I don’t want to do the sad parent thing where they explain that they aren’t even mad, they are just deeply disappointed in what has happened—that has always felt like a cover for saying that you are mad, and disappointed, and changing the will for your STD infected youth. The truth is that I don’t even know what I expected this game was going to be aside from what we ended up getting. At its base it is solid and interesting and tells a great story; move away from that even a little and things start to get hazy and starting dropping off cliffs like so many bodies left near Trevor. Sometimes I wonder if it is me that has changed and the games are still delivering the same great content and I am just blind to it, but then I hear one of the ads on the radio and remember that it is the same humor, and almost exactly the same jokes, that they were delivering two console generations ago (almost three) and I know that I am the one that has changed and that isn’t wrong or bad. It was one thing to be making jokes about massive SUVs destroying the world and being entirely more than anyone on the planet would ever need, save possibly an entire team of marines taking a full soccer team to a warzone away game, but doing it again all these later with almost the same exact delivery isn’t interesting in anyway.
The game annoyed me to the level that I started to wonder if the only thing that I ever found amusing in my early 20s was anything that was anti-establishment sentiment. Then I feel dumb. Thankfully I can only feel that way for so long before Rockstar was nice enough to drop the terrible and broken online mode in my lap and tell me to go fuck myself with a handful of glass shards. Sure, it launched broken and that could be forgiven. Sure, they pretty much delivered what they promised. The problem was that they found a way to turn the promise into almost the same hot street trash that the last game had, while remaining entirely less interesting and kind of making me hate the game in the same exact instance. I am almost glad that this mode didn’t start functioning until I was done with the single player as I would probably not have bothered to spend more than 15 minutes inside of the game after I booted it up.
Harvest Moon Award for harvesting the most Moons:
Considering the fact that there were two Harvest Moons this year, and I didn’t even force Stark to play one of them, I would consider this a victory for Rune Factory to get this nod over the standard HM (as those of us in the know call it)—save the fact that the company went out of business directly after shipping this product to North America. For years now there have been off shoots of the core farming games set in other genre conceits, one was the future and several have been in a Fantasy realm: the only thing that they have in common is that they are normally not made by the same company that makes the standard game. I think the fact that this is probably the best one of these non-core games to come out in over a decade, by a large margin, should say something to the weirdness of the company going belly up when the game was released and greeted with pretty favorable sales.
Sure, the game still has strange callbacks to when it first came out—like attacking ghosts and orcs with your fully upgraded hoe because you have ignored upgrading your sword and all your farm tools, including watering can, now do more damage—but it is also the first time that one of these games felt like there was something pushing the player forward instead of just asking them to exist in this weird and strange world where they had to farm and kill tons of monsters. So this decade long experiment has concluded in producing the first real and stable experience in the series, but also managed to drive everyone at the company that made it insane. I don’t really get the management strategies in Japan, but I can tell you that I approve of their results.
Year of Luigi Award for Best Luigi:
If you were a child of the 80’s at all, in any way, even if you can look back and enjoy some of the pop-culture moments that they managed to give children, you should probably have been sadden to learn that the entire cast of the Super Mario Super Show is now dead. Danny Well’s had a career that spanned longer then some countries, and managed to be part of the greatest movie of all time (Shaft), but he will probably always be known for acting as Luigi next to Mario. The show wasn’t good, the cartoon was something that was farmed out to the lowest bidder at that exact moment, and all of the guest stars were whoever Captain Lou Albano was representing with his talent firm that week. Mr. Wells died in this, the year of Luigi, giving us possibly the best ending this side of a sequel to the live action movie where everyone does the dinosaur.
The fact that Nintendo managed to start this year off with a Tuesday announcement stating that they were going to double down on everything and make you totally want to buy every system they have made, and that they were going to do it with their number 2 guy, seemed like a stroke of pure insanity and genius and retardation and the best E3 press conference that took place 6 months before E3. It was like they loaded an old and rusted shotgun full of candy and made kids believe in Santa by killing hobos with jolly ranchers, it was an act of pure will that worked so in their favor I can’t even believe I want say that Nintendo won this year simply by promise alone—that an by giving me a cloning Mario in a cat suit. I have seen many things in my life, but the brothers Mario dropping on all fours and meowing at the screen after hitting the top of a flag pole is probably a high point.
