start seeing an odd pattern here, with my fascination for video games that takes place in bars but really though--Bars are locations frequently found in the video games, where the characters can relax and converse, it's the home of many characters with valuable info you need to continue your adventure. So what better setting is there than a bar, especially for a Cyberpunk game, where the bar is the center of low-life and high tech ethos that fuels the genre.
The game does have its share of nuance to it, while it seems like you're going in a straight line towards the end, this being a visual novel it does have other endings. Depending on what drink you choose to serve your customer, and how strong or not strong you make it, you might end up with a totally different outcome or steering the conversations you are having in a whole other direction. The game doesn't tell you this, which was the correct choice, because giving a player a lot of freedom leads to experimentation and makes the game feel more organic as opposed to mechanical and linear.
The music is gorgeous, and evokes that old retro-futuristic feel with its synthesizers and new-wave esque tunes. The player has freedom to choose the playlist for every bartending session, which I thought was neat. Had I played this game last year, where it was released, I would have easily put it on my list. So here it is instead!
Now here's a game I didn't expect I would like as much as I ended up doing. My history with SMT3 was a bit rocky at first, I played it a while back alongside the Persona games, and couldn't warm up to it. Not because of its gameplay, but because I wasn't the biggest fan of show but don't tell aspect it took with its story. I was always more of a Digital Devil Saga kind of guy, where story and character are at the front but not at the expense of the MegaTen combat.
My time spent with Bloodborne and newfound fondness for the Souls games have changed that, and also my dislike towards Shin Megami Tensei 4. Lucifer's Call or Nocturne has gone from a game I didn't like to one of my favorite games of all time. The atmosphere and music is as great as one could expect from Shoji Meguro, and the apocalyptic Tokyo is fascinating to explore. For a game that was released in 2003, it still looks almost on par with a modern Persona game. The colours and art holds up really well, the combat is the best turn-based combat in the biz, and Kazuma Kaneko's character and demon design are what breates life into the world. My PS3 with BC broke down a few weeks ago, so my adventure with Nocturne came to an abrupt end, one I will have to start all over with again whenever I get a new one. But you know what? I'm ready to try again! Because I will damn well finish it!
Biggest Surprise of 2017
Cuphead is a game I haven't followed at all, so when it came out of nowhere and won the hearts of many with its very unique art style; reminiscent of 1930s propaganda cartoons and Steamboat Willy I was sold. I've never been a fan of Mega Man and its shoot 'em up gameplay, but Cuphead is definitely the best Mega Man I've played. Cuphead's selling point is its charm, its music and world. The customization is a big plus too, as it allows you to choose which abilities wanna bring with you into every boss or levels you play. You can also configure the best control scheme that suits your needs. It's a game that challenges you, and doesn't pull its punches, but its charm compels you to keep going until you win.
Son, I am disappoint ver.2017
I'm gonna say it how it is, I'm a big Yakuza fan. I'm a relative newcomer to the franchise, but I've come to really appreciate this series for how unique it is. So when I finished Yakuza 1-5 and got ready for Yakuza 6, the supposed conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu's story; I had some expectations for it. What I ended up getting was a game with barebones content, dodgy combat system that relies too much on realistic physics and plays like trying to steer a fridge on rollerskates. The small amount of mini-games, substories, large parts of Kamurocho being inacessible, and the new city in Hiroshima being rather lifeless. The story is retread of pretty much the same story from the first game but where the roles are switch around a bit, it doesn't faff around too much like Yakuza 1, but it goes into ridiculous territory ala Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 but to an alarming degree. The ending feels contrived, and not worthy as a conclusion to Kiryu's story. Yakuza 6 thus takes the award "Son I am disappoint" for 2017 from me.
You know what is great about RE7? Refinement. It's the kind of thing this series has been desperately craving since Resident Evil 5, and I sincerely hope we are not in for another ride of Resident Evil games that lacks the kind of imagination RE7 brought with it. Resident Evil 4 is an important game, as its over the shoulder shooter gameplay laid a template for many great games to come, it redefined the horror genre, but it also paved way for Resident Evil's decline into stagnation. Resident Evil 0 already did that, and while I understand fans missing the old style of Resident Evil; I don't think the old Resident Evil is synonomous with fixed camera angles and photo realistic backgrounds. No, I think it has more to do with its memorable setting, locked doors that can't be unlocked without a weird key, new doors opening up that weren't there before, getting familiar with the interior of the Spencer Mansion, atmosphere. Resident Evil 7 brings all of that good stuff back with its crazed redneck antagonists that talk and act like something out of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise. If you're gonna copy other horror flicks, Capcom, then I'm glad you picked Evil Dead.
