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Holy frijoles 2017 had some amazing new characters

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They're the best, around. Nothing's gonna ever keep them down.

We're just a few days away from capping off 2017 and what an awesome year it has been. Well, for video games that is. From beginning to end, it's been a non-stop wallet-walloping parade of great titles from Sony, Atlus, Nintendo, Sega, Microsoft, Bandai Namco and more. Many of the best games of the year were filled with familiar faces, but those new titles with their new characters also found ways to worm their way into the zeitgeist and hopefully establish themselves as a new fan favorite.

In fact, there were so many awesome new characters this year that everybody featured in the headline image for this article failed to make the cut. That's just how good the last 12 months were.

These are our favorite new characters of 2017.

Peter Glagowski: William Adams from Nioh

For as stellar as the games in 2017 might have been, I'm finding it quite hard to remember any particular characters. ARMS definitely had a bunch of cool fighters, but a lot of games focused on actual gameplay this year, which is totally fine. It was nice to finally get some new interpretations of classic genres and franchises.

One game that tried a more story driven approach was Nioh. While the plot is a bit of a convoluted mess, it uses actual historical figures to tell a tale of a supernatural war going on during the Sengoku period of Japan's history. To say it is creative is an understatement, even if it mostly boils down to saving a loved one.

William Adams, though, is pretty awesome. He is a no-nonsense, highly skilled samurai that tears apart the living and the dead (well, not so living). His quest to save Saoirse from the clutches of alchemist Edward Kelley sees you travel over the entirety of Japan and tackle a lot of dank caves and sacred temples. It never lacks variation, that is for sure.

I also got to dress him up like Ryu Hayabusa, so he became a complete bad ass. It was super cool. Maybe I'm struggling a bit to list of character traits, but William was a good composite for a stranger in a strange land. It made me feel more at home with Nioh than I otherwise would have.

Bass: 9S from NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata is a lot more about its world than any of its characters. Androids and Robots alike are small cogs in the machine of their futuristic landscape, each through their contrast and similarity to the rest painting a whole. That isn’t to say 9S, one of the game’s three main characters, isn’t one of my favorite specimens of the year, of course. Not quite in first place, but an evil evil man claimed Kokichi before I could. I'll personally smack him if he doesn't finish his entry in time.

Through your entire journey in NieR: Automata, 9S is there to be the main source of contact between you and the game's world. He’s one of the most outwardly emotional characters in the cast, which he shows through jokes, questions, and angry outbursts. At times he mirrored my reactions towards the craziness of the events unraveling yet at others his actions and words felt deliberately unnatural. There’s a growing rift between the character and the one who controls his actions. But then we’re back to kicking robot ass and it’s all good. 9S is both a great source of reference and a very interesting person in his own right. He's intelligent, nihilistic and has a wicked sense of humor. Describing any specific moment would fall into spoilers category, and I’m certainly not one to spoil people during the holidays… so you’ll just have to trust me if you haven’t played the game yet.

Which you should.

Stephen Turner: The Narrator from Kona

Imagine it's the middle of winter, you're in a rustic bar, and you just caught the steely gaze of an old patron. He shifts over to your booth, his silver hair and raggedy beard matching the bright glint in his eye. All you want to do is have a swift half and read the paper, but he starts telling you a story. It's mundane at first, though not without some jokey charm, then he mentions a dead body and he finally has your attention.

That's Kona's narrator (Forrest Rainier) in a nutshell. You never see him in game, but from every lick of dark humour and invaluable bit of local knowledge, he's easily imagined. His way with words elevates something that could've been an unusual detective story into something more magical. Kona is a modern tall tale, where the supernatural horror is offset by a blackly comic touch or heightened by wizened advice.

He's not the most obvious choice for a best character in this list, but even now I can still hear his voice waxing nostalgic over those twangy guitars. While you might never be sure of the facts, he truly earned that free drink at the bar.

Jonathan Holmes: Donovan from Specter of Torment

This year was packed with memorable characters, so it's not going to be easy to pick just one. Ash from The End is Nigh sums up Twitch culture better than anyone else this year, while Cappy from Mario Odyssey represents gaming's special ability to allow us to step out our own skins and into someone else's better than any other character... ever? That said, neither of them holds a candle to Menat when it comes to pure showmanship. Do walk animations get better than that? No my friends, they do not, and that's without even mentioning "the split". 

