By MooseyMcMan 6 Comments
It's that jolly time of year, when everyone waits around the Gaymer Tree for all the video game awards to appear out of thin air! And fear not, everyone's favorite awards blog from an unprofessional video game write-about-er has returned yet again! It wouldn't be the end of the year without me writing too much about the games I already wrote too much about, often while just repeating what I wrote about them months ago! And it especially wouldn't be the end of the decade without that!
There's a lot of people out there saying that 2019 was a weak year for games. And I'm not going to say it was the strongest year, but I still think it had plenty of great games. Was it as strong as the last few years, which were all fantastic? Not really. It was more of a year with really solid, capital G Good games, than anything revolutionary. I played a healthy amount of games I really like, and I'm here to tell you all about why they were good!
And maybe mention a couple games that I still enjoyed, but wish had been better.
But first, the traditional recounting of last year's predictions, and the (in)accuracy of each!
11th Annual Moosies 2019 Game of the Year: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
I always open the predictions with a bold guess at what the next year's game of the year will be. A silly exercise, but one I enjoy nonetheless. You'll have to keep reading to see if I was correct!
Sony, attaining new levels of hubris, announces the PlayStation 5, featuring the Perfect Cell Processor. With that, it has full backwards compatibility with PS3 games, but not PS4 games. Costs far too much money.
Aside from the name PlayStation 5, I completely got that one wrong. Though in my defense, the idea of the PS5 being announced and released in the year 2019 seemed more reasonable back in 2018. Of course there's still plenty of time for them to announce the actual price and end up with another five hundred and ninety nine US dollars debacle (I don't think they will, though).
Despite the fact that everyone else seems to think The Last of Us Part II is coming in 2019, it doesn't.
Honestly, if I only get one prediction correct a year, I consider it a success. And I was correct. I still don't know where everyone got the idea it was going to release in 2019. Maybe it was people with insider knowledge hearing rumblings of them aiming for 2019 and then missing. And we'll see if they can hit the current date without delaying (again).
Nintendo puts out the New Nintendo Switch XL, which is a bigger, more expensive Switch. Does not drop the price on the existing model. Everyone else buys one (including those who already had a Switch), but I still hold out because they're expensive.
Well, by the letter of the law, I was wrong, because instead they announced the Switch Lite, which is smaller, and cheaper. BUT! Lots of people have bought Switch Lites, even those who already owned Switches. Nintendo hasn't dropped the price on the Switch original, AND I still haven't gotten one, so I'll say I was half right.
EA, those bastards, announce the Mass Effect Trilogy for Switch, but still don't remaster those games for PS4.
No Mass Effect Trilogy remasters, no Mass Effect remasters of any sort. STILL.
Microsoft, in their continuing attempts to get people to care about the Xbox brand, starts giving Xbox Ones out literally for free.
Wrong, but they're basically giving out new Game Pass subscriptions for free, and thus "free" games, so the spirit of this, that Microsoft was going to go to new lengths to get people into the Xbox ecosystem, that was right!
Tired of waiting for another game, Captain Falcon decides to leave this galaxy, and find peace amongst the stars. Meanwhile, Nintendo officially announces that rumored Star Fox racing game, and Falcon has a brief twinge of pain as he looks back in the direction of the Solar System, before he continues onward on his journey.
I had forgotten about the rumors of there being a Star Fox racing game. Imagine if they actually made a futuristic racing game, but instead of F-Zero it was Star Fox? I know I would be a bit disgruntled.
Sony not being at E3 turns out to be a ruse when Phil Spencer tears his Xbox shirt off on stage to reveal a PlayStation shirt underneath. Then Jack Tretton and some cronies storm the stage to announce his return.
Maybe someday I'll keep my predictions to things that might feasibly happen. Maybe.
Metroid Prime 4 shown off, has some bizarre control scheme that is needlessly gimmicky, makes the game worse, and is not accessible to people with disabilities. There's no option to change it.
The game got rebooted, or whatever terminology one might use to describe them starting over in development. So we'll have to wait longer still to see if this becomes true.
EA cancels that Respawn developed Star Wars game that they haven't even shown a logo for yet.
2 Blood 2 Borne announced as a PS5 launch game.
Half-Life 3 announced as a card pack for Artifact.
Given that a new Half-Life game was announced at all, I'm going to say this was...a third correct.
Not a stellar year for me getting predictions correct, but that's why I'm not in the predicting business! What business am I in? Well, none, technically, so I'll just get straight to the top ten, and other awards!
10. Todd Howard Presents the Most Disappointing Game of the Year that I still enjoyed: The Outer Worlds.
By this point I think we all know the drill: Disappointment does not mean the game is bad, or that I didn't like it. What it means is that, amongst all the games I played this year, this is the one that felt like it most missed the mark between what I expected it to be, and what it actually was. There were long stretches of this game where it really felt like what I wanted from this style of game, and it was exciting. There are some really good characters, and some good stories told along the way.
If nothing else, the game gave us Parvati, who is one of my favorite characters of the year, and in the last few years. Who would have thought that having a heartwarming story about a queer character without any sort of tragic or bad twist ending would be so endearing? A lot of people, it was a rhetorical question, and you know it was a good one because I felt the need to explain that. But seriously, between Ashley Burch's performance being as good as ever, the writing (written by someone with actual life experience with the sort of things Parvati experienced (again, who'd have guessed that getting people who actually know about these things results in more authenticity?)), and the time the game gives her story to breathe, it was endearing, and the thing from this game that will stick with me the longest.
