ZombiePie's End Of The Year 2019 Multimedia Extravaganza!

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ZombiePie

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Author's Note: Hello there! My name is ZombiePie, and I am a Giant Bomb forum and wiki moderator. Every year I look at the various sources of entertainment I enjoyed and disliked. My awards are more "special commendations" and are open to any medium. During my award show, I pit games, television shows, animes, athletics, board games, and movies in a fight to the death! Additionally, you can expect to see classic and current works of entertainment vying for the top positions. Oh, and one more thing, there are SPOILERS on this blog! Keep that in mind, before reading any of my justifications. Also, have your pitchforks ready as things get a little "spicy" on this blog!

Least Improved Sequel Or Follow-Up: One-Punch Man Season Two

Did you forget this came out in 2019, because I sure as hell did!
Did you forget this came out in 2019, because I sure as hell did!

It's hard to imagine, but the second season of One-Punch Man came out in 2019. The fact I sometimes have to remind people of this is a testament to how disappointing the show's second televised outing ended up being. The most commonly cited reason for the second season's struggles was the change in animation studios from season one to two. That might explain why the second season featured a noted regression in animation quality. In fact, the first three to four episodes were downright rough to watch. However, poor animation quality doesn't explain away all of One-Punch Man's second season woes. New characters like Garou progressed at a snail's pace, and the growing animosity between Tornado and Saitama simply didn't pan out as it should have.

To the show's defense, even the manga has struggled to find a new identity following its first volume. Which reminds me, if you go back to my 2015 end of the year review, you'll see I warned fans that the material left to work with for One-Punch Man would not lend itself to an anime adaptation. Everything following the release of the franchise's first volume has been an exercise in mental chess between each of the story's background characters with punctuated moments of action. This interplay is fun to read, but a total bore to watch in real-time. Discovering more about characters like King or Tornado might be interesting in moderation. Nonetheless, it deprives the show of the frantic action most have come to associate with One-Punch Man. And trust me, if there is a third season, then it's going to have to deal with the manga spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME on Garou talking about his code of ethics, which wasn't any fun the first time around.

Runner-up: Kanye West's Jesus Is King -

The writing was on the wall Kayne's latest album wouldn't be anywhere on par with his previous works. The highly creative mind's "downfall" is often overplayed, but there's no denying Kayne is out of his element on this ego-driven attempt at gospel music.

Puzzle Games Are Still A Threat Award: Baba Is You

Trust me, this game gets harder by the minute.
Trust me, this game gets harder by the minute.

Since the release of Fez way back in 2012, environmental puzzlers have gone through significant ebbs and flows. Luckily for all involved, Baba Is You is one of the more imaginative puzzle games to come out this year. I won't deny it took me some time to wrap my mind around its use of words as a mechanic. However, once I did, I committed to seeing the game through to the end. That's an accomplishment in and of itself as I often walk away from puzzle games after encountering difficulty spikes. Nonetheless, I stuck with Baba Is You and don't regret it for a second.

Also, Baba Is You is a deceptively charming game. While many people will look at its rudimentary art style and scoff, those people are missing out on one of the most captivating games of 2019. Likewise, the game gets a lot of mileage out of simple frames of animations and background work. The world vibrating around you as you mess around with words lends itself to the handcrafted aesthetic the game aims for from the very beginning. All things considered, Baba Is You is one of the most straightforward recommendations I have on this blog as it is a game designed for practically anyone.

Runner-up: Manifold Garden -

This Escher-esque first-person puzzler isn't the best rendition of its genre as that distinction goes to Antichamber. But similar to that game, Manifold Garden blends visuals with environmental puzzles to craft a compelling experience that had me slack-jawed while playing it.

Most Improved Total Conversion Mod That Makes The Base Game Ten Times Better: Kaiserreich

I can feel the hours of my life slip away just from looking at this image.
I can feel the hours of my life slip away just from looking at this image.

Hearts of Iron IV will go down as one of my most played games of the decade. There's something hypnotic about living out every possible World War II fantasy scenario, whether it be winning the war with France or taking over the world with Peru. However, vanilla Hearts of Iron IV grows tiresome after the fortieth hour, and thus, in comes the absurdly active mod community to keep things spicy. Thanks to this busy sub-community, every conceivable nation or leader can become a superpower, though, this comes at the cost of quality. Few of these mods are worth playing for more than ten minutes. Nonetheless, if you ask any Hearts of Iron IV player which mods you should install, Kaiserreich is bound to top that list. For those unaware, Kaiserreich imagines a world where the Central Powers were victorious in World War I, and the many possible crossroads the world would have faced.

