01/06/2013

Thank God It’s Done And Over With, 2012

by Matthew Hawkins

First thing’s first: happy new year.
________________________________________________________________________________

As noted on Attract Mode, 2013 was ushered in by the smooth jams of George & Jonathan, at George & Gabe‘s (or is it Jonathan who lives there? I forget). And the one thing that sticks out, other than how I downed an entire bottle of champaign and miraculously did not getting sick, was Mia asking “Did ANYONE have a good 2012?!?!”

And the answer was no. Exactly one year ago today, I noted how much of a shit-sandwich that 2012 was, and wondered if thighs could possible get worse. Which they did!

Unfortunately, 2013 has not had the most auspicious of beginnings either. Was hoping to kick start the first blog entry of the new year with a picture of myself, triumphantly standing on-top of a pile of freshly printed FORT90ZINE4ANSWER (or at least pointing at one). Hence why this end ’12 wrap-up is coming almost a week after the fact. But, I think you know the deal already.

Long story short, was told by the most recent place I turned towards that my InDesign file was corrupt. Thing is, I passed it along a long ass time ago, but was only told of the issue just the other day, because they only checked it the other day. I know I reached out at the worst time possible, right before Christmas, but still.

This latest screw up is being resolved, but the problem now is how I’ll be out of town by the time the proofs arrive; am heading in Vegas for CES tomorrow morning and will be gone all week. To be honest, at this point, I almost don’t want to do give them any business and am currently exploring yet ANOTHER print option (and if that one fails, I’m just going to bite the bullet and do the printing myself).

At least I have further photographic proof that I seriously haven’t been slacking as it pertains to fulfilling my Kickstarter obligations, but first, what Christmas was like on my end…

First you had the traditional Dave and Raina‘s Christmas specials and snacks smackdown. The definite highlight on that end, aside from the hilarious holiday episode of G.I. Joe, was meeting Jerzy Drozd, who is Dave’s partner in podcasting. And we kinda hit it off…

Oh, and here’s a little something from Dave and Raina’s apartment that I never noticed before (or perhaps it’s a brand new addition): a cell from the old Ed Grimley Saturday morning cartoon…

Back to holiday traditions, on Christmas Eve, I have a few of my own; I always start things off with the Pee-Wee’s Christmas Playhouse special, with a side of Christmas NiGHTS

Feliz Naviblah!

Though the main course is always the copious amounts of holiday cheer, from Melonville…

And finally you have Santa’s Slay, starring ex-WCW superstar, Bill Goldberg…

Chestnuts roasting over an open fire that is Fran Drescher’s skull…

Yet another Christmas tradition are holiday cards, and here’s one I got from Atlus…

Speaking of Persona 4 Golden, the best tradition of them all is holiday sex. And which of the P4 ladies did I bone that evening? Rise-chan, but only because I messed up while attempting to get into Naoto’s panties. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers…

As for the day of, it was spent like every other Christmas, at Dave’s old stomping grounds in Long Island. Him and Raina got me this sweet as hell Asteroids necktie!

Oh, and guess what else Santa also passed along?

Gotta say; it’s pretty weird, watching Miami Connection in high definition. But it’s still worth the purchase, even if you’ve seen it literally 60+ times, like myself. Among other things is the extras, including the Dragon Sound reunion!

But now that Miami Connection is finally out, and being enjoyed by all, my duties as it pertains to spreading the gospel has officially come to a close. Which is why it is now time to focus my energies on something else…

Yup, got a copy. Off of eBay, from some dude in Australia (which makes a lot of sense, if you know a thing or two about the film scene down there). Can’t wait!

So another thing I picked up was a Zero Suit Samus state that I’ve had my eyes on forever. And long story short, I’ve become pen pals with the guy who sold it to me! He’s some dude in Japan that asked a bunch of questions, and along with my answers, I shared other bits of knowledge, like my affinity for certain Japanese dishes. In response…

He also shared with me pics from his hometown, which has finally begun to recover from the earthquakes and tsunamis that rocked Japan a few years back. Plus pics of his daughter who just turned 2. What a sweet guy!

