Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

2015 is just around the corner, which makes for a good opportunity to reflect back on what came out during the year. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see as many new movies or play as many new games as I’d have liked, partly due to going through my first semester of college, but I was still able to create a list for the end of 2014. Below are my selections for the top movies and games which came out this year, as well as the top disappointments. As always, they are in no particular order.

Top Movies of 2014

From initial previews, I wasn’t really sure what to make of The Lego Movie, but once I finally saw it I found myself pleasantly surprised. In fact, as soon as the movie was over, I wanted to play the tie-in game and spent months anticipating the next time I’d get to view it. Unfortunately, I can’t really say anything about The Lego Movie since saying anything about the story is a potential spoiler. In this case, you’ll just have to take my word that it’s good and see it yourself. You won’t regret it, especially if you’ve ever played with Legos.

Marvel Studios movies are generally good, but Guardians of the Galaxy easily became one of their best. It’s certainly one of their most fun movies and I haven’t gotten tired of watching it yet. Guardians of the Galaxy is humorous and witty, but its lighthearted atmosphere allows for the writers to sneak in very touching moments of pathos now and then which don’t feel out of place at all. The villain is admittedly a little flat, but the main characters are fleshed out very well (which could be the reason for said flatness in Ronan the Accuser) and I’m now a fan of both Rocket Raccoon and Groot. It’s simply amazing that Marvel was able to take such an obscure comic and turn it into a fun ride that simply shouldn’t be missed.

As I said, Marvel Studios movies are generally good, which can be said as well for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie that came out only four months prior to Guardians of the Galaxy. Where Guardians of the Galaxy was a very fun experience, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is much more serious in tone and centers mainly on Captain America and his life in the 21st-century. The result is a movie that’s very well-written and action-packed as it explores both the identity of the titular Winter Soldier as well as the growing tensions between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. As a bonus, this movie also doubles as what is perhaps the best Metal Gear Solid movie we may ever get, with parallels between the two franchises that Metal Gear fans will very much appreciate.

I’m not the biggest Tom Cruise fan, but I wanted to see this movie mainly because I read the manga adaptation of the source material, All You Need Is Kill, as it was serialized in the US edition of Weekly Shonen Jump and became curious as to how the movie would handle the story. When I finally saw the film, I was pleasantly surprised as to how good it was. The plot moves along at a very good pace and Tom Cruise shows that he can actually act pretty well when he’s not a total action hero from the start. The Groundhog Day-style plot is also put to use to show great character development and any deviations from the original story still fit in well with the atmosphere. Fans of Tom Cruise and/or All You Need Is Kill are more likely to enjoy it, but I would definitely recommend people to check this one out anyway.

Top Video Games of 2014

Since my post about game demos at Wondercon 2014, I really wanted to play JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, though I’m glad I waited to see the David Production anime through Crunchyroll before getting a copy at SDCC 2014. Though not perfect, and certainly not something entirely tournament worthy, this game is definitely fun due in part to its accuracy to the source material and variety of extraordinary abilities not seen in any other fighting game I’ve played. The accuracy to the source material is perhaps the most incredible feat, as every single animation and line of dialogue is a reference to the manga, plus the art style manages to reflect Hirohiko Araki’s evolving art style very closely without being unusual in three dimensions. This is a game by JoJo fans for JoJo fans, though I’d encourage fighting game fans looking for something original to give it a shot as well. It’s an experience that’s very hard to put down.

Though I didn’t get to play Infamous Second Son until a few months after launch, it was an experience I had been anticipating since my time with Infamous and Infamous 2. The story is a little short, but still written well and the gameplay is very much improved. With room for multiple powers and pretty creative uses for abilities one wouldn’t consider having, Delsin Rowe is a fun protagonist to play as and there is never really a dull moment within the beautifully rendered Seattle. This game is worth owning a PS4 to play, though the free Paper Trail DLC should only be attempted at one’s own risk and only if they have a lot of time on their hands.

Top Disappointments of 2014

Since I wasn’t really a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony’s attempt at rebooting the Spider-Man property in order to keep the rights, I had lowered expectations for Mark Webb’s second outing and unfortunately found those expectations to be accurate. The origin of Electro was far-fetched even for a comic book movie, Rhino hardly does anything and Harry Osborn shows up out of nowhere while the movie expects us to believe his supposedly pre-existing friendship with Peter Parker. Add in the hero’s really cocky attitude, though not in the fun way, and you get a movie that made me wish I had been watching Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 instead. I wouldn’t be surprised either way if Sony goes through with its plans for this incarnation of the webslinger or ends up rebooting the whole thing with a new actor.

After the huge disappointment that was My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, I had little hope for the sequel, Rainbow Rocks, though I watched anyway in order to have a more informed opinion. As I watched, I actually found myself more engaged with the movie in general, as though Hasbro actually tried this time. However, there was still some wasted potential, including a plot twist that would’ve actually made sense, and I still feel that Twilight Sparkle had no reason to get involved and that the plot should’ve focused more on Sunset Shimmer proving herself as a reformed character. Though the sequel is marginally better and the original music was generally improved, Hasbro will really need to pull out the big guns in the inevitable third installment if they want something worthy of praise.

Watch Dogs is a great example of a game that sounds good on paper, but is lackluster in its execution. The idea of hacking in an open world is a very fascinating idea and I looked forward to playing something with great potential, but in the end it feels more like a poor man’s Grand Theft Auto. Hacking comes off as pretty unrealistic and its potential is limited to screwing with traffic lights and blowing stuff up, plus the driving controls are sort of loose and riches are insanely easy to come by. The only real saving grace is the fun Digital Trips and the fact that Chicago is rendered rather nicely. If you must play this game, do so at a bargain price and be prepared to weed out the few good songs in the soundtrack for your listening pleasure.

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