Mike sounds off on his top gaming moments of 2018

What’s old is new again

2018 was a busy year for me. I managed to hold on to full-time employment, moved twice, and became more fully invested in my Gundam model kit hobby. As a result, my free time, as well as my free cash, was a lot more restricted than it was in previous years.

So, the hours I spent game mostly consisted clearing out my backlog — which I’ve now caught up on — as well as new releases that firmly lined up with my interests. When it came to voting time for the site’s Game of the Year awards, I had to excuse myself because I had played a grand total of three of the nominees and couldn’t give an honest opinion with my vote.

Now the trio I did play — Minit, Spider-Man, and Into the Breach — were all fantastic, but this year I thought I’d do something different. I’ll be focusing on the moments I remembered fondly from games that won’t be in the award spotlight, whether it was beating a game, DLC for an existing one, or an announcement of a game. So, expect a mix of new and old to appear on this list, in no particular order.

The war is finally over

I’ve owned Valkyria Chronicles on Steam since 2015, and when it was ported to PlayStation 4, I also picked it up there. Despite double dipping and singing its praises at every instance, I’d never beaten it. In both copies, I was stuck at the infernal Chapter 14, where the game asks you to capture a point before suddenly putting you in a pincer attack between two squads with boss-tier tanks.

When I returned to the game this year, I realized after a few attempts that the tanks spawned as soon as I captured the point but couldn’t move until I ended my turn. After moving my units behind where the would spawn, I proceeded to capture the point and then kill them in the same turn. Having finally gotten my revenge, I went through the rest of the game, which was mostly smooth sailing.

Also, the ending is one of the most precious things I have ever seen in a game. That’s a god damn happy ending that was well deserved.

The hidden side of Mashymre Cello

Yes, as many of you likely expected, Super Robot Wars X was going to be on the list. Although this is a somewhat unique one compared to the others.

Long story short, Stage 29 features Mashymre Cello, a recurring antagonist in the anime Gundam ZZ, who had not been in any promotional materials for the game and was a major surprise as a result. It then quickly escalated into one of, if not, the major bombshell surprises of the game as people discovered that he could be recruited if you took the right steps in that stage.

As the steps were known long before I had to review the game, due to an earlier release date in Japan, I grabbed him during my review playthrough. At first, it seemed like the same character I had come to know during the original show. That changed, however, during the dialogue after the stage, revealing a more serious and tragic side to the man that hadn’t been explored before. As a result, Mashymre, who I previously couldn’t even put a name to, became something of a favorite of mine, and one I used for the rest of the review run as well as during my run for the platinum trophy.

You better believe that man took down the Anti-Spiral from Gurren Lagann on his own. Who needs a drill when you have a rose?

Baby’s first Castlevania game

As I mentioned during my coverage of new songs for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I had never played a Castlevania game. Up until then, everything I had seen from the franchise made me believe it was something that just wouldn’t click with me; that I would be wasting my time if I bothered to play one.

Flash forward to the premiere date of season 2 of Castlevania on Netflix. After watching both seasons of the best god damn adaptation of a video game I’ve ever seen, or at least the impression I got, I needed to try one. So when Konami rereleased Symphony of the Night on PlayStation 4, I picked it up when I had some free cash.

I went in mostly blind, as the only thing I knew was the opening sequence, and oh boy. What a god damn treat. I won’t go into details despite its age, as I’d like others to still experience the surprises within like I was able to. However, I can firmly say that at the very least, it was a mistake to ignore Symphony of the Night for so long. That game is worthy of being called a masterpiece.

The minigame perfection of Lost Paradise

Let’s have a brief talk here. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an OK game. If you’re looking for a fun little romp with a Fist of the North Star skin, you can’t go wrong. However, it truly shines with its over the top minigames. A batting range while using a giant metal beam? A rhythm mini-game that has Kenshiro acting as a doctor, healing patients and exploding villains? A bartending minigame that includes drink names that play on Fist of the North Star phrases and techniques? Easily the standout of the game, and I genuinely hope the bartending one makes its way into the Yakuza series.

