I switched from doing decade recaps to year recaps in 2020. That sure was an interesting year to pick. 2021 wasn't much better. As for 2022... it's not so bad really. Sure everything costs 20% more but I have too much stuff already. I realize I'm fortunate here, for many inflation was a hardship this year. Also having lived through the 2000 dot-com crash I empathize with those impacted by all the tech industry layoffs late this year. As for anyone impacted by the entirely predictable crypto market crash... oh, I'll keep things pleasant this year and pass on commenting.
The most important thing about 2022 was getting back to doing normal stuff again. Like I went to the office. Thrilling, I know. I went to yard sales and thrift stores again. So exciting. I even went on a real vacation, something I didn't do often enough before 2020. The annual Midwest Gaming Classic was back to its usual self. It was a totally average year and that's all I wanted.
My wife and I also celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary this year. Like I assume most couples, we have some silly traditions. One of ours is stalking the local Hallmark for when their previous year ornaments hit 90% off. We buy plenty at full price but also stock up on odd or tacky things we normally wouldn't buy. Early this year I hit the nostalgia jackpot.
Maybe jackpot is too strong of a word. Nostalgia sampler is a better fit. I'm not a huge Sonic fan, I never finished a single game in the series. I decided to wait on this ornament and it worked out.
This Transformers ornament is a character that was released about a week after I was too old for the toys. It transforms into some kind of zapper right?
He-Man wasn't my favorite in the 80s, I think my wife was more into it than me. Or maybe she just grew-up in a house with brothers who dominated the Saturday morning TV. It's a good quality ornament and for 90% off I couldn't pass on it.
This was not from Hallmark (hopefully that's obvious) but was still cheap.
I found Sonic ornaments at three different stores. I assume the movies were a factor.
The MTV one is my favorite of the off-season finds from Hallmark. It's a nice throwback.
Side note - as a Gen-Xer I watched a ton of MTV until roughly 1997ish. Daria was the last show I followed religiously on it. Around March 13th 2020 I rediscovered it as the "Ridiculousness Channel". I suspect many others did too. The totally mind-numbing recap of things they found on YouTube, Reddit, and TikTok was very welcome during the previous two years.
Alright, back to ornaments... Hallmark again had a nice batch of new gaming ones.
The first two are the least inspired. This is the Bowser ornament from maybe two years ago on the cart from the last year's Donkey Kong ornament. It is fun to see giant Bowser in a little tiny cart racer though.
This one is nearly identical to last year's Mario ornament. It comes across as a Malibu Stacy with new hat. Yes, that kind of stuff totally works on me.
They did NES and Super Nintendo ornaments already. Instead of moving on to the Nintendo 64, or back to the original Game Boy, they pivoted to a rival system. I expect this will be the only Sega hardware to receive an ornament. Sorry Dreamcast fans but that seems really unlikely. I hope the original PlayStation is next. Oh, this ornament plays the music from the first Sonic stage.. loudly, very loudly.
This is similar to the miniature Zelda ornaments. Unless I totally blanked on it, Luigi received the tiny ornament treatment before his more famous brother.
The highlight is this Breath of the Wild ornament. The game is five years old but that is still a fast turnaround time relatively speaking.
And just to squeeze a little more out of you, Hallmark has some cheaper game ornaments this year that also look nice. I think this one is also at other stores.
So that's the traditional ornament round-up. OK, it's only the third year so "traditional" is a tiny stretch. Check back next year to see if it survives. I really intended these recaps to be about the year in gaming. Historically I've been 5-10 years behind the gaming scene. Around 2017-ish I started catching-up to modern times. I'm now split roughly 50/50 between new releases and backlog games. Although I don't play many super popular games, I'm at least talking about current ones.
2022 was the year of remakes and collections for me. More than half of what I played fit into one of these two buckets. I will avoid spoilers in all these game descriptions, making some of them very broad summaries.
I started the year finishing off Blue Reflection: Second Light. The ending was a letdown given the length of the game. It's an alright RPG. If there was another game in this series it's about 50/50 whether I'd try it.
Alphadia Genesis was a backlog game for me. I tried a previous game on Android a decade ago and it was a neat little game. This series isn't done in RPG Maker but sure looks like it is. This time I opted for playing it on the PlayStation 4 after buying it from Limited Run Games on a whim. There's nothing groundbreaking about it. It's a nice throwback to the 16-bit era. It got me through the early weeks of winter just fine.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was next. I really, really got into this series in 2020. They're all the same basic formula and I could play 100 of them without getting bored. This was a short game even by Uncharted standards. Whatever, it's a solid 10-20 hour experience. I paid $19.99 for it, definitely worth the price. Here's a controversial opinion - the Uncharted stories are better than all of the last 3 Indiana Jones movies. Uncharted 2 is arguably better than the first movie. Lost Legacy feels like the smallest of the games but has a brief open-world segment missing in the others.