It's just a bummer that good smaller stories like that had to be saddled to boring/needless combat, too many uninteresting side quests, and a main story that peters out, and loses steam by the end. Many of the pieces of a truly great game are here, but there's just not quite enough of them, and some of them are just put together wrong.
The game itself is largely at fault for its shortcomings (of course), but really I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up so high. I let years of other people's rose tinted glasses change my opinion of New Vegas (a game I liked but never loved as much as so many do), and let a new game in that style from many of those people elevate itself in my mind to a level it realistically couldn't reach. That, and those early reviews were so positive, they're partly to blame too.
So, in a shorter version, The Outer Worlds gets that not so glamorous position of being my Number 10 game of the year. The game that almost didn't make it onto the list, and maybe in the years to come I'll regret putting it on there at all. Especially when the main reason is that I liked Parvati a lot. But sometimes a single, very bright spot is all it takes to make something worth remembering.
The Outer Worlds also wins:
Best friend of the year: Parvati.
Loudest level up noise.
Todd Howard also Presents: The biggest mess of a game that I still enjoyed: Anthem.
A banner year for Todd Howard presenting awards for an awards blog he doesn't even know exists. Gosh, Anthem. This game really is a mess in just about every way a game could be. Technically, design wise, story wise. Which isn't to say every one of those is bad. Or completely bad. Because the game, when everything is working right, is fun! And even if the story is a lot of the same "ancient civilization blah blah blah" stuff that Mass Effect leaned too heavily on, there's still some decent characters in there too (along with one really annoying one (or three, depending on how you look at it)), and there's enough interesting ideas that I don't think the universe is worth abandoning.
But let me tell you, it's frustrating when I try playing with a couple friends and the game is just consistently broken for one of them, for no discernible reason at all. It's frustrating when a solid core of a combat system isn't used to its fullest potential because the majority of the missions might as well have the same fights copy and pasted. It's frustrating when one of the few boss types feels straight up broken, and has attacks that seem almost impossible to avoid. It's frustrating when there's no way to respawn after dying in a lot of missions without waiting to be revived. Frustrating to have to slowly walk around town, etc.
Some of these things were fixed after or around the time I stopped playing. How many though? I don't know! I still have hopes that one day this game might get its Taken King moment, and be revitalized, and live up at least closer to its potential. But those hopes are really low, if I'm being honest. It was still fun, just frustrating at almost every turn.
9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Star Wars discourse is one of the most exhausting ones out there (at least in the realm of entertainment), so I don't want to get wrapped up in all of that. That said, Star Wars is one of those things that has its place in my heart. Yes, it's nostalgia. That doesn't make the part of me that lights up when I hear the low hum of a lightsaber any less true. Even without the Star Wars-y-ness, I think Fallen Order would still be a good game, but it really is the Star Wars-y-ness that sparked that inner joy, that nostalgia that so many crave so much.
(Addendum: I wrote the rest of this before having seen Rise of Skywalker, and let me tell you, it takes more than just nostalgia to get me to like a Star Wars thing, and that is ALL I will say about that mess that would make Todd Howard faint.)
Another part of why I enjoyed this game as much as I did is that it's been so long since the last time I played a Star Wars game. At one point in time there were so many that Star Wars might as well have been its own genre. But before Fallen Order, the last Star Wars game I played more than a pre-release beta for was Force Unleashed. In 2008. There have been Star Wars games since then, but an underwhelming sequel to an already underwhelming game (Force Unleashed II), and the new Battlefront games just weren't what I was looking for.
Fallen Order isn't perfect, but it gets the important things right. It gets that excitement Star Wars should bring. It understands that lightsabers are cool, that sword fights are fun. But most importantly, it knows that the things that really makes Star Wars so memorable are the characters. Does Fallen Order have the best cast of characters in any Star Wars thing ever? No, but it at least has story as a main focus, and has a solid cast that does a better job of telling a compelling story than any other Star Wars game I've played. Before you jump down my throat, I've only played an hour or two of KoTOR (YEARS ago), and none of KoTOR II, so I know, I know.
It doesn't do anything revolutionary, but just having a likable lead in Cal helps. Having great side characters like Cere and Greeze made it a story I cared about. When I think back on Force Unleashed, all I remember are silly physics, enemies holding hands and then onto things to resist being pulled away, and bad quick time events. When the inevitable sequel to this game is announced, what's going to excite me is knowing I'll get to go on more fun adventures with characters I like.
That, and it's a fun game too! The swordplay is a good mix between doing cool stuff, but without ever going into the complete over the top territory of something like a Metal Gear Rising. Which, I love games like that, but it is nice to play something a little more grounded, but without quite going into the needing to manage my stamina and be careful about every single move territory of a Dark Souls.
Which is maybe ironic, given the checkpoint system in Fallen Order so closely imitates Dark Souls. Not really to the game's benefit, but not in a way that detracted either. No, that was the technical issues. While not the worst I played this year, there was kind of a pervasiveness to the game's oddities that make them hard to ignore. Too many instances of enemies T-posing their way into position, too many stutters as the game streams in the next part of the level, or physics going wonky on bits of clothing in cutscenes. Or how the low health warning around the edge of the screen and heartbeat played through the credits because I finished the game with low health (thankfully they weren't in the cutscenes, at least).
I list all these things out not because each individual one ruined the game, or that even in totality they ruined it. I list them out because if this game was totally polished in the way that a AAA Star Wars game should be, it might have been a spot or two higher on the list. But at the end of the day, I'm just happy to finally have a new Star Wars game I really like. Happy to have another fun crew, happy to have had more puzzles to solve, and more Stormtroopers to fell in combat.