King K. Rool makes his triumphant return

So, I think everyone can agree that of all the newcomers for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, King K. Rool has been a perfect storm. His trailer was perfect, the remixes we received are hot fire, mechanically he’s great to play as. Everything we could have asked for from a newcomer, he has.

However, for this staff member, King K. Rool has a special place. I never owned a Super Nintendo, having gone from the NES to the N64 directly, so I never experienced the Donkey Kong Country games. Instead as a kid, I watched the TV show based on it every day after school, so the K. Rool I grew up with is very different from what most people know. Regardless, I’m happy that another part of my Nintendo childhood made it into Smash, even if it’s missing the Diddy Drop Rap.

The hunt is complete

Where the hell do I start with this one.

Back when I first got my PlayStation 4 in 2016, I picked up Bloodborne shortly after. It was all anyone was talking about in terms of exclusives, so I thought why not. Despite having not played any type of Souls game before knowing full well that type of game would infuriate me. What followed was me getting to Gascoigne, which is now one of my least favorite boss fights in any game, failing against him for two days straight, and then resigning it to the shelf for what would seem like the rest of its days.

As my backlog narrowed this year, the game entered my mind once again. I personally have a policy of if I buy it then it has to be beaten, and Bloodborne was currently the exception to that rule. Taking advice from the community, along with the mindset of getting HUGE to solve roadblocks, I returned to the game. After fully exploring the opening area, finding a boss I missed, and finally getting revenge on Gascoigne, I slowly made my way through the rest of the game, leaving no stone unturned.

Finishing this game was the god damn highlight of the year. Some points were a cakewalk, others, like Gascoigne, were the biggest pains in the ass I’d ever experienced. Much like Symphony of the Night, I had the pleasure of going in mostly blind, so I had the full experience that someone at launch would’ve had. While I don’t really want to go into detail, for the same reasons that I mentioned for Symphony, I will say though that the Winter Lanterns can go to hell.

As my first Souls-esque game, I wouldn’t play another as they definitely aren’t my cup of tea. However, if a Bloodborne 2 is announced, I will be all over that on day one.

G Gundam arrives Gundam Versus

Not a whole lot to say here. Master Asia and Domon should’ve been in the game from day one, and their arrival was great. Being able to play the opening themes for the show was an added bonus while having an excuse to quote the Super Asia speech to all challengers.

The wild leak ride

Listen children to a tale of a leak being debunked leading to extreme excitement.

Our other leak involves the roster of Super Robot Wars T. The day before the reveal, the list of franchises that were in was supposedly leaked. Unlike the Grinch leak, this was far more believable due to how safe it was. A lot of series that had b been reusing assets in recent games were present, such as Gundam Wing, Unicorn, and Daitarn 3. The debuting franchises were mostly ‘no shit, they were going to show up eventually’, such as Mazinger Infinity, Iron-Blooded Orphans, and Macross Delta. While I wasn’t ready to fully go ‘this is the real deal’, and despite having just been burned by the Grinch leak, I braced myself for a roster I was going to be very conflicted on.

Flash forward to 8 AM the next day, and I’m literally screaming as Zeta Gundam, which wasn’t in the leak, shows up in the trailer first to effectively say ‘leak was fake, hype train is a go’. What I ended up with was a really solid roster that I was happy with, containing a good mix of new and old. It also filled out a lot of my wishlist for what I wanted a new entry to have, easily topping the roster of this year’s Super Robot Wars X.

I also came out with the horrible lesson of believing in leaks that disappoint you means your excitement can only up if they’re proven wrong. The ultimate win/win, as a fake leak can’t hurt you if it’s already stuff you don’t want and even if it is real,  you’re expectations were already lowered so you won’t be as disappointed. Can’t wait to see this backfire on me.

Mike Sounders