Chris' Top 10 Games of 2018 and some other stuff I enjoyed!

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Another year of games is about to come to an end--And it has to be said, 2018 wasn't quite as thrilling as 2017. It was another shitty year of enduring an incompentent fish-lipped orange sitting in the highest seat of the most powerful nation on Earth. And having to wait for most of the year before all the big releases came out. So it's a good thing that 2018 at least conjured some good indies as well. I think it's fair to say that the indies have struck biggest this year. Well, let's give them the annual praise, shall we?

5 Good Games That Weren't Released in 2018

One thing I always like to do is play through old games I never managed to finish, or replay old titles I love. 2018 certainly wasn't an exception as I had a few games that needed finishing, and there was enough drought for me to do so. Here are 5 Good Games I played throughout this year that wasn't released in 2018.

5. Dark Souls: Remastered (on Nintendo Switch)

I was never that big on Dark Souls when it first came out, it took me to playing Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 to go back and really appreciate it. The level design in the first Dark Souls didn't feel consistent or as intricate as Miyazaki's later titles. And there was just something about Demon's Souls that came out earlier that made it trumph it. the atmosphere and music was just right I think? Anyway, going back to Dark Souls now has made me appreciate it a lot more, it's definitely Dark Souls when it's good unlike the many, many, many copy cats or Dark Souls 2 that doesn't seem to understand the central factors. The oppressive Dark Fantasy world, and the NPCs that are all seemingly mad or talk like they want your wallet always make for such a fun time--A fun time getting your ass kicked as you've relaxed your skills a bit too much on hand holdy AAA titles. And it's now on Switch, so yay!

4. Horizon: Zero Dawn

Quite a paradoxical title one might say, right? Well, Horizon Zero Dawn for all of the issues I had with its by the books boring open world, and droll NPCs with dodgy voice acting, the writing in the main story ended up being surprisingly good. The issues I had with the game is what made me put off, and refrain from buying it after I had played it last year. This year was different. For a post apocalyptic game, the reveals were interesting and thrilling. I suppose it is just as well, when acclaimsed writer/game designer John R. Gonzales (Fallout New Vegas) had worked on the game, combined with the pretty graphic capabilities that the Killzone veteran developers, and that of Ashly Burch's voice acting; And you have yourself a pretty good game. Still haven't finished it quite yet though, it's an open world after all.

3. VA11 HALL-A: A Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Okay, so hear me out. I know how this looks, I put the same game from last year on the same list for this year. But I got 2 reasons for it. One reason is that.. well I played it again this year dammit, and the second reason is also the reason why I replayed it. The game got itself a spiffy physical edition on the Vita by the way of Limited Run Games. In many ways, this game is the swang song of the neglected Playstation Vita. And this is the definitive experience of this wonderful game of cyberpunk dystopia, anime waifus, quirky characters and a delightful soundtrack of old 80s sci-fi movies. Go read my list from last year for a more thorough description of this game. Or go buy it! Preferrably both!

2. No One Lives Forever

Hey, remember the early 2000s and late 90s? Those were some great times for first person shooters. Half Life is a pretty memorable game in that vein, and it set the precedence for what can be done with games. Former Gamespot guy Daniel O'Dwyer has recently released an incredibly well-done documentary on said game, and you should check it out so that you may understand why I'm putting No One Lives Forever on this list. Half Life introduced the concept of NPCs, lore and an overworld you could interact and partially explore to a genre that wasn't RPG. The idea that the scenery you are traversing through isn't just some backdrop for the action, but an actual world you are exploring. No One Lives Forever cashes in on this with its well written characters, that are all satirical takes on classic Bond spy-movie archetypes, great sense of humor and fun action, not to mention some interesting level design that follows the Half Life formula.

Both this game and its sequel can be downloaded for free on the net, you can find the link on Rock Paper Shotgun's site or elsewhere due to the license for the title having long since expired that nobody really owns it anymore. Do check it out, it's worth experiencing at least once.

1. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

If Persona, Shin Megami Tensei and Atlus overall wasn't a thing then Paper Mario TTYD would probably be my favorite JRPG of all time. Nevermind the combat being fairly straightforward, accessible though still quite a bit of nuance, or it being a Mario game. No, it's a Mario game with coherent and fascinatingly designed world. Rogueport, a seedy, crime-filled town of thugs and hooligans (surprising for a Mario game already) connects itself to a vast array of locales like the sunny town of Petalburg, the eerie Boggly Woods or even to that of a wresting arena located in the sky in form of Glitzville. Thousand Year Door takes Miyamoto's outdated designs of Fire, Ice, Woods or whatever the heck and dumps it in a dustbin. It takes Mario into new and welcoming territory, which Miyamoto and others have since abandoned because innovation is a such concept that has completely slipped them by. Whether you are solving Agatha Christie-based murders on a train, being a professional wrestler, or challenging a big mean dragon in his castle, Paper Mario succeeds on being a game that never feels like it runs by the books. There is no set routine, like most games have, where all the levels starts to feel like they are progressing the same way. Every level is completed differently, with their own quirks, and that is why the Thousand Year Door today is still the best Mario game in my mind.

If Nintendo re-releases this game some day from their shadowy pits, then you owe it to yourself to play it.

Best Asswhooping Simulator(or combat if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

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Hokuto ga Gotoku, as I will continue to call it because the title is a neat reference to the Yakuza series. And Hokuto is Yakuza in anything but name, and world, but even the world feels like it was crafted as part of the Yakuza canon. I've had a hard time understanding the dislike towards the game, as it stands this game has some of the most fun combat in any Yakuza game. Hokuto takes to the skies, as you can now launch enemies into the air, and keep them there, through punching on top of backflip dodging, and incredibly fast paced "heat actions" done through Kenshiro's ridiculously over-the-top violent Hokuto Shinken fighting style. Nevermind the engaging mini-games in form of drink mixing, a new take on the Club Management that has been around since Yakuza 3, and driving in the desert. The combat alone would sell me in the game, it's the kind of cathartic brawler based fighting I loved from Yakuza, that I didn't find with the likes of Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2. Hokuto keeps my faith in the series alive that the Dragon Engine might yet have a shot at creating a title that feels like Yakuza again. If Sega intents on giving them more development time, if nothing else there is always spin-offs like Hokuto, where ending the lives of Mad Max based thugs before they even knew they were already dead, can sustain me.

Best Character To Have in Your Corner

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Achi Endo: Ah, Shibuya Scramble, the one game nobody played in 2018. While this game is technically 10 years old, we in the West have only just now gotten the chance to experience it. And it's quite an experience, and mostly because of the characters and genuinely well written crime drama that feels on par with the quality of a good HBO Drama, or a decent run of 24. 2018, for me, didn't have as many new characters in its biggest titles as I would have liked, so it's a good thing that Shibuya has plenty. Achi Endo stands out as the most dependable character of the bunch, he's the guy who'd have the balls to call you out on littering, and telling you to throw your trash into a garbage bin, lest he hauls your ass into a bin himself. While he's a former gang member, he hates bullying and prefers instead to look out for people who can't look out for themselves, enough to get himself recklessly involved into attempted kidnappings. Sounds like a guy I'd like to know.

Honourable Mentions: Charles Smith (RDR2)

Zie List 10-8

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10. Monster Hunter: World

A lot of unsavory things can be said about Capcom in the recent years regarding their "questionable" business decisions, and even some game design decisions in relations to the most recent Street Fighter V and the Devil May Cry series. But, as of last year, it feels like Capcom has started to find their footing again. The Monster Hunter series, despite its seemingly colossal success, still feels like a pretty niche series as it's never struck me as a game that appeals to the mainstream, or at the very least feels like a franchise that hasn't been marketed enough for the average joe outside of the most hardcore gaming forums on the net, to talk about it. Monster Hunter World aimed to change that, through its very accomodating and approachable presentation. The combat has a lot of nuance to it, and isn't all about pressing all the buttons, there's almost a DMC-like elegance to the way you can pull off flashy and precise strikes to take down the monsters you are hunting. You have to fight smart too, much like the Witcher, and plan ahead before you engage with the hunt. And usually that involves making sure you eat a good meal, before venturing otu, as it'll give you some necessary stats boosts on top of being properly geared with potions, traps and other doodads, making sure your weapons are sharpened, there's a lot of micromanagement to this game but not nearly enough to make it unbearable.

