RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jan 4th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Top 10, Lists

Call it a new year's resolution, call it an epiphany, call it whatever you want, but I decided I wanted to do things a little differently this year. It seems like every year I say to myself "life is busy, I didn't play as much as I wanted." But rather than ape that sentiment yet again, I figured it would be better to turn it into an opportunity. The games industry is more than just the games themselves. I feel that most people who love video games naturally share an interest in the ancillary aspects of the business. And so, in that spirit, these are the most notable things about the games industry to me in 2019. The good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes, the infuriating. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, so feel free to let me know what you thought about any of the items listed here, or if there was something else about the year in games you felt was particularly worthy of attention.

10. Castlevania, Contra, Mana, & Grandia collections

Compilations are a bit overdone at this point, but I still love them. It's so satisfying to have all my favorite games in a series packed into one package and playable on modern consoles, and 2019 saw the release of some damn good examples. Some of my fondest gaming memories include playing through the early entries of the Castlevania and Contra franchises, and even though I never got around to exploring the worlds of Seiken Densetsu or Grandia, they are very much on my video game bucket list. With these collections, it's never been easier to rediscover one's love for them, or have an easy way to try them out for the first time.

9. Sonic the Hedgehog movie debacle

What a mess this was, and continues to be. I'm not really sure what I would want a Sonic movie to be, but the first trailer for this left me confused and wondering what young people think of the character in 2019. "Wait, is Sonic an alien? If so, why is he here and why is he the one that needs to save the world? I thought Robotnik just captured cute, furry animals; did the plot of these games change this much over the years?" I can't think of anyone else who would make a good live-action Dr. Robotnik, but I don't think Jim Carrey can get out of his own way enough to make me not just see him every second he's on screen. The Sonic character model was the icing on the bafflement cake. You know it's a bad sign when a studio pushes the release back several months to redo the CG and, oh, I don't know, actually make him look like he does in the games. I'm still not sold this movie will be good, but at least Sonic kind of looks like he should now. Look for the obligatory RF Cinema article later this year to see how it all shakes out.

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu was legitimately great

Who knew a video game movie could be this good!? Not since Mortal Kombat have I enjoyed a movie based on a video game this much. As I mentioned in my RF Cinema review, this film is impressive not only because it works for fans of the Pokemon series, but also for people like myself who aren't fans of the games. I would even go so far as to say you could come into it without very much knowledge of video games in general and still find enjoyment here. Pikachu's case of Ryan Reynolds syndrome is a bit much in places and there's not much time spent filling newbies in on pokemon lore, but there's enough background to get started, and the CG pokemon littered throughout the movie are suitably charming. Despite low expectations, this was a pleasant surprise for me this year.

7. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order brings back the single-player SW action I love

I had high hopes for this game but was also trying to keep my expectations in check. The vast majority of the fun I've had with Star Wars games came from the N64 era and earlier. I had a ton of fun playing through The Force Unleashed, but controlling the force powers was kind of maddening, and let's not forget about EA's horrible treatment of the Battlefront franchise. I'm only a few hours into Fallen Order so far, but the mixture of elements from Dark Souls/Bloodborne, Metroid, and the Batman: Arkham series works fantastically. I'm early enough that I haven't seen much of the technical hiccups yet, but I'm a slow enough player that I'm hoping a lot of that will be patched by the time I make it through to the later areas. Along with Control, this is near the top of my 2020 catch-up list.

6. Reggie Fils-Aime retires as president and CEO of Nintendo

While not as heartbreaking as the untimely passing of Satoru Iwata, Reggie stepping down from his role at Nintendo of America marked the end of an era. He was one of those rare executives that made you believe they actually cared about the products they were promoting. You could tell he actually played video games and loved them as much as any fan, and along with Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto, reveled in the idea that playing video games was all about having fun while never forgetting what it was like to be a kid. One of my favorite examples of this was during the 2015 E3 Nintendo Direct, in which the three of them were represented in puppet form. These are the moments that keep Nintendo near and dear to my heart, even as I enter the middle-aged demographic. It's a great consolation that his successor, Doug Bowser, appears to have that same youthful spirit. Vaya con dios Reggie!

5. Tetris 99 becomes the game I didn't know I wanted

After being completely blown away by Tetris Effect last year, I didn't think the beloved puzzle game could get any better. Tetris 99 came out of nowhere and changed my mind. I'd played 2-player mode in the NES version, but this was something else entirely. Using the skills I'd improved and honed from dozens of hours playing Tetris Effect, I found I was able to compete fairly well in this new version. It wasn't long before the masses overtook me, and I still have yet to master the competitive strategies needed to win a match of Tetris 99, but I can honestly say it surprised me by giving me a version of the game I never knew I wanted. I'm not willing to say I like this game as much as Tetsuya Mizuguchi's trance-laced version, but I will say there's a good chance these two titles will be able to satisfy my Tetris needs for the rest of my life.

