With today’s torrent of overwhelmingly positive reviews of Atlus’ long-gestating JRPG megaton Persona 5, and our own review awarding similar praise, it’s clear that 2017’s status as a stellar year for games has already been cemented. This despite the fact that it’s not even the end of March yet, and that there’s a whole lot more where that came from, including the recently announced Destiny 2.
Though Destiny 2 will likely at least visit “Game of the Year” discussions as will certain other titles or forthcoming unexpected surprises come year’s end, where more pressure falls I think is on titles for which we haven’t yet realized how high expectations are. For example: everyone remembers their first time playing Super Mario 64, and everyone knows they’ve subconsciously assigned “spiritual successor” to Super Mario Odyssey when it was announced and confirmed earlier this year. Its focus on expansive levels and wide-open spaces spurred this, but given its December release date and general shift in focus to Zelda, Mass Effect, and Persona, Odyssey was swiftly put on the public’s backburner.
It’s worth noting that it’s been now a full decade since the release of 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy, something of a galvanized renascence for Nintendo’s plumber that revitalized 3D platforming and propelled Mario back to “trailblazer” status after the reasonably excellent but, hindsight permitting, ho-hum Sunshine. After nearly being dethroned by Nintendo’s own Breath of the Wild, dust-settling has yielded the title’s perseverance when tested by time, still holding its coveted top spot on GameRankings.
The Wii U’s Super Mario 3D World was for me superior to Sunshine, but can still easily be viewed as a downtick rather than uptick for the mainline series. I mean this in terms of its own internal innovate-iterate tick-tock, the very same that keeps the clockwork of Mario development ever-turning in Kyoto (and more recently Tokyo) as Mario changes and evolves with Nintendo as a company.
There’s endless analysis to be had there, but what I’m particularly interested in is how a title scheduled to be a “tock,” that is, a hefty platforming innovation of Galaxy-level proportion, will fare in a year where websites and magazines have already been tossing out perfect ratings as if it were free balloon day. Most of them have been deserved, no doubt, but it doesn’t mean that publications won’t become wary of appearing lead-footed with their undying praise.
Meanwhile, there’s Rockstar Games to consider; a company simply not in the business of creating games that don’t throw their weight around end-of-year GotY discussions. Red Dead Redemption 2 is currently scheduled for release in 2017, but as we’ve theorized already, the likes of Zelda and other factors make that window increasingly less likely. More important than scoring GotY awards, which are flattering but ultimately superficial, Rockstar is also not in the business of “not being the best.” Unless RDR 2 was already planning most of what Breath of the Wild brought to the table and then some, a delay to 2018 seems imminently likely. Of course, there’s absolutely no shame in that either – both Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 were heavily delayed games themselves, and clearly the extra time worked out for them.
As for Odyssey, though, I suspect a delay will not occur. The game will release on time, on schedule, and serve as Switch’s holiday must-have, potentially for both gamers and casual Christmas shoppers alike. Ultimately, critical reception is difficult to predict (and takes a clear backseat to public opinion over time), but if there’s one mascot likely to buck the heightened jade often resulting from successive superb releases, it’s Mario. For now, we’ll have to wait until E3 for more at the very least.
Somehow, there’s even more to the 2017 story. Stellar, lesser known releases such as The Nonary Games have graced us with their franchise’s finest forms, while December (in addition to Mario) promises a hype-laden fandream turned reality in the form of Shenmue III, assuming it isn’t itself delayed. Per numerology, the number 10 signifies “infinite potential,” and also happens to be the sum of the digits 2,0,1, and 7. Regardless of whether you’re into that sort of thing, 2017 is clearly shaping up to be a superb gaming year for all involved. My parting pro-tip? Embrace it.