Best of 2019: Top 10 Disappointments

Sadly, 2019 was a particularly great year for gaming media and enthusiast media channels to grab quick reactionary views, such was the glut of controversies great and small throughout the industry. The year also offered its fair share of dud movies that had promised something bigger and better. Luckily, this list only has ten slots, so I’m just going to focus in the things that let me down based on my own personal expectations, a.k.a. the pieces of entertainment media most relevant to me. So expect a bunch of tiny things (with one exception) that probably won’t matter to you.

Super keen to get this over with and start on the positive stuff tomorrow.

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VR BEST OF 2019 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. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. So why did Crackdown get delayed again?

Crackdown 3 at last saw the light of day as a real, released product in 2019. Hard to believe it was announced five years ago at E3 2014, promising an ambitious competitive multiplayer mode with 100% destructible environments using “the power of the cloud”. The game’s initial release window was 2016, but complications with that cloud system pushed it to November 7th, 2017 – the same day as the superpowered Xbox One X. That delay brought the need for cloud computing into question, but most of us on the customer and enthusiast side weren’t exactly qualified to draw any conclusions about that. The focus of the marketing was now on the game’s campaign anyway – featuring Terry Crews!

But then the game missed its last real hype window when it was delayed out of the window of X launch title and into late 2018. Which apparently wasn’t enough, because it actually came out in March of this year. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast playing the game, but nothing about it feels particularly cutting-edge or screams “this needed to be delayed”. There is always a reason for these things, of course, and I’m glad the game wasn’t outright cancelled, but until some candid interview with a former Microsoft executive spills the beans years from now, I’ll be left wondering just what on earth was going on behind the scenes for all those years. The series deserves better.


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9. Spidey Shut-out

All’s well that ends well, they say, but this saga sure was a ride for a minute there. From late August to late September, Sony Pictures and the Disney-owned Marvel Studios engaged in a battle of brinkmanship over the latter’s demands for a greater share of that sweet Spider-Man cash. I think we can all agree the House of Mouse definitely, obviously needed more superhero money. In the meantime, for all intents and purposes Spider-Man was out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just a month after Spider-Man: Far From Home had hit cinemas.

Plenty of fans were then torn between the deflating prospect of the Tom Holland Spidey not getting a proper end to his arc and the strange glee of seeing big boy Disney failing to knock over underdog Sony – who, let’s not forget, made the excellent Into the Spider-Verse all by themselves. Eventually, the fanbase split somewhat, with most people supporting the return of Holland to the MCU and a growing minority choosing to have faith that the character could still do some weird and fun things with the likes of Venom and that multiverse. The month ultimately ended with a compromise of sorts, albeit one that benefited Disney more. Spidey was back with his MCU pals but the Disney machine rolled on, which left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth if you ask me.
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8. Still No Samurai

In my corresponding list five whole years ago, I expressed my feelings about the Steam-only local multiplayer riot Samurai Gunn missing its supposed launch window on PS4. The year after, I was still disappointed. By 2016, I had given up hope that the enhanced port would see the light of day. I get it; indie games are hard to make. Releasing a game when it’s not done is pointless, and releasing it when it isn’t good enough just for the sake of making an arbitrary window is rarely a good move for anyone. But not releasing it at all is always a sad state of affairs. Alas, in August of 2018, there was an unexpected shaft of blinding light when a Nintendo Switch indie presentation chose to give a stage to the reveal of Samurai Gunn 2 – a sequel with a whole new single-player campaign to boot. The release window given? Early 2019. Here we go again…
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7. Cutting Leaks

I’ve whinged about videogame leaks once or twice here before, but it’s just never not a kick in the teeth when a new Pokemon generation has its new critters revealed ahead of time through poor quality off-screen footage. Following the huge info blow-out The Pokemon Company engineered before Sun and Moon and the subsequent un-scrubbed public demo release containing the data of every new ‘mon, this time around there was an unusual amount of Sword and Shield kept close to the chest. So when that still-mysterious source started leaking Pokemon pictures to the internet a couple weeks out from launch, it really stung. I successfully managed to avoid most of them this time around, which is why this is still kinda low on the list, but it’s clear from the ongoing legal proceedings in Japan that Pokemon’s creators are properly pissed off one of their best generations of new designs was shown off in such a terrible light before their time.
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6. The Dream is Dead

It is an extremely rare sight indeed when an inner-circle Nintendo game developer has to close its doors, but in 2019, there the story was on my newsfeed: Alphadream, the team behind the hilariously fun Mario & Luigi RPG series, were filing for bankruptcy. What made this story particularly strange is that in the eyes of many, Alphadream hadn’t been given any real chance to avoid the performance pitfalls that would have led to such an unfortunate need. Having spent the last few years developing remakes of their own games for the Nintendo 3DS in a post-Switch world, they weren’t exactly in a position to take over the sales charts. Yet Nintendo had them do it anyway. I don’t know what kind of background drama was going on behind those secretive Japanese doors, but this is an awful way to see the back of the talented creative team that gave us Fawful and the Emoglobin. We won’t even get to see them make a game in HD! Well, assuming they don’t come back in some form later. Bankruptcy is weird.
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5. Framed

