I Went to NieR: Orchestra Concert re:12018: A Report From the Scene

Last weekend, I and many other people traveled to the faraway land of Chicago to attend the...wait, what was this thing called...

<looks at my notes>

..."NieR: Orchestra Concert re:12018"....

Sure, yeah, the NieR concert they're touring around right now. Here is my detailed report.

Before The Show:

Since the release of 2017's NieR:Automata, there's been no shortage albums, concerts, and NieR chill music mixes to study/work to all over the place. In fact, there's a decent chance you've listened to these soundtracks over and over or watched one of these concerts uploaded to YouTube.

To my knowledge, all of these concerts have so far taken place in Japan. Which is one of the reasons why I lost my goddamn mind when Square Enix announced that they were bringing one of these performances to the United States. Something I never thought I would see suddenly became a reality. So my friend and I, talking about how this was likely a now or never situation, decided to fly to Chicago to experience this for ourselves.

Going to the NieR concert, I had a similar feeling to when I attended a Hatsune Miku concert a few years earlier. It's a little jarring to be in a normal environment one minute and then seeing a gathering of YoRHa's the next. Walking up to the main entrance, my friend and I followed a couple dressed in white and black maid outfits. Inside, nearly everywhere you looked there was somebody cosplaying. In the concert hall, you can see a lot of white wigs scattered everywhere. A few rows in front of us, there were four people—a 2B, a 9S, an A2, and a 60—each carrying Minnesota Vikings jackets. There were people holding and/or giving each other white flowers, which would probably make a lot more sense to me if I ever played the original NieR. While waiting for the show to start, we talked to the people next to us. It turns out everybody traveled from somewhere to be there. Being in place like that, talking to strangers who are really excited for the exact same reason you are, and standing next to cosplayers who put in a ton of effort creating those incredible costumes is just a nice, wholesome, sweet moment.

While waiting for the show to start, the scale of the production really sat in. The concert I embedded in this here blog has a dozen or so different musicians. For this show, there was around a hundred musicians, a choir, and a decently sized screen. Now, since I was at The Orchestra, I wasn't going to be that guy who was going to use their electronic devices during a performance like that, so unfortunately I don't have any footage of the actual show. However, I did take a few photos when it seemed appropriate. Like when Emil sang their store jingle right before the show started. If that doesn't get y'all in the mood, I don't know what will.

Based Emil
Based Emil

The Concert:

With the concert itself, I was pleasantly surprised by how much music they played. I honestly had no idea how long they were going to go or what the set list was going to be. Turns out, there were two sets, both lasting about an hour each.

First, there was a NieR Replicant / Gestalt set. I never played the original NieR, but I listened to the original soundtrack a lot throughout last year. That's why I have a pretty strong connection to these songs even when they are divorced from the story. They ended up playing basically all of the big hits for me, such as "Song of the Ancients", "Ashes of Dreams", "Kaine", and "Emil". One thing I particularly enjoyed was how they used diary entries between songs, footage from the game, on screen text to help retell the game's story. As somebody who has listened to songs like "Shadowlord", but sure as hell had no idea what a Shadowlord was, this was a neat way to help stream this set together.

After an hour's worth of NieR music and a twenty or so minute intermission, it was time for the NieR: Automata portion. Similarly with the NieR Gestalt / Replicant half, the Automata set was filled with bangers ranging from "City Ruins", "A Beautiful Song", "The Tower", "Amusement Park", and—of course—"The Weight of the World".

If the NieR set list was designed to re-tell the story, Automata was more like a mood piece. The screen showed various cut scenes from the game and pieced together some stuff like...showing endings C and D, and dramatizing ending E with a pretty baller lyric music video...they also showed stuff like Simone giving a monologue, and a bullet hell, but the bullets were images of the machines like Pascal. You could tell that the Automata portion was structured around the assumption that basically everybody there played through at least that game. In fact, at one point during the show they mentioned that Yoko Taro helped cut together the NieR Gestalt / Replicant footage, because he figured not a whole lot of people played the first game. Even though they both had a different style and flair to them, the two sets were well done and were effective ways to present those games.

As for the music, it was about as great as you would expect. Being in the same room as an orchestra and choir bringing those songs to life was something truly to behold. The concert had a nice flow between more dramatic songs like "Ashes of Dreams", to more quieter songs like "The Tower", to the more bombastic songs like "The Dark Colossus Destroys All" from the original NieR, which was the final song of the show. When they played that song with the full force of the orchestra, you can imagine they picked that song as the finale as if they wanted to remind you one last time how much power something like that can produce.

Overall, between the song selection, the presentation, and the performance of everybody there, the NieR concert definitely met my expectations.

The Guests:

At the beginning and end of the concert, the NieR concerts had a number of special guests.

First, there was Keiichi Okabe, the composer for both NieR and NieR: Automata. They opened the show by talking about how great it was to bring this concert around the world and thanked everybody for coming out. Next was Emi Evans, who came out on stage to sing "Kaine" and "The Weight of the World". Up next as the concert was coming to a close—HOLY SHIT YOKO TARO!!!

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Holy guacamole, I saw Yoko Taro! That's wild! I didn't meet him or anything, but, yo, that was still pretty dope.

From left to right: Yoko Taro, Emi Evans, Keiichi Okabe, and conductor Arnie Roth.
From left to right: Yoko Taro, Emi Evans, Keiichi Okabe, and conductor Arnie Roth.

Conclusion:

Overall, I was really happy I managed to make it out the NieR concert. This is probably my favorite orchestral concert I've attended, let alone of the video game variety. There are some video game concerts that won't require too much convincing for me to go to if I had the opportunity. However, hearing NieR's beautiful and haunting score come to life like that was something else. The production that went into retelling those stories and connected all of the songs together was just icing on the cake. Who knows if they will keep doing these concerts or where they will be held if they do so. That said, if you love the soundtrack to NieR, I wholeheartedly recommend going if you ever have the chance.

Oh, And Also: Chicago!

As an added bonus to seeing one of my favorite video game soundtracks played live, I also went to Chicago! This trip was also an excuse for my friend and I to eat some damn good food. Like going to Kuma's Corner, a kickass burger place that plays heavy metal music, to eat this monster...

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...and going to a pizza place that served this pizza shaped lasagna.

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Like this pizza just has sliced tomatoes on it. You're crazy Chicago!

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Clagnaught's Games of the Year, 2019 Edition

We continue to be in the worst timeline, yet the games still come.

But first, some housekeeping:

Honorary Awards:

Old Game of the Year:

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Best Game I Put On My List Last Year:

Slay the Spire

Best Game I'm Waiting To Leave Early Access:

Hades

Best Game I Wish I Had Other People To Play With:

Remnant: From the Ashes

Best Game I Don't Know How To Play:

Dota Underlords

Best Premise That Wasn't That Great Of A Game:

Untitled Goose Game

Best Use of Hatsune Miku:

Cytus II

Best "Boy Y'All Sure Do Love This Game For A Reason I'm Not Seeing" Game:

Outer Wilds

Best "Hey, I Finally Started (But Haven't Finished) Playing Steins;Gate!" Game:

Steins;Gate Elite

2019's Unofficial Eleventh Best Game Of The Year:

Baba Is You

Game Is Great. Game Is Difficult. Game Is Unfinished.
Game Is Great. Game Is Difficult. Game Is Unfinished.

Best Games I Didn't / Barely(*) Played:

  1. AI: The Somnium Files(*)
  2. Apex Legends
  3. Disco Elysium(*)
  4. Indivisible
  5. Outer Wilds(*)
  6. The Outer Worlds(*)
  7. Pokémon Sword/Shield
  8. Remnant: From the Ashes
  9. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Disco Elysium is just one of the games I couldn't fully commit to this year.
Disco Elysium is just one of the games I couldn't fully commit to this year.

Runners Up (Unranked):

  1. Baba Is You
  2. Devil May Cry 5
  3. Dota Underlords
  4. Grindstone
  5. Muse Dash
  6. Ring Fit Adventure
  7. SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  8. Steins;Gate Elite
  9. Telling Lies
  10. Untitled Goose Game
It took me forever to finally play Steins;Gate, but hey, I'm like 25% through it now!!
It took me forever to finally play Steins;Gate, but hey, I'm like 25% through it now!!

Game Of The Year:

While there are many games I wish I could have finished, there are two in particular I really wish I did. I liked them so much as is I'm including them on this list, but I have a hunch those games will be closer towards the top of my list when I'm finally done with them.

#10) Just Dance Now / Just Dance 2020:

I know it's too early to be saying this, but no, this isn't a goof. It turns out I really like Just Dance. The reason why I started playing these games is because I wanted to have an aerobic exercise I could do without thinking too much about "working out". I learned pretty fast that, 1) Moving around like a dork to pop music can be pretty fun, and 2) When you do like 5 to 10 songs in a row, you get a decent workout before you realize it.

Now I know exactly what you're thinking: "Hey, Just Dance has been around forever. Maybe you would have always liked these games. Why put it on your list of 2019 games?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Thankfully the answer is quite simple. One word, two colors:

BLACKPINK.

Wait, wait, wait, please don't leave! I swear on my life this is the only mention of K-pop on this list!
Wait, wait, wait, please don't leave! I swear on my life this is the only mention of K-pop on this list!

As an occasional listener of the K-pop, I know at least three things about BLACKPINK:

  1. They are in your area.
  2. They are the revolution.
  3. Their songs slap.

Just Dance 2020 features the song "Kill This Love", which I consider to be a banger. This is my list, therefore I can make any argument I want, including that adding this one song alone is a significant contribution to the series, making Just Dance 2020 a noteworthy release in the Just Dance franchise, therefore it's on this list.

#9) Judgment [Work in Progress]

I started playing Judgment at the exact wrong time. I got about 10 hours into it and then life happened and then it ended up being so long since I last played it I'm thinking that I should probably just restart the whole game. In 2020 I most definitely will replay and finish Judgment, because I loved what I saw of this game so far. Without a doubt it is adjacent to the Yakuza series, but that's alright by me. I honestly don't have a ton to say about this, besides how this game is hitting a lot of the marks that made me like Yakuza 0 so much.

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#8) Sayonara Wild Hearts

As promised, we have left the K-pop zone behind us. Now let us enter the synth-pop kingdom. Sayonara Wild Hearts is part concept album, part runner. When I first picked this up on Apple Arcade and tried playing it on my iPhone, it didn't immediately click with me. A few days later, I tried it out again on my Apple TV. While you can play this with a touchscreen, having this on a TV with surround sound pumping out those cool songs really sold me on the experience. Beyond that, the more I got into the game, the more impressed I was. At the beginning, you're just skateboarding and it's pretty straight forward. But over time you start riding mystic forest deer, flying through the air, surfing on hoverboards, and get trapped in a VR headset. This is a game you could easily beat in about 90 minutes, but it is a rad 90 minutes filled to the brim with styyyyyyyyyyle. Below I'm linking a video to the ending of the game, which is one of my favorite sequences in a game all year and shows how ridiculously gorgeous and crazy this game gets.

#7) Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is easily a better game than the original Super Mario Maker, but it is unfortunately on a lesser platform for this incredibly specific type of game. I definitely lost weeks making okay-ish levels and fumbling around with some concepts I never finalized and the community seems to be surfacing cooler stuff this time around. The main disappointment I have is it's significantly more difficult to watch other people both create and play levels. The first Super Mario Maker was on my 2015 GOTY list largely because of the Giant Bomb Makes Mario streams. I missed seeing people like Dan and Jeff create some bullshit. I miss stuff like the Goomba Pit. Between that and how the creation tools are laid out on the Switch, my time with Super Mario Maker 2 was both incredibly fulfilling, but ultimately short-lived.

