December 2018 in Summary: And so 2018 Comes to a Close

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season! As the final month of the year, December proved to be quite a hectic month. In addition to the obligatory weekly game reviews, I ended up seeing a staggering 14 films (6 in theaters and 8 at home). The good news is that I’ve found a way to manage my time better and write the film reviews without disrupting my pattern. In fact, I used the spare time I had to write two editorials. For a majority of my readers, my piece on the highly unethical viral marketing campaign of Ex Machina was the first editorial of mine they read. Then, in the spirit of Christmas, I wrote an editorial about how gamers are ahead of the curve. They’ve gotten a bad rap over the decades, so I felt they needed something to boost their self-confidence.

Films watched in December 2018

In theaters:

  • Mirai (Mamoru Hosoda, 2018)
  • Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
  • The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  • Bumblebee (Travis Knight, 2018)
  • Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)

At home:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
  • Pale Flower (Masashiro Shinoda, 1964)
  • The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
  • The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)
  • Dont Look Back (D. A. Pennebaker, 1967)
  • The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa, 1956)

This month marked the first time I went to a Fathom Event. At a one-time-only screening, I saw Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film, Mirai. Meanwhile, at home, I finally saw the remaining two entries in the epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It may have taken me some time to get there, but I can safely say I greatly enjoyed the journey when I finally took the plunge. Back in the theaters, I managed to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which was an excellent period piece/slice-of-life film that you should definitely see. After that, I saw Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite. I didn’t like it as much as Roma, but it was decent overall. I then changed gears drastically when I watched the great animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Then, I set aside time to finally see a film by the celebrated Luis Buñuel. It was certainly something alright, being one of the strangest films I’ve seen yet. It did manage to be good overall, though.

After that, I managed to get a week off. I began the break watching Pale Flower. It was lauded by Roger Ebert, though I have to admit it was just average. It’s one of those works that isn’t really driven by a plot, and it’s a weaker effort for it – unlike The Night of the Hunter, which stands to this day as a masterpiece that contemporary critics foolishly let drop like a lead balloon. Speaking of which, the next film I saw, The Prestige, demonstrates the inherent flaws of sites such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. They only really capture how a film was initially received; if it has aged poorly or, in the case of The Prestige, has been subject to retroactive indication, the numbers won’t reflect this shift.

Shortly thereafter, I watched the latest Transformers film, which is a phrase I never thought I’d ever utter (or in this case, type), but here we are. When I observed the amount of critical praise it was getting, I knew I had to see it. Guess the sixth time’s the charm? Now my question is: how did Michael Bay go from being the butt of innumerable bad filmmaker jokes for two decades to producing two quality products in 2018 (A Quiet Place and Bumblebee)? I’m not sure, but I hope keeps up the momentum. After that, I watched Dont Look Back, a feature from 1967 starring Bob Dylan that straddles the line between being a documentary and a concert film without really being either. As a music fan, I can say it was certainly fascinating. However, I don’t intend to write a review for it because I don’t think my metrics apply to what amounts to a work of non-fiction.

Finally, in the last days of the year, I saw two Japanese films. The first was the recently released Shoplifters, which won the highly desirable Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) award this year at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a solid effort, if a little twist-dense at the end. The final film I saw in 2018 was Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp. Much like The Cranes are Flying, I thought it was fascinating watching the events of the Second World War from a different perspective. This one stood out because of its fascinating premise, and it delivered on all fronts, successfully taking the audience on an unforgettable journey.

Games reviewed in December 2018

Pokémon Red and Blue (Game Freak, 1996)

I was one of the kids who played these games back when they were sweeping the nation in the late nineties. Though it has always been a profitable franchise, it’s impossible to overstate how pervasive Pokémon Red and Blue were at the height of their popularity. Kids talked about them all the time on the playgrounds and we would secretly bring our Game Boys to school. I can’t imagine how many kids got in trouble for this. When they were rereleased on the Virtual Console, I decided to revisit them last year to see how they hold up. I had a surprisingly good time playing through Pokémon Red, and believe it or not, it was the first time I actually cleared the game (I cleared FireRed back in 2005, but not the original until last year). It’s interesting because I remember finding the game rather difficult back then, but now that I know to grind in JRPGs, I managed to do something my younger self couldn’t: steamroll the Elite Four.

