Final Fantasy VII: redescubriendo un clásico

Video Games

Mi primer acercamiento a Final Fantasy fue a través de la emulación de Super Nintendo cuando era un puberto de secundaria. No podía creer que podía jugar juegos en mi computadora de manera gratuita… y tal vez no tan legal. Busqué listas de los mejores títulos para la consola y me eché en muy poco tiempo el FFIV, FFV (fan translation) y el excelente FFVI. A mis 12 años quedé más que impresionado; junto con Chrono Trigger, estas eran verdaderas novelas de fantasía interactivas como no había visto antes.

En esa época había algo que me provocaba demasiada curiosidad: las discusiones en foros siempre mencionaban la séptima entrega, de 1997, como la mejor de todas. Como no tenía Playstation (yo era chico N64), tuve que recurrir de nuevo a la emulación y a un bondadoso amigo que me prestó los discos para poder jugar por fin FFVII. Efectivamente, este era el videojuego más ambicioso que había visto hasta ese entonces, por encima de Ocarina of Time o los otros RPGs de Square. Estaba maravillado; era una aventura épica que mezclaba fantasía y ciencia ficción (algo nuevo para la serie), personajes entrañables con personalidades complejas (los más importantes al menos), un soundtrack espectacular y un gameplay sumamente adictivo y personalizable.

Más de 23 años después de su lanzamiento y con un gran legado detrás de él—no por nada aparece Cloud en Smash Bros.—, hay que preguntarse, ¿qué tan bueno es realmente Final fantasy VII hoy en día? ¿El hype es real o solamente era un producto bueno para su tiempo? Acabo de terminarlo en Switch y puedo confirmar que sigue siendo una obra maestra, aunque su exterior anticuado no lo aparente. El juego comienza con un breve vistazo panorámico a la enorme ciudad de Midgar y un tease de Aeris (antes de usar la traducción correcta Aerith), para luego entrar de lleno a la acción con Cloud, Barret y los demás del grupo AVALANCHE en su misión de destruir el reactor de energía Mako. Esta introducción es ya tan icónica que fue replicada como demo de las gráficas del PS3 y aparece una versión similar en la precuela Crisis Core y finalmente de nuevo, obviamente, en el Remake.

1997 VS 2020. Cómo han cambiado los tiempos.

Dicen que de la vista nace el amor, así que hoy en día sería muy difícil que alguien se enamorara de estos humildes polígonos, los cuales no han envejecido tan elegantemente. Las versiones overworld de los personajes y la mayoría de los minijuegos se ven pésimos. Los escenarios pre-rendereados siguen siendo buenos en mi opinión, sin embargo los ports a nuevas consolas no han actualizado la resolución de estos (probablemente Square no conservó los archivos originales), así que se ven muy borrosos y contrastan terriblemente con los modelos, los cuales sí son HD aunque tengan pocos polígonos y texturas pobres. El resultado es una gran inconsistencia; los juegos de SNES son más agradables visualmente precisamente porque no tienen este problema.

A pesar de todo, después del shock inicial y recordando que este es un producto de 1997 en una de las primeras consolas con gráficos 3D, no puedo juzgarlo severamente por este aspecto. La imaginación y ambición, incluso comparado con videojuegos actuales, sobrepasan cualquier limitante visual. Incluso los monitos pequeños son tan abstractos que juegan a favor de la experiencia. Hoy en día, como en el caso del Remake, los gráficos pueden ser tan realistas, con personajes con voice acting y/o motion capture, que evocan más bien ver una película que leer una novela. Si alguna voz no es de tu agrado o hay algún momento extremadamente cringe, tu experiencia puede verse afectada negativamente. Jugar un RPG antiguo, donde tu avatar es híper-simple y los diálogos son leídos, requiere un uso activo de tu imaginación; algunas partes de la historia son tan ridículos que de manera realista no funcionarían tan bien.