And who could forget snow titty sword rabbit? Not me, that's for sure. 

In a crowd of eye-catching characters like these, it's hard to grab the spotlight, which makes Donovan's ability to jump to the forefront of my mind all the more impressive. Both the original Shovel Knight and its Plague of Shadows follow-up have their fair share of touching moments, so I shouldn't have been so surprised for the heavy drama and trauma embedded in Specter of Torment, but I was. The reveal of Donovan and his backstory of amoral chicanery juxtaposed against selfless sacrifice really got to me. It meant even more to me after talking to Shovel Knight's creators about the game and the meanings behind it, which you can read all about in A Profound Waste of Time early next year. 

Rich Meister: Yusuke Kitagawa from Persona 5

This was a pretty easy pick for me. My game of the year was Persona 5, one of the most narrative-heavy games of the year full of a cast of enjoyable characters. My favorite of Persona's Phantom Thieves? None other than Yusuke Kitagawa.

Yusuke's social awkwardness makes his character appealing enough in a weird charming way, but his character has one of the most interesting arcs in the entire game. The quirky weird artist was an easy pick for me.

I won't spoil too much here, but Yusuke is the focus of the second dungeon or Palace, controlled by his art mentor. This stretch of the story focuses on some heavy mental abuse and the older generation exploiting those who look up to them. I guess all I'm saying is Yusuke is best boy 2017. 

Ray Porreca: Jeremy Warton from Night in the Woods

Jeremy 'Germ Warfare' Warton rules. He's an enigma, a mellow dude who's just sort of there. In a game defined by a collection of dropouts, weirdos, and affable fuck-ups, Germ is Night in the Woods' man of mystery. Throughout the game, Germ is nothing short of reliable. As protagonist Mae Borowski stumbles towards adulthood by arguing with friends, causing mischief, and uncovering some seriously sinister shit, Germ's there to keep her grounded. He seems to get everyone -- even though no one understands him, and that's fine as far as Germ is concerned. 

Over the course of Night in the Woods, Germ hangs out with crust punks, cares for a wild possum, and kicks it with everyone. He's the glue that holds the cast together, the mysterious friend that's always around, and an unwitting hero during the game's final act. Plus, his outfit's on point.

Marcel Hoang: Makoto Nijima from Persona 5

At first, I told myself I'd pick YoRHa Combat Unit 2B as my character of the year. She's beautiful, stoic, determined, and committed, while also being quite conflicted about completing her mission while also loosening up.

But I myself felt quite conflicted about choosing 2B. It's very difficult to balance the idea of liking a stoic character versus a character who just doesn't talk all that much. So I'm going with someone I can side with much easier: Makoto Nijima from Persona 5.

Makoto represents the catharsis of anyone who works hard despite the burden of expectations put on you. Good grades, student council president, father was a police detective, sister is a prosecutor, and everyone in general depends on you for tasks and advice. Sometimes, you just want to blow off all that pressure and let loose, and that's exactly at the core of Makoto as a party member for the Phantom Thieves. By day, she's the mature and proper student council president. But by night, she dons a post-apocalyptic biker suit and knocks out shadows with her bare hands. Plus her Persona is awesome, without spoiling too much.

There's the me who chose Makoto as my love interest while playing P5, and there's the me who watches in awe as the same girl who tutors my resident knuckleheads in the group, also explodes with this buried rage towards enemies who stand in the way of our personal justice.

Nick Valdez: Kokichi Oma from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Danganronpa V3 had a cast full of potential year-end favorites, but one stood out to me the most (other than my crush on Angie). Kokichi Oma is probably the most interesting character the series has ever created. Twisted, yet incredibly straightforward painted Kokichi as a character that you could never quite trust but never quite shake the feeling he was not genuine. 

I can't go into too much detail to keep from giving stuff away, but suffice to say that his character has one of the best moments in any of the Danganronpa Class Trials. Couple that with his "Ultimate Dictator" talent, his incredible design (especially once the dialogue allows the character portrait to go beyond its limits and show new expressions), strong performance in both the Japanese and English dubs, and when the series patented big twists come in, Kokichi comes across just a bit more tragic than everyone else once you look back on everything that has taken place. While Danganronpa's future as a series is still up in the air, I'm more concerned as to how they'll write a character better than Kokichi.


