Saturday, December 18, 2010

Best of 2010!

It's that time of year! Here's a list of everything awesome in 2010.

Yotsuba&! volumes 7 and 8. Yotsuba&!, by Kiyohiko Azuma of Azumanga Daioh fame, is about a little girl Yotsuba, her daddy, her neighbors, and various other characters all getting into misadventures. Rather like AzuDai, it's all about the characters. Azuma is uncannily good at character writing: they're all fantastic and they all work unbelievably well together. And it's so goddamn happy. You can't feel so down that a volume of Yotsuba&! won't help; it's a psychological impossibility. Do yourself a favor. Brave the pimply teenagers at your local book depot's manga section long enough to pick up a copy of Yotsuba&! volume one. If it's not one of the best things you've ever read, you can punch me in the face.

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour was going to be my runner up, It was easily the weakest in the series. Nice, satisfying ending, though.

By far my favorite album of 2010 was sadnes' Fill My Head. Go on, click the link! It's a free (Creative Commons, even) download. Chiptuney goodness, good vocals, competent guitar work, and an absolutely mindblowing closing track.

Runners up are LehtMoJoe's Spaghetti Western and A_Rival's 8-bit Pimp. Go ahead, click those links too. You can listen to both those entire albums freely courtesy of the awesome folks at Magnatune. The former was a solid spaz-hop album and would be right at home in, say, a Jet Grind Radio game. The latter was hilarious, brilliant, catchy chiphop.

Gaming is always tricky, because there's just so many awesome games. I've broken it down by system, omitting any systems I don't play or didn't have any significant releases. Of course, this is limited to games I actually played, and I'm sure you'll notice a lot of rather high-profile games are omitted.

Blazblue: Continuum Shift. Kinda a slow year for the PS3. My favorite game was a tweak/sequel of a 2009 game. Then again, there are several awesome-looking PS3 games I just didn't get to (namely, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Bayonetta, and Atelier Rorona.) My runner up for the PS3 was the fantasticly awesome and hilarious downloadable game Costume Quest. The gameplay wasn't anything amazing, but snappy dialogue and a fun concept made up for it. "You remind me of my parents, from whom I am BITTERLY ASTRANGED! *attacks*"

Ys 7. The newest installment of a classic and awesome action RPG series, what's not to love? Plus, an absolutely awesome soundtrack and a really great collector's edition. My runner up was Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, which came in second only because it's a remake. I have a soft spot for the Lunar series, and SSH was a very worthy remake. Sure, the new voice actors were a bit difficult to get used to, and the game was stupidly easy. But it's still Lunar, and the redone music was worth the price of admission alone. I'll bee arr bee, I need to go light a candle on my altar to Noriyuki Iwadare.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. I really like Megaten games. The creepy settings, the high difficulty level, the customizability through demon fusion, even the story sometimes. The story of SMT:SJ wasn't fantastic, but it had everything else that makes a great Megaten game. The biggest surprise was the soundtrack. It didn't sound a bit like Shoji Meguro's previous work, but it was really great anyway. My runner up was Dragon Quest IX, which I really expected to be first. It was just...not everything I was expecting. It was too easy, and DQ players are too sparse in the US to take advantage of the multiplayer, which was by far the biggest draw of the game. (I wanted Megaman Zero Collection to be the runner up, but I just can't do that with a compilation of older, if still completely awesome, games.)

Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. Fun, awesome, amazing, and nonsensical. It was hardcore without being all in-your-face about it. It was maddeningly difficult without being impossible. It was pretty much the perfect Treasure game, which is the best praise I can give it. My runner up was Kirby's Epic Yarn. I'll be honest, I enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy 2 more, but I appreciate Kirby's Epic Yarn more. It's a console Kirby game (rare enough) that tried something new and pulled it off. For this category, I have a second runner up: Cave Story. A Metroid-esque explore-y platformer with an awesome story, and even more awesome pixel art and chiptunerific music.

PC (Proprietary)
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. An RPG from the other side of the counter. The day-by-day formula is just as addicting as in Harvest Moon or the later Persona games, the dungeon crawling is solid, and I love the concept. The music was catchy, and the characters were hilarious. It was a game that I found very hard to put down. My runner up is Runman Race Around the World. (Go ahead, click! It's a free download!) Yeah, I know, it's technically a 2009 release. But I find that I don't care. It's just that good. A fun, cheerful little platformer. The MSPaint aesthetic is actually really great, and I enjoyed the public domain tunes more than I should have. (Yes, I played Super Meat Boy. Yeah, I enjoyed Runman that much more. Doesn't help that the unpatched PC version of SMB left a bad taste in my mouth.)

PC (Open Source/Free Software)
Frogatto and Friends. Wow, I have been blown away. The bar for open source game quality has been set higher. It's an open-world platformer/adventure game starring a frog. Just go download it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It had it's problems. A lot of them, actually. It stuck to the books, well, pretty poorly, all things considered. And yet I loved it. It managed to capture the feel of the books, which is something I didn't think possible. Very worth the watch. The runner up is Toy Story 3 for being a solid Pixar movie. I think my biggest gripe was that Pixar seems to be trying to make every movie a little bit of a tear-jerker, to the point where one can see it coming. Didn't make the ending any less bittersweet.

The Tatami Galaxy. (Or, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei.) It was one of those rare gems not quite like anything else, in any way, be it style or content. (Incidentally, ignore the official summary. I think the flunky who wrote it watched maybe 15 minutes of the first episode. Here's a better one.)It is based on a novel, and it is about a college student who is looking for that rose-colored campus life and a raven-haired maiden to spend it with. At the beginning of every episode, he is a freshman joining a university organization. By the end of each episode, two years have passed, things are not the way he wanted, and he goes back in time to change his mind. Only, he's never more than subconsciously aware that he has gone back in time at all. Very good watch, and the whole thing is watchable, streaming legally, via the link provided above.

Runner up: Sora no Woto. (Or, Sound of the Skies.) A retro-post-apocalyptic slice-of-life series about the most useless division in the entire army. It's World War...IV? Far from the front lines, there is a rather ceremonial division that still manages to be impacted by the horrors of war. It starts out cutesy, has some truly beautiful moments, and then ends rather abruptly. One of my favorite parts about the show was there's a lot of little things to notice. Things the characters say offhand that completely change your perception of the setting. It's worth a watch, and, like before, the whole show can be seen for free (legally!) at the above link.