…2010 is about ready for the trashcan. And its about damned time. This has been a long-ass year, and if I had to sum it up in one word, it’d be ‘tiring.’ But we’re not here to talk about that crap, let’s take some time to look back on the past year in gaming and entertainment. Fondly, less fondly, awfully- whatever. Let’s break out the gold wrapped chocolate awards and queue up a list of celebrity musical guests that I booked specifically to murder in public. (It’s not entrapment if it’s written in the ‘bilingual’ part of the contract they signed.)
So without further ado…
THE 2010 ‘UNNECESSARIES’ AWARD SHOW
~sponsored by NIS America: the least necessary company in gaming!~
Let’s warm up with some entries in ‘passive’ media, shall we? Lifting a controller is strenuous activity, and let’s face it, none of us should go leaping into the gaming stuff without proper stretching and blinking practice. Now, I didn’t really get out to the theater all that much this year, but in my book, anything that was worth leaving the house for is probably something I’m going to like enough to call one of the best movies of the year. And since this site is a dictatorship, my opinion is correct. And I’m allowed to stone people for disagreeing with me within my own comment threads.
BEST MOVIE YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Predictable? So what. I went into this movie expecting it to be something I’d only like because I was already a fan of the comics, then promptly start dissecting the problems with it because that’s what fanboys do. I was pretty surprised to find it was a good movie in its own right. The comic book sound effects and video game graphic elements creeping in weren’t as intrusive as you’d think they were, and there were some pretty clever cuts and scene transitions that gave the whole film a brisk, energetic flow. This movie is two hours long, but doesn’t feel like it. That’s part of how I know I’m having fun. So check it out, buy if you like. Lord knows the film tanked at the box office.
Scott Pilgrim had the most bizarre advertising cycle I’ve seen for a movie, so long as I’m already on about it. For weeks leading up to it, we were getting TV commercials, web adverts, trailers, and all sorts of shit that you’d expect for a big budget release. And then, the week is was released? Everything just vanished overnight. Adult Swim either delayed or skipped airing the animated shorts. Local theaters were only playing it on one screen apiece- if they were carrying it at all. It was kind of like some executive barged in at the last moment, pulled the plug and shouted out, “Nice try, Edgar Wright! You very nearly got people to see your movie! Better luck on the DVD sales! Mwahaha!”
The exec then rode off into the sunset in a car powered by animal cruelty.
Granted, when I finally did read the comic book’s ending, I ended up preferring the book, but the movie does a damned good job at telling a similar story within its limited run time. My biggest beef was the glossing over of the Envy Adams arc and the Twins being almost completely absent. (Their lurking in the background of Julie’s party, followed by their fight scene were some of my favorite scenes from the original.) Of course, the endings to both pale before the Kim Pine ending to the video game tie-in.
BEST NEW ANIME OF 2010: PANTY& STOCKING WITH GARTERBELT
I uh, really couldn’t call this one, folks. When I saw the promo flyer scans for this one, featuring Powerpuff Girl-inspired artwork and Engrishy comic book speech bubbles, then saw the title, my expectations were… low. I wouldn’t have even bothered watching it if not for the fact fansubbers were putting it up on YouTube so promptly that I didn’t have to go out of my way to download high quality broadcast rips with separate subtitle files then try opening both in three separate media programs in the hopes one will actually display the subs.
So, to give you folks the kind of grounding that I didn’t have the luxury of going in, Panty and Stocking are a pair of fallen angels who fight Ghosts in Daten City in order to earn enough Heaven Coins to buy their way to redemption. You can sort of understand why heaven would kick them out since the show wastes no time in revealing Panty is a nymphomaniac and self-proclaimed bitch, and Stocking, while nicer, is still a glutton for sweets and kind of a sicko. The show is basically laid out in a way that if it wasn’t for the constant speaking in Japanese, you might be able to buy this being a Craig McCracken show targeted at the Adult Swim crowd- each episode is made up of 2 or more short cartoons with only the loosest of ties between them, and full of toilet human, english script, and lots of heavily accented swearing. In the ‘zombie invasion’ episode (“Blah blah blah… Of The Dead!”), the word “fuck” is used so frequently you’d think it was Panty’s charming moe speech impediment-nyo.
Somehow, in spite of having the narrative level of a Cartoon Network original series, as of Episode 12, they seem to have successfully pulled off an Anime U-Turn of Seriousness. What dark gods do Gainax serve? Also, Season 2 has been confirmed. Somehow.
TOP FIVE MOVIES I’M DEEPLY THANKFUL TO NOT HAVE SEEN
- The Last Airbender
- The Human Centipede
- The King of Fighters
- The Other Guys (because I wanted to put Will Farrel on the same list as a Shyamalan flick and scat eating)
Okay, that was fun. On to the fun stuff, and probably why you people are here- video games.
