My Top 10 Games of the Year for 2017 – Part II of II
I’m late to posting this, but here’s Part II of my GOTY list for 2017.
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I’m late to posting this, but here’s Part II of my GOTY list for 2017.
Although I’m a bit late to posting my second part to my Games of the Year for 2017, please read Part I if you haven’t already. My Top 10 Games of the Year for 2017 – Part I of II. There were a few other notable games I wanted to mention for various categories, so without further ado…
Yacht Club Game’s second expansion for Shovel Knight could quite possibly be their finest effort yet. In Specter of Torment, the player takes on the role of the elusive Specter Knight. This second expansion takes place prior to the events of the main game. With scythe in-hand, Specter Knight must travel the land in order to gain the cooperation of his soon-to-be allies in a quest to establish The Order of No Quarter. Some have argued that Yacht Club Games has already made two sequels, in the way of Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, respectively, and it’s a sentiment I don’t entirely disagree with.
Specter of Torment arguably houses the most unique and polished level design between the three current campaigns. Specter Knight’s weapon allows him to dash mid-air utilizing suspended goo-lanterns in order to cross gaps. It’s a new means of traversal that’s both natural and satisfying. His wall-climbing ability lends itself to a Mega Man X-like ebb & flow, too. The new player-hub is both atmospheric and bursting with character as well. The third expansion, King of Cards, is due out soon. Yacht Club Games has a lot to live up to with this final campaign, but I have no doubt that they’ve got a special card up their sleeve.
Pirate Queen’s Quest has to be one of the most disappointing DLC expansions I’ve played in the longest time. Stages are slightly remixed and bosses feature little-to-no difference in their patterns/designs. What’s even more disconcerting is the fact that nearly all of Risky Boot’s abilities are borrowed/lifted from, once again, Pirate’s Curse. Besides a newly animated home screen for the world map, one could mistaken this antagonist-based DLC for a throwaway unlockable mode (which, honestly, should have just been included in the main game). There’s very little creativity on display here and considering the fact that Yacht Club Games knocked it out of the park with their Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, respectively, it’s difficult to walk away from this expansion feeling impressed/satisfied.
Although I finished Destiny 2’s Curse of Osiris, Final Fantasy XV’s Episode Gladiolus and Prompto and dabbled in the Breath of the Wild updates, I didn’t feel too compelled to write anything about them yet. There were also a few other notable DLC expansions/campaigns in 2017 that I unfortunately did not get a chance to play, so hopefully I’ll return to these games in 2018 and beyond:
Nintendo fans have been waiting a very long time for a proper 2D Metroid game. Since Metroid Prime 3, Other M, and Federation Force, Nintendo and its various 1st-party/3rd-party development studios have experimented with the franchise in numerous ways (sometimes for better or worse). MercurySteam, known for their divisive Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series, one again took the helm of a legendary IP and with the support from the original co-creator of Metroid, brought us a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus. I completed the game on Normal at 100% Item Completion and walked away from the experience with mixed feelings.
As someone who grew up with Super Metroid, MercurySteam’s remake isn’t quite the return-to-form I was hoping for. I wouldn’t even compare it to the likes of Metroid Fusion or Zero Mission, either. Samus Returns is a fine Metroid game and as a standalone 2D action/adventure game, it’s competently made and extremely polished. What’s difficult to ignore is the studio’s rough-edges, considering their previous attempt in a similar space, (the very mediocre Castlevania: Mirror of Fate), it’s clearly evident that although they’re a capable studio, there’s something clearly missing with Samus Returns.
Considering the fact that Samus Returns is a remake of a Gameboy game, the source material probably held back the developers, in some respect. The new parry mechanic, although novel at first, quickly becomes trivialized as the player becomes stronger and obtains new upgrades. The areas don’t feel as thematically-focused or as diverse as other Metroid titles, either. Although the backgrounds offer some nice details and added 3D-touches, the various zones bleed into each other resulting in a mess of samey-looking caves and ruins. Despite my gripes with the game, I enjoyed Metroid: Samus Returns for what it was worth and it was the only significant “AAA” 3DS title I managed to finish in 2017, so… here we are!
Jools Watsham and his new studio, Atooi, released their latest 2D platformer, Chicken Wiggle, to little success on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Despite critical praise and the very (VERY) few people who bought the game and enjoyed it, Chicken Wiggle was considered a commercial flop. In an interesting post-mortem, the developer questions why the game was such a failure. Perhaps due to the timing of its release (near Switch’s launch), the game’s mobile-like title/logo or the fact that it released exclusively on a dying marketplace, Chicken Wiggle deserved more.
