So about a year ago I wrote an article about ten then-upcoming games I was looking forward to play in the year 2019. Before we get to some other end/beginning of year listicles, I thought it’d be appropriate to do a short followup on that article; a little mini-review to sum up my thoughts on each of the games (or at least confirming whether they came out and if I played them!). Without further ado, here’s “Games I’m looking forward to in 2019” – The Aftermath.
MORTAL KOMBAT 11
A new MORTAL KOMBAT came out in 2019! Needless to say, I was in there day one, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this was one of last year’s most anticipated games for me, as well as probably the game I spent the most time with. I have few minor quibbles with some minor aspects of the game (inevitable as a long-time series meganerd, I think), but overall I think NRS knocked it out of the park with this one. The game system is a refinement of parts of MK9, MKX and the INJUSTICE games, and for my money by far the most mechanically sound and enjoyable fighting game they’ve made. The story was an exciting and satisfying wrap-up of this last trilogy of MK games, leaving things in a place that has me very excited for what the next generation of MK will bring – but happy to savour this one and in no hurry to move on anytime soon.
DEAD OR ALIVE 6
If MK11 was the fighting game of 2019 that really managed to sink its teeth into me, I’m sad to say that DOA6 was somewhere close to the other end of the spectrum. I don’t dislike the game – the little time I spent with it I actually found quite enjoyable! But between a lack of compelling single-player content, dodgy online, and a continued trend of utterly boring yet overpriced DLC, I just found myself falling off pretty quickly. Maybe I’ll find more excitement if any of the costumes I designed for this year’s Designer’s Contest (Tina, Mila, Lisa, NiCO, Momiji) eventually make it into the game, but for now I’m pretty cool on it.
RESIDENT EVIL 2
As mentioned in the previous post, the 2002 RESIDENT EVIL remake is my favourite game in the series – in other words RE2 had a lot to live up to, and that’s not even taking into account my apprehension about it seemingly going for a more latter-day RE gameplay style. As it turned out though, I had nothing to fear as RESIDENT EVIL 2 is god damned spectacular. Sure, the A/B playthrough (sorry, ZAPPING SYSTEM) stuff could have been more elaborate, but it’s easy enough to forgive with how right they got everything else. Although it controls differently, the tension, atmosphere, and focus on resource management are all there – making RE2 a worthy successor to the first remake.
If MK11 was a knockout, and DOA6 was a bit of a dud, I suppose it’s fair to say that SAMURAI SHODOWN ended up somewhere in the middle for me. It’s a really fun game – I had the opportunity to play a bit of local VS with a friend over the EVO 2019 weekend, and had a blast with it – alas, the game is a very bare bones affair, and just a little too hard for me to get into with noone else to play it with. I do like it though, it is fun to watch, and Darli Dagger is a 10/10 character for sure. I am looking forward to the reveal of the second season of DLC characters, and with the game being simple enough to play, I could see myself having fun with it if the chance for local VS presents itself, without having to invest a lot of time and effort into training.
XENO CRISIS impressed me several times over when it hit late last year – it’s a Kickstarter game that released in a timely fashion, shipped its physical rewards without much trouble, and not least, it fucking kicks ass. It was immediately apparent that the game would look great, but having now gotten my hands on it I’m somewhere between relieved and ecstatic at how truly great the game is. This game is not just impressive for an indie homebrew effort – I would say it’s in the absolute top tier of action games on the Mega Drive with amazing action, fantastic art, and an absolutely incredible soundtrack. This game would’ve been mindblowing in 1995 – and it still is in 2019.
Well, what can I say? I’m a total mark for anything Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio makes, and JUGMENT was no exception. Although it would have been great to see a bigger departure from the well-trodden path of the YAKUZA games, and although I think the Dragon Engine games’ (Y6, YK2, JUDGMENT) combat kinda sucks compared to the Zero Engine games (Y0, YK, HOKUTO GA GOTOKU) – JUDGMENT absolutely delivers where it matters, with a whopper of a detective story with fantastic characters and plenty of exciting twists and turns. Lord Nagoshi and his team continues to show their impeccably deft hand when it comes to balancing humour and drama, and I’m loving every minute of it.
SAYONARA WILD HEARTS
Well, it was inevitable I suppose, so here we are. Ostensibly a top ten game I was excited to play, that did come out in 2019 – yet… I didn’t. Though to be fair, it only came out towards the end of the year, and I’ve actually purchased it! I, uh, just didn’t get around to playing it yet. I hear it’s a short but sweet experience though, so we’ll probably play through it on stream sometime in the not-too-distant future. Knock on wood.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
I honestly wish I had more to say about DMC5 – it seems like a pretty incredible game, but frankly I didn’t spend enough time with it to really have a very informed opinion. I did buy and play the game (points for that, I guess) but with stuff like RE2, SEKIRO, DMC5 and then MK11 coming out in such rapid succession I found myself kind of dropping everything that wasn’t MORTAL KOMBAT. I will say though that I definitely enjoyed what I played of DMC5, I just wish I had more of the time and inclination required to really get into the game and learn how to play it well. That’s kind of the biggest reason I’m hesitant to have too much of an opinion on the game; even dabbling with it it’s apparent that you kind of need to reach a certain level of mastery before game is at its best. Still, even if I was personally unable to get into DEVIL MAY CRY 5 in 2019, I can definitely acknowledge that Capcom did a great job with it.
HUNTDOWN was a bit of a wildcard on last year’s list, and as it turns out, for good reason. Not only did the game not come out in 2019, for most of the year we didn’t really hear anything from the game’s developers – but in November we finally got a small but exciting sign of life, explicitly stating the game’s development has NOT been cancelled. With no other news on the game there’s little else to add, but hopefully we get to enjoy HUNTDOWN in 2020.
I started 2019 with an assumption, or at least hope, that the PS4 reissues of YAKUZA 3, 4 and 5 would be announced and released in English during the year. With the delayed announcement I had assumed we’d be getting them all in a bundle once all three had come out in Japan – I ended up being half-right, with the English versions being sold in bundle format, but the games releasing piecemeal during the second half of 2019 and first half of 2020. In any case, we finally got the PS4 versions of YAKUZA 3 and 4 in English, and would you believe, I actually started playing YAKUZA 3 in December. Having only played the KIWAMI remakes of 1 and 2, going back to an older vintage of YAKUZA is interesting – definitely not as polished as later games would become, but still enjoyable. With YAKUZA 7: LIKE A DRAGON on the horizon, I have my work cut out for me catching up on parts 3-6… but it’s “work” I will undoubtedly enjoy!
Phew! I can’t believe I actually managed to play and enjoy this many games on this list. MK11 and JUDGMENT ate up a lot of my gaming time this year, to say nothing of time spent on stream with random Japanese retro jank, and my continued trek through the history of Batman games. As a result I missed out a bit on some games I would’ve liked spending more time with, but at least I can say none of the games I’d looked forward to ended up being real disappointments. Can’t complain about that!
That’s the first part of my brief 2019 Retrospective in the can – stay tuned for another list of my most enjoyable new and old games I experienced for the first time in the past year.