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Spoony's Best Games of 2016

9. Gravity Rush Remastered (Sony Interactive Entertainment/Project Siren, Playstation 4)

Gravity Rush was a blast on the Vita, so one could imagine my disappointment when it was revealed that Gravity Rush 2 was delayed until 2017 because of "too much competition" from other November launches.  Fortunately we got a worthwhile holdover in the Remastered release of the original, which upscales the game to 1080p, boosts the framerate to a constant 60 FPS and even packs in all of the downloadable content from the original release.  The end result in a gorgeous adventure set in a strange, surreal universe where your character can flip gravity, sail through the air and battle enemies with flying kicks, thrown objects and a plethora of special moves.  It may be a relatively no-frills port, but that didn't stop me from having a ton of fun revisiting it.

8. Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix, Playstation 4)

I'm just as shocked as you are that a Square Enix game made my favorite games list, let alone a Final Fantasy game.  But I was so impressed with its quality, both from a design standpoint and a storytelling one, that I would be remiss to exclude it.  Combat in the game is unique in that it manages to be surprisingly dynamic and deep in spite of its simple interface; while the player has the option to simply hold buttons to evade enemy attacks and attack themselves, there is much more visual flair (and payoff) to battles if the player masters the art of dodging, countering, teleporting from one enemy to the next and utilizing combination attacks with teammates, making it all the more rewarding to do just that.  Storytelling in the game is equally solid, with surprisingly strong acting throughout as well as very natural character interactions, particularly among your four main characters; not only do they exchange words during story scenes, but the game's numerous driving scenes also contain plenty of clever (and often quite amusing) banter to enjoy.  And of course, Final Fantasy's usual plethora of sidequests is back in full force, with each of your four characters building their skills in fishing, photography, cooking and survival over the course of the game (and the player gaining many benefits from each along the way).  While still a bit rough in some respects despite its ten years of development time (most notably in its very rushed main storyline), Final Fantasy XV is a much-needed breath of fresh air for the series as well as a surprisingly solid open world RPG in its own right.  This is what Xenoblade X and Last Story should have been!

7. Disgaea PC (Nippon Ichi Software, PC)

The third enhanced port of Disgaea following the PSP and DS versions, which both added some unique new content to the mix.  Disgaea PC is probably the definitive release, though, keeping all the content of those versions while also adding in HD graphical modes, mouse support and yes, even player modding capabilities to add custom characters and classes and repolished visuals.  Beneath that, though, it's the same game - a blend of puzzle games and strategy RPG elements with a great sense of humor and a surprisingly good storyline.

6. Phantom Brave PC (Nippon Ichi Software, PC)

Phantom Brave was one of Nippon Ichi's less-popular PS2 titles, and some enhanced ports to the Wii and PSP that added in quite a bit of new content (including the conspicuously absent ability to replay the main campaign after completing it) didn't really help that much.  Nor will this PC port, I imagine, despite having all of the content of those versions and then some.  Still, this remains my favorite NIS title for its unconventional gameplay, well-crafted story and intriguing cast of characters, so I didn't mind revisiting it again here.

5. DOOM (id Software, Playstation 4/XBox One/PC)

I've made no secret of my disdain for modern shooters, particularly the cookie-cutter cover-based variety that mostly consist of hiding behind a box, waiting for a lull in the bullets to pick off an enemy, then rinsing and repeating endlessly (which is about 90% of them these days).  Thankfully Id Software seems to be in the same boat and ensured that their latest game would take things back to the fast-paced, powerup-driven visceral action that games like classic Doom and Quake so expertly provided.  Combat in the game moves at a mile a minute, requiring the player to constantly stay on the move and use all the weapons at their disposal in order to survive.  Weapons include all the old Doom favorites as well as some new ones like the Gauss Cannon (which punches straight through all enemies in a straight line), grenades and a rapid-firing minigun that can do a ton of damage when fully spun up.  Its most gratifying aspect, however, comes in its finishing moves - once an enemy is sufficiently weakened, they can be finished with a brutal (and often gruesome) melee attack to spawn extra health and ammo powerups, which is very satisfying to perform and surprisingly does not slow the gameplay down in the least.  But perhaps most surprising is the fact that the game even includes a built-in map editor like its predecessors, lending it some considerable replay value on top.  DOOM is a very worthy homage to its predecessor and as close as you can get to the classic FPS experience on a modern game console.

4. Shantae: Half Genie Hero (WayForward, Wii U/PS4/Vita/Xbox One/PC)

I've never been the biggest Shantae fan; the characters and setting are charming for sure, but the gameplay always fell short in one way or another (generally tedious/annoying level design and far too much backtracking).  Half-Genie Hero revamps the gameplay into something slightly more akin to Mega Man, having a relatively linear, stage-based format but granting the player new powers each time they complete a stage, which in turn allows them to revisit previous levels to find new secrets, which greatly improves the overall feel and pace of the game.  Then you add in some stellar music and fluid, gorgeous 2D animation, and you have my favorite game of the series by far.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Nintendo, Wii U)

HD remasters are all the rage these days; they're relatively cheap to produce and reintroduce classic games to old and new fans alike.  I'm certainly not going to complain in this case either, as I absolutely loved Twilight Princess on the Gamecube and it only gets better on the Wii U.  Lavishly produced in every respect, possessing Zelda's usual immaculate quality in both combat and puzzle design, as well as some new tweaks to polish up the experience even more, Twilight Princess HD is a game I was all too happy to revisit again.

2. AM2R (Some awesome fans, PC)

AM2R is a stellar 2D Metroid title, the likes of which have not been seen on a Nintendo console in well over a decade.  So naturally, Nintendo decided to threaten its creators with legal action and have it pulled from the Internet less than a day after its release.  Why they're so intent on protecting an IP they haven't done anything substantial with in such a long time is anyone's guess, but my personal theory is that they're no longer interested in having fans, just fanboys who will mindlessly buy anything they release with absolutely no regard for its actual quality (cough cough).  But I digress; if you can get your hands on this piece of forbidden treasure, you should, because AM2R is most definitely a game worth your time.

1. Zero Time Dilemma (Spike Chunsoft, Nintendo 3DS/Playstation Vita/PC)

The conclusion to the Zero Escape trilogy, a series of thrillers that combined colorful characters, room escape puzzles and thoughtful science fiction themes throughout, creating a bizarre combination of elements that somehow all fit together to form an unforgettable visual novel experience.  Zero Time Dilemma is no different, concluding the story by reassembling many familiar faces and providing countless twists throughout, yet it all comes to a point in a surprisingly effective manner.  Honestly, there's not too much I can even say about this series without spoiling a lot of the fun, so all I'll say instead is this: If you're a fan of cerebral science fiction, pick up all three games yourself and give them a go.  You will not be let down.