The game relies a bit too much on pre-determined set pieces here and there, and it starts to drag down near the end when you leave the Baker Estate into some crummy, boring, caves. RE7, however, is a step in the right direciton and one of the things Capcom has done right this year.
The Tales of.. games have backed themselves into a corner as of late. Ever since Tales of Graces F, the quality has dropped, the game engine hasn't in year and the environment design is boring and colourless. The combat is serviceable, and also very customize friendly this time in Berseria. What really sells Berseria, however, is its characters. I haven't enjoyed the characters in a Tales game since Vesperia, even the protagonist Velvet is very sympathetic. Velvet might not seem likable given the character change she goes through but unlike Lightning from FFXIII, Velvet's feelings are justified and she has an arc where eventually she'll lay her guard down for a bit and warm up to people. It needs to be said that none of the main characters in Berseria are particularly good guys, they are the monsters of the world they inhabitat. It's an intriguing change of pace from the last game, where all the characters were pulled out from the most generic guide to JRPG characters there is.
Berseria's commitment to telling a good revenge story shines through its characters and their interactions with each other through the usual Tales "skit events" sort of like the banter dialogue you see in BioWare games. The skits have always been the best part about these games, where the characters gets to comment on the world, their situation or the ones the travel. It's the heart of the series and this game, a game I can recommend for anyone looking for a game with good characters.
Mental Illness is a very real issue, and Hellblade for all of its emphasis on exploration and dialogue is still a very real game that almost feels like a AAA title. The combat is servicable, but still quite fun and flashy. The strength of the game is in its ability to convey a story through the internal psyche of our protagonist, Senua. Throughout the game there are voices in her head, talking over each other, telling her to give up, to persevere, they are ringing in your ears like ghosts. Playing the game with headphones presents the true experience that is Hellblade. It's a good game, and big step up from Ninja Theory's sloppy attempt at making a Devil May Cry game. Hellblade is imaginative, and good.
Most Gif-able GameThat would be Yakuza 0. Ever tried selling a game based on an animated gif? Well if you haven't then you should try with the Yakuza series. Yakuza 0 in this case is all buttered up for gif abuse, especially when Sony provides the tools through Playstation ShareFactory. The many crazy, flashy or just generally awesome moments of Yakuza's gameplay, story and mini-games are easily captured through a 5 second animated gif. Yakuza 0 is just such a great game in that regard that it's easy as that.
It's probably a coincidence that A Hat in Time's main motif being hats is shared with Nintendo's recent flagship title, Super Mario Odyssey, but even so I feel this year has been big enough to allow both games to show their strength. A Hat in Time is a great homage to the old mascot 3D platformers of the 90s to the early 2000s. Its strengths lies in its whimsical world and characters, where Odyssey is a joy to play and has some fun beautiful worlds, it lacks in distinct characters and story. Something A Hat in Time delivers in spades, the very first level features a world of Mafia gangsters, who are big burly men with mustaches dressed in an apron. Your main rival in the game is a mustache girl, and there's this horror setting where the game suddenly shifts into something really dark. A Hat in Time is a very unique 3D platformer, and really seperates itself from the games that inspried it. Challenge is also a core aspect of A Hat in Time, where every boss feels more difficult than the last. The game will cheer up anyone who's gotten soured with Yooka Laylee.
The last time I played a 3D Mario is not really that long ago, as it was 3D World for the Nintendo Wii-U but that game just didn't click for me. The 2D formula of every Mario game since New Super Mario Bros for the 3DS has just run its course, where even the introduction of 3D couldnt' save it from boring me. The last proper 3D Mario game I've played would Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, so I went into Odyssey being mezmirized by the fun gameplay Nintendo has showed off at last year's E3. Mario Odyssey reminds me why I like video games so much, they are imaginative and first and foremost, they are fun. It brings back all the fun exploration of Mario 64, and mixes it with the pretty colours of the Galaxy games. As it stands, it's my favorite 3D Mario game yet.
