Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Top 5 Video Games of 2016

Hey, what do you know? A good year for video games! How about that!

2016 was a great year for games!

I can’t really think of anything witty to say about that because it’s simply just true. It’s hard to argue with the fact that a ton of great games came out in 2016 and the bad games were either embarrassingly bad and forgotten in less than a week, or just disappointments that at least some people found enjoyment in. Not only that, but there were A LOT of good games. There were so many good games this year that I actually thought about turning this list into a Top 10. So why isn’t it a Top 10?

While I did love a lot of games this year, my main hesitation on making a Top 10 is that I have to honor some games that I merely thought were alright at best. Now if this was a crappy year in games, then that would make sense for a Top 5, but in a great year full of a ton of great games, it seems cheap to put on some games I felt only half-hearted about when some huge titles are left off because I just didn’t get to play them. I wanted to play Dark Souls III, Final Fantasy XV, and DOOM, but I just didn’t have the time by the end of the year. So while I definitely can make this a Top 10 list, I’m not going to. Instead, I’ll add an extra honorable mention just to make myself feel better about this. So… this is a Top 7? Eh, Top 5 is more catchy, so there you go! Here are my Top 5 Games of 2015 with an extra honorable mention!

HM #1 – Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)
When I heard the news that a new Paper Mario game was in development, I wanted to believe so hard it was a traditional RPG and less of how Sticker Star was. That turned out to not be true, but I still had a surprisingly good time with the game. The level design felt fresh, the music was great, the puzzles actually felt like puzzles that required some pretty clever item use and paint, and the game had such a great sense of humor. I’d argue that it was one of the funniest games in the series, bar none.

Now does this game have problems though? Oh yes it does. Combat still felt pointless to the point where I tried to avoid it as much as possible towards the end game, bosses varied from being fun and challenging to short and pathetic, and the lack of challenge throughout was a major issue.

The developers went on record and said that it was more of an adventure game than an RPG, and I can totally see it. As an RPG, Color Splash isn’t very good. As an adventure game though, Color Splash is a fun little game that serves well as the Wii U’s swan song.

HM – Zero Time Dilemma (3DS, VITA)
 I’m so torn that this had to be an honorable mention, but I couldn’t in good conscious put this game in a number slot despite how good I think it is.

Zero Time Dilemma is a fantastic visual novel that’s grizzly, has great character moments, a satisfying narrative, and a structure unlike any I’ve ever seen before in any game. The story is downright thrilling and I sank hours into the game and beat it in less than a week, and for a text heavy visual novel that’s saying a lot. As a conclusion to the Zero Escape trilogy, I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion.

But that’s the thing. I loved this game from start to finish, but that’s only because I loved the other games in the series. This isn’t a case where each game in a series does its own thing like Uncharted or Dark Souls; each game flows into the other to tell one gigantic story. So did I love the game because it was a genuinely great game, or because I loved the other games? How much of my enjoyment came from the game itself and not from the series itself?

So I decided that Zero Time Dilemma would serve as an honorable mention, but only by a slight technicality. I adore this game, but that’s mostly because it gave me the ending I was looking for and the resolution I needed. Play the other games and give this one a shot.

#5 – Ratchet & Clank (2016) (PS4)
As a reboot, Ratchet & Clank isn’t that amazing. It’s more focused on tying in to movie (which was perfectly fine for what it was) instead of remaking the first game and honoring it. That being said, the gameplay and visuals here are the best in the entire franchise.

When I first sat down to play Ratchet & Clank, I raced through it and enjoyed every last second of it. Then I went and played it again. Then I went back and played the original trilogy on PS2 and I have to say, with the exception of Up Your Arsenal, the remake of the original game is one of my favorite games in the series.

I obviously wish it was a full remake, but for what we get here, it doesn’t really matter that we’re missing a third of the levels or the character beats of the original. The remake is doing its own thing, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s different enough from the original to be worth discussing as its own game, and for what it’s worth, as long as we can get more Ratchet & Clank games like this, I don’t have a single problem with it.

#4 – Shantae: Half Genie Hero (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, Vita)
Regardless of the fact that I funded this game, Half Genie Hero is a damned great platformer that takes a Metroidvania styled series and makes it more linear, but for the better. Levels are still massive, but it’s easier to replay them for fun and enjoy the great level design.

Shantae: Half Genie Hero just looks fantastic from top to bottom. I’m never someone who puts graphics over gameplay, but hot damn does this game elevate the gameplay through its visuals. Some bosses are 2D fights layered in a 3D environment, and the little hidden jokes and moments on display in most levels is just a joy. There were so many times where I just stopped what I was doing and watched the levels animate around me.

