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Found 12 results

  1. Jason Clement

    Game of the Year 2018 - Jason's Picks

    2018 always had an uphill battle going for it. After all, how do you compete with an amazing year in video games like 2017 had? And yet, even though it predictably did not reach those lofty heights, 2018 still had its share of good video games. Especially indie games, which really seemed to get more of the spotlight thanks to a lesser amount of super high profile AAA games out on average. A few of the titles that didn’t quite make my list but deserve shoutouts include No Man’s Sky, which had a great update that added a lot of content and made the story way more meaningful. Surviving Mars is an excellent simulation game where you attempt to build and sustain your own colony on Mars. Swords of Ditto is a neat little game with a creative twist in that you play as a new hero in a changed world (100 years in the future) each time you die. Runner 3 is great fun and much improved from its predecessor. Miles & Kilo is a neat, 8-bit-esque runner that could almost be summed up as “Uncharted action setpieces if they were attempted on the NES.” And The Gardens Between is one of the most creative games I played this year that I didn’t get to spend quite as much time with as I wanted. But I digress. Here are my top 10 games of 2018. 10) Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido If I’m being completely honest, Sushi Striker almost didn’t make my list. I didn’t fully understand the nuances behind the gameplay until maybe about halfway through, meaning I was coasting on my knowledge of the basics until that point. That said, developer Indieszero did an admirable job creating something entirely new and fresh. Amidst the fast-paced (and admittedly stressful at times) puzzle gameplay there is a full-blown anime that has a completely ridiculous yet fun and self-aware story about sushi and a resistance that is fighting against an empire trying to control it. Sadly, Sushi Striker is likely a one-and-done deal since it didn’t sell well, but I’ll cherish my time with it as one of the more interesting chances taken in gaming lately. 9) Kirby Star Allies Star Allies is the first game since Kirby’s Return to Dreamland to really make me feel like a kid again. Having three allies fight alongside you seems like an unnecessary gimmick at first since Kirby titles aren’t usually known for their difficulty (at least not upfront). But HAL really found a way to make having four characters on-screen at once compelling, and it’s just plain cool to see Meta Knight or other series stalwarts fighting alongside Kirby (especially in boss battles). This might also be the most beautiful game in the series to date (Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse aside), thanks to the increased capabilities of the Switch. Also, this particular entry has the most Dragon Ball Z-like ending ever and it’s something you need to see to believe. 8) Mini Metro Mini Metro is a great example of a game that’s simple to play, yet difficult to master. I love how simple it is; you literally drag your finger across the screen to create lines for trains. And... that's pretty much it. At first, you’ll have only a few trains to work with, but as both the city and your infrastructure grow, you’ll need to allocate your resources in such a way that you can meet the needs of all the people needing to get to their respective stops. I do wish the game had more achievements and was more goal-oriented, but the basic score attack mode is so addictive that I lose hours at a time just trying over and over to create the best train system I can. If you love strategy games, you can’t pass up Mini Metro. 7) Overcooked! 2 Somehow I didn’t play the first Overcooked! until shortly before 2 came out. I think it’s because I always viewed it as a multiplayer-only title and since I don’t have many other people to play with locally, well, you get the picture. However, the critical acclaim of the first original spoke to me and I was determined to play the sequel when it launched. And I couldn’t have been more wrong about it. Even as a single-player experience, Overcooked! 2 is a blast to play. You’ll need patience to master controlling two characters by yourself; just imagine it as a sort of relay race that goes on for a few minutes each time. Preparing each meal and keeping up with each order is fast and frantic fun, especially when combined with the way each level throws different curveballs at you and tries to impede your progress in different ways. Overcooked! 2 is easily a strong contender for the best co-op multiplayer game of the year; it’s that good. 6) Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom I grew up in a Nintendo household so I really had no experience with the Wonder Boy/Monster Boy series until last year’s excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Playing through it made me feel like I had pretty much experienced all I needed to from that series, but boy was I wrong. Although Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom still feels like a SEGA Master System/Genesis game at its heart, it’s also a much more in-depth experience. It’s a happy marriage between Metroidvania and Zelda 2 with so much exploration, new skills and abilities, and puzzles to solve that it’s impossible for me not to love every moment of it. Cursed Kingdom is also gorgeous; I can now see why it took some 5+ years for this game to finally come out. All of the callbacks to previous games in the series, whether through new musical arrangements of older themes, visual nods, and cues also help make this one of the most memorable and charming games of 2018, if not a bit difficult in spots. 5) Octopath Traveler Going into 2018, I thought Octopath Traveler had real potential to be my favorite game of the year. Upon playing it, there are a few things that unfortunately prevent this, but I really can’t complain too much since most of the characters have compelling stories to tell and the game features one of the best battle systems and possibly the best soundtrack of the year. Octopath Traveler is that rare game I couldn’t put down because I just had to see what was next; hopefully its success means it won’t be too long before we see another entry. 4) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Super Smash Bros. Ultimate absolutely lives up to its name as the best Smash game to date. An insane 74-character roster (at least starting out) with great new additions (shoutout to King K. Rool in particular) gives this game tremendous replay value. It also offers some of the most entertaining, challenging, and creative fights I’ve played thanks to the new Spirits mode and World of Light, which acts as the game’s single-player campaign. We might not get another Smash for a long while now, but that’s okay because Smash Ultimate will be played for a long time to come. 3) Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion + Season 2 content With over 750 hours of game time and counting, Splatoon 2 is still my most played Switch title by far, and it’s gotten even better in its second year. The free updates that have been provided for the main game have added everything from new levels to new weapons and gear, great Splatfests, and even new Salmon Run stages. But let’s talk about Octo Expansion for a sec. To date, it’s the single best piece of DLC I’ve ever played. It’s what Super Mario Galaxy 2 was to its predecessor. Forget the main campaign -- the creative scope of Octo Expansion’s 80 levels is nothing short of incredible. Not every level is a winner, mind you, but most are thoroughly enjoyable. Octo Expansion also adds a great new piece of lore to the Splatoon universe with the Deep Sea Metro and all its weird inhabitants. If you thought Splatoon had a weirdly cool, urban vibe to it before, the DLC dials it up to 11. And the story and final boss make up one of the most memorable and unique moments in the series so far. If you’ve ever been a fan of Splatoon 2, Octo Expansion is a must-play. 2) Yoku’s Island Express Every year there is at least one game that resonates with me in a deep way, usually because it has a great atmosphere that I connect with. Yoku’s Island Express is that game in 2018. I can’t fully express to you why, but it hits all the right notes for me. The art style is superb, the characters are charming as heck, the gameplay is a wonderful marriage between Metroidvania adventure and pinball, and the plot is like something out of a Pixar film (even if it’s a bit anticlimactic in the finale). Even the soundtrack is possibly my favorite from the whole year, borrowing from more lighthearted Polynesian/Hawaiian fare to trip-hop and more; it’s wonderful. Heck, I even platinumed the game, which is only my second time ever. Yoku’s Island Express is an incredible debut for developer Villa Gorilla and I can’t wait to see what they do next. 1) Marvel’s Spider-Man I knew Marvel's Spider-Man was going to be a good game. Heck, I even imagined it’d be great. How could it not be after those incredible E3 demos, two years in the running? What I didn’t expect, however, was for it to completely shatter my expectations and give us the best cinematic Spider-Man story to date (save for Into the Spider-Verse, which just recently released at the time of this writing and is amazing, no pun intended). Spider-Man really is the complete package. It offers a fully-explorable New York, tons of sidequests and enemies to fight (too many, some would even say), lots of collectibles, and a combat system that is extremely fluid and well done. But at the end of the day, it’s the story that really makes the game special for me. To explain why would delve into spoilers, but there’s an emotional narrative that’s pulled off extremely well, and the climax and final battle are a huge payoff for the story arc that slowly builds throughout the game. This is the single best representation of Peter Parker as Spider-Man and, without a doubt, the best superhero game to date. Bravo, Insomniac Games.
