Another year comes to a close, and once again everyone makes their GOTY lists. I always feel awkward when I have to do one of those. I’m too stingy to buy games in the same year they are released. I do buy some, of course, but inevitably not as many as everyone else. So I ultimately end up putting some fillers in there, just because I have few choices.
So I propose something different. My Game of the Year should be the game I liked the most this year, regardless of release date. The only rule: I must have played this game for the first time in 2016. If you think you can just go “I finished OOT/FF7 for the 54th time this year, and it’s still the best game ever!”, I have bad news for you. Let’s at least keep it restricted to new experiences. I’ll list 5 games. Not necessarily in any order, and not necessarily the best ones: just five games I especially liked.
Machi (Saturn, 1998)
I’ve been bothering you, and all of my Twitter timeline, with Machi for most of the summer, of course it was going to take a spot, right? With so many visual novels being generally predictable affairs that almost always follow a set pattern of visual and story tropes, it is refreshing to see something with so much humanity in it. The peculiar live-action look and its refusal to focus on a single protagonist or delve into harem material is welcome. And it’s damn long, to boot. I’ll have to start 428 at some point, but I can’t muster the courage to do so. It would be another very, very long ordeal.
Final Fantasy XV (PS4, 2016)
Much has been said about FF15. I don’t think I have much more to add that someone else hasn’t already mentioned. For me, it run a wide gamut: from amazing to terrible. The terrible part, however, would eventually end. The amazing parts would last longer, and stay with you until the end. The story might have sucked, but the finale was great. The combat system might have been very approximative, but it was just frantic enough to work. Much has been said about FF15, so I’ll say that it deserves at least a spot.
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360 Kinect, 2014)
Among other things, 2016 was the year when I rediscovered the old Xbox 360 Kinect. I’ve been vocal about my dislike of the Xbox One Kinect, and that was because we never really got anything that seemed to justify its inclusion with the console (and the consequent price hike). But the 360 was a different matter, as Kinect was purely optional, and still supported fairly well. There are several interesting games worth picking up now that you can find them for a pittance. But the one that impressed me the most is the one that was available on both platforms: Disney Fantasia, probably the most inventive rhythm game in a long time. With the 360 still doing its job well, did we need another Kinect? Arguably not.
Forbidden Siren (PS4, 2016; originally on PS2, 2003)
Forbidden Siren is a bit like Final Fantasy XV, in certain ways. It’s got some great ideas, and the execution at first is good enough that you could actually put it in more than a few game of the year lists. But just like FFXV, if you keep playing, the cracks eventually start showing. Sightjacking becomes less important than quick fingers, the second half of the story makes no sense, and the mission requirements past the halfway point become increasingly obtuse. Thought you could play without a guide? Think again. But while there are some very big flaws, the overall realization is strong enough that you won’t care for a long while. Nevermind that strange ending.
Terracide (PC, 1997)
This was a bit of a surprise. I remember not liking the demo when I first played it, but it was… what, almost 20 years ago? People change, I guess. It’s almost unabashedly a Descent clone, the story is stupid, and the space sections (gotta have something different) don’t work very well. But hey, it’s fun. More than I expected it to be, and that’s gotta count for something. Your shots change direction depending on your movement (think Binding of Isaac), so you can’t just strafe, fire and forget. And the more linear level design is a boon, since it’s less motion sickenss-inducing. Still playing through, but at this point I’m quite confident it can make the list.
I could make a few other mentions too, such as Obduction (PC, 2016); Secret Agent (PC, 1992); Ys Origin (PC, 2006). And more. But I’ve gotta go play the new Shantae. So I’ll end the post here. And when 2017 arrives, I have plans for more games. Of course, most of them won’t be 2017 releases. But that’s what it means to be stingy. You get to be hip.