Ahead: 2014

Here we go again, with another bumper edition of pure, distilled anticipation.

Ah, 2014. How you promise such great excuses for us to use up our hard-earned time and money. Indeed, with another typically uneventful (though wonderfully relaxing) January out of the way, it’s as good a time as any to talk about what I personally am most eagerly awaiting this year. Some of these things will be disappointing, I have no doubt, but I have reason to believe most of them will live up to the hype. So exciting are the gaming and movie offerings of 2014 that I have had to expand my third annual anticipation list article to include multiple honorable mentions. I’ve also thrown some applicable trailers onto this page, because people seem to like something to look at. Here we go.

MOVIES

10. Mockingjay Part One


My excitement for the next movie in the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise is tempered by the general track record of novel adaptations that insist on splitting into two parts. It’s pretty well documented that “Part I”s tend to be a little on the unfulfilling side, as they are only ever one half of a whole story. Having said that, given the surprising quality of the Catching Fire adaptation, I’m keen to see how Francis Lawrence and co. treat the very heavy Mockingjay story.

9. Wish I Was Here


Whether you happen to be a lover or a hater of what Zach Braff did through the Kickstarter website to help his latest film stick to his vision, I can quite confidently say that I am the former. So much so, in fact, that I was one of the 47 thousand-odd backers who gave money to the project. I was a huge fan of Braff’s last writer-director effort, 2004’s Garden State, and the promise of Wish I Was Here serving as a pseudo-sequel to the decade-old indie gem is too hard to pass up. Hopefully it doesn’t suck.

8. Big Hero 6


We don’t know an awful lot about Big Hero 6 yet – only that it is based on a neglected Marvel superhero license, set in a hybrid between San Francisco and Tokyo, will be released at the end of the year, and most importantly, comes from the same wide pool of talent that gave us Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Expectations will be high for Disney’s intriguing next animation house effort.

7. How to Train Your Dragon 2


Speaking of high expectations, Disney’s number 1 competitor for animated movie supremacy is looking to come out firing in 2014 with the much-anticipated sequel to its super-charming 2010 hit How to Train Your Dragon. The trailers seem to indicate some real character growth across the board, as well as what appears to be a rather unconventional narrative structure for a family movie like this. But then again, you should never trust a trailer.

6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier


The next film in Marvel Studios’ ongoing lead-up to The Avengers 2 is being marketed as somewhat of an Avengers film itself, an “Avengers 1.5” if you will, considering the focus its trailers place on shots of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Nick Fury and Black Widow. But far from being the distraction it was in Iron Man 2, this choice of direction actually adds to the appeal of the movie to me, as I happen to regard Cap as the least interesting of the four main movie Avengers. Add the appearance of characters like Falcon and, of course, the Winter Soldier himself, and you can consider me hyped.

5. Divergent


As the first novel of any kind that I have read since the final Hunger Games instalment some four years ago, Divergent is rather special to me and its movie adaptation is thus guaranteed a spot on this list. I read Divergent on a strong recommendation from my sister, who only read it because it was advertised in the cinema as “the next big thing” before a showing of Catching Fire. While I can’t see Divergent gaining the same kind of following as HG now enjoys, it makes more of an intimate point about the nature of human beings and it will be good to see if Shailene Woodley can live up to the hype that surrounded her back when The Descendants was released.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy


Marvel Studios is now so big, and so refreshingly ambitious as a result, that it appears to be able to stop treating the “superhero movie” as its own genre and branch out into sub-genres, allowing movies that feature superheroes in them to essentially do things other than straight-up action. In the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, things look to be going in a decidedly comedic sci-fi direction, and I am most definitely up for that.

3. The LEGO Movie


Though the US will be watching this film in theatres in a matter of weeks, us Australians are forced to wait two whole months until April, which I suppose makes sense given its primary intended audience and our school calendar but also makes me a little irritated. Why, you may ask? Because it just looks incredible. I don’t know why it has taken Hollywood so long to release a celluloid LEGO treatment like this, but I sure am glad it’s here now. Well, almost now.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past


Pretty much all of my favourite comic book characters come from the X-Men series, so whenever a new film comes out tied to the property I get suitably excited. Though some of the attempts to put the X-Men to screen have certainly been worse than others, the prospect of putting the personnel behind the two best ones so far, X2 and X-Men First Class, together and seeing what happens is right up my alley. The sheer number of mutants lining up for screen time in this one worries me somewhat, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be there on day one to see it all unfold.

1. Interstellar


Christopher Nolan.
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HONORABLE MENTIONS
22 Jump Street
Mr Peabody & Sherman
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Godzilla
“Bond 24”
A Million Ways to Die in the West

Jupiter Ascending
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GAMES

10. Samurai Gunn (PS4)


Samurai Gunn is already out on PC, and it is one of the most hectic, insane and downright fun-to-play local multiplayer experiences I have had in a very long time. The thing is, it’s a bit of a pain to play, because it usually involves getting myself and three friends huddled uncomfortably around a PC with a bunch of USB cables. The promised PS4 release will remove that obstacle and is also very likely to add in new modes and stages to enrich the admittedly bare-bones experience. I cannot wait.

