Sakuna of Rice and Ruin
I picked this one up on Mint’s recommendation and I was not disappointed! Little bit of life sim with a focus on farming, little bit of battle rpg with some platforming. It was a lot of fun to play and once you unlock more of the abilities, it gets to be a blast fighting monsters. It’s interesting because your level is based on rice growth, so early on, you’re pretty weak. But as you tinker with the rice and get a better sense of how to adjust your stats, you start to become much stronger. Obviously, growth sort of plateaus at a certain point, so you find that you’re not getting as much as out of rice crops as you were earlier, but that’s always how that goes, isn’t it? In terms of plot, it didn’t really blow me away, on a larger level. Although I seem to remember the final boss fight being a lot of fun, if a tad underwhelming because I was probably over-leveled. But the character writing is a joy! Sakuna herself has the arc of going from selfish, spoiled brat to kind, somewhat aloof and grateful hero. I love her so much. The supporting cast is pretty cool and there are some exceptionally fun interactions as the characters get to know one another and spend theoretically years (?) together and the bratty goddess of war and rice learns to interact with mere mortals.
So, way back when Bayonetta 3 was announced and there was hype over it (man, simpler times, huh?), I was like “okay, I played most of Bayonetta way back when and had a good time, also after DMC3, I feel like I could enjoy it more now.” So, I went back, picked up Bayonetta and Bayo 2. What need I say beyond it’s Bayo 2? It’s more approachable, mechanically, than the first game and I actually love how everything looks, despite having been handicapped by originally being on WiiU. And I don’t know if this is a hot take or anything, but I just really like her outfit in 2 more. I’m an absolute sucker for women with short hair, so that cut really does it for me. Also, the fight with the Lumen Sage is peak-Bayonetta for me. It was so much fun and it’s easily my favorite to replay. I should also mention that Bayonetta 2 is one of the few games I’ve done like a new game+ deal. I beat the game and then said “well, that was fun let’s do it again, but as Jeanne.” And then I did that. And after that, I started AGAIN as Bayo on the next difficulty level. Clearly, I loved it. Regardless of your feelings on Bayo 3, I’d recommend checking out 2.
The plot in Bayonetta games is always kinda wonky because really want to do time fuckery, which I’ll be honest, I’m generally skeptical of. But Bayonetta being such a ridiculous series, it’s not out of nowhere and it works just about enough to make me not hate it. And, finally, I can’t go without acknowledging Loki. White-haired, dark-skinned, cheeky fucker. Love him, wish we actually got to play him, that’d be awesome. What more can I say about hot lady character action game?
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
I haven’t played a Kirby game in forever—the last one I can think of was the DS game Kirby Super Star Ultra, which was just Kirby Super Star, a game that I loved on the SNES (it absolutely rules, go play it if you like Kirby and you haven’t). So, coming back to Kirby was some incredible nostalgia in a sense. And not, in many other ways. There’s a whole lot of new stuff in this game that’s kind of unreal to think about, but it adds a great deal of fun and surprising depth to the game.
In particular, the fact that you get to upgrade the powers so that whenever you grab them, they’re a little different from what you’re used to and also stronger. It’s wild how that is a thing and then it means that there is a sort of real meta-game to Kirby which might’ve existed in older games but I doubt it’s as sort of robust as it is here. As an example, you upgrade hammer and you get TWO HAMMERS. You just become a li’l tornado hammer of PAIN and it’s amazing. And that’s not even the final form!
It was a little disappointing to me that I didn’t get to see some of my old favorites like plasma or beam, but I totally understand why. Especially with the 3rd dimension, something like plasma just isn’t going to translate as well. Also, I’m with Mint, the version of Deedeedee you fight in this game is easily the most unhinged and threatening he’s ever been—it’s so cool. I’m envious of Mint being able to play this with one of the kids in his life, I think it would’ve been cool to play with my nephews when they were younger, but that is an entirely different discussion that we are NOT gonna have right now.