Chicken Wiggle is a 2D platformer, in the same vein as the developer’s previous work, Mutant Mudds. Stages are short and offer different types of gimmicks and abilities which keeps the game interesting and varied. The goal of the stage is to make it to the end while collecting a handful of items along the way. Unfortunately, the game feels like a collection of ideas with no proper flow or structure as the stage-select screen leaves a lot to be desired. There’s also a robust level-creator in the same vein as Mario Maker, which is surprisingly fully-featured and allows players to download/upload their creations. If you’re a fan of the developers previous works, such as Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter, you can do no wrong with Chicken Wiggle. Hopefully, the game wiggles its way to the Switch because this little chicken has some room to grow!
Despite the launch/focus on the Switch, Nintendo and its 3rd-party partners managed to release a handful of games in what’s arguably the portable’s final year. Although the Switch is doing extremely well as a console/portable hybrid, the massively successful 3DS occupied the majority of the market for a very long time. Until the Switch solidifies its position as the next portable giant (and according to its current sales numbers/projections, it won’t be much longer…), developers will continue to release games for the little-device-that-could. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to play many of the games listed below, but hopefully I make time for some of them in 2018 and beyond:
Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee was one of my most anticipated games of 2017. As someone who grew up with the likes of Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, mascot-era platformers have always been an important genre to me. While the game isn’t unplayable by any means, I had huge expectations for Yooka-Laylee, especially considering the fact that it was coming from former Rare developers; legends from the industry. Without going into further details here, see my full impressions.
Valkyria Chronicles is still in my Top 3 favorite PS3 games of all time. It’s also one of the best strategy RPGs I’ve ever played. The sequels that followed the original PS3 title(Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 for the PSP and now Revolution for the PS4) haven’t been able to capture the essence/spirit of the original. Revolution, developed by Media Vision, isn’t a terrible game, per se, but it begs the question as to why this was made? The art style, character models and nearly every aspect of the game feel a generation behind the original game despite having released on a current-gen system. The characters are stiff and uninteresting and the combat is less strategy and more action-oriented. The saving grace is an original composition by Yasunori Mitsuda, but it’s a great OST trapped in a middling affair. Hopefully, the recently announced Valkyria Chronicles 4 provides some much needed fresh air to the franchise.
Despite the huge success of Sonic Mania, a proper 2D Sonic title developed by a fan no less, one would think the momentum would continue for the little old blue hedgehog. As someone who finds modern-day 3D Sonic a guilty pleasure, I picked-up Sonic Forces expecting at least something as good or slightly better than Sonic Team’s previous efforts on Sonic Generations or Sonic Colors. Unfortunately, although it’s not as bad as say Sonic 2006, it’s much worse than it’s previous 3D affairs. Something about the way Sonic controls just doesn’t feel right and for a franchise that has always struggled in 3D (but nearly “got it” with Generations and Colors) it’s hard to understand what exactly Sonic Team was thinking. One has to wonder if Sonic Forces was developed with the Switch in-mind, as the levels lend themselves to quick pick-up & play sessions suitable for a portable device.
Stages, while extremely short, require multiple replays in order to collect everything. The story is as nonsensical as it ever was and all of Sonic’s stupid friends are back, too. Sonic Team’s sound team usually produces great soundtracks, but Force’s music isn’t as strong as other titles in the franchise. Despite how lackluster the whole game feels, I do still enjoy blasting the through stages, finding all of the routes and hidden items. I also love the dynamic camera work that’s been present in a lot of the more modern-day 3D Sonic games and it’s still a great showcase here. Zipping around rails, loops and boost-pads still treats the player to beautifully detailed backgrounds. Hopefully, Sonic Team hands the franchise off to a more competent studio/team going forward. If not, it’s back to the drawing board, once again!
I picked-up Super Bomberman R at launch, but played very little of the game due to my moral obligation to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As someone who grew up with Bomberman, I was relatively excited to see a new entry finally make its way back to the consoles. Unfortunately, the game was marred by balance/performance issues at launch. However, the game has been updated since and is significantly better. Prior to the patch, I only managed to complete the first world on the lowest difficulty setting. I returned to the story mode since the update and managed to beat the first world on Expert difficult, which felt relatively satisfying. I have tried a few online matches over the course of the year and the overall experience feels vastly improved. In its current state, it’s not a horrible adaptation of Bomberman, but considering Konami’s current reputation, I guess it could be worse?
