The Den – 13/01/2020

I’m gonna have to get used to writing 2020 now.

It’s that time of year again. The time where I make my Top 10s of the previous year. But before we get to that, I want to chat about a couple of games and such.

Star Wars – Episode IX: Rise Of The Skywalker

OK, this isn’t a video game; but I do need to say something about this pile of trash movie. You won’t find spoilers here, just to get that out of the way.

Disney’s sequel trilogy is a complete mess of rushed out, homogenised, convoluted crap. It doesn’t really know where it’s going, it isn’t differentiating itself from the previous movies, and is trying hard to push it’s new badly written and unlikable characters, while still trying to pander to “the fans”.

Episode IX is more or less a melting pot of everything wrong with this series. It goes from place to place without any real reason, the character writing is insufferable, the new characters they add don’t really have anything to contribute to the story (Babu Frik is kind of entertaining though, so I’ll give them that), and the actual plot is just a blatant excuse to bring back old characters because they couldn’t write better ones.

It sucks. I wish I could go into more detail, but with every passing day my brain systematically tries to remove the memories of this god awful trilogy. I think I preferred the prequels.

Shenmue III

I want to talk about Shenmue for a bit. My opinions on this game are “mixed” to say the least.

It still does things I like. Having all the NPCs be individuals with a certain look, name, and schedules; is still a very welcome feature. It definitely brings a little bit of life into the towns. The variety and quantity of food stalls and shops is also something I enjoy, especially when the store owners disrespect each other in order to try and sell you their goods. Finally, the minigames and gambling are still somewhat enjoyable, even if the classic SEGA arcade games are nowhere to be found.

Getting on to what I don’t like, there’s a lot.

The voice acting is bad, even in Japanese. The characters often talk with long pauses inbetween sentences, and Ryo going “Souka” (“I see” for those playing in English) at damn near everything has progressed from a meme to just being downright annoying. Ryo himself still has little to no character of his own and it’s starting to wear thin. Shenhua isn’t much better, this should have been the time when the questions relating to her appearing in Ryo’s dreams and her actual importance to the overall plot should be explained; the but game doesn’t bother. Most interactions with her involve either stories of her growing up, asking Ryo about his life in Japan, or telling you about things within town that you likely already know about.

The character animation is stiff to say the least. The wonky wax-like character models don’t help either. It’s a very unappealing look. The world on the other hand has decent enough texture work and modelling though; all the houses, markets, shops, and various other things have a surprising level of detail to them.

The fighting system is both dumbed down and indisputably worse than the previous games. Shenmue I & II were made on a fighting game engine, therefore the timings for the combat and QTE sequences were extremely responsive, providing you knew the inputs for the moves. With III, moving to Unreal, an engine known for its input lag in fighting games; there is a significant delay in every single input. I’m talking at least a good second from input to on-screen action. It is dreadful. Thankfully, once you obtain the move “Tiger Thigh”, every fight in the game becomes a joke. All the fights are extremely similar too, no real diversity in terms of fighting styles during these sequences.

Did I mention the QTEs are trash? Because they’re fucking trash.

To top it off, this isn’t even the last game. There’s still more. And considering this game goes absolutely fucking nowhere in terms of plot, I sincerely hope the development team is planning on picking up the pace a little for IV.

As an original Kickstarter backer, I’m not particularly satisfied with what they’ve done, but I won’t say I’m unhappy either. If they actually bother fixing the shortcomings of not just this game, but the series as a whole, and relearn the improvements that made Shenmue II such a appreciably better game than the first; maybe it can be better.

Game Pass and Forza Horizon 4

I don’t have too much to say about this so far, I’ve only had it for a few days. But being able to access a few dozen PC games for £1 is pretty neat. As I don’t use my Xbox One much these days though, I don’t know if I’ll be renewing it, but we’ll see.

As for Forza Horizon 4, well it’s just more Horizon really. I still don’t really like Forza. Sim-Cade as a genre is not something I enjoy and the lack of options for making the cars be as arcade-like as possible is extremely limited. The options are limited to “Hard realism” or “Really loose, but still very sluggish realism”. It’s no Burnout Paradise.

Have this picture of a Ferrari Italia.

It is nice to be playing a game set in the Highlands though. Beautiful part of the UK.

Alright, we both know what you’re here for.

