Skattered Fragments - #5
Less than a year between posts this time, progress!
Last year I posted my top 8 games of 2020 and I figured I might as well at least keep this tradition alive if I’m too lazy to actually write monthly/yearly/whatever reports. Same as last year, the only criteria to keep in mind is that I must have finished the game in 2021, hence why this list is a bit underwhelming to be honest.
Ever since I played Muse Dash last year I kinda have the urge to play a rhythm game every now and then, although most of the time it just means going back to the aforementioned title. I did end up getting this as a gift when it was in a bundle since a certain cat didn't care for it so I ended up giving it a shot. After all, I was already into deckbuilding roguelites so with my new found love for rhythm stuff it seemed like a good opportunity - and, well, it kinda was. The game does get incredibly fun when you understand it but man, the learning curve on this is… something else. Might feel weird to claim that considering I've already gotten the "true" end after a mere 13 hours, but the first 2-3 hours of playing this probably got me killed a few dozen times on the first floor, sometimes the second.
Still, the game does offer plenty of beginner choices such as decreased damage from enemies, slower projectiles and stuff like that. I really enjoyed my time with it, but it definitely takes a bit of motivation to get into the swing of things.
ATRI -My Dear Moments-
10.9 hours, no achievements
I'm just gonna lie here, and let the sea take me. ♪
Ok first of all, this game may very well be the best VN I've read on a technical level. Of course, you have the "usual" game speed options, don't skip dialogue until next voice line, various volume sliders for every character but one thing that stood out is the ability to save a voice line. It might feel like a trivial thing, but considering they added that I'm assuming I'm not the only one that grabs soundbites and other things from games/anime/whatever to reuse in other various projects.
As for the game itself, it has gorgeous CGs, a decent soundtrack (this one didn't click with me as much honestly, but others seem to really love it), and a good mix of slice of life/serious story. At roughly 10-15 hours depending on your reading speed, it also didn't overstay its welcome (it's mostly kinetic, with only a couple of obvious choices to change the ending).
After me experiencing the Tales franchise for the first time with Symphonia back in 2018, I was honestly pretty tempted to give up on the idea of playing any of these games in the foreseeable future. Not having nostalgia goggles on made that game a massive chore to go through.
Still, Berseria did look up to be pretty departed from that style of gameplay and since I also happened to get this from a bundle a while ago, I figured I could at least give it a shot. The combat did turn out to be much better with a lot more freedom, Velvet ended up being a pretty damn good protagonist (although I can't say I cared too much about all the other side characters - only one of them really) and well, I just simply enjoyed it a lot more. Tales of Arise combat is even more polished but unfortunately that one couldn't make this list due to the rules I have in place, but maybe next year… :)
A Summer's End - Hong Kong 1986
5.0 hours, no achievements
A Summer's End feels like a VN that's gotten a lot of love put into it. With its unique visual style, theme and a very fitting soundtrack to put you in the mood for this sensual yuri story, this one felt like it ended in a flash (to be fair, it is only ~5 hours long). Speaking of it being super short, this game also puts heavy emphasis on its fashion. Might feel like a minor detail, but I don't think I've read another vn with so many outfit changes before, and this one barely even has any length behind it to justify all the effort. I definitely appreciate it though!
It Takes Two
10.0 hours, 9 of 20 achievements
A very late addition to this list, having finished this just a couple of days before the end of the year. I didn't care too much about the raving reviews when it initially came out as, well, it's a co-op game. I just don't play those. But then the game awards happened, this one took the GOTY trophy home, I won a copy from the massive giveaway EA had going for the show itself and well, everything just seemed to align to make me wanna play it, you know?
And I'm glad I did. While it's not even my favourite 2021 game that I've finished (as you might see a bit further in this list), I had a blast going through this. It just has so many cool ideas, charming characters and so on. It's kinda hard to put into words as it's just one of those games you have to experience for yourself if possible.
I've always felt like I wanna get into 3d platformers but they always just felt too… childish? They all seem to have these cute animals or whatever that just don't seem to appeal to me. This one on the other hand has you playing as this smug kid dealing with the mafia - is it still kinda childish? Well, yes, but anyway… (Hell, this is the description of the game: A Hat in Time is a cute-as-heck 3D platformer featuring a little girl who stitches hats for wicked powers!)
