For my first review of the new year I'm going to post my thoughts on the JRPG Bravely Default for the 3DS. The game was released worldwide about four years ago and in Japan a year and a half before that, and somewhat unusually it was published by Nintendo outside of Japan (in Japan it was published by Square Enix).

Bravely Default game was developed by a company called Silicon Studios, but it feels like an old-school Final Fantasy game in all but name. The two main core gameplay components are the job system, which is pretty much straight from the Final Fantasy games, and the "brave/default" system whereby you can direct a character to take turns in advance, or store up turns to unleash them all in the future.I wasn't sure what to expect about the battle system, but it works quite well. For regular battles making use of the brave/default commands doesn't matter much, but boss battles definitely require you to pay attention to your opponents' abilities and strategize the when to attack and when to defend.

Most of the jobs fit into familiar roles (e.g. knight, thief, white mage, black mage, etc.), but there are a good number of unique jobs thrown into the mix. You earn jobs by defeating bosses, many of whom are optional, and I found that on the normal difficulty (which you can adjust on the fly) doing these sidequests put me at about the right level to progress in the main quest without grinding. If anything there are perhaps too many jobs, as you'll gain new jobs before you've even made a dent in gaining all the abilities of the previous jobs, but I suppose this helps with replayability. The game lets you switch jobs as you please and no matter what your current job is you can equip passive abilities you've mastered from other jobs, and as you progress in the game it becomes a lot of fun to mix and match these abilities and strategize which abilities best complement which jobs.

The game looks fantastic and has a sort of watercolor visual, and it also makes good use of the stereoscopic 3D effects of the 3DS. (There are also movies you can play via AR cards, which is a nice extra.) The characters are fairly cartoon-ish both in looks and personalities, but the storyline is fairly serious, and practically the whole game has voice acting, which is great. Dungeons are pretty simple maze-like affairs, and the game highlights your next objective on the overworld map which ensures you don't get lost. The random encounter rate isn't too high, and the enemies and locales are pretty nicely varied.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Bravely Default, although not enough to see it through all the way to the end. All aspects of the presentation and core gameplay are polished and of high quality, but the story is pretty average and at its heart it's still a classic RPG, which I can only take in spurts. I wouldn't mind coming back to this to play through more of the story and try out some more of the jobs, but I probably won't get to it anytime soon. It should be a good game for JRPG fans, although apparently it gets quite drawn out and repetitive towards the end.

Get the jobs done with these Bravely Default links:
- Official site
- Entry on Has lots of useful info, including details on jobs and their abilities.
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Entry on Metacritic

Good gravy, another year already??? In 2017 I played a decent range of different genres pretty well split between old vs. new games and console vs. handheld games. In a surprise upset I wound up playing more smartphone games than on any console (I played slightly less 3DS games than smartphone games, although more on 3DS if you include 3DS eShop games), and equally surprising was that two of my four favorite games I played this year were for smartphones. I suspect this is an anomaly rather than a trend, but we'll have to see how that develops.

By far the game I played the most this year was Fire Emblem Heroes, released on smartphones. My initial reaction was fairly mixed, but as time passed and more and more features were added I got to really like the game, so much so that it ended up being one of my favorite games of the year. Switch came out this year and I had a lot of fun playing games on it, although I found the new entries in the Mario and Zelda series to be more disappointing than not. Although Arms didn't make my favorite games of all time list, it was one of my favorite games of the year, and the more I play it the more I enjoy it. I finally got around to playing Portal and was happy to see it was worth all the acclaim that it's been given, although most of the other classics I played this year for the first time, such as Final Fight and Mortal Kombat (both on SNES) felt fairly dated.

Here's the summary of what my 2017 looked like gaming-wise (games listed in approximate descending order) with links to each game’s corresponding blog review:

- Portal (PC)
- Fire Emblem Heroes (Android) (1, 2)
- DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure (SNES)
- Neko Atsume (Android)

- Arms (Switch)
- Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)
- Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) (replay; previously 2013)
- Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
- Super Mario Run (Android)
- Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)
- Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (PS2)
- Wolf Sheep Cabbage (Android)
- The Count Lucanor (Switch eShop)
- Yono And The Celestial Elephants (Switch eShop)
- World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (Gen)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)
- Rive (Switch eShop)
- Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party (Wii)
- Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (Android)
- My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (3DSWare)
- Runbow (Wii U Ware)
- Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 (Wii)
- Practise English! (DS)
- Tekken (PS)
- Samurai Warriors 3 (Wii)
- Pokemon Go (Android)
- Rhythm Paradise Megamix (3DS)
- Pocket Card Jockey (3DSWare)
- Pac-Man Championship Edition (XBLA)
- Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
- Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS)
- Dance Dance Revolution Disney Mix (PS)
- Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (3DS)
- Tomodachi Life (3DS)
- Muscle March (WiiWare)
- NES Remix (Wii U Ware)
- Ridiculous Fishing (Android)
- Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DSWare)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii)
- Miitopia (3DS)
- Personal Trainer: Math (DS)
- Eco Shooter: Plant 530 (WiiWare)

- Ice Climber (NES)
- Dynasty Warriors 2 (PS2)
- Pokemon: Magikarp Jump (Android)
- Golden Axe (Arcade)
- Inversus Deluxe (Switch eShop)
- Pokemon Rumble World (3DSWare)
- Yoshi's Cookie (NES)
- Tennis (GB)
- Final Fight (SNES)
- Mortal Kombat (SNES)

- Amiibo Tap (Wii U Ware)
- English Training (DS)

Outside of games played, this year I also started writing for the blog A Most Agreeable Pastime, which you can read about here and here. I also reviewed the short-lived Fire Emblem anime and recounted my experience working at PAX East.

