2017 will go down in history as one of the best years in gaming. Here are 10 excellent reasons, with number one being GadgetMatch’s game of the year.
10. Persona 5
Persona 5 isn’t the best game of the year, but it makes a good case for being the most game of the year. It takes around 100+ hours to beat; it has deep dungeon crawling with puzzle-solving; it’s got robust turn-based combat; and it’s also a light high-school simulator with a suite of social activities! The story tackles all sorts of societal ills, from child abuse to corruption in politics.
It stumbles on some aspects, most notably the hit-or-miss English localization, the sluggish pacing in the final stretch, and the portrayal of some of the women and queer characters. It soars, however, in its supreme sense of style, acid jazz symphonic string-funk soundtrack, and infectious rebellious spirit.
9. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Video games can be a great escape from the maddening realities of life, especially with 2017’s barrage of bad news. They let us indulge in power fantasies when we feel weak and helpless. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus couldn’t have come at a better time with its vicious takedown of fascism via ultraviolence, toilet humor teetering towards the absurd, and intense introspection.
And while slaughtering virtual Nazis with hatchets and guns akimbo is cathartic as hell, Wolfenstein II hits the hardest when it highlights its diverse characters. Militant black activists, an alien conspiracy nut, Southern socialists, and a boyband-loving ex-Nazi codebreaker join the party of oddities from the previous game, and it results in the most dynamic cast that serves as inspiration for collective resistance in real life.
8. Super Mario Odyssey
If there’s one word that encapsulates Super Mario Odyssey, it’s joy. Unabashed, honest-to-goodness joy. From its many candy-colored kingdoms to the cute creatures that inhabit them to the head-bobbing rhythms that play in each level, just being in Super Mario Odyssey is a treat.
What makes the game great though is that the joy of “being” extends to what you are doing. In Mario’s cliched quest to save Princess Peach from Bowser one more time, the joy is in discovering novel ways to interact with the world through the help of your hat buddy Cappy (and the bodies of enemies and friendlies you basically possess!). Super Mario Odyssey rewards that natural curiosity with in-game progression, sure, but it never forgets that the mere act of playing should be fun on its own.
Getting a glimpse of Cuphead and thinking it’s an old-timey cartoon is an incredibly easy mistake to make. Studio MDHR, the brand new creative force behind Cuphead, showed impeccable dedication to recreating the wild and mesmerizing aesthetic pioneered in the 1930s by cartoonist Max Fleischer. While there is debate to be had about the game ignoring that art style’s racist history, there is no argument over Cuphead elevating the good parts of that distinct look to hypnotic heights.
Cuphead’s beauty isn’t just skin deep, either. Its retro visuals and big band/ragtime soundtrack pair perfectly with its brutally hard throwback run ‘n’ gun shoot ’em up gameplay reminiscent of Contra. Thanks to the super-tight controls, varied weapons and upgrades, and the astonishing multi-phase boss fights, beating Cuphead is even more rewarding than seeing it in action for the first time.
6. What Remains of Edith Finch
Much has been said about video games’ ability to tell stories. When so many rely on cinematics or pages of text to deliver their narratives, it feels like what makes the medium special is wasted. What Remains of Edith Finch harnesses that singular strength of interactivity to tell not just one story but a whole clan’s history in ways only video games can.
The player takes an active role in each tale, reliving the last moments of every Finch family member through surreal sequences that never stop surprising. These imaginative vignettes blur reality with flights of fancy and call upon the player to navigate the spaces between. Most importantly, What Remains of Edith Finch makes the case as to why humans need to tell stories: to cope with grief, to make sense of chaos, to learn from mistakes, and to keep precious memories alive.
5. Horizon Zero Dawn
A lot of elements in Horizon Zero Dawn feel familiar, especially if you’ve been playing a lot of big budget games in the past decade. It has a massive open world filled with so much stuff. It has a light RPG upgrade system with unlockable skills. It has collecting and crafting. Even its setting sounds predictable: It’s in a post-apocalyptic future, sentient machines roam the world, the hero has a special connection to the mysterious forces that brought about the end of the previous world, and it’s up to her to discover the truth.
