Hello there! My name is ZombiePie, and I am a moderator on this site. Every year I like to look at the various sources of entertainment I enjoyed and disliked. My awards are more like "special commendations" and are open to any medium. While most of the awards go to video games, you'll notice others go to wrestling, music, anime, and television shows. Oh, and one more thing, Keep that in mind before reading the award justifications.
Worst End Credits Song - Wolfenstein II
Wolfenstein II is a marvel to experience. Its campaign is jam-packed with glorious set pieces that tickle each of your senses. Its thrilling highs make its final three hours all the more depressing. The game just ends, and without pomp and circumstance. What was a wildly entertaining romp devolved into first-person shooter rigamarole. Its dynamic cast disappears in favor of a bland army of automatons. Dull corridors populated by Nazi super-soldiers are repeated ad nauseam. And let's be honest, the game's final level is no fucking fun to play outside of the "normal" difficulty setting.
Then the game blasts this utterly wretched cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It!" It's a song emblematic of Wolfenstein II's major stumbling points. It is a vain attempt to frame Wolfenstein II as part of a counter-culture movement when it's mostly a hedonistic murder simulator. The cover itself is terrible. It descends from a storied lineage of video games using horrid covers of otherwise great songs. Need I remind you of Snoop Dog's cover of "Riders On The Storm" in Need For Speed Underground 2? Either way, Wolfenstein II's end credits song left a bitter taste in my mouth.
None - Nothing this year comes close to Wolfenstein II.
Most Anime-ass Anime - Ryuu no Haisha/The Dragon Dentist
Let me break down "The Dragon Dentist" to the best of my abilities. Nonoko Kishi is a newly appointed dentist tasked with protecting a dragon from cavity-causing bacteria. After a day of intense fighting, Nonoko discovers an unconscious boy inside the dragon's mouth. When Nonoko resuscitates the boy, who is named "Bell," the two end up caught between the extremist elements of their respective sides. I want you to think about the last three sentences I wrote.
The Dragon Dentist is two episodes long, with each chapter lasting forty-five minutes. If you love your anime on the crazy side, then I strongly recommend The Dragon Dentist. It is far from being perfect and makes a fair share of missteps. Its forced moments of sentimentality are groan-inducing, and its romantic undertones fall flat. But it is an oddly unique show only possible in the weird and wacky world of anime. It's wonderfully animated and thankfully short, so check it out if you haven't.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie - This show is objectively "better" than Dragon Dentist but less crazy. That said, Recovery of an MMO Junkie may well be one of the best animes to use gaming culture as a gimmick.
Best Comedy - Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy was my favorite gaming "fling." For a solid week, it was the only game I played, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Describing my feelings for Getting Over It is difficult because calling it "good" is mostly disingenuous. When assessed piecemeal, the game is a nightmare factory with few artistic merits. It's a thoroughly ugly affair that goes out of its way to make you uncomfortable. The fact I loved this game is an honest to goodness miracle.
Developer Bennett Foddy has created a game where every waking minute you play it is an act of comedy. During its many trials and tribulations, I always had the biggest grin on my face. From the janky animation to the dry narration, every hill provided endless hilarity. The game's soul-crushing difficulty further adds to the humor especially when Bennett Foddy graces you with one of his many philosophical musings about failure. It's a game that gets a lot out of nothing, and that's worth something.
Thor: Ragnarok - They made the most boring character from the Marvel cinematic universe enjoyable. Taika Waititi deserves a Nobel Prize in literature for making this happen.
Most Improved - No Man’s Sky
Before anyone comments, I wholeheartedly admit No Man's Sky is still a far cry away from what it promised in 2014. Flora and fauna are mostly static, and the game boils down to a hypnotic collectathon more than it should. Likewise, the insulting "ending" remains unchanged. Nonetheless, Sean Murray may well be the most dedicated individual in the video game industry. After his passion project self-imploded, he and his studio remained committed to improving No Man's Sky.
