xyzzysqrl: (Play with me.)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
Fade in on a fireplace, camera pulls back into a comfortable living room. A pink sqrlmog enters, holding a mug of hot cocoa, wearing a large foam set of fake antlers and a Hawaiian-print Christmas sweater.

Hello, folks. I'm your hostess and...

I guess we're just calling me Xyzzy now? 'Xyzzy Sqrl' was originally just the name of the blog. Still... y'know for right now, Xyzzy is fine.

Anyway. I am but a humble moogle-squirrel as always. As I said last time, there'll be less of the noise and energy of last year's end-of-year awards. This year I'm feeling a little more quiet, a little more relaxed. Isn't that a nice idea, folks? It's a comforting thought. Somewhere warm with a lot of video games and some friends to share 'em with.

I myself plan to drink about a hundred and forty-seven cups of cocoa over the course of the awards and merge with the elemental sea of chocolate shortly after the show.

Please look forward to it.

Shall we begin the show?

Rita Repulsa award for Achievements in Backlog Liberation:

WINNER - Shenmue II
Relevant footage

So here's the real story about why I owned Shenmue II for years and barely started it: I was uncomfortable playing Shenmue II. It was too different and too familiar at the same time. I was a little afraid of it.

Shenmue, the first game, was such a unique experience for me. In part the game itself was responsible for that, it was a very slow-burn comfortable mystery of a game where anything seemed possible. I played Shenmue downstairs in the living room on the large TV, which meant that my mother was often on her computer a little ways away.

She got emotionally invested in it and treated it like a soap opera or running drama. She gave occasional advice. She got -really upset- at the cliffhanger ending, where Ryo gets on a boat and declares his adventure has begun. I was prepared to pick up Shenmue II and go from where I left off, and maybe surprise her with part two.

Unfortunately, the Dreamcast version of Shenmue II never came out. I didn't own Shenmue II for the Xbox until after I was estranged from my parents. It was a different living situation, a different console... and as I discovered when I loaded it up, a different-feeling game. Ryo was a long way from home and everyone he knew, in a strange place with rules he didn't understand.

I couldn't get myself to play Shenmue II. It felt, as I said, uncomfortably familiar but uncomfortably different. I set it aside. My mother didn't remember Shenmue I when I talked to her on the phone anyway.

So it wasn't until the PC re-release of both games that I played and enjoyed Shenmue II, and it was worth the wait. With some distance and seperation from that emotional reaction I could enjoy the game for what it was: Not quite a masterpiece, not quite intuitive, not quite the same game all the way through. I'm glad I finally got to enjoy it, and I'm urgently looking forward to Shenmue III.

It's nice to finally have it off the backlog.

Crying Bulbasaur award for Achievements in Emotional Devastation:

WINNER - Klonoa - Door to Phantomile
Relevant footage

When you know what's going to happen at the end of Klonoa (and you can look up the post for spoilers if you want) every moment playing it feels like a smiling sugar-drenched betrayal.

When you DON'T know what's going to happen at the end of Klonoa, it's more like taking a knife in the back at the end of a joyful parade.

I can't wait to see if the sequel smashes my heart with a brick too. Hey, Nintendo, can we get Klonoa in Smash? He and Lucas could bond over having lives made of suck.

Hint Coin award for Most Puzzling Puzzler:

WINNER - Quern - Undying Thoughts
Relevant footage

As usual, this is a category I struggle with deeply. In this case, is the "most puzzling" puzzler the one I can't finish, or the one I can? In the end I came down on the side of being able to finish, and let me lay out my logic for this.

The sqrlmog finishes her cocoa, tosses the mug offscreen with a crash, and pulls another mug in from the screen border opposite.

Mmm, warm. Where was I? Right, my flawless and always-in-action sense of logicial consistency. Check me on this:

It's always easy to make a puzzle far too hard, or too challenging, or just too long to bother solving. The original Towers of Hanoi puzzle for example was described as having 64 disks. That would take 585 billion years to finish, if the priests manning it could move one disc a second and solve it absolutely perfectly. Surely this is the ultimate puzzle, right?

Except why would you subject yourself to solving that? No, I think the ultimate, most-puzzling puzzle should be one that is right at your threshold or slightly beyond it. A good puzzle to me, is something that not only teaches you something new but is one you feel clever and slightly exhausted at having solved.

