The Den – November 2020 – January 2021 & Top 10s of 2020

Another year has passed, and Christ what a shitshow it was. No point in complaining about it, you already know. But in my personal case, a lot of plans of mine have been shelved into 2021 or 2022 now, including finding employment and visiting Japan for the first time.

Enough of that, let’s talk about video games for a bit and then get into why you’re really here.

Yakuza 7

Going from an action game to a turn-based RPG is a very rare turnaround to see these days, it’s usually the reverse. Yakuza 7 gives it a go and bring its own insane ideas to the table. The job system is hilarious and filled with careers such as Breakdancer, Chef, Musician, and Host. As you’d expect, the abilities these classes have are as over the top as ever.

It’s not completely perfect. It took nearly a month before SEGA patched in the ability to see what abilities enemies were weak to (A feature that was in the original Japanese release). Switching between targets doesn’t work as it should. And the encounter rate on street battles is so frequent that it can drive you insane at times.

The side stories and mini-games are abundant, including a port of VF5; which is the first time it’s ever been ported to PC.

FINALLY

The business mini-game is very tedious, but it does pay out quite nicely.

My last complaint is the difficulty, where it’s mostly easy until Chapter 12 and 14 where it decides to ram you through a wood chipper, bollocks first. The major boss fights in those chapters require you to really understand the best roles for those fights and use strategy accordingly. But every other part of the game, including the last few fights after those chapters require no such strategic planning.

But back to praise; Ichiban is an amazing protagonist. He’s a dumbass with a ton of passion, running into situations head-on, and looking at the world as if it was a video game. I’m serious about that last part, his love of Dragon Quest and other games is why the job system is the way it is and why enemies have dumb names.

He really drives the story. His troubled upbringing helps him relate to the other characters who likewise have had their own problems in their lives, and he really bonds with them over time. I quite liked Zhao whose personality is like a lesser crazy Majima but mixed with a love of games much like Ichiban and a love of cooking.

There’s a ton to this game, and if I really wanted to talk about it for hours I could, but you should probably just play it yourself.

You can watch my full playthrough on Twitch.

Sakuna: Of Rice & Ruin

I’ve been wanting to play this game for a number of years now. It used to pop up a lot during indie discussions and I thought the sheer attention to detail in the rice farming was intriguing.

Well let’s start with the rice farming; it is alarmingly detailed. From the start of the farming process; you must manage the quality of the soil by applying fertiliser, plant each individual seed, maintain water levels throughout the whole process, including draining and filling back up again. While the plants grow, you should pull out any and weeds you see. Once they’re ready to harvest, you pull them out, put them on racks to dry. After the crops have dried out you move them into the shed and start stripping the rice off the crop. Then you pound the rice with some kind of mallet, and how much you pound it defines whether it’s brown rice all the way up to white rice. Then to start the process again you need to plow the field.

Now if that sounds a little too much for you, good news; you can skip all of it.

You may be wondering why I’m not praising the Hell out of it, and that’s to do with the combat. It reminds of me of Muramasa Rebirth in terms of 2D platformer combat. But unlike Muramasa, it’s nowhere as polished. Enemies frequently get stuck in walls, getting stun-locked to death can frequently happen, and you can’t block attacks, you can only parry them. The parrying part is the most troublesome part because the enemies attacks will always take animation priority over the player. So you’ll get into the rhythm of the combat, and then suddenly one enemy will throw a punch through your attack and stun-lock you.

Aerial combat and movement is also awkward, the scarf that acts like a grappling hook uses the left-analogue stick instead of the right stick, meaning you must always aim in the direction you’re walking in. It’s difficult to explain why it feels bad without playing it, but trust me, I really dislike this control choice.

I haven’t been super motivated to continue this game, the opaqueness of the game’s mechanics with a really steep combat difficulty curve makes it hard to sink my teeth into this game as much as I would like.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Not too much to say about this. Myself and a friend starting playing this for a laugh and to quell some curiosity into the matter.

Starting this game is extremely overwhelming. There’s a bunch of loot that you get for stating, there’s more currencies than a border exchange, tutorials out the arse, and somehow I’m still very confused about what PSE is. And then I run into players that look like this:

What?

The only thing I really understand is that I should feed my Mag. So I will.

Dark Souls III

Not a ton to say on this either other than I finally finished it with some help from a friend. Pretty good time, but I still think Sekiro is more my speed. I also greatly prefer the ease of initiating co-op in Nioh compared to From’s games.

