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Showing posts from December, 2015

Best of 2015 - "Splatoon"

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I like online shooters, but they're getting to be kind of beat. Historically, I've enjoyed my fair share of Call of Duty and Halo, and even some off-brand multiplayer (Dukematches in Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?) But lately, all these years of enjoying different titles has taken its toll. Most major shooters are starting to ape one another. Most online players are insufferable jackasses. Most leveling systems, perks, weapons and game types are starting to bleed into each other. I'm bored, basically. Bored of the same-ness and bored of the communities that grow around these games.

Imagine my surprise, then, that Nintendo ended up releasing the solution to every single problem I have with playing shooters online, and then some.

Best of 2015 - "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones"

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Comic book movies, by their very nature, are a fucking terrible idea. There. I said it. The format doesn't lend itself to a 90-120 minute movie, as it undercuts dramatic tension, negates character development, and ensures that the exuberant, unique nature of comics get watered down to satiate mass appeal. Why do you think DC movies are so gritty? Why do you think Marvel movies follow the same basic formula? It's because that's what sells. And as long as they sell, nobody gives a shit about whether or not it's true to the original comics.

But what if a comic adaptation was given room to breathe? What if that adaptation was spearheaded by one of the most prolific comic writers of all time? And what if, instead of just one major adaptation, we got two high-quality, faithful, interesting takes on two of comic book's most interesting heroes? Enter Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which, to date, I think are the best comic book adaptations.

Best of 2015 - "Life Is Strange"

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When Life Is Strange first started, I was instantly endeared, despite (or perhaps because of) its laughable dialogue, its improbable plot, and its deliberate, almost shoehorned homages to David Lynch, both visual and tonal. While a lot of people were put off by all of the things I just listed, they made Dontnod's sophomore effort different than anything else on the market. It felt fresh and new, and the first episode alone was better than almost anything else I played in 2014. Well, except for Bayonetta 2. That was hella rad.

Point is, Life Is Strange marked the beginning of a new trend in early 2015. A meditative, narrative-focused coming-of-age story about a teenage girl? With secret cults, time travel, and a race against the clock to prevent the destruction of a town? Sign me up. And while the finished product was still very much all those things, it eventually became so much more.

Review - "Devil's Third"

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It wouldn't be far off to say that Devil's Third has been one of my most hotly-anticipated games ever announced. Sure, I was never the biggest fan of Itagaki's other big action series, Ninja Gaiden, but I always liked the general aesthetic and atmosphere of those games. Every Dead or Alive up until the abysmal fifth main entry was pretty solid, too. But what really drew me into the original announcement trailer for Devil's Third was not Itagaki's pedigree, but rather, how over-the-top everything looked. Running on walls, shooting limbs off of people in mid-air, seamlessly switching between hack-and-slash and shooting mechanics... it looked absurd in all the right ways.

After nearing death several times, Devil's Third has finally been cranked out by Nintendo. And while the state that the final product in is troubling, to say the very least, and basically none of that initial trailer is in the game, what we get is more or less what I wanted from Tomonobu Itagaki…

Best of 2015 - "Mad Max: Fury Road"

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I wasn't sure about Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh, yeah, sure, I knew it was going to be good. George Miller isn't in the business of making bad movies, the absolute worst being Happy Feet 2, which as far as I've heard wasn't actually that bad, just middling. And the trailers looked incredible. And everything Mad Max movie so far has been great (people can shut the fuck up about Beyond Thunderdome, thank you very much.)

Still. I wasn't sure, because resurrecting old franchises has become a favorite past time of Hollywood. Why make new things when you can drag out things from two decades ago and repackage them? That's what I was worried Fury Road would be more of. So imagine my surprise when a fourth entry in a series that made filmmakers get really lazy when it came to depicting the apocalypse was, in fact, the most original, transgressive, and brilliant movie of 2015. What a day it was.

What a lovely day.

Best of 2015 - "Rodea The Sky Soldier"

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This year, a bit of a gaming miracle happened. A long-gestating title that was once cancelled was, somehow, completed and put onto store shelves. It was a long fight for the eccentric Japanese auteur behind it, but it paid off, as the finished product was a wildly inventive romp that wasn't quite like anything else the gaming landscape had seen before. A fair number of critics maligned it as misguided, sloppy, or cloying, but I just don't see what they're talking about. For my money, it's some of the most fun I've had with a game this year.

And no, for the record, I'm not talking about the entertaining yet deeply broken Devil's Third (more on that in the coming days.) I'm talking about Yuji Naka's exhilarating swan song for the Wii, Rodea the Sky Soldier.

Review - "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Best of 2015 - "Yuri Kuma Arashi"

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(Best of 2015 is a series of  write-ups on games, movies, TV series and anything else that rocked this year, leading up to my list of Best Movies and Games of the Year!)

Every year, we get to see a lot of armchair critics decry the modern industry. "Anime is dead," they say. "Moe is cancer," they say. While that last one isn't far from the truth, it's a bit alarmist to say that anime is somehow "dead" because a lot of stuff pitched squarely to Japanese otaku (literally translated, "grown men who judge real-life women by the standards set by 13 year-old cartoon girls,") is coming out. A lot of great stuff still hits the air.


Case in point? Kunihiko Ikuhara's mind-melting Yuri Kuma Arashi.

Review - "Just Cause 3"

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Every once in a while, a game will come out that doesn't get the justice it deserves. Whether that's little to no press, bad sales, or overshadowing by bigger brands, these games are unsung heroes of their mediums. They'll often do new things, or improve on preexisting ideas.

Just Cause, as a franchise, has historically been one of those series. Let's hope this one doesn't continue the trend, because it deserves its due.

You Should Check Out "Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist"

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In 2013, the remake of the critically acclaimed Half-Life mod, The Stanley Parable, hit Steam, and it left us scratching our collective head. It was confusing. It was eye-opening. It defied easy classification, and was difficult enough to describe, let alone critique. Some critics forewent actual reviews in favor of more impressionistic opinion pieces on it. Over a year after I played it, and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. One thing is for sure, though: the guys behind the brunt of it, Davey Wreden and William Pugh, are clever, twisted individuals.

And now, Pugh has surprised us all with a new, small game out of nowhere, at the end of 2015, with little to no explanation as to what it even is, what he's trying to say, or how to actually properly go through it.

Thank God for that.