It’s that time of the year again when we look back and focus on our accomplishments. Gaming accomplishments, that is! Let’s start with the obvious and get a list going of all the games I’ve finished this year:
Looking at my HowLongToBeat completion list for 2019, I can’t help but notice that I’ve made a definite pivot to playing on my Switch for the vast majority of my gaming time. I also can’t help but notice that it appears I didn’t really finish that many games this year… Obviously this must be some kind of horrible mistake on my part, so I’ll take a look back at my 2018 Master List and… what the…
I never made a 2018 Master List? Well shit, way to go Geddy, ya dingus. Looks like I’ll have to add that to my to-do list as well!
Taking a quick glimpse at my 2018 game completions, it’s clear I did much more damage than I did in 2019, but alas, I was still able to play some fun stuff as well as knock some games off my bucket list.
Back to the Classics
At the beginning of the year, a very generous buddy of mine decided to donate his entire Playstation 2 and GameCube collection. This huge influx of games, many of which I’d never played, meant I shifted into “retro damage control” mode in an attempt to burn through this newfound pile of games. To add to this, at the same time, the Switch was and continues to put out remaster after remaster, and I ended up playing Playstation 2 games for the first four months of the year!
Onimusha: Warlords is still one of my favorite PS2 games from my younger years, and the ninja-slicing badassery was super cool to have in portable form. The remastered visuals felt great despite in my opinion being wholly unneeded, but it was still a treat to re-enjoy this title on a modern console.
It was around this time that I was simply aching for some good ol’ fashioned Zelda gameplay, as Breath of the Wild didn’t do it for me, and I was feeling very nostalgic for one of my favorite titles in the series: Twilight Princess. Well it just so happened that one of the most similar games to that happens to be Okami, which I also happened to import from Play-Asia to enjoy on my Switch!
Hands down, Okami HD is one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year, as well as all time. You know when something feels so familiar, you get that dopamine hit from playing it, as if you’ve experienced it all before? That was my 40 hours with Okami. It still gives me chills thinking about how much fun I had with that game. It did run a little long, in fact I thought I was in the midst of an end-game cutscene probably 20 times, but it was still an excellent game. I even pre-ordered a gorgeous limited edition Amaterasu statue – which coincidentally was delivered to my house last week. Look at this beauty!
Following Okami, the PS2 gameplay continued – I got really into dirt biking games again, playing ATV Offroad Fury 1-4 on repeat, playing through the campaigns, as well as some PC titles, eventually wrapping up the campaign for the fourth installment. The ATV Offroad Fury series is one of those titles that I remembered fondly, but assumed it would not translate well to modern times, and I’m happy to report that I was wrong. The games still play very well, and despite some questionable design elements and weird menu UIs, the gameplay is actually quite great to this day. Rubber-banding is of course an issue, common with any racing titles of that day, but it was still a lot of fun to go back.
A few memorable titles that I enjoyed but did not finish were Maximo and the Army of Zin, a fun little action adventure type of game with fun enemy hack and slashing, but it felt like a lesser-polished version of a Ratchet & Clank game, and I only played about halfway through it. There was also Ico which I still fully intend on playing, but I kept getting lost in it. Perhaps it just wasn’t the time to play it.
A very nice surprise was a little-known Bandai Namco hidden gem called Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, a strange mashup of puzzle-platforming and bizarre abilities? I’m not really sure how to even explain this one, other than to say that I loved it, and it was weird as hell. Check out my review of it here. There are other titles in the series but this is generally regarded as the best one, and it’s obvious why. I highly recommend checking this one out and it’d be cool if Bandai Namco does something more with this long-forgotten property!
There was also the port of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, which despite the shittiest and most boring title imaginable actually turned out to be a fun 3D adventure game that I really needed! I bought this used for $18 at GameStop and it was worth every penny – but I will say that fond memories for the PS2 era and the shortcomings associated with it is practically necessary, because parts of the game did not age well at all. It still stands the test of time fairly well and although I have no idea why the decision was made to port it, I recommend it if you’re looking for precisely this type of game. I put together a small write-up of it here.
