2017 is coming to a close, and what a year it has been: The total site views for Comic Gamers Assemble eclipsed 100,000 views earlier in the year; The article count for the site also went well over 1,000 individual pieces; Over 50 reviews were written and published and this has been one of the single busiest year for the site (in a good way) in terms of new releases since the it was founded almost six years ago. We’re still waiting on stuff like Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, but in the meantime there’s been plenty to keep fans of comic book themed video games busy: from three unique Telltale series, multiple fighting games, a pair of retro revivals, a surprise follow-up to a beloved Lego game and even a lengthy RPG. Like in 2016, we do sadly have to pay our respects to two games that were unfortunately terminated, one that sadly affected one more than the other, but even with the losses the industry faced in terms of comic book themed video games, it was still an exciting year and with some announced projects that won’t see the light of day until 2018 or later, things are surely only going to get better. With that all being said, it’s time to hand out some awards.
BEST RETRO REVIVAL
WINNER: DISNEY AFTERNOON COLLECTION (PS4/XBOX ONE/PC)
For those who love to revisit comic book games from the past, there was no better year than 2017: Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 finally came to Xbox One on PC and a got a physical release on consoles: Rogue Trooper Redux brought back the cult 2006 shooter to all consoles (including the Nintendo Switch) and PC and the most unexpected of all was the announcement and quickly turned around release of Capcom’s Disney Afternoon Collection. All three of the mentioned games are winners in their own respects, but none quite stood out the way the Disney Afternoon Collection did. Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is still talked about in the tournament scene and you can still get Rogue Trooper in its original form fairly inexpensively, but in the case of the Disney Afternoon Collection, it allowed players (including myself) to experience games like DuckTales 2 as well as Chip N’Dale Rescue Rangers 2 for the first time,.Along with those two were loving recreations of four other games no one ever thought would be rereleased put together by the team at Digital Eclipse who did the first Mega Man Legacy Collection. DAC was cheap when it was released in April and it’s since gone on sale multiple times throughout the year so if you haven’t yet picked up this phenomenal collection, what are you waiting for?
BEST FIGHTING GAME
WINNER: INJUSTICE 2 (PS4/XBOX ONE/PC)
2017 was a big year for fighting games with both Marvel and DC going head-to-head in the fighting game arena for the first time in the same year. Injustice 2 wins the award for best fighter not only for delivering a terrific fighting game experience, but for how much it caters to both casual and hardcore fighting fans. Ever since the first Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon and his team have done a great job weaving story and context into their fighting games, and there’s no better example of this than Injustice 2. Netherrealm continues to top themselves with each game they release in terms of how they manage to integrate story into their titles and Injustice 2 not only works for a story mode for a fighting game, but also as an excellent elseworlds tale for DC Comics fans. For those (like myself) who prefer to stay far, far away from any type of online competition, there’s plenty to do offline with the game’s gear system where you can customize your roster with pieces of equipment you earn and the Multiverse mode which continuously updates with new events, even tying into the DCEU films Wonder Woman and Justice League this year. It also must be said that the post launch DLC characters like Hellboy and the freakin’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are up there with the unveiling of the Disney Afternoon Collection as things you never expected to happen but were glad that they did.
You can hear me briefly talk about Injustice 2 as this year’s best fighting game in Electric Playground’s annual Rocket and Raygun awards as well:
HONOURABLE MENTION: MARVEL VS. CAPCOM: INFINITE (PS4/XBOX ONE/PC)
It seems like the cool thing to do is hate on Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, but it doesn’t deserve the ridicule that it gets. The roster is recycled and it’s a little bear bones, but it’s also the most accessible entry new comers the series has been in years. MvC: I has nowhere near the amount of things to do as Injustice 2, but it’s incredibly easy to look cool with very little effort in the game and has a fighting engine that feels less rigid than that of Injustice 2’s. Hopefully Capcom can turn around Infinite in 2018 like they did with Street Fighter V, but in the meantime, no one should sleep on this game if you’ve been a fan of any of Capcom’s other Marvel themed fighters. If anything play it just for the story mode that is appropriately bonkers.
