One week ago I journeyed up to the Anaheim Convention Center for my third PlayStation Experience with a friend and my brother. This year's PSX was more low key than previous years in both the opening presentation and on the show floor, but there were still a ton of awesome games available to play. I got my hands on 18 games at PSX 2017 and I'm eager to share my thoughts on all of them. Similar to last year, I've picked nine games to spotlight and the rest I'll cover briefly at the end for those curious. I have a lot to say, so let's get right into it!

Under Night In-Birth Latest (PS4, digital only on Vita and PS3, February 9)

PSX is the second time now I was able to get my hands on Under Night In-Birth Latest and it has me more excited than ever for the final game which is coming out very soon. I played it three separate times at PSX since there was never a line (which was sad, but good for me) and I was able to play as all four new characters this time as well as Linne and Gordeau. Unlike at Anime Expo, I was thus able to get my hands on with Phonon this time. She has a whip that covers considerable distance so your best strategy with her is to keep your opponent as far away as possible. Playing Mika again also made me appreciate her more. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she is armed with big metal fists she uses to rapidly pummel opponents and close the gap. Mika and Enkidu, the shirtless buff guy, are probably my favorite new characters at this point. UNIST and Dragon Ball FighterZ are tied for my most anticipated fighting game next year so I'm glad they both will kick off the year.

Guacamelee 2 (PS4, "Soonish")

I really enjoyed the first Guacamelee so I was eager to get my hands on the sequel and see what has changed. I forgot Guacamelee 2 would feature four player co-op which worked well here as the action seemed more frantic than ever. This demo was very to the point as you always pushed forward with your group so I'm not sure how much the Metroidvania elements will return. Halfway through the demo all the characters were transformed into chickens, which was the Morph Ball equivalent in the first game. We eventually found a brief mega-chicken power up which was pretty wild (everyone grew about four times in size and wrecked every enemy in sight) and a diving attack that helped us smash through some walls to reach the boss. The boss had a good handful of patterns that frequently divided our team including some bullet hell sections amusingly featuring flying chickens. The platforming along the way was as solid as ever and quite tricky as it made good use of the alternate dimension shifting from the first game. I thoroughly enjoyed the demo, so "soonish" for Guacamelee 2 can't come soon enough.

Super Meat Boy Forever (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PC, 2018)

I was very skeptical of Super Meat Boy Forever when it was announced, and to an extent I still am, but after getting my hands on it I feel more confident it will be a lot of fun at least for the non-dark world levels. I'm a big fan of endless runners and Super Meat Boy Forever does a good job of capturing the best of them while pairing it with Meat Boy's silky smooth controls. You obviously have nowhere near the freedom of control you'd normally have with Meat Boy, but between short hops, hanging in the air, and choosing when to punch and dive/slide you have a lot more control than your typical endless runner. As a Meat Boy veteran, I was able to easily conquer all six levels in the first world. While the levels weren't handcrafted, they mostly felt like they could have been which is exactly what I wanted to see. What I didn't know though when I played is that because people had been playing the same demo station all day, the levels I played were actually significantly harder versions than when you first boot the game up. A developer reset the game when my friend played next and the handful of "gotcha" elements in the levels I played were gone entirely. Checkpoints are generous and respawning is instantaneous so even when I died I never felt too frustrated. While I'm unconvinced the limited controls will work very well if Super Meat Boy Forever becomes as hard as the previous game, I'm looking forward to finding out now myself.

Far Cry 5 (PS4, Xbox One, PC, March 27)

Far Cry 5 was one of the more substantial demos I played at PSX this year as it featured three distinct missions. Before I started I had the option of picking a buddy character, either a sniper, a dog, or air support. I ended up choosing the sniper which proved very useful in the first section of the demo as I had to reclaim a small town from the evil cult members. I knew my demo was under a strict time limit so after my stealth was blown, I focused entirely on using my machine gun to mow down everyone in sight while directing my sniper to pick off far away targets. From there I hopped into the cab of a big truck and booked it over as quickly as I could to a nearby farm under threat. Because this is Far Cry and causing chaos is fun once I drove through the farm's gate I leaped out of my vehicle before it crashed into a large group of enemies and exploded. After picking off the lone survivor I was told I could either go fishing or hop in a plane to blow up some enemy ammo stashes. I of course chose the latter which went very smoothly until an enemy pilot showed up to challenge me to a dogfight. This was the big moment as classic rock music kicked in and thankfully I was able to shoot him out of the sky before the demo ended. Nothing on display besides the setting and female protagonist was particularly new for Far Cry, but that's ok when it is as reliably entertaining as ever.

