By ZombiePie 20 Comments
Author's Note: Hello there! My name is ZombiePie, and I am a Giant Bomb forum and wiki moderator. Every year I look at the various sources of entertainment I enjoyed and disliked. My awards are more "special commendations," and are open to any medium. During my award show, I pit games, television shows, animes, athletics, board games, and movies in a fight to the death! Additionally, you can expect to see classic and current works of entertainment vying for the top positions. Oh, and one more thing, there are SPOILERS on this blog! Keep that in mind before reading any of my justifications.
Most Improved - Vore
Alright, before you shut down my blog, let me explain myself. It was a "good" year for vore. Are you still there? DONT GO! Stop and think about it for a minute. In 2018, Attack on Titan (season three), That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, AND Dragon Pilot all came out in 2018. If we want to make this award about video games, Kirby stood as a vore advocate in Smash Ultimate, and Majin Buu in Dragon Ball FighterZ. THAT'S A LOT OF VORE IN ONE YEAR!
2018 was tough for a lot of people. Emotionally and physically, the year run roughshod on many corners of this planet. That's why I have a slight proposal in an attempt to brighten everyone's day. Every year has an odd coincidence that sticks out for all of the right reasons. "Year of the Bow" comes to mind as one such example. That is why I want you to join me in branding 2018 as the "Year of Vore." Seriously, let's get #2018yearofvore trending on Twitter! We can make it happen!
Runner-up: Impact Wrestling -
Impact is experiencing a bit of a creative Renaissance. Had it not been for two sizeable black marks, I would have given the company the nod for this category. Unfortunately, Austin Aeries' no-sell will likely define how most remember the company's year. Likewise, the throttling of Impact veterans such as Eli Drake to the mid-card also sticks out as a sore point.
Most Overrated - Octopath Traveler
Over the past two years, I have warmed up to JRPGs. Most likely, playing nothing but Final Fantasy games will do that to you. However, one aspect of the JRPG fanbase continues to stick out to me as a bit "odd." Every time a game pines to return the genre "back to its roots," fans champion it as a revelatory moment. It happened to Bravely Default, and it happened to Octopath Traveler this year. In both cases, I think JRPG fans projected unrealistic expectations for both games. Hence, my tempered disappointment with Octopath Traveler.
I did not fancy Octopath's gameplay or visual design. In regards to its gameplay, too often I thought you could spam the same combinations of attacks to waste away whatever stood in your way. However, it was the game's art style that stuck in my craw. To me, the pixel art is flat and blown out. Buildings and monsters look like something a toddler made using LEGO blocks, and the light bloom is fucking atrocious. Everything in the game looks over-exposed, and at times I struggled to discern parts of the environment. On a few occasions, I contemplated wearing sunglasses while playing the game. Simply put, Octopath gave me a headache, and I'm forever bitter as a result.
Runner-up: My Hero Academia (Season Three) -
For the past two years My Hero Academia has been my go-to anime for guaranteed fun. While that's still the case, I cannot help but feel the third season made some missteps. Again, my misgivings boil down to aesthetic choices. The depiction of Yoarashi's wind powers immediately stick out, but overall this season was not as creative as the previous ones. It doesn't help the License Exam arc is one of the weakest storylines in the manga, but the anime exacerbates its problems rather than tempering them.
"Yeah, I'll Watch This As The World Burns" Award - The Great British Bake Off
I know I'm not the only person on the internet who uses streaming to fill my body with a warm and tingly sensation. It's by no means a "healthy" habit, but it's one that has gotten the job done so far. Moreover, The Great British Bake Off is the doyenne of "feel good" television programs. The series' sense of co-operation and camaraderie shows off a lighter side to the human element. That is to say; we can come together to help one another even on the most benign of issues. This sentiment is not new, but it is a distinct aspect of us that can and will make the world a better place, one cake at a time.
