As the holiday season and the year 2016 come to a close (very conveniently at the same time in this case), I feel like I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on some things. As I mentioned in my last post about Carrie Fisher’s passing, the general attitude seems to be that 2016 can’t end soon enough. Globally, the world is a bit of a mess. In the United States, the incredibly divisive presidential election we just completed left everything feeling a little bit fractured and not-so-unified. In the world of popular culture lots of people who were well-known and highly adored by the general public passed away.
It’s understandable why people feel the year was so bad, and admittedly there’s some of that I’ve gotten bogged in too over the last couple months. However, for me personally, the year really hasn’t been all that awful. In fact, it’s been a fairly great year all things considered.
One thing I always find interesting as a gamer is reflecting on what games “defined my year,” as it were. Granted I didn’t necessarily diversify my interests a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of things I played.
Toward the beginning of the year, I was still riding some of my Wii U hype. I just got my system as a present last Hanukah, in fact, so games like Super Mario Maker were still huge time sucks, moreso than they are now.
Another thing that I’d gotten for Hanukah in 2015 also continued to take up my time, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.
While the game wasn’t a traditional Zelda game like we’d all been waiting for in the relatively soon-to-be-announced Breath of the Wild, it was still a blast to play. The game had some awesome multiplayer functionality both with friends and with strangers, and to this day I don’t think I’m over how hilarious it is to spam the cheerleader pom-pom Link emoji.
On top of that, you could literally dress Link up as a cheerleader and it was one of the most viable costumes in that game. Not sure I ever thought I’d be so gung-ho to get Link to cross dress in all honesty, but I was.
Also earlier on in the year, while I was still getting into the swing of the Spring semester, I remember binging every Shantae game that’s been released thus far.
Not only did I play the original Shantae for the Game Boy, I played Shantae: Risky’s Revenge and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. I fell in love with the series fast thanks to the lovable characters, the quirky and fun writing, the beautiful animation style and of course the music (composed by Jake Kaufman, who also produced the music for another one of my favorite games in the same general style: Shovel Knight). I literally played through all three in a row and loved every minute of it, even if none of the games were necessarily all that beefy.
I do know that I can thank MowtenDoo for really sparking my interest in the series thanks to his indescribably wonderful rendition of one of the game’s songs, “The Nightmare Woods (Run Run Rottytops!)” in a way that’s truly unforgettable and continues to be one of my favorite videos on YouTube. Seriously, I listened to this way too many times this year I’m sure. But it was worth it.
Doing a little bit of research, it looks like the latest installment in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, has been released just recently, but it apparently slipped under my radar somehow. I’m wholeheartedly Ret-2-Go with that game as soon as I can pick it up, as there are a few too many games in 2016 that I unfortunately missed despite wanting to play them. Didn’t have quite as much time to devote to these things as I would have liked.
Next on the list of my year’s rundown is the first in what I would consider my ‘return of old gaming loves’ trilogy. That, of course, was Fire Emblem Fates. All three together technically, but Birthright was undoubtedly my personal favorite.
There’s a few things I’ll never forget just leading up to the games being released. First, I’ll never forget the hunt my friends and I went on trying to find some of the special edition three-in-one game cartridges for Fates that was a resounding failure but had some great moments. Like getting literally laughed at by a guy in a Game Stop one time. That was awesome.
I’ll also never forget getting the first game, Birthright, as it was actually a gift that was given to me by the editors of the News section on the Daily Titan, Micah and Brianna, as thanks for being their assistant for the Fall 2015 semester. Seriously, check it out, I still have the note here:
It was really awesome, especially considering it apparently took a lot of work to build up to the reveal, including using my friend Kaleb as a spy to figure out which version of the game I wanted more.
Fire Emblem took up a huge chunk of my life from there on out, as I went on to play all three versions. In a row. In hindsight, admittedly not the best idea, but I’m really into the games so it was the decision I made at the time. Birthright was incredible, rose-colored glasses or not, Conquest literally made my just about cry on multiple occasions from how unnecessarily difficult it got to be at times (Seriously, screw the port level. If I never play that game again, the port level is to blame) and Revelations was… Admittedly underwhelming.
