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8/25/2017

Spoony's Best Games of 2017

As ever, keep in mind that I've taken out a second mortgage on my house, sold my car and am now working three full time jobs in order to track down, purchase and play every single game released across all formats in 2017 to spare you, my humble reader, the trouble of telling me I've missed one.  No need to thank me.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, Wii U/Switch)

Breath of the Wild marks Nintendo's first foray into open world gaming, and while they had some problems cutting their teeth on this style of gameplay (see my Disappointing list), they certainly put forth a valiant effort to make it a unique take on the format.  The game shows an incredible level of polish in its engine and overall design, with a very solid physics engine, clever (though somewhat shallow) cooking/crafting mechanics and some intense combat thanks to the revamped mechanics and more aggressive enemy AI.  The player is also not locked into completing puzzles in one "intended" way - they're given most of their tools right out of the gate and told to use them however and whenever they see fit to get their current objectives done.  Of course, the Zelda staples of incredible setpieces, creatively-crafted dungeons and enormous boss encounters remain, but Breath of the Wild puts a unique spin on nearly every facet of the franchise, and for that alone it deserves some respect.

Oh, and there's no hand-holding or "easy mode" elements either, which is pretty rare in a modern Nintendo game!

7. Planescape Torment Enhanced Edition (Black Isle/Beamdog Software, PC)


One of the finest role-playing experiences in the realm of video gaming returns with higher resolution support, added music and a few new quests.  That's all well and good, but more importantly, I think that its rerelease will finally give people a chance to see how an actual role-playing experience in the world of gaming can actually be done.  It's not about mindlessly slaying monsters for gold and experience or boolean good-vs-bad choices or even really that much about the visual component or the acting, but being able to explore a bizarre world, follow a well-crafted storyline, get invested in its characters and truly explore and carve out a niche in a dark, intricately detailed universe.  And trust me, that kind of experience will stay with you far longer than whatever throwaway cookie-cutter crap Ubisoft or EA's trying to shove on you this month.

6. Cuphead (ASMR Studios, PC/XBox One)

A game built on a gimmick, but it's a damn good one.  Featuring fluid, colorful animation reminiscent of a 1930s-era Disney or Max Fleischer cartoon and gameplay reminiscent of games like Contra, Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier, Cuphead is a wild, imaginative ride.  As that description implies, it's also a hefty challenge, requiring spot-on player inputs and pattern dodging to persevere through stages and boss gauntlets alike.  However, there is an option for two-player co-op to make things (somewhat) more manageable, and once nice twist is that the player can purchase and use various powerups in each of the stages that grant different types of attacks or special properties like being able to automatically build meter for a super attack or gain an extra hit point (or two) at the cost of some DPS (and unlike most games of this type, you aren't punished for using them).  A very demanding experience overall, but the imagination and polish within gives Cuphead a lot of mileage for action fans.

5. Fire Pro Wrestling World (Spike Chunsoft, PC/PS4)


A series that has seen little fanfare in the west save for a low-key outing on the Playstation 2, which is a bit of a shame as Fire Pro Wrestling is a fantastic experience.  With its timing-based gameplay, tons of moves, features and match types and an excellent soundtrack, it delivers an authentic professional wrestling experience.  But more than that, it provides extremely in-depth options for editing characters, referees, rings, and even every aspect of a character's AI, allowing you to tweak virtually every aspect of the game to your liking and have absolutely insane combinations like Mario VS Hulk Hogan VS Krang VS Zangief in a landmine match (among countless others).  While it has a somewhat unwieldy interface and a few odd bugs, Fire Pro Wrestling World once again proves that its IP belongs at the top of the pile when it comes to wrestling games.

4. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Spike Chunsoft, PC/PS4/Vita)


The fourth game in the delightfully deranged visual novel/murder mystery franchise, and it's possibly the most absurd one yet.  Not just for it story, stylized visuals and bizarre, over-the-top violent scenes, but for the many gameplay change-ups it brings to the format.  An Outrun-styled minigame, having to pick out a point to refute from several characters talking over one another, and even one akin to the old Dreamcast minigame "Sega Swirl" all add new twists to the gameplay.  But of course, the real draw is the amazing characters and bizarre storyline, which are up to Chunsoft's amazing standards as ever.

3. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (Spike Chunsoft, PC/PS4/Vita)


I'm all for more exposure to the Zero Escape trilogy, as it's a brilliantly written visual novel franchise with some creative puzzles, great characters and cerebral science fiction themes.  The Nonary Games provides just that, packaging in the second game in the series (Virtue's Last Reward) with a solid remake of the first (9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors) that features voice acting, a branching path screen and higher-definition visuals than were available on the original DS release, bringing it up to modern standards in a very great way.  I said it last year with Zero Time Dilemma, but if you haven't played these games yet and you're a fan of great science fiction storylines in games, pick them up and give them a go; you will not be let down.

2. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Nihon Falcom. PC/PS4/Vita)

The eighth (non-remake) entry in the Ys series is easily its most ambitious yet, presenting the series in HD for the first time and upping the ante for its presentation with fully rendered cutscenes and voice acting for the story.  The gameplay retains many elements of its later entries (particularly Seven and Celceta) as well, though it also adds in a new twist by having you build a whole settlement for your crew as you band together and attempt to escape the island.  Replete with minigames, sidequests and of course the same great action and kickin' soundtrack that made the series a hit in the first place, Ys VIII is a standout title, as well as a fantastic throwback to what made JRPGs great in the first place.  You know, strong gameplay, great storylines, memorable characters and overall polished design, not weak gimmicks and masturbation.

1. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo, Switch)

It's been far too long since we got a 3D Mario in the style of 64, Sunshine and Galaxy, but I'm glad to say that Odyssey definitely does not disappoint.  In addition to a creative new mechanic (possessing enemies) and a clever blend of 2D and 3D platforming, the game has a vast number of goals to complete and a plethora of diverse and bizarre worlds to explore.  Dinosaur worlds, a frozen desert, and of course the one prominently featured in the trailers (and the screenshot to the left), an oddly realistic city to wander around in.  No matter which form it takes, though, Mario Odyssey is pure platforming, puzzle-solving joy.  A celebration of a legendary gaming franchise and everything that's great about it.