Here at Gals n Pals we’re experimenting with getting into publishing writing in addition to our podcasts, and we’re starting out by reprinting reflections by some of our contributors on the video games of 2016. We’ll also be discussing this topic in-depth on episode 3 of Video Games Are Bad, Actually. For now, here are some thoughts on games that VGABA co-host and resident soft sheepy Diddgery played this year, originally published on Diddgery’s Tumblr. – Jill Katze, Editor in Chief
Here we go again. This was a year with a lot of good moments, and then a bunch of really shitty, awful ones that have me really worried about the future. But at least video games are always here for me! This time around for this list I marked my favorite games with a 🌟.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow: Early this year I was on a big Metroidvania kick that started with this game. I’ve heard people say that the DS Castlevania games are among the best in the series, so I picked this one up on a whim and had a blast playing through it. I don’t have much to say about it, though. It was a lot of fun and I didn’t feel like I wasted any of my time playing it.
Metroid: Zero Mission: I had a great time with this one, too! In the past I’ve tried to play the original Metroid but never could get far into it because not having a map sucks and the vertical shafts that make up the early game are a chore to navigate. So when this came out on the Virtual Console I snapped it up and blazed through it. I didn’t find many of the secrets; I think my completion percentage was in the 60s, so at some point I’ll come back to it and see if I can do better.
Final Fantasy Explorers: This is a bad game. I didn’t finish it; I just traded it in after a few days because I wasn’t having any fun with it. And that sucks because I wanted to like it! On paper it sounds like fun: you gather up some of your pals and team up to fight monsters, Monster Hunter-style, but with magic and FF jobs and stuff. In actuality it’s a boring slog with a magic system that’s halfway between interesting and incomprehensible. What a disappointment.
Ori and the Blind Forest: What a beautiful, beautiful game. Of all the Metroidvania-style games I played this year, Ori is easily my favorite. Lovely graphics, fantastic music, a touching story, and incredibly fun gameplay to make it all worthwhile. An extended edition came out this year that I plan on picking up at some point; I kind of wish I had waited to play this until after that came out, but I definitely don’t mind playing through it again. 🌟
Metroid II: Return of Samus: I’ve had this on my 3DS for a while and decided I might as well play through and finish it. I had a map open on my computer the whole time because of how easy it is to get lost in this game. That said, it’s interesting and impressive how they were able to pull off Metroid on the Gameboy. A fan-made remake came out this year for this game (and was swiftly taken down), but I haven’t played it. [AM2R ruled – Ed]
Axiom Verge: So this game is the last of the Metroidvanias I played early this year, and it was one that’s been hyped up a bunch. But I didn’t really like it that much? The gameplay is good; I like the variety of weapons and especially how many of the power-ups aren’t just copies of Metroid. It made getting new items exciting. What turned me off was the story. It’s one of those sci-fi stories with a bunch of proper nouns and hard-to-pronounce names, and those just don’t do anything for me. It also didn’t help that the main character is an extremely boring Science Man who I couldn’t relate to at all… probably because he wouldn’t stop talking. Were he a silent protagonist I could forgive his bland character design, maybe, but that’s not the case. I got close to the end and just lost interest entirely, so this is another one I didn’t finish.
Fire Emblem Fates: This game was my Spring. I played through Birthright first, then Conquest, and then Revelation… and I sort of regret playing all three back-to-back-to-back without any breaks, because by the time I made it to the end of Revelation I was completely worn out. I had a great time overall with the game despite that. Fire Emblem writing is always fun, even as the series leans more towards the anime side of things, and I really enjoyed getting to know the characters. This game also had some of the best maps of any Fire Emblem game, especially in Conquest and Revelation, where I could tell that the developers were trying all sorts of new ideas. The story’s one of Fire Emblem’s best too, but I do have some gripes… namely, the fact that Birthright and Conquest have rather unsatisfying endings. Even Revelation, which is meant to answer the questions that the other two parts left lingering, didn’t have the most satisfactory conclusion, instead feeling rather abrupt. What’s especially annoying is that some crucial story information is only available in a pair of DLC maps, adding on to the already expensive package of playing all three games. Fates also has the same problem as Fire Emblem: Awakening where any character who doesn’t have an associated child has very few support conversations, usually just with the avatar; this really hinders the amount of characterization they get, which is a shame. But despite my personal misgivings I had a great time with Fates, and can only hope the next Fire Emblem is just as good… though I’d prefer it not to have its story divided into three games. 🌟
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD: It’s been about a decade since I last played Twilight Princess, and I remember not feeling engaged or interested enough to finish it back in 2006. Playing the HD rerelease made me realize that I was wrong about this game, and I think part of why I had such a negative opinion of it was because I didn’t bother to do much of the side content. This time around I spent a good portion of my time hunting for Heart Pieces, Poe Souls, Golden Bugs, and the new Miiverse Stamps, and it never felt boring. The redesigned player interface really helped improve the experience, too; now when I went to select an item I didn’t need to do it from an extremely cluttered wheel menu, but from the touch screen. And somehow I had forgotten that Twilight Princess has some of the best dungeons in the series, like the yeti mansion and the Temple of Time. So glad I gave this game a second chance.
