Seeing as how the year is at its end, it is time to look back and assess 2016. There were some real bad things that happened throughout the past 366 days, most of them relating to the world at large, but the year did have some high points, at least for me. I started my gender transition, met my significant other, put out a novel and novella, started attending a real college, and started a new better job. I also reviewed over fifty games this past year, many of which I loved, and I feel it is appropriate to summarize and celebrate my favorite special treats I’ve indulged in throughout 2016.
Now, I’m only going to talk about games I played through and completed for the first time in 2016. This is because I replayed through a lot of games this year, and many of them happen to be all time favorites of mine. These include Shadow Complex Remastered, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, Little King’s Story, Kirby Super Star Ultra, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3. All of which I would highly recommend anyone checks out, and if you’re wondering why I’m recommending them, check out their respective reviews.
Pony Island: While its January release may have had the game forgotten by most, Pony Island still remains a captivating and compelling journey that breaks away at the very nature of games and does so wish a style and personality that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. A deconstructive game is actually pretty hard to get right, and with a simple and direct premise, a grungy visual style, the game remains an appropriately brief delight. Certainly more than just a game about ponies.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk waifu bartending is a pretty excellent attention grabber, and a lesser developer might choose to indulge in the innate humor behind such a concept while skimping out on the substance. Not here though. VA-11 Hall-A is a game about tending bar, learning the stories of the denizens of a realized cyberpunk landscape, and simply being able to make end’s means. The characters are enjoyable, the PC-Engine and Sega CD era pixel art is lovingly done, and the eerie and upbeat soundtrack is the perfect background for all of this. I admittedly was soured by the number of ending I missed in my initial playthrough, but as time goes on, the more warmly I look back at my time in that hole in the wall.
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma: Set as the climactic third installment in the Zero Escape series, ZTD had a lot to prove, and not a lot of faith from the developer’s upper management. To the point where the game’s entire existence was in jeopardy at one point. However, the developers proved themselves to be capable of delivering a thrilling and satisfying conclusion that, while a bit underwhelming, is still filled with enough good and quality moments to both stand on its own and feel like a respectable end to what I consider to be one of the finest game series ever created. Though, I still wish the ending were a bit more developed.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: While not the most amazing 2D platformer in the world, and it is currently not complete, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a joyous time with it when I received it ahead of launch. It’s just a really solid 2D platformer with a deeply lovable personality, vibrant art style with high quality animations, and a really good soundtrack. It’s nothing mindblowing, and is clearly missing content due a lack of promised features, but any game that kept me coming back to it and smiling all the way from beginning to end certainly deserves an accolade or two.
OneShot: Now, this game was developed by a friend of mine, so I’m hesitant to place it here. But considering how much I enjoyed my time with the game, and how ignored it’s been by the gaming community by in large, I think it deserves some love. With a carefully constructed tone, an engaging world, and fun characters, OneShot already has a lot going for it, but what really makes the game special is how it bridges the line between game and reality.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin managed to capture much of what made the original Dark Souls the smash hit and industry shaker that it was at launch. In that sense, it should also be deserving of as much praise, but DS2 has some unique design decisions that I think really hurt the title, to the point where I initially struggled to get over them and had to restart the game several times before I could finally accept them. It’s core gameplay and world design are among the best in the industry, but the limited spawns for enemies, gradual health loss with each death, certain general design decisions, and stupidly hard DLC I couldn’t even beat made this a far more irritating experience than it should have.
Xenoblade Chronicles was a title I vehemently supported upon its release, but technical problems with my console prevented me from ever finishing it, and I actually still haven’t, largely because of its biggest problem. For as much love, care, and dedication went into this game, characters, and environments, it’s just too big and unfocused for me to ever sing its praises without applying numerous asterisks to it. I truly believe that spreading content too thinly is one of the biggest problems with modern games, and there are few better examples of that than Xenoblade… and it’s stupidly long sequel that I’m beyond intimidated by.
God Eater Resurrection has a very good foundation to it, being a fast-paced monster slaying action game with a very enjoyable combat system, a nice aesthetic, an interesting premise, and a rewarding gameplay loop that kept me playing a bit too long in several of my play sessions. However, the minutia that comes with a large loot system, combined with a narrative that reads like a series of storylines carelessly tied together for no rhyme or reason, and a difficulty that becomes tiresome during some of the latter missions prevent it from being the excellent title I could see it being.
Pokemon Moon was easily my most anticipated title of 2016, and I was actually a bit let down by it in the end. For as much good as there is with the more detailed world, Poke Rides, Team Skull, and et cetera, it is difficult for me to look past all of the minor unchanged features that carry over from game to game despite the fact that there is no good reason to not improve and change them. However, it is still a new Pokemon game, and I’d be a liar if I said I did not have a lot of fun going through it and experiencing the best and better moments the game had to offer.
Ori and the Blind Forest had the potential to be one of my all time favorites with its excellent game feel, gorgeous visuals, and by being an example of what is my favorite genre of game. However, this metroidvania flavored affair was met with issues regarding a steep learning curve, incredibly useful features that need to be manually unlocked, and certain gameplay decisions that I just did not care for. It has the makings of a masterpiece that would be heralded throughout the annals of time, but what’s there left a lot to be desired.
I can only hope that 2017 brings as many good tidings, but before closing off I should address something. The status of my next novel/novella, Psycho Bullet Festival: Bury My Children.
I’ve made embarrassingly little progress on it. I’ve written the first few chapters, come up with a solid outline, and know what I want out of this project, after initially deliberating how to portray or present certain characters, but that’s about it. I want to make more progress on the story, but I really have not had the time to work on it.
You see, right after I released Maples Loves Senpai in May of this year, two things happened.
One, I met Alex, a friend who would become my significant other. In the past seven months, I’ve devoted countless hours to them, whether it be talking, watching things, or playing a game together. This has taken up to several hours away from my free time every day, and much of that time would have been devoted to writing.
Two, my employment situation changed. Before summer of 2016, I was working at a job where I had a lot of downtime that I spent writing reviews, rundowns, novels, and novellas. Heck, most of Verde’s Doohickey and The Malice of Abigale Quinlan were written while I was at that job. However, during the summer of 2016, I began a project that consumed my free time. Afterwards, I left my job in favor of another job that paid better and was closer to home, but seeing as how I was put in charge of a massive project, I’ve had little to no downtime most days.
With these changes, my free time has been notably limited, and in order to maintain my regular actions of doing schoolwork, playing games, writing reviews, and just watching and listening to various things as means of entertaining myself, I had to put my writing of novellas and novels aside. I have made efforts to try and accommodate for this additional writing, but I regularly encounter the problems of finding the motivation to write, and the right mindset to write in. I would love to work on my writing after work or before bed, but I both do not want to force myself to do that and know that if I do the end result will be unsatisfactory.
I hope to overcome this issue next year, somehow, but until then my next novella, Psycho Bullet Festival: Bury My Children, is scheduled to come out sometime in 2017. It will be a story filled with murder, incestual lesbian overtones, and friendship. Also, there will be a Dragon Ball Z fight scene and borderline plagiarism of song lyrics.