In an era where most of us can name at least one Kickstarter project that "ghosted" their supporters, it's a feel-good moment. The Atlas Rises update transformed No Man's Sky to something more than the sum of its parts. Including handcrafted planets where the player is forced into almost non-winnable scenarios added much-needed variety to No Man's Sky's second act. The game's murder-mystery inspired third act provides some of the best science-fiction storytelling I have seen in a while. In these set pieces, I finally understood the storytelling advantages of procedurally generated games. It is a testament to No Man's Sky's rapid improvement, I think of these lovingly crafted moments rather than the lamentable controversy it brought onto itself.
Stellaris - Stellaris' many DLC packs have rectified most of my problems with the games' boring midgame. The DLC also injects much-needed character into what was an otherwise drab 4X experience.
Best Use Of 2017 - Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega is a god among men. He had multiple match of the year candidates. He broke Dave Meltzer's review system more than once. He helped craft the most compelling wrestling rivalry in the last five years. He elevated a newly launched belt. He's brought new life to local and indie promotions. What DIDN'T Kenny Omega accomplish in 2017? The man is even set to start 2018 with a hotly anticipated dream match!
Kenny Omega has done a great job of injecting life during a notable downward trend for wrestling. To say 2017 was a "weak" year for wrestling would be an understatement. 2017 was a death-spiral that caused me to question if it was worth my time, let alone my money. Watching Omega instill spirit into each of his moves was cathartic. The man loves the sport, and his efforts almost right wrongs committed by other promotions.
Assassin's Creed Origins - Origins reinvigorated a struggling franchise in a year where many questioned the merits of AAA game development. You could even argue Ubisoft deserves credit for rejiggering their corporate mandate in 2017.
Worst Use Of 2017 - Impact Wrestling
Where do I even begin? This time last year it appeared Impact Wrestling had finally figured its shit out. For once, the long-time ailing promotion had crafted a distinctiveness that set it leagues apart from WWE. Impact also courted a roster of talented wrestlers I wanted to see be successful. With the ousting of Dixie Carter, the company seemed primed for financial and creative stability for the first time since its foundation. What in the world could go wrong?
First, Impact's new owner, Anthem Sports & Entertainment, played hardball with the promotion's hottest act, "Broken" Matt Mardy. The company didn't do itself any favors when it played a tit-for-tat trademark war against Hardy when he left for WWE. This spat isn't the primary reason Impact won this award because any other promotion would have done what Anthem did. The reason Impact won my "Worst Use of 2017" award, was their botched attempt at rebranding their name. With Jeff Jarret back at the helm, the company renamed itself "Global Force Wrestling," Jarret's side-business and totally not a Ponzi scheme. When Jarret struggled to handle his alcohol addiction, the company went back to calling itself "Impact," and pretended its "merger" never happened. So in one year, the company changed its name THREE TIMES! What a shitshow!
Bray Wyatt - I honestly don't know where the company takes Bray next. With Luke Harper and Erick Rowan returning to their tag-team roots, creative's options are dwindling, and they have done nigh unfixable damage to his current persona.
Worst Thing Billed As “Entertainment” - Nekopara Vol. 3
Over the past year, I have wracked my brain over how to communicate the terribleness of Nekopara. My fear is blogging about the game will have the opposite effect of dissuading readers from playing it. The entire Nekopara franchise makes me as a reviewer feel inadequate. In the many drafts I toiled over, I never thought I came within a mile of accurately describing how awful this series of games can be.
The extent of the player's agency boils down to clicking the right mouse button. Your mouse clicks help you move from one line of dialogue to the next. That's all you do for FOUR HOURS! And over the course of its sad excuse of a "story" the game makes light of incest, pedophilia, human slavery, and sexual assault for comedic effect. It's a bad game, and no person should play it even as a joke. If I had a choice between Chinese water torture and playing Nekopara Vol. 3, I would probably go with Nekopara Vol. 3, and that's the kindest thing I can say.
Hopsin's "No Shame" album - Hopsin's single "Happy Ending," is one of the worst things I have listened to in a good long time. How was this song allowed to happen in the year of our Lord, 2017?
