The Good Game Music of the Year

Beep Boop

I've hit a point in my life where I'm more excited for the music in games than the actual games themselves. A game can be mediocre in every single way and still have an amazing soundtrack, which happens quite often. I associate music with experiences as well, so even long after I've finished a game, I can listen to the soundtrack and get taken back to my favorite moments.

Here's a list of my favorite soundtracks of the year, with one track from each. This was a good year for games, but it was an even better year for music.

Note: Doki Doki Literature Club is also technically on this list, but I can't post anything about it without spoiling the whole thing. So, you know. It's here in spirit.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

It's hard to talk about the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 soundtrack without turning into a blubbering, idiot mess. Every single track is amazing. Every note is amazing. The music is as much of a journey as the game itself, and I was in awe at the amount of pure quality in a game that has at least 100 songs in it, if not more. From battle themes to end credits, make sure to play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with headphones on. And for the love of God, Mitsuda, give me the full soundtrack.


Persona 5

Yeah you saw this one coming. I've said it before, but Persona 5's soundtrack is the first instance where I feel like Meguro knows what he's doing when it comes to jazz, and it shows. Like a live jam session, every song in P5 flows neatly from one to the next. There may not be as many vocal tracks, but the ones that are there shine, and the lack thereof makes the whole soundtrack feel like a cohesive experience, every bit as stylish as the rest of the game. 


Blue Reflection

Blue Reflection is a tragedy because its amazing soundtrack will be forever unknown and unheard due to it being a mid-budget GUST game. Which sucks, because everyone on planet earth should get a listen to some of 2017's best music. I don't even know anything about this game but its soundtrack is third on my "most listened" list. Filled with dreamy, etheral tracks contrasted with bumping violin/edm fusions that I can't even give a name to, Blue Reflection is one of my favorite soundtracks in years.


Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush has the worst luck. Its first game came out on a system that Sony has basically given up on, and its sequel came out in a year unmatched in quality, equally forgotten. It sucks, because Gravity Rush 2 is an amazing game with an equally incredible soundtrack. It's cinematic, and filled with a variety of motifs that come together by the end to (probably) make you cry by the time the end credits hit.


Nier: Automata

The tracks in Nier: Automata are unmatched, a mixture of tribal beats and nonsense vocals that somehow blend together into haunting, beautiful melodies and intense themes. Half the reason this piece took so long to come together was that I couldn't narrow things down to one song from the soundtrack. That's how good it is. Every bit as strange and impressive as the game itself, you shouldn't skip out on the N:A OST.


Yakuza 0

OOOOOH WOOOO WE ARE BAD BOIZ.


Honorable Mentions:

The Alliance Alive

Lost Sphear

Sonic Mania

Splatoon 2

The Good Games of the Year

2017 was an awful year all around. Let’s be perfectly honest about that. Looking back on 2017, it was an exhausting net-negative in the grand scheme of things.

That said, if you’re like me and drown yourself in the consumption of art and pop culture to escape from said awfulness, then you’re in luck! This was a good year to be doing that, especially when it comes to games. Nothing like sinking yourself into the abyss of a 40–100 hour game to forget that everything is actually really bad.

Today I’m listing out all of these little portals of escapism that I enjoyed the most. It is important to mention that this list is unnumbered — I feel like there’s no point in trying to put one game above all the rest, when they’re all so drastically different from one another, and I gained something unique from each of them. That’s going to ruin the SEO on this piece, but that’s alright lol. I’m also going to assume you have an idea of what these games are, because summarizing them is boring and you have Wikipedia for that.

Without further ado — the good games of the year (oh, and some of the bad ones).


Persona 5

I’ve been waiting for Persona 5 for nine years, and it was actually worth the wait. In hindsight, it didn’t affect me as deeply and personally as Persona 4 did, but there has to be a reason that I have a Persona 5 phone theme, wallpaper, phone case, icon, and use the limited edition tote bag to carry my laptop around. Oh right, there is a reason: Persona 5 is the most stylish game of 2017 by leaps and bounds. Entire classes could be held on its UI/UX design. It is incredible that during my 75 hours with the game, I never got tired of the animations in combat. In an RPG! Good job, Persona 5.


Nier: Automata

Nier Automata is basically a game crafted from my dreams. Platinum Games’ tight action together with Yoko Taro’s narrative genius and Keiichi Okabe’s beautiful music is a combination that rivals the Chrono Trigger dream team. Nier Automata is the kind of game that attempts to inject some much needed literary technique into the gaming industry, which I appreciate. It has, like, motif! And theming! Can you believe it? Nier Automata does things with the medium that are weird and experimental and crazy, and I love it, even if it doesn’t always stick the landing.


Tales of Berseria

You know 2017 is wild when a Tales game is on my list. Berseria probably wouldn’t be on most people’s lists, but it deserves a spot on mine because it feels like a complete turn-around for a series that was beginning to get stale. It’s like Namco got an entirely new team of writers that can actually delve into interesting themes, and create a fun and engaging ensemble cast of characters. It’s a Tales game distilled into its finest elements, and the best one I’ve played since Symphonia.


Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush 2 released the same day as the inauguration of our current president. It was the perfect counter-balance to what would be an awful year, a cacophony of joy and bright earnestness that swept you off your feet and took you to a beautiful alternate world of wonder. There are very few games that I can point at and say that I love — love in a way that I never want to leave, where I feel paralyzed at the thought of finishing it, because I have to admit that it’s over. Gravity Rush 2 is one of those games. Even 11 months later, when I can feel the walls closing in on me, I’ll boot it up and fly through the islands of Jirga Para Lhao. It never fails to make me feel better.


