My Games of 2021

Ugh. What year is it? 2021 is over, so now I can talk about the games I played throughout the year. I was originally going to rank the games that I came out in 2021 that I played, but I ended up playing a lot of uninteresting titles. If you want me to talk more about Mario Golf: Super Rush again I can try, but that was already a struggle previously. So, this year I am going to shake things up and talk about my top ten favorite games that I finished this year. There is a good mix of new and old titles in here and it makes for a more interesting write for me. To give you an idea of how slow I am with things, here are two honorable mention list with games I wanted to play and games I started but haven’t finished.

Games Released in 2021 That I Had Interest Playing, But I Never Bought

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
Pac-Man 99
Poison Control
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139…
Returnal
Resident Evil: Village
Chivalry 2
Cris Tales
Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind
Legend of Mana (Remake)
Pokemon Unite
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Psychonauts 2
No More Heroes III
Sonic Colors: Ultimate
WarioWare: Get It Together!
Cruis’n Blast
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Metroid Dread
Far Cry 6
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles
Voice of Cards: The Isle of Dragon Roars
Forza Horizon 5
Dungeon Encounters
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition (For the lols)
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX
Super Robot Wars 30
Wildermyth
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator

Games That Came Out In 2021 That I Played, But Didn’t Finish

Persona 5 Strikers
Bravely Default 2
New Pokemon Snap
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Scarlet Nexus
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition
Back 4 Blood
Shin Megami Tensei V
Yu Gi Oh! RUSH DUEL: Dawn of the Battle Royal!!


Top Games That I Finished This Year

10. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

“Hie thee to the ocean city… To the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. A journey to the blue depths… To conquer the shadows of night. Though you know not what this means, you go towards Armoroad. What awaits is time’s end; death’s demise. A tempestuous dream… To push away the unfathomable dark and bring light to Armoroad… A stormy adventure begins…”

Creating my list was hard, but I knew I wanted to include this game. Etrian Odyssey III was one of the hardest games I have on the DS. My gaming knowledge was new to dungeon crawlers and understanding party compensation.10 years later, I have become an adult with a better understanding of how things work. I went from not understanding how certain abilities could be helpful to finding ways to make my party unstoppable. The mix between dungeon crawling and finding treasure out in sea made the game enjoyable for many hours. The game left such a big impression on me that I went out and got the other games in the series to slowly play through the story canon games in the series. I will report my thoughts when I finish the series twenty years from now.

9. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

The trend this year was finishing games that I’ve put off for years. I was really excited to play through this game when it first came out, but I found myself playing chunks at a time since I had started grad school at the time. Motivation went south fast when the definitive versions came out and sour my mood when I learned that you couldn’t transfer your progress to the newer, shinier version. So instead of starting all over, I chipped away at the base game and finally finished it this year. 

Dragon Quest XI is a comfort game for JRPG players. It is simple and friendly for newcomers while also engaging for series veterans. The story and setting make this an adventure worth playing while never feeling stale. There is always something to see, something to do, and challenges around every corner. I still need to finish the post game and eventually play through the definitive edition one day, but that won’t be until a while from now. I did write a post about this game back in October.

8. The World Ends With You: Final Remix / NEO: The World Ends With You

Yeah I’m cheating with this one. I couldn’t decide on which game I liked more over the other since they both have their high and low points. Ultimately I decided that if you put both together, you get a great game. The World Ends With You took me places that I wasn’t ready to go. The themes of your world ending when you refuse to live in it struck a chord that I never really thought about. It opened a new viewpoint that I was unaware of and kept the optimistic flame in me going. It’s sequel doesn’t do the theme justice, but it did deliver an improved gameplay formula that irritated me in the formal. Both games had me playing them whenever I had the free time to do it, and that’s coming from someone who ignored the original game when it came out. I am sad that NEO didn’t do well enough to Square’s expectations, but here’s hoping that the series can continue with new characters, locations, and a stronger emphasis on its theme.