Cuphead is a balls-sweatingly hard shoot 'em up platformer, but the gorgeous art and complimentary 1930s music is what draws me in and makes me persist in my 'venture to conquer all of the game's challenges. There isn't a whole lot to say about Cuphead outside of its mechanics. In a lot of ways it is more of a boss battle simulator than actual platforming game, as the platform levels are in the few, and the boss battles are in the many. But the boss battles are so effective and memorable that it doesn't matter, because Cuphead's intention was never to be a Mega Man game. It's a Cuphead and I am glad it exists.
There are a lot of great games this with phenomenal music, but there's only game soundtrack that has left as big of an impression on me. And that is Persona 5. I adore everything about this game, but the soundtrack is in an amazing category of its own. Mixing the tunes of acid house, trip-hop, lounge and soft rock to create a unique and bumbing tune that perfectly compliments the suave and charming picaresque adventure that is Persona 5. Shoji Meguro is man who wears many masks, same as the protagonist, he cannot be defined by one genre. In Catherine he experimented with classical music, in Persona 3 it was hip-hop, in Persona 4 it was contemporary pop and in Persona 5 it is acid house. Having said that there are distinct tunes in the game's soundtrack that feels like a nostalgic callback to his early works like Digital Devil Saga or the Raidou games. No matter what, the Persona 5 soundtrack is something I can't help but listen to every single day in the car, when I can get away with it. It is simply that good.
Steven Soderbergh, the guy who keeps saying he's retiring but then he isn't but then he is. Much like Miyazaki, the industry keeps compelling him to come back and prove he is not ready to retire by delivering something new. Soderbergh's repetoire is mixed in a bit of everything, sci-fi, thrillers, crime dramas, even comedy. He even experimented with the likes of the film Bubble, that suddenly labelled him an arthouse director. Logan Lucky is a return to form in vein of his Ocean's Eleven days. It's a heist film with a really tongue-in-cheek type of humor in vein of Wolf of Wall Street. It's not exactly as marvelous as Guy Richie's Snatch but Soderbergh manages to make an ensemble cast of film stars, comedians and others to work really well together.
Perhaps a boring entry for this list but I like Star Wars, and I like Rian Johnson, and I'm really fond of Oscar Isaac and Daisey Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn. These characters were a delight in Force Awakens, and I couldn't wait to see where Johnson would take them in the latest film in the new trilogy. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either, The Last Jedi makes the bold move of dumping out everything we thought we knew about Star Wars from the previous film. Much like Kreia in KOTOR 2, a true Jedi would never let teachings and example dictate the choices they make. They fight opression because they must, and in The Last Jedi we get to see how the Jedi needs to change, we get to see how the Rebellion changes, how the characters changes, but we are still left with many questions. Questions I hope would at least come to light in the next film if nothing else.
While technically a 2016 cinema release, I only got to watch it when it was released for Blu-Ray in 2017. Director Damien Chazelle's homage to classic whimsical Hollywood musicals was a delight. It's not often I find myself watching musicals but the casting of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as well as the production value for the film compelled me. The love for classic Hollywood bears resemblance to the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar, also from last year, only less satire and more rhythm carried by excellent composed music that helps transcend the genre to new heights, and perhaps making it relevant again.
It's been a while since I've seen such a fascinating film that depicts a very interesting topic related to the superhero craze we see these days. 2014 had Birdman, a film starring the-ever-so compelling Michael Keaton playing a washed up Hollywood actor, best known for playing an iconic superhero, who is now trying to get back on his feet by mounting a Broadway Play centered on a famous short story author. But while that film placed its emphasis more on Hollywood itself, and how hard it is to survive in that business, Marston and Wonder Women gives a thrilling insight look on the fetishism, masochism that is rooted in the creation of one of the most iconic female comic book heroes of all time. At its core, it's a love story but not the common kind, it's a glimpse into a man's (Psychologist, William Marston) functional three-way domestic relationship with his wife, and young teaching assistant, the likes of which audiences seldom ever see on screen.
What's fascinating though isn't so much anything concrete about the creation of a comic book character, but the implied lesbian relationship between the wife and the assistant that sprouts from it. As romantic story goes, it's a compelling film.
