Well award season has long since past this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the best of the best of 2019. Moving forward I hope this to be an annual video event. Fully hosted by none other than Soda himself. Though for now I hope you will indulge us in a little make shift introduction to the Carties.
I’m your host for this evening, Haro, and joining me tonight is Soda.
Yo. What’s up?
It’s an article bud, you don’t particularly need to chime in with small talk.
If I don’t need to be charming and entertaining why are we even doing such a complicated and confusing idea when we are still trying to explain what the Carties even are? Did you think about that one? Or did you just feel like skipping a full on well thought out article because you get 12 viewers a month?
All valid points, and yes. By the time most people will be reading this we won’t be doing them as solo articles anymore. Rather the Carties are our best of the best lists. Top Tens are played out and Top any number but Ten has been done to death. So figured why not have our own award show yearly with small articles throughout to give legacy awards to games in specific fields that came out before the Carties were established.
Because that’s super dumb and nobody will care?
No, because it adds a little flair and gravitas to the act of arbitrarily ranking vastly different items against each other in a fixed category.
My whole take away is Vitas, as in just like the PlayStation Vita you are gonna make a big deal about this and the give up on it as we try to pretend it never existed.
Thanks for the glowing endorsement Soda would you care to start us off?
No. Not even a little.
Alright so 2019. A year in which video games came out. I have to admit before we started digging into the releases spanning January 1st to December 31st 2019 we had high hopes. Only to realize exactly how few exemplary games are actually released each year. Not saying it was a bad year in gaming just that it wasn’t exactly the drag out beat down debate we were expecting. All titles have been reviewed by the Academy of Fine Video Games and all decisions are reached unanimously or atleast argued until members have up or quit all together. So without further adue let’s present our first category.
BEST NEW FRANCHISE
When it comes to video games stagnation is a common issue faced not only from Franchise Fatigue but an over use of genre specific tropes and mechanics. Finding a game to surpass expectations is one thing but finding a game that manages to build upon the games that inspired it and to elevate the techniques borrowed while bringing fresh new date I say everlasting improvements to it’s genre is another.
*groan* You could just say it’s Big Fables if you are gonna pull that on us.
Why yes it is Bug Fables. By charm alone it would be a contender, but that would be selling this game short. It is almost a must play title for even the most seasoned RPG fan. Not to mention it is…
Full of bugs!
No I mean it’s…
Yes it’s litterally about bugs.
Well yes it is, but I was trying to say it’s approachable to players new to the RPG genre. It never tries to over step or depend on you already having a deeper knowledge of what is expected in battles or party management. It is a game that knows exactly what it is, and will deliver a heartfelt and memorable experience at a ridiculously low price compared to other games of it’s quality and polish.
Also it’s a cute game about bugs. Who doesn’t love tiny things having big adventures? As far as bringing something new to the table this game worms it’s right up next to the big boys. The only reason it’s not as well known as Undertale has to be the lack of memes.
That’s a sound observation there Soda.
If you do what I think you are doing, I hate you.
I don’t know what you mean. I was just going to say that reminds me that far to often sound is overlooked for musical score. So in our next category I wanted to bring up the nominees for sound direction in a video game.
God I wish this was a video, the YouTube comments would be amazing. You’d be crying for weeks.
BEST SOUND DESIGN
Sound design is often the unsung hero of media nowadays. It has a long and stories history dating back to theater and radio with clop clopping halved coconuts for horse hoofs to stomping on a block of wood real fast to add in running sounds to radio plays.
And laugh tracks to let me know when something is funny. It often helps to know what is supposed to be funny in a sitcom.
Actually there is an quite interesting fact about “canned laughter” ya know.
Is it that nobody cares?
No it’s actually that…
Well it should be. Because we are talking about video games here. More importantly Untitled Goose Game and how it beat out Tetris Effect, a game designed around aesthetics and visualizing every single blip and bloop and all the beeps.
Yes, Untitled Goose Game, was a surprising masterpiece in my opinion in many ways but none more so than how it seemlessly incorporated the music into the very core of the gameplay. The slow sonorous classical score suddenly starts to grow more hectic as your mischief increases. Giving the game a feeling of being almost scored in post. It really feels akin to the old theater preroll cartoons or even Disney’s Fantasia. Whatever wizardry the went and worked in wonderfully wows whoever waddles wreckage while seeking the bell.