Final Fantasy Origin: Stranger of Paradise
There’s a ton to be said here and how this kind of captures one of my more recent game obsessions with one of my oldest and creates a new, delicious flavor, but I’ll try to keep it kind of short. So, last year (2021), I got into Nioh 2 bad. Like, I have three or four different save files and because of how the game is, each one specializes in different weapons and that’s one of the things that really makes it killer. So just combine all of that with Final Fantasy and you’ve got a rough idea of Stranger of Paradise. I remember seeing it and being hype as hell alongside my friends, so I’m truly joyous that it didn’t disappoint.
I also have to say that it’s truly amazing how they made the most generic John Video Game ass looking character and he’s one of the best characters I’ve seen in a minute. Like, Jack Garland initially appears as this taciturn, almost blood-thirsty monomaniac—an Ahab with Chaos as his Moby Dick. One podcast I listen to constantly refers to him as the epitome of the 7thgen protagonist and they’re right. And yet, once you get further into the game and start to peel back the layers of what’s going on, you realize he’s actually an amazing character. He becomes compelling and his whole journey is moving and, arguably tragic. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about the end of the game writing this. I need to go back and get to the DLC, but that’s rarely a thing for me unless I get it all at once and even then, it’s a 50/50 whether I get to the DLC in a game. Also, Kat, if you read this, go play this fucking game already.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
I don’t generally enjoy shooters. I think if I really sat down and thought about, I could count the number that I’ve played on my hands; it felt like they sprang up around me in high school and I already felt I knew what I liked in video games by then and it wasn’t that. There have been a few exceptions to that rule, but it’s rarely a thing I get into. But earlier this year, I was struck with the itch and I wanted to play something. So, I eventually picked up Tiny Tina’s Wonderrland and it was exactly what I wanted.
Borderlands hasn’t aged well into the current era. I won’t link it again, but there’s that amazing PC Gamer review by James Davenport which really rakes Borderlands 3 over the coals. And I think a lot of the flaws he notes in that review are absent from Wonderlands. Hooking Borderlands as a sort of mechanic system into Dungeons and Dragons aesthetics really worked. Like, the fact that it’s more pointed in what its sense of humor and what it’s also paying homage to allows the game and its writing to be a lot better. One example of them doing this exceptionally well is there’s a side quest where the players decide that there is something off about a guy with a fabulous blue hat and chase him around the level. Tina, the exhausted DM, keeps trying to tell them that he’s just a guy, but they persist and so she finally creates a last-minute encounter where you fight the Blue Hat Guy, Leader of the Blue Hat Cult. If you’ve ever been a dungeon master, you’ve undoubtedly had a similar experience where your players suddenly decide random NPC number 4 is evil/hot/interesting/their favorite because, I don’t know, they just do. Truly fantastic.
The story is not as impactful or as emotionally moving as the Dragon Keep DLC, but it is a lot of fun. Also, the voice cast is insane: Will Arnett, Andy Samberg, Wanda Sykes, and obviously Ashely Burch. If you know me, you know that I am a strong proponent of letting voice actors do voice acting, but the aforementioned celebs, while being distinctive voices, have some voice acting chops to lean on and they do a great job. I do also wanna shout out the kind intriguing element of meta-fiction going on here which is that the Villain, created by Tiny Tina, knows he’s part of a game and acts outside of her established boundaries. It’s interesting and ultimately what kicks the plot of the game off. I’m not sure it does or says much, but I think it’s kind of fun.
Live a Live
I knew pretty much from the moment I saw the trailer for this game that I was gonna be on it like white on rice. I love the engine used for Octopath and so seeing again here ruled. Also, I think it’s a game you can easily sort of think back to 1994 (well, if you’re old like me) and see how this game was ground-breaking for its time. Hell, I think in some ways, some of this game is still impressive as hell.