If you had told me that Blade Runner would be getting a sequel and it would actually turn out really well, I'd say you must be crazy. But I guess I'm the crazy one. For being a cult hit, the sequel sure had an immense marketing campaign backing it. Getting noteworthy anime directors like Shinichiro Wantanabe to direct a beautiful anime prequel is like the best thing ever. Blade Runner 2049 is more than the average blockbuster, it paces itself as very methodically through its noire-esque story. There's a bit of action, and tension, but much like its predecessor it is more interested in building character and atmosphere. As opposed to being a film centered on an aging Harrison Ford, ala Crystal Skull or the new Star Wars, we are introduced to a new protagonist, portrayed by the formidable Ryan Gosling. Gosling's detective character is a replicant, a bio-engineered android, whose sole purpose is to be cheap labour for off-world colonies built by their human creators. Despite this otherwordlyness, Blade Runner is ultimately cyberpunk as opposed to space-opera like Star Wars. It's more interested in the low-life aspect of the neon-lit-high-tech distant future.
Gosling's character K is employed as a Blade Runner, same as Deckard, whose job is to hunt and/or destroy any remaining older model replicants. While K keeps his emotions at bay, he lets his guard down whenever he is alone with his hologram-girlfriend. The premise evokes memories of Spike Jonze's Her, with regards to artificial relationships we have towards fictional people.
This is how the lower class people are kept in line, and you'll notice with K that he is painfully aware that the only woman in his life is programmed to love him.
But does it matter?
The thematic concept of both Blade Runner films is that the boundary between reality and fiction - organic and synthetic - is strikingly easy to overlook and impossible to enforce. 2049 succeeds at conveying a story that while not original in its theme, is still a very strinkingly beautiful movie.
Gravity Rush 2: Here I thought Gravity Rush was a great game, out comes the sequel not too long after I finish the first game and blows it out of the water. Gravity Rush 2 trumps its predecessor on every aspect, from the combat, to the beautiful setting of Hexville and the new city Jirga Para Lhao, but that's not the jist of it. The power of the PS4 allows Gravity Rush 2 to extend its capabilities to unending heights. Kat is as expressive and likable character as she always was. Her very carefree and upbeat disposition feels synonomous with the game's photo mode concept, to a point where even Kat takes great pleasure at capturing every moment of her adventure. You can customize her stance and everything when taking pictures. But the most important aspect is the gravity mechanics, which have never played better than they do now. Her new powers grants Kat lots of new ways to traverse the cities, and the soundtrack is as bamboozlingly upbeat and cheery as its protagonist, even coming packed with new renidition of old tracks from Gravity Rush 1 like 'Pleasure Quarter'. The story is also more interesting than before, there are more characters and adversaries for Kat to take down and her friendly rivalry with fellow gravity shifter Raven is as fun as Bayonetta and Jeanne. Gravity Rush 2 is a criminally overlooked game that deserves your attention before its servers shuts down in January 2018. Get it now!
Makimura Makoto(slight spoilers): In truth, there are a lot of great characters this year, but I felt already honoured quite a few from Persona 5 last year with the Japanese release. So we are going with Makimura Makoto. It could just as well be Majima in 0, as he is a signifigantly different kind of character in Yakuza 0. And Tachibana is an intriguing mystery, and a man with a heart of gold, willing to lay down his life for his family and allies alike. But Makoto is at the center of it all in Yakuza 0. Despite how she might seem like a trophy, made to be won, she is anything but that. Makoto having suffered from her time spent in her home country, being seperated from her only family in an alien country that despises her, getting picked up by malicious human traffickers that would cause her imminent blindness. She's persevered all of this pain, trying to find her brothe,r while working as a masseuse under a man named Lee in Sotenbori, Osaka prefecture who looks out for her as a fellow Chinese immigrant. Makoto doesn't require badass fighting skills to stand up to the toughest Yakuza in all of Kanto, as every corner of the Yakuza empire in Japan is out for her. Makoto is the key to acquiring the Empty Lot in Kamurocho that would secure a valuable territorial foothold in all of Kanto. Makoto stands firm in her desire to save her brother, and willingly confronts the most dangerous people to rid herself of them and be with her family. One of her best characters are the ones she shares with Majima, while their relationship doesn't end as happy as it probably could have been. Ultimately, Makoto gets to live free of the Yakuza, happy, with a family and that is enough for Majima to be happy.
