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February 23, 2017

A Big Dumb List of Games I Want to Play

All right, show of hands: how many of you reading this has a backlog of games whose size routinely leaves you in the depths of despair?  Don’t be shy.  It’s fine to admit it.  I’m in just as deep as anyone else.

I’m a lover of video games -- and a connoisseur of them, if you want to give me even a shred of credit.  I write about games to try and show what the medium can offer; that usually means that I have to derail and talk about the garbage that plagues the medium, but every so often I get the chance to sing praises about this mechanic or that story.  The problem is twofold, as you’re likely all too aware.  First: there are a lot of games out there nowadays, and anyone who wants to play them all has a massive task ahead of them.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s the second issue: it seems like a pretty big percentage of games these days require a pledge that runs deeper than wedding vows.

Want to see everything Metal Gear Solid V has to offer?  Cool!  Say goodbye to 50 hours of your life!  Want to get comfortable with Kum Haehyun in Guilty Gear Xrd?  Better get ready to hit the Training Mode dozens of times so you can maybe win hundreds of matches online!  In my case, I’m putting time into Tales of Berseria and Final Fantasy 15 -- two JRPGs, which means that (as per the genre) I’m going to be out 100 hours even if I power through them both.  Not the most enticing prospect.

So you know what?  Let’s do something different.  Here’s a big dumb list of games I want to play.

To be clear, it’s not like I’m dropping Tales, and I’m certainly not dropping FF15 (since ranting about Final Fantasy was pretty much the genesis of my stint as a blogger).  But in a perfect world, I’d be able to clear the majority of a game -- not 100% completion, but at least reach the end credits -- within a reasonable amount of time so I could get to the next one.  And in that perfect world, I’d be able to write about a multitude of games instead of focusing on one obsessively, for good and for ill.  Mostly ill; I could write, like, half a dozen posts on Tales of Berseria, and my potential audience would probably reach the same number.

Still, it’s not as if those two games are going to keep me busy until the end of days.  At some point I’m going to finish them, and that means I’ll be free to move on to something else -- ideally, something that puts a smile on my face, but who knows?  Either way, you can probably guess what that means: if I play a game enough to form a solid opinion on it (or if I take away something that I feel is worth discussing), then that means you’ll get a post from me.  Not a bad deal, since I’m pretty much doing this for free.

Granted this isn’t a complete list, since some of the givens like Breath of the Wild and NieR Automata aren’t on here.  Likewise, there’s no guarantee I’ll get to every game on this list -- or even any game -- but you can still consider this an informal docket.  By extension, that means that if you have any suggestions -- if there’s a game you want to hear me talk about -- then now’s your chance to sway me.  Comment away.

Till then?  Here’s my big dumb list.  Starting with…

Resident Evil 4
So I may have a legitimacy problem.

My brother managed to drag out of me my opinion on the Uncharted series.  He loves it; I hate it; you can probably guess how well that conversation went.  As usual, he went with his brilliant argument of “You just don’t like anything”, which is the one surefire way to make me go berserk.  I countered by saying there are plenty of things I like; he countered with “Do you like Resident Evil 4?”  It was the most out of the blue, cherry-picked question he could have uttered -- and I had to answer by saying that I’d never finished it.  “How can you be a game reviewer if you haven’t played Resident Evil 4?” he asked.  And the argument pretty much ended there, because I share blood with an internet troll.

I guess he had a point, though.  Can I really probe modern video games if I haven’t played a pivotal entry in the entire medium?  Do I have a leg to stand on when one of the classics -- a game Capcom will probably re-release until the heat death of the universe -- has constantly slipped past my radar?  Uhhhhh…I’m probably okay, because RE4 isn’t the be-all and end-all of the medium, and I’ve presumably played enough games to compensate for my terrible, terrible transgression.  But it would be nice to see where we once stood.  How well does the game hold up?  Why was it such a hit?  I want to find the answers for myself.