Kaiserreich is a wildly in-depth experience, even when compared to vanilla HOI4. Every member of the Central Powers and Entente has dozens of historical scenarios that play out at a well-paced clip. Unfortunately, the dev team behind Kaiserreich only updates the mod once every blue moon. But update Kaiserreich they did, and it was a total blast to revisit this year. Finally, Asian countries have focus trees that feel substantive and worth exploring. Moreover, the European sphere of the map has some exciting events you'll only experience if you explore some of the more obscure focuses. For example, I was able to get Britain to revert to being democratic after skewing the empire towards Syndicalism and causing a coup led by the Torries. It's little touches like those that show how much effort was put into this mod, and why it's worth exploring after you get your feet wet in vanilla.

Runner-up: Thrawn's Revenge -

I have talked about the Thrawn's Revenge total conversion for Empire at War before. In short, a significant update hit the mod in June, and as a result, the Imperial Warlords have storylines that match their arcs from the Star Wars Legends timeline. Few of these empires have the staying power of the main factions, but it's still a fun time all around.

Most Acceptably Mediocre: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Or maybe I should just nominate the entire state of Star Wars as a franchise.
Or maybe I should just nominate the entire state of Star Wars as a franchise.

At this point, it's a well-known fact I am a Star Wars nerd. I've covered my love for the old Star Wars Expanded Universe as well as my "nitpicks" about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Speaking of which, I don't want any of you to interpret this award to mean I think Fallen Order is a wretched game. Instead, I feel Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a fun and visually stunning adventure that lacks an identity and brings nothing new to the table. It is a game that is the sum of its parts, no more, and no less. Its characters live and die in one-off vignettes; there's a remarkable lack of worldbuilding; the structure is about as barebones as a game like this gets. Yet, the game's production values are some of the best you'll see, and when the gameplay blends with the environments, you'll quickly find yourself enamored with what Respawn has made.

And somehow, I haven't even commented on Fallen Order's gameplay. It pains me to say this, but if you've played Sekiro, then you have experienced a better version of Fallen Order. If anything, Fallen Order exacerbates many of my issues with the works of From Software. The action set-pieces become tiresome because the variety between bosses in Fallen Order isn't as prominent as it is in Sekiro or Dark Souls. Likewise, you fight a TON of Stormtroopers just to get to those more memorable bosses. Worse, none of the worlds feel uniquely alive. The NPCs you can interact with lack any grounding in the societies they populate, and very often feel tacked on for the sake of the gameplay. To Respawn's credit, should they have another bite at this apple, Fallen Order has a decent foundation for a more in-depth and authoritative Star Wars experience. But, last I checked, you shouldn't assess the value of video games based on their potential.

Runner-up: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker -

I'm not going to stake a claim on the great debate surrounding The Rise of Skywalker. That said, I would have preferred if Abrams respected the creative choices of TLJ, but hey, Star Wars has been backtracking on its canon since its inception. In the end, Rise of Skywalker is an average popcorn flick, and maybe, that's what Star Wars has alway been. Nonetheless, I think Star Wars should focus more on self-contained stories rather than three part-long anthologies, especially if Disney lacks a long-term vision for the franchise.

Game That Came Out And I Stopped Playing In Favor Of An Older Release In The Same Franchise: Total War: Three Kingdoms

Where's the Doom Stack of Phoenix Guard and Tyrion?
Where's the Doom Stack of Phoenix Guard and Tyrion?

Right off the bat, I want to say Total War: Three Kingdoms makes a lot of improvements to the Total War franchise that should not go ignored. Three Kingdoms remarkably enhances the laughable diplomacy system from previous Total War games. Likewise, the factions feel far more in-depth from the get-go than what Creative Assembly has provided at launch in previous Total War games. There were nominal improvements to the pathfinding, though the A.I. still struggles with even the most basic sieges. I say all of this to preface Three Kingdoms is an excellent game. However, I returned to Total War: Warhammer II after playing Three Kingdoms for about two weeks. Since then, I haven't touched Three Kingdoms at all.

