We’re all in agreement, right? Sayonara, 2020, we won’t miss ‘ya. I was fortunate to have been able to shift my job to a working-from-home situation way back in March, but spending almost an entire year now basically in house-arrest has really done a number on my brain. It’s very difficult for me to want to sit down and enjoy the things I used to - and this includes video games. But those hardworking game developers out there have managed to convince me to *at least* drag my Nintendo Switch over to a charger a few times this year, dust off my PS4, and actually stream on Twitch dot TV long enough to enter their affiliate program… And then proceed to stop streaming for the foreseeable future. Er, so, anyway…!
I’m an easy-to-please person when it comes to games, but at the same time not a lot tends to grab me to the point of playing in the first place. So when I’m invested, boy am I invested. I suffered a drought of Search Action games to sink my teeth into this year, and that makes me sad, as it’s my favorite genre (spare some crumbs for some Silksong info, sir? Please, I’m but a starveling adult). Surprisingly, I instead found myself playing… rogue-likes? I don’t usually touch these. Has this year finally gotten to me!?
Well, it just means there’s finally something being added to the formula that makes it appealing to me. But I’ll get more into that later. You came here to read me ramble about video games, so here I go!
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
You may be thinking, “Coxy, are you kidding me? This is your opener?” Of course I’m not and Of Course it is! I’m 100% serious when I say this game is so amazing I have now bought it twice! Prior to the start of this year, there were just a few Wii U games that I hoped would get the Switch port treatment, and this was one of them. When TMS was announced for the Switch I thought I was having a fever dream. Simply porting the base game over with its amazing soundtrack and quirky battle system (by the way, I know it’s SMT x Fire emblem, but the sessions? Totally hints of the FFXII Gambit system) would be good enough for me, but added quality of life (MAKING THE SESSIONS VERY FAST) is a bonus. And extra little music videos? Outfits? Yo I am JAMMING. This is likely one of those games where you either were already sold on it anyway, or have by now fallen too deep into the ‘discourse’ void to bother– but it was a nice start to the year for me.
You know what wasn’t as nice? The TMS banner in Fire Emblem Heroes got me all excited … and then scammed me and did not give me any of the characters when I actually pulled on it! Harrumph.
Murder by Numbers
One thing that you need to know about me is that I love Picross. I don’t just love picross, I consume puzzle after puzzle of it with the voracity of Kirby, to the point where I find the majority of nonograms out there to be too easy. Not that I mind. It lets me zone out, and it’s my stress relief activity. Much of my twitch streaming this year was an hour a day of various nonogram boards so that I could re-center myself after work.
So imagine my delight when I learned about Murder by Numbers. Picross? In a murder mystery visual novel? With point and click adventure segments? Featuring collaboration from notables such as writer Ed Fear, character designer Hato Moa and composer Masakazu Sugimori? Localized entirely within my Switch? (Yes!)
And it does not disappoint; Each chapter has our fearless protagonist, Honor Mizrahi, and a floating television – er, robot – named SCOUT (who is quite literally rescued from a trash heap), searching rooms to find picross puzzles, which turn into objects in your little evidence inventory, that you then can show to other characters to either glean what information you need in order to solve the murder-of-the-day — or possibly get fun flavor text. I love flavor text. The more you progress, the higher your chapter ranking goes, which unlocks even more picross challenges in a separate section. Solving those gives you the DEEPEST LORE on SCOUT…I like deep lore. And I like SCOUT!
A Short Hike
With the massive itch.io bundle that released this summer came a library of video games to sink my teeth into. But even now I’ve barely gone through the tip of the iceberg of it all. A Short Hike was recommended to me as a great starting point. It really is nice to have a short game in today’s realm of 70+ hour AAA JRPGs or whatever; I explored just about every nook and cranny of the mountain and found all but maybe one of the in-game achievements in the span of a few hours (and I managed to stream it all too). Everything about this short hike was a delight, from the candid dialogue between characters, to the feeling of progression I’d have whenever I found items and upgrades that increased how many times I could flap my wings, to just… gliding around! I spent a lot of time simply playing Paper Airplane Simulator and that by itself was intensely satisfying. There’s even a fishing mini game - you know all real video games have those.
Rune Factory 4 Special
I completely forgot this game came out this year... I feel like I played it 17 years ago. This was my first foray into Rune Factory, and my second foray into the Harvest-Moon-like after Stardew Valley. I was obsessed while playing this, for hours and hours a day, oblivious to the world around me. Things did start to feel weary once I hit the bizarre and grindy weapon stat upgrade that's basically required near the end. Even after reading some guides on correctly utilizing seven-fold steel or whatever multipliers I was kind of lost. Luckily, it didn't keep me from the game's true draw - farmin' and socializin'! I set my sights on completely maxing my bond level with Dylas, the tsundere horse-monster-man... Listen, tsundere is like, totally my type. If I had kept playing longer I'd get to the "having a kid" part but I think Animal Crossing happened and that's when I completely forgot what Time was as a construct anymore. Alas...
Hades never entered my radar while it was in beta. I’m not usually grabbed by the average rogue-like; The closest to one I’ve probably played extensively and enjoyed was, like, Diablo 3? And that barely counts. I also have somehow never played any of Supergiant’s earlier offerings? I want to rectify that a little now, but I will need to defeat my executive dysfunction first.