All of this sounds pretty great, but is slightly let down by the game's lack of a decent story and proper motivation for why you're hunting. You could say that isn't the strength of this series, and you'd be right, but as long as the game has a story it's gonna be judged on those merits as well as its gameplay. Monster Hunter World is really fun, but it evolves into the usual tedious grind that associates with any MMO. If you want the most fancy gear, you gotta keep grinding, and that usually means having to fight the same Monsters you've already killed or captured, there seems to be no way to satisfy these immobile 1's and 0's that grants you these requests. The game has a limit to its fun factor, and once you've slayed the presumed big baddie that the "story" keeps looming over you, the game feels finished but has to pad itself out with more and more monsters. Looking past that, World was a fun romp the first month or so of 2018 to tide me over for other releases so it ended up on this list regardless!

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9. Mario Tennis Aces

It feels like in recent years a lot of well established franchises have seen a bit of resurgence, and among those are definitely Nintendo's roster. While the company generally practices a consistent loyalty to what's "safe and familiar" about their games, there are times when Nintendo starts to look outside of the box. Among those examples were Mario Odyssey and Zelda Breath of the Wild from 2017. While only Odyssey tingled my fancy, and Breath of the Wild felt like a retrace of everything I've come to loathe about open world video games, the former was not. And it's all really confusing to me, because the times where Nintendo really showcased a spark of innovation was when they made games like Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, and now that series has been Orwellian-fied into the same old Mario standard game with recent entries, it feels gratifying to see them take bold steps with their other franchises now. I just wish Paper Mario was one of them.

But anyway, Mario Tennis. I picked up Mario Tennis when it came out as I had been following the game's coverage for a bit during the months leading up to its release and liked what I saw. The movement and power play on the court felt distinctively familiar, and reminded me of days I spent playing Mario Tennis 64 with friends. That game made Tennis fun, and even taught me some basic rules about the sport. I've never had any incentive to pick up Mario sports games ever since, simply because I don't play games as much with close friends anymore as I used to but also because none of them ever stuck to me as being worthwhile. Mario Tennis Aces, for all of its flaws, was worth all of the time I spent playing it. The initial annoyance of not having a retry button in story mode, and some ridiculous unfair advantages given to characters like Waluigi, weird multiplayer matchmaking, was something I could deal with when the overall gameplay is just downright solid. It played familiar to me, once I got the hang of it I felt powerful, as I beat almonst anybody I got matched up with in tense back and forth roundabouts as Peach. A lot of people have called Aces a "fighting game" disguised as a Tennis game, and looking at the whole "breaking your opponent's racket" system I believe them. Aces offers a lot of ways in how you can put your opponent on the spot, whether it is either through tough to counter curveballs, or power smashes that risks breaking your racket. It's tense, and requires sharp reflexes when playing well, which all good competitive games should. I spent a lot of time with it so of course it lands on this list.

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8. Dragon Ball FighterZ

Ah, Arc System Works, how I adore thee. You know, before I got introduced to Arc System Works through the unique prospect of Persona 4 Arena I was not into fighting games like AT ALL. There wasn't much fun to derive from them, but a good looking game and sometimes just a really good IP can be all that needs to lure someone new into uncharted territory. For me, that was Arc System Works Persona 4 Arena, and its follow up title Ultimax, where I wanted to main my favorite characters like Naoto and I ended up getting pretty good with her. Arc Systems' games are pretty accessible to those where fighting games aren't their forte, but there is still quite a bit of skill needed to pull off the most satisfying combos. I'm still learning how to keep my enemy afloat in the air with FighterZ. It needs to be said, this game is a Picasso painting, its flourishes with pretty visuals and stylistic colours that it makes the 2D art look like it's 3D, it feels like Dragon Ball unlike any other game with the same we've seen before.

The iconic attacks of the Dragon Ball rosters are neatly recreated through the power of the Unreal Engine 4, and it would be no joke to say that this game could sell itself off its visuals to both fans of Dragon Ball and those who aren't. I have a history with Dragon Ball, so when I see what appears to be a really good and ambitious Dragon Ball game, I can't help but take a closer look and I'm glad I did. My time spent dunking people as Android 6, and double teaming dudes as Androd 18 and 17 has been a delight. I've even had my share of fun with the game's story mode, where Cell gets to roast all of the Z-Fighters, as well as having a dick waving competition with Frieza. The story isn't the most well told, but it's decent for what it is and newcomer Android 21 is a fun enough character, if not a bit cliché with the whole "having a dark personality beneath the seemingly good nature facade". I can't wait to see how Arc System Works is gonna expand upon this game, or any other future game they are releasing, cause I've become a fan.

Top 7 Movies of 2018

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7. Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Man, am I frickin exhausted with superhero movies. I mean, I was never that into them when the whole fad got its proper start after Christopher Nolan's success with the Dark Knight trilogy. The former still retains being one of my favorite films of all time. Chris Nolan and Sam Raimi showcased that superhero flicks have potential to be engaging character dramas without the trappings, and absurdity of Comic Book worlds. To this date, Sam Raimi's Spider Man 1 and 2, remain as the best Spider Man movies in my mind because they are excellent directed and well-acted films and comic book movies second. Sony's most recent attempt with the iconic character surprisingly manages to hit that sweet spot, established by the old films from the early 2000s. And it does so with a more unconventional tale, unlike the usual Spidey story of prior films.

Enter the world of Spider-Verse, we get a fun little summary of Spider-Man's character and history, even a nice little nod to the original Raimi films with pre-recorded voice lines from the late Cliff Robertson who delivered the powerful "Great power" speech with the kind of emotional draw that has yet to be beaten by anyone else. When all of that is said and done we are introduced to Miles Morales, who unfortunately(or fortunately depending on your point of view) gets bitten by a radioactive spider, an event that is treated with some odd passive humor on the level of a Monty Python sketch, no real explanation is provided on where the Spider came from or anything--But that's okay because we've seen it before, and it balances itself out with a fun montage of Miles coming to terms with his weird predicament, which is both funny and charming, when he tries to rationalize as it being a "puberty" thing while constantly getting himself stickered to doors, walls, jumping cars like it's nothing, and even mistakenly ripping out a poor Gwen Stacy's hair.

There is a lot of heart to this film despite how comedic it generally is, it doesn't forget that the quips are hardly the essence of the Spider. The established message of the film, and the conception of the Morales character, is that anyone can be the Spider-Man and unlike the Arkham Knight video game that half-heartedly tried to do the same thing. It's easier to place anyone into the shoes of the Spider, as he always wears a mask and suit that covers his entire identity, and his character of being a generally normal guy with real world problems, like a girlfriend, a hardpressed job, paying rents. This, in contrast to the billionaire philantropist, and brood machine that is the Batman makes the difference clear, and why Batman's strength is grounded in other human qualities--Spider Man's is in his relatibility. Whether it is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker or Miles donning a mask, they've all got common issues that serves to test their never-ending battle in taking responsibility for themselves and the people they live to protect.

On top of having a pretty engaging story to tell, Into the Spider-Verse is also an incredibly gorgeous movie to look at. It goes without saying, but the tech used to make this film is unlike any other animated movie I've seen yet. The job required at least 140 animators for it to look this nice, every scene draws and animate like a living, breathing comic book. The poppy colours, the use of text bubbles to portray character's inner thoughts and graphic cut-ins painted with big neon-lit block letters makes every scene look like a slice out of a Roy Liechenstein's work, a Makoto Shinkai film and a wild Looney Tunes cartoon. All of these qualities make up the movie's beautiful presentation.

While Into the Spider-Verse presents a unique and original story about the Spider, it doesn't quite budge Spider Man 2 out of its seat as the best Spider Man movie conceived but it cuts it pretty close.

