Eyyyy everyone’s writing their best-of lists, and while most of them are themed to a specific topic (games, movies, music etc) I thought I might be fun to just jot down 10 of my personal favorite things of 2014. No real rhyme or reason, just a grab bag of stuff from the year that stuck with me.
1 – DARK SOULS II
For six years I was paid to make lists of games, so why not kick this list off with my favorite game of the year? Admittedly I didn’t play all that many games this time around; in fact, I suspect I played fewer brand-new titles in 2014 than any non-infant year prior. I think part of it is the AAA formula of distraction-based gameplay – here’s a mainline quest to follow, a whole lot of story and butt-tons of side quests that are super addicting but are meant to pad the experience and reuse assets in a cost-effective manner. While these types of quests do give you MORE game to play (Batman, Mordor, GTA, Assassin’s Creed, many JRPGs etc) and in some cases award more story or more abilities, I question if they’re actually fun.
Dark Souls on the other hand, is super appealing as it demands something from me. It offers very little direct assistance, but casually provides all the clues I need to survive. I’ve often said Dark Souls (and II) is simply the NES Legend of Zelda, and I still think that’s accurate. Overt direction and dolled-up tutorials are replaced with subtle hints and easily missed advantages reminiscent of the 8-bit days. It’s not hard as the marketing machine would have you believe – it’s just not easy. And there’s no direct or indirect quest… there’s just not dying as you explore wherever you happen to explore.
Anyway, that really appeals to me, along with stuff like Monster Hunter or anything else without checkpoints every five steps. It’s not that I categorically dislike modern games, or don’t play them at all, I’m just kinda over this modern-day formula and would really like to keep diving into digital and indie games until I find something equally interesting. I guess I’ve cleared 110 hours in DSII at this point, and will likely play the PS4 version too… and then there’s Bloodborne.
2 – NEW SAILOR MOON SUB
As a teen I vaguely knew of Sailor Moon as an all-girl Power Rangers-ish thing (and obvi the anime girls pulled me in) but I didn’t really pay close attention. The haphazard syndication times and pretty poopy localization didn’t help either. But in 2014 Hulu started airing a new sub of the 90s classic and I gotta say, it is a goddamn hoot.
I have no nostalgia at work here. This is just a silly, funny, clever and at times surprisingly progressive show. Yes it’s formulaic, yes pieces of animation are reused in just about every episode, but the interplay between the main Sailor Scouts is so appealing the sometimes budget look of the show doesn’t matter. I’ve laughed out loud at this show than any other in 2014.
If you like anime at all, or have devoured all of Korra and want more, this is probably a solid option. Like most TV shows that ran for several years, give it a few episodes to kick in and CHECK YOUR CYNISIM AT THE DOOR, otherwise you’ll just complain about shit the whole time. It’s OK to like things, you know.
3 – WWE NETWORK AND READIN’ ABOUT RASSLIN’
Back in the 90s I, like millions of others, watched the Monday Night Wars and tuned in every week to see what happened next. It was such a strange moment in time, two titanic television powerhouses airing the same content at the same time to two HUGE audiences vehemently believing theirs was the superior show. I was on the WCW side of things and by the end of 1998 it got so stupid and baffling I just gave up. Didn’t hop over to Raw, didn’t follow up with Stone Cold or Rock or any PPVs from that era. But ever since Dave “Cheap Popcast” Rudden arranged a group viewing of Royal Rumble 2013, I’ve maintained a casual interest in WWE and its major players.
And then the Network came out in 2014. Hours of classic matches, documentaries and, most importantly, a number of “shoot” interviews that shed new light on the business of professional wrestling. For whatever reason, the real-world stories absolutely hooked me and at this point I’ve read like 3-4 books and watched countless interviews and documentaries, as well as read wrestling sites every single day. The recent interview between Stone Cold and Vince McMahon was riveting, and I listen to JR’s podcast every week.
For NINE NINTEY NINE the WWEN is a helluva deal, and quite frankly I don’t watch all that much actual wrestling. It’s all the ancillary material about wrestling I love. The fact this massive industry exists, and has weathered numerous scandals and PR storms (and the death of kayfabe) is immensely intriguing. Think about how odd all this stuff actually is, and then what kind of people want to get into this business. It’s fascinating, from the 70s all the way to Royal Rumble 2015 – which I’ll be watching with the same group as the past two 🙂
4 – VGM OST OMG
Obviously I like my game music, and the 2014 year in review episode of VGMpire sums what I picked out for the year. But in this personal list I just gotta call out three amazing 2014 works – DKC Tropical Freeze and Shovel Knight (both covered in the aforementioned episode) and then Danganronpa (covered in the Hits and Homicides episode).