Scott McCloud explica cómo la simplificación puede beneficiar la transmición de un mensaje

La trama de FFVII es un desmadre, pero uno divertido. Honestamente no recordaba que había tantos eventos, algunos sumamente disparatados: ataques terroristas por parte de ambientalistas, corporaciones malvadas que quieren acabar con los recursos del planeta sin importarle la humanidad, prostíbulos con trata de personas, una violación sugerida hacia Cloud (eran los 90 y esto se consideraba gracioso), experimentos científicos de clonación de seres extraterrestres, la inminente destrucción del planeta por un meteorito, la trágica muerte irreversible de un personaje principal (ya tan spoileado que es de cultura general), amensia y PTSD, un triángulo amoroso que genera debate aún hoy en día, un viaje al espacio y hasta un duelo a cachetadas estilo telenovela. Esto es parte de la ambición que he mencionado, el alcance de la aventura es enorme, tanto así que el Remake solo abarca alrededor del 15% de la historia del juego original.

Los personajes de cualquier Final Fantasy son uno de los grandes atractivos de cualquier entrega y en esta ocasión tenemos muchos que con el paso del tiempo se han vuelto icónicos, como Cloud, Sephiroth, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, Vincent, Red XIII y los Turks. Este juego marcó la primera vez que Tetsuya Nomura, antes de saltar a la fama como director de Kingdom Hearts, hiciera el diseño de personajes, aún sin consolidar su polarizante estilo de zippers, bolsillos y accesorios excesivos e innecesarios. Tal vez debido a las limitantes gráficas del momento, todos los personajes cuentan con diseños sencillos con personalidades interesantes y entretenidas (excepto la abominación de Cait Sith) que han perdurado a través del tiempo. Esta vez que volví a jugar, Tifa se convirtió en mi personaje favorito; a pesar de su pasado traumático sale adelante volviéndose más fuerte, pero sin perder su sencillez y su lado sensible. Es inolvidable el momento cuando sobrevive el intento de ejecución en Junon y es rescatada por sus amigos mientras suena la grandiosa “The Highwind Takes to the Skies” de fondo.

#Queen (y waifu de muchos)

Todos los soundtracks de la era dorada de Final Fantasy (IV al X) son excelentes, pero FFVII marca el comienzo de una mayor libertad creativa para Nobuo Ueamatsu, gracias a la mayor capacidad de memoria y el chip de sonido más avanzado del PSX. Aun así, este genio de la música optó por utilizar MIDI y crear un panorama sonoro distintivamente de videojuego, poniendo énfasis en las melodías de las canciones. “One Winged Angel” sobresale por utilizar voces digitalizades de un coro, contribuyendo a una memorable y épica batalla final.

El tema principal de batalla cumple su cometido, sin embargo después de escucharlo un millón de veces sí es cansado. En cambio, el rock progresivo del tema de los jefes “Still More Fighting” (también llamada a veces “Fight On!” o “Those Who Fight Further”) es perfectamente emocionante y pegajoso; a veces escojo el escenario de Midgar en el Smash para poder escucharla de nuevo. “J-E-N-O-V-A” y “The Birth of a God” también son temas de batalla perfectos que tristemente escuchamos pocas ocasiones (la segunda solo una vez).

“On that Day, Five Years Ago” es melancolía hecha música, recreando el sentimiento de Cloud sobre su memoria distante, difusa, confusa y triste. “Cosmo Canyon” y “Wutai” añaden un toque exótico al soundtrack, dotando de personalidad sus respectivas locaciones. Otro stand out es “Underneath the Rotting Pizza”, una delicia amenazantemente chill. Todo el soundtrack está en Spotify así que nadie tiene excusa para no conocerlo.

El tema principal, con orquesta en vivo, también es una joya.

Ya he hablado de la parte audiovisual y la presentación, ¿pero qué tal está el gameplay? Siguiendo la misma línea de los juegos pasados, hay cuatro maneras principales de interactuar con el mundo: el overworld, donde recorres los escenarios para hablar con gente, obtener información y comprar y administrar recursos; el mapa, donde te trasladas de un lugar a otro a través de distintos medios; las peleas a base a turnos; y los terribles minijuegos. Estos modos son simplemente una actualización de lo que ya existía en juegos pasados, pero un aspecto único de FFVII y es el sistema de Materia, el cual es particular a esta entrega y es una evolución de los limitados Espers del juego pasado.