Another rare sight from Nintendo in this day and age is a game that doesn’t perform with solid, unwavering consistency. From Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to Splatoon 2 to Super Mario Odyssey to Yoshi’s Crafted World, just about every modern Nintendo game moves with the same fluidity the whole way through, happy to sacrifice resolution during strenuous moments rather than drop below a targeted frame rate. 2019 gave us the violently unsteady Fire Emblem: Three Houses to break the trend, but that’s a primarily turn-based game with plenty of intermittent online checks. The truly bizarre case this year is that of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which runs at a super-smooth 60 frames a second – except when you transition between areas. Which is very often. That’s when it literally halves. The visuals already operate at a sub-native resolution in both docked and handheld modes, and this is not a game that cries out for 60fps performance in the first place if you ask me. I would’ve taken 30 frames alongside perhaps a higher resolution rather than this constant unending distraction. The game is still great, by the way.
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4. Borderlands Blind Spot

Oh boy, another technical one! Somehow even stranger than the last entry, Borderlands 3 runs at a pretty solid 30 frames per second on the base PS4, giving you a pretty consistent experience. But it almost never manages to get to 30 on PS4 Pro. The game gives you two ‘enhanced’ options: a resolution mode, which looks very pretty but runs like a slideshow in firefights; and a performance mode, which constantly oscillates between 40ish and 60 frames per second with much lower graphics settings. So I cannot play at a solid frame rate on the more powerful PS4, but I look across at my brother’s screen and he might as well be whistling like a Looney Tunes protagonist. Why is this? Because for some reason, the optimisation team on BL3 decided to make the Pro shoot for a higher performance target than the much more powerful Xbox One X. I got the PS4 version of the game so I could play with friends, but at times my choices seemed to make the experience more of a chore than it was worth.
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3. Flightless Phoenix

When a movie manages to disappoint you even though you went in with low expectations, it’s done something special. I will forever have an X-Men bias because the mutants were my entry point into the world of superheroes, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix in the cinema; the underwhelming reviews were no deterrent. And yet here we are. I’ve found stuff to like in each and every live action Fox X-Men film – yes, even the bad ones – but aside from a single re-shot action sequence and Sophie Turner herself, there is practically nothing of value in this dull movie. It takes few risks, retreads familiar ground with less imagination than the first time around, makes redundant plot choices and meanders along with a poor script. We knew going in that Dark Phoenix would be the swansong of the X-Men continuity we’ve been following for almost two decades, but the movie itself seems to have no idea. So it is that the X-Men property lands in the hands of Kevin Fiege and the MCU with a pathetic whimper.
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2. Dexit Drama

OK firstly, this isn’t just another pure rant about the fanbase of a Nintendo-exclusive videogame franchise. The way Game Freak and The Pokemon Company went about breaking the news that the entire Pokedex within new games Pokemon Sword and Shield would contain only about half the number of total official Pokemon was clumsy and mistimed at best, arrogant at worst. The way they defended it was even more thick-headed, opening themselves up to extra vitriol with vaguely-defined justifications about animations and content that came back to bite them real quick. Game Freak has always been a developer that values timeliness over visual optimisation, so I don’t know what they thought they were going to achieve with such comments.

But my word, that fanbase. The memetic stupidity that grew out of the genuine concerns about Game Freak’s poor messaging and the sheer shock of a Dex cut most thought was unprecedented (although for all intents and purposes, the same thing happened when Ruby and Sapphire came out 15 years ago) was a thing to behold. It made the Paper Mario Color Splash and Metroid Prime Federation Force debacles look like tiny footnotes. The movement kept up its energy for months, taking on seemingly anyone with a general bone to pick with the mostly unchanging main series Pokemon games over the past two decades. And stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the culmination of all this rage? Record sales.

I guess we’re all disappointed now. Except The Pokemon Company.
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1. Crash & Burn

Talking about the biggest scandal to ever hit the K-Pop industry on this page at all kinda only makes sense if it’s in the number 1 spot. This list is usually for pretty nitpicky first-world problems, after all. But this one is simply too big, too influential to ignore. Regardless of how out of the K-Pop loop I was when everything went down, it was difficult not to feel shocked and a bit betrayed that Seungri of the legendary Big Bang – who I had cheered for at a live show in Sydney years ago – was involved in an organised crime network chiefly concerned with shocking acts against women, police collusion and all manner of other charges. The so-called Burning Sun scandal, which unravelled over the first half of 2019 to include members of Highlight, Drug Restaurant, FT Island and CNBlue as well as a couple of solo artists with formerly squeaky-clean images, will hopefully go down in history as the worst strike the modern Korean music industry ever suffered. Hopefully the massive media attention will mean nothing this bad ever happens again. But I’m not holding my breath.

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