Wattam (PS4, PC, 2018)

Announced at the very first PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas, Wattam comes from the creator of Katamari Damacy and since I never heard anything about it afterwards I thought it had been canceled. The moment I saw it this year while exploring the show floor I knew I had to play it and learn exactly what it was. Wattam was by far the strangest game I played at PSX and I was glad I was able to tackle it with my friend in co-op. You start on a small grassy cube world and first control a green cube guy called the Mayor who is very sad and lonely. Eventually you find a pebble who comes to life and you have to get them to try to hold hands so the Mayor will become happy enough to have his hat explode. That's a good thing actually! Every time his hat explodes a new friend will appear and you have to get everyone to hold hands, spin in a circle, and explode over and over again to progress. Each time you do it the explosion increases in power and soon you'll be rocketing around the planet. In fact my demo ended early when we exploded so violently we entered orbit so it was impossible to keep playing. I'm honestly not sure what else there is to Wattam or if I'd even check out the full game, but as far as experiences go this was one of the most memorable at PSX this year.

DJ Max Respect (PS4, Q1 2018)

Like Under Night In-Birth, I ended up playing DJ Max Respect a handful of times at PSX because I enjoyed it so much and the line was minimal. I had always seen videos of DJ Max before, but I didn't know what it was called and as far as I knew they weren't really available here (apparently one came out on PSP and another on the Vita). DJ Max is very simple in concept as notes fly down a lane and you need to hit them with the right button when they reach the bottom. Unlike some other rhythm games, scoring is very precise so you have to be perfect to come out on top. If you played Superbeat Xonic by former DJ Max developers you'll have a good idea of the range of music available to play (I like the pop-y stuff and Guilty Gear tracks the most myself) and there is a ton of it here as there is nearly 150 tracks in the base game and loads more through DLC. If you love music/rhythm games DJ Max Respect should be at the top of your most wanted list. It's amazing.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4, February 6)

I was increasingly nervous I wouldn't get to check out Shadow of the Colossus, an incredibly important game for me, due to the brutal reservation system Sony had set up not to mention the obscene amount of traffic surrounding the convention center on day 2. I sprinted to my demo as fast as I could and even though I was a little late they let me play the full 20 minutes thankfully due to a no show. I picked the 13th Colossus to challenge because it's my favorite one. Since the demo closed off most of the world I ended up getting lost in a forest and eventually had to take some leaps down a cliff face that speed runners use. Before the main event, that forest was the most spectacular part of the remake as it feels far more lush and realistic than ever. The forest was such a dramatic step up in detail and execution that if I didn't know ahead of time I wouldn't have believed it was originally from a PS2 game.

Once I finally reached the Colossus I once again really felt how much the remake added to the experience. The controls have been remapped to be far more intuitive, yet the feel of your actions even in silky smooth 60FPS (the demo was on the PS4 Pro) still feels appropriately weighty. It took me a few tries, due to the remapped grip button, but I eventually boarded the 13th Colossus. Like with the forest before it, the Colossi have been touched up and feature a lot more detail. You can see far more individual strands of hair on the Colossi now which looks especially impressive in the 13th's case as he soars through the sky. Since I became lost prior, I was unable to land the killing blow, but I was happy I made it to the final cycle at least. Shadow of the Colossus was always a spectacular and rich game, but now with this remake it feels all the more realized. I can't wait to experience it all over again when it releases in February.

Zone of the Enders VR (PS4, 2018)

I still don't own VR yet since my room is too small for it, but I leaped at the chance to play Zone of the Enders in VR since I figured it would be pretty cool to pilot a giant robot in VR. When it was announced there was concern that Zone of the Enders would be too intense for VR, but I'm happy to report I felt perfectly fine playing the game no matter how aggressive I played (and I played very aggressively). I've never played Zone of the Enders or its sequel before (which this version is now the second remake of) so it took me a while to get used to the controls. One of the big features of this remake besides VR is the new Pro control scheme that lets you change weapons on the fly rather than pausing the action which worked very well to keep the action flowing. My mission was simply to destroy five flying battleships, but there were plenty of other targets to take out too including other mechs. Combat was pretty simple, but it felt so darn cool in VR as you see your robot swing its sword and launch rockets right in front of you. When you had to land on the bigger ships to target their engine cores with your cannons there was a lot of time to look around your cockpit which felt novel. Even though I don't have VR, I'm happy I'll at least get to play this game for the first time whenever it launches next year.

