Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2017 (Part 2)

Are you ready to close the book on 2017 once and for all?  I certainly am, and with this last look back at the games I played for the first time that year, I can not only close that book but toss into a fire and then kick it a few times for good measure!  But hey, I guess not EVERYTHING was bad that year; even if half the games I’m referencing in this list are from different years altogether!  Heck, even the bad ones managed to distract me from the nonsense going on in the world every freaking agonizing day, so why not take one last look at them to see what we can learn from them?  Let’s get started!!

.

Sonic 06

GAMES2017-8

Developed by Sonic Team

Here’s the thing about this game which I played for the very first time in 2017.  As much as it has the reputation of being THE WORST GAME EVER, it honestly isn’t THAT bad of a time.  It’s not GOOD by any stretch, but I never found it to be flawed enough to be more than just boring which is STILL better than offensive garbage like Hatred or Call of Juarez: The Cartel.  Heck, on a fundamental functional level, I actually found it to be sounder than something like The Evil Within which ALWAYS felt extremely uncomfortable to play; like it was some sort of facsimile of a video game made by people who had only ever heard of such a thing.  Sonic 06 is absolutely terrible, but in the pantheon of bad games I find it to be more amusing than painful which I GUESS is an achievement of sorts; just ask Tommy Wiseau!  Sonic is always a fascinating character to think about as there’s something… engrossing about him and the myriad of stuff that has built up around him, and maybe it’s this weirdly unique identity that has allowed it to preserver despite numerous setbacks like this game, Sonic Boom, and even the rather poorly received Sonic Forces.  The fact that ANY character survived the monstrosity that this game ended up being (even if I don’t think it’s THE WORST thing ever) is a testament to the longevity of Sonic’s success and the way he managed to connect with fans.  It’d be impressive if it weren’t for the fact that it basically let Sega get away with releasing such terrible games with impunity.

.

Sonic Mania

GAMES2017-9

Developed by PagodaWest Games and Headcannon

Maybe THIS is why we give SEGA and Sonic Team so much slack.  For every bad game (or three or four bad games) they make, they’ll manage to either pull out all the stops (or license it out to a better studio) and give us at least one decent Sonic game that will restore the fan base’s faith in their favorite blue mascot!  The thing is though, I don’t think Sonic Mania is the best RETURN TO FORM for the series as it ultimately has very little to add to the series and doesn’t lay the groundwork for something greater down the road.  Now Sonic Generations; THAT was how you do it, bringing in a retro style and even retro levels to appease the fans while also finally perfecting the type of high speed 3D gameplay that had more or less evaded them up to that point.  Sure, it didn’t ultimately lead to much as Sonic Forces was by most accounts a disappointment, but at least it bothered to TRY something and fixed problems that existed in the franchise.  This one?  It’s literally a recreation of games that Sonic already got right two decades ago, so what’s to look forward to?  Another game that’s exactly like what you played in 1994?  Maybe they’ll even make Amy a playable character!  I mean, the Sonic Advance series made her playable right out of the gate and made significant changes to the formula with each iteration, but I guess it would be TOO much to ask for Sonic Mania to be as forward thinking as a game from 2001.  Look, I GENUINELY liked the game (even if they chose THE WORST mini-game from the classic series) and an uninspired Sonic game is STILL better than an utter mess like Sonic 06, but I simply could not get excited for a game that’s simply there to celebrate its own existence; ESPECIALLY when Freedom Planet is much more interesting and modernized take on the formula.

.

