2016 certainly was a year for the books. While it was likely no more traumatic than any of the thousands of years prior, we decided to make a colossal deal out of everything from me becoming a bionic man, Tom evading the tax man, and Jess just… well.. we don’t know what happened to her. So to cope with the letdown that was last year, we turned to the only thing we could that would cheer us up. Alcohol. I mean games. At least for three of us.
Dan, Tom, and I played loads of games this year while Jess likely put a load of games into her console, booted them up, called it a day, and went off to buy her dog another purse. Seriously, what happened to her? Rumor has it she died halfway through the year and was replaced by someone with a sexy voice.
Despite springing forth yet another offspring, I managed to play quite an obscene amount of video games this year, both for the show and for pleasure. (Obligatory “OOOOOOOH YEAH! from Dan.) It was a year of many firsts as I tore through a game from a genre I largely dislike (due in part to being post-op and high on painkillers) and rounded out the year by finally caving in and apologizing for the hatred I’ve wrought down on a beloved franchise for years. But perhaps the biggest achievement short of my opening my still sealed copy of Kingdom Hearts 2, was finishing a game I had begun dozens of times over and never intended to finish.
Now, since I know you all tune into Factory Sealed for our completely professional and totally serious take on all things video games, I have compiled my thoughts on which games I played last year that I firmly believe that you should get.
Grab a beer, rustle up your shootin irons, fire up the grill and slather some bread on a chicken. Here we go.
10 – Popolocrois
Yes, I am aware this game was on my list of Finest Electronic Merriments of 2015, but I actually finished it in 2016, so I am putting it on here again for many of the same reason I listed then. PoPoloCrois remains one of my favorite portable RPGs with a cast of charming and memorable characters like the White Knight and Gami Gami Devil. Sure, the last book drags on a bit longer than I would have liked, but the innovative hybrid battle system paired with the wonderful soundtrack and expansive world makes it easier to overlook any potential shortcomings. I only wished they wouldn’t have cut the FMVs so early in the game, much like Ni No Kuni (also GET IT!).
Get it again.
9 – Final Fantasy Explorers
I have absolutely no idea why I liked this game as much as I did. I hate games like this. Maybe it was the high doses of prescription painkillers I was on at the time or the delirium from being bed-ridden. Whatever the case, this game was exceptional. If you’ve played Monster Hunter in any capacity, this game is essentially Monster Hunter: Final Fantasy Edition, much like World of Final Fantasy is Pokémon with Final Fantasy monsters. Despite being number nine on my list and the game save clock reading in excess of 50 hours, I can’t really tell you much else about this game other than that it is excellent.
8 – My Summer Car
If the job description for being a mechanic read: “Drink beer, eat sausages, and piss all over yourself.” I think a lot more kids would grow up to mechanics and a lot fewer cars would get fixed. Seriously, this game is about as stupid as it gets. I’ve never been a fan of permadeath due to the often skewed risk vs. reward. I can’t think of much in a video game that would be worth doing at the cost of potentially deleting my game save. But when you haven’t slept for days, you’re wallowing in your own filth (only able to wash with a bucket of water you’ve already pissed in), the sausages have run out, and you have just enough beer to get you to the store, the risk seems worth the reward. That is until you go to flip off the tractor you’ve already crashed down the road, lose control of your van and flip it into a tree, sending your guts all over the windshield and your game save to the recycling bin. All this and more before you’ve even figured out how to open the garage door and get your jalopy in far enough to do any practical work. Did I mention that this game comes with precisely zero directions? You’re given a car frame/body and a garage full of completely disassembled engine parts and left to figure it out for yourself. The only thing I learned is that it’s entirely possible to dislodge a windshield with a dashboard and urinating on a pile of engine parts does nothing to help bring them together.
Get it! Die. Get it again.
7 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Much like plenty of other games in my library, I have started this one many times, but finished it very few. Thankfully, the nostalgia for this game never wears thin. From the opening cut scene of Navi aimlessly flying through Kokiri Forest to the first steps out into Hyrule field, this game remains as majestic and awe-inspiring as it did when I was 12.
This go around I decided to play through the 3DS remake and much to my surprise, I didn’t find myself hating some of the dungeons as much as I had when I was young. Unfortunately, certain aspects hadn’t exactly aged well. Like how empty Hyrule field is. Much of the specifics were left up to imagination, but that is where so much of the nostalgia for this game comes in. What has aged well, is the now infamous Z-targeting. It’s hard to imagine where gaming would be today without such an innovation.
If you never got this or never wanted to get it: you’re wrong.
Hey, Get it!
6 – Ratchet and Clank PS2/PS4
We went through a couple years where HD remakes were all the rage. Most of them were just a new coat of paint slapped on top of aging mechanics and stale storytelling. So, when I heard they were remaking the original Ratchet and Clank to coincide with a new feature film, I was hesitant until they revealed that it was less HD remake and more of a retelling of the original game. Then I was all in.
