Yes, its that time of year when everyone posts their lists of favourite things from the year, I’ve already done one for music, I won’t be doing one for books, comics or films as I’m never up to date on the goings-on in those worlds despite my love for all three, I’ve refrained from doing the same with games in previous years because it’s rare I play a lot of games as and when they’re released, those I do are often for review which leads to some genuine surprises. However, most of my gaming time is spent playing Final Fantasy XIV, and this year has been no different, its been the perfect escape. As such my lists are rarely focused on the big “triple-a” games, much like the content of this website. I think there’s only been Yakuza: Like a Dragon that I’ve sunk any real time into this year that could fit into that category, I was bought Persona 5 Royal for my birthday back in June but haven’t played much of it (though I have finished Persona 5) and I was bought Final Fantasy VII Remake as a Christmas gift and have only played a few hours of it, certainly not enough to form a proper impression.
So, if you’ve come here expecting the normal stuff, you’re going to be disappointed. There are a few games on other people’s lists that I’d like to try but are in genre’s I normally bounce off (Hades), but I’ll get to those if they come up cheap or in giveaways. I’ll also be limiting this list to three games, much like I used to do on bitparade for those of you who used to read my stuff when I had that place (not many of you), and with that, I’ve waffled on for long enough, here’s what I’ve loved the most this year, in no particular order:
art of rally
First up, art of rally, which I reviewed back in September. I loved the simplicity and handling model, the references of the history of the developers chosen category of motorsport, its pastel tones and the fact its a game that’s very difficult to put down. Despite its kind of isometric camera angle, it delivers that rush of exhilaration that a rally cars crew must feel as they hurtle through a countries roads, battling the elements, hoping that they can get the beast they’re sat in to slow down just enough to make the next turn, flying over humps in the road and seeing crowds of spectators part leaving the route through clear as you throw dust and stones back into their faces. One word summed it up: sublime.
Disclaimer: I’ve not finished Paradise Killer, in fact, my investigation is probably a cold case by now, and that’s because the world that Kaizen Game Works, whilst being unpopulated, is so rich and its soundtrack so perfectly pitched that I refuse to fast travel around Paradise Island and far too often find myself getting distracted as I hear a noise that signifies that yet another unimportant pick-up is somewhere nearby. When I do decide to actually partake in the murder investigation that you’re tasked with solving (and taking to trial… eventually…maybe) the characters are so richly written that I want to get every ounce of information out of them that I can. None of them are particularly likeable, they’re all pretty much up their own arses, but there’s just something about them that makes you want to see if you can gather enough to catch them out. Now, I know I can end this at any time and blame whomever I want, but then have to prove it, but I can’t help wanting to know what every single suspect was doing and what their roles are in the overall mystery.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Disclaimer: I’ve not finished this one either (though I continue to chip away at it), but I have sunk enough time into it to know that it is very much a Yakuza game and very much also a brilliantly crafted JRPG that tackles some themes that I feel are often overlooked within the videogames community. Ichiban is exactly the lead we needed after 7 games with Kiryu and whilst Yokahama doesn’t quite have the same richness that Kamurocho has, it does enable Like a Dragon to feel fresh and not just because of the new battle system.