A while back, I did freelance work for the Shonen Jump Alpha web portal, writing a bunch of assorted gaming content for them. One of the most fun bits I got to do was the Games We Love 2012 Awards, which was basically me, another freelancer, and my editor making up ideas for wacky awards that would stand out from the typical “Best Graphics,” “Best X360 Game,” “Favorite New Character” stuff, and I think it turned out nicely.
Unfortunately, SJ’s freelance budget got gutted soon after, and I haven’t written for them since. I’m still quite sad about that, because it was a really fun gig.
But that feature stuck with me, especially when I started thinking about posting a year-end wrap-up here. I don’t really like “Game of the Year” awards, mainly because my personal tastes are utterly divorced from the popular AAA software zeitgeist. I decided that, much like those Games We Love awards, I wanted to hand out awards (and “awards”) in categories less typical. We’re all about the less typical here at Gaming.moe, after all.
I also thought long and hard about what to name said awards. I posed the question to my followers on Twitter, who had some great suggestions1, but I was convincingly convinced to stick with my original idea of “The Waifus.”
@Zerochan I like Waifus
— slowbeef (@slowbeef) December 29, 2014
Here’s a quote that shall be forever enshrined in history
So, without further ado, Gaming.moe presents the inaugural Waifu Awards!
Why Have None of You Jerks Released This Outside Japan Yet Award: Minna de Mamotte Knight (Protect Me Knight)
Also known as “One of the three or four Xbox Indies games that was actually worth a shit,” Protect Me Knight was a delightful retro-throwback from the Koshiro clan’s Ancient development studio. But even though Protect Me Knight received heaps of love and critical acclaim, the upgraded 3DS version – which, among numerous other improvements, features a soundtrack with contributions from the great Hisayoshi Ogura – has yet to surface on our shores. With great retro-style games like Shovel Knight getting great pushes on the eShop, it’s boggling why this hasn’t seen similar attention from potential publishers.
Wait, This Game Has Other Music Tracks Available? Award: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Like we really needed anything else beyond the Mystic Quest boss music.
Most Ill-Advised Console Exclusive Award: Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
To be fair to Nintendo, when they signed that three-game Wii U Sonic exclusivity deal I’m sure the Sonic Boom pitch sounded fine. A reboot of the Sonic characters and franchise, handled by the some ex-Naughty Dog folks? Sounds like a winner, even if Sonic fans are prone to getting exceptionally angry about the most asinine things.
First we saw the trailer. Ehh, could have potential, we said. Then we saw the demo at E3. It was that same feeling as the E3 demo for Sonic 2006: “Hmmm, this definitely needs a bit more work, but it could turn out – wait, the release date is THAT SOON? Oh god, this is going to be a disaster.”
Sure enough, it was. The game was simplistic, plodding, and boring, it was littered with bugs that you can’t believe weren’t caught (a day-one stream of the game I watched failed to load the ending cutscene voices), and left people wondering just how this thing went terribly, horribly wrong. And the worst part is that Nintendo was left with partial responsibility to hoist this pack of dung and pretend like it was some shining jewel of the Wii U exclusive lineup, promoting it on their streams, the eShop, marketing emails, and displays. At least Sonic’s appearance in Smash 4 was dignified – when do we just let Sakurai make a Sonic game already?
Most Hilarious Bugs Award: Assassin’s Creed Unity
This was a really tough decision between AC:U and Sonic Boom. Sonic Boom certainly has its share of hilarious stuff, like the game-breaking Knuckles skip that lets you go into cutscene areas while clones of the cast do the Jesus pose, but AC:U had both crazy immersion-breaking bugs AND pure nightmare fuel. I mean HOLY SHIT:
Hey, wait a minute…. he looks kinda familiar-
Melon Bread LIVES!
Best Fanservice: Persona Q
I half-suspect that the reason why Persona Q was made to begin with was to provide fanservice. Why else would you just randomly toss together the two casts from the mid-points of their respective games into a crossover dungeon crawler? But while the straight-outta-Etrian Odyssey dungeon mapping and exploring is plenty of fun on its own, the best part of Persona Q is undeniably the character interactions and dialogue. It’s clear that the writers had a ton of fun thinking of outlandish situations for the combined casts of Persona 3 and 4 to get into, and when things started to drag a little towards the end stretch it was their banter that really kept me engaged.
Also, Elizabeth is still the best.
Worst Case of Like-Okami-this-should-be-about-half-as-long-as-it-is Syndrome: Bravely Default
(Warning: Bravely Default Spoilers!)
It’s great that Squeenix and Silicon Studio brought in Steins;Gate scribe Naotaka Hayashi to script Bravely Default, but when he effectively reprised the “multiple divergences” part of S;G by having you revisiting parallel realities – and defeating the same bosses over and over again – in order to get the best ending… well, I really don’t know who thought that was a good idea. The rest of the game is an absolute delight, but the endgame stretch if you want the “real” ending (and you definitely do!) is downright soulcrushing. Hopefully they learned for Bravely Second, because I want crazy fun job system micromanagement minus the plot tedium!
Greatest Troll Award: That PS Experience Final Fantasy VII Announcement
I like to think that after this, Hashimoto just went backstage, looked at all the frothing anger and gamer tears on Twitter, and cackled like a cartoon supervillain.
