2017 was a crazy year for releases, many of which seemed to be of the sixty-plus hour variety. With so many home console exclusives, my handheld gaming time was more limited than usual. Nevertheless, there were some good releases that stood out.
1) Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (3DS)
After Fire Emblem Fates left a sour taste in my mouth, I wasn't sure what to expect from Echoes. As a remake of the second game in the series, I was surprised that Intelligent Systems held true to the original by ditching the weapon triangle and incorporating third-person dungeon crawling sections. Aided by a top-notch localization and excellent voice acting, it all came together and reinvigorated my excitement for the series. I don't think I would want every Fire Emblem game to be like Echoes, but it was a fascinating take on the series and the best portable game I played this year.
2) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch)
I talked a bit of crap about this game when it was announced. I mean, a crossover of Mario and Rabbids in an XCOM-style tactical RPG? It couldn't be good…right? Oh, how wrong I was. The team at Ubisoft nailed the turn-based tactical combat, created a delightfully demented version of the Mushroom Kingdom, and even managed to make the Rabbids tolerable. Easily the surprise of the year, and I can't wait for a sequel to expand upon the base that's been built with this game.
3) Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (Vita)
This game did just about everything it could to frustrate players. Unpronounceable title? Obviously. Needlessly verbose? Check. Maybe three battles in the first ten hours of "gameplay"? Yep. Constantly displaying it's adult-only Japanese PC heritage? At every opportunity. Despite these roadblocks, this game had some of the best characters I saw this year (Atuy is just the best), and the story tied even the smaller tangents back into an interesting conclusion. I'm looking forward to finally making time to play Mask of Truth (which no doubt would replace this pick if I had time to play it).