After playing with and through 6-7 PS2 games, I eneded up trying some new things. Ports from the Xbox 360 era have been hugely popular on the Switch, so I tried my hand at a few of them. Namely, Dust: An Elysian Tail (the physical copy of which I grabbed off LimitedRunGames), and Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. I had no idea what to expect from either, and boy were they different from one another, but they were boy a joy to play.
I put together a lengthier ramble about how much I loved Dragon’s Dogma, but my review of Dust never quite came to fruition. The most compelling review I could give is to simply recommend that everyone play it if you like games that are part platformer, part brawler, and part open-world questing. What really stands out about it is just how dialed in the controls are – I mean they are fluid. Between the perfect control scheme, the HD rumble, and the speed at which you learn to zing around the levels and take out baddies, this was definitely a highlight of the year for me.
There were a few gambles this year which really paid off, in particular Dead Cells and Moonlighter. I’ve written in-depth about both, but I am planning on getting back to Dead Cells again as they keep putting out more DLC! I’m hoping they eventually dumb it down enough so even an idiot like myself can make it past 0 Boss Cells. In other words, the game is hard. The developers are terribly relentless with this title and the passion shows every time I see more news about it. Check out my lengthy Moonlighter review as well as some words about Dead Cells.
Let’s shift the focus now on to a big highlight of my yearly gaming selection – bucket list items! In the past I’ve taken down a few big-time titles that had been mentally queued up for years, some ending up successes (Xenoblade Chronicles), and some with lackluster feedback (Final Fantasy X). This year, I had but one target, and it directly correlated with the Switch HD release: Final Fantasy XII.
I started FFXII last year around the summer, and after hearing there would be a physical Switch copy that I wouldn’t even have to import, I immediately shelved to wait for the fancy new HD version. it was definitely worth the wait for the bonus perks, like being able to fast-forward. Now I can absolutely write a dissertation on why I have this urge to play Final Fantasy games despite having conflicting opinions about the typical traits of Final Fantasy games, but what I end up realizing is that I love the Final Fantasy universe, and I hate the minute to minute gameplay speed.
HD remakes with turbo mode change all of that. It did with Final Fantasy X (in the sense that I was able to actually get through it, not necessarily that I loved it), and it did with Final Fantasy XII. Let me tell you – 2x speed mode is how the game should have been made in the first place.
I don’t want to dwell on this point too much, but it felt incredible to finish a mammoth title like Final Fantasy XII. I’ve whittled down my Final Fantasy bucket list a pretty good deal, with the only remaining titles on that list being FF6 and FF9, and I believe that XII is one of the biggest ones out there, and thus my biggest accomplishment in the series yet. The battle system is excellent and precisely what I wanted out of a JRPG.
That being said, with the release of Nintendo Switch Online’s Super Nintendo classic offerings, I also took down a title I’d missed as a kid: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. To this day I have no idea how Nintendo makes the games that they do, as the sheer amount of work that goes into those levels was mind-blowing. And I mean, talk about surviving the test of time – Yoshi’s Island beats out the vast majority of modern platformers, including the new Yoshi games!
Speaking of which, I still need to finish Yoshi’s Crafted World, a game I am currently about 50% done with! It has the same relaxing power as exactly 3 beers for me. What an experience it is to chill out and play that game.
One of the biggest surprises of the year for me and many of us old-school gamers was the reimagining of Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The nostalgia inducing title resonated with me in such a way that a game hasn’t hit me in quite some time (excluding Okami, but prior to that, it had been a while!). Revisiting Koholint Island was something of a surreal experience – so too was the fact that I finished 100% of the game in a week flat, based purely off memory.
Part of me wishes I had taken my time some more, but the game really isn’t that big, and it’s easy to forget that what was big in 1993 doesn’t scale to much in 2019. I put together a bit of a sad write-up on it, and to be honest I had a lot of trouble capturing my opinion in this piece – maybe it was my longing for “the olden days” that made it difficult to revisit?
Despite finishing Link’s Awakening so quickly and almost regretting how well I remembered the game, I quickly went on to two games in the same genre – a genre which I was convinced was totally dead after Yookah-Laylee: the 3D platformer. Those games of course, are A Hat in Time, and New Super Lucky’s Tale!