  2. Going for another night of #Splatoon2 and fun! Come swing by for more tunes, more fun, and more splatting! It's going to be a morphenominal night! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  3. Trying out #Splatoon2 for the first time tonight! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and have a morphenomenal night with me and the rangers! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  4. We first got word about Splatoon 2's 3.0 update in last month's Nintendo Direct, and wouldn't you know it, it's already here. The amount of additions, changes, and fixes is too numerous to mention here, but here's a rundown of the major things that the update adds, as a reminder. First off, Callie is back! Yes, if you meet a certain condition in the game's story campaign, Callie will appear in Tentakeel Outpost in Octo Canyon and offer recent multiplayer stats about the player's character. Next, 100 pieces of gear are being added; they're a combination of new and returning gear (from the first Splatoon). New songs from Chirpy Chips (an in-game chiptune band also from the first game) are being added to multiplayer matches. And tonight, Camp Triggerfish (originally from the first Splatoon) will be added to the level rotation. Finally, arguably the biggest new addition to the gameplay is a new rank called "Rank X." It'll be the most challenging experience in Ranked mode thus far, and any players that reach S+10 (or are currently at that point or above) will attain the rank. Rank X players will battle to increase their X Power level, and each month, 500 players with the highest X Power levels will be announced on the Splatnet 2 mobile app. X Power levels will also be reset every month, thereby reducing players' ranks back to S+9. According to Nintendo, this is being done to encourage players of all ranks to enjoy improving their play and maintaining their skill, as opposed to simply focusing on playing to rank up. To see a complete list of the other changes and fixes that Update 3.0 brings, see the official documentation on Nintendo's website. Splatoon 2's 3.0 update is scheduled to go live at 6 PM PT later today. Source: Press Release Will you be checking out the new additions in Splatoon 2's 3.0 update?
  5. Though we had previously gotten a "mini" Nintendo Direct in January, the one we had yesterday was effectively the first real substantial Nintendo Direct of the year. And what a Direct it was! I won’t cover every announcement here as there are plenty of other places to go for a detailed recap, including watching the actual video itself. Instead, I'll be analyzing what we saw and what it means, all starting with the video's biggest reveal. Super Smash Bros. is finally coming to Switch, and it’s likely not a port Let's be real here: Of everything Nintendo could have announced, Super Smash Bros. was one of the least suspected games. In fact, it was almost a given that it wouldn't be shown. Why? Because every past iteration of the game has been announced at E3, arguably the most important video game industry event of the year. The fact that they chose to reveal the game now instead of E3 is very interesting; perhaps Nintendo wants to it to have a greater mindshare among fans now rather than simply revealing it four months before launch. The strategy behind it makes sense; generate a ton of hype and let fans spread the word, then get even more info in June. You think people were excited for E3 before? They’re going to be ecstatic now that it’s guaranteed Smash will be the main showcase. And, oh yeah – the game is coming out this year as well. It was a well-played, strategic move on Nintendo’s part, and the reveal was pulled off excellently (the reflection of the Smash logo in the Inkling’s eye was a great touch). Those short few seconds will help sustain the hype for Nintendo and the Switch over the next few months as we wait to see what else they’ll reveal. Third parties are crushing it on Switch (or should I say "Crashing" it?) The Switch already pulled off some impressive third-party surprises in 2017. From Bethesda’s Skyrim, Doom, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to Rockstar’s L.A. Noire and more, the Switch is getting the most third-party support it’s seen since the Gamecube’s heyday. But yesterday’s Direct was a clear affirmation that third-parties are continuing to take notice of the Switch’s success and that they’re largely here to stay this time around. Nowhere was this more evident than with the announcement of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy – previously a PS4-exclusive – coming to Switch this year. Not only that but other powerhouse AAA titles like South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Okami HD, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and even indie hits like Undertale are making their way over as well. Unless Nintendo does something to really botch up the 2018 release schedule, momentum will likely only keep building from here as more and more third parties square up to release their games and nab their own piece of the Switch pie. The Port, Remaster, and Collection Plan – How 3DS will be sustained Microsoft and Sony would probably be booed into oblivion if they announced as many ports, remasters, and collection/remixes as Nintendo announced, but there’s at least one good reason why the latter can get away with it for now. The Wii U was an unmitigated sales disaster and only the most hardcore Nintendo fans played whatever games came out on it. So, for most people, when it comes to these ports? This is all new material, baby, and that includes games like the much-lauded Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – all of which we’ll see before the end of this year. On a similar note, we finally have a good idea of Nintendo’s plan for the 3DS going forward. We saw some of this last year, but the recent Direct outlines the fact that 3DS will be sustained with ports, enhanced remasters/remakes, and collections/remixes. And why not? It’s clear that Nintendo will be focusing 90-95% of its creative efforts on Switch now, and releasing ports and remakes of older games will be the cheapest, fastest, and most effective way to ensure that 3DS players will still be thrown a bone every now and then. Not only that, but Nintendo has chosen some interesting games that even longtime fans will have a hard time ignoring. Luigi’s Mansion is something we haven’t seen since the game’s original release on Gamecube in 2001, so its arrival on 3DS – especially after its sequel, Dark Moon, released on the handheld in 2013 – is a much-welcomed addition to the library. WarioWare Gold is getting the same treatment that Nintendo gave to Mario Party: The Top 100 and Rhythm Heaven Megamix, where it’s essentially a compilation of the series’ best mini-games masquerading as a new game. Yet, it’s been years since we’ve gotten a new WarioWare title, so many fans are excited and willing to overlook that particular tidbit. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a bit of a headscratcher. Developer Alpha Dream released Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions – an enhanced remake of the very first game in the series with a new, added side story – just last year, and now they’re doing another remake? Let’s not forget that they skipped over the second game, Partners in Time, either. Personally, I would think that many fans are getting fatigued from this series with all of the releases in recent years, but apparently they must be selling. That said, there are still new 3DS games on the horizon with the likes of Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers, Detective Pikachu, and Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. Also, I suspect Nintendo is holding back one or two other new 3DS titles for an E3 reveal – possibly a new 2D Zelda as one last hurrah for the series on the system. Aside from that, expect to see this trend of ports and remakes on the 3DS as the handheld (presumably) continues to die down in 2019. The future for Splatoon 2 is bright; it’s the closest thing Nintendo has to a Games-as-a-Service title now Splatoon 2 is, without a doubt, one of the biggest successes on Switch outside of Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Plenty of players dismissed it as a 1.5 version when it was initially announced, but the amount of new content Nintendo continues to pour into it is staggering. Oh, and did I mention that the DLC has been 100% free? It’s no wonder that the game manages to maintain a steady playerbase to this day. And now with yesterday’s Direct, they’ve confirmed the 3.0 update will bring dozens of new items, three new courses, and a brand new rank (Rank X) among other things. But even more importantly, Splatoon 2 is getting its first paid DLC, which smartly introduces a new single-player campaign called 'Octo Expansion' instead of splintering the player-base with multiplayer content that’s locked behind paywalls. The new campaign is quite hefty to boot, with 80 missions in addition to new stories that shed light on the series’ different characters. Oh, and you’ll unlock access to Octoling characters in multiplayer after beating it. With the continuing DLC and Octo Expansion, Nintendo appears to have a pretty clear roadmap for Splatoon 2 and values it as one of their biggest properties to keep supporting. I’m willing to bet Octo Expansion may not be the last paid DLC either; if new free DLC continues past this year, they’ll likely use the paid expansions to help fund the free updates for multiplayer while keeping the paid stuff to non-essential, optional features. Nintendo’s roadmap into 2019 and beyond Yesterday’s Direct obviously didn’t reveal everything this year has to offer, but we did get a look at a good chunk of it. Here are the most important things we now know about where the company is heading with its strategy. Nintendo is rallying around Super Smash Bros. as its big title for 2018 There will, of course, be other games coming this Fall, but these other titles will likely act as supporting games. This will probably include the still-unnamed Yoshi title that was revealed last year in addition to the new Fire Emblem. Beyond that, perhaps we'll get a Mario Party or other tertiary title? If anything, the biggest question mark is now Animal Crossing. Will we finally see it a new one for Switch at E3? Or will Nintendo save it for 2019? If Metroid Prime 4 is positioned as next year's major game, it stands to reason that it probably won't matter whether Animal Crossing releases this year or next. We’ll find out for sure in three months whether we’ll see it in 2018 or not. Switch’s lineup will likely continue to be padded with ports for the next year or two Nintendo has done an impressive job releasing at least one big game a month for Switch since its launch. But if it wants to maintain that schedule, it’ll need to rely on ports to do it, simply because new games take time to develop and it likely can't sustain that kind of momentum with them. Case in point, this spring we’re getting four ports; Bayonetta 1 and 2 have already released, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition are coming in May. That leaves April as the only month without a first-party title for now (January also had nothing). As for the second half of the year, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the only confirmed port so far; it’ll be releasing in July. Don't be surprised if we get at least one or two more before the end of 2018. Nintendo will, for the first time in a while, be able to rely on third parties to help fill the gap between first-party releases For the last five years (at the very least), Nintendo has turned to indie games to help fill in gaps while their own first-party titles were being polished for release. This was largely out of necessity since most of the third-party support for the Wii U trickled off fast in 2013. But with the advent of Switch, third-parties are back in a big way and are releasing some of their popular titles on the platform, making the wait between big first-party titles like Smash Bros. a little easier. Also, let’s not forget the onslaught of indie games that have been coming consistently every Thursday since the end of last Summer or so. 3DS is being wound down with smaller games and ports This was expected, but what’s surprising is how Nintendo is actually keeping the 3DS alive longer than most expected. With this in mind, we'll likely see the platform being kept alive with ports and smaller games until 2020 when it’s either retired or succeeded by something else. That said, the future is looking pretty good for Nintendo. While it's hard to say whether the Switch will hit its goal of selling 20 million units for the year of fiscal 2018 (it will easily pass that number in total sales to date) it definitely looks a lot more plausible with the impending arrival of Super Smash Bros. and the gauntlet of other great games coming our way soon. What are your thoughts on the recent Direct? Has it changed your outlook on Switch this year?
