2016 can't come to an end quick enough. It feels like a long spanning entourage of disappoinment and downright awfulness not just in regards to gaming (like the English version of Persona 5's delay yet again) but also in relations to real world events. Humanity reared its ugly head throughout all of 2016 with all the tragedies in Aleppo, Germany, France etc. It took beloved musicians like David Jones(Bowie), Prince, Leonard Cohen and now George Michael as well. Even actors like Andrew Sachs (whom I remember best from Fawlty Towers), Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman and the man inside R2-D2 Kenny Baker have left this world. On the subject of Kenny Baker, there's also beloved Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, who is fighting for her life (currently in a stable condition).
EDIT: At the time of this blog's publication it was confirmed that Carrie Fisher had sadly passed away :(
Point is that 2016 is/was an awful year, but it was a pretty okay year for games. To balance out all of the sewage waste I thought I'd do a small blog, and this will probably be the shortest blog I've ever done, on the 10 best games I enjoyed this year.. it was what I said to myself when I started writing but things turn out different. But I thought I'd focus on the good things instead of the bad things. Let's celebrate the positive things that came out. Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
If there ever come a time when Atlus were to be overthrown, presumably the same time when Katsura Hashino and Kazuma Kaneko leaves the company. If that happens then I would probably vote for Trails in the Sky creators Nihon Falcom as their successor. The reason why is due to their admirable ahereance towards old school mechanics, and still somehow making them work today. With Trails in the Sky, Falcom has created not just a game but an entire world of history, people and life. Every town you visit has an NPC with their own little story, a lot of them have pre-established relationships to other characters even the main party as well. But unlike Square Enix the game isn't brushing you off with the finer details, or locking it away in ominous text files, it carefully draws you into its world--it makes you care about it and its people much like the Yakuza series or even Persona.
The combat is an interesting mixture of old school JRPG mechanics and something that feels similar to games like Banner Saga or Heroes: Might & Magic. You need to carefully consider every move you make during your characters turn, whether a ranged or close-combat attack serves you better, and your enemies attack pattern. If you can manage to break it off you can win over an advantage. It features a very complex user interface, which will make retro gamers happy and probably annoy some who aren't. If aren't too bothered about that you'll find yourself with a very strong JRPG with a very living and breathing world.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Not every line of Star Wars fiction has to feature lightsabers and space wizards, some are merely content with a suave Han Solo-like figure, who is saddly also a Jedi (Kyle Katarn). Others are centered on the spectacular star ship battles, and some pander its focus towards the seemingly redshirty Clonetroopers. Before George Lucas got the idea of a Star Wars tv-series into his head, there were a game called Republic Commando. This game is centered around a Special Forces Unit of Elite Clone Troopers called 'Commandos'. In Star Wars lore these are the best of the best among the clones, these are the ones who were allowed to eat ewok meat over lousy rations.
Before the Clone Wars TV-Series this was actually the first time we got an insightful glimpse into the thoughts of a Clone Trooper. The prequel trilogy being shitty as they are never really delved into that aspect, some Clones were given names in order to tell them apart from each other. That is also the case here, the beauty of this game is cameraderie between the clones, the excellent voice acting of Temuera Morrison (who played Jango and the Clones in the film) and the cast helps in breathing live into these faceless soldiers. There's a stark priority on acting tactical, but the game's are a bit outdated and the AI isn't all that smart. The shooting itself is also really dodgy, and it hard to hit anythnig.. Perhaps this was all intentional to immerse yourself into the Stormtrooper scenario of not being able to hit a hippo standing short of a mile away. Disregarding that I found there is a lot of fun to be derived from this little title, and it's fun to revisit locations like Geonosis and shoot giant bug people.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army
It's no secret that I love Atlus and Shin Megami Tensei, even this beloved action-RPG spin-off featuring one of the best designed protagonists by Kazuma Kaneko only beaten by Maya from Persona 2. I pawned this game off ebay a while back for a reasonably low price, as I wanted to play it so much. It's rather rare so I considered myself lucky. I never got to finish it but what I played was fun, the combat itself is rather simplistic, every time Raidou has to fight you're transported into a narrow-spaced pocket dimension--Here you're only allowed to run around, within the DESIGNATED AREA, and try hack to dispatch your demons on your enemies. It's a pretty decent combat system, the most fun is using demons to do the fights for you but typically you have to involve yourself a lot. If you're expecting Devil May Cry like combat, think again. It's not a hacking-slash as much as it is an action RPG through the lens of real-time combat.
