Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 4th (Semi-Regular) Golden Lotion Awards

It's that time again. Where we at Beware the Robot Squad reflect on the year passed. The good, the not so good, and the very not so good.

2017 was, in many ways, a less than stellar year. It was a year of anger, of fear, outrage, helplessness and divide. Where the needs of the many were ignored for the needs of the few. Where humanity slid closer and closer to its inevitable nuclear end.

But hey. It was a pretty swell year for video games.


It doesn't happen often, but sometimes things turn out OK

WINNER - Sonic Mania

Sonic the Hedgehog has spent almost twice the amount of time as a running punchline than he ever did as a well respected video game mascot. For nearly 20 years, Sonic fans have been desperately waiting for Sonic to be good again.

And shocking absolutely everyone, not least of all Sega themselves, a new good Sonic game was released. It turns out that all it took to make a good Sonic game was the things that made Sonic good in the first place. 

Namely, the absence of Big the Cat.
Luckily, some dedicated fans who actually understood Sonic's appeal made Sega's game for them. And it was good. A perfect mix of classic and fresh ideas.

Meanwhile, Sonic Team proper did what Sonic Team does.

THE THEY DID FUCK IT UP AWARD (Sponsored by Disney)

And then other times, it turns out like this

WINNER - Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II

It was a big year for Star Wars. Anticipation was high for the first new film in the franchise since last year's. All a Star Wars game had to do to print money was not be an unmitigated PR disaster. Well, EA missed the mark on that one.

"It's harder than it looks."
Hey. Do you remember when you'd like, buy a game, and then you could just, like, play it? And you didn't keep having to pump money in it to have any kind of even competitive playing field? Me either. But even by modern slot-machine-style game design, Battlefront II crossed several lines with fans, leading to a massive boycott that possibly almost actually effected change.

When multiple world governments have launched investigations into your business practices, comparing your video game to smoking cigarettes, you may have made some questionable choices somewhere down the line.


No, I'm mad

WINNER - Mass Effect Andromeda

I don't know what Electronic Arts has against space, but it seemed determined this year to crash every sci-fi franchise it has up its sleeve directly into the sun.

Maybe they just really hate Elon Musk.
Mass Effect was a revelation when it was released a decade ago. The scale, grandeur and cinematic flair of that sci-fi epic was unequaled at the time. It set a high bar, but few could have predicted just how far short of that bar Andromeda would land. 

Developed by a Bioware B-team, without the time or money a game like this really needed, Andromeda farted its way onto the market in a broken, unfinished state, filled with sleepy looking people spewing uninspired dialogue.

Staring contest champion, 10 years running.

This one in particular chaps my ass because Bioware's Mass Effect trilogy really meant a lot to me. To see this game given so little care is a disgrace. What could have been video gaming's Star Wars is now just a shameful secret we don't talk about anymore.


It's back, baby

WINNER - 3D Platformers

When gaming transitioned from 2D to 3D in the mid-90s, naturally a lot of popular genres made the transition. RPGs like Final Fantasy VII made the old pixel versions look simple in comparison, fighting games experimented a bit before deciding 2D is really just fine after all, and platformers thrived with the new dimension of freedom. Mario 64 was an important game and a strong template for the form, but games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Sonic Adventure and Banjo Kazooie proved just as popular.

Pour one out for the Crocs and Glovers of the world.

But after so many years of jumping around and collecting things, people just kind of had their fill and the genre largely went away. While 2D platformers have had a big revival in the last decade due to the rise of Indie game development, this year marked something of a renaissance for their 3D counterparts. Fueled by the nostalgia for the very games that made the genre popular in the first place, games like Yooka Laylee, A Hat in Time, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Mario Odyssey proved that there's still some magic in jumping around and collecting things.


It's not the worst, at least

WINNER - Nintendo Switch

Despite being the longest running and most beloved console maker in the race, with a name synonymous to many with video games, Nintendo's track record with its home consoles has actually been pretty spotty. Its previous offering, the Wii U, was only slightly more popular than a papercut (even if you were far less likely to see one in the hands of any actual gamers). Likewise, the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube didn't really set the world on fire. So half of their consoles before now have been at the very least disappointing and at most outright failures. Nintendo needed a win this time. And the one place Nintendo is always winning is in your pants.

"I found more than Rupees in there!"

With the Switch, Nintendo brilliantly merged its core console business with its insanely popular portable offerings into one elegant device. Even if Nintendo isn't saying it, this thing is the successor to the 3DS, but with the power of a home console. And with the ability to play it in either mode, it really feels like the game machine for any occasion.

But even a cool idea would be just that without anything real to back it up. Luckily for Nintendo, they decided to just fucking swing for the fences this year. And it paid off. In any year, having both a main Zelda and Mario release is a huge deal. But that both ended up being some of the highest rated games of all time, in the debut year for a new console, shows that Nintendo isn't messing around. Add in games like Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids, and Xenoblade 2, with big support from indie developers, re-releases of popular games like Mario Kart 8 and Skyrim, and big announcements such as the exclusive rights to Bayonetta 3, the Nintendo Switch seems like it ain't goin' nowhere.

Also, um, Arms. I guess.


I mean, I can. They're my awards


Honestly, I didn't play a bit of it. But somewhere between me breaking swords in Zelda, and trying to beat The Witcher 3 over two years late, this game became the biggest thing in the goddamn world. 

Football Manager? Really? C'mon Europe.
It's been fascinating to watch its meteoric rise from the sidelines, looking on with casual curiosity. For the uninitiated, PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS (or PUBG as its known to most fans ((or PLUNKBAT as its known to a few fans)) ) is Battle Royale: The Video Game. For those uninitiated to that, it's a Japanese movie about a bunch of people dropped on an island and forced to kill each other until they're the last one standing.

You can use this photo of Jennifer Lawrence shooting a bow as your reference point, if that helps you.
It's not hard to see the appeal. It's a game of high stakes and emergent moments that become great stories to tell later on. Or shared live to your streaming audience, which in 2017 is as important to the sales potential of a video game as anything else.

And now we stop for a moment to honor those we lost this year


This is the big one

WINNER(S) - Persona 5/ The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

2017 was a great year for gaming. Arguably the best. And yet no one game stood far above the rest like they have in years past. Which is surprising to me, because 2017 saw the release of the sequel to what was my favorite game of all time with Persona 5. It had a lot to live up to, and I wouldn't say it disappointed at all. It's an absurdly beautiful and engrossing game. And yet even now I can't say it was by far the best game I've played this year. That says more about how good Zelda is than anything about Persona though.

The strength of Persona 5 is in its story and its characters. It's a game you play to watch scenes of likable characters interacting. Large parts of the game involve simply living the day-to-day life of a high school student. Going to the library, working part time jobs, or hanging out with friends. And yet it's totally engaging. You simply want to see what's going to happen next. It's also impossible not to mention how incredible the soundtrack is, or how spectacular the art design.

Look at this stylish bastard.

Zelda is almost the total opposite in every way. Zelda has little narrative and no real likable characters. It has almost no music. Where Persona leads you on a linear course through a calendar year, with a strict schedule, Zelda throws you into a massive open world unconcerned with time or holding your hand. It is a game about discovery. It's about finding out what is around the corner. And its strength is that there almost always is something there.

Even if it was almost always a Korok seed.

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