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My Top Ten Favorite Video Games of 2017

It’s 2018 and looking back at 2017, I would say despite a few notable controversies, it was a pretty solid year for games.  It was certainly a diverse year!  First-person shooters are back in force, MOBA’s continue to take over and multiply (for better or worse), the war between Western and Japanese RPG’s is back on and it’s like the 90’s all over again (and if you remember, that little war gave us Chrono Trigger and Diablo II so… Yeah, imagine what could be around the corner), and there is a concerted effort to bring back classic genres like run-and-gun shooters and 3D platformers to the mainstream!  Things are looking up!

So, here is my list of the ten video games from 2017 that I played and truly enjoyed the most.  You’ll notice an absence of a few titles from this list almost immediately and I’ll tell you, it’s because I haven’t played Super Mario Odyssey and the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild did not land at the best time for me, so while I played some of it, I haven’t played all of the way through it yet.  I plan to give it another go once I pick up a Switch, which I definitely intend to do in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, let’s begin….


10. Ever Oasis (Nintendo; 3DS)

Going into Ever Oasis completely blind, I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did.  It is a truly rewarding feeling as the game doesn’t just show your progress via level numbers, stat points and story progression, but you get to watch as your Oasis expands and becomes an even more complex and vivid town.  The mix of dungeon crawler action/RPG with some simple crafting and city management is actually pretty interesting, and it is a very solid introduction to these genres for younger gamers who look to get into more challenging titles but seasoned gamers will find little challenge here.  Still, it was a fun game and I would honestly not mind giving it another playthrough.


9. Forza Motorsport 7 (Microsoft; Xbox One)

I’ve been a fan of the Forza Motorsport series since 2005 on the original XBox.  To this day I am partial to the Forza franchise over the other key racing simulation competitors.  It’s an engaging, challenging and rewarding game that offers a lot more than just standard races, and the car selection is just phenomenal.  The only thing that keeps it from reaching a higher ranking on my list is it is yet another entry in the long-running series and outside of new cars and some new features, it is just another Forza title.


  8. Destiny 2 (Bungie; PS4)

The long-awaited Destiny 2 hit shelves in 2017 and, at least for me, it didn’t disappoint.  I was hoping it would at least live up to the first game and it did that and more.  I was impressed by the sheer frequency of public events and while they often did lack in variety, I went into Destiny wanting to shoot aliens, and that’s what I got!  The new weapons are fun to use and quite varied, especially compared to its predecessor, it looks great, and the multiplayer really works as you do feel like you are contributing to a greater fight through much of the game.  Also, the last act of the story campaign is just one of the coolest levels I’ve ever played through in a first-person shooter.


 7. Dragon Quest Heroes 2 (SquareEnix; PS4)

Okay, okay… I’m kind of cheating putting this one on the list.  I imported Dragon Quest Heroes 2 in 2016 shortly after it’s Japanese release date.  However, it did only get released in the US in 2017, so I’m counting it because it’s my damn list!  I loved DQH and the sequel is a worthy successor.  Adding two new heroes to the lineup as playable characters and bringing back the likeable cast of the first with some fresh-yet-familiar faces, DQH2 lands a fun action RPG brawler that mixes free-roaming exploration and tactical, large-scale, Warriors-esque battles.  It plays well with the characters offering a variety of skills, unique perks and a rewarding crafting system.  I own both a Japanese and NA version of this game on the PS4.  It’s a truly solid title and for those of you waiting to play it on PC, here’s hoping the port turns out alright.  I may pick it up on the PC too just to review it with a comparative lens.


6. Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo; 3DS)

Super Metroid is my favorite video game of all time.  Period.  That said, I have a somewhat rocky history with the Metroid franchise as a whole.  I actually am not a fan of most of the games, including a few of the 2D titles.  There have been a few I’ve enjoyed through the years though, and after seeing the trailer for Samus Returns during Nintendo Direct, I was thoroughly excited to play this one.  I was not disappointed.  Samus Returns is flashy, it plays well and while it does veer from the Super Metroid controls I’m so very used to quite a bit in terms of the flow and speed, I really give Samus Returns a glowing recommendation.


