2016 What’s on the Shelf wrap up!

Hope everyone had a good holiday season and a wonderful end to 2016. Rikki and I will be talking about some of our favorite games of 2016, least favorite games, and games that were just kind of…..unfortunate. These games are games that we first played in 2016, not necessarily just games that came out in 2016. Here we go!

The Good

Honorable Mentions

Skyrim Remastered (PS4, 2016, Steven)

I mean, its Skyrim with a fresh coat of paint. Did anyone expect this game to not be good?

Tales of Symphonia (GameCube, 2004, Rikki)

For years and years I had a number of friends say I had to play Tales of Symphonia. I finally got around to it and it was one of the better JRPGs I’ve played the past few years.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS, 2009, Rikki)

Heard the premise of the Zero Escape series (escape the room scenarios) and it sounded really interesting. My friend Jake gave it to me for my birthday and I loved it (even if I had to replay it a bunch of times to get the full effect).

The Last of Us (PS4, 2013, Rikki)

I didn’t have a PS3 when The Last of Us originally came out, and once the price of the PS4 remaster dropped, I snatched it in a heartbeat. The relationship between Ellie and Joel is as real as it gets.

Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS, 2012, Rikki)

The sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors did everything right to improve on it. It’s much easier to navigate different story paths, there are more puzzles, the voice acting brings characters to life, and it’s just all around better.

The Walking Dead: Season 1 (PS4, 2012, Rikki)

When I got my PS4, one of the free games of the month was the second season of TellTale’s Walking Dead. I heard a lot of good stuff about the series, but dragged my feet on playing Season 1. It’s the game I was playing while writing this article and wow, was it great. Can’t wait to get to Season 2

Overwatch (PS4, 2016, Steven)

Overwatch: Origins Edition_20160821154857
The world could always use more heroes.

 

I’m pretty sure this was obvious to anyone who is friends with me on PS4. Almost every day when I get off of work, I hop on Overwatch with Kady and play until we go to bed. It was one of the first reviews that I had written on this site, and holds a special place in my heart.

I have been recommending this game to people all the time whenever the topic of video games gets brought up. Most of the people have already played it because of how huge it is. Blizzard really knocked it out of the park with this labor of love that has nowhere else to go but up. I think that this game can become the console version of Team Fortress 2, where people will be playing it well into the future and will be constantly be updated with more users.

I honestly can’t say enough about this game. Great graphics, extremely fun gameplay, interesting and likeable characters, and a developer who is updating with new characters and levels frequently to keep it fresh. If you are reading this and do not own it, go buy it. It’s like $35 right now.

(If you want more in depth, check out my review!)

Dark Souls 3 (PS4, 2016, Steven)

ds3-cover
Praise the Sun!

Talk about a turn of events for me. When I first picked up Dark Souls 1 on a suggestion from a friend, I was so irritated about how hard it was and how bad I was that I set it aside for a while. Then, after looking up a walkthrough online, I decided to give it another whirl. Needless to say, I was hooked. I played DS2, the DS2 remake, DS3, Bloodborne, and even bought a PS3 to play Demon Souls one day.

Dark Souls 3 is potentially going to be the last game in the Dark Souls timeline and it was a very fitting end to a fantastic series. The Souls franchise made its name off of the difficulty and the larger than life boss battles. Dark Souls 3 takes the difficulty from the previous games but takes the bosses and kicks them up to eleven. One boss in particular, The Dancer, I ended up liking so much that I played through over and over with other players to do battle with her.

I loved this game, and although I didn’t like it as much as say Bloodborne, it was definitely one of the most fun experiences I have had this year. I am excited to start the DLC one of these days (Overwatch is taking over my life) and highly recommend picking up  the game.

Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Wii U, 2013, Steven)

thewindwakerhd
Set sail for adventure!

This was kind of a surprise for me. I remember playing the original Wind Waker for the Gamecube when I was younger. I remember liking it but not really loving it all that much. But I picked up the Remaster on a whim for the Wii U, thinking that it would just be an alright game to play. But it was much more than that. When I fired up the game and got back out into the open ocean, I was filled with a sense of adventure that I haven’t really had from a game in a while. Not often does a game have an open area where you can just go out and do whatever you want. But Wind Waker takes this idea and runs with it. You see that island out there? Go ahead and sail out to it! Sure you may not be able to do much when you get there but you can still go and check it out.

I honestly do not really play my Wii U much anymore, but when I do have that itching to go out and explore an open world, Wind Waker is the game that I usually turn to. There are not many reasons anymore to own a Wii U, but Wind Waker HD makes that short list of good games on the Wii U.