Does the new format still have all of the problems from the previous year? That it does, but I honestly do not care. More Bake Off is never a bad thing. Seriously, it's the only show to make me unfathomably angry over handshakes! Speaking of which, the number of handshakes Paul Hollywood gave in series nine is fucking ridiculous. Likewise, and I know plenty of you agree, Rahul should have been eliminated before the finals.
Runner-up: The House on Haunted Hill -
The House on Haunted Hill is less a television show and more of an extended movie. Luckily, that is to its benefit. Because it flows at its own pace, Haunted Hill crams in compelling twists and turns without overstaying its welcome.
Worst Song Or Theme Music - Ocean to Ocean by Pitbull
I still cannot imagine the board meeting that led to this song getting approved. Grown adults, with millions of dollars at stake, reached a conclusion as alien as life on Mars. First, they couldn't be bothered to shell out a few extra bucks for a rap artist relevant in 2018. Second, how in the world does Aquaman, of all things, relate to commercialized rap music? Seriously, who do I blame for ruining my eardrums?
Speaking of which, let's turn our attention to Pitbull's bizarre performance. Without a doubt, this single contains bars cheesy even for the likes of him. Likewise, why this song samples Toto's Africa is beyond my comprehension. On top of that, the entire production is a tire fire. The chorus appears to be louder than Pitbull, and the accompanying instruments are entirely blown out. That, added with Pitbull's poorly leveled "Woo's" makes for an audio-based migraine. Unless you are a musical masochist, continue pretending it does not exist.
Runner-up: Aliens Infestation -
WayForward makes good video games. This sentence is an irrefutable fact. Unfortunately, many of their creations come and go concerning cultural staying power. I'm looking at you, The Mummy Demastered. When I decided to give Aliens Infestation a shot I enjoyed it much as I do with anything from WayForward. However, it's ending credits song sure is something:
More Of This PLEASE! - Return of the Obra Dinn
I have always wanted to enjoy the works of Lucas Pope more than I do. For me, Papers, Please is the definition of a "one, and done" game. I respect Papers, Please and its message to the player, and I want more games to challenge my decisionmaking. However, I don't think I ever want to return to the world of Papers, Please. Even though the game makes an impression, it's a painful impression that I do not think I can ever stomach again.
These reservations still apply to Return of the Obra Dinn but in a reduced capacity. Above all, it is a tense tour de force of storytelling. Every minute I played Obra Dinn, the fear of not knowing every aspect of the game's mystery shook me to my core. My thirst to know everything almost turned me into one of the game's ill-fated sailors, and maybe that's the point. It makes you think about the impact it is having on your behavior. Without a doubt, it provides the most eye-opening experience of the year, and I hope more games follow in its footsteps.
Runner-up: Florence -
Florence features the most compelling and sadly realistic relationship in video games. Furthermore, it takes advantage of the mobile platform in ways where I cannot imagine playing it on a console or PC.
Thing That Caused Me To Shout "FUCK OFF!" The Most - The State of Console UI
How did we get here? Three of the smartest companies in the world cannot design a halfway decent console UI experience. How is this paradox even possible? Before anyone accuses me of fanboyism, I think all three of the major consoles suck concerning UI/UX design. The Switch's online marketplace is a slow-moving car accident. Sony's UI got a much-needed update, but that didn't resolve constant latency issues and poor download speeds. Finally, we have whatever the fuck Microsoft farts out every year for the Xbox One.
Honestly, I don't know how Microsoft gets away with a million-dollar marketing campaign about improving accessibility in games, while their UI is a walking disaster. It's terrible, and their efforts to improve things have repeatedly failed. I can only imagine with a new generation of consoles, Microsoft has something down the road that fixes these issues. Sadly, that doesn't change the fact millions are left wondering every day where they can buy recent releases on the Xbox One. It's a design calamity with no end in sight.