The original never stood out as a favorite of mine when compared to the PS3 games, but it’s contributions to the platforming genre are undeniable and for that I gave it a pass on its shortcomings when replayed today. The new game was a breath of fresh air that remained true to the original in all the right ways. Revisiting once bland, uninspired locales in full HD and seeing them now bustling with life and character was the stuff of nostalgic dreams. The addition of new weapons and the whole upgrading mechanic married the best parts of the new games with the old ones, creating a truly memorable experience that sets a new standard for just how remakes should be done.
HD Remake of Get it.
5 – Pokemon Sun / Pokemon GO
Wow. I still can’t believe that I have a Pokémon title on my list, much less two. As I already admitted on the show, I owe a genuine apology to the gaming world and to all our listeners who grew up with Pokémon. I was wrong. Those are tough words to write, but they are made easier by just how much I enjoyed Pokemon Sun. My Thanksgiving was filled with endless hours of hunting and forming the perfect murder squad hell-bent on obliterating that obnoxious Team Skull. While I have my complaints (like how there was little incentive to use a Pokémon other than my baller Decidueye or how broken the Wonder Trade System was), I am not letting those jade my overall experience with my first full Pokemon title.
As strange as it may sound, I have Pokemon Go to thank for generating my hype for Sun. While only a flash in the gaming pan for me, Pokemon Go consumed my life for a few weeks and even created some amazing new memories spending time driving around Phoenix with my mother in search of new monsters to catch. Seeing how many people were caught up in the craze may have finally been the tipping point in making me realize that maybe this whole Pokemon thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
Should have got it a long time ago.
4 – Silent Hill 2
If sitting in poo filled trousers and watching a man (?) with an ancient Egyptian monolith for a head have his way with a pair legs attached to another pair of legs sounds your idea of a solid night in, Silent Hill 2 might be right up your alley.
Last year Tom and I managed to survive the horrors of Silent Hill while Dan found himself in the fetal position near the beginning of the game sucking his thumb waiting for the nightmare to be over. He didn’t finish. So instead of taking pity on him this year and choosing something less scary like Mickey and the Castle of Illusion or Imagine Babies, I made a bet… one for which I should have provided of guidelines: beat the game and I would pay him for it. Much to my surprise (and my pleasure) he went against the odds and proved me wrong. Sort of. He beat it on easy, but I’ll still give a hearty pip pip and a general “mmm quiet” for the effort it took to overcome his crippling fear. Bravo, Dan. You’re a real boy now.
Silent Hill 2 is easily (not the same as playing on easy, Dan) the pinnacle of horror games. While it’s easy to draw comparisons to Resident Evil, it is in fact a very different and much more terrifying experience. Silent Hill 2 perfects the fear of the unknown through an amazing use of atmosphere and audio coupled with bizarre monsters and NPCs. At no point do you ever really know what is going on. All you know is that you are looking for Mary. Speaking of which, I got a letter from her. She’s my wife. Have you seen her? She’s dead.
Have you seen my Get it?
3 – Final Fantasy XV
Let’s just get this out of the way: this isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy and it probably won’t go down as one either. Truth be told, I may not play this again for a very long time, if ever. However, Final Fantasy XV is excellent. And boy did it need to be. Prior to this game’s release, I was so worried that I was about to see the death of my beloved franchise. Thankfully, I think FFXV, despite its many flaws, is a solid foundation for where the franchise is/can go.
The last time I remember caring this much about the main characters of an RPG was with Rogue Galaxy and that is due in large part to their constant banter. By the end of the game, I felt like I was an invisible 5th wheel. I wanted to be part of the gang. What I didn’t want, unfortunately, was to keep playing after I had completed the story (which was an absolute mess). I’m not sure how anyone made any sense of it without having watched Kingsglaive, because I did and barely knew what was happening. Which makes me question why I have FFXV so high on my list… For a series that prides itself on grandiose stories, FFXV failed miserably. Thankfully, the combat is just that good. It’s reminiscent of the first time I played Kingdom Hearts and thought, “Hey, this is rough, but it could work.” Well, now it works. Despite a wonky camera that frequently tricks you into thinking you are deep in the throes of combat with a shrubbery or ice cavern wall, I never once tired of phasing through enemies and calling in party members to link up for combos or watch them suffer the ill effects of my poorly planned magic attack. The only thing I missed was the freedom to use summons whenever I wanted. I was 30+ hours in before my first summon arrived and I constantly found myself wanting more.
In the end, I lost all interest in hunting frogs or fetching mushrooms because “I’m the damn king, people! You are MY servants! Get your own toads and fungus!” Seriously, too many fetch quests. The hunts are quite possibly the only thing that will keep me coming back for me. Who doesn’t like hunting mountain sized turtles?