5. NieR: Automata (SquareEnix; PS4)

Action RPG’s are where it’s at for me.  If the action is varied, fast with a few insane boss battles thrown in for good measure, then all the better (see #1), but NieR: Automata checks all of these boxes and then goes a step further adding a flair and feel that only a Japanese action title can bring.  While every attack is brutal in its strength, every little touch in NieR’s broken world is delicate and well thought out.  There is a degree of freedom in the combat but the game is built for speed, and it is a fast game.  A sudden hard turn in the game shifts the moral compass and mood of the entire experience as well and adds to the complexity of a game that makes you question your role as a hero in past games where you were encouraged to carelessly polish off hoards of nameless enemies.  NieR: Automata is a commentary on gamers, their attitudes towards games, and the way the games themselves may perceive us.


4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog; PS4)

Of course Naughty Dog would make my list for 2017 and Lost Legacy, while not being nearly as good as the masterpiece that was A Thief’s End, was a fun, well-written and beautiful game with some solid action set pieces.  Chloe Frazer makes a great lead and the game does her justice after her absence from the 4th chapter in the series.  It also ties things together with the inclusion of characters from the predecessor and filling in some history at the same time.  The only thing that keeps it from being higher is it is just another entry in a series that never disappoints, but evolved so much with Uncharted 4 that Lost Legacy really does feel like DLC.  Nevertheless, the reduced price point was an acceptable bargain considering the package you got.  It isn’t a long game, but it is a complete experience and a solid standalone entry with solid female leads and an absolutely excellent villain.


3. A Hat In Time (Gears for Breakfast; PC)

I had just tried this one on for size (for lack of a better phrase), and I must say, ‘I’m impressed’.  This little Kickstarter gem came up to the surface in 2017 on Steam and just surprised the Hell out of everyone.  A Hat In Time is a charming, heartwarming little 3D platforming throwback to the heyday of the genre in the early 2000’s.  The controls are solid, the world is full of things to explore and places to see, the hats add a variety of gameplay ideas and the focus on platforming over combat makes it a welcome return to a classic genre that has been seeing a legitimate comeback in recent years.  I’m glad I played Hat In Time soon enough to add it to this list!  It’s the best 3D platformer I’ve played from 2017 (so far).


2. Cuphead (Studio MDHR; Multi [PC])

Cuphead!  It’s already legendary.  It has already become the latest speed-running staple.  This instant classic has been brewing around the Internet since its announcement years ago at E3.  A game that was announced at a conference out of nowhere and it was instantly unlike anything I had ever seen in a game, hearkening back to classic 1930’s animation and looking just damn-stunning the whole time.  Finally, in 2017 I got my chance to pick this one up and oh boy did it feel good to get the unpalatably-bitter taste of the betrayal that was Mighty No. 9 out of my mouth.  Cuphead is a polished, deliberate, precise platformer/shooter in the vein of Contra with a dash of Mega Man-X.  Insane boss battles and a twisted-yet-brilliant sense of humor come together to form a game that is full of memorable moments and a few of my new favorite boss fights of all time.  I still occasionally pick Cuphead up and fight a few escaped souls here and there, hoping to beat my best time.


 1. Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games; PS4)

I had high hopes for Horizon since its PS4 premiere a few years ago at E3.  It looked like a fun game from a pre-rendered trailer and when I finally got a chance to play it, I could not describe just how good everything was.  Horizon turned out great and while Guerrilla Games could have just made a competent open-world, action RPG and got by with a few handshakes and high sales, they instead made a game so good that it raises the bar for the entire genre.  Throughout 2017 I was reflecting on what made Horizon work so well and it’s really hard to narrow everything down to just one aspect, but I would say it is the inclusion of a powerful and truly likable new heroine in Aloy and a vivid, stunning open world that rivals any other I’ve seen in lush beauty and creativity blended it with pinpoint gameplay and rewarding and fairly attainable character progression.  Then there’s the combat.  Oh!  That combat!  Fighting in Horizon is some of the most fun action I’ve ever experienced in a game.  I would count Horizon among the ranks of my favorite video games of all time now, knocking back a few gems that I still hold in high regard, but Horizon is destined to become a modern icon of the medium.