NieR: Automata: Of course Nier is getting on the list, lads. But in truth, as someone who played the first game I am not as overly impressed with Automata as many others are. But not many people played the first one, so most people don't have any prior relations to what one could expect from Yoko Taro. As someone who's played the first Nier, I am rested and assured that Automata does deliver on all the weird aspects. The game's very unconventionally told story, is one that could only be told through a video game, whether it be watching a recording of yourself setting up the game settings and your inventory, or having to retrieve your corpse. The way it does things feels like something you'd expect out of an indie title. But Automata goes through with it, because genres means little to Yoko Taro, a game can't be confined by such trivial limiations as that. If you're gonna immerse the player, you might as well destroy the 4th wall and let the player become a part of the story. The first NieR did something very similarly, it would arbitrarily switch into a 2D side scoller, text adventure, survival horror and other things at a moments notice. The characters in Automata are servicable at best, which is what made me less impressed with its overall narrative. Existentialism is great and all but I already got that from the cast of NieR 1. I think I liked the side characters like Pascal more than the actual protagonists, except maybe for A2. Nevertheless, Nier Automata is a game people will talk about for a while, let's hope this sparks people's interest in playing the first game enough to ignore its flaws and finish it too. You owe it yourself, and to Emil, to do that.
Best Hair of 2017 (Because it's worth it)
Final Fantasy XV: Comrades: Say what you will about Final Fantasy XV, the game's multiplayer has got one of the absolute best character creators in any video game. I've seen how much detail they put into those MMOs over in Korea, and I feel the same has been done here in Japan with XV. Almost any aspect of your clothes can be coloured, the hair flows an wavers real naturally and realistically it's like I'm looking at a commercial from France. Unlike BioWare games, where your character walks like a chicken who just got back from Afghanistan and hair that looks like it was made from varnished wood, the characters in Final Fantasy XV, both male and female, walk like people. Disregarding the limited things you can do in the multiplayer and the combat being dodgy, I wanted to play it regardless just for that CC alone, it says a lot about how far we've come and what we can do with tech that something like this can sway me. I just like a good character creator.
Yakuza 0: This game is an immense step up from prior games in terms of story and combat. Its promise of a playable Majima, and a young Kiryu, was interesting alone, i didn't think however that the guys at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios could actually pull of something as competent, and edge of your seat interesting, as Yakuza 2 again. But they did. The combat has never been as fun as it is now. 4 styles, packed with their own unique counters, special moves and heat actions. 0 brings two full fledged mini-games based on Cabaret Club &amp;amp; Real Estate management, and lots of the usual detailed side activities, packed with their own side stories. Add to that an interesting cast of characters, both minor and major, great soundtrack and you've got a winner with Yakuza 0.
Game I Wish I Had Played
Pyre: There were a lot of indie titles I wish I could have played, everything from Tokyo Dark to Battle Chef Brigade, the year 2017 had a lot to offer when it came to indie titles. But the one that intrigued me the most was Pyre. This game was developed by Supergiant Games, the developer known for the incredibly stylish games Bastion and Transistor. Being stylish is a Supergiant stamp, and Pyre is definitely stylish, but it's also innovative in terms of gameplay. Combining something as ludicrous as basket ball with visual novel storytelling is the kind of thing your inebriated hippie friend would think up after smoking a big fat joint. But it seems to work really well, and I wish I could have experienced. 2018 will have to be the year where I'll start saving up for it.
Runner Ups: Battle Chef Brigade, Tokyo Dark, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
The King of the Hill - Numero 1
You never saw it coooooomiiiiiiing, it was too fast for your eyes! Or not?
After ceaseless amount of waiting I finally got to play Persona 5 last year, when I impulsive imported the Collector's Edition from Japan. But I wasn't satisfied with just the Japanese version, I of course had to play the localized copy so I could actually talk about the game too.
The Persona games are games about building things up very carefully, just enough for you to keep getting invested in every angle of their world. Whether it be spending time with your fellow students, a gun launderer, helping out a guy with his political campaign, your classmates, a talking cat, or watching Like a Dragon in the cinema as Makoto is mesmerized by the manlyness that is Kiryu Kazuma-chan, or whether it is about summoning an armada of Personaes in the image of mythological and historical figures, while battling demons in a nightmare realm. All of it and much more is what makes up the Persona series. All nurtured in a more personal story than before, while the school events and outings from Persona 4 has taken a backseat at the expense of a stronger story emphasis, it is still grounded on a more personal level. it's about not about saving the world, as much as it is about saving a friend in trouble, and if you happen to make the world a better place doing that, then that's just a bonus. It's a big Arsene Lupin homage in anything but name.
