Another year is in the rearview mirror, and with that it’s time we take stock of what we played. As usual, I reached the last month having not played much of the year, but this time around I did a fairly decent job of rounding up on the way to this article. So before we get into anything else, I think we REALLY need to talk about the two big games for me this year. You know the ones. You know the ones.

5. Alan Wake 2

Due to editing and scheduling conflicts a massively long piece I wrote for the first two Alan Wakes still remains to be published, but when I wrote them I had not played this. I now have played through this twice and well? I can say I loved it. I can also say there’s a lot about it I can’t stand. It’s one of the few sequels I know that doubles down on the strengths of the original whilst introducing a brand-new set of weaknesses all its own.

I don’t want the next Remedy game to be like Alan Wake 2, but I want the best parts of this game to inform just about every other game out there, and that is a really cool feeling. I’m definitely not a kid anymore; one of my most-loved games (No More Heroes 2) is just as much if not more flawed than Alan Wake 2, for reasons that are so similar that I might one day write a piece about it. This game, though I love it to bits, has not reached such a warm place in my chest as that title. Perhaps with time it will, love comes much harder to the old, but I also have enough of a far sight to see all the things it does right and I like it a lot.

Seeing Alan Wake 2 learn so much from all the triumphs in Control has left me excitedly looking forward to seeing what a Control 2 could learn from this and even the Max Payne remake despite the heavy loss of James McCaffrey. Consider this a thumbs up and a stay-tuned-for-what-will-surely-be-a-10-plus-page-rant-about-this-game!

4. Honkai: Star Rail 

My relationship with this game has been so turbulent I feel tempted to write a new take on it every patch but for the sake of my sanity and some attempt at cool-headedness I am waiting until the end of Penacony to re-emit a judgement.

I think Belobog might easily be the second or third best story Mihyo has ever written, and beginning to end it does a better job of selling you on this adventure than I could have expected. Since then though, the pace has slowed down to unbearable levels. Though this game is cycling 2 versions faster than Genshin Impact to get to its next location, the reality of the situation is that it sees you waiting one or two patches for a single 90 minutes of story and that just gets tedious to deal with. Couple it with a disappointing development and wrap up to the confusing and unfocused story of the Xianzhou Luofu, and  the constant power creep in terms of enemies and superior units,  and come version 1.3 or 1.4 I was already dreading to log in to do my compulsory weekly SU runs.

The trailblaze continuance mission released in 1.4 that takes you back to Belobog has pretty much single-handedly kept me playing, because it reminded me that those early strengths were not imagined, and that the game could once again pull off the trick.

For the moment, Penacony is juggling some interesting ideas with some characteristically glacial pace and trailers that seem to reveal this game might be much more closely tied to Honkai 3rd than it originally let on keep me playing, but if this game doesn’t shape up and live up to its early promises it might soon be time for me to drop it and only come back for story content every year.

3. Street Fighter 6

IT’S STREET FIGHTER. I love Street Fighter. I have also been playing Street Fighter since I was like 3. I’m so bored of it. But it’s not V. And that is worth its weight in gold, my friends. We have to congratulate our loved ones when they leave unhealthy stages of their lives. Because we will always need them by our side even if we don’t see them as often.

2. Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

IT’S STREET FIGHTER. I love Str—I mean IT’S STREET FIGHTER. I LOVE GRANBLUE VERSUS. No, but seriously, this is essentially a very light rework on the old game. It is still one of the most basic fighters released since SF2. It is a lot more aggressive, it is faster, it has more options, but it retains the dead-simplicity and accessibility that really made me love its predecessor. 

Other people, more competitively minded than me, are greatly upset at the balance in this game. Personally, I have never cared much; to me, the highest priority has always been that fighting games feel good to press buttons in, and this aces that with flying colours. The hits still retain that fast-flowing, smooth quality to them. There is hardly an “impact” to them, they have a sensation delicate that battles almost feel like choreographed dances. Everything about the flow of a match just invites a very dynamic back-and-forth that I love and find hard to get sick of.

I might not be too interested in pushing my limits in this, but I will always pop it open on a lazy Sunday and waste a couple of hours doing empty jumps into throws. Fighting games are, despite it all, still cool.

1. Hi-Fi Rush

Hey, did you know I like music? I don’t know, I feel like I don’t talk about it enough. But I really really do love music. I knew I would like this game from the moment I heard about its central conceit and it did not disappoint me once I got my hands on it.

I don’t have the best rhythm in the best of circumstances; trying to juggle attacks from opponents and staying on top of a combo meter in addition to keeping the pulse is an extremely challenging task for me. But it’s also incredibly fun! I had a lot of trouble getting used to the idea of the heavy attack as a half note and the parry being able to work in sixteenth notes. And whilst I think some of the UI could be better designed to aid in its main concept, this is the kind of challenge I am always happy to fail and keep retrying again and again.

We’ve had conversations on this site about its presentation, its story, its use of music, its compositional conceits and its cultural influences and I think it’s all there. While I can’t claim to be totally won over by Chai and friends, I also would never claim to dislike them. They are one of the best casts for the kind of light-hearted, cartoon-style adventure that this game is going for, which is in my opinion a tone that games don’t attempt enough these days.I love games that apply rhythm mechanics to other arenas. I loved Crypt of the Necrodancer as soon as I saw its trailers. And I loved this as soon as I heard about it. The path to my heart is as simple as a 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

About Walker

Walker is a bilingual Punk living in Mexico. When they are not getting stomped on in a mosh pit, they are online getting stomped on in BlazBlue.

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