What The Golf & Crumble

Although I have no problem with dumb physics-driven platformers or puzzle games, I also think that locking behind the more interesting aspects of your game behind doing levels in an efficient manner while dealing with random levels of chance from the physics engines; is a fucking idiotic design choice. Crumble is especially bad for this because small changes in trajectory can lead to wildly different paths. That, and the grappling mechanic can be very spotty.

What The Golf is a little better and mostly shows of the stupid and the funny in the main levels, and then elaborates and expands on the jokes in the challenge levels, most of which aren’t actually all that difficult. But objectives like “Race The Sheep” can be really hair pulling at times.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

I’ve never played a SWERY game before. Missed out on Deadly Premonition and the other weird things he’s made since. I decided to check this out because it was short. Takes place mostly in the past on a airline jet where the player character, with what could only be loosely described as a Boston accent, is trying to figure out how a passenger went missing.

It abruptly ends after 2 episodes, which is a shame because ends with a pretty dramatic cliffhanger. Maybe I’ll play SWERY’s other games at some point.

You can watch my playthrough on Twitch.

My Top 10 Games Of 2020

Honourable Mentions:

Sakuna: Of Rice & Ruin

I liked the farming, but I still haven’t played enough of it to justify putting this on my list.

Fight Crab

I’ll be honest, this is not a good game, but it’s so fucking stupid I can’t help but love it. I mean it has crabs with rockets attached to their arms flailing around. It’s fucking hilarious.

Released Games That I Wanted To Play Or Play More Of:

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

I played a bit of THPS1 in this. Kinda fell off it due to other games and various other things.

Ghostrunner

Played the demo for this and thought it was cool, but didn’t really have the cash to buy it when it came out. I’ll probably pick it up in the future sale.

Good Job

Another physics based puzzle game with super destructible environments. Looks super fun, but I had no dosh to spend on it.

Best HD Remaster/Remake

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

Compared to the last remake, this is fucking amazing. It actually feels correct to how Tony Hawk should play and there’s no crappy physics glitches. And the visual upgrades are top notch and feel perfectly in-tone with the original. And the original soundtrack is there.

Worst Game I Played:

Star Wars Squardrons

I really wanted to like this game, but it was just so buggy when I played it. The controls are pretty awful too. The story is crap and uninteresting. To top it off, the VR mode made me really ill. I can’t really recommend it personally.

Worst Games I DIDN’T Play

Cyberpunk 2077

I don’t need to explain this one. You know a game’s bad when mainstream news channels are roasting it.

Panzer Dragoon Remake

My understanding is that this is complete crap in terms of looks, gameplay, and soundtrack. What an absolute disappointment.

10. Resident Evil 3

This isn’t as good as the Resident Evil 2 remake, and it’s nowhere near as scary either. However, I would say it’s better paced and I definitely enjoyed it. Having a lot more ammo and weapons to deal with problems while at the same putting up with Nemesis’ sections. That said, his sections are very on-rails, and not really the same kind of constant dread that Mr. X brought. But I wouldn’t say it’s a complaint, both work.

9. Sakura Wars

Being truthful here, this is less of a game and more of a visual novel/adventure game with occasional action game mech sections. It also got me into Koi Koi.

The girls are great even if the story doesn’t grab me at all. Their defined personalities and attachment to the player character is weirdly endearing. The theme tune is still kick ass though.

8. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Science fiction visual novel with time traveling and naked people in mechs fighting robot monsters in a tower defence mini-game. I enjoyed it, but I liked Odin Sphere and Muramasa a Hell of a lot more.

7. Persona 5: Royal

This is only on the list because the new content they added is a significant improvement to base Persona 5, and the new dungeon and characters are great. It also fixes some of the dumber moments and translation errors from the original, like Ryuji constantly screaming about how they’re the Phantom Thieves.

The new dungeon and boss fight is a highlight, and they at least tried to improve Mementos. Although, Mementos is still absolute shit.

6. SkaterXL

This is mostly on the list because I played a lot of it while it was in early access, and it finally released this year. It’s not Skate, but it does remind me of free skating around in Skate and making videos and stuff. I’m glad there’s a serious community around it making content for it though, it would be very barebones otherwise.

5. Ghost of Tsushima

Extremely pretty is one way to describe this game. I probably took more screenshots of this game that any other console game in the past couple of years. The combat styles are interesting, even if the feel of the combat itself is a tad too much like Assassin’s Creed.