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#6) Control [Work in Progress]

Currently I'm about at the halfway point in Control. I know a lot of what this game has to offer, but I'm also aware there's still so much more to explore. I still don't know what's up with the Hiss, or what happened to Darling, or where's that refrigerator everybody keeps talking about. I don't have all of the powers yet, but the current unlocks I do have are a blast to use. It's so satisfying to pick up a fire extinguisher and throw it at a guy to see how that dude is just gone now. The balance between the amount you can use the service weapon and your telekinesis powers feels just right. The combat has a a great flow between shooting enemies and using your abilities, all while prioritizing enemies and going to different pieces of cover.

On top all that, Control has incredible world building filled with unsettling orders from The Board, slick voice over work from Max Payne himself, FMV, audio recordings, and memos. This is my number one game I wish I finished in December, but I just don't think I'll be able to see the rest of it over the next few days. If the second half is just as good as the first, then there's a high probability Control would have been even higher on this list.

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#5) Resident Evil 2

I never played the original Resident Evil 2, but this remake feels like a warm blanket. With how so much of the AAA industry slapping games-as-a-service stuff onto everything, a straight forward horror game that's terrifying and campy (while being just grounded enough) feels nice. The small touches to the shooting, camera controls, and inventory modernizes this game so much. Capcom found a wonderful balance between a well playing game that still feels like a survival horror game. On the scale between "This is a horror game and it has to control like shit, because it will make it more tense" to "This has to be the embodiment of a Michael Bay action movie, because that's what sells nowadays", Resident Evil 2 falls right in the middle. I was so happy to play a game like this in 2019, and I can't wait to do it again with the remake of Resident Evil 3.

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#4) Life Is Strange 2

Based on the general vibe I got with DONTNOD's sequel to Life Is Strange, it sure doesn't seem like a lot of people played this game, which is a damn shame. Life Is Strange 2 is an incredibly impactful road trip game taking two brothers through Washington all the way down through Arizona. Unlike the first Life Is Strange which takes place in one town over the course of five days with a handful of key characters, Life Is Strange 2 takes place over the course of a year, through numerous locales, with a dozen or so truly well developed people the brothers meet throughout their journey. The game does have some heavy hitting moments, but it also equally nails the quiet ones. Stuff like Sean talking with his father, chatting with Lyla, meeting some strangers on the open road, and....certain other characters I'm not going to mention due to spoilers. (Sean and Daniel's mom and, wait what, David Madsen is in this game?!). Basically every side character has their moment to shine.

While I sincerely adore the first Life Is Strange, there's no doubt some stuff felt a little off about it. There are lines that human teenagers in the United States probably wouldn't say. One of the most impressive things about Life Is Strange 2 is how authentic and sincere everything is. It is one of the most grounded games I've played in recent memory.

Finally, having the story impacted by both Sean—the player character's—decisions and Daniel—who is influenced and receives guidance from his older brother—is a well done advancement of this type of adventure game. While you have full agency over Sean, there are times where Daniel acts based on how you helped raise him. This can range from minor things like if he curses when he shouldn't to larger decisions like how will he use his powers in a tight situation. Seeing how the game plays out differently based on how you raise your brother adds some more color to the typical binary, good / bad choices in a lot of these type of games.

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#3) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Yo, this game is so much fun! It's also so god damn stupid in the best ways. It's a game that encourages you to break it apart just 'cus. It's a game that feels like they said "Yes" to every idea. Should there be like a hundred different weapons? Yes. Should some of those weapons have fighting game style input commands? Yeah. Should you fight Solid Snake welding a samurai sword, Dracula, a dragon, a slot machine, ninjas, and a giant cat? Hell yeah!! Putting aside how silly this game gets, I was legitimately surprised by how much fun I had traversing that castle, building out my character, and killing fools with the biggest sword I could get my hands on. Seeing this game in development and even watching the trailer that boasted about how they were fixing stuff like their "poop" art style, it sure looked like this game was going to bomb. Turns out, it ended up being my favorite playing game this year.

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#2) Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The reason why Fire Emblem is one of my favorite games of the year is for its story and characters. Playing through the Black Eagle House and seeing the places Edelgard and Company go is one of the most captivating experiences I've had all year. The game took characters who at first glance look two dimensional—the sleepy guy, the shy girl, the creepy guy, etc.—and fleshed them out to an amazing degree. One of the things that helps develop these characters is how in addition to your interactions with the students of Garreg Mach, they also talk amongst themselves. Want to know why two characters seemingly don't like each other? If their relationship develops you can hear them talk about it. Even pairing two people who at first glance may not have much to talk about can be revealing. For example, with one of these random pairings, a classmate discovered another student's hidden secret you would normally find out about until much later at the beginning of their relationship, almost by accident. All of the relationships either provide insight into the world, reveals something about a character's personality and backstory, or just turns out to be a funny story. It is so well done, it makes me want this type of system in the next Persona game.

So far I've only been talking about the social elements of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. In terms of the strategy elements I did enjoy them, but it also wasn't my favorite tactics gameplay in recent years (those honors go to XCOM 2 and Valkyria Chronicles 4). The stuff around the edges, like instructing your students and how they unlock new classes, is absolutely fantastic and rewarding. The battles themselves handle scale and drama remarkably well. That said, I also felt like I was overpowered for the vast majority of the game. At a certain point, my professor was impossible to kill, and many of my students somehow ended up 5 to 10 levels higher than most of the enemies, which is pretty significant since that means they essentially can't be killed in battle. It's fun to play out those battles, but there were times I didn't feel like anybody was in any real danger. Maybe I would have felt differently if I played on a higher difficulty or if I turned on perma-death. I didn't want to mess with reloading saves whenever somebody died. However, I also didn't realize I could end up rewinding time like 13 times per battle, which makes that possibility effectively zero later in the game.

As a complete package, I like just about everything in Three Houses, especially the social elements and where Edelgard's story goes. Throughout 2020, I know I am going to play through the Golden Deer and the Blue Lion houses to get the full experience. I can't wait to see the other sides of that conflict and to learn more about the 15 or so characters I still know very little about.

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#1) Devotion

I'm just going to get right to it: Devotion is a masterpiece. There's a lot to unpack with Red Candle Games's second release and I don't want to list off too many bullet points. At the same time, there's a lot to talk about with this game and why it's such an achievement.

First and foremost, Devotion is a psychological horror game in a similar vein of previous horror games like Silent Hill 2. While it is a horror game that has the occasional jump scare and a few other things one would expect from this type of game, there is so much more to uncover.

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It's a tragedy that breaks my heart. It's a complicated story about a dysfunctional family that treats its characters like they are actual people without relying on stereotypes or caricatures that are often seen in these type of stories. While Devotion is a bleak game that goes to some really dark places, there are also some sincerely heartfelt moments. When these scenes play out, I forgot about how I was in a terrible place and the built up tension washes away, at least for a moment. When it takes the time to explore these quiet scenes, I never felt itching to get back to the dread or the scares as I was so engrossed by the game's story. That said, when the unsettling imagery resurfaces and the scares do come back they are super effective, because of those moments that allows you to catch your breath.

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While Devotion covers similar ground found in other media, not just video games, it still feels refreshing. Red Candle Games, which is based out of Taiwan, had a similar vibe with their previous game, Detention. Their games explore some universal themes and issues from the perspective Taiwanese people. For example, some of the many things Devotion tackles include gender issues and patriarchal family structures in both a relatable way, but also unique for the time and place this story takes place. At the same time, there's so much stuff to uncover between learning about different customs, pieces of folklore, or the random objects in the locations you are exploring.

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The cultural touches are also highlighted through the intricate level design and the attention to detail the developers put into the game. While the game at times plays out with dream-like logic where things happen in a fantastical way, the spaces you explore also feel real and lived in. In addition to how the environment looks, this is also seen in the various notes and storytelling elements scattered throughout the game. The use of collectible notes is one of the best implementations of this type of system I have seen in a game. On top of all that, parts of Devotion's story is told through a shocking amount of FMV. For a three to four hour game made by a small indie studio making their first 3D game, the amount of detail layered throughout the entire game is incredible.

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In terms of actually playing this video game, it has some similarities to games like P.T. Or at least it seems that way at first. Without saying specifically what happens or what some of the unique tricks play out as you explore the environment, Devotion continued to surprise me. About every ten to fifteen minutes, I would stop and think, "Oh man, that's so cool!" Generally speaking, when I play through a game I'll take a few screenshots. Usually it's for me to document something funny or for the purposes of gathering images for this here GOTY blog. On average, I'll walk away with anywhere from three to ten screenshots. With Devotion, I have 138. Between a well written note to a beautiful / horrifically designed room to something unexpected the game ended up doing, Devotion has probably broke my record for the number of screenshots I have taken while playing a game, because there was so much I wanted to capture.

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At the time of this writing, Devotion has been pulled from Steam and is unavailable to for purchase. There are plenty of articles out there talking about what went down and its aftermath, but here's one story from Eurogamer I enjoyed reading at the time if you want to read more about it. Red Candle Games has given a few statements and interviews talking about Devotion's development and have responded to the controversy that unfortunately plagued the narrative around this game. They have indicated that they would like to see Devotion return to storefronts. Unfortunately, the game is still not available anywhere. The people who are able to play it today bought the game when it launched. One of the reasons I'm spending so much time talking about this game and including multiple screenshots is because many people will likely never play this game or know what it is. While I am hopeful Devotion sees the light of day again, there is a real possibility that may never happen.

If you have no way to play Devotion, I highly encourage you to seek out a play through on YouTube or Twitch. After I finished playing through the game, I wanted to immediately experience the game again, so I watched this stream where friends of the site Nina Freeman and Mary Kish play through Devotion in its entirety.

In terms of the games I've played this year, Bloodstained is probably the most fun I had playing something. Meanwhile, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is probably the most rewarding game I've played, especially in terms of the sheer volume of character interactions and with how I spent 80+ hours in a single play through. That said, my favorite overall game of the year is Devotion. Year-to-year the types of games I pick as my GOTY and the reasons behind it keep changing. Sometimes it's based on the writing alone or solely based on how fun it is or what the overall experience was like. In the past, one Brad Shoemaker has said that his definition of a perfect game is based on how closely he thinks a developer executes on their vision. This year, Devotion is the closest game to hit that milestone. While there are games I've had more "fun" with in 2019, Devotion is an exceptional achievement that hit it out of the park.

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Giant Bomb 2018 Year End Review

Hiya folk! So this isn't the most timely of blogs, but for the past year or two, I thought about writing a blog that highlights some of my personal favorite Giant Bomb moments and videos from that given year. While Nuke.com is a great anime site, it can be hard to uncover those hidden gems and standout episodes, series, and playthroughs, especially when you go back a few years.

This has been done in the past through various “So you signed up for premium, now what?” style blogs and the Best of Giant Bomb series remains the best source for documenting many of the site’s greatest hits. With this, I wanted to write something to have a record of what stood out to me in 2018, in addition to giving the Bomb Crew an individual shoutout for making 2018 another great year of game bombin’.

Note: With some features that are shared across multiple people, I ended up attributing it to the person who I personally associate it with. Obviously many of these features are made better with the whole crew there and are not the work of a single person. Also worth mentioning, I haven't seen everything on Giant Bomb in 2018. If such-and-such game or stream isn't on here, there's a decent chance that's because I didn't watch it.