Though even as great as an experience that was unfortunately it couldn’t manage to honk it’s way into our next category.
BEST MUSICAL SCORE
Yes, no matter what we claim our favorite parts of games are, we do always end up listening to the music more than anything else. It honestly can become it’s own thing entirely.
Not all good songs come from good games. Robocop 3 taught me that painful lesson. Not ease on the eyes, hard to handle, but it did sound pretty dang nice. Not entirely unlike my ex-wife come to think of it.
This year we were blessed with a game that was both great and had one of the most fantastic soundtracks I… Kingdom Hearts get out of here! All your songs are like Disney remixes and like 3 new pop songs a game. You are good sure but you are not great. Anodyne 2 is absolutely fantastic. Let’s let the music speak for itself.
This guy is so confident in his music, he posts the whole album for free knowing the OST will sell. So rather than listen to us prattle on about it check it out yourself because even without having played the game these tracks will wisk you away to the depth of your emotions.
Or you could just enjoy some good music instead of talking like a total dork-on.
The music if Anodyne 2 plays heavily into the aesthetics of the game. Although that is important to keep in mind when reviewing a game’s score even without that fact these songs speak to an almost instant nostalgia and breath new life into an age of video games often overlooked. For me personally it brings back memories of sitting in a dark room, way to late on a school night, illuminated by the glow of a CRT and the faint hum a disk spinning in my busted up used PlayStation.
Now sound is only half the experience, and visuals is a bit hard to quantify in terms of best. What works for one title might ruin another. So we decided to go with what game used it’s visuals and effects to really polish the experience to something more than one would expect. Maybe not the best looking but the best fit we present.
Now for a game with “Effect” in the title and absolutely bombastic visuals you think it would be a shoe in. Sadly the impressive nature of Tetris Effect’s visuals make it more of a novelty than anything else. It is and example of to much is not always a good thing. Mario Maker 2 has lots of quirky charm but lacks a cohesive experience. Given the nature of user made levels you are often overwhelmed with a garish onslaught of sounds and splashes that only serve to remind us there is a reason we still pay good money for quality Mario titles. To little quality control there. Yet YookaLaylee gets it just right. A reminder of what made us fall in love with those Rare gems of yesteryear. YookaLaylee 2 might as well be the real Donkey Kong Country 4, no Funky Mode needed. Beautiful and rich graphics, smooth animation, and special effects that deserve the term special. YookaLaylee 2 took the bold step of going from 3D down to 2D and managed to do so without sacrificing any aesthetics and in my personal opinion gaining so much more.
Not really effects but just as important is the design of the characters. We often don’t notice when they are good, but are quick to point out the terrible ones. So let’s take a quick break to appreciate.
BEST CHARACTER DESIGN
I won’t even lie this was a hard choice for us to make.
Bowser in a doctor’s coat, I mean come on?!
But character design has to bring more than just looking stylish. It also needs to do more for the game itself. Don’t get me wrong it’s important to look like they are a part of the world.
Still it needs to stand out atleast a little. Zelda Link’s Awakening went to heavy into the toy box look and actively drew me out of it man. Like everything looked so fake. It is charming in pictures sure but it felt like dragging plastic toys around. I’d be down for a Playmobil Zelda game. Just not one that I already know. It was basically like playing a fan made game to me. Lots of polish sure, but it felt inauthentic.
Yeah, I would say most don’t feel that strongly about it, but the feeling is definitely mutual for me. Especially when you look at Bug Fables. The thick outlines are charming. They pop to your focus yet can seamlessly blend into the background when needed. I never feel confused as to what is interactable or upset that the characters feel layered ontop of a static world. Not to mention the diversity of designs and how you can tell at a glance what kind of bug you are dealing with. It hits almost all the right notes so effortlessly it is truly astounding.
Also there was another craft based Nintendo game moving on.
When one is “moving on” it’s important to know where one is heading. So let’s pan our focus to the next category.
Honestly each game nominated had moments of stunning camera work. Usually for most of the game in fact. That said Resident Evil 2 managed to absolutely stun me at times. Keeping the fixed angle feel while never restricting my view in an uncomfortable way it shows us what an over the shoulder action game can be. You set my expectations high Capcom, I will be considering this moving forward.
So uh… you and this video game company seem like you need some couples’ therapy bud? Kinda bringin’ the vibe down ya know?