Quern gave me that feeling where something like the Eyes of Ara didn't, because the Eyes of Ara eventually presented a puzzle that was pure frustration in execution. Quern often strained my brain but not my tolerance levels.

When I went looking at a walkthrough for Quern, I was able to backtrace the concept of a puzzle and realize where I had messed up, whereas when I looked at a walkthrough for Eyes of Ara I just went "Oh, they expect me to WHAT? Really?" Or there were places I didn't even need a walkthrough to go "pbbhbhbbht" and stare at the ridiculous rotating art puzzles.

So in that way, I feel the most puzzling puzzler is one that puzzles just hard enough to baffle without confounding. Does that make sense?

She stares blankly into the camera for a minute. Seriously out-of-season crickets chirp in the background.

I guess I'm not gonna Dora the Explorer this one. I'll read the comments later.
Let's see our next award, shall we?

Wing of Wyvern award for Most Retro Nostalgia Trip:

WINNER - Sam & Max Hit The Road
Extremely Relevant Footage

Even that footage above sends me into a nostalgia spiral. The first time I ever saw or heard of the comic duo of Sam and Max was that demo reel, on a CD-ROM for some other Lucasarts adventure game. (Probably Fate of Atlantis, maybe Day of the Tentacle.) That kind of goofy cartoon adventure has ALWAYS hooked me good, and after buying the game and the strategy guide I discovered there were comic books too.

Soon enough there was a cartoon show, and more video games, and... well, Sam and Max have had a long-running history of being exceptionally entertaining. They're all bluster and very little actual violence, except when they get good and cheesed off at the criminal element. They're endlessly quotable.

Sam & Max Hit The Road shows them at their finest: Wacky lightly-sociopathic wisecrackers who just plain don't think on the same level of reality as everyone else, who live in a world where that's a benefit instead of a curse. Plus it's just a darn fine cartoon-logic pointy-click adventure game, too.

Little Cup award for Achievements in Fluff:

WINNER - Jazztronauts
Relevant Footage

I went back and forth and back and forth on this for HOURS. The Heartbeat Demo was fantastic, but it was, in the end, only a demo. The full game will represent things better, but it won't be a Little Cupper and I don't think I can treat it as such.

(I do own it now. I'm so excited!)

Kitten Adventures in City Park was sweet but ironically not lasting -enough- to feel like an achievement in fluff. It didn't stick or cling, but did entertain. It was sweet but felt like it vanished so fast. I almost had to replay it to remember details.

Jazztronauts was always there, always ready for me to come back and knock over a level.

It's really hard to explain how relaxing it can be, just walking into a fully-furnished deathmatch map someone spent hours and hours setting up and just... pulling the textures down, bonking the trash cans and sucking them into null-space, crashing a trolly-car through the wall and dumping it all for cash back at base.

It's an easy time-consuming 'just one more round' kind of experience, both inherently destructive and inherently wrapped in the joy of experiencing someone else's creation. It's an endless supply of Lego houses you can admire and/or smash down but NOBODY GETS HURT because they're all virtual and none of the damage is real.

I popped in for ten minutes of Jazztronauts more times than I can count this year. It's a multiverse of beautiful destruction, and you can make it as long or short as you like.

Smiling Shinx award for Warmest Fuzzy:

WINNER - Tadpole Treble
Relevant Footage

Rhythm games are generally unforgivingly punishing, and that's part of why I was so delighted by Tadpole Treble. It's actually beatable by people without a sense of 'the beat', like me. That said, it's a game with such a giant heart, such a warm soul. The game just exudes JOY, except in the one level where it's trying to sadden you so you can surge back with determination.

Everything about this game makes me want to hug the adorable tadpoles.
They don't even have legs yet but they left... footprints on my heart? Uh...

I'll be honest, this analogy broke down hard and fast.

It's a fantastic game though. Sonata can romantically cheerlead me along any day.

Furry Little Body award for Achievements in Anthropomorphic Appeal:

WINNER- Everquest 2
Vaguely Relevant Footage

The sqrlmog downs an entire mug of cocoa while staring directly into the camera, then pulls a second mug from offscreen and drinks that simultaneously. Eventually, she lowers the mugs and wipes her mouth.

Look.
I want to be banged by and/or bang the dragonmen.
And the lizardmen.
And the actual dragons.
And some of the birdmen that aren't in this trailer.
Sure, the rat people too.
You would not believe how many anthro races are in this game, okay?
They're hot. Awkwardly modeled because this is an older MMO, but hot.
Okay?
Okay.