Usar Materia permite a cada personaje utilizar estas esferas de energía para distintos fines como: equipar magia, agregar nuevos comandos de acción o añadir distintos efectos pasivos. Teóricamente puedes crear infinitas combinaciones y distintos builds para tu party, dándole mucho replay value al juego. Cada personaje cuenta con sus propios stats, limit breaks y armas personales, por lo que no son completamente homogéneos. Con suficiente cuidado puedes terminar muy overpowered, aunque también puedes limitarte para añadir mayor dificultad. El sistema puede llegar a ser muy adictivo, cambiar la Materia de un arma a otra y de personaje a personaje para crear nuevas estrategias involucra planear cuidadosamente, y es muy satisfactorio cuando tu combinación resulta tan poderosa como esperabas.

Si hay un aspecto que no me agrada del todo son los minijuegos, algunos de los cuales son extremadamente frustrantes. ¡Te odio, Golden Saucer! Si bien hay algunos muy inspirados como la persecución en motocicleta al escapar de Midgar o la estrategia de defensa de Fort Condor, la mayoría son monótonas pérdidas de tiempo. La cantidad de estas distracciones es ridícula y en algunas ocasiones son obligatorias para avanzar; casi aviento mi control durante la sección de stealth en el edificio de Shinra. Si no fuera por algunas guías que encontré en Youtube, probablemente no hubiera terminado nunca de criar Chocobos o recorrer por completo el Great Glacier.

No, gracias.

La primera vez que juegas FFVII debería ser sin ninguna guía, a menos que estés gravemente atorado, pero en un replay no veo nada de malo en aprovechar los apoyos que ya existen para encontrar la mayor cantidad de secretos, los cuales abundan en este juego y a veces son tan crípticos que sería imposible encontrarlos sin ayuda. Los ports de consolas actuales también cuentan con unos ajustes a la velocidad del juego y a los encuentros aleatorios, así como un incremento temporal de poder (este nunca lo utilicé). Honestamente—y que me perdonen los puristas—, recomendaría a todos jugar las versiones con estas opciones, ya que agilizan bastante algunas partes monótonas, como el clásico y tedioso grinding para subir de nivel o cuando simplemente quieres explorar sin ser fastidiado por una batalla cada diez pasos. Aunque hay que tener mucho cuidado, porque abusar de estos modificadores provocó varias veces que se me congelara el juego y perdí mi avance. Así que hay que grabar obsesivamente cada que se pueda.

Como un adulto con mayor apreciación del tiempo, tener estas opciones para agilizar el juego es increíble y solamente por eso recomendaría jugar un port actualizado en lugar del original (también aplica para VII y IX). Cuando jugué FFVII por primera vez en mi adolescencia recuerdo haber acumulados más de 60 horas de juego. En esta ocasión hice alrededor de 34, obteniendo incluso secretos que no hice la primera vez. Tener más opciones de accesibilidad siempre es bueno.

En 1997 jamás hubiéramos imaginado que podríamos jugar FFVII de manera portátil en una consola de Nintendo.

Estoy seguro que algún día jugaré la primera parte del Remake; he escuchado cosas buenas, y algunas malas, de él; pero debido al alcance de ese proyecto sospecho que podría convertirse en el siguiente A Song of Ice and Fire, una épica saga ambiciosa que parece que nunca tendrá fin. Por ahora, el Final Fantasy VII original se sostiene como una obra increíblemente bien lograda (sobre todo para su tiempo) y ha cimentado su lugar en la historia de los videojuegos con justa razón. Es una experiencia mágica incomparable, con una cantidad de contenido absurda y enorme personalización en el modo de juego. Los personajes y la historia, aunque muy revuelta, son muy memorables. Algunos de sus temas resuenan incluso más fuerte hoy en día, como el del capitalismo voraz que propicia la destrucción del planeta. Si no has jugado en mucho tiempo (o nunca) Final Fantasy VII, esta temporada de encierro y ocio es perfecta para recordar uno de los más grandes juegos de todos los tiempos.