I meant to talk about it on here a little bit, but beyond just being burnt out on the games by the time I hit the third, there were a few things that really sort of killed the experience for me unfortunately. First, I padded it out too much for myself. I tried to grind all the characters up to have a ton of diverse skills rather than planning ahead what I would’ve wanted, and it wound up being far more effort than I was honestly willing to put in. Second, they killed off my favorite character in what was literally the worst possible way in my opinion. I have a huge, huge rant still built up about it because the moment was so caustic for me, but this isn’t really the time or the place, so perhaps I’ll still come back to it later. Third, there was another game coming on the horizon that left me rushing to finish, which took away a lot of my enjoyment toward the latter half of the storyline. Who knows, maybe if I go back to it now I’ll have a better time, but for now Birthright will continue to be the high point of my memories for Fire Emblem Fates.
The second game in my personal trilogy was Monster Hunter Generations.
I talked about it on here a bit, so I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, but this game sucked away quite a bit of my time as well. Though I’ve only been playing Monster Hunter since the last major release, Monster Hunter 4U, it has quickly become one of my favorite franchises.
The seemingly near infinite levels of customization thanks to a wide range of monsters and a progression-based-on-skill system is something almost totally unique to Monster Hunter in my gaming experience, and it ticks boxes like crazy for me. There are very few games that I get super in depth about building sets and doing hours of research into said sets and also things like lore, but Monster Hunter is definitely one of them. It’s also one of the favorite games of my friend Juan, so we always have a good time going on extravagant hunts as a super powered duo, Hunting Horn and Charge Blade in hands.
Granted, I’ll admit that the game wasn’t quite as invigorating as MH4U for me, since that was the game where I truly had a skill curve to learn and overcome so I could truly become a master, but Generations was still a blast to play through and through.
Last, but certainly not least, comes what must be an obvious entry on this list. Hell, there’s only one game that really defined not only the latter half of my year, but also most of what I’ve built my blogging experience on so far.
And that game is, of course, Pokémon Sun and Moon. Because technically they go together even if they’re two separate games. Because Pokémon works like that.
Images provided by Serebii.net
Really I’ve said more than enough about these games in many, many posts over the last year, so I don’t think I need to waste too much time on it right now. Not only were the games beautiful and fun experiences in themselves, surpassing what I consider to be some of my favorite and some of the best constructed games in the series thus far, they reinvigorated the love of competitive Pokémon breeding that I fostered in Alpha Sapphire and got me back into the Pokémon YouTube communities I followed around the same time.
I have been and will continue to do some breeding in the games, especially once the Pokébank opens in January, and I’ve considered doing more competitive battling in 2017. There’s an official battle competition coming up pretty soon that I’m pretty sure I’ll be entering, so I’m sure there will be plenty more posts in the future on the subject as well.
Beyond those massive entries that took up my time, there are a few other games that permeated my year’s experiences. The 20th Anniversary of Pokémon for me included the continued playing of Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Picross on my 3DS, which were my puzzle game obsessions that I’ve only recently seemed to kick.
The summer was undoubtedly defined by Niantic’s Pokémon GO, the game which really felt the most universally unifying during the sub-par situations of the year surrounding it.
My whole family was playing the game together and I still remember wandering El Camino College hatching eggs after my summer classes there. Though I wound up a little disillusioned with the game, and still haven’t jumped in to catch the start of the Generation 2 Pokédex, I still can’t imagine Pokémon GO won’t hold a place in history in some way or another.
Also hitting the mobile gaming scene this year was Super Mario Run.
I gave my thoughts on the game in depth a little while ago, and as a small follow-up I will say that having spent money on the full game has made the experience even better for me. I’ve gotten really into collecting all the colored coins in single player on long road trips and I have a pretty well developed town so far. As a first jump into the mobile scene for Nintendo, I can personally say that Super Mario Run has been a success, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
I also replayed quite a few older Steam games that I adore but haven’t touched in some time this year.
