Monday, January 15, 2018

My Favorite Games of 2017

My gaming backlog is something impressive, as I typically buy a few more than I can play in any given year, and then those extras build up. The result is that I rarely play any game in its year of release unless it's a part of a favorite series, and even then, depending on how busy I am, a much anticipated game might get postponed.

But I'm not adverse to playing older games. As long as the gameplay is still there I generally don't care. Maybe that's the same for you?

These are the nine games I liked enough to finish for the first time in 2017, in the order I finished them. (I think there could have been more, but I blame Persona 5 for being so long.) As I did with my book roundup, the three games I tagged with an asterisk (*) were my favorites of the year and definitely worth playing.

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness * (PS Vita and Steam)

Fans of the anime series will get the most out of this dystopian cyberpunk visual novel. The player takes the role of one of two investigators tracking down a criminal that cannot be brought to justice in the way the system is intended to work. There are multiple endings based on the choices made, and a walkthrough will probably be needed to see them all. It's easily the best spin-off of the original (and better than the sequel anime) because it manages to be its own thing while playing within the rules of the first series, and it's good. It's not for series newcomers though. Even with a glossary it tends to assume players know the basics.

Attack on Titan (PS4, XB1, and Steam)

Having come out between the first and second season of the anime, it does a good job of extrapolating the story into three playable chapters; the battle for Trost, the Survey Corps expedition prior to being recalled, and the Female Titan arc. There is also an unlockable fourth chapter that vaguely covers the first half of season 2, but with minimal spoilers and a unique ending, so deaths and major plot revelations are withheld. The game does a remarkably good job of conveying the feel of using maneuvering gear and slaying titans is incredibly satisfying. One of the best media-based games I've ever played and even klutzes like me can beat it on Easy. The developers loved the property and it shows.

The Sims 2: Ultimate Collection (PC)

I'd forgotten that I downloaded this a while ago as part of a promotion on Origin. It's every expansion of the Sims 2 plus the base game, and despite the years since its original release, it's still really good and runs just fine even on a new computer with Windows 10. I'd played the base game years ago and this was a welcome trip down memory lane with some new content that I'd never played before (new jobs, university, vacations, oh my!). As always, the fun part for me is making a bunch of Sims based on characters I know (my characters, other people's characters) and seeing how they interact in the sandbox. One of the most hilarious things was Attack on Titan's Erwin Smith deciding that his life's dream was to become a World Class Ballet Dancer.

80 Days (Steam, iOS, and Android)

This came to me through a friend's recommendation. It's not something anyone's likely to play for hours on end, but as an afternoon time-waster it's pleasant enough. You play as Passepartout, the valet to Phineas Fogg from the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days. As such you are constantly put upon to care for your master as all sorts of shenanigans occur on your trip around the globe. The player gets to pick the route, and there are some randomized events, so there is some replay value, but I found that two was enough to figure out how to succeed in less than 80 days. I ended up playing a third time though just because I wanted to check out how the same-sex romance was written versus the straight one. It's a fun, casual friendly game, but not something most players are likely to spend more than 4-5 hours on.

Persona 5 * (PS4 and PS3)

Persona 5 was my most anticipated game of the year. I've bought all the Persona games since the first installment (I'm old school) and placed my pre-order for the deluxe edition with all the trimmings. I was not disappointed as it continues the contemporary fantasy setting with a fresh layer of panache as the protagonists are now all phantom thieves. I've never seen heists integrated so well in a video game before, let alone an RPG, and the Persona-specific game systems involving the social aspects of getting through a year of high school are as good as ever. While I'm not sure if it will hold up against Persona 3 and 4 once I have more time and distance from it, at least at the moment it was one of the best games I played this year. If there's a fault I'd give it though, it's that it's extremely long, probably too long, even allowing for the fact the game has an in-game summary so you can catch up if you've been away for a while.

Collar x Malice (PS Vita)

Collar x Malice was my second most anticipated game of the year. It was giving me Zero Escape vibes (though sadly not the Zero Escape puzzles) with a female protagonist. Though this is technically an otome, it's not all fluff. Officer Ichika Hoshino spends as much time chasing a group of vigilante terrorists as she does potentially romancing various officers and ex-cops who are on the same case. It didn't reach the height that Code:Realize did for me, but the storytelling is more even between routes. Yanagi is route locked behind everyone else unfortunately, since his is the "real" route, which I wish Otomate would stop doing.

Plants vs Zombies: Game of the Year Edition (PC)

This came to me via one of the periodic freebies on Origin. I'd never played the original past the demo, but this landed in my lap at a time when I really wanted a puzzle game and it scratched the right itch. Being a puzzle game featuring cartoon zombies it's aged pretty well, though I was surprised when it forced my monitor down to a lower resolution. I didn't think it was that old. It's not too difficult by puzzle game standards and the game makes a point to introduce a new complication every few levels to keep things fresh. I think I only lost once, and that's because I was careless rather than being overwhelmed. I don't think I would have bought this normally though.

Dungeon Fighter Online * (PC)

This is a quirky online RPG that is like Diablo had a lovechild with your favorite side scrolling beat-'em-up game. It's 2D like Final Fight or Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, but it's an RPG designed for small parties or solo players. You can perform attacks fighting game style, but there are also equipment drops, skill trees, dungeons, pets, guilds, etc. It's free to play, and amazingly, you can get through the entire leveling experience without spending a cent, and more importantly, without seeing microtransaction ads thrown at you every other screen. The Korean to English translation is a bit janky in places, but if you like retro games, and have a fondness for old school JRPG music, this an excellent bet.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth

I actually started this last year, but got derailed about a third of the way through due to This War of Mine. This is probably the closest thing to having a playable Digimon anime series. The player-named protagonist has an online encounter with a mysterious entity that leaves her (or him, I played as a girl) in a weird half-digital body while her real one is comatose. As a result she can jump in and out of the computer networks Tron-style. The story moves at a relaxed pace sometimes, but really captures the feel of the anime. Together with her human friends and their combined Digimon companions they try to solve the mystery behind the origin of the Eaters, why people are being found comatose from EDEN syndrome, and what the corporation Kamishiro Enterprises has to do with all of this.