GOTY 2017: Doug's Honorable Mentions
While our list of the top ten games of the year is a collaborative effort, there are always some casualties. Our Honorable Mentions offer each staff member a chance to highlight some of their other personal favorite games of 2017 that simply didn't make the cut.
Well, at least 2017 was a great year for games!
2017 was a hell of a year for games. As a whole, the console, handheld, and PC markets all saw a substantial amount of exciting new games this past year. We saw the return of some of our favorite series, new games from old developers, the whole-cloth creation of new genres over the course of one calendar year, and—most exciting—a brand-new Nintendo console. As I write this in January 2018, let’s not forget that the Nintendo Switch was unveiled 15 months ago, was a mystery until 12 months ago, and was only launched nine months ago. Only now am I seeing stable stock in Japanese stores, such is the demand for Nintendo’s home-and-handheld hybrid system.
2017 saw an avalanche of great games released, but it also saw too many negative trends inside the games industry from business and social perspectives. In my following Honorable Mentions I discuss one of the business issues at length, and I plan on addressing the social issues brought forth on new media at length in the future, but I can safely say that Silicon Sasquatch has always stood on the side of progress, against exclusion of any form, and if that makes you mad, you are encouraged to read a different website.
Without any further ado, here are games which I humbly submit to you as well worth your time (even if they did not make our top 10 list).
Sega | January 24, 2017 | PlayStation 4
What an absolute delight. The way that Yakuza 0 catapulted from afterthought to main attraction was unrivaled last year, and has happened rarely in my life. Acting as a reboot for Yakuza in the United States—it remains one of the biggest series on PlayStation in Japan—it also is a prequel. The mainline Yakuza games take place in the 2000s; Yakuza 0 is set in 1988, the apex of the “bubble era.” That change means even fans and veterans of the previous games have a new world to explore, and what a world it is.
I had minimal experience with the Yakuza games beforehand. I thought my Japanese would be sufficient to play one early on in my time in Japan; I was sorely mistaken. Then, when Yakuza 4 became a free monthly PlayStation Plus offering, I downloaded and tried it. My impression of the series—sleazy Shenmue—turned completely around as I drank in the pleasant blend of melodrama and humor found in the storytelling. Unfortunately, Yakuza 4 is not the best jumping-off point for a series newcomer; happily, Yakuza 0 is a much better entry spot.
When I’ve recommended Yakuza 0 to friends (including fellow Sasquatch staffers), I’ve pointed out the twisting and turning soap opera of a main story, the quirky side-story missions, and the fun and surprisingly heartfelt secondary jobs that each protagonist can undertake. And the fact that you can beat people to a pulp by breakdancing or by smashing them with motorcycles.
With Yakuza 0, the Yakuza Team at Sega is far more aware what this series is and what it’s voice should be than with prior titles. That trust leads to a stronger game, and the reactions from a more mainstream audience last year prove that faith. Series protagonist Kiryu Kazuma can come off as a bit of a thick naïf, but Sega know that; because the player sees Kiryu in so many situations, it rounds the character into a believably noble-yet-lovable lunkhead. The second protagonist in Yakuza 0 is longtime series sub-boss Goro Majima, who gets a deft and subtle arc throughout the game. Major shout-out to the localization team for providing excellent translation—in a game with so much story, the translation work carries a heavy burden.
But just as Sega seems to be more comfortable with the characters and writing, this includes comfort that the audience won’t be turned off by the cultural chasm existing Japan and the West. This is only exacerbated by the 1980s setting—telephone chat clubs, disco dancing, cabarets and cabaret clubs, and yet more are alien not only to Americans but young Japanese as well. But it works: Sega has created a fascinating time capsule, and a great entry into a long-overlooked series.
