Friday, 29 December 2017

Frezno's Games Of The 2017 Thing!

Well, here we go again. 2017's setting just behind the big magical year mountains, and 2018 is about to crest over the... other big magical year mountains. This metaphor got away from me, but the point is that I played LOTS AND LOTS OF COMPUTER GAMES in 2017! It's time for another go-around retrospective of the most interesting, emotionally affecting, and/or Just Plain Fun things that I ended up blasting through this year. Expect a lot of arbitrary categories, some with more than one entry in them because I can't kill my darlings and this is my own goddamned list so I MAKE THE RULES HOORAY HAHA. I'm really excited to get into this whole thing and gush about stuff, so let's get right on rolling with Frezno's Games Of The 2017 Thing!

Double Dragon 4 (PC)

Let's start off with a bit of a redo/regret. From memory it amounted to "ehh, it's okay". Now let's look at the actual article to see what I really said in detail. I've not looked, either, as I type this, so it can be a bit of discovery for both of us. Ready? Okay, click through now and rejoin me back here. Huh. So yeah. It was okay, and I deemed it as such because the NES trilogy was also okay. Hey, you know what the NES trilogy has that this doesn't? Replayability. Oh sure, the presentation and all fooled me into thinking this had replayability... but when I actually went back and did it for a stream, whatever mediocre magic there was quickly faded. It's aggressively mediocre, and though it promises a lot of replay value with all its characters, there's no real substance to speak of. It tricked me into thinking there was depth, and I fell for it and wrote about it. I haven't gone back since January, and that's not a hallmark of a replayable game. I didn't play much hot garbage this year, but for being easily hoodwinked by this bit of sentient "meh" I give this the stamp of disapproval.

Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin (PS3)

I know. I know, okay? Putting Dark Souls in the spot for the hardest game is cliche as almighty fuck. In this moment, I'm being a bit more objective. Of all the games I played and beat this year that gave me a challenge, Dark Souls II gave me the most consistent and difficult challenge. Whether that challenge was entirely deserved in places or not, I dedicated two entire blog posts to. Nevertheless, I can look back on my journey through Drangleic with fondness. At times it was frustrating and at other times it was goddamned bullshit, but I feel better for having done it. I even went back to the original a few times this year, because that's a game that will never leave me. Still, Dark Souls II was the toughest nut I got to crack open in 2017 when you take everything into account. You'll see other hard games in the "And The Rest..." category, but do note that their hard parts were difficulty spikes. Dark Souls II was a goddamn difficulty mountain range that hardly ever let up on me. Don't worry, though; I've exhausted all of the Souls game I can currently play, by doing a little Demon's Souls this year as well. Unless I luck into a PS4, you shouldn't see a Souls game on the 2018 list.

Her Lullaby (PC)

Gosh, my pals can get a little dark, huh? Her Lullaby is not a game for the faint of heart. There's a certain other visual novel that came out this year that disguises its dark undertones with a sheen of happy dissonance, and that approach can work quite well if you recall my Higurashi post for Halloween. Her Lullaby is not that kind of game. It dispenses with the pretense and gets into the dark themes right away. I haven't played that certain other visual novel game, so I've no idea how they compare and contrast... but Her Lullaby is some sort of nightmarish vision, and I couldn't begin to try and understand exactly what parts of Polly and John's imaginations these ideas came from. It's a game about nasty thoughts and nasty deeds, but it manages to be gripping and compelling if you can handle that level of ultraviolence. (I couldn't quite handle their original vision due to a specific phobia of mine, but Polly and John were kind enough to edit that moment out of my copy <3) They both remain quite proud of it, and I'm proud of them for seeing their vision through, fucked and violent as it may be. If you think you can handle it, give it a go by all means.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PC) & Shantae And The Pirate's Curse (Wii U)

THAT'S RIGHT, KIDS! SHANTAE, SHANTAE, SHANTAE! If you'll recall, last year Shantae Half-Genie Hero snuck right the hell into my Games Of The Year list at the eleventh hour and proved to be one hell of an experience that really sat well with me. Presentation-wise, it was gorgeous and lovely and everything I needed in a 2D stage-based exploratory platformer. On and off over 2017, I found myself going back to it. I did a Let's Play, I did the Hardcore Mode, I did the Risky Boots mode AND I did the Friends To The End mode. All gotten with one down Kickstarter payment, and all even more content for a new beloved action platformer classic. Shantae And The Pirate's Curse, on the other hand, I gave one playthrough in January right after clearing HGH for the first time. I accept the widespread opinion that the permanent pirate powers in Pirate's Curse are far more fluid and fast and fun to use than the animal transformations in HGH. There's just this blistering sense of speed and utility that isn't there with stopping to turn into a monkey, and as such the powers feel less like keys to open up locks in the stages to get more shit. There's no wrong choice of favorite Shantae game between these two, as they're both a blast and highlights of the year. As an aside, I did play the original GBC Shantae. It's okay, if not a little rough around the edges. I don't have too much more to say on it, so I gave the other two the main highlight.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)