The controls are tight, the various movement options feel good, the humour is pretty nice as well. Also the stages are all fairly unique so you'll never really feel bored of going through "more of the same". I've also gone through both of the singleplayer dlcs - seal the deal was… okay-ish, could probably skip that one if you decide to get this, but nyakuza metro was just as good or maybe better than the base game.
This is one of those games I kinda wish were longer (although I have 20 hours and could technically have an infinite amount with workshop levels) - that feeling is only exacerbated by the severe lack of other 3d platformers with themes that interest me (maybe I'll get Demon Turf to scratch that itch at some point)
Oh boy, where do I even begin with this one?
ENDER LILIES kinda arrived out of nowhere and swiftly made its way onto the list of best metroidvanias of all time. With its gorgeous aesthetic, pleasing soundtrack by Mili (which some people might recognize from anime, other videogames or just original tracks on youtube), satisfying combat and plenty of build variety, it just has so much going for it.
It also has this unique concept of using spirits to protect your (mostly) defenseless, fragile priestess (your main character). Spirits provide both your combat options as well as various backtracking skills as is usually the case in metroidvanias, making you think both about your fighting prowess and your movement options when picking out your build.
All in all, I don't think I can do this game justice with my vocabulary, so maybe just try it out yourself if you're into metroidvanias and don't mind relatively difficult boss fights :)
G-senjou no Maou - The Devil on G-String
29.1 hours, no achievements
As if she were pulling a bow across a violin's G-string, her sad, choking voice resonated in my heart.
As with many people that are into VNs, I usually check VNDB to see how well received they are (or were, in the case of old japanese VNs that got an english localization much later) - this one happens to be in top 30 best VNs of all time. Now see, the thing is, my taste does seem to vary quite bit from the usual crowd so I'm a bit more skeptical after reading a couple of incredibly high-rated VNs that just didn't really click with me, however…
…I really didn't think a day would come when a VN published by Sekai Project of all things would end up taking the number one spot in my yearly list. Now this does come in a mostly disappointing year of gaming for me that led to a challenge I'll have for myself a bit later this week (but more about that in my next post in a few days), but it still feels incredibly weird to me.
Now, about the game itself - First thing's first, the game focuses a lot on classical music, hence the g-string in the title. Yes, there is 18+ content if you download the patch separately but after reading this, honestly? I think I'd recommend you to just play it without if you do decide to read this. I've pretty much skipped every sex scene because I just wanted to see what happens next, not to read what felt like scenes added just to please the horny crowd - literally nothing of value was to be gained from those extra scenes.
This game did get me back into listening to classical music for a while, so I should probably start with mentioning that the entire soundtrack is based off of various pieces of classical music (modified quite a bit but still). I personally enjoyed it, but I can see why others might get tired of roughly 30 hours of classical music playing in the background while reading this.
Secondly, playing the voiced edition of this vn is a must. I'm sure it can be enjoyed without it, but it should be a crime to sell this game without the voices considering just how much it adds to every character's personality. Speaking of which, this also happens to have really well written, relatable characters that don't necessarily fall into the usual cliches found in this genre. You also have a route for every character and while normally I'd probably encourage people to just do stuff spoilerless, I think it's best to follow that one guide with optimal choices for once. This game's structure is fairly different and endings would likely feel off if you read it in whatever order you happen to stumble in by accident.
Overall, the game kept me hooked throughout pretty much its entirety despite its fairly predictable plot twist through the rest of its writing and character interactions and while it may not be the best game I played in 2021, it certainly ended up being the best game I finished, as well as making it pretty high up the list of my favourite VNs (maybe I'll make one of those at some point too, but probably not).
All in all, while I’ve definitely played my decent share of good videogames this year, I am pretty disappointed that most of the titles on this list would be replaced by the honorary mentions down below. As a result, in the next few days I will be posting a new challenge I’ve made for myself which should hopefully end up with me having a much better top 8 for 2022, but we’ll see :)