As expected from Atlus RPGs, the setting is fairly unique. We find ourselves in 1931 Japan, the fictional 20th year of the Taisho period in the history of the country. You play as the latest heir to the Raidou Kuzunoha name in a long line of detectives and devil summoners. You and your mentor Shohei of the Narumi Detective Agency are charged with finding a missing girl named Kaya, who was kidnapped by a band of red-caped monsters. Under the guidance of a mysterious cat, you'll find yourself fighting an endless onslaught of demons on your way to unconvering the truth behind the kidnapping.
It's framed as a by the book noir detective story, everything from the wind instrumentation and a jazzy accompaniment in tune with the game's setting along with a strange woman being in the center of it all. Although the story isn't as strong as say Digital Devil Saga, it's fairly unique and fun. Facing off the various demons and getting to know their exotic personalities is still the heart and soul of the game like most of Mega Ten.
Note: There will be potential spoilers, for the alleged games in question, in the following list below so proceed with caution for those that would prefer to be unspoiled.
5. Tae Takemi ~ Persona 5
I know I promised to disqualify Persona 5 as a Game of the Year contender for next year but I said nothing about its characters. There were simply too many good ones to not talk about at least some of them. I decided to go with Tae Takemi, a local doctor who owns Takemi Medical Clinic. She promises to be an ally to the Phantom Thieves in return for the leader's compliance to help testing out her experimental drugs. She shares a lot of quirks with Mr Edogawa from Persona 3, who was also Gekkoukan High's School doctor with a fetish for weird alchemy and drug prescriptions.
Tae might seem quirky and eccentric on the outside, and the somewhat scary looking decour of her office probably add unto that, but she's actually a very caring and concerned medical professional. She has no qualm with working in a small time business in a back alley, and she takes it upon herself to ensure cautionary guidelines for her medical testing with the protagonist. She likes helping the local elderly as well, all in all she's a pretty cool doctor with a lot of personality. Her reasoning for doing what she does is quite interesting and only credits her upstanding character. What exactly it is you'll have to play the game when releases in the West to find out.
4. Diana ~ Zero Time Dilemma
One thing I really love about the Zero Escape series is definitely its array of interesting characters. The threat of immense danger helps ease the development of these characters, as they struggle to survive and their ethics are put to the test. Diana is a particularly interesting character among the newcomers in ZTD, partially because of her cameo in the last game and she's also tied to a character from said title (and share a lot of characteristics with said character). But also because she's the moral high ground amidst a flock of ruthless individuals. While Phi and Sigma's intentions might be for the greater good, they won't hesitate to abandon anyone if it meant saving themselve or fulfilling their goals. Diana, is a different story, she's a cheerful and caring nurse (starting to a see pattern now) who hates fighting and just wants everyone to get along. She's selfless and desires nothing but the overall safety of every single person trapped in Zero's deadly game and to escape with them all alive.
Her compassion is the unique counterbalance to the otherwise stoic Sigma and seemingly cold Phi, but it's also her Achilles heel. Her morals are ultimately put to the test when she's forced to make a decision that will cost the life of one person no matter what she chooses to do. Despite being caring and sympathetic towards others she always seem uncomfortable, sad or nervous which is rooted in her tragic backstory involving an abusive husband. It builds up later in the story and ultimately shows a whole new and uglier side of Diana. Desptie her shared personality to that of Luna from VLR, she's ultimately human and thus immensely flawed. The trauma of the decision game relinquishes her inward feelings of frustration and hopelessnes to the whole dire situation she's been put in. It grants her layers that seperates her from a character like Luna and makes her easy to like and care about. I really wanted Diana to make it out okay too :(
3. Maho Hiyajo ~ Steins;Gate 0
Among all the good things that came out of Steins;Gate 0, Maho was certainly one of them. At first glance, she seems like a Makise Kurisu substitue but there's actually a lot more nuance to her character. The fact that she initially seems like somewhat of a Makise copy plays heavily into her story, as she is in fact an old close colleague of Kurisu's at Victor Chondrian University. It'd be fair to call her Kurisu's rival, despite their established easy going relationship, Maho sees herself as inferior to Kurisu. Although Maho's immense knowledge and expertise in neuroscience, and contribution to the construction of the Amadeus AI is noted, she still sees herself inferior to Kurisu's capabilities. In the end, Kurisu's thesis on time travel was in fact also the blueprint for the Amadeus program, her talks of neuroscience and the idea of compressing memory into data was the foundation for not just eventual creation of the time machine but also that of an Artificial Intelligence.
