By TheChris 0 Comments
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.
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!
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.
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!
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)
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
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.