Gran Turismo Sport
Polyphony Digital | October 17, 2017 | PlayStation 4
The Gran Turismo series will always have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with the first game, jumped through many hurdles to play the second on a Sega Dreamcast, picked up the third as soon as I bought a PlayStation 2, and spent countless hours my freshman year of college playing the fourth. The fifth was a disappointment—but by that time I had moved on to something new, Forza Motorsport, which was doing a lot of fun and interesting things on top of the formula established by the veteran.
But with Gran Turismo 6, I was back in the fold, and as the announcement of Gran Turismo Sport arrived, followed by the inevitable delay, I followed with close eyes. I wanted it to be good; I was afraid the new direction wouldn’t work. Instead of making another single-player-focused game, Polyphony Digital has instead delivered the casual console iRacing I’ve needed for years. It’s my choice for Sports Game of the Year for a good reason.
Gran Turismo Sport has fewer cars than GT6, but it puts the fewer that are there into smartly crafted classes specifically sorted for online play. And the focus on how clean you drive along with your speed means the wheel-to-wheel action is much more fair and less crashy than other online racing games. GT Sport has the potential to also be my Sports Game of the Year for 2018 at this rate.
EA Sports | September 29, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
I’m a diehard Pro Evo Soccer fan; I’ve probably put more than 1,000 hours into that series over the years. Last year, I bought FIFA 17 and sold it within a month; this year, the improvements to FIFA 18 were such that I can heartily recommend it as the best traditional sports game of the year, and a great pickup for any soccer fans. The single-player career modes (especially running your own team) remain accessible yet still deep, and the addition of Mass Effect-style interactive conversation trees for player purchases and sales adds an appreciable layer to that portion of the game.
FIFA 18 has a sequel to “The Journey,” the more guided single-player story mode which debuted last year and has been wheeled out into multiple EA Sports titles this year. That a sports game gets a direct sequel to its single-player mode is pretty notable and not something I would’ve imagined possible a few years ago. The online mode remains the best of the “collect cards and make a fantasy team” genre, and in a year spoiled by developers shoehorning loot crates into games, it’s refreshingly non-exploitative.
More importantly, it begins to add into FIFA what I’ve always enjoyed about Pro Evo: creativity. Too often, there’s been a single route to effectively scoring goals in FIFA games; FIFA 18 feels like a puzzle that can be solved in multiple ways. And it does so while presenting the match in broadcast fashion. Even for casual soccer or sports fans, it’s a rewarding and fun entry into this world.
NBA Live 18
EA Sports | September 15, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Xbox One
What a comeback. After being left on the shelf for multiple years, EA Sports has re-entered the NBA simulation world with a fun game that holds the promise of—whisper it quietly—toppling an empire, and without a T-pose to be found. Whether you just want to pick up and play with all the stars of the NBA, or you want to create your own player and guide them through the story-lite streets and league mode, it’s a very fun game of basketball. And while it sounds like a backhanded compliment, it is an incredible return for a series previously left for dead.
This is also as much a vote for NBA Live 18 as a vote against the toxic economy 2K Sports created in NBA 2K18. Many more people have written about it since the September release of both games, but NBA 2K18 took a beloved series and made progression in the create-your-player mode reliant on in-game purchases and littered with blatant advertising. From all reports 2K remains the better on-court product, but as a fan of these games, I cannot in good faith give it any money.
DotEmu | August 29, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Vita
We finally got a working port of arcade and Neo-Geo classic Windjammers in 2017, and with online play to boot. Huge, detailed sprites, hypercolor beach aesthetic and Japanese development is very much my shit, especially in summertime, and this game hits the spot. Especially if you can get a friend to join in—the controls are simple to pick up, but have tougher moves which smartly move forward the tennis and Pong formula. If you’ve never seen this game in action, check out any of Giant Bomb’s segments on the game; it’s perhaps trite to say those duders made the game into something of a cult classic, and probably a reach to say they played a part in getting this port made…but their bright and vocal spotlight had to help a bit.
EA | May 11, 2010 | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
For fuck’s sake, EA, make Skate 4.