Streaming Is Still A Threat - BoJack Horseman (Season 4)
Bojack Horseman has always been one of the most painful television shows to watch. The show creates a disquieting ethos through its unflinching depiction of serious topics. I feel for the creators of the series because its representation of depression and social anxiety are obviously based on personal experiences. I lament anyone stomaching through such turmoil for the sake of their art, regardless of the final product. Luckily for all involved, Bojack Horseman is a life-affirming show.
One reason I continue to watch BoJack Horseman is its uncanny ability to depict moments of joy amidst a torrent of darkness. Season four isn't as ambitious as its predecessor, but all the while it creates a relatable world even if anthropomorphic animals populate it. On a more critical note, the writing provides constant reminders of depression's many pitfalls without coming across as condescending. Then, when everything seems to build toward a tragic conclusion, it celebrates life. This empowering messaging sets Bojack Horseman into a class of its own. It's all compelling stuff worth viewing if you haven't done so already.
Stranger Things (Season 2): While I left slightly disappointed, Stranger Things still stands as an entertaining ride. I'm just concerned about where the show goes for season three.
Best “Surprise” - Doki Doki Literature Club
Exclaiming a game is in a "subgenre of one," is principally played out. Including a singular mechanic or plot twist doesn't make a game cutting edge. New genres are crafted when an artist takes the time to reject preconceived notions of right and wrong. Doki Doki Literature Club does exactly that. It is without a doubt one of the scariest games I have played. When its saccharine facade cracked, and I started "playing" it, Doki Doki Literature Club awed me in ways I was not expecting. So effective was the game I strong-armed multiple people into playing it.
To watch social media boil Doki Doki Literature Club down to a jump scare is deeply upsetting. Nonetheless, Doki Doki Literature Club is a thought-provoking and frightening experience. Months after playing it, I'm still pondering how thoroughly it wages psychological warfare on its audience and the efficacy of its twists and turns. It is not a game for the light of heart, but all the same, it has spawned a healthy discussion on the storytelling potential of visual novels.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice - Ninja Theory have always been known for crafting games with visceral combat, but I've never thought of them as storytelling masterminds. With Hellblade, I hope the studio continues to explore new and novel subjects.
Biggest Disappointment - Final Fantasy X-2
Final Fantasy X-2 is an utter betrayal of everything that made Final Fantasy X even remotely appealing. It is an exploitative affair salvaged by occasional acts of charm. Delightful characters waste away in Square's most dismal AAA failure. For a series with as much history as Final Fantasy, this is a dispiriting turn of events. I honestly felt like the game was a child presenting me with a grilled crayon sandwich.
Worse of all is the legacy of Final Fantasy X-2. From this point forward the franchise would say goodbye to the quaint comforts of what defined a Final Fantasy game. Overworlds and turn-based combat would disappear in favor of more Western-inspired mechanics. What I have to question is if this was ever needed. How would Final Fantasy XIII have formed if it was not beholden to X-2's dress combat system? The world will never know.
"Revival" by Eminem - This album is straight up BAD! The bars in this album are atrocious. I felt like I was listening to an adult steadfastly refuse to mature by even a few seconds.
Worst Endgame - Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Three-fourths of Middle-earth: Shadow of War is perfectly serviceable. I didn't even mind the overwhelming instancing in the second and third act. Act II of Shadow of War represents the best attributes of the series. It's a playground based on manipulating the various resources at your disposal. Like many open world games, this initial chapter encourages you to master a handful of techniques in a variety of situations. Act III introduces more impediments and does well to add a few story-based twists.
Broken is an entire quarter of Shadow of War, and it didn't have to be this way. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor also felt victimized by a weak endgame. Storming the gates of Mordor became a slog, and how Shadow of Mordor increased its difficulty fared none better. That Shadow of War doesn't improve upon its predecessor's most glaring problems is bizarre. Worse of all, hidden beneath hours of busywork is a three-minute scene explaining how Talion’s story ties into The Lord Of The Rings. It is at this point the game becomes a Sisyphean torment of recursive encounters against heavily armored orcs, one after another. So bad is this last quarter I forgot about the riveting highs I felt not two hours prior.
Alien: Covenant - Alien: Covenant is a solid runner-up thanks to its off-screen killing of Elizabeth Shaw and ghosting of every viable plotline from Prometheus. These are egregious mistakes on account of Shaw being the only compelling character from Prometheus.
