2018: A Year In Review

I didn’t write this with the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life, so there’s an improvement over 2017. The rest of the year, well, it had its moments. Here are some of the things I got up to and feel are worth sharing.

Global Game Jam ’18
January 26th – January 28th 2018

I remember we went back and forth on the game concept for this one quite a bit. One of the earlier ideas was to make a website with hidden messages and codes on it, and I think we started writing some of that before abandoning the idea and going with a duck-themed Twitter robot. As you do.

Duck is pretty simple, but it’s also one of the more interesting games we’ve made, I think. It’s fun keeping an eye on it, and seeing it fall over on the same stories (because there are a few that are difficult to avoid losing motivation points on without human intervention). It rarely sees human interaction, but it does a good job of driving itself.

If you want to play, find the most recent tweet and respond with one of the options it gives. Duck will go with the most popular option, or pick randomly in the case of 0 votes or a draw.

Follow @duck_trails and help this duck and their lil webbers get across the UK.

First blood donation
March 29th

I tried to start last year, but had to cancel two separate appointments because of either illness or other commitments. Finally managed to get drained in March, and have since donated another two times. Fourth appointment is coming up in a few weeks!

Trip to Mull
April 27th – May 13th 2018

Five of us convened for Board Game Fest ’18, with most of our time being spent on Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. We’re pretty bad at it but it was fun anyway. Also featuring the battle of the Iona gym in Pokemon Go, and some helicopter spotting.

Dieting
October 16th – Forever???

I’ve been wanting to diet for years honestly, but a lack of motivation and the convenience of fast food is a hard combination to beat. But I did start this year, and I’ve been sticking with it since. So far I’ve lost around 15kg, and I’m going to keep it up for the foreseeable future. I was even good at Christmas!

Cancer Research 2018
November 3rd – November 10th 2018

Our fourth year of November streams and another incredibly successful event. We again split the streams over two weekends so we can be better at making sure people are playing games, and we also breathed a bit of life into our OBS layouts to catch incoming donations and all that cool streamer stuff. It was a little janky mind you, but it did help.

Our group (South) had the benefit of going first this year, meaning we got to miss one of the bonus hours like North did last year. And honestly, even though we didn’t stream as long as last year, it felt harder. I’m an old man now I guess.

This year we raised £1128 (or a little more than that if you count the donation that was made incorrectly to last year’s page). beating our total for 2017. Even more when you throw in gift aid.

It really is incredibly that we have generous friends that let us raise amounts of money this high. I think I can confidently say that I speak for everyone involved on the VSS side when I say we’re incredibly grateful for the support we’ve received over the last four years.

We’re already thinking about the 2019 streams, and we have a few fun things in mind. We’re also going to switch up the charity, so we’ll keep you posted on who we decide to raise money for next year. These things may be incredibly exhausting to run, but honestly I can’t wait to get going again.

If you missed it, the archive of the South stream is below. You can also watch the North stream, which features some of the other VSS members, on the same YouTube channel.

Neko Desu takeover
December 8th

Myself and colons took over that one anime radio show earlier this month, meaning listeners had to put up with two hours of us rambling over anime music, and a bonus hour of us rambling over j-drama music. It was good fun though, would recommend. You can hear the anime bit below, or the J-drama bit in my Glorio end-of-the-year post.

 

Gigs

Like last year I didn’t go to that many gigs, but there were two. The first was Man With a Mission in February, which I managed to rope my youngest brother into. I’m not sure they were what he was expecting, but I know he’s listened to their music since so I call that a win. They had a pretty phenomenal set, though their encore was ruined a bit by some douchey moshers. I also saw Rookiez is Punk’d and Spyair in October, and while they were both amazing live, I think Rookiez really surprised me. I knew a few of their tunes from anime openings and whatnot, but they put on a killer set. I’ll be sure to see them again next time they swing by London.

Japanese Cinema

There weren’t quite as many anime movie showings this year, though I think that’s mostly because there weren’t quite that many to put around. Still, I saw most of the anime films that made an appearance at my local cinema:

  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower – This film tries a little too hard to be a Ghibli movie, even down to the studio logo. I get that there’s history between the two teams, but I felt like it was a little hamstrung by trying to emulate the Ghibli style instead of doing their own thing. It was fine, I guess, but I have no intention of watching it again.
  • Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms – This one was a lot better, even if the concept isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It tells a super interesting story though, and a heartbreaking one at that. There are certainly better films if you want a bit of tragedy in your anime movie, but this is definitely worth your time.
  • Mirai – This film is just a lot of fun, pure and simple. Not much more to say than that other than to go watch it.
  • My Hero Academia: Two Heroes – A great movie, and it turned out to be pretty much what I wanted it to be. It tells a decent-enough story, features some good fights and doesn’t rely on movie-only special moves or power creep. Maybe the best shounen movie I’ve seen, though to be fair that bar was pretty low.

The Video Game Bit

Last year was a good year for video games. This year kinda knocked that out of the park. Good news considering just about everything else going on was a nightmare. Once again I’ve been tracking which games I’m playing and beating over on the Backloggery, and for 2018 I had similar goals:

  • Beat 30 Games
  • Beat 15 Games bought pre-2018
  • Have 10 or fewer unbeaten PS4 games
  • Have 10 or fewer unbeaten 3DS games
  • Have 5 or fewer unbeaten Switch games

You know, given how much time I spent at the start of the year on Monster Hunter, I’ll take 36 games beaten. Heck, I didn’t beat my first game this year until March 9th.

I didn’t come close to beating 15 pre-2018 games, managing just 5. I did buy way too many games this year though, so this should be an easy goal to hit in 2019. In theory.

No really, I bought too many games. I was hoping to have 10 or fewer unbeaten PS4 games this year, and a year later I finish with 42 unbeaten. Plenty to keep myself occupied, so I’m gonna cool it on game purchases for a while. In theeeeeory.

I did beat a few 3DS games this year but still ended with 14 unbeaten, though some of those are going to be sold off early next year. Got plenty of Fire Emblem games to try to whittle down…

5 or fewer Switch games unbeaten was my way of not letting my Switch library become as unruly as my PS4 library. I missed it slightly (6 unbeaten) but I can blame Christmas gifts for that. Most of these games are long RPGs though, so we’ll see.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the hit list for 2018 and some numbers:

Games beaten: 36 (The same as 2017, 26 beat, 9 complete)

Monster Hunter: World
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Detective Pikachu
Oxenfree
Subsurface Circular
Ace of Seafood
Monster Hunter Stories*
Battlefield 1
Fifa 17*
Pokémon Quest
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
Money Puzzle Exchanger
WarioWare Gold
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Tekken 7
Titanfall 2
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Rise of the Tomb Raider
IA/VT -COLORFUL-*
Everybody’s Golf*
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Tetris Effect
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
Roundabout
Burly Men at Sea
Call of Duty: WWII
Moonlighter
Celeste
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
Gravity Rush Remastered*
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

* denotes a game purchased pre-2018

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 List of Games I Played This Year

  • 10. WarioWare Gold – The WarioWare games are great, so having a best-of compilation that makes use of all the gimmicks the franchise has seen over the years (besides the motion control stuff from the Wii game, I guess) is super good. Yes, it would have been nice to have that on the Switch, but I also don’t feel like the gyro games would really translate as well, and certainly not when the Switch is docked. The answer is to just make more WarioWare games.
  • 9. Assassin’s Creed Origins – I have never been a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed games. I had a so-so experience with the first game, and kept buying but not playing the games through til 3, and I think the only game that really appealed to me besides Origins was Black Flag (which is probably one of the few games in the franchise I don’t own, due to waiting forever for it to show up on PS+). But ancient Egypt is rad, and it turned out I was going to have a great time with this. I even went and got the platinum trophy, if that’s some kind of proof.
  • 8. Titanfall 2 – I really wish the first Titanfall had a single player campaign. I don’t care for multi-player shooters at the best of times, and certainly not games dedicated to that. Which was a shame at the time, because Titanfall looked pretty cool otherwise. I picked this up fairly cheap on a PSN sale after hearing good things about the campaign, and they weren’t kidding. The campaign is so darn good, and other games should be looking at it when developing their own campaign modes. It’s probably why the new Call of Duty doesn’t have a campaign mode. Probably.
  • 7. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – I really enjoyed the first game, though I understand that opinions are mixed on its battle mechanics. The sequel changes how battles work completely, and while I don’t mind it, I do miss the Pokemon-esque combat from the first one. And while the game is still charming, it does lack something without Ghibli on board again. It’s still a very fun game, and another in which I found myself shooting for that platinum trophy after the credits rolled.
  • 6. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – I love the Yakuza games, so this showing up in a year which had three of them (and yes, I’m counting the Fist of the North Star game) isn’t too much of a surprise. It wraps Kiryu’s story up quite nicely, although I suspect we’re still not done with the guy even though we’re due to switch protagonists. Hopefully Judgment is good enough to tide us over until then.
  • 5. Monster Hunter: World – Like a lot of people, I always wanted to get into Monster Hunter but found myself struggling to stick with them. I had one of the games on the PSP, as well as Tri on the Wii, but neither of them really felt good enough to stick with. I certainly wanted to, but there was just a lot of very frustrating micromanagement to deal with on top of things like loading between areas and inherently bad controls (in the case of the PSP game, anyway). World fixes a good 95% of these issues, and I really enjoyed my time carving up big dinosaurs. There’s an expansion on the horizon, but we’ll see if I jump back in or not.
  • 4. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! – People were still whining about how this game was gonna suck and tank just days before it came out. No, it’s not your gen 8 mainline Pokemon title, but damn if it doesn’t do some cool things. The Pokemon Go-like capture mechanics work really well, and the times the joycons cock up and don’t read your throw correctly are counteracted by the game’s willingness to just give you pokeballs for doing basically nothing. Seeing the pokemon in the overworld is also really nice, and while I don’t hate random encounters, it really does seem like a step forward, even if, selfishly, I kinda dislike it from a shiny-hunting perspective. Also, have you seen how gorgeous this game looks? Like, I get that we’d have seen a step up if we’d seen a mainline Pokemon title on the Wii U (and Pokken certainly looked good there) but it being stuck on the 3DS so long makes the graphical jump seem so much bigger than it actually is. It’s gorgeous. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that when you spend hours with Pikachu dressed in Team Rocket clothes and then decide to remove them, it feels like Pikachu is naked and I don’t know how to deal with that.
  • 3. Tetris Effect – I had been proudly riding the hype train for this game as soon as that first trailer came out. I must have watched it, like, 20+ times? And heck, I ended up buying a PSVR because of it. As much as this is very much another Mizuguchi game, I don’t really have much of a track record for playing his games, with Lumines being about the only one (though I do have Rez ready to go). This game is perfect, honestly. It looks incredible in 4K, it’s an experience in VR and it’s easily a top 3 Tetris game (in the company of Tetris DS and The New Tetris). The soundtrack might be the highlight though, it’s stunning in its own right. I just wish I’d remember to do the weekend events.
  • 2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – The only game franchise that can get me more hyped than an incoming Pokemon announcement, and boy did they go to town on the marketing. Up until the game leaked early I was scouring the net for more details. The roster is incredible, and the stage selection is pretty good too (though very obviously missing Poke Floats). I’m kind of unsure why the Nintendo Directs didn’t show off the World of Light mode more, because it’s easily the best thing in this entire package. The time they must have spent crafting unique scenarios based on classing jpegs is just mind blowing. Throw in a Classic Mode that is unique to each character, tons of new music and remixes, DLC characters that have already got people stunned… it’s just so damn good. I look forward to the couch-multiplayer I’ll be playing over the next 5+ years.
  • 1. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – I wouldn’t have called this ahead of playing it, that’s for sure. I do remember seeing an early trailer for this a few years ago, which showed off some in-progress but gorgeous overworld visuals, and that’s why I ended up going for this. But my experience with these games is pretty limited, with a few attempts at playing other mainline games, and some fun had with some of the spin-offs like Joker and Monsters. Heck, before I played this my best times with the franchise were probably both of the Heroes games and the Japanese Theatrhythm game I imported. But this game really took me by surprise; it hooked me hard and very quickly with its traditional combat system and still-gorgeous graphics, and kept me on board with a surprisingly good story and character moments, intricate systems and just being very fun to play. You get to see the credits roll a good 50 or so hours in, where you get the option of doing some post-game content that eventually leads to the good ending. At first I thought I was done, but I stuck around for a bit in order to pick up a few more trophies. Then I found a good way to grind levels, and I quickly found myself not wanting to put the game down. I’m glad I didn’t either, because the events that happen in the true ending are really quite good. I doubt that I’ll be dipping back into the older games any time soon (especially when I’ve had Builders sat on my shelf for over a year) but XI was definitely a turning point in how I viewed the series.

Honourable mentions: Pokemon Go, Celeste, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Moonlighter, Monster Hunter Stories, Yakuza Kiwami 2, Octopath Traveller, Beat Saber

Games I got this year that I hope to one day find time for: Yo-Kai Watch 3, God of War, Far Cry 5, Detroit: Quantic Dream are at it again, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, 428: Shibuya Scramble, Valkyria Chronicles 4, Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night, Shenmue 1/2, Destiny 2, Every goddamn Kingdom Hearts game

I think that’s about it. Thank you for putting up with my rambling, and I wish you a very awesome 2019!

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