Uh oh, the year’s over. You know what that means, folks, we’ve gotta look backwards. Oh no, this isn’t a swipe at the year à la Brooker – I’m gonna stay positive, impartial, and most of all present a rounded view of a wonderful year of videogame joy. I promise. Videogames are great, right?
Anyway, in a year where Russia has been at war with Ukraine for most of it, England has had more Prime Ministers than I’ve had all-butter croissants, the sun was hotter, the rain was harder, and a global economic downturn stopped me from putting on the heating until just under 38 hours prior to the time of writing this, somehow, all we have to talk about is videogames.
Crikey, it sounds like a bad thing when you put it like that, but I promise it’s not. In a year where grand machinations beyond our control move and swirl and make us all upset, why not curl up into a ball and play Elden Ring for a little bit? We’ve got to look after ourselves before we can anything else, after all.
We started the year with a game that seems a lot less divisive now that we’re at the end of it: Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Given the Pokémon game that closed out 2022 was a wildly worse experience on a technical level, it feels like everyone has looked back and found new love for the ancient side title.
Next, we had the stellar Olli Olli World, the clumsy but welcome Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, and the heartwarming and heartwrenching Gibbon: Beyond the Trees. (That last one carries an important ecological message, raising awareness in a ballerina-effortless way). That’s just Q1… (and I didn’t even get to mention Windjammers 2…).
The next big Nintendo title was Kirby and the Forgotten Land – a sorely overlooked game now that we’ve come to the end of the year. A game that brought everyone’s favourite pink ball into derelict platforming joy, it really feels like a forgotten peak for Sakurai’s creation. I mean, we gave it a 9/10 in our Kirby and the Forgotten Land review, it must be pretty good.
A few months later, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe brought the good stuff back, with the fourth-wall-breaking, British humour-fuelled, repetition title returning with ladlefuls of new content that resulted in one of my favourite reviews of the year (seriously, our The Stanley Parable Switch review is great fun).
Meanwhile, Opus: Echo of Starsong broke my heart and left me wiping my glasses with a wet shirt. Mario Strikers Battle League was a bolt of fun lightning in the shortest thunderstorm of the year. And, come June, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes made me truly adore a Musou title for the first time in my life. And I already liked Musou games.
A few hot weeks later and we gave Live A Live a 10/10 – which is chill – just before I gave Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a 10/10 – which is also chill. Live A Live is one of those classics that I failed to play this year because I was too busy thinking about Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Then, I was too busy playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to even think about liking Live A Live.
When I first started thinking about writing about videogames, I was playing Breath of the Wild. When I had been thinking about writing about videogames for some months, I was playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I had never played a JRPG. I had never heard of a gacha game (I just thought they were machines in Japan). I was a stranger.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 shocked me with its age-old design combined with alien MOBA and MMO language and mechanics – though I didn’t say it in those words at the time. It’s massive, it’s clunky, it’s ugly in handheld, it’s got ridiculous voices, it’s long, and it’s lovely. I played it on the sofa in my parents’ house on Christmas Day 2017. My mum asked me what I was doing just as Pyra turned up on the screen, and I felt like a bad person.
I stopped playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I started working in the wine industry. Years later – after I’d received my education from Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Dragon Quests I and XI, Final Fantasies VII and World of, Dragon’s Dogma, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Octopath Traveler, Nier Automata, Monster Hunters 4, Generations, and World, Valkyria Chronicles 1 and 4, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, and Dark Souls (twice) – I tried the game again for a few hours while on a flight to Como in 2020, next to my brother’s partner’s mother and a young boy whose familial relation to the situation I fail to remember. I stopped playing. I didn’t want Pyra to show up on the screen again.
I didn’t touch Xenoblade Chronicles 2 again until a brief break in my employment in July 2021. I finished it, and I liked it. And I no longer felt like a bad person. I proceeded to forget about the series, and, to some extent, videogames as a whole.
I was managing a restaurant on a canal boat about an hour and a half away from my front door. I was working unholy hours, both in their placement and their amount. I had a severe injury inflicted upon me, left my role because of it, convalesced for around a month, and started working locally. I also became a qualified English language teacher, and I also applied for a job writing about videogames, because – and I quote myself here – “why not”.
