2014 has been a rollercoaster ride of a year. You could call it a turning point for a lot of different reasons, but ultimately, nothing really ever seemed to come together into a single positive or negative direction. Normally years like these could be seen as a turning point, but instead it feels more like a moment where the car broke down in the middle of nowhere and everyone went off in their own direction. We’ve had movements to take back wrestling, gaming, and honestly speaking, we should have had one for movies. Somehow North Korea of all places is too much of a threat to stand up to. Somehow.
So with all of this in mind, let’s look back at the year in a way where I can give out Whatever of the Year awards to so you can go through them an complain about why Kill la Kill isn’t on any of these lists. Before I get started, I will bring up stuff that wasn’t from 2014 just on the virtue of me not having experienced it up to now. Whenever that’s the case, I’ll be sure to mention it.
I’m sorry, games released in 2014, but Bayonneta 2. I know that was a joke TotalBiscuit made on Twitter when that game came out, but I agree with him. Sorry. Bayonetta 2. I know the mention of Bayonetta 2 can set off certain types of people, especially those who are angry that it’s exclusive to a Nintendo platform, but Nintendo did fund the game’s existence, so the fact that its exclusive is entirely understandable.
That said, Bayonetta 2 was one of the few experiences where it wasn’t until I was nearing the end of the game that I really started thinking about the mechanics behind it because it had all felt so natural up to that point. Platinum tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to over-the-top action games, but even they had never really gotten it down to so perfectly until this game. Me not noticing the intricacies of the game’s design aren’t a mark against it either, in a lot of games it feels that way because there is no depth beyond the surface and no real way to improve or better understand the mechanics, but Bayonetta 2 pushes you to improve yourself in ways that are genuinely fun and don’t feel like they’re holding your hand at all. The hidden challenge rooms spread throughout the stages is a good example of this, as a lot of them force you to move out of your comfort zone and try new things.
I could gush about Bayonetta 2 and how great it is until the end of time. It seriously is that good.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is another game I could gush endlessly about, but then I would really dive into game mechanics, item builds, RNG, and all the different unlockables that make the game what it is. You would think that after playing through the vanilla version of the original Binding of Isaac twice and getting halfway through the Wrath of the Lamb on a shitty laptop that can’t handle heavy Flash games would have burned me out on this game already, but the non-Flash rebuild of the game drew me back in harder than ever before. If you’re one of those people on the fence about whether or not you should get this because you played the original a lot, do yourself a favor and grab it while it’s marked down, because not only is it better than the original version, there’s also about double the content this time around. To make it even crazier, the developers are in the planning stages of a DLC pack that will double the content again.
When I first heard about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I wasn’t too bothered about it. Nintendo is usually good at bringing back old franchises and actually doing something with them, but Tropical Freeze just didn’t click with me. Most of it having to do with Donkey Kong 64 souring me on the franchise. I’m glad I still gave the game a chance though, because even after a sequence of simple opening stages that made me feel like my initial apprehension was justified, the game opened up to not only become incredibly challenging, but also it also took the level design in directions I didn’t expect it to. I’m not entirely sure until I’ve replayed the older Donkey Kong Country titles, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends up being my favorite of the bunch. I mean, it has Dixie Kong!
There’s two major games I still feel the need to bring up that weren’t released this year and are still up there as some of my favorite gaming experiences. I finally played through Demon’s Souls, which makes me completely understand all the hype surrounding that Souls franchise. It made me think back of playing The Legend of Zelda II – Link’s Adventure when I was a little kid. Very challenging but with a great sense of being rewarded for your efforts. Having gotten into that not too long after my Monster Hunter addiction made me believe in video games again. And then Revengeance happened.
Oh, boy. Metal Gear Rising: Reveangence was the exact kind of game I’d been waiting for. I’m a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and an even bigger fan of Clover/Platinum Games, so for the two to come together and create something as absolutely crazy gets my blood working. Even just listening to the soundtrack gets me hyped up again. It can’t be understated how good not only the music is, but how fantastic the game’s sound is mixed. Most of the especially hype moment of the game are heavily underlined by what the music is doing, which is why you see “Rules of Nature“ and “Standing here, I realize…“ repeated so often amongst fans. I really hope there are some developers out there who paid attention to how the lyrics of the soundtrack were used during boss fights because it’s such an underused element in gaming.
In between all of these games, I got lost in my massive Mount and Blade: Warband conquest. I never expected that game to run on my laptop, but it did, and it was glorious.
I honestly didn’t watch much of any current TV Shows this year. So let’s gush about the greatness of other things loosely related to this field. Loosely. Very loosely. First of all, let’s talk about anime. Because as easy it is to say that the seasons were shit (every new season is always shit), there was a surprising amount of good this year.
