Video Game Awards 2020: Biggest Surprise

Oftentimes, the games we end up loving are ones that catch our eye early on. Games may not always live up to our expectations, but it seems more often than not, we have an idea about which games we’re going to enjoy.

Other times, a game comes out of seemingly nowhere, with no hype or build-up, that ends up being an utter delight. A pleasant surprise, if you will.

 

Winner: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

I liked the original Yooka-Laylee, but no doubt it wasn’t the game it could have been. Others were less warm to it than I was, which surely wasn’t the response Playtonic Games was hoping for with their Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor. After that, I figured Playtonic would change course and try again with different characters down the road.

Instead, Playtonic admirably stood by the characters they made, and put them in a new scenario that was probably a bit more appropriate for an early title from a studio of Playtonic’s size.

Placing Yooka and Laylee in a don’t-call-it-a-spiritual-successor to Donkey Kong Country, Playtonic proved their belief in their inaugural IP to be justified. While Playtonic may have backed themselves into a corner with the first Yooka-Laylee – with Kickstarter stretch goals forcing their hand in certain directions – Impossible Lair allowed Playtonic more creative freedom with the 2D platformer genre.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair proved to be one of the best 2D platformers in years, and re-established Yooka-Laylee as a viable video game franchise. Considering the lukewarm reception to the original, and the fact that Impossible Lair was rather unceremoniously announced as part of a montage in a Nintendo Direct and released a short time thereafter, I’d say that makes for quite the pleasant surprise.

 

Runner-up: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

 

Past Winners

2017: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

2018: Deltarune: Chapter 1

Video Game Awards 2020: Best Visuals

“Wow, nice graphic! I’d like to get my hands on that game!”

– The original US Legend of Zelda commercial

 

As a visual medium, video games have always had a focus on their visuals. While this has lead to some problems (remember when people used to deride a console for not having as good of graphics as another? *shudders*), graphics and art play a vital role in video games.

Following in the tradition of animation, video games use visuals to convey their vision. Whether it’s capturing a look of realism or displaying a striking art design, visuals – though not necessary for a game to be good – are vital to the video game medium itself.

Similarly, when it comes to naming what I think deserved Best Visuals of any given year, I go for either a title of striking technical realism (a la Uncharted 4) or wondrously imaginative art direction (like Cuphead). As far as 2019 goes, the winner for Best Visuals falls into the latter category, and is probably a bit obvious…

 

Winner: Yoshi’s Crafted World

Much like FromSoftware seemingly has a monopoly on excellence in video game sound work, developer Good-Feel has a similar dominance in visuals.

Starting with the hand-drawn, anime artwork of Wario Land: Shake It!, Good-Feel then elevated video game visuals with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, whose fabric-inspired graphics were carried over to Yoshi’s Woolly World. And now, Good-Feel has created a follow-up to Woolly World that changes things from yarn and wool to crafting materials like cardboard and plastic.

Yoshi’s Crafted World, in true Good-Feel fashion, is bursting with visual creativity. This was Good-Feel’s first time revisiting a Nintendo property they had already worked on, but that didn’t slow down Good-Feel’s imagination. The fact that they’ve managed to re-imagine Yoshi’s universe twice with different makeshift motifs is a testament to the studio’s unparalleled knack for visual invention.

Who know where Good-Feel will go next? One thing’s for sure, it’s bound to look astounding.

 

Runner-Up: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)

 

Past Winners

2014: Mario Kart 8*

2015: Yoshi’s Woolly World

2016: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

2017: Cuphead

2018: God of War (PS4)

 

*Retroactively awarded

Video Game Awards 2020: Best Music

Music. Glorious music! Music is important in any medium, but it seems to have a particular influence in video games. Just think of how different gaming would be without all those infectious tunes of yesteryear. I shudder to thought.

Though modern gaming doesn’t have quite the consistency of excellent soundtracks that the medium once had (namely, AAA western releases have a tendency to sound like Hollywood Minus), but it still provides some truly unforgettable soundtracks from time to time (mainly from Japanese titles or Indie games).

2019 was something of an exception in this regard, as my favorite game soundtrack came from westward, although I don’t presume it could be called a “AAA” title…

Winner: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair’s excellent soundtrack can be attributed to two words: David. Wise.

Okay, so that’s actually one name, as opposed to two words, but just work with me for a second.

Yes, the great Grant Kirkhope once again contributed to Yooka-Laylee’s score, as did newcomers to the series Matt Griffin and Dan Murdoch, but it’s the unmistakeable sounds of David Wise that seal the deal.

