Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Top Five: Video Games of 2021

  • Thought I would get this out in January. It's like I don't even know me. Anyway, here are my top five games of 2021, in roughly the order I encountered them. They're all even video games this time!

  • Tokimeki Memorial - Is it weird to name a game that I have never played as a top five game of the year? Absolutely yes, but it is the right choice. On January 1st, Tim Rogers released his review of Tokimeki Memorial, the game the jump started the dating sim genre in Japan, and then streamed the game to fans eager to see more of the game. To say that I've become enamored by the game might be an understatement, considering I went out of the way to import a copy for my collection. Tokimeki Memorial is simply a game about attending high school, juggling the attention of multiple girl, and, hopefully, finding the love of your life. It's not just a visual novel with a few routes to persue. Instead, Tokimeki Memorial is positively stuffed with possibilities. I've never followed through on my plan to learn Japanese to watch anime or read manga untranslated, but discovering this game got me closer than ever before.

  • Yakuza: Like A Dragon - Anyone who has read more than one of these Top Five lists must have noticed a pattern by now: there is going to be a Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios game on it. As long as they keep putting out games this good, I'll be happy to reserve the space for them. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a departure for the series, leaving behind the traditional brawler combat for an RPG system. In all other ways, this is every bit the Yakuza game, if not even better than before. Moving from a solo brawler to a party-based RPG also has story ramifications, ensuring there is a reason to have friends around wherever you go. That, I think, is what make this game so special. Instead of playing as a lone hero against the world, Like A Dragon puts you in a community and makes you care for it. When the game was over, I was excited for the future of the series. Not because I wanted to see what the next fight or next challenge would be, but because I am looking forward to hanging out with my friends again.

  • Control - I've never spent much time with Remedy's games. A couple hours in Alan Wake aside, I just haven't been interested. That was at least until the folks at Giant Bomb got me very interested in trying it out. Control's Oldest House is a fascinating environment to explore, though it was easy to get confused as to how everything fit together. I suspect some of that is by design, but confusion is a wily target to hit. I did eventually fall off the game, but I had enjoyed my time with it quite a bit.

  • Lost Judgment - After playing Judgment, easily a top three Ryu Ga Gotoku Extended Universe game, my anticipation for a sequel shot through the roof. Lost Judgment did not disappoint. As with the earlier game, Lost Judgment tackles an important issue, this time the horrors of childhood bullying. This main story was a great driver for the game, with newer and greater stakes appearing over time. Some of the leaps felt a little disjointed, as though there was some uncertainty as to how to mess the escalating mysteries together. What save the overall game, though, is the School Stories. This massive overarching mystery encompasses nearly all of the sidestories and new minigames in a wonderfully satisfying second plot to follow throughout the game. All this might be for naught if the gameplay did not hold up, but Lost Judgment's brawler combat is the pinnacle of their Dragon Engine games. Where in prior games I avoided combat once if because too tedious, here I sought out street fights just to test my fighting prowess. Once again, this side series faces an uncertain future, but I'm am eager to follow Yagami and his companions on their further adventures.

  • Cyberpunk 2077 - I waited nearly a year after launch to finally try Cyberpunk 2077, a game that I received as a Christmas gift in 2020. Patch 1.31 seemed like a significant enough number to dive in, and I'm glad I waited. Cyberpunk protrays a fascinating world to explore, its Night City a bleak projection of unrestrained capitalism and structural inequality writ large on the alluring and offputting sites of the future. Combat-wise, the game reminded me of Borderlands shoot-and-loot style. (I actually like that game, so the comparison is positive.) Unfortunately, I got distracted and moved on to other games, but I absolutely will be back to try again.

  • And that was my 2021. There are already a couple games that are sure to make my 2022 list, so I'm better get that started.