SteamWorld Heist

GAMES2017-10

Developed by Image & Form

I’m a fan of tactics games, but only up to a certain point.  All those Universalis games and that Romance of the Three Kingdoms series are WAY over my head.  Heck, even Civilization looks somewhat intimidating which is why I’ve been playing Age of Empires III for over a decade now.  I like a little bit of a personal touch; something streamlined and where you can really focus in on the individual characters and what they’re doing.  Games like Jeanne d’Arc, the aforementioned Age of Empires, and even Dynasty Warriors to a certain extent are much more up my alley; and fortunately for me, SteamWorld Heist’s combination of tactical planning with gun slinging precision turned out to be the kind of genius idea that makes total sense and is something I never would have thought of.  The satisfaction you get when watching a perfectly laid out plan come together is only amplified by the thrill of lining up a shot perfectly so that it ricochets around the stage and hits a target behind several layers of cover, and the defeats are all the more crushing when you miscalculate the angle by one or two degrees.  It CAN get a bit tedious when levels stretch on for too long or when you have to replay the same section over and over again because you keep screwing up in one or two places, but with enough practice (and enough grinding of earlier stages), the difficulty is more than manageable and doesn’t dampen the fun TOO much.  The aesthetic as well is a huge highlight with some wonderful animations and some really solid sound work, but I found it all to be a bit shallow and underdeveloped; at least from a storytelling standpoint.  I haven’t played any of the other SteamWorld games so maybe the lore is better explained there, but the story definitely takes a back seat to the action which is a bit of a shame considering how amazing the world looks and how more engaging it would be if these characters had a bit more too them.  Oh well.  I guess not ALL robots can be as charismatic and lovable as Bender.  Now that I think about it… that WOULD make for an interesting sequel…

.

Steven Universe: Attack the Light!

GAMES2017-11

Developed by Grumpyface Studios

Now would you look at that!  A mobile game that you buy once… and that’s it!  An ACTUAL complete game with no micro-transactions that effectively uses the medium it’s played on rather than feeling liked an awkward port from another console!  Heck, it doesn’t even have advertisements in it outside of being based on a licensed property (WATCH STEVEN UNIVERSE ON CARTOON NETWORK!), and it’s a really solid length too!  WHAT IS THIS MADNESS!?  How can a mobile game NOT be a manipulative and ad riddled pieces of fluff with no depth or complexity!?  Well apparently someone at Cartoon Network cared enough about this property to not sully it with a crappy town management game and instead gave it to a studio that wanted to make something legitimately entertaining!  I ended up getting into the whole Steven Universe thing VERY late which means I got the benefit of binge watching the entire seires but also had the inevitable crash once I caught up to everyone else.  Thankfully this Paper Mario styled RPG managed to dull the impact of running out of Steven Universe episodes and was well worth the mere three dollars spent on it.  Sadly, I haven’t heard particularly good things said about its sequel on the PS4 which I wanted to pick up in 2017 but wasn’t about to spend thirty bucks on a game that was getting such a lukewarm reception.  Maybe they’ll drop the price and fix some of the bugs in time for it to be a part of my Games of 2018 piece, but until then I can’t recommend this game enough for anyone who likes Steven Universe and is extremely cynical about the mobile game market.  It’s the kind of game that should be the norm for mobile gaming but is instead buried under a sea of exploitative crap, and it’s worth supporting if for no other reason than to prove that there is room for more games like it on the platform.

.

Super Mario Odyssey

GAMES2017-12

Developed by Nintendo

Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!  The latest Mario game is a masterpiece!  Spread the news far and wide so the world can hear the good news!  Nintendo still knows what the heck they’re doing when it comes to game development!  So yeah, it’s no surprise that a brand new 3D Mario game would turn out to be fantastic and innovates in all the ways a series like that should.  Obviously the new mechanics are fun to use and Mario handles like a champ with all of the various control styles, and the whole thing just looks astounding; especially the New Donk City level which is certainly a highlight for the Mario canon.  Like with Zelda, Nintendo clearly understood what the appeal of their console was as well as how most people will interact with it, so while previous games in the series would have much longer quests with fewer stars, this one chops everything up into bite sized chunks so that moons can be collected quickly in short bursts to create fulfilling game experiences in the short times that people will want to play with the Switch.  This makes it a fantastic game to bring on the go, but it also doesn’t diminish the appeal of playing it in much longer sessions as getting a whole bunch of moons is just as satisfying as completing a few of the more difficult quests in Galaxy or 64.  For a while there it seemed like Nintendo was gonna bow out of the console market (and potentially the industry as whole) for good when the Wii U was selling poorly, but the company has never been one to go down without a fight and with this console and the amazing games on it, it has a chance to reclaim its place as the true standard-bearer of video games going forward.  Now if only they’d learn how to ACT like a modern company instead of just making great games like one…

.

