It is time! Last year we had a whole bunch of fun doing a good list of great games, and this year, it’s a bit more interesting… Full time job meant I focused more on catchup from 2017-2020 review queue games rather than taking many new ones, which means what shows up on this list is a mix of games I’ve covered here and a few that I’ve not mentioned. Some of this list is very predictable and like usual, my rules for lists apply. Onto my favorites of the year!
10: Rotund Takeoff (Switch eShop)- What a story! The very first game I ever reviewed here on Seafoam Gaming, back in the ancient freeforum days of 2014 was fully remade this year, and is now polished up as a pretty damn fine precision platformer, with a focus on speedrunning! I do not exaggerate when I say that this was easily my favorite time attack themed game of the year, and while I’ve far from mastered Takeoff, I’ve definitely grown to enjoy this game aplenty, and truly think it’s worth your time if you enjoy speedy platformers. With a sequel on the horizon, I’m more than curious as to how 7+ years of experience pays off for that game in particular!
9: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon (Steam)- A late, last-minute addition due to a December 2021 release date, this take on Shovel Knight places him in a Collapse style roguelike, and as I noted in our review, the sheer brilliance of the gameplay loop, plus the addictive nature, multiple characters, and overall polish led to this being an immensely fun surprise that kept me playing during my review period, and is absolutely a game I plan on buying again on other consoles in the future: if you haven’t picked this one up yet, even if you’re not fond of the original Shovel Knight, this is honestly the puzzler to grab!
8: Disgaea 6 (Switch)- Disgaea has pretty a consistent solid hitter on Switch, and while 4 was a pretty fun time that was my current favorite, this new entry just has the superior QOL, game speed and fun factor! Unfortunately, it’s light on bonus content and the shift to 3D, while great, is definitely in the growing pain stage, but if you can look past that and switch the game to performance mode, this is absolutely a worthwhile Switch exclusive, and the most beginner friendly in the series by far, so it’s a perfect starting point!
7: Saviors of Sapphire Wings & Stranger of Sword City (Switch)- This double pack of DRPGs is kinda cheating, since Sword City was reviewed for Vita years ago, where I didn’t care for it much. But throw in a version with better QOL that vastly fixes my gripes, and an EXCELLENT game in the form of Sapphire Wings? Definitely the biggest surprise of the year for me, and Sapphire Wings is a game I hope to get around to finishing once the backlog slims up a little: everything about the combat and fun factor is just sooooo good, and it honestly stands as one of the strongest DRPGs I’ve played outside of the Etrian series.
6: Cyber Shadow (Xbox One)- Shadow of the Ninja put into overdrive? Yes please! An early-year release from Yacht Club, this was a hugely fun and brutal action platformer that took the best parts from old Ninja action games while adding some polish, and it was by far the new action platformer which stuck out with me the most: I still got stuck on the final stage and have yet to fully complete this game, but it was absolutely a game I had fun with every step of that way, and hopefully in 2022 I can succeed in seeing this game’s ending!
5: GLEYLANCER (Switch eShop)- Retro compilations are commonplace and I’ve sung praises of them many times already, but what about piecemeal releases? Usually, they are known for being pretty simplistic, with not much in terms of options or polish, and with how they typically sell worse than compilations, you don’t see them much these days.
Well, Ratalaika games came to the rescue, by porting a couple of games in a new emulation engine this year, and the best out of all of them is Gleylancer. Not only is it a fantastic shmup that’s finally available in an affordable format, but the emulation options here are just insane: CRT filters, save state options, accessibility modes, control bindings, and a brand new english translation? Yes please, and for a super low price, this was easily the best bargain of the year, and I for one cannot wait to see what future Masaya games Ratalaika ports in 2022!
4: R-TYPE FINAL 2 (Xbox Series X)- Wait a minute, wasn’t this considered just an OK game this year? Well, if you’re referring to my review of the Switch version, then yeah, I found that pretty decent, but average due to loading times and general lack of polish. But on Series X, where I purchased a retail copy and have played the recent updates on? This is a very, very damn fine entry in the R-Type series, and a worthy return to form.
With 2 DLC sets of vintage stages, plus a variety of new, polished levels, along with tons of playable ships to choose from and more content to come? yeah, R-Type Final 2 is pretty worthwhile now, but on Series X those lightning fast loading times help immensely, and is easily my preferred version of the game. Hopefully the Switch version will get reduced load times in 2022, but with how no patches on that port have done much to those load times so far, you may have to deal with that sacrifice to enjoy this great shooter on that system.
3: Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (PS4)- Quite the turnaround: initially revealed looking like quite a stuttery, clunky mess, this charming remake of the Genesis Monster World IV was just packed with love and care, with enough QOL to make me easily prefer this over the original adventure, while offering a glimpse into how such a solid remake might be in the cards for this game’s predecessor, Monster World III. Asha and Pepe have never felt better to control, and the physical version including the OG Genesis game means that this is a no-brainer purchase if you enjoyed recent stuff like Monster Boy or The Dragon’s Trap remake.