While I’ve clearly missed the boat on Destiny, it’s apparently never too late to become a Guardian. I picked up the collection late last year and played it for about an hour or so initially. Before the release of Destiny 2, I decided to play as much of the original game in a last-ditch effort to join the fight against darkness. I’m currently Level 40 with a Light-level of about 250. I was only able to complete the vanilla campaign, some of the Taken King quest-line and two of the four raids (thanks to my clan). I decided against using the Level 40 boost/DLC code that came with the collection because I wanted to experience the natural character progression from the start. My friends tell me the game has changed A LOT, too. Reaching Level 40 and obtaining a high Light-level is apparently way easier than it’s ever been and that’s clearly evident from my experience.
Despite Bungie attempting to “reboot” or “reset” the Destiny universe with Destiny 2, the two games feel one in the same (with some very obvious differences). Since the launch of Destiny 2, I’ve managed to complete the main campaign, level my Titan to 25, reach a power-level of 330, complete the first “major” expansion, Curse of Osiris, and reach other various milestones. The Leviathan Raid, which is the end-game goal for most, if not all players, has eluded me since launch. Although I’ve had a relatively competent/active clan, trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule is nearly impossible. I wish the raid was available for a month before resetting progress, or at least longer than a week. The learning curve is ridiculous, even when having someone in your group who knows how the mechanics of each room works. I’ll keep playing Destiny because I generally enjoy the general gameplay loop and gun-play, but sometimes it seems actively engaged in pushing me away.
After 10+ years in development and the numerous updates/character expansions throughout the year, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about FFXV. Despite ending on a somewhat positive note, FFXV was one of the most inconsistent gaming experiences I’ve played in the longest time. The first-quarter, middle-half and end-game felt like they were designed by three different people with radically divergent visions. It’s a total mess of a game that did a lot of good but fell short of being something amazing. The product of development-hell and poor management, I suppose. Despite all of that, I find myself returning to this game, whether it’s to mop-up the remaining trophies for my Platinum Trophy or to check out the various events (such as the recent Assassin’s Creed festival) or any of the other character-based expansions. With yet another “Royal” update happening soon and more character expansions on the way, it looks like I won’t be able to help myself from indulging in this mess-of-a-game well into 2019!
Overwatch has been an interesting, yet frustrating experience. Years ago, I swore off the idea of ever investing in strictly competitive gaming. When I was younger, I played my fair share of both Team Fortress Classic and Team Fortress 2, but I quickly realized the scene wasn’t for me. Fast forward to 2017 and something compelled me to download Overwatch. I would consider myself a casual Blizzard fan, too, which may be the reason why I’ve gravitated towards this game more so than their other titles. I say this because Overwatch is an extremely casual game at first-glance. Jumping into a match is quick and painless and it’s incredibly easy to pick-up & play. I do find myself struggling to launch the game these days, despite the constant updates/events. I really want to devote more time to the game, but between other ongoing online-gaming obligations, I just haven’t made time for it.
Friday the 13th: The Game is the funniest gaming experience I’ve had all year. I haven’t been driven to tears of laughter due to a game in quite some time. The very first session between friends had me nearly crying due to the ridiculous nature of the game and the hilarity that inevitably ensues between friends. Pitting the counselors against Jason was a brilliant idea for a cooperative multi-player game. The game isn’t perfect by any means and it’s riddled with bugs/glitches and balance issues (which have since been mostly addressed?), but despite the game’s inherent janky-ness (which is ironically charming, in a sense), you’re not going to find a more genuinely good-time amongst your gaming pals anywhere else. Here’s hoping the developer, Gun Media, continues to support this endless night of terror!
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, developed by Lizardcube and published by DotEmu, is a remake of the original Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap for the Sega Master System/TurboGrafx-16. I first tried playing the game on the original Wii’s Virtual Console. I never did finish the game, but as someone who discovered the franchise late (with Monster World IV being my first exposure to the series), I was amazed to see it re-mastered/re-released on current-gen consoles. With reversed engineered gameplay from the original Master System code, beautifully detailed hand-drawn graphics, new musical compositions and other subtle features/details (such as the ability to swap the modern-day visuals/soundtrack with the original with a single button), there’s no better time to experience this cult-classic.
