Monday, January 2, 2023

Year in Review 2022 - Games

This year was largely spent on movies rather than games, but I still had time to play quite a few! I deeply disliked a handful of otherwise well-regarded games, but I don't feel the need to go into that; let's focus on what was good rather than stink it up. This time around, games are in order of enjoyment rather than alphabetical.

Top Ten Games of 2022

Elden Ring - The latest FromSoftware adventure was easily my favorite game of 2022. Aside from putting more hours into it than anything else, it was just an amazing, engrossing experience that I've already played through multiple times. I'm going to keep coming back to this one for years. There's just so much to find and every little corner of the map has something useful, deadly, or funny, and while it's not as tightly tuned as Sekiro or Bloodborne, it's an amazing game.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land - The most adorable post-apocalyptic game ever made, and Kirby's first true 3D platforming title. My daughter and I had a ton of fun playing this in co-op mode, completing the game multiple times. When you're not going through action stages you can goof off in Waddle Dee Town listening to music, eating food, fishing, etc. That was her favorite part. A game with an enormous amount of charm.

Bayonetta 3 -There are some real performance problems in action-heavy scenes, some graphics issues, and the story is genuinely bad, but the action is so fun that I can overlook that and still think this is the most fun game in the series. The original game has the best art design, the second has the most fun story, and this one was my favorite for the actual fighting. Another game that I replayed multiple times, I was very satisfied to get all platinum trophies on hard mode. Fighting is divided between standard over the top Bayonetta action, Elevator Action style sidescrolling stages, and the more defensive-heavy new character, Violet. She's a divisive character but I had a ton of fun with her fighting style.

The Punchuin - An indie action-puzzler where a penguin knocks blocks around to make matches. The concept is very simple and easy to learn, but the stage design, controls, and art style are so tight that it elevated this title to one of my top five of the year. There's a nice vs. mode included, but it's unfortunately local multiplayer only. The only knock against this game is I wish it had online leaderboards.

Donut Dodo - A single-screen arcade experience with the platforming of Donkey Kong, the enemy pathing strategy of Burger Time, and the bonus collection structure of Rally-X. It's a love letter not just to one game, but to an entire genre, and it's masterfully made. The controls are excellent (and much more forgiving than the games that inspired it) and the designers really understood how to give this game its own personality without ever feeling like a knockoff. Surprisingly rare in retro revival style games, Donut Dodo is one of the very best of its kind.

Final Fantasy Origin: Stranger of Paradise - A weirdo action-heavy remake/prequel/maybe more based on the original Final Fantasy, I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did. It's a bombastic melodrama that walks the line of comedy and drama really well, with an awesome soundtrack and very entertaining monster fighting. I haven't had a chance to try any of the DLC stories yet, but the core game is completely satisfying on its own. The only real flaw is the endless dump of gear you never need, similar to the developer's previous Nioh games. It's a pain to sort through and dump the trash items.

Tactics Ogre Reborn - A remake of the PSP remake of the PS1 remake of the Super Famicom title from 1995. Each iteration adds more quality of life improvements and remixes the way skills work just enough that they feel like new experiences. This is one of the all time great tactical RPGs and it still feels fresh today with largely excellent voice acting and dialogue choices that actually DO have a massive impact on the story. This time around the game is a little more random, with skill cards popping up in battle near both players and enemies. This was one element I didn't like; the tide of battle can turn quickly based on luck rather than skill. Otherwise, it's still a stellar title.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream - A big improvement over the battle and alchemy systems of 2015's Atelier Sophie, this is a very relaxing game with a fun cast of characters. The story is bizarre and feels like a complete derail from the original game's ending, but individual bits are cute and delightful. No one in the game seems to find the core concept of "goddess traps random people in a dream world of her own creation" upsetting, weirdly.

Valkyrie Elysium - A revival of the PS1 classic Valkyrie Profile series, Elysium is an action-brawler rather than an RPG. It's not particularly deep, but it's a very fun game to just wail on ghosts and blob monsters in while melodramatic Norse gods yell at each other. Everyone's pretty and the costumes are cool and there's some surprisingly tender backstories here; I heard very little buzz about it, but there's a well-written trans character here and she's great. I haven't played the God of War series; Valkyrie is more my style, I'm guessing.

Tetris: The Grand Master - The first ever home port of the 1998 arcade Tetris focused on high-speed rounds and attaining master rankings. This isn't a new game by any means; it's a straight port that's part of the always excellent Arcade Archives series. It's release is a landmark, though, with the title finally playable outside of fan emulation. The exact opposite of the relaxing, meditative Tetris Effect, this one's a panic attack in puzzle form and I love it.

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