What starts on four legs, changes to two, and ends up laying in bed in the middle of the night playing Vita?
2019 started with me making a conscious effort to play "series." That is, continue to be way too strict about playing others games in a franchise befroe jumping to the latest one, or the one I wanted most to play. History's important! You don't think the Canadians won the Cold War by just keeping their hands warm!
That was a joke I'm already sorry for, but a mantra in compiling this slam-bang, free-wheeling, probably not great or even fun to read catalogue of every game I finished (*credits rolled) in 2019, the year of our Lord Baby Yoda, is that once it's typed, it's canon. I waited to darn long to start this! I beat (*credits rolled) 60 games somehow!
2020 I'm keeping a journal.
Anyway, without further ado
Actually I guess I'll contextualize the "journal" comment. As a movie guy first and foremost, studying movies has been sort of my MO for... as far back as I can remember. Taking things to the level of serious nerd, I've taken notes on every feature film I've watched since 2015, and translated those notes into neat little books so that I can never read those notes again. Take a look!
So, while I've been a gamer all my life, I've only been an obsessive person for... well maybe all my life. I think a paper-and-pen maintenance of my gaming endeavors, trivial though they may be, is in order for this new decade. Alright, anyway
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (2010) Nintendo Wii U This game has great clothing. I aim to dress as well as Travis Touchdown every day of my life.
Travis Strikes Again No More Heroes (2019) Nintendo Switch We bought it, and now they're making No More Heroes 3, so I guess it's okay. I liked how ramen variants were collectibles. Also the callbacks to past Suda/Grasshopper games was amazing, particularly the Silver Case visual novel interludes.
Resident Evil 2 (1998) PlayStation Vita I always feel really vindicated when, in my pursuit of, like, "gaming homework" I end up playing older titles that just blow me away. I almost didn't play the original RE2 before the remake, but knocked it out in a sweaty marathon session over the course of, like, two days.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) PlayStation 4 One time I was playing this and Mr X was behind me and I turned around and yelled out loud "ah Jesus fuck!" and my friend in the other room, not skipping a beat, picked up with "he died for your sins, at least buy the guy dinner."
Metroid II: The Return of Samus (1991) Nintendo 3DS This one would have taken exponentionally longer to beat had I not consulted a map, navigating the labyrinthine ruins looking at not one, not two, but three different screens while playing. It doesn't hold up well, but I do love how straightforward the game is; you've got one job: Kill all the metroids. There's even a permanent count on the HUD that tallies how many you still have to slaughter! It's like if, in Breath of the Wild, you have your heart count on the top and next to it Ganon's.
Sin & Punishment (2000) Nintendo Wii U Some really wild moments, but felt mostly like an experiment inhibited by N64 tech.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (2009) Nintendo Wii U Now here's the game Sin & Punishment was meant to be. Totally nuts. A fever dream of nonsense. Loved the bosses, especially the gross pale wormy guy.
Captain Commando (1991) Nintendo Switch The multitude of colorful and McDonaldsverse-worthy characters in this game is unprecedented in video games made after 1997.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004) Nintendo GameCube I'm an absolute fiend for all things Metal Gear, and am only just playing this through for the first time. There's that ascent to the HIND fight late in the game that I played this time by just having Snake constantly shot and blown up by genome soldiers.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition (2006) PlayStation 4 These games aren't really for me, I think (spoiled by Bayonetta; liked the first DMC most I think) but Dante's maintenance of his chiseled physique and love for pizza is a balance I look to achieve in my own life, one day.
Undertale (2015) Nintendo Switch This didn't do much for me with its writing and characters, though I appreciate the sheerly audacious number of mechanics on display. I am a big fan of the Lesser Dog.
Deltarune Chapter 1 (2018) Nintendo Switch I liked this a lot more than Undertale I think primarily because of the way your party is framed against enemies in the really traditional JRPG, us-and-them way.
Xenogears* (1998) PlayStation Vita So, a major disclaimer here first, I started this on December 20th, 2018--a year that isn't 2019--upon returning home from PF Chang's, where my family and I ate chain restaurant-sanctioned Chinese-American cuisine celebrating my great mom's birthday. I ordered the Orange Peel Chicken (a dish that might not be my favorite from the American-Chinese repertoire of Cantonese, Hunan, and Sichuan-inspired food, but is, for whatever reason, the one I've chosen to represent me) and the table picked at Rick's Northern-Styled Spare Ribs, and a few other things from the menu. The Spare Ribs were really terrific; I only usually have them when my dad makes them for himself and I bashfully go "no, they're so bad for you..." and end up picking at a rib of delicious, barbecue-sauce-slathered, tender meat, a preparation which is in saucy contrast with Chang's dry-rubbed ribs. Really gets the flavor of the meat itself right, and the way we make them at home usually burns the meat (which my family likes, because we're weird). The rice, I remember, wasn't excellent, but the food was really pretty good. I remember picking at everyone else's food because I was gluttonous at the time. Anyway, Xenogears was a great, great game. Fei at one point says "Quit foolin'."