Even with all my positive childhood memories of this game, I still have to say that Generation I has not aged well; in fact, I would go as far as declaring it my least favorite generation – though that’s really more on the merits of how much later generations have managed to improve on the formula. While the pacing is actually pretty good, there’s no getting around the poor balance or the fact that you’re going to be grinding levels for quite some time in the third act before you’re in good enough shape to tackle the endgame. They were massively innovative for their time, but newcomers are better off diving into later generations. That said, checking Red or Blue out for historical purposes wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

Eversion (Guilherme Töws, 2008)

Eversion has a deceptively intriguing concept that ultimately isn’t as tapped as well as it could’ve been. It’s much more effective at what it tries to do than many AAA efforts, and in that regard, it’s quite commendable. Though I couldn’t give this game a straight recommendation, I do think, for reasons I won’t go into, that a blind playthrough could be worth your time.

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (Westone, 1989)

Woah, I actually awarded another passing grade to an eighties game! Again! Anyway, I have an interesting history with Wonder Boy III. I originally played the TurboGrafx-16 version, Dragon’s Curse, back when it was released on the Wii Virtual Console because I thought it seemed interesting enough. I didn’t actually make it that far, so I assumed it wasn’t that good. It wasn’t until I tried out the remake earlier in the month that I realized just how much of an improvement over Metroid it manages to be when it comes to being a Metroidvania. Yes, one could argue the level design affords less potential for exploration, but Metroid was way too directionless for its own good, and it’s much easier to find one’s way around in Wonder Boy III. That said, I recommend the excellent remake over the original game, as it’s easier to obtain and expands upon the game in subtle ways.

Ballz (PF Magic, 1994)

When I wrote my 150th game review special, I remarked that Ride to Hell: Retribution wouldn’t remain in my bottom ten in the grand scheme of things. The reason I was confident in my prediction was twofold: A) It really wasn’t as bad as the worst eighties/nineties offerings I’ve played and B) It was ranked 141st on my list. This means that only one game worse than it was sufficient in order to drive it out of my bottom ten. I had no idea at the time that my prediction would come to pass before the end of the year, as Ballz proved it was more than up for the task. I didn’t go into this month with the intent to play it, but when Van Rockingham over at Games Revisited wrote a piece on it (and gave it a -1%, no less), I knew I had to seek it out.

Anyway, Ballz is another one of those special bad works in that you can trace it back to the exact era in which it was released, acting as a freakish amalgamation of the fascination with 3D and fighting games throughout the early nineties. Some argue it’s a “So bad, it’s good” game, but I cannot agree; it’s just straight-up bad; there’s no reason to ever try it out. Rise of the Robots was pretty dire itself, but at least the controls were somewhat responsive; Ballz is just plain anarchy. Also, the final boss is a total sore loser, just saying.

Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished (Nihon Falcom, 1987)

And here’s my final review of the year. Ancient Ys Vanished, despite being rather simple and short, or perhaps for that exact reason, has aged quite a bit better than most contemporary action RPGs. Unfortunately, that also means it’s lacking in substance. Indeed, when stacked next to its sequel, the review of which I’ve already scheduled, it’s pretty lacking, almost coming across more as an elaborate prologue than a fully-fledged game. Nonetheless, the creativity shines through, and the counterintuitive combat system actually works really well – especially for boss fights, surprisingly enough.

Featured articles:

Atelier Series Overview – Part 2 – The Dusk Trilogy – Matt over at 3PStart wrote a great article about the long-running Atelier series. I can’t say I’ve played any of these games, but they do sound very interesting; the reoccurring theme of alchemy caught my interest.

Top 10 (+1) Video Game Soundtracks in No Particular Order – It’s a bit of a shame that the Western AAA industry is so insistent on going for a Hollywood-style approach for various reasons, but one is that there seems to be less good music in video games. While I can appreciate them lending their games atmospheric qualities, it also robs the medium of a lot of its personality. Fortunately, the Brink of Gaming wrote about eleven different gaming soundtracks that managed to grab his attention over the years.