Back to the subject of movies, I saw Django Unchained. I liked it! The best part was when Windows 95 crashed, right before show time…

Even though I was unsuccessful in printing up fort90zine #4s by the end of 2012, I was able to produce the final batch of fort90zine #1s. Am retiring the debut issue for one reason and one reason alone: the silkscreen covers are a bitch to produce. Thank God Colleen lent me a helping hand…

BTW, here’s Colleen’s custom-made Nook cozy, which is covered with Space Invaders…

Plus a small taste of Colleen’s book collection…

And here we are, December 31, 2012. As the seconds were ticking down and before George & Jonathan went into action…

Some DEEP notes…

And finally, the moment we had all been waiting for…

________________________________________________________________________________

So… 2012. What a year, right? There were plenty of good parts. But there was also plenty of bad ones as well:

- On the game writing front, it was my busiest year thus far. Starting with a fill in slot over at NBC News, my highest profile gig yet, I also began contributing to Kotaku on an official level, as their unofficial video game movie reviewer. I also began writing about cell phones again, for TechRadar, and I also recently became a primary contributor for Gameranx.

A while back, I wondered if I was cut out for full-time, freelance writing. And while I’m definitely hanging in there, I’m also getting a bit burnt out by all the hustle and bustle. In many ways, my writing acumen has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year alone, but at the same time, it’s also hurt it a considerable degree. At least my personal work, with the FORT90ZINE4ANSWER being the primary casualty.

I guess I’m also frustrated by how I’m not able to really explore the game culture landscape as much as I would prefer, but that has more to do with marketplace than anything else, plus I should be happy that I’m working as is. But at the same time, I am now seriously considering a change in direction, career-wise. Which at the age of 35, is kinda scary. Though it’s impossible to deny that I think I might have found another calling…

- After a two year hiatus, 2012 also saw me back returning to curating art shows. Comics Vs. Games was smash success, and Fangamer VERSUS Attract Mode even more so.

On that note, Attract Mode 2.0 also officially launched, and it’s blog has helped fill the void of GameSetWatch 2.0 somewhat. There’s actually a LOT more happening on that front, so stay tuned.

- Spent a decent amount of time outside of NYC, with the highlight being my return trip to Toronto, for Comics Vs. Games/TCAF 2012. It was simply incredible, enough to make me seriously consider leaving the Big Apple for greener (or should I say whiter) pastures! Though their inability to produce anything remotely decent when it comes to Mexican food is a downer.

- Also finally checked out Portland, where I had my love life analyzed by some girl hangs around food trucks and who uses toy dinosaurs.

- Became teaching again. Though instead a bunch of art school kids for students, was dealing with “regular” college kids, which was definitely awkward at times. Though they did a surprisingly fine job when asked to design a dating sim.

- Met a large number of famous folk. Including Boba Fett (I even got to act in a scene with the guy, which was both neat and surreal), Grandmaster Y.K. Kim (don’t forget to check out my interview with him; the link can be found in the list to the right), Danny Choo (who is basically my personal hero), and Nobuhiko Obayashi (whom I hugged, once again).

- Oh, and I also became e-buddies with Ventla and Gary Spivey, plus I had a “moment” with Kanye West.

- Started doing Pilates. That shit is hard, yo.

- My shitload of “creepy” Persona 4 Gold Instagram pics, in the end, got noticed by the very top…

- After being with one girlfriend or another, after 7+ years, 2012 was my first full year as a bachelor. All I can say is that being a single dude in your mid 20s and being a single dude in your mid 30s could not be more night and day different. Add in NYC, and things become decidedly more… “complicated” as well.

It’s perhaps not in my best interest to share too many highlights (or low points) from my love life, but for those who are indeed interested, try to track down some old tweets of mine, to find the time I went out with a racist chick (had no idea she was, obviously, until a basketball came on the TV at the bar we were at).

- Like I keep saying, 2012 sucked the big one, though I realize that I also haven’t really gone into any real detail. Unfortunately, as cathartic it might be to just spill my guts, I must once again plead the fifth.

