Top 10 Favourite Games of 2017

Day 11 [New Year’s Resolution]: Top 10 Favourite Games of 2017

I like video games a lot, and 2018 promises to bring some seriously cool releases. I played some awesome titles in 2017, so here is a list of my top ten favourites! Bear in mind these games weren’t necessarily released in ’17, they’re just ones I played.

10. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Released in June 2017 on PlayStation 4, I was pretty excited to see a remake of this loveable orange character, who first appeared on the PlayStation 1. I didn’t actually have a PS1 when I was a kid (we were a Nintendo 64 family), but I remember playing the original on a cousin’s console sometime in the ’90s, and The Wrath of Cortex, which vaguely resembles the second in the new trilogy, was on GameCube.

The new one was fun and actually pretty difficult! I only just managed to finish the first of the trilogy, which means there is a lot more crystal and gem collecting, box destroying, fruit pick-upping, and bad guys’ ass whooping to go.

9. NieR RepliCant

NieR was a game that it seemed only my brothers and I knew about. It had a gorgeous storyline, a great script, fun gameplay, and was completely underrated. Then NieR: Automata came out, and everyone was suddenly a huge fan (just for the record, I do like Automata too, but I didn’t start playing it until 2018).

I found RepliCant on PS3 at a BOOK OFF store sometime last autumn and decided to play it again. Although it was RepliCant where Nier is a young boy and the brother of Yonah (as a teenager, I played the XBOX version, Gestalt, where Nier was a middle-aged man and Yonah was his daughter), it was still enjoyable. It brought back some great memories.

8. Shadow of the Colossus

Another classic is Shadow of the Colossus, an incredibly artistic game that resonated with a lot of people with its fantastic orchestral soundtrack, unusual gameplay, heart-wrenching ending, and mighty monsters. I bought my PS3 especially to play this again, and it was a lot of fun to complete.

Apparently PS4 owners can look forward to another Colossus remaster (it was originally released on PlayStation 2 in 2005). If you’re a fan of the game, keep an eye out for it. According to PlayStation’s Twitter account, it’ll be out in February 2018!

7. Call of Duty: World War II

I’d never played a Call of Duty game before, but I was really excited for WWII. I’m not too big on the multiplayer function, but I really enjoyed the campaign. Sometimes I felt I really was Officer Daniels, fighting to stay alive and blowing up Nazis.

6. Destiny

I’d vaguely heard of Destiny before, but didn’t pay it much attention until I heard the song Rise from the Dark by Malukah. As a huge fan of her music, that song got me interested, so I bought it.

I actually thought it was a lot of fun. It had a lot of features I love in games: open-world (kind of), the ability to level up and upgrade my weapons and armour, and interesting lore. However, I never got far beyond the basic campaign since I wasn’t willing to pay for downloads. Considering I got it for 600 yen at BOOK OFF, it was pretty good value for money.

I’ve heard Destiny 2 is out, but haven’t heard enough good things to invest 7000 yen into it.

5. The Binding of Isaac

All right, this game is super old, but I still played it a lot in 2017 (mostly during times I was supposed to be writing or studying.) It remains a fantastic and addictive game with deliciously dark underlying meanings.

4. Dying Light

I hadn’t even heard of Dying Light until my friend Mike lent it to me. He lent me a bunch of games, and I didn’t even touch this one until it had been sitting in my drawer for several months. I finally pulled it out last year and had a go at it, expecting a lot of shooting and gore like in Left4Dead. But it was really good!

I loved the open world, the ability to collect, loot, and craft, and the fact that it wasn’t all killing zombies – you had to climb and run and hide as well. Dying Light definitely exceeded my expectations.

3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

This gets bonus points for nostalgia and the time spent furiously playing online and losing much more than I was winning. Super Smash Brothers has a special place in my heart; my brothers and I played it from the original Nintendo 64 version all the way through Melee and Brawl, too.

I, unfortunately, sold my Wii U towards the end of 2017, but not before I had fun playing as Peach, Wario, Kirby, and Shiek.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I’ll admit, I was a late bloomer when it came to Skyrim. I actually did buy it when it came out in 2011, but my PC could barely run it, and after half an hour of lag, I gave up and didn’t play it again until January 2017.

I don’t need to explain why this is a great game. It had its flaws, but from its open world to endless quests to great music to DRAGONS, it was fantastic.

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Origins on XBOX 360 was my favourite game when I was a teenager, and the story, music, and characters (Alistairrrr) touched me on a level nothing else has ever managed to. If you’ve played Origins, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

So imagine my surprise when Mike casually offered to lend me his copy of the newest installment, Dragon Age: Inquisition. I don’t really keep as up-to-date with the latest gaming news as much as I should, so I had no idea it was even out.

