Five Games With Character
Welcome to the Hey Poor Player Holiday Gift Guide. From Monday, November 8th through Friday, November 19th, we’ll be bringing you a guide to all the games, accessories, systems, and other hot items players will be looking for this holiday season. With Black Friday and other Holiday sales set to start in the coming weeks, we thought now was the perfect time to help draw attention to just what you players should be looking for in the coming weeks. So whether you’re looking for a gift for someone else, or maybe something for yourself, we’ve got you covered. Please keep in mind that as we move into our individual game lists, we’ve limited each game to one list to help spread the word about more great titles released in 2021. So if a game you love shows up on a genre list but not on one for a system, it doesn’t mean we didn’t love it. It just means that let us showcase more great titles.
Today we’ll be looking at five games where the story is a major part of the appeal. That doesn’t mean they don’t play great or have other strengths, but they told tales that captivated players this year. They’re the kind of game that you’d have a great time watching someone play, even if it might be more fun to jump in yourself.
Before Your Eyes
Platforms: PC (Our Review)
A game that uses your webcam to actually record you blinking and makes that part of the gameplay? That’s the sort of ingenuity that makes a game memorable even months later. What really got Before Your Eyes on this list, though, is the beautiful story it told, one that our own Heather Johnson Yu was careful not to share too many details of.
“It’s hard to talk about Before Your Eyes’ story too much, as this game is best experienced going in blind; one thing I can say is that the premise and mechanic are married perfectly. You are reliving key moments of your life, each one flashing before your eyes in the blink of an eye — literally. You’ll be watching one memory of a day on the beach with your parents, baby toys scattered in the sand, only to blink and fast forward to playing with baby toys in the living room or tub. During this time, you’ll overhear your parents talking about their hopes and wishes for their pride and joy, hoping you’ll grow up happy, healthy, and maybe even dare to dream that you’ll achieve greatness.”
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Platforms: Switch (Our Review), PS4, PC
With The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, you’ll get two stories for the price of one. Bringing two much loved Ace Attorney spin-offs from the 3DS together on one platform, this ends up here and not on our rereleases list by virtue of it being a first release outside Japan. For such a story focused game, it’s important to understand it after all. Here’s what our own Heather Johnson Yu had to say about it:
“As for the cases and investigations themselves, the Ace Attorney franchise proves yet again it’s a top-tier visual novel experience. We’ve come a long, long way since the very first Ace Attorney game, and comparing that game’s first case to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ first case shows massive differences in design while keeping key elements in their place. For example, the very first case is a twisty, turny, exciting yet cumbersome affair that felt more on par with the writing of an earlier title’s second or third trial.”
The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante
Platforms: PC (Our Review)
A visual novel that truly contends with the scope of one man’s life, The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante never lets players forget the paths not taken. With a unique animation style and a story like few others in gaming, our own Jonathan Trussler had a lot to say about the game’s narrative.
“The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante is a remarkable storytelling achievement. Ironically, though the game is rendered in an artful monochrome, none of its frequent moral decisions are completely black and white. Every choice had my mouse wavering over the screen, considering the consequences of my actions. It’s one of those rare gaming narratives that’s equally tragic, challenging and exhilarating. The message I felt came across is: don’t weep for the paths not taken or the limited change one person can make, but choose the life you want to live and live it to the fullest. As painful and filled with sorrow as Sir Brante’s life is, it’s one that’s well worth living through yourself.”
Platforms: Switch (Our Review), PS4
Root Letter may not have been the most acclaimed visual novel ever made, but our own Kenny McKee was glad that the team behind it finally made a sequel. Root Film stands out now just for an excellent story, but in how it manages to tie that into the actual gameplay, making it stand out from other titles in the genre.
“Root Film‘s story is very, very good, and its overall narrative quality surpasses that of its predecessor. But it’s not just Root Film‘s writing that makes it a good game. Root Film has the best production quality that I’ve ever seen in a visual novel. The entire thing feels less like a VN and more like an interactive comic book. While compelling visuals aren’t necessary to make a story good, Root Film is incredibly good at using visual effects to enhance its story, and, between its stellar writing and top-quality visuals, it’s nigh impossible not to get sucked in right away.”
Platforms: Switch (Our Review), PC
Dealing with loss is never easy, and too often, video games do a poor job of really reflecting the emotions behind it. Sumire is an exception. Our own Daymon Trapold was able to connect deeply to the game thanks to his own experience, but because the emotions that grabbed him are fairly universal, it should have wide appeal.
“Over the course of the game, Sumire tackles difficult, challenging issues. Not only is she reeling from the loss of her grandmother, but her parents have separated, and she’s lost the companionship of her best friend. To have one special day with the flower spirit, she’ll need to tackle all of these and more, seeing if she can’t right some of the wrongs in her life. These are all things that adults can struggle mightily with, and to experience it all from the perspective of a child is surprisingly poignant. On a personal note, I’ll even admit that the game made me cry, and more than a little. Although it’s been a couple of years since my grandmother passed away, that desire for just one more chance to see her, to get one last chance to talk to her, never goes away. It gets less raw with time, but experiencing it again through the eyes of Sumire left me moved in a way very few video games have ever managed before.”