My favorites in za warudo
Here we are! My absolute favorite time of year for video games. We get to reflect back and say to ourselves, “Yes, these are the games I loved the most, let’s go.”
It feels like it was only recently that I enjoyed thinking back on my time for 2015 and the games of that year. Lots of people want to adopt a negative attitude of the past year but, I mean whatever, right? I got married in 2016 douchebags, so I’m living it up.
Not just getting married, I also took the plunge on one of shounen manga’s most defining series, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. After seeing countless jokes, memes, and references from all sorts of sources, including The Best Friends Zaibatsu, I decided I had to see what all the hype is about. When part four, Diamond is Unbreakable, was roughly halfway through its story, I marathoned Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, and Stardust Crusaders for days on end. Now that I’ve finally finished up on Diamond, I can safely say I am so happy I decided to at least join the fandom. I don’t know when I’ll get into the manga, but as far the general fandom, thanks to David Production’s run on the anime, I’m officially looking forward to seeing the rest of Araki-sensei’s work in manga form until the eventual anime adaptations.
Which leads me to my choice of format for my GOTY list this year. Each game on my list will be represented by a Stand, the defining characteristic of the JoJo series. While this leaves Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency out in terms of representation, know that I absolutely love Battle Tendency and respect Jonathan Joestar’s cheesy heroic shenanigans in Phantom Blood. But once Stands are introduced, the series and the shounen format were forever changed by this new concept of gauging battle strength.
A Stand, for the uninitiated, is the manifestation of a person’s willpower and determination. While later arcs also include things and even concepts to have Stands, Stands are in essence psychically manifested images that have an array of skills and powers, ranging from the standard like punching really hard, to the weird like making a game of rock, paper, scissors into games of life or death (I think?). Each game on my list has a unique Stand that best represents the concepts I loved about it from up to the recently completely on anime, Diamond is Unbreakable.
So let’s get into this. With my help, not only will you see some good-ass games, you’ll also get a sense for one good-ass anime.
The Echoes award for greatest potential: Street Fighter V
When I thought of Street Fighter V, I could only think of one Stand to use: Echoes. Echoes began as a relatively nonsensical and weak Stand. And just like Echoes, Street Fighter V launched with all the grace of a one-legged chicken taking flight. But neither stopped with where they stood. The graphs from which Stands are judged include potential growth or the Stand’s ability to become stronger than it is now over time. As Echoes grew alongside its master, Koichi, it gained new forms, called Acts, which gave Koichi greater combat ability compared Echoes’ previous Acts.
Street Fighter V might have been a debacle at launch, but over time it made good on its promise for new characters, and even a more proper single-player mode. Now into 2017, Akuma is kicking off a new round of characters alongside a shakeup of the meta with buffs and nerfs to the existing roster. I love the Street Fighter series, and I’m glad that despite the negativity or weakness it showed at the start, season two is showing that Street Fighter V won’t be resting on its laurels as a much-improved experience anytime soon.
The Crazy Diamond award for general excellence: Pokémon Sun and Moon
Crazy Diamond is an excellent Stand. It’s powerful in strength and has a cool primary ability, but it’s not overpowered in comparison to Star Platinum. Crazy Diamond is strong, can heal or repair anything, but its range is seriously limited. Pokémon Sun and Moon are excellent entries to the series, possibly being the best in a long while. The Hawaiian aesthetic is pinpoint and the new meta of moves and ‘mon is a breath of fresh air. Sure it’s not something super freaky new like some people want to imagine, but it does everything so well and even a few new tricks without being completely dominating in the landscape of games.
Like Crazy Diamond has shown through countless battles with Josuke Higishikata, Pokémon can’t stop, won’t stop, and will push onward to even greater heights in order to achieve victory. So shine on your crazy diamond.
The Bastet award of why is this so damn fun: Doom
Months before Doom‘s release, the unavailability of review code could only mean one thing: the game is shit and Bethesda wanted to hide that fact for as long as possible. How could this revisit of a classic game possibly go well when so many similar properties didn’t pan out? At the same time, look at Bastet! It’s just a stupid American electrical outlet! What good can you expect from that?
Turns out, Doom was good. Actually, it was really good. Its no-nonsense approach to just kicking ass and making hyper-violence cartoonishly fun is almost spooky. It’s borderline childish and yet it feels so good to play. Finding Bastet hanging around randomly as an electrical outlet in the middle of nowhere, of course, you’re going to touch it. Then blammo, your victim can do almost nothing as they slowly become buried by an excess of metal garbage created by the magnetic flux surrounding them.
Neither of these examples should be considered effective. And yet they are. Sure, Mariah was defeated by Old Joseph Joestar in the end but damn was such a simple power from Bastet quite the obstacle for him to overcome. Just like how Doom is constantly encouraging you to commit atrocities of violence against random hellspawn, it’s just plain fun.
The Fool award of simple is best: Kirby Planet Robobot
When I first saw Kirby: Planet Robobot, I thought, “It just looks like Triple Deluxe but with Mega Man X‘s mecha.”
Turns out, that’s all it really is and that alone is enough to create a great new game. When you think about it, Iggy’s Stand, The Fool, is also the manifestation of the phrase “simple is best.” The Fool is just a pile of sand and dirt mentally controlled by a Yorkshire Terrier. And that simplicity is what also makes The Fool so versatile: the shape-shifting sand the Stand is bound to as Iggy controls it allows him to do things like glide, create defensive walls, and fight back.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is just Triple Deluxe with a mecha. And yet the level design also expands to accommodate this feature. The end result is a super fun game with great levels and puzzles, and that’s all there is to it.