Maho's determination to catching up with Kurisu, while also trying to do good by her friends unfortunate passing and finding out the truth of why she died is one of the greatest moments in the game. She may see herself as Salieri to Kurisu's Amadeus but she was in fact Amadeus Mozart all along.
2. Tracer ~ Overwatch
Of all the Overwatch characters I could pick, the poster girl is honestly my favorite. Why? I love her whimsical carefree attitude, and her heroic selfless desires to always do the right thing and put her life on the line to save others. It's not something you see in a lot of video game characters these days. I haven't grown out of heroic types, especially when I see characters like Tracer who routinely plays around with the bad guys like she's Spider-Man. Bottom line, Tracer's endearing and apparently she's gay too, which is cool. But the coolest thing about her is how she embodies all of the colours that is Overwatch. She's spirited and energetic, her friendship with characters like Winston, Lucio and Mei is precious and she always offers the right amount of encouragement to her team-mates. Overwatch might not have a lot of story within the actual game but the occasional dialogue exchanges Tracer has with her fellow "Watchmen" are inviting as well as pleasant. They build character and makes it easy to like them.
1. Anne Takamaki ~ Persona 5
In a lot of ways it'd be easy to simply write off this list by filling it entirely with Persona 5 characters because there are simply so many good ones to pick from I decided to narrow it down to 2. One of them is Anne Takamaki, spelt "Anne" not "Ann" for crying out loud Atlus USA. But probably also because I'm already on the verge of spoiling the game for people by simply mentioning the game's name, so I'll try my best not to but it will be hard. Feel free to not read any further if you'd prefer not to get any info on this character outside of playing the game in April. I really like Anne a lot because of how she's the antithesis to Persona 2's Lisa Silverman as it is easy to presume a pattern due to their shared caucasian heritage, and some other factors, but I'm thankful that isn't the case. Anne is the polar opposite of Silverman. Her ethnicity has earned her scorn as opposed to popularity from her classmates and the entire school in form of rumors and slander. In Japan, people who have foreign ethnic backgrounds are generally branded as "foreigners" even those who's lived and grown up in Japan. Anne's issues are a very real and scary reflection of Japanese society, but it's only the cream of her story in the game.
Due to her status as an outsider she becomes the victim of harassment from several angles, particularly one of the teachers, who wants to take advantage of her vulnerability. Initially, when the protagonist meets her she is distant and uneasy to not getting herself involved with anyone, even the main character. Once she finally gets herself tangled up with the main character and his gang's deeds as thieves, she becomes more laidback and relaxed. A very refreshing type of character in contrast to previous games, and even despite this seemingly carefree nature she's also very concerned and caring towards her friends. She's the heart of the group in that respect who always extends a hand to those who might need it so they don't end up alone like she was. Takamaki is best character of 2016.
10. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Dragon Ball was a cool show to watch as a child of the 90s, even the mangas were available at the local school library that's how big of a deal that series was at the time where even those who aren't inherently into Japanese animation can find something to like about it. It's not exactly something I follow anymore but whenever a good Dragon Ball game comes around (which they rarely do) I can't help but feel a bit intrigued to relive some fond memories of yesteryear. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is a really good improvement on top of its predecessor, and it's based on a very original and unique concept. Instead of playing through the usual Dragon Ball storylines we already know from the anime and mangas, you play as an original character whose job as a Time Patroller is to keep watch over Dragon Ball's history. You can play anything from a Namekian to a Saiyan, or a Majin (a race based on the Buu character) human or even Frieza's race. The best part? I can play a female SSJ3. Nuff said. But really, despite some rather lackluster voice direction for the story, I mean yikes.. whoever was the director of dubbing this game was probably an intern forgetting to apply the finishing touches to his exam's project it was still a pretty decent romp.
The combat is fast and reactive as expected out of Dragon Ball--You truly feel like you're a Saiyan, beating the crap out of intergalactic space emperors or what have you. I appreciate the fact that there is a lot of custoomization to come around too while I wouldn't say most of it is unique. A large margin of it are skills and clothes from other Dragon Ball characters but there's enough of it to form your own unique identity at least. A good and detailed CC can sometimes sell me on a game alone. Also, I really dig some of the music in this game. Especially that track that plays in the character creation... so damn funky!