BEST GAME OF 2010 (APPROACHED WITH LOWERED EXPECTATIONS): TRANSFORMERS- WAR FOR CYBERTRON
Looking back at the history of the franchise, game wise since 2007, no matter what wonderful things they told me about Transformers: War for Cybertron, it was hard to push my opinion of the game beyond ‘cautious optimism’ until I actually had the game in my hands, and even then, I was raising a suspicious eyebrow at the rather lengthy checking/loading screen you get every time you fire the game up. But WFC ended up being a surprisingly enjoyable game, and easily the best Transformers to hit a console. (I still have a weak spot for the DS version of the first movie game, since it was basically a Grand Theft Auto with robots)
BEST GAME OF 2010, SERIOUSLY: FALLOUT- NEW VEGAS
I only joined the ‘current generation’ this year and started off my PS3 library with Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition. I liked it a lot, so you can imagine how stoked I was as the date for New Vegas neared. I would’ve been perfectly happy with more of the same, but NV refines and builds on Fallout 3’s game engine in a way that plays up the ‘survival’ angle and really drew me in more. Hardcore Mode aside (where you need to eat, drink, and sleep to stay alive), the game takes pains to make you less of a walking god than 3 did. The really compelling part is the use of a reputation system rather than the simple little karma meter you had in 3. Doing work that benefits certain towns or factions raises your standing with them, but makes the other factions’ view of you change accordingly. Wearing the clothes of a certain group will let you blend in with them easier, but if you forget to change out of those clothes when you reach the next town, you might find yourself full of new, aerodynamic speed-holes. It’s a bit harder to be a total paragon of virtue this time out, and the different groups are a bit less clear cut as “good” and “bad” like they were in 3. Overall, New Vegas is a grittier take, and not in the way that I would usually be laughing my ass off at. Like Bionic Commando having white-guy dreadlocks.
MOST DISAPPOINTING GAME OF THE YEAR: ARC RISE FANTASIA
I spent the better part of a year looking forward to this game coming out. It sounded like it was going to be a pretty fun, traditional RPG for the Wii, with a battle system that sounded like it was going to be strategic. Overall? I was kind of expecting something like Chrono Cross, only heading into it without expecting it to be a sequel to something good. The bar wasn’t all that high, so surely something petty like bad voice acting couldn’t ruin a nice, simple JRPG for me. Right?
Son of a. I thought Chaos Wars was as bad as it was going to get. But this? And even outside of this scene, I just couldn’t ‘buy’ that girl as a character. She was supposed to not understand the intricacies of the hero’s culture because she was foreign, but she had about as much comprehension as a space alien would be expected to. I liked the hero though. We need more JRPG heroes to be slightly detached and jaded veterans.
BEST IMPORT GAME: MACROSS ULTIMATE FRONTIER
I picked up a Super Robot Wars game at an anime con a couple years on a larf since I’ve played enough of them to memorize the menu layout, even though this does lead to some… unit-specific malfunctions sometimes. Like confusing the “Wait” and “Detach Power Cable” commands for the Eva units. Fortunately, action games are less language intensive, and that’s where Macross comes in. Now, considering that the game basically revolves around 50 variations on ‘jet that turns into a robot’ blowing things up within missions that almost all have a 10 minute time limit, you’d think that’d get old fast. But of all the games on my PSP, I still keep coming back for little fixes of MUF nearly a solid year later. Maybe it’s the sheer volume of full-metal fanservice on display.
BEST MORAL: SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: STRANGE JOURNEY
Strange Journey is an interesting dungeon crawler in that you can talk to and negotiate with the monsters you meet in random encounters. For the most part, the demons seem more curious about you once they figure out you’re speaking their language, ask you what you think of them, where you came from, and how many penises are ‘normal’ on a human female. Each of the sectors you visit is loosely themed by one of the seven deadly sins and patterned loosely after familiar things to people (shopping malls, battlefields, a red light district) because- well, I guess this is spoilery but I doubt anyone’s actually gonna go out and get the game anyway- they’re trying to understand us and why our society is failing and basically devouring itself. Even though the Schwartzweld is fully capable of wiping out all life, they’re mostly trying to understand, and in some cases, coach us in a more productive direction. One side mission, for example, has the ship’s toilet be possessed by the ‘God of Toilets,’ who goes on about how even our bathrooms need respect and care. After beating him, the crew resolve to start a daily cleaning sheet.
Clean your bathroom or demons will kill you, basically. That’s a good moral, right?
THE SHARKS WITH FRICKIN’ LASER BEAMS AWARD FOR AWESOME CONCEPT
Z.H.P., Zettai Hero Project is a Roguelike. By Nippon Ichi. Where you raise a Super Sentai hero up to beat the Final Boss, Darkdeath Evilman. You get to raise your own Power Ranger, customize his costume, and for the most part, the script is actually funny again. This is easily the best thing NIS has done this year. Then again, it’s paired up against publishing GUST games, re-releases of Disgaea, and pretending to have a foothold in the anime industry.
