We’ve already done the Reader’s Choice Awards for this year, but the year isn’t over just yet! Oscar, Holly, and Peter shed some light on what they liked most and liked less of the many games and anime that 2016 had to offer. So without further ado, here are the Rice Gaming & Anime Awards 2016!
Most Frustrating Gaming Experience of 2016
Oscar: Final Fantasy XV
I don’t want to be a dick, there’s a lot I like a lot in Final Fantasy XV. I wrote a review of it, so if you want my in-depth thoughts on the game then take those peepers over there. It’s frustrating in much the same way Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was last year. Both games flirted with something close to “perfection” in terms of executing a concept, but both end up not only not sticking the landing, but tumbling into a mess of unfinished limbs, a mix of muscle and bone that don’t slot together at all. Seeing the open world and themes of brotherhood slip away inch by inch after the halfway point, ending up being just running down corridors, just makes me tremendously sad. I’m not even angry, Final Fantasy XV. Just disappointed.
Holly: Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters looks like a really unique game, and it is a really unique game, it’s just unique in some really annoying ways. When playing it, I can’t help but feel that neither I nor the game itself actually know what’s going on, and yet it’s strangely addictive. It gives me that feeling when you’re so close to defeating a boss and just fall short at the last second. Only with every level. While that does make you want to keep trying, and manages to stay just out of ‘what even is the point?’ levels of annoyance, it’s exhausting and frustrating when applied to a whole game.
So what does Daybreak Special Gigs add? More story – great! After harder battles. Ok, well that might be good for people who are actually good at this battle system. What’s that? The harder battles are compulsory and shoved into the middle of the original game? Ok then. I’ve gone from ‘more story’ to ‘no story unless you can defeat this boss in 4 turns’. Right on. But then this is a game where even talking to people is difficult.
Natehawke: Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is such a tough one for me. I was super hype for it when it was first revealed as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, it seemed darker and cooler and for my young self it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Sometime in the last 10 years, my hype disappeared. I had no expectations coming into FFXV, if anything, I had braced myself for the worst. But then something weird happened, and FFXV’s bro-trip with the pretty fun loving guys totally disarmed me. I ended up really enjoying FFXV and its open world, where the narrative adage of “show, don’t tell” ruled the day and taught me lots about the world and the characters I was traveling with. I was seriously considering this to be my potential game of the year.
Then the last third of the game happened. Chapter 13 happened. The disjointed patchwork storytelling and slapdash race towards poorly tied together set pieces happened.
FFXV surprised me by being really good. SO GOOD. It made me believe. And then it crushed me under a mountain of shit.
In the end, FFXV is just the Metal Gear Solid V of 2016, a good game that came so close to greatness, only to be undone by actually not being done. Finish your goddamn games before you release them plz.
Biggest Gaming Let-Down of 2016
Oscar: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I was a huge fan of the original Mirror’s Edge. I played it through many times, and did all of the speed runs. I never once used a gun in it either. To this day I have no idea what the gunplay is like, and I don’t care. And it’s so fantastic that I am able to do that and feel that way. So I was excited to hear it was finally getting a long overdue sequel. Except it turned out gradually that it wasn’t a sequel exactly, more of a… re-imagining. Gradually I saw in pre-release elements I had love changed, and my anxiety grew. I finally picked it up, and my fears were confirmed. It just didn’t feel the same at all. It felt like a game inspired by the original made by different people.
From the unpleasant jank of the low budget Half-Life 2 wannabe opening, to the mismatched tutorial (I avoided killing any security, to be greeted by a guy telling his superiors I was “taking everybody out” in a panic), the opening left me feeling low. The open world opposes the somewhat linear “you need to head in this direction” approach of the original’s level design, and the navigation seems to constantly disrupt the flow because of that. Man, I could go on for a while, but it bummed me out. The original Mirror’s Edge is back compatible on Xbox One. Boot that bad boy up instead, it holds up way better.