Runner-up: Detroit: Become Human -
I know this is going to sound harsh, but I don't know if David Cage should be making games on a AAA budget. Time and time again, he's shown that if he's given an endless supply of money, the results are always groan-inducing. Detroit: Become Human is no exception, and is one in a long line of flawed video game outings from Cage.
Least Improved Sequel or Reboot - FLCL Alternative
Where do I even begin with this dumpster fire of a show? The original FLCL is a classic. It oozes style and is a fantastic exhibition of what animation is capable of when the conditions are right. FLCL Alternative, on the other hand, manages to condense all of the flaws of FLCL into a single story arc. FLCL has always been a show that gets away with "style over substance" because of its endless supply of creativity. FLCL Alternative ignores what made the original special, and attempts to craft a character-focused story.
I don't give a rat's ass about any of the characters in FLCL Alternative. For example, Haruko has never been a great "character." Haruko is at her best when she moves the story from one action set piece to the next. She is NOT a character you need to spend time fleshing out with an origin story or relationship arc. Speaking of which, Haruko's presence in Alternative is WEIRD! To make matters worse, Kana Koumoto may be the worst new character of 2018. She gets everything in the story served to her on a silver platter, and she never shakes away her self-centered ways. That last point might be intentional, but when Haruko does not have a foil, the entire story suffers. Admittedly, Alternative is better than Progressive, but not by much.
Runner-up: Westworld (Season Two) -
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Westworld's first season was an astonishing adventure. It packed great performances with a tense plot that kept you guessing. Sadly, season two does not follow in its footsteps. Rather, its focus on blockbuster bloodbaths was a continual source of frustration. Furthermore, its tenth episode may be the least satisfying season closer of the year.
Biggest Waste Of Perfectly Good Worldbuilding - Darling in the Franxx
Darling in the Franxx is a rarity in the entertainment business. Unlike Family Guy or The Simpsons, you can pinpoint the EXACT MOMENT the entire show goes to shit. Those who have seen this anime know what I am talking about, and are nodding their heads in approval. To this day, I refuse to believe a grown adult wrote the plot twist for this show and told themselves "I'm good at my job." That cannot have happened, and if it did, what little faith I have in humanity is now dead. In fact, it may be the most catastrophically DUMB plot twist in anime history.
The premise for this show is decent, and until the story pivots, the characters are as well. There are even decent action sequences that add much-needed stakes. However, once Darling in the Franxx reveals its ulterior motives, it hammers you over the head with its simplicity. I get nuance isn't commonly associated with anime, but a little brevity in Franxx would have gone a long way. Instead, the show pisses away its potential, and unfortunately, all for the sake of a metaphorical story about the ills of modern-Japan.
Runner-up: Jessica Jones Season 2 -
Jessica Jones was a Marvel superhero I desperately needed in my life. She fought mental and physical abuses with every ounce of her being and had the scars to prove it. Why the second season throws her struggles with anxiety and social isolation out of the window is one of the year's greatest mysteries. On top of that, her mother's "fish out of water" story arc is flat out TERRIBLE!
Dumbest Thing I Played - My Horse Prince
Around three months ago, an advertisement for My Horse Prince popped up on my phone. After reviewing the game's page, I downloaded it post-haste. This "game," if we can even call it that, amazed me at every turn with its artwork and narrative. Watching a 2D bishounen horse lead a J-Pop boy band or surf a fifty-foot ocean wave was endlessly delightful. If you are in need of wacky anime bullshit, My Horse Prince has you covered.
I make no qualms over the fact My Horse Prince is a mobile idle clicker. Objectively, it is a bad video game with a deceptively heinous business model. Had there been an option to make the ads and idle clicker elements disappear, I would have an easier time recommending it. As it stands, My Horse Prince is a dumb, stupid, and nutty adventure only fit for those with a high tolerance for anime bullshitery. However, and I know I'm not alone in this regard, sometimes you want stupid anime garbage in your life.
