If you want a Game Awards done right, you gotta do a Game Awards yourself. Welcome to my year in review, everyone! And Happy New Year!
2019 was another year full of changes. I started out the year insanely overworked, and it only got worse as I went into summer. Both gaming and this blog helped me manage that daily stress. I need a writing outlet, and I’m happy that this blog is one of them. As fall began I finally achieved a better balance of work, family, travel, and pursuing my other goals. I feel more settled in my career now, and Washington State feels more like home.
My gaming habits remained largely the same as last year — I played mostly on my Switch and 3DS, and occasionally turned on my Wii and SNES Classic. I honestly barely touched my PC. Handhelds win the day yet again with their convenience.
I remained heavily invested in JRPGs this year, particularly the Fire Emblem series, and I still feel no signs of that trend stopping. I also played several Platformers to clean my palate between RPGs, basically finishing half of the Kirby series this way. I went outside of my “gaming comfort zone” in 2019 as well, getting my feet wet with Action games, the Persona series, Tales of Vesperia, and Katamari Damacy, just to name a few. And now I have wider horizons and more series to love! Competition for awards was steep this year, and not just among the games released in 2019. I also played major classics such as EarthBound, Yoshi’s Island, and A Link to the Past. How could I choose the best from all of them?
For those interested, I’ll post more my stats below. For those who aren’t… I guess you could just scroll past the charts and get right to the awards…
And now for the awards!
Best Unique Idea: Astral Chain
Platinum’s exceptional reputation convinced me to pick this game up, and I’m so glad I did. I’m impressed with how the developers created a game where you control two characters simultaneously without making your head hurt. It all works thanks to the chain mechanic. There are just so many ways you can use it — platforming, trapping enemies, making cinematic combos, I can tell the developers thoroughly explored the mechanic as they worked on the game. At times the variety makes the game feel a bit too unfocused, but that chain concept is still an exceptional core idea. You can read more of my thoughts on Astral Chain here.
Wife’s Game of the Year: Untitled Goose Game
Among all of my wife’s contenders, including Yoshi’s Crafted World, Katamari Damacy, and Stardew Valley’s multiplayer update, you could say that the Goose… stole the show!
I’ll see myself out.
But in all honesty, I didn’t get to play this game when it first released, because my wife was already on it. I had to wait until she was done, but thankfully it’s just as fun to watch as it is to play. In her own words…
Untitled Goose Game was fun because: 1) it let me solve problems in a variety of ways, 2) failure didn’t feel frustrating because it gave me information about the people or about the objects around me, and 3) the game gave me several delightful moments when I figured something out or could make something happen. Cute music, cute style, funny villagers, terrible goose.
More of my thoughts about Untitled Goose Game here.
Best Retro Catch-Up: Xenoblade Chronicles
While I played many classics year, none quite reached the same heights as Xenoblade Chronicles. The characters and their development, the world and explorable environments, the combat and skill systems, all combined into one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I still think about it months after I finished it. It has a slow start, and a few midgame pacing issues, but even then, Xenoblade Chronicles just might beat Golden Sun as my favorite RPG. Ever. It’s too close to call at the moment. If you haven’t played it before, I highly recommend picking up the definitive edition coming out for the Switch this year. More of my thoughts about Xenoblade Chronicles here.
Runner-Up of the Year: Luigi’s Mansion 3
I still can’t believe that this series has become so popular. I was literally the only kid I knew who played the first one back then. I’m happy more people can experience the series’ quality, but it also means that I’m less hipster for giving this one an award. The game has a few minor pacing problems, but overall Luigi’s Mansion 3 had me constantly exploring new rooms, investigating new puzzles, and finding out how to beat new bosses. I couldn’t be happier with this new entry. More thoughts about Luigi’s Mansion 3 here.
Game of the Year: Fire Emblem Three Houses
Were any of you surprised? There’s no way it could be any other game. While it’s not the best-looking Switch game, and some post-time skip plots miss the mark, its characters, gameplay, and overall story overcome its flaws. The strategy RPG gameplay is polished and refined, and the customization was the cherry on top. The beginning of the game, where I investigated the mystery around the monastery, was one of the most engrossing sequences I’ve ever played. Fire Emblem: Three Houses had the guts to have me make hard decisions and then live with its consequences. In most games, these choices are mostly based on what path you want to see: the obviously “right” path or the more fun “eeeevil” path. By having everyone operate in a morally grey area, I felt like I could evaluate my own morality and actually make meaningful choices. To add to the drama of it all is a stellar cast full of relatable characters. I ended up liking all of them, even the ones that I initially hated.
I showed this game to one of my friends and when he had to choose a house, he asked me, “Is this like Mass Effect where your choices affect the story but the ending is still generally the same?” I told him, “No, these are three different routes. They are all different stories with different endings.” His jaw dropped. It is by far the most ambitious Fire Emblem to date, and unlike Pokemon, it sticks the landing. It’s currently competing in the same tier as Xenoblade Chronicles and Golden Sun. If you want to hear me gush even more about Fire Emblem Three Houses, you can find my review here.
And there you have it! 2019 was an incredible year for me. I didn’t even get to play half of the games that I bought! I’m looking forward to having some space in the first half of 2020 to catch my breath and finish the other JRPGs that I started (of course they’re JRPGs). Here’s to a good 2020 for us all!