Chibi-Robo! Plug Into Adventure! (2005) Nintendo GameCube Now one of my all-time favorite games, and the game that made me realize how much I love the "little-guy-in-a-big-world" trope. Pikmin is one of my favorite games, for example; I love A Bug's Life and Toy Story.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019) PlayStation 4 So gorgeous. The field shot here is like the iconic samurai movie image I conjure in my dreams.
God Hand (2006) PlayStation 2 The greatest game of all time.
Chibi-Robo! Park Patrol (2007) Nintendo 3DS There's a weird rapping monkey (toy?) guy at the hamburger shop in this game that teaches Chibi-Robo how to spin his records like a pro.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (2015) Nintendo 3DS We don't talk about what they did to my boy.
Super Mario Bros. (1985) Nintendo Switch Ever heard of this one?
Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988) Nintendo Switch Seems like this is sort of the dark horse of the original trilogy of 'Ario games (as much as a game of this stature could ever be considered a "dark horse"), and you sort of wonder how modern Mario games would look if we went down the Inceptionlike, slightly-oppressive dreamscape that would manifest in the 1993 Bob Hoskins vehicle adapting the games.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) Nintendo Swtich The prince of platformers. It's wonderful. In verifying when this came out I learned a little bit, reading about the shortage of computer memory chips that prevented Nintendo from releasing the game (as well as Zelda II) overseas, and resulted in promotion in The Wizard. And really, learning is the point.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 (2017) PlayStation 4 I should then clarify that the dates I've been attaching to these games is the year in which the game first releases. So, Kiwami 2 came out in America, where I live, in 2018, but in Japan, where it premiered, in 2017. Also I guess I should mention that the platform listed is the one I played the game on, but there's also room for some nuance which I won't subject you to. For example, I played Captain Commando via the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Collection; though it was off of a Nintendo DS cartridge, I played Park Patrol on my Nintendo 3DS. Which is actually, I realize now in error, a New Nintendo 3DS XL, which is throwing a wrench into my plans here and I don't know if I should go back and change things. Would I then have to say, like, "PlayStation 4 purchased in early 2014?" I don't know.
Gato Roboto (2019) Nintendo Switch I'm really not a cat person, I think. They make me a little uncomfortable, maybe? I had to feed my friend's cat over a few days over Christmas because she was visiting family upstate and Smokey, the subject of my duties, was always running away from me and hiding. I mean, I get it, here's this big guy talking to you ("Well Smokester you don't have to come out, I'll just put the food here..."), your mom's gone away, I get it. But I found myself oddly unsettled by not being able to detect her (Smokey) the way you could easily tell something like "oh there's a dog in the house" or "that's a fish tank with fish or reptiles in it." Anyway, Gato Roboto had a moustachioed robot, which spoke to me, personally.
Mortal Kombat 11 (2019) PlayStation 4 Loved that Kabal was back, glad this overcame the hurdle of the abrasive and bad press-conjuring grind and microtransactions. You know what? I'm going to reinstall this today (12/30/2019).
Sorry you had to see that, kids.
Castlevania (1986) Nintendo Switch My Castlevania quest began where it all began, as all quests should begin.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (1987) Nintendo Switch It might not be "fair" to say that I loved this game, because I relied heavily on the crutch of walkthroughs to overcome the indecipherable obscurities that blockade progress in this game, but what's "fair?" I loved the music, I loved the day/night cycle, the odd Soulsian (I'm sorry) ways in which you interact with NPCs. Yeah, I was really into this.
Castlevania: The Adventure (1989) Nintendo Switch Glad that I had save states for this one!
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (1989) Nintendo Switch Loved the stained glass backdrop early on in this one. Generally I've found with my Castlevania endeavor thus far I've really appreciated the backdrops of these games; the way you see a castle in the distance early on, and eventually make your way to it.
Kid Dracula (1990) Nintendo Switch Really cool and weird segment where you wind up on some Statue of Libertylike lady's gameshow, where the boss is just a series of questions.
Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (1991) Nintendo Switch Sort of makes you appreciate how far handheld video games have come, where we'd be getting these tremendous home experiences like Castlevania III (a great example would be how in 1991 Metroid II was so "meh," as they say, on the Game Boy while the original was superior, and just three years later we'd get Super Metroid) and these very limited "B-sides" on the go. These early handheld games are almost like novelizations of movies.
Super Castlevania IV (1991) Nintendo Switch Loved the opening animation of Dracula's tombstone cracking open and all. That dire, brown palette really reminds me (looking at it now, months later) of Blasphemous, a game which I'm positively chomping at the bit to play when I get my limited (physical) edition in the mail sometime within the next few months.
Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994) Nintendo Switch Am I a hipster if this is like, top three Castlevania games for me (with Legacy of Darkness on N64 and Rondo of Blood)? It's so over-the-top and insane. It also has that awesome mind-bending, screen-tearing part. Or maybe that part is just frustrating platforming.
My Friend Pedro (2019) Nintendo Switch I had a friend in high school named Pedro. He wasn't a practitioner of Chow Yun-Fatlike bullet balletics, but then again neither is the Pedro in this game. This game's Pedro is a banana, which I feel confident in calling my favorite fruit. This was not my favorite game I played this year though.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (2013) Nintendo Switch Major disclaimer, though I rolled the credits on 'Dogma I did not, in fact, partake in the Dark Arisen expansion which now blankets all (all?) releases of this Capcom gem (see Uncut Gems by the Safdie Brothers, it's one of the best movies of recent memory). Early on in the game, before you get the warp stone crystal things (are they just called "Warp Stones?"), the forced traversal through the countryside was really, really awesome. And I say that unironically. Like, subjecting myself and my party of dead-eyed Pawns to the night terrors that roamed the countryside was a lot of fun. I should go back to this game.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (1993) PlayStation 4 Alright, ya got me, I played this out of order with Bloodlines technically releasing after it, originally. Sue me.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) PlayStation 4 Good game.
Hyper Light Drifter (2016) Nintendo Switch Better game.
Yoku's Island Express (2018) Nintendo Switch This was one I won on eBay unexpectedly and was kind of like "darn, now I have to pay for this and play it..." which I didn't mean as harshly as it sounds, but it's a bad habit of mine (I don't succumb to often); something cool I bid on on a whim and end up getting. But this game's great, play it! Also made me realize how much I love mailmen/postal stories. Klaus was a Netflix-produced animated movie this year that tells the origins of Santa Claus, and that revolves around postal work and stuff. Watch Klaus.
Mega Man Legends (1997) PlayStation Vita This is actually the first Mega Man game I've played! Or rather, first I've really played. I think I must have played... one of them, for a minute or two. Or maybe not? But the pastel graphics and whimsical, cozy little sanctuary of Kattelox Island spoke to my tastes down to a tee.
The friends of Ringo Ishikawa (2018) Nintendo Switch This released on Switch this year, so I consider it one of my favorite games of 2019. It's like a scrappy, low-key Personalike in which you're instead a juvenile delinquent, roaming about a 2D world, going to class (or skipping!), fighting other gangs, smoking cigarettes, and working at a video rental store. I loved it. Also has one of the best endings of a video game in recent memory.
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (1999) PlayStation Vita This was undersold to me! It's not as fun or exploratory as Legends, but the graphics hold up, the mechanics are refined, and maybe most crucially, the voice acting... isn't awful! The whole series has the level of anime-dub voice acting that was not only acceptable, but enjoyable.
Mega Man Legends 2 (2000) PlayStation Vita Less charm better performance? Could that be the tagline for a male supplemant?
Castlevania 64 (1999) RetroArch So I got to that big skeleton bull fight and my emulation went sideways, and I couldn't progress. "Alright fine, I have to beat this darn game," I say to myself. So I wake up eeeearly (and I'm already a 6AM guy) and marathon to the same boss, researching steps as to just what might have went wrong to block my progress (it was something like a wall was supposed to blow up or whatever, I forget). So I kill the bull and guess what? Because I was playing on easy the game ends when you beat that boss. The game taunted me for playing on easy, basically rubbing my face in my failure, calling me names. If I were ten years old and it were 1999, I'd probably cry. But instead, I moved on to the sequel.
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (1999) RetroArch The same darn year! Why even release the earlier version! Can you imagine if Activision dropped Call of Duty: Vietnam in March and was then like, "Call of Duty: Vietcong coming this October!" People would (still buy it) riot! Anyway, this game was a lot of fun. Terrific dialogue. Great soundtrack.