Staff Highlights:

Abby: Thirteen Deadly Sims

In addition to her being so goddamn funny, Abby continued to mix things up on the production end of GBeast and partaking in different features that wouldn't otherwise exist. The standout for me was easily Thirteen Deadly Sims. On paper this may feel like a left field series, but it turned out probably better than anybody could hope for. Having all of Giant Bomb family in one house and seeing Abby trying to spin way too many plates lead to so many great, unpredictable moments. Beyond that, I also just like The Sims, but never tried The Sims 4 due to that game's weird launch. So this was a nice excuse to finally to load up that game.....and lose a month of free time in the process.

Alex: Mass Alex

Alright, Alex drumming for 24 hours is actually the best thing that happened to Giant Bomb in 2018, but in terms of what had the bigger impact and general thing I would recommend people watch, that would be Mass Alex (AKA Alexy Quest). I honestly thought this series would never actually happen and it will always continue as this side gag until Alex snaps when he receives his 2,034th copy of Mass Effect 2. Now that it finally happened, I couldn't be happier. Also, as someone who never played Mass Effect 1, it's been great to finally see these characters and events I only know about through hearsay.

Ben: Breakfast 'N' Ben

As weird as it may sound, in a lot of ways, Ben feels like Giant Bomb West's unofficial wingman. He effectively runs the Giant Bomb Aftermath and sits in on so many features from Ranking of Fighters to Demo Derby. In addition to all of the other things he's done, Ben was also the single GB person I watched the most solo in 2018 between On the Mend with Ben and Breakfast 'N' Ben. These shorter, more laid back videos are a nice change of pace, especially when a lot of streams and features easily reach the 2 hour mark.

Brad: Breaking Brad: Super Mario Bros.

2018 was a banger year for Breaking Brad between finishing Rogue Legacy and Super Mario Bros. If I had to pick just one, I would ultimate recommend Super Mario Bros. It is one of those things where this is a seminal game that people haven't actually seen all the way through, between various speedruns and seemingly everybody using the warp pipe. Seeing Brad die again and again and eventually overcoming the later stages of the game was by far my favorite "Yeah Brad!" moment of 2018.

Dan: This Is The Run: Contra: Hard Corps.

All of the This Is The Run features--and most of Dan's brainchildren to be honest--are one of those things I never knew I wanted until I sat down and pressed play. This is more so with Contra: Hard Corps, because I, 1) Never really heard of this game before, and 2) Wasn't anticipating how batshit insane this game gets. It is just as funny--if not funnier--than the first Contra series, but only with a billion more explosions and bosses. In the moment, I also loved having a feature that had multiple, short-ish episodes in a given week.

Jan: Giant Bomb Travelogue: Copenhagen

Ooookay, real talk: Jan is the man. He's absolutely great. I will always be down for more Jan. That said......there wasn't really a Jan feature in 2018. Like, his production work is top notch and it's always a treat when he shows up in a UPF. I'm still hoping for Jan to get his own series and to sit in one more Giant Bomb content moving forward. Personally I would be totally down for some more PokeMONday Night Combat. But as for this list that talks about 2018 stuff...um...uh...Hey, remember when Jan and Dan went to Copenhagen?! That was cool!

Jason: Ranking of Fighters

I was always down with the concept of Ranking of Fighters, and I will keep watching this series as there is so much more important science to be done (like evaluating Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel). I don't even really play fighting games anymore, but I'm always entertained listening to Jason and Company talk about them. That said, updates were always sporadic, until this past year. Looking back through all of the videos released in 2018, I'm honestly shocked by how much ground they covered. Simply put, this is the best year for a feature I've enjoyed since 2015. Hopefully 2019 is another great year for Science.

Jeff: Garfield with Gerstmann

When I think about the experience of watching Jeff play those PS2 era Garfield games, I kinda think about Mario Party Party. They are bad games that are a slog to play, but I can't help but watch them, and if I were to explain to my friends and family why I'm doing this, I wouldn't have a great reason. Garfield Lasagna World Tour and Garfield: Saving Arlene are baffling games that put me in a trance like state. Am I laughing because of how funny these videos are or because I've been listening to the incredibly odd soundtrack for 2 hours straight and I'm losing it? Maybe I just like seeing Jeff in pain? When you stare into the abyss, does Garfield stare back? I don't know. Lasagna.

Rorie: Extra Life 2018

Sir Matthew Rorie is always a gentleman and a delight. There is perhaps no better example of his gentlemanliness than his nearly 24 hour appearance during Giant Bomb West's 2018 Extra Life stream. Browsing the site, it looks like only the first 3 hours of their stream has been archived. However, Juho on YouTube has archived the entire stream if you want to listen to some fine poetry and normal conversations amongst co-workers for a good cause.

Vinny: The Exquisite Corps: XCOM Enemy Within

Just shy under a year in the making, The Exquisite Corps certainly is a journey. In a lot of ways, this feels like a continuation of Project B.E.A.S.T., where Vinny and Company have a goal they are trying to achieve. While these "project" series can run long and The Exquisite Corps is by far the biggest commitment on this list, it was still a blast to experience.

Best of Giant Bomb 2018:

And Hey, This Also Happened:

  1. All Systems Goku / All Systems Goku Special Edition: Live from Crunchyroll HQ at Anime Expo 18
  2. Breaking Brad: Rogue Legacy
  3. Demo Derby: Official PlayStation Magazine: Issue 59 / It's Britney, Brad
  4. E3 vs. GB: Dave Lang, Adam Boyes, John Vignocchi! (and Kessler)
  5. Extra Life 2018: Alex
  6. Extra Life 2018: GBE 2018 / The Quiet Man
  7. Game Tapes 08: Language Force Assemble
  8. Game of the Year: Holiday Specialtacular: Giant Rom 5
  9. Game of the Year: Holiday Specialtacular: Mario Party Party 11
  10. The Giant Beastcast: Episode 188 / Lasers and Feelings
  11. The Giant Bombcast: We're Sorry: Ten Years of the Giant Bombcast
  12. Giant Bomb Makes Mario Again
  13. Gotta God Hand!
  14. Jeff Gerstmann's Pro Skater
  15. THE JUNGLE BEAT ELITE
  16. Old Games: N-Gage X-Stream
  17. Playdate: Johnny Mnemoic
  18. Playdate: Sid Meier's Civilization VI - Rise & Fall
  19. Playdate: Total Distortion
  20. VinnyVania: VinnyStainia
3 Comments

Clagnaught's Games of the Year, 2018 Edition

Huzzah, 2018 also sucked, huzzah! Here’s hoping 2019 is better, huzzah! Let’s talk about videogames.

First, some housekeeping:

Honorary Awards:

Old Game Of The Year:

The Sims 4

Best Opening Act:

Life Is Strange 2

Best Prequel to the Prequel:

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, "Farewell"

Best "Oh Right, This Early Access Game" Game:

Wreckfest

Best Game That Needs More Songs (On PS4):

Beat Saber

Best Game That Was On My GOTY List Until I Got Stumped And Looked Up The Answers:

Return of the Obra Dinn

Best Hot Garbage:

Detroit: Become Human

Best Game Derailed By A Clusterfuck:

The Walking Dead - The Final Season

Best Game I Have A Hunch Will Actually Be My Game Of The Year Once I Finish It:

428: Shibuya Scramble

2018's Unofficial Eleventh Best Game of the Year:

Florence

Even though it's not on my Top Ten list, Florence is great and you should play it.
Even though it's not on my Top Ten list, Florence is great and you should play it.

Best Games I Didn't / Barely Played(*):

  1. 428: Shibuya Scramble (*)
  2. Astro Bot Rescue Mission
  3. CrossCode
  4. Dead Cells (*)
  5. Dragon Ball FighterZ
  6. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  7. Monster Hunter: World (*)
  8. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
  9. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
  10. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
I decided to wait on Yakuza 6, as I'm planning on playing through the rest of the series first. I look forward to playing Yakuza 6 in...2026?
I decided to wait on Yakuza 6, as I'm planning on playing through the rest of the series first. I look forward to playing Yakuza 6 in...2026?

Runners Up (Unranked):

  1. Beat Saber
  2. Detroit: Become Human
  3. Donut County
  4. Florence
  5. Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight / Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
  6. Red Dead Redemption II
  7. Return of the Obra Dinn
  8. The Walking Dead - The Final Season
  9. A Way Out
  10. Wreckfest
I really wish I didn't have to resort to a walk through to finish Return of the Obra Dinn
I really wish I didn't have to resort to a walk through to finish Return of the Obra Dinn

Oh By The Way: Overwatch...

...is still better than most / all of the games on this list.

Queen.
Queen.

A Special Note: Red Dead Redemption II

Red Dead Redemption II will probably be in my Top Ten list in some retrospective list. However, at the moment, I just don’t like this game. In many ways, Red Dead Redemption II still feels very much like a Rockstar styled game, which I started to feel tired of back with the first Red Dead Redemption and more so with Grand Theft Auto V. What’s worse is the things I do like about RDR2 are living the life as a cowboy man in 1899, taking care of myself, and helping out strangers and my makeshift family. Not the part where you play as an outlaw; which is the vast majority of this game.

It is a game where you play as a criminal, but I don’t want to commit any crimes. It is a game where you primarily shoot things, but I don’t like how the shooting feels. When you’re not shooting, you are riding along on your horse, which is less dynamic and fun than driving a car through a city. I am both fascinated by Red Dead Redemption II and wish this was a different type of game, both in design and genre. If Arthur Morgan was a bounty hunter or the sheriff of Valentine, and the third person shooting / open world elements were all replaced with adventure game style dialogue prompts and QTEs I would actually like this game a lot more. But that’s not the game they made.

Early on, Red Dead Redemption II was originally around #4 on my tentative GOTY list. However, the more I saw of what that game is, how it played, and how it’s the same ole Rockstar game they’ve been making for forever, the less I liked it. I’ll probably finish the remaining chapters here and there throughout 2019, but as it stands right now this game is a bummer. (Some might even call it disappointing)

I'm really conflicted about Red Dead Redemption II!!
I'm really conflicted about Red Dead Redemption II!!

And now on with the Top Ten. One last thing of note is my #9 and #10 games I haven't finished. However, since I liked the opening to these games more than some of the other games I finished in 2018, I'm just going to include them anyways.

Game Of The Year:

#10) Valkyria Chronicles 4:

When I first started playing Valkyria Chronicles 4, I had a few reservations. Namely, how for this new PS4 game it felt like Sega unearthed the original Valkyria Chronicles engine and just made a new PS3 game, and a couple of questionable character moments that appeared very early in the game. Currently I’m about 15 hours in and both of those complaints became less significant as I started to see more of this game. Yes, it is more Valkyria Chronicles. However, the strategy elements and how your squad’s story is told are both fantastic. This game could easily be higher, if I spent more time with it.

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#9) Marvel's Spider-Man

Speaking of games I need to spend more time with, I just reached the end of Act One in Marvel’s Spider-Man. I know I have a lot more to see and do. However, even in these early hours of the game, Spider-Man is the best realized superhero game I have ever played, including the Arkham series. It has a bit of everything from living as Peter Parker, to random crime bustin’ here and there, and some truly jaw dropping setpieces. Also, while something like Red Dead Redemption II favors presentation and realism over fun--leading to janky situations, fumbling ragdolls, and general awkwardness--Spider-Man goes in the opposite direction. Falling head first into pavement? Eh, just to a flip. Swinging directly into a skyscraper at 60 miles per hour? Hey, now you’re just running up that skyscraper. Sure some of that might not “look great”, but I’ve never been taken out of a moment due to some finickiness, overly complicated controls, or jankiness. I’ve already listened to the GOTY Deliberations and know a lot of stuff that happens later in the game. If those sections are executed just as well as the opening of this game, then Spider-Man probably deserves to be higher on this list; again, once I actually finish it.