Usually, I am one to enjoy Creative Assembly having carte blanche with an underrepresented historical setting. However, since Warhammer II, I'm beginning to realize their skillset is better suited to fantasy backdrops. For one thing, Warhammer II has a far greater variety of factions and unit types than Three Kingdoms. Additionally, in Warhammer II, each faction requires you to wrap your mind around a different playstyle or conceit, and that's mostly absent in Three Kingdoms. A faction like the Skaven plays entirely different from the Vampire Counts, and there aren't hard swings like that in Feudal China. Instead, in Three Kingdoms, I very often felt like I was up against the same mob of peasants and horse archers far longer than I would've liked. So, here I am playing a slightly broken Total War game from 2017 instead of a cosmetically better game.

Runner-up: Devil May Cry 5 -

Much like Three Kingdoms, Devil May Cry 5 is by no stretch of the words a bad game. However, it did inspire me to check out DmC Devil May Cry one more time, and I think I enjoyed that game more than this proper outing with Dante. I much prefer the singular vision Ninja Theory had with DmC than Capcom's by the numbers "love letter" to fans. Also, I think I prefer playing one protagonist throughout an action-adventure game than a motley crew of misfits that I need to level-up independently.

Most Disappointing: Chance the Rapper's "The Big Day"

Business Dave LIED TO YOU! THIS ALBUM IS TRASH!
Business Dave LIED TO YOU! THIS ALBUM IS TRASH!

Oh, Chance, how in the world were you able to make an album without a single bopper? While Chance the Rapper isn't exactly the most creative mind, he at least deserves credit in crafting some genuinely infectious music you cannot help but hum along to as you navigate your way through a largely abandoned mall. Moreover, he became a prominent name in hip hop despite the fact he'd only released mixtapes and free albums on streaming platforms. As such, people like myself waited with bated breath as the man worked on a full-length studio album with a proper budget and production team. And GOOD GOD is this album a horrible disappointment!

How this man manages to lose his style, lyrical talent, and sense of flow in a single album is beyond my comprehension. For one thing, the damn thing is loaded with god-awful skits and guest appearances. So much so, you almost forget you're listening to a Chance the Rapper album, and instead found yourself tuning into a failed In Living Color revival. The guests provide Chance with an excuse to blend different genres with hip-hop, but he so thoroughly misses the mark in each of these opportunities it hurts. And the lyrics are awful. Seriously, who the fuck allowed Chance to get away with lyrics like these:

"If you blink you might miss it; You gotta click it or ticket."

"Used to have an obsession with the 27 club. Now I'm turning 27, wanna make it to the 2070 club."

"My next tour it got eight legs like Daddy Long"

"Fuck money, shit, fuck, shit, tell 'em, burn it

I don't wanna, get it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it

Fuck it!"

Runner-up: The 2019/2020 Sacramento Kings -

As the lovely people on the Giant Bomb Discord can report, I'm a fan of basketball and a long-ailing supporter of the Sacramento Kings. This NBA season, wherein everything was wide open for the taking, the Sacramento Kings have fallen flat on their faces. The team has underperformed to such a degree that players are already requesting trades. It's a bad situation, and one with no easy fix for the foreseeable future. If the Kings make the playoffs before the end of the 2019/2020 season, mark my words, I will eat my own dick and balls.

Best Anime Of 2019: Mob Psycho 100 II

Please do not make me wait this long again for more Mob Psycho.
Please do not make me wait this long again for more Mob Psycho.

While One-Punch Man disappointed me, Mob Psycho managed to satiate my expectations. What surprised me most of all is how seamlessly the show managed FIVE story arcs within the scope of a single season. Admittedly, a majority of these arcs transpire over two to three episodes and serve as appetizers for the season closer. That said, they do a more than admirable job of setting up the show's mood and tone after a three-year-long hiatus. Indeed, the characters are as charming as ever, and the action set pieces are both visually striking and a joy to watch.

More importantly, Mob Psycho's season two finale feels like a reasonable stopping point. If Bones never gets around to making a third season, I won't be playing out an endless number of "what if" scenarios in my head. Where Toichiro finds himself both physically and as a character is perfect, and the same goes for Mob. I know a sequel has already been partially announced, and, unlike One-Punch Man, there's ample material to work with from the manga. Nonetheless, I cannot help but feel like we are in an anime-esque Futurama scenario wherein we'll watch half a dozen endings that each seem like legitimate conclusions.

