Friday, 25 March 2011

Favourite Things of 2010

Every year since about 2005, I've made a list of my Favourite Things from the previous year. They can be anything. Movies, Games, TV Shows, Songs, cupcakes, scented candles shaped like dongs, what have you. If it happened to be one of my favourite things of that year, it got featured with a light writeup.

I of course distinguish between "Favourite" and "Best". I don't think the two are synonyms. When I say "Favourite", I'm not necessarily saying it was the biggest achievement in the history of ever. I'm saying that even though I know not everyone will like it, that it might even be a deeply flawed example, for whatever reason I admired or appreciated it.

2010 was NOT a good year. It was the worst 365 days I can recall that didn't involve my own puberty. Not just in entertainment, but all around me. It was like all of humankind suddenly forgot how to behave like adults for an entire year. No other year has so thoroughly dashed what faith I had in the decency of of my own species. I could wait a little while to maybe catch up on some stuff I missed last year, but I want that chapter to be closed.

Before I get to work bringing over some older content I've done on previous blogs, I thought I'd get 2010's list out of the way. I didn't get to experience everything I wanted to(which means you won't find Kirby's Epic Yarn or Toy Story 3, I'm sorry to say). I think I've stalled long enough in 2011 to show what my favourite stuff of 2010 was.


See that? I made that. That is one of more than a dozen levels I've made in Halo: Reach's "Forge World" mode. I am fucking coo-coo bananas for level editors in video games, and Forge World is the very best I've found. Making multiplayer arenas(or sets for Machinima scenes) is infinitely more soothing and engaging for me than actually trying to play the video game holocaust it's attached to.

Bigger version of that picture HERE.


Nothing I can say about these two French weirdos that hasn't already been said(much of it complimentary). But yes, their crazy robot soundtrack to the new Tron movie is just as good as everyone says it is.


Johnny Cash singing "Aloha Oe". Not a bad way to go out, all things considered.


Monty Oum is a national treasure.


I haven't seen the movie itself. I've since forgiven DiCaprio for Titanic, but any time I see him in the preview, my interest boner for a given film wilts like a dying flower. Even if the rest of the cast is fuckballs awesome, and if it's by a talented director and about something interesting. Even though I don't even think he's a bad actor. (see: Shutter Island).

That said, thank you Mr. Zimmer. You may continue being really fucking good at what you do.





Never has the portrayal of a dark-skinned character in a video game been treated with such dignity, such warmth. Reno Wilson has done what I would have thought impossible with the immaturity rampant in today's mainstream video games. A lot of other people would have turned this character into a joke, but he is absolutely convincing as Sazh Katzroy. He avoids the stereotypical pitfalls of other black characters in this medium, while embracing a couple of others. In a game of Lady Gaga anime abortions spouting overdramatic gibberish about light and dark(and all of that Japanese bullshit), his plight feels much closer to something real.

Sazh is a relatable person, unusual in a genre that favours the unusual. A sensible, down-to-earth father caught in a struggle of unseen forces with a bunch of weirdos. His doom is tied inexplicably to theirs. He knows the score. He knows he'll probably never see his son again, and yet he bonds with his new family. He has a charm that escapes no one person who plays Final Fantasy XIII.


I will never understand the howling bitterness people have for this character.

Vincent Martella is invaluable here as the teenage boy, still wet behind the ears but suddenly tossed into circumstances no one that young should endure. This isn't some spiky-haired badass. He isn't accustomed to fighting monsters. He's an ordinary kid, with ordinary father issues and matters of disillusionment with his world that all of us suffer through puberty. In addition to this, he must also grieve the loss of his mother while being pursued as a fugitive with his new friends.

At first he is driven to revenge, when he blames another party member for the death of his mother.The man responsible tries too hard to be the Big Hero for everyone, and he knows just how much collateral damage he's caused. Their business is resolved in a scene I will not spoil here, but I will say that such tenderness is almost unheard of in video games. It turns out that allowing a character to be vulnerable does more than giving him a chainsaw-gun ever could.


I'm not sure how they did it, but Bioware finally stopped sucking at everything they've ever done last year. They resumed their conquest of failure with Dragon Age 2 this year, but man, Mass Effect 2 is something special. I can't tell you that there aren't plot holes, or brown corridors and chest-high walls. I can't tell you that the antagonist's motives aren't vague at best, and retarded at worse. But this game's gift is that it involves the player so seamlessly, and exorcises so much of the garbage holding their games back that I didn't notice or care.

I don't believe in making the main character of a game a faceless avatar, ready for you to fill in the blanks(unless we're talking about MMOs or something). But I connected with my Commander Shepard. In ways not many games can claim. It helps that I roll as Femme-Shepard, since unlike the cardboard box they got to voice the male version, Jennifer Hale knows what the fuck she's doing. And while there are the usual restrictions with the dialogue choices, I felt I was able to work within the confines to make a believable Commander.

Strong but not invincible. Sensible, but capable of saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sometimes soft. Sometimes needlessly aggressive. Sometimes judgmental, sometimes caring. It helps that she's got a hell of a supporting cast backing her up. Bioware let me do this, without all of the nonsense and bullshit that plagued KOTOR or Mass Effect 1.

I guess they were bound to get one right.


Okay, so you hate Hope. Maybe you even hate Sazh, for some reason. In fact, let's say you hated the gameplay, the battle system, the graphics, the controls, the level design, the pacing, the writing, the acting, the summon spells, the monsters, the villains and pretty much all of the stuff you think FFXIII had to offer. I get it. It wasn't a great game, and you could make a convincing case that any of those aspects left a lot to be desired.

Except the soundtrack. Fuck you, there is nothing to criticize here. This is coming from a guy who is a staunch Nobuo Uematsu purist. The series only really died for me when he wasn't making the music anymore. Twelve's soundtrack had 100-songs, 94 of which were dreadful. But Masashi Hamauzu, Mitsuto Suzuki and Ryo Yamazaki have amassed their powers, to make a collection of music that is quite frankly stunning. If you've played FFXIII in its entirety and there aren't at least 20 songs from this game on your iPod, I think I'm legally required to confiscate your ears.

You want choirs singing your triumphant exploits in some apocalyptic fight to the death? "Born Anew"'s got you covered. Feeling adventurous? "March of the Dreadnoughts". Want something a little more low-key and thoughtful? "The Yaschas Massif". Want something that really puts the incredible scope of the inevitabilities of life and death into perspective? "Dust to Dust." Feeling sad? "Lightning's Theme". Feeling Jazzy? "Sazh's Theme". If I've done the math right, approximately 8,000 faces are rocked off by "Blinded By Light" every three seconds.

I have a buddy who's musically trained. He doesn't hate the music in these games, but they haven't really interested him outside of FF7. Between the two of us, he's the one who knows what a bridge or a verse is. He's the one who hears all the notes I never even notice. And he is fucking in love with this game's version of the "Chocobo Theme". I am too.

...So um, yeah. A lot of music in this list. I'm not good at talking about -how- music works for me, or doesn't. I'm not really capable in that area. The best I can do is say that Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack is good enough that I'm willing to recommend it even over a Hans Zimmer movie soundtrack. It was my favourite thing that happened last year.



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