Instead of being the passive receiver, where the characters have been forced to act because action has been taken against them, the cast of Persona 5 decides to be proactive and fight the criminals who manages to conceal their inhumanities from the eyes of the authorities.
I like that it's easier to question the motives of the Phantom Thieves than it was the Investigation Team or SEES, I like that the new characters feel more grounded and realistic, like people I've known in high school, and I like that the tone is more reminiscent of MegaTen, Persona 3 and earlier games, I absolutely love the bumbing soundtrack, mixing elements from acid house, soft rock and lounge music, it's a soundtrack I can listen to every single day. I love the colours, the aesthetics, and the overlapping animations between battle and dungeon crawling, even the pause menus; it's Picasso painting. A culmination of all the things the series have learned, put into one big package. Persona 5 isn't just my Game of the Year, it's also one of my favorite games of all time. It's a damn fine game, yo. I'm already looking forward to seeing what Hashino is gonna do next with Project Fantasy, and the Catherine remaster.
2016 is a year that is looking very promising; There's a lot of big AAA titles on the line-up of planned release in 2016. Rise of the Planet of the Tomb Raider Ape Machines have already been released a short few days ago, so that one is off the list for me although it was originally released for the Xbone, it has now moved on to PC effectively making it a new release for me. But we've only scratched the surface of this year so I want to slowly, and carefully, list a bunch of games that is getting me excited for 2016. Here we go!
10. Dreamfall Chapters: Book 5
It only took more or less a decade for the supposed conclusion to arrive though sadly it'll be delivered episodicly, I'm pretty sure the first episode came out in.. 2013? We're only just nearing the end now and despite it all I'm really getting excited. The tension has riled up for Chapters with Book 3 & 4 alike, where it otherwise started slow from an otherwise very anti-climatic ending with the previous Dreamfall. There's still a lot of threads left hanging which haven't been answered yet and worries me whether that could possibly be cramped into the final chapter of this game. But surely not the final chapter for The Longest Journey, I hope--But the final chapter for Zoe and Kian.
Hellblade is Ninja Theory's first independently developed game, which also happens to be an action game in the vein of their previous titles like Heavenly Sword, or Enslaved, so the alarmingly similar title might not seem as coincidental as it would appear. It's the concept of the game and the quality of Enslaved and Heavenly Sword that has me excited. The main character struggles with mental illness as part of the larger themes in the game's plot, which seems very promising and I personally enjoyed their 2 previous games that weren't Devil May Cry. NT has taught me that they are at their best when Tameem is not doing the writing, so I hope the same is true for this game because there's a lot riding on it, I imagine--What, with it being their first actual indie title that feels like an AAA game.
2. Yakuza 0: The Promised Land
The Yakuza series is a brand new favorite series added to my roster--It carries a lot of the things I like about Japanese games like Persona. A faithful recreation of a modern Japanese city with some excellent writing to boot. In terms of being cinematic, it rivals Metal Gear Solid but never at the expense of great gameplay. The combat is so much fun but it is only a small aspect of the otherwise gelatinous mass that summarizes the games content. Tons and tons of creative mini-games and deep side quests, that rivals games like The Witcher 3 in terms of depth and ingenuity. Yakuza 0 functions as a prequel to the series in the late 1980s Japan, which already has me hooked on its setting alone. Japan. In the 80s? Yes, please, it's a time of careless handling of your indisposable income and it is the time, where we get to play as a young Kiryu and Majima respectively. The planned release so far is 2016 though it is most likely subject to change but we'll roll with it and hope it is true. FEEL THE HEAT!
1. Persona 5
I don't think it's any secret, to anyone who knows me online, that the Persona series has held a special place in my heart--Everything from its stylish aesthetics, to it's genuinely authentic writing, characters and setting to the fun combat and downright excellent soundtrack. Atlus' Persona series is TEH JRPG for me in every possibly way.The combat looks as great as ever, the navigation of the mundane modern city of its setting looks about as Persona as it gets and the party members so far seem interesting; The picaresque romantic thief theme has me in spades, I'm confident that the game is going to distinquish itself from its predecessors as its own thing and that's what has always made each game feel great and memorable. Bring on Persona 5. 2016 is our year.