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Games of the Year 2023: Honourable Mentions

Like a Dragon: Ishin!

I played 45 hours of Like a Dragon: Ishin! and enjoyed it quite thoroughly. I also would not recommend it to most people.

I play Like a Dragon games for the setting and the story. If the gameplay is enjoyable that is a nice bonus but the developers at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have got this down to an art and I am always along for the ride. The design, the writing, the voice acting, the graphics, are always top notch and Like a Dragon: Ishin! checks all those boxes. You play a betrayed samurai in feudal Japan during the Bakumatsu and end of the shogunate.

But even after 45 hours I still could not find anything to enjoy about the combat. It was boring at the best of times and frustrating otherwise. Upgrading your weapon requires so much grinding that I think I actually ended up buying some DLC which just allowed me to have a stupidly powerful sword. Yeah, it was that bad.

But I cannot stress this enough, the setting and story were so good that I would immediately forget how bad the combat was. To anyone that is considering this game please just put it on easy, select the "Wild Dancer" style, and button mash through the combat as fast as you can.

Resident Evil 4 Remake

The Resident Evil 4 Remake is a serviceable third-person shooter that is riding on the coattails of its namesake. There are dozens of other games that play basically identical to this one but were given 6 outta 10 and immediately forgotten. Slap on the Resident Evil veneer and suddenly this game is the second coming of Jesus.

Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation seemed to be one of the few critics who wasn't tripping over themselves to praise the game so I'll just post his video here and move on.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

In my opinion Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is closer to DLC for the original game (like Spider-Man: Miles Morales) rather than a full blown numbered sequel. Everything that I enjoyed about the first game is still here. But everything I hated about the first game also remains. The graphics are prettier and the world is bigger but nothing about the core gameplay is different or even improved.

Traversing the open world and web swinging through New York City is still an absolute ball and Insomniac Games deserves all the credit in the world for hitting that nail on the head.

But everything that was weak about the first game(s) is still here somehow. The story is subpar and almost pointless. The bad guys exist only to be punched which would be fine if I didn't have to sit through hours of cutscenes that try to give them some sort of motivation but fail horribly.

The combat is just as shallow as the first. You really only have to mash the attack button to win, which could honestly be said about a lot of games. But the problem with Spider-man is that both the regular enemies and bosses have way too much health. I wouldn't mind if I swung down into a group of enemies, instantly shot one against the wall, snatched a gun and knocked another out with it, and then threw a couple quick punches to take out the couple remaining. But in this game you drop down to fight 5-6 guys and maybe 60-70 punches later they are finally defeated. Bosses are even worse and go through so many phases that I lost interest in every single one. In the best case they are boring, in the worst they were frustrating because of forced parrying mechanics.

And the cherry on top of this shit sundae is they brought back the Mary Jane stealth missions. These things were universally panned in the first game and they aren't any better here. They seem to exist simply to pad out the length of the game.

It took me 22 hours to 100% Spider-man 2 meaning I got the platinum trophy on my PlayStation 5. If I'm being generous I would say I enjoyed 10 of those hours. This isn't the worst game I have played this year but it is such a middling one that I can almost guarantee that I'm not going to play whatever Insomniac releases next. At least not when it is released.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for the Nintendo Gamecube. It is an incredibly faithful remake but quite a bit of of the gameplay has aged poorly in the 20 years since the original's release.

It is not a bad game by any means but after several hours I had my fill and was done. We live in a golden age of farm simulator games thanks to Stardew Valley so it is really hard to go back to these old ones.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

I only played a little over two hours of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp while I was on a plane. It seems like a solid turn-based strategy game but the way the missions were presented made it look like learning through failure was a key part of the game. I just wasn't into that sort of thing at the time so I put it down and never picked it up again.

While it is highly unlikely that I'll ever play Advance Wars again due to the plethora of games that get released, I don't want to say that its impossible which is why it finds itself here and not on "The Bad" list.

Monster Hunter Now

I'll be completely honest. The only reason Monster Hunter Now is on the this list and not "The Bad" is because it is using the Monster Hunter IP. The game itself is the standard predatory Niantic crap we've come to expect but I am just so desperate for another Monster Hunter game that I installed this one.

Elsie and I used to play it constantly while we were out for our morning walks but now sometimes I forget to even open it up. I suspect I'll stop playing completely in 2024.