Doom 64 has been on my backlog for a long time. I'm too lazy to look-up the original release year but it's over 20 years ago. I (very) briefly tried it on the Nintendo 64 and couldn't get past the impossible darkness. I didn't even complete the first level. The relatively recent remastered version fixed that. Predictably I bought a physical copy. I really liked this version. Unlike other 1990s console Doom ports this wasn't a straight source port. It was clearly a rewrite meant to address the strengths and weaknesses of the Nintendo 64 hardware. That was a good move. Doom 64, with brightness fixes, is a great game. I finished the game but didn't get all the secrets so I'll probably go back to it again someday. I'm not ashamed to admit playing this on the easiest setting. I've reached a point in life where I just want to unwind and I set every action game to the lowest setting possible.
Doom 64 got me thinking about the Quake remake. This was something I played a lot in 1997 but not much since. It was a tough game to run after a certain time as I recall. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Speaking of not trying hard enough, I went with easy difficulty this time too. I don't have anything to prove. I wanted to revisit the original and explore all the add-ons. In terms of level design, I felt the expansion packs only got better over time. The layouts grew grander while still feeling like real places. Let's face it, in Doom and Quake there are a lot of levels that aren't practical designs. I know, they're not supposed to be. Which is why I appreciated the later Quake expansion stage for doing that.
Super Monkey Ball was a game of the 2000s for me. An HD remake came out recently. After a nearly 20 year break I felt like trying it again. I wasn't much better at this time around. They added some "quality of life" features to make it a little easier. That was appreciated. These games are a nice mental break even if rather difficult as they go on.
In early summer I started the Danganronpa series. I was curious about it for a while. The collection on Switch finally convinced me to try. They're interesting. The first was my favorite followed by the third.
I almost quit the second because the story just got more nonsensical the longer it went. I tuned out the main story and just focused on solving the cases. These are essentially murder mystery games with a lot of exposition. There's some overarching story they're trying to tell that seems to wrap-up in the 3rd game. It's all very disjointed and hard to follow until the final moments.
Looking at it like a series of independent murder investigations.. they're pretty good. The solutions involve these Rube Goldberg inspired chain of events. Roughly 3/4 of the time I figured it out before the trial started. The other 1/4 totally wrecked my brain in a good way. There's a new game by the series creator being released next year. There's a good chance I'll play it.
The Pac Man museum collection was an automatic pre-order. Once I got past the legal screen it was fine. Pac Man 256 was a surprise hit that I've gone back to many times. My only complaint is this has horrible lag time with the wireless controllers (even when they are attached). This problem is gone on the Switch Lite which makes me suspicious about whether that's all they tested it on.
The Live-A-Live remake was another automatic pre-order. I tried the fan translation quite a while ago but didn't finish. I liked it but got stuck on the pro wrestling adjacent scenario. I must have been very busy then because I didn't have the patience to figure it out. In the proceeding years either my temperament improved or the remakers tuned down the obtuseness or both. This was now a very easy and rather short game.
I completed everything in under 30 hours. Like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy this is not even close to a complaint. The various stories were all interesting and the battle system was fun. The soundtrack was also incredible (which I knew already). Live-A-Live is a nice little diversion that I'd recommend.
Now for the third of four consecutive automatic pre-orders... Skyward Sword HD. Yes, I'm aware this came out last year. Both of my kids wanted to try and I didn't mind waiting until they were done. Neither of them finished it. It seems like after playing through Breath of the Wild they weren't able to adapt to a more linear Zelda game.
I played through it when it was new. I ranked it around middle in the Zelda series and my opinion didn't change. The soundtrack and dungeon design are spectacular. The controls are wonky, even the new non-motion ones. There are a few parts that are flat-out not fun. I remembered enough of the game after 10 years that I got through it quickly. I was surprised how well I recalled the layouts and secrets. I'm sure we all worry about our memory as we get older. Everything in Skyward Sword felt like I just saw it yesterday, so I'll stop worrying for a while.