Runner-up: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate -
If you turn your brain off, Smash is guaranteed to give you a fun time. I have never found any joy in following Smash's competitive scene, nor do I have any desire to break down the game's inner mechanics. I enjoy Smash when a few of my friends are visiting, and we want to play something that rewards random acts of button mashing. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate does precisely that, and I don't care if that's the "wrong" way to play it.
Fever Dream Award - Wendy's Mixtape "We Beefin?"
I don't even know where to begin. Do I condemn Wendy's for making this godawful abomination, or do I blame the internet for playing into Wendy's meme-focused marketing organ? For those not in the know, Wendy's Twitter account is a thing that exists. As with any corporate run Twitter account, sarcastic quips and memes litter its feed. It's one of MANY accounts that tap into internet culture in a vain attempt to appeal to a younger demographic.
And now there's a mixtape bearing Wendy's name. This crime against music happened, and it cannot unhappen. We have to live with this work of "art" until the heat death of our universe. I'm sorry, but this is the cold and harsh reality we live in now. I wish there were a way for me to end this award on a positive note, but I'm not a miracle worker.
Runner-up: Fist Of The Blue Sky Regenesis -
Hey anime fans, did you know a Fist of the North Star reboot came out this year? No? Well don't worry, it's GARBAGE! Blue Sky Regenesis is less of a reboot and more of a CG nightmare that will continue haunting your dreams until the day you die.
Best Expansion/DLC- Stellaris
Stellaris has a fascinating developmental history. When it first launched in 2016, it was for hardcore 4X gamers. As one such person, I can say I did not hate the game in its first incarnation, but it was a clear example of a diamond in the rough. Then, when Paradox launched a significant rehaul, I had severe misgivings about the game's new direction. The gutting of faction specific space travel, in particular, rubbed me the wrong way. However, things turned a new leaf when Paradox launched three sources of DLC that addressed many of my problems.
The launch of the Apocalypse, Distant Stars, and Megacorp expansions show that Paradox has a long-term vision for Stellaris worth following. Apocalypse and Megacorp both are game-changers in how you interact with other factions during the mid to late game. Unfortunately, Stellaris isn't where it should be. To this day, Paradox cannot design a combat system to save their life, and the end-game events in Stellaris continue to suck shit. All the same, Paradox's dedication to Stellaris shows they know how to fix gameplay issues both big and small. Thus, I have an optimistic outlook about Stellaris' future.
Runner-up: Prey: Mooncrash -
Prey (2017) was a lot of things. Prey offers a compelling story hampered only by questionable gameplay and inconsistent execution. Mooncrash rectifies many of these issues by streamlining the gameplay and placing a focus on tense set pieces. In these carefully crafted sequences, players have more freedom to experiment in how they act, and the result is a more consistent experience.
The "I Really Should Have Read The Reviews Before Buying Shit" Award - The Quiet Man
I am a connoisseur of schlock. A "good" B-movie is something I will set aside time to watch, and the same applies to video games. There's something about a movie or game trying to shoot for the stars and missing that makes me feel warm inside. It might be the sadist in me, but I'll probably never know. Nonetheless, I should have done my homework before buying a $15 copy of The Quiet Man. Looking back on it, I regret this decision full-heartedly.
I don't even know how this game was made in the year of our Lord, 2018. From top to bottom, The Quiet Man is a disaster. It plays like a sluggish mess, and the story is repulsive at every turn. For fuck's sake, the writing cannot be bothered to depict its unnamed protagonist's deafness consistently, AND THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF THE GAME! Even if you try to approach it thinking you are getting a "so bad, it's good" experience; you leave with a grimy feeling that you've helped the developers justify making this shitshow of a game. Trust me, I know how that feels, and it is NOT a good look!
Runner-up: Detroit Become Human
Everything I said about The Quiet Man also applies to Detroit. Judging from his interviews, I fear that by buying this game I have somehow further inflated David Cage's ego.
