Best of 2019: Top 4 Game Consoles

Yeah that’s right, I can’t keep up this PS Vita charade anymore – We’re doing just four this year. That extra listed item will be added onto a list near the end of this whole shebang.

Shades of 2012 flickered throughout this past year in console gaming. As the calm before the inevitable year-long media storm awaiting us with the upcoming next-gen console battle, solid exclusives were still around but the burden of true momentum fell to consoles outside of the typical main two. While in 2012 those alternative consoles were the Vita and the, uh, Wii U, 2019 had an alternative that was more than capable of picking up the slack. And yes, I know that this year was also a fascinating year for PC gaming, but this list has always been console-focused. Sorry.

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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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4. Nintendo 3DS

(LAST YEAR: 4th)

It’s a bit weird – The 3DS well and truly stomped the PS Vita throughout its life, enjoying many more years of strong sales. But the PS Vita took years to properly die, kept on life support by a huge discrepancy in market interest between Japan and the west. Meanwhile here we are, a mere six months after the 3DS’ last major release, and the Nintendo handheld feels so definitively finished that the mere sight of one may give Tetsuya Nomura cold sweats. Nintendo has given their classic line that they will continue to support the 3DS, and sure, there are still firmware patches coming out. But the game front has been dead-silent since June.

So this appraisal is pretty much about 2019’s first half, when the Switch Lite was little more than an ill-defined rumour circulating the internet. Since we got Yokai Watch 3 at the end of last year in Australia, that means just four big games – two remakes and two new ones heavy on referential content. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story got a full remake with extra content and that game remains an absolute gem, so if you didn’t play it initially you were in for a treat. Likewise for the surprising appearance of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Etrian Odyssey Nexus kept the flag flying for a franchise that has arguably had its golden age on the 3DS, then Atlus did that thing they love to do and released a game on a portable at the last possible moment. The date: June 4th. The game: Persona Q2, an adorable series crossover event with striking art and rewarding dungeon-crawl gameplay. And thusly did the 3DS say goodbye.

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Best of 2019: Top 10 Movie Characters

And so it is on this joyous Christmas Day that we raise our glasses to the cinematic characters that jumped off the big screen and our streaming devices in 2019; holding up parts of a story that were otherwise flagging, stealing scenes on the regular, or simply sticking with us after the credits rolled on their stories. I saw a lot of movies this year so I had a pretty great pool from which to draw.

Whether due to an acting performance, visual design, writing or a combination of all three, these are my ten favourite movie characters of 2019. As is usually the case on these lists, you tend to be more interesting to me if you’re a supporting character or a villain; but there were a few kinda-exceptions to that de facto rule this year.

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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.

THERE ARE SPOILERS ON THIS PAGE!

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10. Jack – Mary Poppins Returns

Step right up and see the majesty that is Lin Manuel Miranda in full flight, snacking on scenery like only a man with musical theatre in his blood can. Taking on the surrogate role of the working-class sage / super Poppins fanboy made famous by the great Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert, Miranda’s clear glee at being on the screen in such a huge Disney production helps sell Jack the lamplighter’s contagious energy like nothing else. When you choose to make a sequel that by design repeats the musical beats and character archetypes of its iconic predecessor, direct comparisons were always going to be made; but the Hamilton man holds his own in Van Dyke’s shadow. At the very least, his cockney accent is better.

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Best of 2019: Top 15 K-Pop Singles

We back with an eighth attempt at summing up the year in K-Pop, as I bring you my fifteen personal favourite songs deemed worthy of music videos. As always, that’s the distinction: These aren’t my favourite music videos per se; I hadn’t even seen most of these MVs before starting to write the list. I rank these songs based mostly on the songs themselves.

A massive shout-out has to go to the community of the recently-reborn This Week in K-Pop podcast, which is now a Twitch call-in show airing weekly on Sundays at either 3pm or 8pm CST depending on the week. Those lovely people are responsible for just over a third of the list, as I once again spent about two thirds of the year not listening to a lot of Korean music. They know how to recommend the good stuff.

And for what it’s worth, this might be my favourite list of honorable mentions ever. There wasn’t much separating them all in the end. It was a good year for K-Pop, particularly for pop-adjacent rock bands and emerging solo artists. Let’s dig in!

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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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15. Umpah Umpah – Red Velvet

We begin with yet another Real Summer Jam from what is now my most featured K-Pop act ever. Red Velvet brings those unchallenged layers of harmony and that quirky bass sampling as brightly as ever, but now featuring late stage vocal ad-libs and references to their own half-decade career (Wasn’t it just yesterday they debuted?) By RV standards Umpah Umpah is actually rather straightforwardly produced – I guess after going B-side-level weird with earlier 2019 single Zimzalabim they needed a palette cleanser – but it’s still got that wonderful flavour you expect from the group’s upbeat output.

