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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Fission Mailure Awards 2016: Video Games.


Fission Mailure Awards 2016: Video Games.


So, we're back doing Fission Mailure Awards stuff, and the roll of the dice today landed on video games as our category! Once again, anything I reviewed this year, regardless of if it came out in 2016 or not, is eligible, and as with films, anything that came out in 2016 that I played but didn't get a chance to review is also eligible.

A brief shoutout goes to Final Fantasy XV, as well. I cannot in good faith give it any of the best game awards, because it is so drastically incomplete, but it definitely gets the 'Probably Would Have Been The Best Game of the Year If It Had Been Finished' award, so there is that.

3rd Best Game of the Year: Stella Glow.




It's a little odd to find myself recommending a game that, initially, I avoided playing for a long time because the game box had put its creepy fanservice front and centre. Generally speaking, if my thoughts on a game involve the fact that I did not want to play it, one might assume that it's not a good game.

Yet here I am, because while Stella Glow devs Imageepoch -- now no longer with us -- did feel the need to seed this game with moments of actually quite uncomfortable fanservice, what lies beneath those moments is an actually really solid, really well made strategy RPG with a fun, if not exactly blindingly original, story.

Nothing about this game is blindingly original, actually, but the devs clearly put a lot of time and care into making sure every part of its gameplay, soundtrack, artwork, and graphics were the best they could be. The voice-acting is even pretty good! Mostly.


3rd Worst Game of the Year: 1979 Revolution: Black Friday.



I actually do really want to like 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, and it get some allowances on account of being an indie game, but the fact remains that there's just not much there.

A Telltale-style game without any real choices, with Playstation 2 style graphics, an awkward control system, and a play time of about an hour and a half, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday has a deeply interesting and worthwhile concept, but uses it to create a game that has basically nothing to it.

But worse than that, the tiny amount of things it does try to do, it doesn't do very well. Quicktime events are awkward and unresponsive, photo taking sections are often finicky and clumsy, dialogue tends to feel fake and forced. The one thing it does get right is its treatment of history, but that's not enough to carry a game on.


2nd Best Game of the Year: Pokemon Sun and Moon.




It was always pretty certain that Pokemon Sun and Moon would end up on this list. Nobody can ever say Nintendo doesn't know exactly how to make a Pokemon game, at least, but this time they actually did attempt a little bit of innovation, working in Z-Moves and the island challenge, and critically, removing key elements that have been in the games since their conception, like HMs and gym leaders.

Some of those changes I like more than others, but I can appreciate that in an industry where game companies will often constantly try to reinvent the wheel with their IPs, or where they'll do the exact opposite and allow them to grow into stale, same-y caricatures of what they once were, Nintendo is able to find a balance between finetuning what it does best, and cleverly (if cautiously) innovating.

Also, I just really love Alolan Ninetales and Alolan Sandslash. I'm -- I'm very shallow like that.


2nd Worst Game of the Year: Batman: Arkham Knight.




The Arkham series has been slogging its way towards the grave since basically the moment Arkham Asylum ended, and Arkham Knight -- still, as of writing, blissfully the last game in the series, but I suppose that'll only last until Warner Bros. needs the money -- was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

With unconvincing villains, a bland and repetitive open world, and the franchise's over-dependence on the Joker becoming ever more apparent, this game attempted to innovate by adding in the Batmobile -- which was clumsy, made every surface feel like a sheer plane of ice, and which the developers decided to shoehorn into every mission and half the sidequests.

(Why does the Riddler want Batman to run dangerous driving courses, anyway?)

The result is a game that could have easily been the worst game of the year, except late in 2016 another game appeared that would snatch that crown from it. Ironically enough, it was even another Batman game.


Best Game of the Year: Bravely Second: End Layer.




This one probably isn't a surprise for anyone. I adored Bravely Default, and when Bravely Second came out, I praised it pretty heavily for how it forced me, as a player, to be more strategic and take a more nuanced approach to battle than Bravely Default ever did.

If Bravely Default felt like a traditional Final Fantasy game, Bravely Second feels more like a modern one, with a greater focus on politics and morality, and a larger, more detailed world -- and it manages to do that while keeping mostly the same gameplay system, instead just refining and fine-tuning it to iron out any problems.

That is, perhaps, a theme with this year's Fission Mailure Awards: Fine-tune your gameplay and work on making what you have excellent, and you're likely to do better than companies that innovate for no reason except to say they've innovated.

While neither of the Bravely games are perfect, they have certainly served as bright lights in the great darkness of Square's game library these past few years. With Final Fantasy XV's release, that game library is looking a little brighter, and it certainly doesn't hurt either that Bravely Third looks to be being announced this year.


Worst Game of the Year: Batman: The Telltale Series.




I'm just so tired of Telltale's work by now, guys. So very, very tired.

Jim Sterling made a good point in a video a few days ago that so long as a game can create the illusion of giving you something, that's sometimes good enough, and that in its first few games, Telltale was very good at giving people the illusion of choice. Which is true, but now that illusion is broken, and with it, Telltale's only claim to fame.

So, in a way, Batman: The Telltale Series is standing in for all Telltale games here, and the reason it's been picked is, of course, because it was broken on release and then never fixed. A great many people found that they were unable to play the game on launch, and rather than adequately patch it, new episodes were churned out instead -- several of which made the issues worse and saw them start to affect even players whose computers could run the game.

So, for this year, a year of broadly pretty good games, Batman: The Telltale Series is the worst game for me.

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