Best New Game - Axiom Verge
1st Runner Up - Final Fantasy X
2nd Runner Up - The Beginner's Guide
Choosing a best game this year was odd. Nothing really blew my socks off, and now I'm torn between naming my Best Games as the ones that were the best designed, or the ones the made the biggest impression on me. I gave Axiom Verge and Beginner's Guide higher scores than Final Fantasy X and XII, but I've found myself thinking of those latter two a lot more since finishing them.
Worst New Game - Duke Nukem Forever
1st Runner Up - Blaster Master Zero
2nd Runner Up - Kingdom Hearts II
Now this one I had no problems with, since my lowest scored games were also the most enraging. Although it feels weird to put Kingdom Hearts II anywhere near fucking Duke Nukem Forever, since it at least had a couple of redeeming qualities.
Prettiest Game - Final Fantasy XII
1st Runner Up - Axiom Verge
2nd Runner Up - Chrono Cross
I might have given the edge to Axiom Verge if it didn't set off my trypophobia so much. I'll admit Final Fantasy XII isn't the most colorful game I played this year, but it at least has colors besides brown and gray, the architecture is fantastic, and hey, no bloom!
Best Soundtrack (New Games) - Final Fantasy XII
1st Runner Up - Chrono Cross
2nd Runner Up - Final Fantasy X
And in this case, Final Fantasy XII is the clear winner. Now if only the actual game were as impressive as its presentation.
Worst Soundtrack - Blaster Master Zero
And I say this as somebody who, with a few exceptions, didn't mind Blaster Master 2's soundtrack. When you've got background music that makes this sound like a faithful recreation, you may have a problem.
Most Pleasant Surprise (Games) - Final Fantasy X
None of the PSX Final Fantasies exactly set my world on fire, and I went into X having heard it described once or twice as the best Final Fantasy, but mostly as making VIII look like VI. So when it turned out to be decent, if bogged down by some boneheaded design choices, I was almost ecstatic. And even if it wasn't the best designed game I played this year, its world dominated my thoughts for most of it.
Hell, I was pleasantly surprised that Tidus didn't annoy me as much as I thought he was going to. Okay, there were a couple times he got a little, um, "over-enthusiastic" (the leadup to that mandatory Blitzball game comes to mind) and "LIVE AND LET LIVE!" was the most grating thing I had to listen to from a Final Fantasy game until "I'M CAPTAIN BASCH!" but I found him generally inoffensive.
I'm, uh, not sure how I feel about Yuna, though. I guess she's at least a step up from Aeris, and what contempt I have for her likely has more to do with her awful voice acting than her actual characterization. I'll have to see what I think of her after X-2.
Biggest Disappointment (Games) - Blaster Master Zero
Every so often, somebody takes a crack at reviving Blaster Master. The series slept for a few years following Blaster Master 2, then in the late 90s we got Enemy Below and Blasting Again. In 2009, it was Overdrive. Now it's Zero's turn, and its idea of reviving the series is to retcon the original game with something vastly inferior. Look, Blaster Master is my favorite game and I should want to see the series brought back, but if this is the kind of drek you're going to try with, let it rest.
Most Satisfying to Finally Finish After Tormenting Me For Years - Chrono Cross
This is normally for games I started years ago, then for whatever reason abandoned and only just now picked back up and finished. But there's no reason it can't be used for any thorn in my side, and this thorn dated back to when I was writing sprite comics in middle school. It might have been a sorry successor to Chrono Trigger, but I guess finally getting to see Chrono Cross for myself was worth something.
Biggest Narrative Clusterfuck - Chrono Cross
1st Runner Up - Kingdom Hearts II
2nd Runner Up - Final Fantasy X
As convoluted as Final Fantasy X's story is, I could actually follow its serpentine trail of logic. I gave up trying to figure out what the hell was going on in Chrono Cross and Kingdom Hearts II after my third nosebleed.
Is it worth pointing out that all three of these are Square games?
