Jan Ochoa is a Video Producer at Giant Bomb Dot Com. In the year 2020 he has become a professional Bloodborne-ist, professional pretend DJ, and a professional studio packer. He has played a couple games this year.
I remember thinking that this year we’d do a bunch of dumb stuff in the studio and a lot more dumber things in the Giant Bomb Test Kitchen. But then the pandemic hit and threw all those plans out the window.
It took a while to settle into the rhythm of working from home and we were going in HARD with the streaming. I always enjoyed doing the occasional Quick Look, chiming in occasionally on the Bombcast, and random appearance on UPF, but now suddenly I had to fill a significant chunk of the schedule solo. I learned a lot from streaming on my own for the site and I liked it a bunch! Perhaps you should check out me playing through Bloodborne for the first time!
All that being said I really enjoy where we’re heading with the technology we’ve implemented for streams and that we can get everyone on in the same stream on a more consistent basis.
And yo, I HAVE MADE FOUR OF THESE NOW?!
I thought about doing the usual fare of having some bonus games but I think I’ll try and do another write-up of some of my other favorite things from the year. But yo, High School the Musical: The Series was a GEM!
Let’s see a list of games!!
I don’t need to drone on about how terrible 2020 has been, but this game put me in a terrible headspace at the time. I don’t know if it was because of the relentless onslaught of killing and revenge or the rage that Abby and Ellie were carrying throughout the game but boy howdy was I feeling like all the characters may have smelled bad. I started having terrible nightmares that I haven’t had in years because of the story content.
All that being said, god damn does this game take you on a ride. I may not have liked how the game wound up landing, and I do believe that it dragged in the last quarter, but I did enjoy the bigger story beats. There were genuine moments of horror during the game and I will defend Lev with my life. This game builds on what I think make great villains, a person that thinks wholeheartedly that they are right. Abby and Ellie are diametrically opposed foes.
I didn’t like how the original game played like but for some reason this just hit differently. I loved the combat puzzles and the multiple options of going in stealth or going in REAL loud. It’ll probably be another couple years before we get another entry into this universe but I’m cool with waiting. Y’all unpack all that rage peacefully.
I’m still wishing that there was an infected shark though.
Haven’t we all had the dream of climbing up a water tower, tagging it with our sick handle, befriending other local graffiti artists that you respect, and taking some shrooms that you found in a security guard’s locker that make you go on a vomit inducing trip that makes you feel like you’re flying over the little polluted flotilla you live on? No? No one else has had that dream?
A killer soundtrack and probably one of the weirdest games of 2020, Sludge Life is an experience I can only equate to a music producer inadvertently huffing spray paint and then vomiting out a game. It manages to ride the line between cynically clever and oddly hopeful at the same time. Shoutouts to BIG MUD.
I try to stay away from gambling and card games because I know that I would get stuck in the loop of testing my luck. But through some random stroke of luck I managed to roll three really great characters in Genshin Impact with my complimentary stack of coins.
I thank the Gacha Gods and RNGsus that I got great rolls because if I didn’t I totally would have dropped too much money on trying to get five star heroes. But also I kind of wanted to throw some type of money into Genshin Impact because of all the enjoyment I got a lot out of it. I enjoyed running my daily routes to unlock chests and the hunt to find the little orbs to increase my stamina. Yeah, the controls for mobility didn’t always work great but I could play this on my PC for a bit to take care of story stuff and then seamlessly transition to my phone to run around for a bit before bed.
The combat also grew on me after a while. I’d group up all the enemies with Jean, summon my lighting raven with Fischl, and then smash them all with Diluc. The best part was not having to worry about their weapons degrading! To cap it off, most if not all the story dialogue had VO! You can’t even get that in some modern titles that you pay full price for! Thanks Paimon.
You know what ultimately makes or breaks a tactics game? Good tile feel. Let me slide into the spot or have a good heft to the cursor. In addition, I love the domino effect of abilities popping off after you make a move. Fae Tactics not only has the best tile feel of 2020 but also a great group of characters and abilities at your disposal. You can pick off enemies from a distance with spells with the main character and her frogbird or you could swoop in and get right in their faces with your dog and chicken boxer birdman. There are a bunch of systems going on in and out of combat and they’re introduced slowly enough to not feel overwhelmed.
On top of that there’s a neat story that I didn’t think would tackle familial trauma and xenophobia but Fae Tactics manages to navigate those waters well! As someone who’s constantly chasing the high of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Fae Tactics manages to scratch that itch.
Also? Great tiles. Maybe that’s also why I got into mahjong this year, fantastic tiles.
I absolutely love the Mega Man Battle Network series. I spent hours on my GBA playing through MMBN3 over and over again because I loved the combat. The last entry in the Battle Network series came out in 2006, how has Capcom not released a collection since then?!
I also couldn’t believe that there haven’t been more titles to copy the style of MMBN. One Step From Eden takes the format of MMBN’s combat and puts a modern and active twist on it. THERE ARE NO BREAKS. The combination of spells and upgrades can get overwhelming at times. But once you settle into the chaotic rhythm of One Step From Eden, you can create your own kill screens. Remember the levels you weren’t supposed to be able to beat in the Battle Network games? You can eventually gear your way up to be that.
2020 was a year of trying out hobbies without actually going out and trying them. Between graffiti in Sludge Life, photography in Umurangi Generations, and real estate management in Yakuza Like a Dragon you could get a virtual taste of what it could be like to participate in those activities.
DJing is something I’ve always wanted to get into but I never had the patience to actually learn. I wound up buying a DJ controller because I was dead set on learning during the quarantine. Unfortunately the controller has been collecting dust.