Tekken 7 & Mortal Kombat X

GAMES2017-13

Tekken 7 developed by Bandai Namco Studios
Mortal Kombat X developed by NetherRealm Studios

I have this theory that fighting games tend to embody the changes of each successive console generation more than most other genres, and I think the reason why is that the core experience is one that doesn’t fundamentally change all that much from console to console; therefore innovations have to come elsewhere by taking advantage of the latest bells and whistles of the hardware.  Generations five and six introduced and refined three dimensional fighting systems, and generations six and seven introduced and refined online matches which was a HUGE step forward for the genre.  Sure, you could argue that FPS games exploded in popularity after Xbox Live came around, but to me that was more of a lateral change; not one the defined the core experience (i.e. single player campaigns) as much as it did add an additional feature; one that would eventually overtake that initial core experience.  Now that being said, it ALSO means that the problems each successive generation introduces also have a pretty sizable impact on fighting games and that’s the case here with these two fighting games from generation eight.  Generation seven brought in DLC which was good or bad depending on the game, but even the worst examples of carving up core content to sell back to you at inflated prices (*cough* Street Fighter X Tekken *cough*) pales in comparison to the introduction of micro-transactions.  Buying Fatalities? Paying to unlock everything The Crypt AFTER balancing the Kredits to be extremely slow and frustrating to grind for?  REALLY NetherRealm Studios!?  This is of course ON TOP OF paid DLC for characters like Jason and The Predator, so if you were there day one you’d be lucky to ONLY end up spending a hundred bucks!  At least Tekken 7 avoided the micro transactions (even if the fight money seems like it was designed for it) but the DLC still seems a bit much with five dollar characters and a bowling mini-game for fourteen.  Even if we ignore the attempts to nickel and dime you after buying the damn thing, these games are just… okay sequels.  To me, the rosters feel a bit lacking with favorites from both games getting cut in favor of new characters that aren’t quite up to snuff.  Mortal Kombat in particular has a bunch of new characters who aren’t the least bit interesting that have pushed aside awesome characters like Smoke, Jade, and Sindel from the roster; not to say I’m not pissed at Tekken 7 for dropping characters like Christie Monteiro, Lei Wulong, and Bruce, but the change feels less drastic here and I’m at least glad they managed to keep Hwoarang around.  For the leap to next gen, I GUESS they do the job just fine, but I honestly expect a little bit better (and fewer annoying business practices) from two of the biggest names in the genre.  Then again, I haven’t played Street Fighter 5 yet, so maybe these two are the Bee’s Knees in comparison!

.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

GAMES2017-14

Developed by MachineGames

Fine!  I’m behind the curve on this one!  Look, I’ll get to part two soon enough, but for now I want to talk about how AWESOME THIS GAME IS!!  With games like this and DOOM, Bethesda (for all their TERRIBLE faults) is crafting some of the finest first person shooters out there; a title which USED to be held by Bungie before they jumped ship from Halo.  The best part about this game is that it was made BEFORE the Nazis decides to rear their ugly heads in the current political landscape, so without even TRYING to make something timely, MachineGames had made one of the most politically charged and of the moment games in the Industry’s history.  What other game has felt as vital to the times we’re living in?  Spec Ops: The Line I guess, but that’s still a PRETTY short list to consider!  Hopefully the sequel, now fully aware of the context in which it is being made, can be just as strongly critical of fascism and Nazi ideologies( HOW THE FUCK ARE THESE THINGS THAT ARE CONTROVERSIAL NOW!?) as this first game turned out.  It’s not like there isn’t room for improvement either in regards to its message.  The one problem I had with the story was that it trades in on some annoying character short hands that feel a bit tone oblivious in today’s climate; casting the resistance as rugged and square jawed blue collar toughies while the Nazis are much more effete in how they carry themselves. It’s the same crap boarding on homophobia that we see in a lot of fictional media (especially Disney movies), so hopefully they puta bit more nuance into the sequel.  Then again, the trailer had the big bad Nazi ordering a milkshake (DAMNED DECADENT DEGENERATES!) so… we’ll have to see.  On the plus side, it’s never NOT fun to shoot Nazis, and this game manages to do that better than pretty much any other modern shooter; opting for more than two weapon slots and allowing you to duel wield EVERY WEAPON!  Why you would WANT to duel wield sniper rifles is beyond me, but at least they give you the option!  If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I HIGHLY recommend it as it’s probably not gonna cost a whole lot by this since its release!

.

And that will do it for my look back at the games I played in 2017!  Agree with the list?  Disagree?  Well you can let me know in the comments below!!  You can also check out part one of the games of 2017 here as well as the games of 2016 at the links below!!

Games of 2016 (Part 1)
Games of 2016 (Part 2)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s