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.
“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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
* 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
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
2019 movies I might still see, maybe review.
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
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Ni no Kuni Remastered
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.
Greetings and salutations, weary traveler! A new decade is upon us, for it is now 2020. If I were a Dark Souls NPC, this is the part where I’d start laughing maniacally.
I know what you’re thinking, “shouldn’t I have posted this on January 1st?” Ideally, yes. But honestly, after my Frozen II review had been delayed for way too long, I knew that had to be my first writing of the decade. It just had to be. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, Frozen is both one of my favorite films, and one of particular importance to me. Thus, because it took me so long to finish my review of its sequel, it made sense as the one and only option as my first writing of the 2020s.
If you’re curious what else I have planned for the near future, I… what’s that? You’re not curious…
Well, I’ll tell you anyway.
I hope to finish my reviews of the Star Wars films, continuing in episodic order. I most recently reviewed the original Star Wars feature, Episode IV – A New Hope, which means next up is the best Star Wars feature, The Empire Strikes Back. Then of course I’ll cap off the original trilogy with Return of the Jedi, followed by 2015’s delightful return to form, The Force Awakens. It’s just a shame they stopped making Star Wars films after that. But at least they went out on a high note, I suppose…
… Okay, okay. I’ll review The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker as well. *Sigh*
Along with those, I also plan on reviewing Knives Out, another Rian Johnson film that, like The Last Jedi, seems to believe that swerves and twists for the sake of swerves and twists equate to originality and creativity. Apparently Mr. Johnson isn’t aware that M. Night Shyamalan has already proven on numerous occasions that isn’t the case. Oh please, don’t make me re-watch Glass!
Yeah, apparently I got a lot of Friends gifs…
Anyway, I also have a list of games to review, so hopefully I’ll start knocking those off said list soon enough. Mostly leftover 2019 games, but some older ones as well.
In fact, I have a schedule that I hope to stick to for 2020 in regards to the number of movie reviews, game reviews and top 10 lists per month. Fingers crossed I follow through!
As you may have guessed, with the new year comes award season. Everyone and their dog seems to do it, and I am no exception. I plan on doing my best of 2019 lists in not too long (I hope). But also seeing as we’re in a bright, shiny new decade, I also hope to do some ‘Best of the Decade’ awards reflecting on the movies and video games of the 2010s. And maybe that will lead me to make retroactive decade lists for the 2000s and 1990s. Maybe even the 1980s as well, seeing as I was born during that decade. Yeah, I was born in September of ’89, so we’re grasping at straws here, but any excuse to revisit 80s movies is a good one, I say. Funny thing is the 80s really stick out to me with movies, while the 90s really stick out in regards to video games. I don’t know why I pointed that out, but I thought it was interesting.
Oh yeah, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to finally make reviewing TV shows a thing. So again, fingers crossed.
I’m hoping to review the three currently-existing seasons of Stranger Things, as well as The Mandalorian, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and maybe some others. Also, now that I have Disney+, maybe I’ll start reviewing The Simpsons. But just the classic seasons. I don’t know if I could stand to watch the more contemporary seasons. I would rather watch Glass again than watch new Simpsons.
Well… actually I’m not sure about that. That’s a lose-lose scenario if ever there were one. But yeah, classic Simpsons is still on the cards.
At any rate, this “New Decade Post” is coming dangerously close to becoming one of my filler posts that haunted 2019, so let’s wrap this up before that happens.
Anywho, I hope you lovely people are all having a great, productive new year so far. May the new decade be one of great new beginnings and some cool returning stuff, I guess. Hopefully the next time I’m writing a blog like this, it’s updating my progress on learning about makin’ the vidya James.
Well, September of 2019 has come and gone, which not only means I am officially in my 30s, but we’re three quarters of the way through 2019.
Wow, hard to believe how fast 2019 is going. It’s been quite the year, to say the least. Unfortunately, the Summer wasn’t nearly as productive for the Dojo as I would have liked, but I still managed to crank out some content.
Just as was the case for quarters one and two for 2019, let’s reflect on how the third quarter of the year turned out for the Dojo. Let us chronicle Wizard Dojo’s 2019 so far, and look into what the remainder of the year has in store, and what could be coming the Dojo in 2020!
Naturally, let’s begin by reflecting on all the proper reviews I’ve written for the Dojo so far in 2019 (titles in bold were released this year).
Total Movie Reviews Written in 2019 so Far: 29
Total Video Game Reviews Written in 2019 so Far: 30
Yeah, again, it hasn’t been my most productive year for Wizard Dojo (remember in this site’s first year, how I wrote 100 different video game reviews alone? Those were the days). But I like to think my writing is getting better. So…quality over quantity, I guess? But I’d like to have both…
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
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
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
MOVIE REVIEWS: 5
Dumbo (2019) – 6/10
Shazam! – 7/10
Marvel’s 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
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
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 – 5/10
The Dark Crystal – 5/10
GAME REVIEWS: 1
WarioWare, Inc. Mega Microgames – 7/10
Movie Reviews: 2
Toy Story 4 – 7/10
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
Movie Reviews: 2
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 5/10
The Lion King – 5/10
Video game reviews: 2
Super Mario Maker 2 – 8/10
WarioWare Touched – 6/10
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
My reviews may have slowed down during the Summer, but hopefully I can pick them back up a bit in the coming months. There are still a few 2019 movies on my radar that I’d like to see/review, and I mean to get back to reviewing more older movies again, seeing as my last movie review for a non-2019 feature was The Dark Crystal way back in June.