While I didn’t vibe with all of them, I think the idea of a collection of story vignettes, almost like a short story collection, is super cool! The Far Future story, for example, was very hard for me to get into because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But once you get into it and realize what it’s doing, it becomes a lot more fun and interesting. And I think that’s kind of key to each of these is that the stories are almost perfect encapsulations of particular narrative types. The Western episode is a by-the-book Western; the Imperial China episode is absolutely a kung fu movie I watched when I was a teenager, etc.
There’s one major change from the original release that really hit me because of course it does. Without saying much, they sort of add the option for a slightly different ending and being the sucker I am, I went for it. I barreled at it and it made cry a little because I’m a sap. But, I loved it. The final boss (the original version) fucked me up. Like, I got into the fight and said “what the fuck?” out loud because it caught me that off-guard. And that was cool. If you’re a fan of Undertale, this game is one of Toby Fox’s explicit inspirations and when you fight this boss, you’ll go “OHHHH! OKAY.”
River City Girls
This is where I put on my clown outfit because for some reason, this came out… three years ago??? And I looked at it and said “I probably don’t need to play this.” What the fuck was wrong with me? I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer at all. I will say though, that the timing of me finding this game was truly a moment of serendipity. I was sitting at work during one of the last weeks of the semester thinking “man, I really want a good beat ‘em up right about now.” And the thought of replaying Scott Pilgrim or Shredder’s Revenge came to mind but for some reason was unappealing.
A few hours later, I get home and turn on my switch to see that River City Girls is free for the weekend if you have Switch online. Well, how could I resist? Downloaded it and started playing, I think, after my evening class and immediately fell in love. How the hell could I not? Two cute girls beating the shit out of everyone in their way. Plus, the ability to recruit enemies was cool as heck. One of the steam reviews put it nicely “you can beat up and then befriend Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. 10/10.” On top of that, I think damn near every woman in that game is incredible. All their designs are next level. I’m excited to pick up 2 and be able to play the love of my life—I mean, Marian. Like, look at her!
Radical new improvements in being Just a Li’l guy! You play as a little crow with a sword, your job is to reap souls. Uh oh! Someone grabbed the soul you were supposed to reap before you could, what now? Turns there’s an old crow who got the short end of the stick some time ago. Now, you have to go on a quest to collect some Giant Souls of people/things that have lived too long. Along the way, you meet goofy colorful characters and get new abilities and weapons. It’s a lot of fun!
Additionally, there’s an element of sort of accepting death and realizing that letting go is not only important, but necessary and sooner or later, it’s time for each one of us to go. I am truly a sucker for that as a theme and so it really hit me here. There’s also some moments in the game that really go hard, although I don’t want to say too much lest I spoil it for you. Let me simply say that the boss after you open the Big Door really got to me as did some of the discoveries throughout the game.
Lost in Random
We played this game this year for Mint’s Video Game Book club and I had a lot of fun with it. It does, however, sort of epitomize why I sometimes have trouble starting a new game. The first half hour or 45 minutes is a plodding build-up to actually playing the game. It’s slow and weird and, if I’m being honest, boring. But, once you get through that slog, you get to an incredibly interesting and unique combat system.
Roll dice and also play cards to do stuff. It’s honestly super cool. Apparently, there was a bit more the devs wanted to do with it and I hope they get to do with it in a sequel. It’s good, but that beginning and the fact that it was kind of clearly hampered by budget constraints are why I don’t quite think it’s GOTY material.
I literally just discovered this game last week and have put twelve hours in. I literally sat and played more or less nonstop for about seven hours recently, something I almost never do anymore as an adult with a job. The only reason it’s not on the actual list is because I won’t have finished it by December 31st. It’ll defo be on next year’s list because I’m lowkey obsessed.
I didn’t really finish this one, so I won’t count it, but I played through two rituals, I think. Another one we played in Video Game Book club that was a blast. Absolutely a killer title by Supergiant; if you only know them from Hades, check out their backlog cause there isn’t a one that’s bad (although I seem to remember there’s some potentially questionable story-related stuff in Transistor). I remember picking it up when it came out, playing it for like an hour at 2 AM and never coming back, so I’m glad we returned to it. I tell myself one day I’ll go back and finish it.