Beat the Backlog: A Review of 2020

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was a horrible year for most people. While it feels strange to reflect when things seem more up in the air than ever, I guess that’s why it’s even more important to focus on the positives and look at how far we’ve come. There’s strength in just getting by and I hope everyone finds something to be happy about, whether trivial or profound. 

2020 signalled a lot of change in my personal life. I moved three times, left a job I was unhappy in, and had several revelations about myself and my mental health. All these changes were for the better but I’m also extremely fortunate to have been supported throughout this time by my family, especially my partner who has been by my side and my constant cheerleader. Some of my favourite things were writing creatively again and starting this blog, though it’s just a baby and I’m getting my head around it. It’s been pretty liberating to just geek out and actually engage with the community after lurking around for way too long. I still feel shy about leaving comments around but I’m looking forward to more fun conversations around the otakusphere 😊!

After seeing loads of great retrospectives, I wanted to have a go since I played a lot of games this year. Like many others, I used most of my extra time to chip away at my backlog but I also started watching anime regularly again, even following seasonal shows for once! As a fun post, I wanted to make mini reviews of all the games I played in 2020. Since I usually write way too much, I’m going to try to limit my thoughts on each game to a few lines. In fact, this was meant to come out before the end of 2020…but better late than never 😂! Anyway, let’s get started – I hope you enjoy reading my ramblings!