Also, side question: you guys know that I’m not a game reviewer, right?  Like, that’s specifically not what I am.  But hell, I’ll play any game if it gives me the chance to shut my brother up.

Resident Evil 7
This is the only logical follow-up to RE4.  Well, relatively speaking, considering the huge story, gameplay, visual, tonal, audial, and authorial departure.  But it’s still got RE in the title, so I guess I’m duty-bound to dive in.

It’s probably worth noting upfront that the franchise isn’t really my jam (if that wasn’t implied already).  RE5 was the first one I ever cleared, and only because of a co-op run.  I guess I could’ve gone back to the older titles at any point, but playing through the disaster that was RE6 (and not even completely, since I mentally checked out long before the hidden lab full of giant evil Beyblades) made me swear off the franchise forever.  But if RE7 is as hard a swerve as I hear, then maybe it’s time to jump back in and give it a second chance.  No more baggage, no more missteps, and no more chasing after the specter of Call of Duty.

On top of that?  I’ve never really had much experience with horror games, survival or otherwise.  The closest I’ve gotten, generally speaking, is The Evil Within (which I dropped), and Until Dawn (which was mostly teen slasher shlock -- but shlock I enjoyed nonetheless).  Maybe it’s time for a change.  I just hope my heart can take it…

Pokken Tournament
The good thing about fighting games is that it doesn’t take upwards of 50 hours to complete the story mode -- assuming that they even have one.  The downside?  The time spent in single player gets traded for time spent in multiplayer and personal practice, meaning that the hypothetical How Long to Beat page would list the total time as infinity.  I don’t envy the fighting game pros, because they’ve likely put in dozens of hours to compete in the arms race -- and yet it’ll never, ever be enough.

But I do enjoy the genre.  On top of that, I enjoy Pok√©mon -- so playing this one should be a total no-brainer.  I don’t know the mechanics super-intimately, but I have a grasp of the basics; as simple as it may appear on the surface, we’re talking about a title that earned the attention of FGC legend Justin Wong and narrowly missed earning another spot at EVO this year.  It’s the “simple to learn, hard to master” mentality that helped Smash Bros., and I’m eager to give it a closer look someday.  Also, it has Blaziken, who’s pretty much the coolest Mon and only becomes cooler in this game by having a Rider Kick.

Devil May Cry 3
I don’t know if they’re the best posts I’ve ever written, but my stuff for Devil May Cry 4 is definitely some of my favorite content.  People on Destructoid seemed to like it, and the same held true for my posts on Bayonetta 2 and Metal Gear Rising.  It’s almost as if someone giving character action games their due time is an immensely appreciable service -- in which case, I’m inclined to do it again for DMC3.

I’ve never been an execution monster, so extensive combos are well beyond me.  Then again, I’m the sort who’s just happy with being able to complete levels without being fed my own ass on a platter, so as long as I get to rock with Nevan and Beowulf again, I’m happy.  I’m also interested in seeing how Vergil holds up as a character; DMC3 was my introduction to him, and many Saturdays were spent running through the first third of the game to replay Vergil battle one.  I wouldn’t mind reliving the glory days.  And while there have been teases of more Devil May Cry on the way, I’m more than willing to go back to the place where it all began.

I’d say “for me, at least”, but I actually have a used copy of DMC2.  So I was tainted beyond redemption from the first minute on.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
WELP.  Throw another JRPG onto the pile.

To be clear, I actually did start playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions a month or so after its release.  And I enjoyed it, too.  But it had to compete for time/space with Xenoblade Chronicles X -- the game I’d been neglecting for ages -- and that, in turn, had to compete with my marathon session with every single console game in the Uncharted series.  Once I cleared A Thief’s End, it was back to Xenoblade…and poor TMS got left in its case, day after day, night after night.