Lost Soul Aside (PS4, Not Yet Confirmed For US Release)

I hadn't heard of Lost Soul Aside prior to PSX, but after hearing all the buzz from people who played it I knew I had to check it out. Lost Soul Aside is a character action game in the same vein as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry and is made by a small team in China. The demo was pretty simple as you could swap between three weapons, a sword, a heavy sword, and a quick dual bladed weapon, to take out some demons in a cave before a boss showed up. The most interesting thing about the combat is that there is a stamina meter for dodging and you can squeeze about seven dodges together before it has to quickly recharge. The boss, which had two phases, was very aggressive and hit very hard. I watched a lot of people die in this first phase even though you were given 20 health potions that restored about 70% of your HP. I felt proud that I breezed through the first phase with more than half my potions left, but the moment the boss pulled out his two giant swords and coated the arena in pockets of fire the match turned dire very fast. I was able to whittle down about half his health before I was wiped out. My big takeaways from this demo is that the game oozes style and is just incredibly satisfying to play. I'd be shocked if Lost Soul Aside doesn't find a publisher for a US release.


That wraps up the main section of my PSX blog, but I still want to cover the other nine games I enjoyed for those curious so below are my brief thoughts on the rest of the games. If you have any questions about any of the games I played feel free to ask in the comments below! Also I'm curious, regardless if you went to PSX or not, what PlayStation games are you most looking forward to in the year ahead? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments as well!

Schoolgirl Zombie Hunter - With exception of one VR game I'll discuss later, Schoolgirl Zombie Hunter has to be the worst game I played at PSX this year. The third person gunplay is so aggressively bad that not only is it frustrating to shoot the slow moving zombies that spawn barely a foot in front of you, it is just unpleasant to move which is ridiculous. The demo lacked any objective beyond kill zombies and ended as unceremoniously as it began.

Fighting EX Layer - This is the game previously known for months as "Arika's Mysterious Fighting Game." After a disastrous first round where I unknowingly had the simple controls on, I felt right at home playing the game as it feels most similar to Street Fighter. I was unfamiliar with any of the characters outside of Skullomania who fights for world peace, but they all seemed to have a decent amount of personality and most importantly varied movesets. If you like Street Fighter, this is worth keeping an eye on.

Dragon's Crown Pro - I loved Dragon's Crown and this Pro version is exactly how I remember it without the slowdown. You still assemble a party of four made up of characters from six different classes and brawl your way through short levels over and over again to get loot and level up. There isn't really anything new here, so if you liked it before you'll know if you want to double dip or not. For everyone else, I do recommend checking it out.

Yakuza 6 - The Yakuza 6 demo wasn't as memorable as the demos for Yakuza 0, but that's ok! I only had seven minutes to freely roam through Kamurocho so I barely had time for Karaoke and getting into some fights. There are no more cutaways to combat now, which I appreciate even if it does remove some of Yakuza's personality. My big takeaway is that combat is faster than previous games and feels less rigid which I appreciate. The best part of playing Yakuza 6 was afterwards I was given some Yakuza 6 branded pocket tissues.

World End Economica - I didn't get to read enough of this visual novel by the same creator of Spice and Wolf to really get a sense of it. I learned my character had a wounded leg and I also met a colorful character who apparently used to have an afro which was too expensive to maintain. The writing seemed fairly fun in English, which is important for a visual novel. The creator was actually at PSX so I was able to meet him which was memorable. 

Riverbound - Riverbound is a kid friendly, four player local co-op game where you roam around maps smashing and slashing everything in sight. Picture 2D Legend of Zelda style sword swinging in maps with a Minecraft look and you are on the right track. Riverbound is a very simple, satisfying game at its core, but it does have a few features for more advanced players to latch onto like a dodge roll and a fireball attack that controls like a twin stick shooter. Everyone in my demo had a big smile on their face while playing so this is one to keep an eye on.

Gran Turismo Sport - I can't say much about Gran Turismo Sport as I only played one race, but I enjoyed playing it with both a steering wheel and pedals. The graphics didn't look as good as I'd expect from a next gen racing game, but the car I drove behaved as I expected. I don't think I've ever played Gran Turismo online before, so for me at least it did feel novel to play a full eight person race against humans.

Firewall - I've never felt sick playing VR until I played Firewall, a 4v4 tactical shooter. It was super cool at first as I really felt I was there breaking into a house with my teammates. The slow walking speed and relative silence created a great sense of tension and the eventual shooting worked well with the Move controllers resting in the plastic gun peripheral. After five minutes of playing, I rapidly felt sick as did my friend playing with me. A combination of a shaky framerate, you standing while your character moves (including up staircases), and the rapid 45 degree camera turns had to have all contributed. Avoid this game.

Chasm - Chasm plays similarly to a 2D Metroidvania, but all the rooms are randomly pieced together. My demo clearly began right at the start of the game so I was only armed with a short sword and later on found only a fireball spell. There is no dodge roll, so timing my attacks was critical. This was a weaker demo than last year's, but I remain intrigued.