Let’s wait and see how Criminal Girls turns out now.
SIREN CALL OF THE CHEAPSKATE WHO LOVES AWESOME AWARD
I like most of Platinum’s output so far, but I was pretty iffy about their last game, Vanquish after playing the demo and not really ‘getting’ the gimmicks down pat and trying to play it as a straight 3rd person shooter. I liked it, but not $60 new liked it.
Then K-Mart marked it down to half price a week after its release. That’s playing dirty…
So, basically Vanquish is a bullet-time laden, cover based, third person shoot-em-up. In short, it’s the kind of game that seems like it was invented to piss off Yahtzee. The hell of trying to talk about Vanquish in this age of games where five to thirty minute featurettes are used to make every level transition into an ‘experience,’ is that the plot is basically testosterone spritzed between the clenched teeth of grimacing, scarred space marines. This game is so distilled action movie that they found a way to make Russians the bad guys even though it’s THE FUTURE!
Oddly, of all the things it could make me think of, I keep getting a Contra vibe from Vanquish. Not many games these days adhere to bosses of the “three or four guys hanging out of an 80’s action figure play vehicle” school of design, so it was a breath of fresh air to once again be fighting a tank with four guys riding on it in lieu of real turrets, one big ass gun on top, and a great big buzz saw thing strapped on the front. And as always, a bright red glowing light that screams ‘hit me here’ on the back side of it.
I’M GOING TO FINISH THIS, HONEST AWARD: ACE ATTORNEY INVESTIGATIONS
I’m not totally sure why I haven’t blazed through the last Ace Attorney game, but I think it has to do with the crime reconstruction scenes that replay repeatedly with little differences as new evidence comes out. It’s one thing to revisit a scene in the courtroom over and over, but actually watching the crime play out in full, in hologram form can get pretty old. Getting into Edgeworth’s head is pretty amusing, though. He’s not so much unflappable as the Only Sane Man around most of the time, but even when he screws up, he’s usually internally going “Oh shit! I’m the cool one, so I better underreact.”
NICE JOB BREAKING IT WEBSITE AWARD FOR BEING A HUGE GODDAMN TIME SINK AND AFFECTING THE WAY PEOPLE AROUND ME TALK TOO MUCH- TVTROPES
This Troper feels that The Internets Jumped The Shark with this particular website. There is No Such Thing as Notability here, it’s just a series of Long Lists. Just… pages dedicated to ‘tropes’ in fiction, followed by lists of examples. With links to other listed imbedded within. It’s amazing how something so insubstantial can devour an entire fucking evening as you click say, Nightmare Fuel, just out of curiousity to see if some favorite scene of yours gets a mention. And hey, look, I forgot all about that show. Let’s have a look at what tropes were contained within Hey Dude!
…Are you still here? I think the TVTropes links will probably distract about 94% of the people reading this, so if you’re still here, you get a gold star.*
BEST VIDEO REVIEWER: YAHTZEE
It took a lot of deliberating, I admit. I’ve been watching a lot of web shows of late since I never got around to running a cable splitter to my room but do need background noise. I kind of feel like picking Yahtzee is a cop-out since he’s such a big name and all, but damn it, he’s good. Some of my favorite videos may belong to guys like Spoony, and Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ has some pretty great bits, but in the end, I really don’t think there’s a ‘bad’ Yahtzee review. He’s got a distinctive cartoon slide show thing going on with his videos that I’m surprised hasn’t been ripped off more often, and while there are some recurring gags, there’s really nothing hopelessly in jokey and self-referential that would keep a new viewer from jumping in at a given point.
It’s almost as if witty (if scathing) jokes are better to put into reviews than shoe-horning in over-arcing plotlines about the reviewer’s evil interdimensional doppleganger.
This has really been a year, hasn’t it? 365 days, all of them of approximately 24 hours? Ah seriously. This year blew, and not even in a way I can amusingly dissect blow by blow. But, at least I kept busy through most of it, and I’m earning my keep instead of being one of the seemingly growing number of unemployed Americans. This has been the first year I’ve earned (just) enough through commissions that I’ll have to report and file them. Yay! Wait. I’ve been going back to class too, on sort of a tiered plan. Stage 1 is pumping up my academics and getting a certification for multimedia web development, which should hopefully open some doors on its own. Failing that, I’m hoping to continue my education and training in hopes of moving on up. To the east side. Possibly to those du-plex apartments. Across the bridge.
I’ve got a few things that I want to try out in 2011, but my number one thing is that I want to get some more stuff done that you folks are actually going to see. So once again, thanks to everyone who’s still been reading along, and keep on coming back. I think you’ll find 2011 a more exciting year here on 3/2.