Best of 2017: Top 5 Disappointments

As usual we’re kicking things off with a look at some of the less rosy parts of the year in entertainment media, but this time list number one is presented in an ever-so-slightly different way. Due to a list later on in my countdown series needing to be expanded, as well as the emerging patterns in 2017’s lamest entertainment news and trends allowing for some easy grouping, I’ve decided to reduce this Top 10 to a Top 5, meaning this time around I’m talking less about individually disappointing movies/games and more about the way history repeated itself in some of the least encouraging ways imaginable throughout the past year (as well as one deeply personal gaming-related frustration). These are my personal picks for the biggest entertainment media disappointments of 2017.

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VR BEST OF 2017 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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5. Warner Bros Does Australia Dirty Again

Three years ago, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. released two of the most talked-about films of the year, The LEGO Movie and John Wick. The former was a family movie and the latter most certainly wasn’t, but both flicks enjoyed a ton of critical praise for their fresh and surprising approaches to toy-spruiking animation and straightforward action respectively. But Australians who happened to take in the buzz online for the pair had to wait for their chance to watch them legally, and if piracy estimates were to be believed, many simply didn’t. Despite the fact that The LEGO Movie was largely produced in Australia, it had the greater of the two delays, and after its release the higher-ups at Aussie distributor Village Roadshow claimed their calculated lost income as a result meant it wouldn’t happen again. But alas, it happened again. The delay of The LEGO Batman Movie sucked, but John Wick Chapter 2 didn’t even have an Australian release date listed anywhere when the film hit the US in February. We ended up getting it in May, and that sure didn’t help its performance down under. Yay.

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4. Switch Shortcomings

Pretty much the only succesful way I had to cut this list down to a Top 5 was to throw every Switch-related disappointment into one entry. Now the Switch is a great console and I have a lot of praise ready to throw its way over the next ten days, so a lot of these problems are minor in the grand scheme of things, but taken together they show that Nintendo’s newest console has a long way to go. So we’re not here all day, these are the quick summaries of my biggest issues:

  • The Switch eShop, while getting better, is still rather awful at highlighting individual games worth buying, and at launch the Aussie one lagged behind the rest of the world substantially.
  • For the entire year, the Switch Rewards section of the MyNintendo rewards website had a “Coming Soon” sign. Soon has come and gone. A lot.
  • The release of FIFA 18 for Switch shone a light on the lack of a baked-in party system on the console. When a third party doesn’t have the time to make an in-game one, everyone suffers.
  • You still can’t move files to and from an inserted micro SD card at will, spelling problems for system security until this is addressed.
  • The Switch’s local wireless multiplayer capabilities are still suspect. Even though it works near-flawlessly in Splatoon 2 and since then there haven’t been a whole lot of games to test the feature, poor performance in just about every game from the year’s first half (including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) doesn’t paint a great picture.

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3. Xbox Kneecaps Its Library

On my first draft of this list as a Top 10 I had the sole disappointment of Scalebound’s cancellation in the No.2 spot. Despite the fact that it was literally announced within the first week of the year, it’s hard to single out a bigger symbolic encapsulation of Microsoft’s most widely-publicised issue – the weaksauce 2017 lineup of Xbox-exclusive videogames. To that I can now add the delay of Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 (which didn’t really have concrete release dates, to be fair) and Crackdown 3 (which had a very concrete release date – It was meant to launch alongside the Xbox One X in November), the latter of which seemed especially poorly-timed given how late it was announced and how much it seemed to build on all the other similar news – or lack of news in some cases. To some extent the delays are understandable. After all, delays can usually only be good for a game’s quality. But when so many of your tentpole titles slip out of one calendar year, perception of your brand can only take a hit. The death of Scalebound is still the hardest pill to swallow, given its Platinum-backed Japanese development style and the fact that no other Xbox One exclusive looked quite like it.
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2. Come See the Lootbox Circus