In the year that Hunter x Hunter ended, a Durarara sequel was dated, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure continued into Part 3: Stardust Crusaders (Get to Diamond is Unbreakable already!) and a Parasyte anime aired, the real show stealer was an experimental anime about ping pong. If you don’t know me very well or haven’t heard of the show before, you’d probably think I was kidding. But I’m dead serious. Ping Pong the Animation was by far the best show of the year. With an unconventional art style, unique direction, fantastic soundtrack, and some of the most believable characters avoiding your typical anime-speak, you really cannot go wrong with this show. I don’t want to say too much with this one, it’s something you really need to experience for yourself to understand the appeal of, even if you don’t care about ping pong as a sport. Because I don’t. It’s up there with Hajime no Ippo for me in terms of sports anime.
After rushing through all of the 13 Dragon Ball Z movies (they’re all pretty bad) and the two specials (they’re kind of good), I ended up seeing last year’s Dragon Ball Z – Battle of the Gods. It’s surprisingly good, bringing Dragon Ball Z back to its original comedic roots while still closing out with one of the better fights that the franchise has seen.
A friend of mine had pushed me to watch Fate/zero for what felt like an eternity, and having just finished up Urobuchi’s Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet, I decided on giving it a chance despite my original feelings towards the series not having been positive. It’s likely all to blame on the terrible anime adaptation of the original VN that I wasn’t interested in ever revisiting that universe again, but now I’m actually quite open to maybe going through the VN or watching the newer anime version following the Unlimited Blade Works route. My only positive experience back in the day was meeting up with a Japanese anime otaku one day and having my first ever conversation in full Japanese, with him being a massive fan of the Fate/stay night anime. Apparently he hadn’t realized Archer’s identity yet, and I managed to get it across with my horrible Japanese. Then later he rewarded me by doing the Hare Hare Yukai dance in my room. Should’ve probably kept my mouth shut.
I also finally got around to watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which is one of those old anime shows everyone who says they’re interested in good storytelling in anime needs to have seen at least once.
Special mention goes to Magi, an adventure show I started watching on a whim and ended up obsessing over for the longest time because of how good it is. You should all go watch Magi if you haven’t, one of the few shows I’d compare to Fullmetal Alchemist in how the world and characters are built up.
- WWE introduced a streaming service, the WWE Network.
- Royal Rumble fallout where Batista won the Rumble much against the dismay of just about everyone, including himself.
- CM Punk walked out of the WWE shortly after that.
- There was a movement put in place to get WWE to wake up and listen to their audience.
- WWE made an emergency plan to pacify the audience by finally giving Daniel Bryan the title he deserved in two good matches that opened and closed Wrestlemania respectively.
- Daniel Bryan got hurt and had to give the title away because of a storyline rule.
- Undertaker’s Streak ended by the young upstart part-timer Brock Lesnar.
- Lesnar took the title and then disappeared with it for the longest time, contradicting the previously established storyline rule. Cesaro looked like he was set on a path that would make him go over well beyond the moon, but was then told to stop being over, and then told he doesn’t have the charisma to go over.
- CM Punk podcast with Colt Cobana on why he left.
- NXT’s events kept getting better with every single one. (Pictured above)
- Ridiculous number of people fired from WWE shortly after the Network was introduced.
And that’s just the WWE side of things. Outside of the WWE, we’ve had NJPW staying as great as they have been for a while now, introducing a streaming service of their own for a lower price than the WWE. Not only that, but it was instantly global, whereas WWE still hasn’t been able to get the theirs up in all regions yet. Not only that, but there’s a special PPV package set up for America for their biggest event, Wrestle Kingdom, to get more people in the west interested.
I finally got around to watching a Kamen Rider show, and ended up watching Kabuto as my first one. You know that feeling where you wonder why you hadn’t decided on getting in on this sooner? It lasted the entire show long. Kamen Rider is such a ridiculous and over-the-top stupid thing that it goes through several layers of so-bad-its-good simultaneously where it all ends up canceling out that it’s a dumb show for babies. It’s a dumb show for babies that involves kicking people so they explode. That’s good enough for me.
You know that joke about how people won’t shut up about The Wire? Well, it turns out, they don’t shut up about The Wire for a good reason. You should watch The Wire.
Normally I’d also talk about movies in these posts, but I haven’t been watching too many of them. Although I would like to point out that I enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin – Kyoto Inferno a lot more than I did the original movie, and I enjoyed the first Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie a lot.
I’m ashamed of how little I’ve read this last year. Didn’t keep a count, but I’m sure the number is somewhere below 25, which is inexcusable. That said, at least I finally started reading Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Trilogy, which is nothing short of fantastic. Not many books can dance with cliches as closely as The Name of the Wind does and still come out feeling original and inspiring. The way the story is told, by a man who became a living legend in his own time and loves to tell tall tales, embellishing already unbelievable events while still maintaining an air of believability, is incredible.
Have A Nice Day by Mick Foley is something that’s been on my to-read list for the longest time, and it’s good to finally be reading it. I’m nearly done with it, and you can tell that Foley has it in him to be a writer, even if the work feels somewhat flawed by his inexperience with the craft. The absurdity of the wrestling world and seeing it from the point of view of someone who has been everywhere as an active participant makes up for a lot though.
I could ramble on about manga for a while, but instead I’m just going to tell you to read One Punch Man.