Oh, and BD-1 is such a delight. I love little robot friends and BD-1 is one of the best.
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order also wins:
Best use of Star Wars in a while.
Best Robot Buddy: BD-1.
Best enemy banter.
Most dangerous mountain goats.
Best surprise cameo.
The, "In retrospect I appreciate the story even more because it's coherent and good unlike a certain movie" award.
Best story involving uncovering things relating to an ancient civilization in space.
Best Castletroid Game: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
What a long journey it was for this game to get out to people. And, unlike many a game that went through similarly laborious periods of crowd funding, this one turned out to be good! It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does have a few fun spins on memorable things from the games it so lovingly pays homage to, and is just a fun time. Plus, it's the only game I played this year where eating pizza gave me a permanent stat boost.
8. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Quite a bit lower than my predicted Game of the Year, huh? And yet, I wouldn't say the game is disappointing, aside from maybe the story. In taking a more direct approach than the Dark Souls games, or Bloodborne, and leaning more heavily on characters, Sekiro just didn't stick with me in a lore or story way. Part of that was leaning so heavily on a real world setting, even if there are fantastical things in there. Exploring through semi-realistic depictions of olde timey Japan just aren't as interesting as delving into purely fantastical places like Lordran, or Yharnam. Sure, both Dark Souls and Bloodborne heavily take aesthetic inspiration from a lot of different things, both real and fictional, but those games got me invested in the world in a way that Sekiro never did.
But Sekiro's saving grace, the thing it does better than maybe any other game I've played, is that feeling of dueling. Clashing swords with a foe, rapidly blocking every attack, sparks flying, clanging blades drowning out all other noise, each of us just trying to wear down the other, until their posture is broken, and I get the killing blow in. There's more to it, of course, differences in how enemies behave, the Shinobi Prosthetic's various tools, but really, it's that one thing that stands out the most. The combination of the animations, the effects after a well timed block, the sound, it all comes together just about perfectly, and it's phenomenal.
In a lot of ways, Sekiro is the most fun I've had with the core combat of a From Software game. The feeling of dueling is unparalleled, and there's some great moments in the fights against biggest enemies too. One of my favorite moments of the year, in fact. But, that incredible core comes at the cost of less variety than their previous games, and like I said before, the story just didn't grab me. Or at least whatever grabbing it had back when I played it dissipated over the months, which is a far cry from Dark Souls and Bloodborne, which still excite my imagination to this day.
So, Sekiro, despite being a great game, didn't get any higher on this list than number 8. But still, getting on the list alone is an honor. Unless Todd Howard is involved.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice also wins:
Best metal on metal clanging sounds.
Best use of monkeys.
Best feeling: exhaling after defeating a tough boss.
Best boss fight moment: Guardian Ape.
Best Expansion: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne.
Monster Hunter World was one of those games that I played so much of, it was almost too much. Almost. And in the lead up to Iceborne, I wasn't exactly feeling excited for it, but then I downloaded it anyway. At the moment it was because some friends had, and I thought, "oh, we can do more co-op!" Then of course everyone else got distracted, and I ended up the only one in my circle of friends playing the expansion, so I did the whole thing alone.
But it was fun! And in a year where the only other expansion I played was a limp one for Destiny 2, I can't say this was a difficult award to decide. Even so, between the breadth and quality of this expansion, with a whole slew of new monsters, and new environments in which to hunt them, new tools like a greatly improved grappling hook, and another new animation of somewhat anthropomorphic cats cooking food, what's not to like?
7. Mortal Kombat 11.
I don't play that many fighting games these days. Partly that's because there aren't really a ton of them. At least outside the realm of fan games and ones based on anime, most of which I've not heard of and am not interested in (Dragon Ball FighterZ being the obvious exception). Mortal Kombat, however, is one I can count on. Every four years, like clockwork, a new one comes out, and raises the bar for what I want out of fighting games, at least in terms of the kombat itself and the story mode. Of course, that clockwork schedule, which includes a whole other franchise in between that I didn't get around to playing the second of, does come at a cost. So there, I've now made you remember the crunch that comes along with games, and not just Mortal Kombat.
This game, though, I still really love it! To the point where I didn't buy just one DLC character, I bought the whole season pass thing. It was on sale, sure, but this isn't something I normally do. Usually with fighting games I wait until the game itself is super cheap, play through whatever story mode there is, and if I'm lucky, get in a few matches locally with a friend. But this game? I'm still playing it, both offline and online, and still having a ton of fun.
The issues I have with how the Towers work are still there, and I think it's baffling that there doesn't seem to be a way to mute people when playing online. Sonya's still voiced by a terrible person who gave a terrible performance, and I'm still bugged by the crunch and bad conditions people had to go through to get this game made. All of that said, the core of Mortal Kombat 11 is one of my favorite fighting games of all time, and I think it's just great. That greatness aside, though, seventh really was the highest it could get onto the list this year, given the strength of everything else, and those few shortcomings its has.
Mortal Kombat 11 also wins:
Best dab in a cutscene.
Favorite new semi-obscure MK character that became my main and will likely not be in the next one: Frost.
Best Fatalities: Johnny Cage.
Best stage: The tournament one with MK machines in the background.
Best Brutality: Liu Kang summoning an arcade machine.
Best Co-op Game: Remnant: From the Ashes.
This game really came out of nowhere, was the hottest thing for a few weeks, then people forgot about it, huh? Or at least stopped talking about it, I don't know if there's a dedicated group of people still running through it. I hope so, it's a really good game! One that's good enough on your own, but a whole lot of fun with friends. It's a game that's genuinely surprising, at least early on, and despite clearly being of a lower budget than the biggest most polished AAA games, it punches above its weight.