  1. Astrologaster – Divination 101 with Doctor Quack
    I enjoyed Astrologaster on Xbox Game Pass but got distracted by moe alchemists and never looked back. Very English, much singing. Diagnosing ailments with wishy washy star-signing but mostly common sense was good fun and I loved the dubious humanity of all the characters. 
  1. Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk – sis and soul searching
    I love love love the Atelier series. They are my comfort games I will forever curl up with. Ayesha isn’t the most memorable heroine, especially coming from spunky newcomer, Ryza, but she has a cute cow and her sisterly relationship with Nio was sweet. Best boss music imo. 
  1. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky – will-they-won’t-they alchemists
    My favourite game in the Atelier Dusk trilogy. I relished the assignment style structure. There’s something about filling out bonus bingo cards that just gets me going. Escha and Logy were great business partners and an utterly adorkable couple. Gust can be coy with romance but it worked well here. 
  1. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout – alchemist learns adulting
    Ryza is a promising start to the Secret trilogy. The world pops with colour and I liked the coming-of-age plot, though I wasn’t particularly attached to any character. Ryza herself is spunky but, despite the bustier design, doesn’t differ from previous heroines greatly. The biggest changes were the semi-active time battles and flowchart alchemy system, which was a touch tedious but I got my head around it. Keen to see the next installment bucking tradition to continue Ryza’s story next year. 
  1. Banner of the Maid – fem-Napoleon unites alt-France
    A true hidden gem and solid SRPG with fascinating setting, challenging maps and compelling characters. Alternative history is boss if done well and I loved how the supernatural elements blended into the lore. While it could do with more polish, the artwork is memorable and Chinese VA is unique.  It’s exciting that more Chinese games are gaining traction on Steam and BotM shows there’s room for ambitious games on a small budget. 
  1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – Castlevania with crystals
    I’ll delve into Symphony of the Night’s castle anytime. Naturally, I followed the development of Iga’s spiritual successor and wasn’t disappointed. Bloodstained plays smoothly, looks lush and I was right at home with the shard system. Miriam’s a doll but Bloodless’ boss fight was the bomb, so I might do another playthrough when the goth-loli bloodsucker arrives in the next update. 
  1. Cafe Enchante – a steaming cup of bishies
    I decided to play Enchante before Piofiore because it looked laidback, but seeing people’s comments, it looks like I’m in for some angst after all. 😅 The backgrounds and sprite work are swoonworthy, so at least I can admire pretty things amidst my tears. Only completed the cinnamon roll’s (Canus) route so far but looking forward to oji-san and the final boss the most. 
  1. Cateau – cat mom ambitions
    A wholesome game completable in an afternoon. You basically photograph cats to make your struggling friend feel better. Befriending three cats require different approaches and I loved how the game clearly conveyed their distinct personalities. Chonky pasta cat is the Garfield of my heart and sadly reminded me I can’t get a cat (yet). 
  1. Cattails – life sim but cat
    Yeah… not sure why I bounced off this one. I’m game for most sims – Stardew, Rune Factory, etc. – but this one didn’t hook me. Cattails is fine but hardly catnip. I could’ve done without the hunting/hunger mechanic (survival meters stress me out) and the world generally felt sparse. 
  1. Cat Quest – diablo but cat
    Exactly what’s on the tin. In Cat Quest it’s simply fun to click around a teeming world of loot, quests, and puns. So many cat puns. 
Cafe Enchante
  1. Children of Zodiarcs – rolling with the revolution
    A tactics game with an interesting premise but wonky execution. Merging deck and dice mechanics, I had a good go but I found the combat slow and frustrating depending on the RNG gods. The random hand dealt at the start of combat had such a huge effect, I usually reloaded maps from the very beginning to make advantageous plays. Then I realised that wasn’t fun and wasn’t invested enough in the world after my 20-odd hours. 
  1. Chocobo Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! – dungeon kwehing
    One of my JRPG secrets is that I haven’t played most Final Fantasys for lack of discipline (I find it hard going old-school without the nice quality of life features but I still want to start with FF4). I coo over FF mascots though and Chocobo is the king of cute. An enjoyable Mystery Dungeon I reviewed here.
  2. Chook & Sosig (itch.io) – spaghetti-cat and ghost-chicken play detective 
    Residing amongst the growing legion of quirky point-and-click adventures, Chook (the chicken) and Sosig (the cat) are characters I want to keep an eye on. I had a hoot with the game’s wacky style and wackier writing. This one is mostly a demo and I’m up for checking out their first full length installation, Chook & Sosig: Walk the Plank, sometime. 
  1. Collar x Malice – cops and collars
    I wasn’t planning to play a game about quarantining during quarantine but all well. I love CxM’s aesthetic – ridiculous outfits and all – and it’s an otome that balances intense drama and romance well. Cases are suspenseful but its heart throbbing moments hit the bullseye. I’ve got a bad habit of getting distracted mid-game and not finishing stuff until much later. Case in point: I first played CxM early 2018 and I finally did Aiji’s route this year. Worth it. 
  1. Cosmic Star Heroine – sleuthing amongst stars
    This is one sleek retro-inspired JRPG that distills much of the spirit of classics into a smoother experience. I initially played CSH, since I considered it significant for indie gaming as an early Kickstarter success, but CSH certainly stands on its own. It definitely could be fleshed out regarding the pace of the mid/late-game narrative but when my biggest gripe is ‘I want more’, that’s no bad thing. Reviewed here
  1. CrossCode – honey, I isekai-ed into an MMO!
    CrossCode makes good use of well-worn tropes like the amnesiac, silent protagonist. In fact, it happily subverts them to introduce interesting mechanics. While I appreciate the care in this game, I didn’t enjoy the puzzle-platforming or combat. I was probably just bad at it but it felt like I was constantly throwing foam balls at bullet sponges. Excellent pixel art and set-up, I really wanted to learn more of Lea’s story. 
  1. Death end re;Quest isekai-ed into an MMO [JRPG ver.]
    While this game’s concept is similar to CrossCode, it vibes very differently. I have a love-hate relationship with Compile Heart games. I’m down for anime aesthetics and JRPG systems but usually find Compile’s plots and combat middling. Death end re;Quest is a rare breed that gripped me due to its grim yet cheery tone and underlying mystery. That is, until I was tripped up by a pseudo-platforming section and stopped. I’ll go back someday but I wish the unwieldy dungeon design was streamlined better because the story is where it’s at. 
  1. Destiny 2 – lootin’ an’ a shootin’ in space
    If you told me a year ago that I would play a bigass MMO FPS and run around trying to hit things with real people, I’d laugh and promptly return to my deserted island. Technically I still don’t play with other people besides my partner but it felt like a big step. I’m primarily a controller gal so it was fiddly getting used to keyboard/mouse but I’d use that set up now for the odd FPS in the future.
  2. Detective Kobayashi  elementary, my dear Kobayashi
    I’ve been happily surprised by a number of detective games this year and stumbled upon this one as I always do: looking for Ace Attorney alternatives. Expect the usual suspects: investigating, interrogating, and devious villains. Kobayashi was enjoyable while it lasted but not exactly thrilling and the cases were more a tickle than scratch. 
  1. (Don’t) Open Your Eyes – midnight chats with a nightmare
    An interesting curio and probably the best example of an ‘experience’ on this list. Playing with minimal visuals, you create a ‘monster’ of your own imagining as it tries to convince you to open your eyes. Real or daydream? Regardless, the gently creepy atmosphere, brought to life by excellent VA, lingers long after daybreak. 
Death end re;Quest
  1. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – classic heroism in HD
    Same old questing, Toriyama designs and heroic story. Dragon Quest is your favourite blanket. Comfortably familiar but softer with age. XI’s definitive edition is everything you’d expect from a DQ game but polished to perfection with sharp graphics and greater accessibility. I find DQ games plodding but typically worth the journey so I definitely need to go back and finish it next year. Oh and will developers please add that forging feature into an essentials mini-game list?
  1. Dragon Quest Builders 2 – Minecraft but better
    I avoid open-ended sandboxes. I’m the player that happily makes bland 3×3 crop squares all around rather than actually be creative. Yet I went all out with Builder. Multi-story glass structures. Indoor hot spring complex. Leafy rooftop canopies. It helps that Builders makes construction simple without being dull and there’s enough direction from its JRPG roots to not feel lost. I left satisfied after liberating the desert town but wouldn’t be surprised if I returned to build the next architectural wonder. 
  1. Evenicle – wedding bells and knightly knells (NSFW) 
