I was very busy in 2022, but wasn’t really able to show it on here because it was a day job. It’s boring to say this but gaming wasn’t as big a part of my life as I wish it was this past year! I’m trying to be responsible! I’m paying bills! I’m an adult. But I still did play stuff, and I liked a good chunk of it. 2022 is a year I wish I had more to show from, but 2023 is when we’re supposedly actually going to relaunch the site so maybe then? Maybe now?
6. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Kirby turns into a car in this one.
Team Ladybug’s latest is a tight, smart SHMUP with fantastic art, and I’m sad not as many people were into it as their previous Metroidvanias. It probably doesn’t help that it has a name that made me have to go “no, yes, that’s what it’s called, but trust me, it’s good!” every time I mentioned it to someone. Drainus has built off of Ikaruga’s foundation, but instead of swapping between colors to stop bullets from hurting you, you press a button to “drain” enemy fire, then redirect it back at them. You can press the button quickly or hold it down as long as you have the meter for it, which basically gives your ship a parry if you think about it. Drainus is a skill-intensive shooter that I’d also recommend to beginners, and I hope more people try it out despite its laughable name.
4. Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher
I was at Anime Expo when this game got announced, and for the most part we all thought it was shown off to tease a release in Southeast Asia and not much else. To my surprise, it did in fact release in the States, digitally at least, and what we got was a fun little game with a ton of that classic Monster Rancher charm! The loop of getting a monster, raising its stats, and entering it in battles is still here, but they’ve mixed it up by adding Ultra Series kaiju as the monsters. The entire game has an Ultra Series-flavor to it, with items referencing other kaiju, the new “rampage” mechanic where a kaiju can get furious and destroy your farm or go off and train on its own, or the ever-present chance that Ultraman himself will show up to whip your kaiju’s ass to settle it down. Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is an adorable treat for Monster Rancher and Ultra fans, and it was also my first ever import game, so that was a fun way to experience it!
3. Pokémon Violet
I feel like I’m part of the problem. The huge problem that is whatever’s going on at Game Freak that has made their games have more and more issues with every release. The latest Pokémon games are buggy, poorly-running messes that should never have been shipped when they did. But on the other hand, it’s the best Pokémon game in a while? Like, since Black and White? It has the best Pokémon designs, maybe, of all time (as a collective generation) in my opinion, and strong characters to boot? Saying how much I love Gen IX of Pokémon makes me feel so, so dirty, like I’m rewarding bad behavior, and I kinda am, but there’s so much good stuff here! All I can say is “please give the team more time” over and over until I’m sick, while continuing to hop on those seven-star raids, shiny hunting, and building a competitive team. My hands are dirty, but they gave Dunsparce an evolution and named it Dudunsparce. I’m not made of stone.
I added this on like a week after I wrote the rest of this, because I got the physical copy of Signalis in the mail and tore through it in mostly a single night. Signalis is something special, with an intoxicating and uneasy mood that heightens the horror and panic with every new room you enter. It’s bleak, it’s foreboding, and it’s a blast to play. There are shots in this game ripped straight from Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion that aren’t used for cheap references but are instead recontextualized to make them arguably better. Signalis is a tour-de-force of atmosphere, and a strong statement about love, capitalism, and letting go. I am ordering a copy of The King in Yellow as I write this, if that tells you anything about how deep this game got into my brain.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 kinda ruined gaming in 2022 for me. I was so obsessed with everything: its characters, gameplay, and side content, that I didn’t play much else the entire year. Xenoblade 3 is massive, and at a time when open world fatigue is hitting even the most casual of players, the team at Monolith Soft fights the problem by making every single mission feel like it matters. Characters from disparate colonies forge bonds, and a community is formed naturally through your interactions. The main party members each have intertwining arcs that flow flawlessly into the plot, bringing new focus to each of them at the exact time it feels like they need it. I often found myself thinking “when is this character going to get more development?” and the next scene would always be focused on them. The thesis of the plot— coming to terms with the world continuing to spin with or without you and joining together to progress instead of standing in the way- was told in a powerful, hopeful way. The gameplay has also been improved, thankfully, going from good in the older games to a full-on blast here. Getting a chain attack through and killing an especially tough foe is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in an RPG. The depth of customization is astounding as well, allowing every character access to every class so you can mix and match abilities however you want. XC3 is a gigantic, fresh package that caps off a trilogy that truly got better with each entry. There is nothing like Xenoblade out there at this level of quality, and I am so glad I spent most of 2022 squeezing every last drop of it out.