2016 was a year for escapism if there ever was one. There were a lot of game sales that let me catch up on some that I missed the first time around and some new releases that were a long time coming. Here's what stood out to me.
Another of my common late-to-the-table pickups. Of course I knew this game was good, EVRYONE said so. But I didn’t know how good until I finally got to sit down and play, and boy did I play. Already a fan of the From Software games and Souls series, I thought I knew what was in store and even hit a wall of frustration early on. Then somewhere in Central Yharnam, it “clicked.” And I was hooked. Outside of the stunning artwork and insane level of detail on everything from candlelit statues to crumbling walls, the brutal, brutal gameplay sunk its claws deep the only way a game like Bloodborne can.
Street Fighter V
Have to admit, I played— and am still playing— a ton of Street Fighter V. Even though I have a lot of issues with the art direction, the lackluster solo play, and the frustration of online play, I keep coming back. Even though I often wonder how Capcom makes the downright odd decisions it does in regards to this game, I keep coming back. What can I say? If you like fighters and you have a history with Street Fighter, this version is still pretty fun. I’m no pro and can barely keep myself in Bronze League, but I have had some nice moments playing online and even made some new friends and rivals. And yea, had some matches with payers that were less than fun, but that’s how it goes online. What I can say is a major factor in me playing is the return of one of my favorite fighters, Karin. Getting back in the groove and learning new timing and combos is a big timekiller, and is rewarded with the adrenaline rush of (my admittedly rare) Ranked wins. With its highlights and pitfalls, I look forward to SFV rounding itself out nicely in 2017.
Shantae: Half Genie Hero
As a Kickstarter backer I was thrilled to see the release just this month. With Pirate’s Curse one of my best pick from a couple years past, this next-gen version for Shantae was a long wait, but well worth it. Way Forward makes a mean platformer, and they’ve used everything they’ve learned for Half Genie Hero. The art, great. The controls, great. The levels, great. The story, which most platformers simply tag on, is everything expected from a Shantae game: genuinely funny with big stakes, yet not afraid to poke fun at itself. There are some flaws and annoyances, but I found them to be minor in the scope of the game as a whole. If anything the game was too short, as I plowed through it to 100% in about a week (total play 9:20-ish). There’s a few more trophies to catch, and some new content on the horizon as well, and that’s nice to look forward to.
Game of the Year: Pokémon Sun/Moon
Having played near every version since the original Blue, I thought I had played the pokemon formula to its fill. Even though I throughly enjoyed the series refresh of X/Y there was procrastination and ultimately never getting around the latest remake of Ruby/Sapphire (maybe my favorite of the originals). But Sun/Moon did a great job hyping up this new game, and the game itself delivered more than I ever expected.
Truly Sun/Moon (playing Moon) was the shot in the arm Pokémon needed in so many ways. With the overall streamlining of gameplay while keeping the root elements that make Pokémon games great, the game outdoes itself with new characters, pokémon, story, and all around fun. The game looks the best it ever has, and I was amazed on what was being cranked out on my 3DS. Along with the graphics, the art and design of game with it’s Polynesian/Hawaiian theme is a perfect match. Every trainer and NPC are just... cool, they outshine many of the series past cast of characters. In the end it was fun and nostalgia and newness all wrapped into one. Even by coming so late in the year, Pokémon Sun/Moon was by far the most fun I’ve had with a game this year, a joy from start to finish. The Elite Four have been defeated and I once again became a Pokémon Champion, but the post game still awaits to ease into the New Year.