Best Call Back:
Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
There is a fine line that needs to be walked between remaking an entire game, save with better graphics, and doing something completely different and just slapping the number 2 at the end of it. This generation has seen tons of examples of both of those, and while some are great games they are still basically not what you want from a sequel. A Link between Worlds is what the kid who played A Link to the Past thought that the next game in that series was probably going to be, exactly in the same place but with totally different dungeons and puzzles and new mechanics that changed everything. There are about two companies on the face of the Earth that could pull off this game without messing it up so badly that the company would be declared a war crime the next day, and I am pretty sure that Nintendo owns both of them. Oddly one is a love hotel.
It is strange in the most off beat ways too, because the over world map is almost identical to the previous game in tons of ways, as is much of the music—but in the same instance there are pieces and moments scattered throughout that make it just different enough that it stops feeling surprising that something completely different and unexpected is around the corner after the first dungeon. It seems odd that a game would lift, with such love and care, exact and impactful moments from a game and implant them in another, and still manage to make it this wonderful and worth playing. There are times that I swear all of this companies design documents are just letters from children taped to the wall with the words “make this happen” above them.
Spent Way too much time with:
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Earlier this year I picked up a copy of Monster Hunter 3 and the second stick add on for my 3DS and proceeded to spend amazing amounts of time slapping creatures in the face with entirely underpowered weapons in hopes that they might drop a fraction of a piece to make a sword that would do more slightly more slapping damage. It is less a quest about being the most OCD and completion-ist to gather up every single piece of monster excrement to form something that finally feels useful and powerful, and more about the continual refinement of play throughout the life of the game. I will happily be the first person to admit that Monster Hunter is not a game for everyone, but it is oddly a game that is designed to prove the point that video games can make you gain a feeling of accomplishment through play, even if that is just making a virtual persons that much more interesting while your own life suffers.
For me the game seems to be about fits and starts as well, long periods of passion where my boss basically has to tell me that I am not allowed to have the 3DS at my desk as it has seeped past “just playing at lunch” and ignoring my wife while she watching crime shows on the Television, to forgetting about it for months at a time. I would lie if I didn’t say the entire reason for picking up a Wii U was to secretly get back into it, but with better controls and the possibility for people to tell me directly online how bad I am at the game. Fans of the stream will also notice that I have picked up a rather devoted friend that is insistent on getting me through the trials of late game hunting, so as far as I can tell this game is probably going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
I just want to talk about this game Award:
I wrote a review about this game about a month ago and went clearly out of my way to avoid talking about how much fun it is to play a game with ninja that run around with giant breast that beat the ever loving hell out of each other. It is the kind of thing that I would have written as a design document when I was a teenager and then spent the rest of my life working towards to make a reality. There are moments in your life that it all becomes clear, and you are suddenly happy that people who grew up in different countries can grow up just as perverted as you and strive to make the world as wonderful a place in the same odd and entirely deranged methods as you. Sometimes I wake up in the morning smiling, thinking about these things—then I drive to work and have 8 people cut me off and someone jay walk in front of my car in a clear attempt to kill themselves and that is all forgotten for a while. Senran Kagura has a weird way of bringing me back to that happy place though.
Did I mention that Nintendo didn’t want the game to come out; because they actively did that exact thing I just said. When it was released they put on such a back shelf in the virtual goods store that it would literally be like having to walk into GameStop and ask the clerk for a game, then spell it correctly before they sold it to you. Joke ended up being on them as about three days after it came out it ended up being the hottest selling game of the week in the store and was automatically promoted to the front page, which is like if Karma wasn’t just the name of a really good stripper but also the doctor that you saw because of that rash you got from her.
Worst Game of the Year:
So you take one game that is pretty universally beloved by anyone, Trials HD, but slightly in the back of most people’s minds, as it came out a couple of years ago, and then you slam the most generic physics system in the world on a cheap copy that you had some third world high school students—who’s only contact with the original was on low resolution YouTube video— make for you in a day. Don’t QA test it, make sure there are some conditions that levels are unbeatable and then throw it out the door. Oh, and over charge and hint at micro-transactions. Kids love those. Everyone loves those.
The truth is that I am given a ton of terrible games to play throughout the year, most of the time I am able to either say no or pass them along to someone farther down the food chain of the site. Every now and then, though, I get something that I get stuck with that has manage to so completely missed the point of enjoyment it is a wonder that my system didn’t eject the disc at top speed in an attempt to kill me like the classic 1990 film “I come in Peace”. In all honesty most of the time it would be a sweat and joyful release, and something I will be sad I can no longer hope for in our all digital and downloadable future.