Saturday, 2 January 2021
Tuesday, 29 December 2020
Oh hey. Actually writing about video games on this blog which started as a video game blog. That's weird. Anyway, as of this writing I have finished Symphogear. I'm fine. I'm just fine. We'll have to talk about that in 2021, though. For now, it's the end of the year roundup for a bunch of video games I played. I didn't play too many because I was busy obsessing over a certain magical punch girl utopic ideal, but I digress. Still, I found time for some pretty good video computer games. Let us talk about them, and start with...
BEST OPEN WORLD GAME OF 2020
I don't open world that much. In fact, I think my last dalliance with that was Breath Of The Wild. That game was very good when I played it, but the mists of time kind of made it like "well that was fine". Spider-Man on PS4 is sort of like that, but we're short on categories this year so you get bumped up, Parker. Be a happy man. Except not because it's Peter Parker so his life's shit. Not this game, though. It was a very engaging open world thing with a shitload to do, a pretty neat plot running through it, and just a whole bunch of swinging around. Really, you could do worse for Spider-Man games or open world ones. What else is there to say? I liked it.
BEST "BABY STEPS, I'M GETTING THERE" GAME OF 2020
Fire Emblem Echoes (3DS)
Hahahahaha for fuck's sakes. The astute among you may know that this game has now shown up on three GOTY lists in a row. The less than astute? Well, I just told you. It got on for 2018 because I impulse bought it and played about half of it, but had enough fun that I felt it had to go on the list. Then in 2019 I beat it on Casual mode, and finished another Fire Emblem game called The Sacred Stones. My baby steps in getting decent at these games. Well, somehow in January my beating of this game on Casual didn't sit right with me... so I fired it up on Classic. I finished it again. This is absolutely my favorite Fire Emblem, a unique flower of a game with "black sheep" mechanics that will never be seen in the series again... but I've talked about that before. I want to talk about the moment where, on a tough map with the risk of death present, I "got" Fire Emblem. I had a defensive wall, I knew who the AI would go for, I knew how to strategically bait out and peck at the enemy forces... I was a fucking tactician for a solid few moments there. Perhaps in 2021 I'll chase that high again. We'll find out, but for a brief shining moment there I really got it and loved it.
BEST FIGHTIN' FROG GAME OF 2020
Battletoads 2020 (XB1)
Yep. They made another Battletoads. Then I got an Xbox One for my birthday, and it came with Game Pass free, and this was on it... How could I fucking not? What I got was... Well, it's a Battletoads game alright. That might strike terror in many, so I'll say this one's much fairer and nice about proceedings. It's 2020 and they're not scared to death of little Billy beating the fucker in a weekend at Blockbuster and thus tuning the game into an existential childhood nightmare out of that fear. That being said, it's still Battletoads. It aims for a new level of humor which is highly subjective and mileage will vary, but I got a chuckle or two out of it so I won't complain. The game itself definitely gets what made Battletoads good though; what starts as a quite functional beat-em-up increases in difficulty very fast. Before it can become a full bullshitty unfair beat-em-up, though, it shifts into any goddamned game genre it can. Button-tapping minigames, twin stick shooter, puzzle platformer... and yes, you got your high-speed homages to classic Battletoad stages like the Turbo Tunnel or the Rat Race. It's good, it's quick, and it's more Battletoads that was free so I'm quite pleased.
HARDEST GAME OF 2020
Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection (Switch)
Son of a bitch. On a wild impulse (which I wrote all about) I ended up trying the original Samurai Shodown and struggling quite a great deal with its hateful, input-reading, frame-countering GIMME ANOTHER FUCKING QUARTER AI. Then SNK put a whole damn collection on the Switch and I deep dived. Okay, so that's seven games I put as the hardest game of 2020, but these fuckers deserve it. The first three I managed to barely squeak victory in after god knows how many quarters, but they get easier. Then there's Samurai Shodown V and its two variants (one of which is exclusive to this collection!) which I fell in love with. Mostly because it has an archer character, so the AI couldn't perfect block my attacks and instantly counter attack me because I was a ranged fighter. I loved this game enough to no-joke get one credit clears at the highest difficulty level, and while it was a real challenge to figure out, it was actually kind of satisfying. If the global hellstate calms down and I get a vaccination, I cannot wait to play this game with friends from away again and deal with human play as opposed to a perfect computer. Here's to you, SamSho.