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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Shocker.


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Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 turned me into that guy — the one that crawls through Gamefaqs threads and learns insane combat tech to pull off literal millions of HP damage. I’ve put in nearly 80 hours into this game, more than any other in the year, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. It’s bright, bubblegum pop anime garbage, and I’ve loved nearly every second of it. In an alternate world, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came out on the PS2 in 2004, and was extremely popular, which is I vibe I am definitely digging in these deeply depressing winter days.


Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Ys games are my comfort food, as I’ve mentioned in the past, and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is no exception. What sets it apart from previous entries, however, is the fact that it takes a page from its sister series, Trails, creating a story that sets it above and beyond previous Ys games. A satisfying cycle of combat, exploration, and plot meant that I couldn’t put Ys down until I was done with it. If you’re looking for a solid, polished experience that may not blow your mind, but will definitely keep you hooked, check this one out.


Pyre

Query: Can Supergiant Games ever do anything wrong? Answer: absolutely not. I went into Pyre completely blind, because I didn’t need to be convinced to play it — such is the power that SG has on me. Oh, and I was right! Pyre’s fantasy-ball is an addictive experience, but it’s not what you’ll remember of it when you finally finish the game. No, instead you’ll be wracked with a melancholic sadness for the characters that you’re forced to leave behind. Just, play Pyre. Play it!


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Puyo Puyo Tetris

I can feel it every time I close my eyes. See the blocks falling. They’re the only things that can give me comfort. Lining them up into neat boxes of four…it’s the only form of control I have on this garbage earth. I have to stack them all. It’s the only way I can truly find peace.

…So yeah Puyo Puyo Tetris is exactly what it says on the tin. And since Tetris is literally perfect, it deserves a spot on the list, amplified by the myriad of playable modes and all the cute characters that you can collect (give me Draco Centauros or give me death). I still pick it up for a few sessions every couple of weeks. It’s a staple in my library now. Give a shot.

Oh but skip Puyo Puyo, that game is garbage. :)


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Doki Doki Literature Club

DDLC kept me up for days after I finished it, where I had a bit of an existential crisis at the horror I had just experienced. It’s hard to explain what makes this game so special without spoiling the entire thing, so I have to keep it brief. But the way it takes elements of visual novels and turns them on their head is fascinating. It ended up being a critical look at the way we engage with fictional characters, as well as one of the most memorable stories I’ve experienced in years.

Twine, Visual Novels, and Images

As of today, we are officially halfway done with the written portion of Infernal Handgun Championship's development! Our stats so far:

  • 44,471 Characters
  • 7,529 Words
  • 93 Passages
  • 120 Links
  • 13 Variables

Not half-bad, I don't think! Things are progressing smoothly, and as far as writing goes, we're a day ahead of schedule! Because of that, I'll be taking the rest of today and tomorrow off on the project. But I do want to talk about how Twine handles images, and why it makes development go much smoother.

In 2016, my partner and I formed our studio, Atelier Garbage, to create interactive fiction. We started with a Visual Novel called "The Lonely Tower," a story about two girls who uncover the secrets of a mysterious structure that requires a sacrifice every twenty years in order to prevent a drought. We finished the prologue of the story and released it as a student project of mine, essentially completed. But afterward, progress essentially stalled.

This is because what makes our studio unique has a hand in our obstruction. My partner, who goes by the pen-name "Medusa," draws all of their art by hand, in what I personally consider to be an amazing watercolor, impressionistic style. Some examples below:

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fight_1.png
town.png

This is both a blessing and a curse. Medusa's art is what sets us apart, but programs like TyrannoBuilder and Ren'py aren't suited for scaling hand drawn images. Resizing is a huge pain, and leads to strange scenarios like this one:

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As you can see, the scaling is completely off, even though when the two pictures are put next to each other in physical form, they line up without issue. This made things a huge pain for Medusa, especially coupled with the fact that an artist handles a large amount of the workload when it comes to creating different character portraits, facial expressions, and CGs for a Visual Novel.

I'm proud of the work we accomplished with The Lonely Tower. But I'm also glad we've decided to use Twine for our next project. In the realm of Twine-based interactive fiction, images are used to supplement the story - not unlike a picture book. This leaves Medusa free to stretch their hand drawing muscles and go nuts, without having to worry about arbitrary height and length requirements. In Twine, you only have to worry about an image's scaling in terms of percentages, rather than exact pixels. If Medusa sends me an art asset that I throw into Twine and it ends up too big, I can scale it down by 50%, without stretching or losing the quality of the art in any way.

Image manipulation in Twine is simple, and we'll demonstrate with an example of a rough sketch of Mars that Medusa sent to me recently. All one has to do is import an image! It appears directly as a tile within the Twine story building layout, like so:

Then you just link it into a passage like anything else in Twine!

See! Looking grea-wait a second, that's not right. The image is too large! It's moving past the borders of the new stylesheet I implemented, plus you have to scroll like crazy to access the image. So we'll have to do some resize magic using an old friend to us all.

Paint! Why complicate things? Paint makes it super easy to resize an image in a few clicks, then get saved as a copy. Reinsert the image through Twine itself, and...

It fits! Easy, simple, to the point. Twine is so friendly to work with! You'll get to see the full range of Medusa's fantastic art when Infernal Handgun Championship releases in full!