Now that the vast majority of this year’s games have been released onto both digital and physics shelves, it’s time to kick off our Game of the Year awards. Between now and the end of the year we’ll be checking off over a dozen categories and weighing up the best games in each from the past twelve months.
Time to start off with something nice and easy… or is it? Since the middle of last generation, remasters, remakes and reimaginings have appeared at an almost alarming rate. Some a much requested returns for genuine classics, others much quicker ports looking to simply bring a game to more people.
With a little dragon flying in to woo many a nostalgic heart, and looking better than ever, surely he’d win, right?
Back in 2006, Yakuza 2 delivered one of the most cinematic narrative experiences to ever land on the console, and what is arguably the strongest tale of any Yakuza game that has come before or after it. This incredible story was laced with twists and turns that may not have always been unexpected, but were certainly bombshells that kept the it moving in incredible directions, and with an antagonist that not only mirrored Kiryu, but turned into one of the most sympathetic and well-rounded villains.
For as strong as the narrative of Yakuza 2 is, it’s a gameplay and visual experience that hasn’t aged quite well. Kiwami 2, then, ends up being a practical dream game by taking the amazing story and cutscenes of Yakuza 2, and translating them into the latest PS4 Yakuza engine with the latest, stunning art and visuals the series has to offer.
It doesn’t stop at fully-explorable set of towns, silky smooth combat and cutting edge visuals though. Kiwami 2 also adds a heaping helping of extra content that push it beyond a mere remake. Things like a photo mode, an RTS-style side mission series and a full mini-campaign revolving around Goro Majima that serve as great incentives for returning players without ruining the pacing of the original experience.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a ground-up remake of one of the most iconic entries in the Yakuza franchise, and it does a wonderful job of bringing that classic game up to modern standards without ruining or changing what made a great story so great to begin with.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy – Runner Up
After the success of last year’s Crash remake, bringing a fellow PS1 platforming favourite will have been a no-brainer for Activision. Toys for Bob’s transformation of this trilogy is nothing short of remarkable, taking the original trilogy and giving it a visual makeover that more than fits in with 2018’s games. It looks absolutely fantastic.
While this primarily preserves the originals as they were – right down to a lack of subtitles, for some reason – they’ve made changes that make sense elsewhere. You have a more modern control scheme, all of the adult dragons you rescue are unique individuals, and retains a great mixture of accessible progress and optional collectathon challenge.
Shadow of the Colossus – Runner Up
A remaster of Shadow of the Colossus was a rather unexpected project for Sony to greenlight, especially after the PS3 HD release, and yet the ground up remake of this solemn tale was a real highlight for the PS4 at the start of this year. As with the best games in this category, it took the original game’s form and brought it up to date with more modern graphics. For Bluehole, this meant trying to preserve the look and feel of the original, as opposed to filling in the gaps, but adding detail and enhancing it with higher resolution textures, HDR, more nuanced animations and more. It also helped to iron out the kinks in performance that even the PS3 release endured.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Burnout Paradise Remastered
- Dark Souls Remastered
- Katamari Damacy Reroll
What was your personal favourite of the year? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to stick with us through the rest of this month as we tick our categories off one by one. Next up? Best Original Soundtrack.