Way back at the beginning of the year, I started keeping track of everything I played this year in an Excel spreadsheet (because nerd). I tracked the game, what system I played it on, if I 100%-ed the game or got the Platinum Trophy, jotted down any potential Game of the Year thoughts to revisit (“story,” “art design,” “gameplay,” etc.), release date, and notes to identifie if/how I reviewed a game.
It eventually became apparent that I was playing enough games to divide out my Game of the Year lists into two segments: a standard “Best Games of 2016” list, but also lists to focus on games from previous years. And then that was broken down even further into a list of games from previous years, that I was playing for the first time, and this list celebrating the games I chose to revisit in some form or other, despite having already played them.
A note since I didn’t address these kinds of games in yesterday’s “Games Not on my GOTY Lists” list: I did not revisit a couple of the high-profile remaster collections this year, like The Bioshock Collection or Batman Return to Arkham. For the most part, they were all still too fresh in my mind so I just didn’t feel the need to return to them.
So here are my nostalgia-fueled Top Ten Revisited Games in 2016.
10. Dark Cloud 2 (Level-5)
The original Dark Cloud is one of my favorite games from the PlayStation 2 era (spoiler, you’ll see if you scroll down a little ways). But when Level 5 release the sequel, it just didn’t resonate as well for me and I never made it farther than the first couple chapters. So when PlayStation put Dark Cloud and Dark Cloud 2 in their PS2 on PS4 program, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to revisit those games.
And again, I just couldn’t bring myself to get too far in Dark Cloud 2. A lot of the gameplay changes between games don’t work for me: the need to take photos of objects in order to invent/craft supplies, the different party composition, and the revised Georama system, to name a few examples. I enjoyed what I played well enough to make this list but I also found myself ready to move on to a bevy of other titles rather than try and stick this one out.
9. Lara Croft GO (Square Enix Montreal)
Landing in the same spot it did last year on my overall game of the year list in Lara Croft GO. Which I revisited on the PlayStation Vita after it was launched while I was at PlayStation Experience (unfortunately since I was traveling and otherwise occupied it meant I wasn’t able to nab the early Platinum Trophy on the game like I did with Hitman GO earlier in the year).
As I briefly touched on when reflecting on my year in mobile gaming in my Worst of 2015 Revisited list, I love the puzzles of the GO games and even just a year later, I had forgotten a lot of them so it still made replaying the game on the Vita rewarding. Plus the Vita version included the expansion puzzles sets that I hadn’t played on my phone. The biggest drawback (and probably why the game didn’t actually creep up a spot or two) was that the loading times on the Vita were terrible compared to how well the game runs on a phone.
8. XCOM Enemy Unknown Plus (Firaxis Games)
I can still remember fondly riding my bike to my friend Nick’s house in elementary school and playing XCOM: UFO Defense on his computer why the two of us would eat a shit-ton of popsicles. So the XCOM franchise has a place near and dear to my heart.
I really enjoyed XCOM Enemy Unknown on the PlayStation 3 because it was a return to the tactical strategy genre I definitely don’t think I get enough of anymore. So when 2K Games released XCOM Enemy Unknown Plus on the PlayStation Vita, I decided to pick it up, admittedly wary of how it would run.
And yeah, the game doesn’t run great on the Vita. Load times can be really long and the frame rate can be atrocious. Fortunately, given the genre, it doesn’t matter if the frame rate is crap when the characters are running through their animations, since I’m controlling the action as a turn-based title. All-in-all, I had a lot of fun replaying through missions and fighting aliens every night before I went to sleep for a little while this year.
Like Lara Croft GO, I’ve already addressed revisiting Fallout 4 on my Worst of 2015 and Best of 2015 Revisited lists. I came back for another 20-30 hours in the Wasteland this year when looking for comfort food in between other releases. I only really ended up playing a lot of the same content I’d played through before so the original intent of revisiting the game to explore the DLC wound up falling by the wayside. It was still a lot of fun, but I was admittedly disappointed that Bethesda hadn’t done a better job of patching more of the performance issues from launch.
