Intro

I have turned into a filthy casual when it comes to games. In 2016, most of my gaming was contained to Overwatch and Final Fantasy 15, both of which I loved, but that left the rest year pretty barren for me. After a pretty lackluster 2016 year in gaming for myself, I was very excited for the releases in 2017. As I finally laid my Nintendo 3DS to rest in huge anticipation for the Nintendo Switch. Along with the many games coming out for PS4, my gaming days in 2017 focused on those two platforms. Can I consider myself a casual with all the high quality games that came out this year? Here is my year in gaming.

Favorite Games

Yakuza 0/Yakuza Kiwami

I put both of these together as the both came out this year. The Yakuza series has been a gaming series that I’ve always wanted to get into but the lack of localization made it near impossible for Western fans with little understanding of the Japanese language. SEGA decided to throw us a bone and have both games released in the West and did I ever jump on this hype train.

Yakuza 0 is a Beat-em-Up Action game following the main characters Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima in a prequel story before the main series and storylines begin. They both have different fighting styles and different mini games in each side of their world. You literally beat the money out of people and buy your way up in the world. Wether you use the cash to level up your own fighting abilities, invest it in real estate, help run a hole-in-the-wall cabaret club, or play one of the many mini games like slot cars or UFO catcher, it’s all up to you and they do it with style. I spent so many hours on the addicting cabaret club game, I wanted the hottest girls in my club!

Don’t get too sidetracked, the story is the main reason to play the series as you follow a crime drama circling different factions of the yakuza. If you are into Japanese pop culture, you will see famous actors that had their faces motion captured in very high detail such as Hideo Nakano and Riki Takeuchi. The gripping and well acted main story keeps you engaged as you learn how the two main characters of the series and their deep history. The game gets gruesome with very high quality cutscenes along with its mindlessly brutal head bashing of the main game, but it can get crazy silly with all the side quests that are around that can be quite endearing with such a hard edged story looking over the game.

Yakuza Kiwami is the HD remake of the first game in the series using the engine that powers Yakuza 0. This time, the story focuses on Kazuma Kiryu and his missing friends Yumi and Nishki and a mysterious girl named Haruka. With its serious yakuza catered story, we have Majima back to keep things funny with the Majima Everywhere mechanic. Majima decided to help KIRYU-CHAN get his fighting skills back by challenging to fights in crazy situations like hiding in a giant traffic cone or dressing up as a police officer and submitting Kiryu to random body searches.

As Kiwami felt like half as big as 0, SEGA decided to release the game at half it’s price for $30. This made the game a no-brainer to buy and you really still get a lot of value at that price. I love how committed SEGA is to the series and I hope its popularity continues. I cannot wait to play Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2 in 2018.

Check out my playthrough of Yakuza Kiwami 1

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The hype for this game began years ago and along with the release of the Nintendo Switch, the hype grew exponentially. All the reviews touted this as the Game of the Year, even though it was only March. I waited in line at Best Buy with some friends to finally get my hands on the Switch as well as the latest entry into the Zelda series.

The moment when you look at the beautiful land of Hyrule in its open world post apocolytic state, BOTW got me hooked. I could go anywhere and progress how ever I liked. I also had to be cautious how I did everything such as engaging battles with limited supplies in weapons and food. As a long time fan of the series, I kept trying to see all the ties with past games such as the place that could be LonLon Ranch or the strategically named lands such as Tingel Island. There is even an Easter Egg themed after the late Nintendo CEO, Satoru Iwata.

As a huge Zelda fan, it has blown my mind on what a Zelda game should be. The fact it wasn’t holding your hand on what to do next with it’s open world style made everyone I know play the game differently. The physics in the game has been mind bending on what you can do. Want to build a floating raft with octo-ballons and infiltrate an enemy base? You can do it! Want to build up kinetic energy on a rock and launch yourself miles across the map? You can do it!

When I finally beat the game, I felt such a satisfied sense of pride when I finally saved Zelda. It didn’t last long as I came to find out after 90+ hours I only completed 19.18% of the game! There is so much for completionists to do, but after a few hours I found it becoming such a chore to find all the koroks seeds and beat all the temples. I kind of left the game the way it was and this may be the first Zelda game that I didn’t fully 100%. Now with the DLC expansions that are out, they added more content to an already super rich game for the hardcore Zelda fans.

Even with all the positives on BOTW, it somehow wasn’t my all time favorite game of 2017.

Persona 5

I have never played a Persona game in my life, but all of my friends have been hyping up Persona 5 as THE JRPG I need to play. As much as I love the Final Fantasy series of games and I adored Final Fantasy 15, my friends were right.

Persona 5 is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. Even with its anime look, the art style sits on a throne above most games. Every character has their own style and look that makes them very engaging all the way down to NPCs. The actual Personas are so baddass looking, I wanted to collect and merge them all to get more, even Demon Lord Mara. Even the damn menus have such a cool art style, I could look at them all day.

