2015: A Year In Review

In time honoured tradition, by which I mean that I did this last year, it’s time to convert some thoughts into words and take a look back on 2015. Not least because I’ll just forget about what happened this year if I don’t. So with all this dramatic build up, let’s get on with it!

 

Global Game Jam ’15
January 23rd – January 25th 2015

Just like last year, Very Scary Scenario reunited to create another masterpiece. World-famous professional anime Peter “Neko Desu” Shillito joined the team to make five of us, and we spent yet another 48 hours making a bad visual novel. But hey, it’s our bad visual novel, and it also does some cool things. Give it a download if you’ve not already experienced it.

 

Starting the Pokéwalker Challenge
February 6th 2015 

Earlier this year, I had the strange idea to dig out my Pokéwalker, the pedometer device that came with Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver for Nintendo DS, and walk a pokémon to level 100. There’d be no experience gained by battling and no rare candies, just my feet doing all the work. To cut a long story short (which you can read up on over here) I wanted a reason to get myself out of the house more and make some positive changes to my lifestyle, however minor. I hatched a level one Snorlax and started on the 6th of February.

 

Leaving MyM Magazine
February 13th 2015 

After thirty-four printed issues, my time with MyM Magazine drew to a close back in February. I enjoyed writing my Planet Japan column, not least because it encouraged me to seek out Japanese drama, music and other cool things, but also because it gave me some much-needed experience in working to deadlines and to a high standar. Plus the money was a nice bonus. I’m sad to see it end, but it also opened up some new opportunities with the time I now have to spare.

 

Trip to Mull
April 10th – April 26th 2015 

I really enjoy being stranded on a hill for two weeks without a TV or the internet. There’s something about having to walk over large hills just to take out the rubbish that I can’t get enough of (though I’m sure it also has something to do with chilling out, reading books and playing board games with friends). It’s a shame that it probably won’t happen in 2016, so I’m just going to stare at my puffin photos until we can go again.

 

Japan Trip Booked
July 22nd 2015

Trip #4 to Japan was booked nice and early! I say trip #4, but that only remains true for two of the seven of us that are going… Ah whatever, it’s the fourth organised group trip or something so I’m rolling with it. We’ll be going for the majority of February and into March for a trip that’s close to four weeks long, and we’re opting to stay in an apartment in Ikebukuro rather than the hotel in Shinjuku that we’ve used the past three times. I’m getting excited just writing about it, so I know already that it’s going to be a long January. If all goes to plan, I’ll have another video to show off when we get back.

 

Love Japan Issue #2
September 19th 2015

Without MyM to write for, I had a look around for new publications. I learned about Love Japan after they released their first issue (which is exactly how I found out about MyM, now that I think about it), and asked if they’d have me. If you’re interested in four pages of me waffling on about manga, you can view issue #2 for free on the Love Japan website. Hopefully I’ll also be contributing to future issues, so watch this space.

 

Extra Life 2015
November 7th – November 8th 2015

If you asked me whether or not I could play video games for 24 hours while I was still at university, I’d have laughed at you and said that it’d be too easy. Apparently I’m an old man now, because our 25 hour session, 24 plus a bonus hour due to donations, was hellish. The majority of the all-nighter was smooth sailing, but at around 3am with a little over seven hours to go, it started to become clear that it wasn’t going to be as easy as we’d hoped. Seven people started, three people finished. Still, we raised over £300 for charity, and despite a few setbacks and technical problems, I’m game for next year. Let’s just see how many of the other six are up for it! If you missed it, you can flick through the archive on YouTube. Thanks again to everyone that sponsored us!

 

Completing the Pokéwalker Challenge
December 29th 2015

I write this with sore feet, an hour or so after I levelled up Snorlax for the final time. I’m probably going to write another blog post entirely on my experience of walking a pokémon to max level, so I won’t go into much detail here. What I will say is that I’m very, very happy to complete it before the new year.

 

 

Gigs
April 2015 – December 2015

Live music can be pretty cool. Here are the gigs I went to this year:

  • System of a Down – There are a number of big bands that stick to performing at UK festivals, bands that I would love to see live, and I finally got the opportunity to see one of them this year. System played an absolutely fantastic set, blitzing through a vast chunk of their catalogue by speeding up most songs and fading from one song straight into the next. Little in the way of chatting with audience, few breaks and a crowd of very satisfied SoaD fans. I can’t wait to do it all again sometime in the future.
  • Scandal – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Scandal while they were in the country, and they put on a really solid gig. I think the sound crew could have done a bit more to better take advantage of the size of the room they were in, but besides that I had a really good time. Props to Scandal as well for not feeling forced to play all their anime music just to please the weebs.
  • Moumoon/Passepied – I checked out these two bands out on a whim after seeing they had an upcoming gig in London, listening to their music for the first time while travelling to and from Mull. Before I’d properly dug into their music I was fully expecting to prefer Moumoon based on early impressions of the Passepied vocalist, but my opinion has completely flipped since then mostly due to having a hard time getting on with a lot of the lyrics to Moumoon’s songs. ‘Matatabistep‘ was a stand-out favourite from the night, but Moumoon also played ‘Hello, shooting-star‘, their gorgeous ending theme to Assassination Classroom, a song which I voted as my favourite tune from Spring 2015’s anime offerings.
  • Hotei Tomoyasu – My fourth time seeing him perform in the UK was just as great as the first. We got to hear some tracks from his most recent album, a great change from just dipping into the same old portion of the back catalogue, though we of course got to hear Battle Without Honour or Humanity again. It’ll be a great day when he feels able to drop that song, but nonetheless it was a great night. I could have seen him for a fifth time later on in the year, and while I was certainly tempted I thought it better not to burn out on his music too quickly.
  • Machinae Supremacy – Oh, if only. Another band that I’ve been desperate to see perform a full gig here in the UK, after seeing them live years ago as a support act for Children of Bodom. They came over last year for some gigs in some very strange locations, but finally announced a London date this year. That is, until the gig was cancelled. It was cancelled for a very good reason, but it means waiting a little longer to finally see them perform live again. Maybe next year.
  • Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions – Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda translate phenomenally well to orchestra, perhaps more so than Pokémon does, but this is the show I was waiting for. My love for this franchise hasn’t died, and Symphonic Evolutions was a great, nostalgia-fueled night of music. I’m almost certainly going to go again, and until then I’m waiting patiently for an album to be released. Oddly enough there are a few songs floating about on the Internet that seem to be professionally recorded, so perhaps this isn’t too far away? Because of this, you can check out the best song of the night; a fantastic rendition of the Team Rocket theme.

Live-music wishlist for 2016

  • Not terribly unlikely: Rammstein, Maximum the Hormone, Pokemon Orchestra
  • Good luck with that: Charisma.com, Yuzu, a good band playing while I’m on holiday in February

The Video Game Bit

It was a good year for video games. By that, I refer to myself and the decent list of games I managed to beat. I had a pretty modest list of goals for 2015, which were:

  • Beat 30 Games
  • Beat 15 Games bought pre-2015
  • Beat two unbeaten Final Fantasy titles
  • Beat 50% or more owned Wii U games
  • Buy an Xbox One
  • Buy a PS4

I’m pretty happy with my gaming exploits this year, but then I say that whenever I manage to beat more games than the previous year. Progress started well but slowed down on a few games, notably Far Cry 4, Metal Gear Solid V and Fallout 4, but given how much time I’ve put into these games alone, 50 games is nothing to turn my nose up at. I’ve also managed to set my TV up in a place that’s near my PC, meaning I don’t have consoles sharing the same monitor as my PC any more so I might be more inclined to boot them up. This should, in theory, make it more likely for me to use my Wii U. Given my ‘beat 50% of owned Wii U games’ milestone has been on my list for at least two years and I haven’t beaten a single Wii U game in just as long, I’m not holding my breath.

I didn’t manage to hit my Final Fantasy milestone for the first time in quite a few years, though to be fair, I did beat two games (I’m just not counting FF Tactics as a main-series title). I did finally check off Final Fantasy XII from my list of remaining games, leaving me with Final Fantasy X-2 and Lightning Returns as the only two left to beat. Suffice to say, I’m not in a huge rush to touch either of those, but I might dip back into Lightning Returns soon if I can pick up the PC for a good price.

I’m not too bothered about missing that target, especially as I managed to marathon the entire Metal Gear Solid series this year. I’d been saying for a while that I didn’t want to watch Giant Bomb’s Metal Gear Scanlon series because I planned to play the games, and after a weekend starting and finishing Metal Gear Solid, I found myself hooked. I went from one game to the next, playing through them chronologically (with the exception of Ground Zeroes, which I’d finished earlier in the year) and picking up Metal Gear Solid V less than a week after it came out, immediately after finishing 4. To say I fell in love with the series is an understatement, and perhaps I’ll dip into the original two Metal Gear games sometime in 2016 to round off the games I have an interest in playing.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the hit list for 2015 and some numbers:

Games beaten: 50 (9 more than 2014, 41 beat, 9 complete)

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions*
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Far Cry 4*
Valiant Hearts: The Great War*
Little Inferno*
Hatoful Boyfriend
Mighty Switch Force! 2
Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System*
HarmoKnight*
Pokémon Shuffle
Wolfenstein: The New Order*
Battlefield 4
Peggle 2
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask*
BOXBOY!
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Never Alone
Taiko no Tatsujin 3DS 2*
Taiko no Tatsujin 3DS*
Samurai Warriors 4
inFAMOUS Second Son
inFAMOUS First Light
Luigi’s Mansion 2*
You Must Build A Boat
Please, Don’t Touch Anything
Grow Home
The Walking Dead Season 2*
Destiny
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
The Last of Us Remastered
Ori and the Blind Forest
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist
Metal Gear Solid*
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots*
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance*
Mortal Kombat X
Yakuza 3*
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX
Undertale
Fallout 4
Guitar Hero Live
DQH: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below

* denotes a game purchased pre-2015

Like I did last year I won’t talk about each one of these, but rather build a top ten to talk about:

My Arbitrary Top 10 Games I Played This Year List

  • 10. Far Cry 4 – Pagan Min is an interesting villain that really needed to be involved with the game’s plot a lot more. Besides that, this is basically Far Cry 3 with more tools to work with. It’s the Worms World Party to Far Cry 3’s Worms Armageddon; both perfectly good games but you’re always going to play the one with all the extra goodies. I suppose I found those ‘goodies’ to be enticing enough, as I spent the time collectible hunting to 100% this game. Hopefully with Primal coming out in 2016, the Far Cry 5 team will have time to figure out how to shake up the formula.
  • 9. You Must Build A Boat – There’s no story here, but it doesn’t need it. This little time waster will eat away your bus journeys, no problem. I dare say this is better than 10000000, the previous game.
  • 8. Wolfenstein: The New Order – I’d heard good things about this game before starting it, but it still took me by surprise. I’ve never much cared for Wolfenstein games beyond the original, but this one has me excited to see what else can come out of that bizarre alternate universe.
  • 7. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2 – I’m so happy that there are a lot of Ace Attorney fans willing to pour their free time into translating the games that don’t make it out over here. Not only did they translate this game into English, but there’s another team currently working on the almost forgotten Great Ace Attorney, which Capcom doesn’t seem to want to localise. I borrowed an R4-like device to play this on my DS just like it was meant to, but even if you don’t have one of those kicking about make sure you get around to playing this.
  • 6. Undertale – This game came out of nowhere for a lot of us, but what a nice surprise it was. The characters and game system are great fun, though what really made this memorable for me was the soundtrack. I will continue to recommend it to people that have no plans to play Undertale, as it’s easily my favourite OST from this year. I must admit that I’m not as infatuated with the game as the rabid fanbase appears to be, but it’s definitely a game you should play.
  • 5. Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System – I can remember exactly why I stopped playing Final Fantasy XII back when it originally came out. There was a desert area that had non-hostile elemental monsters at a much higher level than anything else at that point, which become hostile if they are targeted by magic. In a game that revolves around the Gambit system, essentially a very basic programming tool which lets you customise how your party members react, hurling magic at enemies is kind of automatic. I lost my progress and didn’t bother to return. That is until I realised there was a translation for the Zodiac Job System variant, which was unfortunately a Japan-only release that cleared up a lot of the issues the original game had. If you liked the concept of FFXII and you can run a PS2 emulator, this is definitely one worth checking out.
  • 4. Fallout 4 – A fantastic game for sure, hindered by a reluctance to shake up the formula from 3 and New Vegas, coupled with Bethesda’s failure to comb out the bugs before release. The main storyline is again easily dismissable, but there are plenty of sidequests that’ll cater to that urge to learn more about post-apocalyptic USA. There are also some neat gameplay additions such as weapon customisation and the lack of a level cap, just don’t go into this expecting crazy alterations to the Fallout 3 formula.
  • 3. Ori and the Blind Forest – Not since Super Meat Boy have I played a platformer as tight as this, and Ori brings along with it an interesting story and stunning visuals. It’s a very Metroid-esque game, but to name it a MetroidVania would be doing it a disservice.
  • 2. The Last of Us Remastered – I’m glad I waited to play this on the PS4, because this game is absolutely gorgeous. It looked great even on the PS3, but seeing this game look crisp and running at 60fps is just fantastic. The narrative is what you’re coming for, but the combat is rock solid and the enemy design shakes up a worryingly stagnant zombie genre. Seriously, clickers are terrifying and it’s perhaps the only zombie I could say that for off the top of my head.
  • 1. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty/Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence/Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – I’m cheating a little here, but I figured I’d do this rather than have three spots dedicated to Metal Gear Solid. I’m still torn on which game between 2 and 3 is my favourite. Today I’d tell you it was 3, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if I’d changed my mind if you ask me about it again. Metal Gear Solid V also claims a spot as the title with the best gameplay, a game that gets the sneaking mission formula down so well that people were putting 70+ hours into it. It’s a shame that the story wasn’t up to the same calibre, but the game was so much fun to play that I can’t be too disappointed. If Konami decides to make another game without Kojima, I can only hope that the story is just as batshit crazy as what I’ve come to expect from this series.

Honourable mentions: Yakuza 5, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Super Smash Bros for Wii U, Aviary Attorney

I think that’s about it. Thank you for putting up with my rambling, and I wish you a very awesome 2016!

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