  6. Jason Clement

    Game of the Year 2017: Jason's Picks

    Did anyone have any inkling of how good 2017 would be for video games before the year started? Even knowing full well that Breath of the Wild would likely be amazing, I think this year took most people by surprise. Honestly, we haven’t had a year full of titles this amazing since… 2011, at least. Or maybe even 2007 (Bioshock, Portal, Super Mario Galaxy). Heck, some would argue 1998 (Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life). There was something for everyone this year, and arguably even too much of it. 2018 will be a busy year for sure; not only will we be playing all of the newest releases, we’ll be using whatever free time is left to catch up on our backlog of amazing games from 2017. Seriously. With that said, let’s take a look at the titles that surprised and delighted me the most this year. Honorable Mention Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy True story: The debut of Katrielle Layton – the famous Professor Hershel Layton’s daughter – is probably the least best (I dare not say ‘worst’) entry in the Layton series to date. This is because the story takes an episodic approach, the puzzles are fairly easy, most cases are generally non-consequential in nature, and many of the mysteries’ answers are telegraphed before completing them. And yet, none of that really mattered by the time the final scene aired. Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is easily the most charming game I’ve played all year long. The new cast, along with the supporting characters you come to know are what really make the game special in the end. With everything happening in the real world this year, I just wanted to disappear into Layton’s positive and whimsical take on London, following the adventures of Katrielle, Ernest, and their dog ‘Sherl’ as they crack case after case. Not all of the cases are winners, but there are a few that are incredibly touching and make the game worth playing in the end. 10. Metroid: Samus Returns The Metroid series returned with a bang this year, first with the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 being in development and then with the surprise announcement and subsequent release of Metroid: Samus Returns – the long-awaited remake of the Game Boy-only Metroid II: Return of Samus. While it doesn’t do a lot to propel the series forward in a gameplay sense, this is true, classic, 2D Metroid gameplay at its finest. Featuring revamped controls that give you more flexibility and a new melee dodge attack that can parry enemies when timed right, Samus Returns adds just enough to improve the old experience while totally overhauling most of the outdated level design and mechanics of the original game. The encounters with different Metroid evolutions are some of the best moments in the game, adding a real and rare sense of threat and danger to what has usually been a more atmospheric, exploratory game. Also, there just might be a new addition or two to the game’s story to shake things up in the same way Metroid Zero Mission did nearly a decade and a half ago. 9. Cosmic Star Heroine I’d been aware of Zeboyd Games’ previous titles (Cthulhu Save the World, Breath of Death VII etc.), but they’d never appealed to me until Cosmic Star Heroine released this year. Zeboyd Games created perhaps the best homage to both Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star that I’ve seen yet with Cosmic Star Heroine. The battles wisely move away from the “select strongest attack until your MP is depleted” approach and instead injects more strategy by way of introducing cooldowns for each attack and focusing on when you should use them. The story is interesting and well done, if a bit cliched, and moves at a brisk pace, even if it’s somewhat lacking in the character-building department. Cosmic Star Heroine’s universe is also pretty fascinating; Zeboyd did an excellent job of designing a wide variety of alien creatures and strange worlds, not to mention its eclectic cast of characters. Also, the music is a pretty rad take on ‘80s and ‘90s sci-fi soundtracks (think Babylon 5). 8. World to the West Rain Games is a developer that has been on my radar ever since I played their excellent Metroidvania title Teslagrad from a few years back. Their brilliant, hand-painted visuals combined with thought-provoking puzzles made me super enthused for their next title, World to the West. Set in the same world as Teslagrad, World to the West eschews the 2D platforming of its predecessor and opts for an isometric Zelda-like approach. The result is a game with great, cartoon-like visuals; an interesting story set one generation after the former game and which focuses on four unique characters who come from significantly different backgrounds, and action-puzzle gameplay that splits the focus between said four characters’ special abilities. It’s one of the few games I’ve played in which the world is cleverly designed so that you’ll need to use all four characters to explore and open it up with each one's own skills. 7. SteamWorld Dig 2 The first SteamWorld Dig was an excellent surprise hit when it released a few years back, so I was both super excited and hesitant at the thought of SteamWorld Dig 2. Why? I didn’t know what developer Image & Form would be able to do that would keep it from feeling like a complete rehash. Luckily for us, Image & Form saw this issue coming, and they did something smart. They cast Dot -- a minor character from the first game -- as the protagonist in this one and created a whole new mystery: What happened to Rusty, the original protagonist? The truth of the matter will take you through twists and turns, and it’s pulled off incredibly well. New items and machine parts help differentiate the core gameplay cycle, which is the same as the first game’s but with a more interesting world and better-designed caverns to navigate and solve. Excellent gameplay aside, what really made an impact on me with SteamWorld Dig 2 is how the plot plays with your expectations, and completely shatters them in the end. 6. Sonic Mania When it was first announced, I wasn’t that interested in Sonic Mania. It had been some time since I’d last played a 2D Sonic title, and the prospect of “going back” to the old classic style just didn’t seem like progress to me. Little did I know that it’s exactly what the series needed, especially since the newer games have grown creatively stagnant over the last decade (or two). Sonic Mania injects just enough retro levels to keep it from feeling like a “best hits collection” and wisely introduces remixed versions of old levels along with entirely new ones that stand up with the very best the series has to offer. It manages to nail that feeling where it plays like you imagined it played way back when, but in reality is so much better than what Sonic 1 had to offer. Topped off with a brilliant soundtrack, Sonic Mania is what I consider to be the best Sonic game to date. I did not expect to be as blown away by it as I currently am. Welcome back, Sonic. Stick around for a while. 5. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Shadows of Valentia proves that Intelligent Systems is only getting better at making Fire Emblem games, and I was thrilled to discover just how good it was. Being a remake of the NES-only Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the series which never made it out of Japan, Shadows of Valentia stays true to its retro roots by keeping the different battle rules from the original game (no weapons triangle, magic depletes health, etc.) while adding brand new elements in the way of third-person dungeon crawling and exploring different areas of towns and forts. While the latter addition isn’t always used to great effect, it’s fun to finally control a Fire Emblem character firsthand and helps to break up the pace between battles. Ultimately, Shadows of Valentia offers a surprisingly strong story (which is equally surprisingly dark in certain moments) that tackles themes of classism, war, and sacrifice – culminating in a grand finale that pays off in a big way at the very end. Fire Emblem has rarely been as good as Echoes gets, and I hope to see most of the new systems and mechanics used here in the new Fire Emblem title for Switch next year. 4. Splatoon 2 There was a point this year, perhaps around August or September, where I was certain Splatoon 2 would be my game of the year, if not for three other incredible games (one of which I had to do some more reflecting back on). With over 265 hours invested, Splatoon 2 is by far my most-played game of the year and the one I had the most fun with on a consistent basis. Some would say it’s not really a sequel; that it’s a 1.5 version of the game. Even if that’s true, it’s heads and shoulders above the first game, with a solid, diverse grouping of Ranked match games, tons of new hairstyles, weapons, specials, and ways to modify your character. And let’s not forget about Salmon Run, the new horde mode that might just be “mode of the year”. I’ve spent countless hours taking out Salmonids, collecting golden eggs, and having a general blast with @barrel, @Rissake, @YukiKairi, @Venom, and others. No other game has given me that “just one more game feeling” quite like Splatoon 2 has, and that’s a testament to just how good it is. 3. Super Mario Odyssey If you know me, you might be surprised to see this game “only” placing third on my list. That’s mainly because this was an exceptional year with amazing games, but don’t let the lack of GOTY status fool you. This is a Mario title we haven’t seen in quite some time, and boy did it feel good to be running around and exploring each level at your own pace. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 had moments of this, even if they were still largely linear affairs, but Odyssey’s wide open levels were so out of the norm for the past 15 years that they actually recalled elements of this year’s Breath of the Wild. What I appreciated most about Odyssey is that it really does feel like Mario is embarking on a great journey. Nintendo’s Tokyo studio also spared no effort to make every level feel as unique and original as possible, getting away from the standard lava world, ice world, and jungle world. Instead, you’ll find a level based on New York City, a food-based world, a desert world with ice-elements and an underground temple, and a forest with a tower that’s occupied by robots, just to name a few. It’s super imaginative, not to mention super inspired, due to the cap-throwing mechanic where you can capture and control different enemies. Due to all this and more (that soundtrack!), Super Mario Odyssey is far and away the most creative game I’ve played this year. 2. Horizon Zero Dawn Horizon Zero Dawn is far and away the biggest surprise of 2017 for me. It always looked fantastic in previews, but I didn’t realize just how much I would fall down the rabbit hole with it until I played it late this year. First off, it’s the most graphically impressive game I’ve played in 2017; stunning vistas, vast gorges, tree-lined forests, and populated towns and civilizations – it has it all. It also has the best narrative I’ve experienced all year; Aloy’s journey from shunned outcast to legendary warrior in the eyes of the people is an experience I’ll not forget, and there’s a deep amount of lore to the world, not to mention the many mysteries behind the plot are all well-thought out and have satisfying answers to them. What really puts the game over the top for me is how good its machine-hunting combat is. At first, it’s incredibly daunting and seems complex (and really, it is), but after you learn the intricacies of how to hunt each machine (especially the large ones), the game really takes off. There are so many ways you can take them down, from using a rope gun to tie them down to disable them to setting traps, tripwires, and shooting off weapons, modules, and weak spots with your arrows. Each encounter is incredibly dynamic and life-like, with each machine actually mimicking and behaving like the natural animal/creature it’s designed after. It’s a thrilling experience every time you’re involved in a hunt with larger machines because the danger feels incredibly real for Aloy, and it makes each victory all the sweeter when you eventually do take them down. Horizon was a powerful experience for me -- one of those rare games that completely drown out real life and make you invested in the world within, and one I'll not forget anytime soon. 1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Breath of the Wild is a game that many Zelda fans have been waiting a long time for. While I wasn’t one of the ones hankering for a return to Zelda 1 mechanics (the go-anywhere approach), I’ll never forget the feeling of being dropped in this massive world and being in awe at how much there is to do and see. I’ve heard many ask what Breath of the Wild does for open worlds that is so amazing. The answer has to do with interactivity – the world in BotW is so intricate in how you can interact with it and how it reacts to what you do. Horizon and other games have worlds that are impressive in size and scope, but there’s little you can do to it except traverse it and interact with specially designed areas and characters. In BotW, you can climb nearly everything, decide how you want to approach a certain location, chop trees down to cross large ravines, set grass on fire and then ride the updraft the smoke creates, move almost any object that’s not attached to the ground with magnetism, and much more. In short, the world is alive, and never has a title for a game been more appropriate. The plot itself, while not my favorite of the series, is still fairly good, and the individual story arcs and moments are well-done; especially those that involve the four champions. I also really enjoyed the Divine Beasts; even though we didn’t get traditional dungeons, these were fairly close in approximation them, and one of the Divine Beasts might just be one of my top 10 dungeons in the whole series. In the end, Breath of the Wild will be remembered for letting players play the way they want to. There are definitely things that can be improved, but by and large, this is a landmark title that broke barriers and will shape games for years to come.
  7. YukiKairi

    Game of the Year 2017: Kairi's Picks

    Editor's Note: Kairi is our second new guest writer for our Game of the Year 2017 feature this year! She's a passionate gamer and RPG fan who plays quite a lot of games throughout the year and works on the retail side of the gaming industry. You can follow her at @YukiKairi on Twitter. Let me begin by saying that this was probably one of my favorite starts to any gaming year in history. 2017 started off with some great releases in the first 3 months that I haven’t seen in years. First, we had Resident Evil 7: Biohazard which was fully playable in VR, and if you don’t know me -- which I’m sure some of you may not -- I cannot play horror, but boy do I enjoy watching others get scared playing these games and watching the story unfold. Sadly, this game didn’t make my personal list, but it’s a worthy nominee since it brought faith back in the series and genre of horror. Sony took me by surprise with releasing so many exclusives this year and having a majority of them come out right at the start. Nintendo released their new system -- the Switch -- fairly early as well, gaining amazing support from many game developers. In the latter half of this year, Nintendo came out with their next classic system, the SNES, which included a never before released title: Star Fox 2. Sadly, Microsoft was a major disappointment for me this year. They started off by canceling Scalebound; a title that I was really anticipating. On the plus side, there was one title that caught my eye which I’ve been eagerly waiting to play and that’s Cuphead. Cuphead is one of those gems that eats at my core due to the art style, gameplay, and music soundtrack. The best way for me to describe it is old-school Disney (back when Steamboat Willie came out) met with Looney Tunes and decided to have a baby, which became this game. The fact that this game is completely hand-drawn just blows me away. There are honestly so many titles that I would love to gush over and talk more about, but I just can’t get to them all this year. That’s how busy this gaming year has been for me. I think I’ve played more as well as looked into more games than previous years combined. I wish I got to play more of my backlog (including some that I just recently acquired) so I could consider them on this year’s list as well. It’s been one eventful year for gaming and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings. With that said, it’s been very challenging for me to compile this list together, but somehow I’ve nailed it down to these ten intriguing and unique gems that I’m anxious to talk more about in depth. 10. Sonic Mania I’ve been looking forward to this release since being instructed to check it out. The last Sonic title I played personally was Sonic Colors for the Wii. I haven’t seen a Sonic title I wanted to delve into until this caught my eye. Once I started playing it, I instantly got classic Sonic vibes. The music and controls were just as familiar to me as I was playing it back in the day with some new moves included. The updated graphics still look like classic Sonic but are refreshing to see in this day in age. I really enjoyed playing some of the classic levels as well as the newly designed levels. I never thought I’d get to enjoy a Sonic game again. This game was definitely every Sonic fan dreams and then some. 9. Splatoon 2 As someone who played the first title towards the end of the Wii U’s cycle, I wasn’t expecting to pick this title up for quite some time. What the single-player lacks is where it shines in its multiplayer, which I put way too many hours into. I played way more of this installment than the first might I add. The new maps and the new weapons really add more to this title than the first. Splatfest is still a whole lot of fun and continues to have a unique way for picking teams. But the game's new mode, called “Salmon Run”, is definitely one of the best modes I’ve played in any multiplayer to date and made me enjoy it so much more. This title just had to ink its way unto my list for how much of a joy it has been to play. Who wouldn’t want to be a squid instead of kid? 8. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdoms Battle When I first heard of a Mario and Rabbid collaboration, I thought: "Was this a joke? It sounds like a terrible idea and there was no way it could ever work or be good." Boy, am I eating my words right now. What makes this title so great is not just the humor of the Rabbids, but it’s actually quite a challenging strategic game. It’s very much an X-COM rip-off in gameplay style where it has a similar cover system and grid system, but it takes it a step more with character design. Each character has their own set of abilities for you to choose from and two different weapon sets which you are able to pick which weapon to use. And the level design was really on par with other Mario titles. This was definitely my top pick for "most surprising game of the year". I secretly hope there’s a sequel in the works because I’d love to see the Mario cast team up with the Rabbids again with some new faces added as well. 7. Fire Emblem Warriors Truthfully, if I had to choose one Fire Emblem title to consider on this list I’d probably pick this one. As excited as I was for Echoes earlier this year, I sadly didn’t have a chance to play it due to time spent on other titles and Fire Emblem Heroes on my phone, but I was equally excited for this installment as well. Fire Emblem Warriors is a fantastic collaboration with Fire Emblem and Dynasty Warriors' gameplay. It really utilized all my favorite parts of FE, except it isn’t grid-based; instead, you can completely roam the battlefield, which is a blast. The music is still fantastic as ever. The story is still interesting and enjoyable enough. The voice-acting isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I still enjoy the Japanese voice-acting a bit more. My one complaint I have about it is the characters involved in the game are heavily from Awakening and Fates. There are so many more characters from the series overall I would have included. I’m still secretly hoping for either more DLC to include more characters from other titles or perhaps a sequel, which would still be up my alley since I really have enjoyed pretty much every FE title since being recommended to play this series. Currently, I’m really looking forward to playing more DLC that starts arriving soon with the first character pack on December 21. 