Game of the Year Awards 2017
Another day drops off the calendar as we complete our journey around the sun. We’ve seen the best and worst 2017 has to offer and now that its back is turned, we thought we’d talk about the games of 2017.
Best Art Direction – Cuphead by Mick
The decision to create a completely hand drawn, 1930’s inspired, platformer was bold and the payoff massive. Studio MDHR’s dedication to animate each and every characters and level over a course of several years has resulted in the best, albeit hardest, games of 2017. Every section of Cuphead just has so much detail in it, right down to the NPCs on the world map, who are all ooze charisma – like the fishing fish and the coin that’s fearful of the bank.
Honourable Mentions; Absolver,
Best Console Exclusive – Persona 5 by Luke
Having spent 80+ hours of my year playing Persona 5 and avoiding the irritation of minor details, I knew Atlus had produced was special. Championing the dying breed that is turn-based JRPGs, Persona 5 does everything but shy away from Shin Megami Tensei’s near 30 year legacy. Its biggest success is its cohesive depiction of rebellion and thievery through its writing and presentation. Even the UI, which can be a bit of an eyesore at times, creates a distinct aesthetic that doubles down on P5’s immersion. Character design is another ace in the hole for Persona 5 is the character/persona design, it’s the strongest the series has ever been – big shoutout to motorbike Pope. Complimenting the characters is the dungeon design and the support cast, who are all as equally fleshed out as out as the ideas Persona 5 presents. I was even able to identify with most minor of characters thanks to the writing, diving balls deep into touchy, mature, and real subject with surprising finesse. Persona 5 just flat out looks and sounds good, makes for a fantastic way to send off my PS3.
Best OST – Yakuza Zero (composed by Hidenori Shoji + others) by Neilo
Admittedly, I was wet behind the ears when it came to Yakuza, but 2017 changed that and made me a fan. One thing that stood out above Yakuza Zero’s gameplay was most definitely its soundtrack. Impressively navigating a plethora of genres, Yakuza Zero’s soundtrack perfectly matches the game’s tendency to shift tonally. Whether you’re playing as Kiryu of Majima, you’ll find yourself crooning at the local karaoke or laying the smack-down on local scumbags while picking up some truly guilty pleasures to hum along to. The Cabaret Club mini-game also serves up exemplary examples of songs that double as both parody and homage to well-known pop songs.
However my personal favourite are Zero’s battle themes, nothing quite beats the raucous rock riffs of “Pledge of Demon” in the first boss battle. As the story continues, the themes get better and better with combat and story; punctuating each beat by utilising rock, electro, and even a little bit dubstep. Zero’s soundtrack is as mad as Majima and as mighty as Kiryu from start to finish.
Best Remaster – Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age by Scotch Rat
I first set my sights on Final Fantasy XII back in 2003. I had just finished Final Fantasy X and I was excited at the prospect of jumping right back in to the Final Fantasy series. I was not impressed. Final Fantasy XII exchanged the familiar turn based system for the new active battle system, slowing down the pace of play to a sluggish crawl. On top of the combat overhaul, the world of Ivalice was laboured with an unimpressive skill tree, overly difficult grinds, and restricted diversity in character builds.
Thankfully I was able to give it another go this year with Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac age. A product of a decade worth of feedback produced a revamped job system, allowing for more versatile play styles, and a whole host of improvements. Everything became easier to deal with, especially with the ‘Fast Forward’ mechanic significantly reducing the need to tediously grind gil and levels. To round off the package, Square Enix even implemented some fantastic HD textures to rid the experience of poor anti-aliasing and screen blur. All these changes build towards a revolution in remasters, changing my outlook on a game I once loathed into a game I now love and can’t get enough of.
Biggest Disappointment – Marvel vs Capcom Infinite by Esler
When it comes to GOTY awards, there are always a great number of contenders for each category, but no other boasted quite the number of potential winners than the Biggest Disappointment. In a year where our wallets have been accosted, our loot crates burst opened, and our beloved series torn apart and fed back to us in bit parts, this one takes the cake.
Unlike the honourable mentions, this isn’t a good game tainted by greedy choices, it’s a bad game. After nearly 6 years of grinding out Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on a weekly basis, my excitement and hopes were dashed. Fan backlash was rife from the get go, with many slating the game’s appearance and overall aesthetic — I convinced myself that it was early doors and that MvC was coming back in a big way. Then the dreadful story mode demo showed that the general feel was a little off and some characters just didn’t feel right – I told others there was still hope, it could be fixed with some quick adjustment. Then I played Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and I was all out of answers.
In what should have been a joyous moment, all my worries came to fruition and I was fresh out of excuses. Instead of being a beginner friendly and rewarding fighter, I was left with a complicated mess that lacked balance and any real commitment from the developers – so much so that I bailed on our own review out of embarrassment. I even had hope for December’s first update to save the title, but all it did was confirm my suspicions that Infinite was beyond saving.
Biggest Surprise – Sniper Elite 4 by Esler
It’s not quite an indie sleeper, in fact it’s definitely a AAA game right up the back, but Sniper Elite 4 still surprised us at RG. Previous games had some promise, falling just short of delivering the excitement expected of literally shooting Hitler in the nuts, but Sniper Elite 4 killed it. In a generation that sees cooperative play dwindle by the wayside, Sniper Elite 4 concocted an experience that allowed a team of two to go buck wild or plan every moment of their assault on the remaining Nazi forces at the end of their scope. Effortlessly blending stealth and assault, combat was gratuitously rewarding. And it wasn’t the kind of game that you’d play one time, either. After your initial playthrough, you were able to revisit missions with additional objectives or with new equipment earned through general play. You could even build up to Sniper Elite 4’s horde-like mode, but nothing quite matched the dizzying heights of near impossible cross-map shots of the campaign. It’s a sleeper that I got to share with my friend and that is something to be cherished in 2017.
Honourable Mentions; Cuphead finally releasing, Absolver, Path of Exile.
Game of the Year – NeiR: Automata by Crashscreen
The brainchild of Yoko Taro and a fantastic marriage with development studio Platinum Games. NieR: Automata is an incredible story that merges great sound and mechanic design with Taro’s bizarre but insightful outlook on life. It’s poignant and emotional, while offering a deep exploration of humanity from the outsider’s perspective. While sometimes rough around the edges, the title cleverly advances storytelling in the medium using techniques involving communication, both between the game and player, and between other players. It’s a title informed by the failures of Taro’s past works, while also spinning recent gaming trends in new and creative ways. This is encapsulated no better than in the final ending for the game. Given the reception towards previous entries in the series, it’s a miracle the title was even made and that needs celebrated.