Octopath Traveler: A Flawed but Enjoyable Retro JRPG

Review, Video Games

Given the current state of the world, global pandemic and all, playing a long immersive video game seems like the perfect way to spend time. I recently finished the main quest for Octopath Traveler for Nintendo Switch, which took me about 60 hours to complete and, while I did enjoy it a lot, I have very mixed feelings about it. Although it possesses a very rewarding and addictive battle system coupled with gorgeous art and music, the story structure and a huge difficulty spike at the end make it hard to recommend, especially for the non-experienced in the genre.

The main appeal of the game is its retro presentation reminiscent of JRPGs of the 90’s. The sprites, music, gameplay, and overall feel of the game hits hard on the nostalgia if you’ve come across the classic SNES JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Having delved into this genre, especially when I was younger, I felt right at home with Octopath.

I’m drooling with this screencap.

The Good

Octopath Traveler is a fun game, plain and simple. The battle system is genius, with just the right balance of simplicity and complexity to be enjoyable even during regular enemy battles. Finding and exploiting weaknesses keeps you engaged with constant decision making, you cannot just spam the attack command and expect to win. The eight playable characters possess unique abilities, in and out of combat, and eventually you get a simple job system (think Final Fantasy V or Bravely Default) that allows customization for creative party setups and strategies.

During the main campaign the difficulty can be quite challenging, but not unfair. I didn’t feel the need to grind (although it is required for post-game) to be able to advance, but rather just change up my party, jobs, and skills. You are mostly free to go wherever you want and tackle whichever available chapters you wish in an open-world like experience. Later areas are gated by high difficulty, though, but the sense of freedom is nice to have.

The fully orchestrated music is outstanding. I will not go into technical details because other people have analyzed and clearly explained how it evokes classic RPG music while updating it for modern times. It suffices to say that it’s beautiful; the town and overworld themes (like Among Stately Peaks) are atmospheric and classy while battle themes (like Battle II) are catchy, epic, and full of energy to keep you pumped during the fight. It is so good it has become one of my favorite OSTs in recent memory.

Sound design is also remarkable. Listening to the crunch when breaking enemies’ shields or the exploding ice crystals of scholar magic never got old and gave me a steady dopamine rush that is hard to describe in words. You know a lot of care was put into the sound effects when the coin sounds when buying equipment at the shops feels so, so satisfying.

The art of the game, probably the game’s most distinguishable feature, is stunning (except for maybe the overuse of lighting effects). The spritework channels old school charm with a few special effects added to enhance and modernize the look, the extremely detailed boss sprites are particularly impressive. Gorgeous character portraits and the ending illustrations are small bonuses that are a treat to see.

Seriously, this should be in a museum.

As for the eight main characters alluded to in the title, I found all of them to be very charming and cute. They are very tropey, not overly complex, but their fun, distinct personalities make up for it. I set the audio to Japanese and the voice acting was enjoyable enough, especially during battles when they shout out their attacks or scream when getting hurt.

The Bad

So Octopath Traveler has a lot of things going on for it, but unfortunately the enjoyment is brought down by some clunky or plain bad design choices. This is all my opinion of course, but I’ll try to explain it the best I can.

Great, another unmemorable cave.

The (J)RPG genre has two main draws, gameplay and story. I’ve already stated how much I liked the battle system itself, but I cannot say the same for the story. As the title suggests, there are eight protagonists on their own journeys. Each one has to go through four chapters that encompass their adventures through the medieval-like continent of Orsterra, with their own background, motivations and supporting cast. This all sounds very interesting on paper but the main issue is that the eight paths never intersect, even when some events occur in the same towns. Sometimes a character states out their first impressions of a town even when they’ve already been there.