Voodoo Vince was an oddball, B-tier 3D platformer developed by Beep Industries back in 2003 for the original Xbox. For its time, I quite enjoyed Voodoo Vince as it was a product of Microsoft’s more experimental and interesting, yet risky developmental-period. Mascot-driven platformers are a guilty pleasure of mine and Voodoo Vince certainly fits the bill. Fast forward nearly 15 years later and Microsoft decides to re-release the game as Voodoo Vince: Remastered…yeah, that’s right, of all the games to receive an update, Voodoo Vince gets the HD treatment (Microsoft, while we’re at it, where’s our HD re-master for Blinx: The Time Sweeper?). I completed the game again at 100% on New Year’s Eve and had just as much fun as I did when I first played it!
Before Uncharted and The Last of Us, there was Crash Bandicoot. Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is an HD re-master of the original three games developed by Naughty Dog. As someone who played the original trilogy extensively (100% with all Platinum Ankhs), it’s been an very interesting experience revisiting these classics. I’ve completed the game since launch, but I’m still a few Gems and Gold/Platinum Ankhs away from the Platinum Trophy. Platformers from this era were my bread & better during my adolescence, so the difficulty does not come as a surprise to me. I do not, however, recall there being time trials in the original Crash Bandicoot. Attempting Platinum Ankh runs in the first game is incredibly challenging, but it’s a feat I’m willing to achieve!
There were a few other notable HD remasters/ports which I unfortunately did not have an opportunity to play yet, but they are still worth mentioning!
There was a period in time where I had an irrational hatred for Mobile gaming. As someone who grew up with various portable devices (such as Nintendo’s Game Boy and Sega’s Game Gear), I never quite understood the appeal of a digital d-pad or touch screen buttons/interfaces. In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of gaming is when a player presses a button and sees their input displayed on-screen. Tactile feedback is extremely important to me and I generally don’t believe touch screen controls provide fulfilling/rewarding experiences.
It wasn’t just about the lack of responsive controls, either. In Japan, there was a mass exodus of developers who traditionally developed for the dedicated home console/portable market who began creating mobile experiences instead. I felt relatively betrayed, as I didn’t quite understand the Japanese market at the time and how home consoles were on the decline. Considering the size of Japan and its commuter-based culture and dense population, it was only natural for such a shift to occur, given the technological advancements in phones over the years, too. As I’ve gotten older, wiser and hopefully less jaded, I’ve attempted to broaden my perspective in order to accept mobile gaming for something beyond having a distraction while you’re sitting on the toilet. It’s ironic that, of all companies, Nintendo, who seemed adverse to mobile gaming (at the time) would develop a game that not only on-boarded me as a mobile gamer, but created a super competent title for the platform on their first try.
Super Mario Run, for all intensive purposes, is an auto-runner. Mario moves automatically and the player must tap the screen in order to jump and navigate their way through the levels. Coins and enemies are placed to entice/lead the player through various routes/obstacles, but the primary goal is to get from point A to B before the timer runs out. Falling into a pit, hitting a spike or taking damage from an enemy will encapsulate Mario in a bubble which will set back the player’s progress until it’s popped. The controls offer a surprising amount of nuance. The pressure/timing of your taps can also lead to some interesting maneuverability and the collectable coins scattered throughout the stages demand that the player masters the more advanced techniques. I managed to complete the game with all Google Play Achievements and all Purple, Pink and Black Coins found. I have yet to try out the new DLC update, however.
Developer Brownies’ Android and Apple iOS release of EGGLIA: Legend of the Red Cap was a huge surprise for me. EGGLIA invokes the PSone-era of Japanese RPGs. It’s a content-rich turn-based/strategy RPG with no micro-transactions or other recent predatory nonsense that’s plagued the mobile market. For those familiar with Square’s The Legend of Mana on the original PlayStation, the visual style and aesthetics will make you feel right at home. The highly respected 8-4, Ltd. provided the English translation, too. Finally, an all-star cast including Shinichi Kameoka, the creator, Michio Okamiya, the producer, Yoko Shimomura, the composer, and Koji Tsuda, the background artist round-out the game’s development team. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to play much of the game, but I’m looking forward to returning to EGGLIA whenever I have the opportunity. Hopefully, as the game requires an online connection to play, the servers are still up when I decide to sit down with it again.
Between life obligations, work, and other interests/hobbies, there’s just not enough time in a year (let alone in a day, week or month) to play every game that’s worthwhile/interesting. If you’re like me, having a broad range of taste doesn’t help, either. Fortunately, I don’t mind having a backlog or a library of games that I can return to down the road. I’ve had the opportunity to check-out a few of the games mentioned below, but I did not play them long enough to provide a meaningful write-up. Some of these games may have made my Top 10 list for 2017, but that’s just not how the cards fell, so here’s to 2018 and beyond! It’s a long list, so without further ado…
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