9. Final Fantasy XV
I don't think there's anyone more surprised than me that this game ultimately ended up here after all. I had no plans, hopes or expectations whatsoever that Final Fantasy XV would in any way engage me. I decided to put it on my Christmas list and play it should I end up getting it. Ultimately, the sway of positive notes, thrown in this game' direction in regards to its characters, pigued further investigation. The Platinum Demo told me everything I needed to know about FFXV awful combat. Truth is that it remains just as ardous and irritating as ever with its dodgy drunk cameraman, who always seem like he's deliberately working and plotting against you.
The thing that initially won me over with FFXV enough to include it here was the music. It's the kind of gorgeous guitar trimming, and unique usage of electronica tunes that I love best from Yoko Shimomura. She's an absolute darl, there were even times when I felt like she's been taking notes from Shoji Meguro out of Atlus USA. Even the pause screen theme is amazing. But another thing that XV has managed to do right is to make you care about its characters. Not necessarily by placing forcing them into contrived dramatic situations, but simply making them naturally interact with their environment and the people around them. The dialogue flows surprisingly naturally, and on the subject of taking notes from other developers, it does feel like Square has also taken a few pages out of BioWare's book. In this case it's a compliment. Square has managed to make their characters feel like a family of sorts, in BioWare games this kind of casual-easy-going dialogue is referred to as "banter" by fans and its developers alike. The characters will randomly strike up conversation with the other characters about some particular subject that is sometimes relevant to current affairs, and sometimes irrelevant. No matter the topic it helps create a sense of immersion, and it's easier to care about the characters when they communicate as well as they do.
The story itself is the usual Final Fantasy shenanigans, Square has no interest in telling you what exactly is going on and instead cheekily hides all of the integral information away in obscure text messages in the game or alternate media like comic books and movies. It's annoying but in the case of FFXV I don't mind it too much. Unlike the 30 hour tutorial slog that was FFXIII I haven't found myself scratching my head in bewilderment over something the character's said, their motivations or even the story (mostly because I haven't really gotten to the heart of it yet) and that was already a step-up from the previous main title.. the only exception would probably be Cindy's retarded attire.
FFXV is a flawed gem but a lot of good JRPG's are flawed like say Resonance of Fate, Lost Odyssey and NieR but they all have something special about them that make them stand above the rest. In XV's case it would have to be "character".
8. Ratchet & Clank for PS4
When I was a child platformers were my go-to games. Back then that was generally all I played due to my experience with video games were limited to the Nintendo Entertainment System and later the Super Nintendo. Mario was my darling and continued to be so with the N64, but I also caught wind of some extraordinary platformers on the rival Playstation console, all in 3D. Those were the Spyro games which to this day remains very special to me. The trilogy of Spyro games were developed by Insomniac who would later go on to make Ratchet & Clank that on the PS2 that would set a new standard for the platform genre.
14 years later, and Insomniac has still not relinquished ties with its old IP which is something I've always respected the developer for. The remake brings back the old feeling of the classic 3D platformer from the early 2000s, and it is just as fun to play as it was back then. Sadly not without its flaws, as the writing of the remake does not match up with the otherwise subtle satirical humor of the original games. The humor in the remake is obnoxious and on the level of a bad Pixar film, the characters will never shut up of which I really wish they would sometimes. The story is also hamfisted and rushed-- there is no sense of progression in any of the relationships between the characters. Ratchet and Clank are friends the very moment the meet unlike the original, and there is no real substance added to how their relationship began. The rest of the cast serve no real purpose beyond merely being there for the convenience of the plot.
The gameplay is what sold Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 for me, it remained excellent, but in regards to story and the overall charm of the old games, the remake falls short. It kickstarts the nostalgic fun with some solid gameplay but pushes no real envelopes
7. Zero Time Dilemma
Although while not overly beloved by everyone due to the gutsy choice of replacing the inner monlogue text walls usually associated with visual novels with that of a Telltale-based story presentation. Zero Time Dilemma still managed to endear me with its complex cast of exotic characters put into a life or death situation through intricate puzzles, deadly escape rooms and moral dilemmas. You have to use your wits and smarts to solve yourself out of Zero's death traps, through the means of the game's pseudo-science worked cleverly into the game's mechanics as a form of plot device(like in Virtue's Last Reward). But you also have to make choices that actually carry a lot of weight. It's one thing of trying to make choices matter by throwing in a meaningless little line that references your decisions, it's another to actually make your choices feel heavy and tough.