Holly: Zero Time Dilemma
Ever since Zero Time Dilemma was confirmed to be going ahead, I was excited to see how the end to the Zero Escape trilogy would play out. I’m not really sure what I got, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
This was supposed to be the game that tied up the loose ends from the first two, and I guess it technically did, but in a half-hearted and last minute sort of way. I still have questions too. Big ones that probably ought to have been explained in the plot. Somehow the inclusion of Junpei and Akane didn’t help ZTD either, as they were largely unrecognisable from the characters I grew to love in the previous games (make prosopagnosia joke here, I guess).
The zany plot stretched a little too far even for me, and the puzzles were pretty bland. I’m still overjoyed that this game went ahead, but more than I was playing it, and that makes me really sad.
Natehawke: Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V was my most anticipated game of 2016. They seemed to be doing everything right – several beta runs to test and perfect the netcode had revealed an excellent fighting game with interesting redesigns of beloved characters. Everything seemed set to have SFV kickstart a new golden age for fighting games, to inject new life in the fighting game community like SFIV had done.
Instead what we got was an unfinished mess. The gameplay was still great, and while the netcode ended up being super solid, the first few weeks were plagued by server outages, broken matchmaking and unplayable lag. What compounded this problem was that there was no actual content in the game, no arcade mode, no VS CPU option, no proper story mode, just a ridiculous character story that would take less than 10 minutes to finish per character., You could have all the content in the game done within 3 hours and then just sit there with nothing to do because the online didn’t actually work.
By the time the online multiplayer was back to a serviceable state, most casual players had moved on to something else. And those who didn’t necessarily want to play online still didn’t have anything to do.
A story mode and some really bad tutorials were released in June, along with 6 new characters in season 1, so SFV is an actual complete game now, but it’s a case of too little too late. Casual gamers have moved on and what amounts to the worst retail release of any fighting game -ever- has ensured that SFV will never be the much needed shot in the arm for the FGC that I hoped it would be.
SFV was the chosen one, it was supposed to bring balance to the FGC, not destroy it. >_<
Best Multiplayer Gaming Experience of 2016
Oscar: Dark Souls III
And to an extent Bloodborne, which I went back to this year after having such a great time with Dark Souls III. The SoulsBorne series is one that is constantly, tiresomely awarded some kind of “oh it’s so very, very hard” status, and that’s kind of some bullshit, actually. They’re somewhat tough, but the multiplayer is so fantastic that you can almost always be summoning friends from across the void to bro it up. There is some kindness in this world of ours after all. And once you’ve skipped merrily through the entirety of Dark Souls III? Why, go back and help out those behind you, of course. Or… go back as an invader and harass some newcomers. Oh, the memories! If you’re forcing yourself to struggle through a SoulsBorne game as a single player experience, take a break, grab some Hello Panda and a can of Iced Nescafe, and summon up some pals.
Holly: BlazBlue Centralfiction
I don’t really play multiplayer games, so this category was always going to be pretty limited for me, but Centralfiction is great. I like pretty things, and I like beating down opponents with over-the-top special moves and crazy weapons – especially if that opponent happens to be another player. Centralfiction has a plentiful amount of all of these, so it’s a natural hit as far as I’m concerned. Its winning positions in two of the Rice Reader’s Choice Awards categories say I’m not alone in singing its praises either.
Overwatch rocked my world. Coming off the bitter disappointment that was the shitness of Battleborn, the dullness of The Division and before that the farce that was the SFV launch, I hadn’t had much in the way of good multiplayer action in 2016. Overwatch changed all that.
With finely tuned gameplay, well designed maps and a roster of interesting, likeable and immediately iconic characters, Overwatch brought an arcadey team based shooter experience that I’ve not had since Team Fortress came out. Frequent updates, balance adjustments, esports support and huge plans for an Overwatch league in the next year, Overwatch is the game to play even now, over 7 months after launch and unquestionably a big part of the future of multiplayer gaming.
Best Back Catalogue Game of 2016
Oscar: Persona 2: Innocent Sin
I’m sure I must have spoken about this one towards the end of last year as I swear I’d been playing it forever. The great thing about the Vita is the huge amount of classic Japanese games it gives you access to through the PSOne and PSP functionality alone. I don’t feel like this PSP enhanced port of Persona 2 makes as much of an improvement from the original as the port of the first Persona, but Persona 2 is still hugely playable today. Both original Personas are quite a bit different to the more popular third and fourth entries, so they’re definitely worth a look in. They’re more traditionally linear, and have a broader wealth of customisation with your entire party, as any member can take on any Persona.