I’ll also admit to letting the bullshit their PR team pulled trying to publicly shame Sony for blocking the mods that Bethesda promised kick this down a couple spots.
Despite LEGO Dimension carrying a lot of baggage from my former relationship, revisiting it to go back and obtain the Platinum Trophy and build all of the Year One sets was somewhat cathartic. I’ve also continued collecting the Year Two sets (including a few I just received for Christmas). I imagine I’ll find some time in the new year to revisit the game yet again. Because I really want to play around with Sonic the Hedgehog, E.T. and Harry Potter.
5. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (Square Enix)
A very late release on the original PlayStation, Dragon Warrior VII was one of my favorite games on the system that was basically my JRPG system. I easily devoted 100+ hours to the game without ever actually beating it. So when Nintendo announced they were remastering it on the 3DS, there was the briefest glimmers of hope that I’d finally actually beat the game.
That hope quickly faded when it became apparent that they hadn’t really done all that much to speed up the game (save a dumb abbreviated beginning of the game series of fetch quests that they excised). Square Enix included an excellent feature in their Final Fantasy VII port allowing players the option to play through the game at 3x the speed. Why they didn’t include a similar optional feature in this remaster confuses me to no end.
Still, I mostly enjoyed the 30 or so hours I spent revisiting this game and enjoying the collection of short stories, stitched together.
4. Final Fantasy Record Keeper (Square Enix, DeNA)
Last year I wrote about Final Fantasy Record Keeper being my favorite Final Fantasy game in over a decade. I still play it every day because they have done a great job continually supporting it and providing new weekly challenges and rewards, as well as other regular updates. I haven’t spent a single dime on the game in 2016 though at times I consider purchasing some of the in-game currency just to throw a bit of money their way for all of the work they’ve done to keep the game worth coming back to.
As mentioned above, Dark Cloud was one of my favorite games from the PlayStation 2. Every PlayStation Experience, I join with Brittney Brombacher in hoping that Level 5 will announce Dark Cloud 3. It was so refreshing and fun to return to this game this year on my PlayStation 4 and enjoy the excellent blend of dungeon-crawling and city-building. So many memories came flooding back. I didn’t even need to talk to the villagers to remind me just how they liked their buildings repositioned. The sometimes error-laden localization issues were still perfectly intact. I loved nearly every minute of my time with this game and was all too happy to play through and get the game’s brand new Platinum Trophy. The only downside was that it probably burnt me out before I could get to Dark Cloud 2.
2. Journey (Thatgamecompany)
After playing Bound and ABZU, I didn’t think I really needed to revisit something in that same vein like Journey. But then I listened to my dear friend Alex O’Neill gush about having replayed the game and decided to spend an evening doing the same. It is such a simple, stunningly-beautiful game with nearly flawless design. Bound didn’t connect with me and ABZU was just missing that special something that Journey delivered on. I could probably revisit this title every year and still find new things to love about it.
1. Final Fantasy VII (Square Enix)
For my money it’s not the best Final Fantasy, but there’s no denying a sense of nostalgic love for the first PlayStation game I ever played (well before I even owned the system). There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles in the PS4 port (they’re going to milk that for everything they can in the actual remake), but the few things they added should become standard features in every JRPG re-release moving forward (including the rumored 30th Anniversary Final Fantasy box set that would include Final Fantasies I through IX on one disc - I’ll believe it when I see it). These features were the ability to turn off random encounters, the ability to constantly have HP, MP, and Limit Break meters refill, and, most importantly, the ability to play the game at 3x speed.
I’ve already poured countless hours into Final Fantasy VII. I know the story like the back of my hand. So the ability to race through the game instead of grind Materia ad nauseum was so incredibly appreciated for someone with a full-time job and shit to do. It even afforded me the opportunity to do something I never had the time or patience to do when I was younger: defeat the Emerald and Ruby Weapons. The Platinum Trophy I got for Final Fantasy VII was nearly two decades in the making.
If Square Enix actually does deliver on something like that 9-game disc, with each game allowing this ability to race through and having its own set of trophies, I can easily see myself replaying every one of those games again (even VIII and it’s terrible Draw/Junction system).