The eight characters do travel together, but their stories might as well occur in parallel universes. During the regular campaign (I know about the final dungeon, I’ll get to that) there is no overarching plot or event that makes it logical for these people to stick together on an adventure. There is a huge disconnect between each protagonist travelling with other three people but when story events happen they all conveniently disappear. I understand it is game logic, but I’m sure there are more effective ways to incorporate the whole party organically into each other’s events. The occasional (optional) group banter is amusing but doesn’t have a real impact on character development. There are some genuinely touching scenarios, like Tressa’s last chapter, and interesting moral dilemmas, like Alfyn healing a murderer or Primrose’s thirst for revenge, but it is not enough to be fully engaged with these people. It doesn’t help that the chapter structure is very flawed from a pacing perspective.

From the very beginning you can select whichever character’s Chapter 1 to tackle, and after completing their scenario the next one opens up, locked behind greater difficulty. The suggested way of playing is finishing everyone’s Chapter 1, then all Chapter 2’s, and so on, but since the stories are not intertwined, whatever story advancement is next for the current character will have to wait a few hours before resuming. Any momentum a story comes to a halt when you switch to another protagonist’s story, some of which might not be that interesting honestly (Ophelia’s second chapter is pure filler). In the end you have watched eight discrete stories unfold, but fed to you very slowly in small doses.

This game is also guilty of being extremely repetitive. Every chapter follows the same formula: you arrive at a town where your character needs to use their unique ability to find someone related to their story, after a few cutscenes you travel to a generic dungeon (seriously, the amount of events that happen inside bland caves is ridiculous) where you fight a boss, and finally return to the town to close the chapter with a few more conversations with a side character. Rinse and repeat 31 fucking times. If the battles weren’t so fun I wouldn’t have endured through half of the chapters. It does not help at all that dungeons have no personality whatsoever, with no clever puzzles or minigames or anything to spice things up, it is always a straightforward point A to point B with a few branching corridors with a treasure chest at the end.

Hope you love grinding if you want to see this.

And finally, that freaking final dungeon. After completing everyone’s Chapter 4, it turns out everything was indeed connected, you just don’t find out until after the credits roll. To understand more about Orsterra’s lore and the plot that links every character’s journey together you have to get to a secret final dungeon, accessible after doing a very obscure and kind of random sidequest. You fast travel to some old ruins in what seems like a cheap last moment addition. After a savepoint at the entrance, you have to battle again a buffed up version of the eight personal final bosses. There is no going back and no way to save, so you have to go through all the enemies in what could take more than half an hour to be able to face the true final boss. For the first and only time in the whole game, you are asked to form two parties which will face off against two separate, exceedingly difficult final boss battles. All the previous enemies you fought are nothing in comparison. The normal pace of the game makes it so you have underleveled characters, so you will be forced to grind to get them to an acceptable level, and still if you lose you will waste more time when you want a rematch.

I was unprepared and caught off-guard by this last boss, and the game makes it frustratingly punishing and time-consuming to have a rematch so I have no interest in attempting it again. This feels like such a slap in the face; respect my time, Octopath Traveler! And so my final impression of the game is tainted by this situation. Super difficult bosses are a staple of JRPGs but they are generally not integral to the main plot, but rather an extra diversion for those looking for an extra challenge. The last bit of plot should not have been locked behind this travesty. Luckily, Youtube saved me some very precious hours.

The Veredict

I don’t regret my time spent with the game; the art, music and gameplay are consistently good throughout. If you’re looking for a nostalgia-inducing sprite-based JRPG that will hook you for long hours, Octopath is fine. I just wish more was put into creating a good plot and more varied scenarios during story progression. The real final boss not locked behind hours of grinding would be nice too. The groundwork has been laid for something very special, an improved sequel has the potential to be a truly great game, or maybe they could reuse the engine for a remake of some SNES games if they don’t want to spend a FFVII Remake budget on it. If that doesn’t happen at least we got a stellar soundtrack.

My Top 6 Disappointments (2010 – 2019)

Movies, Music, Review, TV, Video Games

Not everything was good in the media landscape during the last decade, so to balance out my previous top 10 lists I have to talk about the bad stuff. These are six games, movies, shows, or albums that greatly disappointed me. Disappointment involves having a previous liking, fondness, or hope in something, so I don’t necessarily hate the following but rather was severely let down by them.