The story is what Persona 2 is all about though — a tale about what happens when rumours begin to become reality, and what happens when it gets out of hand. I’m still surprised there’s been no anime adaptation of it, as it’s one of the most gripping Persona titles in terms of story pace. Not to mention the second part of the Persona 2 duology, Eternal Punishment, is hard to get hold of over here, so would benefit from an adaptation. If you’ve skipped the first two Persona games, then, well… don’t.
Holly: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
While not my favourite of the Ace Attorney games, Dual Destinies introduced some interesting new techniques to the courtroom with the Mood Matrix, and the characters of Athena and Blackquill are definitely welcome additions to the cast for me. The beginning of the game didn’t really impress me much, but the last couple of cases were excellent. Turnabout for Tomorrow really reminded me of some of my favourite cases earlier in the series. It was nice to see Phoenix back in action, and the Wright Anything Agency started to feel like a proper team! There were some great fanservice moments in this game too, with the appearances of Klavier and Edgeworth. Overall, Dual Destinies is a solid addition to the series, and I’d love to see Athena get a game of her own!
Natehawke: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I finally finished it! I’ve played Skyward Sword probably half a dozen times since it originally came out, but each time I would get frustrated with the motion controls and drop it halfway through, leaving a shameful black mark on my gaming history. This year I finally gritted my teeth and fired it up again and got all the way through it.
It remains probably my least favourite Zelda game. Not because it’s bad mind you, I actually really like a lot about Skyward Sword, especially how it makes Link and Zelda more fully realized characters than ever. However, the controls always just kill me. It’s clumsy and slow and annoying. I would kill to be able to play Skyward Sword with just a controller, the game would be infinitely better.
Most Pleasantly Surprising Gaming Moment of 2016
Oscar: Thinking Final Fantasy XV was going to be really good
Well, it wasn’t in the end. So there’s that. I actually wasn’t crazy on the beginning of Final Fantasy XV. It seemed slow, and daunting. But there’s a moment pretty early on where it clicks and you get the feel of the game they were going for. You can’t overstate the pleasure they managed to create with simply exploring a world with a bunch of friends, and having legitimate feeling reactions from them by simply just going around. Sure, for me, it didn’t deliver in the back half of the game. That part of the game undermines the beginning. But the core of Final Fantasy XV pleasantly surprised, and it’s why I will always been both pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly disappointed by this one at the same time.
Holly: The Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice sequel hook
I had a lot of mixed feelings on finishing the final case of Spirit of Justice (but mostly anger), and I found the whole game a bit of a disappointment. In particular, there was one big moment I was expecting this game to have that it didn’t deliver. So when the credits finished and it teased the reveal I’d been waiting for, it left me on a hopeful note for the next game. That one little moment was enough to make me think the next Ace Attorney might be able to help carve out a deserving place for Spirit of Justice in the overall series. Fingers crossed!
Natehawke: Nintendo Switch reveal
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the NX reveal, but when I watched the Switch reveal stream I got super excited. I LOVE the idea of being able to take my game from my console set-up and bring it with me. Too many times I’ve had that situation where I just got an exciting new game and I’m all fired up to play it but whoops I have to go on a work trip somewhere and I won’t get to touch this game for another two weeks. The Nintendo Switch solves that problem entirely for me and I’ll be glad to have it replace both my console and my handheld.
Here’s hoping it gets the third party support it needs to succeed!
2016 Game We’ll Be Playing in 2017
Oscar: Persona 5
Even though I’ve played the Japanese version this year I want to experience the English version all over again next year. I’m not usually one for “replaying”, but with Persona 5 it’ll be a pleasure, and with a greater sense of understanding what’s going on it’ll still feel somewhat fresh to me. To be honest, I might just be playing Persona 5 until the day I die. It’s really that good! And if we’re blessed with a Switch version (come on, it needs to happen!) then I’ll play it all over again!