Pixie The Fairy: Zenos yae Galvus from Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

This was a tough one for me. There were a lot of great heroes, supporting cast members and even fun NPCs, but the end I have to go with a bad guy.

In the realms of Final Fantasy, we get so many villains that are fixated with the void, destruction or conquest. Most of the imperials of the Garlean Empire in FFXIV aren't terribly interesting. In this FF, Primals (i.e. basically summons) are a huge problem for everyone and the Empire uses that as their excuse to conquer other regions.

Sometimes Imperials end up becoming thralls to the Primals themselves, but they are mostly obsessed with obtaining the ancient Allagan technology to subjugate them. Regardless, their intent always started with conquest.

But Stomblood's Viceroy Zenos yae Galvus stands out from the pack in that he's so powerful and Ala Mhigo has been conquered so long he's really bored of it all and wants a challenge. He craves the thrill of the hunt and being hunted. 

And in his encounters with the Warrior of Light (that would be me), he found a true rival. Others he deems weak and unfit to face him, save for those that admit failure and desire victory and to grow stronger. He'll off those that make excuses pretty much like Darth Vader would.

Zenos likes violence for violence's sake. He finds sport in it. In one encounter he tells you:

"Hear me, hero. Endure. Survive. Live.

For the rush of blood, for the time between the seconds -- live. For the sole pleasure left to me in this empty, ephemeral world -- live!"

Luke Allan-Gale's performance puts Zenos over the top, too. This is a character worthy of standing next to Sephiroth, Kuja or Kefka on-screen. In fact, if he doesn't end up in Dissidia NT at some point, I'd be rather disappointed.

Zenos had some memorable minions as well. Fordola was a loathsome traitor who quite rightfully earns your hate. Yotsuyu and Grynewaht are a bit more like Maleficent and Pete from Kingdom Hearts, which is basically now a high courtesan/dominatrix telling a dumb version of Doomguy to go get his ass kicked by you again. Meanwhile, I want Yotsuyu to step on me.

Ahem.

Anyway, Zenos! He's a vicious rival, his boss encounters are memorable and when you finally have him cornered, you no longer hate him or even pity him but you come to grasp how isolated he had been all his years.

I guess it really is lonely at the top.



Chris Moyse: Pearl from Splatoon 2
 
When Pearl and Marina were unveiled as the new hosts of Nintendo's Splatoon 2, there was much commotion. Out were twins Callie and Marie, and in were two very different characters. The cute, happy-go-lucky Marina and, sat opposite, a fudge-faced, bulbous-headed prick called Pearl.

Fans immediately welcomed Marina into their hearts, DeviantArt couldn't update fast enough as people drowned the lovely DeeJay in adoration, while equally pouring scorn on her Off the Hook compadre. Some fans demanded a redesign, complaining that Pearl's "ugliness" would affect Splatfest votes. It would have been easy for Pearl to reinvent herself as a doe-eyed baby-kisser. Undaunted, she continued with her piss-faced rhetoric, staying true to herself in the face of unrepentant social media bullying, for she had a plan...

When the Splatfests began, the world-savvy Pearl backed the best corner almost every time, leaving cheerleader Marina floundering with lame choices like hanging toilet paper backward, choosing Museli over Bacon, and dorky Pop over badass Rock. Marina's hipster glasses and vinyl skills weren't counting for shit in the emerging reality that this is Pearl's world, and we're all just living in it.

In spite of all the hate and mockery. Pearl came through in 2017, bagging eleven global Splatfests to Marina's seven. Better still, she did it while remaining a massive asshole. The Queen of the World, with her shit-eating grin and award-winning Grime skills, faced her detractors head-on and won the day.

Pearl may have been the unlikely choice, and the unfashionable choice, but when it comes to the crunch, she's the only choice. BUH-BAM!

Alyssa Hatmaker: Hat Kid from A Hat in Time

We've come to the end of the year, so I figure it's time I give a nod to A Hat in Time, the brilliant throwback to the days of N64 past. Hat Kid is my favorite new character of 2017, and it's not just because of her moniker. She's immediately iconic, an adorable little girl with bright eyes, a top hat, and an umbrella. Her design harks back to the Converse-wearing Conker or the bird-in-a-backpack-toting Banjo, just as A Hat in Time reminds us of the platformers Rare once charmed us with.