Listened to these three countless times this year. You should too.
5 – GHIBLI EVERYTHING
The Wind Rises was a spectacular end to the Miyazaki saga, and in a weird way it kicked off a year in which I rediscovered my love for Studio Ghibli (and in many cases, watched films for the first time). Nausicaa is now one of my favorite movies of all time (buy it ya goons) and Porco Rosso is close behind. Nausicaa especially is like… if you want to see where ideas like Final Fantasy, Zelda and Panzer Dragoon come from, this is it.
This year we were fortunate enough to see several Ghibli films in a theater, often with 35mm prints. Seeing them in such close proximity, in a small theater of fellow animation / Ghibli fans really hit me. I’d never seen Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, From Up on Poppy Hill, The Cat Returns, Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies or even Ponyo, but each was either great or flat out stunning.
And then we went to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, again. The first time I went I’d seen maybe 5 movies; this time I’d nearly seen them all. But best of all was the animated short they only show in the museum, Mr Dough and the Egg Princess. This was possibly my favorite movie of the year and ya can never see it outside of one theater in one building nestled deep within Japan. It’s a sensation you can’t replicate, and as such it kinda has to make any kind of list. Really, really recommend this place, these movies and Miyazaki himself.
6 – AGDQ / SGDQ
Awesome Games Done Quick (and its summer equivalent) has been around for some time, but January 2014 is when I watched with ravenous desire. This kinda goes back to my Dark Souls mini-rant, which is playing games that ask something of you, to be better at a thing or improve a time or score or performance. These folks do that in public, for charity and usually while setting new world records in the process.
If you love seeing people do amazing things, or want more arguments for the “aRe GamEz arT??” conversation that practically no one is still having, then watch them both.
7 – ONE GAME FOR THE PRICE OF FIVE
This is less a thing that came out or occurred in 2014 and more of a personal discovery. You know those holy grail games you really want but “oh they’re so expensive on eBay I could never.” Well, I’m over that shit. I either sold or gave away dozens, maybe over a 100 games this year and used that money to pick up the handful of games I really wanted. Some of them are old gems I parted with as a young’n (Popful Mail, Lunar 2) or the closest things to relics we have in this field (sealed NES Zelda, Panzer Dragoon Saga).
But the point is I’d gladly, gleefully give you 100 Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and PS3 games for three ’90s games that still kick ass today. If you’re on the fence, I urge you to let go of some of the stuff you’re clinging to and replace it with less – but personally important – stuff.
8 – SUCCULENTS
Uh, these didn’t exist until this year, right? This is another personal discovery (and hell, the rest of the list is) so bear with me. We didn’t have much greenery in the place and both agreed succulents were pretty cool, so we picked a few small ones and gave them new homes.
Not much else to this! They don’t require much upkeep, look rad and balance out all the lifeless plastic that chokes most of our homes these days. I suggest giving ’em a look!
9 – ACTUAL SHOES
For years I wore “cool” shoes, or at least shoes I thought looked vaguely nice or “with it.” Turns out those kinds of shoes tend to go light on the whole “foot support” thing and after years of that + a standing desk + a staggering amount of travel and walking, your feet get achy and blistery. The story I tell in this Japan episode of LT explains how I came to this realization just before I lost my bag on the train!
As I stood in Tokyo, current shoes dissolving around my feet and socks integrating with my flesh, I was ready to accept literally anything that would fit. This being Japan, there was precisely one shoe available, the size 11 Nike you see above. After years of avoiding athletic shoes because [some reason], I can freely admit the first step I took was legit magical. It was like having a trampoline strapped to my feet. At last, I finally owned a pair of Moon Shoes!
Anyway, yeah, shoes man. Real shoes, with padding and stuff. I’ve been away for 10 years and I’ll never leave you again.
10 – COFFEE AT HOME
And finally… buying your own beans and making that shit at home is super cheap, adds like 2 minutes to the process and tastes wayyy better than a store bought drink or instant coffee machine. Here in SF we have the bewilderingly delicious Philz Coffee so that’s the way to go, but not everyone can sample these delights so pick something you like and start doin’ it yourself. I realize this may be super LTTP but hey, I’m vibin’ on this coffee.
And as the best sendoff to my 2014 list, Everything On Dotflist’s Channel: