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Opinion: The state of gaming in 2020

Members of the GBL Team give their opinion on the year, so far.

ALIANZ

Personally, the start of 2020 was tough for me. To make a long story short, I dealt with the death of my father in early January. The day before my 33rd birthday. He was 80 years old. At the time, I was heavily invested in GBL (still am), but my mind and heart were in another place. It took some time to get back into gaming. It’s been about 2 months since I started playing video games again regularly, but still not as much as before. Luckily, there weren’t any games that caught my attention in January and February. Since September of last year, I had been playing a lot Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC. I made a lot of new friends and reconnected with a lot of old ones, too.

This isn’t to take anything away from my friends in “RL”, my family, my loving girlfriend, or the GBL Team. They’ve been there for me since day one and have been so supportive during this transition period. Therefore, before I continue, I want them to know that I love them very much, and that I thank you all for being part of my life.

However, this is supposed to be my opinion on the state of gaming, not the state of ALIANZ. But I felt I had to give some insight on a few things before proceeding. As I mentioned before, January and February didn’t have anything that could draw my attention back to gaming.

Enter DOOM.

That all changed with Doom: Eternal and quite honestly, it couldn’t release at a better time for me. 2016’s Doom was one of my favorite games this generation. So much so, that I bought it for PS4 and PC, just to get the full experience. I was eagerly anticipating the release of Doom: Eternal and IT DID NOT LET ME DOWN. It was the perfect game to draw me back into gaming, and it was the first game to release in what was my favorite 30 days of gaming in 2020, thus far. I finished Doom: Eternal within a week of release and I’m so happy I did.

It’d been a while since I sat down and played a campaign in its entirety and finishing Doom: Eternal felt so satisfying. I played the game on Ultra-Violence difficulty and although there were a few stressful moments, I was able to invoke my inner-gamer, get my shit together and get it done. It was all well worth it, making Doom: Eternal one of my contenders for Game of the Year. The levels of gore, violence, pace, and scenery reminded me of the beauty of video games. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? That’s because Doom isn’t just a game or a franchise, it’s a gaming icon. The stuff of legends.

STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS

Next up was Resident Evil 3 Remake. A remake to a PS1 title I enjoyed as a teen at the turn of the century. I had a lot riding on this game, especially with the success of Resident Evil 2 Remake. We all knew the game was coming. Shib and I watched it get revealed in December, and I couldn’t wait. Lo and behold, the game came out last month and before it released, there were a lot of mixed opinions about it. I, for one, felt disappointed with what I had seen. Nonetheless, I was still going to purchase the game.

I came into the game knowing that it was going to be short, but so was OG RE3. I remember being able to finish RE3 in one sitting 20 years ago, and it didn’t take anything away from the game. It was a much faster-paced game than it’s predecessors which gave it a fresh feeling. It wasn’t RE2 but then again, it wasn’t trying to be. Resident Evil 3 Remake is no different and I’m glad it remained true to the original in that sense. I finished the game the same day it came out, splitting my 5-hour playing time into two sessions. You can argue that it wasn’t worth the $60 price tag. I pre-ordered it off Fanatical.com for $48, so it was a win-win situation for me.

Still, I need to go back and finish the game on Hardcore. I need to finish the game multiple times so I can get that infinite-ammo rocket launcher. That RE: Resistance multiplayer add-on though? Capcom should’ve added Mercenaries Mode instead. Maybe it’s still a work-in-progress and I think it’s safe to assume so. Either way, how could you leave Mercenaries Mode out of the remake!? That mode made OG RE3 so replayable by itself!

All-in-all, it was a solid release, but I want to be clear about one thing: Resident Evil 2 is still the better game. It always has been and it always will be, both OG and Remake alike.

COVID-19

While the aforementioned game releases were taking place, our world was brought to a sudden, frightening halt. It all started back in late 2019. Leaks and rumors of a disease that was infecting the Chinese population. There wasn’t enough information at the time, but the word in parts of the internet was that something weird was going on. A lot of people were dying of a pneumonia-related illness. Then the videos were being posted online. People dropping to the floor, hospitals filled with the sick; it was early January.

The World Health Organization (WHO) China Country Office was informed on December 31st, 2019. They said that “Health authorities in China confirm that dozens of people in Wuhan, China, are being treated for pneumonia from an unknown source”. This was reported on the WHO’s official website on January 5th. On January 11th, Chinese state media reported the first death due to this illness. The United States began screening in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles airports on January 17th. They reported their first confirmed case on January 20th. It was being labeled as “novel coronavirus” at the time.

It’s now May, and the entire planet has been or is still under quarantine. Some prefer to call it lockdown. We no longer call this illness “novel coronavirus”. It has a name, COVID-19, or as others like to call it, SARS-CoV-2. I believe it’s safe to say that there are confirmed cases in every country on planet earth. I don’t mention this to shift the focus of this article to the virus because that’s completely unnecessary. This virus has the attention of every human being capable of rational thinking, right now. How could I possibly give my opinion on the state of gaming in 2020 without mentioning the biggest “happening” of the year? Maybe of our lives?

Over 3,000,000 people infected. The number of confirmed cases grows each day, the death toll continues to rise, treatments and cures are still being discussed, and politics continues to have a grip on things. Right now, the only thing that matters is saving lives and protecting our loved ones and ourselves from being exposed to this disease. We’ve been told by our governments to stay at home. For gamers, staying at home is something we’ve always cherished. Now, not everyone has the luxury to stay at home. Some might be essential workers. Others won’t be able to feed themselves or their families tonight if they don’t work. It’s just not that simple. Let’s take this time to remember the important things in life and that everyone isn’t as fortunate as you. Count your blessings. Help others when you can. Hope for the best, prepare for the worse. Pray.

COD: Warzone

COD: Warzone was released as a free-to-play title on March 10th, 2020. It’s available for PS4, PC, and Xbox One. It takes the Battle Royale blueprint from PUBG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends, but takes it up a notch. You play in a field consisting of a maximum of 150 people. Oh, and did we mention that it includes cross-play, too? The game is a huge success. I’ve played the Battle Royale mode a few times but have watched enough streams to know what’s going on and how intense the game (and people) get. I do enjoy Plunder a little more, but Warzone is a lot of fun.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

On April 10th, Final Fantasy VII Remake launched. This had to be the most anticipated game of the generation. Officially revealed at E3 2015, the game was worth the wait. I never was a big fan of Final Fantasy, let alone JRPG’s, but after playing the demo for FFVII Remake, I was sold. I preordered the game and although I still haven’t finished it, the game is super engaging. It’s the type of game that pulls you right in, making it hard for you to put the controller down. All you want to do is keep leveling up your character, find new gear, spells, and continuing the story.

The graphics are great, save for some low-res areas, but the cutscenes are truly something special. The characters feel so fleshed out and the new gameplay mechanics are so welcoming to a newcomer like me. As I mentioned before, I still need to finish the game but I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent on it.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is fucking amazing.

So, I’m sure you’ve heard by now. The Last of Us Part II leaked online. The verdict: No Bueno.

There’s a lot of talk about the direction Naughty Dog decided to take this game. Being that it’s a sequel, a lot of fans were expecting a story similar to the first game. It appears that what they got instead was a lot of controversies. All we knew before the leak was that this was going to be a game ‘about hate’. I won’t get into specifics because I don’t want to include spoilers, but I’ll say this much: a lot of people are pissed. Some might say that those upset about the leaked details regarding the plot are ‘ist’ or engage in ‘ism’. That might be true for some but I don’t think that applies to everyone that’s pissed about the leaked details. I think what most people are pissed about is the fact that a lot of this stuff was being withheld.

Of course, a developer isn’t going to tell you what happens during the game because it ruins the story for you. It’s the fact that so many people are attached to the characters in the series that a HUGE curveball wasn’t even close to being hinted at. Before you even say it, no, that doesn’t make it good storytelling. I guess Naughty Dog and Sony were hoping to secure sales as players find out what happens while playing the game after release day. I mean, at that point, who cares if they hate the plot, we already got your money. Tough shit, right? Maybe. At least now, people know what they’re getting into and will vote with their wallets. A game ‘about hate’ that people already hate without playing it. How ironic is that?

Shiburizu

The Legend of the Strongest Creature, or Fight of Animals

It’s no secret I’ve dedicated much of my time in 2020 in developing events and challenges for players of Digital Crafter’s light-hearted fighting game about muscular meme animals, Fight of Animals. It’s an amazing crowd pleaser and an easy to play game for both hardcore and newcomer types, proving itself in the school of “less is more” game design. I didn’t necessarily expect this to be the case: It’s been surprising that Digital Crafter is able to keep a flow of free character updates and cosmetics that have all been received overwhelmingly positively by the community. I’ll be playing Fight of Animals well into this year, and if we’re lucky we’ll be duking it out into 2021. Now’s a good time to remind you that Fight of Animals is available on Steam and Nintendo Switch eShop, and you can join the Digital Crafter Discord for our events and matchmaking.

EVO 2020

So EVO is canceled! I have very strong feelings about this. I’m not going to recap every single thing I talked about in this stream clip, but I will say this: I tune in to EVO every year, for almost every game. If the most we get out of an EVO online event this year is a couple of trending twitter clips of 20 frame delay fighting games, I’ll be very disappointed in EVO’s management. I am not one to sit by and watch a dumpster fire, I’ll probably go back to playing games with good netcode instead. Which is what I do every day I play fighting games. Uneventful weekend, don’t you think?

Halo 2 Insider Flight

What a pleasant surprise! I stopped frequenting the Xbox as a console after Halo: Reach dropped, so I never got to experience Halo 2 re-imagined in the era of Halo 4‘s visual fidelity. I had a lot of fun with it! Not only that, but it also drops as a full release next week so I’ll have plenty of time to dig back into it. We’re that much closer to Halo 3, everybody!

Minimum Payne

2020 has become quite an unusual year for the entire world due to current events surrounding the ongoing pandemic. My personal life has seen little change aside from a few new protocols to follow at work. For the public at large, passing the time at home has boiled down to two options: baking and gaming. Given that in the average urban Hispanic household, the oven is the home of unused pots and pans, I have chosen to stick with gaming to kill time between shifts of ‘essential’ work.

Mortal Kombat 11

The year started fairly slow for me. Even as I write this it’s hard to think of anything I played beyond my usual grinds on Mortal Kombat 11 and Teamfight Tactics, the latter being a bit of a guilty pleasure even for a lapsed League of Legends climber like myself. Joker and Spawn both proved to be interesting additions to the MK roster but did not offer enough playtime to replace my standard Sub-Zero as my character of choice for Kombat League. On that note, I’ve seen diminished results in recent seasons after a decisive rise into the Demi-God tier in Season V.

I haven’t devoted the time needed to repeat this achievement. The two main reasons for this that relate to the game itself are the increase in skill floor as scrubs abandon the game over its natural lifespan and an increasing want for additional quality of life features in the online experience. MK11 is currently the most stable network experience for fighters out of those that I have played but without luxuries like region locking and Wi-Fi filters, it will never reach its true potential.

Doom: Eternal

It wasn’t until March when the games I was anticipating were just over the horizon. In the weeks leading up to Doom: Eternal’s release, I returned to the 2016 reboot and rediscovered its entertaining multiplayer mode. Thanks to noted Mortal Kombat and Quake shoutcaster PND Ketchup’s video on it, I found myself devoting about two dozen hours to explosive deathmatches that excited from start to finish. This proved to be adequate training for Eternal proper, due to its more demanding gameplay loop. Its combat requires you to understand the importance of weapon-swapping and resource management in a way few single-player games demand.

While this has proven to be rather divisive among the fanbase, I felt it was a great way to build on the foundation laid by 2016. Being the rabid Doom fan that I am, I finished the campaign on Ultra-Violence within the span of a single weekend. I anticipate going through it again in the future, albeit with a bump up to Nightmare difficulty.

Resident Evil 3

Resident Evil 3 was another game hot on my radar. While I didn’t get to finish the original game before its remake’s release as I did for RE2, I still got to understand how its elements translated into the modern-day. How Hollywood squandered its opportunity to make entertaining action-horror cinema with this license still baffles me as this game makes for the best Resident Evil movie yet made. Gamers nowadays use the term ‘cinematic’ disparagingly, most of the “filmic” elements of this game are a net positive. The battles against Nemesis epitomize the action side of the Resident Evil experience, which I feel reflects its source material well. While the game doesn’t compel or immerse in the same way RE2make did, its action setpieces hold up well among the series’ more high octane moments.

Valorant

The next major game to come to me would be Valorant, Riot Games’ answer to the juggernaut that is Counter-Strike. To recap my earlier thoughts on the game, it manages to polish up many of the rough edges of its competition, creating a compelling alternative in the market that I look forward to seeing develop. With that said, my own experiences leave something to be desired. I still struggle to do well in this game as my skills require further development. Bad habits from playing countless hours of more action-oriented shooters crop up often and the years of experience other players have with this kind of shooter mean I have a lot of catching up to do. One point in the game’s favor is that I do have the desire to develop those skills as I believe the game is good enough to warrant my time and effort.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII Remake was a pre-order that turned out to be nearly a year in advance due to its delay. Had there not been so much of a media buzz surrounding this release I would’ve received it as a welcome surprise amid these current events. In the interest of a comparison, I also decided to return to the source material to have the experience fresh in my mind. Playing through the entirety of the Midgar section of FFVII classic turned in at a mere 6 hours of gameplay, which speaks to the magnitude of expansion Remake offers, clocking in at a respectable 30-40 hours.

Such a vague estimate is offered because I have yet to finish the remake as of this writing. The dreaded backlog rears its head in once again as the fear of missing out demands that I must get the game ASAP but thoughts of actually playing it get sidelined in favor of the games I haven’t touched. Devil May Cry 5 goes unfinished because I must beat 4 first but also I need to play Okami HD, Dragon’s Dogma, Detroit: Become Human, Red Dead Redemption 2, Onimusha, Dead Rising, Monster Hunter World, Final FantasyXIV, Yakuza2KiwamiFinalFantasyIXDeathStrandingAHideoKojimaGame STOP.

To slow things down a little bit, I’ve always had a fondness for short games. Perhaps it’s the demands of adulthood that keep me from investing the time needed for long games, my short attention span, or a childhood weaned on games from before my own time which operated with little memory for more than 3 hours of gameplay. No matter the case, for a person who is as devoted to gaming as I am, I’d like to feel as if my time is being respected. This is probably not an issue for someone who buys only a small selection of games in a given year, but I am not that person. This is a topic that warrants further discussion but for now, I’m including this to add context to my thoughts on the gaming landscape as it is at the moment.

In closing

All that said, I’d like to end this by highlighting two games that fit my gaming habits well. The first is Guilty Gear -Strive-, a game whose grind will ultimately be within my control as with any fighting game. Despite the issues both with the beta itself and the direction the game may be taking with its network features, I am looking forward to the finished product. This isn’t a game for beginners or Guilty Gear veterans but for the intermediates: those who have familiarity with how fighting games work but aren’t at a serious competitive level. The kings of their respective basements who would never find real competition without the advent of the internet. It’s a strange audience to aim for but if I’m part of that audience, I can’t complain.

The other game is Streets of Rage 4, a short but replayable game with a large legacy to live up to. I’m on track to finish the campaign with a friend and having a blast in the process. What will demand scrutiny is its soundtrack, a topic that deserves an article itself. 2020 will be a strange year for the entire world, but with the current efforts from game developers, it’s one that is a little easier to swallow.

DeeAiZee

Hoo boy, 2020’s been a ride and a half, huh? Everyone’s said what they’ve needed to say about the epidemic, so I’m not going to go on about it for too long; I’ll just say that the lockdown has changed how we look at entertainment as a whole, and everyone’s had to make adjustments. I’m fortunate enough to only be personally negatively impacted by the current state of the world a little bit, so I’ve been able to adjust pretty well, just with way more selective grocery shopping.