The game flows by what you can do everyday and certain deadlines, so you have to plan out and figure what you want to do to maximize your time being well spent. You might need to work a part time job to earn money, or study at the library, or go hang out and build better relationships with your teammates but whichever you choose, it might take up your whole afternoon. You may have to spend the evening crafting items at your desk or cleaning up your room. Then you can’t go out late at night because that damn Morgana wants you to go to bed! But whatever you choose will all help when it’s time to infiltrate palaces and then you get into such an great turn based battle system. Oh and don’t forget about romancing the girl of your dreams.

What can’t be ignored is the amazing soundtrack Persona 5 possess, some may even say is the best part of the whole game. The soundtrack is now part of my regular rotation of music and I can fondly remember what I was doing in the game everytime a certain track comes on.

My favorite Persona 5 tracks:

Last Surprise

Phantom

Life Will Change

Beneath the Mask

Keeper of Lust

My first play through was over 140 hours, that’s how much I was engrossed in this game. I could not stop playing even when it was time for it to come to an end. I hope to try New Game+ someday. I loved everything about this game. I loved being a Phantom Thief.

Horizon Zero Dawn

I was late to the party on this game as I got it around June when it dropped to $40. Definitely worth the money and more. If someone just told me it was a baddass redhead beating up giant robot dinosaurs, I would have been there Day 1 Ish!

Following Aloy from being an outcast of a primitive humanity to discovering technology that helped prevent an apocalypse in years past was a giant set to stage for a new game, but I’m very happy with the world and the story they were presenting. And boy was this world beautiful! I played it on a PS4 Pro on a 4K TV and I was blown away by the visuals, the weather and landscapes, the monsters, the people. HZD was visual eye candy, jaw droopingly beautiful. Don’t forget to play with the photo mode to capture your beautiful moments.

Progressive skill trees allow you to evolve Aloy any way you like. Want her to be more stealthy or do you want her to bye a killing machine? You will need to balance both as there are so many tools at your disposal from cool crossbows with different elemental arrows to incapacitating trip traps. You will need to take advantage of your arsenal because there are tons of machines equipped with tons of skills ready to take Aloy down.

Horizon Zero Dawn was the first game I earned a platinum trophy this year. Even then, I picked up all the collectibles, armor, weapons and datapoints none of which went towards to the trophy. I even completed all the side quests. I just wanted to learn more about HZD and its world and of course take down more machines.

This game ended up being a mix of Zelda BOTW, Uncharted 4, and Mass Effect for me and I’m glad I took a chance with it. Horizon Zero Dawn’s story was amazing and it was such a fun game to play. I hope to finally play the Frozen Wilds DLC soon.

Super Mario Odyssey 

Super Mario Odyssey is probably my new favorite Mario game of all time. Ever since the trailer with Jump Up Superstar, my anticipation built to enormous levels. I could not believe that I’ll be playing a new Mario game, let alone in 2017 in the first year of the Switch.

Every game designer should take notice on how a game should be made from Mario Odyssey. This is how platform games should be, solid level design and controls, very cool capture system, and lots to do. SMO doesn’t pile on the things to collect like Zelda BOTW, they find a better balance with each world’s special coins to collect and reward you with new gear if you choose to get them. Plus, finding all the moons are a lot more rewarding even if some are easy to grab. Other moons aren’t as obvious or do require you to flex this fingers to obtain them. Moon hunting has been very fun but I feel that takes a small backseat to collecting the special coins in every stage. I was addicted to getting new gear for Mario to wear and then taking screenshots in photo mode. Some shots I got were phone wallpaper quality, that’s how beautiful this game has become.

Super Mario Odyssey seems like Nintendo’s love letter to fans who grew up with Mario games over the years. The 8-bit side levels were obvious call backs to the original Super Mario Bros. and they always put a smile on my face. The best example of this was during the New Donk Festival, this moment brought the biggest smile while I was jamming to Jump Up Superstar in the background. The soundtrack is amazing with also 8-bit versions of every song as the orchestra jams out while you play. My favorite song other than Jump Up Superstar would be Steam Gardens. That just has chill exploration vibes that would fit in any world you choose to play. New Donk City has to be a close second with the amazing horns in the orchestra singing in your eardrums.

I love how easy it is to pick up and play this game. I never had a big problem with the motion controls or the ability to use them. They aren’t essential to make the game any more intuitive, I barely did use them much. I could play quick 30 minute blocks any time and grab a few moons and be satisfied.

I finished the first part in 15-16 hours with 290 moons, all with such joy and love. Super Mario Odyssey made the inner child inside me just jump for joy the more that I played. This game is probably my favorite Switch game of the year on the one I recommend first to new Switch owners.

