2018 Game/Film/Anime/Series/Book/Album/Song of the Year

2018 was an amazing year for the arts and for entertainment in all mediums and genres. It felt like every time I settled on a favorite movie or game, another one would come out and beat it. Even stories in the same medium, exploring familiar tropes (A Quiet Place and Netflix’s Bird Box), stood apart and delivered quality experiences. I’m not too picky about genre or subject matter so I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I thought there was something for everyone.  Let’s start off with my favorite game of the year.

Game of the Year: GRIS and Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180921110902.png

This is a tough pick and I just can’t choose at the moment. I need more time for them to sink in. With that being said, these games are nothing alike. Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is one of the best action games I’ve ever held a controller for, while GRIS is one of the most beautiful, emotional experience I’ve gone through. They both nail what they set out to do and I can’t wait to see what both studios will produce in the coming years. 2018 was a nonstop ride for gaming fans and keeps proving that it’s the best and most versatile medium for storytelling.

Honorable Mentions: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Film of the Year: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Verse

I don’t watch too many movies. It’s not really my favorite medium, although I don’t deny its effectiveness. I just think the period of time to tell a story is so short that the development of characters is significantly held back.

That being said, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did something few movies could. It took an established character, with several movies of material to pull from, and did something unique and memorable. Because we know the characters, they were able to put a new spin on them and introduce new characters while also poking fun at the old. The comedy is golden, along with the script, art style, and soundtrack. Everything about this film is nearly perfect.

Spider-Verse is such a labor of love that every second spews evidence of that. The people who made this film absolutely LOVE Spider-Man. You couldn’t have hired a better crew of artists for this project. The amount of joy I feel every time I watch Spider-Verse is unparalleled and I quite honestly think it’s my favorite film of all time. Time will tell, but I just can’t get enough of this film. In my opinion, nothing I saw last year came close.

Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Avengers: Infinity War

Anime of the Year: Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby is shocking; it’s brutal and deep; Devilman Crybaby is like nothing I’ve watched. It isn’t really my style of anime, but it still managed to keep my attention the whole way through. The plot takes a backseat to the relationships between the characters and symbolic themes but that doesn’t hold this anime back. There’s something about the horror of the world that is presented that kept me engaged, despite wanting to look away.

Honorable Mentions: Attack on Titan Season 3

TV Series of the Year: The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

2018 told some of my favorite stories, and most of them were TV series. Television has evolved and no longer sticks to that medium. We watch it on our phones, computers, and gaming consoles. I’d say that television series have overtaken films in quality of storytelling. They’re approaching films in their production values, which is crazy to me. The Haunting of Hill House is a drama disguised as a horror show. It’s a story about family and about how much they can hurt us. But it’s also about how important family is, no matter what terrors are thrown at it.

What hit me the hardest was how real and well-developed the characters on this series were. I felt for them, both because I related with some of them and because of how broken they were. The season seems to be self-contained so don’t worry having to wait for the story to continue. I heavily recommend a watch-through or two, if you can stomach some of the dark themes.

Honorable Mentions: Barry, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Book of the Year: ???

I have a confession to make and it hurts to admit it, but I didn’t finish a single book in 2018. It was one of my few goals for 2018 and I definitely started some books but I just didn’t take it seriously. Here’s to reading at least one full book in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: None.

Album of the Year: Kids by The Midnight

Kids by The Midnight

Alternate album cover by The Midnight

I’ve only been following The Midnight for a couple years but they’ve quickly become one of my favorite artists. Their yearning-for-the-past-infused-tracks just don’t get old, no matter how many times I listen to them. There’s something deeply saddening about almost every one of their tracks and yet, totally comforting. With Kids, The Midnight went for softer instrumentation but heavier tone. Sure, the past is nostalgic, but there’s pain there too, pain we didn’t even realize.

One of the deciding factors for this category was the unity of the album. Kids tells a complete story, with every track 100% necessary to the plot. Miss one song and it’s like you tore out a chapter in a book.

Honorable Mentions: Ultraviolet by 3LAU and Wide-Eyed Said the Sky

Song of the Year: “Don’t Think Twice” by Hikaru Utada

Don't Think Twice

This song is important for many reasons. It’s the ending song to the soon-to-be-released Kingdom Hearts III but it’s more than that. It’s Hikaru Utada returning to form. She’s back with a piano-led ballad and it’s full of heart. “Don’t Think Twice” isn’t what I expected but I just can’t help but get emotional every time I really listen to it.