Runner-up: Carole & Tuesday -

This show is by far my "guilty pleasure" of the year. It's not the most intellectually challenging show on the block, but at the same time, that shouldn't stop you from checking it out. Carole & Tuesday is a charming, slice-of-life anime that keeps you interested with a couple of characters full of gumption and drive.

Thing That Caused Me To Swear Gratuitously At A Television Screen: WWE Hell in a Cell (2019)

Fuck off!
Fuck off!

I thought this would be the year for Bray Wyatt. After languishing with his Wyatt Family gimmick, it seemed as if creative was finally allowing him to play around with his booking. The immediate result was his Fiend gimmick, which catapulted him back into main event status. Then, Hell in a Cell 2019 rolled around and squashed whatever momentum the man had, red-tinted lights and all. Never in a million years would I have predicted a Hell in a Cell match would end in a disqualification. Why would it, when the whole point of the match is to let one wrestler run amock on the other? On top of that, yet again, WWE creative continues to think they can use their television programming to wave away their PPV mistakes. Thus, the entire promotion feels rudderless as it seriously lacks long-term vision.

Sadly, what often gets overlooked is how good Hell in a Cell started this year. The two openers both provided technical and flashy wrestling that maintained my interest even as they went on a bit too long. Yes, the middle portion of the show petered off, but that's been a tradition with WWE since the mid-2000s. However, the ending of the show is by far the dumbest shit I have seen from WWE this decade. The fact creative cannot be fucked to remember the whole point of their gimmick matches, just shows how fucking out of touch Vince and company are in the year of our Lord, 2019. Even with the revival of the XFL drawing nigh, I think the fan hope of football drawing Vince away from wrestling is all but dead.

Runner-up: Everything Involving Orange Cassidy -

Unlike the rest of my fellow wrestling fans, I have not been as impressed by AEW's television debut. To be honest, I think the promotion has a bit of an identity crisis as it flouts an amalgam of comedy wrestlers, luchadors, indie darlings, and WWE rejects. Case in point, Orange Cassidy is doing his gimmicky one-note bullshit on the same program as Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho.

Worst Conclusion Or Ending: T.I.M.E Stories

Ppppprrrrrrrrrrtttt.....
Ppppprrrrrrrrrrtttt.....

For those of you still nominating Mouse Trap as your "Board Game of the Year," T.I.M.E Stories getting this award might seem like an odd choice. How could a board game have a "bad ending," let alone the worst ending of the year? Well, my dear readers, sit right down and let me weave you a tale about T.I.M.E Stories. First, from beginning to end, following T.I.M.E Stories costs roughly $350. That's because T.I.M.E Stories is a "Legacy" board game franchise, meaning each of its modules are single-use experiences that you cannot repeat. To T.I.M.E Stories' defense, for the first two years of its existence, it justified this format and its high price tag. The collaborative game wasn't just fun to play, but it also led to tense moments among avid board gamers. Additionally, the game was responsible for paving the way for a "Legacy" game renaissance wherein everyone, including your grandmother, was releasing a Legacy game.

Now, let's flash forward to when developer Space Cowboys announced T.I.M.E Stories would be concluding. After four years of quality experiences, T.I.M.E Stories: Madame would tie everything together into a neat bow in 2019. When the final module released earlier this year, the reviews were universally negative. For one thing, despite promises to the contrary, the ultimate episode completely ignored your party's choices in the previous modules, and instead, throttled you down a limited number of arbitrary pathways. Second, the expansion was almost entirely puzzle-based and lacked the combat-oriented action scenes from previous modules. What's more, the only major combat scene involved a short battle against a single opponent. Worse, when the game launched, some endings provided a QR Code, which due to a printing mishap, led to a 404 error. It was, for lack of a better word, a shit show.

Runner-up: Game Of Thrones -

I suspect many on this site are bound to call the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones one of the biggest "betrayals" of 2019, and that's with good reason. However, what I think most forget is how good the final season was outside of that one episode. Shit, even the series finale ends the show on a positive note.

Worst Use Of 2019 By An Entertainer Or Content Creator: Logic

These groceries should go straight to the garbage.
These groceries should go straight to the garbage.