They know what they did, what they continue to do. *Ahem*
Now best controls can be subjective for sure.
Oh man! Get me a flight stick, Ace Combat, and some Kenny Loggins then step back because you are in the Daaaaanger Zone!
Quite, but not everyone has a flight stick or desire to spend 80 bux to play a $60 game a little better. Likewise solid controls need to feel natural. In an effort to recreate nostalgia some developers might make the controls a bit to unforgiving. Not YookaLaylee though. YookaLaylee 2 is one of the few titles I can say comfortably that if you die, that’s on you bud. The controls are spot on and flow effortlessly from your thoughts to the action on screen. You can blame your controller if you like, but you better buy a new one if you honestly think that’s why you didn’t dodge that attack. Lie to yourself all you want, but don’t tell me YookaLaylee 2 has anything less than perfect controls.
Where as good controls may be classic.
There is something to be said about breaking the preconceived notions of the unwashed console playing masses.
I guess that is needing to be addressed. In the next category it should be stated these games happen to be well known specificly. It’s more about their ability to reach a larger audience and having a solid consistent quality while also being…
Innovation can be hard to pin down. Be it Nintendo’s way of making almost anything fun, Tetris keeping the same basic puzzle formula fresh, or Baba’s outside the box logic puzzles it has a lot to keep in mind when choosing “Most Innovative” out of such a great offering last year. Still that has to go to Untitled Goose Game. You start out honking and with no clue what to expect. The game guides you through a fairly interesting story that you have no clue is even there. It slowly builds this idea that the goose is already notorious in this small town, but comes together in it’s final act to reveal the mystery behind such strong anti-goose sentiment. You are given a checklist of suggestions, a hidden list of optional objectives that you can do anytime though they are shown upon a second playthrough, and the rest is up to you.
Yes a game showing that not everyone wants to play as the good guy as well as not all bad guys have a reason behind their madness. Goose game takes you back to when games were sold based on premise not pedigree.
It can be a bit of a head scratcher at times, but even just messing around to figure out how to progress stays incredibly engaging. We played it on PC here at Action Couch Life, but I think it would be a perfect fit on your Switch.
Hey man, we done here yet? Like I know you wanted this as a video and all but like I thought the article was to “save time” and this feels like it’s been taking forever.
We have about nine more categories to go for the 2019 Carties, Soda. So how about we get to something a little shorter?
BEST MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE
When defining best in multiplayer experience it is sadly the lack of player to player communication that tends to excel above all others. For anyone quick to object Journey for one example.
That is completely biased. I’m more of a Foghat kinda guy.
Huh? Well moving on, Tetris 99 has a silly concept actualized in a rather playable puzzle battle royal. No matchmaking, no lobbies, no chats just full on head to 98 other heads Tetris action. Not bad as a free title to all Nintendo Online subscribers. Which being required to play the game does technically make it free free? It just goes to prove even something as old as Tetris can be updated in new and novel ways.
You don’t listen to a good song just once. You wouldn’t think twice about revisiting a great movie. Video games are no different except usually retreading the same game requires a repurchase on a separate console. Remakes, reimaginings, or even just rereleases deserve some consideration in the same regards as the newest releases. In most cases it’s increased portability as it switches to a handheld. Atleast it was when we had a competitive portable market.
Rest in peace Vita, your charge shall live on until I jailbreak my Switch.
Then other times they go above and beyond like Resident Evil 2 giving you something almost to different. So that’s why The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is not only the winner this year, but the perfect example of what I expect from a remake. Striking and bold new takes without sacrificing what made it so special in the first place. Most notable is this isn’t even the first remake of this title and yes it kept those changes as well.
I got this next one, because context is needed. Not your pillowy words.
MOST IMPROVED GAME
It’s been said a game is never truly finished it’s abandoned. I mean I disagree but hey what would I know I played my games on cartridges. They might have been shit, but they were done. These games decided that either through DLC or updates to try and change their fates.
It’s fitting enough these two games are pitted against each other. One a game that promised to much and delivered to little. Frantically trying to rebuild it’s Goodwill to all those foolish enough to prepurchase a game for no reason. Up against an already solid game that by all rights could have been left alone waiting on the next installment. That said Civ 6 is the clear winner by improving on an already okay game. Civilization has been on the decline for years now, both the game series and the one we live in, so any attempt to get back on track is to be praised. So for giving us something new despite what you stripped away from us you get the atleast you tried award of 2019.