Holly: Fire Emblem Fates
I’m nowhere near done with Fates yet. When the split format was announced, I hadn’t thought the multiple versions would be worthwhile individually, and I was fully prepared to just knuckle down with Conquest and leave it at that. However, for all its flaws, Fates has left an impression on me, and I’ll be continuing to plough through the routes and experiment with different options and combinations because I’m genuinely interested in seeing more of this world and these characters.
Natehawke: Street Fighter V
Despite being my biggest gaming let-down of the year, it’s Street Fighter and I am entering my 23rd year of being a world warrior, so there’s no stopping now. The game is a full package now, at long last, and it has adopted Killer Instinct’s seasonal approach to updates, which is going to be interesting. SFV Season 2 launches December 20, with the release of Akuma, the first of 6 new characters to be added to the game over the course of season 2, and a whole new set of balance changes that will significantly alter character balance, options and the flow of the game.
I really like that approach and I’ll definitely keep playing and attending tournaments for Street Fighter V in 2017.
2016 Game of the Year, Which Does Not Come Out Until 2017 in the West
Oscar: Persona 5
Persona 5 is one of the best games ever made. It came out in Japan this year, so by all means it deserves my vote as the game of the year in general. There’s actually more games that fit this particular category than I’d like, though. Yakuza 6 looks amazing, Tales of Berseria is sure to be one of the best entries in that series, but Persona 5 really takes the cake. They spent their time with the delays very, very well to deliver a game that feels refined almost to the point of obscenity. It almost feels like it should never be allowed to exist, because it makes other, less refined games look sloppy. Oh my God.
Holly: Persona 5
There are a bunch of good games that came out in Japan this year but have been delayed until 2017 for the west, but Persona 5 is pretty special. I’m a big Persona fan, and I love what I’ve seen of P5 so far. I just hope next year will be the one where it can finally pull away from ‘unreleased game of the year’ to just straight-up ‘game of the year’.
Natehawke: Persona 5
I think my pick here might actually have been Yakuza 6 (BLASPHEMY!) but it’s somehow not set to come out in the west until 2018, so I’ll have to settle for the facemelting awesomeness of Persona 5
2016 Game of the Year
Oscar: Persona 5
Well, I already wrote about it above, but it really is that good. I hope you are all looking forward to it in 2017. It has surpassed already very high expectations. It’s that good, seriously.
Holly: Steins;Gate 0
Steins;Gate 0 is incredible! It definitely does the first game justice. The story was one hell of a ride, and I loved the use of POV swaps and how Amadeus was used for the phone trigger system. The art is stunning, of course, and the music is the perfect accompaniment to the game’s many highly emotional scenes. The new characters were very likeable, and their importance in the story didn’t prevent the original cast from getting plenty of screentime and interactions. The first Steins;Gate set a very standard for this game to meet, but I think it does so splendidly. If you haven’t given it a look yet, I highly recommend it! But be prepared to cry. Probably more than once.
I had been going back and forth on this for a while now, my top 5 in no particular order would be Titanfall 2, Uncharted 4, Ratchet and Clank, Overwatch, Final Fantasy XV and Super Mario Run (raised mobile game bar of excellence by a lot). At various points I was picking Titanfall 2 and Uncharted 4, as they both were not only fantastic games but also gave me a few levels that were the best levels I have ever played in their particular genre, however in the end they just can’t match the overwhelming excellence of Blizzard’s Overwatch.
It was released back in May as smashed its way into the market and viciously curb stomped an already reeling Battleborn on the way to the top of the charts. That was quite a while ago and I am still playing it today. I’ve spent over 150 hours on it, my work desktop background is of an Overwatch character (Hanzo <3) and I own no less than 7 Overwatch themed t-shirts. It currently has over 20 million active players. Overwatch has 2016 won on cultural relevance alone. Add to that a gorgeous and expressive art style, a cast of interesting and immediately iconic characters with varied but always useful abilities, a collection of expertly designed maps and a smooth as butter player experience that can cater to any number of play styles, and you have probably the most sublime FPS to ever grace our miserable little lives. All hail Overwatch, our new FPS overlord.