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6. The Guilty (Den skyldige)

Kidnappings, a very cultivated set up for a tense blockbuster thriller, but what if the set-up wasn't based around tense action, but rather through the eyes of a 911 operator whose capabilities can sometimes determine the life and death situation of the party on the other end of the phone. The Guilty was all the talks on most European festivals, it's Denmark's prime candidate for an Oscar Winner at 2019 awards, and while it didn't get the nomination there is plenty in this film for me to see why it should have gotten at least that

Our protagonist is Asger played by Swedish-born Danish actor Jakob Cedergren, whose character is for the lack of a better term "bit of an asshole". His displeasure with being demoted to that of a 911 Operator (or 112 as it is in Denmark) is evident, with his initial conversation with a panicked, confused young man asks for an ambulance, and he hurtfully replies "Yeah, you've taken drugs, right? It is your own fault. ”He promises to send both ambulance and police - cackling to himself, as the young man hangs up the phone.

Not long after he hears the sound of an intense scream, startling him. A crying woman who is seemingly talking to her child.

Asger is about to hang up until he realizes the severity of the situation. "Have you been kidnapped, Iben?" he asks all concerned, contrary to his prior apathetic disposition, now completely awake and tense. "Yes" she replies with all the little amount of power she can muster. A race against time follows, as Asger gathers more and more information on Iben's location, her vviolent ex-husband and kidnapper, making sure the police can get one step ahead of him and catch all while having to reassure her 6 year old daughter that her mom is coming home.

We are as ignorant about the situation as Asger is, the film never cuts from the 911 Operator office, where we have to solely rely on the incredible performances of Jacob Cedergren and Jessica Dinnage to keep the pace up. The intense excitement is all derived from what we learn through the phone alongside Asger, and it makes for an incredibly grounded, original and well put together thriller. Taking the time to calm the daughter, and reassure her of her mom's safety, as opposed to immediately handing the license plate of the kidnapper to the police gives room for good character building--Women and children first. It says a lot about our protagonist's self-understanding, and about the pitfalls he is digging for himself, as he simply refuses to be a 911 operator, and instead digs deeper into the kidnapper's family history.

The concept for this movie isn't new.

In the movie The Call from 2013, it is Halle Berry who has to speak a kidnapped girl out of a car trunk, but that film is about as Hollywood American as it gets-- The use of grim horror effects and emotional close-ups of the girl's face, dissolved in tears, snot and blood.

Director Gustav Möller and cinematographer Jasper Spanning have a completely different, soft idiom. They master the art of limitation and turn what, for many, had been a obstacle, into a compelling narrative. Spanning delivers with a small variation on the same motifs, a work that is not only constantly visually varied - Asger's jerk from the open office landscape to a darkened room feels like traveling to another country - but also pure cinematic. The film doesn't feel lesser due to its short budget, the crew make do with what little they have and succeeds in only making it feel more like a thriller than any blockbuster film would.

Imprisoning the audience alongside our main character inside a single setting is an old challenge that has been conquered before by the likes of Hitchcock, and even Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs. A single cut away from the office would have made the film lose its claustrophobic appeal. It makes for a very depressing intimacy with the characters, like we are sitting in Asger's seat.

In the absence of David Fincher, it is good to see director's like Gustav Möller filling the void of proper thrill-based movies. The Guilty is a thrill to watch.

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5. Bohemian Rhapsody

Now this film is a divisive experience when it comes to critics, it plays things too safe they said, it's not a proper homage to the band it wants to celebrate they said, which I suppose is a hard thing to convince the band with when they collaborated on this film's production. Bohemian Rhapsody might not be a perfect film, there are plenty of very interesting aspects of Freddie Mercury's life, and the band, I would have loved to see. Most of all, the episode regarding the creation of the song "Death on Two Legs", when the band had signed themselves into a bit of a stranglehold with Trident Studios and its owner Norman Sheffield. Or some weird chronological issues regarding the creation of hit songs like We Will Rock You. There are a few things that come as valid complaints to me, but when all that is said and done. Bohemian Rhapsody is still phenomenal celebration of one of the most important rock bands in the history of music.

And most of all due to the incredible performance of lead actor Rami Malek, as the incredibly charismatic entertainer Freddy Mercury. It's not unfair to say that Malek quite simply steals every scene he is in. From the very get-go, where he easily wins the hearts of drummer and guitar player Roger Taylor, and Brian May, as he sings a few bars of May and Staffell's song "Doin' Alright." The story behind their meeting is embellished a bit, if not rewritten, as Freddy's actyak meeting with his fated long-time friends weere through a third party, and the choice of rewriting history like this feels a bit odd when they don't necessarily mean the film would have been any less or more dramatic. The actual story is in of itself interesting enough. Having said that, there's not any lack of drama in Bohemian Rhapsody, but it also doesn't always dig deep enough into the foils of the band and its lead singer. But as someone who adores the band, and while wasn't alive for the very first Live Aid like my father was, there is still something special about reliving the magic of that incredible concert on the big screen.

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4. Annihilation

When it comes to promising concepts, directed by promising if not great directors, there's always the slim chance that they can backfire in some way especially when they are licensed for viewing on a streaming service. That was the case with Duncan Jones' Mute, but with Annihilation by famed sci-fi director Alex Garland, we've gotten a film that undeservedly was handed off direct-to-streaming in most western territories with the exception of the US itself. Due to a disagreement with the films distribution company regarding its tone and complex plot, Garland and his producer would have to fight too and nail to prevent any changes--This would end with the rest of us having to watch it through Netflix, and while it's comforting that it survived the chopping board, it still feels like a film that should have been experienced on the big screen to truly appreciate the beauty of its camera, colours and overall sound design.

Netflix is for all intents and purposes Hollywood's dumpster fire, where all of the hit blockbuster titles, and generally second-hand movies call home. But in the middle of all the terrible stuff, there are occasional gems like Bojack Horseman, another film I wanna talk about later, and of course Annihilation. Much like the early works of Chris Nolan, the intricate puzzle films of Charlie Kaufman, or low-budget auteur flicks by Lars Von Trier, Annihilation throws a lot of exposition at the viewer with not too much worry of having to explain itself--This isn't meant as a negative, but rather it is the movie's way of saying that the story will make sense to those that pay attention, like a jiggsaw puzzle, where the pieces are there but needs to be assembled by hand.

In the opening scene, a deserted lighthouse on the American south coast is struck by a meteor without any further explanation as to why. Instead, the act switches to Natalie Portman's character, a genetics expert named Lena, who mourns her husband, an elite soldier who disappeared twelve months before the beginning of the film and is allegedly dead.

But then he suddenly appears inexplicably at their home. Filled with blood around the mouth. On the way to the hospital, their ambulance is stopped by military personnel, escorting the couple to a top secret military installation.

This base functions as a research facility for the weird phenomenon that has sprung from the meteor strike. An ominous veil has encircled the nearby lighthouse, and all attempts at investigating the mysterious anomaly has met with people disappearing, never to return. And the veil itself only gets bigger and bigger the more days pass by. Lena's position as a geneticist, on top of also having some military training of her own, makes her giddy in wanting to form another expedition to traverse through the mysterious breach. On the other side she finds what essentially can be described as something of a fantasy-esque setting, where the swampy locales of Louisiana has transformed into a lushful forest of beautiful colors with kaleidoscopic patterns. Weird plant mutations, as well as animal mutations is what soon turns the seemingly peaceful world into a bit of a nightmare: A world where time, memory and common sense plays by different rules.

While Annihilation framed narrative with Natalie Portman's narration does assure us the general well being of the protagonist, it is still such a mindfuck that one can't be too sure. The premise feels reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, but while that film was centered on the slow decay into the darkest recesses of humanity, Annihilation feels closer to a trip into madness.

And there's a lot to think about with the madness.

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3. You Were Never Really Here

There's a lot of respect to be had for Joanquin Phoenix's acting, he's been known for playing a vast array of characters that generally stand out from one another. Particularly with his recurrent gigs with director Paul Thomas Anderson. His devotion to the craft of staying in character both in and outside of set on almost any film he's been a part of is notable.

His latest role as melancholic assassin downset on saving teenage girls from brothels run by pedophiles is another milestone in his repetoire. Managing to uplift the seemingly overdone revenge drama to that of an existential noir flick. Like any great noir, the story is more interested in fleshing out his tortured, flawed and/or corrupt main character than it is in the violence he partakes in. It reminded me of why I love the genre.

