2014: A Year In Review

2014 is over, and hey, it turned out to be pretty eventful. Here are some highlights of what I got up to, mainly for those curious friends of mine, and also (mainly) for the sake of my own awful memory!

The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers
June 2013 – August 2014

I feel this one needs to go up top because of how early this project got started. After some months of planning and back-and-forthing, I managed to get an interview with the Touhou-creator ZUN. This was by proxy of John, the author of the book it was published in, but I’m pretty happy to have my questions answered. The book also has my dumb face in it, so there’s also that, I guess.

 

Beating Final Fantasy VII
January 4th 2014

It’s not exactly much of an achievement, but considering the number of times I’d attempted to play through this game, I feel pretty good about finally doing it. It took me a while to really get into it, but once I was at content I’d never played before, I was hooked. 65 hours later and I’d finally finished it. It’s not my favourite Final Fantasy (I’m still figuring out if I like VI or IX more) but it’s a darn good one, that’s for sure.

 

Contingent Worker Award
January 21st 2014

This doesn’t really mean much, but hey, it was nice to get some recognition for a pretty good period of work. I enjoy my job, so this is just a bonus as far as I’m concerned!

 

Global Game Jam
January 24th – January 26th 2014

This was the first Game Jam I was truly excited for, and hell, I’m already excited for the next one. The difference between this one and the two other Jams I’ve been in is that we are able to pick teams. Having the option of being put in a random team is super cool, but when I’m a couple of years out of uni, I want to use it as a dumb excuse to hang out with people you don’t see often. We made something super dumb, and can’t wait to make something even dumber in January 2015.

 

Leaving Japanator/Starting Glorio
May 13th 2014 and May 15th 2014

It’s kind of hard to believe that I was writing for Japanator for nearly three years, but that’s apparently correct. For the last few months of my time there, I’d been thinking about what I wanted to do going forward. There were some big things happening at the time, and I was also making preparations for moving out. I figured that it would be a good time to move on at that point, and unfortunately left with pretty poor timing along with four other people. This also coincided with my first article for Kotaku UK, which I think kind of summed up my plans to shake things up a bit. I didn’t have the time to contribute regular news, reviews and such like I used to, so Glorio was an obvious place to move to. Fresh faces, new ways of doing things and a return to a relaxed, blog-like setting.

 

The (Not So) Great Hard Drive Failure
June 2014

It’s almost as if my PC knew what was coming up later than month, because as I was getting all my things together, my hard drive decided to die on me. I lost quite a lot, the most important thing I lost were a fairly big collection of old holiday photos. I got a lot of my stuff back with mid-death backups and asking friends I holiday’d with for their photos, but I was never going to get everything back. Consider this a warning and go back up the data you give a shit about.

 

Moved out!
June 11th 2014

I’d been talking about it for months by this point, but I finally started looking for a place to live towards the end of June, once I’d been given confirmation that my contract was being renewed. Most nights were spent looking at the same houses that weren’t being sold and sending emails to estate agents that they would not bother responding to, but I think I got pretty lucky in that it didn’t take me that long to find a place and move out. This was actually the second place I viewed, the first being what was essentially a double bed with a kitchen on top of it. The place I’m living in at the moment was significantly cheaper, and while it’s certainly rough around the edges and not in the nicest area, getting a multi-roomed flat for nearly £100 a month less than all of the “shared house, room with en-suite” deals was pretty great.

 

Offer for Ymir Translation
July 18th 2014

Remember me talking about the Global Game Jam just now? Well, the silly game we made was at one point to be translated into multiple languages. Unfortunately it all fell through, as it seemed that the guy asking us was jumping the gun a little bit, but the fact that we got an offer at all makes me pretty happy.

 

Japan Trip
July 25th – August 11th 2014

If you know me in the slightest, you’ll probably be a bit sick of this video by now. For those of you who don’t know, I took a GoPro around Japan and stuck it in people’s faces for about 2 weeks, and this is what we ended up with. The editing process took quite some time, but I’m very happy with how the video turned out, and I’ll probably do it again come the next trip.

If you want to watch the video, perhaps consider also reading some of my additional thoughts on it! :)

 

30 MyM Issues
October 2014

The release of MyM #31 marked my thirtieth magazine appearance. This all started because of a chance email I sent to them shortly after the announcement of the magazine, which is why I missed the first issue, but my feature called Planet Japan has been going strong. It’ll probably get a facelift sometime in 2015 because of a dwindling supply of populated Japanese tourist destinations, but we’ll see!

 

Gamasutra
October 29th 2014

My day job consists of writing and editing blog posts for a large tech firm, so writing about video games for actual money isn’t an entirely new experience. However, we’ve recently been looking at content syndication – places to put articles that we would normally host on our own sites. I’m sure that sounds awful, but we actually do a lot of genuinely helpful content, trying to avoid any of that bullshit “we’re awesome, buy our products” spiel that you would probably expect. It came as a bit of a surprise when I was told that my article on video game design theory should be posted on Gamasutra, and while that isn’t much of an achievement given their open blogging platform, the idea terrified me. I think this links back to uni days and hearing about people being torn apart with criticism in 3D modules, but at any rate, it was there. I spent a lot of time tweaking it to make sure it wouldn’t be destroyed online and in front of a dedicated gamer crowd, and hey, it turned out alright. It even got promoted to the top article on the whole site for a bit, so that was pretty nice! I’ve also got the okay from my boss to do more, which is a big part of why I enjoy my job.

 

Joining the Neko Desu Extended Universe
November 8th 2014

Peter Shillito, the host of the most famous anime radio show in the world (probably), allowed me and Iain to host it while he was out visiting family. I think this was a decision akin to allowing the prisoner on day release to babysit your child, but hey, we were game. It was great fun and people didn’t seem to hate us, so I don’t think we did too badly. Next step, Comiket doujins?

 

The Beginning of the End
November 9th 2014

 

 

Gigs
April 2014 – December 2014

Listening to live music is pretty cool. Here are the gigs I went to this year:

  • Van Canto – They were quite riddly diddly. Quite a bit better than I was expecting. TUM TUM TUM TUM.
  • Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Also quite a bit better than I was expecting, as I can’t say I think too much of Nanda Collection. Was a bit eye opening to take a step back and realise I was in a room of weebs watching a teddy bear dancing on stage, so there’s that.
  • Girugamesh – I’d listened to a bit of their music prior to hearing about the gig, but figured I’d check out their most recent album to see if it was worth going. Monster is super good, and so was the gig. Check out Incomplete if you’re not familiar with them.
  • Hotei Tomoyasu – Perhaps one of my all-time favourite Japanese artists at this point. Couldn’t round up anyone to go with me to this gig, so I went alone to some pub in the middle of nowhere in London to see him for the third time. There was about 100 of us at best in some attic, and it was one of the best gigs I’ve been to just because of how chill it was. Definitely a 2014 highlight.
  • Babymetal – Pretty good fun, but I’m going to play the old man a bit and say that I much prefer the album to the live show. They did a second London gig later on in the year as well, which I skipped due to the lack of new material (though they apparently played a new song the second time). Will definitely give them another shot if they come back to London with a new album, but given tickets for the second show were selling for £5 the day before due to lack of sales, I’m a little worried about the chances.
  • Symphonic Legends (Legend of Zelda Orchestra) – Had to go to this after the fantastic anniversary performance in 2013. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, but let’s be fair, it was climbing a very big hill, and the anniversary extras definitely added a lot. Going to give the next few a miss before going back, or at least until we get a new Zelda game to add to the mix.
  • Distant Worlds (Final Fantasy Orchestra) – The best orchestra I’ve been to, hands down. I suppose that’s not saying much given it’s one of four, but the love that was put into this performance was incredibly evident. The music and accompanying videos were a great way of reminiscing about the games while enjoying some powerful live renditions of Final Fantasy favourites. Seeing Uematsu perform a song was also a fantastic moment. I’ll fight to go to the next one.
  • Video Games Live – A bit of a disappointment, if I’m being honest. I respect the “go nuts and do what you want” attitude it encourages, but I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if it was treated like a typical orchestra. That and I didn’t care for a good portion of the music. Still, there were some great moments, and a highlight was seeing Austin Wintory come on stage to conduct some of his music from Journey. Also, STEVE.
  • Sabaton – Didn’t plan on going to this as I feel a bit burned out on Sabaton at the moment, although I probably should get around to listening to the most recent album. It was quite good though, but for me I think a bit of the limelight was stolen by a powerful rendition of Tróndur í Gøtu by Týr. The live performance wasn’t far off the album version. Very good stuff.
  • One Ok Rock – Finally. I tried my hardest to see One Ok Rock the last time they were in London, going so far as to attempt to meet someone in London to buy a spare ticket before heading off to Mull. I think there was a bit of a communication error (or my leg was being pulled?) because I didn’t meet anyone after a lot of hanging around, and basically got shouted at on Twitter for wasting their time. Pro tip: make better plans if you plan to do something like this! The gig was great, and hey, the supports weren’t bad either.

Live-music wishlist for 2015

  • Not terribly unlikely: Rammstein, Maximum the Hormone, Hotei Tomoyasu, Pokemon Orchestra
  • Good luck with that: Charisma.com, Yuzu, a reasonably priced Depeche Mode gig

 

The Video Game Bit

It was a good year for video games. By that, I refer to myself and my decent list of games I managed to beat. Not so much to the actual video game industry, which somehow managed to go to shit to a higher level than anyone quite thought possible.

I had a pretty modest list of goals for 2014, which were:

  • Beat 30 Games
  • Beat 10 Games bought pre-2014
  • Beat two unbeaten Final Fantasy titles
  • Beat 50% or more owned Wii U games
  • Buy an Xbox One
  • Buy a PS4
  • Buy a Japanese 3DS

For this year I think I need to figure out a way of remembering what a game console is. The biggest reason why the Wii U didn’t get much love from me is because it was “all the way over there by the TV and I’m on the PC and ughhh”. I’ve since stuck it by the PC, given I really don’t use the TV unless people are over anyway, so hopefully I’ll be able to meet that goal this year. Maybe.

I’m not fussed about the PS4 and Xbox One goals, really. There’s not enough games out there for me to care right now, and I’ve got access to both consoles if I’m visiting my family anyway. I’ll probably grab them this year at some point, but you know, I might just roll with the PC train for now. Oddly enough, I think it’s far more likely for me to buy a New 3DS, and there’s probably even less reason to do that. I still play a lot of 3DS and Vita games, so it’ll at least see some use.

Here’s the hit list for 2014 and some numbers:

Games beaten: 41 (33 beat, 8 complete)

Final Fantasy VII*
Kururin Paradise*
Octodad
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Final Fantasy XIII-2*
Jazzpunk
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
South Park: The Stick of Truth
The Swapper
Proteus*
Pokémon Link: Battle
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies*
J-Stars Victory Vs.
Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune*
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd
Child of Light
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Star Fox 64 3D*
Far Cry 3*
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure*
Thomas Was Alone*
Pokémon Trading Card Game (replay)
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Mortal Kombat*
Crash Bandicoot*
EarthBound
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
Mario Kart 8
Velocity 2X
A Bird Story
Shovel Knight
Tearaway
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Pokémon Omega Ruby
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Monument Valley
Transistor

* denotes a game purchased pre-2014

I won’t talk about each one like last year, but instead I’ll do this instead:

 

My Arbitrary Top 10 Games I Played This Year List

  • 10. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Honestly, the best thing that happened to this game is the expansion and the prior patch, dubbed “Loot 2.0”. I didn’t hate the original game, but you simply can’t deny just how awesome the gameplay changes are. The extra story act is really not the important or most interesting part – having loot mean something again and gaining a stack of post-game content is what makes it on the list.
  • 9. Jazzpunk – You all need to play Jazzpunk. It’s weird, funny and downright insane, all at the same time. It’s not very long either, but I feel like it’s just about the right length if you’re hunting around for all of the content, which you certainly should be.
  • 8. Child of Light – An absolutely gorgeous game with a really interesting RPG battle system. If Ubisoft allow for more projects like this (and I say this having only just bought Valiant Hearts) I’ll be a very happy man. I wasn’t too hot on the somewhat forced rhyming, but it really didn’t harm the experience. Another short game, so definitely worth a look as it won’t eat up a whole month, like…
  • 7. Final Fantasy VII – Remember this? I mentioned it a bit earlier, in case you forgot. The game finally clicked for me, and now I’m even missing that it’s over. The materia system is really quite cool, though perhaps not my favourite ‘powering up’ mechanic from a Final Fantasy game (which would probably go to either FFIX or FFX, in case you’re wondering). Overrated? Perhaps, but really, it’s still a great game and it’s aged pretty well too, unless you’re convinced that the odd looking character models are going to eat your eyes or something.
  • 6. South Park: The Stick of Truth – There’s not much I can say without parroting what everyone else is saying. Yes, there is finally a good South Park game. Yes, it’s incredibly funny. Yes, you should buy it. I would have liked a more in-depth battle system/level-up system, but seriously, I’m nitpicking.
  • 5. EarthBound – This has quickly become one of my favourite RPGs. In terms of mechanics it’s rather bland, but that’s not what stands out. The quirky world, the fun characters and the weird story is just incredibly enthralling, and I look forward to finding the time for Mother 3 sometime this year.
  • 4. Shovel Knight – This is what happens when you make a new game that is inspired by NES/SNES platformers, yet doesn’t bog itself down with the same issues they had back then. Shovel Knight is Mega Man done right, and it shows. The best platformer I’ve played in a long time, and I sincerely hope that there’s more Shovel Knight coming in the future. Keep an eye on Yacht Club Games.
  • 3. Far Cry 3 – Weirdly, this was my first foray into Far Cry, and it was quite a good time to jump in! Yeah sure, the story is a bit garbage and there’s some issues with the whole premise, but you’re lying if you say that running around an island skinning animals for bigger ammo cases and taking over outposts isn’t incredibly fun. This was also back when climbing radio towers was still novel.
  • 2. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc/Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair – I’m cheating a bit and counting both games, but honestly, they could very easily have taken second and third, with perhaps the first game coming top, but only by a hair. This series is the best reason to own a Vita right now, though it’s in good company with Persona 4 Golden and Virtue’s Last Reward.
  • 1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – The last Ace Attorney game we got was four years ago, or six if you don’t want to count the Edgeworth game (which you should, you monster). Dual Destinies looked almost dead in the water, but I’m so glad we eventually got it, even as a download-only title. I think this was my favourite game in the whole series, and also featured my favourite case in the series as a very reasonably priced piece of DLC. The jump to 3D was worrying for a lot of us, but I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to the series. The models and animations are what adds life to this series, and there’s so much more freedom with the 3D models. Capcom, please don’t wait a decade before releasing the upcoming AA title over here. My heart can’t take it.

Honourable mentions: Theathrythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, Transistor, A Bird Story

 

I think that’s about it. Thank you for putting up with my rambling, and I wish you a very awesome 2015!

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