And yet Horizon Zero Dawn manages to defy expectations. It’s the most picturesque AAA game on consoles. Clans with different cultures populate the land, and the characters you meet from each one tell personal tales that weave into the larger political landscape. Completing side quests factor into the main plot’s climax. The narrative deftly deviates from where you think it’s heading while still making complete sense. You play as a clever, badass woman with relatable vulnerabilities and motivations! Oh and yes, fighting giant robot dinosaurs is a tactical, terrifying, and ultimately satisfying experience like nothing else in the genre.
It’s a strange combination, framing sports gameplay within a visual novel. Pyre is a triumphant slam dunk for succeeding at both ends. The 3v3 basketball-but-with-powers game is layered in its systems, kinetic in action, and exhilarating in execution. The writing is rich with both characterization and world-building. It also helps that the art is absolutely gorgeous and expressive. Staring at mostly static character portraits while reading text has never been so absorbing.
The true magic happens when these two parts come together. Depending on who you choose to have on your team and the opponents you face, the characters react accordingly to each other before, during, and after a match. Win or lose, the story continues, and people will come and go based on the outcome. Dire, unfair circumstances brought on by an oppressive regime make for game-changing, heartbreaking choices that will resonate with players uniquely.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There aren’t many prestigious and influential series that continue to have long-standing success over three decades. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild throws out almost everything those 30+ years have proven to be profitable, replacing the rigid linearity of the past for an “open air” adventure. It was a bold move by Nintendo, but like the company’s innovation with the Switch, it resulted in a revitalizing way to play.
It’s in the way the sight lines always have something that’s singularly grand off in the distance that make you want to travel the vast distances. It’s in the way the physical laws of the world apply to everyone and everything, inviting experimentation just to see what happens. It’s in the way the game just gives you one ultimate goal and lets you tackle it however you want. It’s liberating.
2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Who saw this coming? A rather bland-looking military-style multiplayer shooter inspired by a cult Japanese film taking the gaming world by storm? With a horrible title like that? None of these negatives really matters when PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is that good.
The sheer scale of having 100 players fight is exciting. Trying to account for the behavior of 99 other humans while considering the randomness in where equipment can be found and which zones in a sprawling island are safe sounds impossible! Yet 25 million people and counting keep trying. Because the thrill in the nervous anticipation, the bullets that break the silence, the explosive gun battles, the wacky car chases, the first taste of that delicious chicken dinner, and countless other short stories is revelatory.
1. Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata isn’t perfect. Its open world looks like a slightly souped-up PS3-era level. The default difficulty setting doesn’t encourage mixing up your play style, leading to many tedious combat sections. A chunk of the middle could have been edited to remove unnecessary repetition. It could’ve done without allowing players to perv on one of the main characters.
But it’s the flaws that Nier: Automata is interested in examining. It blurs the arbitrary lines we humans set to define gender, humanity, and divinity, much like how it seamlessly switches gameplay modes and perspectives. It zeroes in on the irrational motivations humans have to determine self-worth even when it hurts through its cast of sad, funny robots and ass-kicking, angst-ridden androids.
It also reminds us that we’re all we’ve really got in this crazy world, and that we have the choice to lend our hands and voices to help one another and rise above our differences.
OPPO drops the F9, Motorola copy-pastes: Weekend Rewind
Why innovate when you can recreate, right?
Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.
1. OPPO F9 (water)drops!
We were getting teasers of this phone two weeks ago and now it’s finally here! The OPPO F9 is official and it comes with a notch that the company is essentially calling a “waterdrop.” That aside, it’s looking like a lean, mean, midrange machine with its 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage, an AI-enhanced 16MP main shooter with a secondary 2MP depth sensor for portraits, and a 3500 mAh battery.
Our hands-on and unboxing is up on YouTube so make sure you watch it!