4. One-two punch of Cadence of Hyrule & Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Zelda is, was, and always will be a 2D franchise for me. Within the series, Link's Awakening is my #3 favorite game of all time, so to see it redone in vibrant, colorful graphics on the Switch is a real joy. I've had a lot of fun re-familiarizing myself with Koholint Island and all its inhabitants, and while the un-Nintendo-like hitching is a shame and I'm not really a fan of the way things unfocus as they scroll to the ends of the screen, it warms my heart to see this old title get new life. Along with that, Crypt of the Necrodancer was one of my favorite games of 2015, so when Nintendo's E3 Direct showed the first clips of a game that combined the rhythm-based gameplay of Necrodancer with a basic Link to the Past structure, I lost my mind. Thankfully, the gameplay didn't disappoint and Danny Baranowsky's remixes have turned the heroic tunes we know and love into genuinely great dance bangers. As shocked as I am that the Big N actually let a third party mess with one of their flagship IPs, I couldn't be happier with the result.

3. Activision/Blizzard's shenanigans

Big corporations acting in the interest of profits over that of their employees is nothing new, but 2019 was particularly egregious for Activision/Blizzard in this regard. First, CEO Bobby Kotick issued a press release stating that "...financial results in 2018 were the best in our history...," then on the very same day, said on an earnings call that because of "missed expectations" they would be laying off 8% of their workforce (roughly 800 people). This hits pretty close to home for me, as I've been through layoffs myself, so hearing this kind of thing is deeply upsetting. One doesn't need an MBA to see that missing expectations despite having your best year ever isn't a problem with being overstaffed, it's a problem with the expectations you're setting.

Then, later in the year, Blizzard issued suspensions and withheld prize money from Hearthstone players speaking out regarding recent political issues in Hong Kong. I'm far from an expert in international politics, and I'll be the first one to say this isn't the place to get into the weeds about such things. That said, a big, multinational corporation scared of losing one of the biggest markets in the world is understandable to a point. But you don't then get to say you're trying to keep your game space free of politics. This was a political decision made to protect their bottom line, the least Blizzard could do was be honest about it.

Anti-corporate sentiment is a growing movement in the US these days, and is getting increasingly difficult to avoid. I try to be moralistic with my life and where I spend my money, so when I see things like this I can't ignore them. I've enjoyed many a fine Activision/Blizzard game in my day, but these are the kind of actions that really make me think twice about giving them another dollar.

2. Google Stadia announcement and release

I recently wrote about my experiences with Google Stadia, so I'll not repeat myself at length, but what a disappointment. What should've been branded as a closed beta was instead brandished as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of Google's revolutionary new cloud-gaming ecosystem. To be fair, Stadia works, and the potential for this technology can be easily seen. But an overly complex setup process, half-baked UI, a lack of exclusive or compelling content, and a gameplay experience that merely manages to be on par with a mid-tier PC all combine to make Stadia kind of a turd out of the gate. It's so DOA that I can't even find anyone to take my 3-months-of-premium-free buddy pass. Google has a history of killing pieces of its portfolio that don't hit big quickly, and while they have the instraucture, what they don't have is experience running a video game company. Microsoft's X-Cloud is hot on Google's heels, and rumors of Amazon's entry into gaming have been swirling for a while now, so if Google doesn't make substantial improvements soon, I don't see any way Stadia exists beyond 2020. At the very least, I can put my Stadia controller next to my $5 Steam controller and every once in a while go "ha, that was a weird thing."

1. Testing station at CCAG with slackur

One of my favorite things about this site has been getting to know the community. I may not participate in the discussions as much as I could (I smell a new year's resolution forming), but since joining the team here I've really enjoyed getting to know them. The moments that drive it home for me have been the few times I've been able to meet them in person, and I'm happy to say that 2019 brought another opportunity. I've been attending Cleveland's Classic Console and Arcade Gaming Show for a handful of years now, and this year RFGen's own slackur put together a testing station where people could try out almost any game, console, or accessory at the convention. It was great fun meeting him, his wife, friends, and helping them man the table. It was a great crowd and we kept hearing people say how awesome it was that we were there with this kind of service. After the show ended I helped them break everything down, and then we all went to dinner together before parting ways. Video games are great, but friends are better, and it was a pleasure to make a few more this year.

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I think I can pretty much 1:1 this list in agreement Smiley

Thank you so much for working at the testing station, and I hope it is the first of many years: both the booth and as friends.

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