It's super fun, and for anyone looking for a good (online) co-op game, this one gets my seal of approval.
Remnant: From the Ashes also wins:
- Videogame: VIDEOGAME Award for most videogame-y name.
- Best skulls.
- Best dog petting.
- Stargate Game of the Year.
6. Outer Wilds.
What is there to say about this game that hasn't already been said? This game is an adventure, in the purest sense of the word. It's a game built for people who want to poke their noses into every last nook and cranny, looking for every little thing to find, every snippet of story, every little puzzle to solve. It's a game without any upgrades, aside from the knowledge in your head, and some logs kept on the ship. Because even the best space adventurers can't remember everything (I know I can't).
In the early hours of Outer Wilds, it truly feels like anything is possible, and that feeling is magical. So many games are easy to know exactly what they are before you even start them. I could be reductive, tear Outer Wilds apart, investigate every little bit, and analyze it like any other game. But that wouldn't capture the wonder I felt as I first took off, soaring into the sky, and out of the sky, to space. As I looked out, the possibilities felt endless. As I explored, further and further out, I was astonished at how much creativity there was in each place. How they all felt so different, so unique, and everything had a purpose. It was incredible, and those early parts of the game were some of the best hours I've spent with any game, maybe ever.
But sadly, this is where the "analyze it like any other game" part comes. The magic didn't last. At some point I lost interest in the story being told about the ancient civilization. At some point the new discoveries came slower and slower, and I was left with frustration as I tried to figure out how to get to those last handful of things I wanted to find. At some point the imprecise nature of the movement in the game stopped being goofy and fun, and started to feel like a hindrance to my completing certain things. At some point the little glitches, getting stuck in the environment and having to restart the cycle, and even something breaking right before the end of the game, forcing me to restart the cycle and go through all that rigmarole again... It detracts from the game, and I can't just ignore it. And finally, at some point my patience for whatever was going on with the actual ending of the game wore out.
I get why I've seen a lot of people say this is one of their favorite games ever. I can feel the magic there, and at its best I'm right there with them. But the magic didn't last, and all my frustrations, and disappointments with the story drag it down for me. Even if it didn't crack the top five, it's still one of my favorite games of the year, and maybe a decade from now I'll look back on it more fondly than I do now. Or maybe I just need to accept that I didn't love it as much as so many others did, and that's okay. It's still a great game.
Outer Wilds also wins:
- Outer game of the year.
- Best marshmallow roasting.
- Best spaceship flying.
- Most gravity.
- Best time loop.
- Outer game of the year.
- Best marshmallow roasting.
- Best spaceship flying.
- Most gravity.
- Best time loop...
Game I probably should have played: Life is Strange 2.
Every year there's always one game that I didn't play. Well, more than one, but the one that sticks out. For a while, I was really struggling to think of a worthwhile game I missed. Thought about giving this award to Untitled Goose Game, or even Luigi's Mansion 3. For a while I considered Disco Elysium, but something about that game just feels like I would...hate it, even as it sounds mechanically fascinating.
So, instead, Life is Strange 2 is the one that I really feel like I should have played. For all their faults, I've found plenty to enjoy in every Dontnod game I've played, and just about everything I've heard about Life is Strange 2 sounds good. Or at the very least, people whose opinions I (sometimes) trust liked it! I know that's not exactly the most enthusiastic I've ever sounded about a "game I should have played," but I do feel like this is one I should get too, sooner rather than later. Hearing that it attempts to tackle serious topics like racism against Latinx people in modern day America, and doing a good job of it, well, at least in the bigger-ish games space, you don't see much of that.
I've also heard it doesn't have a bad ending, which would be a first for a Dontnod game, so I want to see that. Well, that's not fair, I don't remember the ending of...Remember Me, that might have been okay. It probably wasn't.
Runners up: Disco Elysium, Luigi's Mansion 3.
5. Death Stranding.
A year ago, I was still making jokes about how we wouldn't see this game until sometime in the mid-2020s, and yet here we are. It's out, I played over a hundred hours of it, and I managed to find enough to say about it to fill two separate blogs. Like MGSV before it, this is a game that does really, truly speak to me on a game play and design level. I love traversing big spaces in games, and Death Stranding has some of my favorite traversal ever. It's not anything fancy, or flashy. Just the opposite, in most cases.
But that's what makes the game special. Its dedication to making the journey itself the challenge, making that the core of the game. Trudging along the barren landscapes of a time warped America, lugging along hundreds of kilograms of cargo, doing the dirty work that needs to be done. And in this case, I mean the literal version of dirty work, not the figurative type. So many games default to having the primary means of interacting be big, spectacular, and violent, that it's refreshing to have a game that isn't primarily about that stuff. Even if some of that stuff is still there, and I wish there had been less of it.
I wish more games on the big budget scale were like Death Stranding. More games that are willing to make you do what would be boring busy work in so many other games, but find ways to make them compelling, and yes, fun! Games willing to have empty spaces exist as worthwhile places unto themselves, and not just the pointless filler between the real "content." Games that are about bringing people together, not pushing them apart. Even as corny as it sounds.
And speaking of corny, even the "Strand Game" thing works really well. It manages to both have the best parts of building things in a world alongside other players, and helping everyone out, but also maintain the feeling of lonely melancholy that's so integral to the game's overall mood, and tone. It feels like the world is really being changed, and it can make traversing, and making big deliveries so much faster. But crucially that feeling of being alone, of having to trek across desolate lands is still there, and it is such a big part of what makes Death Stranding the memorable game that it is.
