2019: A Year In Review

2019 was, for the most part, a heck of a year. Selfishly put aside all the things happening in the country that I disagreed with and yeah, I did a bunch of things I enjoyed the heck out of. Of course, even with that stick-your-head-in-the-sand approach to looking back at the year, 2019 made sure there was no doubt this is worst decade I’ll have to live through. To summarise briefly: fuck cancer.

Anyway, that’s the doom and gloom for the post so let’s get onto the neater things~

Global Game Jam ’19
January 25th – January 27th 

I think this is up there as one of the weirder games we’ve made during the Game Jam, but I do love what we made. It’s in dire need of some balancing (budget and client requests not being tied together means you don’t always have a way to please them!) but alas, such is the game jam – it all ends with the weekend. Unless you’re Idol Threat, anyway.

My favourite thing in this game is the twitchy auctioneer, lovingly inspired by a similarly twitchy auctioneer from the old Monopoly video games. They just really love auctions.

You can play it in your browser, so have a play around with it if you fancy. You can find details of the project here.

Trip to Japan
April 19th – May 7th

I genuinely find it difficult remembering that my last trip to Japan was this year – it feels like forever ago at this point. Even so, it was a terrific time once again. Lots of new places to explore despite it being my fifth time there, a standout being the Hakone sightseeing tour, which had us travel in a flimsy-feeling ski lift over a volcano. That was just part of it though – there were some scenic mountain trains and a big pirate ship across the lake, too.

Other highlights include paying a lot of money to have all you can eat kobe beef, spending a night along Osaka’s Dotonbori to give us a headstart to Hiroshima, and watching another Tokyo Giants baseball game.

And you know, some things don’t change either. I played the shit out of Pokemon Ga-Ole, the current (at the time of writing) Pokemon arcade game, and I dread to think how much money I spent on it. I had a good time though, so whatever!

Trip to Germany (and Belgium, and the Netherlands)
July 1st – July 8th

I travelled to Germany to play Pokemon Go in a park with thousands of other people. Yes, I realise this is a terribly nerdy thing to do, but I had a heck of a good time. The trip ended up being very touristy, with me and my brother checking out places like Cologne, Dortmund and Dusseldorf inside Germany, as well as making some long train trips out of the country to make day trips of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Brussels in Belgium.

It was a great time, and I’m looking forward to a similar trip in 2020 too. As for the Pokemon Go day at the end of the trip, well, it hurt my feet.


Trip to Wales (and Ireland)
July 19th – July 22nd

Another fun trip to Adam’s place in Wales, as well as a day trip to Ireland. It was a good time all around, though Ireland could have used a couple of days and some better weather, honestly! We also took a trip to the copper mines in Wales, and while that doesn’t sound particularly thrilling on paper, it’s a heck of a place to go for a walk.

 

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Dieting Milestone: Losing 50kg
October 15th

While I’ve been dieting over a year now, I haven’t really set myself any short term goals. However, when I noticed that the one year marker was approaching, and that I was at about 45-46kg lost, I figured I’d push myself on the way to the milestone. Well, it worked out!

It’s been a pretty good year on the health front, but I’ll admit that it’s only really recently that I’ve started noticing the full extent of it. I’ve gone down a few clothes sizes over the year, but it’s photos of me in Japan and Germany that really make me double take, and both of those are at the midpoint of the diet. I don’t have many photos pre-diet, and while I’m generally pretty okay with that, I wouldn’t mind a good comparison picture either!

Raising Money for Samaritans
November 2nd – November 16th

Our fifth year of charity streaming, and what a year it was. Given we weren’t raising money for a charity as well known as Cancer Research UK this time, we’d been expecting something of a drop off in donations. That didn’t happen – we raised more money than we ever have!

We raised £1270 across three weeks of fundraising events, which puts us around the £4000 mark for money raised over five years (and that doesn’t include a lot of money in Gift Aid, either!).

To say we’re all thrilled is an understatement! We’re incredibly thankful for all of the support we’ve received over the years, to all the friends, family and colleagues that donated their hard earned money.

As always, there’s a few things I’m noodling on for next year to improve our streams. Nothing major this year, though finally ditching my bad old PC will help with some of our frame drops at least. It might also be time to invest in an audio mixer, but we’ll see!

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.

 

Gigs

Despite planning to go to a few, I think the only ‘gig’ I managed this year was my third or fourth Distant Worlds. It’s still as fantastic as ever, and the music selection (with the exemption of two songs that are always played) is varied each time. I’m looking forward to going again, next time it swings by London.

Japanese Cinema

I’ve been thinking about what films I watched this year, and while it feels like I’ve seen a lot, most of them were in my own time and not actually at a cinema. The only Japanese film I saw in a cinema (as far as I can remember) is Promare, but what a heck of a film that was to see. Hands down one of the best animated films to come out of Japan, definitely give it a go.

The Video Game Bit

This year was a good year for video games (again!), though I could have done better to, you know, actually play the games I was buying. Once again I’ve been tracking which games I’m playing and beating over on the Backloggery, and for 2019 I had similar goals:

  • Beat 30 Games
  • Beat 15 Games bought pre-2019
  • Have 30 or fewer unbeaten PS4 games
  • Have 10 or fewer unbeaten 3DS games
  • Have 5 or fewer unbeaten Switch games

There was a point this year where I thought I might end up with a number of games beaten that would rival the numbers I was beating while very, very busy at University. That didn’t happen, but 38 isn’t a bad number either!

My pre-2019 goal has defeated me – annoyingly I finished on 14. I spent the evening of Dec 30th looking to see if I had an eligible game that wouldn’t take me long to beat, came up with Um Jammer Lammy, and once again yelled at how hard it is to beat a damn level in it. Ah well, maybe next year.

I finished last year with 42 unbeaten PS4 games. I thought I’d do better this year, but alas, I ended on 55. Really need to hold it on buying new games (advice that I should have followed years ago and probably never will). I’ll probably hold off on whittling down the PS4 backlog until after Tokyo Mirage Sessions is done with, but hopefully I’ll do better.

What’s a 3DS? I stayed on the same number of unbeaten games as last year (14), with the only change being that I sold Tales of the Abyss and bought Ever Oasis. This is very much remaining a console for Scottish holidays and similar, but I do at least want to finish up Yo-Kai Watch 3 before 4 ends up releasing over here.

I’m quite pleased with my backlog clearing on Switch this year. Fire Emblem was what got me back on the console, and I stuck around to clear up my growing backlog while playing new releases like Astral Chain and Pokemon. I had hoped to beat the last Switch game I played (The End is Nigh) to bring myself down to 5 and my pre-2019 games up to 15, but the mechanics of the final series of levels were more than I can really be bothered with. Ah well.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the hit list for 2019 and some numbers:

Games beaten: 39 (Three more than 2018, 26 beat, 13 complete)

Detroit: Become Human*
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle*
428: Shibuya Scramble*
.hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth*
Florence
Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories
God of War*
Shadow of the Colossus*
Warriors All-Stars
Shenmue*
Shenmue II*
Horizon Zero Dawn
Donut County
Destiny 2*
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight*
Dragon Quest
The Order: 1886
What Remains of Edith Finch
The Great Ace Attorney
Judgment
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Mario Tennis Aces
Katamari Damacy Reroll
Starlink: Battle for Atlas*
Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission
Astral Chain
Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition*
Marvel’s Spider-Man
Untitled Goose Game
Xenoblade Chronicles 2*
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country
Pokémon Sword
KILL la KILL -IF-
Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix*
Kirby Star Allies
Sakura Wars

* denotes a game purchased pre-2019

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. Horizon Zero Dawn – Tussling with robot dinosaurs with a wild array of tools and weapons was just a heck of a lot of fun. As with many games of this type, the collector in me was thoroughly hooked, so I didn’t part with it until I got the platinum trophy. That said, I didn’t feel too much of an urge to play the DLC, but maybe I’ll play that in the future.
  • 9. The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories – SWERY, I love you. Video games are a much better place with him involved, and this in yet another game of his that will keep me thinking for years to come. It’s a finicky platformer, admittedly, but the importance of the story here is a big part of why it made such a lasting impression. Try not to spoil yourself on it if you can and try this one out.
  • 8. The Great Ace Attorney – The team at Scarlet Study did an amazing job translating this game, leaving only one remaining Ace Attorney game out there. It’s a great one too, and if you have the means to play the translation on 3DS or Android, definitely give it a go. The hardest part in setting it all up is tussling with the Japanese Play Store. As for the game itself it’s pretty typical of the AA franchise, which is absolutely a good thing. Sherlock and Holmes in particular are terrific characters, so I’m eagerly waiting for the translation of the second game (of which 2 of 5 cases are already translated!).
  • 7. 428: Shibuya Scramble – Whether you’d like this game really comes down to what kind of visual novels you’re into, but 428 is honestly one of my all-time favourites. The way the game builds up to its twists and reveals is up there with the best VNs, but what really makes it work is how attached to the characters you quickly find yourself. Also, how someone stuck in a mascot uniform and working for Nasubi is absolutely related to the plot at large.
  • 6. Pokémon Sword – I love Pokemon (who would have guessed!) but I never cared about the pokedex cuts or… whatever animation nonsense people were whining about. All I care about is the game being fun, and Sword was a heck of a lot of fun. Room for improvement of course, in particular to the story’s constant ‘tell, don’t show’ nonsense and the lack of things to do between gyms, but it makes me very hopeful for the third game in the set, or gen 9 should the next mainline game go there.
  • 5. God of War – Slicing people up with a magic axe and going on adventures with your kid and a talking severed head sure was a lot of fun. This game is also dirt cheap, undeservingly so, and it’s a must-have if you own a PS4.
  • 4. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country – As part of my attack on the Switch backlog, I finally got around to finishing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I had a lot of fun with that game, but it was the standalone DLC Torna that really left an impression. Torna tidies up the game’s combat system, streamlining the experience in the process, and throws in some interesting new mechanics to boot. The story isn’t much of a revelation if you’ve played XC2, as it’s pretty much all covered there, but if you were to play this on its own you’d probably find it plenty satisfying.
  • 3. Marvel’s Spider-Man – I’d been meaning to play this game for a while, but opted to wait until I could borrow it from my brother because did I mention I need to stop playing video games? Anyway, I finally got to it this year and what a phenomenal game it was. The traversal alone makes it a must-play for any Spider-Man fan, but combat and the world building are further reasons to give it a go. The story is also pretty good – not mindblowing, but certainly more than enough to satisfy. A sequel can’t come soon enough.
  • 2. Judgment – Yakuza is one of my all-time favourite franchises, so it’d take a heck of a bad game to not make my list. However, Judgment isn’t a mere spin-off – it’s a terrific proof of concept for a second Kamurocho-based series. Yagami is a great protagonist, and his detective work mingling with familiar yakuza business brings the best out of him. Hopefully there’s interest in a sequel, and if that happens I’d love to get more of Yagami in the courtroom along with it. But that aside, exploring the crime-riddled Kamurocho as someone directly responsible for dealing with the aftermath of it was simply a terrific idea.
  • 1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Surprise, I’m the first person to put this game at the top of their list. Not only is this possibly the best game in the Fire Emblem franchise (for me, it’s only competing with Awakening), but it takes notes from games like Persona when it comes to forming relationships with the other characters. The game never feels like a chore – if anything, it’s a masterwork in making you want to do one more thing before you turn it off three hours later, and there’s so much game in here across four separate routes and numerous difficulty levels that people will be playing this for years to come. I loved my time leading the Black Eagles into battle this year, and honestly I’d love to give another route a go. Maybe after I beat the, uhh, four other games in the Fire Emblem franchise that are on my backlog?

Honourable mentions: Pokemon Go, Sakura Wars, Untitled Goose Game, What Remains of Edith Finch, Shenmue

Games I got this year that I hope to one day find time for: Death Stranding, Borderlands 3, The Outer Worlds, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Catherine: Full Body, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

I think that’s about it. Thank you for putting up with my rambling, and I wish you a very awesome 2020!

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