Oh, Logic, I know you mean well. Nevertheless, your two albums this year were unforgivably lousy. Logic started the year on a rough note with "Supermarket," a musical accompaniment to a book. Which, I need you to think about before we continue. Someone, out there in the universe, wrote a book and thought they should have Logic write a soundtrack for their book. Oh, and by the way, it's a rock album. Logic, who has no experience with rock outside of a few guests on his mixtapes, thought he should try a new genre of music for the soundtrack to a book. As you might predict, it was a hot mess of conflicting musical styles and an overall disaster.

Then, back in May, Logic released a full-length album titled "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," and it's equally atrocious. An argument could be made that Logic has, since his explosion on the mixtape scene, relied on copying his fellow artists more than he should. However, on this album, while he's clearly pulling inspiration from other artists, that's not what makes the whole experience entirely disgusting. No, what makes Dangerous Mind one of the worst listening experiences of the year is the fact more than half of it is an elongated rant about why the internet is "full of haters." Additionally, on the album, Logic envisions himself in a fantasy world where he should be treated as an equal to the likes of Tyler the Creator and Meek Mills. If you thought Kanye's musical outing this year was a painful exercise of egoism, then you should stay as far away from this trainwreck as possible.

Runner-up: Bobby Lashley In WWE -

What WWE has done with Bobby Lashley in 2019 feels like a discarded script from the Attitude Era. His abhorrent angle with Lana not only has discredited him, but it has done a lot to undermine Rusev, who earlier in this decade was a monster heel only John Cena could dream of beating.

Best Mechanic: The Wild Area (Pokemon Sword/Shield)

Also, screw the haters, I LOVE THIS GAME!
Also, screw the haters, I LOVE THIS GAME!

Of the many "hot takes" on this blog, my stance on Pokémon Sword/Shield might be the second most controversial. The most contentious one is coming up shortly, but when it comes to Sword/Shield, I think the game's "reforms" to the standard Pokemon formula are a step in the right direction, albeit far from perfect. I understand long-standing Pokemon fans feel the game is too short and lacking in content. These are understandable grievances, especially when you consider the game clocks in at around twenty-ish hours.

However, I think it is entirely within the realm of possibility that Nintendo learns from this game and uses several of its mechanics as "quality of life" features in the future. Take, for example, The Wild Area in Sword/Shield, a feature I felt was a godsend to a lapse Pokemon fan like myself. I don't think hardcore fans understand everyone doesn't have thirty to forty hours to spare to get the Pokemon they want to own. The Wild Lands fixes that issue and is, by far, the most compelling accessibility feature the series has added since allowing players to fight each other online. With it, everyone can be perfectly content to show off their army of Pokemon, and not just the person who can play non-stop for fifty hours.

Runner-up: The Junction System (Final Fantasy VIII Remastered) -

I have a lot to say about Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, and not all of it is positive. However, I am forever grateful that Square-Enix did not listen to critics and remove the game's junction system. Is the mechanic broken? Yes, but removing it would gut the whole appeal of playing Final Fantasy VIII, which is, at least in my opinion, stealing people's cards, refining them into magic, and murdering everything in front of you.

Worst Piece Of Entertainment "Saved" By My Nostalgia: Final Fantasy VIII - Remastered

Square-Enix disappoints yet again!
Square-Enix disappoints yet again!

Speaking of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, let's talk about how Final Fantasy VIII fans deserve better than what they got with this questionable remaster. First off, it's NOT a "remaster." It's a port with some HD textures and better music. None of the backgrounds have been touched up, even though Square-Enix was so proud of its ability to run an algorithmic game engine to up-res the textures for the Final Fantasy IX port. Here, you have to watch two to three different generations of technology interact with each other. It's not just hard on the eyes; it makes playing the game and appreciating its story next to impossible. The game is hard-locked to output at 16:9, and that improved soundtrack I mentioned? There are random times when the game outputs the MIDI soundtrack instead of the PlayStation One OST.