That's right, kids! I spent entirely too much money on a Nintendo Switch like three weeks ago! Of the tiny handful of games I could afford, this one is the one I have engaged the most with and actually cleared. It's a Warriors game! I hadn't really gotten into those until this year, when I did One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 on the Vita. It was solid enough and helped get me into the genre, along with the enthused chattings of a certain other individual who may or may not be reading. Fire Emblem Warriors, however, is the one that clicked with me more... and I think the reason is because of the Fire Emblem half. Warriors/musou games, to me, seem to be transformative works that slot into other licenses quite easy with their basic "take all the forts and kill 1000 guys in one attack" gameplay that's oh so refreshing in short bursts. (As an aside, it helps that the two musou games I played this year were on handhelds, basically.) Now with an anime license like One Piece, the transformation basically amounts to getting to punch pirates from the manga/anime in the face. That's solid on its own merits, but FE Warriors gets to have a little more fun by virtue of its second half being another video game series. As such, not only do you get the satisfaction of cutting down 1000 guys in one attack, taking all the forts, and THEN defeating a beloved Fire Emblem character with your sword... but you get fun Fire Emblem mechanics in your fusion as well. The best addition is having several allies on your side, and being able to go into the menu and command them to take other forts while you focus on some other objective. It adds just a little bit of strategy flavor from the adapted series into the whole affair, and it's really classy. Plus, I can kill 1000 guys with a burst of magic from a small mage child riding a horse. I SPENT FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS!!!

Ninja Gaiden (NES) [14:08]

Yes, that's right. 2017 is the year I dipped my toes into the magical world of speedrunning. A solid week was spent routing and learning and practicing Ninja Gaiden done quickly, and the end result was my only successful attempt. Ninja Gaiden, cleared in 14 minutes and 8 seconds. I haven't actually tried to shave that down since, but I made so many goddamned mistakes in the run that it could easily go down to a sub-13 minute run with a little effort. I just need to put in the effort. It was an exhilarating ride, speedrunning! I can see why people do it, and I have Polly to thank again for lighting the fire under me to go for it and try it. As an interesting experience, it goes on the list even though I can beat this game casually in my sleep and have several times. 62nd place is a far cry from the top 10 or an AGDQ, but it feels pretty good from here, it must be said.

Cuphead (PC)

Okay, so it didn't manage to send me into consistent fits of ego-death like Dark Souls II did. Nevertheless, Cuphead is properly great and challenging. Its unique aesthetic and beautiful animations set it apart from other things and make it stand out, even if the debate over the problematic roots of that aesthetic can hang over it like a stormcloud sometimes. Putting that discussion aside, it's great and fun and tough in places! Yes, even though it's not the hardest thing I did this year, I'd give it the silver medal. Right around island 2 is when the game pulls off the kid gloves and starts really kicking your ass with the tricky patterns (WALLY WARBLES YOU PIECE OF SHIT), but it's satisfying to learn those things and get better and blast on through. I managed to do some co-op this year as well, and that was an absolute riot of a time as well. It should have just let you beat the whole goddamned game on Simple Mode, though. Give those who aren't blood-soaked Hard Game Beaters a fuckin' break, y'all. It's mostly polished and rarely delves into the realm of unfair (KING DICE YOU PIECE OF FUCK), and it holds up as a polished little package. I dig it.

Metroid: Rogue Dawn (NES, ROMhack) & Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