 

Well, that about does it for 2017!  I thought about doing a movie wrap up but 2017 was such a dead zone for movies I decided not to even bother really.  I did see a lot of movies in 2017, but very few of them (besides Coco and The Disaster Artist) really blew me away.  Please tell me what you think of my game picks in the comments section.  Did you like my list?  Did you hate everything about it?  Do you want me to set my PS4 on fire?  Please share and try to get the word out and I hope to start picking up the pace with writing again.  Things had just been hectic like you wouldn’t believe for me.

Happy 2018!

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A Little-Late Game Review: Ever Oasis (3DS)

Ever Oasis has been out for a few months but I’m just getting a chance to bite my teeth into it.  A cursory glance of the game implies it is a cutesy anime-themed ARPG/dungeon crawler, and while this isn’t untrue, after logging some time into it I can assure you that there is a surprising level of depth in Ever Oasis.  It is its unique elements that elevate it above your typical dungeon-crawler.  In many ways, I could say it’s similar to Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (which, if you haven’t played, you really should).

The world of EO is a vast desert.  Greenery is scarce and the only respite comes from a Seedling meeting with a Water Spirit to form an Oasis.  After escaping your brother’s oasis during a battle with a dark, corrupting force, you wander until you meet a lonely, tired water spirit named Esna who is waiting patiently for a Seedling to join her to create a great oasis.  You arrive, a Seedling and a water spirit are united and together create the Oasis!  

The goal is to grow your Oasis by increasing its population.  Each day there is a chance a visitor will arrive and if you do quests for them, they will become permanent residents, expanding your empire.  Some residents will allow you to open Bloom Booths, which is a shop from which that resident can sell specialty items and earn money for the settlement.  Other residents provide essential services like party management and assigning tasks to idle villagers.  As you add more Bloom Booths, NPC’s called Noots will arrive.  They exist to spend money which returns to you in the game’s currency called Dew, which you use to buy items, upgrade equipment and expand your Oasis.  As your population grows, your Oasis levels up, opening more building room for new booths, thereby further accelerating its expansion.

So, how do you keep your booths in business?  You fight things, of course!  The action gameplay of Ever Oasis is not particularly-innovative, but it is effective.  Monsters and farming spots in the maps outside your Oasis give you items used to craft gear and help booth vendors restock so they can keep the revenue coming and the more the inventory stays full, the happier your villagers are.  You can bring up to two residents with you and you can switch between them on the fly in and out of combat.  The partner AI is surprisingly good!  The characters you aren’t controlling are generally pretty smart and do a good job of staying out of danger…  Most of the time.  Some residents even have special skills like mining and digging (just to name a few) and bringing these guys along can help grow your inventory by finding more items and even sometimes accessing previously-unreachable spots.  These residents will also offer quests to delve into caves and dungeons and these can often lead to some pretty great Legend of Zelda-style boss fights.

There is a crafting system as well but it is fairly rudimentary.  You just need to get the required number of the specified items, spend the dew and boom, you can upgrade your gear!  But the item upgrades are not varied and new recipes roll in very slowly for much of the game as crafting is not the primary focus; the primary goal here is to grow your Oasis by doing quests, progressing the story and helping your villagers out to keep things sunny!  

I barely scratched the surface of Ever Oasis in this review.  I was honestly surprised by the depth and variety here and I would say that fans of action RPG’s should give this game a shot.  It isn’t going to revolutionize the genre, but it is a fun diversion for a genre that has gotten pretty dark in tone over the last few years.  If you have kids with a 3DS and would like to get them into RPG’s as well, this is a good choice for them.  It’s nice, PG-rated fun with none of the elements being too difficult for younger gamers to get into.  The bar for action RPG’s was set pretty high this year by Horizon: Zero Dawn, but for a lighter, simpler game with some old-school flavor, I say Ever Oasis is a solid alternative for players wanting a softer touch.