6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild This was a title that I’ve been tossing back and forth while trying to figure out the best spot to include it on my list. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next Zelda every time a new one comes out. This one did not disappoint, to say the least. In fact, this title was the very reason I bought a Switch on day one. However, what I didn’t expect was how frustrating this installment in the series this one would be. It’s got adventure for sure; the whole map is huge and full of exploration. I definitely give it that since this was one of my favorite features. The story is fantastic and really tears at the heart as far as friendships with loyalty for any Zelda tale, but in order to appreciate it, you need to find the locations of certain memories and then some to fully understand it. One new feature that I really enjoyed and probably spent way too much time doing was the cooking aspect. It was just loads of fun exploring and mixing new ingredients. Lastly, the one detail that really took my breath away was the visuals and character design. This really showcased the Switch in a good light right off the bat. As far as criticism goes, one of the main reasons why I placed it here was the battle system. It feels too much like Dark Souls (I love the Souls series, don’t get me wrong, but for certain games like Zelda it’s just off-putting). Personally, I don’t mind weapon durability since that brings a challenge in and of itself, but I feel like weapons are too easy to break, especially when you have a weapon at level 20 that will still break in 3 hits after using it. Now, one key improvement that would fix this issue would be a Blacksmith, just like Skyrim where you would go to fix your weapons. One core weapon they completely ruined was the Master Sword, which is a legendary and key component to any Zelda. There’s a key reason as to why it’s the Master Sword; it shouldn’t take 13 hours to recharge in order to use it. Another major reason for its ranking here on the list is any time you decide to climb a mountain, somehow it would start to rain, and in order to continue your climb you will have to wait 20 min in real time. I don’t even know how many times it rained, but boy was it so annoying. Other reasons include the dungeons or bosses not being as challenging or unique enough. The most annoying enemy are the guardians. Whether they were the Stalker variety or not they could instantly kill you. Heavens forbid if you weren’t equipped with the right gear or weapons and stumbled across one or many of these. You were just doomed to death. I felt the puzzles were pretty lackluster as well. In one of them, I flipped the maze tablet over and then once more to complete the challenge instead of doing the maze puzzle. Lastly, the voice-acting was just awful. I really was not impressed with the English cast at all. In fact, I muted it every time there was dialogue. I wish they decided not to do voice-overs after all. Honestly, I really wanted to enjoy this title so much, but there are many other Zelda titles that just have greater gameplay and replay value to me. That said, this title is still worth checking out due to story and visuals alone, but I feel younger audiences will have such a hard time appreciating it since it’s quite challenging at times. 5. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 To say I’ve been a fan of this series since the first one released on the Wii would be correct since I did take part in a certain fan campaign. When this title was unveiled in January of this year, I didn’t expect to see it at all this year since it just seemed to good to be true, but I’m glad it actually came out and at such a great time, I might add. I’ve always appreciated titles such a these where I’m able to explore the open world and soak in the surrounding environment. If I could live amongst the clouds in a vivid setting such as this, I believe I would never want to step foot off of it. I really enjoy this gameplay style since the combat feels so much like Final Fantasy XII, but it tweaks it just a bit to make it its own unique addictive combat system. I’m always willing and ready to delve hours upon hours into JRPGs such as this since I enjoy the storyline and being able to have the choice for sidequests. One small complaint I have would be the mini-map since you can get lost here and there if you’re not careful, but I’m glad to hear that there’s a new patch coming that seems to fix this feature. What makes this title worth my while even more was the fact that the soundtrack transported me to a new world which made me feel like I was a part of it. It’s such a joy to hear since it’s by one of my favorite composers Yasunori Mitsuda, whose work never ceases to amaze me. The blade designs are all very unique since each rare blade was made by a different artist that usually works on different titles. I was intrigued when Nintendo unraveled the new designs each week leading up to launch since it sparked more excitement and gave me an insight into the artist's work on this title. There are some designs which may be questionable since they don’t have the look and appeal to the series overall, but I honestly feel like it's a breath of fresh air since I got to see a new artist take on character design that I myself was never familiar with. I was really impressed with how well everything about this title meshed together. I’m grateful to say that towards the end of 2017 we have another standout JRPG that every fan should check out. I’m certainly curious what the new story content will bring and what the new rare blade will be seeing as that won’t be out till next year, but thankful that I have more to look forward to. 4. Horizon Zero Dawn Having never truly played a game by Guerilla Games before, I was willing to try this out based on the many previews I saw and the fact that it had a strong female lead. This was another title that featured a key aspect that I really enjoy in quite a few games: having a beautifully crafted post-apocalyptic open world where I could explore anywhere. However, this is one where as a player you need to be careful of your surroundings since it's inhabited by robotic creatures called 'machines,' which some are peaceful and others will attack. The combat was challenging in that you needed to be strategic with certain enemies to pinpoint their weaknesses and compelling since it made me feel like a hunter out in the woods wanting to pick up a bow myself. I really appreciated the stealth aspect of this game as well since I’m such a sucker for being stealthy and laying low like in the Assassin’s Creed series. Hands down my favorite performance by any actor this year was Ashly Burch who definitely delivered an amazing performance as Aloy. I’m looking forward to trying out the Frozen Wilds expansion since it just recently came out last month and I’ve been delving into so many other titles as of late. 3. Super Mario Odyssey To say this is probably one of my favorite Mario games to date would be highly correct. When I first saw gameplay footage of this, I was a bit skeptical; not to say I wasn’t a fan of a hat named “Cappy” which allowed Mario to become literally anything he tossed it at. I actually really enjoyed this aspect of the title, but I was not a fan of one particular kingdom at first. New Donk City, which is part of the Metro Kingdom, just seemed rather out of place for a Mario game to me since Mario was running around a city largely based on New York City itself with humans. I soon realized that was pretty foolish of me since that was only one of the many kingdoms to explore and enjoy. With that out of the way, I must say the color palette of this Mario blows all other Mario titles out of the water. It’s been such a joy to visit other kingdoms and roam around such a breathtaking backdrop. The gameplay really reminds me of Mario 64 and Sunshine style combined with more key Mario elements. Lastly, the music had one of the best theme songs ever this year since it was super catchy and a blast to hear. This was by far my favorite title to launch on the Switch this year and is a title that everyone can enjoy and appreciate for years to come. Also, who wouldn’t want a sidekick like Cappy on their team to overcome Bowser’s plot to marry Peach? 2. NieR: Automata This was by far my hardest choice to make because it very easily could have been my top pick, especially since this was my most anticipated title to come out this year. Ever since catching a glimpse of it briefly being shown at E3 in 2015 to showcase its artwork, I instantly fell in love with the character design and setting. Also, this was by far my favorite of the different installments in the series. I’ve always been an avid fan of Yoko Taro’s work. His style is truly remarkable and I really admire it. This style really eats at my core due to the dark, unusual post-apocalyptic backdrop. I never thought I’d have a chance to play a game that required several gameplays to fully understand the depth of the story and it honestly changed my life for the better. A game that made me have so many feelings for androids I never believed would be possible. While the story and character design is what makes me appreciate this title the most, it has a great fast-paced action and a combat system that was a joy to play. Its music soundtrack is highly desirable as well with it being my favorite from any title this year. Honestly, I can’t wait to see the next installment if in fact there is one, or even a new IP from Taro. Before mentioning my number one pick I want to take some time to briefly list some honorable mentions that could have made my list. In no particular order here they are: Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Destiny 2, Layton’s Mystery Journey, Injustice 2, and Tales of Berseria. 