Notches and gradients are all the rage in 2019, so we guess it makes sense that Motorola opted to fuse both the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 Pro. The result is the Motorola P30 because Moto probably couldn’t be bothered to think of another name. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 636 chip with 6GB memory. It will come in both a 64GB and a 128GB variant. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say. Moto must really want to butter up Apple and Huawei.
Xiaomi’s been cooking something but since this is the Internet and tech leaks are totally a thing, we already know what it is. Coming our way officially next week is the Pocophone F1. A leaked video pretty much already told us a lot of what we want to know: 5.99-inch display, Snapdragon 845, and 6GB of memory.
We’ll have our own video on this soon so definitely stay tuned for it.
Google is being generous in handing out pies. Android Go, a less data-hungry version of the mobile operating system, will also get Android Pie. The Go edition of the newest Android OS only needs half the storage space and can run fluidly, even with just a gigabyte of memory.
Not ready for the responsibility of raising a child? There’s an app for that! The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Natural Cycles. It’s the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. It determines whether a woman is fertile or not then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”
However, the FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”
Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.
7 best affordable flagship smartphones of 2018
Best specs, lower prices
Putting the words “affordable” and “flagship” seems like an oxymoron at first, but manufacturers have reached a point wherein this magical combination is actually possible.
Yes, affordable flagships are a thing now, and they’re taking away some of the premium segment’s long-standing thunder. Why wouldn’t you want the best specs and features in a cheaper package?
This year has been kind to us with all the affordable flagships launched thus far. Here are the best ones to date:
Let’s begin with the brand that started it all. Originally called the “flagship killer,” the OnePlus line is synonymous with high-end power without the extravagant pricing. The OnePlus 6 is the latest entry, and it’s an absolute stunner from its gorgeous display to the fluid Android interface.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
This is the one time Xiaomi likes to go a little more premium, and we support it a hundred percent. The Mi Mix 2S combines a ceramic body with a massive, notch-free display and incredible hardware for the price. Each generation improves on the predecessor — this is no exception.
Fortnite on Android, Meteor Garden: Now Playing
OPPO and Vivo phones contribute to class divide on Meteor Garden
This month has been nothing short of crazy for us at GadgetMatch, what with leaks and teasers of upcoming devices, back-to-back smartphone launches, and Android Pie’s release. Here are some of the things that have kept us sane the last few weeks!
Games to play
Fortnite on Android
Chay: You read that right. The highly successful battle royale game is finally coming to Android. At Samsung Unpacked, Epic Games announced that Galaxy devices will get exclusive early access to the game through the Game Launcher app. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes available in even more devices, and if we’re being honest, we can’t wait to see more memes (and dances!) as more people get to play it.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Android
Rodneil: If you’re itching for a Spider-Man game to help tide you over until the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4, then this mobile game released back in 2014 should tide you over. It looks good, the controls are simple, and the game also gives you the satisfaction of swinging around New York City as you please.
Movies to see
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Marvin: It’s tough to believe, but Mission: Impossible is on its sixth installment, and the latest may be the most death-defying one yet. Tom Cruise is once again Ethan Hunt, an agent who needs to track down a terrorist group before they blow the world up. His stunts are jaw-dropping to say the least, and the twists are surprising enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. My advice: Watch this in a cinema with great seats — it’s a long ride!
TV shows to binge watch
Kevin: Having been released back in 2016 and now waiting on its third season, Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian TV sitcom that focuses on a Korean family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. The show centers on everyday happenings and mishaps of the family. It presents characters who fit, and at the same time, break certain stereotypes while injecting a hint of moral in different (mostly funny) ways.
Orange is the New Black (Season 6)
Chay: Is there hope for the inmates of Litchfield? Will there ever be justice? These are always the questions you have after watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black. The longer the series goes on, the more invested you become in these women’s stories. This season, the spotlight is even brighter on my all-time favorite OINTB character: Taystee goes on trial to clear her name and fight the injustice she and fellow inmates have been suffering behind bars.
