Game of the Year (Feat. Production Meetings)
Very special thanks to Alex Oweis from Production Meetings for sharing his Game of the Year summary with us! Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the review for more from Alex and Production Meetings! We do weekly videos covering a whole bunch of topics, so be sure to check them out!
Game of the Year, 2020
As rotten as 2020 has felt, there have been some excellent games that have entered our lives in a time when one could say that we have needed them the most. Because I am just a regular consumer don’t have the funds to play every single game in order to give my opinion on all of them. However, I have spent time with a number of AAA titles, most of which are exclusive to the PS4/PS5. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Final Fantasy VII Remake, Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us: Part II, Spider-Man: Miles Morales; heck even Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was a solid game in it’s own right (even though it pretty much tells the same story we’ve heard dozens of times through other game adaptations). I’ve also had the displeasure of playing games like Marvel’s Avengers (So disappointing), So I’ve had plenty of hands-on experience with several titles this year to weigh in on the Subject of “Game of the Year”.
Without beating around the bush too much, there are honestly two titles that I thought were more than deserving of the award, neither of which was the actual winner at the official VGAs. My two nominees for game of the year are…Final Fantasy VII Remake and Ghost of Tsushima. I’ll say why I think each of them is deserving and then ultimately crown a single winner.
Easy enough to go in chronologically, so we’ll start off with the remake to one of the most beloved games of all time. Final Fantasy VII, back when it greeted us in 1997, had been established as one of the greatest games of all time which means that Re-imagining and modernizing a story and gameplay style like that is a tall task that needed to be handled with experienced hands, enter Tetsuya Nomura. Though it is unclear how long exactly this remake had been in development before it finally released back in April, the wait was definitely worth it. From the opening scene showcasing the landscape of Midgar to it’s not so Final Finale against the iconic villain Sephiroth, the FFVII remake delivered a great time in so many ways.
First of all, the graphics are the best that I have ever seen in a game, PERIOD. Some games have been showcased with pre-rendered gameplay before they were available, just to downgrade significantly when they enter our homes, but FFVII does no such thing. The cinematics are beautifully done and the gameplay looks fresh and smooth the entire way through. The only time there is not a good looking texture in the game is a couple of random doors that aren’t even important, so not even really worth mentioning. I was truly impressed with how well the graphics held up throughout the journey especially during those high action moments when there are a fair amount of enemies and several FX going on at the same time; the frame rate never let up other than a moment here and there, again nothing near complaint-worthy. I think this game did what God of War 3 did back in the PS3 era: it pushed the PS4 to its limits, but in a fantastic way. It cannot be overstated how great looking this game is.
The next thing I’d like to mention is the gameplay itself. Now, those who know me know that I am huge Kingdom Hearts fan and that I love the hack and slash type of combat mixed in with some magic/accessories menu-ing which is kind of the same thing that FFVII does, in a way. The original game was simply turned-based with the option of picking from physical/magical attacks, accessories, summons, and so on but the remake mixes that in with hack and slash. Also like Kingdom Hearts, it had a quick menu option where you can assign different spells, abilities, items, or summons that can be accessed in a quick manner which made things a lot less cumbersome and more fluid thus not bogging you down on searching though menus and submenus causing the intensity of the situation you are in the middle of to not be watered down. The gameplay is balanced very effectively, you never feel like you are exclusively doing one thing over the other (button mashing or menu searching.) This is a very important component in any game to keep it from being dull by having you do the same thing over and over.
Now, I will admit that I have never played the original game, so I do not have a lot of experience with the party system in the game, but I can say that I was surprised at the option of switching between characters in a free manner (honestly it was necessary in some parts), it felt both familiar
and fresh at the same time. If you thought you just play as Cloud, the main protagonist, the entire time, well think again. You also to get to control the heavy hitting Tifa Lockheart, The slightly short tempered sharpshooter Barret Wallace, and the light hearted mage Aerith Gainsborough. Every character brings in a nice balance of attack and magic abilities to further round themselves out. There is a fair amount of slicing/shooting/punching in this game but it is absolutely vital to implement all the main characters’ strengths and make use of the items you have at your disposal in order to ensure your success in battle.