But, through thick and thin, I cannot hate this release. It's not possible for me to hate my first Final Fantasy game. And, if anything, I'm glad future generations will have some form of Final Fantasy VIII to play and break as I did when I played it for the first time. Lastly, whenever I talk about Final Fantasy VIII, I feel inspired to recite the final paragraph from my Final Fantasy VIII series to highlight why I still recommend playing it:

No game swings, misses, and keeps on swinging like Final Fantasy VIII. As a package, Final Fantasy VIII is an unmitigated failure. Its gameplay is hilariously broken, its story is a trash fire, and it is a slog to play. However, there is no game like Final Fantasy VIII. It is so earnest about what it attempts and fails to accomplish. I cannot help but look at the game with a sense of broken nostalgia. I realize it's not a great game, but I love it. You would have to be crazy to want to play Final Fantasy VIII, and that is exactly why you should.

Runner-Up: Stellaris -

Stellaris, and Paradox for that matter, have been through a bit of a roller-coaster of a year. Imperator: Rome had a rough launch, and Stellaris got another update that necessitates relearning whole gameplay mechanics. I still like playing Stellaris, especially when it comes to interacting with new alien lifeforms, but I don't think I have it within me to relearn how to play this game a fourth or fifth time.

Best Use Of 2019 By An Entertainer Or Content Creator: Chris Jericho

I'm not gonna lie, I totally thought about buying one of his gimmick bottles of sparkling wine.
I'm not gonna lie, I totally thought about buying one of his gimmick bottles of sparkling wine.

Despite my earlier grousing, there's no denying Chris Jericho's current run in AEW has exceeded the totality of his work in WWE. I'm not joking, I rank Jericho's time in AEW above his feud against Shawn Michaels, and that's saying something! If anything, it speaks volumes of how much of a worker Jericho has been in AEW. Additionally, the man deserves credit for reinventing himself and becoming a critical lynchpin to everything AEW books.

Thus far, Jericho's promos have become one of the most exciting parts of AEW. Though his strengths on the microphone shine a spotlight on the younger talent, that's not on Jericho to fix. Likewise, while many were initially disappointed when he retained the AEW World Championship, it was the right call, and he's proven as much every day he's on television. Finally, he's busted his ass to help everyone he's wrestled look good this year. Case in point, I initially thought the "10-minute challenge" was stupid, but lo and behold, Chris Jericho made me eat my words. Everything Jericho works with is a win-win for everyone involved, and it's been a pure joy to watch.

Runner-up: Lizzo -

For everything that was 2019, I desperately needed an infectious performer like Lizzo in my life. To anyone who hasn't yet listened to her debut LP, I don't think you're ready for all the self-love and confidence Lizzo exudes. And if that's something you need in your life right now, come on over and join the party!

Ostrich Award (a.k.a. Most Objectively Good Game I Did Not Enjoy): Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I told you to have you pitchforks ready, didn't I?
I told you to have you pitchforks ready, didn't I?

Alright, I did warn you there were a few "hot takes" in this blog I expect would get me in trouble. This award is undoubtedly the one I expect will get the most blowback, so, at the very least, promise not to harass my family and friends as I plead my case. First, I admit Fire Emblem: Three Houses represents a high-water mark in terms of characterization and storytelling in the Fire Emblem franchise. Likewise, for the most part, it's a pleasant game that mostly marries its JRPG and strategy gameplay to its benefit. Finally, I'm grateful this game got rid of all the waifu shit from the 3DS games that were a total embarrassment to watch. Where I start to push back is the game's painfully elongated playtime and lack of difficulty.

I think the first problem I faced when playing Three Houses is that I just do not have the hundreds of hours to see one of its, let alone three, endings. When I play games, I often have to multitask while doing so. As a result, I cannot give Fire Emblem the undying attention it demands every minute I play it. Yes, I realize this long playtime allows the game to do some compelling things with its characters. At the same time, I dislike the direction the franchise has taken since Sacred Stones, and think it's time for me to walk away from the series as a whole. Finally, the lack of balance and difficulty for large swaths of the game left me bored. I really dislike the middle act of the game and how often you go into battles knowing you are going to win, but still have to go through the same ten to fifteen-minute rigamarole.

Runner-up: Katana Zero -

I won't beat around the bush. I think this game is an inferior version of Hotline Miami with as off-putting depictions of mental health as Hotline Miami. If you are looking for something that drips style and aesthetics, then this should be right up your alley. That said, it wasn't my cup of tea.

Help I'm Trapped in Sysiphean Torment Award (a.k.a. Most Arbitrarily Long): Final Fantasy XII

I really wanted to like this game more than I did.
I really wanted to like this game more than I did.