BEST EXPLORATORY PLATFORMER OF 2020
Shantae And The Seven Sirens (Switch)
Okay, this is a weird one. I only played a few exploratory platformers this year, and I think this is the one I enjoyed the most. You'll see the others in the "And The Rest" category. Feel free to debate me on putting this one here, but I'm a big Shantae stan at this point who went gaga for Half-Genie Hero. In light of that, and despite this being good enough to get in the category... I was just a little let down by it in some ways? Previous games in this series have toyed with the exploratory platformer in different ways; the original is very much in the Simon's Quest mode, while Pirate's Curse and HGH are more a Demon's Crest style. Seven Sirens is straight-up an exploratory platformer a la Metroid or an Igavania. It's a bright, colorful, and fun one with lots of exploration and platforming and cute characters... but the goodies to be found leave a LOT to be desired. Pirate's Curse absolutely nailed powerups and made them open up new areas AND fun to use while exploring. HGH struggled with this a bit but the powers had their uses here and there. Seven Sirens just uses them as keys. The very last one you get is a triple jump which is nice, but everything else is strictly "and now with this powerup I can go HERE" and nothing else. It gets by with its charm, but I have to say I was just a bit let down by it. I have yet to revisit it to delve into doing it fast or other fun ending stuff like that, but it's still pretty good. Just... not as good as it could have been. With the current world map design but powers like Pirate's Curse, it would have been 100% lit. As it stands, it's less lit than that and that's a shame.
BEST "NEW OLD" GAME OF 2020
Bloodstained Curse Of The Moon 2 (Switch)
Oh fuck, now here we go. The original Curse Of The Moon was a welcome surprise, a loving spiritual successor to classic Castlevania that managed to improve upon its inspiration thanks to quality of life upgrades and just being really rad. Well, Curse Of The Moon 2 is more of that. Quite a lot more. A whole new suite of playable characters including a goddamned corgi in a goddamned steampunk mech suit. The same core of playable characters from the first game. Multiple routes through each stage, variable difficulty, and a climactic final mode that's just the goddamned coolest. It's not perfect and some of the bosses are way too busy and bullshit (looking at you, sarcophagus fuck in stage 6) but goddamn if there isn't a LOT of very good action platforming to dig into here. I'm very impressed with it and generally really pleased with it.
BEST GAME MADE BY PALS IN 2020
Hot damn! My pal Thom made an RPG and it's pretty goddamned good! Thom is very much an RPG superfan, and so a lot of knowledge and wisdom went into this game. Also a lot of heart, as the story moves along on a great little clip. I quite enjoyed Silus, and its battle system has a certain deepness to it, what with elemental weaknesses and buffing and debuffing and all that other stuff. This is the kind of game where managing that sort of thing feels really good, and by the end of the game it just felt really damn good to have gotten into a rhythm where you could nuke shit with your magic and buff up to deal with the tricky boss stuff. The story's also commendable and it really goes places and makes you feel for its sympathetic villains, and want to take down the motherfuckers at the heart of the conflict. It's also got a super gay magical academy girl as a party member. RACHEL BEST GIRL. I can say that, it's my list. Anyway if you like old RPGs from 25 years ago or so, you'd dig Silus. It's breezy, quick, fun, and a good pal made it. Good job, Thom.