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#8) Holedown:

I generally play a couple of iPhone / iPad games a year. The past few years, that means mainly playing Egg Inc. and Love Nikki Dress UP Queen, which are technically games, but they don’t really feel like it when you’re playing them. At the very least Holedown deserves to be on this list for breaking me of my curse to play those two games until the end times. Beyond that, Holedown is just a pleasure to play. Seeing 90 odd balls bounce around in all of the directions is oddly satisfying. At first I wish there were more upgrades to make the numbers go higher. Now, I’m just happy to have the game as it is. It doesn’t need to be like a clicker with endless upgrades. Holedown is simple enough to be played just about anywhere, yet it’s still an engaging, never ending arcade puzzle. The core of shooting balls at blocks is just fun, whether you have like 2 minutes to kill or if you want to lay in bed and play this for a half hour.

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#7) Tetris Effect:

So is this the part where I talk about how a Tetris game made me cry? I know that sounds strange and ridiculous, but it's the truth. Tetris Effect in PlayStation VR is my first for reals experience in virtual reality aside from the R&D, pre-Vive and PSVR launches. It is also the first Tetsuya Mizuguchi game I have ever played. So between those two things, standing in my living room, seeing that space whale emerge from the cosmos and listening to that incredible soundtrack, I was overwhelmed. Tetris Effect is an awe-inspiring and tranquil experience. I’ve cleared the final stage, Metamorphosis, about a half dozen times and I still get goosebumps when the credits roll. I generally don’t talk about or try to explain the videogames I play to people, unless there’s something really noteworthy or interesting. Tetris Effect is one of those games where I want to strap people into a PSVR and let them see this game for themselves.

As for the Tetris, I never understood the appeal of it until recently. I played a couple different versions growing up, but it never really stood out that much. While people were saying Tetris is one of the greatest games ever made, I just thought it was fine. Then, I started to follow Giant Bomb, and Tetris would rear its head over the years between Tetris Battle Gaiden and Puyo Puyo Tetris. Between that and hearing the crew also talk about Lumines and Rez, I really wanted to try playing my first Mizuguchi game and to take another crack at playing Tetris. Turns out, Tetris is a really good puzzle game after all. I’m never going to be a Grandmaster and half of the time I still fail Metamorphosis on beginner. But I’ve accepted that. Even if I’m not doing great, it’s still fun and relaxing to come home from work and play some Tetris for a good 30 minutes to unwind.

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#6) Destiny 2: Forsaken:

Right before Forsaken came out, I said “Screw it, I’m going to play Destiny”. Over the course of a month, I played through most of the Destiny 2 content, excluding the raids.

Base Destiny 2 is alright. It has a story, some guns, places, enemies, stuff. It’s a fine shooter, but I didn’t see the appeal to going back to it every single week to get more loot or going through the game all over again with a different class.

Curse of Osiris I actively dislike. You can see what they were going for and it was certainly different than the core of Destiny 2. However, the repetitive environments and missions made the game feel smaller, which is an issue for a game I think needed more content.

Warmind is where things started to click. I still don’t really understand what a Warmind is, but that didn’t really matter too much. Mars became my favorite location with its dense areas, escalation protocols, and small tweaks here and there that changed things up for the better.

With Forsaken, it felt like this was what Destiny 2 should have always been. The revamped loot system and new abilities made Destiny feel closer to an RPG. The new environments are arguably the best locales in all of Destiny 2 and the new faction finally gives you something else to shoot at. Beyond that, the campaign, bounties, quests, and strikes all flow together in a way they didn’t when the game launched. Finally, the addition of Gambit added a multiplayer mode I actually liked playing. That in combination with all of the other environments, quests, strikes, etc. from the previous updates, Destiny 2 finally feels truly fleshed out.

The only real downside of Forsaken is the story, which is carried on the assumption you actually care about Cayde-6 (which I don’t) and a leftfield reflection on a murder. Not killing in general, just killing that one guy. This is a world where Guardians kill thousands of foes whenever a rock rolls down a hill the wrong way, and yet we are supposed to contemplate the murder of one bad guy? And now the Tower has to play sad music all the time because my Guardian killed her 8,645th fool? It’s a very minor point, but it is something that stuck out in an otherwise fantastic campaign.

It was a commitment, but in the end I finally “get” Destiny. In fact, writing this just makes me want to go and catch up on Forsaken right now.

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#5) Slay the Spire:

Slay the Spire is still in Early Access, but it feels like a finished game, with the exception of a handful of things. The rogue-like style loop of this game is very much present, warts and all. About 20% of the time I manage to make it to the end of Act III, while the rest of the time my character dies a slow, gradual death, enters a grueling battle they were not prepared for, or just gets boned. Because of that, Slay the Spire is perhaps the most frustrating game I have on my Top 10 list.

At the same time, I’ve lost evenings to this game. There were times when I looked at my watch and was flabbergasted it was already 3:00 AM. Even when an hour long run ends after dying spectacularly to a boss, the card battling, deck building core of Slay the Spire is so good it makes me want to try again and keep going. By the time I have a successful run, I have 50 cards in my deck and 20 relics all designed to do something different. Your power keeps increasing ever so slightly until you have single turns that deal 80+ damage or leave you with somehow getting 102 armor that manages to keep you alive from an attack that should have most definitely killed you. It’s kinda silly, but a fun silly.

From 2014 to 2015, I played a lot of Hearthstone. While I had to stop playing that game for my own sanity, I’m still fascinated by card games. Slay the Spire is a well crafted single player deck building game without all the baggage around the more traditional collectible card games.

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#4) Hitman 2:

Hitman 2 is very much a better Hitman. The things that stand out are the maps which mix things up with unique settings and characteristics. A lot of the maps in the first Hitman had their action focused around a big, tall building in the center of the map. In Hitman 2, everything feels more organic, with events flowing together which allowed you to accomplish your task in even more ways than before.

Also, I actually care about the story now? The first Hitman was essentially setup, execution, and a random cutscene that talks about a puppetmaster’s master plan. In Hitman 2, the story actually works itself into its maps and their targets. At the same time, Hitman 2 is still a gloriously dumb game that references “super-cocaine” and allows you to dress up as a flamingo mascot and kick people into a pit, not because that was your plan all along, but because it is too funny not to dress up as a flamingo and kick people into a pit. Or knock them into a wet cement slab. Or blow them up in a laser safe. Or poison every drink in a house and accidentally kill somebody randomly 10 minutes later.

Lastly, having a way to import all of the maps from the first Hitman and have those great quality of life improvements and new features built across everything elevates Hitman 2 from a great game to the best Hitman game I could ask for.

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#3) Into the Breach:

What I have to say about Into the Breach isn’t so radically different than what plenty of others have said. I too have spent 10 minutes on a single turn. I have both failed magnificently and overcame obstacles I thought were impossible to surpass. It’s like mech chess, etc. etc. etc.

Truth be told, this game should probably be even higher on my list, if I did a couple more runs. Into the Breach feels like it can become my new Binding of Isaac: a game I liked at first, but didn’t really appreciate until I started to put in a couple dozen more hours into it, until it retroactively became one of games of the year. What I’m trying to say is here’s to Into the Breach, [maybe] my 2018 Game of the Year [in around 2020].

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#2) Celeste:

Celeste is probably my favorite platformer of all-time. It is easily one of my favorite playing platformers that has the intricate design, levels, and puzzles to back it up. It is one of the rare games that makes me think how my hands are inputting controls into the game. When I think about the playing experiences with some platformers, I can only think about...running around and jumping. When I played Celeste, I often fell into a trance. I would think through the motions--“Jump-Left-Dash-Right-Dash-Hold-Release-Jump”--as they were happening. Even with levels heavily designed around one mechanic--like platforms that move whenever you touch them or red goo blobs that kill you--every chapter and challenge felt unique. In some ways it felt like Celeste’s levels were designed by crafting inputs that felt good press and then the obstacles and art was constructed around the edges.

On top of that, Celeste is a sweet game with great characters and a peaceful feel and style. It also manages to be a difficult game with a purpose and message that never falls into a “YO BRO THIS GAME IS SO HARD UR GONNA DIE” hole. Celeste respected my time in ways some platformers like Super Mario Odyssey did not, provides the right challenges if you really want them, and adds amazing accessibility options for those who need them. By the time I finally reached the summit and set the game down, I simply felt happy and fulfilled. As for the the heart of the mountain and those B / C Sides...I couldn’t even get pass the first B-Side. Besides, Madeline deserves some rest.

Also, the music. Goddamn this game has great music! The soundtrack by Lena Raine is not only perfect for Celeste, it’s also the best original score for a game this year and one it's one of my favorite albums of 2018.

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#1) God of War:

Out of all of the games on my list, this is the one that surprised me the most. I was looking forward to playing God of War and this was the game that forced my hand to upgrade to a PS4 Pro. Even with all things considered, I was still caught off guard by how well this game executed on its vision. It’s particularly worth mentioning how this game is different than the previous God of War games, all for the better.

Every chop, stab, block, kick, slam, and tear packs a punch most games often lacked. The thought put into how Kratos moves, how you give Atreus orders, perform runic abilities, and use your weapons sparked a new life in third person character action games for me. Even though it is slower than other character action games like Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta, and the previous God of Wars, this is arguably my favorite playing game like this. The combat all coalesces in the fight with the final valkyrie, Sigrun, which is one of my favorite boss fights in a long, long time.

The puzzles evolved beyond pushing a box around to clever environmental puzzles that play with perspective and using your abilities in interesting ways. They reinvent the type of character Kratos is, and layer his and Atreus’s journey with a surprising amount of depth and character development. God of War is also funny and lifted up by great characters like Mimir, Brock, and Sindri. All of the God of War games looked gorgeous in their own right, but this game took it to the next level with impressive designs, lighting, and color that liven up each of God of War’s realms.

I can go on and on and on about this game. For the sake of time, I’ll just summarize my thoughts this way. Every aspect of God of War I adore. Thinking back on the experience, I can’t think of anything I would change. It is a marvelously crafted game with a vision off the beaten path that is executed shockingly well.

When I played through God of War: Ascension however many years ago, I thought I was done. Or rather, I thought Sony Santa Monica was done with God of War. There were too many games to keep track of, most of which were all kinda the same and felt done before, and yet they were still coming out on different platforms and seemed to exist to help pad out the PS3 lifecycle in the case with Ascension. Not only have we been there before, but the execution in Ascension felt sloppier than before. Surely this was the game they had to make and they would move onto something else with the PS4. It turns out while Santa Monica went back the God of War name, they still ended up doing something else, and managed to craft their finest work along the way.

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1 Comments

Best of Giant Bomb's Shenmue Endurance Run

Episode List:

  • Episode 1: Vinny must find sailors, Dan wants an Amiibo of Tom, and Alex's son is also named Fireboylt (Parts 1 through 6)
  • Episode 2: Vinny bumps into Fuku, Dan doesn’t remember this sneaking mission, and Alex can’t believe how long it takes to find that key (Parts 7 through 12)
  • Episode 3: Vinny fights a monster man, Dan sings Thunder Road, and Alex loves how much this lady sucks (Parts 13 through 18)
  • Episode 4: Vinny gets a job at the docks, Dan rides a motorcycle, and Alex goes to Hong Kong (Parts 19 through 26)

That day, did you see the Shenmue Endurance Run?

