I guess being a bit of the odd duck on the site, I’m going to throw in a couple of retro releases. I have more than five games I want to list, but without the retro releases to round it out, I’d have some oddball number and it was going to drive me nuts. Much like Gore, I’ve got a ton of stuff I wanted to get to this year but never got around to it, so let’s list those off from my ever-growing pile of games I’ll likely never get to.
2017 Releases I Wish I Had Did More With
Gravity Rush 2 | Resident Evil 7: Biohazard | Hollow Knight | Torment: Tides of Numenera | Nier: Automata | Planescape: Torment – Enhanced Edition | Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia | Rime | River City: Knights of Justice | Get Even | Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles | Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth | Sonic Mania | Yakuza Kiwami | Blue Reflection | Cuphead | Fire Emblem Warriors | Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus | Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock | River City: Rival Showdown | Xenoblade Chronicles 2
10 – Blaster Master Zero (3DS and Switch)
Catching me completely by surprise, this was the first game I played on my Switch. It took everything I liked about the original Blaster Master, shaved off the rough edges, made it fair, and made it look like how I remembered it as a kid. You don’t often get remakes that not only nail the spirit of the original, but Blaster Master Zero did that and made the original feel almost pointless to go back to.
9 – Harvest Moon 64 (Wii U Virtual Console)
They said it couldn’t be done. It took YEARS of work to get it to run on the Virtual Console without any issues. Finally, arguably the best entry in the series, is playable once again on a system that has more in common with the original console it released on than anyone would care to admit. Regardless, if you have even a passing interest in the series, Harvest Moon 64 is one of the more accessible entries in the series and, even 18 years after it released, still holds up remarkably well. It might not seem like a huge deal, but having this game available again warms the heart of this lapsed Harvest Moon fan.
8 – Disney Afternoon Collection (Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam)
Whether or not you grew up with these shows or these games, this collection is an absolute steal. Having both DuckTales games alone is worth the price of entry, but throw in the respectable Mega Man-esque Darkwing Duck and both of the Chip’n Dale: Rescue Rangers (a blast to play in co-op) games, this is a solid package that should be an immediate get for anyone with even the slightest interest in seeing Capcom at the height of their platformer powers. Oh yeah, TaleSpin is in there as well.
7 – Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam)
This one surprised me. I wasn’t really planning on getting around to Assassin’s Creed: Origins this year, but the setting had me intrigued enough to take a dive in. My familiarity with the protagonists from previous entries in the series extends to Ezio and Altaïr, so my depth of knowledge of them is a bit limited. Altaïr was largely forgettable and Ezio felt like he devolved into someone far more flat than he was in his initial appearance. Bayek really helped me going through Origins far longer than I think I would have otherwise. Yes, he’s driven by revenge, but there’s also an incredible warmth to him that I rarely get from characters in other games, never mind Assassin’s Creed. From the way he loves his wife, to reminiscing about his son, to the way he handles himself as a protector of the people, you get the sense that Ubisoft really put forth the effort to make the central figure seem more human. Add in a setting I was absolutely in love with (one that had me contemplating getting a new TV and Xbox One X) and Origins is another title that exceeded my expectations.
6 – Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (Wii U Virtual Console)
Not exactly a new entry, even in the Virtual Console world (it released on the Wii’s Virtual Console as well), Ogre Battle 64 was an odd choice of platform for a decidedly hardcore strategy RPG. Still, even without the involvement of Yasumi Matsuno (all hail his name and works), this brings the same complexity of the original Ogre Battle without being as vague and mean-spirited about the ending path you’re heading down. Sure, it suffers the same problem as Harvest Moon 64’s VC release of being on the Wii U, but having two of the better Nintendo 64 titles come to the Wii U this year was a nice surprise for those of us who were feeling the sting of Nintendo pulling the plug on the Wii U faster than if it was a lawnmower pull cord once the Switch took off.
5 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (Playstation 4)
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Long the gap in my Yasumi Matsuno (all hail his name and works) knowledge, finally getting to play this without it being offensive to my eyes was a real treat. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it, but having put more than a dozen hours into it, I feel I can safely say it’s got the systems that I love Matsuno for. Add in the ability to speed it up and put a reorchestrated soundtrack in and this is a hell of a package to entice even the most vaguely Matsuno-curious people.
The theme of this year and my list seems to be surprise. Blossom Tales is more than a “me too” Zelda game, it nails so much of what makes the 2D entries fun, even if it stumbles a bit with the boss battles. It’s charming, the combat one-up’s every 2D Zelda I can think of, I enjoyed the soundtrack enough to track down the composer (and even have her compose our podcast theme song), and moves at a perfect pace.
3 – Yakuza 0 (Playstation 4)
I kept passing on the Yakuza series for years. All I heard about it originally was that it was Grand Theft Auto set in Japan. Even in my most weeaboo of weeaboo phase, that was a hard pass for me. Early on in 2017, I kept seeing ridiculous clips of the game getting posted on Twitter and I decided I had to check it out finally. The combat system is fun, if a bit repetitive, the writing is exceptional, and the silly parts are just the best. Even though I only made it a few chapters in, it’s a game that stuck in the back of my mind all year and made me a convert. God only knows if I’ll ever get around to finishing any of these things, but Yakuza 0 was strong enough to make me at least purchase the rest of series, both the older ones and any of the ones going further.
2 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U and Switch)
I don’t think I need to heap much more praise on this game. It set the world on fire earlier this year. We did a podcast that was more than two hours long, I had a power surge that ended up with that podcast being lost and the very next week we did another two hour podcast that barely had us repeating ourselves. It’s an amazing game and deserves every bit of praise it gets. So why isn’t it my number one? Well, getting back to it on the Switch after putting in over 150 hours on the Wii U version, a lot of the initial amazement I had with it is gone. While the weapon breaking thing isn’t terrible, it certainly makes combat not particularly enjoyable. Still, this deserves to be at the top of anyone’s list and I won’t ever make the argument that the game that won out over this one is technically better, but other factors have to be taken into account beyond something being better put together.
I don’t think I can gush enough about how much I loved this game. I’m a fairly recent convert to the series (Ys Seven was the first entry I finished), but this game hit just about everything I come to video games for these days. It’s fast combat has just enough depth and can be as challenging as you make it. The characters are likable, even if the localization has some come across as a bit more… rough around the edges than I imagine was originally intended. A new game plus mode that lets you pick what you want to carry forward and gives you the option to toughen up the enemies and have the amount of items they drop increase had me digging right back in. At this point, I don’t think I should have to mention how much I love this soundtrack, but in case you missed it, I did list it as my favorite from last year. By the time this goes up, the new localization is either out now or a day away, so that should bring me right back in to check out the changes. Ultimately, what made me pick this over Zelda was simply just how much fun I had with it. Sometimes I don’t want a heady experience. Sometimes I just want to crank up the volume and just have some fun, and Ys VIII was the game that did that the most for me last year. Again, I’ll agree that Zelda is a game that’s just put together better, but I never really got the same feeling I did when playing Ys VIII. It was long for an Ys game, but I never really found myself wishing it was over. In fact, I’m more than a little excited to dig into it again on the Switch when it comes out later this year.