BioWare might have made "Your choices matter" into their own little iconic catchphrase, but Kotaro Uchikoshi through Zero Escape makes a chaotic statement of the wild ramifications that exist behind every choice we make--All through the means of philosophical and scientific constructs like the Butterfly Effect, Prisoner's Dilemma, Sleeping Beauty Problem etc. It's a psychological drama as well as a time travel story, which sounds crazy on paper but he makes it work. ZTD sadly has its flaws too, the story left a lot to be desired and I wasn't big on Phi's character in this game(whom I loved in VLR) as she didn't have much of her snarky attitude, or even that much of a role in the game, and a lot of the new characters were also downright annoying. VLR and ZTD opened up my eyes to visual novels, and one might say they were the snail in my path that caused me to make this list with a few select choices in mind.
6. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice
Another niche franchise which piqued my interest after having enjoyed Zero Escape, as the promise of an intricate court room scenario where the player is tasked with using deduction through the presented evidence in order to defend their clients in court. All in all an interesting premise coppled together with some pretty solid characters. My adventure started with Dual Destinies of which I ended up really liking the series. I love Phoenix Wright as a character, and the recent additions to the cast Athena Cykes and Prosecutor Blackquill (A fine antagonist). Having now played the very first game which had one of my favorite cases in the series so far (Rise from the Ashes) I've started to notice the gap of quality between it and the writing of the first games.
The games have always had their share of wackiness mixed in with some actual tense drama and characterization, even Spirit of Justice has its ups but sadly a bit too few of them. Newcomer Athena has basically been demoted to a side character and even Prosecutor Blackquill doesn't do all that much outside of one case that serves nothing to the overarching plot. Things are a lot more linear than ever compared to the old games and less punishing. It does, however, fleshout Apollo Justice's character a whole lot, who was introduced in a spin-off title solely centered around him. His development and Phoenix new role as a mentor figure for both him and Athena is such a joy to see and probably more so for people who's followed the series since the beginning--Ema Skye returns once again, now serving the role that Detective Gumshoe held in most of the old games, whom I really warmed up to in Rise from the Ashes (though I miss her sister) and she's changed.. well a bit whereas Maya Fey hasn't changed a whole lot at all. The new prosectur is a big blowhard who sadly does not carry the same appeal that previous antagonists like Blackquill, Edgeworth or Von Karma did.
Psyche Locke and Mood Matrixes are still there, alongside a new mechanic called Divine Seanches which allows the player to view the victim's final moments in full display and utilize it as evidence. A fun new mechanic that sadly isn't as contributing as Mood Matrix was in the previous game. All in all I enjoyed the characters and the story was fun enough for me to see it to the end.
5. Yakuza: Kiwami
The only game on this list of which I've actually written a review. I carefully weighed my options as to whether I should include all of the imported games I've played this year too, I decided to leave Persona 5 for next year and instead include Yakuza Kiwami due to my time spent on it(also having finished it). Kiwami(Extreme) is very much an extreme make-over of the first game. Like I mentioned in my review, it's everything you'd expect a remake to be for better or worse. Although it has its flaws and doesn't include a whole lot of new content that wasn't already featured in Yakuza 0. It's probably the Yakuza game with the least amount of content them all but still enough content to rival a lot of average released AAA-games.
There are a lot of annoyances with some of the enemy design, some of the bosses fighting styles are uninspried copy-pastes from previous games, and some of the fights during story sections are unintentionally difficult due to the restricted arcadey design of the original game. Despite adapting the awesome combat mechanics from 0 the remake still clings to some old annoyances that sadly followed through from the original. Enemies with guns still stagger you like crazy, and a lot of times its hard to dodge them, and the on-rails shooting section of the game's alleged car chase still feels outdated.
For all of its occasional bumps, Kiwami offers a lot of new story content that helps build upon the backstory of the game's villain and central figure Akira Nishiki--It overall strengthens the original story and helps build layers unto what was already there, and this is what Kiwami does best. Kamurocho is open and alive, free from the interconnected areas of loading screens from the original, lively NPCs and side quest, an excellent Japanese voice cast as opposed to the lackluster dub and lots and lots of Goro Majima. It also features a brand remixed take on the original soundtrack, some weren't quite as good while others were phenomenal, especially the new renidition of the iconic "For Who's Sake" theme. Kiwami was ultimately a treat and the way the first Yakuza game should be experienced, and I look forward to 0 and the subsequent English release of the remake next year.