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Best of 2019: Five Special Awards

Back for a second round, this list of micro-lists is my chance to live a little and give a few shout-outs that I just can’t fit into other end-of-year posts. There are once again five categories, because that’s nice and neat. Two categories are new to 2019, two return from last year, and one is a modified version of a previous category. Time to clean up some loose ends.

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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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Best Third-Party Game Publisher

Capcom

I started this category off last year as just “Best Game Publisher”, but the power of console-owning first party publishers means there’s a lot of overlap with my ever-dwindling console list (which goes live in a few days). So let’s give a spotlight to the publishing companies who don’t have the added motivation of trying to sell a videogame console, shall we?

Despite losing their partnership with Bungie, the Activision half of Activision-Blizzard actually had one of their better years in 2019. They relied a lot on nostalgia, but Crash Team Racing Racing: Nitro Fuelled and especially Call of Duty Modern Warfare went over refreshingly well with fans. Let’s also not forget that they published the GOTY winner at the Game Awards, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. EA had their share of standard EA drama, but because they own Respawn Entertainment, they got to publish the excellent Apex Legends and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, so they have to be in the conversation. Somehow. Square Enix had a quiet release year by their standards but still finally put out Kingdom Hearts III, and they absolutely killed it at E3. Let’s not talk about Ubisoft and 2K.

For me it comes down to two contenders this year. Focus Home Interactive roared out of nowhere – sorry, France – to release three of the year’s biggest word-of-mouth gaming successes: Co-op zombie shooter World War Z, plot-driven stealth game A Plague Tale: Innocence, and pirate RPG Greedfall. They also managed to get last year’s Vampyr onto the Switch, and successfully sequelised The Surge. The Europeans deserve a whole bunch of credit for their efforts. But they just lose out to a resurgent Capcom if you ask me, because the former Japanese giant cannot seem to put a foot wrong right now. Not only is their Smash Bros-esque mobile card game Teppen better than it has any right to be, their Monster-hunting expansion Iceborne went some way towards bridging the gap between new and old fans of the series. Also, they might just have the best engine in gaming at this current moment. Devil May Cry V and Resident Evil 2 both manage to look absolutely incredible and run ridiculously smoothly. Both games also absolutely cleaned up with critics and fanbases alike, which is so rare in this day and age. You don’t have to tell Capcom that, though. They have a long memory.
Runner-Up Focus Home Interactive

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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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Best of 2019 Intro

In just over 10 days the decade comes to an end.

As far as the stuff I write about here, 2019 did a pretty decent job of closing that decade out. It wasn’t quite a year of all-time classics, but the duds were few and far between. Despite the fact we are now under a year away from the next videogame console generation, 2019 still hit hard and often with giant releases, surprisingly good games, and quite a few instances of both at once. K-Pop finally started to give proper attention to the potential of solo performers, and Disney had its biggest year ever, releasing enough movies to fill an entire Top 10 list all on its own. But don’t worry – I won’t be doing that. Even though I seriously considered it. But no. Anyway, there was plenty to enjoy and plenty to discuss with friends. Which is what it’s all about, really.

Aside from one necessary movement of a point and a renewed attempt at semicolon usage, the 2019 lists are going to feel pretty familiar. The line-up is unchanged for the first time in years and I feeling pretty settled about it for now. However little you read this year, thank you for indulging me in one of the things that gives me life.

On that note, disappointments list up tomorrow.

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VR BEST OF 2019 DISCLAIMER

These lists represent my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting them 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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My Top 20 Favourite Pokemon

As of right about now I’ve been playing Pokemon for 20 years. Out of the 809 Pokemon currently available in a Pokemon game at the time of writing, these are my 20 personal favourites (with another 20 honourable mentions for good measure). The list can and will change, but it’s been coming long enough, it’s easy to understand, it’s Pokemon hype season, let’s go.
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20. Tentacruel

There are all kinds of reasons why a Pokemon might make anyone’s personal list and I’m no exception. As someone who started with the first generation in the late 1990s, when I was all over the games, trading cards and anime, Tentacruel didn’t really stand out for me initially. Evolving from the extremely annoying, common-as-salt Tentacool, its only moment in the spotlight came in that one anime episode where Team Rocket forced a gigantic one to appear and wreak havoc.