But what if I told you that you could give the impression of a competent DJ with Fuser? There are moments where a game or piece of software makes you stop and think “This is magic. This shouldn’t work this well AT ALL.” Fuser somehow manages to make me feel like an accomplished and talented DJ. There’s no way that I should be able to make a dope mix of Rage Against the Machine, Dolly Parton, French Montana, and Post Malone and then transition that into a hype as hell drop that’s just all “Call Me Maybe” but I have.
I can totally see this being a gateway drug for folks to dip their toes into DJing. I can say that it’s totally made me think about dusting off my DJ controller. If Fuser winds up having the same support as Rock Band and tracks keep steadily coming out, I can see myself dropping in to make an occasional mix. Also, food doesn’t slap. Music slaps.
I have publicly said on multiple occasions that I like Kingdom Hearts so, you probably already know that I enjoy my fair share of anime bullshit. I never played the original Final Fantasy 7 but I have definitely learned of the ups and downs that have affected pop culture and games because of it. I’m still able to appreciate the amazing job that Square Enix has done with Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Also the incredible set of balls that they must’ve had to go on and make this despite years of the fans clamoring for it.
The developers did an amazing job at creating new content out of the early bits of the original. The way they managed to make characters like Wedge, Biggs, and Jesse have an impact on the player was great. I know that we’re supposed to fall pretty hard for Tifa and/or Aerith, but fuck did I feel smitten with Jesse.
The combat in FF7R is probably the one of the most satisfying and coolest systems I’ve played in a while. Being able to fluidly switch to my teammates and trigger abilities that synergize well felt so dang good. Tifa’s Chi Trap House proved to be absolutely essential in every encounter. I don’t know if I can go back to waiting for Donald Duck to heal me.
I must have missed an early exchange but I only recently noticed that Zagreus doesn’t wear any shoes.
I was really bad at this game. I couldn’t make it past the Hydra or very far into Elysium to save my life. What made it worse was seeing people online posting about their 20th plus clear in a row. For some reason I couldn’t click with it.
However, much like Zagreus, I persisted upon finding out about God mode. From there I started getting more attuned to the pace of combat and learned the systems of the boons better. It helped that I finally ditched the sword and grabbed the bow. I was finally able to commit patricide and see my mom!
It just feels so good once you get the hang of things and find a weapon build that you click with. I initially hated the shield, but once I got the Zeus shield and combined it with Dionysus boons we were COOKING. Other than the starting sword, the variety of weapons and then the variations within those were so dang cool. Like I stumbled on a bow build that was one-shotting everything.
I also have to applaud Hades for having an engaging story in a roguelike. It’s not just environmental storytelling with random notes you’re finding, it’s actual characters that are reacting to how you’re playing. I didn’t expect to care about the relationships that I was building, but I started purposely ending runs so I could give that sweet nectar to my friends. Dusa for liiiiife baby.
I’ve always enjoyed the Yakuza games from a distance. Even though I’ve dived deep into a couple titles I still felt that the barrier to entry was kind of high. I felt like I knew Kiryu and company, but I didn’t feel like I was cool with them.
That’s why Yakuza Like a Dragon felt like the perfect jumping-on point. Ichiban is a goofy dude that screams Shonen Jump-like energy. He may barrel through encounters with his fists but his heart is mostly in the right place. The supporting cast is also fantastic and I enjoyed strengthening those relationships through conversations and other activities. Speaking about activities, part of the reason I was hesitant about jumping onto the Yakuza train was all of the random stuff you get lost on. I set aside a couple nights to mainline the game in time for GOTY deliberations. I quickly got derailed doing everything else there is to do in Yokohama. In addition all of the sidequests and characters you’d meet were a great mix of weird, endearing, and insane.
The switch to turn-based combat was also a selling point for me. Personally I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain in my wrists and hands so being able to contain encounters to a couple button presses was welcome.
Yakuza Like a Dragon has so much to offer and I’m very happy to join the gang.
Let’s get this out of the way now, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is the game with naked teens in mechs. Okay. We got that out of the way? Let’s move on.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole when I say that this is one of the most ambitious attempts at storytelling that I’ve ever consumed. When you’re juggling thirteen different story threads that will intersect with each other repeatedly over the course of HUNDREDS of years there are a ton of opportunities to fumble the bag. What makes that task more difficult is incorporating almost every major sci-fi movie into the game as well. Pacific Rim, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Terminator, the Matrix series, E.T., Interstellar, Evangellion, Macross, GroundHog Day, Shutter Island, War of the Worlds, and probably more. It combines elements of all that and throws in some stellar anime bullshit (and I don’t mean that reductively) and produces a fortified quilt of an experience.
As I was progressing through the game I definitely had my favorites of the main cast. I dreaded when the game would lock up progression on Natsuno and force me to play as Miura. But the writing is impeccable that I would fall in love with Miuras plight and then everyone’s struggle.
I even enjoyed the tower defense portion of the game. You can completely steam roll through it and knock the difficulty down, but there is a depth and complexity there if you want it. Shoutouts to my souped up Ogata who leapt across the map with his demolisher blade.
I’m going to try and not spoil much because I implore you to try and play 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. I’m still decompressing from playing this. I can’t believe that I went on a journey that transcended space and time. A story about being able to rise above your station and change in a meaningful way from your previous circumstances. Also wonderful seeing someone come to terms with their own sexuality and even sitting back to enjoy things like a nice yakisoba pan or a cold soda.
Now that the games are over I do want to give a special shoutout none other than Ben. He’s not dead and it’s not like I’m never gonna see or talk to him again, I’ll just miss him a poop ton. We’ll always have the Test Kitchen in our hearts. Love you buddy.