Archive for December, 2023

2023: A Year In Games

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Personal, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Ys on December 27, 2023 by slateman

2023 is wrapping up with many critics claiming it resides shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best years in gaming history. My experience isn’t quite so stellar, but

Let’s go through some lists starting with titles that were released before 2023, all while realizing that the true best game I played this past year was Bloodborne!

Older Games Played:

  • Dark Souls III
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • SteamWorld Dig
  • SteamWorld Dig 2
  • Rogue Legacy 2
  • Neon White
  • Lunistice

Of those titles, I completed the 2D ones only. While I had played Rogue Legacy 2 on Steam the prior year, it was only when I got it for free on PS+, and could play from my couch, that I beat it. Admittedly, I lowered the difficulty to blaze through chunks that I had beaten before. In some ways this game is perfect: allowing for those changes to difficulty, a fantastic gameplay loop and incredibly-tight and responsive controls. Several of the theme songs stuck in my head for quite some time and it was a fun experience. However, my Old Game Of The Year, if that were a category, would go to SteamWorld Dig 2. It’s so funny, I got a trophy in the first game way back in 2013 and I remember playing it and abandoning it. No clue what drove me to return, but once I started, I was hooked. After blazing through the first title, I anxiously awaited a sale price for the second, eventually pulling the trigger without one, that’s how much I liked it. And the sequel did not disappoint, living up to and exceeding my praise of the first. I simply loved that game and, much like the emptiness felt after completing Elden Ring, I continually yearn for a similar experience, with no satisfaction. In fact, if I were ranking the best games of the year regardless of their release date, SteamWorld Dig 2 would be in contention.

The other titles all had qualities of their own, but not enough to keep me returning to them.

Moving along, now we look at titles released this year that I have yet to play in 2023:

  • Alan Wake 2 (Some day I’ll try)
  • Baldur’s Gate 3 (Trial was cool, dunno if it’s for me)
  • Blasphemous 2 (Curious, not much more)
  • Cocoon (Hmmm)
  • Dead Space (Maybe an ‘on-sale’ game)
  • Diablo 4 (Trial run, felt like D3, really)
  • Hi-Fi Rush (Maybe when I get an Xbox!)
  • Octopath Traveler 2 (Never played the first)
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (Lost interest in the first)
  • The Talos Principle 2 (Never beat the first)
  • Viewfinder (Demo was fun!)

There are a few games I’d like to try, but none here give me the burning desire to jump in. Games like Pikmin and Fire Emblem may be great, but do I care? Nothing above are a have to play game, despite how good BG3 appears to be.

Our final category is the games I have indeed played this year, and ranking them isn’t very easy.

2023 Games:

  • Final Fantasy XVI
  • The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom
  • Lies Of P
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Sea Of Stars
  • Street Fighter 6
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • Xenotilt

As I work through Lies Of P and Sea Of Stars, I quite like the former due to its obvious inspirations and feel indifferent towards the latter. I beat neither Zelda, much as I didn’t its predecessor, nor FFXVI, losing interest after numerous hours.

Thus, we’ve whittled down the list to four games, all sequels. As much as I love Mario games – and I do like the franchise – nothing about Wonder stood out to me, despite what everyone else thinks.

And then there were three. Xenotilt probably improves on everything in Demon’s Tilt. As DT is in my top-20 ever, I struggle to wonder which should be on that list. In either event: it’s not 2023’s GOTY.

Capcom ends up holding the trophy, as the remaining games are both theirs. And this decision is a difficult one. By all accounts, Resident Evil 4 should do what no game has ever done: won the trophy as both an original release and a remake! But while it effectively replaces the original, I think I have to give it to Street Fighter 6. The gameplay is honed. The systems are polished. The game is just fun and it’s the best launch-SF game since SFII. I absolutely love this title and have no reservations awarding it GOTY, even if RE4 is as good as it is – DLC included!

So there it is: Game Of The Year 2023 is Street Fighter 6!

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou Rinne Tensei: Perfection

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games on December 24, 2023 by slateman

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou is the best shmup ever. I’ve thought this since I imported the PS2 game 20 years ago. And while there have certainly been great games since, to me, nothing has surpassed it. M2’s other ports have been spectacular, but though Ketsui and Garegga are phenomenal games, they just don’t draw me in like DOJ does. Now that I have reason to sink my teeth into one of their ports, I must say, this version is simply the best version of the best shmup ever. It’s just astonishing.

We all have our favorite games ever. But every so often when we return to them 5, 10, 20 years later, their luster has faded somewhat. It doesn’t look as good as it did, or there are certain frustrations that didn’t irk us in the past. With DOJ, none of this exists. 10 minutes into my first run, I was just smiling. This game remains the greatest and M2’s treatment only improves on it, giving us black label finally, giving us DDPIII, with wonderful casual modes, perfect gadgets and a sleek presentation.

I cannot speak highly enough about this translation and it’ll be the one I play for the next two decades.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Complete

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on December 4, 2023 by slateman

I wrote recently about completing both Dark Souls III and Super Mario Bros. Wonder on the same day and have published my thoughts on the former already. Today I want to talk about the latter.

I purchased the game after work on its release day, a Friday, and within a few levels…I just put it down. The title’s bright palette, familiarity and usual bevy of secrets typically piques my interest like few games can. After a short period getting accustomed to the new physics and controls, I was off, nabbing devilishly-placed pink coins, scouring corners for hidden wonder seeds and bouncing my way to the top of flagpoles, much as I have in the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s. This is my favorite gaming series ever, why was I so indifferent towards this entry? There is, in fact, nothing tangibly wrong with Wonder. It ticks all the boxes with aplomb, missing a step neither in its nostalgic tendencies nor its forward-thinking accessibility options. New enemies are well thought out, worlds are appropriately diverse and those secrets, my favorite part of both Mario and FromSoftware games, is evident throughout.

However, several days passed without as much as a hint of Mariolust, unlike in decades past. It was only during my incapacitated state, waiting for surgical repair, that I revisited in earnest. Relegated to a bed (and an armchair, for brief stints) aided me in re-discovering my lost inspiration. And so, over the course of three days, I ploughed through the final worlds and today, I share my thoughts on the game.

I have a long history with the franchise, my memories dating all the way back to the original NES and over the years I’ve catalogued my completion of recent games and ranked the entries (as of ~2010). I’ve been quite excited about Super Mario Bros. Wonder but does it live up to its universal praise? In short, it’s fine.

Now, do not get me wrong: Wonder is a great game.

[more to come – interrupted]