There is a haunting beauty to this game, to this world now devoid of what once was. So much of everything humanity built up, washed away by the rains of time, leaving only remnants left. Deserts, grasslands, mountains, all returned to their natural state, a primordial one. One that almost looks alien, and even if nothing else from this game sticks with me years from now, that will.
All the best parts of Death Stranding are great. But, again, like MGSV before it, the story drags it down. And unlike MGSV, this doesn't even have a couple of returning characters to help keep me invested in what was going on. Even if a subplot ended up being compelling enough by the end, it was only one part of a larger, messier whole. So, despite its best being unlike much else I've ever played, fifth place ended up as high as it could get. The top five of just about any given year are always the hardest to figure out, and this year especially, even if some of them have some flaws (like Death Stranding), they're still all great games that have stuck with me, and will continue to stick for quite some time.
Death Stranding also wins:
Strand Game of the Year.
Best character names.
Best corpse delivery.
Best gadget: The Odradek.
Best open spaces.
Best baby that ended not being as creepy as I initially thought, but was still kind of creepy.
Best duo that would've made for a more interesting story rather than the actual A-plot of this game: Cliff (Mads Mikkelsen) and Die-Hardman (Tommie Earl Jenkins).
Best product placement: Monster® Energy Drink.
Worst product placement: Ride with Norman Reedus.
Best woolly mammoth: Super Climb Up.
I don't play many indie games. At least not the truly, truly independentest of indie games. The sorts of games that only show up at places like itch . io and you only find out about because they're from someone a friend of yours knows. Anyway, this was one of those, it was a charming little platformer, and there's one thing from it that stuck with me: How adorable this woolly mammoth is!
I wanna hug that mammoth!
4. Resident Evil 2.
What an immaculate, honed to a razor edge of video game Resident Evil 2 is. My experience with the original is barely existent, but that didn't for a second impede my time with the remake. It really is the distillation of everything good about Resident Evil, and so focused in doing that to the best of its ability that it is, in some ways, nearly perfect to whatever the absolute ideal of what it's trying to do.
This game is scary. Games never scare me. The closest that they ever really get is when my heart starts racing at the end of a tough boss in something like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Even then, that's more stress because I know I can't pause and take a breather (one reason why Sekiro never felt as pulse pounding, despite often being more demanding). The tight corridors of this game, the jerky zombies that actually feel threatening, monstrous creatures lurking just out of sight, and...him...
I don't have patience for horror games that are solely dedicated to the "big invincible enemy stalking you." That, or what I've experienced of that sub-genre in the past (mostly Outlast, a bad game), were bad, or detracted from what really made the game work (Soma). But here, Mr. X is a walking heart attack. He is the creature that bumps in the night, literally as he moves around, the floor creaking with every step, the incredible audio design never letting me forget that he's out there...searching for me. Relentless. Unstoppable.
He can be slowed down, but is it really worth it when ammo can be sparse? The number of times I finished off a zombie with my last, final bullet are a lot higher than any other game I can think of. And sure, in retrospect, it's fairly obvious the game was fudging the numbers a bit. I'm pretty sure the devs have said as much, but in the moment? What better way to raise the tension?
The mark of a truly, exceptionally great game is that in writing about it, even just thinking about it has got me wanting to load it up and play it again. That, and excited for Resident Evil 3! I know the original isn't as well regarded as the original RE2, but just thinking about an expanded upon version of Mr. X has my heart going a little faster.
Really, the only knock I can make against the game is that whoever you play as, there's a not so great sequence in the middle of the game where you play as someone else. Not game ruining, but in a package that otherwise is near perfect, it stands out. Even the later areas of the game, that so many people seem to dislike, I didn't mind. Not as good as the opening police station, but still good. Then again, when there were this many games in a year that I felt so strongly about, any little thing can end up being the cause of something moving up or down a spot on this (arbitrary) list.
Resident Evil 2 also wins:
Best nemesis: Mr. X.
Best sound design.
Best use of actually making zombies threatening.
Most actually scary game.
Best bad credits song.
Gnarliest looking burger.
Multiplayer moment of the year: Becoming Champion in Apex Legends.
What a roller coaster that was my feelings on this game. Disappointment that it wasn't Titanfall 3, displeased it didn't have the things that I liked so much from Titanfall 2, not enjoying the game at first blush, to rising up like the true gaymer I am, and feeling that rush as I came so, SO close to victory... And then, with my friends at my sides (or more accurate me at their side), Becoming Champion. And we kept playing, having fun, making up our own in jokes (many swamp related), sometimes we won, but often we didn't. One time a friend and I were led to victory by the God of Thunder, Thor himself! Or, you know, someone with Thor in their username.
Sadly, it didn't last. We all kinda fell off from the game. If I had to pin it to one thing, it would probably be that we all felt kinda cruddy with how nickel and dime the game was. Or, more accurately, tenner and twenty-er it was. Because it's expensive. It wasn't really impacting the actual game itself (though seeing more and more characters locked behind paid cash money didn't help), but we all just fell off it. And this was after several of my friends just bought the battle pass. I shouldn't speak for them, but I'm going to speak for them and say they did not get their money's worth out of the battle pass.
But none of that erases the fun that we did have with the game. The battle royale genre is one that I thought was going to pass me by, and nothing of it would grab me, but then Respawn went and proved me wrong. And I'm glad, because we had lots of fun! It'd just be nice if my whole memory of that game was fun, and not of us all slowly losing interest because of the capitalism side of it. Otherwise this might have sneaked onto my top ten, but it couldn't even beat out a Todd Howard Presented game.