Final Fantasy XII has a lot to cherish for Final Fantasy fans. Its ensemble cast is mostly enjoyable and features the most robust supporting cast in franchise history. Its antagonist, and his allies, are equal shareholders in a geopolitical plot that is riveting to watch. Its production values are above and beyond excellent, and its backdrops are stellar across the board. However, this game overstays its welcome by its fortieth hour and keeps on going with no end in sight.

I won't reiterate my overall dislike of Final Fantasy XII's mechanics, because I wrote a nigh 10,000-word essay on precisely that topic. However, the more I think about Final Fantasy XII, the more I realize how I would have enjoyed it more if it were ten to twenty hours shorter. For one thing, the default playing speed is atrocious. So much so, the Zodiac Age Remaster allows you to play the game four times faster than its standard rate. But even with this quality-of-life addition, the levels are still painfully long and repetitious. Every battle and dungeon requires an extra three or four steps, and the side quests are Byzantine to a fault. It was a total chore finishing this game, and the last thing I need is for video games to become work.

Runner-up: Fear Inoculum -

At eighty hours minutes, Fear Inoculum is just too long a run time even for a master like Maynard to manage. Speaking of Maynard, his usually strong vocals often fall to the wayside to make room for noodly guitar solos and bloated drum sessions. Which is apt for a musical act like John Legend or John Mayer, but not Tool.

Worst Game Of My Year 2019: Final Fantasy II

God, this fucking game. You have no idea....
God, this fucking game. You have no idea....

Holy shit, where do I even start? Right off the bat, I want all of you to know why the final entry of my Final Fantasy II blog series is perpetually on hiatus. That game, for the first time in my life, broke me. Now, I was able to finish it, but I've been looking at the same partially complete word document for two weeks and am STILL at a total loss of words of where to go next. Mark my words, I will find a way to end that series, but it's been a chore trying to avoid saying, "this fucking game sucks" eighteen million times and calling it a day.

Final Fantasy II is a broken mess of a game with little to no upside. I guess it's fascinating to play for a few hours so one can think about where the franchise could have gone, but that's saying much. I am grateful I played it, as doing so gave me a better sense of how far the series has come since its rocky inception. Nonetheless, you have no idea how fucking dreadful that game is to play. Seriously, if all you know about that game is punching yourself in the face, then you don't understand half of what makes that game terrifying. It's by far the most cursed video game Square-Enix has ever made, and I will hear no arguments to the contrary.

Runner-up: Bionic Commando -

2019 started with me playing Bionic Commando as a bit of a mental exercise. Much like Final Fantasy II, Bionic Commando is a time capsule into a period of video games that no longer exists. Its messy design is both a testament to the ambition of B-tier games of the early 2000s, as well as an indictment on why the B-tier game no longer exists.

Best Game Of My Year 2019: Outer Wilds

What a masterpiece of a video game.
What a masterpiece of a video game.

Outer Wilds is a special video game. Exploring its clock-like world in bite-sized chunks was unlike any game experience I have ever had. Furthermore, it offers a complete package of gameplay, storytelling, and creative gall. From beginning to end, I felt mechanically and intellectually challenged to utilize its structure to explore and appreciate its world. And as I did, I uncovered what I consider one of the most poignant and touching tragedies in video games. It's hard to say one "loves" such a deeply affecting story, but that's how I felt when I concluded my time with Outer Wilds.

If anything, I consider Outer Wilds a game that should be taught as a case study on what the medium is capable of accomplishing. In my opinion, it shows sandbox environments have so much more potential than being vessels for item collection. It also underscores that beautiful skyboxes are capable of conveying a wholeness to a game's world rather than just being fancy window dressing. And its story pleads the case that saying "goodbye" is an essential step in life, and nostalgia can be poisonous. Like I said, Outer Wilds is a unique game that's going to stick with me, and that's certainly worth something.

Runner-up: Disco Elysium -

On the flipside, Disco Elysium is a love letter that thoroughly warmed my heart, and I am grateful exists. It's nowhere nears as ambitious as Outer Wilds, but that doesn't stop it from crafting a complete world that showcases dozens of memorable vignettes and one-off character moments.

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Zeik

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#1  Edited By Zeik

Three Houses is easily my game of the year, but I don't think your complaints are necessarily wrong.