But onto gaming. I decided to throw my hat in the ring because my ride through 2020 so far has a few of the more unique titles that I can talk about. Due to never consistently being able to follow from big release to big release, I’ve typically had to look to smaller titles or updates to games that I already own. Neither front has disappointed this year, and I’d like to highlight a bunch of games that have come out that I’ve had the opportunity to devote some time to this year.

Bleeding Edge

The newest contender in the extremely varied genre of arena brawlers officially launched this year, and I think it has an overall great core for its gameplay and especially, its aesthetics. It pretty much nails what I want to see in a game like this from the heavy team-oriented gameplay to the large variance in playstyles within their current cast. While I think that what they have is solid, I also feel that the amount of raw content presented is very lacking so far, compared to other games within its scope. That being said, with a new character already on deck and clear plans to continue to support as time goes on, I think it has the potential to become something really special in the future.

DJMAX Respect V

I honestly can’t describe how happy I was when it was announced that DJMAX Respect would finally come to PC after a painfully long wait. Now that it’s properly released, I can say that the wait was worth it. On launch, it was still quite incomplete in comparison to previous versions of the game, but they’ve been cranking out update after update to bring in everything they can to put it on par with or even exceed nearly every other rhythm game on the market. My main gripe has been having to grind out the combo counter in free mode to unlock a few more songs to add on top of its already fantastic tracklist (limiting what I can play to only charts that I absolutely won’t make a mistake on), but that’s honestly my only negative as of this writing. Anything that WAS one, the devs caught in an update shortly after I even noticed. Neowiz is on top of things in a way not many devs are, and it’s been impressive to see this game grow. I can’t recommend the game enough, and it’s normally my go-to suggestion when asked about modern rhythm games to try out.

Legends of Runeterra

Shooters aren’t the only thing Riot’s been branching into. Legends of Runeterra has just launched officially, and the game is a real gut check to the digital collectible card game genre. The general flow of gameplay is unique, but very approachable no matter what your background from other card games is if any. The grind to make the deck that you want out of the gate is absurdly generous, which is something I’m usually sensitive about as a Control player that doesn’t like to spend often. And being within the universe of League of Legends gives them a level of reach that few in this era could even hope to achieve. The current landscape of the game is pretty wild due to them introducing another faction recently, so we’ll see how everything shakes out at the top as far as what’s good is concerned. But right now, I think it’s a great title that can compete with the more established card games, and that’s saying a lot for a game that’s only been available for a few months.

Neoverse

This one is quite the wild card compared to the previous games mentioned, but I felt that it deserved mentioning. Neoverse is a card game-based rogue-lite that came out of Steam Early Access in February, and I truly feel that it’s one of the best ones put out there in a genre that’s a bit hit-or-miss at times. I’ve watched the content grow and the gameplay refined since last year, and what they’ve got now on the official release is a game that stands out from genre-defining titles like Slay the Spire. Its core mechanics like constant drawing and universal combos make it a game that feels like it functions at a higher level of power than what would normally be expected, like an “anime fighter” feel in comparison to a “traditional fighter”. While there are still things that are pretty rough in readability and it has no Workshop to assist in its replay value, what they have is very solid and it became a game I sunk a lot of time into at various points in time, including during the queue for various multiplayer games.

One Step From Eden

I’mma be real, I’m already willing to nominate this game for Indie Game of the Year. One Step From Eden is a rogue-lite with gameplay based on the Megaman Battle Network series, making it a fast-paced action game with elements of card games injected. It’s extremely polished in look, feel, and sound, has a high variety in not only what you can use but also what you will face, and the community is already going ham in the Workshop, bumping the content to astronomical heights. This game has knocked it out of the park on all fronts, and I seriously can’t recommend it enough if you have ANY sort of interest in action games. Prepare to get worked over a bit, though. It’s quite an unforgiving adventure.