    My first AliceSoft eroge was a ball. The premise is nonsensical: man becomes knight to get a harem in a fantasy land where multiple relationships are outlawed for everyone besides knights. Oh, and this starts because he wants to bang both of his adoptive sisters. Nonetheless, the lore is good, the theme of polyamory is dealt well, and there’s a nifty JRPG battle system within the suggestive wrapping. AliceSoft’s production values are excellent so I’ll pick up Evenicle 2 too. Ramius: Best Girl. 
  1. Far Cry 5 – ugh
    Probably my least favourite game on this list. I found it equally dull (open-world bloat) and stressful (why am I pinged by cultists every 5 mins?!) The story made me squirm. Promptly uninstalled.
  2. Final Fantasy XV – brotrip! brotrip!
    The bromance is strong here. The camaraderie and sense of freedom to do what you want – whether fishing, cooking, or snapping scenic shots – were a breath of fresh air. Despite the serious Evil Empire story and grand spectacles, it’s honestly a relaxing game where you’re mostly hanging out with buddies. But, when that battle theme begins… oooh, nothing’s better than warping your sword into your foe’s face.
  3. Fire Emblem: Three Houses – late for school and I’m the teacher!
    On my final route (Blue Lions) after more than a year. I wanted to save the best for last and angsty pirate Dimitri caught my eye immediately, so it’s been a long time coming. I love all FE games but especially ones that indulge me with fluff like tea parties and fishing. Garrag Mach was great fun to explore and the maps were satisfying – just wish there was more variety in the auxiliary ones. 
  1. Gothic Murder: Adventure that Changes Destiny – murder maid
    I found this short otome-ish adventure out of the blue on the Switch eshop. It follows a maid who gets premonitions of her lord dying and tries to stop his murder multiple times (poor guy). The mystery and puzzles are on the lean side but it’s still a pleasant few hours and has a good twist. 
  1. Iconoclasts – put a wrench in it
    Who would think a wrench would be so useful? Turns out that it’s handy for a whole manner of things besides walloping enemies, like grappling to platforms and electrifying stuff. The story isn’t very memorable and the platforming falls short of Hollow Knight or Shantae, my S tier, but most do. Iconoclasts is a cheery adventure that scratches that -vania itch. 
  1. Inbento – feel the (motherly) love
    There’s nothing like a home cooked meal by your loved one. In this deceptively difficult puzzler, you create bento boxes by manipulating preset blocks of ingredients. What makes this small eshop title special is how it infuses abstract puzzles with emotion by cooking up a wordless story about a mother cat making lunch for her kitten. The meat of the game is the puzzles but, like a bento wrapped in beautiful furoshiki cloth, the story is the magic ingredient.
  2. Indivisible – combo juggling with style
    Probably my biggest disappointment of the year. Not because the game was bad but because I was so bad at it. After eagerly following development, taken in by Indivisible’s sleek animation and interesting take on southeast Asian mythology, I utterly neglected to research its real-time combat system and couldn’t get the combo timing down at all. After dying a lot, I put Ajna’s story to rest – delightful as it was. A case of ‘I really wish this was turn-based’. 
InBento
  1. Investigator and the Case of the Unconventional Weapon – at the trial, crocodile
    I’m glad there’s a surge in anthropomorphised crime dramas. Anyone can be a detective nowadays and I prefer a hard boiled alligator to your typical gumshoe. Like the best detective games, Investigator possesses great leaps in logic and excessive puns. There are three Investigator games, all free and excellent ways to spend a sleuthing afternoon.
  2. Iris School of Wizardry – Vinculum Hearts – heartbreaker
    I only played one route (Cyril) because I knew I’d like him the least. Then, I disliked his route so much I never did the others. The art is okay – very old school shoujo – but between the laughable typos and stale plot, there’s nothing magical here. If you want an otome Harry Potter, you’re better off looking at Magical Diary: Horse Hall and its sequel, Wolf Hall. 
  1. Jenny LeClue: Detectivu – the plot’s afoot!
    I really appreciated the meta-narrative framing Jenny’s adventure, which involves an author trying to revitalise his spluttering girl detective series. The tension between Jenny ‘growing up’ and the author’s overbearing desire to protect his characters was cleverly done and satisfyingly concluded. Credit to the emotional VA, which elevates the witty narrative. If I had one objection, it would be that the puzzles weren’t challenging. 
  1. League of Legends – g(it) g(ood)
    This is another game I never thought I’d play but my partner introduced me and the rest is history. LoL is so addictive even if I’m desperately bad at it. I don’t even play real games after getting scared off a few times, yet I’m an embarrassingly high level for only playing bot games. I’m now happy with my roster (mostly cute girls 😅) but I intend to grind for skins next year.
     