Star Fox Zero: This game got a lot of mixed reception based largely around its control scheme, but I was willing to put up with it because I desperately wanted to play another Star Fox game, especially one that wasn’t held back by the story from Star Fox Adventures onward. There were several moments when I felt like I had to fight the controls so I could proceed (the alternate boss on Corneria is a good example), but overall I had a good time. It felt like the Star Fox I remembered as a kid, and it was a delight having all of the old voice cast back, even if the game was largely a retread of Star Fox 64. It’s by no means the perfect Star Fox experience, but it’s still a lot of fun and worth checking out.
Star Fox Guard: Guard came packaged with Zero, and I’ll admit that I didn’t play very much of it. The game seems to be built around playing with a group of people, since the core gimmick of watching multiple monitors on the TV and switching your focus on the gamepad would work best with friends around. As such I didn’t really get much out of it in the short time I played and never felt like coming back to it. I do love Slippy’s Uncle Grippy, though. What a ridiculous character.
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure: This game came out years ago, but I only got around to playing it this year because it was included in a Humble Bundle for Nintendo consoles. First thing I want to disclose is that I didn’t finish the game. I got I think two-thirds of the way through and wound up putting it off because other 3DS games I wanted to play more kept coming out, and I just never got back to it. But what I did play I enjoyed, largely because of how weird this game is. It can’t decide if it wanted to be a Professor Layton knockoff or a goofy rhythm game, so it’s both at the same time, and it doesn’t really mesh well but still manages to be fun all the same. The voice acting is pretty bad, and that just adds to the charm for me. At some point I might return to it and try to finish it. I just wish that they didn’t decide it’d be great to have a rhythm game where you need to tilt the 3DS. That just doesn’t work.
Pocket Card Jockey: Talk about a surprise! When this game was announced I immediately knew I had to get it, if only for the combination of cute horse racing and quick solitaire. The game does get kinda repetitive the more you play it, but it’s absolutely worth checking out for an easy pick-up-and-play game, especially if you played a lot of Windows 98 Solitaire as a kid like I did. The writing is fun, the music is great, and the horse names are completely on point. 🌟
Miitomo: This is barely a game. But it was cute for the two weeks or so that all of my friends were using it. It’s sort of an ask box like ask.fm but with the Tomodachi Life aesthetic draped over it. And as is always the case with ask boxes, people lose interest very quickly.
Kirby Planet Robobot: This is my new favorite Kirby game. Kirby Planet Robobot builds on the framework set by Kirby Triple Deluxe in such an amazing way, largely with the addition of the Robobot armor that recalls the animal friends of Kirby’s Dream Land 2 and 3. It was a delight to try out classic abilities with the armor, especially when they had largely different uses compared to their normal utilities, like Bomb or Mike. Starting with Return to Dream Land, Kirby games have been putting more emphasis on storytelling, and this game has the best story of any Kirby game to date. It’s full of fun callbacks to previous games, but isn’t so obsessed with the past of the series that it isn’t willing to try something new. If this is the direction that Kirby will continue to go in, then I’m extremely excited for what the next game will be like. Oh, and the Kirby series amiibo are so good! I love Waddle Dee! 🌟
Rhythm Heaven Megamix: I’ve been waiting for this game since its Japanese release last year, and when it was released during a Nintendo Treehouse livestream at E3 I raced to download it immediately. And it was absolutely worth waiting for! The addition of a story mode was an odd choice, especially since most of the returning rhythm games from previous titles had shorter versions with different music. But it was worth sticking it out, because the latter half of the game has some of the best moments the series has to offer. Being able to play a bunch of my favorites from the entire series on my 3DS whenever I want is all I could ask for. It’s especially cool to have rhythm games from the GBA game in English for the first time (though it’s certainly strange hearing Space Dance in English). Honestly the only complaint I have about the game is that some of the unlockable rhythm games are questionable… like, did we really need Quiz Show? But overall this is absolutely worth everyone’s time, and is a great intro to the series for those who are new to it. 🌟
Mighty No. 9: I streamed my playthrough of this game and I really wanted to find something I could like about it. And there are a few things I liked about it, such as the way bosses would show up in other levels after you defeat them to help you out. But overall it’s just… a disappointment. Mighty No. 9 doesn’t put in enough effort to try and be its own thing, and instead just feels like a bad Mega Man clone, which is very embarrassing considering who made it and all of the money that went into it. There’s a really good YouTube video that breaks down everything that happened between the game’s announcement and release, and it explains the failings of the game way better than I could here.