One cheerful clap of the fuzzy little paws.

Now we shall never ever speak of this again.
NEXT CATEGORY PLEASE.

Golden Pheasant award for Artistic Achievement:

WINNER - Shenmue
Very Relevant Footage

Why is the serious art award always right after the fuckability award? Excuse me.

She ducks mostly out of sight and brushes marshmallow out of her fluff.

Ahem.

Art is always subjective, but I feel like Shenmue has always been a case of pure 'doing it for the art'. There's so much in this game that could go unseen, that WILL go unseen. I talked a lot about the Shenmue passport in my original writeup, but no game before or since has gone so far, worked so hard, to simulate such perfectly normal places in every detail.

You can tell me it's not a very good game and I will nod sadly and agree that maybe it isn't, but if you tell me Shenmue isn't a loving artistic achievement I will get intensely depressed and feel bad for the rest of the evening.

Is it really worth doing? I would argue: No.

Restore, Restart, or Quit? award for Incomplete Game Most Likely to Get A Second Chance Someday:

WINNER - Romancing SaGa 2
Relevant Footage

I have a stupidly masochistic streak in me for obtuse weird-ass JRPGs and Akitoshi Kawazu makes the kind of inscrutable messes I love and live for. Yes, I failed to beat Romancing SaGa 2 on my first or even second try. That's because Romancing SaGa 2 wants you to fail at least once, possibly because it's a cruel game but perhaps so success will feel that much better.

It in fact demands you fail several times, in-game. Handing down your skills through a line of failed, perished Emperors is how you progress, each time getting a little closer to winning. I never quite crossed the line. Maybe next time.

Probably not next time. But the time after that, maybe.

Trap Devised By Satan award for the Completed Game Most Likely To End Up Replayed:

WINNER - Jazztronauts
Pretty Accurate Fan Footage

Down in the comments last post, Celine called it: I have a standing invite to play Jazztronauts with anyone who'll show up, really. Although that's suspended a little while I figure out how to reset my personal server, it still stands for the most part: Let me know you WANT to play this, and if you have Gmod and all Valve's games from the last few years, we can wander around whacking and thieving together.

So that's almost certainly ending up replayed, but as ever this is kind of a fool's bet of a question because the answer is that I want to replay ALL of them except I may never find time.

Stan S. Stanman award for If You Only Buy One Game from This List...

WINNER - Tadpole Treble

Again, this was a difficult category and the 'winner' tag up there changed half a dozen times as I floated back and forth between different ideas. Here's my logic:

Unavowed is the same genre as the game I advised y'all check out last year. That could feel repetitive. It didn't get the nod. It's great though.
Hypnosis I specifically made a video so no one but me would have to play it. It didn't get the nod.
Jazztronauts I've harped on enough, but there's an oddly high barrier of entry in that you have to pick up multiple different games to play it. Sure most people have those, but that's still pretty high. No nod.

Dragon Quest XI is wonderful, fantastic, near-perfect, but VERY long and very difficult to see the true end. Didn't get the nod here.

Tadpole Treble is light, fluffy, fun. Sweet. Warm, engaging, has simple mechanics (arrows and one button), great music, and almost anyone can get SOMEwhere in that game. It's a delightful, overlooked jewel. Did I mention the 'Brawl in the Family' connection, if you were a fan of that comic strip?

Anyway, uh... It's good! I can't speak enough of it. Give it a try sometime.

Celine & Sara's Choice Award for Best Game Overall:

A knocking on the door, and the door is promptly opened. It visibly leads out into a soundstage with two rodents waiting on it.

Now who could that be? Why, it's the woodrats, Sara and Celine, coincidentally showing up at exactly the right moment to present THEIR award for Best Game I Played This Year.

These woodrats have very obviously been green-screened in, which is weird because they're like right there? This is not a very high-budget special.

Sara: "Crystalis. Unlike Celine, I did not spend a lot of time agonizing over this one, so I get to go first. :3 Crystalis is a beloved old memory of hers, which always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when she invites me into them. Plus it has some of the best music on the system, and NES-style chiptunes are my thing."


Yeah that thing with the green-screening is weird, they just kind of float in blocks in the middle of the screen like they're going to the Phantom Zone.

