We didn’t get the time to play everything that 2018 had to offer (developers: we need more shorter games, please) but we also were able to tackle at least a few titles from our never ending backlog. Below are a few of them, courtesy of Dylan Bishop, Jay Petrequin, Axel Bosso, and Jordan Oloman.
Dylan’s game from last year: Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight has an insurmountable design flaw: it wants you to get lost. Literally. Its labyrinthine civilizations and darkened hovels are designed to spin you in circles, throwing you into peril and confusion.
And in some strange way, that’s fascinating. Hollow Knight nudges you to learn the lay of its land better than you know your own home, and in doing so, tests your limits. You’ll learn to fight, explore, survive, and adapt. You’ll lose your way, but gods be damned if you don’t clamber back to familiar territory. Before you know it, the whole world will be familiar territory.
The game doesn’t care if you’re confused, and it doesn’t care if can’t fight your way out of that haze. That indifference acts as a challenge to ignite your soul, successfully flipping a flaw into a feature. You’re going to get lost, and you’re going to love it.
Dylan didn’t get the time to play: Red Dead Redemption 2
I’ve played just over ten hours of Red Dead Redemption 2; I’m in Chapter 2, I’ve already grown attached to my horse, and I can’t stop saying ‘pardner.’ But I also took a month-long break thanks to a lot of life and career hubbub.
The truth is, Red Dead Redemption 2 overwhelms me. It’s this large, chugging behemoth of a game, lumbering along at its own pace. That terrifies me. When I walk around the camp of the Van der Linde gang, an anxiety sets in equal to that I feel on a particularly dreary day whilst I contemplate getting out of bed. It feels like too much.
Yet it also feels incredibly relaxing. When I do finally venture into the world, I find beauty and tranquility everywhere I look. It’s a stress-inducing game that promotes slow, thoughtful, stress-free gameplay. If I can swallow that pill as this year closes, I’ll gladly roam its countryside again.
Axel’s game from last year: Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0 isn’t only one of the best games I’ve played this year; it has an exclusive place in my heart, along other masterpieces like Metal Gear Solid. Kazuma Kiryu made me love video games like I didn’t in a long time, and he also got me into this again: writing about games. But why did it have such a strong impact?
Yakuza presents a roller coaster of emotions in two of the most memorable towns you can find in any video game. Full of mini-games to play -karaoke, pocket racers, telephone clubs and freaking Mah Jong-, Kamurocho and Sotenbori are incredible places to spend hours and hours. If secondary activities aren’t your thing, you can experience a breath-taking tale of revenge, loyalty, sadness and -sometimes- love, with a huge cast of memorable characters (even those who appear only in substories).
And what to say about Majima… such a man can only exists in art. Kiryu is your pal, that big brother you always wanted and someone to look up to. But Majima is that person you can’t describe with words. You suffer when he does, you are happy when good things happen to him, and at the end… I can’t say any more.
A fantastic game.
Axel didn’t get the time to play Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu
This was going to be Read Dead Redemption 2 at first, but luckily I got the time to start my long journey to the dying west some days ago. On the other hand, Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu (sorry Eevee, you suck) is a title I was excited about but I haven’t found the moment yet.
I have a confession to make: I never finished a Pokémon game in my entire life. I can’t find a clear reason: I loved the anime when I was a child, I used to draw these lovely creatures all the time, and I still have some toys somewhere in my house. But Red, Yellow, Ruby… all remain unfinished in my endless backlog.
I thought Let’s Go was going to be the exception, but it released on a complicated period of the year for me, during university exams and other personal issues. It has been hard not to jump into the hype train when the lovely Discord of Into the Spine didn’t shut up about the wonders of this game. Every damn day for weeks. But maybe next year will be my chance.
Jordan didn’t get the time to play: Fallout 76
Oh, Todd. It feels like it’s been an age since you walked out onto that blue-hued stage in June and told us about your multiplayer experiment. I watched in awe as you showcased the gorgeous landscape of West Virginia. My brain lit up with excitement at the integration of the folklore. The promise of it all. I was so thrilled, my date speculation was grafted into the IGN announcement piece. I would later make a video about my scepticism over the multiplayer aspects. I was worried, but I still thought it deserved a little of my time. November 14 came and went and… I just couldn’t bear it.
Public opinion had turned from cautious excitement to scorn. Everything I feared became a reality, and I wasn’t there on Reclamation Day to rebuild the world in my own image, nevermind that of my like-minded friends, who were also nowhere to be seen. When the dust settles and the canvas bags decay, I pray there’ll be a renaissance and a reason for me to try this new Fallout experience in 2019. Take me home, Todd. To the place where I belong…
Jordan’s game from last year: Snipperclips
Every once in a while, a little bit of genius comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face when you were least expecting it. For most, that was in March last year when Snipperclips landed on the Nintendo eShop. For me, that was in October this year when I bought it on sale and played it with my step-niece and nephew. This game feels like it’s been made in-house at Nintendo. For an indie title developed by a mostly unknown team, I can’t believe how haptic and wonderful it is.
From the adorable expressions of my new papercraft buddies to the highly inspired level design, this game is a pure wholesome treat that serves as the perfect ointment for the impeccably oppressive world beyond the Switch screen. Go ahead, I dare you, try and fit four different snippers into a papercraft outline. Try not to laugh as you unintentionally decapitate each other. Try not to laugh your way through arguments over spacing as you carefully tilt your mutant paper creations. What a fool I was for skipping this perfect co-op game. Don’t sleep on Snipperclips.
Jay’s game from last year: Persona 5
Really long games can be hard to complete, and really long games that you play while in a bad place can be difficult – or at least very different – to come back to once you aren’t in that bad place anymore. That first lesson is one anyone could tell you, but the second is something that didn’t really come to me until the very start of 2018, when I came back to Persona 5.
When I first played Persona 5 in 2017, I was going through a bad phase in terms of depression and anxiety in my personal life. Once I moved a little further away from that, I would look back at the game and its characters and hold myself back. There was a feeling that I could not shake, that that game was in some way connected to the version of me I was trying to work away from. If I played it again, everything would be back. I associated the game’s story of struggles against abused authority with my own struggles against self-doubt.
When I returned to the game, then, it was pretty fitting that the next leg of the game would introduce me to the story and troubles of Futaba Sakura. This was a character so impeded by the awful things that had happened to her that she pulled the Phantom Thieves into her life in order to take the pain away. All this poor kid wanted was to not feel responsible for something that wasn’t her fault anymore, and that resonated with me so strongly that I blasted through her palace in a matter of days, and rode that momentum through the entire second half of the game on and off over the next few months.
I finally finished Persona 5 in the summer of 2018, over a year after it came out. I changed along the way, both because of it and not, and the game changed for me, too.