  2. Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds – graceless grandeur
    Legrand Legacy was frustrating because it showed such promise but the execution made it too wonky to stick. I want to commend many aspects: the grim multicultural world, beautiful combo of JRPG and WRPG aesthetics, and refreshingly unpleasant characters. You can tell the developers had real passion for their creation. But even on easy the difficulty curve was unbalanced and the combat was dull with little sense of progression. I wrote three pages of notes but didn’t get far enough to feel happy properly ‘reviewing’ it. I might make a tentative impression piece but I’m not sure I could be tempted back. 
  1. Lily’s Day Off – should’ve stayed in
    An unusual visual novel. While considerably brief, there are many endings to provide replayability. In fact, that’s the entire premise. Endings verge in bizarre ways depending on your choices. Lily can become a yandere, a time traveller or even your long-lost sister after seemingly banal decisions. Your mileage will depend on how much you enjoy random humour, but it wasn’t for me. 
  1. Lucky Me, Lucky You – rebound revelations
    A shortish kinetic novel about a recently dumped woman, who impulsively decides to find the former pin-up model who was her first crush. It’s an ebi-hime game so you can expect thoughtful queer writing and poignant characters. I’m always impressed that ebi-hime’s style is so distinctive. Her novels are immediately recognisable, despite the fact they generally have different artistic styles. 
  1. Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis – back to school
    I didn’t know I was missing out on an Atelier game until I promptly stumbled upon this one and binged it last summer. Despite missing the ‘Atelier’ namesake, this is very much a Gust game that tests your synthesising strategies within a cheery character-focused story set in alchemy school. I really wish Mana Khemia 2 was more widely available since I don’t have a PS2. 
  1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – orc revenge simulator
    Not the game for me. I didn’t play this one for longer than an hour because pursuing orc captains bashing my head in from the very start made me too jittery. Purged from the backlog.
  2. My Time at Portia – buried treasure
    I want to return to Portia. That is after I ‘finish’ Animal Crossing, check out the new Stardew update and wed Vishnal from Rune Factory 4. There’s a lot of competition amongst the many excellent life sims on offer nowadays, but Portia has heart and owns its identity as a craft-based simulator. I see myself easily spending an ungodly time excavating its depths, especially as new NPCs and quests have dropped since my last visit. 
My Time at Portia
  1. Nexomon – I choose you, Pika-who!
    Growing up with Pokemon, Digimon and Dragon Quest Monsters, I love moreish critter catching games so I’m delighted more indies are getting in on the action. This isn’t a popular opinion but while I value innovative experiences, I actually don’t fuss if games are steadfastly derivative. Sometimes all I want is a decent time. Nexomon by no means rocks the boat. But, accept what you’re in for and it’s smooth sailing as a Pokemon-lite. I did a comparison piece here.
  1. Night in the Woods – small town, big heart
    One of the most atmospheric adventure games I’ve played. I see why NitW made waves back in 2017 and I’m almost annoyed I didn’t play it until recently. Then again, I believe I appreciate it more at my age now, because I’m no longer at the same uncomfortable post-adolescence, pre-adult stage as the protagonist. A thoughtful game suited to this generation, it deftly captures varied tones of nostalgia, isolation, loss but also hope. 
  1. Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle – no objections here
    An RPGMaker adventure game appealing to Ace Attorney fans. While NALE doesn’t stray far from AA’s spot-the-contradiction formula (thankfully, since it’s excellent), it has everything a good mystery needs: endearing characters, a pinch of humour and, most importantly, absorbing cases. NALE is released on an episodic basis – the third chapter was recently released – and is very much a living game with the potential to grow into something special. Watch this space as I’ll be reviewing Chapters 1-3 soon! 
  1. Otaku’s Adventure – back into the closet you go
    I wasn’t fond of Otaku’s Adventure but can’t really sum up why as I put it to rest quickly. I’m sure it will appeal to some people but maybe the gameplay or crude humour didn’t vibe with me. 
  1. Our Life: Beginnings and Always – endless romance
    Looking at the Otome Armada on twitter, it’s crazy what waves Our Life has made. After seeing the game myself, I can say it fully deserves its praise. The amount of polish and care in this free game is remarkable. Yes, there’s commercial DLC but the base game provides an experience on par with if not better than plenty of commercial otome. Enjoy good writing, cute boys, excellent customisation options? You’re doing yourself a disservice the longer you wait to play this game. 
  1. Rakuen – finding paradise
    This is a sweet adventure about a hospitalised boy making his way to Rakuen, a fantastical storybook world where he impacts the lives of his fellow patients by interacting with their alter egos. One quaint aspect is how the boy’s mother accompanies his journey. Digital parents are usually absent/minor figures so I found this representation of a mother-son bond refreshing. Rakuen resides amongst a growing legion of sentimental RPGMaker games and one I widely recommend to those seeking a heartfelt but chill adventure. 
  1. Reflections of the River – a Chinese fairytale
    This was a lovely surprise when I randomly picked something to play from my over-encumbered itch.io backlog. The setting and art are unique but more interesting is how Reflections subverts folklorish tropes. In fairytales, you usually follow the ‘hero’ but not here. Instead you step into the shoes of a morally ambiguous witch and nothing is clear cut as you discover most characters are hiding secrets. A brief experience to better pass a slow afternoon. 
  1. Rune Factory 4 Special – sim-ply marvelous
    Of the main farming sim franchises, Rune Factory is my overwhelming favourite because of its integrated RPG mechanics and fantasy trappings. The 3DS version blew me out of the water. The oodles of unique dialogue/events (villagers actually say new stuff most days), addictive crafting systems and charming characters made me stick with RF4 for an extremely long time. I remember checking my playtime and hitting 200 hrs without even knowing it! I love this game so much, I double dipped for the Switch version (something I rarely do) and have easily played another 100+hrs.
  1. She and the Light Bearer – lovely lite bugs