Most Hype Game of 2017
Oscar: Sonic Mania
Some of you might know my background was actually rooted in Sonic fan communities. Sonic Mania looks like an incredible game that truly, truly respects and understands what made the original Sonic games so great. It’s actually no surprise to us old fans of the “blue blur” that Sonic Mania is looking so good, as Christian Whitehead is working on it. This is a guy that rose to prominence in the (very prolific) Sonic fan community by making a very accurate recreation of the classic Sonic engine called the “retro engine”. It’s the kind of engine that makes Sonic 4 look like the trash it is. He used this for the stellar remake of Sonic CD available on multiformat, and then later on for his Sonic and Sonic 2 remakes which are criminally locked exclusively to iOS and Android. I’m not just hyped for Sonic Mania in 2017, I’m hyped for Christian Whitehead to finally be releasing the full Sonic game we all knew he had in him this whole time.
Holly: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
I’m so ready for this! I’m so ready for brutal Berserk hack and slash action
and shelling out for Casca DLC! It’s a supremely simple premise, but this game is just so exciting.
Natehawke: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2017 looks like a year full of amazing gaming experiences but there’s going to be a new Zelda. There’s going to be a new Nintendo console and there is a new Zelda on it. This is an easy pick.
Gayest Anime of 2016
Oscar: Yuri!!! On Ice
Yeah, it’s very gay lol (｀ω´) Prince of Stide: Alternative will always hold a special place in my heart, and I still think it’s criminally underrated, but ultimately Yuri!!! on Ice outclasses it in terms of sheer boy power. I even found myself watching actual figure skating videos (of real, breathing humans), so you know it’s special.
Holly: Yuri!!! on Ice
Yuri!!! on Ice had me entranced after seeing its initial trailer, but it was still so much more than I expected. It’s beautiful and also super, super gay. Every time I thought it couldn’t get gayer, it somehow managed. I’m so pleased it’s just unashamedly gay. And it was well written too!
Natehawke: Yuri!!! on Ice
I think the main characters of this show are straight up engaged at this point. It’s not even subtly gay like Prince of Stride was, this is straight up super gay. And awesome! Yuri!!! On Ice is by far my favourite anime of the 2016 autumn season. I never thought I’d be totally riveted by a super gay anime about ice skating, but there it is. I might go ice skating myself this holiday hoping to find a Viktor of my own.
Biggest Anime Let-Down
Put the oranges down, I don’t hate Orange. The manga is really sweet, emotional, and charming. I just wasn’t really a fan of the anime. I know the story of Orange is at times very sad, the anime just felt way more dour in places. The manga seemed to ooze charm and warmth in places that the anime just didn’t. Ichigo Takano’s work on the manga is just much more deft, and that’s the only way I know how to put it. The anime just felt unnecessarily plodding and down in the dumps. At 5 manga volumes vs 13 episodes, I’d recommend giving it a read instead.
Holly: Joker Game
Joker Game wasn’t a bad series, but it had some big issues. I loved that each of the characters got their own dedicated episode (even if Miyoshi’s left a lot to be desired), but, outside of their one episode, I struggled to even remember who anyone was. I think mostly it came down to pacing issues, which is easily done with series that are based on light novels, especially when they only have a 12 episode run. Joker Game would probably benefit from a second season, and I’d happily watch one in the hopes it could iron out the problems. This season alone though just didn’t really do it for me. Something has to take this spot, and it’s going to have to be Joker Game.
Natehawke: Taboo Tattoo
This is kind of hard to call, I’ve ended up dropping quite a few animes this year. Bungo Stray Dogs seemed interesting to me on paper but was completely unlikeable, same thing with Occultic;Nine, a show I really wanted to like but ended up repelling me with a hyper pace, unlikeable characters and nonsensical babbling dialogue. Berserk was okay in my opinion, but disappointing considering the expectations. 91 Days was good but bored me in the long run and RE:Zero went from bad to good to bad to horrendously terrible over the course of its season (Team Rem represent, also fuck Subaru).
