The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is my favorite 2D Zelda game. I’ve played Phantom Hourglass, A Link to the Past, and now Link’s Awakening but that 3DS original continues to be my favorite.
I wouldn’t have played Link’s Awakening if Nintendo didn’t remake it for the Switch. The most Game Boy I experienced was Pokemon Yellow via emulator. I owned a Game Boy Advance but we only bought Pokemon Ruby for it. The Game Boy was a Pokemon machine and nothing else.
For the longest time I mistakenly thought Link’s Awakening was a lite version of A Link to the Past for the handheld. There were some resemblances to the SNES classic but this was a wholly original adventure. However, it had some shockingly rudimentary side-scrolling segments. This was surprising coming from the makers of Super Mario. I realize it’s likely a faithful adaptation from the Game Boy days but those moments stood out as oddities considering the Goombas and other Mario hallmarks within them.
Nintendo have always been very good at creating a beautiful and timeless aesthetic for their 2D games and I think this may be their best work yet. Unfortunately uncharacteristic performance dips frequently plague the overworld and even occasionally in dungeons. They were not game breaking but it was odd to see these issues so prevalent in a Nintendo developed title. I even waited a few months in hopes for a patch but ultimately gave up on that idea.
These issues are even more boggling when a more graphically and technologically ambitious title like Luigi’s Mansion 3 is so performant.
Thankfully the flow of the game was not nearly as bumpy. I hit some trouble spots with locating a few entrances but after night’s sleep I was able to pick out that cracked wall or finally recall the part of the map that I didn’t revisit yet. Progress was not as straightforward as it could have been but that’s part of the original’s DNA.
Remakes in general are tricky propositions. How much does one change? How faithful does it have to be to the original? Some of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’s flow issues could have been ironed out but that would have resulted in a much shorter game. Upon reflection, I think this remake did a bang up job walking that line between modernizing and remaining faithful to the original. If I can pick up a guide referring to the Game Boy version and have it still be relevant in this 2019 remake, I think they’re onto something. It’s a shame about the performance issues though.
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.
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.
The Game Awards have improved dramatically. So much so that I am considering watching more of it next year. I caught a very brief glimpse of it and I was impressed with presentation and production; it actually resembled a normal awards show. Congratulations to Geoff Keighley.
The two announcements that were of note to me SoulCalibur VI and Bayonetta 3. I hear SCVI is channeling the original Dreamcast release which is something that tickles my fancy. As far as Namco fighters are concerned, I have a stronger affinity towards this sword swinging fighter than the King of Iron Fist Tournament. Bayonetta 3 is coming out exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It’s truly amazing to see Nintendo go out and just grab this former multiplatform character action game and treat it like one of their own.
I will undoubtedly pick up the third installment but what about the upcoming Switch re-releases? I very much enjoy the idea of having the entire trilogy on one platform – especially if they all run at a near faultless 60 FPS. If I end up picking up Bayonetta 1+2 again, this would be the third copy of Bayonetta 1 that I own and the second copy of 2. Who am I kidding? If Bayonetta 2 ends up being a superior version of the Wii U exclusive, I think I’ll just pull the trigger and pick both up.
Capcom is on the upswing with a handful of announcements that’s slowly restoring my faith in the company. They’re making Mega Man 11 and it doesn’t look like a pure nostalgia grab like the 9 and 10. It looks a bit weird at first glance but I am warming up to the chosen art style. They’re also re-releasing all the Mega Man X titles on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. I love the idea of owning all the X games on the Switch. If it’s a quality port, I might just pick it up there.
The same can be said for the 30th Anniversary Collection of Street Fighter which includes arcade ports of 12 Street Fighter games excluding IV and V. I understand not including Street Fighter V but what about IV? I would even pay closer to $79.99 for a version with that game included.
And finally, Street Fighter V actually piqued my interest this past Sunday with the reveal of the third season’s cinematic opener. Sakura, Blanka, Cody, and Sagat make their return and Capcom looks to be injecting some serious effort into the single player portion of the game. I don’t know if I would go as far as to buy this game again but I’m happy to see Capcom still trying with it.