Phantasy Star Online 2

8 years. I finally decided to build a PC for this game, then had to wait that long for a proper release. I don’t mess with the MMORPG genre at all anymore. I played a few in the late ’00s but mostly abandoned the genre by now after trying to get back into it with inarguably great games like Final Fantasy XIV. But PSO? I came running back the instant it was ready. And because of the good fortune of owning an Xbox One, my wait ended earlier than normal (PC boys, I’ll see you at the end of May). While I’ve been playing it more sporadically as of now, I sunk insane amounts of time into it the first week it opened up. I love it on every front, and it goes out of its way to bring me back to when I sunk so much time into the original Dreamcast PSO. When the rest of my friends can join me through PC, I predict that my playtime is gonna go off the charts again. PSO2 might be the title that defines my whole year, and we’ve still got a ways to go.

Streets of Rage 4

This is a game that I didn’t believe the early hype for, and as such, judged it with a bit more scrutiny than normal, especially as a person that grew up with Streets of Rage being a prominent series in their youth. Everyone’s experience with this game has been very different, so I have no intention of speaking for them, but for me, Streets of Rage 4 was everything I could have asked for in a beat ’em up and more. The gameplay is magnificent, enemy variety is top-notch, look and sound are fantastic. The devs have completely turned my relative indifference into pure adoration of what they’ve achieved. Mind you, there have been network issues, a lack of a training mode to really understand these mechanics in, and a lot of the enemies are just BEGGING to be turned into full-fledged playable characters. But overall, the game is honestly a patch, and a “content drop” away from being absolute perfection.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution

Out of the gate, this is tougher to talk about due to being an updated rerelease. I’ve yelled about no longer needing to do these in fighters, so I’ve already gotta come after them a bit for having to do it in a card game. But as a standalone product, it’s fair for what it is. The card pool is up to date, the gameplay is solid and accurate to the physical counterpart (which Yu-Gi-Oh is sometimes not the best at), and the single-player is pretty fun. I’ve had some problems control-wise compared to some of the handheld titles, but it’s nothing devastating.

The big issue is that I feel like I have to grade this game on a curve. Like, it’s solid as a Yu-Gi-Oh game and about what you could ask for, but in this world where there are MULTIPLE digital card games with a more solid online infrastructure, a larger pool of potential players, and most importantly, NO ENTRY FEE, a game like this will just end up falling off for everyone but the entrenched players that only have this to turn to as an official option. I like the game, but it is what it is. It’s 2020 and the rules have changed for digital card games. And as a player that has played Yu-Gi-Oh on and off for a decade and a half, it kinda hurts seeing them this late in modernizing the game.

In closing

So yeah, as you can see, I’ve been a bit all over the place with my gaming so far this year, and there will be plenty more that I need to get into as the year goes on, and this isn’t even accounting for the updates for games that have been going for a long time now. This is a great time for gaming with another two-thirds of the year to go, especially for someone willing to cast a wider net to find some gems.

ProtoDad

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It’s a truly weird time for gaming. We’re all under lockdown, remakes have been releasing left and right, and for some reason, one of the current most popular games of the past month has been Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This is the one game that has completely unified my household around Nintendo’s handheld/console hybrid, for better or for worse. My perspective is that of a father and husband who shares his Switch with his wife and two daughters, ages seven and four. The wife and I are Animal Crossing veterans, so we didn’t have a lot of rope learning once we got going. My kids, on the other hand… that’s another story. 

My kids aren’t huge into gaming yet, but they have been completely drawn in by the cute village we called Monti after our late family pet. Every day, they have to check their mail, check the shop and tend to the design of their houses and the town. They interact with everyone, and their favorite villager is Audie by far. We also tend to all play together with the local co-op option, but that’s where the problems begin with the game’s few shortcomings. 

Co-op is somewhat more limited than what I would like. The leader can do all the things you normally do while playing, but the followers can’t do very much. They can only follow around, fish, catch bugs, and occasionally move things. The problem is, any time they pick anything up (including bugs and fish), they’re immediately sent to the town’s recycling box and not into the player’s inventory. While I somewhat understand this decision, I feel it extremely limits local play. Honestly, even opening up full play between two players would have improved the experience tenfold. 

Other small things have begun to bug me throughout the month as well. These include repeated text in certain places like the Dodo airport, being unable to craft from materials in your home storage, and having a somewhat clunky menu. To top it off, at the time of writing, several features are missing from past titles. However, it should be noted that stuff like upgraded shops and swimming is likely to be patched in sometime in the future. 