I’ve easily knocked five hundred hours or more into Inquisition, and it’s everything I wanted. I’ve written around twenty articles on LevelSkip including romance guides, approval guides, and how to kill the high dragons, and the characters have stayed with me almost (almost) as much as Alistair did in Origins. It’s a total masterpiece, and I just bought the Game of the Year edition the other day!

Rumours are flying around about another Dragon Age game as well, which I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed for.

Video games are a great pastime, and I’m always looking for interesting new titles to try as well as clinging to the games I played as a kid. Have you played any of these? Which ones do you like?

 

Happy Valley on Netflix

Day 10 [New Year’s Resolution]: Happy Valley on Netflix

“Netflix and chill?”

Netflix is one of those things everyone knows about and a lot of people have rather than regular TV. There’s no question why, of course; it’s easy to use, loads quickly, and has a massive choice of films and TV shows.

It’s better than Love Film, at least. I was cornered on the street and pressured into signing up while I was at university, and kept getting fined because I forgot to post the DVDs back in time.

I rarely watch TV shows on Netflix; it’s mostly films or the odd Friends episode. But recently, a friend recommended a police drama called Happy Valley.

It is set in West Yorkshire (I went to university in York), which caught my interest right away. There have been lots of shows where I’ve watched episode 1 and then got bored, but I just got done with the first series of Happy Valley and I must say, I’m really enjoying it.

Catherine, the sergeant and main character, is a badass middle-aged policewoman. I won’t go into details on the story for now as I’m not great at blurbs or synopses, but here’s the trailer.

One of my favourite things about this show is the characters. They aren’t cliche at all and often behave in a way I didn’t expect. There’s some fantastic acting in Happy Valley and I found myself becoming very fond of Catherine and her sister, Claire.

If you’ve got Netflix, check out Happy Valley. It’s got a lot of adult themes, so make sure you’re above 18 if you plan to check it out.

Day 10 of the New Year’s Resolution done! Let’s keep it up!

Coming of Age Day in Japan

Day 8 [New Year’s Resolution]: Coming of Age Day in Japan

Today is a national holiday, which means no work!

There are a lot of national holidays in Japan where office workers and the like get a day off. Today is Coming of Age day, where those who turned 20 years old in the past year dress in kimonos or suits and go to their local city hall for a ceremony.

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Then, because 20 is the legal age to drink in Japan, they go out and get bladdered with their friends.

I didn’t do much with my day off except write and go out with my friends. National holidays are for relaxing, after all. It’s back to the grind tomorrow, though.

Oyasumi for now.

A Day in Kita-Senju

Day 7 [New Year’s Resolution]: A Day in Kita-Senju 

I met my homestay family today! I first met them in November 2012 as part of the study program at Toyo University and we’re still close now.

Since Kita-Senju in east Tokyo is about halfway between their house and mine, we decided to meet there. I’d never been, but it turned out to be a nice little shopping spot.

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We has a nice meal (super cheap – beer for 300 yen and Jim Beam and soda highball for just 200) and I got NieR: Automata on PS4, yay!

Even though I’m still a bit sick with a cold I had a lovely time with them and my friend Leo. Then I took Krispy Kreme doughnuts home. Today was a great day!

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Tomorrow is Coming of Age Day in Japan which means a bonus day off as well. Hopefully it’ll be enough to get completely well before it’s back to work.

Have you ever been to Kita-Senju? What did you do today?

The Japanese Really Like to Drink

Day 4 [New Year’s Resolution]: The Japanese Really Like to Drink

There was a definite after-holiday gloom in the air on this crisp-clear January day. After teaching in a cafe in Jiyugaoka (where I was given a take-out cup despite the fact I was eating in), I wandered back to my house and watched Friends on Netflix all afternoon.

It’s my last day off, so as you can see, I spent it well.

The 4th is the day most people are actually back at work but since I always take Thursdays off to teach, it was a sort of bonus day. Despite the fact that most businesses started up again, though, it didn’t stop people drinking.

The Japanese love to drink. And when I say love to drink, I mean it’s not unusual for people to drink every day. Beer, sake, and chu-hi are among the favourites here. Even as I’m typing this, I’m sipping one of these:

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The Japanese drink when they’re tired, stressed, out with friends, having fun, winding down, and for everything else in between. All-you-can-drink offers, obligatory nomikais where you have to go and drink with bosses and work colleagues, and cheap booze means that it’s not considered a problem if you drink a lot. It’s not even considered unusual.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing… not really. After all, Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world and drink-related violence is, compared to a lot of western countries, almost unheard of.

Drinks in Japan

Here are some drinks you can, and can’t, get in Japan.

1. Beer. Obviously. Nama-beer is draft and bin-beer is in the bottle, usually served with little glasses so you can share.

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2. Sake. Japanese rice-wine. There are thousands of different types and brands out there, and it can be served hot or cold. It’s common to see older businessmen enjoying a bottle of sake at a Japanese pub, an izakaya.