The Shenmue Endurance Run Playlist

Well…I already covered Persona 4 and the Deadly Premonition Endurance Runs…I guess that means I have to watch Shenmue now.

This series features one highlight from each video in Giant Bomb’s Shenmue Endurance Run. While this series will cover many of the funny moments from Vinny, Alex, and Dan’s play through, it will also tackle the different aspects of Shenmue as a game and what Giant Bomb went through while playing this game.

Oh god, what have I done?

11 Comments

Clagnaught's Games Of The Year, 2017 Edition

2017! What a shitshow! But also what a season, what a season! Thankfully there were a lot of great games that came out this year (and just as many I haven't finished or haven't had the chance to play yet). But last year my GOTY list was like five months late, so it's perhaps best I get this one out at least on time. There's a lot to cover, so I'm just going to jump in.

As always, first some housekeeping:

Honorary Awards:

Old Game of the Year:

Overwatch / Deadly Premonition

Best Game I Like Watching Other People Play More Than Playing Myself:

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Best Game That Didn't Grab Me (But Hey That Plateau Was Cool):

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Best Game I Just Didn't Have A Ton Of Fun With:

Super Mario Odyssey

Best Game I Wish I Had Other People To Play With:

Gang Beasts / Nidhogg II

Best Game I Stopped Playing Because I Got Tired Of Dying To That Stupid Dragon:

Cuphead

Best Game That Will Probably Take Me Thirteen Years To Beat At This Rate:

Tales of Berseria

Best "No, This Isn't A Joke; I Legitimately Play And Enjoy This Game" Game:

Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen

Honorary "Yo, You Should Check These Games Out" Award:

Hidden my game by mom 2 / My brother ate my pudding

2017's Unofficial Eleventh Best Game Of The Year (That I Bumped Off The Top 10 List At The Last Second):

Nex Machina: Death Machine

Overwatch is still better than most of the games on this list.
Overwatch is still better than most of the games on this list.

Best Games I Didn't Play This Year:

  1. Gang Beasts
  2. Gravity Rush 2
  3. Horizon Zero Dawn
  4. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
  5. Nidhogg II
  6. Resident Evil 7 biohazard
  7. Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
  8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  9. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
  10. Yakuza Kiwami
I sincerely regret not playing Horizon: Zero Dawn yet
I sincerely regret not playing Horizon: Zero Dawn yet

Games I Would Have Played More Or Finished If I Had Infinite Time:

  1. Battle Chef Brigade
  2. Divinity: Original Sin II
  3. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone
  4. Nioh
  5. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
  6. Pyre
  7. Tales of Berseria
This is not a screenshot from Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone
This is not a screenshot from Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone

Runners Up (Unranked):

  1. Cuphead
  2. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
  3. Hidden my game by mom 2 / My brother ate my pudding
  4. Late Shift
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  6. Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen
  7. Nex Machina: Death Machine
  8. Sonic Mania
  9. SteamWorld Dig 2
  10. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
You almost made it Nex Machina.
You almost made it Nex Machina.

Game Of The Year:

#10) Doki Doki Literature Club

<Me>
<Me>

Ok, real talk, Doki Doki Literature Club is amazing. It is just the right type of horror for me, along with other games like Silent Hill 2 and Detention. It ain’t fun! It is unsettling as hell to the point where I wish the game would be over so I could no longer endure what was happening! But it’s still an amazing game that does things (and makes you player do things) I have never seen before. Also, Monika is one of the most evil characters I have ever seen in a videogame? So that’s something.

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#9) Detention

Detention's roots as a game developed by Red Candle Games, a studio based in Taiwan, shows when you look at just how different and unique this game is, especially when compared to what is released in the West. The art direction, graphical effects, historical context, mythology, and the central themes in the story are completely refreshing and unlike anything I’ve ever played. As a videogame, the point and click adventure elements create clever puzzles and surreal experiences. The psychological horror elements create a tense and haunting atmosphere that relies only on a handful of jump scares. Even when those jump scares happen, they don’t feel like a cheap gotcha moment, but rather a punctuation on a sequence that was built up over time. Overall, Detention is one of this year’s best examples of executing on a vision. Whether it's the game’s setting, story, mechanics, or scares, Detention just about checks off every box.

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#8) What Remains of Edith Finch

When I think about Giant Sparrow, I think about a studio that is devoted to creating unique vignettes. While The Unfinished Swan did this more towards the end of the game, this is the core of What Remains of Edith Finch. Each of the dozen or so stories are told in imaginative ways. You have everything from a shark rolling down a hill, to a pulpy horror comic book, to a straightforward recreation of an accident that took someone's life. For me, Lewis's story is the game at its best and is one of the most memorable gameplay experiences I've had all year. While there is a larger narrative that is revealed over time, the strength of What Remains of Edith Finch is how these different, self contained vignettes tell compelling character stories in a way that only videogames can.

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#7) Life Is Strange: Before the Storm

I wasn’t too pessimistic about this release, but let’s be honest: this shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. It’s a prequel that didn’t need to exist, featuring characters you already know the fate of, made by a different studio, starring different voices actors as a result of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm overcame the sheer logic against itself and delivered a compelling story worthy of the Life Is Strange name. The relationship between Chloe and Rachel is touching, grounded, and quietly tragic. Some of their scenes and several other noteworthy moments like Chloe playing a tabletop RPG and acting in The Tempest make Life Is Strange: Before The Storm feel even better than its predecessor. For a number of reasons, I overall like the first Life Is Strange more, but that is not because I have any real knock against this game. I am sincerely happy Life Is Strange: Before The Storm turned out the way it did and I look forward to playing the prologue episode that’s coming next year.

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#6) Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods captures so many different things with an honesty that is rarely seen. There's a warmness to the conversations between Mae and her mom. There's a comfort between her sitting down and watching some bad TV with her dad. There's a sharpness to Selmer's "There's No Reception In Possum Springs" poem. It captures the good and the awkward times you encounter when you come back home and see old friends and acquaintances. It also captures a town where the jobs are going away and may never be coming back and people who have no idea what they want to do with their lives. Walking around Possum Springs and bumping into various side characters and the stories and character arcs that are explored through the game's various vignettes captures all of this and more. The game does take a turn towards the third act, which kind of worked, but not as well as I wanted. Regardless, this is a special game I can't wait to revisit to see the encounters I missed out on during my first play through and to see the recently added Weird Autumn content.

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#5) Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Overall Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is perhaps my least favorite of the mainline Danganronpa games (Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair were my second and third favorite games from 2014). It has perhaps the weakest trial in the series and some of the character dynamics, while ultimately important for the story, got tiring after a while. That aside, Killing Harmony is still a great continuation of the Danganronpa story. The narrative spirals all over the place, with so many unexpected twists and bits of foreshadowing you don’t know what to do with them all. Most of the trials are also well executed, with the first trial being among the series best with perhaps the biggest emotional gut punches in the franchise.

And then you have that ending. The mother of all endings. An ending so good, an ending that goes for it so hard, Spike Chunsoft can’t make another Danganronpa game. Ever! It’s that simple! We're done! In a series built upon games that have crazy, left field conclusions, I was still not prepared for what actually happened during those final three hours. Of course a game being “crazy” alone doesn’t automatically make it good, but I’m also a sucker for seeing something nuts like that executed so well.

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#4) XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

A lot of what I have to say about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is in my review for the game. Since I came to this game only after the expansion was released, I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed vanilla XCOM 2 if I were to play it during launch week. That aside, War of the Chosen is better than XCOM: Enemy Unknown in just about every way. ‘Nuff said.

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And now ladies and gentlemen it’s time for my overall Game of the Year. Yes, I know I still have three more games to talk about, but the thing is anyone of them could actually be my GOTY. Usually my #1 spot is a slam dunk. When I love games as much as I love Mass Effect 2, The Last Of Us, or Overwatch, I don’t really need to compare it to whatever else came out that year. On the other hand, 2017 is without a doubt the most contentious year I've ever experienced. Simply put it, I could draft an argument for why each of the following games is worthy of being my #1 favorite game and walk away happy. So congratulations everyone, you are all the Game of the Year! (But here they are ranked in order anyways)

#3) Yakuza 0

This is the game wearing the most hats. Whether you are waist deep in a yakuza family drama, running a cabaret club, following an intriguing mystery surround a land development project, or training a dominatrix, just about everything in Yakuza 0 is fantastic. These tonal shifts on paper shouldn’t work, but they do thanks to exceptional characterization and second to none writing. If you were to rip out the quirky side stories or the crime drama and ship the game with whatever was left, this would still be one of my favorite videogames of the year. The fact that Yakuza 0 has all that and more, including a lively recreation of Tokyo and Osaka, is a testament to this game’s strengths. Although I have never played a Yakuza game before, seeing this story unfold and meeting all of those characters makes me want to play through the entire series in chronological order.

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#2) NieR: Automata

If Game of the Year was determined based on the amount of time you thought about a game after you finished it, then my GOTY is NieR: Automata. I bought this game based on the demo and thinking about how this is the next true videogame from PlatinumGames following Bayonetta 2. And NieR: Automata does have good combat, with an interesting chip RPG system. There's the occasional boss or set piece that blew me away. One of the final combat encounters in particular--swapping between A2 and 9S as they ascend The Tower--is one of the more exhilarating gameplay moments I've had all year. But that's not really why this game is so high on this list.

Early on, you start to see where NieR: Automata is going and it only builds and builds and builds. This happens through the different character perspectives, those shocking reveals, the weapon stories, and various side quests. There are plenty of games that set out to try and communicate a theme to the player, but I don't think I have ever seen a videogame so committed and successful at executing on that vision as NieR: Automata. It has dissected the question "What does it mean to be human?" so thoroughly and in a way that has stuck with me ever since I have finished the game over five months ago. It makes other stories that try to tackle the human versus robot tropes, especially something like Detroit: Become Human, look awful in comparison. Even beyond all that, there is just straight up good ass drama in this game. In particular, the opening to Route C is left me speechless.

One of the (many) misconceptions I have heard about NieR: Automata is how some people think the ending is the good part. On the contrary, I enjoyed just about every part of the game. Well alright, the backtracking can get old and it breaks up the pacing. That aside, over the course of the game NieR: Automata excels from start to finish. It is successful at being an action game, as a game about the human condition, as a personal drama between a few key characters, and as a bonkers sci-fi story that makes you want to pick up all of the supplemental materials. But then you do get to that ending, which wraps up that story perfectly. It's ending punctuates the game's themes, ideas, and the overall adventure. It makes you reflect on everything that has happened beforehand and provides closure like few games ever do.

I have laid in bed multiple times over the past few months, listening to the game's final credits song, and would become emotional just thinking back on all of the things this game has to say. In all honesty, your mileage may vary. It is understandable if somebody were to tell me this game didn't grab them. Speaking for myself, NieR: Automata is a deeply personal videogame and it is an experience I will never forget about.