7. Castlevania Advance Collection

I’m still cheating! When I learned that the Gameboy Advance Castlevania games were being rereleased, I got excited. Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games and the advance trilogy share the same formula. While most games in the collection were better than others, I enjoyed my time playing through all four games. If you would like a more of my thoughts on the games, I wrote a post about them last month.

6. SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions

This was a surprise to me when I was looking over my options. The more I thought about this game, the more I remembered my playthrough and the adventure I went on. SaGa: Scarlet Grace has the charm and formula of a SaGa game that is also friendly for newcomers. The almost endless possibility of how your journey could play out makes finding and making decisions fun since you have to figure it out yourself (almost literally since there are not many guides). My journey with Urpina was a daunting one, but rewarding in so many ways. The other three protagonist are still waiting for me to take them on, but I am in no rush to get through theirs (especially since I started playing other games in the series). I wrote about my experience with the game back in August, so you can get the full read there.

5. Xenoblade Chronicles

The award for the game that took the longest time for me to beat this year goes to Xenoblade Chronicles. In hindsight, I could have finished this game a long time ago, but similar to Etrian Odyssey, my dumb young brain didn’t understand how to play the game logically. Xenoblade mimics a MMO game style where understanding how abilities and status modifiers matter. Once I understood this, the game became much more enjoyable to play and finish. It was a bit bittersweet to finally cross this game off my list since I was really feeling it. My advice if you want to play the game is to get the definitive edition on Switch. It is a really good game and worth playing. And yes, I did write about it as well as part of Love Your Backlog month.

4. Dark Souls Remastered

This is one of my proudest gaming achievements. I had no intention of finishing this game anytime soon, but the more I played and got into it, I was determined to see it through. I’m glad I did since the reward was definitely worth it and I felt accomplished. The original Dark Souls may not be my personal favorite out of the series, but it is now the one I am most comfortable with. There are parts in this game that I dread doing again, but I’m not afraid of facing them anymore. It is somber that I finally get to cross this off my list, but with other games in the series to keep me busy for the next four to nine years, I think the experience will make me a better player.

3. It Takes Two

There is a reason why this game won Game of the Year. It is a well-developed game. I played this with Kat the entire way though to the point where we couldn’t stop playing it. Everything felt well designed from the locations to gameplay to how everything relied on how cooperative you and your partner had to be. The story still irks me in several places, but certain moments make it up for being heartbreaking or hilarious depending on the type of person you are. I wish the game had more to do after the campaign since Kat and I were eager for more. If Hazelight Studios can expand on this gameplay and create something more inline with this, then it would be an instant buy from me.

2. Monster Hunter Rise

A new year, a new Monster Hunter game to play through. For me personally, I enjoyed Rise way more than I did with World. Rise fixed a lot of my personal issues with scaling down the bloated environment and making them smaller and more interesting. I like exploring the maps in Rise since there are things to discover like artifacts from the previous era and remnants of epic battles. My favorite is the Frost Islands where you can explore a destroyed ship and follow the skeletal remains of the monster it was fighting throughout the entire map. It’s details like this that I wish existed in World to make my time getting lost more interesting.

Besides the map, the mobility and how fast the game plays now made for interesting hunts. The Wire Bugs are one of my new favorite additions to the series and offers a lot of elements in and out of battles. I felt “meh” at first with the Wyvern Riding mechanic at first, but once I figured out how take advantage with the controls, it became fun to use. Rampage quest are still a struggle for me. The idea is to have multiple people with you during them, but my lonely self had a hard time maintaining everything that was going on. They do present a nice change of pace and strategy, but it does feel like it was meant to be played with others.

