Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

At the end of every year, it is sometimes good to reflect on what we may have liked or disliked about it. Below is a list, in no particular order, of what I liked or disliked about what came out this year that got reviewed on this blog, with links provided to the appropriate review.

Top Movies of 2013

Yes, I am putting another Transformers product, a TV movie, into the positive end of one of these lists, but I really, and legitimately, enjoyed this conclusion to the Transformers: Prime cartoon. I think everything really came together in the end, with the animation and voice acting being some of the most impressive here since Darkness Rising. It may not have answered every lingering question, though at least one of them was through an interview in an issue of the Collectors’ Club Magazine, but the end result was nonetheless satisfying.

In a first for these lists, we have a newer Pixar movie not considered a disappointment. While not quite as good as the film it was made be an extension of, Monsters University is more of a return to form for the studio, with a good story and great characterization proving that they have not yet lost their touch. Hopefully their next project, The Good Dinosaur Inside Out, continues this trend.

The third and final part of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, and one of the few comedies of the year that actually grabbed my attention, The World’s End is an extremely funny movie, which is to be expected of an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaboration. Though the film is most definitely not for younger audiences, it stands out amongst other high profile movies released this year for having a more light-hearted atmosphere and sticking with it, even as the major sub-plot continues to develop, though I can’t say the same for its final minutes. Regardless of how it ended, this is a comedy that did not disappoint.

Another good comedy movie, this one based on a book by David Wong from Cracked.com, John Dies at the End is a great blend of hilarity and horror from start to finish (it also counts for this list because even though it was initially released in 2012, its theatrical run took place in 2013). Having gotten accustomed to David Wong’s style of writing, I thought the movie, directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame, served as an enjoyable adaptation of an enjoyable book, adapting whatever worked for the medium to great effect while taking creative liberties that worked in its favor. However, it should be stressed that this is not a movie for everyone, more so than The World’s End, due to the concept, graphic imagery, and rampant cursing. In spite of this, I would recommend people in the right age group to give this movie a shot, especially if someone who is already a fan offers you the chance.

Top Games of 2013

As someone who had never actually played a Devil May Cry game until this one, I actually had a fun time with it. While the controls may be a little complex and some arguably important game mechanics were missing, I enjoyed seeing how well the new version of Dante was handled, as well as the conflict that unfolded between him and his brother Vergil. While this new interpretation of the Devil May Cry mythos might upset some of the older fanbase, I found this game to be a good starting point for any newcomers and hope that any potential sequel continues to improve on what was on display.

After a few years of inactivity, we finally have a new Sly Cooper game for a new generation of PlayStation (before the PS4 came out). Even with a change in developer it feels just like a Sly Cooper game, down to the characterization and gameplay, along with a couple of extra features to keep things fresh, such as the connectivity between both the PS3 and Vita versions. Though some minor things in the plot might be a little questionable, it still feels like a natural extension of the previous game and I hope developer Sanzaru Games continues to show their passion for the Sly Cooper brand in any games in the series they might make down the line.

As a fan of the Penny Arcade webcomic, I enjoyed my time playing the Rain-Slick tetralogy of games, with Episode 4 being a fitting conclusion to the story. The Pokémon-esque battle system was executed well and the characters were developed and explored rather nicely, each displaying what exactly was on the line by the end. With shocking twists combined perfectly with Penny Arcade’s brand of humor, this game deserves a spot on this list.

The ideas behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons are not only interesting, but the game executes them really well. Even if you can’t understand what the characters are saying, there is enough in the animations that you can still understand them, not to mention there are some absolutely gorgeous background visuals that really flesh out the world. The game also has some interesting puzzle elements and the controls, while seemingly unorthodox at first, are an integral part of the experience. This is definitely a game that should not be passed up.

Top Disappointments of 2013

Having seen every Die Hard movie, including both the theatrical and uncut versions of Live Free or Die Hard, I expected this movie to continue working with what made the fourth one so good. However, A Good Day to Die Hard did not really live up to these expectations, instead having an uninteresting story with moments that feel out of place in a Die Hard flick, and on top of that the timing of the series’ well-known catchphrase was way off. If a sixth Die Hard movie ever gets made, I’m hoping it can once again raise the bar for the franchise like the fourth one did.

Since I enjoyed watching the first in the recent reboot of Star Trek movies, I expected the second of these, Star Trek Into Darkness, to take full advantage of the fact that there is now an entirely new universe to play around with. Instead, it turned out to be a remake of Wrath of Khan from the previous continuity, with some iconic scenes altered in some way. Benedict Cumberbatch did do his own take on the Khan character, but it didn’t do Ricardo Montalbán’s performance from the original series enough justice. Since there evidently won’t be a new movie in the new universe for quite some time, I’m left to wonder why there isn’t more of an effort, outside of tie-in comics, to keep fans interested in the meantime.

I don’t have much personal experience with the Superman mythos, having only seen one movie all the way through and read only a handful of his stories, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this latest interpretation of the character, Man of Steel. This movie didn’t really do much for me, since it not only seemed to break from the whole point of the Superman character, what with people punishing him in his youth for saving lives, and felt more like an installment from the Dark Knight trilogy with Superman stuff on top of it. If this is how DC wants to begin their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they certainly got off to a bad start with this movie.

My reasoning for considering this game as a disappointment is similar to why I considered Alice: Madness Returns to be one for last year, in that it mainly comes down to the gameplay, more specifically the combat, which is more akin to what’s present in the (unnecessary) multiplayer function, rather than trying to improve upon what already worked in previous entries. Aside from that are the visuals of the game, which can often seem too good (this is a rare time in all of the games I have played where a game’s imagery made me physically squirm). Ascension is otherwise an acceptable entry in the God of War franchise, even if I wasn’t expecting it to top God of War III.

Even Bigger Disappointments of 2013

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, especially given the teaser trailers, but somehow I walked away from it with even less. Though it has some real talent attached to it, it seemed like the script could have used at least one or two more re-writes before being handed over to the voice actors, since much of the plot and characterization felt rushed and the fandom nods forced, not to mention it felt more in some places like a re-telling of the first episodes of the base show, but with humans in place of ponies. The TV edit makes the overall experience better, but sadly not by much.

The world of Adventure Time presents many great ideas for a potential video game, with the many creative landscapes and monsters, not to mention the various RPG elements, presented in many of Finn and Jake’s adventures. A boring, repetitive dungeon crawler that punishes you for wanting to save something for later is not one of them. It may feature the original voice cast from the show and have creator Pendleton Ward as head writer, but these good elements are not enough to outweigh the bad, with the only real reason to play being to see the big reveal at the end.

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