Hat Kid doesn't speak much in-game, but her personality shines. She's playful and mischievous, blowing kisses and raspberries as she tramples all over the Mafia. We know little about her except that she has a cool spaceship and is really good at stitching hats, but her secret diary reveals the depths of her precociousness. Still, even in all her mischief, she recognizes the danger of manipulating time and considers what's right instead of what's easy. She never resorts to anything more than petty crime and befriends everyone she meets in her travels. She's like The Doctor but cuter. Consider this my hat tip to the kid who finally allowed me to fulfill my destiny. Hopefully, we'll see more of her in the future (and past and present)!

Mike Sounders: Nine from Super Robot Wars V

When Super Robot Wars V was announced, the characters Soji and Chitose were pushed as the two 'main' characters of the game. On the day the game released, Bandai Namco revealed a support character for the two main characters in the form of Nine. What they didn't reveal was that Nine was hands down the best new character in that game.

While Soji and Chitose go through some minor development, Nine is arguably the star of the show for the original characters, receiving far more characterization and more important to the plot overall. Which is hilarious given she's the OS for their mech, the Vangrey, and not actually playable on her own. She starts off as a stereotypical android with a cold personality for the most part, but she grows to become more than that, and stands out in a cast of all-stars. The most stand out moments with her, however, is how she can get even the most hot-blooded pilots like Koji Kabuo and Ryoma Nagare to turn chicken with a single question, while also managing to scar Shinji Ikari with a similar one.

While a sequel to V is incredibly unlikely, she'll likely pop up in the Original Generation series at some point for a second round of the game's plot. It's just a matter of when that will happen.

Brett Makedonski: Devin Wade from Madden NFL 18

For as long as I can remember, sports games have had us chasing greatness. Chase championships, chase dynasties, chase the Hall of Fame, chase your legacy. Competitive spirits don't cope well with the fact that only one team each year achieves its goal. That's why sports games play it with a straight face when we want to rattle off 10 consecutive Lombardi Trophies like that's attainable in the age of parity.

Madden NFL 18 flipped the field on us this year. Its Longshot story mode put us in the role of Devin Wade, a college can't-miss who fell off everyone's draft board when he suddenly gave up the sport. Wade's comeback means he's not chasing any of that stuff I mentioned in the paragraph above. He's chasing a roster spot.

The surprisingly-long narrative shows a remarkable amount of restraint. Wade's usually a humble and unsure kid, and that makes for a character who shies away from the outlandish. Making an NFL team is Wade's dream, but, more importantly, it was also the dream of his dad who has passed away. There's a lot of exposition, and every cliche seems like it's offset by a well-thought-out poignant moment.

Also, you play a pickup game against Dan Marino in the desert on an overseas Army base. So, maybe it doesn't always show remarkable restraint.

My story had Wade making an NFL team, nearly the last pick in the draft (there are several different endings). He's a fringe prospect with the Vikings, probably the sort of guy who makes the practice squad but not the active roster. He's not going to be an all-timer; he just gets to hold off on becoming an insurance salesman for a few more years. He gets to wear a jersey and that's good enough. That's the guy whose story I cared about most after playing sports games for decades.

Chris Carter: Snip & Clip from Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!

I really had to sit and think about this one.

Although 2017 is one of the most packed years in recent memory, for me, a lot of it was because of one-off characters, existing ones from sequels, or shadow personas that were meant to proxy for the player. So I'm going to go against the grain here and say the cute Snipperclips protagonists because I really want to see them again.

Their designs are remarkable and restrained, yet incredibly emotive. I had mixed feelings about cutting them into bits, which probably made some developer smile somewhere. Although the Switch was absolutely dominated by behemoths like Mario and Link this year, it's this little Nintendo duo that stole my heart.

CJ Andriessen: Police Ben from Million Onion Hotel

Truth is I could have listed a half dozen characters from Million Onion Hotel here as they're all wonderful in their own way. But Police Ben, the philosophizing gay cop, stood out more than anyone else this year. Because what is a good character? What is a bad character? The truth is no one knows.

Occams Electric Toothbrush

This.

Creepy.

Bitch.

She outshone them all. 


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CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: another white guy writing about video games. Also, I backed that Bloodstained game. more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #awards #Supporting Characters #Top Stories

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