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2. Shoplifters

Who says that Japanese storytellers can't tell stories without being melodramatic? The fault of anime otaku culture being the West's primary impression of Japan is regretabble. For while there is a lot of crap coming out of Japan, there is also a lot of good, and among that is director Kore-eda Hirokazu whose latest outing is Shoplifters. Kore-eda has a few things in common with directors like Woody Allen (not the part where he's married to one of his children) but the part about having married himself into a concept. The sweet family dramas with a lot of traditional family values, and meaning of family, themes that carries into this movie too but does it better than ever before. While people of Japan has an interesting fascination with their own blood-type, it is not the blood flowing in our veins that ties us together as family, Shoplifters showcases our ability to develop familial love and feelings for each other which doesn't start and end with blood relations.

A small circular motion, drawn with the index fingers, and then they begin. The boy lets the bags of noodles and beans slip into the school bag, while his male co-conspirators shield the clerk's gaze. A puff on the elbow, and then they are out of the store. There are films about people of higher morals and films that cultivate the sigh of excitement by letting the audience sympathize with criminal offenders. But in the middle of those, are films that aren't to busy pointing fingers. Films that become fascinating and challenging because they draw us into a zone where human empathy outweighs the consideration of what is right and wrong.

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1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

A while back I generally always associated the Coen Brothers with that of dark comedy movie with colourful characters in generally mundane looking scenarios getting wrestled into not quite so mundane situations. Whether it be the seemingly unremarkable residential areas of the snowy Fargo, Minnesota or the urban districts of Los Angeles like in Lebowski. One thing is for certain, The Coen Brothers has nailed down the concept of genre film to a

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7. Valkyria Chronicles 4

Years, it's been years since we've seen the last of Valkyria Chronicles. Yes, it has, and if you think it hasn't you are wrong and should be punched. It's interesting how a lot of beloved franchises are making their return, usually with that of a strong new sequel that surpasses the standards set by the predecessor--Valkyria Chronicles 4 definitely improves a whole lot upon the prior game, made by the same team, being the first game and not the last two sequels for the portable platforms. It unfortunately also takes some steps back, but for all the things it does wrong it does more things right.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 raises the stakes with a plot that feels more like the pillars of a proper war-drama. Squad E of the Federation Alliance, that opposes the Empire, is dispatched on a suicide mission behind enemy lines to the Imperial Capital. Their mission to take the capital, which will result in the war's end. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles 1, the story in 4 is better told with the usual framed narrative tools. Everything that happens is being related to the player in a past tense, like reading the notes of those that were there, but Valkyria 4 takes extra precaution in fleshing out the characters as well as adding more drama and further obstacles for the Squad to overcome throughout the story. Whether it is to survive the cold harsh weather while avoiding enemies, or sabotaging the occasional imperial outpost. The

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6. Forgotten Anne

Yes, the inevitable dumbass pun is gonna come at you as predictably as Donald Trump making uinformed tweets about what someone just said on Fox News just now. Forgotten Anne is very much a game that embodies its whole thematic message of feeling discarded, and forgotten. And it's a shame too, because Forgotten Anne isn't so much a forgettable indie title, as it is an unforgettable gem in the between all of these sparkly AAA titles that generally drew all of the attention. The game is developed by a Danish developer Throughline Games, another interesting up-and-comer studio from my country of origin dishing out a pretty memorable experience, and on a Danish developed engine too. Unity, as an engine, is not exactly a powerhouse but games like Forgotten Anne and Dreamfall Chapters proves that in the hands of a great, magical things can happen.

The premise for this game is as it sounds, it relates to the old saying of not knowing what we got until it's gone (or in this case forgotten). Our lack of knowledge is both a curse and a blessing, as things we forget might become a blessing to others, like donating toys you cherished as a child to someone else, like a niece, and remembering the good times we had with them and the cost of doing that. In case of Forgotten Anne, the things we discard, like an unwanted sock, a lamp, a plushie, gets transmogrified into sentient beings called Forgottenlings in a parallel fairytale based world.

Anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, giving them very diverse human qualities evokes allusions to the likes of Hayao Miyazaki, Disney Pixar, and classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytales like The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and many more. But, unlike these Nordic fairytales, the story is told from a human girl protagonist's perspective, because of that there is no abstract contrasts being drawn between the main characters in an attempt to finding their own identity. But they share common existential themes, Anne's role in a world of living objects is that of an Enforcer, who is meant to basically keep "the balance". This is evident as early as the first part of the game, where you run into a "suspicious" Forgotling who decided to hide out at your place, this happening while talks of rebel-Forgotlings causing trouble in the city and an explosion occurs near where you live. During the confrontation it seems evident that the forgotling is hiding something, it seems natural for you to wanting to neutralize a potential threat and the game doesn't try too hard to give away any potential ambiguity that might shadow this whole thing. It explains your abilities to take away the lifeforce of any Forgotling you so choose, and showcases you "like a tutorial" how to do so and if you follow through with it, that is what happens (he's back to being a plain old scarf, effectively dead).

While video games tendency to explain the potential impact of the events in a story that is about to transpire is useful, if not welcome, being told so can sometimes feel discouraging and robbing the player of any real impact to their choices. While games like Spec Ops don't have any real moral choices, its decision to present you with a comfortable and familiar shooter based narrative, and then letting you indulge yourself makes the impact all the better when it allows you to think for yourself on what you are doing and making you take a second to contemplate on it when it pulls the rug. Telltale does the opposite, Life is Strange does the opposite, but Forgotten Anne doesn't, it tests you. It certainly notifies you on how a certain choice could have ended differently, but it feels more like a way to put your own thoughts into words then it feels like the game is trying to punish you for allowing yourself to get stringed along. The game doesn't tell you about the potential choice of simply scaring the Forgotling off, instead of just outright robbing him of his life and that alone is a breath of fresh air.

Forgotten Anne very much sells itself on its presentation, the beautifully handdrawn art, animated in the most old school Disney/Don Bluth like fashion makes for a real pretty game. The concept of the game's design is telling a unique story, in a a very unique world, where the gameplay is more of a light vehicle that serves to drive it from point A to B. While the game is very linear, there are plenty of opportunities for exploration, where you can run upon NPCs that serve to fleshen out the world of the game. This can sometimes come at the expense of using up energy to doors you might otherwise should have saved for story-important puzzles which can lead to backtracking so it's bit of a double edged sword in that regard.

Anne's characterization is that of a curious girl, whose sheltered life in a world where humans are virtually nonexistent, gives her an almost naive disposition to the more heavy baggage that comes with living in the real world and making hard decisions. It genuinely serves the game's narrative well. Forgotten Anne should not be forgotten, and is a game I feel most people should give a shot, if they lack anything to play and isn't in the mood for time-wasting AAA titles.

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Chris' Top 10 Games of 2017 and some other stuff I enjoyed!

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Cheers everyone! 2017 is slowly coming to an end and I feel it's been a year that has kept on giving. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it's probably one of the most succesfull years for games in a long, long time. We've gotten a new Zelda, a new Mario, and technically a new Metroid all in the same year. But forget about the usual suspects for a moment, and let us instead talk about all the new exciting games coming out of Japan and the indie scene that has attracted a larger crowd than usual. I thought to spice things up with my list with some choice categories/awards I'll give to a few games this year, but also toast to a bunch of great movies and music I've seen and heard in 2017. But first I wanna do a few call outs to some great games not released this year


7 Good Games Not-released this Year

7. Folklore

If there is one word that summarize my taste in video games then it's probably "weird". We tend to always associate 'weird' with something negative, but from my point of view it is just "different". To me, people who play Call of Duty for a living are 'weird' but let's just leave it at that. I've gotten my hands on this very early PS3 title that probably skipped most people by. It's a game called Folklore, and as the name would imply, it's a game where the world is based around fairy tales and myths, specifically that of the Celtic Otherworld and Irish Mythology. The game takes place in a small town called Doolin in Ireland, where you play as one of two protagonists, a girl named Ellen who is searching for her mother, whom she believes to be alive and well in Doolin (think Silent Hill 2) and Keats, a reporter for an Occult Magazine who is looking into a mysterious phone call from a woman in distress, telling him to come to Doolin.

