The talk on the street leading up to the end of 2019 is that it’s been a pretty weak year for video games. Personally, I feel like this is a pretty ridiculous statement. Whilst compiling this list, I ended up with a shortlist of about 14 games I really enjoyed, as well as six or seven games I was really bummed out I could never get around to. And I’m sure at least two of those would have snuck onto the list also.
It ends up being the same story as least year for me, only cranked up another level. Moving out on my own, as well as starting a new job, I’ve had way less money and time to purchase and play all of the games I was interested in playing this year. That, plus live games like Destiny and Overwatch continued to carve out a significant chunk of my time, as the number of live games I like continues to grow.
I can only list what I’ve played though, and I’m sure that once I catch up, this list might change. As with my anime list, this top ten is not one of quality or craftsmanship, rather it’s a list of the games that meant the most to me this year on a personal level, either through pure enjoyment or whatever other reason I blather on about on the day:
#10: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Played on Nintendo Switch | Released 20th September | Developed by Grezzo
Rumblings around this time of year, as other people in similar spaces as me have been debating as to which is the “correct” Zelda game to find it’s way into their personal top ten lists. The other game being Cadence of Hyrule, which comes the developers of Crypt of the Necrodancer.
I’ll be up front, I just couldn’t get into Cadence. I love what the folks at Brace Yourself Games have done with both this and Necrodancer, but for some reason these rhythm based adventure games simply wouldn’t click with me. It might be because of my own utter lack of any rhythm, but I was utterly terrible at the game. I know there’s a mode to turn it off, but it feels real disingenuous to play the game that way, and I’m nothing if not stubborn.
Hmm… this is supposed to be a list in which I celebrate the best games of the year, and I’ve spent the first two paragraphs seemingly apologising for putting the Link’s Awakening remake into my number 10 slot. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to praise Link’s Awakening for: it’s charming look, it’s amazing music and it’s complete and total faithfulness to the original Gameboy game.
That last point being the thing being a point of both celebration and critique. While it’s admirable that the developers adhered so incredibly closely to the original Link’s Awakening from 1993, it means all the limitations and shortcomings of that game come along with it into this remake.
I’m not an especially nostalgic person, but do have a lot of nostalgia for Link’s Awakening. It was both the first Zelda game I ever played, and completed too. I didn’t really have a proper Nintendo console until the Gamecube growing up, so all of my early Nintendo memories come from the handheld equivalents.
To me, Zelda was Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages and eventually Windwaker. Never really playing Ocarina properly until version bundled on the Gamecube came out. But going back to Link’s Awakening now, it’s difficult to reccomend it without mentioning the fact that this is still a Gameboy game through and through.
The fact that game was on the Gameboy and all the limitations that came with that are starkly apparent in the remake. While it was quite the achievement at the time, now it flits between being overly simple within the dungeons and strangely cryptic in the over world. A lot of the puzzle solutions to came to me through the osmosis of playing this game so many times as a child, but listening to people come to it the first time, who have no frame of reference for early NES-era bullshit, the solutions seem random and nonsensical. Something that never occurred to me.
Credit where credit’s due though. The toybox look of the game, coupled with the amazing score and throwback gameplay make it difficult to ignore. I love Link’s Awakening, and this is a very well made game, some performance issues notwithstanding. It’s just too bad that the limitations of the original game end up making this feel like an odd bird in 2019.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my time with the game, but I guess I never had time to air my issues with it before now. My lessened activity on my blog coming back to bite me in the ass I suppose.