Game of the Year 2018 Day 3 of 3

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  1. God of War
  2. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  3. Marvel’s Spider-man
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
  5. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee
  6. Yakuza 6
  7. Forza Horizon 4
  8. Dragon Ball FighterZ
  9. Monster Hunter World
  10. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

How many franchises can pull these kinds of drastic changes between games? God of War’s formula was working. It was getting stale but it was working. Sony and Santa Monica Studio didn’t have to shake things up but they did, it worked, and I loved it. 

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission sold me on PlayStation VR. It was a fantastic fusion of 3D platforming and virtual reality gimmicks. By the end of it, I felt it validated my purchase of the PlayStation VR. 

Marvel’s Spider-man is easily the best Spider-man and rivals some of the best superhero games of all time. It’s also my favorite adaptation of Spider-man and that includes the movies. 

I didn’t buy a Call of Duty title since Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I initially skipped the two Call of Duty games that featured single player campaigns. I eventually picked up Infinite Warfare on sale for it’s campaign but I realized that I was just here for the multiplayer component. And it’s worth it. 

The Kanto region has never looked as good as it did in Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee. It’s the ideal blend of old and new. 

Yakuza 6 did right by Kiryu Kazuma. Coming from the heights of Yakuza 0 was never going to be easy but this grizzled yakuza still managed to entertain despite the age.  

Forza Horizon 4 was my first foray into the Forza spin-off and I had a great time. I didn’t see it until the end but I still enjoyed what I played. I’m not the biggest fan of open world racers but Forza Horizon 4 won me over. 

Dragon Ball FighterZ was a childhood dream come true. I just wished I dreamt of solid single player and online modes as well.  

Monster Hunter World showed there’s a lot to like about this long running franchise. Capcom built a solid foundation for the future and I look forward to the sequel that allows me to play co-op without jumping through cumbersome hoops. 

There’s a lot of love of video game history in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I have yet to sink my teeth into it but what I tasted was enough to keep me wanting. 

Game of the Year 2018 Day 2 of 3

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2018 was the year of PlayStation VR for me. My library wasn’t vast and yet it somehow produced my most surprising and disappointing games of 2018.

Most Disappointing Game

Winner: Moss 

It’s a bit unfortunate that Moss and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission were bundled together with a PlayStation VR headset. My expectations for Moss were a bit too high coming from Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. The little robot showed me the best of PlayStation VR’s sit-down experience while the little mouse reminded me that not everyone has this VR thing figured out yet. 

Runner-ups: N/A 

Most Surprising Game

Winner: Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission convinced me it was possible to fuse a traditional 3D platformer with virtual reality to produce an awesome experience. It was like playing Super Mario Galaxy for the first time. The technological gimmicks worked and only served to enhance my enjoyment. It’s certainly possible to play the game without VR but a lot of the fun was pulling off those traditional platformer moves from weird and unorthodox perspectives. I felt like I was playing an intricate part in helping my little robot friend find his buddies.  

Runner-ups: God of War, Forza Horizon 4 

Game of the Year 2018 Day 1 of 3

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There’s just not enough time in the day to play all the video games that I want. As a result, some games get bumped out of the 365 day window for these game of the year awards. Here’s some of the best from last year that I played and some of the most desirable titles that I just didn’t get around to in 2018. 

The Game I Wish I Bought & Played in 2018

Winner: Tetris Effect

I enjoy Tetris. I also enjoy Rez and own a VR headset. But I don’t enjoy paying $50+ for a Tetris game so that’s why I don’t own Tetris Effect yet. It looks marvelous and I’ve heard enough praise touting it as an amazing VR experience. I can’t wait to try it for myself! 

Runner ups: Dragon Quest XI, Red Dead Redemption 2 

Best Game of 2017 

Winner: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was such a weird collaboration but it works! I really enjoyed my time with this wacky game and grew to find the Rabbids endearing. It resembled XCOM: Enemy Unknown but it was pushed far into the puzzle side of things. I was encouraged to play with efficiency in mind and I enjoyed that added challenge. It also featured an excellent soundtrack by Grant Kirkhope! 

Runner-up: Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Horizon: Zero Dawn 

Checkpoint: Japan & South Korea Vacation Edition

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I’ve just returned from a two week vacation in Japan and South Korea. We made our way through Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Seoul. It was a great trip with the girlfriend (now fiancee). We saw lots of great sights, ate lots of great food, and caught glimpses of what life is like in those great nations and cities. 

We took plenty of photos and videos but those we’ll likely remain on Facebook for now. In its stead, here are some thoughts in text form.

Tokyo

We landed in Tokyo first and experienced the best of modern Japan. I loved how exceptional the service was. Everyone was so polite, helpful, and patient with us English speakers. Getting around the city was initially confusing but careful reading of the English signage coupled with Google Maps, we made our way through Tokyo’s excellent subway system. 

We loved how clean the city was and how safe we felt. We visited Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Toyosu Fish Market, Senso-ji temple, Sumida Aquarian, and the Tokyo Skytree. All of those spots were wonderful.

