Xbox Tavern’s Game(s) of the Year

Jamie@Enaksan

Despite the shitter of a year that has been 2020, there have been some incredible titles released to help balance things out. Picking my GOTY has been surprisingly tough, though at the end of the day it really could only come down to one game:

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and boy do I have it in spades for my time with the 16 and 32-bit Sega consoles. Such fond memories across dozens of games but one that will always rise to the top is the time spent playing Streets of Rage 2 with my brother. The hours we put in would easily reach triple digits despite a single play through taking maybe 2 or 3 hours at most. After far too long a hiatus, I was stoked to see the series return with Streets Of Rage 4 and even more stoked at just how well it captured what was great about the series in the 90’s while adding in plenty of modern elements that made it feel like a brand new game. Everything, from the sublime artwork to the soundtrack to the feel of the combat and movement, is just spot on, so much so that I’d quite easily believe this was a long lost Saturn game that just got a visual up-spuff. Returning characters Axel and Blaze handle just as I remember them, while new favourite Cherry manages to riff off of Skate in the best ways, her combo moves and speed letting the action flow perfectly.

Some might scoff at just how faithful Dotemu were in lifting character designs across the board but for me that just made it that much easier to slip right back into the brawling action. Retuning enemies attacks are just as they were, while the handful of new types fit naturally into the line-up. The stage design is excellent, helped by some stunning artwork and effects that make the whole thing pop off of the screen. And that soundtrack manages to keep its roots in the underground instrumental themes of the earlier games while mixing in new elements that – you guessed it – fit as naturally as other aspect.

Even without the nostalgia though I can’t imagine new players to the series wouldn’t find this to be an incredible game. For as ‘old’ it might feel to me, that is not to say it doesn’t play wonderfully by today’s standards. Combos are crunchy and tight, while the handful of extra little touches (pressing jump just as we’re about to land from being knocked down lets us land on our feet, preventing further damage) are a joy to discover and use. Whether you’ve raged on the streets before or not, Streets of Rage 4 is quite simply an excellent game that provides almost endless fun across the board.

A few honourable mentions must be made though; Superliminal was genuinely fascinating to play, with a core hook that rivals Valve’s best output and a story and setting that intrigues from start to finish; Resident Evil 3 didn’t quite nail the remake formula as well as RE2, but it still was an excellent title that managed to keep the tension up while also bringing just the right amount of action in too; Ori and the Will of the Wisps was enchanting throughout, Moon Studio really upping their game after the already excellent Blind Forest. Draugen was another surprise hit for me, bringing a wonderfully captivating story that was genuinely touching and a beautifully serene landscape that hinted at much more beneath the surface; Supraland was yet another title that came out of nowhere and just blew me away with its incredible level and puzzle design. Between SOR4, Superliminal and this, it was a tough choice and either of these three could have taken the top spot. There are many more, but I’ll leave it there for now.

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Written by
For me it started out on PC, back in the Wolfenstein 3D and Commander Keen days. Now I play across all platforms, but I'm gaming every day, mainly on xbox. I'm easy going, with a full-on achievement hunting addiction, but you mainly can find me getting my fix on Apex Legends (Caustic FTW) Gamertag: nuttywray

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