Thankfully, I have some amazing friends who all lent their support during some said rough waters. Though super special credit need to be given to those who are due, which includes Dave, Joe, Colleen, and Raina Lee. They are the good guys.

But I will say this: easily the worst part was how four people I have known, of various degrees of closeness, passed away. And in each instance, the circumstances were simply tragic. It’s such a cliché, but it’s true: be happy for the people you have in your lives, because they may not always be there forever.

- Oh, and I’ve mentioned this like a thousand times, but I’m flat-out embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn’t able to successfully produce FORT90ZINE4ANSWER in ’12. While I do appreciate that no one has given me a hard time about it, I still hope everyone understands that it’s a fact that I think about basically every single day, and I want this monkey off my back in the worst way possible.

… When all is said and done, and more than anything, I have begun to wonder if I am long for this place. I love New York and all, I really do. But for the first time, I have begun to wonder if it might be time to finally see what else is out there. On that note, today is the 17th year anniversary of me making the Big Apple my home.

So I’m also wondering how much longer I’ll be sticking around. The goal is to hit the 20 year mark, but you never know right? Basically, it’ll simply take that special thing or one to either make me finally venture forth or stick around! Anyhow, enough of all that. Time to talk about…
________________________________________________________________________________

If there was one unequivocal positive of 2012, it’s how it was quite simply the best year ever for video games, IMHO. Never before have so many awesome games been made available in so many ways, and for so many people. Sadly, a good portion of it all went unnoticed, or worst of all, taken for granted (to the point of annoyance). Anyways, starting from the top:

Quite Simply, The Top Five Games Of 2012:

5. Dyad (PlayStation 3)
Long story: it’s basically the game Rez 2, aka Child of Eden, should have been. Period. End of story.

4. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
For the past 30 minutes, I’ve been laboring some 150+ word long explanation as to why Tekken Tag 2 is the complete antitheses of what fighting games have become, which also allowed me to take another dig at Street Fighter 4 and the people who like them. One of several, and each more long-winded than the other. So let’s just say that it’s been some of the most flat out, pure fun I’ve had with a game all year and leave it at that!

3. Orgarhythm (PlayStation Vita)
Huh? Exactly. It’s a shame that virtually no one knows of its existence, which is a bit odd, given that it’s the only game thus far (or at least as far as I can tell) to combine Black & White, Pikmin, and Dance Dance Revolution. And quite brilliantly! While definitely not perfect… I don’t like how you have to tap one a specific part of the screen instead of being able to do so anywhere, like in most touchscreen games… it’s by far the most original game I played all year.

2. Gravity Rush (PlayStation Vita)
Another Vita game? Yes. I’m a big fan of super heroes, and yet, I honestly can’t think of a single good super hero game. Ever. Sorry, am not a fan of Arkham City. Everyone’s necks are too thick and veiny and scary to me. Also, Batman doesn’t really fly around in the air, which is the best part of being a super hero, and the one thing that no game has been able to get right. Until now. Oh, and it more than anything gave me faith that Japan still has it when it comes to making games.

Two-Way Tie: Persona 4 Arena (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) and Persona 4 Golden (PlayStation Vita)
For starters, Arena is simply the impossible: a sequel to a role playing games in the form of the fighting game that feels completely natural and logical, and is also supremely accessible, while also being super deep. It’s also a joy to see and hear, plus it’s vast storylines is an achievement all by itself. There have been countless games to have backstories, but here we finally have one that goes the distance to a redonkulous degree and rewards all diehard Persona 3/4 fans to boot.

Meanwhile, some might protest the inclusion of P4Golden, since it’s a remake of a PS2 game from 2008 and therefore shouldn’t “count”. Whatever. Bottom line is how it’s the one single title I’ve enjoyed most, as well as played the most (even more than Arena, though given the differences in genre, that’s not the most fair of comparisons), despite coming out at the very tail end of the year.

Plus it serves as the absolute best example of how adding just the right amount of new content to an already amazing game not only makes it better, but in some ways, almost a different thing. Thanks to the all the new story elements, plus all the new social links added, along with how ranking those up is now easier than before, the new P4 now places more emphasis (and weight) on the being friends with everyone component, which was always the best part.