The Story is long, as to be expected, and a little bit hard to follow when you’re spending several hours on side guests that cause you to forget a little bit of why you’re in a particular area to begin with. However, the plot is quite interesting and makes you want to learn more and more about the mysteries that lie within the Shinra facilities, and who exactly is pulling the strings. The Characters are sublime, vivid, and just a blast to play as. Cloud is definitely my favorite, not much of a talker but easily the coolest character to be. Barret is insanely fun to play as with his addicting gunplay making
you want to level him up as much as you can in order to wreak havoc on all enemies that dare stand against you. Tifa is a whirlwind of punches and speed. Her agility is her strongest tool. Aerith is easily my worst character to play as due to being on the weaker side and relying exclusively on magic, but if you level up your material and increase her MP, then she can definitely be a great support character.
There were a couple of things that either I didn’t care for or took me by surprise. First of all this game had more profanity than I was expecting, which was really none. Barret is the biggest culprit, with a fair amount of his dialogue containing an expletive both in cinematic scenes and in battle. I’m not that offended by it or anything, but it makes it harder to recommend to younger kids that have taken an interest into final fantasy.
The other thing that I did not care for was slowness of some aspects in the game. When you are trying to squeeze through objects in a wreckage or in an alleyway by side stepping, it feels incredibly slow and off putting, but thankfully there are only a few of those moments all throughout. Additionally when you level up your magic (eg. fire to fira and then to Firaga) and you use the stronger version of a spell, not only does it take a crazy amount of mp to cast those spells,
your character stands there for roughly 3-4 seconds casting it which doesn’t sound long but feels like an eternity when the big boss you’re trying to hit with thundaga is making a b-line right for you. If that weren’t bad enough, when you are casting these strong spells you can easily be interrupted by even the weakest of attacks, leaving you having to charge up your magic yet again and costing you more mp which you never even got to use. That is easily the most frustrating thing in the game for me. Despite this minor gameplay flaw, I still found the combat to be loads of fun and challenging while not wanting to throw the controller because I couldn’t beat a certain enemy.
Overall, this game was excellent and I would recommend it to anybody, assuming they’re 17+.
My offical RATING: 9/10
Phew, that was a lot to go over, but heck these are my nominees for game of the year, they deserve the attention. Anyway, the other title I nominated for game of the year was the latest SuckerPunch title “Ghost of Tsushima.”
Now, I would hate to say that this game came out of nowhere because I know that this title had been showcased at E3/Playstation events in years past, and I know how much hype had been built up for its anticipated release. However, a disadvantage that this game had that the FFVII remake did not is that it was a completely new and unfamiliar story. Some games are hyped a ton and still deliver a fun and exciting experience, but then there are some games that are loaded with the same, if not more, amount of hype and completely bomb at launch (cough cough Cyberpunk cough cough). So we were just never assured that Tsushima was going to be a good game. But that easily was not the case.
I will say that the story is absolutely emotional. It did not feel like it was going to be that way in the first third of the game, which is easily the longest portion of the game, but once you get to the second and third acts, the story becomes like a beautiful Japanese tapestry being unfolded before you. The story follows Jin Sakai, a samurai lord trained by both his father (who was killed in action along with Jin’s Mother) and his uncle Lord Shimura, as he aims to defend his land from the invading Mongolian army led by the war Lord Khotun Khan. Through recruiting other skillful warriors Jin is determined to save his Uncle, who was taken hostage by the Khan, and drive out the Mongols from the island of Tsushima. To keep away from mentioning any spoilers I will say that the story was profound and felt completely unlike anything I had ever experienced before and leave it at that.
Moving on, another thing about Ghost of Tsushima is the graphics; The look of the game is astounding and the landscapes that you traverse through are breathtaking, it is as if you are playing a painting. My favorite scenes to take in are cliffside areas while you are on horseback overlooking the sea at sunset. There are fewer scenes in a game that have caused me to gaze in awe and just take in the scenery. You might not think that wheat fields would be so mesmerizing, but the fluidity of the stalks of wheat waving unpredictably with the blowing of wind makes you think that sometimes you are playing in a real life area and its just a delight to travel and take in scenes of mountains, valleys, cliffside shrines, and so on. It just simply cannot be overstated how beautiful this game is.