Check out my playthrough of Super Mario Odyssey

I would be playing the second part if all my time wasn’t taken up by…

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I fall into the camp of Xenoblade fans that loved the first Xenoblade Chronicles but didn’t like Xenoblade Chronicles X. I was hoping that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would be a return to form with a cool anime style graphics.

This game is gigantic in scope of the world, music, and its battle system. There is a lot to play around with but once you get the hang of it all, both the world and battle system, everything else falls into place. Being a Driver and collecting your Blades to support you and your battle styles really shape the crux of the game. I’m currently hunting and getting more blades while finishing a ton of side quest before proceeding too far into the game. Unlocking rare blades is probably everyone’s main focus, you want to bolster your team with the best blades suited for your style. All your extra blades you can use to send on mercury quest netting free gold, items, and experience.

The story follows the young salvager Rex and while he gets commissioned on a job he unknowingly finds a special Blade named Pyra and comes her Driver. You find other very amazing characters full of charisma for your team along the way as well as your main rivals. Each with their own personality and shape wit, you accept them at face value but get very attached the more you find out about their history

I’m at around 80 hours as of this writing and I plan on seeing everything through to the end. This game is, unfortunately, a completionist’s nightmare with the hundreds of side quests and unique monsters to kill. I don’t know if I will fully complete everything as I may be satisfied completing the story. The story of Rex and his all positive attitude to save his world while collecting a harem of friends and blades is very endearing and a nice breather to see with all the colder and mopey antagonists in other games. This game has been a great way to close 2017 on a great RPG note.

Check out my playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Disappointments

There are many disappointing games out there but I pulled these three as I was excited to play them, but for some reason I just couldn’t connect with them personally.

Mass Effect Andromeda

Oh man did I have high hopes for this… After such an amazing trilogy of Mass Effect games with it’s controversial ending, I couldn’t believe we were getting a new entry into the series on the current consoles. So I finally get my hands on it and the graphics weren’t all that great, the faces were so rough with every character having dead looks in their eyes. I would see all the space races represented but I felt that they were cheap knockoffs of the older characters like Shepard and Liara. Even romancing your crew didn’t feel the same and rewarding like in the past.

The one thing I did enjoy was the combat. It was such a call back to the older games systems, I was having so much fun throwing pulses and shockwaves and pumping space bullets into the enemies. I felt the combat was the only redeeming thing in the game. I couldn’t tell you what the main story was other than one of the twins need to save the other twin from dying in their cryo-pod while uncovering the truth about their father.

I may have only put in a total of 20 hours until I gave up on the game. It was just something to fill the void until Persona 5 came out. Never will go back to play Mass Effect Andromeda.

ARMS

ARMS had quite a bit of hype before it came out. A brand new IP from Nintendo with Pixar-ish type characters in an all new innovative fighting game. I had a bunch of other Switch owners at work get excited that we can play something other than Mario Kart on our breaks and lunches. What happened?

So our big group of Switch owners at work all played ARMS for a week straight before we all gave up. No one wanted to use the motion controls, no one wanted to grind for all the arm attachments, the fighting system was not as deep as it should have felt, fights take so long to play out, the characters while cool looking yet somehow were all so bland with no really background story to any of them…

It’s supposed to be the Mario Kart of fighting games yet it isn’t as easy to play, there isn’t a high level of excitement, and the matches don’t feel as satisfying even if you win. Sorry ARMS, you won’t be returning to my Switch rotation with so many better options around.

Splatoon 2

The sequel to a brand new IP that turned out to be a shining gem in the Wii U lineup. Funky new music and artistic style amongst its character designs, a funky take on all the countless multiplayer shooters. Thousands of players are playing Salmon Run on the regular. I know a ton of friends that play this game religiously and they love it all.

So why is it one of my disappointments of 2017? I am no good at this game at all. I got into the original Splatoon 1 for a few weeks but I was never really any good at it. Splatoon 2 makes me feel even worse at the game. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around it to get any better and it really deflates from the fun I see others having with the game. Plus the stupid match up system and the fact I can’t easily party up or change weapons just is so frustrating. I can take a game that is so much more fun like Overwatch, play for months on end, take a break for months, jump back into the game without flinching and still have the same fun when I did years ago. I picked up a friend’s Switch to play Splatoon recently and I feel the exact opposite.

Games I Need to Play

 

 

I picked all these games up when they were on sale with Uncharted Lost Legacy and Everybody’s Golf my main pick ups during Black Friday. But Nier Automata I picked up back in July for $30 is the number one game that I haven’t played this year. I’ve had so many people tell me how good this game is but I never found time to wedge it in with the games I really wanted to play all throughout the year. I hope to give it a shot in 2018 after I become satisfied enough with Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

In conclusion, 2017 was such a fulfilling time involving games. 2018 is already shaping up to be another strong year for games. What do you think? How was your gaming year in 2017?

Feel free to follow me on all social media @TakeoRey.