Top 10s of 2019

2019 hasn’t been super stand out year for either games or anime to be honest, but it wasn’t completely boring either. The prevalence Japanese games this year that were either of a relatively high budget or just generally stand out as compared to the run-of-the-mill trash that Western companies put out was rather alarming. The amount of Japan-made games I played this year is probably the highest it’s ever been.

My Top 10 Games of 2019

Before we begin, some additional categories.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Puyo Puyo Champions – It’s a fun, barebones Puyo Puyo game. I’m not very good at Puyo Puyo, but I still think this game is a blast.

Released Games I Wanted To Play Or Play More Of:

  • Onimusha Warlords – A remaster of the first Onimusha game. I actually got gifted this but never got around to it.
  • Jump King – Played a little bit of this. Reminds me of Super Meat Boy. In that I got so frustrated that I rage quit.
  • Death end re;Quest – Started this and originally thought of it as another “kusoge” Idea Factory game, but it started getting interesting. Unfortunately my PC broke and I haven’t gotten back to it yet.
  • Samurai Shodown (2019) – Still waiting on the PC release.
  • Super Mario Maker 2 – Held off on buying it because I heard it wasn’t that much different to the first game, and I didn’t play much of the first game to begin with and didn’t want to waste my money.
  • Control – Waiting on the Steam release.
  • Crystar – I was torn between getting this or Death end re;Quest. I think I chose poorly.
  • The Outer Worlds – I got this on Game Pass, and it only just finished installing as I’m writing this post. I’ll get to it soon I guess.

Best HD Remaster:

  • Metal Wolf Chaos XD – Finally, I can play this game. And you know what? It’s actually really fun.

Additional shoutouts to Catherine: Full Body and Blood: Fresh Supply.

Worst Game I Played:

  • Super Neptunia RPG – Speaking of Idea Factory “kusoge”. This game feels like shit to play, and it’s version of active time battle is stupidly slow and makes fights more drawn out than they need to be. Plus, if you buy the DLC, you become an overpowered God, which then makes the early fights stupidly easy and long.

There’s one more thing I need to say before getting to this year’s list. And it’s regarding last year’s ranking.

I very mistakenly put Dragon Quest XI at number 8 last year. Having played more of it since making that list, I must make a correction. It should be number 4.

And with all that out of the way, here is the numbered list.

10. One Finger Death Punch 2

A decently challenging and fun game, in a simple to understand package. Lots of hilarity to be had in it’s animations and special items.

9. Ion Fury

A real throwback to mid-to-late-90s FPS games. Even using the Build Engine for added authenticity. I’ve only played the first episode or so, but it’s fast paced action and harsh difficulty really has me hooked.

8. AI: The Somnium Files

I have my gripes with the localization work on this game, but the investigative sequences and character interactions are so endearing that it still made its way on to my list. Particularly the intros to the investigative scenes featuring Aiba, like this one.

It’s not perfect, but I had a good time with it.

7. Death Stranding

As someone who loves Euro Truck and American Truck Simulators; the idea of spending the whole time delivering things from one place to another doesn’t sound all to bad. And it’s not, that aspect of the game is actually alarmingly addicting for me. The black goo monsters known as BTs are both terrifying as well as annoying. Particularly later in the game where fighting them isn’t really necessary. The boss fights are rather lacking though, considering this is a Kojima game and the Metal Gear Solid series had some of the best boss fights ever.

The licensed soundtrack is fantastic though, providing you like Low Roar.

6. Devil May Cry 5

I’m gonna be honest here, I’ve only finished DMC2. I’ve played a lot of DMC1 and a bit of DMC3, haven’t played 4 yet. That other one isn’t related as far as I’m concerned. So coming into DMC5, I was expecting to have a more difficult time than I did. Now I wasn’t playing on the hardest difficulties or anything, but they’ve made substantial strides in demonstrating each character’s movesets. Due to that, I actually knew what I was doing moreso than the previous games I played. Dante is my favourite to play as though, the different styles and his character specific weapons are my preference.

V is pretty entertaining though.

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

I’m still playing this one. However it is very clear to me that this is a very special game. Not only is it a Kickstarter game that is actually good, but it actually takes what made the post-SOTN Castlevanias fun, and puts them all together in one game. The Shards are more or less Souls from the Sorrow games, the hub with all the NPCs is akin to Portrait of Ruin, and some of the larger boss fights remind me of Order of Ecclesia (Which I really want to play).

