Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

With 2013 nearing its final fleeting moments, now is a good opportunity to reflect on what we’ve reviewed here at Trophy Unlocked, both the good and the bad. Below, in no particular order, is my list of the top games, movies and disappointments from the year. This time, I’ve also not only resurrected a category I had hoped never to use again, I’ve introduced yet another that I hope not to use (the result may surprise you (or not)).

Top Movies of 2013

While Pixar has been known for making nothing but hits in its heyday, Cars 2 began a downward spiral that the studio seemed to only begin recovering from with the release of Brave. However, Monsters University is a noticeable return to form despite being a prequel to Monsters, Inc. It manages to capture the spirit of the original very well, though not perfectly, and has a good balance of serious and comedic elements. Though not perfect, I am, for the first time in a couple of years, actually wondering if Pixar will be able to replicate the success of this film with their next one, Inside Out; I now have a newfound hope for their future.

Metalocalypse is one of my favorite animated shows and, as a result, Dethklok is one of my favorite Death Metal bands. Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem – A Klok Opera has a very ambitious goal: Tie up many of the loose ends from Season 4, but present it in the form of a rock opera. Not only does it live up to its promise, it has great music, plenty of laughs and the best animation I have seen from the show yet. I can’t wait to see what Brendon Small has in store for the future of Metalocalypse.

Admittedly, this movie only just barely qualifies to be on this list since it achieved immediate cult status through its source material and choice of Director, but it makes it here because I am a huge fan of the original book (it is my second favorite one) and I greatly enjoyed seeing it in movie form (also it was theatrically released in 2013). While there may be a couple of missed opportunities here and there, and the finished product will definitely not appeal to everyone, watching it was a lot of fun and it was clear that Don Coscarelli had fun making it as well. It’s thought-provoking, funny and a little gross all at once and is a ride worth taking at least once (and perhaps only once if you are not familiar with David Wong’s literature but know a friend who is and has this movie on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD).

Top Video Games of 2013

I’ve been a fan of the gameplay of the Devil May Cry series since Devil May Cry 4, but I have since played every other game and liked them (save the second one). When I first saw DmC Devil May Cry, specifically the new interpretation of Dante, I was a little thrown off by some of the choices they made, but almost immediately afterwards I gained a sense of optimism that only grew stronger as I saw the better elements refined and the worse ones forgotten; I even cosplayed as DmC Dante a few times. In the end, I saw that my optimism was not misplaced and thoroughly enjoyed the final result. Yes, the combat could have used a little more work, but it makes a necessary step by combining the abilities of both Dante and Nero (DMC4’s protagonist) to give a better sense of speed to the character. Story-wise, I actually liked the newer Dante as he showed compassion, empathy and a good deal of character development in a single game. While he isn’t completely perfect in his actions, nor is he able to provide the same testosterone/confidence boost from playing as him, this new Dante is still a character I can really get behind and I hope that a sequel can be made despite what you hear from the vocal minority.

Not only do I read Penny Arcade every time it updates, I own all of the book collections and have found the Rain-Slick tetralogy of games to provide an experience unique and very worthwhile to play. I really don’t mind that the combat is similar in nature to Pokémon because it managed to take the good elements of that franchise and refine them greatly, including the ability to have all of your monsters, whether they actually fought or not, gain EXP and level up at nearly the same rate. The final entry in the series manages to expertly combine serious and humorous moments together in a way that I will remember for years to come.

Within the past year, I’ve played nearly every Metal Gear game (at least among the main entries), so I was looking forward to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance based on its premise alone: a Metal Gear game set after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and focused on Raiden as the main character. Not only is Raiden a total badass in this game, the game also delivers on its tagline, “Cut What You Will”, by allowing you to cut just about anything with physics that react exactly to where you cut an object. On top of that, the story isn’t that bad either and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard (I even own a physical copy of Vocal Tracks). Even if you don’t care for the story, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was a total blast to play through and a worthy entry into the Metal Gear franchise.

Developed by Naughty Dog, known for the Jak and Dxater franchise, The Last of Us is their attempt to create a more mature game, and thus a new IP, for the PS3 that wasn’t an Uncharted game. They not only succeeded, but managed to create one of the most emotional games I’ve ever played, accomplished by managing to push the “father” button in me even though I don’t have kids. While I can see some points brought up regarding character interactions, and some plot points were a little more obvious to me, I still found myself drawn in and unwilling to let go until I was done. I found it hard to express my full opinion in this small blurb, so I encourage those interested to give it a go and see what you think of it.

The Stanley Parable is a game whose true purpose is so thought-provoking that my review of it was deliberately void of information about what the player can hope to discover. Still, The Stanley Parable is worth playing for the funny, but subtle commentary. You might find the time to money ratio a little off, but I hope you can trust me enough when I say that the time it takes to play really has no bearing on the price of admission and that exploring every possible thing is an act that you should not only know to do, but feel inclined to do as its temptation of choice is so overwhelming that you’ll find yourself lost for hours on end. Its enlightening qualities are what help it qualify for this list as one of the best games I’ve played this year.

Top Disappointments of 2013

Though Die Hard has had entries both good and bad, I still enjoy watching most of the movies. I liked Live Free or Die Hard, so when I heard about A Good Day to Die Hard, I was hoping for something that would continue the spirit of the franchise in a way similar to the other films. Instead, I got treated to a boring slog of a movie that ignored even the most basic conventions that one would expect from Die Hard, down to complete mishandling of John McClane’s catchphrase. If this is the end of the franchise, as the sixth entry is in limbo, then it’ll be sad to know that it went out with a whimper.

I’m not really a fan of Superman, since I haven’t really read any of the stories and he just didn’t appeal to me, but I was willing to watch Man of Steel to at least stay current with superhero movies and know what everyone would be talking about. When I finally saw it, it met my low expectations as it is not only a retread of Superman’s origin story, but it tries a bit too hard to emulate the Dark Knight trilogy in both tone and style, leaving behind the optimism that I admit I think Superman is supposed to embody. If this is truly supposed to be the new way the audience is supposed to see Superman, I think they got off on the wrong foot.

Reboots provide a rare opportunity to create an entirely new universe with completely original characters and stories (though it’s fair to want some familiarity as well for veteran fans). The 2009 Star Trek film was able to capitalize pretty well on said opportunity, but Into Darkness continues this baffling trend where those in charge feel a need to retread earlier stories, but slap a new skin on it. In this case, it basically has the cast reenacting The Wrath of Khan, except Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Khan is nowhere near as memorable as Ricardo Montalbán’s and the film has more of a pessimistic attitude about the future, partly due to the 9/11 conspiracy theories thrown in. It would be more understandable to revisit earlier stories if the movies came out at a quicker pace, but since the next one won’t be around for quite a while, it comes off as a decision they’ll probably regret later.

Let me say right off the bat that BioShock Infinite is only on here because of the story, as well as how I feel that I am in a small minority for liking its gameplay more. Gameplay-wise, I consider the latest entry in the BioShock series to be somewhat of an improvement over the previous games during combat, though I will also admit that even that has its shortcomings. The story, on the other hand, feels like something cobbled together as it constantly abandons interesting plot threads to the point where I cared less for the protagonists as time went on, constantly changes the direction of the story and manages to retroactively erase any potential conflict from the choices made throughout the game (in a series explicitly about choice). I was excited at the prospect of being able to to finally dry off and get away from Rapture, but after seeing the ending, it’s very disappointing to know that both the fans and the developers (looking at you, Ken Levine) can’t seem to get over the fact that this franchise needs a game with a new setting, not one where Columbia, temporally speaking, is Rapture in disguise.

As a huge Deadpool fan, to where I have an effective monopoly on Deadpool books at my local comic book store and I can see a framed image of the character from where I’m typing this, I really looked forward to him finally have his own video game. Unfortunately, despite the laughs, the gameplay felt unpolished. Daniel Way isn’t the best writer, but his script for the game was filled with plenty of laughs and a few good cracks at game development in general, but I wish I could play a Deadpool game where combat isn’t a tedious grind. I hope this game gets a sequel so that I can play a game that does the character better justice.

Worst Movie of 2013

I’ve been a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for quite a while now, since a good chunk of the way through Season 1, though my status has gone from curious (Season 1) to Brony (Season 2) to wavering fan (Season 3); My Little Pony: Equestria Girls certainly didn’t help. From the get-go I had very low expectations and no amount of trailers was able to raise them any higher. If I had to explain my reaction to seeing the movie to someone, as well as why I consider it the worst film of the year, then I’d say that with A Good Day to Die Hard I expected something and got nothing, I expected nothing from Man of Steel and got nothing and with Equestria Girls I expected nothing and got a negative result. What didn’t help was the audience I saw the movie with in the theater (but who goes to theaters anymore, right?), a group of Bronies so visibly obnoxious about their love for the franchise that not only did they treat the theater like their den at home, they also gave every other fan (including myself) a bad name. The edited TV version didn’t really improve on anything either, but I will never forget how awful that movie was or how awful my audience was (also, I will never forgive whoever yelled “wingboner” (for the uninitiated, it’s a fandom meme (one of many) that I don’t find funny) in a crowded theater with a little girl present in the audience).

Worst Video Game of 2013

Adventure Time is a very fun show with interesting characters in a unique setting with gradually deeper themes and stories. You’d think then that there would be a lot of potential for a great video game to come out of it, one that would take advantage of the unique world and take full advantage of the various RPG tropes and D&D-like environment to create a game that would be fun and interesting for even the uninitiated, right? Wrong. Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! doesn’t do any of those things, instead choosing to be a boring, repetitive and broken mess that only got through because Adventure Time was slapped on top of it. The only reason to play is for a shocking, canon, reveal at the end, but you could easily save yourself $40 and just look it up on the internet or even wait for the show to give the same info. I really hope the reins are handed over to another developer so that we can get a good Adventure Time RPG in the future, but until then, this is unfortunately all we have to work with.

1 comment:

  1. Loved Johny Dies In The End as well! (I think that it is still streaming on Netflix) Bummed about Adventure Time game but thanks for the heads up. I was so close to buying it to play over Christmas. Being a Nintendo family, gotta say Pikmin 3 tops our chart. Beautiful graphics, fun and simple play, loveable characters.... good times, good times.