Although Impossible Lair avoided referring to itself as a spiritual successor to Donkey Kong Country (seeing how the original Yooka-Laylee’s status as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie fell a bit flat on most), there is no doubt that it draws heavy inspiration from Playtonic’s past work with Rare on the DKC series. And by promoting David Wise – the man behind DKC’s immortal soundtracks – to primary composer for Yooka and Laylee’s second go-around, Impossible Lair echoes a similar sense of atmosphere and emotion as DKC. In fact, it almost sounds like David Wise conducted Impossible Lair’s score as a kind of follow-up to his work on Retro Studio’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

Impossible Lair may not quite reach the nirvana of video game music that Tropical Freeze did. But much like Impossible Lair is the first 2D platformer that could be compared to Tropical Freeze since its initial 2014 release, the same goes for its soundtrack.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair’s soundtrack is fun, catchy, atmospheric, and full of variety and feeling. In short, it’s David Wise.

 

Runner-up: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

 

Previous Winners

2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

2015: Undertale

2016: Dark Souls III

2017: Super Mario Odyssey

2018: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Video Game Awards 2020: Best Sound

Now let us begin my 2020 video game awards proper (celebrating the video games of 2019). Why don’t we go with tradition and start with the Best Sound category?

Sound effects are among the unsung heroes of any medium, particularly video games. Just imagine Mario grabbing a coin with no shimmering *clink* to accompany it. It just wouldn’t feel right.

When it comes to the category of Best Sound, I find myself usually going with either games that use sounds to help create their personality (such as the aforementioned Mario or other such platformers) or games that use sounds to create and enrich their atmosphere, which seems to be where I’ve been leaning the past few years. And 2019 continued this trend, because…

 

Winner: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

No one in the video game world does sound better than FromSoftware, and that was once again true in 2019 with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which continued the studio’s tradition of pulling players into its world with every last sound effect.

I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Sekiro (though I do hope to get back to it soon), but no doubt it continues the traditions of Dark Souls and Bloodborne of giving a sense of weight to its every creature and object through the sound work.

The clank of armor, the growls of monsters, the sickening sounds of cutting them down with your blade. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice once again showcases FromSoftware’s mastery of sound design in video games.

 

Runner-up: Super Mario Maker 2

 

Past Winners

2014: Dark Souls II

2015: Bloodborne

2016: Dark Souls III

2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

2018: Red Dead Redemption 2

Video Game Awards 2020: Introduction

It’s that time of the year again…award season!

 

What’s that? Award season is usually January and February?

Let’s ignore that for now, shall we?

Yessir, it’s time once again for Wizard Dojo’s annual Video Game Awards! That is to say, it’s my own personal video game awards that I do based on the games I played in the previous year. Eh, still beats the actual televised Video Game Awards (because who the hell remembers Dragon Age: Inquisition?).

2019 was a pretty good year for video games. Maybe not as good as the preceding two years, but it still churned out some stellar titles. Which ones did I think were best in numerous different categories? Well, stay tuned to find out. Or don’t, I suppose. No one’s making you read this. But I hope you read it, anyway.

The Top 10 Characters of 2019

 

*Caution: Some implied spoilers ahead!*

I figured it was about time I did something a little different. So here’s something a little different!

2019 was an interesting year for movies, television and video games, to say the least. It provided some real winners in each of those areas, as well as more than a few duds. But with the good came some truly memorable characters, so I decided to compile a list of the ones I personally found to be the most memorable.

I have decided to simply acknowledge film, TV and video game characters into one list this time around. Because of that, this list also isn’t numbered. Instead, I’ll simply list these characters in alphabetical order. It is also for this reason that I’ll limit each individual work to one character (or two ‘tied’ characters if I feel said characters were of equal importance, and those ties will be listed by which character’s name comes first alphabetically).

Also, it’s important to note that characters are memorable for different reasons. Not every character has to be a deeply-written character. Their status in the public conscious and how well they played the roles they were made for often dictate how iconic a character is destined to become.

Because I am also busy compiling my lists of best films and video games of 2019, and planning my ‘Best of the Decade’ stuff, I will keep this short and sweet.

With that said, let’s move on to the top 10 characters of 2019!

Continue reading “The Top 10 Characters of 2019”

Wizard Dojo’s 2019 (The Whole Dang Year)

Alright, one more dangling thread from 2019 to un-dangle. Y’know, besides those 2019 games I still need to review. Technically, I somewhat did this in my 2019 Christmas post, but for the sake of closure, let’s give it its own post.

After every three month period in 2019, I briefly went over the different reviews I wrote in the year up to that point. Now that 2019 is a memory (a mostly pleasant one, despite all the overrated movies that are now becoming even more overrated with their Oscar nominations). So before we get any further into 2020 and this makes no sense whatsoever, let’s knock this out of the way while it still makes a tiny shred of sense.


I think this was the first year where I ended up writing more movie reviews than video game ones. But because I haven’t actually taken the time to fact-check that, don’t take my word for it.