Life is Strange (PS4, 2015, Rikki)

life_is_strange_cover

As powerful, emotional, and captivating a game as I’ve ever played. The characters felt incredibly real and relatable, as did the themes of friendship, bullying, and high school life. Yeah, there’s time travel in there too, but it’s more of a gameplay mechanic than a big part of the story. The real meat is the relationships between Max (the main character) and the people around her. Through conversations, observing your surroundings, and reading texts, you really get to know these people. As for Max, she keeps a journal throughout the game, so you’re never out of the loop when it comes to her feelings about what’s been going on. Everything feels so authentic and I think that’s why I love this game so much. I don’t want to say too much. I always try to recommend it to anyone I know who likes games. The first episode is free, so at worst you’ll just be uninstalling it a little later. Give it a shot.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4, 2015, Rikki)

uncharted

This is cheating on two levels. It feels a little dirty to include a compilation of three games on this list. It feels even dirtier considering I finished the first Uncharted last December, not even during 2016. But hey… I’m bending the rules a little bit. 66% was played this past year, and that’s the majority of what’s on the disc.

My good friend Courtney had talked up the Uncharted series as long as I’ve known her. Nathan Drake is her image of perfection. When I was considering getting a PS4, it happened to have this collection bundled alongside, so I figured I’d pull the trigger and see what all the hullabaloo was about. Well… I’ve never felt like I was playing through an action movie more than with these three games. Sections feel more like scenes than anything else. The word “cinematic” gets thrown around a lot with video games, but it really applies here. The characters are all likable, the stories are interesting, and the gameplay is exciting and fun. What more could you want? Rarely do games live up to the hype for me, but I was never not entertained playing through this trilogy. I’ll be playing Uncharted 4 very soon.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (PS4, 2015, Rikki)

witcher_3_cover_art

During my junior year of college, a friend said The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings was the best game he’d ever played. Naturally, I had to give it a shot. It was alright. I guess? I dunno, I just couldn’t get into it. Western RPGs aren’t really my thing. But when the sequel rolled around and the universal praise followed, I was intrigued. Good thing, because The Witcher 3 is one of the most perfect games I’ve ever played. Ever. Top to bottom, it’s perfect. One issue I have with a lot of Western RPGs are extremely sidequest heavy, sometimes at the expense of the main story. Luckily, the main story could have stood on its own even without all of the extra time killers. As for the sidequests, all of them are engrossing, with their own sets of characters and backstories. My friend Chris from the Chomp Chain Podcast (@PodcastChomp on Twitter) said they all feel like short stories. Short stories inside of a novel. I never felt particularly overwhelmed during my 100-some hours spent with The Witcher 3, which is as great a compliment as I can give a game with so much to do.

The Bad

Dishonorable Mention: Fallout 4 (PS4, 2016, Steven)

I have never been so bored playing a Fallout game as I did playing FO4. How did it fall off so much after New Vegas?

Madden 17 (PS4, 2016, Steven)

Madden NFL 17_20160823193058
This about sums it up.

You would think that I loved this game, based on how many hours I have logged on it. But the problem is that there is no real other football based games out there. So I have to sit there and put up with EA’s shit if I want to get my football fix in.

Granted, there have been a series of patches where they tried to fix the problems that they had with the game at launch. But like a vase that has been smashed, you can go ahead and try to glue it back together but you will always see the spots where it was broken. Some of the things that were apparent in my original review of Madden 17 are still there. You still feel like you are on a track while playing defensive line. The passing game is still way too crazy overpowered. The announcers are LAUGHABLE. They talk about plays that happened several plays ago. They talk about players as if they are still rookies when they have 5 years in the league.

I think that Madden 17 is better than last years installment and there are some steps in the right direction with this franchise. But some of these things just shouldn’t be happening with a multi million dollar game series. Basic stuff. Stuff that other games would be crucified for. But because EA is the sole owner of the NFL name, they can get lazy with their games. I haven’t bought a Madden game for full price in a while and suggest that no one else does either.

(If you want more in depth, check out my review!)

Dynasty Warriors 8 (PS4, 2014, Steven)

dynastywarriors8
Not as neat as the cover.

I played a ton of Dynasty Warriors 4 as a kid. Like easily 500+ hours. I maxed out that stats for many of the characters. But I picked this up in order to see where the franchise has gone. What the hell is this? Why would they so radically change the game from the system they had prior? And I get that I didn’t play many of the in between games but still it seemed like it was a totally different game than the older ones.