Anyway, I will admit - the art style is what grabbed my initial interest. And seeing that it was a rogue-like built on the assumption that you will fail, and that you will fail a lot, and you will be actively rewarded for your runs ending with actual story progression, lore tidbits, truckloads of character dialogue… Finally, I felt enticed. I still haven’t done a full run yet, though I have made it a fair way through, fought a few bosses… I’ve been dedicating my runs to grabbing nectars to throw at anyone and everyone. I’m in this to get lots of dialogue, and lore — have I mentioned how much I love flavor text and lore? Even enemy descriptions start turning into veritable encyclopedia entries the more of each that you defeat in total. If I really felt like it, I could turn on the God Mode to accumulate some stats and get some full clears in. I haven’t actually felt like I need to yet, but I appreciate that the option exists.
Everyone I know has this game on their GOTY lists. So you’ve heard this song and dance 100 times by now, but if anything it should reinforce its Goodness. I will instead use this space to gush about Hypnos. I love Hypnos. A soft sleepy friend…
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
There are recent trends from Nintendo that I cannot say I’m fond of, but one I do like? Surprise announcements of new games, to be released very soon, sometimes that day! I’m very tired of leaks. I’m tired of street date breaks. I’m tired of pre-release information overload. Getting slammed out of left field with a new game outta nowhere is refreshing. Especially when it’s announced the day after my birthday via a random tweet!
I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed the first Hyrule Warriors. I played the heck out of Hyrule Warriors. I played the heck out of its DLC packs. I played the heck out of it again when it released on the 3DS. I really played the heck out of it when they released my actual pipe dream of a character desire, Ravio. And then I played the heck out of it all again once it ported to the Switch! And now we get a whole new Warriors game! And it’s set in the universe of Breath of the Wild (another game I played the heck out of)! And it…takes place in the past. Well that’s interesting. I was sad this installment has no Zelda-esque control scheme the original had; one just has to get used to the old fashioned Warriors-style of mashing combos. Otherwise? Very enjoyable! The game is dripping with Breath of the Wild familiarity. A giant Shiekah slate map of Hyrule is your hub for missions, character upgrades, even *dyeing your gear* (Ravio-purple tunic time!) Sly references to miscellaneous BotW things, like minecart-launching, are hiding in character attack combos. Heck, we noticed the areas in levels had the effort put into them to just be the same areas in BotW. Really nostalgic. I almost want to crack BotW out and play it all again. The cycle of Heck never ends…
Some really interesting things happen over the course of the main campaign, and by no means do I intend to reveal anything juicy. I will say this much: the streak of my most wishful-thinking character desire being realized continues. Also, I love that funky little egg-bot so much. If you enjoyed Hyrule Warriors, or if you enjoyed Breath of the Wild, or both? Consider this to be my official endorsement.
void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium
This last entry is an oddity in that I myself did not play it - my husband did. But I felt so engrossed in watching that I feel like I played it, and that’s good enough for me. Another kind of game I don’t often touch besides rogue-likes is the mystery dungeon concept. I think it’s mostly the way battling works that I usually can’t get attached to. Once again, here the formula gets shaken up and some interesting additions added to pique my interest. In Void Terrarium, each time you, an adorable robot (boy I’m seeing a trend) enter one of the procedural dungeons, you start at level 1, and gain levels as you fight. This unlocks abilities you may choose from a set of options in order to build your little robo-dude into a lean mean fighting machine. Once you clear the dungeon, or lose all your HP, or even just decide “OK I’m done here”, you lose it all and start fresh next time. Somehow combining the hallmarks of mystery dungeon and typical procedurally-generated gameplay magically makes it way more cool and fun to me. And you can further customize yourself in the main hub by changing what sets of abilities you’ll see whenever you level - There are sets for play styles like heavy usage of throwing items, or for using special attacks that consume an energy gauge, etc. The concept of corruption also comes into play; Everything and anything can have a level of “corruption” which may either strengthen or weaken the effect of items, or turn enemies from threatening to terrifying.
In addition to being a mystery dungeon game, you take care of a young girl (who is not a robot) by crafting a living space out of items you find, and patching her up whenever she gets one of many possible strange afflictions. While you explore dungeons, you can monitor your friend via a tamagotchi - No joke. You can play a look-away game with her via it, or uh… clean up after her ‘messes’, much in the spirit of ye olde virtual pets. Void Terrarium’s got an adorable aesthetic and a totally jamming’ soundtrack, and beneath it all lies a story premise that is kind of depressing (and sometimes disturbing), though I would hesitate to call it edgy. By the end I was in tears; Good or bad? You’ll just have to find out! In the meantime, I’m left wondering if maybe the story can branch a different way somewhere…
Well, by now I’m too aware of how awfully long-winded I am. I’ll throw some shoutouts to honorable mentions like FF14 and Animal Crossing New Horizons, but not go into further detail there. It’s been an honor to basically be Mint for a Day. A huge thank you to Mint for giving me the opportunity. I am by no means an aspiring writer, but I do love to talk people’s ears off… if it wasn’t obvious by now.
Thanks Coxy! You can follow them and get all the Izzy Digimon posts you want @CoxyMelody!