Friday, December 21, 2018

UPDATED best of 2018: miscellaneous

UPDATE 12/31:  I guess I should have waited to post this after all, because I finished Red Dead Redemption 2 earlier today!  I've updated my list accordingly.

And now it's time for my final "Best of 2018" list!  A few notes before I begin:

  • These are in completely random order.
  • Not all of these were first released in 2018, but that's when I first watched/played them.
  • If you've seen me fangirling over Red Dead Redemption 2 elsewhere, you'll probably be stunned that it's not on this list.  Well, there's a good reason for that:  I'm not done with it, and probably won't be by the end of this year, so I don't feel right putting it on this list.  But trust me, unless it takes a monstrous shit by the end, it will wind up on 2019's list.  I do feel comfortable telling you that unless we are forced to make Arthur Morgan do something truly horrific by the end of the game (we're playing him with high honor, but some bad deeds are unavoidable), he will wind up kicking Leon Kennedy out of his place of honor as my favorite male video game protagonist of all time. 
  • Along those lines, if I watch/play something between now and December 31st that belongs here, I'll update accordingly.
  • Some of the video games I list here are available on multiple platforms; the parenthetical tells you which console I played it on.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. The Punisher:  Frank Castle, aka the vigilante known as The Punisher, stole season 2 of Daredevil from right under Matt Murdock's nose, so I was glad to see him get his own series.  It's superviolent, nasty, and a whole lot of fun, and Jon Bernthal is a perfect Punisher.  (Netflix streaming)

2. The Evil Within 2:  I was pretty disappointed in the first game, but I was able to snag this sequel very cheaply, and it was worth twice the price.  Ex-cop Sebastian Castellanos, still devastated by the death of his daughter and the breakup of his marriage, is contacted by his former partner, who tells him his daughter is still alive...but he'll have to enter a nightmarish world to find her.  The sequel improved upon the original in every single way (including, crucially, making Sebastian a much more compelling character), and as a bonus, it's terrifying as FUCK.  Essential for all survival horror fans, and unless I finish RDR2 by the end of the year, my favorite video game of 2018 by a long shot.  (PS4)

3. The Dragon Prince:  This animated fantasy series follows two brothers, Ezran and Callum, as they set out to return a dragon's egg and restore peace to their kingdom.  We were interested in it because the show's creators worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender, and although it wasn't as good as that (a tall order!), it was funny and sweet and exciting.  We were glad to hear it got renewed for a second season.  (Netflix streaming)

4. Uncharted 4:  Because this game builds upon the previous ones, I don't feel comfortable giving a synopsis since it might spoil the others; I'll just say that it's as close as you can get to being Indiana Jones in a video game, and it's an awful lot of fun.  Bonus points for snappy dialogue, strong female characters who aren't just eye candy, and the most beautiful graphics I've ever seen.  (PS4 only; The Lost Legacy DLC is included in this endorsement)

5. Life Is Strange: Before the Storm:  If you played Life Is Strange (and if not, why?  It's great!), then you'll remember Max's friend Chloe.  In this prequel, you get to learn more about Chloe and her relationship with Rachel, and it will most definitely break your heart.  Unfortunately, due to a voice actor's strike, Chloe's original voice actress, who was exceptional, did not return, but her replacement was good and it didn't impact our enjoyment of this well-written game.  (Uh...I can't remember which console we played it on!  I rented it from Gamefly but cancelled my membership so I can't check.  It's available on both the PS4 and Xbox One.)

6. Aggretsuko:  Sanrio is best known for its sweet mascot characters like Hello Kitty and My Melody, but they've added a few edgier characters to the mix recently, like clinicially depressed egg Gudetama and Aggretsuko, an adorable red panda office worker who hates her job and blows off steam by...singing death metal karaoke at the top of her lungs.  If you've ever worked in a cube farm, you'll laugh your ass off, and one episode actually made me tear up too.  (Netflix streaming)

7. Twin Peaks:  I was a MASSIVE Twin Peaks fan back in the day, so I was pretty excited when I heard that Showtime had commissioned a third season.  I don't have Showtime, so I had to wait for DVD, and when it finally came out, I binged it over the course of a few days.  I'll be honest with you; it's often boring and confusing and weird for the sake of being weird, but it's got so much fucking brilliance sprinkled in between the crappy parts that it's absolutely worth watching if you're a David Lynch fan.  (If not, my god, stay far away!  This will not change your mind.)

8. Violet Evergarden:  The title character used to be a lethal soldier, but after the war ends, she finds herself working as an "auto memory doll", writing letters for people who aren't able to express themselves the way they should.  The art is absolutely gorgeous, but be warned; there are thorns in those roses, and almost every episode made me choke up at least once.  (Netflix streaming)

9. Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy:  I love superheroes, but found myself in the tiniest minority when I was just about the only person who was underwhelmed by the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.  But Telltale Games (RIP) had a pretty strong track record with making me care about properties I ordinarily didn't give a shit about, so I wanted to give this a go, and it was a lot of fun!  (PS4)

10. Red Dead Redemption 2:  I'll be posting a lengthy review of this in my December media update, so I won't do so here; suffice it to say it wound up taking a spot in my top ten video games of all time, and Arthur Morgan did indeed take the crown for my favorite male video game protagonist ever.  This game is an absolutely breathtaking achievement.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  I am way too OCD to make a list that's not a multiple of 5, but if I wasn't, I'd put the anime series No. 6 here.  It's about Shion, a privileged boy who meets street rat Nezumi (literally "rat" in Japanese) and learns that his life of comfort has come at a terribly high price.  I wanted to watch it because I'd heard that Shion and Nezumi were a canon couple, and as you know I'm all about that shiz, but the anime only offered us a couple of kisses.  The manga is much more accommodating on that front; it's never graphic, but whereas you could make an argument that the kisses in the anime were just friendly or impulsive, the manga gives you no such outs.  Anyway, it's a fun series that probably needed another season to wrap up its complex story, hence its exclusion from the main list.  I still love Shion and Nezumi together, though; they're my current wallpaper.

I also need to mention Over the Garden Wall. In this animated miniseries, two brothers, Wirt and Greg, get lost in a forest and have strange adventures while trying to get home.  Beautiful art that's reminiscent of super old-school cartoons, great voice acting, catchy tunes, and some tears among the laughter.