BEST TELLTALE GAME
WINNER: BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN (PS4/XBOX ONE/PC/MOBILE)
Telltale either concluded (The Walking Dead: A New Frontier), started (Batman: The Enemy Within) or both (Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series) in 2017. Things could change once Batman: The Enemy Within concludes in 2018, but even with just three chapters having been released, it’s the best that Telltale has released in their comic book themed output in 2017. There’s a lot to like about all the work they’ve done but The Walking Dead has become a bit familiar at this point and Guardians of the Galaxy leaned a little too hard on the MCU take on the team to surprise in most of its episodes. The Enemy Within succeeds just like Batman: The Telltale Series did last year in how it subverts what you expect from a Batman story. So far the second season has introduced more famous Batman villains than the first did in just three episodes and while some act just as you expect, the ones that don’t are perhaps more interesting than what they have been in any medium for years. The last two episodes could very well derail the compelling story that Telltale has crafted so far, but even if it does, Batman: The Enemy Within wins for taking risks that really payoff with a character who’s up there with being one of the most overexposed super heroes in pop culture today.
BEST RPG/BEST BUDGET TITLE
WINNER: BATTLE CHASERS: NIGHTWAR (PS4/XBOX ONE/PC)(COMING SOON TO NINTENDO SWITCH)
Had Marvel Heroes not died this year, this would’ve been a tough call, but just because Battle Chasers: Nightwar is going unopposed in this category, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the distinction as being this year’s best RPG. Like how Vigil’s Darksiders homages The Legend of Zelda, so too does Airship Syndicate show their love of 16-bit era RPG’s in Battle Chasers: Nightwar with a fast, strategic turn based battle system and a colorful cast of characters beautifully crafted by Joe Madureira that play the part of mage, warrior, healer, etc. Battle Chasers can drag due to the amount of grinding you have to do, but let’s face it, it’s not like RPG’s in the 90’s didn’t have that as well, but there’s a pile of meaningful side content, a main quest that should take you forty hours at minimum to complete and all at a price of $30. If you’re one of the people who managed to snag an SNES Classic this year and forgot how much you loved games like Final Fantasy III/VI, you need to add Battle Chasers: Nightwar to your library.
In another EPN Rocket and Raygun award, I also threw my hat in for Battle Chasers: Nightwar for Best RPG though it didn’t win:
FAMILY GAME OF THE YEAR
WINNER: LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES 2 (PS4/XBOX ONE/SWITCH/PC)
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 unfortunately didn’t top the 2013 original and it’s missing a lot of characters as well as a lot of the voice actors you normally associate with some of these characters, but if you’ve liked any other comic book themed Lego game, there’s no reason not to pick up Super Heroes 2, especially if you’re playing with a younger sibling or kid of your own. The mash-up world of Chronopolis is a blast to explore and is stuffed with almost too many things to do and collect and the campaign has a few high points as well. While TT Games could still stand to maybe put different functions on different parts of the controller, this is mechanically speaking the best Lego game to date with things that are far less cumbersome to do like the ability to summon vehicles more or less whenever you want and restart races should you fail at them. Unless you can’t stand the fact that the X-Men or the Fantastic Four are nowhere to be seen, if you’re a Marvel or Lego fan, the good in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 far outweighs the bad.
In my final comic book video game themed appearance, you can hear me talk about Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 as 2017 Best Family Game in Electric Playground’s Rocket and Raygun Awards:
LEGO DIMENSIONS AND MARVEL HEROES
2017 added another nail in the coffin to the once burgeoning toys-to-life genre with the cancellation of Lego Dimensions. WB and TT Games plan’s for the pop culture mash-up game initially had the game going on for at least one more year, but a high cost of operation to produce the add-ons coupled with shrinking interest in the toys-to-life genre ended those plans prematurely. Lego Dimensions did manage to go out on a high note though, receiving a lot of great expansions in 2017 from the likes of The Lego Batman Movie, The Goonies and Teen Titans GO!.