Other than that, the new monsters introduced had their fun gimmicks and quirks. I thought the Magnamola would be a pushover since I had no real difficulty up to it, but it quickly put me in my place when it decided to fly all of a sudden. The two new elder dragons are no pushovers either since they utilize Rise’s gameplay and your understanding of them. They are neat fights and made me say a swear or five. Outside of all of that, I’m happy Rise brought back interesting and creative designs for weapons and armor. It was something I was missing and happy to have back.

I never did write a post on Rise for one reason or another, but there is a lot that I can talk about. I originally didn’t have this game high on my list, but after replaying it this month, I feel in love with it all over again. On the fence if I might double dip and get the PC version when it comes out. I may actually finish Sunbreak when it comes out. The offer still stands if anyone wants to play online.

1. Tales of Arise

Tales of Arise is not a perfect game. If I had to rank it with the rest of the series, I would put it as maybe my fourth or fifth personal favorite. The game has a lot of good qualities in it, but there are glaring issues that hold it back from being up there for me like Symphonia and Vesperia. So why is it my number one game this year? From beginning to end, I could not stop thinking about this game. I wanted to explore everything this game offered and complete each difficult challenge that was available. I tend to avoid doing ridicules challenges in Tales of games, but Arise kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t find the characters annoying outside of battle and their struggles kept me invested. Even though I felt the story wasn’t on par with other titles, it did through me off guard at times and only decided to get complicated at the last minute.

Even as I write this, I still find it hard to explain why this was my favorite game I played and finished this year. There is something to say here about acknowledging all the faults it has while still finding some enjoyment out of it. I may never write about this game because I can never find the true words that I want to say. The best I have is that it is good despite its flaws. Rather that is good or bad is left to the individual. All I know is that Arise was my favorite game that I finished and completed this year.


So that’s all I got. Sorry if it is not the follow-up from last year’s presentation, but there wasn’t a lot of excitement from my gaming bubble. Let me know what some of your favorite games were this year that you finished.

Backlog Tale – SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions

The SaGa series is one that I’ve been interested in getting into. I first attempted this series with Romancing SaGa on the PlayStation 2, but never finished it since I got lost. Then I attempted Romancing SaGa 2 when it was remastered back in 2017. I didn’t get far in that game either since the mechanics felt confusing for me at the time. Third time is the charm however and I was able to actually finish a SaGa game! SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions was one of the easiest SaGa games to get into, but also one of the hardest games that I have played.

Synopsis

This is all I got from the opening cutscene.


In the beginning, there were the twelve Celestials. These twelve decided who was cool enough to exist in this cool realm that they built and punished anyone who they didn’t like. One person they didn’t like was a scarlet star that was called the Firebringer. The Firebringer did something to betray the Celestials’ cool realm that they had going on and decided to banish him from the sky. He must have done something bad like mixing M&Ms, Recess’ Pieces, and Skittles all in one bowl and served it at a party or something. The Firebringer, not liking the idea of not partying in the heavens anymore, decided to grant man the gift of fire and force his way back into the heavens. Instead of doing something about it themselves, like all responsible deities, they decided to grant this one emperor’s bloodline the ability to defeat the Firebringer whenever he showed this spiky hair around. The emperor’s lineage was able to defeat the Firebringer six times before a future heir struck him down “permanently” on the seventh try. This shattered his body into scarlet shards, and peace fell over the realm; until it wasn’t. Humanity started to act like humanity and brought about the dark ages by worshiping Spirituals and Infernos that turned the world into a modern day Wednesday afternoon. The emperor’s bloodline came to a halt when he was assassinated with what the game calls a dagger but if you look at the cutscene that looks like a freaking jagged claymore. So now after all this time, the Firebringer plots his return to burn the heavens. It is up to YOU to stop him now; and when I say “You” I mean one of the four protagonist that you chose from after answering a Buzzfeed quiz.