Indeed, Get it.
2 – Dark Souls 3
As a Souls purist, it is often hard for me to give credit where credit is due. Demon’s Souls will forever be the only Souls game for me, but Dark Souls did a fine job of expanding upon the brilliant recipe of punishing difficulty and addictive gameplay. Unfortunately, that is where I was afraid my Souls career was going to end. Dark Souls 2 entirely failed to hook me much beyond the halfway point; proving once and for all that too much of a good thing is in fact bad.
So, when Dark Souls 3 decided to have a go for my affection, it had its work cut out. Demon’s Souls had set the bar so impossibly high, and Dark Souls had only just been able to see it on the horizon. But yearning for a good pleasurable beating, I gave Dark Souls 3 a go. Within the week, I logged more than 50 hours of game time and rolled the credits only a few days later. And for the first time since Demon’s Souls, I rolled into New Game +. I never got around to finishing it again, so there’s that. But I blame that more on having less available free time and more expendable income to blow on other games.
Dark Souls 3 crafted a beautifully complex, yet easy to understand and navigate world that was brimming with atmosphere and life. But perhaps the most exciting aspect was the subtle fan service for long time fans of the series. While I still maintain that this version of Firelink Shrine is an homage to the original Nexus from Demon’s Souls, the rest of the fan service is more obvious. You encounter previous NPCs and travel to familiar locations; and even discover the heart-breaking truth about the fate of a beloved blacksmith. This game has everything I was hoping for, and then some.
It has revived my faith in the Souls Series.
Just don’t make another Soul Sacrifice.
Praise the Get it.
1 – Dark Cloud 2
I’ve reached the end of an era. For nearly a decade I have been playing Dark Cloud 2 with absolutely no intention of ever finishing it. That’s how good it is. But after hearing how much Dan enjoyed Rogue Galaxy, I figured it would be safe to share a slice of my heavenly gaming pie with him and offered to do a Dark Cloud 2 show. That meant only one thing: I had to stop playing Dark Cloud 2 like Jess and beat it this time.
The first half of the game went smoothly as that’s as much as I would typically play (still 30 some odd hours!) before calling it quits/getting sidetracked by other games and I loved it just as much as I did when I was a kid. From the get go the game is packed to the gills with things to do. Who would have thought that a deep dungeon crawling RPG would be so well-served by a photography mechanic? While I never really focused on inventing in previous playthroughs, I dove in deep this go around and found myself overwhelmed with just how much I could make. Upgrading Steve, designing new clothes, concocting new recipes helped the clock when I wasn’t already grinding the hours away in the absurdly deep level synthesizing mechanic or fine tuning my towns, making sure the painter with the purple roof wasn’t living next to the filthy bread maker hocking her moldy wares out of the busted cart in front of her house and ruining his chi in the process. People are picky.
Unfortunately, this playthrough wasn’t all biscuits (the American kind) and gravy. The story in Dark Cloud 2 starts off strong and holds steady until just after the half way point (where’d I usually tapered off). From there things take a boring, uninspired turn and the gameplay gets a tad repetitive. Thankfully, the final ‘dungeon’ had the legs to carry me through to the end and well into the post-game secret dungeon.
Prior to committing to this playthrough with Dan I had opined about not wanting to finish it because it was in fact one of my all-time favorite games and I was afraid rolling the credits would ruin my desire to ever play it again. Only time will tell if that is true, but I haven’t changed my mind about this being a fantastic game.
A tearful finally Got it.
Dishonorable Mention: Carmageddon: Max Damage
Talk about a disappointment. Some of you may remember the show where I discovered this game and just how excited I was to get behind the wheel and take to the sidewalks. Herds of penguins and entire nursing homes of old people in wheelchairs and walkers were simply waiting for my high speed, razor blade-wheel-clad arrival. Unfortunately, this game was shit. You’d think that a game entirely about driving would have decent driving mechanics. It didn’t. I’ve driven planets that handled better than these cars. This one hurt.
Hype Train Reminder Mention: No Man’s Sky
I thought I’d learned my lesson with Fable 2, but apparently I hadn’t I saw the hype train for No Man’s Sky coming from a galaxy away, but still failed to get out of the way. I played twice as much of this game as Dan and still stopped playing two days after it came out. But unlike him, I kept mine as a solemn reminder to be smart about unproven franchises and stop buying tickets for the hype train.
This Game Probably Should Have Been on my List Mention: Uncharted 4
To be entirely honest, I forgot I played this game this year. I absolutely loved it, but for some reason it didn’t stick me as much as the other 3 did. I didn’t find myself wanting to immediately start over and go for the platinum trophy this time around, like I had with the others, but we couldn’t have asked for a better send off for Nathan Drake. Based on the ending, I am hopeful for a spin-off franchise and will eagerly await those games as well.