Zero Time Dilemma: My feelings on this game are complicated. Treated on its own as a singular experience, it’s a brilliantly executed game. Treated as the conclusion to a trilogy, it’s a serious let-down that doesn’t answer many of the questions it promised to resolve. I’m not sure how much I can get into this game, because a lot of my complaints would come down to it not living up to fan expectation, but in a different way than Mighty No. 9 in that it’s mostly a let-down for people who were super into 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward (especially the latter). Even so, I’m glad we got it, because even a disappointing conclusion is better than never getting a conclusion, at least in my opinion.
BOXBOXBOY!: A sequel to BOXBOY, a favorite of mine from last year, BOXBOXBOY is largely more of the same, and that’s no problem to me. The new mechanic is that you can now make two sets of boxes (hence the title), which leads to all sorts of clever puzzles. For example, you may need to make a set of three boxes to use as a platform, then another set of boxes you can climb up to reach a ledge, and then quickly make two boxes on top of your head to grapple onto the ledge just as the first set you made disappears. It’s good stuff.
Pokémon GO: This game didn’t turn out to be what I personally wanted when I first saw that trailer last year. There’s no trading and no friendly battles, and the mechanics are extremely simplified. But that’s not a bad thing, really. This is meant to be a wide-reaching, easy game for newcomers and dedicated fans, and I had fun this summer going around town in search of Pokémon… except for when the servers were down, in which case I was miserable. My biggest complaints are that it’s very difficult to maintain a good stock of Pokéballs if you don’t live within close distance of several Pokéstops, and that the gym battles are a hot mess and completely inaccessible to the majority of players.
Hyrule Warriors Legends: I talked about Hyrule Warriors back in my 2014 post, and my feelings for it haven’t really changed since then. Having it on the 3DS is nice because it’s easy to play a couple missions and then be done with it, or play it while multitasking, though it can be a little annoying when enemies don’t load in during those “defeat X enemies in Y minutes” missions. The new characters they added for Legends are pretty fun. I do miss the feature that let you change the music that played during the Adventure Map stages, but I sorta get that being cut for the 3DS version.
Monster Hunter Generations: Last year I played a bunch of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. This year I played less than 2 hours of Monster Hunter Generations. I’m sorry. I couldn’t get into it this time for some reason. I’ll come back to it, I swear.
Pokémon Uranium: This is an extremely impressive fangame to me, because the developers managed to recreate the Pokémon engine in RPG Maker, and that took a lot of work and dedication. I never finished it, however, because I decided to try playing on the in-game Nuzlocke mode, and about a fourth of the way through the game I had so few Pokémon I could use that I just wasn’t having fun. Maybe I’ll come back to it someday? This along with AM2R got taken down by Nintendo immediately after their releases… I guess the moral of the story is to not make fangames of Nintendo stuff.
Bravely Second: Oops, I didn’t finish this one before the year ended. It’s the same reason I didn’t finish Rhythm Thief: a bunch of other 3DS games came out one after another and they kept taking my attention away from Bravey 2, as I like to call it. I’m getting close to the end (I think) so I can say safely that it’s a fantastic followup to the first game. It still seems to suffer from some of the same problems of the original − namely, the dungeons are largely similar with few puzzles beyond “press a switch over here to open a door over there” − but at the very least the second half of the game isn’t extremely repetitive. Or maybe it is, and I haven’t played far enough for it to start being repetitive. Either way I do plan on finishing it. Oh, and while the last game’s soundtrack is better, this game’s soundtrack is still extremely good.
