When I published my 2016 retrospective in late December of last year, I decided to cherry-pick a few key highs and lows of the year rather than listing out hundreds of different things. It’s a format that I was quite happy with, and considering how picky I have been this year there’s no harm in doing the same here. What follows, then, is my Disposable 2017 – a quick rundown of everything that I enjoyed this year. A lot of the highlights will be familiar if you’ve checked out previous reviews on this site, but it’s worth remembering what made the year so special. For me, at least…
RPG sequels in my Disposable 2017
Let’s start with the games. 2016 could have been the most exciting year in gaming for me; a repeat of 2009 that saw a new mainline Street Fighter title and a new mainline Persona game released in the same twelve-month period. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, but Persona 5 was still worth the wait even if it didn’t surpass the standards set by its predecessor. Yes, some one-off dungeon gimmicks outstay their welcome; yes, people might prefer 4’s intimate mystery to 5’s sprawling epic; yes, there are repeated character archetypes… (Not to mention the unshakeable feeling that P4 had more main characters that were instantly likeable.) However, it still plugs a nice 90-100hr slot for anyone with time on their hands. And on a more positive note: the presentation is better than ever, the sprawl of Shibuya is the liveliest location yet with lots of discoveries and distractions, and the battle system tweaks are welcome. I never really got to talk a lot about my admiration for the Persona series during Disposable Media’s break and subsequent relaunch, but I was simultaneously nervous and excited about the release of 5 – yes, it’s got to live up to one of my all-time favourite RPGs… but if it ends up improving on the formula it would be a phenomenal experience. In the end it fell short of my expectations, but I’ll still hold out for a bunch of spin-off announcements and maybe even get around to importing The Day Breakers.
Thinking about it, the most fun I had with a game in my Disposable 2017 was probably with Nier Automata. The original Nier was a niche action RPG that had an engrossing, twisting storyline, wonderfully memorable settlements, unique bullet-hell magic combat, a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, superb camera tricks and an unfortunate amount of rough edges and jank. With Platinum Games at the helm of Nier Automata, fans were hopeful that the gameplay could be tightened and – provided that the RPG roots were respected – this could be a surprise classic. In the end, Platinum followed the format of the original more faithfully than I ever expected. Seamless shifts from 2D to 3D are everywhere, sidequests, levelling and customisation are all present and correct and multiple playthroughs are surprising and rewarding. At a time where Scalebound was getting cancelled and TMNT looked ropey, I can’t pretend that I didn’t have my doubts for a moment, but Automata more than makes up for those moments of uncertainty. And yes, I know that some Platinum fans were new to Nier and got burned when they realised that it wasn’t a pure character action game, but I don’t think it’s fair to criticise the game because of this. If that were the case, we may as well start criticising Dropmix for not demanding beat-perfect button presses, or slam Dissidia for its lack of turn-based combat. Developers are allowed to do different things, and you can’t criticise a game because you didn’t know its genre.
Top tracks of my Disposable 2017
Whilst away from the joypad I’ve enjoyed a lot of great music during my Disposable 2017 – The Upbeats released two superb new EPs with De-Evolution Part III in March and Punks in November, not to mention the remix collection Re-Evolution. All of these have numerous tracks worth recommending, and have provided me with a bunch of new favourites. Playlists were made and re-made, tracks were added and removed all of the time, standouts were picked and re-picked, but in general The Upbeats’ output this year has been remarkable. Elsewhere, Major Lazer’s Know No Better EP had an annoyingly catchy opening track with some fun extra tunes (including one of the most misleading build-ups in Jump) and a few notables on the remix collection that was released later in the year – meanwhile, Shobaleader One returned with a set of covers that are much more immediately likeable than d’Demonstrator’s offering, ditching the vocoder in favour of revitalised classic instrumental jams. (Going from work to the high street to pick up Electrak and Nier Automata was a particularly fun Friday afternoon.)
Even though a variety of artists released a lot of good material over the course of the year, my most played tunes of my Disposable 2017 probably come from The Upbeats; despite the fact that there are a few tracks on De-Evolution Part III and Punks that aren’t all that memorable, I’m still not bored of the standouts. The Upbeats have proven that they can handle slow tunes, fast beats, aggressive tones and more restrained vibes, and it’s this diversity that keeps me coming back. The title track of Punks is quick and catchy, but Oddity has slow beats and fun wobbly sounds; meanwhile, Veiled is a haunting and moody piece from De-Evolution III which is contrasted by the relentless title track.
My Disposable 2017 – a solid year
I can’t say that any of these highlights are my New Favourite Thing Ever – Nier Automata has its flaws, P5 isn’t as good as P4, older Upbeats and Major Lazer releases probably have more standout tracks than the latest ones – but they represent a small part of what has been a fine year. As for the future? The Prodigy have already announced a new album for “early next year”, we should finally see the releases of Dissidia and Dragonball FighterZ and there will surely be some surprises along the way. As always, let us know what you’ve enjoyed this year and what you look forward to in the next twelve months.