Thank God I Haven’t Touched this Thing Award: Love Live! School Idol Festival
I’ve seen a lot of people on my feed get sucked into stuff like Destiny, but really, that sort of game holds no appeal to me. And honestly, I don’t think Love Live! School Idol Festival, a free-to-play collection/raising/rhythm mobile game based on the Love Live! anime, would be the sort of thing I’d inherently gravitate to, either… but a lot of people I know who I wouldn’t think would be into an idol-group game are positively addicted to Love Live!. I do wonder what the appeal is, but to be honest, seeing how fervently obsessed with School Idol Festival its fans are makes me a little scared about what I’d be getting myself into…
Further Proof that M2 Just Needs to Port All Classic Stuff Award: Pac-Man Museum
As you may have noticed by reading this site, I like classic games! I like classic games even more when I can pay people who put work into restoring them and making them extra-awesome on modern platforms for their effort! So what breaks my heart is just how many retro compilation packages treat old titles like just another bullet point on the back of a “Collection of 15 arcade classics!” box instead of important pieces of media worthy of high-quality presentation and historical context. Pac-Man Museum is the worst offender this year: It basically just emulates a set of roms with few or no options – you can’t even change the window size beyond the games’ original resolutions! Unfortunately, it’s the only way to get the four-player Pac-Man Battle Royale… and they even dropped the ball on that one, since you can’t play online. And once again, Smash 4 winds up respecting an outside company’s IP better than its owners.
Most Dangerous Kusoge of 2014 Award: Air Control
This award actually took some time and consideration to decide, but when it came right down to it, it simply couldn’t be anything else. Air Control is an “Alpha” version of what’s allegedly a flight simulator, but is really something just completely incomprehensible to human beings. It’s made from stock Unity engine assets, features about one piece of terrible MIDI background music that plays for most of the game (hearing other stuff is a stroke of luck), and frequently makes absolutely no goddamned sense whatsoever. In one level, you’ll be shooting a terrorist in the plane (while every other passenger just kind of sits blankly and doesn’t react at all), then you’ll be cleaning up human organs out of the aisles of a coachful of messy surgeons, then you’ll be playing a terrible Flappy Bird clone. Also, it moves like hot garbage (chugging frequently on powerful PCs), features amazing physics where solid objects float and/or get stuck in others frequently, and actually tells you, in-game, that if a certain cursor bug pops up you need to ALT-TAB. (As opposed to, I don’t know, fixing the bug.)
Some people have theorized that Air Control is intentionally weird and stupid, much like Goat Simulator. There are two problems with this argument: the people who made Goat Simulator made sure buyers knew it was dumb as hell going in (while the Air Control folks, perhaps misunderstanding sarcasm, declared it “fullest flight simulation you have ever had in the computer games”), and even if it is a joke, it’s such utter random non-medy that only a teenager who likes LOLWACKYRANDOM! humor would even chuckle. The fact that this even was sold on Steam (it’s gone now, unfortunately…?) is truly a miracle.
Air Control, you are an awe-inspiring mess the likes of which we rarely see, and your devs had the balls to actually ask for payment. For that, you more than deserve this award.
Joke That’s Still Funny Like Three Years Later Award: Hey, when’s Phantom Breaker coming out?
The 2014 Why Isn’t This In Your Steam Library Yet Award: Crimzon Clover World Ignition
Do you like bullet hell games? Do you like Cave games? Are you depressed that the arcade division of Cave is likely kaput at this point? Well, here’s something that will cheer you up: a pure, white-knuckle doujin shooter that was specially created by people who loved Cave games very much. (This is fact, by the way: the creator, Clover-TAC, is a longtime pro player of Cave games.) It’s fast-paced, it’s beautifully designed, it’s easy to jump into for both bullet-hell beginners and experts alike, and it’s just tremendous fun to play when you want to satisfy an urge to blow stuff up or get your blood pumping. As of right now, it’s still discounted in the Steam winter sale, so holy crap what are you waiting for it’s like four bucks!
But if you’re hardcore like me, you were in on the ground floor.
2014’s Most Interesting Gaming Experience: Drakengard 3
Note how I don’t word this award as “best gaming experience” or “game of the year” or anything like that. That’s because I wouldn’t really call Drakengard 3 good in the traditional sense of the word: It’s technically janky as all hell, has middling combat, and recycles the hell out of everything from enemies to background elements. But I’ll be damned if it’s not an utterly fascinating experience to play.
Zero, she of the flower growing from her left eye, is simultaneously an intriguing and utterly off-putting protagonist, a rare feminine counterpart of to the “angry scowling vengeance badass dude” who challenges us to accept the same anti-social traits many popular male game protagonists have when attached to a woman. In fact, there’s a lot of stuff about Drakengard 3 that seems like a commentary on game and story structure, even feeling like outright parody at points. It’s delightfully and unapologetically strange, oscillating wildly between wacky humor and wanton carnage and downright tragedy in a way that would feel tone-deaf elsewhere but just works here. It’s not always fun in the traditional sense, but it’s always engaging and, most imporantly, interesting. Go read my review on GameSpot and then go buy it, because I want Yoko Taro to keep making bizarre and amazing games forever, and you should too!
- I still really like The Dakimakuras (or Dakis for short). Close runner-up! ↩