Celine: "For me, this came down to Crystalis versus Tadpole Treble (though Hypnosis is absolutely worth watching Xyzzy's LP, too, as it must be seen to be believed.) From there, I struggled because there was a lot of noise complicating the decision. Sara had already chosen Crystalis first. Would it look bad if we both picked the same one? Would it looke bad if we didn't? If you enjoy watching me squirm about this, please be sure to check out our awards where this came up in almost every category. Speaking of our awards, Tadpole Treble is at least nominated for quite a few of them on our end as well, including our overall best-of GOTY. Is it worth picking something else just for variety? Or is it dishonest to pretend Tadpole Treble is somehow good enough to (maybe, if it wins) be my choice on our end, but not on Xyzzy's?

I had to close my eyes, meditate, and shut out everything else. Crystalis versus Tadpole Treble in a complete vacuum, no context, no items, Fox only, Final Destination. However else things fell outside this decision, so be it.

(That is still a very hard decision even without the distractions, by the way.)

In the end, I have to go with Tadpole Treble. It took so many nominations on our end for a reason. It's cute and charming, it has the single most infectious soundtrack I have ever heard (Days Since Last Instance of Tadpole Treble OST Stuck in Head: 0), it's fun and breezy with a zillion layers of depth and replayability depending on how hard you what to Achievement Hunt, it's everything you could want in a Great Game, really."


And now the rodents are de-cubed and just hanging around in person again. Who edited this crap?

So there you have it:

WINNERS - Crystalis and Tadpole Treble

I don't have any footage of both games together, so instead I invite you to stop over by THEIR end-of-year show and check out their awards production!. This line has morphed into a link, because that's up!.

It's nice to have a bridge to plug that with every year, y'know?

The pink fluff refills her mug from the Cocoa Fountain.

After all, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and a beautiful day for a neighbors. So let's make the most of this beautiful day, since we're together we may as well--

Present the best game I played this year! Here it comes, are you ready...?

Sqrl's Choice Award for Best Game Overall:

WINNER - Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Relevant Footage

It's true. This was easily the best JRPG, the best game, I've played all year or ... in fact it's one of the top-three JRPGs I've played in decades. The pacing is right-on in that you can clear an 'episode' of the plot and pause and come back and know where you are and where you need to go. Exploring is rewarded but not required. Everything up until the post-game is extremely respectful of your time, and while the postgame does get grindy it doesn't require grinding to excess unless you want to max everything out.

Then there's the story, which is at its core a straightforward JRPG storyline but with heart, soul, and characters that have charm.

Charm, yeah... that's the essence of this game. It manages to blend light and dark, despair and hope, so well.

Then there's that ending. That true ending. Ah man...

No, Dragon Quest XI really was a no-contest winner. This is going up there on the wall of Great JRPGs of Our Time. I laughed, cried, felt with all my heart, cheered and ... well, admittedly I made a little fun of the Toriyama designs here and there. No game's perfect.

A lot of games are very, very good though.

She tosses another mug off-screen.

I love these end of year awards. They give me a chance to look back.

I didn't KNOW going in that Dragon Quest XI was going to take the Bestie this year. I sat there and reflected on which game gave me the best memories, and there it was.

Video games are at their best in two distinct moments: At the time they're being played, and in retrospect as you consider what you've loved about the ones you remember fondly.

With those words, we bring this year's game awards to a close.

As always, I've been your host: A pink fluff muffin.

She smiles and waves at the camera.

I don't remember how to get out of my house so you're going to have to figure it out. If you get stuck in any non-euclidean mazes try dropping objects as landmarks to help you map your way out.

I'm going to sprawl out like a waterbed and fuse with the infinite sea of molten chocolate for a while.

Normal blog service and a proper end-of-year wrap up post will pop in before the true last day of this year.


~See you all for next year's awards~

Date: 2018-12-14 04:25 am (UTC)
swordianmaster: montblanc would explain it, but (supernerdy)
From: [personal profile] swordianmaster
Straight from the FAQ itself:

Date: 2018-12-14 05:15 am (UTC)
dreadlordmrson: Queer eye for the cat guy. (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreadlordmrson
If you want me to call you by another name than Xyzzy I can try. I... don't think I've actually read your profile? So if that has your name on it I apologize. I genuinely didn't know.
A warning thought that it can be a bit difficult for me, though. when a username is right in front of me, I often default to what I see. I've called close family members by their usernames when we played WoW together. My friend who I knew by two other names for years, I now sometimes call by hew newer username because... my brain just... reaches for the first convenient thing. The text in front of my eyes say "Wynn", I say "Wynn".