GAME OF THE YEAR 2020
Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)
Yes, I know. I usually put some artsy weird thing that made me cry as the Game Of The Year. Putting a big remake of one of the most popular games ever seems a bit out of place for me, but all I can be is honest. Besides, bear with me 'cause this game delivers on the gonzo goods. Before that, though, it delivers on the very well made action RPG goods. God help me, it actually works well. There were a few hiccups here and there (LOOKING AT YOU, WALL MARKET ARENA BOSS) but I found the battle system neat as hell and really satisfying. This is a massive expansion of part of the original FF7, and the love and care put into it shows. What are just random side characters in the original are given so much more personality and charm now, and it makes the knowledge of what's to come all the wilder. If it were just that, a straight expansion of part of FF7, people would eat it up. Just that alone, though, wouldn't have been enough. No, they get really fucking clever with it. There are certain elements and things going on that will make one raise an eyebrow and wonder what the fuck. I'm not going to spoil them here, but suffice it to say that the end of this game was a wild ride. Here I was, having played for hours, it approaching midnight... and I decided to press on and beat the game that night. By now it had explained the stranger elements, and they are extremely meta. The final battle just goes for it in full, to the point that it feels more like the climax to a Dangan Ronpa game than a Final Fantasy one. I wish I could spoil it, but I've given enough away already and a spoiler section would only be a few lines long. Let's just leave it at that. A very very solid remake of a quite good and beloved RPG classic, that manages to actually Say Something that hit upon me in a resonant and crunchy way. That's what makes a Game Of The Year 'round these parts, and that's what the FF7 remake did. It earns it spot well, and I certainly hope the PS4 isn't retired by the time they get around to the next chapter of this story.
...AND THE REST
Here's the usual honorable mention sort of category. These games were all varying degrees of good, but they didn't get their own special categories made up. That can be due to many things. Maybe I already had that type of game filled up, or maybe I just couldn't make up a half-decent category. Either way, they're not left off the list. They're just down here. No disrespect, here are some brief thoughts on good games I did play this year.
Bloodstained Ritual Of The Night (Switch)
In contrast to the Curse Of The Moon games, Ritual Of The Night is very much in the Igavania exploratory platformer style. My copy was a gift and it was pretty nice to run through, but I admit that on a certain level I'm less impressed with it than I am with the Curse games. As I said, the Curse games feel like a natural evolution of classic Castlevania. Ritual, on the other hand, didn't give me that sense of surpassing and improving; it was very much "y'all remember Aria of Sorrow? Here is another game like that.". Aria of Sorrow is very good and Ritual Of The Night is very good by being like it, but on a certain level it didn't click with me like the Curse games. I am excited for the Classic mode they're adding to the thing though, so this may be worth a revisit.
The Legend Of Zelda (NES)
What in the hell is the original Zelda doing on this list? I have indeed played it before, but for whatever reason this year I did some challenge runs of it. I pulled off a 3-heart run, and then the swordless challenge. There's a surprising amount of depth and strategy to that game when you play it like that, and also some really damn annoying parts. Anything with Wizrobes or Darknuts is a nightmare, but I managed to pull these runs off and have a good time with the very first Zelda, so that was quite nice for me.
Mega Man Zero (GBA)
Ah yeah, the Zero and ZX collection dropped this year! I really only delved deep into the original Mega Man Zero, but that game's surprisingly crunchy and fun. It's a direct antecedent of my beloved Mega Man ZX, after all, and I went for a high-rank run. I managed to keep S rank up for a good while, until I just ran out of patience for it and beat the game while using stuff. My final rank was A, which is good enough, and maybe one day I'll go back and master that. Even so, what a damn good hard action game. I'm impressed, and would definitely enjoy that revisit.
Fatal Fury (Neo Geo)
I wrote about this game at length in my big fighting game post from May (I linked it up there during my talk about Samurai Shodown), so I won't repeat myself too much. It's a fascinating little fighter with design choices that would never be made in a post-Street Fighter 2 world, and it's something I'd love to try to 1CC if I ever got good enough at it. The final few fights are an absolute nightmare and would end 90% of my runs, but I like it enough to deem it worth trying. Andy Bogard's pretty rad.