4. Fire Emblem: Fates
A an epicenter for controversy this year, along with many other canditates, would have to be Fire Emblem: Fates. Mostly due to people's obsession with holding every little game that comes out of Japan hostage with a giant magnifying glass. Admittedly, I too had my reservations when I saw some of the resulting "changes" that have been made, and I get it--We want to experience the game it was meant to be experienced, right? I could never imagine playing Yakuza without going to a Hostess Club for getting my daily blue-balls. Unless of course I was playing Yakuza 3 (*sigh* Sega). Sometimes, however, certain things have to change to fit the context of its audience so it doesn't end up like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.
I didn't have any high expectations for Fates even though I loved Awakening, and it did make me excited for it but some of that excitement started to dwindle a bit, even more so when Europe had to wait almost half a year with getting the game (because Nintendo is still living in the past with regional locking). Although once I finally played the game I really enjoyed what it had to offer. The story is pretty decent, if serviceable, and certainly much better than the fanfic affair that was Fire Emblem Awakening. I decided to play Conquest, which I thought was the definitive Fire Emblem experience (maybe not once I finally play Revelations), it has the kind of difficulty you'd expect from the series and forces you to play the game strategically as it was meant to. You will be using all of its assets to win. Although the justication for siding with the presumable bad guy (and your new siblings) over you real family was about as suspect as Al Gore driving a gas guzzler-- It did present an interesting ethical dilemma, and opportunity for drama, when facing your beloved kin on the battlefield to the death. It's not exactly Count of Monte Cristo but it was a step above Birthright & Awakening's After School Special presentation.
There were also a bigger cast of characters to come around this time, and I thought there were plenty of pretty decent ones to pick from so all things considered--The localized writing might not have been stellar but it wasn't atrocious like some made it out to be. The protagonist is also actually "the protagonist" of this title as opposed to being the substitute water-boy like Robin in vein of Vaan from FFXII. Although in terms of characterization, Corrin/Kamui/Manfred/Nigel is about as engaging as a piece of plywood with a face drawn on it.
The gameplay is so much fun and addicting as it was with Awakening but unlike that game there's more challenge to be found if you play it with the proper settings. Terrains play a bigger role this time, you as the protagonist along with your siblings have a special power that allows you to destroy/rearrange parts of the environment to help your troops gain a preempitive strike on the enemy. Fates helped filling the desire I crave for another strategy JRPG like Valkyria Chronicles. I really hope to see more of it in the future.
3. Dark Souls 3
Yes, Dark Souls 3 is number 3--I'l be frank and say that I never really cared for the franchise until I played Bloodborne. I tried the first Dark Souls a few years back on the 360 to see what all the fuss was about. It certainly was challenging but it just didn't grab my like I it probably was meant to. It had many of the things I love, like a dark horror-based atmosphere, gothic colours and an overall fresh take on the whole dark fantasy genre. Suddenly, director Hidetaka Miyazaki released the phenomenal Bloodborne, packed with Victorian-England based setting, werewolves, Lovecraftian monstrosities, trenchcoats, tophats and cleavers that can transform into axe-like-scythes. Awesome. Bloodborne had everything I found interesting about Dark Souls, along with a fun aggressive combat system. In Dark Souls 3, Miyazaki took a lot of those lessons with him which made me love the game more than its predecessors. Although, unlike Bloodborne, I still find myself playing defensively with a shield but I enjoy the way it is paced in this game more than the otherss.
Add unto that a very haunting soundtrack with some very memorable ones playing during bossfights like the Dancer or Yhorm. The fact that Dark Souls 3 might play on a bit too similar tunes to the first game isn't such a big deal to me, considering I never liked it all that much in the first place. Miyazaki has created something truly extraordinary with these games of which even Team Ninja has appropriately adapted for their Feudal Japanese based title Nioh. I'm glad he decides to end his adventure with this series on this game. It's a good swan song.
Who watches the Overwatchmen? Seriously who exactly does that? Well if you want answers to questions like that, and why Reaper dresses up like a complete bellend, you shouldn't play this game because it's not interested in your LORE and DIALOGUE WHEELS.. unless you don't mind modern gaming's tendency to compress story content into seperate mediums like comic books or movies. Mind you, the animated shorts for Overwatch are amazing and only serves to remind me how much better the game could be if it had a coherent story campaign of sorts (even Starcraft and Warcraft had that).