The introduction is not that all important. You just need to know that shit is going down and it is the protagonist’s destiny to stop the Firebringer from returning. How that happens is all determined by the actions and choices that you make. For those who are new to SaGa games, each game follows the nonlinear, open world RPG mechanic where you are responsible for the story and adventure that you have. There have been games similar to this design that prove to be great experiences. What makes the SaGa games different, unique, and sometimes frustrating is how the game commits to your decisions and affect characters, items, and events that you can get if you miss out on it. The other good or annoying aspect of these games are the different character’s stories that you can play after finishing each of them. This can vary your playtime as the first playthrough could be longer than the next once you have the basic understanding of how the game works. SaGa games are not meant to be easy or hard, but they do challenge your understanding of how combat works, how to grow character’s skills, and your ability to save as often as possible.

I Can’t Tell If I’m Enjoying This Or Hating It

For my playthrough of SaGa: Scarlet Grace, I was given Urpina as my main character for this journey. Urpina is left in charge of watching her father’s kingdom as he goes off to war. While on patrol, she spots some shady characters hanging around and summon an Earth Inferno. After dealing with it, she gets word that he father is missing and brother has been kidnapped. Now it is up to her to track them down and stop the shady characters from summoning more Infernos around the world.

That is all I remember before I just stumbled around places to see what would happen. Thanks to the nonlinear nature of the game, I was free to chose how I would go about tackling the main story. This resulted in me missing out on some good characters and skills (like dual wielding) because I just didn’t know what was going to trigger what. To some this might sound exciting since each playthrough is its own experience that could be drastically different the next time. For someone like me who likes to do as much as possible and unlock as many options as I can, I felt like I missed out on a lot of things that may have made my playthrough more enjoyable. Its like finding a can opener that fits your inventory really well, but knowing you missed out on another can opener that has a bottle opener as well and can also shoot lightning. It is possible to unlock all characters and get most special items in one playthrough, but it requires a lot of research or trial and error that I did not have.

Combat was something that I struggled with the most at the beginning, but slowly turned into an expert towards the end. You are able to bring 5 characters into a battle and select a formation that works best for what you have. Formations are important since each one carries a specific buff for characters in key positions and determines the amount of Battle Points (BP) you have in battle. BP determines the techniques that each character can use with basic techs costing less BP and stronger techs costing more. Enemies follow the same logic as well, but you can’t see what their BP gauge is, so just know that they can’t spam their strongest attacks if fighting in a large group. If I haven’t lost you yet in the explanation of the battle system then get ready to get a migraine after these next parts.

Like an RPG, enemies (and you) have weaknesses that you can exploit. There are weapons that can go slash, poke, and bonk, but there are also spells that are hot, cold, or shocking (oh my!). Monsters come in a variety of classes and each carry their own weakness and immunities that you have to take into account. Beastman for example, have no weaknesses what so ever, so hit them with status aliments to help bring them down quicker. The main problem I have with this game’s approach to strengths and weaknesses if that most of them are weak to one weapon type, but will resist multiple types. It becomes less of a game of exploiting weaknesses and more of finding ways to outsmart and overpower with what you have. I constantly had to have a weakness chart on hand mostly to remember what enemy types resisted or were immune to.

Give that child a cannon. Children love cannons.

Ok. Time for the hardest curveball. There are no levels or traditional stat increases that characters get at the end of each battle. The only things characters improve during battles are their HP stat, weapon proficiency, and the rank of their techniques. The most important thing to remember about this game is that character’s improve in battle AND the equipment that they have equipped. Each character comes with stats that cannot be improved in battle or consumable items, but can be affected by their equipment. Each stat (like always) corresponds with how effective they will be with certain weapon types. If you have someone with a good acuity, you better give them a spear or bow to make the most out of them. Some characters come with great stats in one or multiple areas that will tell you what they are made for. Characters become stronger when they have more proficiency with weapons they are good with, so try only using two weapons per character. Technique rank goes up the more times you use that technique in battle. The only difference is magic which staff users have to absorb flux in order to level up that spell. You get a certain amount of flux depending on the difficulty and element of the battle; and the staff wielder has to be in the battle to obtain flux.