The game's Japanese traits comes to light during the gameplay, while Folklore primes itself as an intriguing supernatural murder mystery, it shuffles between being that and a flashy action game. Both Keats and Ellen come to learn how to harness the power of the various Folk they capture to transform into Super Sentai Warriors or some shit like that; It's a Japanese game after all. The combat actually reminded me a lot of the Tales of.. games, where you apply Arts to each of the 4 buttons on your controller and the idea is to mix up different folks that specializes in different subjects, be it defensive, offensive or buff specialized abilities. Or at the very least use a Folk that can damage enemy Folk's weakpoints. The customization is pretty neat, and seems to pay homage to the likes of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou vs The Soulless army, where you use different demons alongside your regular attacks to chain up combos. It sounds neat on paper but halts in execution, as the combat becomes tirelessly repetitive after a while.

In that regard it reminds me a lot of the first NieR, it has a lot of good stuff, intriguing murder mystery, unique artstyle, excellent soundtrack, but slightly held down by barebones combat and having to play the game with both characters before you can access the final chapter. Basically like NieR, but I've managed to look past it and really enjoyed my time with it.

6. Hitman

This game was to my understanding, Giantbomb's GOTY 2016, so that's a lot of praise for a game I had no expectations to and wasn't sure I was gonna like. Hitman Blood Money remains one of my favorite games, and Absolution was a real disappointing follow up to such a great game. The new game, confusingly titled as "Hitman", exceeded my expectation by going back to what made Blood Money such a great game. Emphasizing sprawly and creative gameplay, as opposed to storytelling, you are once again able to kill your target in various different ways. Hitman might be a little too lenient on you, giving you 'train-wheels' esque opportunities to help you kill your targets, but they are a feature that you can easily ignore. But it is hard to ignore kills that come with unique dialogue, and kill animations for the various targets. But don't worry, they are not exclusive to opportunities alone.

If you loved Hitman Blood Money then you'll love Hitman 2016, with the new updates and no longer being relient on an online connection, you've got yourself a solid game.

5. Gravity Rush

Believe it or not, because I certainly can't. 2017 was the year that got me hooked on Gravity Rush, back at the start of the year I had a part-time job working overseas on a ferry. I didn't bring much of my stuff with me except for my IPad and my Vita. On my Vita I had Gravity Rush lying around, having not really played it yet. I was abroad for 2 weeks so I thought it would be a perfect time to dedicate some of my own to play Gravity Rush. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The protagonist Kat is one of the most likable female leads I've played in a video game; The way she interacts with people, and her cheerfulness is such a delightful change of pace on top of all the gritty serious protagonists we've gotten used to. The gravity-bending mechanics is the game's selling point, it reminds me a lot of Sucker Punch's inFamous, with how much fun it is. You have full control of where Kat goes, horizontally or vertically, and it's great! It's the best Superhero game without really being a "superhero" game. My biggest gripe is that some of the controls on the Vita are a bit wonky, which thankfully have been fixed by BluePoint Games with the Remastered version on PS4. You owe it to yourself to play Gravity Rush.

4. Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin

Not released this year is a sad understatement. Ishin has not been released in the West at all, sadly, and I'm starting to doubt if it ever will. Ishin is the second samurai spin-off to the mainline Ryu ga Gotoku/Like a Dragon or Yakuza as it is called in our circles. It's a game that takes the established formula from the main series, and pulls it in a different direction. Instead of punching people into submission, you are cutting them with a katana as a good old fashioned samurai. Ishin is the first game in the series to introduce 4 different combat styles, which involve anything from a mix of a gun and a sword, to an ordinary sword style, to a fisticuffs style to a style where you solely use a gun. The combat is familiar to those who've spent a lot of time beating down dudes with a melee weapon in other Yakuza games, but this time it places more finesse on the sword fighting. You can do combos now in the Wild Dance style (where Kiryu employs both a gun and a sword). The way you dance around dudes as you slice and shoot 'em up is as amazing as anythnig else I've seen in Yakuza's flashy beat 'em up combat.

Ishin's story is heavily ingrained in Japanese history, as we are playing as the historical character Ryoma Sakamoto, who is trying to avenge his sensei and foster father's murder at the hands of a mysterious assassin who employs a fighting style reminiscent of that the fabled Shisengumi military unit. Ryoma thus sets out for Feudal Kyoto, to infiltrate the Shisengumi under the guise of Hajime Saito (the fabled Shisengumi Captain) and find the man responsible. The game plays around with history at the expense of good drama, and it does so really effectively. You get a cast of historical figures that are all portrayed by various different Yakuza characters from across the series. It's a game worth playing for any fan of the Yakuza series.

3. Catherine

A while back on Destructoid I wrote a massive blog on the game Catherine, and its fascinating premise centered around adult relationships. Most games aren't too keen on exploring that aspect, at best you will always find the hero getting the girl at the end.. but what comes after that? In a lot of ways, it's easy to imagine Catherine as an epilogue to the Persona games, Vincent could very well be a Persona protagonist who has to deal with a whole ton of different issues than a high schooler. Catherine is a puzzle platformer, created by the same team behind Persona 3-5, which revolves heavily around relationships, dealing with such things as unexpected pregnancies, the impetus of commitment and cheating. Vincent Brooks is our protagonist, an early 30s-something guy, who is in a stable relationship with the frompy but generally normal Katherine with a K, but finds himself getting drunk and seduced by the wild and a bit 'mental' girl named Catherine with a C.

Throughout the game's story you find yourself roaming the hub area and the bar Vincent frequents every day, The Stray Sheep. Here you talk to the various patrons, as they relay their life stories on you, as well getting drunk, while a smooth voice over, narrated by Jamieson Price, shares some neat alcohol trivia with you. When you're not roaming the bar, you're in a nightmare realm, solving puzzles and coming up with techniques alongside other sheep to conquer the puzzles. Catherine is a game that shouldn't be as good as it is, the gameplay seems simple but it is actually quite challenging, and not in the way that makes me want to give up, but the kind that pushes me to constantly go forward. I've played and finished Catherine before on Xbox 360, a few years ago, but only just recently have I gotten my hands on the Stray Sheep Collection for PS3 and started to finish every aspect of the game. It's a game I can easily play again, and one I can warmly recommend.

2. VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 Hall-A is a hard game to talk about without spoiling anything concrete, and mostly because of its visual novel nature with some minor tidbits of gameplay. It's one of the most engaging and atmospheric games I've played in some time. You play as a female bartender called Jill in a gritty and dystopic futuristic neon-lit city called Glitch City. Vallhalla is the title of the bar, where our protagonist works, and instead of picking dialogue options in a conversation tree, you are mixing drinks to the various colourful patrons that frequents the bar. You might start seeing an odd pattern here, with my fascination for video games that takes place in bars but really though--Bars are locations frequently found in the video games, where the characters can relax and converse, it's the home of many characters with valuable info you need to continue your adventure. So what better setting is there than a bar, especially for a Cyberpunk game, where the bar is the center of low-life and high tech ethos that fuels the genre.

The game does have its share of nuance to it, while it seems like you're going in a straight line towards the end, this being a visual novel it does have other endings. Depending on what drink you choose to serve your customer, and how strong or not strong you make it, you might end up with a totally different outcome or steering the conversations you are having in a whole other direction. The game doesn't tell you this, which was the correct choice, because giving a player a lot of freedom leads to experimentation and makes the game feel more organic as opposed to mechanical and linear.

The music is gorgeous, and evokes that old retro-futuristic feel with its synthesizers and new-wave esque tunes. The player has freedom to choose the playlist for every bartending session, which I thought was neat. Had I played this game last year, where it was released, I would have easily put it on my list. So here it is instead!

1. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Now here's a game I didn't expect I would like as much as I ended up doing. My history with SMT3 was a bit rocky at first, I played it a while back alongside the Persona games, and couldn't warm up to it. Not because of its gameplay, but because I wasn't the biggest fan of show but don't tell aspect it took with its story. I was always more of a Digital Devil Saga kind of guy, where story and character are at the front but not at the expense of the MegaTen combat.

My time spent with Bloodborne and newfound fondness for the Souls games have changed that, and also my dislike towards Shin Megami Tensei 4. Lucifer's Call or Nocturne has gone from a game I didn't like to one of my favorite games of all time. The atmosphere and music is as great as one could expect from Shoji Meguro, and the apocalyptic Tokyo is fascinating to explore. For a game that was released in 2003, it still looks almost on par with a modern Persona game. The colours and art holds up really well, the combat is the best turn-based combat in the biz, and Kazuma Kaneko's character and demon design are what breates life into the world. My PS3 with BC broke down a few weeks ago, so my adventure with Nocturne came to an abrupt end, one I will have to start all over with again whenever I get a new one. But you know what? I'm ready to try again! Because I will damn well finish it!