Apex Legends also wins:
Biggest Boi: Gibraltar.
If there is a theme to this year's games, it's that they have excellent, really high highs, but also fall short in some ways. In several cases, it's the technical side that they do, and Control is by far the worst offender. Or maybe the most consistent offender, given Anthem's...well, being Anthem. It doesn't really have the random oddities that Fallen Order does, instead it's very easy to tank the framerate. Big fight? Lots of physics causing the environment to go to pieces? It'll go down. Even opening the map can be trouble. The game's been patched, and hopefully patches since I've played have made it better still, but it was rough.
Which is why it's all the more impressive that the game shines as bright as it does. The aura of mystery that permeates this game, that oozes out of every corner of The Oldest House is phenomenal. The blend of paranatural weirdness and the boring day to day life of bureaucracy make for such a fantastic aesthetic. But it's not just aesthetic, it's in every facet of the game. I read every bit of text in this game that I found, because I was so fascinated by the world Remedy had crafted. Because I wanted to keep digging, keep diving deeper, and just see more of what they dreamed up.
It's a great playing game too. Framerate issues aside, it was still endlessly fun to hurl objects around. Useful against enemies, but sometimes it was just fun to wrench a piece of concrete out of the floor and chuck it through a row of desks. At least when the framerate buckles, I can see why, even if it's still got me bummed that PS4 Amateur was the only way I had to experience this game.
Not that it mattered. I kept diving in, delving deeper into The Oldest House until I got that Platinum Trophy, and had done just about everything I could do. And I want more, in the best possible way. That DLC better be good.
Control also wins:
Best colored lighting.
Live action video of the year.
Best use of puppets.
Moment of the year: Take Control.
Worst framerate as the result of physics and destruction.
Janitor of the year: Ahti.
Pyramid of the year: The Board.
Best new Pokémon of the year as decided by someone who hasn't played a Pokémon game since the 90s:
I love Pokémon. Not so much the games, as the Pokémon themselves. They're cute, and they're friends that I want to spend time with and embark on adventures with! Just not the adventures that the games actually involve. So, in honor of my love of Pokémon, I've decided to name the best new Pokémon from the new games. Rather than rank them, I'm just going to list my favorites with my reasoning why. They are all friends. ALL OF THEM.
Look at this perfect sheep. LOOK HOW ROUND THEY ARE. I would hug a Wooloo. I would spend an entire day with a Wooloo. I would make a Wooloo my faithful friend and love them with all my heart.
I love this flawless bug child. This Pokémon is worthy of both memes and legend. Of course deserving of gentle hugs. I would kill for Snom. I would die for Snom.
The power of socialism and unionizing at work. Divided they are weak, but united? Falinks is strong, and real, and my friend! I would hug every individual Fa in the links, and I would group hug them all at once.
Imagine a dog so full of love and joy that it became too powerful, and that power was channeled into electricity. This is Yamper. Science has said that dogs don't like being hugged, but if Yamper was cool with it, I would hug them. Even if I got an electric shock.
From mummy juice to some other memes, cursed beverages are all the rage. This one is literally cursed by a spirit. The hug might be very wet, but I would hug it.
This squirrel is actually Gimli from Lord of the Rings, but reincarnated as a squirrel. Because all fictional versions of the UK exist in the same universe. Would hug, for sure.
When deciding upon the best new Pokémon, I realized I couldn't keep it at one award. Not when there's also new forms of old Pokémon. So...
Best new form of old Pokémon of the year as decided by someone who hasn't played a Pokémon game since the 90s.
This cat...has a beard. A BEARD. A very huggable beard.
The commentary...is not subtle. I would not hug it, or stand near for fear of inhaling fumes.
Nintendo has accidentally made another trans pride Pokémon. This time a horse instead of an Eevee. Majestic, and huggable.
AND THAT'S NOT ALL.
Best Gigantamax version of Pokémon as decided by someone who hasn't played a Pokémon game since the 90s.
Snorlax...the best Pokémon...is now a landmass...and perfection. I would hug and live on this gentle giant for the rest of my life.
Pikachu's ultimate and best form!!!! Finally returned to us!!!!! Extremely round, perfect. My hugs might not reach the total circumference, but my love does.
FLUFFY. FLUFFY HUGS.
Thank you for indulging me.
I had a lot of difficulty deciding between my number one and two games this year. Some years there's a very clear choice, and really the only one, but some I have to really, really think a lot about how to rank them. This is one of those years, and honestly, I almost want to bend the rules and give each of these two games the number one spot. But I won't.
That said, it might not be my number one game of the year, but it's got favorite story of the year, and my favorite new cast of characters. One of the biggest strengths of the Yakuza series is its recurring cast of characters, so dumping all of them in favor of entirely new ones, while setting it in the same city was a bit risky, but it paid off. Yagami is great, Kaito is exactly the sort of gruff but still friendly guy that makes for a great sidekick, and just about everyone else in the main cast is good too. Saori especially, stands out in my memory as another favorite. Give her more screen time in the sequel!
And while Yagami and friends travel down all the twists and turns I could want out of a Yakuza style story (complete with one of my seriously non-ironic favorite things from these games, crooked real estate deals), Judgment went a step farther than the Yakuza games in one crucial way: Making it feel like a real, living space. Not by having any sort of massive upgrade to the detail of Kamurocho, or expanding it in some way, but instead by filling it with more characters.