I couldn’t agree more to be honest. And yet it’s time to bring these awards to a close with our final set of Carties. The heavy hitters that most people skip straight to. Starting with the best number two.
BEST SUPPORTING NPC
Going all the way back to being told which castles our princesses may or may not be in we have loved, or loved to hate, those characters that are non player controlled. We begrudgingly agreed that generics can not be eligible here so no baddies allowed. Puppies on the other hand are always welcomed. Bringing those down to who is the goodest boy. Which we all know has to be Undo Dog. Playful and accident prone can always make a lasting impression. Now take that and apply it to a cute and established puppy character and you get Best NPC. Giving do overs a bit of personality is no easy feat.
BEST MAIN CHARACTER
Would you say a Tag Team is not one entry in a match, or that horse and jockey don’t count as one? Likewise Team Snakemouth count as one character in my mind. Playing effortlessly off each other yet not sacrificing their individuality. They act and think in tandem and depend on each other fully. Like the musketeers before them even if they add new members you know the spot is earned not just in skill, but in heart and mind and dependability. This is one team you would never want to see apart. This is one team that needs to be acknowledged for showing that an idea, a bond, can be just as memorable as any character.
This one might not seem as clear cut as it is, but trust me, Anodyne 2 is something special. Largely for fear of spoiling it I will have to be vague here. I do whole heatedly encourage you not to look into the plot if you are curious and have the money to spare. It’s a rare find to get a game that can make me cry. I am not using hyperbole here. Real tears, real emotions, and a story that will stay with you. Anodyne 2 is a masterpiece in many ways, writing is one of them.
Now I know you all are as excited as I am that we are finally done with this, but before we go into the game of the year award let’s take a moment to honor those that came before 2019. Ones who have given all they have to give and now get to retire to a shelf behind some YouTuber in an attempt to gain gamer cred.
Indeed, we would like to give special attention to a game we can all agree we would like to stop talking about, but respect everything it has given to the field of video games.
Some games have been so influential that unfortunately everything they have done has been done better and often.
We aren’t sayin’ they overstayed their welcome. Rather much like our grandparents we would rather talk about going over more than actually going to see them.
May the children of the cart of Atari who dwell in the cabinet continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own guide and pearler beads and there shall be none to make him afraid. So let us welcome GoldenEye 64 as the first recipient of this, our most illustrious award. No one can say it’s not atleast fun. It was a pleasant time waster and sleep over tradition. From a team who had no idea how to even start to make a FPS game they not only nailed it they redefined what we expect from them even to this day. Sadly it’s controls, render distance, being a Nintendo 64 game just hold it back to much today. It will hold a special place in our hearts as I am sure many would say about most N64 games. That system had such charm and style that you couldn’t help but be captivated by every new cart you slapped in. So much so that people just forget GoldenEye was a licensed game. A movie tie in game that not only was great, it was a literal game changer. If you don’t know it’s behind the scenes facts do yourself a favor and pull up some YouTube vids on it. Which sadly is where it is at now. It’s better to watch than to play, but I can’t think of a world without GoldenEye.
It’s finally here, the best in show. The masterpiece of the year. The last thing I have to pretend to care about before taking a nap face down on the couch with some day old pizza.
BEST GAME OF THE YEAR
In true award show fashion it was cut down to the four best contenders. Honestly most of the games listed today could be a solid pick for GotY, but the only one who can take that honor has to be a game that hits every mark almost perfectly. Story, gameplay, control, music, and most importantly fun Bug Fables has it all. An affordable adorable adventure that just well, it feels like what I think of when asked to picture a video game. As lackluster as that sounds it is harder to pull of than one would think. Charming and relaxing it might be from 2019, but it’s what we need in 2020 to deal with ya know, the world ending. Bug Fables shows that a little team of developers with a big heart and lots of hard work can not only run with the big boys, it can beat them at their own game. Indie or Triple A shouldn’t matter when reviewing a game, but when less people make a better game for cheaper than everyone else it deserves to be pointed out.
Speaking of out, I’m outta here. Thanks for joining us on this look back at the games we now won’t buy unless they are 30% off in some summer sale.
So long everybody and stay comfy my friends.