It gives me a weird feeling to think how different things are now from November 2011. I don't mean in the world as a whole, although they seem like different planets. In 2011 I had two young kids, now one is in college and the other high school. Career-wise 2011 was a low-point. I was working 80+ hours a week and miserable. A decade later I've learned how to avoid companies that expect constant crunch time from technology workers. 11 years ago it didn't occur to me that I could complain or pack my bags when that didn't work. Sorry, didn't mean to get all reflective like that there.
Now for the promised fourth consecutive automatic pre-order... The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. This is a series I have only enjoyed more the longer I play it. For those unfamiliar with the series, as of right now there are 12 games in the overall story arc. Yes, 12 JRPGs that run anywhere from 40-100 hours. Trails from Zero, and its immediate sequel, constitute parts 4-5. In the US we received localizations for parts 1-3 and 6-9. Missing parts 4-5 makes some sections of the later games a tad confusing. It's a series that re-explains things a lot so it's mostly OK.
Trails from Zero was originally a PlayStation Portable game and going back to that style was refreshing. This isn't a series that improves by having better visuals. It's very story-driven and the battle system works just fine in its original form. I get that most gamers want to see games that look like they belong in the current generation. Like the aforementioned Alphadia Genesis, some games work perfectly in previous generation mode.
Anyway, this was a good installment in the series. The story centers around a group of 4 police misfits assigned to special missions. Over time their bonds deepen and their respect in the city grows. Like any JRPG they uncover a grand evil plot that needs to be foiled. Along the way several key characters from the first 3 games appear. If I can complain about anything it's the amount of location revisiting required. In the first chapter you explore all the main locations and revisit them constantly throughout the next four. Trails in the Sky SC had a similar vibe. This is still an outstanding JRPG series that I highly recommend. At this point I am more excited to hear about a new Trails game being released than a new Final Fantasy game if that gives you any idea how much this series has grown on me.
If that seems like a lot of lengthy games, I suppose it is. My kids are older and don't want a lot of supervision. My wife had some book deadlines and worked late often. I don't watch much TV and I don't have many other hobbies.
I highly suspect no one is interested in this next part but here it is anyway. It's a summarized version of my Spotify recap:
This is really a microcosm of my driving playlist - 1990s alternative & techno along with JRPG soundtracks. The first song is a bit of surprise but not really too.
On the other hand, this list reflects which albums I tend to put on when I'm trying to get some work done.
I listen to ICYMI to understand what my kids are talking about. The other four would be extremely predicable to anyone who knows me.
I posted a few things this year with at least one unexpected result. My favorite three things were:
In 2022 I released my second Sega Genesis demo. I wrote it in about 4 months. That number is deceptive because it's 99% reused code from my first demo. I'm happy with how it turned out.
I posted the last Electronics Boutique catalog in my queue. This is the end of era in a way. If I stumble across another maybe I'll upload it too.
I spent an hour debugging an issue on OpenTable. A month later it became the article I receive the most emails about. They're all from people stumped by the same problem. One day I hope to get one from a engineer at OpenTable that fixed it.
I have a bad track record at predicting how upcoming years will go. Let's try anyway...
Gaming-wise, 2023 looks to be totally overwhelming. There are three "new" Trails games coming to the US. That alone would be an amazing year. The Crisis Core remake is effectively a 2023 game in that I won't start it until then. I have a feeling the night of January 1st is literally when I'll fire it up. We seem to always get a blizzard that day and it's a perfect time to start a long game. On top of all this is, of course, Breath of the Wild 2 (which isn't called that, I know). I can't predict how the rest of the year will go but I'm excited for it.
Project-wise, 2023 is a mystery to me. I have another Sega Genesis demo that I equally want to finish and totally scrap. It's hard to say which of those urges will win.
I have one very specific technology industry prediction for 2023... a few years ago I modernized this site and switched the template to Bootstrap. It was created by Twitter and released under The MIT License. I chose it because of that license and how incredibly easy it is to work with. I predict in 2023 it will be re-licensed under something like APGLv3. I usually refer to this as the "extortion license". Some significant open source projects moved to this license in recent years which of course is their prerogative. It's typically done to prevent large companies from wrapping your software and reselling it. That's fine. It's not how I roll but I don't have any open source projects at risk of experiencing this problem. Eventually a certain owner of Twitter will learn that they own Bootstrap and aren't making money off it. That will be the end of its permissive license model. There will be many forks though. Related, the trend of popular open source packages switching to APGLv3 will certainly continue in 2023.
To everyone who made it this far - I wish you an amazing Xmas and New Year.