I'm sure I wrote this months ago in my other blog, but the small touch of giving names to the people who work at all the stores makes it feel more real. Even if Yagami only knows them in passing, only plays a small role in their lives, as they do in his, it makes them feel just real enough. And in turn it makes Yagami feel more like a member of the community, rather than a video game protagonist who shows up one day to start doing video game protagonist things.
That stuff's all strong enough that I'd be happy with it even if that's all the game was. But it's also just about as good of a brawler as the Yakuza games were. Not as much variety as Yakuza 0, but it's still a lot better than 6. Actually, this game's so much better than 6 that it's hard to believe it was the same people that made it. I think, I mean. I dunno, they pump out games fast enough they either have to be crunching real hard or have multiple teams working on multiple games at once, right? Or both.
There is something that I deeply appreciate about the games that this studio makes. Part of it is the storytelling, which at its best is superb (though at its worst is pretty bad, and I'm still mad about the ending of Yakuza 6). But a lot of it is just how much it feels like they've created a true, living space. It's easy to knock the games for reusing Kamurocho so much, I know I have in the past. The thing is, though, I've played so many of these games, and spent so many countless hours in that one little district of Tokyo, that it's started to feel like home. Feel like home in the same way that the Normandy did after a trilogy of Mass Effect games.
It's a place that I know and love. A place that I've gone through good times and bad in. A place that I know like the back of my hand, and could take a stroll down right now, and just enjoy being there. And now, it's a place that holds a strong, positive association with not one, but two different series. I guess assuming that they make a Judgment 2, which I genuinely hope they do. I'm still a little iffy on the direction Yakuza Like a Dragon is taking, but I couldn't be more confident in Yagami as a solid core to build a new series around. Which also isn't me saying they should pump out seven more Judgment games without giving each one the care and time it deserves, but I would love to solve more mysteries with him, and all his friends.
Judgment also wins:
Best new protagonist: Takayuki Yagami.
Most interesting sequence where control switches to a woman and she almost instantaneously gets catcalled.
Best hair: Yagami.
Best BIGH traffic cones.
Best credits sequence (cat).
Best arcade games.
Eleventh Annual Moosies Old Game of the Year: Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition.
In some ways, I feel like I've said all that I can about this game, and in others I feel like I could just go on, and on, and on. This game was a journey, one that I took on a total whim, and one that left a deeper impact than I ever would have guessed. And, if I'm being frank, a deeper impact than any game actually released in 2019. Deeper than most games I've played this generation. I know it's only been a few months since I played it, and part of me does feel like I'm jumping the gun by saying something like this, but it really did find a place in my heart.
And it feels so silly to say, because the parts of the game that I love are just so goofy and clichéd. On paper there really isn't anything that special about this game. But paper doesn't tell the story of all the hours I spent on the road with those characters. Noctis, Prompto, Ignis, and Gladio, each one in their own way, has clung onto me. None of them are perfect, either as people, or as written characters as a part of a story. A story that I still have a lot of issues with, stuck inside a game that also has more flaws that I could list out here.
At the end of the day, I love this game, I love these characters, and this game stands amongst a cherished few to really get so deep into my heart. I cried at the end, and that's not something that happens to me often. So, flaws and all, I love this game. And unlike the journey I took with it, I'll keep this short, because I've already written the long version out.
Soma was, for months, the obvious pick for this award. Months until I played FFXV, at least. It suffers a bit from leaning too heavily on the running and hiding from monsters, but at least the devs officially added in a can't die mode, so I could just enjoy the story. Or, perhaps enjoy isn't quite the word given it's very dark, and depressing, but it's a story worth experiencing. Just know going in that that it's pretty dark, and has a lot of fleshy mechanical body horror stuff going on.
If my ranking of Pokémon from a game I haven't played told you anything, it's that I love cute things. And the slimes in Slime Rancher...ARE ADORABLE.
My only disappointment with the game is that at some point there was a patch that completely broke it for me. Any time I try to load my save the game just hard locks, and my only recourse is to close it from the PS4 main menu. I was fine looking past the framerate troubles, but this? No longer being able to get to my ranch...it made me sad. There's been a couple patches lately, so maybe that fixed it, but...I'm doubtful.
Okay! That's a lot of text that I've written, and a lot of reading you've done, but we're almost at the end! So, without further ado, the number one, Eleventh Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Game of the Year, is...
1. Devil May Cry 5.
Some years, what speaks to me most is story, or forming a really, truly deep connection with the characters. Had FFXV actually been released this year, that would've taken the crown. But some years, a game comes along that might not have the best story, but has something else that just elevates it in my mind. Two years ago Breath of the Wild's vast expanses and fantastic "emergent game design" was it, and a handful ago it was the incredible fun of playing Smash Bros. for Wii U with friends.
It's kicking ass in the best stylish action game ever made. This game is incredible, I don't know how to put into words how this game makes it feel. I was going back and forth between this game and Judgment, so I put the game back in, and played some of it, wondering if it would be as good as I remembered. Would I just fumble around and wonder why I liked it so much months ago?
It all came back instantly. All the moves, everything, like I just had played the game yesterday (which technically as of this writing I did play it yesterday, funnily enough). It all flowed out, rippling through my hands to the controller, to Dante ripping and tearing through demons like nobody's business. Doing well too, I swear I was getting SSS ranks more consistently than I did back months ago! That however, I'm going to say is the part where my memory might not be consistent with the reality.