The first thing that I really noticed was that the framerate is abysmal whenever there is more than 20 enemies on the screen. And, being the type of game that it is, you very often have more than that. The enemies don’t feel really satisfying to kill, since there is a new system where some weapons types do way more damage over other types. In other words, it is a glorified Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you opponent has a “Rock” weapon then you should use the “Paper” weapon because it will cut through them like nothing. This makes the generals of the game not very interesting to fight.

In addition, the friendly AI is broken. The enemy general can take way more hits that your friendly generals can. So if you ride up to a general with a friendly general on your side, you are essentially on babysitting duty, making sure that your teammate doesn’t get shredded too bad. And boy do they love just running in and trying to lone wolf it. All this leads up to the main sin of the game. It’s boring. Cutting through thousands of soldiers with occasional bosses interspersed should never be boring. But it is.

Breath of Fire III (PS1, 1997, Rikki)

breathoffire3_box
“THE” Classic RPG

In my younger years, I’d rent a lot of games from Starlight Video and always noticed Breath of Fire III and IV in the PS1 section. It was before I was heavy into JRPGs so I never actually played them, but I thought the covers were cool. Years later, I wondered what I missed out on. For my 25th birthday, I got both games to finally find out. Aaaaaand it wasn’t much. At least with III. To be fair, I went through a pretty bad bout of depression midway through it and it definitely took me out of the groove, but either way, I just never got sucked into it. I’ve battled depression and still enjoyed games before. The characters never connected with me (having a silent main protagonist didn’t help in that department) and playing through it felt like a chore at points. Again, maybe the depression ruined the experience for me but after beating it once, I don’t really see myself going back for a second round.

Journey (PS4, 2012, Rikki)

Journey_20160919095513
“Fuck you Rikki, this game was great” -Steven

2012 saw the release of two of my favorite games ever: Borderlands 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles (in American, anyhow). Yet everyone was raving about Journey. Game of the Year! Emotional! An experience! I wanted to see what the hype was about for a long time, but I couldn’t justify paying full price for a game I knew was short and minimalistic. Then it wound up being free for Playstation Plus subscribers. Thank God it was free… I don’t need a ton of gameplay to enjoy a game if there’s a good story, and vice versa. But there’s neither in Journey. I… really don’t see where all the praise was coming from. Yeah, it was unique. It was nice to look at. The audio was good. But there was so little to do and so little reason behind everything. I didn’t HATE the game, but I didn’t really enjoy it much either. At least it was really short.

The Ugly

Bioshock Remastered (PS4, 2016, Steven)

bioshock-_the_collection
Would you kindly fix your fucking bugs?

This game is the death from a thousand paper cuts. So many little things build up to kill this game for me. I pre-ordered and paid for this game the second that I heard that they were Remastering the series but after playing just the first game I have no idea if I even want to bother playing Bioshock 2 and Infinite.

The first thing is that the sound is just sort of….off. Like the reloading sound cuts off way too soon. The steps from enemies sometimes just disappear then reappear somewhere else. The audio quality itself just sounds kind of cheap. I didn’t really notice until I played with my headphones but it definitely sounds like it is still on the 360.

Another really noticeable glitch that happened to me a few times is that I used the Hypnotize Big Daddy plasmid and the Big Daddy just got stuck in his walking animation. Couldn’t get him out of it until I attacked him. Then he popped right out.

To top it all off, there wasn’t even a patch until very recently. Why would the company really give a shit about fixing the problems with the game when it already has the money from the consumer? It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

And again, I loved the story of Bioshock as much as I did the first time that I played it and I definitely had fun with it. But there were so many things that broke the immersion of the game that really annoyed me. These glitches were present in the previous game, and yet they did not take the time to fix them. That is not something we can let slide.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4, 2016, Rikki)

star_ocean_5

Oh boy… I could write an entire article about this one… In my 20 or so years of playing video games, I’ve never felt so disappointed, betrayed, and used as I realized I was at the final save point of the latest Star Ocean at roughly 20 hours of gameplay time. Unacceptable. This is a series that had never let me down before. I could always count on 40-plus hours of greatness. The excitement I had when I found out this game was being made was unreal. The Last Hope had come out while I was a senior in high school, and I was a few years out of college, so it was pretty reasonable to think the series was dead. I ignored all of the reviews for Integrity and Faithlessness after its release, assuming the reviewers just weren’t familiar with the series. A lot of backtracking? Pfft… The first half of Till the End of Time was running back and forth. It’s short? They must have skipped all of the text and rushed through. Man… I was wrong. So wrong. It felt so half-assed. Music from over ten years ago being recycled, no collision detection with other characters, being able to move around in cut scenes, a story I’ve already almost forgotten… They didn’t care when they made this game. It’s not horrendous, but compared to the rest of the series, it’s just unacceptable.

 

 

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