But the sheer level of exploration and uniqueness of it’s waypoint system is probably the biggest highlight. I explored every damn inch of those islands, looking for new weapons, new gear, shrines, and fox dens. The exploration was extremely rewarding, more so than Breath Of The Wild.

I could also pet the foxes. Which is a massive bonus.

4. Half-Life Alyx

This looks familiar…

Easily the best VR game out there, but it terms of a Half-Life game, I’d probably put it above Episode 1.

The combat in this game is hectic and engaging on a personal level. The sheer combat high from having to physically take cover, manage my ammo, manage reloading, and constantly moving physically to avoid being killed; it’s unlikely anything I’ve had to deal with in a game.

Lunatic levels of interactivity and physics nonsense thanks to Valve’s signature attention to detail do not go underappreciated. I noticed the liquid shader on those bottles.

One thing I didn’t get to check out was the developer commentary, which got added the same day I finished the game. Will get back to it and check those out sometime this year.

3. DOOM Eternal

If Alyx was near the top of my list for visceral gameplay experiences, this is probably at the top. Holy shit I was genuinely exhausted playing this. Constant, relenting slaughter of demons, and a gameplay loop that is persistently keeping me on edge.

Several people have compared this game to a stylish action game akin to DMC, but honestly, I think this is way more vicious than that. Late into the game there’s a section where I had to run around in circles with 40HP or less, making pinpoint headshots to get ammo so I could maybe have enough shotgun shells to deal with the half a dozen enemies chasing me around, where staying still would equal death.

The unlockables and cheats were pretty cool too, and the computer where you can play DOOM just loads the old WADs, so in theory you could load other stuff through that.

2. Nioh 2

Oda Nobunaga did nothing wrong, those monks had it coming.

Nioh 2 is more or less a refinement of Nioh 1 with additional weapons and a story that focuses on the rise and fall of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. Level design has been greatly improved, a few more options and side enemies that provide some nice risk/reward moments, plus a few levels where it’s actually more beneficial to take a side route to destroy or activate something that actually kills a bunch of the enemies in the level. Remember those crystals in Nioh 1 can were linked to enemies, and if you destroyed them, the enemies linked to it would die? Stuff like that.

I haven’t had a chance to check out the DLC, and I think I might just restart on PC honestly. But I’ve heard very good things.

1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon / Yakuza 7

I spent the first part of this post telling you about how much I love this game, there’s not really much more I can tell you. These games always find a way into my heart, and Ichiban is such a great character and the game just does so many things I love, and the story is probably the best it has been for a number of years. It’s tremendous.

My Top 10 Anime Of 2020

This year wasn’t great for anime to be honest, but the good stuff was at least really bloody good.

  1. No Guns Life 2nd Season
  2. Umayon
  3. Guraburu!
  4. Iwa Kakeru!: Sport Climbing Girls
  5. Great Pretender
  6. Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!
  7. Ishuzoku Reviewers
  8. Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai? Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen
  9. Kakushigoto
  10. Nami yo Kiitekure

Nami yo Kiitekure really surprised me with how good it was. I couldn’t stop laughing at the amazing performance of the main character and her bloodlust towards her ex-boyfriend and numerous fuck-ups. Do give it a watch.

Special Mentions:

Episode 9 of ID:Invaded, Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai!

Worst Anime I Watched:

Nekopara

The Irishman

This was my Christmas movie of 2020. Scorsese’s crime movies are some of my favourite movies; Goodfellas and Wolf On Wall Street are amazing.

This movie both lives up to that expectation, but also says a lot about his previous works. The plot of the movie is about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, a person I must admit I didn’t know too much about outside the fact that he went missing, suspected to have been killed. The film spends most of its second-half talking about Jimmy Hoffa’s life as a union president from the perspective of Frank Sheeran, known as “The Irishman”.

I won’t spoil the plot for you, but I will say this; this movie is long. Really long. It clocks in at around 3 and a half hours. So if you want to watch it, dedicate an afternoon or so to it.

I didn’t like the last part of the movie that much. I would say it seems kinda rushed, but the suppose that might be a deliberate choice. But seeing the life of this characters advance over the course of the movie and everything related to that more than makes up for it. And this goes without saying, but De Niro and Pacino deliver their roles flawlessly.

That’s it. 2020 is over, hopefully 2021 is better.

ADMAN

About Adam Lutton

Game Designer / Programmer
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