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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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TGS 2017: A Quick Reaction to Sony’s Press Conference

While watching the Sony conference at Tokyo Games Show 2017, I feel like I was bombarded with a lot of information, but I must admit, I was rather underwhelmed.  The Playstation Experience 2017 will certainly bring with it some huge announcements, but Sony showed a great deal of reservation for this event and it shows.  It actually kind of makes me a little nervous.  

Naturally, the headlining title is Monster Hunter World, a game that is going to make Capcom and, by extension, Sony, a very large amount of money.  That’s good, because I like Monster Hunter and honestly look forward to the game when it launches this January.  Other titles got a mention here and there, including a few I have a feeling will not come out in the US, including A Certain Magical Cyber Trooper (based on the popular anime series) and Fist of the North Star.

About a third of the event was dedicated to Playstation VR, including a segment for immersive concert viewing via the PSVR online stream for an orchestral concert performance of selections from popular JapanStudio classics like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.  The remainder of the information was loose hints and clips of games we already knew about.

The entire event felt to me like I was rewatching a press conference from late 2016.  It did not really feel like news; rather, it felt like somebody was reading me my own grocery list after I already got back from the store and took my groceries into my house.  With a few exceptions, there were no announcements during this press conference that really took me by surprise or even got me all that excited.

Such a shame, but there is obviously more to see from TGS 2017, though, so I will keep posting as I get news.  Here’s hoping the rest of the event makes up for this surprise-free anti-spectacle. 

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Destiny 2 Review

Full disclosure before I begin: I really enjoyed Destiny when it came out and logged quite a bit of time in it, so needless to say I was quite excited about this much-hyped sequel.  I didn’t expect, however, to find so much to like about this game.  I wanted to at least finish the campaign and get a taste of the end game content before I really wrote this review as well, to reduce my chances of misrepresenting anything.  That said, I can recognize why it wouldn’t be for everyone and this is definitely going to end up being a successful-but-niche game after the initial fervor dies down.

After the Traveler is captured by an intergalactic Genghis Khan named Gaul, all of the Guardians, revered for their strength, lose the Light, the source of all of their powers.  It is up to you (and the millions of other players), to recover the Light, turn the tables of the struggle against the warlord and return the Traveler to its greatness, restoring the Light in the guardians and saving Earth.  It’s a pretty epic story, albeit cliched, but Gaul is an excellent villain, and the final battle with the vile menace is arduous and menacing.

Destiny 2 is built much like its predecessor with a few changes.  You have a short list of planets, each of which is its own open world, where you can travel, explore and take part in various public events and challenges but there only a few goals in the end: Complete the short-but-great campaign (including a stellar final series of levels that rank among the best of any FPS), grind public events and side missions to get gear upgrades and power yourself up for more difficult missions, prepare for Strikes to maximize your growth and face exciting bosses, then lead up to Raids which remain the ultimate challenge.  It is all built around a quality gear system that tiers to your level.  Rarely will you ever get a drop that is far too weak to be worth at least trying out, with the only discards generally being weapon types you do not want or old gear you’ve outgrown.  It never feels like loot drops are a waste and while everything is very randomized, you can use mods that drop regularly to alter gear to your playstyle.  

Destiny 2 plays a lot like your typical FPS, though a bit faster, and the ability to use various skills speeds things up significantly.  Different class perks also change the approach to the game.  I invested most of my efforts so far into the Titan, a resilient class built for close-quarters combat with numerous foes.  Essentially, the Titan is Destiny 2’s tank class.  Each of the three classes (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) have 3 subclasses, and each of those subclasses have two passive skill sets that affect how that subclass functions in combat.  Subclasses also allow for a selection of 3 types of grenades and the differing functions of the double-jump.  You can freely swap between each subclass and skillset, grenade and jump type you’ve unlocked at any time, even mid-combat.

Outside of that, it’s standard loot-based-FPS fare.  Think Borderlands, only more frenetic.  Public events place you right in the center of onslaughts of enemies, boss battles take place in massive arenas that fill with enemies, open worlds are slathered with randomized mobs, and everything is ready to ruin your day!  Optional missions allow for longer excursions with greater rewards and are often similar to story missions.

Once you defeat the villainous final boss, more content opens up for you, including giving the option to replay side missions for further rewards, take part in patrols (very short, random side missions that can be chained for easy loot), and take part in more public events to get medal drops that allow you to raise your reputation with the NPC from that area.