Overall, while I adore Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I hope to see many QOL features patched in along with proper content updates. Only time will tell.

Fioyl

Keeping Constructive during Quarantine

Let’s be realistic here – 2020 is not looking good so far, and it might get pretty grim if the pandemic doesn’t let up. Unfortunately, my current gig in social work has been deemed essential, and the constant dealing with strangers keeps me on edge. I’ve had days where I’ve bounced from case to case and have stopped in numerous homes, hospitals, and government facilities; I’m a great candidate for being 2020’s Typhoid Mary. Here in Texas, we’ve also started to reopen everything at 25% capacity. Sadly, this means it’s still impossible to get a table at a decent restaurant in this town. The upshot is that when the bars open back up on May 18th, there won’t be any wait to get another round of shots.

That being said, the current state of affairs is likely to have long-reaching effects, and staying home is still a good idea. I’ve personally started falling back onto less electronic hobbies, such as woodworking, reading, and ceramics. However, I’ve also been taking this chance (and sometimes off) to work through some of the games on my backlog. I’ve included a few of my personal favorites that I’ve been spending some time with and finally getting the chance to appreciate.

Class Changing from 1995 to 2020

Trials of Mana is a recent release for the PC, Switch, and PS4. It’s a modern remake of the third game in the Secret of Mana series, Seiken Densetsu 3. For years, the only way to play this very deep action RPG was by using a fan-translated SNES ROM. I played this game as a kid and had a great time planning my characters and classes.

In 2020, you’ve got two options: you can either play the original SNES version on modern consoles as part of the Collection of Mana or play the new version: Trials of Mana. I’m currently 50 hours into my first playthrough and I just beat the postgame boss and dungeon earlier this afternoon. I’ll be replaying the game soon with a different party.

While the SNES version definitely has its charms, the remake has drastically changed up the gameplay experience and there are plenty of huge QoL fixes (critical hits actually work, for one thing). If you’re looking for a cozy experience, Trials of Mana has that classic 90s nostalgia feel, from the music to the enemies, and I look forward to replaying from the perspective of the other characters.

When’s Mahvel?

If you had an Xbox 360, there’s about a 103% chance that you owned the Forza 2 Motorsport and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 bundle. For years you couldn’t even get any trade-in credit at Gamestop for this title because there were so many copies out there. I only vaguely remember MUA2 (give me a break, it’s been over a decade), but I’ve put in a lot of hours recently with its sequel, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.

MUA3 loosely follows the Infinity War storyline and culminates in a big ole battle against Thanos, who looks a lot more like his comic version and less like the Fortnite version. Koei Tecmo did a great job absolutely flooding the game with content and the game clocks in with a little over 50 playable heroes.

There are also plenty of different game modes and challenges, and a level cap of 300. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to appreciate most of the roster, as my preferred and highest level team consists of Deadpool, Psylocke, Wolverine, and Gamora. I thoroughly enjoyed Ultimate mode, the highest difficulty. Much like the previous game, the boss fights are a lot of fun and are varied enough to keep you interested.

Take a bite out of Snack World

Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl Gold is a top-down dungeon-crawling RPG from the folks at Level-5. You know them from titles like Professor Layton, Ni no Kuni, or Yo-kai Watch. Snack World is an enhanced port of the Japan-only Snack World: Trejarers. The game has a light, tongue-in-cheek attitude and a relaxing gameplay loop that stays fresh. The food puns do get a bit old at times, but the game confidently treads the line of “made for kids, but also fun for adults”, much like a Pixar movie. I also highly enjoyed the multiplayer aspect. Yes, I did occasionally get teamed up with crappy players. However, a huge majority of the high-level folks in online lobbies know exactly what they’re doing and can help give you the oomph to beat some of the game’s tougher postgame challenges.

Play video games – don’t play with your health

In my day-to-day I see how quarantine is affecting people, and trust me, I empathize. I worry every day about bringing home the virus to my girlfriend. I’m not going to spout the same platitudes that you see in every email that has a “message from our CEO” – but please, stay safe, and remember that self-care doesn’t stop just because everything is closed.

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