1. Persona 5 A title that honestly deserves this spot and 'Best JRPG' for the year. A game that was first announced in 2013, then got delayed from its original release in 2014 to improve the quality to finally release in 2016 in Japan, and then finally a worldwide release at the start of this year. It’s been a title that many Persona fans have been waiting for since 4 came out in 2008. Even though I’m a newer fan of this series, I’m not sure why I didn’t delve into it much earlier. This was my first Persona title even though Persona 4 Golden is in my backlog. However, I am not new to Atlus titles; they always know how to make brilliant and fascinating games (with Catherine being my favorite; I’m still holding out for a sequel!). The story in Persona 5 is so well put together and enjoyable. I was impressed right out of the gate when it started off as a flashback sequence. I enjoyed the overall theme behind it and how it used a high school setting. It was a joy to play as a Phantom Thief. It’s not every day you get to go incognito with a different persona in another realm to steal someone’s heart that has an ill will. Not going to spoil anything, but the major twist was so satisfying. The voice cast was one of the best works for a team altogether. The character design is one I can always get behind since I enjoy artwork such as this. I really appreciated the turn-based combat system much more because it gave you the option to 'Hold Up' the enemy, which allowed you to do a number set of options as well. The dungeons were actually a lot of fun to explore as well. I can’t wait to see how the next one will compare since this was such a pleasure to delve into. It’s been a delight to share my favorites for this year with all of you. Now, here are some titles I’m highly anticipating to enjoy next year: Code Vein, Vampyr, Detroit Become Human, Ni No Kuni II, God of War, Insomniac's Spider-Man, Project Octopath Traveler, Lost Sphear, Far Cry 5, and the new Fire Emblem title.
  8. Jordan Haygood

    Game of the Year 2017: Jordan's Picks

    2017 has been quite the year for us gamers. Not only did Nintendo release the insanely successful Switch, but there have been a lot of quality games released as well, on Switch and just about anything that plays games. Even mobile devices have seen a few really fun games. But with so many quality titles coming out left and right, it was actually pretty overwhelming, and I simply couldn’t keep up. So, since there are still plenty of games I haven’t gotten around to playing yet, I’ve decided to make a less traditional Game of the Year list. Sort of like an award show, if you will. Anyway, enough stalling. Let’s get to it already… Most Addicting Mobile Game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp I normally don’t put mobile games on my Game of the Year lists, but Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp felt deserving of that honor. It’s a simple mobile game, yet it has the same level of quality you would find in an official game released on Nintendo’s own consoles. And just like when Animal Crossing: New Leaf was first released, I just… can't seem to go a day without playing it at least a little… Best Spiritual Successor to Banjo-Kazooie Yooka-Laylee I’ve been a huge fan of the Banjo-Kazooie games since the day I played the original for the first time. So, when I heard that several members of the original team got together to create a sort of spiritual successor to the series (since, you know, new Rare doesn’t really seem to care much for the IP), you better believe I was excited. And I gotta say, Yooka-Laylee is pretty much exactly what I hoped it would be. I mean, it does have its fair share of flaws, but it’s still a really fun platformer for fans of the Banjo-Kazooie series (well, the first two, anyway), and it definitely satisfied my itch. Of course, Grant Kirkhope’s amazing soundtrack certainly helps. I still have a bit of an itch, though, so hopefully, Playtonic announces Tooka-Laylee soon enough… Best RPG I Still Need to Beat Xenoblade Chronicles 2 I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. I may not have beaten Xenoblade Chronicles 2 yet, but I’ve definitely played enough to think it’s a really damn good game. Which is awesome, because the original was my favorite game of 2012 and it’s cool to see that the numbered sequel (Xenoblade Chronicles X was more of a spinoff, I guess) is also top-notch. It’s a great RPG with a beautiful world, an engrossing story, and an amazing soundtrack. Really, what more could you want? Most Terrifying Game I've Played All Year Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (VR) Oh man, this game. After all the complaints about the Resident Evil series seemingly forgetting its horror roots in favor of more cinematic gameplay, Capcom did an amazing job giving us an entry that was scary. And Resident Evil 7 is scary as hell. And not only is it a terrifying game in its own right; when you don the PlayStation VR headset? I lost count of how many heart attacks I had during my playthrough… Most Splatastic Shooter Splatoon 2 If you’ve played the first Splatoon, you’ll pretty much know what to expect from Splatoon 2. Not that that’s a bad thing by any means. The original Splatoon is an amazing game, and Splatoon 2 is basically a better version with more features and …probably more people playing, or at least soon enough since the Switch is selling like hotcakes (I still don’t know why that’s a saying). So, don’t you even worry if you haven’t played the original; if you have a Switch, get this game. It’s fun. Biggest Nostalgia Overload Sonic Mania Click here to read GP's official review It’s crazy how satisfied I was with Sonic Mania. Sonic 3 & Knuckles was always up there for me as one of my favorite games ever, so a game so incredibly similar, with stages not only from that particular game, but from other classic Sonic adventures, and with some original levels to boot, is exactly what I needed in my life. You can read my detailed thoughts in my review, but just know that this game is now up there right alongside Sonic 3 & Knuckles as one of my favorite games ever. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, isn’t it? Game I Didn't Expect to Be So Good Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Like many people, I didn’t know how to feel when a Mario and Rabbids crossover was leaked. I just never really liked Rabbids. I always thought they were a little too annoying for my taste. But I felt hopeful once I actually saw what kind of game Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was. And when I actually played it for myself, I was way more satisfied than I thought I would be. It’s insanely fun, and it even made me hate Rabbids a lot less. Seriously, it’s fantastic. Of course, Grant Kirkhope’s amazing soundtrack certainly helps. Wait, why do I feel déjà vu…? Best Game You Should Not Let Your Kids Play South Park: The Fractured but Whole I’ve been a fan of South Park since I was a child, even though I wasn’t supposed to be (so feel free to disregard this entry’s heading). I also enjoyed the games growing up, even though they weren’t exactly top-notch. But man, when South Park: The Stick of Truth came out, I was impressed by how much it seemed like I was playing the show. Not only that, but it was a really great game in general. And now we have a sequel in South Park: The Fractured but Whole (giggle). Which, wouldn’t you know it, is also a really great game. It has a different gameplay style to fit with the superhero theme, which I actually had a lot of fun with, and the humor is just as funny as you would expect. If you like the show, there really isn’t any reason you wouldn’t enjoy this game. Most Fun Globe-Trotting Adventure Super Mario Odyssey Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed just about every Mario game immensely. So, I never feel like I’ll ever be disappointed when a new one comes out. And one thing I love is when a Mario game demolishes my expectations. Super Mario Odyssey is one such game. I knew I’d end up having a lot of fun with it, but once I played the game myself, I was blown away by how good it is. Super Mario Odyssey basically takes everything I love about the series, adds a brand-new mechanic, and gives me one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. Seriously, I can think of so few negative things to say about this game, it’s crazy. Best Game of 2017 (That I've Played) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Of all the games I’ve played this year, you’d think it would have been tough narrowing down which game I felt deserved the honor of my favorite game of 2017. But to be honest, it really wasn’t. I mean, it was kind of hard not choosing Super Mario Odyssey, since I had so much fun with it, but in the end, I just had to go with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As the series’ first foray into the open world realm, Nintendo did an amazing job. Seriously, there were so many times when I meant to go to a specific place but ended up either getting lost or just getting distracted by a cool place I haven’t seen before. Or I’d find a shrine and feel obligated to check it out. Honestly, even though the series changed quite a bit from what we’re used to, I firmly believe that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a perfect example of what it means to be an “adventure game,” and a very fitting evolution of the original The Legend of Zelda adventure.