Destiny 2 looks great, but it isn’t going to blow your mind.  Comparing this to Far Cry, Just Cause, or a PS4 exclusive like Horizon: Zero Dawn, seems unfair as this is an online game and thusly some visuals may be throttled for performance (which so far for me has never taken a hit, or even so much as lagged).  Some areas of Destiny 2’s worlds are dark and the absence of a toggleable flashlight can make navigation in some areas difficult.  The open worlds themselves vary in aesthetic appeal as well.  For-instance, Earth’s overgrown, post-Apocalyptic wastes have a desolate feel to them, especially as you navigate further and further away from the starting section of the planet.  Titan is a series of cold steel and concrete platforms built outside of a massive arcology that is filled with lush greenery and a colorful mall that seems eerie in its abandoned nature, its holographic and neon signs still spinning on and flicker as though nothing has changed.  Nessus is filled with lush, bright-red fall greenery and giant rectangular pillars of marble that tower and shape the world.  Lastly, Io is a toxic wasteland of golden soil filled with dangerous radioactive liquid and dank, hazardous caves.

It is obvious a lot of care went into sections of these worlds, but some sections can feel like rehashes of each other, with a few map segments seeming as though they could be placed in other worlds with different textures and it wouldn’t matter at all.  This isn’t typically to the detriment of the game itself, but it does make the initial awe of the new world’s visuals lose its appeal quite quickly.  Sadly, these few planets are the only open worlds you can really explore and while they are somewhat large, it would have benefitted Destiny 2 to offer a little more variety in the areas themselves.

With each planet having its own theme, you can be assured that each area has its own story.  These plots are head up by a single NPC that represents that world who also provides commentary as you fight through the map but their constantly-repeated lines get very, very old.  In an obvious attempt to add some humorous banter to the grind to give it a little character, you can get “witty”, overwritten dialogue that may be occasionally funny at first but can wear on you making you reach for the volume controls for your TV after the story missions are complete.

That said, the voice cast is quite good, complete with an A-list of respected performers in the field including Nolan North of Uncharted fame, who is near-unrecognizable as your companion Ghost, Firefly’s Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres as two of the guardians who join you in the struggle against Gaul’s forces, and The Wire’s Lance Reddick as the righteous leader Commander Zavala.  The voice acting, when it isn’t grating with repetition, is very good and helps shape the tone of the game.

For most, Destiny 2 may slow as it ages due to its grindy nature.  There is variety in what you can do, but after just a few days of doing the same patrols, strikes and public events over and over, it can feel exhausting.  The push to level 20 goes by quickly enough, but then you have to very slowly raise your average gear rating by finding more and more valuable drops.  There are many ways to grind in the game, but if the repetition turns you off, there will be little for you after completing the campaign.  However, there are rewarding events that come to those willing to stick it out.

I would say Destiny 2 is a worthy sequel and it came out at a great time, preceding the onslaught of fall releases by a little over a month, giving players time to become invested in the online action.  It was smart to get it out to players before the barrage of online shooters and co-op action games that are right around the corner slam gamers with a near-insurmountable backlog.  Sadly, the PC version of this game is being pushed back to mid-October because of the contractual obligation of Bungie to release the game on consoles first.  This is unacceptable for me but if you are willing to wait, that version is coming as well, only expect a brutal framerate cap and throttled graphics to keep it from being too competitive to the console releases.  This is the tragic reality of today’s gaming.

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Game Deals – Picks for The Week of 09/06/2017

So, I hope to be able to do this pretty regularly.  I will be updating a (mostly) weekly list of game picks that are on sale for numerous platforms.  I will probably feature maybe five or six choices per week.  I will try to diversify my sources as well, so not all of these deals will be from Steam.  Let us begin…

NOTE: All prices are in USD and are subject to change.

Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

  $19.90 $39.99

Amazon
While Valkyria Revolution isn’t the best strategy RPG out there, it is a solid action RPG with strategy elements and a pretty solid evolution of the excellent Valkyria Chronicles.  The only downside I can find is the flux of difficulty between the weak cannon-fodder enemies and the excessively-tough bosses is quite jarring.  However, a quality upgrade system, deep character customization with unique skills and pretty fun gameplay makes this one worth a $20 price.

 


NieR:Automata (PC)

$38.99 $59.99
PC/Steam
A must-have for September is NieR:Automata, a smart and exciting anime action/adventure game from SquareEnix.  If you have not played this combination shooter/hack n’ slasher, you owe it to yourself to give it a play, especially with it being more than $20 off retail!