Each battle will tell you the elemental boost of the field (I am not going to explain that one since I ignored it), how difficult the battle(s) will be, tasks that you can do during battle to get extra rewards, and a silhouette of the enemies you will be facing. One of the best things about this game is that there are no random encounters, and the game does a good job of giving you a heads up before you enter a fight so you can accept or decline. Once you accept a battle, you will have time to change up your party and formation and leave the fight if you feel like you are not prepared. A reason you may want to back out of a fight is if party members are hurting. Each character has a Life Point counter that goes down each time they fall in battle. If that number reaches zero, that character cannot be used in battles until their LP is fully restored (LP restores when they are not taking part in battles (about 1LP per 2 battles)). This is where having rotating party members come in handy so you are not left with your weaker characters taking on the harder fights while your MVPs are resting.

You Know What. I’m Tired Of Talking About Mechanics

As you can tell, there are a lot of mechanics that go into this game. The sheer amount of things to take into consideration like using a ranged attack on an enemy that has ??? under their icon to quell them from interrupting or countering is something to look out for. Defeating an enemy in-between two of your characters can trigger a united attack and vise versa with enemies. The despair you get when you are trying to protect someone only for some bullshit to happen and causes you the fight. It is a lot of information to process at all times, and that is one of the best and worse things about this game. What I found enjoyable and what got me to play through the entire game is the combat. As frustrating as it is to learn things through trial and error, I always felt satisfied when I was able to take down a tough opponent. There were fights where I was down to my last character, but thanks to counterattacks, it was easy to take them out since I would keep countering them. When you are able to pull off a united attack three times in a row and finish a battle in the same turn, it just feels good. Those are the moments when I felt like I had somewhat mastered the battle system. I was able to think ahead in a lot of situations and find ways to keep all of my party members alive at the end thanks to my planning ahead. There are no recover items that you can use in battle and the two healing spells that I got were pointless since they costs a lot of BP for little effect. When I was able to start predicting the flow of the battle, that is when I was starting to have the most fun.

At this point you are probably asking what happened to the story? All I can say is nothing really. There are some good moments like if you are unable to save Urpina’s brother (like me) and character moments that I actually found entertaining. I was able to recruit this lady (names Lady) who had a giant crush on Urpina and she was like “let’s go my love!” Moments like this made me want to find new party members and never turn down anyone that wanted to come along (you also learn new formations by recruiting more people). I missed a lot of people in my playthrough, but the team I assembled got most of the job done even when I started to default to the same 8 people over and over.

Remember To Always Save

All things get boring at some point. Towards the end I was starting to get my fill, so I decided to stop doing side quest and head straight to the final boss (after I was told that I could). I felt confident in beating the Firebringer since my team felt tight. Little did I know, the Firebringer likes to fight with AOE attacks that wiped my party out in about three turns. I felt like this was going to be impossible without a guide to help me get pass his bullshit. After finding a guide (there are not a lot of guides out there for this game) I learned that not only was I fighting him at his full strength, but he had 7 more forms that I had to beat in succession. Luckily, my guide told me that I needed to finish destroying the scarlet shards in order to make the final boss easier to manage. So I loaded up a previous save and got to work. The last shard requires you to fight against one of your party members, Elysed (best Mage in game), and depending on your decision, you can either “save” her or leave and get a powerful weapon. I didn’t want to lose one of my best characters before the final fight. So I fought her, won the battle, and the following dialogue scene says that she was going to stay home and support Urpina from there.

Uh, no. I need you to come with me to finish this fight.