    This game is a joy to look at with a vibrant hand drawn style and adorable characters inspired by fairytales and the natural world. The point and click gameplay didn’t captivate me, however, and felt a tad too slow and cumbersome to move around. A more patient gamer may enjoy it more than I did. 
  1. Spyro Reignited Trilogy – better than you remember
    I remember playing Spyro abysmally back on the Game Boy Advance. I’m still bad at 3D platformers but, gosh, Reignited is a gorgeous blast from the past. Seeing Spyro freeing fellow dragons, who’ve been given a new lick of paint and distinct personalities, tickled my nostalgic bones, even though the faithful recreation of gameplay made it difficult for me to play for very long.  
  1. Steam Prison – onboard the otome train!
    I know by the time I finish Steam Prison I will adore it but so far it remains a casualty of my inability to finish VNs in one go. So far I’ve played tsun-tsun Ulrik and half of Mr. Flash Eltcreed and thoroughly dig the steampunk setting. Cyrus is my dashing swordswoman and I’m so happy MangaGamer localised Fin’s route. My only question is why is Sachsen not romanceable?! I need more hot scumbags…
  1. Strawberry Daiquiri – smooth drinking
    A super short kinetic visual novel made for Yaoi Jam 2017, Strawberry Daiquiri puts you in the metal shoes of a cybernetic bartender listening to a conversation between two flirty customers. Cute and gay. Like a random encounter in a bar, what you make of it depends on how chill you are with going with the flow. 
  1. Super Mario 3D All-Stars – starry-eyed
    What can I say? It’s Mario – you know what you’re in for. I haven’t gotten around to Galaxy yet but this is an all star package and all three are must plays for fans of 3D platforming. Shame about the limited time nonsense. However, it was fascinating seeing the progression between games. I couldn’t believe Super Mario 64 (1996) and Sunshine (2002) only have six year between them. Gaming really has come so far so quickly! 
  1. Tales of Berseria – trials of Berseria
    God, I want to get into the Tales series. This was my latest effort after stalling with Abyss. The foolish thing is that I enjoy everything but the gameplay! Somehow their combat systems keep booting me out of my happy zone and I’m probably not tolerant enough with backtracking as I should be. I have a 20hr Tales curse where I fumble my way through before getting disappointed with my lack of progress. Berseria is especially frustrating because in all respects Velvet is a badass anti-hero and it’s pretty rare to find a depressing JRPG that’s not all about BONDS!
  1. The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle – good golly, what a jolly
    This point and click adventure made me chuckle throughout its handful of hours. Zany characters and ugly-cute visuals naturally get a big thumbs up from me but throwing in a Victorian murder mystery takes the cake. Very English but in a good way.
  1. The Caligula Effect: Overdose – AI-dols 
    The original Caligula Effect was a brilliant mess. I wish more people looked past the horribly clunky social system and poor accessibility, because it’s a hugely ambitious game that flies more than it falls. Look kindly upon it and you’ll find a deeply provoking story about dissonance and self-delusion; a creative combat system inspired by vocaloid programmes; sympathetic characters that betray you and your expectations; oh, and an awesome soundtrack I regularly listen to. Unfortunately, Overdose doesn’t fix the original’s issues but it lets you play on the ‘villainous’ side and that was enough for me to double dip. 
  1. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game – spoopy shenanigans
    A lighthearted adventure game that doesn’t feature much spooking or deduction. The crude low poly style perfectly suits its oddball humour. Most of your time will be spent having curious conversations with animals staring blankly into the void. Best played drunk. 
  1. The Heart of Tales – the ex-knight’s delight
    A short visual novel wooing the hermit in me. This tale stars a grumpy retired knight, who just wants to be left alone but is pestered into taking up her sword again. There are three romantic routes but what I found most compelling was its exploration of the heroine’s complex feelings of disillusionment and how she comes to terms with her past. You can date a talking sword though, so there’s that. 
  1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – a dream to play
    Hearing the Ballad of the Windfish again after almost two decades gave me goosebumps. I originally played Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy and experiencing the remake with its distinct toylike style took me straight back to my childhood. The game was recreated better than I could’ve imagined and watching that ending now is so much more cathartic than when I was a child. I really hope Nintendo remakes/remasters some other golden oldies (Minish Cap, anyone?) 
  1. The Rose of Segunda – a rose with thorns
    Another excellent OELVN otome, this time in a Regency setting. The headliner here is the wealth of choices determining your heroine’s personality. Mine was first a witty bookwork, then a bawdy hellraiser who sabotaged the more snobby genteel folk, but there’s something for everyone, especially with the generous number of romanceable bachelors and bachelorettes. I’m keeping a teacup ready for its sequel, The Thorns of War. 
  1. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – starstruck
    A cross between Persona and Fire Emblem, two franchises I hold dear. This was a no-brainer for me to pick up as I didn’t have a Wii U. The upbeat idol story and one-more combat mechanics were my favourite bits. It has more in common with Persona but that’s alright with me. Reviewed here
  1. Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth – you can’t handle the truth!
    I cried at the end of Mask of Deception and cried even more finishing the sequel, Mask of Truth. Truth wrapped up an absolutely epic story, which had been building up since that gut-punching cliffhanger closing out Deception. Utawarerumono has some of the best world lore I’ve seen in a visual novel, although it’s technically a hybrid SRPG VN. Expect 75% reading and 25% combat and you’re in for an extremely good time. I’m hoping that the prequel, Prelude to the Fallen, comes to PC. 
  1. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – oh my mecha
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Xenoblade took up the majority of my playtime in 2020. This is a colossal open-world JRPG with just so much stuff. Honestly, I think the game does a good job streamlining its bloat to manageable levels, something I wrote about here. The combat and story were serviceable but what I was most fond of was admiring the diverse vistas. I pressed that screenshot button very liberally. 