But even without this Overwatch ended up being a game I really dug this year, like a lot. It's a multiplayer, like Metal Gear Online, that I'm still playing 6 months after the game's release. The constant updates and content added to the game is a welcome treat, even if most of it is layered around a micropayment service (ew). The game is about team-work, and getting that damn PAYLOAD TO THE CHECKPOINT and it can't be accomplished alone. Combined together with an immense cast of colourful and interesting characters, that represents everything the game "Fuse" was supposed to be damnit. I mean, come on, it was even originally titled as "Overstrike" if that's not an omen for Overwatch then I don't what it is.
Sadly the game also reminds me that people are dicks, and it's not fun to play games with them, when you're constantly berated for not playing the game in accordance with their specified desires. Sometimes, we forget that there will always be someone who is better at a game than you, and you can't win them all. Instead of looking for someone to blame for your own shortcomings, accept your defeat graciously, have fun, and consider the fact that maybe the other guys were simply better than you. Overwatch is fun because it's chaotic and almost anything can happen, and when it does it's a joy to spectate. Anyone can be good at this game, the real requirement is simply to play as a team, where even the most self-aggrandizing douchebag can be taken down by a well placed shot from Holy-Nutcracker-Zenyatta.
1. Steins;Gate 0
There is no video game I've played this year with the exceptions of a certain imported game from Atlus (disqualified for next year) that has touched me as much as Steins;Gate 0. Everything from its soundtrack, to its characters, to how it told a very interesting side story from the mangas, and even added in an entirely new original story together to shape up the foundations for the True Ending in the original game. Steins;Gate is a visual novel through and through--it doesn't have any puzzles or adventure game mechanics like Zero Escape or Ace Attorney but that's okay because if the writing, atmosphere, drama and characters are as good as it is then that can be forgiven. Even Zero Escape writer Kotaro Uchikoshi has contributed to the series, writing a scenario for the spin-off novel Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram. So if a game with no real gameplay can win me over, who's to say that gamer's can't read, eh?
There is not a whole lot to talk about with Steins;Gate 0 without spoiling it so I'll refrain from going too much into details. Safe to say, the game follows the events off a certain plot point in the original game's story that leads to the True Ending. 0 showcases how things turned out for the Beta-Worldline Okabe, who chose not to try again and save his loved one. This causes a rift and seggregates the story 0 away from Steins;Gate. It leaves a lot of room to tell new stories about the characters I've come to love in the first game, but also introducing some new characters that become the pillar for Okabe's redemption. Suzuha is back again but she's a very different kind of Suzuha who's seen a lot of terrible things that rivals that of the original Suzuha. She is frustrated with Okabe's blatant disregard for the terrible future that is to come and his refusal to keep trying his best at stopping it. It's fun to see this side of Suzuha, whom we only got a small impression on in the first game.
Another interesting character is Maho Hiyajo, one of the newly introduced characters, who is also a rival and colleague of Kurisu and more or less friend as well. It's a very complex relationship with lots of tense feelings are in play. The game presents her as Salieri to Makise Kurisu's Amadeus, which plays heavily into the game's story and Maho's development. Although Kurisu is sadly not present in the game, Maho's substitue role allows for some new interesting insights into what kind of person Kurisu was before she met Okabe, and it also helps Maho grow into her own. It's fun to see how she gets along with Okabe, given he's a different kind of person, but also how Maho is not like Kurisu. Okabe's new somber personality is a big departure from how he usually behaves, and it makes for an interesting story and dialogue exchanges with the other characters.
Ultimately, what sells Steins;Gate is its story and characters which I thought bested any other game that came out in 2016. It's made me addicted to return to the series and dive into its subsequent spin-off and predecessor for another run (so that that True Ending may come full circle once again). But another thing is the artwork--The artwork has immensely improved from the last game, while it's weird when the game suddenly decides to reuse old assets from the first game, where you'll see the new characters standing next to the old characters with their old art design. It doesn't always happen but when it does it feels rather eerie, like that CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin.
Finally there is the music, I love music that helps create atmosphere, and the track that plays during Okabe's Reading Steiner moments is exactly the kind of otherworldly tense tunes I adore. But I also love it when Steins;Gate shifts from eerie to somber, sad and even upbeat. The usage of 80s like synthesizers for tracks like "Reading Steiner" or "Messenger", depressing tracks like Future of Spirit or even depressing piano tunes in vein of "Isolation". Steins;Gate 0 much like its predecessor carries a grand package of great music that helps convey the whole emotional spectrum.