2: Blaster Master Zero 3 (Switch eShop)– In 2019, Blaster Master Zero 2 came out and was a great sequel to a fun Switch launch window game, but most notably of all, it had a great story that ended on a pretty huge cliffhanger! For two years, I waited, and waited… And then this finally dropped, as easily the best game in the series! Amazing level design, a fantastic conclusion to the story, and the best kind of fanservice for Sunsoft fans, this action platformer lived up to every last one of my expectations and then-some.
It’s not everyday when a game’s ending hits me in the same way as a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game emotionally, but Blaster Master Zero 3 was easily the one to do so. My only gripe is that there’s little to do after 100%ing the main game, since well, there’s voice acting now, and it seems like that took out any budget for more playable characters. Nevertheless, this is a must-own for fans of the series, and easily the best long-term wait that paid off for me!
Valis Collection (Switch)– The compilation would have made it to the main list, but alas, I already played Valis I and II beforehand. Still, the fact that this franchise got a compilation at all, yet alone a well-emulated one? Absolutely a huge highlight of the year for me, and one I’m very, very happy came out as a surprise launch, and I’m definitely eager to see how the US release holds up next year.
Explosionaide DX (Xbox One)- While this failed to make the cut for the main list, I gotta give a shoutout to this game, since it’s a damn fun mix of Cybernator style combat and scorechasing action. It doesn’t do too terribly much to be more than just a fun series of levels, but the scoring mechanics were fun, and bringing back old XBLA Indie games is always admirable.
Evercade Stuff in general- While not technically a 2021 system (outside of a Purple system model, and a very lovely 2.0 update), this was something I decided to pick up this year, and the community, form factor, and lineup of cartridges that launched were just so good I have to give these guys some sort of shoutout: when every game on your system is a glorified compilation, and they’re going out of their way to nab the rights to obscure games to bring them back into circulation, that’s just something that deserves praise, and any system where I can play Valis is one that’s fine with me, so I definitely encourage you to give these guys a look and see if maybe you can find any cartridges that tickle your fancy!
And now, the final game… The one that impacted me the most…!
1: Fuga: Melodies of Steel (Xbox Series X)- Congrats! While I still feel that BMZ3 had the stronger story, experience and payoff, this charming gem of a strategy game wins my GOTY award over BMZ for several reasons: for starters, the strategy in this game and the core gameplay loop is just so, so satisfying, and even all these months later, I find the combat to be just as fun as I did during the summer. The ability to pick between multiple routes and having to carefully avoid using the soul cannon still lead to a lot of tension and tricky moments, which reminded me a lot of the sort of things that made me adore Super Mystery Dungeon’s emera system so much, and for a strategy game, nailing that is a huge, huge plus.
There’s also the fact that the game is just plain engrossing. There’s not too many games where I feel the impact I had when going in blind can never be recaptured, but this is definitely one of them. The period during my coverage where I was just purely blind, going from one chapter to the next as I dreaded what story development or dark moment would pop up next, was one filled with an eerie amount of tension for a story-focused game. Indeed, the darker nature of Fuga is arguably one of the biggest barriers keeping a lot of people from giving this a go, especially fans of the more light hearted entries in the series such as Solatorobo, and after beating the game and knowing what exactly will happen, the whole sense of tension is gone, leading to that joyful experience with the game’s unraveling plot being a one-hit wonder.
Honestly, the fact the core gameplay loop works great enough and has a lot of incentive to go in again with New Game Plus, shows Fuga’s strengths the most: the first time around is a hardcore exercise on your soul, pushing the values of fear as you work to keep everyone alive. But whether or not you succeed in that true ending the first time around, the subsequent playthroughs turn from ones of dread to ones of hope, and considering how I still think about the game all these months later, it honestly shows that sometimes the most impactful, magical games don’t always have to be done on a super high budget. While BMZ3 is easily the presentation I’ll consider the higher quality, Fuga is the experience I’ll never forget from 2021.
And there you have it! I do apologize for these roundups being a bit briefer than I would have liked, but I still felt I got the job I set out to do with these done, and overall, 2021 was a very hectic year due to my full time job. While I failed in my goal of clearing my queue before tonight, I am at least hopeful I’ll have that job done by the middle of 2022, and then, I can finally go back to focusing fully on newer titles rather than having to juggle and put off games in a queue. I hope these 2021 recommendations encourage you to pick up something you haven’t considered yet, and if you have your own suggestions on what you guys enjoyed, please, send them my way! Fata Morgana was one I nearly considered putting in the honorable mentions category due to me liking what I’ve played so far, but I’m reserving proper judgment until I beat it and thus, review it.
Onto 2022! Here’s hoping it doesn’t end up like my 2019 and derail my mental state…