Alright, I’m Down With Watching This Show Under A Blanket, And With The Heater On Blast - The Orville
The Orville is NOT a great show. It is a spectacularly inconsistent program that has yet to find a delicate balance between comedy and poignancy. When The Orville aspires to be a comedy, much of its humor falls flat. Like Seth MacFarlane's previous live-action films, moments of strife are complimented with witty pop-culture references. These jokes do not come from the characters and feel artificial. On top of that, the comedy breaks the show’s already scattershot pace.
But GOD DAMN does The Orville have a ton of heart. The creative minds behind The Orville love Star Trek, and that shows. When it provides light-hearted adventures with elementary pathos and social commentary, I found the show more palatable. I do not feel embarrassed to admit I enjoyed The Orville. It is Star Trek as comfort food during a time when Star Trek doesn't want to be comfort food. The Orville doesn't talk down or patronize you as it moves from one plotline to the next. It's a low-risk, non-confrontational science-fiction comedy I desperately needed.
Star Trek: Discovery - After a bumpy pilot, Discovery came around in its final four episodes. It was mentally engaging like Deep Space Nine, without the overwhelming technobabble of Voyager.
Most Creative - "17776" by Jon Bois
I actively hate the term "best" when trying to assess writing. Most writing falls into one of two categories: accurate or precise. One work of writing may target a specialized demographic, hit its target accurately, but still not hold water with me. Likewise, a work of art can aim for a large target audience but lack daring or precision. This dilemma is why I prefer to assess writing on "creativity," which I admit is as nebulous as brandishing it as "good," or "bad." But GOODNESS is Jon Bois' multimedia work of speculative fiction, "17776," creative. It is a rollercoaster ride and nothing short of being the wildest work of writing I have seen in a while.
Bois' incorporation of animated GIFs, YouTube video clips, hand-drawn images, and block text in one narrative, sets it apart from other works from this year. I wouldn't call it the best exhibition of writing from 2017, and it is slightly held back by its subject (i.e., American football), but this is nitpicking. "17776" is a rare example of writing only possible in our growing digital age. More than any other example of writing, "17776" is something I honestly hope others learn from as a model. The world of writing can only improve if it attempts half of the ideas Bois sets out in this magnificent work.
"Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders - It is the most critically acclaimed book of 2017 for a reason.
Source Of Entertainment That Caused Me To Shout "FUCK OFF!" The Most - Neo Yokio
I hated everything in Neo Yokio. As anime continues to expand its audience with the growing proliferation of legal streaming, shit like Neo Yokio serves to reinforce industry stereotypes. Anime fandom has earned its reputation of being populated by an army of neer-do-wells, and I include myself in that declarative statement. The industry itself shouldn't remind the world of this, nor should it proudly advertise how dysfunctional the anime industry is today. Sure, the show got everyone's attention on social media for a hot minute, but the same could be said about a person accidentally shooting themselves in their genitals.
Neo Yokio is the anime equivalent of a film made by The Asylum. It is a lazy tawdry comedy that explicitly goes for every possible bottom-of-the-barrel joke you could imagine. At no point does the humor descend from well-crafted jokes. Neo Yokio lurches from one bizarre moment to the next, with little wait time. It's a show that pines to be the center of attention for all the wrong reasons, and at the expense of its dignity. To the people who wrote this show: C'mon guys... seriously?
The Emoji Movie - I saw this piece of shit movie and do not want to talk about it.
Unsung Hero Of 2017 - Ubisoft
Ubisoft Entertainment impressed me this year with its releases and continual support of online-focused games from yesteryear. Ubisoft did precisely what any AAA studio should have done with a marquee franchise like Assassin's Creed. They provided the studios responsible for producing the next entry more time to re-assess and re-design their game. This pragmatic decision paid dividends. Assassin's Creed: Origins rejuvenated the ailing franchise. I loved Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, but you could see the series' ancient architecture lurching to a breaking point.