Kevin: If you’re into Rick and Morty’s tandem and outer space adventures, Final Space might be something you’d want to check out. The story follows a smart-mouthed prisoner who works on a space station, meets a cute alien life form, and immediately becomes friends with it, not knowing that it’s a valuable entity to the menacing Lord Commander. I’m just a few episodes in but it’s been entertaining and funny — something I would expect from Conan O’Brien producing the show.
Meteor Garden (2018)
Rodneil: If you loved the Taiwanese version that first aired in the early 2000s, then I suggest you give the 2018 version a chance. It’s great to see how the setting has been updated to modern times with some of the bullying part of the story happening in social media. There are cool tidbits too about how transactions are mostly made through QR codes and how the phones of the less privileged are OPPO while the elite F4 carry Vivo phones. It’s a nice glimpse to the current state of technology in China. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the cast actually looks like they’re still students versus the already adult-looking cast of the original adaptation.
Mob Psycho 100
Rodneil: I held out for quite a bit before watching this anime but when I found out that season two is already arriving at the start of 2019, I knew I had to binge the 12-episode first season. From the same creator as One-Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 features Shigeo Kageyama — a young, overpowered psychic who’s trying his best to live life without taking advantage of his psychic ability. If you loved the over-the-top action and the ridiculously overpowered lead in One-Punch Man, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Mob Psycho 100.
Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Part 3)
Marvin: It’s been a grueling couple of months, but Part 3 of Terrace House: Opening New Doors is finally available on Netflix outside Japan, and it’s certainly worth the wait. The cast gets a near overhaul, and with the new members come much more drama and the awkward first dates we’ve grown to love. But the real highlight of Part 3 are the commentators, who are able to turn any sad moment into a laughing fit for both the viewers and themselves. Part 4 can’t come soon enough!
Music and podcasts to listen to
Honey by Scandal
Rodneil: My fascination for Asian girl groups continues. Scandal has had plenty of their songs appear on several animé, and this album gives you plenty of those types of tracks. My favorites are “platformsyndrome,” “OVER,” “Koisuru Universe,” and “Short Short.”
“Long Gone” and “Lover Boy” by Phum Viphurit
Kevin: Thai-born, but New Zealand-raised, indie artist Phum Viphurit’s “Long Gone” is a mellow tune with just the right soul to make you groove and nod your head to the rhythm. “Lover Boy,” on the other hand, has more funk to its bass lines which is then overlayed with Viphurit’s smooth vocals — almost reminiscent of how John Legend made “P.D.A.” a chill, sexy track.
“Sana” by I Belong To The Zoo
Rodneil: “Sana” is a gut-wrenching Filipino track that tells the story of a romance that has gone stale. While that sounds like a run-of-the-mill heartbreak song, singer Argee Guerrero delivers each line with so much conviction that it’s hard not to imagine yourself in the shoes of the aggrieved party.
Psychobabble with Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl
Chay: In their first episode back after an eight-month hiatus, #TeamTylerandKorey discusses the top trends of the year, Bernie Mac, and how hotels are homophobic. Korey also reveals he had a vocal box replacement and was on vocal rest during the hiatus. It’s not clear whether that’s the only reason the podcast was MIA for a while, but it’s possible the Fullscreen shut down, which picked up Psychobabble for a video version in early 2017, is also a culprit. That’s bad news for anyone who paid for a subscription on the streaming service, but good news is all episodes are now available on Spotify, as well.
Cities to visit
Rodneil: Madrid is a beautiful city filled with mid-rise buildings that feature stunning European architecture. For some street entertainment, check out Plaza del Sol at night. If you’re looking for a place to eat, the cochinillo (suckling pig) in Las Cuevas De Luis Candelas, located just right outside Plaza Mayor is to die for. There’s also the restaurant Mr. Frank which seems like a nice date place. Definitely order the Provoleta con chorizo and Presa Ibérica con frutos rojos. The restaurant is located near the Congreso de los Diputados which is a great backdrop for your touristy photo.
Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!
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