I started working for Pocket Tactics in January 2022. Nintendo announced Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Then, I felt a shiver of the bookends of a lockdown-ridden, deathly-illness-filled period of my life spent not doing too much I like and ending with a pretty traumatic injury. This period of my life is enclosed by Xenoblade games.
So, when I say I gave Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a 10/10 because I had to, I mean it. XC3 takes the magic and mischief of Tetsuya Takahashi works and funnels them into the most easily palatable version of them without ever losing an inch of it, but what’s more, XC3 is important to me. Massively important. It’s definitely my game of the year… (though I might still prefer Xenoblade Chronicles 2…).
Anyway, my July was Xenoblade. No other videogames came out as far as I was aware. I was too busy falling in love with cat-eared Welsh women and talking to Operation Rainfall leaders trying to capture the magic of a section of history I was too young to be part of. Every Xenoblade game is my game of 2022. Xenoblade is my year.
About two months prior to my reviewing Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I fell over. This came about six months after the severe injury that led me to leave the canal boat job and three months after my uncle died, leaving my cousin an orphan in Tokyo. This prior injury left me with a large number of issues. This second injury did the same.
I had a bruised rib, and I couldn’t sleep. I was very anxious, and I started to have muscle spasms below my right rib where one specific muscle would contract and relax at random, a muscle I can’t even tense because my conscious brain doesn’t know how to, and it started to hurt an extreme amount. This spasm-pain remained for about two months.
My spasm-pain relented around the time I started to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3. I played it for a month – the sunniest, most fun-filled and social month of my year – and I played it a lot. My July was Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Then, I stopped playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3. I wrote my review. I was no longer in pain, and I felt happy.
A few weeks after my review, I got a chest infection. About one week later, I got a throat infection. After that, my grandma, mother of my late uncle, died in Ireland. I haven’t seen her in more than a decade, and I won’t. Then I started experiencing a globus sensation whenever I get stressed or anxious (and I still do). Then, after a brief, rundown break from proper illnesses, I got a cough again. My ears clogged up, and my head felt like it would explode. My head still doesn’t feel right now. And I’ve started having light-triggered migraines. And my dad has an infected lung, too. He’s on steroids.
It’s getting colder as well, and my energy bill doubled in price. It took ages to decide to put the heating on. I could see my own breath in my own bedroom just over 38 hours prior to writing this. We’ve bitten the bullet, but we wanted to stick to our guns. But maybe that would’ve made me more unwell.
So, that creates a natural peak in my year. Xenoblade may have bookended the coronavirus years of my life – which weren’t very fun – but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 marks a wonderful month in my life. Then, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is bookended by illness, while both those illness-bookends are flanked by illness again on their far ends, with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 slap bang in the middle, with death mingled in between on either side. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the tip of the peak of my year.
I downloaded Xenoblade Chronicles 3 nine days prior to the exact middle day of the year, July 2, and played it across 24 days before writing my review. So, when I say that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the middle of my year, framed perfectly by real-life nightmares, therefore becoming the pinnacle in the centre, I don’t just mean it metaphorically. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a shining splinter in the centre of a terrible year, a shard of beautiful glass that helped me feel okay for a month. Even Elden Ring couldn’t do that for me… (and I adore Elden Ring…).
Uhh, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, uhh… well, I’m sure other stuff came out. Ooblets? Maybe. I think I wrote a Splatoon 3 review, too. Temtem was a game some people liked. Bear and Breakfast, The Diofield Chronicle, Shovel Knight Dig, Tunic, Mario + Rabbids, Marvel Snap, Bayonetta 3, Harvestella, Tactics Ogre, Sonic Frontiers… uhh…
2022 was a year of war and illness, death and sadness, economic worry and whirring dread. It’s a year where possible brain damage may have triggered in me globus, the feeling that my throat is closing whenever I get anxious or stressed. I mean, crikey, life is wild.
There’s no way to review 2022 without me remembering how difficult it was. So, I won’t review 2022. I can’t and I refuse. Just read my Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review. That’s all I’ve got… oh, wait, no, I also wrote the 2022 Pocket Tactics year-in-review where most of the pronouns are first-person plural, not singular, and the jokes are actually maybe a little funny instead of just sad. Maybe you shoulda read that instead, huh?