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3. Umeshuu. Similar to sake, but much sweeter as it’s made of plums. I loooove umeshuu.

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4. Chu-hi. A canned drink commonly found in supermarkets and convenience stores that comes in a variety of fruit flavours and alcohol percentages, usually ranging from 3% to 9%. These are good for parties but horrible for hangovers.

5. Wine. Though maybe not as popular as the others, you can easily get white wine, red wine, and rosé easily enough. I don’t drink wine that much though so I don’t know much about brands.

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6. Whiskey. International whiskey like Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam is easy to find in Japan, and the country also has its own brands such as Suntory, Hakushu, and Nikka. It’s popular to drink with soda, water, or ginger ale.

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Most drinks you can get in the west are available in Japan too, like Malibu and Bailey’s, but unfortunately, I’ve never come across Tia Maria, one of my favourites. They have a really great beer here called Tokyo Black, but I’ve only ever seen it in the supermarket near where I used to live in Daikanyama.

That’s enough from me today, because I’ve got to finish watching Shrek; my boyfriend is watching it for the first time and his reactions are just adorable. “Princess Fionaaa!” “Why? What happens after sunset?” Love it!

Day 4 is done! Let’s keep this up!

New Year’s Day 2018

Where were you at midnight last night? More specifically, that insane moment of excitement between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018?

I remember exactly a year ago, I was busy watching a Japanese comedy show called Waratte wa Ikenai (Laughing is Forbidden) which is a special New Year show that’s played from around six in the evening until twelve. Naturally, I expected it to end a couple of minutes before midnight and then for someone on TV to be like, “All right, it’s nearly time, let’s countdown!”

That didn’t happen, though. It ended, I looked at the clock and exclaimed that we’d missed it – it was twenty past twelve! Embarrassed and annoyed, I entered 2017 in a bad mood.

NAWT THIS TIME.

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As residents of west Tokyo, we usually hang out in, well… west Tokyo. Asakusa, famous for being one of the most visited spots in the city ever because of the lovely Senso-ji Temple and the like, was the last place I expected us to go.

But he looked at me and he said, “Let’s go. We’ll have a great time.”

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Asakusa is almost an hour away, so we chilled on the Ginza line, me thinking about how much work I had to get done and how comparably hot the train is after the biting ice of outside. Upon getting out, it was a lot less crowded than I expected, and we walked up to Senso-ji without the usual difficulty.

Apparently, they’ve hiked up the prices for the stalls so a lot of the shops on Nakamise Street have closed down. There were still a lot open selling the usual touristy stuff, though, as well as a healthy amount of food stalls selling yakisoba, skewered meat, chocolate bananas, and all kinds of stuff.

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It was still only 9pm so I was excited to see what the evening had in store. After a quick look at the temple, we went just a street or two away, where the flow of people just seemed to end. He grew up in Asakusa, see, so he was having a nice stroll down memory lane; near the horse racing was a street where he used to go to eat and chat with local people.

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We entered this super shabby and super charming establishment with plates of food everywhere and the jolliest owner I’ve ever seen. She and the two drunk guys there were so happy it was infectious.

He knows I love maguro katsu, so he asked them to make it so they did. It was sooooo good!

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We also tried sake the traditional way and umeshuu, plum wine. I asked for it and they got this massive bucket of it out!

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It was still only ten o’clock so he took me to Hanayashiki, one of the oldest theme parks in Tokyo. It’s full of kids’ rides and because it was New Year, there were illumination lights all over the place. Everyone had this happy glow about them.

We only rode two rides, but it was fun chatting and looking around and drinking in the excited atmosphere. One of the best things about Japan is that it’s nearly always safe. There were local Yakuza actually patrolling the streets – subtly, of course – just in case there was trouble. Their presence, inexplicably, is reassuring rather than intimidating.

We made it down near the stage where a comedian was performing just a few minutes before midnight. We counted down and “Yayyyy Happy New Year!” Then we got some food from the food stalls; a chocolate banana, a box of yakisoba, skewered beef, and some weird okonomiyaki on a stick later, we headed back to the station.

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The train back felt like it took forever. Trains in Tokyo usually stop at around midnight, but on New Year’s Eve, they run all night. A friend of mine who was staying over didn’t know this and he said he spent 8000 yen on a taxi getting back to my place. He wasn’t happy when I told him he could have got a train for literally a tenth of the price.

Now it’s New Year’s Day, and after a sausage and egg sandwich, a cup of tea, and a shower, this year is already looking good.

I’m writing one post a day as 2018’s new year’s resolution, which was inspired by the success of my friend Cindy Smith, who managed to write one poem a day in 2017. Congratulations, Cindy, and thank you for the inspiration!

I hope your New Year’s Eve was as grand as mine, and I wish you a wonderful new year.