BREATH OF FIRE IV: I started playing this one either early this year or late last year, and played it off and on multiple times throughout the year until I finished it in August. And I had a great time with it! It has a fun battle system and cute, unique characters, but the thing that’ll stick with me the most is the story. I love JRPG stories that explore the relationship between gods and humanity, and this one does a fantastic job in that regard. I’m willing to overlook the overly long boss battles.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation: For a Dragon Quest fan I have a pretty bad track record when it comes to playing and beating the games, and I completely missed out on the trio of DS ports that came out a few years ago. This is the last of the three and probably the least popular of the bunch, but it’s still a good game and I had a fun time exploring the world. It also holds some significance to me in that it’s the game that Terry came from, and I knew him from Dragon Quest Monsters first. Aside from that… I don’t have much to say about this one.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: Okay, so back in 2013 I said that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies was the best game in the series. My opinion on that has changed a lot, and while I’m not as harsh on it as others are I do agree that it was muddled and failed to build on Apollo Justice in a meaningful way. Spirit of Justice actually manages to do what that game didn’t, though in a sorta roundabout way that required introducing not only a bunch of new characters, but an entirely new foreign country. I really didn’t like a lot of the Khura’in characters’ names since they were just English phrases spelled weird. But I did enjoy the game’s narrative a lot, and the final case was one of the best in the series (even if the final culprit was a bunch of previous antagonists meshed together). Now I’m really curious where the series will go from here. I haven’t played the DLC case yet… I need to get on that.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past: I’m still working on this one because it’s such an enormous RPG! I’ve wanted to play this for a long time, and when it was announced that it’d be releasing outside of Japan I immediately preordered it. It’s lived up to my expectations and then some; the localization is fantastic and the gameplay is pure Dragon Quest goodness. I love messing around with the job system, so much so that I often put off advancing in the story just to level up my characters’ jobs. People weren’t kidding when they talked about how long the game is, though, or how long it takes for it to actually get going… it was nearly 20 hours before I even reached the point where I could mess around with jobs. I imagine that unlike Dragon Quest VI, I’ll actually be diving into the postgame content in this game once I finish it. While it may not be the best Dragon Quest game for beginners, I really think fans of JRPGs should check it out if they haven’t. 🌟
Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls: The second game in the Yokai Watch series is a huge improvement over the first in that it includes features that probably should’ve been in the first game, like trading with other players and an increased focus on story. I honestly recommend playing this game instead of the first if you’ve never experienced Yokai Watch; you don’t need to know anything from the first game to enjoy it, seeing as many of the story beats are retreaded in sidequests. It’s not without its flaws, especially when it comes to collecting some of the rarer Yokai, but it’s a huge improvement over the last game. There’s also a bunch of daily objectives to keep you coming back, two lengthy bonus dungeons after beating the game, the ability to trade and battle online, and an action minigame that you can play with friends. Too bad Pokémon completely overshadowed it!
Pokémon Sun: Here we go, the game I’ve been waiting for all year… it really delivered. In 2013 I said that Pokémon Y was the best Pokémon game. That’s way wrong. I’m not even going to say that Sun is the best (though I want to), but I will say that it’s the most unique main series Pokémon game and the freshest the series has felt in a long, long time. The changes in formula really gave it a different feel, and the Alola region felt more real and alive than any other region in the series. What really stood out this time was the story. Pokémon has been getting more ambitious with its stories since generation 5, but this is the first time I’ve ever played a Pokémon game and felt a lot of affection for the characters. I cared a lot about Lillie, Hau, Gladion, and the rest of the friends I made throughout my journey. Even the requisite Interpol-based post-game had a more interesting story than usual, about on par with the Delta Episode from Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Also this game introduced some really, really good Pokémon (I love Popplio SO MUCH) and the Alolan forms helped give some old Pokémon a much-needed boost. Z-Moves aren’t as big a deal as Mega Evolutions, but they’re still fun and flashy. This game is what Pokémon needed, and it shouldn’t be missed. 🌟
Super Mario Run: It’s okay. I don’t really have much to say about it since I didn’t pay for it, but I like the idea behind it a lot.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: I played the first Shantae but never finished it, and I didn’t play Risky’s Revenge or Pirate’s Curse, so this is the first Shantae I can say I’ve put a lot of time into. And I really like it! Shantae’s various transformations are all fun to use, the art is gorgeous, the writing is legitimately funny, and it’s just overall a great time. I’m really glad I contributed to this Kickstarter way back in 2013 or whenever it was, because the result is a great platformer.