Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 152024
 

With Professor Layton and the New World of Steam not due out until 2025, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.

If you’ve seen any of my comments on it before, you know I’m both excited and nervous about finally getting a new Professor Layton game.

When I got into the Professor Layton series, it skyrocketed to the top of my list. It was one of my few “immediate preorder” series, a series I had so much faith in I would immediately preorder any new entry.

Then came Layton’s Mystery Journey, which I had… mixed feelings about.

So now, nearly 7 years later, my feelings about Professor Layton and the New World of Steam aren’t “of course it’ll be great, it’s a Professor Layton game” so much as “please be good, please be good, please be good…”

With that in mind, here are my top 5 hopes for Professor Layton and the New World of Steam.

5. A Stylus

This is the most inconsequential of my hopes, but it still deserves to be mentioned. The Professor Layton series started out on the DS and then moved to the 3DS, both of which come with a stylus to use on the touchscreen. With its puzzle-based gameplay, Professor Layton is a series that expects you to write on the touchscreen.

Even in the brief New World of Steam gameplay demonstration, you can see how a stylus would help.

But unlike the DS and 3DS, the Switch doesn’t come with its own stylus. When Layton’s Mystery Journey got ported to the Switch, players had to either adapt to controlling it without a stylus or use their own. Since New World of Steam is a brand-new entry, I can’t help but hope they’ll include a stylus with it to make that a bit easier.

4. Normal Professor Layton Structure

The normal Professor Layton game structure is simple. You visit a new area and tap around the screen looking for hint coins, hidden puzzles, and dialogue, you solve puzzles (some required and some optional), and then you progress the story and repeat the process. At certain points, you’ll be blocked from progressing if you haven’t solved enough puzzles, and of course, more puzzles will appear at different points of the game.

I still don’t quite know what to make about the claim that New World of Steam’s city will develop as you solve more puzzles, but I hope it doesn’t mark a meaningful departure from the usual structure. Switching to a city-development focus, for example… doesn’t sound good.

But it might just be a fancy way of describing the usual story progression, or some sort of side activity, so I have my fingers crossed that the game will follow the standard Professor Layton structure after all.

Oh, and now that I mentioned it, having a mini-game or two to break up the flow is a fun series’ tradition I hope New World of Steam maintains as well.

3. An Absurd Twist

This is a Professor Layton game. I want the story to culminate in an absurd plot twist that turns everything on its head, that manages to survive suspension of disbelief solely because emotions are running so high that you’ll forgive it a few leaps in logic. That’s what Professor Layton games do.

We know very little about New World of Steam’s story so far, except that Layton goes to Steam Bison in America to help Luke solve a mystery. Whatever that mystery is, I hope it’s seemingly impossible only to eventually be explained with a “logical” explanation even harder to believe than the original mystery.

Yes, sometimes Professor Layton twists push suspension of disbelief too far, like in the case of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, where the ending disappointed me so much it nearly soured my overall thoughts on the game, but the lack of stakes in Layton’s Mystery Journey made me realize I’ll take that sort of insanely illogical twist that you can tell the writers were passionate about over that game’s style of low-stakes, low-energy storytelling any day.

I’ve waited this many years for a new Professor Layton game. I need the big twist to be appropriately over-the-top.

2. Good Puzzles

This is the part that could make or break the game. Professor Layton is a puzzle series, so the puzzle quality is hugely important. Akira Tago, the “puzzle master,” passed away prior to Layton Mystery Journey, and the puzzles suffered for it.

A group called QuizKnock has been brought in to design New World of Steam’s puzzles, so I have my fingers crossed it will be a return to form. I’ve seen positive impressions of their puzzles online, so here’s hoping it feels like the style of Professor Layton puzzles we know and love.

1. Excellent Storytelling

But if there’s one thing I’m even more nervous about than the quality of the puzzles, it’s the quality of the story.

I’ve touched upon this with my previous points already, but Layton’s Mystery Journey had such a low-stakes, disconnected story that it didn’t win me over like the other stories in the series. Professor Layton puzzles are fun and addicting, but it was the stories that really made the series one of my favorites. They might be ridiculous at times, but they’re always heartfelt and emotional.

I want that style of storytelling to come back. I want New World of Steam to have the sort of story where, no matter what the rest of it ends up being like, I can recommend it to people for that alone.

Right now, we don’t know much about the characters aside from the fact that both Professor Layton and Luke will be back, and we don’t know what the mystery is about. But I hope they’ve written another heartfelt story that will have me dying to know what will happen next.

Conclusion

If all of these things come to pass, New World of Steam will be another favorite. All I really want is a return to form – one that will make the Professor Layton series leap to the top of my list once again.

What are your hopes for Professor Layton and the New World of Steam?

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Jan 012024
 

Happy New Year!

After discussing my top 5 games I played last year, it’s traditional for me to follow that up with a look at the five games set for the new year that I’m looking forward to the most. Only games confirmed for 2024 qualify.

Of course, who knows what exciting games have yet to be announced… but as it stands right now, here are my top 5 most-anticipated games of 2024!

5. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy

I was torn for quite a while on whether or not I should put the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy on this list. After all, it’s a collection of games I’ve already played, and I might not even play it at launch. Surely a new game I’m excited to play is more deserving of this spot?

But I can’t help it.

It might not be a new Ace Attorney game, but a collection of games 4-6 is something we thought might never happen – and an obstacle between new players and a potential Ace Attorney 7.

Seeing the series get so much attention has me so excited and optimistic for the series that I’m hyped for the Apollo Justice Trilogy anyway (and tempted to replay it just in case the unlockable art is a tease of something new). It’s less than a month away now, and I couldn’t be happier.

Now… is there a chance that at this time next year, we might finally have a new Ace Attorney game to look forward to? All we can do is hope!

4. Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time

Early last year, Level-5 made a dramatic comeback after years of silence by announcing several upcoming games! This included Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time, a sequel to the 3DS RPG Fantasy Life, which I loved.

Fantasy Life is an action RPG that features a robust class system. Each class, or Life, has its own quests and challenges. Some lives are combat focused, while others are focused on crafting or gathering, and the game is designed so that you can finish the game’s main story as any Life you want. From what they’ve shown so far, Fantasy Life i appears to be building on the original’s systems while also adding a new feature where you can landscape and customize your island.

If this sequel is anywhere near as charming and addictive as the first game as, it will be well worth the wait to summer 2024.

If only Professor Layton and the New World of Steam was still set for 2024, it would have earned a high spot on this list for sure. As it is, we’ll have to talk about that one next year.

3. Metaphor: ReFantazio

The long-awaited Project Re Fantasy from Atlus was finally unveiled last year under the title Metaphor: ReFantazio, and it looks amazing. The announcement trailer left me with the impression that it was basically Persona in another form, but subsequent trailers and details emphasized the fantasy world and what sets it apart.

It looks stylish and exciting, and I can’t wait.

Metaphor: ReFantazio is scheduled for fall 2024, which is good – it’ll give me some time to finish the great games coming out ahead of it, such as the next two we’re about to discuss…

2. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

When the Final Fantasy VII remake was originally announced as a multi-game release, I was skeptical. However, the first part won me over by being an epic experience… if one that sparked a lot of controversy.

Now the second game, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, is almost here.

Due out on February 29, it looks like exactly what I’ve been hoping for. Gameplay demonstrations showed vast areas to explore, a beautiful world, and a bunch of mini-games. I’m as nervous as anyone to find out exactly what they’re doing with the story of this remake, but everything they’ve shown has left me confident that I’ll at least enjoy the ride to get there.

Yet for as excited as I am about Rebirth, for as much as I gushed about it when it was shown off this summer, there is still one more game I’m even more excited for.

You can probably guess what it is.

1. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

This time last year, I probably wouldn’t have believed I’d be caught up on the Yakuza series in time for the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.

After all, I rarely play games from the same series too close together, especially when they’re as long as these games are.

However, last year I finished Yakuza 5, played Yakuza 6, and played Yakuza: Like a Dragon in time to name it my #1 game I played all year. For that matter, I even found time in the middle to play the spin-off Like a Dragon Ishin, because I just couldn’t get enough of the series.

Three of them made my top 5 list, with another as an honorable mention, and Infinite Wealth looks like it might top them all. With an improved combat system, a ton of fun side content (including an Animal Crossing-esque side mode where you manage a resort island for guests), and a story that already has me on the edge of my seat worrying about what’s going to happen, it sounds like it will be absolutely amazing.

I still need to play Like a Dragon Gaiden before I’ll be ready for Infinite Wealth, but since that’s a shorter game for the series, I should be able to finish it with time to spare before Infinite Wealth comes out on January 26.

Yes, that’s right, January 26. My #1 most-anticipated game of the year is due out in less than a month, one day after the Apollo Justice Trilogy. My only question is how in the world I’m going to balance Infinite Wealth with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth when it comes out!

Conclusion

2024 is stacked with exciting games already. To narrow this list down to my top five, I had to pass over games like the Trace Memory remake, Death Mark II, Granblue Fantasy Relink, Persona 3 Reload, Eiyuden Chronicle (which was on last year’s list, but got delayed), Stellar Blade, a new Shantae game, the Cupid Parasite fandisc… games that could have easily made the list any other year. It’s going to be incredible.

My poor backlog…

So, out of all the amazing games set for this year, the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Fantasy Life i, Metaphor: ReFantazio, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth are the ones I’m anticipating the most. What 2024 games are you most looking forward to?

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Dec 312023
 

Here we are at the end of another year. It feels like just the other day we were looking ahead to 2023, and now it’s almost over.

At the end of every year, I like to take a look back and highlight the top 5 games I played. It’s not quite a “game of the year” list, since their release dates don’t matter, but rather a personal list drawn from games I played this year regardless of their release dates.

Honorable Mentions

Before we dive into the list proper, I’d like to highlight a few honorable mentions. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective feels as though it should be on this list, but since I played the original back when it first came out, I decided to exclude it. Jack Jeanne is in contention to be one of my favorite games of 2023, but since it’s a lengthy, slow-paced visual novel that I’ve been taking breaks in between routes of to avoid burning out, I’m not quite done with it yet. Finally, Yakuza 5 gets to be an honorable mention two years in a row, because while I did finish it this year, it just barely missed making the cut for top 5.

So, let’s get into the actual list now! Here are the top 5 games I played in 2023.

5. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Yes, Yakuza 5 lost out to another entry from its own series, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life!

I am obligated to give Yakuza 6 a 10/10 after learning Kiryu can pet cats in the cat café if you let him sit there long enough.

Just kidding, Yakuza 6 earned its spot on this list for more than just cats. One surefire way for a story to win me over is to have plot points that emotionally resonate with me, and Yakuza 6 is one of the most emotional entries in the series. Its more personal story really hit me hard.

I had high praise for it in my review, and while working on this list, I realized that I like it more than the previous game, despite all the amazing content in Yakuza 5. Yakuza 6 had an emotional, impactful story, fun substories with a great sense of humor, and a ton of fun mini-games.

4. Like a Dragon: Ishin

Yet I have to heap even more praise on Like a Dragon: Ishin, which finally came out in English this year thanks to the new remake. I was dying for this game ever since I first learned of its existence, and it did not disappoint.

Like I mentioned in my review, Ishin is an odd one for me because I don’t think it’s the best at anything it does, but it’s strong enough in every area that those pieces all come together to make it one of my favorites.

I especially loved the farm. I’ve never really gotten into farming sims, but the simple farming side activity in Ishin was just so pleasant. It also has an advantage over Yakuza 6 in that you can adopt cats (and dogs) and pet them whenever you want.

3. Ace Attorney Investigations 2 (fan translation)

It’s hard to believe it was just this past year that I finally played the fan translation of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. This is the sole remaining unlocalized Ace Attorney game, and I couldn’t sit around waiting for localization news any longer.

My review goes into detail about some issues I had with it (which is why it didn’t rank higher than #3 on this list), but the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives. In particular, a certain character’s arc still stands out in my memory. Never before have I felt so proud of a fictional character.

I enjoyed Ace Attorney Investigations 2 a lot, and I have my fingers crossed that it will eventually get an official translation. Who knows? Maybe this time next year, we’ll be eagerly anticipating an Ace Attorney Investigations collection.

(You might laugh, but it was only two years ago that I was desperately grasping at straws about an Ishin localization.)

2. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Oh yes, the controversial Danganronpa game is not only the first one to make it onto one of my top 5 lists, but it earned the #2 slot. Maybe there’s some recency bias at work… but when I thought of games to include, I knew V3 had to be on the list.

You can read my Danganronpa V3 review to see my more detailed thoughts, but let’s just say that this game broke my heart, then turned around and broke my brain. Those might not sound like positive things, but trust me, they are.

I didn’t have the same early sense of disappointment that I had with Danganropa 2, and it didn’t drag in the middle like poor Master Detective Archives: Rain Code. Instead, it was pretty solid from start to finish.

Although I have some criticisms of certain parts, I enjoyed Danganronpa V3 more than any other game in the series (heck, I even enjoyed the trial mini-games for once in my life), and it ended up being one of my favorite games I played this year.

It didn’t take the #1 slot, because that went to…….

1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Sam, you can’t have three entries from the same series on your top 5–

I can and I will! Yakuza: Like a Dragon, aka Yakuza 7, has claimed the top spot for this year, because it took everything I love about the Yakuza series and combined it with my favorite genre.

Now you might be wondering why you haven’t seen me review this game yet, if I loved it so much. That’s because I finished it today, on New Year’s Eve, as my (most likely) final game of 2023.

This entry caused some controversy amongst fans due to being a turn-based RPG, a change not everyone appreciated. Now, I can sympathize with not wanting to see a beloved series change its gameplay so drastically, but as someone who loves turn-based RPGs, this was like a match made in heaven.

While it probably still hasn’t topped Yakuza 0 as my favorite in the series, it has a great story, fantastic substories, and some incredibly fun mini-games. I’ll save my detailed thoughts for when I write up my review, so just know that I really loved playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Conclusion

And there you have it – my top 5 favorite games I played in 2023. The Yakuza / Like a Dragon series earned three entries in the top 5, with Ace Attorney and Danganronpa snagging the other two slots. I didn’t have time to play all the games I wanted to this year – Alan Wake 2, for example, has been on hold waiting for me to finish Yakuza: Like a Dragon – but I still played many excellent ones. And from the looks of things, 2024 might be even better!

What are your favorite games that you played in 2023?

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