I actually don’t know if I can call this a straightforward disappointment per se, because on one hand to be disappointed in something you have to have high expectations for it, and on the other the whole EA/Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco was so heavily, devastatingly publicised that it may potentially end up having some positive effects in the way of moderating such greed in the future. It’s also hardly new to 2017 as a trend. But obviously I couldn’t not mention it on this page, because this past year saw the concept of in-game micro-transactions combined with gambling elements on several whole new levels. Not only have major publishers like EA, Activision and Warner Bros now seen fit to place non-cosmetic, potentially performance-increasing rewards inside these so-called “lootboxes”, but they’re also doing it in single-player games as well as multiplayer ones. Your mileage may vary on which is worse, or even whether any of this is a big deal (Personally I think the way Halo 5 approached the idea – making maps and modes free in lieu of a season pass and requiring some in-game skill to even access your randomly-dropped rewards – is perfectly fine). But there’s definitely something insidious about the belligerent way in which lootboxes are advancing in both the significance of their potential contents and the way they are marketed to players. I’m glad to see that the Battlefront II thing is forcing some industry-wide soul-searching on the matter.
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1. So Nier & Yet So Far

Hoo boy, this is a prickly one, but I hope at least some part of it is relatable.

This isn’t just a story about one game, but my frustrations with that one game ties in rather neatly with my overall disappointment at being unable to play so many of the games I either wanted to play before they launched or heard buzz about throughout the year. There are only so many free hours in a week/month/year after you factor in work, friends, exercise and indeed other leisure activities, and when you have the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 – both feverishly-anticipated sequels asking for triple-digit hour investments – launching in the first half of 2017, you have to choose to miss out on some big titles. In my case, I played no more than the 90-minute tutorial of Horizon: Zero Dawn, had to be content with watching over my brother’s shoulder at various points throughout his Tales of Berseria playthrough, and one of my most anticipated games of the year, Gravity Rush 2, saw barely enough controller input from me to reach the first major city (I was still trying to finish Final Fantasy XV at that point in the year!). I didn’t get to give Yooka-Laylee a proper go, which still stings a little given how much negativity was thrown its way over the year. Then there’s Yakuza Zero, which I bought on sale in the middle of the year thanks to all the good word of mouth I was hearing. And yet I still haven’t got past the title screen.

These are all first world problems (Heck, everything on this page is), but the real kicker came when I did find a pocket of game catch-up time and I chose to use it to play Nier Automata instead of all those other games. This game had been hyped to high heaven on podcasts, in YouTube videos and by friends of mine. I had heard that it packed enough bonkers instances to fill half of my own annual memorable gaming moments list, that its soundtrack was incredible, and that it was a must-play. But after 14 hours of playtime, within which I could barely make it through an hour per session per week, I’m left feeling rather dejected. Though Automata does indeed have a kickass soundtrack, runs buttery-smooth and packs a really cool level-up system, actually playing it demands a claw-like hand position that I cannot sustain without discomfort. The game’s colour palette is oppressively brown and its relentless philosophical nihilism (which is kind of the point, being a Yoko Taro game) wears me down in a way I personally cannot abide in a game with a frustratingly low-detail map that makes you backtrack constantly. What’s more, you have to “finish the game” once before getting to all the mind screw stuff, which was the main thing pushing me past my issues until the year just ran out of hours.

Maybe this was ultimately just about having a place to rant in a semi-therapeutic way, but again, this entry isn’t just about Nier Automata. It’s about my personal failure to just stop playing a game I largely didn’t enjoy and move onto something I might, all because people were talking about it. For some people that was Destiny 2 this year, for some it was Assassin’s Creed Origins – and yes, for some it was Zelda or Persona 5.  Not every year puts so much of a microscope on free time allocation like this one did, making this a very 2017 issue in my opinion, but I think there’s no shame in admitting we need to discard and move on sometimes. Even if that’s easier said than done for some of us. I’m talking about me. Definitely me. I suck at this.

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Honorable Mentions
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Atlus’ Spoiler Paranoia

While it’s true that Persona 5 probably isn’t the kind of game you want spoiled for you, developer/publisher Atlus’ decision to step in and restrict the streaming of the game past a certain point in the story was just a bit ill-conceived in today’s Twitch-happy videogame discussion culture. No-one likes to be told what not to talk about, especially regarding a game that begs to be discussed as much as P5 does. I was personally more irritated by the complete inability to take any screenshots whatsoever after the game’s prologue. I just want to show off my batting cage time, for crying out loud.

That Death Note Movie Though

I was actually pretty on board with the idea of the live-action Death Note movie hinted at in the initial trailers – A straight Japanese adaptation of the original anime couldn’t have measured up to fan expectations. But while this Netflix interpretation gets Ryuk right and eliminates the lifeless final act of the original story, it throws the baby out with the bathwater and missteps just about everywhere else.

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