I am still marching towards full completion of Super Mario Odyssey. By and large, I am enjoying the hell out of Super Mario Odyssey; there’s a lot to love but I am losing steam collecting Moons. Huge swathes of the moons feel like tedious collectibles like feathers in Assassin’s Creed. But for every frivoulous Moon, there’s a charming or clever one that makes it worthwhile. I think I’m ready to write up my review of it.
I started Uncharted: The Lost Legacy last week and it’s a bit of an eye opener. Going from playing Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to playing Uncharted highlights some glaring communication issues with Naughty Dog’s otherwise excellent game. Uncharted (and games in general) speak their own languages and despite years of playing Uncharted, I still mess up and drop to my death on occasion. My girlfriend asked: “How do you know where to go?” and I had to explain the subtle cues and other signposts that a hyper detailed game like Uncharted uses to her. It takes time to learn and adjust to the way games like this communicate but once you do, games like this become a cake walk.
It took me over four months to finish it but I finally reached the end of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m not 100% done with the game — there are so many shrines, side quests and a true ending to see – but I’ve played more than enough to render a verdict. There was so much to love and a handful of design decisions that assaulted my patience but in the end I ended up enjoying my time with Breath of the Wild and intend to return to Hyrule.
There’s a level of expectation that comes with Nintendo first party efforts with regards to polish; everything needs to work well. Cramming a bunch of systems into the game and having them all interact with each other seamlessly may seem like a simple expectation but when I see the likes of Skyrim, Fallout, The Witcher 3, and other open world games mill about with its share of “jank”, I know it’s not so easy.
The very fact that Link can climb anywhere and nearly anything was a mind blowing addition. He’s only restricted by his stamina gauge and if I decided that I didn’t want to wait until I leveled up my stamina gauge to climb a tower, I could cook cup a bunch of stamina food or potions and brute force my way up tower or mountain. It may seem like I’m pulling a fast one on the designers, but they really did fabricate a game where Link and I can go or do anything we want however we want.
The unfortunate side effect to this open ended approach was the less than optimal experience for me early on. I ignored the Kakariko Village objective and bumbled my way through the most punishing Divine Beast who dwelled in Gerudo. I didn’t have any meaningful armor, didn’t realize I could parry attacks, didn’t get the camera, missed the ability to unlock additional inventory spaces, missed out on armor enhancements, and missed out on easy shrines to bolster my health and stamina. I may have made it more difficult for myself by ignoring the main objective for so long but I’m so glad Nintendo allowed me to make the journey so arduous for myself.
Setting things on fire is fun and it’s about time Nintendo embraced that past time. I don’t think setting wooden weapons or arrows on fire and subsequently using them against Bokoblins ever got old for me. I also loved the fact that if I equipped a fire sword, it would keep me warm in the frigid lands of Hyrule. Systems like those kept me on my toes. What did wear out its welcome quickly was the weapon breakage and cooking.
I felt weapons shouldn’t have broken so easily on the flesh of Moblins or other fleshy enemies. If I were striking rocks, shields, or the undead, I can see why my swords and spears would shatter in time. Thankfully as I unlocked more and more weapon slots, I was no longer fumbling around for weapons as frequently.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a reprieve from cooking. I understood the need to combine different ingredients to create a dish or potion for Link to consume but it wasn’t necessary to force me to do that each and every time. If I discovered the recipe once, I should be able to select it from cookbook and be able to create whatever dish I had ingredients for with a press of a button. I wasn’t being more creative with my cooking as time wore on; I was becoming lazy and just tossing in the same ingredients over and over again.
I cannot say I had a consistently enjoyable time with Breath of the Wild but such is life in the real world or Hyrule. For every piece of meat that I had to roast there was an awesome moment of floating through the sky or shield surfing down some slopes in Hedra. For every broken sword, there was a brilliant little puzzle shrine to be found and unravel. These aren’t the gives and takes that I’m used to encountering in a Legend of Zelda game and that alone makes it very special.