On reflection, it's ironic that it was the Zero Escape series that made me open up to visual novels and decide to play the Steins;Gate visual novel after having seen the anime. I have a lot to thank that series for but even so the third entry didn't astound as much as 0. No game is perfect and even 0 has a few unexplained plot points left up in the air that feels like they probably should have been explained. But too many to leave you disappointed with the whole thing. The ending could have probably featured more scenes showing Okabe's departure into the True Ending route, but ultimately it ended on a great note enough for me to replay the first game.
I'll just say it. I'm not that big on Naughty Dog like I was back during the Playstation One-2 era. Uncharted was certainly a remarkable game for its time when it came out, as it showcased the potential of the PS3's graphical power and expanded upon that with the sequel. It had the colourful charm of the old Indiana Jones movies with the same old Errol Flynn-based vigor (they even made a cheeky reference to him in the second game). But on reflection, as games they are rather pedestrian in terms of overall design. The series borrows a lot of its mechanics from other games and makes them its own and while there's nothing wrong with that, and the gameplay generally works okay--That is mostly all it does, and it's not enough to carry a game like that for me. No, Uncharted is fun because of its charm, its colours and its characters (even if a lot of them are shallow stock characters). Uncharted 3 started showing the legible signs of franchise-decay by being generally shit.
While not really being big on Neil Druckmann's new gritty vision for Naughty Dog's IPs. Uncharted 4 manages to avoid going down the path of which I might have thought it did with its story, but it does tread some dangerously close steps down to the abyss of the gritty realism well of which I've had plenty in this generation of gaming. That, however, doesn't stop it from spinning a tall tale in a shoehorned introduction of Troy Baker's character as Nate's apparently long-lost brother (whose existence was conspiciously absent in the alleged origin tale spun in Uncharted 3)--and the thugs continued absent minded tendency to prioritize shooting Drake over their own personal safety can all be forgiven though. No less thanks to an otherwise inoffensive story and bringing Victor Sullivan back into the adventure fray.
Admittedly, I originally considered putting this on the list but something ended up actually clicking for me with FFXV. It was a toss-up between it, FFXV and Tensei Megami Dance Sessions but I wanted to mention Pokemon Moon regardless. This game is definitely one of the biggest surprises this year. I haven't played a Pokemon game since I was a child. The last game I played was Emerald which came out 12 years ago. So all of a sudden I found myself intrigued by this new Pokemon game, and how different it felt from previous titles in the game. It feels less about ardous scavenger hunts now and more like an actual JRPG game. Although it's for kids there's an actual story to it that is rather endearing along with some pretty likeable characters and dorky incompetent villains on the level of Team Rocket from the old cartoon.
So in other words it feels like there is more meaning to your adventure now than ever before which helps make the game feel rewarding outside of the madness of having catch all 800 frickin Pokemon that exist now. The music is pretty damn good too.
Tensei Megami Dance Sessions
I have a love-and-hate relationship with this game. On one hand it's a well designed game with a very pretty colour spectrum that compliments its upbeat nature. On the other hand it's also the embodiment of all the ill-conceived notions that some people seem to have of the Persona series. It cannot be stressed enough, Argle-Bargle-Japanese-Idol 2016 feat. Simon Cowell is not a Persona game. Outside of a shared premise to that of one Dancing spin-off they are fundementally completely different. It's about as pedestrian as Japanese RPGs come, the shared modern Japan setting isn't inherently unique to said series alone. In terms of tone, aesthetic and combat it does it's very-very different. The writing is also a joke. But that's okay because Yakuza 5 helped me understand that the presence of idols in your game doesn't have to diminish the overall experience.
Hatsune Miku Tensei does, however, succeed on the gameplay front. It features a tightly designed combat system that derives several elements out of other Atlus games like Strange Journey, Digital Devil Saga and of course Fire Emblem. It's in no way the kind of game that people expected, probably more of a Kingdom Hearts cocktail than what it actually turned out to be. But despite not having any of the appeal of the Persona series, DDR Superstar does deliver on the usual Atlus quality in terms of being an entertaining JRPG with some occasionally good and SMT-esque music tracks outside of the J-pop nonsense.
And that was it for 2016 -- Thanks for reading my blog and see you all in 2017! Happy New Year!