Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rishi Alwani's #TeamHandheld Best of 2017

I found myself playing more handheld games this year than any other year in recent memory. In part thanks to the apocalypse rendering some of my old standbys like Shibuya useless and the arrival of a wealth of portable goodness on the Nintendo Switch. Here are my favourite handheld games of 2017.

1) Thimbleweed Park (Switch)

If there's any game that proved that the Nintendo Switch had a place in my bag it was Thimbleweed Park. It's a near perfectly-paced adventure game with retro-stylings that wouldn't be out of place in the late 80s. Throw in a plot that's witty and self-aware, without any of the pretentiousness that plagued shows like the Community, and you have a must-play.

2) VA-11 HALL-A (Vita)

Sony might think the Vita is dead, but that hasn't stopped the breakout indie hit VA-11 HALL-A from gracing the handheld. There's support for touchscreen and buttons, and both are responsive additions that make it a lot more immersive than playing it on a PC. Besides, the tales of a cast this diverse and bizarre deserves to be experienced. More so on the go where the game's pacing is suited to short bursts of play.

3) Disgaea 5 Complete (Switch)

The latest entry in the long-running strategy role-playing game series, Disgaea 5 Complete features a nonsensical plot and an assortment of characters that would find themselves on a list of the top 10 anime clich├ęs. Nonetheless, the stellar combat more than makes up for it. Replete with a deep set of systems and mechanics that not only let you level up your party but your items as well, this turn-based combat lets you use your army to quite literally club your foes. With all of this, you have another 100+ hour game on the Switch that isn't Breath of the Wild.

4) Chaos;Child (Vita)

Chaos;Child is grim, dark, gory, and laden with sci-fi tropes, and I found myself irked and attracted to its approach to story. There's a fair bit of patience needed to see it to the end, but you'll be rewarded with an exceptionally memorable experience that few visual novels can come close to.

5) Golf Story (Switch)

The Nintendo Switch has a wealth of RPGs, but few of them are as endearing and accessible as Golf Story. It's an entertaining 8-bit-inspired romp with witty dialogue and an enjoyable premise that shatters the pop-culture myth that down on their luck protagonists only exist in Adam Sandler movies. Although it reserves most of its charm in persuading the likes of me, who had no interest in golf, to give it a go, but its success is a bonafide hole-in-one.

6) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions (3DS)

Despite 2017 being the year of the Switch, Nintendo hasn't forgotten the humble 3DS. Granted Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions is a port of a GBA classic, there's an additional storyline with new gameplay mechanics, gorgeous use of sprites, lighting effects not too dissimilar to past entries, and a whimsical story that kept me entertained - even though I played it on the GBA a lifetime ago. Until Nintendo decides to bring Paper Mario to the Switch, this is as good as it gets. Not that I'm complaining.

7) Steins;Gate (Vita)

Time travel, rebellion, and the onset of a dystopia make Steins;Gate's premise thrilling. Dialogue replete with double-entendres and jokes combined with a great set of characters, this is one of the more enthralling visual novels for the PS Vita.

8) Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)

I never expected this Ubisoft and Nintendo crossover doused with mechanics from XCOM to be as fun as it looked, though I'm glad to have been proven wrong. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle marries the Mario universe with those insufferable rabbids well enough for them to demand equal billing in the title. The addictive combat and timeless presentation remind me of the many nights I spent playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, except the well worn feeling of dread was replaced with a hopeful 'what if?' at every turn, which is positive encouragement at its colourful best.

9) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)

Featuring poorly explained tutorials, horrible sign posting, and next to impossible navigation, the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 finds a spot on this list despite all of these concerns is a triumph in itself. This is in thanks to its many unique environments and locales as well as combat, both of which are a joy to behold.

10) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Switch)

Running away from trolls of the non-Internet variety while punching dragons in the face and setting fire to vampires is classic Skyrim. The systemic, reactive hijinks of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim translate well to the Switch's smaller screen, making it my go-to portable game.

By Rishi Alwani, Senior Editor for Gadgets 360

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