Yet at the same time, significant improvements made to the how battles are played out, along with how new Personas are created, plus the ability to augment them, has created a far richer, more personal experience, on every level. Also, you simply cannot beat playing a JRPG on a handheld, and when you factor the best JRPG ever made (aside from Panzer Dragoon RPG) on the best piece of portable hardware (and I mean that), you simply have the best game of 2012.

Speaking of…

Game Or Piece Of Hardware That I Loved To Death, Yet Could Not Recommend To People In Good Conscious

The PlayStation Vita
Seriously, I LOVE the Vita. The hardware is simply outstanding (like seriously, I barely touch my 3DS and am so done with the limitations of iOS) and the few games that are available are equally incredible. But the key word here is “few”; there’s barely any support for the device, and Sony is doing the worst job imaginable, marking the dam thing thing.

Plus the OS largely sucks, and their instance on proprietary memory cards is an f’n joke. Also, why the hell can I not play every PSone game available on PSN, plus why do I have to use the PS3 as an intermediary for certain PSP games? Jesus Christ do I hate Sony.

Game I Enjoyed The Most, Even If It Franky Blows

Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
You’ve got second rate visuals, wonky controls, nothing makes sense, plus its hellishly repetitive. Pretty much the only thing going for it is the fact that you get to control a pomeranian as he attempts to take down a lion. But man, what an awesome gimmick! Which is why I kept going back for more.

Game I Enjoyed A Lot, But Not Nearly As Much As Everyone Else

Journey (PS3)
Believe the hype; Journey is every bit the cornerstone for the medium that everyone claims it to be. And playing the game was indeed an awe-inspiring, beautiful, and transcendental experience. That being said, I’ve never played a game that had such an effect on me that I was not interested in giving a second spin. Not immediately after, not many months since. Oh well.

Game I Enjoyed A Bit, But Not Quite As Much As I Had Hoped To

Retor/Grade (PS3)
The concept is brilliant: a shump in which time is backwards, so the gameplay resembles Guitar Hero/Rock Band. Unfortunately the music isn’t quite as catchy as could or should be, plus if you mess up just once, it’s all downhill from there, as you brain struggles to figure out all the space/time continuity business (though it might just be me).

Game I Enjoyed A Lot, Even Though I Literally Can’t Last For More Than Ten Seconds

Super Hexagon (iOS)
Seriously, I cannot get past the ten second mark, no matter what. It’s beyond embarrassing.

Game That Flat-Out Disappointed The Most

Skullgirls (PS3/Xbox 360)
I’m sorry, but as much as I wanted to love the game, mostly because I’m such big fans of those who were involved on the visual side of things (and the game is gorgeous as all hell, there’s no question about that), I found the game to be an absolute chore to play. It’s fine for diehard fighting fanatics, but for the rest of us human beings? Pass.

Game That Finally Turned A Corner For Me

Minecraft (PC)
I finally “got” Minecraft this year, thanks in part to Gerrit for showing me how it’s meant to be played: alongside pals, and while drinking. But also, the brilliant Minecraft: Story of Mojang by 2 Player Productions!

Game That Allowed Me To Tap Into My Love For Early American History

Assassin’s Creed 3 (PS3/Xbox 360)
It’s hardly perfect, but dammit, any game that allows me to be a washed up bartender from Hoboken that gets to relive the experiences of some Native American whose named I can’t pronounce, and who also gets to hang with Ben Franklin, is a thumbs up in my book.

Game Company That Is Doing An Awesome Job Of Pimping Out Its Past

Sega
Last year I made note of how amazing their ports of Radiant Silvergun and Daytona USA were, but this year, they somehow managed to top themselves. I’m actually legitimately upset that hardly anyone has made any real notice of NiGHTS HD. Sadly, it’s missing a few elements from Christmas NiGHTS, while the port of Virtua Fighter 2 is absolutely perfect.