2017 was a good time to be a Metroid fan, huh? After all that long dark journey through the night, we got a light at the tunnel this summer when Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 would come to Switch some... time. Also that they were doing a GODDAMNED 3DS REMAKE OF METROID II OUT IN FALL HOLY SHIT! Before all that, though, a little gem slipped under the radar. Metroid: Rogue Dawn is a game I felt the need to write a screed about back when I finished it, and plenty of that still stands. All the stuff about AM2R is dated now thanks to Samus Returns, but this really scratched my particular itches. It's a fanfiction-esque prequel to the original Metroid, and it plays like the original Metroid but with some slight quality of life improvements. Key here for me is that it doesn't feel the need to go in and make it fucking Super Metroid while it's at it; Rogue Dawn is allowed to stand as an atmospheric 8-bit game on its own two feet, and manages to be non-Euclidean and its own wild strange space. That's no mean feat, and the care and detail here honestly impress me. Samus Returns, on the other hand... well, it's better than I expected! For as much as Metroid fandom touts AM2R as METROID II: GOOD EDITION: THROW THAT GAME BOY SHIT IN THE FUCKING TRASH, Nintendo themselves managed to mostly toe the line between faithfulness and the future bleeding in and making Metroid II what it wasn't. It's not Metroid 2, but it's not trying to actively erase Metroid II like AM2R and its fandom, I'm afraid to say, tried to do. It has its own pace and rhythm and beats, and I can respect what it's trying to do. I had a lot of fun with it, and it's a game I could see myself replaying in the future. Hell, I wrote a whole positive review about it back when it came out. Maybe someday I'll do a big piece on all three of the Metroid IIs that exist and make it all weird. For now, these were both great space exploration games and they earned their spots in this category handily. Uh oh. I think it's time, y'all. Time for the main event. The big busters. Buckle up.

Persona 4 Golden & Dangan Ronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Vita)

I couldn't do it. I couldn't choose between them. So, here we go. I'm doubling up. These are the two best games I played this year, and both of them on the Vita. SEE? Y'ALL SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN ONE OF THESE FUCKING THINGS! The actual writeup part for them both, however, will be brief... at least right here and now on this page. We'll start with Persona 4 Golden. Many people journeyed through Persona 5 this year, but I didn't. I could have, but after beating this I deliberately decided to wait until next year to grab P5; I didn't want to muddle the good memories I had with the first Persona-- nay, the first SMT game-- I ever completed. Such was its impact on me that I wrote 5000 words after the fact about all of its good beats and how they made me feel. It's a story I said I would keep with me forever, and eight months later it's still right here with me, as are my Inaba pals. I can let those old words speak for me in lieu of going on and on after the fact, so I will. Dangan Ronpa V3, on the other hand... this is tricky. 2014 saw me blast through the first two numbered Dangan Ronpa games, and I ended up giving the GOTY nod to the second one. If I were doing it now, I'd have given it to them both at once like I'm doing now. This is a conclusion that has been three years in the making, and I never expected a conclusion quite like this. The problem comes from the spoilers, however. The brilliance of DRV3 is such that I cannot talk about it in specifics without giving away any of the several massive endgame twists. I can only give vagueries like "it was an entertaining and emotional journey" and "I took a liking to a lot of the characters and solving the murders". As such, here is what we'll do. For those of you who wish to remain unspoiled, just take it on good faith that this game did some wild shit that really appealed to me and made me think. Then, for the love of God, go play the thing for yourself. I'm assuming those who don't want to be spoiled are Dangan Ronpa fans who just haven't gotten to it yet, so this is your endorsement. It's worth getting to. Even if you're new and have to do the other games. Please go play them. They are very important to me. For the rest of you, the ones who have already played or don't give a good goddamn about massive endgame spoilers, I will go all out and do a more specific screed in a separate Pastebin linked at the end of this paragraph. Regardless, these games helped make my 2017 special, and they both made me feel incredible emotions. Well done to them both.


So this is where I talk about other things! They either didn't need a separate category, or I didn't actually have too much to say about them. They're not lesser games or anything; in fact there are some goddamned fine gems in this little section. Just by being on this list as anything other than the worst game in 2017 is great. If you're curious, here's my full list of things I beat over the year, so you can see what I neglected to talk about. Let's roll on with this!

Danmaku Unlimited 3 (PC)

A cute and simple little danmaku bullet hell shmup that promised to be good for newcomers and veterans of the genre. I loved the previous game in the series, and was excited for this one. It didn't quite light a fire under me as much as the previous, but it's still solid and fun and somewhat accessible to newbies. Good one.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Wii U)

To those of you who absolutely fell in love with this game and have crowned it your personal Game Of The Year 2017: I envy you. Really, I do! This is a game I grabbed on launch, blasted through with about half the shrines found, and loved every minute of. The exploration was top-notch and I really felt like I was discovering new lands and new worlds. It was incredible... and then I beat it. Then I put it on the shelf. I've had no desire to go back to it since, and it's cooled in my memory. I remember being excited and enjoying it, but it was a bit of a spring fling. I commend all of you who came back for the DLC and got into a committed relationship with this one, but it just didn't stick with me after the fact, I'm afraid. I'll accept that as a failing on my part since everyone seems to still adore this one. Still, that first run was good enough to shove it back here on the list.