I need to fix that.  A lot of noise has been made about “censorship” and the executive meddling therein, but I actually agree with some (but not all) of the changes made, and -- more importantly -- they don’t change the fact that it’s still a really solid, really enjoyable game.  I’m bummed that I didn’t get around to finishing it within its release window, and now I’m worried about having to play catch-up in the face of the REAL showstopper, Persona 5.  But I owe it to myself to at least try to get back onto the stage.  Who else will help Tsubasa fulfill her dream of being a marketing tool famous idol, if not I?

Watch Dogs 2
This is my honest reaction to the mere existence of this game.  Why?  Because I’ve made it no secret that I absolutely despise vanilla Watch Dogs; I honestly thought that it was (and still is) the worst western-developed game I’ve ever played, whose mediocrity was so aggressive that it made me swear off Ubisoft games for ages.  I’m residually salty over the fact that the game sold enough to earn a sequel, especially since I’d wager that nobody gave a toss about the first game a month after release.

But I have to be fair.  I’m not exactly tripping over myself for the chance to give the sequel a second chance, yet I feel like I’d only be hamstringing myself by ignoring it.  Even if it’s always going to feel like Ubisoft said “Oh, well, now that we have your money, we should actually make a good game”, it doesn’t change the fact that they might have done what they should have the first time and build something worthwhile.  So I guess it’ll be something I’ll have to investigate.  However, good or bad, I reserve the right to call the company -- as a corporate entity that’s all too eager to peddle mediocrity -- a band of assholes.

I keep missing the Dark Souls train.  All three Dark Souls games, Bloodborne, Demon Souls, and the DLC attached to them have all successfully evaded me -- which to be fair probably wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t a huge coward that was too scurred to take on a real man’s challenge, but whatever.  I played Bloodborne the most out of the bunch, and thoroughly enjoyed it, to the point where I was ready to label it GOTY (alongside Xenoblade Chronicles X) despite my absolute bumbling.

The Souls series may have wrapped up -- for the most part -- but that’s a niche that plenty of competitors are going to try and fill.  It looks like Nioh has stepped up first, with the praise to show for it.  Even if From Software’s baby has eluded me, I’ve got some familiarity with the Ninja Gaiden series -- and based on the little footage I’ve seen, it seems strikingly reminiscent of that.  Granted it seems like I’m in for even more punishment than ever, given that that franchise is famous for crushing spirits, but…ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.  I get to be a samurai, or something!

Fire Emblem: Awakening
Okay, real talk.  Somebody, anybody, tell me upfront: are waifus and husbandos choking the life out of Fire Emblem?

I don’t know.  That’s the impression I’ve gotten from some stray comments I’ve seen around the internet.  Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the last two mainline games have seen some pretty high review scores -- and as far as I’ve heard, it was either Awakening/Fates or the death of the franchise as we know it.  That would be a massive shame, because there’s incredible value in a series full of high-stakes, high-tension strategy battles.  So even if the affect is different (if not controversial), I’ll go ahead and assume that the gameplay is on point.

I’ve actually played a little bit of Fates, and it seems solid.  Admittedly I didn’t get far enough to choose my country of allegiance, but I’m keen on pledging my loyalty to Camilla figuring out how Corrin would reconcile the blatant vileness of Nohr and its crusty monarch.  With that said, I feel like I can’t leap frog to the future until I play hopscotch with the past -- which means that number one with a bullet would be to play through Awakening.  Sometimes you’ve got to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going, even if that means playing with a bunch of waifus.

Spec Ops: The Line
People keep telling me that I need to play this game, and I keep putting it off.  Because reasons.  Dumb, mostly nonexistent reasons.  I mean, this is the game that put Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other modern military shooters in the crosshairs, right?  It masqueraded as one of the big boys, only to brutally eviscerate what it means to be a part of that genre (out-of-universe) and a soldier on a mission (in-universe), didn’t it?  If that’s the case, then I feel like I owe it to myself to give it a look.