But it's not just that they made a game with one character that's great to play. They made a game starring THREE, all play differently, and all are a lot of fun, but in their own ways. Sure, there's overlap, they all can do an uppercut the same way, but that's just consistency. In the same way that everyone in Mortal Kombat does an uppercut the same way. I really feel like this is some sort of achievement. Seriously, what other games have had this high a quality in the combat for multiple playable characters? Not counting fighting games, that's the entirety of what they do. Then again, also I feel like Dante has SO MUCH going on that it eclipses even a lot of fighting games.
And they made Nero fun to play! I mean, he wasn't terrible in DMC4, but that was the biggest issue dragging that game down. So much of it was spent playing as a character with very little variety in what he could do. Then Dante had way more going on, but he was relegated to backtracking through all the previous levels with weird gimmicks like poison gas.
So the solution? Give Nero a slew of prosthetic arms, each with fun abilities, and at least what feels like more in the realm of sword attacks. That, and the whole energy and mood of this game feels different than DMC4. That game, at least in my memory, is kind of mellow, and too serious for its own good. At least for what it is, it also had some goofs. But here, Nero's theme, Devil Trigger, is one of my favorite songs from any game. Ever. It's just so catchy, and so good at hyping me up, that hearing it during fights just gets me ready and raring to go. And it's not overdone either, that sort of thing can get tiring, even when the song is great.
You know what else they went and did? They took that song, and made a different version of it for the final boss fight, like this was a full on anime, and it's great. I love it.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention V, the Adam Driver lookalike who fights by commanding his critter friends (or captured demon associates, to be more correct to the lore). They went and made a character who semi directly controls other characters, and made it work, in real time, in an action game that can move at such a blistering pace. Also he has a button dedicated to reading poetry mid-fight.
ON TOP OF ALL THAT, there's co-op! Underutilized, but it works.
Just writing about this game, just thinking about it excites me. It's got my blood pumping, got me going, ready to load the game up and just play through it all again for the like, third or fourth time. Or just keep climbing that Bloody Tower, even if I never got better than a C rank, and then only with one character.
Game of the year can mean a lot of things. But ultimately, if a game excites me this much, so many months after playing it, it's hard not to give it the big award. It's phenomenal, and darn near perfect at what it does. If you haven't played it, and you like cutting up enemies in stylish ways, please, do yourself a favor and play this game! It is the pinnacle of the genre, and I need to stop myself from writing more because otherwise I will just ramble forever about it.
Love it. Really do.
Devil May Cry 5 also wins:
Most stylish action.
Best original song: "Devil Trigger."
Best alternate version of an original song: "Silver Bullet."
Best bad song: "Subhuman."
Best prosthetic arm: Devil Breaker.
Best thing I heard all year: Demonic metal voice screaming, "SMOKIN' SEXY STYLE!!!"
Best sword fighting.
Best weapon name: Dr. Faust. It's a cowboy hat.
Best realization of something that should have been in DMC3 but they were too cowardly to do it then: Weaponized motorcycle.
Most devilishly good game.
Thank you for reading! I know a lot of people were down on 2019 as a year for games, and I get it. I felt that way too, at times, but going through and thinking about it, there was a solid group of games that I really liked, and even loved! Sure, I did admit that FFXV was the game that actually left the biggest impact on me, but that's happened before, and doesn't detract from what anything released this year achieved.
Anyway, got off on a tangent there, instead of starting into the yearly tradition of predictions for next year! Will they be right? Almost certainly not! And that's what makes them so much fun to do.
2020 Moosies Video Game Awards Game of the Year: Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise.
Am I allowing my hopes to get too high for a sequel to a game that was deeply flawed in just about every conceivable way, the compelling aspects of which may very well have been lightning only striking once? Yes! But when has that ever stopped me?
Half-Life Alyx delayed at least once more before release.
I'm holding off this year on Half-Life 3 predictions because of an actual Half-Life game coming.
Xbox Series X has a mini-fridge built into it.
That's the real reason for the vertical design.
Nintendo announces the Switch Liter, which is just a slightly smaller version of the Switch Lite. Still does not drop the price on the regular sized Switch.
You know there's people who would buy it, and act like it's exactly what they needed.
The same Mario Kart 8 bundle returns in time for Black Friday at the same price.
My desire to have a Switch but my stubbornness at wanting to save money have been at odds for some time now.
Bayonetta 3 finally shown for real. She has a new hairdo.
Still can't believe Platinum announced and released another entirely separate game before showing us literally anything for Bayonetta 3 after that teaser. Also that teaser still has me worried she'll be going back to her Bayonetta 1 era hair, which I don't like. Her Bayonetta 2 hair is much better, but they should probably give her a new look each game.
Still no F-Zero.
I'm so tired.
Halo Infinite is, in fact, finite.
It'll be quite funny if this Halo game tries to be a forever game like Destiny.
Whatever attempt is made to get people interested in Anthem again...does not work.
I hope I'm wrong. I'd like that game to be good. I'd like BioWare to be good.
Bluepoint Games' remaster is not, as people suspect, Demon's Souls, but instead...Tokyo Jungle.
In actuality I'm not sure how I'd feel about them remastering Demon's Souls. It's a very interesting game, at least aesthetically, but it's also the only From Software game in that "style" that I don't like playing, for a variety of reasons ranging from level design, to needless inventory restrictions.
Wait, what? The prediction was about Tokyo Jungle? Well, you know.
Thank you for reading. I enjoy doing this every year, and so much so this year that I also intend to, in the not so distant future, do something in honor of the decade of video games that came and went. Or is still going depending on how one wants to define decades, but shush. Don't be a fun spoiler. Keep your eyes peeled if you want to read exciting things like me ranking every year (in games) from the decade, or finding new reasons to keep thinking about Tokyo Jungle.