  9. Editor's note: Marissa (aka 'Rissa') is our first new contributor to our Game of the Year feature this year! She's a friend from Twitter who loves gaming and occasionally cosplays at different coventions throughout the year. You can find follow her at @Rissake on Twitter and find more of her writing on Medium. It didn’t take long before the games came rolling out in 2017. Not only were there an incredible selection of games, we were also bestowed with the release of the Nintendo Switch! With a new system rolling out, and many other great games following, 2017 was, in my opinion, one of the best years in gaming. I am a loyal Nintendo gamer, so you will find that all of my selections were exclusively for the Switch or Nintendo 3DS. They definitely kept me busy this year. 9. ARMS Nintendo’s clever take on boxing was one of the most intriguing games for me this year, and I was highly anticipating it. I’m not one for fighting games, but the unique rapid fighting style and artwork had me completely captivated. Each fighter comes with a choice of arms which range from boxing gloves to giant hammers, missile cannons and other unique choices. The combo you choose will determine how your character fights. As much as I enjoyed this game, I am guilty of not playing nearly enough of it. However, I have been able to play different modes such as single player, multiplayer and online play. It takes a while to grasp the fighting style, and using the joycons is a definite challenge in itself. Overall, a unique take on a fighting game that I would love to get back into. 8. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King 3DS By no means is this a “new” game, but cor blimey, the 3DS remake of Journey of the Cursed King was one of my highlights in 2017! After playing the original on the PS2 years ago, I was incredibly happy to welcome an old friend to the comfort of my 3DS. As upsetting as it was to not hear the beautifully orchestrated music we had heard on the PS2 version, the new content makes up what our ears lack. Having Red and Morrie joining in on your adventures made the battles all the more interesting! No more random battles, & new side quests, new dungeons and even a whole new take on the ending makes this 3DS remake everything you need and more! Reliving one of my favorite games brought me an immense amount of joy. 7. Fire Emblem Warriors As someone who has never played a Dynasty Warriors game and didn’t care all that much for Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors has been a thrill to play! The Kingdom of Aytolis is falling, and it is up to Princess Lianna and Prince Rowan to rally troops and restore peace to their nation. If you’re a fan of hack and slash games and Fire Emblem Awakening/Fates, then this is the game for you. The missions were fun, yet challenging, and the story kept me interested in progressing through the game more & more. Plus, the amusing support conversations gave the game an extra charm. Multiplayer is a blast and I highly recommend you play this with a friend. It makes everything more enjoyable (and maybe a little easier). 6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Because Switch ports make everything better. Mario Kart 8 is by far my favorite in the Mario Kart franchise, and I was thrilled to have it on the Switch! With better graphics, new characters, new courses and even an improved Battle mode, this game has easily made its way into my top picks this year. Plus, the Smart Steering was a nice touch for those who are new or inexperienced with Mario Kart (it made playing with my family a lot more entertaining). 5. Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy Little known fact: the Professor Layton series is one of my all-time favorite gaming franchises. Not only did we get a new Layton game, but we get a new (adorable) protagonist: Katrielle Layton. The daughter of the esteemed Professor Layton begins her career as a detective and opens up her own agency, solving numerous cases and puzzles on her way. As expected with any Layton game, the music is wonderful, characters are charming and the story is light-hearted with many intricate puzzles. Being able to customize your office and dress up Katrielle as you wish made the game all the more unique. While it kept similar features from previous games, it was definitely a different take on the Layton series. However, change can be good and I found it very refreshing to be greeted with different cases and new characters to grow close to. It may not have been the “perfect” Layton game, but I’m excited to see where LEVEL-5 will be taking us on our Layton Journey. 4. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia For the past 4 years, Fire Emblem has easily made its way onto my list of favorite gaming series. Each one I have played has been a wonderful experience, and Shadow of Valentia gave my love for this series a major boost. Echoes offered not only your classic Fire Emblem gameplay but some new features that gave it a whole new feeling. I particularly enjoyed exploring through temples and dungeons for endless amounts of loot and gaining extra experience. It was a nice break from the narrative of the game. I’m guilty of not playing the original version, Fire Emblem Gaiden, but I know without a doubt this remake was a faithful successor. With its captivating character artwork, strategic gameplay and a beautiful story, this was an easy choice for my top 2017 games! 3. Splatoon 2 Of all the games I was looking forward to the most this year, Splatoon 2 was the one. I fell in love with the first one back in 2015 and I devoted over 200 hours of blissful gameplay into it. Needless to say, I fell in love with this series all over again. Splatoon 2 is vibrant, quirky and nothing short of amazing. With a plethora of returning features to see, we are also lavished with so many new weapons, stages, music and clothing (not to mention hairstyles)! Salmon Run is a brand-new co-op mode featured in Splatoon 2 and is definitely one you’ll want to try. It may take playing a few rounds to get used to the horde environment, but I found it easily addictive and a blast to play online with friends! We may not have our lovely Squid Sisters this time around, but Pearl and Marina are extremely likable and give Splatfest a whole new groove. No doubt this game is off the hook and one of the highlights of my year. 2. Super Mario Odyssey The man wears many hats, and that’s one of the beauties of this game. He’s more than just a plumber, he’s anything you want him to be. Super Mario Odyssey absolutely blew me away in every single aspect. It’s breath-taking, charming and heartwarmingly nostalgic for most gamers familiar with the Mario series. It’s genuinely a fun game! There are so many Power Moons to find and places to explore that you will never grow tired of playing. Super Mario Odyssey is gorgeous, & I can gush over the aesthetic elements of this game forever. Regardless if I’m playing on my 4K HD TV or my Switch screen, the vivid colors make this game pure eye candy! Of course, the soundtrack is not to be forgotten. The music is catchy, orchestrated beautifully and creates a perfect atmosphere throughout the game. Honestly, I can never get enough of 'Jump Up, Super Star'. Playing this game was an absolute joy, and brought out the small child in me who grew up playing Mario games. Tears may have been present with admiration and nostalgia, & that is why I know it truly means so much to me. It is such a phenomenal game that is not only a top pick for 2017, but a top pick for my personal favorites. 1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild The funny thing about this being my number one pick for 2017 is that I was very skeptical about it prior to release. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited, but seeing how different it was going to be from previous Zelda games had me worried. After playing this game for a short amount of time proved I had nothing to worry about. Breath of the Wild was everything I wanted and more. The moment I realized this might be the best game I’ve ever played was alarming. Yes, it’s different, yes, it’s new, but that’s what makes it so fascinating. You literally can do anything you want right from the start. You can climb any surface, swim in any body of water and pick up almost any object you see. Breath of the Wild allows you to explore until your heart's content. What I love most about this game is not only Link’s development throughout the game, but also yours as the player. You obtain better items to fight powerful enemies, better equipment to tread through various climate changes and even more courage to face menacing foes. I was completely unable to fight against a Guardian until I was at least 50+ hours in and by then I had plenty of practice with the shield parry. After years of playing video games, Breath of the Wild brought forth a completely new experience of gaming to me. It was not like anything ever played in all my years. There were days I’d play for hours and did not accomplish anything except exploring new areas and admiring views. Everything about this game won me over, and I will never forget the moment I first started playing or all the Divine Beasts I conquered. I caught myself grinning like a child as I played this game. This may be the reason it has triumphed over all others.