Control (2019) PlayStation 4 Game of the Year.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor (2003) RetroArch Who'd have thought a GBA beat 'em up would have branching endings and missable character-interaction stuff? So pretty, ran a little slow, sort of like me, but minus the pretty.
Knights of the Round (1991) Nintendo Switch Perceval needs his own talk show. Something tells me that guy has a lot on his mind.
Castle Crashers (2008) Nintendo Switch Alright so technically this was "Castle Crashers Remastered" but for some reason I felt weird putting "(2015)" up there, so here we are. I just realized that I still haven't unlocked the Brute.
Daemon x Machina (2019) Nintendo Switch Was really pleased with how much I ended up liking this, after some concerns with the demos. I mean, I love me some mechs, but the gameplay wasn't quite there... But in the end, despite a story that I think Hideo Kojima's brain-damaged twin brother might have scripted, it's awesome to be able to tool away on my orbital-- I mean mobile su-- the armored cor-- arsenal! They're called arsenals!
Luigi's Mansion (2001) Nintendo GameCube White whale vanquished! Loved the parody of Resident Evil, wasn't wild about the "combat." Was really impressed the variety of enemies, wasn't a big fan of "Weegee find-a the key-a; Weegee open-a the door-a" (I took Italian in middle and high school for years, so I'm not being culturally-insensitive). Canonized for funsies.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (2013) Nintendo 3DS Really refines the gameplay of the original, but as the general consensus seems to be, it loses a lot by breaking up the game into different mansions. I also am never really a fan of "themed levels" (an issue a certain third entry had at times...) Just give me a single, consistent environment. I want a mansion! Also we all realize how horrible a situation this was for Luigi, right? It begins with him being, quite literally, kidnapped by E Gadd and coerced into helping the Professor hunt more ghosts. Luigi, who A. Has already done a tremendous service by stopping Bowser in the first game, and B. Is notoriously terrified of and made uncontrollably anxious by the paranormal. It's cruel! Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is a cruel game.
Luigi's Mansion 3 (2019) Nintendo Switch The way Luigi is animated in this game is the way I wish I could dance in real life.
MediEvil (2019) PlayStation 4 Sir Daniel Fortesque has been an all-time favorite gaming character of mine for yeeeears. I hope Sony puts more muscle into stuff like this; character action games, platformers, etc. Ghost of Tsushima is going to be baller as heck, but, y'know, I'd really like a new Sly Cooper.
Super Mario World (1990) Nintendo Switch Ugh this guy! Again! I actually think I prefer Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3. Is that weird? Big fan of the Sumo Bro though.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995) Nintendo Switch Touch fuzzy? Touch fuzzy. NO! Get dizzy! Get diz--
Super Mario Sunshine (2002) Nintendo GameCube Was a favorite then, is a favorite now. I think largely because Kondo's music here is just anthem after anthem. The music is so good. It's too good. Listen to this stuff!
Katana ZERO (2019) Nintendo Switch Finally caught up with this one, and must say I wasn't a huge fan. I do like the turns the story takes in terms of our lead guy's backstory, and as a game that actually, y'know, tries to tell you a decent story I think it does just that. Also possibly the closest emulation of the Hotline Miami formula we've seen yet. It ticks the boxes aesthetically (violence, neon, synth-score) but also the gameplay is built around that loop of "I'm playing! I'm dead. I'm playing! I'm dead. I'm playing! I won! I'm dead." Maybe I'm just bad. But having the game run as snappily as it does, with that sort of carefree attitude towards failure, was really good.
Celeste (2018) Nintendo Switch Another callout to TheBlondeBass for being a cracking Secret Santa, giving me this out of the blue! I guess I lamented loud enough on here that I wanted to play this and was waiting for the physical release. Incredibly grateful/appreciate the tolerance. And yes, this was as wonderful as everyone said. I was mostly in love with the menu design, to be perfectly honest. I love how the mountain is modeled in 3D... in a 2D game! So cool!
Blazing Chrome (2019) Nintendo Switch I suck at run-and-guns, apparently. But that's alright, 1987 was a long time ago. Baby need his hand held? Baby need his hand held. Glad I grabbed this on sale, because I've literally had the key art for this saved onto my phone since it was released.
Death Stranding (2019) PlayStation 4 Heard of this game? Also Kojima retweeted me I have been seen by the Heavens and they smiled upon me.
And while these were all "beatable" games I completed in 2019, the Year of Our Lord Baby Yoda, there were indeed other games I sampled and triffled with, including but not limited to
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018) Nintendo Switch It's like a Nintendo candy shop, and I'm the little round boy with a pocket of change! "Take my change! Take my change," I say! And they do! Every time, they do!
Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000) PlayStation 2 Makes me sad to realize that this kind of Marvel game will probably never... ever exist again. That is, the creative freedom in designing the characters (I'm currently looking to procure some sort of nice Bengus artbook, because my goodness, this is just such emblematic video game imagery for me) and the ability to pull from whatever the heck the devs wanted.
Downwell (2015) Nintendo Switch I feel so horrible everytime I stomp on a turtle in this game.
Rival Schools (1997) PlayStation This is the high school I wish I went to. (Please Capcom, good lord, revive this franchise).
Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (2008) Nintendo Wii U If ya can't have Mahvel, at least continue down this road, Capcom... Or port this game! Dear god! Make Super Tatsunoko vs Capcom! Throw it on Switch!
Destiny 2 (2017) PlayStation 4 Downloaded Forsaken, and had a good romp with this again. It had these really spiky guys that I felt kinship with. Bungie's art department still knocks it out of the park every time.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) Nintendo Switch Still not over it.
Super Mario Odyssey (2017) Nintendo Switch Mario's nose bounces when he jumps. Mario's nose bounces when he jumps.
Ah yes! And I promised something more macabre. Something deadly and grim.
As it might be gathered thus far, I take video gaming, hm, maybe a little seriously. Different strokes, right? I get a lot of enjoyment out of the completion factor, the cataloguing, the ordering, the listing, the ranking, the filing, the analyzing; in another life, maybe I'm an accountant. But while I make it a real rule to always finish the game that I start, well, rules are meant to be broken. Allowing myself three quit-because-I'm-a-baby moments, there were three games whose merits I would never deride... but I just couldn't commit to the full rodeo. Those games were
XCOM 2 (2016) PlayStation 4 I loved Enemy Unknown in 2012. Loved it! And yet here... I don't know. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for such a long, rigorous game; saving the world from killer aliens is, y'know, tough stuff! But I found myself really not a fan of so many of the limitations the game places on you, where I'd be a square from victory if it weren't for some extraneous burden, some superficial imposition, some effin' stupid thing the devs thought to torture me with. Writing now, maybe I should give this a second shot. Those aliens ain't gonna off themselves.
Paper Mario (2000) Nintendo Wii U I'm sorry. I mean, I'm just sorry. I gave ol' Pape a good ten or so hours, and really wasn't feeling it. The combat was a little dull for me, and I... (am reluctant to type this about a Nintendo game) I wasn't charmed. It didn't tickle my fancy. Didn't rock my boat.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (2004) Nintendo 3DS Alright, so this is the real disappointment... I've started this game three times now, and this was the furthest I've progressed (some 30 hours, "offing" Dhoulmagus for the first time). And y'know what... it was a struggle. It was an effort over, like two-and-a-half months to make that dent. So sometimes I'm reasonable, and realized I just had to put it down. I loved to hate Dhoulmagus; I adore Toriyama's work, across his manga and game design; I'm a generally-juvenile fan of cozy adventure and wonder. But I think the sad truth is that Dragon Quest might just not be my bag. I'd still like to play XI, because that looks like the absolute culmination of the style and atmosphere that I want to immerse myself in in the first place. But the lengthy grind of the game keeps me at arm's length...
So that's 2019. Done. In the bag. Huh? What do you mean there's another year? Like, I have to do this all again? I get to do this all again? Well hopefully life picks up and this buffoon makes some career developments beyond wringing his Barnes & Noble job for every discount he can. You guys read Flixist? They have some pretty amazing writers and one major idiot.
But what to play in 2020? Well I'll tell you. I'm still Bridge Baby-deep in Death Stranding, because truthfully, I want to play the game now more than ever, wandering its desolate beauty (please GOD, Kojima, give us a photo mode) and earning the 'ol platinum trophy. I started Pokemon Sword just last night (last year!), a Christmas gift from my brother Cooper (FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER HE'S A GOON WHO PLAYS ONLY LittleBigPlanet AND Star Wars Battlefront II). And I'm in the midst of Baba Is You, a game that will ruin any semblance of intelligence I think I may hold.
And who knows? Who knows what random, past gem I'll fixate on and obsess over? What treats Nintendo will surprise attack us with? Can you imagine if Activision released another Call of Duty this year! That would be wild! If you've come this far, you're a trooper, you really are. But also, the sincerest of "thank yous."
Destructoid has been the Internet for me for years now, and the more I contribute and the more I talk to you all and you (hopefully) tolerate my shenanigans, the more I feel a part of this great, honest community. To quote an idol of mine, "Video games forever."