Along with the graphics, Tsushima is very artistic as well. One of the things that I overlooked but then recalled when writing this was the effective use of the camera scaling from fullscreen to cinematic widescreen to indicate that a dramatic moment was taking place. It’s such a simple mechanic but it helps the player focus in on an key plot point. There are also moments of resting and performing poetic haikus that implement what sounds like a relaxing mixture of Japanese harps and pan flutes. These are the moments when you know that Sucker Punch was really going for not just a game for players to play, but a story for gamers to experience and feel. For me personally I appreciated the haiku “side missions” and the artistic nature behind them, but after doing about 3-4 of them they became very repetitive and become a little bit of a chore to do, especially when you’re like me and going for 100% completion, but more on that later on.
Tsushima uses several calling cards of Japanese Cinema. There are missions that you are able to take on that allow you to obtain weapons of legendary status, but before you do these missions you are told the legend that brought about the rarity of the weapon and why it’s so important. During these tales you are treated to a ink and paint brush story board that is honestly very appealing as it brings together pictures of past warriors who possessed the weapons. These are moments that have to be experienced personally because any description I could conjure up would pale in comparison, but believe me when I say that they are absolutely delightful moments. There are also moments when there are flower petals or fallen leaves that coat the ground right before a battle is about to take place that swirl with the wind in a majestic and powerful way that maybe personify rage, anxiety and uncertainty of what is about to happen. Like the ink and paint brush story boards, it’s something that we have seen in media before, but again you have to see it for yourself to appreciate the design that when into creating these moments. Another cool feature, though it is repeated often, is the Japanese lettering that appears and disappears in a fading dusting like fashion accompanied by light Japanese harp or acoustic guitar. Similar to the haikus, you see these often and are less blown away by them after you see them a few times, but I still appreciate them nonetheless. I could go on and on
about are the artsy fartsy details about the game, but we’d be here all day, so I will just finish there and move on to my final thoughts on the game.
Now, it wouldn’t be a good game review if I did not mention the negatives. Honestly, there is only one word that needs to be used to describe its clearest flaw: Repetitive. Tsushima is great in so many ways, but after a certain point you feel like you are doing a lot of the same missions over and over. There are a hand full of mission types, such as honoring Inari shrines or striking bamboo stakes, but other than those, most of the missions are either “find this thing” or “kill these guys.” And honestly if a game has a great gameplay design, the idea is to implement it in an optimal way, but after you do so many missions they start to blend together, you just feel like you are doing the same thing just at a different location. Even though this really is the only negative I have about the game, it’s glaring enough for me to dock it a point in it’s rating. However, this did not mean that this was a bad game by any means.
In all, Ghost of Tsushima is a fantastic game that should, without a doubt, be added to the the list of top PS4 exclusives. The fun Assassins Creed like style of gameplay make it challenging but not unbearable. The graphics are elegant and smooth the whole way through. The Artistic nature add an extremely high amount of grace and depth to a game that might otherwise just be another run of the mill samurai game. Even all the missions are fun, but as stated earlier they tend to become very repetitive after a while.
My official RATING: 9/10
It comes down to these two high quality playstation titles. I went back and forth on who I ultimately thought deserved to be crowned the greatest game of 2020. This was not an easy choice for me
but I did finally make my selection. My winner for 2020’s GAME OF THE YEAR is:
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA!
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with choosing either game as your favorite from this year, they were both just so well put together and just insanely fun to play. I think what made me choose Tsushima
was the fact that even though it had a fair amount of hype leading up to its release, It did not nearly have the same amount of hype as did FFVII remake, and that is only because people have regarded FFVII as one of the best games of all time, so they knew that Square Enix was going to handle a remake with the utmost care and give it the attention and amount of work put into it as it deserved, where as Tsushima, more or less, came out of nowhere and took us all on an incredible journey. Sucker Punch doesn’t have nearly the amount of resources that Square Enix does, but they pulled out all the stops and made every dollar count in a big way. It kinda felt like the Rocky of video games. Additionally the FFVII remake isn’t even going to be the last remake game for FFVII, there are rumored to be 2 or 3 (or maybe more) individual games that will continue/finish the retelling of that tale. So considering these things and every mentioned in this article I felt that Ghost of Tsushima deserved to be crowned winner and should be considered one of Playstation’s greatest games, and potentially one of the greatest games of all time.
Thanks again to Alex Oweis from Production Meetings for sharing his thoughts with us! As I mentioned above, we do weekly news covering a variety of film, television, and video game things, including a few specific game videos Alex has done! So be sure to check those out as well!
Production Meetings: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyr99P_bCIbAI27Xqu8fxiA