2017 was an amazing year for games, so it stands to reason that I wouldn't have had time to play everything that came out this year... but still, there are a lot of quality titles that I just didn't have time to play yet. While Breath of the Wild, NieR: Automata, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Danganronpa V3, and Finding Paradise are all on my to-do list for 2018, that's not to say that I didn't get in some quality gaming in this year! So, without further ado...
With a title like that, it has to be good, right? All kidding aside, while 2.8 is definitely the weakest of the Kingdom Hearts compilations, there remains a lot of value for hardcore fans of the series. Getting a taste of Kingdom Hearts III's graphics engine in 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage was a treat, and the CGI cutscenes included with X Back Cover provide an interesting glimpse into the wider Kingdom Hearts universe. Dream Drop Distance is still a pretty mediocre entry in the series, all things considered, with overly spacious level design (made with the intent of accommodating Sora and Riku's enhanced mobility) that only ends up making exploring these giant empty worlds a tedious drag. Still, DDD HD is enough of an improvement over the 3DS version that I would still recommend giving this collection a shot.
Who would've thought that the .hack//G.U. series would ever see the light of day on modern consoles? I mean, I'm glad they did; I've wanted to play this fascinating series of action RPGs for what feels like ages, but I didn't expect Last Recode to be such an extensive package. In addition to the original PS2 trilogy, Last Recode comes bundled with loads of goodies that flesh out the games' story, as well as a brand new fourth volume that may (hopefully) belie an intent from Cyberconnect2 to continue the franchise. Whatever the next step ends up being for .hack, my time with Last Recode has ensured that I'll be keeping a close eye on it.
Well, what do you know? A Pokémon game has made my list yet again. I wasn't expecting much from Ultra Sun and Moon, and for a while there, it seemed uncertain as to whether this new pair of 3DS games would be a Black 2/White 2-esque sequel or a more traditional "third version" a la Platinum. While US/UM is definitely more of the latter, there's enough new content and features to make this a rewarding return trip to the Alola region for experienced trainers. It's also a perfect entry point for Pokémon neophytes, or for those looking to whet their appetites for the impending Switch title.
Also, Nebby still will not get in the bag.
I liked Final Fantasy XII when I first played it, but I was absolutely gobsmacked by just how incredible The Zodiac Age was. Square Enix has set a new bar for HD remasters here, bringing in a wealth of additional quality-of-life improvements in addition to the existing rebalancing act that was the original Zodiac Job System version. The newly orchestrated score is wonderful to listen to, perfectly accentuating the gorgeous world of Ivalice and instilling the game with a sense of regal beauty. The ability to multiclass characters adds a whole other dimension to the game and really helps each party member feel unique: a major step up from the vanilla experience. And that turbo button... every RPG needs one of these now. Seriously, I will not rest until this is an industry standard.
I'm not really surprised that Persona 5 made the top of my list this year. You could argue that I missed a lot of other high-profile titles this year, and you'd be right, but from the moment I heard the first beats of "Life Will Change," Persona 5 had firmly established itself as one of the most stylish, energetic, and engaging role-playing games I have ever had the good fortune to play. It's the perfect realization of the gameplay formula established in Personas 3 and 4, brings back some classic SMT elements into cutting-edge HD glory, and has one of the best turn-based combat systems in recent memory. Shoji Meguro's soundtrack is absolutely incredible, with some of my favorite battle themes in the series (and that's something, considering this is the same franchise that gave us Mass Destruction and I'll Face Myself). Special mention must be given to the climactic "Rivers in the Desert," a song befitting an epic showdown if there ever was one. If ever a game deserved the 90+ hours I spent on it, it would be Persona 5.
Even putting aside the Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis DLC episodes that came out this year (I haven't even touched Comrades yet), Final Fantasy XV found itself booted up on my PS4 probably more than any other title that wasn't developed by Atlus or Blizzard. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly makes XV so compelling for me; certainly, I enjoy the characters, world, and combat well enough, but I thought I had my fair share of that by the time the credits rolled. And yet, I found myself pushing past the 120-hour mark by the end of this year, scouring the land of Eos for new quests to do, testing out every new feature that was patched in (switching party members is a treat), and striving to max out my Hunter rank. I haven't even gotten around to that platforming dungeon, partially because I value what's left of my sanity... but hey, that's what 2018 is for, right?
Seriously, if you're even a lapsed Yu-Gi-Oh! fan who tapped out somewhere in the middle of GX, Duel Links is a seriously addictive free-to-play game on Steam and mobile devices. It's an authentic, nostalgic compartmentalization of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game and probably the best video game connected with this property since... man, I don't know, Duel Academy for the GBA? It's been a while. Best of all, the obligatory microtransactions (because 2017 was, after all the Year of the Lootbox) are understated and don't strongarm the player into spending real money on their digital trading cards. Daily login bonuses and in-game events provide a steady trickle of in-game rewards to expand your available card pool.