Upon reading the guide again, Elysed needs to be one of your top 15 characters in order for you to keep her. Something wasn’t right then since she was in most of all my fights ever since I got her. So I grinded some battles really quick, redid the fight, and the dialogue still said that she was going to stay at home. In bewilderment, I checked my roster to see if she wasn’t truly there, but there she was in my party! I don’t know if it is just a translation issue or what, but I wasted so much of my time trying not to lose her when I still had her all this time. To add salt to the wound, when I went back to fight the Firebringer, Sasha (the character that has been following you to destroy the scarlet shards) will join your party for the final fight (only if you destroy the other shards, plus Urpina’s ring) and then she becomes the most powerful mage in your party. I spent hours trying to keep my favorite mage, but ended up tossing her back in the toy box when I got my new BMF (Best Mage Forever). Thanks to her (and destroying all the shards), the Firebringer fight was piss easy and none of my characters died during each phase. So much for throwing the biggest barbecue in the heavens.

No! Not again! I just want to grill steaks!

My Recommendations

At the end of the day, I ended up enjoying this game more than I had the right to. It is not an easy game for beginners or people new to the series, but it is also the easiest game to get into the series. Other games in the series has permadeath if a party member’s LP reaches zero unlike this game. This game has no random encounters and gives the player as much preparations and chances to back out a fight if needed (you can’t flee battles, but you can load up the last autosave if a fight is too hard, which will be right before you accept the battle). Honestly, if someone wanted to try out the series I would suggest them to start with this one to get a base understanding of the series. However, I cannot recommend this game to anyone unless you are seriously interested in this game or the series. For $30 USD, I don’t feel comfortable recommending this game to you unless you feel like you are going to have a good time playing it. I enjoyed my time playing this game, but I have no desire to play through the other three character’s stories anytime soon*. You definitely get your money’s worth with the content and replay value, but if you don’t like overcoming certain limitations and strategic battles, then I would say save your money. If game rental stores were still around, I would definitely recommend borrowing it and trying it out for yourself and then determine if you want to continue. But seeing as this is only a digital game outside of Japan, you either have to enjoy it or be sad that you wasted money.

*Hello! Future Danames here to tell you that I recently started a second playthrough. You do have the option to carry over some techs and skills over to the next playthrough to make that process a bit easier. I am on Taria’s story now and she is kinda busted with her role ability and the spells she starts off with. I haven’t gone too far in her story since I have other games to finish, but I enjoy having this on the backside if I need a break from what I’m currently working on. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to do more future things like pay the future tax. You have to pay a tax for going back to the past in the future. It sucks.

Advent Gaming Calendar 2019 Day 8: Romancing SaGa (PS2)

Credit to Micahely’s YouTube channel

This opening feels really simple to me. It doesn’t feature any memorable moments and the song is not as catchy at first. If you have never played a SaGa game before, the premise is all about creating your own journey with the characters available and the established world. This is done with the Free Scenario set up that makes every playthrough different depending on what actions you take.

But enough game analysis, why do I like this opening? Well first, after subjecting myself to this song every time I started the game, the song final stuck with me. I do not know what the song is called or what any of it means, but it feels soothing after a while like someone telling me a story by the fireplace. This is kind of what is going on with the Minstrel playing his double neck lute, guitar thing (I’m pretty sure it is a guitar, but it looks nice!). As a minstrel/bard does, they go around to places and tell stories about different people and events. The opening makes that plain and clear as we see the minstrel walking and we see different scenes happening in the background. The scenes have no significant meaning, but are images on how you think this story unfolds. Again, with the Free Scenario system, the story can be different every time, and all the minstrel can do is tell the story of how it is. It would be cool if the images in the background changed with data left on the memory card, but PS2 limitations hadn’t reached that far yet. All in all, a simple opening that invites you to tell your own tell and it may go down in history.

*Breaking Pre-Post News!* Before I posted this I watched the opening again just to make sure I was not forgetting anything. I completely missed the point that each character is shown individually and then as the story goes on, each character starts interacting with one another until they are all shown together. It shows that no matter where your story unfolds, destiny will always bring people together when they are needed. A nice touch at the end that is miss-able. We now return to our regularly scheduled post content.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 9!

DanamesX