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Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS) Review

I would like to open this review with a couple points of honestly to reveal and possibly explain any biases I may have towards this game.  First, Super Metroid is my favorite video game of all time; hands-down.  Secondly, I did not play Metroid 2: The Return of Samus in the 90’s.  I had a GameBoy but I did not invest a lot into it.  I was a console gamer pretty exclusively into my early teens.  So, I do not have any nostalgia bias about the original Metroid 2, but I do have a tendency to hold Metroid games to a pretty high standard.  That said, I will try to be as objective as possible here.

I would start by saying that Samus Returns is a very good Metroid game.  The 2/2.5D Metroidvania subgenre has been making a triumphant and successful comeback in recent years with great titles like Axiom Verge, Valdis Story and Ori and the Blind Forest, so I am so glad to see a classic franchise get the treatment it justly deserves.  It plays well, looks fantastic and has that isolated, creepy feeling the franchise is famous for.  As Samus Aran, you navigate the claustrophobic catacombs of an infested planet in search of 40 remaining Metroids in the hopes of eradicating the species for the sake of the galaxy.  The goal is to find the statue that controls the acid flooding the world and locate the requisite number of target parasites in that area to return and lower the dangerous liquid so you can proceed deeper and deeper into the planet.

The problem with a remake like this one is you not only have to live up to the original to grab the nostalgic gamers, but you have to reel in younger gamers and players like myself who did not invest in this title as a kid.  So, now you have possibly two full generations of gamers who did not have the opportunity to enjoy Metroid II when it landed.  What Nintendo needed to do was stay true to the ideas of the original while modernizing the series.  The risk of this sort of remake is that there is always someone who is not going to like a change here or there, so I believe keeping the concept of the original game alive while heavily modifying the world was a wise choice.

In terms of gameplay, at least for me, Samus Returns hits a few low points.  First, the game is a lot quicker than I’m used to, a subjective complaint, I know, but I do believe it affects the flow of the game.  However, aside from the way the movement feels here, the thing that I think keeps this from being a modern classic is the directional aiming.  Having to lock in place with the triggers to aim and use missiles is dramatically slow.  Differences in the controller layouts from older platforms made this somewhat necessary, but having to stop in place, aim with the stick, then fire to land your hits really kills the pace.  Also, the constant need to counter with the uppercut to knock enemies into a weakened state is fun at first, but gets old really fast.  It is one of those things where it is very cool to do, but because you are constantly performing this same, easy-to-land counter on enemies throughout the game, it kind of becomes repetitive and boring.

The final major complaint are the battles with the metroids in the game.  As you work your way through the labyrinthine tunnels you will encounter dozens of these guys, so it is necessary to keep things fresh!  Well… They don’t.  With a few exceptions where you fight tougher, boss forms of the metroids, the battles are identical, the only changes being either the metroid having an elemental buff affecting its abilities and the layout of the battle arena.  Some fights will have you fighting the target only to have it flee and head to another room nearby designated for such a fight.  The downside being these fights are pretty much the same over and over with only a few exceptions.  It would not be feasible to have 40 individual boss battles that are entirely different from each other but the solution is to at least add more major targets instead of keeping things so bare-bones.

In terms of aesthetics, it’s a very good-looking 2.5 action platformer and the 3D effects are some of the best on the platform.  The models are well-animated and the world is varied in its themes and designs.  The soundtrack is an excellent composition of new music and remakes of classic themes from titles past.  They are faithful to the original while having a fresh, modern feel.  In this respect the soundtrack is comparable to that of DuckTales: Remastered.  

In all, I think Metroid: Samus Returns is a quality return to the classic Metroid model with a few flaws that may keep it from being a long-lasting classic.  I think if there was a little more emphasis on variety, this would have been great, but it rests at a solid “good” for me.  It is probably not a game that will go down for many gamers as a masterpiece.  I wouldn’t be discouraged by this, though.  There is always room for improvement and if additional content were added, and some things about the game were updated, it could be even better in the future.  However, only time will tell.

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