Both released on Switch on nearly the same day (physical releases, that is), I ended up getting both planning on doing a comparison piece, while playing both simultaneously. Unfortunately that didn’t end up happening as I had too much damn fun playing A Hat in Time. Seriously – this game was just perfect. They took an old formula and modernized it: something that from my understanding, failed to happen with Yookah-Laylee, and in fact the reputation of which prevented me from ever playing it. That being said, I fell in love with A Hat in Time almost immediately, and played it straight through to the end. They made a game that was as fun to play and control as Super Mario Odyssey. I have no idea how, but they did it!
I moved on to New Super Lucky’s Tale next, and have been playing it in short spurts. There are many issues with this game and in spite of these problems it’s still a fun experience, albeit one that warrants it’s own “Thoughts On” piece. I’ll get to that eventually!
So as for a “3d platformer shoot-out”, A Hat in Time is the clear winner for me and a highlight of the 2019 Year In Gaming.
There’s also the small matter of Let’s Go Pikachu! I picked this one up on launch day last year, eager to revisit the Kanto region for the 400th time. While I really enjoyed the new catching dynamic, it quickly got old (like Pokemon games typically do for me), as did the trainer battles, so I finished Let’s Go in about 30 total hours, playing in spurts of 5 hours for nearly a year. Yeah, I think Pokemon might just not be for me anymore. At least not for a while.
The issue is that they always get monotonous, because the games are all extraordinarily simple, and the main goal of “catching them all” is totally impossible at this point. Unless you’ve got 50 friends and you spend all day trading like you’re on Wall Street, you ain’t catching shit. I’ll be taking a long hiatus before buying another Pokemon game. In fact, the only title I have at the moment that I have yet to play is Alpha Sapphire, and I keep that loaded in my 3DS for random occasions. But Sword & Shield? No thanks.
One of the most pleasant surprises and a top contender for the year has to be Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. Now I’ve never played a Trine game before, but some physical preorder bonuses got the better of me, and I’m glad they did, as this was by far on of my favorite puzzle-platformers in recent years. Bravo to everyone involved with that project! I did a big write-up here.
So that’s all that I played in 2019!
…wait, what’s that over there? That’s funny… What’s over there behind the desk? Against the wall over there? Let me go check it out…
That’s right – the absolute pinnacle of my gaming experience of the year. Planescape Torment! Now to be fair, I haven’t actually finished this one yet, but I had to put it at the number 1 spot. I’ve been hearing about this game for decades and I finally got around to checking out one of the highest-regarded Dungeons & Dragons games out there.
The storytelling is top notch. The writing is near poetic from conversation to conversation. And the immersion? Wow does it pull you right in. Let me tell you – I hate text and dialogue in games. I strongly dislike reading. I’m not patient and I want action all the time. But Planescape Torment turned all of that on its head. It’s the type of storytelling that comes once a millenia – and it turns out that it was exactly the type of game I needed to sink my teeth into. It’s gritty, filthy, R-rated, and makes you feel like you need to take a bath just from the conversations you have with people.
I could gush about it for hours, but the whole point of this article is to tie together all of my gaming experiences and rank the top ones. So let’s get to the awards!
My Top 5 Favorite Games Played in 2019:
The “Pretty Sure I Cheesed that Puzzle” Award:
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
The “Nostalgia is a Hell of a Drug” Award:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The “It Only Took 20 Years for Another Good 3D Platformer” Award:
A Hat in Time
The “I Think this was Supposed to End 12 Hours Ago” Award:
…and the Game of the Year 2019 is…
Yup, there was no way getting around that one. This game is just too perfect and despite not completely finishing it, I knew within hours that this was my jam. While the other DnD entries may not have stood the test of time particularly well (Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate, specifically), the storytelling and general lack of combat entirely makes Planescape stand out as an old experience that’s absolutely worth revisiting all these years later.
Thanks for joining me for this admittedly long winded ramble about the video games I played this year. What games this year stood out to you? Let’s talk about them in the comments. 🙂