51 Clubhouse Games (Switch)
I mean, I don't have much to say here. It's just a bunch of card and board games and stuff. You wouldn't think it'd be much, but it managed to be a nice pleasant time killer. Sure, you got classic card stuff like their own version of Uno, or Solitaire, but I found enjoyment in simple non-card games like the billiards or the golf as well. My only gripe is that the online is really bad for me, and that's partly due to my lacking Internet connection in the middle of nowhere... but also, it's a damn card game. Why's it got to lag to single FPS if I connect with someone else to play cards? Christ. Regardless, a sleeper little love for 2020.
Super Mario 64 (N64)
Oh hey, nothing much here, just another of the most important games ever made from 25 years or so ago. I actually attempted a 120-star run over the summer on the original console. This fucker's got teeth, and it eventually became too much for me. I tapped out at 111 stars on Tick Tock Clock, I just did not have the patience. Later in the year, when the 3D All-Stars collection dropped, I went back and did 70 star and picked all the stars I remembered liking. Played that way, it was nice because I could play all the good levels and forget all that bullshit that made me want to set my hair on fire. One day, maybe my patience will come back and I'll do it all. Boy, 2020 really is the year where I almost did full challenge runs, huh?
Super C (NES)
Speaking of challenge runs, here's one I actually finished in record time. I decided, for some ungodly reason, that I wanted a no death clear of Super C to match the one time I pulled the same off with the original Contra. It's something that took some work, and a little advice from Contra expert Polly to clear a particular roadblock with a clever consistent strat, but I kept at it and got my no-death clear. Contra's a rush. I'd have to be crazy to try the same for Contra 3, but you never know what kind of madness will overtake me in 2021.
Pokemon Shield Expansions (Switch)
Both halves of the new Pokemon DLC dropped this year and I blitzed through each of them in a weekend. New Pokemon added back in, a few brand-new Pokemon and regional forms whipped up, and just some more pleasant adventures in the Pokemon world. It's nice, you know? I got to play Pokedex hunter again, I made a whole new team of cool little critters, saw a lot of cute trainers, and did a bunch of co-op Dynamax battles. It's just plain fun to run through, and both expansions definitely were worth my time. One wonders what's next on the Pokemon horizon, but for now this was quite nice.
Momodora Reverie Under The Moonlight (XB1)
A game I dabbled with once on Steam years ago, and happened to find on that fancy new Xbox One Game Pass. I figured what the hell, and fired it up. This is an absolutely beautiful and graceful little exploratory platformer that doesn't overstay its welcome. It's short, sweet, but memorable. I really admire it, andit showed some teeth at times as well. It was unafraid to beat me down, but it was forgiving enough that I dusted myself off and went right back at it. Hell yeah. What a cute and fun little gem.
In addition to giving me pro Super C advice, Polly also made a game this year! You Beat The Turbo Tunnel is a simple little thing which takes the infamous NES Turbo Tunnel and... well, makes it so you can beat it. It's a fun little chuckle of a game, but I also admire how it takes this infamous thing which was a locked gate for so long to so many and just smashes it to bits in the name of comedy. Little Billy is 35 YEARS OLD NOW, BLOCKBUSTER IS DEAD, AIN'T NO NEED FOR THE TURBO TUNNEL TO MAKE YOU WASTE YOUR TIME ON A RENTAL! Now you can beat the Turbo Tunnel, and it's all thanks to Polly. Thanks for that, Polly! =)
Horny Sokoban that can be beaten in 90 minutes. I know, because I fucking did it live. You can click that and witness my descent into madness, frustration, and even a little light bulb of relief as I actually honest to God figure out a solution or two on my goddamned own. Then swear again. It's also got cute devil girls in suits. Like I said. Horny Sokoban. Check it out sometime, it's free on Steam even. Or watch me lose my absolute shit at it. Your choice.