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#1) Persona 5

Early on in 2017, I was hesitant about playing too many games. I didn't buy Horizon: Zero Dawn. I waited on buying a Switch. In April, I went to work on a Monday and then took the rest of the week off. All of this was because (finally!!) Persona 5 was going to be released in the United States. If I were to write a Top 10 list of my favorite games of all time, both Persona 3 and Persona 4 would be on that list. I still need to do my New Game+ to really determine where that game lands, but when the credits rolled, I thought about how Persona 5 is just as good as the previous entries in the series.

The Confidant system, the Personas, the RPG mechanics have all been refined and expanded. It is both one of my favorite playing JRPGs and such a good evolution of the series it would be insane to imagine any future Persona games not having these improvements. The art direction, UI design, and use of color are impeccable. The music is not only an amazing Persona soundtrack, but also incredibly cohesive. I can listen through most of the album and picture the same band composing all of those great songs together.

There's a lot to unpack with Persona 5's story, plot twists, characters, and Confidants. Without going too deep, I was really invested in the game's narrative and what it was trying to do. At times it felt like the game was more of a sequel to Persona 3's dark and dreadful story than Persona 4's more upbeat, "We'll be friends forever!" story. Before I somehow write five thousand words on this topic alone, all I'll say is I was really impressed with Persona 5's story and like how different this game was compared to the previous entries in the series.

Yeah, the ending is a little long. Yeah, that explanation for that one thing towards the end is a little convoluted. Yeah, the localization is not great (especially when compared to, say, NieR: Automata and Yakuza 0). There are a handful of lessons that can be learned and applied to whatever P Studio and Atlus does next with Persona. Those complaints aside, Persona 5 is a great game. To me, the modern Persona games have three main pillars: 1) There's the main narrative and themes; 2) There's the Persona collecting and JRPG battle mechanics; and 3) There's the social links and everyday life activities. For me, Persona 5 succeeds at all three of those. As someone who has played and thought a lot about Persona over the past nine years, Persona 5 easily joins the ranks of Persona 3 and 4, if not outright surpassing those games.

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Reflecting on Buying All of Those Overwatch Loot Boxes

The last few months of 2017 has one of the easiest PLEASE STOP! trends in videogames that I can remember. It is becoming clearer and clearer that loot boxes are a problem. Their permutations are excessive and have infiltrated games regardless of their genre, whether they impact single player or multiplayer, or the game's upfront cost. The worst part about the rise of loot boxes is arguably how this trend is likely to continue. After all, there is money to be made. Perhaps the uproar will prevent some developers from implementing them, but the sad truth is more games will likely have them in 2018 and beyond. While we can talk about this until everyone passes out, I actually want to talk about something else today. I have a confession to make. I'm part of the problem. I buy (a lot of) loot boxes. Specifically for one of my all-time favorite games, Overwatch.

I don't want to say how much exactly I've spent on Overwatch over the course of its lifetime. What I will say is Overwatch is easily the most money I have spent on any videogame in my entire life, including some games like Persona 5, which I own three copies of (as for why that is, well, that's for another time). For starters, I bought the standard edition for the PC and later got a copy of it for the PS4 shortly after the game launched in 2016. Since then, there have been a total of eight seasonal events, each containing their own loot boxes with unique costumes, voice lines, victory poses, and so on. Out of those eight events, I have bought loot boxes, on the PC, for all eight of them.

Before I go too deep on these loot boxes, it is worth saying that these are entirely optional. If you buy Overwatch, you get all of the heroes, maps, modes, and updates for free. If you were to pick up the game during a sale for $20, you can play Overwatch's online multiplayer for free, forever. There's no stamina, XP bonuses, coin doublers, or what have you. When you open up a loot box, the only things that will pop out are cosmetic items which have no affect on the game itself. With that in mind, it does raise the question, why would anybody spend money on something they don't need? Well, that's because some of those cosmetics are really great.

I mean, look at this!

Everything in this highlight intro gives me strength.
Everything in this highlight intro gives me strength.

In my defense, this skin is pretty awesome.
In my defense, this skin is pretty awesome.

In addition to Overwatch being an incredibly fun game to play, it is oozing with personality and style. Having a character's aesthetic change over time builds on that foundation. In some ways, customizing a hero's skin, voice lines, and emotes can feel like a game of dress up. Having Doomfist say, "Go and sit down", and watch the other players sit down is a goofy thing that I haven't really experienced in a game before. Having Mercy say "You're welcome" after Genji says "Thanks" for a resurrection is a fun throwaway bit of roleplaying. Whenever I encounter a waiting room that has an arcade cabinet, I go up to it, use D.Va's Game On emote, which makes her sit down and start playing a shoot em up, to make it seem like she is actually playing that arcade game. Having a game where you can mess around and show off in front of thousands of other players who are also doing the same thing back at you helps make Overwatch feel like a more lively experience.

But there's no denying there is a price for this sort of play. If you play Overwatch everyday, you will rack up gold to buy the things you want or you may get lucky and open a random crate that has that one skin you have to have. Or, you can spend real money, roll the dice, and hope you get the stuff you want through brute force. This year, I could have easily bought multiple games on my Steam wishlist if I didn't spend any money on Overwatch. With the seasonal event that just ended--Overwatch's second Halloween event--I bought a couple of last minute loot boxes, after I already bought plenty of loot boxes on the first day of the event, to see if I could get Symmetra's Dragon skin without using my gold. Of course the Dragon skin didn't drop from any of those paid loot boxes either, and I ended up using my gold anyways.

About half of the time, I get lucky. I opened up Mercy's Witch skin fairly early on last year and didn't have to sweat bullets about that. During Overwatch's first anniversary event, I ended up with all of the dance emotes I cared about. As for the other half, there's that one thing that got away. One of my early favorite characters in Overwatch was Lúcio. Despite how he was my most played character, I didn't really care for any of his skins. The hockey skins were pretty decent, but the deadmau5-esque DJ outfit didn't do anything for me. That's why I was itching to have his Summer Games skin, which dressed him up as a soccer player. Despite how Overwatch was more or less the only game I was playing at the time and how I went back multiple times to buy loot boxes to try and earn that skin, I was unable to get it. This moment particularly stung for me, because at the time there wasn't a lot of skins we had to work with to express ourselves.

At this point, I have probably done every dumb loot box purchase there is. Buying loot boxes specifically to try and find one item. Buying back-to-back loot boxes, when I didn't get anything good out of the first set. Buying just a couple of loot boxes (which isn't really worth it, because you can just spend an afternoon playing the game and get the same number of boxes). Buying way too many loot boxes (which isn't really worth it either, because they're just cosmetics and I could have easily put that money towards something more tangible). And still, I bought those loot boxes. Every single one of those poor purchasing decisions is based on a combination of wanting something, having the ability to try and get that item again and again, and not knowing when to say enough.

Reflecting on my past decisions to buy those loot boxes, the thing that sticks out to me the most is how easy it is to forget about some of those purchases. Somewhere out there, there is someone who has spent thousands of dollars opening Overwatch loot crates. Thankfully I have not gone that far. There are some seasonal events where I buy one set of loot boxes and I'm done. Sometimes I buy a few smaller sized quantities. However far down the rabbit hole I go or however I spread out those loot boxes, my purchases have been within my means and not outrageously high. I knew I spent money on Overwatch's loot boxes, but it's not that much, right? Well, a few weeks ago when I decided to total up how much money I have spent on Overwatch, I was still shocked by how much I spent.

I think the source of my surprise is based on how I primarily look back at the past two or three events, and nothing that came beforehand. I can recall how I bought a couple of loot boxes for the 2017 Summer Games event and was done fairly early. What's more difficult is remembering how much I spent last year during the 2016 Summer Games. These purchases are infrequent enough that they don't tally up in my head. Likewise, I know I throw a few dollars at certain mobile free-to-play games, but I can't tell you off the top of my head how much or how often I do so. On the other hand, I know exactly how much I spend for Hulu each month, since that is one of my bills that also remains more or less consistent. With expenses like loot boxes, the only way I and a bunch of other people will ever find out how much money they're wasting is if they open up a calculator and start going through their old invoices.

In terms of what playing over 300 hours of Overwatch and buying X number of loot boxes looks like, it looks something like this:

Look at my works ye mighty and despair.
Look at my works ye mighty and despair.

At this point, I have a majority of the items in the game. There's no doubt buying loot boxes helped round out my collection. Despite how I obtained plenty of skins and emotes from them, looking at my overall collection makes me think I have reached the height of my loot box buying days. I'm not going to lie, when the next Overwatch seasonal event launches, I will probably buy some more loot boxes. However, the volume and frequency that I do so will start to decrease simply because I have enough at this point.

Sometimes you don't need anymore skins.
Sometimes you don't need anymore skins.

While there is an appeal to get the new thing and dress up for a particular event (i.e. putting on your Halloween costume for the Halloween event), I am still primarily interested in having stuff to express myself. For over a year now, Mercy has only worn her Witch costume, because that is still my favorite Mercy skin. Despite obtaining the two latest Mei skins, she is still wearing her Chinese New Year outfit, Chang'e, because I like that one more. Likewise, everybody has their highlight intro, everybody has at least a couple of emotes, and they are all equipped with my favorite voice lines. In some regard, Blizzard has done their job too well. Out of the current roster of 25 characters, everybody accentuated just right for me. Sure, at some point there will be a new Mercy's Witch or Symmetra's Dragon skin equivalent for me, but having unlocked so many things for these characters already, it will only become harder and harder to win me over like that.

In this past--on this very website even--I have stated that the solution to the loot box problem was to stop buying them. If you don't support the idea of them, just don't buy them. If you feel like it will spoil a game's single player or turn its multiplayer into a pay-to-win game, don't waste your time and money on that. A part of this is how we live in an age where there is no shortage of great games coming out in 2017 and we have seemingly limitless access to different types of games, both old and new. Sure, more games are adopting loot boxes, but there are countless others that don't rely on them.

On paper, this is still my answer to loot boxes. However, lately I have been thinking about people who have to make these decisions. It is easy to say "Don't play games that have loot boxes" as a statement, but there's also that Star Wars fan who just wants to play the new Star Wars game. Yeah, there are countless games people can play instead, but sometimes people just want to play the new basketball game or the new great looking racing game. I've also been thinking more about what people like Heather Alexandra write with regards to how loot boxes exploit emotionally vulnerable people and there is a much larger human issue that goes beyond how a game's multiplayer may be unbalanced. While I had the money to buy those Overwatch loot boxes, there are plenty of people out there who spent money on those items who have less disposable income or are in debt or are having trouble making ends meet.

There's no doubt loot boxes are becoming more of a problem for videogames and I know I am a part of the problem. Looking back on the past 18 months, I don't want to say I regret purchasing those loot boxes. The main reason is because it is easy to say so. Yes, you shouldn't buy loot boxes. Yeah, if I could just spend $5 on each individual skin I wanted, that would be a better. And of course this is all for a bunch of cosmetic items I absolutely don't need. But the fact remains I enjoy Overwatch more than a lot of videogames. Despite how historic 2017 has been for videogames, I still spend a decent amount of my time playing Overwatch instead of the dozen other great games that came out this year. And I still like playing dress up with my action figures. I wish I spent less money on loot boxes for Overwatch, but I'm not going to lie; I still like having those skins.

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Goodbye Greenvale: On the Endurance Runs, the Best of Series, and My Mixed Feelings with Deadly Premonition

While I was wrapping up my own Endurance Run of sorts--The Best of Giant Bomb’s Persona 4 Endurance Run--I was quietly working my way through both of the Deadly Premonition Endurance Runs. Unlike Persona 4, which I considered to be my favorite videogame, I didn’t really know what to expect going into these dueling Endurance Runs. Years ago, I heard about how Deadly Premonition was one of the worst games ever made. Then when the Director’s Cut was released, I realized the public opinion was more mixed. It seemed closer to a 50/50 split between people hating it and adoring the game. In fact, Brad and Ryan’s first conversation during the opening credits perfectly encapsulates what I thought about this game.

