So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I decided I wanted to do something different. 2017 was an incredible year for video games, and I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite games that I played this year. This year was the debut and incredible first year of the Nintendo Switch, so expect a few games for that platform.
Metroid: Samus Returns – Nintendo 3DS
I am newer to the Metroidvania genre. This is the genre of games that have you running freely around a map looking for upgrades that open up new areas that you couldn’t access without the upgrades. Good games in this genre give you that amazing feeling of exploration and navigating a huge map. I hadn’t touched the genre before a few years ago, but after hearing lots of good things about it, I wanted to give it a try. I played through most of Axiom Verge when it came to the Wii U, and I was hooked. I then played through Metroid: Zero Mission, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion. I did play a little of the original Metroid II, but didn’t make it all the way through. I still want to go back and play the original, but when I saw the E3 trailer for Samus Returns, I knew I needed to play it.
The original game is a bit more linear than other Metroid games, as it has you finding and killing multiple Metroids before letting you move on. Samus Returns keeps this structure, and a lot of people seemed to take issue with it, but I don’t. I still enjoyed exploring the interconnected areas even if the areas are presented in a linear fashion. I thought each area was a blast to explore, the combat system was challenging, but fun and the presentation was top notch. From the visuals that I thought were impressive for a 3DS game, and some amazing remixes of both classic Metroid tracks and tracks from Metroid II.
Mark Brown did a great video comparing Samus Returns to both the original Metroid II, and the fan remake: AM2R. I agree with him that this remake may not have captured the same tone as the original, but even so, I still had an amazing time with the game, and I look forward to doing a Hard mode and possibly a Fusion mode playthrough in the future.
Splatoon 2 – Nintendo Switch
Splatoon was a game I never expected to enjoy. I remember seeing info about it on the Wii U eShop when the first game was released. I did like the aesthetic but wasn’t interested after seeing that it was a 3rd person shooter style game. It’s possible Nintendo’s not-so-great marketing at the time pushed me away too. But, after trying it for just a few rounds of turf war after a friend brought it over, I was hooked. I had never gotten into a game that had such a focus on the online component before, but the Turf War mode is so much fun. Spreading ink with a variety of fun weapons with a more unconventional goal was what drew me in. In Turf War, the goal is not most kills or anything, it is to cover more of the ground with your color ink. That in combination with the fun kid-to-squid movement made just that mode worth the price of admission.
If Splatoon 2 had just been a slightly updated version of the first game: new weapons and stages, I would have been happy and played it a ton. But the standout addition to Splatoon 2 is the new mode: Salmon Run. In this mode, you do not face of against other players, it is a co-op mode where you and 3 other squids fight against lots of enemies including these big boss monsters that drop eggs. The goal is to survive each round and collect the required amount of eggs in the allotted time. I still do enjoy the Turf War mode, but this is my new favorite mode in this game. I find playing cooperatively in this way so much more fun. Each boss has a different method to take it down and trying to take them down and while surviving has such a frantic feel that is exhilarating. The frantic cello music that plays during this mode is also perfect. I will continue playing Splatoon 2 as long as the online functionality is available, and hope they continue with a Splatoon 3 after that.
A Hat in Time – PS4
A Hat in Time is a project I have been aware of for a while. 3D platformers were by far my favorite genre of games growing up, my two favorite games of all time being Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. So I was excited when I saw a growing interest in the genre again. I was skeptical when I started to see a lot of 3D platformer style games on Kickstarter, things like A Hat in Time, Yooka-Laylee, and Lobodestroyo, since you never know what you are going to get with Kickstarted games. Yooka-Laylee released in 2017 to mixed reviews and Lobodestroyo was Kickstarted back in 2013 and still never released. I did play Yooka-Laylee. I didn’t think it was as bad as some reviewers, but it was not perfect, definitely not ‘The Return of the 3D Platformer.’