  10. Jordan Haygood

    Splatoon 2

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Nintendo

  11. Hailinel

    Game of the Year 2017: Justin's Picks

    If nothing else, 2017 was an absolute bonanza when it came to quality games. No matter what kind of game you like or what platforms you own, chances are there were at least a few high-quality games that could tickle your fancy. Some years have made it difficult for me to pick out ten games in total that I felt would fit on my list, but in this case, the issue was all about trying to whittle down a long, long list of contenders. And this isn’t even taking into account games I haven’t had a chance to start yet, like Super Mario Odyssey. One can only wonder if 2018 will be able to keep up the pace. Honorable Mention: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 As of this writing, I’m less than halfway through Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It wouldn’t be fair to put it in my top ten in that regard, but from what I’ve played, the game has many of the things I’d want from a proper sequel. Its world and themes evoke much of what made the first game special, while the presentation takes on its own stylistic approach with a more obviously anime-influenced aesthetic. The gameplay carries many of the same core principles, but with some new elements and streamlined returning features, which make it challenging but rewarding, and the story is building toward something that feels as rewarding as the original. Maybe I’ll put the game on next year’s Top 10 list when things are said and done, but for now, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 deserves at the very least an honorable mention. And now, on to my top ten games for 2017! 10. Kamiko The shortest and simplest game on my list, Kamiko probably wouldn’t have caught my attention had it not been for a couple of factors. In particular, the game launched not long after the Switch went on sale, and it was one of the first indie games to appear in the console’s eShop. It also didn’t hurt that the game is priced at only five dollars. There are a lot of arguments about how game price and the breadth of content should or shouldn’t be a point of comparison, but in Kamiko’s case, the price is a perfect fit. A simple adventure with retro Zelda-style qualities, three playable characters, and a completion time of just a few hours, it’s one of the best bargains on the Switch or any other platform to see a release this year. 9. Toukiden 2 For me, the time I spent with Koei Tecmo’s Toukiden 2 were the most fun I’ve ever had in the monster-hunting genre. While the original game borrowed more of its design from the Monster Hunter series, the sequel exudes more confidence in going its own way, most notably with its expansive open world. The refinements made to the core hunting mechanics and other systems also help the game stand out as a title worthy of standing on its own, rather than being labeled as a simple clone of the games that obviously inspired it. 8. Splatoon 2 The sequel to one of the Wii U’s few honest-to-squidness breakout hits, Splatoon 2 doesn’t stray too far from what made the original game so good. But while the sequel in some ways feels like a slight upgrade or a minimal expansion, it still carries that fresh feeling. The mechanical improvements, additional modes, and continued free content updates have helped elevate what was a slim game at launch into a game that’s remarkably better than the original in almost every way. 7. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone Future Tone is easily the most content-rich and challenging release in the Project Diva series, and if you’re a fan of Vocaloid music like I am, there’s really no better game to get. With its massive track list comprised of songs taken from both the Project Diva and Project Mirai rhythm series spanning numerous artists and genres, Future Tone ‘s collection of classic songs featuring the Crypton Vocaloids is unparalleled. Also, any game that features Hatsune Miku is guaranteed to make me happy, if only because of her presence! 6. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Count me among the many that never saw this coming. When Nintendo announced a Fire Emblem-specific Nintendo Direct early this year, I, like most people, assumed that it would focus mostly on Fire Emblem Warriors and the previously announced mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes. So color me surprised when the Direct began with, of all things, a trailer for a full remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden! Shadows of Valentia is both a complete modernization of Gaiden, as well as a love letter to everything that made the original so unique and sometimes unfairly maligned as a black sheep. It doubles down on its dungeon and town exploration, ignores the weapon triangle in combat, ties magic usages to unit health, and puts a premium on environmental cover. The new modern touches like Mila’s Turnwheel, which allows the player to rewind time and take back actions and whole turns, just add to the fact that Shadows of Valentia isn’t afraid to be different in a post-Awakening-and-Fates world. 5. Yakuza 0 Sega’s cult hit Yakuza series took on new life in the west this year, and Yakuza 0 led the charge. With dual narratives featuring series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and loveable lunatic Goro Majima in late 1980s Japan, the game still carries the series trademark melodramatic storytelling mixed with comically absurd asides. One minute, Kiryu is on the streets of Kamurocho, beating up thugs and staving off betrayals, and the next, he’s at a bowling alley, having won a chicken that he intends to recruit as a real estate manager. And every second is glorious. 4. Warriors All-Stars As a fan of Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games, I was blessed with more than one title that fit on my personal Top 10 for the year. It was honestly difficult determining how to rank them, but at Number 4, I’m placing Warriors All-Stars. As a successor to the Warriors Orochi series, All-Stars takes the crossover concept and runs with it, creating a game that celebrates the combined libraries of Koei, Tecmo, and Gust. Like I noted in my review earlier this year, it’s not quite Super Smash Warriors, but it comes very close to fulfilling that idea. And there’s just something special about wracking up thousands of K.O.s with an otome game protagonist. 3. Fire Emblem Warriors While Warriors All-Stars is a fun celebration of Koei Tecmo, Fire Emblem Warriors does for Fire Emblem what Hyrule Warriors did for The Legend of Zelda. And in many ways, Fire Emblem Warriors outdoes its predecessor in presentation, gameplay, and content. The Warriors format just seems like a more natural fit for Fire Emblem, and the game has been designed with the franchise’s strategy RPG roots in mind. While it is a little disappointing that the roster is predominantly made up of Fates, Awakening, and Shadow Dragon characters, each of them are brought to life with an incredible touch of detail, remaining true to their personalities and bringing about a level of expressiveness in their combat styles that the core strategy titles couldn’t bring across. 2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Breath of the Wild is largely what I’ve wanted from 3D Zelda games for a while now. In many ways, it feels like a modern reimagining of the very first NES game. The game allows the freedom to just go where I want to go, do what I want to do, and always feel rewarded in ways large and small for exploring off the beaten path. It contains qualities that beg for experimentation, whether that involve messing with the game’s physics and chemistry systems to pull off ridiculous stunts, finding inventive ways to approach combat encounters, or more simply seeing how long I can survive making a bee-line for Hyrule Castle from the start of the game. (SPOILERS: I wouldn’t get very far at all.) 1. Nier: Automata I cannot think of a game that has left an emotional impact on me as powerful as the one left by Nier: Automata. At once dismal and beautiful, hopeless and hopeful, bearing witness to the trials and tortures that the game’s android protagonists live through in one playthrough after another, it’s left me in tears of both anguished hurt and determined exultation. I wish I could point to any one moment that defines this experience for me, but I’m afraid to say anything in specifics out of fear of spoiling too much. All I can say in that regard is that if you play Nier: Automata (and you should!), you absolutely should not stop until you’ve achieved Endings A, B, C, D, and most importantly of all, E. Nier: Automata is hands down my favorite game of 2017, and the debate in my mind was never even close.
  12. Nintendo's new IP ARMS and the multiplayer-centric Splatoon 2 are the next major new first party releases in the Switch's line-up, and today we finally got to hear a bit more about them, as well as when we'll get to play them. First off, the Nintendo Direct yesterday revealed that in ARMS, each fighter will be able to equip two different types of customizable ARMS. These can range from standard gloves to more specialized ones, and each ARM will have an elemental attribute (ice, fire, electricity) that adds extra effects. A new, ramen-armed female character named Min-Min was also announced. ARMS is set to release on June 16 for Switch, and a special neon yellow Joy-Con controller is set to launch alongside it as well (sold separately). Check out the video segment for the new content below. Meanwhile, the Direct focused on a new area/mode in Splatoon 2 called Salmon Run. It's a four-player, co-op-based mode where players will do battle against a new type of species called the Salmonid. Also when co-op partners fall, they can be revived by teammates by being shot with ink on the battlefield. Not bad! Splatoon 2 will debut on Switch a month after ARMS on July 21. Be sure to check out Salmon Run in the video below. Source: Nintendo Direct Are you looking forward to ARMS and/or Splatoon 2?
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