Despite being a fan of this site for a number of years, and just being a person on the Internet, I knew nothing about Deadly Premonition, aside from how it is kinda like Twin Peaks. Going into it more or less blind was a befuddling trip. Watching both Endurance Runs when I wasn’t even finished with Persona 4 was inadvisable. Editing Vinny and Jeff’s and Brad and Ryan’s play through together into one Best Of series by itself was a fairly long process for me. It’s been a weird…<looks at notes>...oh my god, nine months?! I started this project NINE MONTHS ago?!?! Well that aside, it’s time for me to wrap things up and say goodbye to Deadly Premonition.

On Deadly Premonition:

As I was uploading videos for the Persona 4 series, I remember talking to people here and there about the game. Somewhere on these forums, there are probably thousands of words devoted to me giving people advice on getting into and playing the Persona games. So by the time I uploaded the final video, my feelings about Persona 4 were fairly well documented. In contrast, besides a few offhand comments, I haven’t really talked about what I think of Deadly Premonition. Do I love this game? Do I hate it? Well, it’s complicated. Deadly Premonition is not just a mixed bag. It is the most mixed bag. This is the most indecisive, wishy-washy, and confused I have ever been about a videogame.

First and foremost, Deadly Premonition in my mind is the quintessential definition of a bad videogame. From walking around, fighting enemies, driving, solving puzzles, completing side quests, and overall how the game looks, feels, and sounds, Deadly Premonition is demonstrably, scientifically bad. If I were playing this game by myself, I probably would have stopped playing before York meets up with Emily. I know I’m not alone in this, and I assume the majority of the people who read this will agree with how flawed this game is.

However, if you put all of that aside--literally everything that makes it a videogame--there is some genuine magic behind Deadly Premonition. The cast of characters are colorful, goofy, and memorable. Even when something about their performance, animation, or writing was stilted, I was consistently fascinated by them. It is both intentionally and unintentionally funny. Genuinely funny moments are mixed in with characters not quite acting like actual people and cinematic moments often lack the music, camerawork, and editing to make the scene have a more comprehensible flow. However, as someone who watches some of the worst movies ever made for laughs, this game has a bizarrely memorizing quality. Putting aside all of those imperfections, the story behind Deadly Premonition is also entertaining almost to a surprising level. Even beyond all the wacky shenanigans that happen in Greenvale, the murder mystery and investigation behind the deaths of Anna Graham and the others is tautly paced and executed. In particular, I remember how the events before and after Becky’s death grabbed me. While I mostly watched the Brad and Ryan and Vinny and Jeff’s Endurance Runs back-to-back, by the time it was revealed George was the Raincoat Killer, I marathoned my way through the VJ Endurance Run simply because I just had to see what the hell this game was going to end.

The fact that I was so motivated to see how this game ends, even though it is plainly obvious who the true culprits are, is perhaps Deadly Premonition's greatest triumph. I mean the game is a murder mystery where you know who the murderer is. It is as clear as crystal George was behind the various Raincoat Killer murders and he was responsible for Becky and Diane's deaths when their bodies were discovered. As if how he was conveniently away from York and Emily during critical moments in the story wasn't enough, there is a big red tree and red vegetation spread across his house. And then you have Kaysen, Mr. "F K" in the Coffee himself. The first fucking clue York gets about the murders points directly to Forrest Kaysen, a man who just so happens to be carrying around red saplings who also travels from town to town. If that wasn't a big enough clue, for some reason there are mini-Kaysen dolls spread throughout the Red Room when York thinks about the various murder cases. I'm not sure if the intent was to let everyone know as early as possible who the bad guys are or if these clues were meant to be more subtle than they actually were. Whatever the case, I was still on the edge of my seat as the story continued to unfold, despite how obvious some things were telegraphed.

And then you have that ending. As if the big revelation of what happened to his parents and the real identity of Zach and York wasn’t enough, you fight Kaysen in an ever escalating series of mindfuck battles. You see him transform from a giddy psychopath, into a lightbulb shaped mutant, into a lizard monster that was probably a rejected Garbage Pail Kids, into a giant Kaysen who towers over you in the middle of a lost level from Bayonetta. It is a shockingly elaborate ending for a videogame that consistently felt like it was constrained by its budget or development time. The first time I saw this entire sequence, I was either scratching my head, laughing my ass off, or recreating Drew’s blink gif. This is by far one of my main highlights for Deadly Premonition. That said, this sequence also has the lowest moment of the game: the death of Emily.

It’s not even the fact that she dies; it’s how she dies. Emily rips out the red sapling from her abdomen which presumably tears out her intestines and other vital organs. If that wasn’t enough, Emily describes how she has been “soiled”. And if that doesn’t sound rape-y enough for you, you get to see Kaysen slobber all over himself as he describes how he already had his fun with Emily and how she was the ultimate desert. And while we’re at it, how about we have Emily confess how she wants York, while Kaysen licks her face with his monster tongue, 'cus sure, why not. Even with all of the horrible shit that happens to Emily, the game expects the player to think she has a happy ending. Even though she went through an experience presumably so painful and terrible she wants to die, Emily feels better by effectively committing suicide and hearing York say how he thinks she's pretty. After she dies, Emily transcends and becomes a goddess of a forest, only to be joined by other people who died in horrible ways. This also includes people like Carol and Thomas, who apparently hate Emily for ruining George’s kinky sex dungeon club. If living for an eternity alongside traumatized serial killer victims and people who are so jealous of you they tried to kill you a couple of hours ago isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is.

Even if I were to put aside all of the red room, white room, and the forest aspects of the ending, I am still left uncomfortable about what happens to Emily. If this happened to a minor character who we didn’t know much about, this scene would just be kinda gross. Instead, all of this stuff happens to Emily, who is arguably Deadly Premonition’s most grounded and sincere character. While I enjoyed the entire cast of Deadly Premonition, the vast majority of the people in Greenvale are either goofy, have something off about them, or are used to deliver a funny bit. Between the wonky animation and some of the hammy lines of dialogue, this aspect is perhaps more noticeable than it otherwise would be if everything was executed perfectly. On the other hand, Emily more or less doesn’t fall into these categories. She is also the character York spends the most time with and knows the most about. She talks about what it was like for her growing up. For god's sake, Emily even has a speech about how she takes pride in being a member of the police force that protects Greenvale. The fact that Deadly Premonition chooses this character to throw that horrible death sequence and allusions to sexual assault at feels almost nihilistic. Emily’s death scene was just dark and left a bad taste in my mouth.

There is fun to be had with Deadly Premonition, but even as a viewer, you have to put in work. You have to look at this ugly game with poor audio mixing and repetitive music. You have to see the same enemies over and over again. The amount of wall ladies York encounters throughout the game is incalculable, despite how having one of these things is arguably one too many. Putting everything aside, you do get some funny and wacky moments, with likeable characters, and a mystery that becomes more and more intriguing as time goes on. Despite those positive moments, one of the most memorable scenes in the game just makes me feel bad. It feels ugly, for the sake of being ugly. During my undergraduate, I often brought up this point in my creative writing classes when people wrote stories about acts of violence or other disturbing content. Just because something makes the reader, viewer, or player uncomfortable doesn't automatically make it good or worthwhile. These scenes can still feel shallow, pointless, unmotivated, or cheap if not executed properly. The impact of Emily's death scene has lessened over time--especially since I had to watch Emily die ten to twenty more times as I was editing the final Best Of episode. At this point as I look back on the game, I mainly wish Deadly Premonition fully stuck the landing with its ending and treated Emily better than they did. Even if the creators felt like she had to die, they could have done so without going so low.

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On the Endurance Run(s):

My history with the Endurance Run before I started these videos was basically sitting down watching thirty minutes worth of videos and thinking “Man, I don’t have time for this!” First it happened with Persona 4, and then with Deadly Premonition when I thought about how watching a game I wasn’t familiar with would make this endeavour more worthwhile. When I first tried watching Deadly Premonition, I was immediately turned off by how the bad the game looked. When I was in the early episodes of the Endurance Run(s), I kept asking myself why. Why did Vinny, Brad, Jeff, and Ryan decide to play this game? Why did they record two simultaneous Endurance Runs? Did somebody make a back channel bet to see who could play the game longer? Even if they all had a perfectly rational reason to do this, this just seemed like a tremendous amount of work, especially for Drew, who I assume sat in on every single episode.

Almost everything I have mentioned so far feels like it adds up to some sort of equation. On paper, it feels like the dueling Deadly Premonition Endurance Runs shouldn’t have happened at all. Finally seeing what this game really is for myself was a rewarding experience and there are plenty of hilarious moments to be found in both of these series. However, at times watching both Endurance Runs back-to-back felt like a chore. Looking at some comments dating back seven years ago, it seemed like a lot of people would watch the Endurance Run during their lunch break, which seems like the best way to do it. In comparison, there were days where I watched three or four episodes back-to-back after getting off at work at 11:00 PM. (That one evening where I watched nothing but the guys wandering around the Lumber Mill was a particularly dark day for me) Granted, this is mainly my fault. I should have followed Mr. Stewart's advice and took my time. On the other hand, when Deadly Premonition is bad, it can be really terrible, so maybe this would have been a drag for me regardless.

While I would be crazy to do it, I can actually foresee myself rewatching the Persona 4 Endurance Run years from now. With Deadly Premonition, I can confidently say I am never watching this series again. Experiencing Deadly Premonition alongside Ryan, Jeff, Vinny, and Brad is a great and hilarious way to see what this game is. At the end of the day, seeing this game from start to finish is a bit too much for me. On top of that, rewatching both the VJ and BR Endurance Runs is overkill for me at this point. I am sincerely glad I watched both series when I did, but man I sure did have my fill with this game.

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On the Best of Series:

The Best of Deadly Premonition had an entirely different production pipeline than the Persona 4 series. By the time I started to watch the both Endurance Runs, I decided to edit both series together. The primary reason behind this was to highlight the different aspects of Deadly Premonition while avoiding repetition. For example, if I created two separate series, what if a lot of the highlights were identical? What if the funniest moments were the same? What if Jeff and Ryan made the same joke? (In the end, it turns out this was often true. Not only do some episodes have the same highlights, but sometimes the same joke or remark would appear across Endurance Runs)

To avoid this issue, I decided to combine both series together and pick the highlights as I went along. As a result, this Best Of series required a lot of note taking. In comparison, the Persona 4 Endurance Run was at times pretty straightforward. When Vinny casts Bufu or gets hit by Hama, those are basically the highlights I have to pick by default. For Deadly Premonition, I ended up with a list of 347 highlights from both Endurance Runs that I then had to compare and evaluate on a couple of different levels (e.g. Which of these scenes is funnier? Which Endurance Run should cover this aspect of the game? Who had the best reaction to this shocking moment?).

While I thought combining both of these Endurance Runs together would be the hardest part, that wasn’t even close. As I progressed further and further into the story, the more I started to dread what was ahead of me. How the hell am I going to summarize the ending of Deadly Premonition? By the time I reached Part 09 of my series, I was editing the remaining thirteen hours of footage simultaneously, simply because I didn't know where one episode should end and where the next one should begin.

