Game of the Year 2017 Day 3 of 3

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Best Old Game of 2017

Winner: Firewatch

Firewatch wins this category on a technicality because I simply didn’t play many older games in 2017. I was at odds with Henry’s cowardly ways; it’s very rare that I don’t find any redeeming qualities with the protagonist of an  game let alone an adventure game. He was a coward who ran away from his problems. I made it my mission to steer him back home and away from the allure of Delilah. I related to his growing infatuation with her even though she was nothing more than a voice. 

I came away reinforcing my own definitions of infatuation, love, and unconditional love. And for someone who was in the middle of a budding relationship, that proved to a bit helpful.

Best Game of 2017

Winner: Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 is a masterful blend of wacky and touching moments. It took me on a wonderful journey through 1980’s Tokyo that left me wanting more. Giving Kiryu’s backstory more airtime was nice but transforming Goro Majima into a more than just a wacky nuisance was the real winner here.

I’ve played my fair share of Yakuza games starting with Yakuza 2 and the sheer amount of stuff to engage with in Yakuza 0 was astounding. Not all of it was of stellar quality but I found myself enjoying the journey and not wanting to end. I even flirted with the idea of returning to 0 to mop up leftovers.

Runner-ups:

2. Super Mario Odyssey – There may have been way too many Moons to collect but for the vast majority of the time, Super Mario Odyssey was a joy to play. My only complaint? It didn’t quite dazzle me like Super Mario Galaxy did but then again, how many games can live up to that masterpiece?

3. Persona 5 – I’m technically still in the midst of playing this game but I really enjoy it. I – like many others – have a strong affinity towards Persona 4 and its cast of characters, so I was curious what Atlus would do to win me over with a new cast of characters. After a bit of an awkward and rocky opening, I’m finally hitting my stride with the game.

I adore the music and style which they unsurprisingly nail. But I’m a bit surprised with how invested I am with the characters and their stories. They’re grabbing with their shocking nature but I’m sticking with them to see how they handle these “classic tales of woe” in these modern times.

4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – In a year filled with open world goodness, Uncharted games feel especially antiquated with their restrictive climbing mechanics and instant death pitfalls. But once I got my Uncharted legs back under me, The Lost Legacy was a wonderful way to revisit the mechanics of Uncharted 4 without the long commitment of reliving Nathan Drake’s final epic.

5. Metroid: Samus Returns – Almost any effort would have been seen as a success coming from Metroid: Other M. Metroid: Samus Returns not only successfully remade Metroid II: Return of Samus for 2017 but they also proved capable of taking the franchise forward with fresh new additions to Samus’ core moves.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – There’s a lot of promise shown in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I think Nintendo struck gold with this new take on 3D Legend of Zelda. But I want something more than dazzle. I want more to do and I don’t mean more shrines. Creative types had a ball coming up with clever ways to torment the denizens of Hyrule. If only I had the knack for making my own fun. Then maybe, I would have loved Breath of the Wild a bit more.

7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Mario Kart 8 was number 2 on my 2014 list and it still holds up 3 years later. It’s easily my favorite Mario Kart title and it’s even better with this refined package. This time around, I found additional joy playing the game with friends and family in 4 player splitscreen. It’s the first Switch game that I played like one of those Switch commercials.

8. Nier: Automata – I like many of the individual elements of Nier: Automata but as a whole, it felt short. The soundtrack is phenomenal — I still listen to it on a regular basis. But the bland world and basic combat left me wanting. And while I understand that playing the game multiple times to wring out additional endings is appealing to some, I generally dislike it. I don’t mind replaying exceptional experiences but unfortunately for Nier: Automata, it wasn’t one.

But that soundtrack? Keep that on loop.

9. Puyo Puyo Tetris – I didn’t get around to reviewing this game because I never got around to completing I did enjoy what I played of Puyo Puyo Tetris. The campaign is silly nonsense that overstayed its welcome but I admire their heart. It’s a fantastic game filled with nonsensical characters and great puzzling action. I know I will be returning to it time and time again which is why it currently sits as one of two digital purchases for the Nintendo Switch.