The gameplay is fairly traditional as a collect-a-thon, but the speed running aspect makes the game even more fun to complete. I’ve been playing the game several times since its release just to lower my time and get better at it. I never speed run games, but Half Genie Hero makes me want to speed run it, and with 4 more campaigns coming down the pipeline, I’ll be playing this one well into 2017 and beyond.

#3 – Severed (Vita, Wii U, 3DS)
Severed was my most anticipated game of 2016, and it did not disappoint at all. I had so much fun playing this dark, grizzly little game that I was compelled the Platinum it, which is something that I rarely ever do for a game.

Severed wastes no time throwing you into its depressing, Mayan inspired world and letting you go nuts. You kill monsters with a fantastic combat system, wander around and solve puzzles, and just explore dungeons, villages, and forests all in the search of the monster that killed your family.

There’s nothing cheery about this game, but its somber tone combined with its bright visuals make it unlike any other game that came out this year. Unlike most other Indie games that I played this year, everything about this world just worked. I felt like this was an actual world I was exploring, fighting demons in, and meeting people that left an impact with me. That first moment when you find your brother is fantastic, the crone is great, and finding each memento towards the end was one of the best challenges I had all year.

I hate the fact that no one played Severed this year, flying by under the radar for most gamers, but I implore you to give it a try. It’s unique controls, eye popping visuals, and world design make this a game not to be ignored.

#2 – Pokemon Sun/Moon (3DS)
 Nintendo had a pretty depressing year this year. The Wii U was officially discontinued, only a handful of memorable games were released on the 3DS and Wii U, and the Switch was not released. I’m dead certain that 2017 is going to be a fantastic year for Nintendo, but unless you were a franchise that started with a P and ended in an okemon, you were struggling.

Pokemon had a banner year with Pokemon Go! Dominating the world, Pokken Tournament  making a fairly decent splash in EVO, and of course, Pokemon Sun/Moon releasing to universal acclaim.

Pokemon Sun/Moon actually made steps to changing how we play Pokemon games, and that’s a compliment that actually has some weight. Gyms are gone, and trial captains and Totem Pokemon replaced them. HM’s were removed, and levels were designed to have slopes, hills, and depth to them. Regional Pokemon are a fantastic idea that made sense and should be implemented in every game from here on out, and the unique Hawaiian theme made the game more visually interesting.

There are a lot more tiny touches to the 7th gen that make them stand out against the rest of them, but I couldn’t even begin to list them all. All you need to know is that unlike the graphical advancements of X/Y, there is an actual case to make here about how much the series has grown between gens. I haven’t felt this much of a change since Gen 2, and that is saying a lot.

My Nuzlocke of the game may have failed, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a blast during it. And even when I died, I still had fun playing with the team I raised and loved. Good on you Sun/Moon.

#1 - Overwatch (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
No matter what I thought, there was no way for me not to put Overwatch as my Game of the Year. I've played Overwatch more than any other game this year, and that is not a small feat. 

When I first played Overwatch, I hadn't heard a single thing about it except that it had stellar reviews. So I played it and thought that it was a great game, but a bit sparse on modes, so I stopped playing it over the summer. Fastforward to September, and it was all that a friend and I could play. We would play for hours on end or whenever we could get a chance. We tried to get good at several characters, with my mains being Mei, Junkrat, and Mercy, while his were Reinhardt, Lucio, and Junkrat. 

Yes, the game does have a dearth of content, but the matches themselves are always entertaining and are filled with a variety of awesome moments. Moments like going into overtime when the payload is almost at a destination, unleashing an ultimate move that kills half of the enemy team, or just having a one-on-one match against an enemy that ends in one of you dying in glory. You name it, and Overwatch provides the thrills. 

I know a ton of people have exposited about the joys of Overwatch and its cast of characters, but I can't say how much I love every character in the game. From heroes like Tracer's optimism, D. Va's evolution into a troll, Soldier 76 becoming the dad of the franchise, or how Mei is worse than Satan, I can remember everything about each character and how they control. Every character plays differently, so even if you have no idea what you're doing half of the time, there'll be one character that you can just jump into and have fun. You can play for fun in arcade mode, play competitively with other players, or just have fun with a group of friends. 

2016 was the year of Overwatch. People are still talking about how good it is to this day, and with more characters, more maps, new costumes, and new modes coming soon, it's only going to get better from here, This is the game that this console generation needed to really come alive, so I have no problem calling Overwatch my GOTY for 2016. 

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