Virtual Odyssey January 2020

Virtual Odyssey
A Journey Through the Games of the 2010s
January 2020

Jre Best

In case you missed this, 2019 ended last month which meant two things. One, the unsatisfyingly titled 2010s came to a close. Two, every sect of pop culture journalism was forced by law to make a “Best of the Decade” list or be sentenced to public execution. Being the tiringly predictable human being I am, I read, watch and listen to many of these lists. And it was while constructing my own best of a decade list I realized that out of all the hobbies I had over the course of the 2010s the only one I started and finished the decade with was playing video games. But despite video games being my most consistent interests for the last decade not only did I not consider it my main hobby but I struggled heavily thinking of games that I had played that came out in the 2010s. I have played many, more than the average person for sure, but in terms of the larger videogame playing community – or as we are so unfortunately called “gamers” – I felt like I had spent way more time talking and thinking about video games than actually playing them. So while thinking about this in the middle of the night I had an idea on how to rectify this. I went to a private Discord server I’m in with a couple of friends, gave everyone a google doc, and told them to write down five to ten of their games of the decade and over the course of the next five years, I will attempt to play all of them. I ended up having nearly 200 games to play.

I’m going to be logging my journey through all these games giving you monthly updates about my progress and opinions on the digital toy boxes I’ll be rummaging through. Here are some of the rules/caveats that you need to know to follow me on this quest.

  1. I put all these games on a roulette wheel. What I spin is what I play. I will only reroll if I am actually unable to obtain the game at that point but that game is not removed from the wheel just saved for a later time. This probably means I will be playing some game series wildly out of order.
  2. The people I associate with are dirty cheaters and many of them have put on collections/remakes and remasters of older games if it came out within the 2010s. I am allowing this because how I see it if it’s a collection or a remaster it counts as a new game. And the point of this experiment is to broaden my horizons so if a game only qualifies via technicality I see little reason to exclude it.
  3. I did not stop people from putting in games that I had already played mainly because it’s been a long while since I played many of these games and coming back to them with a fresh perspective seems worthwhile
  4. I reserve the right to drop a game only if I make no significant progress in it for over two months.
  5. 100% completion is for losers and criminals.
  6. Games that are listed twice have more entries on the roulette wheel but once they’re rolled I removed all their entries. However different versions of the same game are given separate playthroughs, for example, Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal.
  7. I’m not sharing the list. Mostly because I like the idea of what games I could potentially play being a surprise. I will be announcing each game I spin on my twitter so if you want to keep up-to-date on that follow me there, link at the bottom of the article.

Katamari Damacy Rerolled

So technically I played and beat this game in December of 2019 but it was the first game I spun and played while doing this project so I figured I’d talk about it a bit. I have been interested in Katamari Damacy for years. I feel like once you see any of the games in this series it’s hard for anyone not to be. The simple pleasure of being this small orb rolling up everything within sight like a snowball is inherently appealing. It has this super satisfying sense of escalation as at the start of most levels you’re so tiny you struggled to roll up a coin, but by the end you are casually collecting cars, trees, towers and sometimes even whole islands.
This is all helped by the fantastic soundtrack which could best be described as eclectic and heartwarming. It’s a mixture of Jazz, Techno and J-Pop which provides a wonderfully odd yet appropriate atmosphere for the game. Hats off to Yuu Miyake, the game’s composer.
I beat it the second night I played it. The game only took me around four hours to finish. It’s incredibly short but very replayable. I don’t think I could have started off this endeavor in a better way. Katamari Damacy Rerolled comes highly recommended.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

I was pretty intrigued when I spun this as I had never played the original Spyro games. My childhood console was the Playstation 2 and even then I was always more of a Crash kid. So outside of a half an hour play session of the infamously bad Game Boy Advance Crash-Spyro crossover this was my first experience with the franchise. So as an introduction to this character and his adventures how did this fare? Well it kind of felt like when a friend of yours invites you to his family reunion. You’re not having a bad time but you’re the only person who doesn’t know everybody else there, the food is nice but not really your thing and people are only really talking in in jokes and they’re not really in a rush to explain them to you.

This weird disconnect I felt as a newcomer to the series can be traced back to one major factor, the world. Looking in from the outside, I was never a big fan of Spyro’s aesthetic but even I was surprised by how off putting I found the cutscenes in this game, outside of the very first cutscene of the first game which I found amusing. They lack a lot of energy and aren’t especially nice looking. I have to say that despite the voice cast being good I wasn’t really a fan of any of the performances with the exception of a few one-off dragons. I found myself disappointed the most by Ripto who has a painfully generic growly villain voice. I was shocked when I found that he was one of the few to not be recast from the original games. And I have to say I’m not a big fan of Spyro at all. Tom Kenny’s a really good voice actor and more dynamic than people give him credit for, but his Spyro feels just as boring and generic as Ratchet did in that Ratchet & Clank remake we got a few years ago, Just a generic happy-go-lucky hero type. Overall, I think the aesthetic of Spyro is just something not for me and that’s not meant as an insult. It’s just a matter of personal taste. The fantasy cartoon look just simply didn’t grab me and never fully won me over.

I haven’t brought up the gameplay yet. That’s because I wanted to get all my negatives out of the way because the gameplay in Spyro is thankfully it’s best and most prominent feature. Each game has you traveling between four to five hub worlds with various amounts of levels contained within them, participating in missions within these levels to gain story significant items. Once you’ve collected a specific amount of these items, you are allowed to fight the final boss. This is the big difference between Spyro and other collectathon 3d platformers. The items are obtained not by conquering platforming challenges but by an assortment of missions that have an astonishing amount of variety. Some might have you chasing down thieves, some might have you solve puzzles, and some might have you playing hockey. Almost every single world in all these games is throwing a new idea at you. While I was playing the game, the one comparison that I kept coming back to was Kirby, in the sense that the game doesn’t seek to engage you in its challenge. Spyro can be challenging at points but that’s usually not because it’s trying to challenge your skills as a player. It feels like a lot of the appeal of the game is just how satisfying it is to control Spyro, which it is, and just inhabiting it’s world, which, if you find Spyro’s world charming, will be great.

This formula is done better in some games than others with Spyro 2 easily being the weakest out of the three games. It’s missions strive to be more complex than the relatively basic first game but they are not executed nearly as well as in the third so many of the missions just feel tedious. And I felt like the other characters in Spyro 3 were quite underutilized. I think my favorite of the three might be the first just because of how simple yet satisfying I found it. Though that opinion might be the result of feeling some minor burnout as a result of playing 3 Spyro games in a row. Even if I did experience burnout, I think I had a pretty good time with all three games and would recommend either the original or Reignited Trilogy if you’re interested in this series. It’s Kirby with dragons. What else could you ask for?

Astral Chain

The last game I spun for the month was Astral Chain, Platinum’s newest frantic and irreverent IP. I am a huge fan of Platinum Games and I think they’ve been the undisputed king of action gaming for more than a decade now. Which is why I found myself very surprised by how mixed my opinions on Astral Chain has been so far. I’m still very early in the game so there’s every chance things can turn around. But as of January 2020 Astral Chain has been leaving me kind of cold let’s hope that’s not the case for next month.

And here I was wanting these articles to be short. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep myself to a shorter length now that all the ground rules are set an order. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and come back next month to see me continue on this journey. Make sure to check out the other great content being contributed to this website. If you want to stay up-to-date with other story arc articles make sure to follow us at @The_Story_Arc and to stay up to date with me follow @jrebest on Twitter

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