Speaking of Dark Crystal, holy smokes, is the Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance great! While I may have mixed feelings on the original movie, I think the Netflix series lives up to the potential Jim Henson’s imaginative world. I’m just going to come out and say it, I think Age of Resistance is probably the best cinematic fantasy epic since Peter Jackson brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the silver screen, and it’s quickly become one of my all-time favorite series alongside the likes of Twin Peaks, Seinfeld, the first seven or so seasons of The Simpsons, and Stranger Things. Once I start reviewing TV shows, expect Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, as well as Stranger Things, to be among the first ones reviewed. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Age of Resistance.
Also, you may have noticed that I lowered the scores for both Kingdom Hearts 3 and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World from 6/10s to 5/10s. After further consideration, I just couldn’t, in good conscience, keep them on the upper half of my rating scale. Yes, I appreciate the Disney fanservice Kingdom Hearts provides, but outside of that, it really doesn’t have anything going for it. And even that Disney fanservice gets bungled. I repeat my past complaints that this is a game that features a world based on Disney’s Frozen and yet you don’t get Anna and Elsa on your team, you don’t visit Elsa’s ice palace, and it blatantly skips over important plot elements from the film (as well as the others represented in the game). Only Tetsuya Nomura could bungle such an easy victory of a crossover.
As for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World… Eh, it just didn’t leave an impression. It was the weakest entry in what I already found to be an overhyped series. Kung Fu Panda is the far superior Dreamworks trilogy, hands down. Fight me.
I have to admit, this has been a pretty interesting movie year for me. It’s something of an oddity in that I’ve awarded one 2019 film a near-perfect 9/10, yet have yet to dish out a single 8/10 for any movie this year. That 9/10 of course being Avengers: Endgame which, yes, is far and away the best film I’ve seen so far this year. I know, I’m an independent blogger, so I’m supposed to hate superhero movies and be all contrarian and everything. But unlike that crowd, I like to think I’m decently unique among my peers for the simple reason that I like things. I don’t actively want to hate anything because it’s popular or whatever. Endgame is 2019’s best film so far. I regret nothing.
Conversely, I have awarded 8/10 to a couple of 2019 games – Super Mario Maker 2 and Bloodstained – but I don’t think anything I’ve played so far this year approaches a 9 in my book. At least not under my current criteria, whatever such vaguely-implied standard entails.
Along with (hopefully) catching up on reviews, I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that the next few months see me getting back into the groove of making top 10 lists and stuff. I really miss doing those. The Dojo hasn’t been the same without them.
Some of the lists I’m planning still include…
Top 10 Nintendo Systems
Top 10 Nintendo Franchises
Top 10 Most Influential Video Games
Top 10 Video Games from my Childhood
Top 5 Nintendo Supporting Characters Who Deserve Their Own Game
Yeah, those are all ones I promised before, but I didn’t want to promise any extras until, y’know, I actually start making them.
as for those aforementioned reviews…
2019 Movies I plan to review
It: Chapter 2 (already seen)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Old/older movies I plan on reviewing at some point
It: Chapter 1
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (short film)
The Mad Max series
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Star Wars series (yep, even the prequels)
Yeah yeah, the prequels may get (unfounded) love these days because the memes are funny, but while I can enjoy a good prequel meme, funny memes don’t equate to good movies. If anything, the reason prequel memes can be funny is because the prequels themselves are so bad. Also meme culture is just so repugnant, it’s time we stopped pretending like memes give things value (exceptions being ‘Steamed Hams’ and Robbie Rotten memes).
Also as previously mentioned in past posts, I’d like to finish reviewing the directorial filmographies of Hayao Miyazaki and Quentin Tarantino in the not-too-distant future as well.
2019 VIDEO GAMES I OWN BUT HAVEN’T REVIEWED YET
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)
Untitled Goose Game
The good news is the latter two games should be reviewed soon (I finished Link’s Awakening last night). The bad news is Sekiro and Crash came out some time ago and I’m still not close to being at a point where I can review them. Crash Team Racing is decently fun, but we live in a post-Mario Kart 8 world now, it’s hard to go back to other kart racers (but I still plan on getting back to it). Meanwhile, I hate to admit it, but as someone who LOVES Dark Souls and Bloodborne, I couldn’t really get into Sekiro. That could change when I play more of it, but if I were to write about it now, I’d have a lot to gripe about. I actually have a lot I want to say about it, so maybe I’ll get back to it soon and try to finish it for a review. But at the same time, if it’s going to take me dozens more hours to complete, I’m honestly not sure if I want to bother.
Still, the other games mentioned above should be reviewed (relatively) soon. Along with these…
Games I’ve played through in 2019 but still haven’t reviewed yet for some reason
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions
And yes, I have just enough Wario games currently in my library to continue to review one Wario title per month through all of 2019.
You might think that’s a lot on my plate, between all the reviews and the lists and the, uhhh, other things. But I didn’t say these are all immediate. Many of these I plan to do before 2019 is through, but others will keep me busy into 2020. And I have other things planned for the months ahead in addition to what’s been mentioned here. But I don’t want to spoil any surprises…or reveal them before I’ve even followed through with that other stuff I’ve been saying I’d do for a while now…
So these past few months may have slowed the Dojo down a bit, but I’ll do my best to get back on track. I hope you look forward to the Dojo’s future for the remainder of 2019, into 2020, and beyond! I got some good stuff cooking’! And hopefully you won’t be underwhelmed by those aforementioned ‘surprises’ when the day comes…