Anime Of My Year 2018 - Aggretsuko
This award might come as a surprise, but as I said earlier, 2018 has been brutal. As such, while the world slowly descends into chaos, watching a red panda, Retsuko, struggle with the doldrums of office work somehow made everything better. Of the many things I watched this year, Aggretsuko manages to encapsulate the malaise of the past two years perfectly. Probably my favorite moment is when Retsuko says "fuck it" and signs up for yoga classes in a quest to find a man loaded with cash. Then, when she does fall in love, it comes at the cost of the rest of her life. Her struggles, while they take place in a neon-drenched Sanrio wonderland, feel "real."
More than that, there's something to Retsuko's pessimism that I find endlessly appealing. Her one-liners are not charming, but depressing concessions about her struggle to progress in society. She's stuck in a rigid workplace rigamarole but doesn't know how to break away from it. Furthermore, the fact that Retsuko is a mascot for Sanrio further adds to the humor. For lack of a better word, if you need a pick me up, this show is right up your alley.
Runner-up: Lupin the Third Part 5
Lupin The Third Part 5 is exactly what it needs to be, and that's why I think it's one of the best animes of the year. Much like the current batch of Mission Impossible movies, it features one of the best-paced action scripts of the year, coupled with charming character moments. Not everything needs to take risks, and that's especially the case with Lupin the Third.
Most Stunningly Mediocre - Current State Of WWE's Booking
Following WrestleMania 34, if you told me RAW would become nigh unwatchable; I would have called you a liar. During the first few months of 2018, it appeared WWE righted the wrongs that had long afflicted it. Young talent was flourishing and the booking for both television programs improved. Even better, with Vince set to leave the company and lose billions on a football league, the company's booking was bound to improve! Whelp, here we are at the start of a new year, and RAW is at it's lowest point since the 1990s. It's a fall from grace WWE can only blame on itself.
Before anyone chimes in, yes, Smackdown and NXT have been consistent in quality. That does not change the fact the Universal Championship is a walking disaster. Additionally, even good PPVs have odd moments that stick out in the worst way possible. On top of that, the company appears to be reverting to its bad habits with the return of a new "evil Authority" storyline. Yes, the actual wrestling has been solid, but time and time again the storytelling feels like WWE is pulling ideas from a playbook. Furthermore, with Ring of Honor and New Japan reaching new meteoric heights, "the same old shit" isn't cutting it for me.
Runner-up: Pacific Rim Uprising -
I have several issues with the original Pacific Rim. While I certainly feel its heart was in the right place, it's afflicted with a dull crew of characters. Pacific Rim Uprising ramps this issue up a notch and lacks the novelty of the original.
The Thing I Most Enjoyed From A Genre I Actively Dislike - That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Earlier in the year, I wrote about my general dislike for isekai anime. Overall, the genre is creatively bankrupt and too trope-laden for my tastes. Hence, my pleasant surprise with "That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime." While other isekai stories hammer you over the head with ill-placed video game references, Slime is a bit smarter. Furthermore, Slime showcases more creative ambition with its premise than anyone could have predicted. Overall, it's a fun show I am not ashamed to admit I have directed others to watch.
Rest assured, I still do not think highly of isekai. With the 2019 anime and manga portfolio inundated with these stories, I can imagine one is destined for greatness. I feel this is doubly the case when the art of these shows looks godawful. HOW MANY MORE GENERIC ISEKAI FANTASY COMEDY SHOWS ARE THERE LEFT?! Fucking Hell, I think I have seen five this year alone!
Runner-up: Dead Cells
Full disclosure, I'm not a fan of Metroidvania games. Between the forced backtracking and item collection, they often boil games to the bare parts I most detest. Nonetheless, Dead Cells is a lively experience with an impressive introduction and conclusion. If it weren't for a substandard early-middle portion where you fight the same enemies over and over again, I'd think more highly of it. That, and it's unabashed difficulty more often results in frustration than exhilaration.
My "Ostrich Moment" - The Mind
Every year I award my "Ostrich Award" which is a unique commendation to any source of entertainment that resulted in an unwarranted hostile response on my part. As I have said in the past, these works of art make me feel like a proverbial ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. Previous recipients of this award include Kill la Kill, Dota 2, NieR: Automata, and Overwatch. When it comes to The Mind, I did not find it to be a party game that warranted the hype surrounding it. Other party games have used the mechanic of silently organizing a sequence of cards in numerical order. Not only that, but other party games have utilized this mechanic with better results.
Seriously, fuck this game. Fuck the people who talked about it in hushed tones. Fuck everyone who thought this game translated to a Mensa membership. Fuck every board game group in my area playing this game nonstop for two months. Fuck everyone who judged me when I was trying to play Photosynthesis while five sessions of The Mind were running. Fuck this fucking game!
Runner-up: Iconoclast -
Iconoclast is a game I have repeatedly been told to like by the internet. Unfortunately, I did not have a fun time. For one, a hare-brained and Byzantine story stymies every turn of the game. In my opinion, Iconoclast has too much story in too little of time. Additionally, some of its mechanics conflict with other aspects of the game which inevitably leads to frustration.
Worst Thing Billed As “Entertainment” - Final Fantasy XIII
This award should come as no surprise to anyone who read my Final Fantasy XIII blogs. For those of you who missed it, I'll summarize my feelings: Final Fantasy XIII is It may be the worst AAA game I have ever played, and I never want to play it again. I would not play it on a boat. I would not play it with a goat. I would not play it on a train. I would not play it in the rain.
The characters are half-baked and wildly inconsistent. Even if you enjoy Vanille or Sazh, you have to contend with the likes of Snow and Hope. The combat system plays itself and takes forever to bear teeth. Gran Pulse, while cited as a decisive turning point, represents everything wrong with Square-Enix's current direction with the Final Fantasy series. Finally, Final Fantasy XIII's story is fucking bad! While it belabors you with its characters and their plight for hours, its mainline story remains incomprehensible.
Runner-up: Tokyo Ghoul:re (Season Two) -
If I had a "hottest mess" award, Tokyo Ghoul:re would likely take it. The animation is a sloppy mess; the story falls apart within two episodes; the cast feels flat; its twists and turns are unintelligible nonsense. I can only imagine how hard it is to convey a story in a twelve episode story arc. Unfortunately, Tokyo Ghoul:re shockingly does virtually nothing in its limited amount of time.
Game Of My Year 2018 - Tetris Effect
I'm not going to oversell the appeal of Tetris Effect. I don't think it is an otherworldly experience like Vib-Ribbon or Child of Eden. However, I do not want to undersell the game either. It's NOT "just Tetris." Tetris Effect is a total package that merges stunning creativity with tired and true gameplay. It's oddly profound, while also not overwhelming you with unneeded complexity. Moreover, I have actively shared it with non-gamers with beautiful results.
The treatment of the basic rules of Tetris in Tetsuya Mizuguchi's latest offering opens the door to further experimentation in the industry. There are several other "classic" games that I want to see get the Tetris Effect approach. Likewise, I love watching people play this game as much as I do playing it. I love seeing people's reactions as the screen fills with beauty, and watching them embark on a journey as they clear lines of Tetris blocks. Not once have I been able to watch Tetris Effect without my mouth agape, and I think that is a genuine sign of quality.
Runner-up: Assassin's Creed Odyssey -
Odyssey offers a different "total package." It's an enthralling blockbuster hit with fun characters and epic set pieces. I had no problem with the game's almost overwhelming amount of content as I felt free to explore its world at my own pace. Odyssey, more than Origins, empowers the player to live vicariously in its world with near total freedom. Even so, if you do not play this game as Kassandra,