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Rocky’s Golden Ham Awards 2020

Well, 2020 certainly has been a strange year. Since March, I’ve been in lockdown. While it’s great to have so much time to play games, I sure have missed going places. This year also saw me launch this blog post and it has been great to see so many people enjoy it so thank you for taking the time to read it. Before I get to the games I played in 2020, I do want to mention one from 2019. I moved back home from London in the summer of 2019 and set out to finish every game I own. It’s been some task and I’ve made a little dent in the ever growing backlog. Also, the games are ones I played during the year and not necessarily released in the year. Enjoy.

2019 Golden Ham Winner

In October 2019, I started my playthrough of the Mass Effect series. Having already played the Milky-way Trilogy, I knew exactly what to expect. Even though I knew what was coming, I was still in awe of how good the Trilogy is. For me, Mass Effect 2 is the pinnacle of the franchise. While still an RPG, it focuses far more on combat than its predecessor. The guns now require ammo as opposed to waiting to cool down, moving between cover feels more intricate and mastering your squad’s commands can make all the difference. It also helps to develop the galaxy of Mass Effect a bit more as it introduces new worlds, characters and even a more detailed look at the galaxy’s history. Your squad is almost entirely new this time and you have to bond with them in order to survive. Each character also has their own mission that gives you a bit more detail on their background. A stellar space adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you wanting more. No wonder it’s Rocky’s Golden Ham Winner for 2019.

2020 Honourable Mentions

In early 2020, I booted up Grandia for the first time in years. It was a JRPG I had only finished once, a long, long time ago. As a result, a lot of it was “newish” to me. The game centres around a young wannabe explorer named Justin who wishes to see the world. As he sets out on his adventure, he quickly learns that the world is not as it seems. Along the way, he’ll build bonds with a variety of different species and explore exotic new lands. Party members will join and leave your party at certain points, leaving you with a max of four characters at any one time, unusual for a JRPG. In terms of combat, it’s a turn-based affair, with exp earned after every battle, as well as points for magic and skills you’ve used. It’s a wonderful JRPG that got a HD rerelease on the Switch.

Codemasters annual Formula 1 sim refined the controls as well as bringing us a whole new feature. Based on the 2020 season, this racer included the 22 tracks that originally made up the season before it was deferred due to Covid-19. This was the game I dipped in and out of for the second half of the year. I sank hours into the fun “My Team” mode, where I built my team from also-rans to Constructors Champions. In this mode you can edit your team colours, sign new drivers, upgrade your facilities and take part in invitational events to raise more money. On the track, the game looks and sounds superb. As I upgraded my car, I could feel the difference in handling, cornering and acceleration. The game also featured a standard “Career” mode, where you could start out of Formula 2 and make your way to the top of the Drivers’ Championship. With a wealth of customisable options, you could tailor it to suit you.

To say I was hyped for Final Fantasy VII Remake was an understatement. For years I imagined what a fully 3D version of my favourite game would be like. It delivered in most respects, with the characters being wonderfully fleshed out, their personalities livening up the dreary city of Midgar. The combat is smooth and engaging, a big step up on Final Fantasy XV. Materia is useful for both boosting stats and in combat (and you’ll need it!). The locations look wonderful, even if there is the odd texture issue here and there. The core of the game is incredibly solid but I felt there was a noticeable difference in the quality of what already existed in the original and what was new (cough, fetch quests, cough). I powered my way through this one with ever growing excitement, soaking in the sights and sounds of the “Giant Pizza”. While cautious about how the series will continue, I still had a blast with this one, similar to how I felt when I played Final Fantasy VII all those years ago.

2020 Golden Ham Winner

Well, here we are. The Golden Ham Winner of 2020. An absolute masterpiece in gaming. Yakuza Kiwami 2 was the third entry I played in the series as I was doing them in chronological order. While Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami had firmly grasped my attention, Yakuza Kiwami 2 absolutely blew me away. Kamurocho looks stunning, with transitions between indoor and outdoor areas being seamless. The city feels alive as you explore it, helping out strangers through side-missions. The side-missions were thoroughly engaging, exposing me to the weird and wacky side of the Yakuza series while never feeling like a chore. The combat was so smooth, with Kiryu gliding from enemy to enemy with ease. While Ryuji Goda lacks the impact of Nishikiyama from Yakuza Kiwami, he is a daunting antagonist nonetheless. An amazing game in an amazing series that everyone should at least experience once.

And that is it for 2020. I wish you all a happy 2021 and I hope you all keep safe.

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