I also never thought that I would ever see an arcade perfect version of Fighting Vipers as well, but here we are. Plus, they bent over backwards to get the best songs in the re-release of Jet Set Radio, something most publishers would simply skimp out on. True they can’t seem to make any halfway decent new games these days (though I hear Binary Domain is pretty decent).

Game That Makes Me Wonder If Suda 51 Has Jumped The Shark

Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3/Xbox 360)
Sorry, but it seems like more like the invention of a Suda fanboy than Suda himself. But hey, Grasshopper also published Sine Mora, that time bending, furry rape shump, so I’m still a fan.

Game I’m Finally Happy To Be Able To Play, For Fuck’s Sake

Two-Way Tie: Katawa Shoujo (PC), Spelunky (Xbox 360), and La-Mulana (WiiWare)
Especially the crippling girl dating sim! I also love how not just one, but TWO early awaited titles that are inspired by Indian Jones finally made their appearance. BTW, Retro City Rampage was also quite fab, but I’m waiting for the WiiWare version to really sink my teeth into that game.

Game I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Three-Way Tie: Metal Gear Rising: Revengance (PS3/Xbox 360), Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (PS3/Xbox 360), and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (???)
Duh.

Game I’m Looking Forward To The Most, But Which Will Probably Not Happen

Meta Gear Solid: Peace Maker (PSVita)
Come Kojima-san! Make it happen.

Game That I Finally Got To Play Because Of A Mac Port

Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (PC)
To live the impossible dream, which this year was to finally woo WNBA superstar Ivory Latta, has finally been achieved.

Game That I Couldn’t Play Due To The Lack Of A Mac (yet)

Miami Hotline (PC)
Sure I could have just fired up Windows 7 via Bootcamp, like all of Cactus’s other games, but it’s just a major pain in the ass.

Game That I Dislike To Show Everyone Who Cool I Am, Feigning Ignorance And Disinterest In A Triple A Title

Dishonored (PS3/Xbox 360)
But if you like it, more power to you!

Game That I Really Enjoyed To Show Everyone That I Don’t Only Care About Indie Titles

Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
Of what little I enjoyed (due to the whole motion sickness thing), I enjoyed a whole lot!

Worst HD Re-Release

The Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PS3/Xbox 360)
While it’s not nearly as offensive as the Silent Hill HD Collection, I’m still annoyed how the high def re-release of one of my favorite PS2 games (I speak of Anubis; never really games ZOE1 much of a try, and the HD Collection was meant to fix that) is slightly slower than the original. WTF.

Best Use Of Hot Dogs In A Video Game

Heads Up Hot Dogs (iOS)
Again, duh!

Oh and because I didn’t get the chance to re-post ANYTHING from my random repository Tumbr at all last year (which I hope to fix in 2013), please enjoy…

Ten Random Videos That I Really Enjoyed In 2013

10. Hi, my name is David, and welcome to my anime superstore.

9. Reason #3,549,072 why I love professional wrestling.

8. An excerpt from Possibly in Michigan.

7. Anime Star Wars is simply the best.

6. Miami Vice X Jade Dynasty

5. Party time, excellent! (warning: NSFW)

4. “I walked on the sidewalk… when it belonged TO THE PUBLIC!”

3. It’s a way old YMO music video, but I’ve never seen it until now!

2. Worf getting shot down, again and again.

1. The trailer to GETEVEN.
________________________________________________________________________________

Real quick: now that we’re almost a week into 2013, is there anything to report? Well, aside from not having any fort90zine no.4′s handy, yes. On the positive front, my first date of the new year was actually really, really good! It’s way too early to say anything, though I will mention how I’ve been watching Doctor Who all weekend as a direct result.

Though on the other hand, just found out a really good person that I’ve had the pleasure to know has suddenly passed away. His name was Daniel Craft, and he was a core member of the New York Asian Film Festival, which is how I got to know him.

He will be sorely missed, but at least it’s good to know that J.J. Abrams of all people was able to fulfill his dying wish. For more details, please refer to this Reddit thread.

K, that’s it for me; next stop, Vegas! And hopefully, by the time I return, I will have proofs for 4ANSWER waiting for me. God willing.

Previous post:

Next post: