Before getting to the top 5, I want to take a minute to talk about some of my experiences with games that did NOT come out this year as well as do some random ‘awards’.
This came out almost a full 2 years ago (and so I am still completely confused why it came up in Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards as VR game of 2019) but I only got VR (Oculus CV1) in the latter half of this year. Finally getting to play it really made me understand why it’s so hugely popular to the point that it is popular enough that people buy VR just to play it specifically. It is a phenomenal rhythm game with great mod support, real challenge, and because of being VR-based it actually works as genuine exercise if you let yourself get into it. It’s addicting and fun even though my playspace is literally a 1 foot by 1 foot area so small I can’t even set up the ‘guardian’ warning space so I’ve hit my hand multiple times into hard things. You can even play as a cute anime girl and import your own models – or use the basic Ooka Miko that is in the mod pack you’d want to have installed anyway. Sadly the majority of anime songs people have made beatmaps to are kind of shittily created and unplayable, but not all! And if you can handle western music there are loads of great maps for most things.
Death End re;Quest
I have a long very negative history with Idea Factory / Compile Heart, having played the majority of their games and pretty much hating absolutely all of them for mostly the same reasons – NOT including otome games, as their otome games are top-tier, genuinely some of the best out there. However Death End re;Quest, another of their conventional games, felt like them trying something different for once in that area. It’s very similar to their usual Neptunia copy-paste shit, but the story is a lot more compelling, the characters more likable, and the gameplay…well, it’s not GOOD but it’s not as horribly irritating to deal with as their prior games and is actually alright. I also really appreciated how far they went with some of the fucked up deaths and in depth gorey descriptions of certain events as well as rewarding you for picking the bad ends throughout the game, and I like a lot of the more unique ideas they went with even though the overall concept of someone stuck in a game is nothing new. I wouldn’t say I recommend it, but I certainly would put it at the top of their non-otome game list even if I haven’t finished it yet. If only they’d have the same people who write their otome games write their real games and have competent staff develop the gameplay they could make some fantastic games.
While I started this in 2018 it was literally in December, so barely not 2019. Talking about this game and my time with it would be something that could never fit in a blog post, let alone as a small thing like this, so I can’t say much. It’s barely a game, more of a way to socialize for people who are social misfits for one reason or another – typically mental disabilities or outright just being completely terrible human beings (this makes up the majority of them; I’ve been in practically every circle ranging from big streamers to the big world creators and most known avatar creators to many of the regular social groups and it applies to all of them) – and it definitely has had both huge ups and extremely dark lows, but it’s still something very important to me and is where I spent the vast majority of 2019 or in creating things for it. It’s given me some of the darkest moments of my recent life and some of the most fun times in my life at all and it still is a never ending source of top tier people watching. But things move really fast, most people are very manipulative, and all the laughs and smiles you have will usually be outweighed by the bad.
Do I recommend it after like 3000 hours and a full year of playing now? No. And not because of some meme LOL CUZ IT’LL BE ALL U DO XDDD but because it really mostly is terrible because everyone on it is an extreme hedonist degenerate with zero humanity, compassion, or genuine care for anybody else (worse, some are very good at hiding that) – it’s just enough of a game that they can tell themselves it’s not real and so they do whatever without a shred of guilt; and “whatever” has a pretty goddamn broad range of shit in it from serious crimes involving minors with 20-somethings that go well beyond just in-game things (that vrc and discord both said isn’t their problem even when given proof as well as direct admission from some of them) to just infidelity, abuse, and things like that. It’s a terrible game but for some who simply can’t fit into normal society like me due to my agoraphobia, autism, and panic disorder it’s important and when it isn’t damaging it’s giving a source of socializing and building friendships and relationships…but also is a haven for people who are not welcome in normal society, giving them a place to be who they really are with little to no consequences for themselves and so it’s best to just never get into it and end up feeling stuck.
But for better and definitely also for worse, the game has changed my life in really big ways and so there’s no way I couldn’t mention it.
Worst Game Coverage Of The Year
Manufactured Hate for Death Stranding
I understand not loving DS or even simply not liking it whatsoever, but much like Inami Mahiru and my 3 part post pointing out the factually invalid statements people make I could do the same with this. The problem is not people disliking or hating this game, as much as I enjoyed it I don’t really give a shit about how people felt about it, it’s that the reasons almost everyone vocal about disliking it gives for it are completely factually nonsensical and purposefully dishonest. There is such a thing as validity to opinions – and the vast majority of negative “opinions” about this game are invalidated by being based on/using misinformation and outright lies. To avoid doing exactly what I said and ending up with 3 giant posts about it, I’m just gonna leave it there. This was true for pretty much every gaming journo or related website that didn’t like it or feel completely neutral on it, but it was especially bad with Dan Ryckert at Giant Bomb who continually tries to put on a whole show about how horrendous it is after playing 2 hours and hearing that there is a lame line about Princess Beach and now treating it as one of the very worst video games ever created purely to get attention for it.
Honestly, I’m just too lazy to write it up but Giant Bomb in general should have an award for worst everything video game related of the year, while I am sure there are actual worse things the fact is they went from fantastic until a few years ago and since that drop started they’ve really fallen further than ever these days even to the point of making clickbait bullshit for their video thumbnails not that far off from the parody of them I made for the top of the post – for example this one which is real, and barely any watchable content.
Worst Lacking Game Coverage Of The Year
Life Is Strange 2
There’s no fuss at all about the gay sex involving underaged children shown in this game, meanwhile these same “journalists” and “content creators” lose their minds about petite adult anime-styled characters being depictions of child pornography (even when they aren’t doing anything lewd and are fully clothed) and even large breasted obviously adult women…if they look like anime. But gay little kids fucking and in a more ‘realistic’ art style? Well that’s “art” and it’s “IMPORTANT” and I’m sure it’s also “EVERYTHING”. The complete silence, worse the “this is so important” comments, about underage sex being in this game shows the true colors of ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE working in the game industry or even adjacent to it and the absolute degeneracy and missing morality plaguing progressives. Worse, at the Game Awards they had a little thing with The Muppets Show characters (a show aimed at very young developing children) announcing the winner of a category that this game was in – now, luckily this game lost, but the fact you had children show characters even around for the one category with a game where you show children having gay sex is really not okay.
Best Male Character
Clifford Unger – Death Stranding
As hugely important a character as he is and as big of a mystery as he is, I can’t say much without spoiling everything about Death Stranding. However, Cliff is just unbelievably great at pulling you in even during the 30 second to a minute or two clips you see from time to time throughout the game, let alone during his bigger moments. Clifford makes the game something it would not have reached without him. This is one of the most enthralling characters I’ve really seen in a game. On top of that, the moments with him are all outstanding and the whole new father aspect to him is really used to its fullest especially with his little speech to his BB about what becoming a dad meant to him, which you only see bits of early on until the end. He makes Death Stranding worth playing – skipping around on youtube just won’t work, the reason his character and moments are so fantastic require the time and effort to build up that the game provides with him.
Best Female Character
Io – Code Vein
I really liked Io from the very very very first moment of the game. Her sweet soft voice uttering little reassurances that you’ll be okay as you follow her very slowly stumbling along near-death really left an impression on me because she’s purposefully portrayed as very literally angelic right away (ironic, given she’s basically a vampire) and it works. Yes, I love her massive tits, and yes, she’s very cute too – but she’s so much more than that. She’s constantly reassuring you, constantly watching over you, unwavering in her loyalty to you, and even all 3 endings heavily involve her making a huge sacrifice for your sake. Everything about Io was just so comforting and sweet even though she comes off almost lifeless and monotone a lot of the time, seriously one of the most genuinely comforting soft (im sure just as much literally as figuratively) characters in gaming and those first lines and their delivery have stuck with me because they were just so reassuring and nice.
Runner-up: Reisalin Stout – Atelier Ryza. She is basically the perfected culmination of the Arland trilogy lead alchemists. If Io didn’t warm my heart and make me feel so comfortable this would have been an easy win for Ryza.
Mads Mikkelsen as Clifford Unger
Same reasons I listed just above in the best male category, but due to the performance of that role. Cliff would not be the character he is or to the quality he is without this man playing him. Mads is what I’d call a full body actor, in the few films I’ve seen him in he gets so much more across than almost any other actor even when he’s not speaking or is in entire silence almost the entire runtime of the film. In DS, the emotions are just so real from Cliff in every little way from the body language to the face expressions to the way each and every word is said. This was a top-tier film performance that the games industry really hasn’t ever had before and is rare even from big budget movies, and it made the game something special. Honestly, I’d say this was far more than just the performance of 2019 in games, but one of the best of all time for the medium. I would even say the game as a whole is worth playing even if only just to experience the performance. It also made me a big fan of his, though sadly he’s not in that much still.
Like most entertainment, video games lack true innovation because most things that can be done have been done, most things to be thought up already were. That isn’t just entertainment actually, that’s most things – hell, even our ability to think up “aliens”, something with no limits, starts and stops at what we currently perceive as life. Humans aren’t as creative and imaginative as we like to pretend. Death Stranding is sort of in the middle; it isn’t something completely new, yet at the same time it is. It takes concepts from many games that were side things or annoyances and it turns them into the entire focus of the game and makes them enjoyable or perfects them in ways never really done before. While Death Stranding has familiar ideas, the way they were implemented, what was focused on, how it was all put together – there is nothing else remotely close to what this game is. It is truly innovative. The only thing I can think of in gaming that comes close to being as innovative and different from anything else out there is Blue Reflection, which is also great though apparently the price of it is insane now (at least it’s available digital!).
Runner-up: Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists – Well, 3 Atelier games released this year and one of them was a fucking city building heavily economy-focused simulation game. I’d say that’s pretty goddamn innovative. Also a great crossover game even if it’s overly difficult.
I thought this would go to Death Stranding, but once I started playing the newest Atelier I was blown away almost immediately by just how fucking beautiful this game is. So glad they included a photo mode, I spent hours upon hours using it. Seriously, this game is just goddamn gorgeous and it is one of the first times I’ve ever really been taken in by the beauty of a video game’s world, hell even in real life I don’t feel much seeing amazing scenery like when I went to the Grand Canyon and it was just kind of a big slutty used up roastie hole in the ground – but this game constantly had me soaking in the environment and feeling good just being surrounded by it.
As a long-time fan of Gust in general and of Atelier, I’ve found their music to always be pretty great. I mean the theme for Rorona’s atelier is an infallible piece of music and one of the most addicting impossible to stop from living in your ears for ages things ever composed, Blue Reflections fight music is one of the best ever made, and stuff from Ar Tonelico is so powerful. Yet, aside Rorona’s original atelier theme and Ar Tonelico’s Exec Cosmoflips, Ryza blows them all out of the water.
Pretty much every single song in the entire OST is a goddamn 10/10 quality track. It’s beautiful, it’s exciting, it’s fun – every song is so lively and emotional yet in a really adventurous upbeat way and you can FEEL that adventure through every track. It’s fucking great. Every single fucking track. I’d say it’s in the top 50 or so best overall OSTs of all time for a game. The tracks all retain the classic Atelier feel and even some hints of prior themes as usual and the same ‘sound’ a lot of the time, but there is something about them that just sets them so far apart from the rest. There’s also a bit of Blue Reflection mixed in in what is one of the most fun upbeat fight songs in a JRPG especially around the 1:40 mark thanks to the same composer being one of the several who put this OST together – but then there’s oddly tracks that sound straight out of Kaleido Star and Final Fantasy 11. It treads a lot of ground and styles yet always has that sense of adventure and “atelier” feeling.
The only thing I’d really consider a runner up would be related to the next award!
Cliff’s Memories / One Last Delivery
Maybe I’m forgetting some better ones, but the very final scenes of Cliff and then the entire final delivery have still stayed with me since beating Death Stranding. To pick one of them, honestly I’d say the Cliff stuff because I really loved that whole thing…but it’s hard to choose because the final delivery felt like – as I say in my review – the very moment where everything Kojima wanted this to be finally truly came to fruition. It was the perfect moment, the entirety of Kojima’s dreams, aspirations, and goals for this title all peeking out without a hint of anything less than everything he wanted. It’s also very emotional and the way it was done just made it that much more powerful.
Top 5 Games Of The Year
I had a bit of trouble this time around, as I felt like there wasn’t much yet at the same time there was too much, but I finally got it down to what I needed. My biggest hurdle was trying to avoid stacking this with Atelier in a year where 3 different new Atelier games released.
5. Ace Combat 7
AC is a personal favorite gaming franchise with 5 and 0 being some of the best and most well rounded games ever made from their stories and music to the gameplay and radio chatter. AC7 isn’t as good as those two and I go into detail why in my review of it, but it’s still a fantastic addition to the stellar franchise and a great return both to form and to Strangereal itself. AC6 was bad and their non-Strangereal games are all horrible (Assault Horizon), but this was not only them getting back into peak form, it was them taking a huge step forward in a lot of ways too while at the same time paying homage to 5, 0, and surprisingly even 4 in a huge way with the super weapon Stonehenge being so important again and with it continuing the wars and overarching politics from those 3 games. Because of the flaws it has it doesn’t deserve any higher, but the rest of it makes it something I do think deserves to be right here at 5. The fact this series is still so niche will never make any sense to me. Genuinely some of the very best games ever made with more immersion and greater storytelling with player involvement than anything else out there.
4. Atelier Lulua
Gust broke their trilogy tradition with Lulua, making a 4th game in the Arland series, and it actually worked out really well. I don’t think it was necessary, but as a 10th anniversary of Rorona – the game that basically made Gust and the Atelier franchise relevant instead of extreme-niche even in Japan – it was a perfect decision. It pays great tribute to the trilogy, has loads of exactly the type of content you’d want from an anniversary celebation type of game, and you literally play as the daughter of Rorona herself – the one who basically started it all. You meet almost all the friends you made 10 years ago just older, you see all the places you adventured in 10 years ago just slightly changed with time, you even have a certain character from Totori’s late-game hidden in your party which you’ll start picking up on over time. The story for the game itself is also really good, with them finally explaining all the ruins in Arland and pulling the dark fucked up aspects from the Dusk games into the Arland ones with Alchemy having basically destroyed the world before and those being the remnants and now those things being a danger to everyone yet again. There are some REALLY COOL moments throughout this game too with how it was directed and how there are sometimes these in-world ‘glitches’ that happen and also how the story chapters each end with Lulua basically implying bad shit was soon to come “if only I had known then” type of things and it does a great job at playing with those aspects and with the idea of dimensions and such. It’s great, another fantastic addition to the franchise – and it also really does a wonderful job being sort of a gift to the fans.
3. Death Stranding
I already reviewed this so you can see why this is here from reading that. Death Stranding is incredibly innovative with very unique gameplay and a great payoff for the ‘strand’ bullshit Kojima has gone on about nonstop in the way he handled the “multiplayer” aspect, has a fantastic story in terms of the Cliff storyline (which is basically the entire story all along), is a great message about fatherhood, and really deserves its spot here. I considered it for GOTY or at least second place, but with the next two I just couldn’t do it – but I’d say its very close between all 3 of them.
2. Atelier Ryza
The thing about Ryza is that it is both another fantastic addition to the Atelier franchise AND an incredibly big step for the series which is always innovating within itself yet never has really gone this far or made such large changes with the exception of Ayesha’s storytelling. I literally just reviewed this so I can’t really say much that I didn’t a day ago. This is probably the second best Atelier game of all time and is a fantastic JRPG in general. Beautiful visuals, fun and quick combat, great synthesis mechanics, fun characters; it has everything. I almost gave this GOTY, but there’s one game you may have noticed me not mentioning much lately.
-Game Of The Year-
Another one I’ve reviewed and so my thoughts are already here in detail, but I still need to say a little something for GOTY right? Code Vein is a constantly depressing game full of sad characters with sad backstories that plays like an easier (but just as addictive and rewarding feeling) Bloodborne with gorgeous anime goth visuals. Great story and presentation of that story, great characters, great design for everything from enemies and characters to the locales and weapons, great music, great feeling control, great weighty feeling to every hit, great everything. This is an all around amazing game that took the best parts of already top-tier games from various genres and presented it in the most incredible way possible. Fun, rewarding, challenging, and fucking cool. If there is any one game that is a must play for 2019 this is the one, and they sure as hell better make more.