My friend Samantha and I played Terraria for a long stretch of time together, progressively getting better and better as we learned and built more complicated structures and items together. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ate up huge chunks of my time in brief intervals throughout the year, as it’s always an addictive rogue-like experience that I’ll never get tired of. The same could be said for FTL, which I can only describe as a real-time rogue-like spaceship command and battle simulator. For anyone who hasn’t heard of the game it can be hard to explain, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.
My 2016 was defined by more than just the video games I played, however. It marked the end of my first year at college. It also included my first semester as an editor for a college paper, one which I feel went really well considering all the crazy things that happened politically while I was in charge of the News page.
2016 was where I really feel like I got into the rhythm of driving and being able to get myself places. It was also the first year where I got to vote for a serious election – despite how divisive it might have been as far as an election went.
However, because of my time as a journalist, I felt like this was the first time I really got to apply what I was doing and learning to a real-world event. Literally the more I learned, the more prepared I felt to vote in November.
On top of that, I feel like I really learned a lot just in general. Two semesters and a summer intersession at college had me taking classes all over the proverbial spectrum at two different schools: Cal State Fullerton and El Camino College. Not only was the subject matter of the things I learned interesting, I also got to explore more places at the same time, which I also enjoy doing.
I got my first few relatively well-paying jobs in 2016 between being an editor on the Daily Titan and working for Boom: A Journal of California. Thanks to that, I’ve felt more independent than I ever really have before.
In 2016, I went to New York for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long.
I used to have a lot of family living out there, but now most of my close relatives live here in California, so I rarely ever get to go out to the East Coast anywhere that isn’t Florida. The trip was amazing and so much fun, and I really felt like I got close to a lot of my friends and colleagues in the newsroom that went with me.
While I was there, not only did I get to visit the Nintendo store inNew York (an experience you can read more about in one of my earliest posts):
I also got to relive a part of my Dad’s childhood by finding his old high school.
So, all and all, I’d say that trip was probably one of the most memorable parts of the year for me.
I got to visit SpaceX for the first time this year, and though I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside, it was still a phenomenal place to see. Seriously, some of the stuff they have going on in there is incredible.
In my opinion, I really started to come out of my shell a little bit more in 2016, and that helped me meet and interact with some people who I can really see myself continuing to talk to for a long time to come. Both those in and out of the newsroom.
2016 was also the first year I’ve let my beard grow out. It started as a No Shave November thing we did for the Daily Titan, but in the end I wound up getting such a positive reception that I kept the hair grown out.
Seriously, what a difference a little bit of hair will make. I look totally different from one picture to the other, if you ask me. Probably helps that I had more hair on top of my head to cover my forehead in the first picture too… But that’s another story.
Finally, 2016 was where I really got into blogging. Yeah, seems like a silly thing to cap this whole list off with, but you are literally reading this on my blog. I started this blog back on February 18, a day after my birthday, thanks to some school assignments I had to do. My Communications 233 class required us to have a blog that we posted 20 things on of any subject we chose. Naturally, I chose to make this a blog about video games and about my journalism experience.
Though it started as an assignment, one that I literally had to come up with ways to finish by coming up with admittedly silly things to post, I’ve come to really love doing this. Writing is a passion of mine, and getting the chance to write more often has been wonderful. It’s also been a way to voice my opinions and thoughts on various subjects, which I don’t tend to do in a largely public forum like this very often. I may be a relatively small blog still, but I feel like I’ve found somewhat of a rhythm thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon, and I’m looking forward to writing more on whatever comes up in 2017. As goofy as it might be to say it, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to try and write more next year, so I hope you all stick around to see whatever it is I come up with to write about.
Really, from the bottom of my heart thank you to everyone who’s following my blog, everyone who’s read anything I’ve wrote and to all my family and friends who have helped me explore, encouraged my writing ambitions, and worked to make sure I put my best foot forward. If you have any of your own favorite memories from 2016, or if you just want to send a good riddance sendoff to the year, feel free to share them down in the comments below.
I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and here’s to 2017 being a happier time overall than 2016 seems to have been!