“How did I live / in a kingdom of thieves.” As Utada continue the song, it’s clear she’s matured these past 10 years or so. “I want you for a lifetime / so if you’re gonna think twice, baby / I don’t wanna know, baby.” This is a romantic song, sure, but it’s fed up with wasting time on fleeting relationships. The back-and-forth has gone long enough and there’s a resolution that needs to be reached.

It’s a perfect song for ending Kingdom Hearts III and stands alone as a phenomenal song. It’s not a song that falls into my genre of choice, but that’s just another reason it’s so special. I’ll be playing this one for years.

Honorable Mentions: “Dragon” by Built By Titan and “Take You Down” by Illenium

Horizon Zero Dawn: Risking It All

I’ve been yearning for Horizon Zero Dawn for quite the while; it’s finally here in my PlayStation 4. I’ve spent a few hours with the game and these are my initial thoughts. 

Beauty In The Beast

Horizon Zero Dawn

All about stealth kills.

It sounds really cool on a surface level: hunting robotic dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world. Horizon is so much more than pretty graphics or a fascinating premise. This game is about relationships between human beings, through their love and their hatred for one another. Sure, there are massive machines to be slain, but that almost seems secondary when it comes to the narrative of the game.

Outcasts

horizon-zero-dawn_20170228164735

Aloy. Our heroine.

You play as a young female protagonist in Horizon Zero Dawn. Playing as a female character obviously isn’t new to video games, but the fact that this high-budget game centers around one is telling of the industry as a whole and where it’s heading. I personally think it’s fantastic and hope to see more lead characters from a variety of backgrounds.

The story hovers around human outcasts and the many taboos they choose not to face. I’ve already felt a connection with the narrative that I rarely experience this early in any game, especially a new franchise like this one.

Hunting More Than Machines

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“Machines, you say?”

Some of the machines in Horizon are pretty terrifying once they’ve spotted you and begin to rush at you. The adrenaline that I’ve experienced when running and dodging from these things is insane. The gameplay isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it’s so well done that I’m left more than satisfied.

Again, back to the story of the game, this game is about hunting more than machines. It’s a hunt for acceptance in a world of tradition. Where there are strict rules, there are those that suffer from exclusion.

I look forward to playing more of Horizon and sharing more of my thoughts on the game with you. Thanks for reading!

Final Freaking Fantasy XV

Tomorrow is kind of a big deal for me.

A tiny, insignificant game by the name of Final Fantasy XV launches for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.  This game has been in development for 10 years. 10 YEARS. Wrap your brain substance around that reality. That’s a decade of uncertain waiting. 10 years of “Is this game cancelled or not?” and “I hope they don’t break my childhood dreams.” A lot has changed since 2006. I could go into all the details, but I won’t bore you. Instead, let’s jump into what Final Fantasy means to me and what I hope to get out of this game.

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Mood: Boy band member.

Fantasee What I Did There?

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You’re laughing now…

My first game in the series was Final Fantasy X. I had known about Final Fantasy for years, but never got around to playing any of them. I knew the music was amazing and that they were critically acclaimed, but what really made these games so special? So I dove into FFX like a glutton into a pool of dark chocolate. I found that there was more than just chocolate. There were all types of candy in this metaphorical pool of diabetes. It was so good, I came back to the “meal” several years later and did it all again. Everything about FFX captivated me. The story was emotional; the characters were quirky; the game had full voice acting; I fell in love with Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions; the game was just fun. I decided to take a backwards journey into Final Fantasy’s past.

A Taste of History

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They’ve still got Chocobos in XV.

I tried out Final Fantasy I, III, VI, and VII and didn’t beat any of them (still working on VI). What did I learn? I don’t know if I learned anything necessarily useful, but I did come to realize why people loved Final Fantasy so deeply. Everything about the games was meaningfully crafted. My biggest takeaway was that these games were art. These games made me feel like humans could do some good once in a while. Then Final Fantasy XIII launched and let’s just forget I even mentioned that game. Cool? Cool.

Then There Were XV

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Those graphics tho.

I’ve seen and read enough about FFXV to know that I’m going to enjoy the game. I just don’t know if it’s going to be worth the wait that I was put through so cruelly. Few things could justify a 10-year waiting period. The game may not live up to the amount of hype that’s been built up for it, but that’s okay. I think. It seems to be doing quite well with the critics, but is that really what matters? What I really want is to finally toss this game into my console and immerse myself in fantastical Japanese-meets-western-mania. I just want to play a Final Fantasy that is special in its own right. At the same time, give me Chocobos or give me death. Preferably Chocobos. Lots of Chocobos.