Mirai Review – Hey, I wasn’t the only one who got to see Mirai! Scott over at the Wizard Dojo managed to write a review of it as well. It’s really great seeing somebody who has as much respect for animated films as they do live-action ones, as there are a lot of subtle intricacies that tend to get overlooked in the former.

Super Mario Party: The Democratic Joy of Minigames – As someone who remembers playing many Mario Party minigames, reading HCBR’s take on the ones in Super Mario Party was quite a fond trip down memory lane.

Top Ten Tuesday – Bottom Ten Tuesday? – With the year officially winding down, everyone is writing their top tens of everything. Chris Scott wrote a list of ten things that ticked him off this year.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day – After the questionable decision of talking about Superman 64, Mr. Wapojif wrote about one of the few Rare Nintendo 64 games I didn’t play back in the day. Then again, its reputation speaks for itself (with multiple expletives) by this point.

My Top 10 Games Of 2018 – I’m told that 2018 was a great year for gaming, and though I don’t have quite as much evidence of that being the case as I did 2017 (due to being rather busy), I think this list by BeardedGamer82 makes a great case for it.

The Top 10 Best Teen Movies of the 21st Century That Are Destined to Become Classics (And Are Actually Relatable) – Good teen films seem to be a rarity in contemporary cinema, aiming more for awards than authenticity or relatability. Fortunately, Lulu Mendl was there to highlight ten hallmarks of the genre as of 2000, and there were indeed some great picks.

My Top Seven Games of 2018 – Matthew Thompson over at The Triple Option also wrote a list of his favorite games of 2018. What I liked about this list is that it consisted of many easily overlooked games. Given how gaming journalism tends to ignore smaller efforts, this is greatly appreciated.

On the Third Day of Blogmas – As part of a holiday celebration Rob over at I Played The Game! wrote about the reasons he would pick up a game, and he certainly chose some interesting ones. I particularly identify with the final one he chose.

Still Alive – After life got in the way for my friend, Aether, it was great to hear how he was doing. Maintaining blogs is much more work than I feel most people not in the know give it credit for, so I give him props for knowing to set his priorities straight. I wouldn’t want him or anyone else to end up like those content creators who end up working themselves to the bone.

Other remarks:

  • I ended up writing 57 game reviews this year – the first being Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All and the last being Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter. It is my current record.
  • Discounting 2014 because I started in May of that year, 2018 marks the first year in which I didn’t award any 10/10s; I did, however, award more 9/10s than any year leading up to this one (5 for video games and 1 for films).
  • Because of the above, 2018 is the first year since 2015 in which I didn’t use every grade at least once.
  • My lengthiest review is of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, being over 13,000 words long. This also makes it my lengthiest positive review.
  • My review of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – Prosecutor’s Path marked the first time any of my pieces ever exceeded 10,000 words.
  • All of my reviews that have exceeded 10,000 words were positive, with only one of them (Spirit of Justice) not receiving a 9/10 (though it is at the top of the 8/10 tier).
  • By comparison, my longest middling review is that of Pokémon Red and Blue (around 9,000 words) and my longest negative review is that of The Last of Us (also around 9,000 words).
  • My shortest game review in 2018 was that of Ninjabread Man – the only one to not exceed 2,000 words.
  • The most frequent score I awarded in 2018 was 5/10 (10 times – Apollo Justice, BioShock 2, The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros., Four Swords Adventures, Super Mario Land 2, King’s Quest III, Shadows of the Empire, Pokémon Red and Blue, and Ancient Ys Vanished).
  • The rarest score I awarded in 2018 was 2/10 (3 times – Call of Duty: Ghosts, Haze, Bokosuka Wars). In fact, the last time I awarded it (for Bokosuka Wars) was well before 2018’s halfway point.
  • My review of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap marks the first time I awarded a passing grade to an eighties game I did not finish before starting Extra Life.
  • My current tier rulers are: Deadly Towers (1/10), The Beginner’s Guide (2/10), Final Fantasy II (3/10), Phantom Hourglass (4/10), Pokémon Red and Blue (5/10), Skyward Sword (6/10), A Link Between Worlds (7/10), Spirit of Justice (8/10), Breath of the Wild (9/10), and Majora’s Mask (10/10).
  • December of 2018 marks the first time I ever wrote more than one editorial in a month.
  • As a callback to how I began reviewing games, the first grade I awarded for a film was a 3/10 (for Neill Blomkamp’s District 9). It is currently the only negative film review I’ve written.
  • The first film I awarded a passing grade was On the Waterfront.
  • The first film I awarded a middling grade was Branded to Kill.
  • The scores I have yet to award to films are: 1/10, 2/10, and 10/10.
  • As of the end of 2018, I have posted 155 game reviews and 20 film reviews total.