When I was gathering clips from the episodes that featured the fights against George and Kaysen, I had four hours of video. A rough cut of the final episode alone was over an hour long. For my own sanity, I had to keep cutting and cutting and cutting the ending. When I realized how much stuff I should cut out from these videos, I decided to throw up a disclaimer that basically said, “I can’t do this. If you want the full experience, go watch the Endurance Run.” On paper, it is probably a little weird to go tell people to watch a different video, but it felt like that’s all I could do.

Overall I am really happy with how this series turned out. Personally I think the Persona 4 Endurance Run has more funny moments than the Deadly Premonition Endurance Run(s). Additionally, since there were so many episodes of the Persona 4 Endurance Run, it felt like I had more freedom between picking different types of highlights, while Deadly Premonition sometimes gave me nothing but wall ladies. With some stuff like that, there are probably entire highlights worth cutting from if I was only interested in picking the funniest moments in the series. That said, from an archival perspective of showing A) What is Deadly Premonition, and B) What happened in the Endurance Run(s), I think I did a good enough job at both of those things. At the very least, this Best Of series should give people a perspective of what happened during both Endurance Runs, since I imagine people probably stick to either one or the other, if they were to rewatch this series.

Before I move on, I would like to thank those who commented on my blogs or videos as the series went on. I always appreciate hearing feedback and other people's perspectives on these games or the Endurance Runs, whether they are new to these games or saw them back in the day. Lastly, I would like to thank @zombiepie as always for featuring the Best of Giant Bomb's Deadly Premonition Endurance Run videos on the Community Spotlight. It's always great seeing the work done throughout the Giant Bomb community and my work alongside the other cool stuff that appears in the community.

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On the Future:

Well, with the conclusion of these simultaneous play throughs, I have technically highlighted three out of the five Endurance Runs. With that in mind, it is perhaps not the craziest thing to assume I will try to tackle the Chrono Trigger or Shenmue Endurance Runs at some point. That said...no comment. This time I’m not even trying to be coy, while I’m secretly working on something else in the background. I have nothing lined up and I don’t know when/if I will highlight another Endurance Run. If I were to do something like this again, it is almost guaranteed to follow the same format of the other series I have done so far. The only major change I am thinking about doing is editing all of the videos together beforehand. With both the Persona 4 and Deadly Premonition series, real life got in the way, which is why there are some gaps in the release dates towards the middle of the series. While it will be more upfront work on my end and perhaps a longer delay between series, my hunch is that consistency is more ideal or necessary for the people watching.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ll mention it anyways. While I don’t want to say it by name, I have been dying to highlight one series in particular for some time. However, that project involves a lot of premium content, and I don’t feel comfortable condensing and uploading a lot of those videos onto YouTube for free. (From a content perspective, my Best Of videos are borderline as is. I basically condensed 235 videos down to 29, which is quite a lot.)

So between not having a project already lined up, leaning towards not working on my true #1 choice, and having Endurance Run on the brain for so long, I honestly don’t know when my next Best Of series will come. I would love to work on another project like this at some point, but for now I need a break. For a while, I’ve been meaning to work on several smaller projects in same vein as some of these dumb videos. The next thing or two I upload will most definitely be one of these smaller projects. Beyond that, we shall see.

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On Saying Goodbye to Deadly Premonition:

With that, all that’s left is to say so long to Greenvale.

Although I may be down on large parts of Deadly Premonition, I am still fascinated by this game. While the influences may be not so subtle, the combination of everything on top of Swery’s style make Deadly Premonition a true one of a kind game.

Over the years, I have generally kept up with what Swery has been up to. From D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, to its troubled development, to Swery’s health scare, to the formation of White Owls Inc. Even before I watched the Deadly Premonition Endurance Runs and only knew what his games were like in hearsay, I have been a fan of Swery, the man, for a while. Over the years, he seems to be a funny and sincere person, who unfortunately seems to continuously hit a number of speed bumps over the course of his career.

Being realistic, I will never play Deadly Premonition for myself and I will never watch either Endurance Run again. If I were to do anything, I will most likely play through D4 and get a glimpse into that weird thing. Looking towards the future, I am dying to see Swery’s next game. Half of that is honestly because I just wish Swery all the best and hope he can work on a project he loves without encountering so many mishaps like he did with Deadly Premonition or D4. Beyond that, I sincerely want to see White Owls Inc.’s first game for myself.

While I may think Deadly Premonition is overall not a great game, there is an audacity to it. Sure it’s a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. It is a strange game, but you can’t help but get sucked into its world. Although it is an easy complement to throw out, Swery makes games that are uniquely his own. For better and worse, they stand out from most other videogames. While I may be done with Deadly Premonition forever and ever, I can’t wait to see what Swery and the other folks at White Owls Inc. are working on next.

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Best of Giant Bomb's Deadly Premonition Endurance Run--10 & 11, The Grand Finale

Episode List:

  • Episode 01: Vinny goes racing, Brad meets the Raincoat Killer, Jeff meets Zach, and Ryan sees "F K" in the coffee. (Covers: The beginning through Anna's autopsy)
  • Episode 02: Vinny hides, Brad runs away, Jeff meets Harry, and Ryan sees a shotgun. (Covers: Greenvale General Hospital through the Lumber Mill)
  • Episode 03: Vinny calls for Thomas, Brad goes fishing, Jeff meets Forrest Kaysen, and Ryan meets Gina. (Covers: Greenvale Community Center through Forrest Kaysen)
  • Episode 04: Vinny eats a sandwich, Brad buys a new suit, Jeff yells at George, and Ryan is a punk rocker. (Covers: Muses Gallery through Becky’s house)
  • Episode 05: Vinny sneaks around, Brad fights a wall lady, Jeff talks to Isaach and Isaiah, and Ryan profiles. (Covers: talking to Isaach and Isaiah through profiling the Muses Gallery)
  • Episode 06: Vinny is rumblin’, Brad finds a radio, Jeff talks about Zach, and Ryan holds his tongue. (Covers: The second half of the Muses Gallery through York talking about Zach)
  • Episode 07: Vinny heads to the meat locker library, Brad eats lunch with Emily, Jeff doesn't want to play this game anymore, and Ryan is in the White Room. (Covers: The White Room through the Graveyard)
  • Episode 08: Vinny learns more about the Raincoat Killer, Brad disses the game, Jeff finds a file, and Ryan sees a giant demon dog. (Covers: The second half of the Graveyard through Returning the Files)
  • Episode 09: Vinny follows Deputy Willie, Brad sticks into, Jeff hears the 13th bell, and Ryan watches a cat fight. (Covers: The 13th Bell through the Clocktower)
  • Episode 10: Vinny yells “You!”, Brad finds a punch loop, Jeff walks up a flight of stairs, and Ryan calls it. (Covers: The Sheriff’s Department through Red Tree)
  • Episode 11: The ending and epilogue of Deadly Premonition!

And now, the Grand Finale of the Deadly Premonition Endurance Run!

For the past few months, I have been dreading this moment. I sincerely had no idea how I was going to highlight the ending of Deadly Premonition. There's simply too much! Last minute reveals, plot twists, hilariously baffling moments mixed with disturbing scenes that will make you think "This don't feel right", and, of course, the conclusion of this weird story. At a certain point, I realized it was impossible to summarize every funny moment and plot point that happens in the last 10% of this game.

In the end, I changed the format a little and decided to release both of these videos simultaneously. I wish I could fit everything into one video, but releasing an hour long video seemed like a bit much. That said, if you haven't seen this bizarre thing for yourself, you should just queue up either Brad and Ryan and Vinny and Jeff's Endurance Run and just watch the last couple of videos for yourself. I included links to their YouTube playlist around where the ending starts.

Either this week or next week I'm going to write a blog summarizing my overall thoughts on Deadly Premonition. (Oh man, do I have some thoughts on this game...)

Anyways, thanks for watching! Until next time / That will never happen!

Best of the Deadly Premonition Endurance Run YouTube Playlist

The End of Deadly Premonition Playlist: VJ

The End of Deadly Premonition Playlist: BR

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Best of Giant Bomb's Deadly Premonition Endurance Run--09

Episode List:

  • Episode 01: Vinny goes racing, Brad meets the Raincoat Killer, Jeff meets Zach, and Ryan sees "F K" in the coffee. (Covers: The beginning through Anna's autopsy)
  • Episode 02: Vinny hides, Brad runs away, Jeff meets Harry, and Ryan sees a shotgun. (Covers: Greenvale General Hospital through the Lumber Mill)
  • Episode 03: Vinny calls for Thomas, Brad goes fishing, Jeff meets Forrest Kaysen, and Ryan meets Gina. (Covers: Greenvale Community Center through Forrest Kaysen)
  • Episode 04: Vinny eats a sandwich, Brad buys a new suit, Jeff yells at George, and Ryan is a punk rocker. (Covers: Muses Gallery through Becky’s house)
  • Episode 05: Vinny sneaks around, Brad fights a wall lady, Jeff talks to Isaach and Isaiah, and Ryan profiles. (Covers: talking to Isaach and Isaiah through profiling the Muses Gallery)
  • Episode 06: Vinny is rumblin’, Brad finds a radio, Jeff talks about Zach, and Ryan holds his tongue. (Covers: The second half of the Muses Gallery through York talking about Zach)
  • Episode 07: Vinny heads to the meat locker library, Brad eats lunch with Emily, Jeff doesn't want to play this game anymore, and Ryan is in the White Room. (Covers: The White Room through the Graveyard)
  • Episode 08: Vinny learns more about the Raincoat Killer, Brad disses the game, Jeff finds a file, and Ryan sees a giant demon dog. (Covers: The second half of the Graveyard through Returning the Files)
  • Episode 09: Vinny follows Deputy Willie, Brad sticks into, Jeff hears the 13th bell, and Ryan watches a cat fight. (Covers: The 13th Bell through the Clocktower)
  • Episode 10: Vinny yells “You!”, Brad finds a punch loop, Jeff walks up a flight of stairs, and Ryan calls it. (Covers: The Sheriff’s Department through Red Tree)
  • Episode 11: The ending and epilogue of Deadly Premonition!

Take a branch and watch more of the Deadly Premonition Endurance Run.

Best of the Deadly Premonition Endurance Run YouTube Playlist

Vinny and Jeff’s Endurance Run Playlist

Brad and Ryan’s Endurance Run Playlist

After watching and later highlighting the best moments from the Persona 4 Endurance Run last year, I started to have the itch to finally watch the Deadly Premonition Endurance Runs. And just as with Persona, I certainly wasn't planning on watching these multiple times, so might as well make another one of these. I went back and forth over how to best cover both series. In the end, I decided to edit both series together to cover more elements of Deadly Premonition and to combine the best (and different) aspects of Brad and Ryan’s and Vinny and Jeff’s play throughs.

In terms of the format of this series, I wanted to highlight different aspects of Deadly Premonition, ranging from character introductions, gameplay segments, and the overall story. In some ways, this is a summary of the entire Endurance Run. Sometimes this does not lead to the “funniest” moments of the Endurance Runs, although I’m pretty confident most of those are in this video as well.

If one highlight was funny in both play throughs, I generally went with the one I thought was funnier to avoid having two identical scenes play back-to-back. To help carry a flow throughout this best of series, I edited the videos in rough chronological order to follow the game’s narrative. Sometimes one Endurance Run will take longer to get through a segment of the game or get sidetracked doing side missions, while the other will continue marching through the main story. This is why sometimes there will be multiple VJ or BR videos back-to-back.

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