I played a fair amount of random stuff this year, although the last couple of months were dominated by playing games on Switch. Nintendo's releases for 2018 are a pretty big mystery (which I'm hoping the next Nintendo Direct will shed some much-needed light on), but I'm half hoping there aren't too many heavy hitters since I have plenty of games in my backlog to try to catch up on and finish, including more than a couple of Switch games from this past year.

That's it for another year in review. As always, thanks as always to anyone who’s stumbled across my little patch of cyberspace and found it even mildly diverting, and welcome to another full year of video games at the Intergalactic Video Game Academy! ;)

Earlier this year I posted about how I started contributing to the site A Most Agreeable Pastime. I figure now should be the time that I post a list of all of my 2017 posts for that site before I dive into my look back on 2017. Here they are, in reverse chronological order:

- 12/21/17: The best video games of 2017
- 12/11/17 Spiffing Reads: Diversity and DDR
- 12/9/17: Gaming Trends We Could Do Without
- 11/30/17: Review: Rive: Ultimate Edition (Switch)
- 11/30/17: What games should be on the Game Boy Mini?
- 11/17/17: Spiffing Reads: Mario tunes
- 11/3/17: Spiffing Reads: Nintendo Switch AMAs
- 11/2/17: Useless statistics: Taking a peek at our 3DS activity log
- 10/29/17: What’s the scariest game you’ve ever played?
- 10/25/17: Review: The Count Lucanor (Switch)
- 10/20/17: Spiffing Reads: Splatoon 2 flooded with LGBT pride in support of trans squids and humans
- 10/19/17: Review: Inversus Deluxe (Switch eShop)
- 10/13/17 Spiffing Reads: Niklas Hallin: Let’s Play Moomin’s Tale
- 10/10/17: Review: Yono and the Celestial Elephants (Switch)
- 10/6/17: Spiffing Reads: NintendoLife's 20 Games That Aren’t On The SNES Classic Mini, But Really Should Be
- 10/2/17: Show us your game collection, Professor GreilMercs!
- 9/29/17: Spiffing Reads: Power Pros
- 9/4/17: Some of our favourites from Fire Emblem Heroes
- 8/14/17: Free-to-Play Games, Here to Stay
- 7/17/17: Fire Emblem Heroes: Five months on
- 7/11/17: The games that should have been on the SNES mini
- 6/16/17: 5 memorable bits from E3 2017
- 6/14/17: My E3 cheers and boos so far
- 6/9/17: E3 2017 hopes and dreams
- 6/5/17: The Top Ten Wii U Games

I know I just posted about playing through Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party, but I'd actually already had the sequel, Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 2 and had played it almost completely through by the time I got the first game. I hadn't been sure how far from the end of the main mode I was, but it turns out I was pretty nearly there.

The sequel, which came out about a year after the first game, is pretty much identical to the original in terms of modes, features, visuals, etc. The game has the same "arena" based progression system whereby you clear scripted challenges (such as "finish 3 songs at basic difficulty with a grade of B or higher") in order to unlock arenas (stages featuring different visuals that your character dances on). There are a couple of new characters and an option to use your Mii, which ends up being about as creepy as it usually is in these games. The Wii controls seem to work as well as in the first game, and the soundtrack doesn't seem to be noticeably much better or worse, although it does include a handful of music videos as some previous installments did.

There are apparently some other minor additions that are tucked away that I didn't really spend much time with, such as a mode where you can just watch (and presumably imitate) the dancers' choreography without any gameplay. There's also a somewhat weird "hand combo" that you build up by shaking the Wii controllers on the beat that helps boost your score, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth so I didn't bother with it much. Otherwise the game is pretty much an expansion of its predecessor, which isn't a bad thing since the first was pretty enjoyable. There's a Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 3, which I expect to be as similar, so I'll probably skip around a bit again before coming back to it.

The Wii shop's closure was announced a few months ago, which was sad news. I've bought a fair number of games from it, but there are plenty that I haven't played yet, so now was a good time to finish off one of them at least. I'm a huge fan of developer Intelligent Systems, who are behind Fire Emblem (my favorite video game series of all time), as well as the Advance Wars, Paper Mario, Pushmo, and WarioWare series, amongst others, so I was looking forward to their one-off game, Eco Shooter: Plant 530

Eco Shooter is definitely not their best work, but it has solid mechanics and is pretty fun overall. The premise is that "the earth’s empty cans have been brought to life by the Cannoids, an alien race determined to destroy the planet", and basically the game is an on-rails light-gun-type shooter where all the enemies are made up of cans. The setting is a recycling plant, so the visuals are fairly drab, and although they're all made up of cans there's a decent amount of enemy variety. The game has a novel mechanic where both your ammo and your health are taken from the same reserves, and when you defeat enemies you have to "vacuum" them up to collect more energy. You have a limited amount of time that you can pause the action to vacuum before your gun overheats, and you'll need to strategically alternate between shooting and collecting energy.

The main common complaint about the game is that it's too short, and although I usually don't mind a short game, in this case I would have to agree. The mechanics are fun, but there isn't much difference between the three levels. It took me several tries to get in the groove of blasting enemies and sucking up energy and also to efficiently beat the boss character (who is pretty much the same in each stage). But once I had mastered the game mechanics, blowing through the three levels and getting the high score was pretty easy. After you beat the three levels, you unlock a "challenge" mode where you have to defeat the three levels back to back, but I found this to actually be easier than beating each stage individually. Although the levels in this mode are slightly harder versions of the standalone stages, you carry over your energy between stages, which makes the second and third stages much easier.

No doubt the developers at IntSys were limited by the constraints of WiiWare (namely the maximum file size), but I can't help feeling the game could've been so much more. It was fun to see Intsys branch out and do something completely different, but otherwise this is a game that's pretty forgettable, and there are much better alternatives available for Wii.