I really, really loved my time with ALTDEUS. Gorgeous character designs, fantastic voice work, compelling narrative and memorable characters all coalesced into the best gaming experience I’ve had this year. Science-fiction is one of my favorite genres because of how often it asks difficult questions about our relationships with the world and others in it, and ALTDEUS provided that in spades. Love, grief, obsession, self-loathing, sacrifice – it’s all here in one neat package. The use of VR technology to tell this story was also a boon. There’s nothing specific to the narrative that requires it be a VR title, but how that narrative is presented really took advantage of the immersive qualities VR can provide. Watching Noa’s concerts, embracing another character, fighting giant monsters – I don’t think any of it would have felt as impactful had it not been front and center. It also helped me better relate to Chloe’s emotional journey, because I saw the world literally through her eyes. What a fantastic use of the medium, and a must-play for any VR player.
Moss is a great game, not only for VR but in general. Quill and the characters she meets are charming, and the storybook nature of this tale are a great hook. The story itself is nothing especially groundbreaking, but it’s well-written, and I love the presentation. The only other animal protagonist I’ve found as endearing as Quill is Trico from The Last Guardian, and that is high praise. I love her. Please give me all the merchandise of her. My biggest complaint is, simply, that the game ends so soon! You can easily finish Moss in about three to five hours, depending on how determined you are to find all the hidden items across the game’s seven chapters, and each chapter is an easily-digestible 20-30 minutes. Since the puzzles always have the same solutions, there isn’t a lot of replayability, but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the time I spent with the game and its DLC. This is a must-play for anyone interested in VR and a great showcase for the medium’s strengths.
Overall though, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a fun, engaging hack-and-slash take on the world and characters of Breath of the Wild, and I very much enjoyed my time with the game, sans fighting with the camera. While the restrictions placed on exploration and travel did occasionally make me long for the freedom of the game’s more open world counterpart, it was still beautiful in its own right, with a wonderful soundtrack, fun, memorable characters, and a predictable but sometimes surprisingly moving story. I will always be happy when I get to see Zelda’s struggles and accomplishments, and this game provided that in a delightful package.
Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. Whether it’s taking care of loved ones, overcoming hardship, or grasping for a dream, I can think of no one who isn’t seeking some sort of place in this world. To say 2020 has been a bit rough for a whole lot of people would be an understatement, and Ichiban Kasuga was definitely the hero I needed this year. His strong heart, unwavering resolve, and unconditional love for those most important to him were the sort of positivity I craved. He would have been my favorite protagonist of all the games I played this year regardless, but he shone extra brightly in the darkness, and I adore him all the more for it. Ichiban’s struggles and triumphs were relatable and heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once, and helped propel his game not only to Game of the Year status, but also ousted Yakuza 5 from its pedestal as favorite game in the series. Ichiban is the hero everyone deserves, and I think his absolute banger of an anthem puts it best: “You may have nothing, yet you’ve got the bravery to go forth and lead a wonderful life.”
Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing is a fun little title that takes advantage of virtual reality’s ability to break physical boundaries to provide an engaging flight simulation. The animation and acting help bring these quirky characters to life in an immersive episode that has a rather predictable story but still sticks the landing thanks to wearing its heart on its sleeve. If you’re into VR, this is a great title to grab.
In the roughly 15 hours I spent with No Straight Roads, I got to experience a fun ride with a lot of things to say about the music industry, fan entitlement, the ways artists deal with both the positive and negative aspects of fame and creativity, and the messiness of trying to fix a broken system. In their quest to overthrow NSR and bring back rock, Mayday and Zuke also trod on those who genuinely enjoyed the EDM they were hearing, and were on their way to instating rock as the law of the land. Would that make them better than NSR, or just as bad? How much room do we allow for differing voices? When does one voice become so overwhelmingly strong – either through popularity, force, or a combination – that it silences others? And how do artists deal with balancing their personal creative wants with appeasing those who love their creations? When do the fans dictate the creativity rather than the artist? NSR has something to say about each of these – some more coherently than others – and even if I don’t agree with its conclusions in all cases, it sure made a for a fun argument along the way.
If you enjoy meta-fiction the way I do, I think you’ll enjoy your time with The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature. Clocking in at around two hours, the game is brisk but does offer replay value. The game touches on several concepts near and dear to my heart, including the idea that fiction exists beyond its creator, as well as what constitutes immortality. It’s a somber look at depression, but also finds the beauty in a flawed existence. There’s very little gameplay to be had, but like a good book or film, the questions The Wanderer poses about life, love, complicity, and free will stick with me.
I wanted to like my time with Double Kick Heroes more than I did. It’s got a great soundtrack, memorable aesthetic, and a fun concept in a rhythm shooter. Playing the game tended to be more frustrating and physically uncomfortable for me than fun, however, even taking advantage of the numerous options available. For metal fans, this game is a must-play, if only for the ear worms, and I would suggest rhythm fans check it out if they want a challenging, albeit frustrating, title. That being said, I think I’d rather just listen to the soundtrack.
How far would you go to get revenge? How much would you sacrifice for forgiveness? How do you deal with guilt when it eats you from inside? Is there a line you won’t cross, or is everything fair game to make someone else pay for your pain? None of these are easy questions with simple answers, and The Last of Us Part II doesn’t really offer a definitive answer, either. It can’t, and if it did, it would ring hollow. Instead we’re left with the wreckage of two lives spurred on by vengeance and the hope that, maybe, there is closure for the worst of us.
I spent 14 hours with Wintermoor. It was charming and engaging, with some snappy writing and pretty decent art direction. I liked the world of Wintermoor Academy. If I had one major complaint, it would be the tedium of walking back and forth between areas of the school during fetch quests. There aren’t many in the game, thankfully, but it did tend to drag the pacing a bit for me. And while the music is solid overall, I do wish there had been more variety. As it goes though, those are pretty minor nitpicks.