Throw in a ton of Easter Eggs, references, and real goofy fun to use items; it becomes clear how much effort went into this. There are some drawbacks; I don’t like how easy it is to get stunlocked, the hitboxes are a bit wonky, and I think the character and world art clash a bit; but the journey through has been so engrossing that I can overlook these shortcomings.

4. Resident Evil 2 (2019)

I once saw the original RE2 being played back in the late 90s. It fucking terrified me so much that I feared sleeping in the dark till I was a teenager.

Other than that traumatising experience, I’ve never played a Resident Evil game to any significant degree. I think I might have tried playing the demo to RE5, but that’s about it.

This game. This Goddamn game is expertly designed from start to finish. The placement of items, the atmosphere of each area, Mr. X chasing you round for half the game in a fashion that can only be described brutally intimidating; incredible.

And it’s one Hell of a cure for constipation.

3. Tetris 99

In 2018, I found myself enjoying the PC version of Puyo Puyo Tetris more than Tetris Effect. And in 2019, this game makes the precise point as to why. Competitive Tetris doesn’t get much purer than this. You VS 98 others. Good luck.

I was playing this every night for probably about 2-3 months before getting a win. I don’t play it as much now, but it’s my go-to Tetris game on Switch. Especially with the additional modes they added.

2. Judge Eyes/Judgment

Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios ends up on my list again with Judgment. Focusing on being a detective, it provides a slew of new gameplay experiences that gives some additional life to the now overused city of Kamurocho.

It might not have a ton of mini-games, but the inclusion of VF5 and Motor Raid more than make up for it.

Throw in the usual whacky sub stories, intriguing main plot, and probably the most favourable cast of characters this team has made; no self-respecting Yakuza fan could say no to this game.

That said, this series could probably do with going on a break for a bit.

1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

This is my favourite From Software game, and my favourite game from last year.

I have never felt more intune with a game’s combat system more than this game. It takes the aspect of Dark Souls where you need to learn bosses attack patterns and movements and extrapolates that onto every enemy in the game with a core set of patterns.

Initially this starts off very difficult, but as you start to learn, obtain new moves and equipment, and move on to harder and harder fights; you almost gain an attachment to the character’s limbs, as if it’s an extension of you. After understanding the movesets of harder enemies, weaker enemies become such a cakewalk, that it resembles Samurai films where a character would defeat someone and then quip about how they aren’t worth the effort to fight.

By the time I got to end I had such an understanding of the game’s mechanics that fighting the very difficult late-game bosses almost put into a zen-like state of automation.

The boss fights on to themselves are a way and above that of the Souls games in my opinion. There’s just something a lot more intimate about them. Possibly because of the amount of man against man fights, as compared to large monsters. Genichiro Ashina is a noteworthy highlight.

Throw in the addition of more verticality to the level design, and absolutely stunning art direction that just flaunts Japanese artistry; it became very clear to me that this game is my jam.

And now for the anime list, which is just going to be a standard list because writing prose for all of them really isn’t worth it.

My Top 10 Anime Of 2019

Special Mentions:

  • Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai
  • Tejina-senpai
  • Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?
  • Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai

Worst Anime I Watched:

  • Egao no Daika
  • Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu

Top 10:

  1. Ore wo Suki nano wa Omae dake ka yo
  2. Miru Tights
  3. Africa no Salaryman
  4. Sarazanmai
  5. Sewayaki Kitsune no Senko-san
  6. Bungou Stray Dogs 3rd Season
  7. Promare
  8. Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?
  9. Joshikousei no Mudazukai
  10. Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen

Before I head off, I want to talk about one more thing really quick.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

I got the Blu-Ray for this using my Christmas money, and I quite enjoyed it. That said, it also makes me think maybe Tarantino should do more movies that don’t have violence in them. I won’t spoil why, but let’s just say that the difference between the character focused scenes and what little violence there was; stood out more than some of his other movies.

It’s pretty damn good though. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio do a fantastic job as the main characters. And the movie’s visuals and soundtrack are top notch.

Right, well that was a long blog post. Till the next one.

ADMAN

About Adam Lutton

Game Designer / Programmer
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