My Top Ten Games of 2017: #4

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park

#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

There are lofty goals and then there is aiming your sights at the greatest RPGs of all time. When Zeboyd Games went to Kickstarter in 2013 they conceived of an old school, 16-bit RPG that would feature the compelling story and combat of Chrono Trigger, the base-building, party gathering of Suikoden, and the sci-fi awesomeness of Phantasy Star. Who could say no to that (I certainly didn’t).

While Cosmic Star Heroine is somewhat hampered by its indie budget, it is a damn fine retro JRPG that successfully draws many of the best elements from all those inspirational classics.

The story stars Agent Alyssa L’Salle, a pseudo-space cop who discovers that someone within her own organization is up to no good. With the help of some memorable friends and fun newcomers she eventually joins up with the local freedom fighters, exploring multiple planets and uncovering more sinister details.

Other than a nifty twist toward the end the storytelling is the softest ingredient, leaning heavily on style and humor, which thankfully the game does very well.

Ten party members is a crazy huge number for a 15-20 hour RPG. Some are a bit more underdeveloped than others, but they all have distinct styles and themes, from the break-dancing, schmoozy robot to the bestial alien bounty hunter.

Combat resembles the Grandia games (as well as Zeboyd’s previous retro RPGs) more than any of the actual 16-bit RPGs. There’s a D&D-like initiative tracker, and everyone has more than half a dozen abilities you can equip and customize, as well as Shields that offer even more abilities. There’s also an interesting system involving building up Style and entering Hyper mode. It’s challenging but fun to work out the most efficient timing and unleash your most powerful attacks at the right moment.

In a perfect world developers like Zeboyd would be given twice the budget to create a larger, deeper RPG using their exact same design philosophy. What this two-person team (three if you include the stellar soundtrack) accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Cosmic Star Heroine wonderfully (and appropriately) embodies the classic quote: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”*

Read my review for Pixelkin!

 

*Yes I’m aware that the stars are much farther away than the moon. It’s still a nice quote damn it.

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

#5 Thimbleweed Park

I adore the adventure game genre. When I say ‘adventure game’ I’m specifically referring to point and click, puzzle-based games. There’s no question the Golden Age was in the 90s, during the reign of Sierra and LucasArts. I was firmly in the former camp instead of the latter, yet I fell completely in love with Thimbleweed Park, developer Ron Gilbert’s love letter to classic LucasArts adventure games. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2

#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Most RPGs need to sell me on story, or combat, or setting, or preferably all of the above. Battle Chasers: Nightwar puts it’s exquisite art front and center, and it’s damn good. From the developers of Darksiders and the artwork from comic artist Joe Madureira come an impressive little indie RPG that offers a compelling turn-based combat system, fun characters, and a lengthy adventure. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6”

9 Great Family-Friendly Board Games [Pixelkin]

Read the full list at Pixelkin

Screen time is always a concern for parents, even those of us who look at video games’ potential as a positive influence in our children’s lives. Mobile gaming alone has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry. In this age it’s no longer a question if young people play games, it’s which ones.

There are a lot of wonderful, deep, expensive options out there for adults. But if you’re looking for a solid modern board game for the family, we’ve got you covered right here. Here is our list of nine great kid-friendly board games you can enjoy with the whole family.

Read the full list at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #7

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2

#7 Hand of Fate 2

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The first Hand of Fate was an interesting take on a rogue-like RPG using cards, but also had some really rough edges (and a straight up horrible final boss fight). The sequel is not only a vast improvement but a great game overall, providing a meaty campaign with wildly different missions and expanding the games of chance beyond cards (read my full review at PC Gamer).

The deliciously acerbic Dealer returns, but his antics take a backseat to the much improved story telling. Each story chapter presents a self-contained story with challenging objectives, from escorting a helpless farmer, to gathering resources while avoiding enemy patrols.

The chapters are still laid out as a series of cards that you flip over, with each card presenting choices, games of chance, or a battle (and often, all three). The new games are a lot more fun than the frustrating card shuffle of the first game, including rolling dice, stopping a card wheel, and stopping a pendulum-swinging laser.

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Combat is the least improved factor, and still mostly a Batman-lite affair as you shuffle from enemy to enemy mashing attacks while blocking and countering their strikes. Often I was facing a dozen or more enemies at a time, which can be exhilarating, but also incredibly frustrating. Controls and camera are still a bit clunky, though weapon abilities and combos work much better, and the different weapon types all feel very different from each other.

The new companions were probably my favorite element, adding a much needed boost to combat as well as some really nice story moments. Their tales were unlocked through a progressive series of cards and challenges, and the ending sequence goes as far as to borrow from the companion-driven climax of Mass Effect 2.

Hand of Fate 2 is an excellent sequel that successfully builds upon the neat ideas and concepts of the first game.

Read my review for PC Gamer!

My Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I still choke up a little bit when the words STAR WARS explode onto the screen and that John Williams fanfare kicks off. I had a bumper sticker in high school that proudly declared “My Other Vehicle is an X-Wing Fighter.” I read the books, played the video games, loved the re-releases in the 90s and the prequels in the early aughts (before we all collectively came together and declared them bad).

I’m a Star Wars fan, and I enjoyed The Last Jedi.

*** MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW ***

Continue reading “My Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #8

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns

#8 Injustice 2

I’m not at normally a fan of fighting games, but I do like superheroes, and enjoyed the first Injustice: Gods Among Us back in 2013. The sequel does almost everything better with a huge roster, fun leveling and loot progression, and the fantastic Multiverse. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #8”