10. Yakuza Kiwami – I experienced the first Yakuza through Yakuza 2’s recap video so while I had an idea of how the adventures of Kiryu started, I didn’t experience it first hand. I rectified that this year thanks to Sega’s remake dubbed Yakuza Kiwami. It was certainly extreme but coming from Yakuza 0’s ridiculous panache, it felt a little toned down and disjointed. Granted this was faithful to the original game but I think they may have been a little too faithful. Still, it was good to see the likes of Yuya brought out of the dark ages of the PS2.

Metroid: Samus Returns Review

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Nintendo set the 2D Metroid bar very low with the release of Metroid: Other M seven years ago. All I wanted was a return to form; they didn’t need to dazzle me with something revolutionary. But when they billed Metroid: Samus Returns as a Nintendo 3DS remake of Metroid II developed by MercurySteam, the same studio who put out Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on Nintendo 3DS. Needless to say, the announcement details alone were not enough to instill confidence. But once I saw it in action? I was sold. 

Having never played Metroid II (or the well regarded fan remake AM2R) I entered Samus Returns essentially blind. I knew of the Metroid baby from having played Super Metroid but I had no idea Metroid II was so different compared to the other Metroid games Other Metroid games featured the little energy sapping bugs and one or two boss encounters with those fanged blobs but this game was chalk full of Metroid hunting.

I got my ass handed to me every time I encountered a new type of Metroid but after a bit of study, I was able to make quick work of each and every one of them. I must admit that the latter Metroids were not as fearsome as the Alpha or Gamma Metroids. Part of it was due to the fact that latter Metroids were less mobile, Samus was considerably more powerful and I was more comfortable with the game’s mechanics.

MercurySteam added several new mechanics and refinements to the Metroid formula. The Aeion System gave Samus an additional resource for her new abilities to draw from. These abilities were woven into the fabric of the game’s progression and made for interesting twists. However, I was taken by the inclusion of the parry and 360 free aim that was introduced to Samus’ move set. I never got tired of smashing a rampaging enemy flyer away with Samus’ giant arm cannon and destroying it with a single shot afterwards. It wasn’t a particularly difficult skill to master but it enabled the game’s enemies to be more menacing. Giving fodder enemies the ability to charge at Samus made them appear more antagonistic and dangerous compared to the lackadaisical ones in other Metroid titles.  

The free aiming was surprisingly liberating. Samus was fixed in place in that mode but I felt more capable and in control of her because I had the ability to guide my shots. Samus always had the ability fire at fixed angles and this was just the natural extension of that capability. Now I wasn’t forced to hop about like an idiot trying to get shots in. 

Combining the two new moves and general refinements to Samus controls made for a very slick controlling game — for the most part. There were instances where physical limitations of the Nintendo 3DS were making it cumbersome to switch weapons or abilities on the fly but I powered through them. 

Hunting Metroids was a unique take on the Metroid formula for me but it wore out its welcome after a while. I grew bored of seeing the same Metroid bosses over and over. They mixed up each encounter with additional environmental hazards or obstacles but there was a lot of shooting missiles into Metroid faces. They did introduce other robotic bosses to break up the monotony of fighting Metroids but they only served as functional different and not aesthetically pleasing. I didn’t find the excavating robots remotely terrifying. 

I enjoyed playing Metroid: Samus Returns every time I picked it up but I also had to put it down frequently. Partly due to the fact that I was playing it exclusively on bus rides but also because the game was structurally monotonous. Find the Metroids, extract their DNA, and deposit it into these weird Chozo gates. Repeat until the end. Along the way, I entered familiar lava territory among others with their accompanying iconic themes.