Links to my reviews:

Film reviews:

Game reviews:

Links to my editorials:

What’s next?

December of 2018 involved me having to play catch-up due to having written the time-consuming 150th Game Review special at the end of November. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to review all the films I saw last month. And then I proceeded to fall behind again at the end of the month. It’s because I had a lot of time off and I intended to use it to the fullest extent. Now that my vacation has ended, I’ll be sure to post my reviews of, Bumblebee, Shoplifters, and The Burmese Harp (on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday respectively) next week. I intend to post my review of The Prestige on Friday of this week.

Though I prefer summer over winter, I do like this time of year when it comes to films. Now that Oscar season is truly upon us, we can expect filmmakers to come out swinging. Once the nominations have been revealed later in the month, I will take it upon myself to see and review every single one. It will then be capped off with a special post wherein I rank them from worst to best.

I skipped the planned Mario review because I wanted to relax during the week-and-a-half vacation I got and I knew it would take me a long time to write. Nonetheless, I’m going to get back on track in short order. After my reviews of Ys II and Ys III have been posted, I will review Luigi’s Mansion. Next, I’ll talk about the second generation Pokémon games: Gold and Silver. Finally, at the end of the month, I’ll review Super Mario Sunshine. Hope you all enjoy your New Year!

22 thoughts on “December 2018 in Summary: And so 2018 Comes to a Close

    • It really had no business being on store shelves, did it? I can understand there not being a camera seeing as how 3D gaming wasn’t fully a thing yet, but even with that in mind, it was a shamefully bad effort.

      You’re welcome! I hope it goes well for you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Maintaining a blog is hard work. I am such a perfectionist when it comes to writing. Sometimes I write several times until I exhaust myself, and even then, I am not satisfied with my own work. I think that is the hardest part. For that reason, sometimes I have the urge to delete my blog to give myself a proper mental rest. But then, it would be more wise to just step away from blogging once I am ready to write again–simply for the joy of writing.

    I am always surprised how you can stay so focused with all those films and games. Realistically, I can’t keep up with all the films you mentioned on your site, although I did manage to finish Seven Samurai. I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed it is. I’ve found a way to incorporate it into my work schedule, but that’s not an option for a lot of people. I think if you want to step away from your blog, you’re better off not deleting it. Just walk away until you feel ready to write again.

      In any case, I’m glad my writings got you to check out Seven Samurai; it’s a true classic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I really did like the choices on there. I was alerted to quite a few films I didn’t even know existed. Not to mention it got me interested in checking out Juno. I watched Tully earlier this year and thought it was really good, so I do want to see Juno at some point as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think there were numerous reasons why that ended up being the case. I had already reviewed the 10/10 Zelda game going into 2018 and I ended up not using the grade when talking about the Ace Attorney series, so that accounts for a significant chunk of my output last year. I do want to review all the games I would award a 10/10 at some point, though, so I will talk about at least one of them before the end of the year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the overview! It’s a series I’ve come to fall in love with and even if folks don’t play them, I hope I can teach them a bit about it so that they keep it in mind if they know folks who might!

    You’ve put out some amazing stuff this year, and I look forward to seeing more and hopefully interacting a bit more. 🙂 Happy New Year and hope all’s well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I’ve certainly played a few games I wish more people would try, so I know that feeling.

      Thanks! I can’t believe I managed to write 57 reviews. There’s no way I would’ve been that diligent when I started. Hope 2019 goes well for you too.

      Liked by 1 person

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