Anyway, here’s what my reviews were and when they were written, along with the scores they currently hold (you may find I’ve retroactively altered a couple of them, due to my changing feelings upon giving it more thought). This time I included the links to the reviews…just like I did in the Christmas post which is making this feel even more superfluous. Don’t worry, I’ll have new reviews soon.

Titles in bold were released in 2019.

Total Movie Reviews Written in 2019: 40

Total Video Game Reviews Written in 2019: 38

 

January Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 8

Bumblebee – 7/10

From Dusk ‘Till Dawn  – 5/10

Mary Poppins Returns – 6/10

The Cat Returns – 7/10

Ralph Breaks the Internet – 8/10

Unbreakable – 7/10

Split – 6/10

Glass – 3/10

Video Game reviews: 5

Wario Land II – 6/10

The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game – 6/10

Inside – 7/10

Donut County – 7/10

Tetris Effect – 8/10

February Reviews

Movie Reviews: 1

Fighting with My Family – 7/10

 

Video Game reviews: 3

Red Dead Redemption 2 – 8/10

Wario Land 3 – 6/10

God of War (PS4) – 8/10

March Reviews

Movie Reviews: 2

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – 5/10

Captain Marvel – 5/10

VIDEO GAME REVIEWS: 10

Kingdom Hearts 3 – 5/10

Tetris 99 – 7/10

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove – 7/10

Wario World – 4/10

Sonic the Fighters – 2/10

Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble – 4/10

Tails’ Skypatrol – 2/10

Tails Adventure – 5/10

Sonic R – 2/10

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – 9/10

April Reviews

movie reviews: 5

Dumbo (2019) – 6/10

Shazam! – 7/10

The Avengers – 8/10

Avengers: Age of Ultron – 5/10

Avengers: Infinity War – 8/10

Video game reviews: 3

Yoshi’s Crafted World – 7/10

Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee – 5/10

Wario Land 4 – 7/10

May Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 2

Avengers: Endgame – 9/10

Pokemon Detective Pikachu – 6/10

VIDEO GAME REVIEWS: 2

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – 7/10

Wario’s Woods – 7/10

June Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 5

Aladdin (2019) – 7/10

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – 6/10

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – 4/10

The Secret Life of Pets 2 -4/10*

The Dark Crystal – 5/10

video game reviews: 1

WarioWare, Inc. Mega Microgames – 7/10

 

July Reviews

Toy Story 4 – 6/10*

Spider-Man: Far From Home – 7/10

video game reviews: 3

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge  – 4/10

Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman – 6/10

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong – 6/10

August Reviews

movie reviews: 2

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 4/10*

The Lion King (2019) – 5/10

video game reviews: 2

Super Mario Maker 2 – 8/10

WarioWare Touched – 6/10

September Reviews

movie reviews: 2

Dora and the Lost City of Gold – 7/10

The Peanut Butter Falcon – 6/10

video game reviews: 2

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – 8/10

Wario Land: Shake It! – 7/10

October Reviews

Movie reviews: 2

Abominable – 6/10

The Addams Family (2019) – 4/10

video game reviews: 4

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch) – 8/10

Untitled Goose Game – 7/10

Wario: Master of Disguise – 3/10

Luigi’s Mansion – 7/10

November Reviews

movie reviews: 4

Maleficent (2014) – 5/10

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 5/10

Terminator: Dark Fate – 4/10

Joker – 7/10

video game reviews: 2

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair – 8/10

Mario & Wario – 6/10

December Reviews

movie reviews: 5

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace – 5/10

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – 4/10

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – 6/10

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 7/10

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope – 9/10

video game reviews: 1

WarioWare Twisted – 8/10

 

* indicates a title whose score was lowered since my last such update. Because seriously, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a deathly bore.


And there you have it, all of my movie and game reviews of 2019. But there’s still some unfinished business to take care of leftover from last year. Like these…

 

2019 movies I saw, but probably won’t get around to reviewing for a while (with approximate scores).

Last Christmas – 5/10

Judy – 6/10

 

2019 movies I’ve seen and hope to review in the near future (saving the scores for the reviews)

It: Chapter 2

Jojo Rabbit

Knives Out

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

2019 movies I might still see, maybe review.

1917

Parasite

Cats   (yes, it looks abysmal. Every now and again I get the sick curiosity to see a notorious movie on the big screen).

 

2019 video games I should have reviewed already and hopefully will soon.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

Luigi’s Mansion 3

 

2019 video games I need to play more of to review

Astral Chain

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Ni no Kuni Remastered

Pokemon Sword

 

And well, those are the last lingering threads of 2019 I hope to tackle. Those and my awards, of course. There are a few 2020 movies on the horizon, and a couple of upcoming video games, that I’ll hopefully get around to as well. Also more older games and movies and such. But we’ll get to those when we get to them.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Thanks for your support throughout 2019! And all of your support before then, and your continuing support now.