A Hat in Time though is amazing. Hat Kid is a bit floaty, but her movement is just so fluid and fun, something I think Yooka-Laylee struggled a bit with. But the thing I think I liked most about it was the variety of all the worlds. Worlds 1 and 3 are pretty open-ended levels but have specific missions to do in each of the acts. World 2 has you following two different storylines of two feuding bird directors in much more linear areas. And World 4 has no ‘missions,’ just an open area that funnels into more linear areas that you need to explore without being told where to go. The variety keeps things fresh without changing too much that you have to continually learn new controls or something like other games do. Hat Kid can get upgrades, but always controls the same no matter what mission she is doing. My favorite level would have to be Act 2 of Chapter 2: Murder on the Owl Express. It starts by having creepy crows ask you a bunch of personal data that sound like account recovery information on a website. It then has you searching the train for evidence to pin down who murdered one of the Owls. It was something very unconventional for a 3D platformer and I loved it.
Super Mario Odyssey – Nintendo Switch
I mean come on. This game is incredible. I played Super Mario 64 as a kid and it was one of my favorite games. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 were good, but always enjoyed the few levels that were a bit more open-ended in those games, so hearing the announcement for Odyssey had me immediately on board. Then after seeing the E3 trailer with ‘Jump Up Superstar,’ I knew that after I got it, it would probably be the only game I would play until I finished it, and I was right. Mario’s precise movement with the addition of the hat throw made him SO versatile. The night we got the game, a friend and I spent like an hour just running around the opening area in the Hat Kingdom. There is so much to say about this game I don’t even know what to say. The capture mechanic makes this game so much more varied than previous Mario games, the open structure of the levels and the ridiculous amount of Power Moons made each level so much fun, and the design and music were incredible. (New Donk City obviously being the highlight.) There is not much more I can say about it that hasn’t already been said.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Nintendo Switch
Again, there is not much I can say about this game that hasn’t already been said. The Legend of Zelda series is another series that I am a more recent fan of. I had heard lots of good things about it but didn’t ever play any of the games until I started with Wind Waker HD on the Wii U. I since played a few more of the games and was eagerly waiting for the release of Breath of the Wild. I was expecting to enjoy it, but not to the extent that I did. The open nature of the overworld is just so free feeling. It was enjoyable to just travel around and discover things. I loved the smaller scale shrines even more than the bigger dungeons of past games. I did enjoy the longer dungeons of other games I had played, but I think overall, I prefer the shrines in this game. Another part of the game I love is the variety of weapons and ways to fight. Some people had issues with how brittle weapons could be, but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment, I enjoyed being forced to try all the different types of weapons in the game. Also, I had a great time with the 2 DLC packs I had a difficult time trying to figure out whether to put this game or Mario at number 1. I decided this game because even though I had a blast with Mario, Zelda just gave me this feeling of adventure that couldn’t be passed. Also, if the music in this trailer doesn’t make you want to play the game, I don’t know what will.
Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition – Nintendo Switch
I wanted to mention this game as my favorite 2D platformer of the year. I played a few new 2D platformers, but this may be one of my few favorites. I never got around to this game when it was on the Wii U, but after playing the Switch demo, I had to get the whole game. It shines in the simple controls but there is still so much variety in the levels. My favorite thing about the game is probably the music levels at the end of each world where you do platforming to the rhythm of a song. I ended being sad when it was over and found a copy of Rayman Origins to play through afterward.
Gravity Rush 2 – PS4
This game surprised me as well. I saw some trailers early in the year, and I was really interested after seeing how the flight mechanics work. It’s not a perfect game. The combat can get repetitive, and the combat controls I found frustrating whenever I was forced to fight a human-sized character. Kat’s move set seems made for and is fun for fighting the big blobby monsters and other bigger foes, I just got frustrated at a few points in the story where you had to fight small human characters as Kat doesn’t seem to have any moves that are good for that scenario. Apart from that, I loved the rest of the game. Kat’s gravity shifting powers are fun to use, the comic book style is very pleasing to the eye, and since it is structured like an open world game between story missions, I found myself just flying around collecting gems for hours. Lastly, the music is incredible! The rundown Banga settlement music at the beginning and the snobby Lei Havina music perfectly suit the areas they appear in. The standout track though, is the music for the main market area, Lei Colmosna. I also found myself not wanting to leave this area because the music would leave if I did.