That'll do it for Game Of The Year stuff! I never quite know what to put at the end of these, so I'll just say thank you for being patient with me. It's been a tough year for us all, and I've mostly descended into magical girl nonsense like I usually do. That may change once I finish the final writeup... but, again, you gotta wait 'till 2021 for that. We all weathered this shit year together, so let's bundle up (at appropriate distance) and weather through the rest until some goddamned pinprick of hope shows up. Much love to you all, and we'll see you for 2021. Until then, loves. <3
Friday, 25 December 2020
Part 5: Discord Of Divinity
Here we are, then. The final part of the writeup, wherein we deal with the true antagonist of the season. I said it way back when we began talking about the season, but Adam Weishaupt is basically playing from the Dr. Ver playbook for his run on the show (the prick). Hell... I can't believe I'm about to say this, but he's not even as good at being an arch-manipulator as Dr. Ver was. His end goal is betraying the Bavarian Illuminati for his own selfish wants, yes, but there's no clever plotting here. Okay, blowing up the old Kazanari HQ is actually part of his plan in a way we'll see in a moment, but that move isn't one of an arch-plotter. It's getting rid of the problem with a very big boom. Dr. Ver would have gotten someone else to blow it up for him by convincing them it was a vital move. I need to stop giving Dr. Ver faint praise in comparison before I throw up now, Jesus Christ.
Thursday, 24 December 2020
Part 4: Percussion Of Perfection
We've been talking all around the Bavarian Illuminati, but we have yet to dive into the specific ideology which drives the trio in this series. Doing that will uncover a unique but interesting ideological conflict between them and the Symphogears, so let's poke at it. Our first glimpse of them was melting a bunch of Val Verdan military leaders into glowing light, which Saint Germain then absorbed and used to summon that big god dragon. We'll get to that, but they're also here to pick up a specific something or other... that something or other being an ancient Autoscorer named Tiki who's vital to their plans. Why not use her sooner? Well...
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
Part 3: Precipitato Of Problematic
Well, that header's not ominous at all. To make matters worse... God. I really cannot believe I have to say this for the third time in the row. Deep breaths, everyone. We have to talk about Dr. Ver again. Yes, I know. That massive prick. He's dead, so thankfully we don't have too much to say... but let's think back to that moment where he died. No, not the part where it's dangerously close to giving the prick a heroic and noble death where he saved the world. In fact, never play that bit again. No, I mean the part where he left Maria a mysterious futuristic SD card with some cryptic dying words. A plot hook, in other words, for this season to tug on. As it turns out, what he had on that card was a formula for creating LiNKER. A parting gift so Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe can continue to battle the Noise. Unfortunately, Elfnein hasn't been able to crack the formula as of the start of the series. This gives us part of a little arc, and something we can really dig into for a start here... but I don't think it's going to end pretty. Let's begin.
Tuesday, 22 December 2020
Part 2: Requiem Of Regret
Alright, there's going to be a lot of wild shit to play with later, especially considering the Bavarian Illuminati. I'm going to leave it on the back burner and instead focus on some other assorted resonant plots within Symphogear AXZ. Regret is a powerful thing that runs through some of these plotlines, both main and B plots, as we go through the story. It's very much an umbrella of sorts, but it will help consolidate everything together. Let's start with something I am hesitant to peck at. We get to start by talking about World War 2 and Japan's perspective on it! Which... okay, I'm lying, we're not going to go full tilt with that. I don't know. I'm a white person from the other side of the world, I have no idea about the complex feelings of Japan's thoughts on World War 2 and what happened there. What I can do is what I've always done. I can peek at what's here and make something of it involving the regret theme. Let's do that, then. It'll be kind of like looking at a Godzilla movie. I'm going on in without a guide this time, but I think I can handle it. Well, I hope I can.
Monday, 21 December 2020
(Happy holidays! This, as you'll soon come to see, took me a hell of a time to work on. Between NaNoWriMo and the inherent... prickly bits of the season in question, it took me a month or so just to bang out the words and get it done. I had to just sit on it for a while, let it simmer, and really ponder on what the show was trying to say. I hope the conclusions I came to aren't too disagreeable to you. If they are, well, maybe we can have reasonable discussion. You know, talking to understand one another. Like the cute punchy girl I've devoted a book to! As always, there are full spoilers ahead for this show. As always, thanks to the very special people who support me in these endeavors. As always... let's get into it.)