Should be easier in text though, as I have time to remember before I "speak".

Also I always figured if it's someone's username, it is a name they chose for themselves. So at least it's not like using a trans person's former name.

Shame that we shall never again speak about the one game on this list I've actually played and thus can have a half-decent chat about. ;p

Date: 2018-12-14 10:16 pm (UTC)
swordianmaster: miku hatsune and reimu hakurei (my fandoms are more moe than yours)
From: [personal profile] swordianmaster
Promising threads about which ratonga you would totally love to get seduced by.

Date: 2018-12-15 06:40 pm (UTC)
kjorteo: Portrait of Celine looking aroused and making bedroom eyes at the camera. (Celine: Aroused)
From: [personal profile] kjorteo
All I'm saying is that ratongas can bury their threads in me any day.

Date: 2018-12-15 06:54 pm (UTC)
kjorteo: Cheerful, self-satisfied Bulbasaur portrait from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. (Bulbasaur: Yep)
From: [personal profile] kjorteo
 

Date: 2018-12-15 08:21 pm (UTC)
dreadlordmrson: Queer eye for the cat guy. (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreadlordmrson
I suppose I'll need to get in the habit of reading profiles here.

Date: 2018-12-16 12:33 am (UTC)
kjorteo: Screenshot from Daedalian Opus, of a solved puzzle with the text "GOOD" displayed on underneath it. (GOOD)
From: [personal profile] kjorteo
Rita: I was this close. I feel like my logic for why you ended up picking the winner you did was sound, and I stand by my guess that FF5 is a good experience based on that logic. It probably would have won, but... yeah, I completely forgot about Shenmue II. Oops.

Crying Bulbasaur: Called it.

Hint Coin: Yeah, I figured the game that is "What if Riven but... uh, but nothing really, just what if literally Riven" would be closer and dearer to your heart than the one that frustrated you with the bullshit art rotation tornados toward the end there.

Wing of Wyvern: I can't remember, did I... yes! I did indeed. 3 for 4 so far, that's a good start.

Little Cup: Oops. This one I did not see coming. I respect it, though! The way you describe it here... yeah, I can see that.

Smiling Shinx: Missed again but man I cannot fault you for the winner. That's a great choice and I possibly would have gone that way myself (I had it in my nominees after all) if I hadn't been spoiled by Kitten Adventures' bonus pack.

Furry Little Body: Oh, of course. Okay, I feel silly now. Like, yes, of course EQ2 has more fuckable races than Furcadia. I just... forgot. I was going by how obviously you heart-eyes reacted in your writeups (both here in your blog and on Telegram) and Rescue Rangers was your most visible reaction of the choices presented. You just snuck that EQ2 update into a different post about FFXIV, and limited it to discussion of nostalgic reconnection with old stomping grounds without openly lusting over anything. You sneaky, sneaky little fluff child.

Golden Pheasant: And after three misses in a row, I'm back to having called one. Which is good. I felt pretty confident about this pick and would have been very surprised not to get it.

Restore, Restart, or Quit?: Again I had faith in my logic and again I am proven correct. *Fweeee*

Trap Devised: Okay, I freely admit I was cheating, but hey, a correct call is a correct call.

Stan S. Stanman: Whoops. Okay, my error was in assuming "Xyzzy made a video about Hypnosis" was because Xyzzy wants to push Hypnosis that badly and therefore it will win. Turns out Xyzzy made a video about Hypnosis in order to not have to push Hypnosis and therefore it did not win. Okay, so woodrat logic isn't always a winner.

Celine & Sara's Choice: That was really hard for me. Not so much for Sara, for some reason, but I struggled.

Sqrl's Choice: Ah, I figured it was going to be either DQ9 or Breath of the Wild, and then I guessed wrong which way it would break between the two. So close.

If I am counting correctly, that leaves me with an even 6-6 split, which is not bad at all. It's pretty good, in fact! The games themselves, of course, were more than just pretty good; they were great this year. What a year, what a year.

Thank you for doing these with us. It's fun to look back, and it feels nice to see just how many great games we all got to enjoy.

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