But I think my biggest let down was Taboo Tattoo. I had no expectations and tried it out and found it to be super interesting after the first few episodes. But then it went from a show with good potential to a complete mess – disjointed narrative, rushed action and wasted opportunities. It was in some ways, the anime version of my Final Fantasy XV experience. But what really earns it my wrath and scorn is that it wasted an amazing opening song by May’n in the process. Oh May’n-chan, you deserve so much better. <3
2016 Anime of the Year
Oscar: Mob Psycho 100
There was a lot of anime I loved over the year, but Mob Psycho 100 just feels so special out of all of them. Firstly it’s just lovely to see One’s work get a more true to the source material adaptation than One Punch Man (which is great in its own way). Mob Psycho 100 is One’s stronger work as a manga, and while still hilarious and ridiculous, it also manages to be one of the most biting and emotional manga out there about boyhood and societal expectations. The anime was also a huge melting pot for massive experimentation in animation styles, from some veteran talent and also quite excitedly some of the best younger talent around. It’s a beautiful rollercoaster, and just for the risks it took with its production is probably one of the most important anime of the year. Take a look at Canipa’s video breakdowns about the animation!
Holly: Yuri!!! on Ice
There’s a lot more to Yuri!!! on Ice than just its incredible gayness which we all mentioned. It’s just an all-around beautiful show. It’s one of a few shows that was able to make me care about pretty much all the characters, and I admire the way it showed us so many performances other than just Yuri’s. The art, the music, and the story all just blew me away. It’s hands down my anime of the year, and I hope a potential second season will allow it to expand on characters who didn’t get so much attention and shine even brighter.
Natehawke: My Hero Academia
2016 actually ended up not having a lot of strong contenders for me. There were several animes that I enjoyed, in that they were totally watchable, but not a lot of stuff that really grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me hard and screamed in my face ‘CHECK THIS SHIT OUT!!’ the way my previous year winners did (One Punch Man, Akame Ga Kill and Attack on Titan over the last few years).
Ultimately, the best anime I watched in 2016 is My Hero Academia. Much like with One Punch Man, it took me a while to start watching it because descriptions of the show didn’t peak my interest much, but once I decided to check it out and watched a few episodes I was hooked.
Midoriya is a very relatable character in many ways, and his struggle to follow in the footsteps of his hero All Might is a compelling one. Filled with interesting ideas and plot lines, both of the mundane teenage high school and the superhero variety, lovable characters, awesome action and a sweet artstyle, My Hero Academia gives me exactly what I want from an anime and is far and away my favourite of 2016.
Most Anticipated Anime of 2017
Oscar: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo
Okay, is it rude to expect them to not only clearly confirm an adaption of Part 5 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but also that it will be released in 2017? Probably. But I’m going to do it anyway. Vento Aureo has for a long time had debatably one of the sketchiest fan translations out there (since Part 4 was fixed), which might make it the Part that most deserves a fresh lick of paint. I’m just super excited to see what David Production will do with it, and also to see what the ED song will be, which is very important.
Holly: Full Metal Panic! IV
There’s a lot of good anime scheduled for next year (even if next season is looking a little bland to me), so this was a tough one, but it’s got to be Full Metal Panic! IV. I loved the first three Full Metal Panic! seasons so much, so I’m overjoyed that it’s continuing! It’s not confirmed, but this is likely to be a continuation from where The Second Raid ended too, now that the novels are finished and there’s more material to work with, so that’s particularly exciting! Not that I wouldn’t be excited even if it was just a remake though, as it’s one of my favourite anime series. I could go on and on about Full Metal Panic! but I’ll restrain myself and leave it at that.
Natehawke: Erm, is it Attack on Titan time yet? Maybe? No? Aww.
I’m keeping a keen eye on Chain Chronicle. The first few episodes are already available but I’m going to go ahead and consider it an early 2017 anime. It has a really interesting premise – it basically starts at the end, after the hero has gathered a group of allies, rallied the kingdoms and assaulted the big bad guys base. Only things don’t go as planned…
Time will tell if it turns out to be an excellent show, but so far it’s definitely the new hotness that has my attention.
- AeternoBlade II Out now on Switch and PS4 - October 11, 2019
- Code: Realize Future Blessings Comes to Switch Spring 2020 - October 3, 2019
- Code Vein Out Now, Launch Trailer Released - September 27, 2019