I had fun on my first playthrough on hard, and Maddening is legitimately challenging and fun, but not including it from the start and not letting you change the difficulty mid-game was a big mistake on their part. I think a lot more people would have left the game more satisfied if they had been able to bump the difficulty up to hard after realizing normal was a cakewalk, or wait to bump it up to maddening later. But I can't blame anyone for not wanting to start over to up the difficulty after 10/20/30+ hours.

And I do think most of the routes are kinda too long. Considering you need to play every route to fully grasp the story they didn't need to make them like 70+ hours each. My first playthrough was Black Eagles, which is the shortest route, and I've seen people actually hold that against it, but every route should have been closer to that length.

But that aside, I still love the game, both the gameplay and story and characters. Even with it's fumbles they dramatically improved the experience for me over past games, which I often liked, but never loved, for various reasons.

Oh, and Mob Psycho 100 is rad. I only got around to watching S1 like last year, so while I regretted not watching it sooner, it was nice to not have to wait too long for S2. Which has since become like my second favorite anime of all time.

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ArbitraryWater

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With your take on Final Fantasy II, I think it's only fair that you examine some of the Romancing SaGa games to see where that Kawazu lineage went from there.

I will admit I absolutely forgot that One Punch Man season 2 was a thing that came out in 2019. It's been a pretty slow year for me and anime consumption, but the seasonal zeitgeist is such that I couldn't tell you what shows were relevant this summer except "Kimetsu no Yaiba, probably." That said, of the roughly four anime series I watched from 2019, Mob Psycho II is easily the best of them.

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Rebel_Scum

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Fear Inoculum is 80 mins long not hours. Unless you were exaggerating on purpose that is :D

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#4  Edited By ZombiePie  Moderator

@zeik: Thank you so much for your input and impressions about Three Houses. I think where my perspective on the game comes from is that of a fan of the Famicom and Super Famicom games. I miss the linear, but, pan-generational scope of the original games and greatly miss the attempts to blend the gameplay with the storytelling. Yied Massacre of Thracia 776.

But again, part of my anemia towards Three Houses is due to my present circumstances as a person. I don't have the time to get invested in a Fire Emblem as these games continue to require too much of a time investment from the player.

Fear Inoculum is 80 mins long not hours. Unless you were exaggerating on purpose that is :D

That was indeed a typo, and I think I found a pretty clever way to address that mistake on my part.

With your take on Final Fantasy II, I think it's only fair that you examine some of the Romancing SaGa games to see where that Kawazu lineage went from there.

I will admit I absolutely forgot that One Punch Man season 2 was a thing that came out in 2019. It's been a pretty slow year for me and anime consumption, but the seasonal zeitgeist is such that I couldn't tell you what shows were relevant this summer except "Kimetsu no Yaiba, probably." That said, of the roughly four anime series I watched from 2019, Mob Psycho II is easily the best of them.

  • To your first point, I'll page @jeffrud and see if he wants to start a multi-episodic poddcast series on Unlimited SaGa. Each episode we play an hour or two of the game and share where we are in terms of recognizing our poor life choices. It could be the video game equivalent to "The Worst Idea of All Time" podcast. Come on Jeff, this is your destiny!
  • One-Punch Man's metric rise and eventually fall was shocking, especially when you consider how big a deal the first season of the show was at the time. That said, I think Mob Psycho basically ate One-Punch Man's lunch.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Man... wrestling in 2019... sigh. Jericho aside... man. Man.

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dpedal1

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Man....I loved Fear Inoculum. Everything about that album blew me away. Got a chance to see Tool in concert too and the songs live were amazing! I also happen to really like FF 12......coincidence......I think not :)

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I honestly find Fallen Order’s combat more enjoyable than Sekiro, I feel the parrying in Sekiro is wonky to a point with quite a few of the bosses to a point where I find the only option to succeed is to keep tabbing the block button. The telegraphed windows in Fallen Order felt more balanced than what I experienced with Sekiro, I also just appreciate the option to adjust the difficulty alone in Fallen Order. In Sekiro there were even a lot of secondary bosses where I feel I was fighting the camera more than the actual boss, like there are so many annoying and forgettable secondary bosses in this game almost immediately between each other.

Fallen Order does have its faults though like the platforming and while the story sometimes feels like huge chunks of it was cut out, it was still more interesting than whatever was going on in Sekiro. Just my two cents.