Shinkansen

We made our way to Kyoto via the JR Shinkansen which was an exceptional way to travel. The reputation of timeliness of these amazing high speed trains was known but we just didn’t appreciate how timely everything in Tokyo was which resulted in us waiting around for over an hour. We didn’t have confidence in Tokyo’s public transit and our ability to navigate so we gave ourselves a lot of unnecessary buffer time. 

So we people watched and explored Tokyo station a bit before eventually zooming away to Kyoto. We got to Kyoto in 2 hours or so. The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is roughly the same as Ottawa and Toronto and it takes nearly double that time via car. Going by VIA Rail is even longer. I miss Tokyo’s transit but I will miss Japan’s Shinkansen more. I would gladly spend $150 to just zip into Toronto in 2.5 hours in comfort. 

Kyoto 

We spent approximately $100 – $120 per night accommodations in each city. As a result, we got to see how far our money took us in each city. The Comfort Inn in Tokyo was older but alright. Kyoto’s was like a mini modern day guesthouse full of some neat gadgets. I was particularly impressed with the LED lighting with adjustable temperature function. There was no complimentary breakfast here so we were forced to fend ourselves. It turns out, breakfast in Kyoto is a bit tricky. We eventually found a few solid spots near our hotel but our options were limited if we weren’t feeling coffee shops or western styled breakfast spots in subway stations.

Our time in Kyoto was spent seeking out more traditional Japan. We caught glimpses of two geisha in Gion, spent time with the monkeys in Arashiyama, and visited some picturesque temples. We also tried some kobe beef which was exceptionally rich and tasty. 

Osaka

A short 12 minute Shinkansen ride brought us to our final Japanese city, Osaka. Osaka was a bit of a shocker to me because it broke the mould in cleanliness in Japan. Osaka wasn’t filthy like other like Montreal or Toronto but it reminded me of downtown Ottawa. It was the first time I noticed a lot of trash and cigarette butts on the ground in Japan. A bit of research online suggested that Osaka is more laid back compared to Tokyo and I can see it. Still, that bit of uncleanliness didn’t dampen our food adventures in this great city. We spent more time out at night in Osaka, trying to soak in the lights and glamour of Dotombori. 

Our tatami style Osaka accommodations saw us spend some time sleeping on the floor. It wasn’t terrible but it certainly wasn’t preferable for more than a few days. 

Kansai and Incheon Airports

I don’t enjoy being rushed and as a result, Canadian airports like YVR and YOW irk me a bit with their security processes. Kansai and Incheon Airports on the other hand allow me to take my time to unpack my stuff into bins and still manage to process people at a brisk pace. They’re also friendly and professional without the hint of disdain for their jobs. They’re both also very modern airports with the sensible niceties to go with it — I felt I did more walking in YOW than in the other two considerably larger airports. 

Seoul

A short Peach airline flight later, we made it to Incheon and then eventually Seoul. Incheon was over an hour away from our hotel in Seoul but thankfully there were solid bus shuttle options. We were dropped off right at the doorstep which was very convenient. Our accommodations in Seoul were also the best of the trip. It wasn’t the newest but it was the most spacious, comfortable, and luxurious. Accommodation wise, our money easily went the furthest here.

Our money also went rather far in the food department as well, portions weren’t small in Japan but we both felt many places heaped it on in Seoul. This was especially true with kimchi and soups. 

Seoul was also the most tricky of the places to navigate in the rain. A combination of questionable surface materials and slightly worn out shoes resulted in perilous treks in the rain. Thankfully it was just one day. 

My fiancee loved the fashion and cosmetic offerings in Seoul. She gorged herself in so much of it without making a huge dent in the wallet. The options and competition available Myeong-dong were staggering. 

Traffic & Bikes

There were a lot of takeaways from my trip to Japan and Seoul. One of the more prominent ones were the relationship between traffic and bikes. Japan was a nation of smaller vehicles with plenty of bike traffic on sidewalks and on the streets. Bikes were maneuvering between pedestrians and cars without issue. People from all walks of life were riding their bikes in Tokyo. Businessmen, mothers with children in child seats, and older folks were all riding. And these bike riders didn’t even wear helmets and we did not witness a single spill or accident. 

Despite the density of people and cars, patience and courtesy seems to have allowed bikes, cars, and people to coexist in relative harmony.

Common Trust

Many folks leave the bikes unlocked. Many store shops leave expensive items out in front with nothing but a camera in sight and sometimes not even that. The level of trust both Japanese and Koreans have of their countrymen and tourists is commendable and refreshing. Razors are being locked here in North American grocery stores while I’m seeing SKII Essence bottles being left out in front unattended.

Clean Chaos

Even at its most chaotic, the traffic jams and throngs of people funnelling through subway stations and busy streets, I felt safe and not at all annoyed by it all. The worst of it was in Seoul where the car horn was used liberally but even then I didn’t witness any outbursts of discontent like I would have in North America.

Will Return

This was my first big trip overseas and it was wonderful. I would love to go back to both nations and soak in more of what they have to offer. My expectations of Japan were set by the Yakuza and Persona games and they were largely accurate. I didn’t know what to expect of Seoul but it largely resembled a mix of North America and Japan. I don’t know when we’ll make it back there but I miss it already — there’s just so much you cannot find here. 

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