Things didn’t end so nicely though for another comic book game that got shut down this year, Marvel Heroes. Things looked good earlier in the year when the free-to-play MMO finally arrived on consoles in the rebranded Marvel Heroes Omega, but months after the game went officially live in June, Gazillion closed its doors, effectively killing the game and leaving a lot of people who worked hard on the game out of a job and without health insurance, owed overtime pay and any type of severance. It’s sad that people who had been playing Marvel Heroes for years, or even those who just started playing on consoles, can no longer play Heroes, but at this time of year, please keep your thoughts with those who worked hard to make Marvel Heroes the game that it was.
DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR
WINNER: NETHERREALM STUDIOS
The AAA video game development industry went through some tough growing pains in 2017 as high-profile releases like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II brought the mainstream attention of loot boxes and unregulated gambling of sorts in games that in Canada you pay at minimum $90 for after tax. Given the demand from consumers for the best possible product and the competition that video game face against other forms of media, a new challenge for developers is getting players to stick with a game for as long as possible. For those reasons alone, Netherrealm deserves the award for best developer as they not only managed to make a game as content rich as Injustice 2, but also avoided the loot box trap that EA, and even Injustice 2 publisher WB Games fell into. On top of being a consumer friendly studio, and as already mentioned in the Best Fighting game award, Netherrealm simply made an incredible game with Injustice 2 with something for just about everyone who loves comic book games, whether they want to play the offline story and Multiverse modes or want to tackle human opponents online.
PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR
Capcom has angered many fans over the last few years, but in 2017, the publisher did a lot to win everyone back and it looks like that momentum will continue well on into 2017. Capcom surprised everyone by announcing and then quickly releasing the Disney Afternoon Collection and finally brought Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 to Xbox One and PC. Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite didn’t land the way many thought or hoped it would, but Capcom should be commended for putting out a game that’s a respectable follow-up in the Vs. Series that is the most accessible the series has ever been. Turning away from comic book themed games, Capcom brought Resident Evil back from the dead with the series seventh installment in January and has a line-up for 2018 that already includes Monster Hunter: World, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and Mega Man 11, not to mention all the Mega Man X games coming to every platform and the Mega Man Legacy Collection’s coming to the Nintendo Switch. Capcom had a great 2017 with a stellar catalog of games coming in the new year. It’s the best time in years to be a Capcom fan.
GAME OF THE YEAR
WINNER: INJUSTICE 2
There was a lot of great comic book games released in 2017, but not one of them has as much packed into it as Injustice 2. The base game alone has large and diverse roster of fan favorite characters from every corner of the DC Universe and a lot of them show up in the fighter’s story mode that brilliant balances one-on-one fights with a cinematic story with at times eerily realistic looking characters. What more can I say that I haven’t said in two other awards now: The story is the best Netherrealm has done; there’s plenty to do both on and offline and the game keeps you coming back without asking for more money other than to buy the new fighters that have been added since the game’s launch. With Injustice 2, Netherrealm has raised the bar in which all other developers of fighting games must try to either reach or top, something already apparent in the rocky launch of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite this year. If you’re a fan of comic book games but not so much into fighting games, you still need to pick up this landmark title in the genre.
And with that, another set of awards is handed out as 2017 quickly draws to a close. As always I’d like to thank everyone who has stopped by over the past year, read an article (or several) or even interacted with me either on Twitter or the official Comic Gamers Assemble Facebook page. As proud as I am of all I’ve accomplished on the site this year, I’m also come to realize that I’m of the age now where life tends to take more than it gives. In my personal life we went through some illness and a death in the family this year and it’s in those moments where you have some dark thoughts about whether you’re wasting your time putting out thousands upon thousands of words about super hero video games. As hard as it can be sometimes, I always manage to crawl out of that hole though and get my fingers right back onto a keyboard.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and it’s something I’m trying to do better on, but in the coming days and weeks, don’t forget that as great as it is to get and spend hours playing video games should you have time off this time of year, just stop for a while and go out and spend time with the ones you love and cherish. Your video games for the most part aren’t going anywhere, and you never know when someone you took for granted in your life isn’t there anymore so make sure to create as many memories as you can.
Be kind to one another,
Owner and content creator for Comic Gamers Assemble