Friday, December 31, 2010

ErikTheAwesome's Personal Best Movies and Games of 2010

Before we begin, I want to stress the importance of the word 'personal' in the title. I do not play many games outside of ones released on Nintendo systems. This is not due to any contempt or fanboyism, just merely that I pay more attention to what comes out on the Wii/DS than the 360 or PS3 or PSP. I still play other games, just not as much. A large contributing factor to this is likely the fact that I don't care very much for first-person shooters which rules out many of the big names that always show up on lists like this. This list is totally from my perspective, derived from my experiences. These are the games and movies released in 2010 that I played or watched that I consider to be the best.

Let's start up with the films. Before we get to the Top 5 list, I have special mentions.

Movies I did not end up seeing but wanted to: Despicable Me, Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Huul

Pleasant Surprise
There's not to much to say about this film that hasn't already been said. Just about everyone who saw it loved it. The film came as a pleasant surprise because I initially had no real interest or expectations for it. It turned out to be a very plot-driven experience as well as one of the most original films I've seen in years; a unique idea in an ocean of sequels and adaptations.

Biggest Disappointment
The Expendables
You probably saw this one coming. A movie that is just terrible in every aspect other than action and totally and utterly mediocre in that remaining aspect. I don't care to waste any more words on this movie. Ever.

Honourable Mention
Disney's Tangled
Seeing as this movie came out late into the year and I rarely saw ads for it, it almost didn't make it into this post. Having now seen it, I ultimately decided not to include it in the Top 5 feeling that it wasn't quite that good. However, it was definitely good enough to warrant a mention. Much like The Princess & The Frog, Disney has given us an OK story with great characters, great animation, good songs, etc. If there's any reason to see this film, it's to see it. This is a gorgeous film to behold with very vivid colours and a great 'painting' feel to everything.

On to the list!

Personal Top 5 Movies of 2010

Speaking as someone who has never read the comic and early on in the year honestly asked someone “Who the hell is Scott Pilgrim?” I actually really liked this film. Based on what I've heard, it's a mostly faithful adaptation except for the final part, which the comic had yet to reach. But adaptation or not, accurate or not, it was a lot of fun. Being the only movie I'll ever be able to describe as “What if getting a girlfriend worked like a video game?” made it a perfect candidate for one of my top movies of the year.

The first and only repeat title in this post. Inception reached this spot much for the same reasons I placed it in the Pleasant Surprise category. It's a unique experience, well-written, well-acted and fun to watch. You're bound to catch new bits of plot details and foreshadowing on multiple viewings as well.

This movie was a no-brainer in terms of movies that had to be on the list somewhere. Not giving it #1 was honestly an easy choice. Not giving it #2 was admittedly a bit more difficult (read: painful). Still, Toy Story 3 stands as the best finale I've ever seen for a trilogy of movies and like it's predecessors, so much fun to watch. The characters are just as great as ever and Pixar delivers another awesome adventure for them to go through.

Not to be confused with the 2006 live-action film The Illusionist. A large part why I knew I had to include this in the list was because most people will sadly never see this masterpiece. However, that's not a great reason to call it the second best movie of the year. The fact that it's a masterfully animated, unique, thought-provoking, enjoyable and touching film is a great reason though. As I've mentioned in the past, I saw this film's North American premier at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and left feeling it was pretty good. The more I thought about it as time went on, the more I found it was not just pretty good but simply amazing. If you ever get the chance to see this movie, see it!

And my personal choice for Best Movie of 2010 goes to....
I'm sure a lot of people are sick of hearing about this movie by now but I can't get over how much I loved this film. Even thinking back on my review, I feel I had criticized incorrectly on account of remembering certain scenes wrong. Having long since bought the movie on blu-ray, repeated viewings have not yet overstayed their welcome in my life. As a story, it manages to be both straight-forward and symbolic. Visually beautiful, highly entertaining, full of emotion...a wonderful movie.

Now we move on to video games. I have to say making this list was much harder and there are still things I'm not totally certain of. A lot of great games came out this year and having to try to rank those I played was a grueling task. In addition to that, Christmas tossed in some extra titles that forced me to rework my original plan. With that said, let's look at the special mentions:

Games I wanted to but did not get around to playing: Goldeneye 007 on the Wii, Epic Mickey

Pleasant Surprise
This probably seems totally out of left-field and rather controversial, but having just played this game for the first time this past Wednesday, I knew I had to work it in. Before E3, I didn't even know there was a Just Dance 1. During E3, when I first saw the trailer for Just Dance 2, I was positive that I could not like this game and never would have expected I would ever even play it. However, at a party that I went to against my still slightly sickly body's wishes, I got my first taste of dancing with the Wii...or dancing video games at all (I've never touched DDR or the like). I was in shock and awe at how much fun the game turned out to be, and here's the kicker: Even though I was at a party, I was totally sober when I played this.
It works as a great party game, great exercise game, and just a great (if very minimalistic) game. It could use a better tracklist though, but that's totally up to personal preference so I can't reasonably penalize it for that.