Shovel Knight: Specter Of Torment (PC)

Another Shovel Knight expansion, this one felt way more like a brand new game. Plague Of Shadows had a neat perspective, but the levels were basically the same with some longer gaps and stuff. Specter of Torment is a prequel and it remixes just about everything. It's a faster paced game, and one I really enjoyed going through. I'd definitely fly through it again some time.

The Disney Afternoon Collection (PC)

I reviewed it here, but I'll say it again in brief: A bunch of really good NES games from Capcom, some better than others, all in one package that's cheaper than going out and getting even one of the carts. Well worth it. I am somehow still near the top of the leaderboards for the boss rush in Talespin. Either I'm that damn good, or nobody is playing fucking Talespin on the leaderboards. I'll go with the latter.

The Guardian Legend (NES)

Part Zelda-esque game, part Compile shmup! It's got a charm to it and it was enjoyable... but it's really rough in parts. The final boss is hard as all shit, and the run back to him is tedious as hell. It really soured me on an otherwise great little NES gem. It's still worth a shot, though, if you can handle the tough shmup parts and that goddamn final boss.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

This was supposed to be bad? I dunno. I quite liked it. Mind you, if I paid 80 bucks and tax for it I'd probably be a bit more salty. As it stands, I got it at clearance for 30 bucks, WITH the Starfox Guard thing (that I've never touched). I don't get the hate. It's fine. The gyroscopic controls work fine, the space battles are fine, it's a fine remake of Starfox 64... it's fine! It's not an abomination. It's just fine.

Mother 3 (GBA)

I feel bad, not giving this one its own big category and just sticking it back here in the miscellaneous. I already knew all the tragic plot beats, which helped to mute their impact just a bit. Only by a bit, mind. It's Mother 3. You could write thousands of words on it. Someone already did. It's fantastic and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to playing the thing rather than watching an LP. Go do it.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (Vita)

Whoops, another visual novel that got lost in the great DRV3 sweeps. I have wanted to get into the Zero Escape series for years, and now I have my foot in the door. 999's great. It's engaging, it has tricky puzzles, and it does some REALLY wild shit with its game systems. The Vita version's helpful for actually letting you skip ahead once you beat the game to make opening up other routes easier. Very eager to get at the other two games next year...

Fairune (Vita)

I wrote about this one too, so I'll mostly defer to that. A retro throwback that throws back to something other than well-known Nintendo games. Short but sweet. I hear there's a sequel as well, so I'd love to get on that!

Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Super Famicom)

The other SMT game I played this year! The very first, in fact! They didn't even have the Shin yet! For a dungeon crawler from 1987 updated to 1995 sensibilities, it's actually kind of brilliant and engaging. I did a whole fun Twitter moment about it, and I'll do the same for the second game in the series next year, I'll wager. Beyond that, I didn't have much to say about it. It was good.

Sonic Mania (PC)

Again, this is kind of like Breath Of The Wild for me. The grand return of a franchise that many had been clamoring for, a retro throwback made by the kings of Sonic retro throwbacks, and I played it and... ehhh. Didn't do much for me. I was never that big into Sonic, but I know people who are and they went over the moon for this. Bless them. It was okay for me. I wish there were more unique levels, like a 50/50 split between throwbacks and new ideas. It's okay.

Battle Mania Daiginjou (Sega Genesis)

The best Dirty Pair game that isn't actually a licensed Dirty Pair game. A fun and frantic Genesis shooter that's kind of like Forgotten Worlds or something. Not that hard once you get into it. It's short and sweet and I really loved it.

Punch-Out Featuring Mr. Dream (NES, played on Wii VC)

Included on this list simply for being the third hardest thing I beat this year; unlike Dark Souls II or Cuphead, however, this difficulty was entirely down to the final two boxers. Super Macho Man is a motherfucker, and Mr. Dream (aka who they changed Mike Tyson to in later revisions) is an absolute brick wall of a challenge demanding perfect reflexes inputted precisely with very few mistakes allowed for victory. Thank god for passwords.

And that's the list! We made it through another year of computer games! Thank you for reading all of these words, and I hope you'll join me here on the blog again for more shenanigans in 2018! There's very little Doctor Who at first, but I'm sure some game will inspire me to write thousands of words about it. You go relax and do your own thing. I, meanwhile, now have to get pictures for all these games. This will be fun, I'm sure.

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