9. Child of Light (PS3/PS4/360/XBO/Wii U/PC)


A turn-based RPG with decidedly Japanese game design roots developed by the Canadian team behind Farcry 3 using the ground-breaking artistic triumph of the Ubi Art framework, which was responsible for Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. Also, two player asymmetrical co-op. If you do not understand why I am excited for this game, it’s probably been flying under your radar. Or it doesn’t look like it will be your thing. Either way, I need to get my hands on it.

8. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX (PS3)


My association with the Kingdom Hearts franchise is a relatively young one – I only recently finished the first game in the series via the nicely polished Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX on PS3. The announcement of its sequel was somewhat of a no-brainer; it allows newcomers to the series to tackle the notoriously confusing story in chronological order – by all accounts the only way to actually understand it – on (almost) one console alone before the big release of Kingdom Hearts III. My intention is to do just that, because wouldn’t you know it, Kingdom Hearts is actually quite good.

7. Infamous: Second Son (PS4)


The big first party PS4 exclusive set to square off against Titanfall in March, Infamous: Second Son marks a huge opportunity for Sony’s newest console to flex its technical muscle while delivering an open world experience that emphasises fun and rewards exploration. The motion capture talent involved in the game reads like a who’s who of voice acting profiles and the richly detailed setting, inspired by real-world Seattle, looks positively tantalising. It surely ranks as a must-play for the PS4 early adopter.

6. A Hat in Time (PC)


The sheer joy I felt when I first saw the initial demo build of Kickstarter-funded Steam game A Hat in Time was unexpectedly powerful. I had long been resigned to the notion that I would never again look forward to the pleasures of a Banjo Kazooie style “collect-a-thon” platforming adventure from the N64 glory days, but luckily it seems that indie developer Gears For Breakfast shares my sentiment on the matter. A Hat in Time is a tribute to the games of my childhood that looks to deliver the same style of humour that the Rareware of old was famous for, and incredibly, the legendary Banjo Kazooie composer Grant Kirkhope is on board! Just, aaaaah!

5. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/360)


There was a time when I couldn’t be less excited for the third instalment in the Final Fantasy trilogy no-one asked for, particularly once I heard it would be ditching the best thing about the first two FF XIII games: the excellent battle system. Yet the gradual change in developer Square Enix’s attitude of late, symbolised by an executive shake-up and the success of games like A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV and the wonderful Bravely Default, have brought me around. I’ve played two demos of Lightning Returns and it is looking promising. The game is out in a week and a half, so we will soon see just how solid it is.

4. South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3/360/PC)


No joke, this is the third consecutive year I’ve had this exact game at this exact spot on my list. If it doesn’t actually come out on its current intended release date of March 6th, I’ll… well, nothing will probably happen. I’ll just keep hoping I finally get to play it. And there’s nothing more I want to say. Like, freaking release it already, Ubisoft. Do it.

3. Titanfall (360/XBO/PC)


I’ve said a fair bit about Titanfall both on this blog and on the Mega Ultra Blast Cast, so I’ll just reiterate what I know based on what I’ve played of it – Titanfall is an incredibly enjoyable thrill rush that might actually live up to all the plaudits you’ve heard about it. The game is now around a month away from release and so you might want to put some cash aside – it looks very much like it will be worth it.

2. Persona 5 (PS3)


The ridiculously long-awaited fifth instalment in one of the most beloved modern JRPG series out there has only been confirmed for 2014 in Japan so far. In all honesty I doubt we will see it in the west until at least 2015. Yet merely the possibility of seeing completed game code of a brand new main series Persona entry this year is reason enough to celebrate, and to watch any developments with great interest.

1. Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS (Wii U/3DS)


Masahiro Sakurai, one of Nintendo’s most talented developers and the man in charge of the last few Super Smash Bros party/fighting games, is a master of generating hype. And I am once again caught up in it. Nearly every weekday for half a year now he has been releasing a slow drip-feed of information on all the wonders that await us in the series’ next two installments, the similar-yet-different Wii U and 3DS versions. There are few series that take as much of my time as Smash Bros does, and six years is a long time to wait between games. If the latest entries do in fact come out this year, it’s almost a sure bet that there will be nothing I play more throughout 2014.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS
Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Destiny (PS3/PS4/360/XBO/PC)
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (360/XBO/PC)
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD (PS3/PSV)
Watch_Doges (PS3/PS4/360/XBO/Wii U/PC)
Evolve (PS4/XBO/PC)
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Bring it all on!

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