The Superfly award of oh god why does this work: Enter the Gungeon
I have a complicated relationship with roguelikes, especially the sort that are beyond my ability to properly complete. I’ve never beaten FTL and have clawed my way through The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I’ve never beaten Enter the Gungeon, either, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun or enjoyable despite getting my nuts kicked every hour or so. The invincible dodge roll that makes it sound easy on paper is also an extremely important part of getting past simply impossible odds. How can I continue to beat my head into a concrete wall? Because it’s just fun to get different items and modifiers, while testing my abilities to the full extent.
Superfly sounds inversely stupid and similar. It is a Stand that simply exists, being a literal inanimate object that shouldn’t be a threat from afar. So why is this static object such a powerful force when Josuke crosses paths with Toyohiro Kanedaichi? This stupid telephone tower, which for all intents and purposes does nothing, can be a terrifying enemy in the right situations, like if you can trick someone into stepping into its cage-like range. Suddenly you’re trapped forever and it even fights back if you decide to get violent.
Enter the Gungeon could’ve been just another roguelike in a sea of pretenders. And yet its skill ceiling and hilariously consistent gun motif (seriously, everything is related to guns, even swords!), made Enter the Gungeon one hell of a standout for the roguelike genre.
The Killer Queen award of explosive twists: Bravely Second: End Layer
When I decided to play Bravely Second, I knew I should expect a massive, narrative-transforming twist to the story. Yes, there’s also an addicting job class crossover system on top of the established brave/default system of banking turns from the turn-based combat. But after Bravely Default’s dimension-shattering twist, I knew I wasn’t the only one looking hard for a story twist to get everyone talking.
And then it happened. And I couldn’t believe it was just as mind-blowing as the first game, if not more so.
Killer Queen can be a lot like this. Killer Queen is a relatively strong Stand who can compensate any gap in strength with the straightforward ability to turn the things it touches into bombs. Anything that touches those bombs simply blows up into nothingness. Killer Queen even has a sub-ability to fire out an autonomous, heat-seeking tracer bomb, Sheer Heart Attack
But nothing compares to the twist of Killer Queen’s third ability, which it acquires right at the climax of Diamond is Unbreakable’s arc. What can a serial killer who wishes for peaceful anonymity possibly get to guarantee his safety? How about turning someone who knows his secret identity into a time bomb. No, not a bomb on a timer, but a bomb that kills a person then turns time back one hour?
Not only is that an incredible ability that adds a wrinkle to the narrative of finding a killer in hiding, but it’s just a great name too: Bites the Dust, also known by English-speaking fans as Bites Za Dusto.
The Cheap Trick award of persistent success: Monster Hunter Generations
Last year, I got into the Monster Hunter series through 4 Ultimate. This year, Generations released to critical reception for another bunch of additions to keep longtime fans while intriguing newcomers. Most of what Generations does is even less new compared to Pokémon. It did, however, add the new hunting styles and hunter [super] arts, furthering allowing people to play the way they wanted. Are you a diehard veteran who wants to play like you always have? Or are you the type of hunter who thrives off frame-perfect dodge rolls and counter attacks?
Cheap Trick is sometimes referred to as both the weakest and most powerful Stand. On one hand, it does almost nothing. On the other, Cheap Trick’s ability is simply to talk or whisper, even to non-Stand users who wouldn’t ordinarily perceive Stands. But since it is literally attached to a person’s back, doing nothing but incessantly whispering annoying things into their ear or even taunting people nearby, you can do nothing to him except fall for his tactics or just walk away. And really, doesn’t that just make the best franchise? Something that’s enduring and indestructible while also being persistently good at one thing? That’s Monster Hunter for you.
The Heaven’s Door award of enjoyable story: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice
Really, what’s there to say about comparing Heaven’s Door to a visual novel game? Heaven’s Door is a manga come to life, the physical manifestation of a book and story. Visual novels like Spirit of Justice are just the story of a game without pesky things like mechanics or platforming to get in the way.
It also feels like Heaven’s Door, despite being the Stand of an enjoyably stubborn character like Rohan Kishibe, is sure jobbing it up during most of its fights. Just like how the antagonizing prosecutors of Ace Attorney sure find themselves losing an inordinate amount of times as you happen to join the story.
Also, just like how I enjoy hearing Bites Za Dusto being invoked, I love hearing Rohan invoke Heaven’s Door. HEAVENZU DOHWAH!
The Star Platinum/The World award of absolute time control: Overwatch
You might be thinking, “Oh, another person who loves Overwatch since release.” Actually, I just got my PS4 a little over two weeks ago.
I got Overwatch two days after I got my system because of the holiday sale.
I quickly racked up 10 hours of playtime and reached level 25 alongside 12 loot boxes purchased. I’m straight up addicted to its gameplay with cosmetic RNG boxes supplementing my inherent need to play. The characters, the personality, the gameplay, the meta balancing, the different roles anybody can play, it’s all just so polished. Maybe it’s nothing objectively new but it’s polished to a mirror sheen and it’s as tight as the bodysuits Tracer and Widowmaker wear.
It is many people’s game of the year because of how enjoyable and well-made it is. And no matter how you view Stand powers and balance, being able to stop time like The World is a broken power to have. Even if you can think outside the bounds of time and space for a solution to The World’s time control, it’s still a naturally strong and physically imposing Stand. Even Star Platinum: The World lost power in its defense attribute after Stardust Crusaders, which would explain why it takes damage like crazy during the Sheer Heart Attack arc.
So you see, the only way I could logically compare Overwatch‘s grip on me as my favorite game this year, despite the amount of time I’ve owned it, is to compare it to a being that can stop time and move around in a world of stopped time to do whatever it wants, like throw knives or crush you under a road roller it happens to find.