On the matter of Ubisoft's online support, they are only held back by an insistence to insert Uplay in every game they release. Even then, their support of games like Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Rainbow Six Siege, or The Division is commendable. In a year where EA tried and failed to refocus their efforts in their mainline franchises, it is comforting to see a major studio rejigger its works successfully. Should games be in a playable state when they launch? Absolutely, but you have to give Ubisoft credit for fighting through Hell and high waters to provide gaming experiences to their fans, often at no cost to the consumer.
Sean Murray/Hello Games - This is here for many of the reasons I mentioned earlier. Much like Ubisoft, Hello Games have turned around one of last year's biggest nightmares.
Anime Of My Year - My Hero Academia (Season 2)
You may recall I named My Hero Academia my "anime of the year" in 2016. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I can safely say that decision was wrong, and the award should have gone to Mob Psycho 100. With this aside, My Hero Academia's second season is BALLER! From beginning to end it was the best paced and structured action television show in 2017. It is a blast to watch. Many of my issues with the previous season were toned down, and in their place were better and more tightly choreographed action sequences.
What sets the second season apart from the first are the characters. While the first season had the benefit of using origin stories as a crutch, the second season is better about crafting moment to moment situations that allow the characters to show their true colors. My Hero Academia is jam-packed with exciting set pieces that flow with such good pacing you never feel their length. Credit to the writing staff for doing a better job about juxtaposing between levity and drama than the Marvel cinematic universe. All this leads to the show gaining traction as a "gateway" for anime novices.
Made in Abyss - Hot DAMN does this anime go places! A valid argument could be made that Made in the Abyss is the "real" award winner, but it's held back by a few rocky episodes that barely avoid being exploitative.
My "Ostrich Moment" - NieR: Automata
The "Ostrich Award" is a unique commendation to any source of entertainment that did not resonate with me, but I full-heartedly recognize as a work of art. Previous recipients of this award include Kill la Kill, Dota 2, and Overwatch. These spectacular works made me feel like a proverbial ostrich, with its head entirely in a mountain of sand. Regardless, the problem is always me and not the source. We live in a highly globalized world where diversity should be the spice of life. New minds and creators are gaining the means of production to provide novel experiences that would be impossible in a more mass-manufactured world. The fact any game, movie, or book resonated with you is a point to be championed rather than some amateur blogger disliking it.
But this digression is dancing around my distaste for NieR:Automata. I found the combat unrewarding and tiresome; the art direction wildly inconsistent; the character designs beyond problematic; the cast littered with convenient stock characters; the story guilty of repeating tired and true anime tropes. Finally, NieR: Automata holds the unique distinction of being a game I fell asleep while playing. When I completed "Ending E," my response was the same. I shrugged it off and loudly exclaimed: "Well, okay then." More power to you if you enjoyed NieR: Automata, but for me, I never felt the game used my time efficiently.
The Last Jedi - I found the attempts to inject humor into the story to be distracting, and the depiction of Luke Skywalker off-putting. It's not a bad movie, just a messy one.
Game Of My Year - Final Fantasy X
What else can I say about a game I have already professed loving? Are you surprised? Look, I get it. How can someone who dismissed NieR: Automata as "not their cup of tea," admit to enjoying Final Fantasy X? Well, the devil's in the details. Final Fantasy X provides a journey defined by unbridled optimism. Its cast of characters each serve purposes beyond being eye candy, and there wasn't a single character arc I honestly hated. When it developed its melodrama, I was ready for it. In a year as rough as 2017, Final Fantasy X was the game I most needed.
It's a testament to its timelessness I still found the world of Spira compelling and beautiful. While most moan and groan about the voice acting or Blitzball, I found the game to be enamoring. It also helps the game is fun to play. Final Fantasy X displays the many merits of turn-based combat versus real-time combat. The Sphere Grid is another concept I wished further entries in the Final Fantasy franchise incorporated. And if all you know about this game is ONE SCENE pulled out of context, and I'm talking about THAT SCENE; you owe it to yourself to play this game. It's a marvel to watch and play.
Wuppo - Do you want to play a game that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face? Then drop everything you are doing and play Wuppo. This game oozes charm, and its final level is an absolute joy.