But fast-forward a decade to my period of highest engagement with the main series Pokemon games, when I would put in literally hundreds of hours breeding, training and battling Pokemon teams with my friends across Pokemon Black, White, Black 2 and White 2, and Tentacruel started to become a real staple on my roster. In just about any competitive game or sport my default strategy is to slow down the game and play defensively, controlling the pace where I can, and Tentacruel used to absolutely excel in that role. Throwing down some Toxic Spikes, burning attacking threats with Scald, and healing off damage in wet weather with the Rain Dish ability and some Black Sludge was never not satisfying for me. I’m sure my friends hated it though.
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19. Lycanroc

A recent addition, Lycanroc was always going to have a decent chance at standing out from the Sun and Moon crowd thanks to its heavy presence in the marketing and its three amazing form designs – one of which served as a promo for the two Ultra games – but its refreshing niche as one of the only properly quick Rock-type Pokemon around makes it a lot of fun to use in battle.

I rarely double up on Pokemon between playthroughs unless I have a good reason, but after putting nearly 50 hours into Sun‘s Battle Tree alongside a Midday Form Lycanroc, grinding for Battle Points and trying to beat the secret boss Red, I didn’t hesitate in adding the Dusk Form Lycanroc to my Ultra Sun team a year later. That +1 priority Accelerock move is too rad.

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PokeMagnifique: Returning to Kalos Six Years On

So the Pokemon series is set to resume regular programming in a matter of days with Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. At long last, we will be treated to a region based on the United Kingdom, with all the rich historical and cultural inspirations that implies. This has poured petrol on the never-quite-dead embers of the theory that someday Game Freak will let us return to the Kalos region, based largely on the south of France and made famous by 2013’s Pokemon X and Y. After all, England and France have a long and, ahem, storied history together, and to this day Kalos is the only region to star in just a single main series Pokemon game release…

Now I don’t actually believe for a second that Sword and Shield will be the first games in a almost two decades to give us a full prior region to explore on top of the fresh one. But I do believe there might be some significant Kalos references in there. Of more importance, lately it seems that something inside me will break if I don’t play a Pokemon game every half-dozen months or so. In fact, since the dreaded 2015 – the only year without a new main series Pokemon game in the last decade – I have done at least two full Pokemon playthroughs per year (Yellow and Sun in 2016, then Red, Silver and Ultra Sun in 2017, followed by Crystal and Let’s Go Eevee last year). And I still don’t feel like I’m ready to say goodbye to my 3DS, even if Nintendo definitely is.

mmmm, 240p

Long story short, I decided to pick up Pokemon Y all the way back in April of this year and give Kalos the second go-around that I’ve given every other Pokemon region by default thanks to customary re-releases over the years. It’s been long enough and my Pokemon-playing habits have changed a great deal since October 12th, 2013, when I picked up Pokemon X for the first time. This could be a bit of fun, I thought. Cue a few months of on-and-off playing, a few more months of on-and-off writing, and a whole lot of fresh perspective. Here are my unsolicited thoughts.
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The Best Nintendo Switch Accessory? The mClassic and You

Notice any difference between these two Banjos? Maybe around his backpack strap, necklace and jawline?

The image on the left is a shot taken with my phone camera pointed at a monitor running Super Smash Bros Ultimate in 1080p on the Nintendo Switch as usual. The image on the left is the same setup, but with an attached mClassic dongle switched to the ON position – also in 1080p.

What’s this, you ask?

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The Nintendo Switch “Halfway” Report Card

*Ahem* It’s nice to have Nintendo back.

Yes, they’ve been “back” now for a good couple years, and it’s getting easier by the day to forget the wildly uncertain videogame landscape in which the Nintendo Switch made its debut on March 3rd, 2017. And yet, it somehow also feels like only yesterday that this thing hit the market – at least to me. If you find yourself in the same boat, I hope you’re ready for the rest of the Switch’s life to blink past in a heartbeat. After all, time flies when you have far too many games to play.

I feel if I don’t somehow mark this point in time right now, at the exact halfway mark* in Nintendo’s traditional five-year console life cycle, I won’t be able to truly appreciate the Switch before Nintendo messes up a new console again. And thus, if you’re so inclined, please join me on yet another (very) deep dive into a minor electronic miracle.
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*Oh, did I say halfway mark? Well, I was going to post this on September 3rd to be all neat and tidy, but then Nintendo had to announce two new versions of the Switch for imminent release, then a 40 minute Nintendo Direct presentation packed to the gills with new game announcements, meaning this post was about to be all kinds of outdated in record time. But more on all that shortly. Please read on…

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