Runner-up for Pleasant Surprise
*On the Wii. Sonic Colors on the DS being great came as no surprise after Sonic Rush. The Wii version on the other hand turned out to be pretty damn good. Almost all of the major flaws of previous 3D Sonic titles are absent with the remaining flaws being thoroughly tweaked to the point that they're just minor clunkyness in the experience. Not to mention, it is a visually stunning title; and I don't just mean for the Wii. It looks mysteriously good for the hardware it's running on.

Biggest Disappointment
What would happen if you took Metroid, got rid of everything that makes the franchise great and instead replaced it with wonky controls and about a million painful-to-watch cutscenes? Why you'd get Metroid: Other M of course! A lot of hype surrounded this game and all of the trailers, right from E3 2009 to the week leading to its release, looked fantastic. But alas, in a time of several games surprisingly living up to their hype, Other M turned out to be nowhere near the game that it looked like it was going to be.

Runner-up for Biggest Disappointment
Truth is, deciding between whether Kirby's Epic Yarn or Metroid: Other M was the biggest disappointment of the year was tricky. Other M “won” due to it having more hype and having a higher standard in its respective franchise, whereas Kirby games can be all over the place. Still, Epic Yarn needs to be mentioned here as it was a disappointment with a lot of hype around it. The only thing special about the game is the presentation. It has a unique charm but that's it. When you really think about the mechanics, it's nothing but Kirby lacking the ability to fly or copy enemies' powers, just visually presented in a different way. What's really sad about this title, however, is that it's the only Kirby game I can think of that features co-op play but is actually more fun single-player.

Of course, before we get to the Top 5 list, we must start with honourable mentions:
Red Steel 2
A visually and interactively slick shooter/sword-fighter that makes a great addition to any Wii library. Taking this off of my top 5 on account of a more recent game was a very tough choice. Still, if you want some great swordplay to experience with the Wii, and I know you do, Red Steel 2 is where to find it.

Sonic Colors *On the DS*
I said Inception was the only repeat title in this post and that's still technically true as the DS Sonic Colors is a much different game from its Wii counterpart. The DS version falls just short of being in my top 5, delivering a through-and-through classic Sonic experience with some extra goodies and all the elements that make a great platformer.

Now the main event: The list!

Personal Top 5 Video Games of 2010

The XBox 360 Version
I wish this could be higher on the list due to it being the only game not on a Nintendo platform up here, just for the sake of diversity. However, I can't bring myself to knock down what I've put above it. Anyway, War for Cybertron turned out pretty damn good. Delivering almost exactly what I had expected based on trailers. It's a license-game that's well-tweaked with good mechanics, a good difficulty curve and a solid fun factor.

With what began as one of the most ambitious and original video games ever came back with a sequel that improved the concept to perfection. Not much else can be said except: Mutant Zombie Radioactive Cactus.

Those who recall my review of Mario Galaxy 2 will remember that I said it was effectively flawless and nothing has changed my mind since. The only fault with the title is its insistence that it has a 2-player mode. Perfect platforming from the perfect platforming king. One title that lived up to its hype and surpassed it, receiving many well-earned perfect scores.

Aha! Here's the culprit that shook up my plans and forced me to drop Red Steel 2 from the Top 5. Where Kirby's Epic Yarn failed to deliver a satisfying co-op platforming experience, Donkey Kong Country Returns succeeded...big time. Is it fun? Yes. Is it really fun? Oh yes. Is it challenging? Oh Hell Yes. This is classic 2D platforming at its absolute peak. There's simply nothing to complain about with this title.

Erik The Awesome's Best Game of 2010 is...
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Being released way back at the beginning of the year, this game is pretty old news. That doesn't mean it's not a candidate though. I said it back when I reviewed the game and I'll say it now: No More Heroes 2 stands firmly on its own merits, being just short of absolutely perfecting the simple-but-effective-action-game formula it uses. Being an experience like no other (well...except maybe its predecessor), being a ton of fun and maintaining a solid difficulty curve, this is one great game. Keeping this at #1 rather than giving it to Donkey Kong was tough but ultimately the full experience both games have given me decided it. Not one moment of either game felt flawed but Desperate Struggle has just a slight edge in appeal over Donkey Kong.

And that wraps it up. 2010 was an amazing year for video games and a great year for movies. Here's hoping 2011 will be the same!

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