Final Statistics:

1: JRPG (25%) 2: Adv. (21%) 3: VN (21%) 4: Action (8%) 5: Plat./Met. (6%) 6: Sim. (6%)  7: SRPG (6%) 8: FPS (3%) 9: MOBA (2%) 10: Puzzle (2%)

Unsurprisingly, JRPGs came out on top. I’m surprised there were so many adventure games, though they do tend to be shorter and it’s a big umbrella term. I hope to play more VNs next year as they take up the majority of my Steam backlog. 

1: PC (59%) 2: Switch (37%) 3: Vita (4%) 

Switch has officially taken over as my primary handheld console and probably has the longest playtime despite losing out in numbers to PC. My poor PS4 hasn’t seen the light of day as it was stuck at my parent’s until recently, but I definitely will dust it off soon! 

1: Indie (51%) 2: Published game (49%)

I always want to give interesting games a good go irregardless of whether they’re AAA or a teeny tiny indie made by one person in a shed. I’m happy to see that my actual habits reflect this. 

Of course, the boundary between an ‘indie’ and a traditionally published game is difficult to define. There’s no one type of indie game nor does the label have a clear bearing on quality or polish nowadays. Many indie games are no longer self-published as well, due to the efforts of new indie-focused publishers. It’s vague to say there’s a certain ‘feel’ to an indie game but I generally associate it with smaller-sized dev teams, works that appear creatively independent from major publishers/stakes, and those that self-identified as being indie. 

You’ll see my obvious preference for Japanese games here… But I was intrigued to see the wide variety of countries. I had to do a lot of twitter stalking to figure out the locations of smaller indie companies (I even went to one guy’s etsy store to figure out where he ships merch from 😂) and I still didn’t get all of them. 60 out of 63 games is good enough hopefully. 

1: Completed (37, 59%) 2: Deferred (16, 25%) 3: Dropped (10, 16%)

I give most games a good go, although I notoriously don’t usually complete them 100% and I often get distracted midway because I play multiple things at once. For me, ‘completing’ games is laying them to rest when I feel satisfied. ‘Deferred’ is when I want to go back to them at some point (even years later). ‘Dropped’ is dropped, because no one has time for games that don’t stick. 

So that was 2020 for me. Did I beat my backlog? No way and I probably never will 😅 but there’s a decent assortment here, which I’m happy with. Thanks (and sorry) for reading if you’ve gotten this far. Have a good new year and look forward to an upcoming awards post!

Published by nonplayergirl

Long-time lurker turned blogging newb. Lover of all things otaku but especially JRPGs, anime and manga. Always adding something to the backlog. Probably descending into K-Pop hell right now.

One thought on “Beat the Backlog: A Review of 2020

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