 

 


SNK Publisher Sale (PC)

Various prices
PC/Steam

For arcade gaming fans like myself, this sale is awesome. Featuring a bevy of excellent King of Fighters and Metal Slug games, it really is a who’s-who of NeoGeo arcade brilliance! I would also check out the fun SHOCK TROOPERS series as well as the competitive, split-screen shooter Twinkle Star Sprites (Yes! That name is for-real) that has rarely seen a US release so far.

 


Dark Souls Series (PS4)

Various prices
Playstation Store
If you like a little punishment, you can always bet on the quality Dark Souls games and Dark Souls II and III as well as DLC and special editions are all on sale this week on the Playstation Store. Get your download on and good luck on the Nameless King!

 

 


God Eater 2 (PS4)

$14.99 $59.99
Playstation Store
For fans of the popular Monster Hunter franchise, God Eater 2 is a welcome change of scenery maintaining many of the core elements of the classic kill-and-craft action.  Effectively, God Eater 2 is a Monster Hunter clone but post-apocalyptic and in a sci-fi setting.  It is quite good though, with interesting classes and skills and some pretty challenging fights right at the start of the game.

 

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Game Review: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017; Naughty Dog)

A major problem with video games is sequelitis; the unfortunate trend of a long-running series seeing a steady decline in quality with each entry. Since its introduction on the PS3, the Uncharted series has shown a surprising resistance to this curse by focusing heavily on exciting and inventive level design integrated with captivating (albeit formulaic) stories. Likeable characters deliver well-written dialogue and everything just feels natural. You cannot have a story about people and not make those people relatable. Combine this with solid, consistent and responsive gameplay and bombastic, adrenaline-rush levels and you have a formula for an exciting spectacle!

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy turns the narrative away from Nathan Drake and his band of thieves and puts the focus on the popular anti-hero Chole Frazer, a thief and inspired treasure hunter who isn’t afraid to get her hands a little dirty. She was shockingly-absent in the excellent Uncharted 4 and here makes a welcome return. This time she joins up with Nadine Ross, a villain from Uncharted 4 who runs a powerful and ruthless mercenary company. This new dynamic duo finds themselves trekking across the lush landscapes of India in search of Ganesha’s Tusk, a task inherited by Chloe from her father.

Along the way they cross paths with a warlord named Asav who is attempting to overthrow the legitimate government in India for his own gains and his coup seems dependent on his attainment of the Tusk. If this sounds familiar, then congratulations! You played Uncharted 2! Yep, the plot is pretty much recycled from that game, only with a slightly less cartoonish villain. I actually like Asav, though. He’s a well-written and intimidating character and proves to be one of the most worthy foes in the franchise.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017; Naughty Dog)

The gameplay is lifted right out of Uncharted 4, polishing some of the rough edges with grabbing some ledges and interacting with objects in the world. Traversing the landscape is still smooth and satisfying and each successful swing from the grappling hook feels like an exhilarating achievement. The shooting mechanics, however, seem a little different. Enemies can absorb an insane amount of bullets before dropping and the one-woman-army idea is thrown out entirely. I would say this is an adjustment to some complaints that Uncharted 4 was a little too easy, but it can be frustrating when you land an obvious headshot with a sniper rifle only to just mildly stagger and annoy the target. I can presume this is an issue of polish on Naughty Dog’s part and hopefully we will see some patching to resolve some of this issue.

The levels are standard fare for the franchise and, while they are gorgeous, can feel quite linear for most of the game. The gunplay areas are more stricter and more confined than many of those in other entries in the series. Still, the open world segment of the game is quite good, although it is only available in one chapter. The various events are scattered throughout the game and while they never reach the level of spectacle seen in its parent series, they are well-made and exciting. They only real complaint I have is that many of the levels and associated events feel like rehashes of things we saw in previous games in the series like climbing and fighting your way along a speeding train and driving a jeep through muddy roads while taking out attacking motorcycles. There is definitely a sign here that they were running out of ideas, a fear that never crossed my mind while playing Uncharted 4.

Overall, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a solid entry in the series and a great placeholder until the inevitable release of a game starring Nathan and Elena’s daughter, Cassie. It is much shorter than the other games but at a retail price of just $40, it is worth checking out, especially for fans of the series. There is a lot to enjoy here!

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