Despite its pacing issues, Metroid: Samus Returns was enjoyable overall. It was very much the ideal blend of old and new. MercurySteam integrated new moves and ideas into the Metroid formula without it feeling shoehorned. I felt they understood what to do with the Metroid formula but were held back by the fact that they were developing a remake. If Nintendo decides to partner up with the Spanish developer again, I will give their next game my undivided attention. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a quality Metroid title let alone a quality sidescrolling one.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide 

Checkpoint: Humid Weekend Edition

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It’s been a nice weekend with the significant other but only because we’ve spent most of it indoors with air conditioner. When not doing couple activities, I’ve been catching up on GiantBomb’s E3 2017 coverage and playing Puyo Puyo Tetris on the Switch. 

The GB crew are getting better and better with their night shows. Jeff has a real knack for hosting these shows by asking good questions and getting everyone involved (no awkward segments this year!).

While the coverage has been solid, I thought E3 2017 was a bit of a downer. Dragon Ball Fighters Z was the highlight for me but that’s about it. It was good to see previously announced games show off their wares but they are known quantities. The big surprise for me was Metroid Prime 4 but it was nothing more than a logo. I don’t know what to make of MercurySteam’s Metroid: Samus Returns yet but I’m not getting my hopes up after Nintendo’s last Metroid outing with an external developer. 

Metroid: Other M Review

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metroid-other-m-logo

Out of all the Nintendo franchises, only two have earned the benefit of the doubt from me: the mainline Mario and Metroid games.

Super Metroid sits very high on my “Greatest Games of All Time” list and since then, I’ve purchased every title on the home console. I wasn’t going to allow mixed reactions prevent me from picking up this Nintendo-Tecmo collaboration. What can go wrong? It’s Nintendo and the developer of Ninja Gaiden franchise working on a non-first person Metroid game. It was the return of side-scrolling Samus and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Other M opened with the final scene of Super Metroid and quickly went south as soon as the narration began. They gave Samus a monotonous voice, a cheesy backstory and effectively ruined the mystery of the girl in the power suit.

Why did they find it necessary to explain Samus? She was a much more interesting as the person whom we only saw in the glare of visors or during the final scene of a game’s ending. They nixed one of the staple themes of the Metroid series and for what? A more “bad ass” blonde chick? We don’t need more of those.

But the real atrocity was what they did to the game itself. Metroid games were about exploration and deciphering the environment. In Metroid: Other M, I was told exactly where I needed to go and exactly what I needed to do via waypoints and dialog boxes. Adding insult to injury was the lack of challenge; it was more or less a straight line towards the next waypoint.

I didn’t need to shoot at enemies unless it was a requirement to unlock the next section because they gave me nothing. Enemies no longer dropped missiles or energy orbs because I was able to regenerate missiles at will. Samus was also able to regenerate at least one cell’s worth of life energy once she was near death.

So what was the point of fighting?

The two new abilities given to Samus made life for her even simpler. I abused the dodge to no end since I all I had to do was spam a direction on the control pad and she would get out of harm’s way nine out of ten times. And as for the ability to enter first person mode a la Metroid: Prime? All that did was strip away the mystery to defeating any boss because I knew every boss would employ this gimmick in some form or another.

I’ve heard some complaints against this game’s control scheme, but I found them to be fine. It was a bit cumbersome at first, but within the first hour or so, I was able to flip in and out of first person mode without any trouble. This may seem a bit awkward, but the only time I felt the controls were restrictive were during the clue hunting moments where they’d lock Samus down and I had to look around for something to scan. I never got used to those.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then to realize that I began to really enjoy Metroid: Other M after I defeated the final boss and watched the credits roll. Because then, I was left alone to search for the missing power-ups at peace — no narration, no silly boss battles and only one final waypoint to deal with. I don’t know if I’ll continue for the 100% completion, but then again this “epilogue” was the closest to the Metroid game I was seeking for when I inserted the disc.

Well, this may seem trite, but I can honestly say this is the defining image of Metroid: Other M. For now and forever.

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Verdict:
Disappointing

Ratings Guide

For more information on Metroid: Other M, visit the official site.

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