Biggest Surprise of 2017

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Cuphead is a game I haven't followed at all, so when it came out of nowhere and won the hearts of many with its very unique art style; reminiscent of 1930s propaganda cartoons and Steamboat Willy I was sold. I've never been a fan of Mega Man and its shoot 'em up gameplay, but Cuphead is definitely the best Mega Man I've played. Cuphead's selling point is its charm, its music and world. The customization is a big plus too, as it allows you to choose which abilities wanna bring with you into every boss or levels you play. You can also configure the best control scheme that suits your needs. It's a game that challenges you, and doesn't pull its punches, but its charm compels you to keep going until you win.

Son, I am disappoint ver.2017

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I'm gonna say it how it is, I'm a big Yakuza fan. I'm a relative newcomer to the franchise, but I've come to really appreciate this series for how unique it is. So when I finished Yakuza 1-5 and got ready for Yakuza 6, the supposed conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu's story; I had some expectations for it. What I ended up getting was a game with barebones content, dodgy combat system that relies too much on realistic physics and plays like trying to steer a fridge on rollerskates. The small amount of mini-games, substories, large parts of Kamurocho being inacessible, and the new city in Hiroshima being rather lifeless. The story is retread of pretty much the same story from the first game but where the roles are switch around a bit, it doesn't faff around too much like Yakuza 1, but it goes into ridiculous territory ala Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 but to an alarming degree. The ending feels contrived, and not worthy as a conclusion to Kiryu's story. Yakuza 6 thus takes the award "Son I am disappoint" for 2017 from me.

The List 10-8

10. Resident Evil 7 biohazard

You know what is great about RE7? Refinement. It's the kind of thing this series has been desperately craving since Resident Evil 5, and I sincerely hope we are not in for another ride of Resident Evil games that lacks the kind of imagination RE7 brought with it. Resident Evil 4 is an important game, as its over the shoulder shooter gameplay laid a template for many great games to come, it redefined the horror genre, but it also paved way for Resident Evil's decline into stagnation. Resident Evil 0 already did that, and while I understand fans missing the old style of Resident Evil; I don't think the old Resident Evil is synonomous with fixed camera angles and photo realistic backgrounds. No, I think it has more to do with its memorable setting, locked doors that can't be unlocked without a weird key, new doors opening up that weren't there before, getting familiar with the interior of the Spencer Mansion, atmosphere. Resident Evil 7 brings all of that good stuff back with its crazed redneck antagonists that talk and act like something out of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise. If you're gonna copy other horror flicks, Capcom, then I'm glad you picked Evil Dead.

The game relies a bit too much on pre-determined set pieces here and there, and it starts to drag down near the end when you leave the Baker Estate into some crummy, boring, caves. RE7, however, is a step in the right direciton and one of the things Capcom has done right this year.

9. Tales of Berseria

The Tales of.. games have backed themselves into a corner as of late. Ever since Tales of Graces F, the quality has dropped, the game engine hasn't in year and the environment design is boring and colourless. The combat is serviceable, and also very customize friendly this time in Berseria. What really sells Berseria, however, is its characters. I haven't enjoyed the characters in a Tales game since Vesperia, even the protagonist Velvet is very sympathetic. Velvet might not seem likable given the character change she goes through but unlike Lightning from FFXIII, Velvet's feelings are justified and she has an arc where eventually she'll lay her guard down for a bit and warm up to people. It needs to be said that none of the main characters in Berseria are particularly good guys, they are the monsters of the world they inhabitat. It's an intriguing change of pace from the last game, where all the characters were pulled out from the most generic guide to JRPG characters there is.

Berseria's commitment to telling a good revenge story shines through its characters and their interactions with each other through the usual Tales "skit events" sort of like the banter dialogue you see in BioWare games. The skits have always been the best part about these games, where the characters gets to comment on the world, their situation or the ones the travel. It's the heart of the series and this game, a game I can recommend for anyone looking for a game with good characters.

8. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Mental Illness is a very real issue, and Hellblade for all of its emphasis on exploration and dialogue is still a very real game that almost feels like a AAA title. The combat is servicable, but still quite fun and flashy. The strength of the game is in its ability to convey a story through the internal psyche of our protagonist, Senua. Throughout the game there are voices in her head, talking over each other, telling her to give up, to persevere, they are ringing in your ears like ghosts. Playing the game with headphones presents the true experience that is Hellblade. It's a good game, and big step up from Ninja Theory's sloppy attempt at making a Devil May Cry game. Hellblade is imaginative, and good.

Most Gif-able GameThat would be Yakuza 0. Ever tried selling a game based on an animated gif? Well if you haven't then you should try with the Yakuza series. Yakuza 0 in this case is all buttered up for gif abuse, especially when Sony provides the tools through Playstation ShareFactory. The many crazy, flashy or just generally awesome moments of Yakuza's gameplay, story and mini-games are easily captured through a 5 second animated gif. Yakuza 0 is just such a great game in that regard that it's easy as that.

5 Best Music Records of 2017

5. Gorillaz - Humanz

4. Goldfrapp - Silver Eye

2. Nine Inch Nails - Add Violence

1. Radiohead - OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017

The List 7-5

7. A Hat in Time

It's probably a coincidence that A Hat in Time's main motif being hats is shared with Nintendo's recent flagship title, Super Mario Odyssey, but even so I feel this year has been big enough to allow both games to show their strength. A Hat in Time is a great homage to the old mascot 3D platformers of the 90s to the early 2000s. Its strengths lies in its whimsical world and characters, where Odyssey is a joy to play and has some fun beautiful worlds, it lacks in distinct characters and story. Something A Hat in Time delivers in spades, the very first level features a world of Mafia gangsters, who are big burly men with mustaches dressed in an apron. Your main rival in the game is a mustache girl, and there's this horror setting where the game suddenly shifts into something really dark. A Hat in Time is a very unique 3D platformer, and really seperates itself from the games that inspried it. Challenge is also a core aspect of A Hat in Time, where every boss feels more difficult than the last. The game will cheer up anyone who's gotten soured with Yooka Laylee.

6. Super Mario Odyssey

The last time I played a 3D Mario is not really that long ago, as it was 3D World for the Nintendo Wii-U but that game just didn't click for me. The 2D formula of every Mario game since New Super Mario Bros for the 3DS has just run its course, where even the introduction of 3D couldnt' save it from boring me. The last proper 3D Mario game I've played would Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, so I went into Odyssey being mezmirized by the fun gameplay Nintendo has showed off at last year's E3. Mario Odyssey reminds me why I like video games so much, they are imaginative and first and foremost, they are fun. It brings back all the fun exploration of Mario 64, and mixes it with the pretty colours of the Galaxy games. As it stands, it's my favorite 3D Mario game yet.

5. Cuphead

Cuphead is a balls-sweatingly hard shoot 'em up platformer, but the gorgeous art and complimentary 1930s music is what draws me in and makes me persist in my 'venture to conquer all of the game's challenges. There isn't a whole lot to say about Cuphead outside of its mechanics. In a lot of ways it is more of a boss battle simulator than actual platforming game, as the platform levels are in the few, and the boss battles are in the many. But the boss battles are so effective and memorable that it doesn't matter, because Cuphead's intention was never to be a Mega Man game. It's a Cuphead and I am glad it exists.

Best Soundtrack

There are a lot of great games this with phenomenal music, but there's only game soundtrack that has left as big of an impression on me. And that is Persona 5. I adore everything about this game, but the soundtrack is in an amazing category of its own. Mixing the tunes of acid house, trip-hop, lounge and soft rock to create a unique and bumbing tune that perfectly compliments the suave and charming picaresque adventure that is Persona 5. Shoji Meguro is man who wears many masks, same as the protagonist, he cannot be defined by one genre. In Catherine he experimented with classical music, in Persona 3 it was hip-hop, in Persona 4 it was contemporary pop and in Persona 5 it is acid house. Having said that there are distinct tunes in the game's soundtrack that feels like a nostalgic callback to his early works like Digital Devil Saga or the Raidou games. No matter what, the Persona 5 soundtrack is something I can't help but listen to every single day in the car, when I can get away with it. It is simply that good.