6. Pokémon Sword/Shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield are fun games, I’ve already clocked more than 30 hours in my file. Despite this, they are very disappointing to me. These were the first mainline Pokémon games on a home console (Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee don’t count) and developer Game Freak’s laziness is apparent everywhere.

The most obvious example is the cutting of more than half of the Pokédex, “Gotta catch ’em all” no more. The 3D models are evidently recycled from previous games, but they couldn’t bother to port all the previous ones over. Graphics look like upscaled 3DS visuals and feature horrendous pop-up that’s inexcusable in 2019. The world design is exteremely linear and boring, except for the Wild Area (that’s a cool idea). Max Raids are not fun, but rather frustrating and uninsipired. And the list goes on.

Still, these games sold like crazy and they do have some good stuff in it. The new Pokémon designs are still pretty creative and inspired and the music is amazing. Pokémon, I love you, but you can do A LOT better.

5. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

crimes grindelwald

I consider myself a moderate Harry Potter fan. I read all the books, even the fanfic-y script for Cursed Child (which I cannot judge as harshly without seeing the play) and watched all the movies. I respect and admire J.K. Rowling for her creativity and imagination that created a worldwide beloved franchise. I thought the first Fantastic Beasts movie was OK, I did enjoy it and hence thought that things could only improve in the sequel, right? Wrong!

The worst sin of The Crimes of Grindelwald is just how BORING it is. The plot is convoluted and suffers from too much characters doing nothing interesting. There are some very stupid story decisions, like the lame romantic misunderstanding between Newt and Tina, the shying away from Dumbledore’s sexuality, random, unnecessary baby murder (twice!), a surprise Dumbledore sibling (this might change in the following movies), Nagini is a human and serves nothing to the plot, and some more I’m probably forgetting.

J.K. writes good stories, but not good scripts. WB shouldn’t let her write the following movies, or at least bring in some help.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale (TV Show)

handmaids_tale

The Handmaid’s Tale started out as a faithful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, the first season covering the original book. It was shocking, gripping, tense, frightening, and very socially relevant. Without more source material to adapt, however, the show turned into a repetitive, glacially paced torture porn borefest.

When you set up the rules for a fictional world, disregarding or ignoring them constantly breaks the suspension of disbelief and makes the story fall apart. June should’ve been killed a thousand times by season three, but her plot armor is so thick that there is no suspense anymore. The fakeouts of her escaping Gilead are so tiresome now that I don’t care anymore. Those lingering close-up shots with a monologue from Elizabeth Moss were interesting the first times, but after seeing them for the hundreth time you feel exhausted.

Meh. At least Atwood released The Testaments and gave a (arguably) satisfying conclusion to Gilead.

3. Utopia by Björk

utopia_cover

I’m all for experimentation in music, but Björk is just fucking with us now. Utopia is avant-garde pop that is not pleasurable to listen to. There are almost no hooks or interesting melodies to latch on to, the Arca beats are cringe-worthy to put it mildly, and songs are just too long without creating an interesting progression to justify it, they just fall flat.

To give her credit, she creates some pretty unique fairy-tale-esque atmospheres that are enjoyable, but would probably serve better as background music for a movie or videogame. By trimming the excess fat, getting rid of those awful glitch drums, and adding some more interesting melodies, this album would actually be very nice. Those nice flutes and inventive music videos are wasted here.

2. Silent Hill

silent_hill_revelations

Silent Hill was once a very respectable survival horror franchise (I love 2 and 3 to death). Although it never reached Resident Evil popularity, it steadily gained its good reputation with its unique setting, monsters and psychological horror. The last decade, however, saw this reputation being dragged through the mud by stupid choices made by Konami.

The games after the fourth were not developed in Japan anymore and thus lost their unique Japanese horror sensibility. The two Hollywood movies were a mess, the second one in particular is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in a theater. The Silent HD collection was a horrible glitch-ridden mess that performed worse despite being in newer generation hardware.