Game I Most Preferred Reminiscing On to Actually Playing - Final Fantasy XII
When I found out Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age was coming to PCs, I legitimately didn't know how invested I was. The Zodiac Job system sounded interesting and they took out that nonsense way of acquiring the Zodiac Spear (actually, it sounds like most of the weapons are more sensible to get? You turn in trophies to a band of reptile men instead of reloading saves to get them to spawn in random chests?), but there's parts of FF12 I wouldn't look forward to replaying. Spending a night running back and forth along dilapidated oil rigs farming fruit to sell to get acceptable gear. The hunts. That boss fight with the vegetable men. That Great Crystal dungeon which was basically a repeating screen maze in 3D (and if I wanted to make the most of the Job system, I'd have to fuck around in there a second time to get the Ultima esper). Vaan's refusal to trip and fall off the upper levels of the Pharos lighthouse. But it was still one of most impactful games of the year, and I'd like to see if Zodiac Age smoothed out some of the jankier parts.
And if Balthier had kept up the momentum he had in the first half of the game, he could have been not just my favorite 3D Final Fantasy character, but my favorite Final Fantasy character period. But between the Phon Coast reveal and the ending he gets, what, a little banter with that thief and some quips to Dr. Cid? Halfway through Final Fantasy X is when Auron hit his stride (and they're both facing some stiff competition from much of the VI cast).
Game That I Put A Decent Amount of Effort Into, But Decided Could Go Fuck Itself of the Year - Mighty No. 9
Okay, I don't know what qualifies as "a decent amount of effort" for a game whose credits last longer than the actual game, but I at least tried each knockoff-Robot-Master's stage once and beat half of them. But after a few botched attempts at that fucking water plant I packed it in.
I didn't back this game on Kickstarter nor pay much attention to its development so I don't see it as a betrayal, just a borked game that feels like it was compiled from bits of Mega Man X6 that were cut for being too shitty. And why am I the only person who seems to notice Beck's creator has a Bumbleball for hair?
Come to think of it, since you can't pause while switching between weapons, the game is so obsessed with dashing, and its marketing is drowning in 90s-era Sega 'tude, I almost wonder if halfway through development Comcept forgot they were supposed to be making a Mega Man revival and not an Alien Soldier revival.
There weren't any games this year that I put a lot of time into but didn't finish for reasons other than it being unbearable. I did start playing Twilight Princess after Link Between Worlds, but I was only approaching the first dungeon when I got distracted by Final Fantasy X so it hardly counts as "a decent amount of effort."
Best Movie - The LEGO Batman Movie
1st Runner Up - Mulan
2nd Runner Up - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
I didn't watch many movies this year, and most of the ones I did watch you can thank Kingdom Hearts II for, so meh.
Worst Movie - The Return of Jafar
1st Runner Up - Captain America: Civil War
Does Return of Jafar technically count as a movie, since it's more like a three episode TV pilot stitched together? Oh well, it's trash.
Best Book - Jingo
1st Runner Up - The Last Continent
When was the last time I gave the "best book" to something other than a Terry Pratchett book?
Oh, 2014, when I gave it to a Pratchett-esque book.
Worst Book - Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies
Yeah, the fact that the worst book of the year was some campy kid's faire that nobody cares about probably says more about how little reading I did than anything. Although it was still a shitty book.
Best TV DVD - Samurai Jack Season One
1st Runner Up - Rick and Morty
2nd Runner Up - South Park Season 8
While South Park is definitely my least favorite of these three, I was a bit torn between Rick and Morty and Samurai Jack. Jack isn't as mean-spirited as Rick and Morty and it has some badass animation, but Rick and Morty has more story going on. Then again, Samurai Jack doesn't have a married couple bitching at each other all the time.
Most Pleasant Surprise (Everything Else) - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Honorable mention goes to Rick and Morty, which I was a little apprehensive of because of how batshit insane its fanbase is. As for Hunchback, it was another thing I went into having heard mixed opinions about, and found myself on the positive side. The gargoyles can still fuck right off, though.
Biggest Disappointment (Everything Else) - The Warcraft Movie
Warcraft wasn't disappointing because I went in with high expectations and was let down. It was disappointing because it had all the ingredients for a good film, but it just didn't come together.
This was a Final Fantasy heavy year, and I finally got X and XII under my belt. After I get to Tactics, I can hit up the Famicom version of II and X-2 because I hate myself apparently.
Outside of that, I spent more of the year than I care to admit playing World of Warcraft. I thought I was going to scale back when my guild fell apart, but instead wound up playing musical guilds; I got roped into a third guild by some of my former guildies, but one of the officers was a control freak and eventually pissed off several members, so we all left for a fourth guild that's apparently been around since Burning Crusade. Although I'm at the point that if anything happens with this guild, I'm quitting the raiding scene and just becoming a mount farmer.