5 Favorite Films of 2017

5. Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh, the guy who keeps saying he's retiring but then he isn't but then he is. Much like Miyazaki, the industry keeps compelling him to come back and prove he is not ready to retire by delivering something new. Soderbergh's repetoire is mixed in a bit of everything, sci-fi, thrillers, crime dramas, even comedy. He even experimented with the likes of the film Bubble, that suddenly labelled him an arthouse director. Logan Lucky is a return to form in vein of his Ocean's Eleven days. It's a heist film with a really tongue-in-cheek type of humor in vein of Wolf of Wall Street. It's not exactly as marvelous as Guy Richie's Snatch but Soderbergh manages to make an ensemble cast of film stars, comedians and others to work really well together.

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Perhaps a boring entry for this list but I like Star Wars, and I like Rian Johnson, and I'm really fond of Oscar Isaac and Daisey Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn. These characters were a delight in Force Awakens, and I couldn't wait to see where Johnson would take them in the latest film in the new trilogy. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either, The Last Jedi makes the bold move of dumping out everything we thought we knew about Star Wars from the previous film. Much like Kreia in KOTOR 2, a true Jedi would never let teachings and example dictate the choices they make. They fight opression because they must, and in The Last Jedi we get to see how the Jedi needs to change, we get to see how the Rebellion changes, how the characters changes, but we are still left with many questions. Questions I hope would at least come to light in the next film if nothing else.

3. La La Land

While technically a 2016 cinema release, I only got to watch it when it was released for Blu-Ray in 2017. Director Damien Chazelle's homage to classic whimsical Hollywood musicals was a delight. It's not often I find myself watching musicals but the casting of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as well as the production value for the film compelled me. The love for classic Hollywood bears resemblance to the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar, also from last year, only less satire and more rhythm carried by excellent composed music that helps transcend the genre to new heights, and perhaps making it relevant again.

2. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

It's been a while since I've seen such a fascinating film that depicts a very interesting topic related to the superhero craze we see these days. 2014 had Birdman, a film starring the-ever-so compelling Michael Keaton playing a washed up Hollywood actor, best known for playing an iconic superhero, who is now trying to get back on his feet by mounting a Broadway Play centered on a famous short story author. But while that film placed its emphasis more on Hollywood itself, and how hard it is to survive in that business, Marston and Wonder Women gives a thrilling insight look on the fetishism, masochism that is rooted in the creation of one of the most iconic female comic book heroes of all time. At its core, it's a love story but not the common kind, it's a glimpse into a man's (Psychologist, William Marston) functional three-way domestic relationship with his wife, and young teaching assistant, the likes of which audiences seldom ever see on screen.

What's fascinating though isn't so much anything concrete about the creation of a comic book character, but the implied lesbian relationship between the wife and the assistant that sprouts from it. As romantic story goes, it's a compelling film.

1. Blade Runner 2049

If you had told me that Blade Runner would be getting a sequel and it would actually turn out really well, I'd say you must be crazy. But I guess I'm the crazy one. For being a cult hit, the sequel sure had an immense marketing campaign backing it. Getting noteworthy anime directors like Shinichiro Wantanabe to direct a beautiful anime prequel is like the best thing ever. Blade Runner 2049 is more than the average blockbuster, it paces itself as very methodically through its noire-esque story. There's a bit of action, and tension, but much like its predecessor it is more interested in building character and atmosphere. As opposed to being a film centered on an aging Harrison Ford, ala Crystal Skull or the new Star Wars, we are introduced to a new protagonist, portrayed by the formidable Ryan Gosling. Gosling's detective character is a replicant, a bio-engineered android, whose sole purpose is to be cheap labour for off-world colonies built by their human creators. Despite this otherwordlyness, Blade Runner is ultimately cyberpunk as opposed to space-opera like Star Wars. It's more interested in the low-life aspect of the neon-lit-high-tech distant future.

Gosling's character K is employed as a Blade Runner, same as Deckard, whose job is to hunt and/or destroy any remaining older model replicants. While K keeps his emotions at bay, he lets his guard down whenever he is alone with his hologram-girlfriend. The premise evokes memories of Spike Jonze's Her, with regards to artificial relationships we have towards fictional people.

This is how the lower class people are kept in line, and you'll notice with K that he is painfully aware that the only woman in his life is programmed to love him.

But does it matter?

The thematic concept of both Blade Runner films is that the boundary between reality and fiction - organic and synthetic - is strikingly easy to overlook and impossible to enforce. 2049 succeeds at conveying a story that while not original in its theme, is still a very strinkingly beautiful movie.

Numero 4

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Gravity Rush 2: Here I thought Gravity Rush was a great game, out comes the sequel not too long after I finish the first game and blows it out of the water. Gravity Rush 2 trumps its predecessor on every aspect, from the combat, to the beautiful setting of Hexville and the new city Jirga Para Lhao, but that's not the jist of it. The power of the PS4 allows Gravity Rush 2 to extend its capabilities to unending heights. Kat is as expressive and likable character as she always was. Her very carefree and upbeat disposition feels synonomous with the game's photo mode concept, to a point where even Kat takes great pleasure at capturing every moment of her adventure. You can customize her stance and everything when taking pictures. But the most important aspect is the gravity mechanics, which have never played better than they do now. Her new powers grants Kat lots of new ways to traverse the cities, and the soundtrack is as bamboozlingly upbeat and cheery as its protagonist, even coming packed with new renidition of old tracks from Gravity Rush 1 like 'Pleasure Quarter'. The story is also more interesting than before, there are more characters and adversaries for Kat to take down and her friendly rivalry with fellow gravity shifter Raven is as fun as Bayonetta and Jeanne. Gravity Rush 2 is a criminally overlooked game that deserves your attention before its servers shuts down in January 2018. Get it now!

Best Character

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Makimura Makoto(slight spoilers): In truth, there are a lot of great characters this year, but I felt already honoured quite a few from Persona 5 last year with the Japanese release. So we are going with Makimura Makoto. It could just as well be Majima in 0, as he is a signifigantly different kind of character in Yakuza 0. And Tachibana is an intriguing mystery, and a man with a heart of gold, willing to lay down his life for his family and allies alike. But Makoto is at the center of it all in Yakuza 0. Despite how she might seem like a trophy, made to be won, she is anything but that. Makoto having suffered from her time spent in her home country, being seperated from her only family in an alien country that despises her, getting picked up by malicious human traffickers that would cause her imminent blindness. She's persevered all of this pain, trying to find her brothe,r while working as a masseuse under a man named Lee in Sotenbori, Osaka prefecture who looks out for her as a fellow Chinese immigrant. Makoto doesn't require badass fighting skills to stand up to the toughest Yakuza in all of Kanto, as every corner of the Yakuza empire in Japan is out for her. Makoto is the key to acquiring the Empty Lot in Kamurocho that would secure a valuable territorial foothold in all of Kanto. Makoto stands firm in her desire to save her brother, and willingly confronts the most dangerous people to rid herself of them and be with her family. One of her best characters are the ones she shares with Majima, while their relationship doesn't end as happy as it probably could have been. Ultimately, Makoto gets to live free of the Yakuza, happy, with a family and that is enough for Majima to be happy.

Runner Ups: Anne Takamaki (Persona 5), Soujiro Sakura (Persona 5), Android A2 (NieR), Tetsu Tachibana (Yakuza 0), Eizen (Tales of Berseria)

Numero 3

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NieR: Automata: Of course Nier is getting on the list, lads. But in truth, as someone who played the first game I am not as overly impressed with Automata as many others are. But not many people played the first one, so most people don't have any prior relations to what one could expect from Yoko Taro. As someone who's played the first Nier, I am rested and assured that Automata does deliver on all the weird aspects. The game's very unconventionally told story, is one that could only be told through a video game, whether it be watching a recording of yourself setting up the game settings and your inventory, or having to retrieve your corpse. The way it does things feels like something you'd expect out of an indie title. But Automata goes through with it, because genres means little to Yoko Taro, a game can't be confined by such trivial limiations as that. If you're gonna immerse the player, you might as well destroy the 4th wall and let the player become a part of the story. The first NieR did something very similarly, it would arbitrarily switch into a 2D side scoller, text adventure, survival horror and other things at a moments notice. The characters in Automata are servicable at best, which is what made me less impressed with its overall narrative. Existentialism is great and all but I already got that from the cast of NieR 1. I think I liked the side characters like Pascal more than the actual protagonists, except maybe for A2. Nevertheless, Nier Automata is a game people will talk about for a while, let's hope this sparks people's interest in playing the first game enough to ignore its flaws and finish it too. You owe it yourself, and to Emil, to do that.