And when things started to look promising again with a new game developed by Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro and (almost) Junji Ito, Konami shut it down. How the hell do you fuck this up? Ugh. RIP Silent Hill.

1. Game of Thrones

Daenerys-Game-of-Thrones-Season-8-Episode-4

By now everyone knows Game of Thrones’ ending sucked. but this was a special kind of sucking because it retroactively made the series impossible to rewatch now, knowing it’s all for nothing. All the fascinating, complex characters and mysteries built during the previous years came crashing down violently. Nothing mattered in the end, the plot became nonsensical, characters turned into complete idiots, others were killed just to get rid of the clutter, and some others were kept alive because of fanservice.

The number one show in the last decade, the global phenomenon, the ratings (and piracy) king was killed in front of our eyes and we sat and watched and died inside. This show will go down in television history as a perfect example of how to turn gold into a turd. At least we have the books for a satisfying conclusion… Just kidding, George R.R. Martin will never finish them ☹️.

My Top 10 Video Games (2010 – 2019)

Review, Video Games

Since it’s almost 2020, it’s time to look back at the past ten years and make lists, because everyone likes top 10’s. Here are my favorite games from the past decade.

10. The King of Fighters XIII

kof-xiii-may-yuri

This game is GORGEOUS. The pixel art is super detailed, vibrant and incredibly well animated. We will probably never get a 2D fighter as pretty as this one. The gameplay is very tight as well. I’ve been a longtime KOF fan and the mix of classic gameplay and eye candy fills me with joy.

9. Portal 2

portal2-screenshots-7

Clever, charming first-person puzzle-shooter with nice writing too (GLaDOS and Wheatley are the funniest robots ever). Where’s the Switch port of Portal 1 and 2?

8. Hollow Knight

wiiuds_hollowknight_08

A Metroidvania with a bit of Dark Souls flavor set in a moody underground bug world. Everyone should download this game, it’s crazy cheap for so much quality content.

7. Celeste

celeste

An insanely difficult platformer made less frustrating by charming pixel art and a great soundtrack. The plot deals with mental health issues, handled in a very touching way. Even though I died thousands of times, I smiled all the way through.

6. The Last of Us

The Last of Us™ Remastered_20160414141835

Videogame storytelling at its finest. There’s no survival horror as visceral and poignant as this one. The production values are top notch too. 

5. Undertale

undertale-bar

An instant cult classic, made almost entirely by just one guy (Tobyfox)! Deconstructing the old school RPG formula, think Earthbound, Undertale creates a unique experience that couldn’t be replicated on any other medium. The cast of characters are all very lovable, even random NPCs are full of personality. The soundtrack is a gem, so much that it has been played by video game orchestras. Don’t be fooled by the naive graphics, this game is spectacular.

4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

super-smash-bros-ultimate-switch-4

A crossover that no one could’ve imagined 20 years ago. It is truly incredible that this game even exists with so many characters and such respect for them and gaming history. Ultimate makes all previous Smash games obsolete and is still expanding its content with DLC. Smash is always fun.

3. Dark Souls

dark-souls-remastered-moonlight-butterfly-boss-walkthrough-guide-1.900x

I got into Dark Souls a little late, after playing the remastered version on Switch. I’d mostly heard that its ruthless difficulty was its main appeal, but it is so much more than that. Lordran looks like a common medieval fantasy land, but you soon get to know it’s actually a cruel, decaying land filled with people and creatures that want you VERY dead. It’s an action RPG that punishes and rewards both in great measure. You will die, hundreds of times, but getting better at the game is extremely addicting and satisfying. Trying to figure out the cryptic lore if also very entertaining.

2. Bloodborne

bloodborneboss

Dark Souls, but with a more aggressive gameplay and a Gothic-Victorian horror setting. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive he’d love this game.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This game has been so hyped before and after its release, and it DESERVES it. A true open-world game like none before, Hyrule feels like a real place you can (and will) get lost in. Just walking around and exploring the huge world is fun in itself. The sense of wonder and discovery is one that I had not felt in a long, long time. This game sets the bar very high for future Zelda games and adventure games in general.