It’s hard to say how much of an impact it had on CoD and its ilk, and the players who enjoy them.  Activision’s baby is still going, after all; yeah, its popularity and sales may have waned, but going from “tops the charts and makes a billion dollars in a couple of weeks” to “stays on the charts and makes millions of dollars over a month or two” isn’t exactly the slung rock that’ll take down a goliath.  So on one hand, Spec Ops fought a futile battle that didn’t do much to change the status quo.  On the other hand, it did its best to leave an impact -- to tell a story with meaning and vision -- and I want to honor that.  Because presumably, the alternative is to “get Bloppy” with Black Ops 4.  Or 3 again.  OR whatever I’m roped into playing next.

Yakuza 4
I’m so mad at myself for letting the Yakuza series slip by me.  There was a time when -- having noticed a 7-ish review score for Yakuza 3 posted on IGN -- I was wary of the franchise’s quality.  Then I played Yakuza 3, and I was basically like “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”  I had the same reaction to Yakuza 4, but sadly never got around to finishing it…or even making it to the third of four playable characters.  And that would cause a thunderous domino effect.  Because I never finished 4, I’d barred myself from playing 5; because I never finished 5, I barred myself from playing 0.  It’s only going to get worse with 6 coming down the pipeline.

It doesn’t take much for me to see the appeal.  It always felt like the Yakuza series had an old school, arcade-esque style neatly packaged in a quasi-open-world RPG.  On one hand, you get to explore the streets of Kamurocho and indulge in the society therein.  On the other hand, you get to fight some dope-ass battles on your way to the top (i.e. a shirtless battle on the roof of Millennium Tower, AKA the ironclad proof of one’s manliness).  Basically, RPG battles in this franchise are 3D beat-em-ups with some of the most bone-cracking super moves ever committed to a disc.  What’s not to love?

Valkyria Chronicles
I know I already used my one “real talk” token earlier in this post, but…seriously, real talk: why don’t more games look like Valkyria Chronicles, or at least try to?

Granted, it’s not like I expect or demand every game to adopt the picturesque, sketchy style of the first Valkyria game; that’d be redundant, get old fast, and spoil the magic.  But I thought that the point behind that game was to show what the then-fresh PS3 hardware could do.  I thought it was a chance to let games push the envelope on visual styles and aesthetics so we could enter a brand new era.  Then the majority of that generation (and a chunk of this one) devolved into The Brown and Gray Show with Grimy Textures Featuring Bloom.

I’d wager that visually, VC1 -- even the original release, which I still have despite the prison of dust encasing it -- holds up today.  Still, I want to engage in the gameplay more than anything else; it’s a mix of turn-based battles and real-time gunplay that left me intrigued when I started a playthrough (years after the initial release, because I didn’t even have a PS3) that still intrigues me to this day.  I’m also eager to see what the story is like; I’ve heard that it falls apart after a while, but I have fond memories of the affect and camaraderie between Squad 7.  Serve me up some more of that, and I’ll be happy…especially if we’re doomed to never receive another Advance Wars.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
And this is how you bookend a post.  I started with a question of my legitimacy, so I have to end it with a question of my legitimacy.  Because, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never finished Ocarina of Time.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure I’ve never even done a genuine playthrough.  I just watched my brother clear it, and then didn’t do much with it besides faff about on his completed, fully-stocked save file.  That’s not something I should admit with any sort of confidence (if at all), but here I am.

I know I’m not the first one to try and analyze Ocarina of Time, and I won’t be the last.  Still, stepping away from such a seminal part of gaming history is a bigger crime than putting a dog in an ugly Christmas sweater.  Beyond that?  I only just played Majora’s Mask in full for the first time a few years back, and that immediately rocketed to the top of my favorite games list.  Who’s to say the same won’t happen again with its predecessor?

Granted the same thing could happen with its successor, Breath of the Wild, but…hey, it ain’t March yet.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve got.  What do make of my list?  Any reactions?  Any suggestions?  Feel free to weigh in, and make a case for your recommendation if you’ve got one.  It’s a wide world out there, and only a true deity could hope to play every last game out there.

And at best, I’m only a deity in Tekken 5 -- which, admittedly, I only managed to reach through luck and perseverance.  But a win is a win, right?

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