Best Hair of 2017 (Because it's worth it)

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Final Fantasy XV: Comrades: Say what you will about Final Fantasy XV, the game's multiplayer has got one of the absolute best character creators in any video game. I've seen how much detail they put into those MMOs over in Korea, and I feel the same has been done here in Japan with XV. Almost any aspect of your clothes can be coloured, the hair flows an wavers real naturally and realistically it's like I'm looking at a commercial from France. Unlike BioWare games, where your character walks like a chicken who just got back from Afghanistan and hair that looks like it was made from varnished wood, the characters in Final Fantasy XV, both male and female, walk like people. Disregarding the limited things you can do in the multiplayer and the combat being dodgy, I wanted to play it regardless just for that CC alone, it says a lot about how far we've come and what we can do with tech that something like this can sway me. I just like a good character creator.

Numero 2

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Yakuza 0: This game is an immense step up from prior games in terms of story and combat. Its promise of a playable Majima, and a young Kiryu, was interesting alone, i didn't think however that the guys at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios could actually pull of something as competent, and edge of your seat interesting, as Yakuza 2 again. But they did. The combat has never been as fun as it is now. 4 styles, packed with their own unique counters, special moves and heat actions. 0 brings two full fledged mini-games based on Cabaret Club & Real Estate management, and lots of the usual detailed side activities, packed with their own side stories. Add to that an interesting cast of characters, both minor and major, great soundtrack and you've got a winner with Yakuza 0.

Game I Wish I Had Played

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Pyre: There were a lot of indie titles I wish I could have played, everything from Tokyo Dark to Battle Chef Brigade, the year 2017 had a lot to offer when it came to indie titles. But the one that intrigued me the most was Pyre. This game was developed by Supergiant Games, the developer known for the incredibly stylish games Bastion and Transistor. Being stylish is a Supergiant stamp, and Pyre is definitely stylish, but it's also innovative in terms of gameplay. Combining something as ludicrous as basket ball with visual novel storytelling is the kind of thing your inebriated hippie friend would think up after smoking a big fat joint. But it seems to work really well, and I wish I could have experienced. 2018 will have to be the year where I'll start saving up for it.

Runner Ups: Battle Chef Brigade, Tokyo Dark, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

The King of the Hill - Numero 1

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You never saw it coooooomiiiiiiing, it was too fast for your eyes! Or not?

After ceaseless amount of waiting I finally got to play Persona 5 last year, when I impulsive imported the Collector's Edition from Japan. But I wasn't satisfied with just the Japanese version, I of course had to play the localized copy so I could actually talk about the game too.

The Persona games are games about building things up very carefully, just enough for you to keep getting invested in every angle of their world. Whether it be spending time with your fellow students, a gun launderer, helping out a guy with his political campaign, your classmates, a talking cat, or watching Like a Dragon in the cinema as Makoto is mesmerized by the manlyness that is Kiryu Kazuma-chan, or whether it is about summoning an armada of Personaes in the image of mythological and historical figures, while battling demons in a nightmare realm. All of it and much more is what makes up the Persona series. All nurtured in a more personal story than before, while the school events and outings from Persona 4 has taken a backseat at the expense of a stronger story emphasis, it is still grounded on a more personal level. it's about not about saving the world, as much as it is about saving a friend in trouble, and if you happen to make the world a better place doing that, then that's just a bonus. It's a big Arsene Lupin homage in anything but name.

Instead of being the passive receiver, where the characters have been forced to act because action has been taken against them, the cast of Persona 5 decides to be proactive and fight the criminals who manages to conceal their inhumanities from the eyes of the authorities.

I like that it's easier to question the motives of the Phantom Thieves than it was the Investigation Team or SEES, I like that the new characters feel more grounded and realistic, like people I've known in high school, and I like that the tone is more reminiscent of MegaTen, Persona 3 and earlier games, I absolutely love the bumbing soundtrack, mixing elements from acid house, soft rock and lounge music, it's a soundtrack I can listen to every single day. I love the colours, the aesthetics, and the overlapping animations between battle and dungeon crawling, even the pause menus; it's Picasso painting. A culmination of all the things the series have learned, put into one big package. Persona 5 isn't just my Game of the Year, it's also one of my favorite games of all time. It's a damn fine game, yo. I'm already looking forward to seeing what Hashino is gonna do next with Project Fantasy, and the Catherine remaster.

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2016 (In the making)

2016 is a year that is looking very promising; There's a lot of big AAA titles on the line-up of planned release in 2016. Rise of the Planet of the Tomb Raider Ape Machines have already been released a short few days ago, so that one is off the list for me although it was originally released for the Xbone, it has now moved on to PC effectively making it a new release for me. But we've only scratched the surface of this year so I want to slowly, and carefully, list a bunch of games that is getting me excited for 2016. Here we go!

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10. Dreamfall Chapters: Book 5

It only took more or less a decade for the supposed conclusion to arrive though sadly it'll be delivered episodicly, I'm pretty sure the first episode came out in.. 2013? We're only just nearing the end now and despite it all I'm really getting excited. The tension has riled up for Chapters with Book 3 & 4 alike, where it otherwise started slow from an otherwise very anti-climatic ending with the previous Dreamfall. There's still a lot of threads left hanging which haven't been answered yet and worries me whether that could possibly be cramped into the final chapter of this game. But surely not the final chapter for The Longest Journey, I hope--But the final chapter for Zoe and Kian.

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3. Hellblade

Hellblade is Ninja Theory's first independently developed game, which also happens to be an action game in the vein of their previous titles like Heavenly Sword, or Enslaved, so the alarmingly similar title might not seem as coincidental as it would appear. It's the concept of the game and the quality of Enslaved and Heavenly Sword that has me excited. The main character struggles with mental illness as part of the larger themes in the game's plot, which seems very promising and I personally enjoyed their 2 previous games that weren't Devil May Cry. NT has taught me that they are at their best when Tameem is not doing the writing, so I hope the same is true for this game because there's a lot riding on it, I imagine--What, with it being their first actual indie title that feels like an AAA game.

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2. Yakuza 0: The Promised Land

The Yakuza series is a brand new favorite series added to my roster--It carries a lot of the things I like about Japanese games like Persona. A faithful recreation of a modern Japanese city with some excellent writing to boot. In terms of being cinematic, it rivals Metal Gear Solid but never at the expense of great gameplay. The combat is so much fun but it is only a small aspect of the otherwise gelatinous mass that summarizes the games content. Tons and tons of creative mini-games and deep side quests, that rivals games like The Witcher 3 in terms of depth and ingenuity. Yakuza 0 functions as a prequel to the series in the late 1980s Japan, which already has me hooked on its setting alone. Japan. In the 80s? Yes, please, it's a time of careless handling of your indisposable income and it is the time, where we get to play as a young Kiryu and Majima respectively. The planned release so far is 2016 though it is most likely subject to change but we'll roll with it and hope it is true. FEEL THE HEAT!

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1. Persona 5

I don't think it's any secret, to anyone who knows me online, that the Persona series has held a special place in my heart--Everything from its stylish aesthetics, to it's genuinely authentic writing, characters and setting to the fun combat and downright excellent soundtrack. Atlus' Persona series is TEH JRPG for me in every possibly way.The combat looks as great as ever, the navigation of the mundane modern city of its setting looks about as Persona as it gets and the party members so far seem interesting; The picaresque romantic thief theme has me in spades, I'm confident that the game is going to distinquish itself from its predecessors as its own thing and that's what has always made each game feel great and memorable. Bring on Persona 5. 2016 is our year.

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