Ryan’s Top 14 Things of 2020

So we all know the big event that happened this year and any retrospective article is gonna talk about it so I’m not gonna waste your time explaining it other than to say MASK UP. As a result of it though, I had a lot more free time since I started working from home in early March, and wasn’t going out to see anyone or do anything, so I consumed a TON of media, gaming alone I completed 62 games and counting (article on each of those to follow).

Honestly though, as bad as this year was, I made it a pretty great one for myself. I finished 3 semesters (5 classes) in my grad program, started a side business for modding and repairing consoles, and just in general took some time and had some real personal growth.

But anyways, let’s jump into the list!


One of the projects I finished during quarantine; backlit screen, USB-C Battery, new shell, and new buttons.

Everything that's wrong with the Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer | WIRED UK

Sonic the Hedgehog Movie

This movie was a rollercoaster from the very beginning. Thankfully, it didn’t wind up looking like above because DEAR GOD WHY DOES HE HAVE TEETH? This was the one and only movie I actually was able to see in theaters before the world shut down and it’s what me and my friends did on Valentine’s Day together so I have very good memories of that day. I actually thought that despite the rampant sponsorship (brought to you by Olive Garden™️) it was a pretty fun movie. Not great by any stretch, but it was a fun time. I honestly can’t wait for the sequel and want to see Tails and Knuckles in glorious HD. Also, at the beginning where he and his mom (?) were being chased by echidna’s, I couldn’t stop hearing “This is the way.”


Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 6 Review – The Tragedy | Den of  Geek

The Mandalorian Season 2

Speaking of “This is the way,” The Mandalorian came back, and HO BOY. If it hasn’t been made aware by my general existence, I live and breathe Star Wars. I’ve even cosplayed the conqueror of Mandalore in the Old Republic, Revan, at conventions a few times now.

Me as Revan. Don’t mind the Asics, my boots hadn’t shown up yet.

So needless to say, I specifically love lore surrounding the Mandalorians. The new season of this show did not disappoint either. It constantly manages to stay consistent with what I know to be true, while creatively working in some new stuff that hasn’t been seen before. I can’t really avoid spoilers because I’m too hype so here is your warning.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Starting right off we got a reference to a single throwaway chapter from the books about how some guy finds and buys Boba’s armor, which honestly I thought they would just ignore ever happened. Then characters from both Clone Wars and Rebels show up. I was hesitant to have this show get too inclusive with established characters, but they were handled well and it seems Bo Katan is going to be regularly appearing next season. Even Luke freaking Skywalker showed up deaged and badass as heck, which is what I wanted to see in Episode 8 but we’ll be here for years if I get into that. We also got a lot of spinoff shows teed up about Ahsoka and Boba Fett, which are very exciting. Every episode just got me more and more hyped for what was to come and after rewatching the season as a whole, they need to make Jon Favreau the Emperor of Star Wars because he has earned it. I cannot wait for Mandalorian Season 3 and I hope they continue to knock it out of the park.


Save 68% on Zero Escape Trilogy on Steam

Zero Escape Trilogy

Earlier this year, I was talking with a friend about what is one game franchise you wish you could forget so you could experience it all over again for the first time. I think I mentioned Undertale or something because that is one of my favorite games, and they mentioned the Zero Escape games, which are Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999), Virtue’s Last Reward, and Zero Time Dilemma. I had heard of these games but never really delved into them because I’m not a huge fan of visual novels typically, but I told them I would give it a shot. So I bought 999 on DS, and I didn’t stop until I finished all 3 of the games.

The basic premise of each of them is you are a person being held captive by a masked figure named Zero, and you have to work with your fellow captives to figure out a way to escape. Spoiler alert, 99% of the time, it goes horribly wrong and you or someone else dies. What did you expect it’s an anime visual novel that’s par for the course. You progress through segments where you have to escape from the room you are in, which brings about some very interesting and creative puzzles, as well as making decisions in the novel segment, trying to figure out the best course of action to take. Each of the games is interconnected with the others in some way. 999 can stand on its own pretty well, but Virtue’s takes everything it did and amps up the plot substantially. Zero Time honestly fell a little flat but was a nice wrap up for the plot you had already invested so much time into. There were a TON of moments in all 3 games that absolutely blew my mind and I loved every second of it. The characters were engaging, and I loved following the story all the way through. If you like engaging plots and escape room games, this series is definitely for you. Now that I’m thinking about it as well, I would love to re-experience these games with a clean slate as well, because just wow.

What are some games that you would love to experience again like new for the first time?


Beastars' review: Netflix's latest goes far beyond the typical horny teen  anime

Beastars

This is the show that made everyone and their mother realize that they were actually a furry. I’ll be completely honest, I made a snap judgement when I saw this show at first that it was just gonna be some weird show about animals doing… you know. I mean, I was right, but it was also far and away better than I could have ever expected it to be. It basically took everything Zootopia had as a basis, and delved into it much deeper touching on topics such as racial discrimination, slut shaming, and coming of age.

The animation of this show was beautiful, the intro instantly became one of my favorites. It is probably the best Netflix anime to have been made to date. I thought the dynamics between the different classes of animal were really well thought out and actually made it feel like a really well built world. I always appreciate when a writer takes the extra effort to completely develop the world their characters are in. We also did an episode on this show! You can find that here.

Beastars was easily the biggest surprise in anime for me this year and I cannot wait for more when season 2 drops in January.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons: hands-on with Nintendo's adorable Switch  life sim - The Verge
Congratulations! You spent a ton of money!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Everyone’s favorite Mafioso Tanuki is back again. This time, the feds finally caught up to him after his book keeper, Yoshi, got busted for tax evasion. So he had to escape to an island where there was no extradition treaty so he could continue his real estate loan shark schemes. This game came like right as quarantine hit, and honestly I was never so happy a game had gotten delayed. I spent hundreds of hours on my island doing chores, redecorating, and…. paying off my…. debt…. wait, why do we think this game is fun again?

Honestly I think we like this game so much because you can make your own fun with it. I made a competitive bug net arena and hosted tournaments on my island. We also all learned the best way to exploit turnip STONKS. There has been a steady stream of updates ever since it came out that keeps me coming back once every couple of months. We had an easter event, 4th of July where we can make our own custom fireworks (I made one for my YouTube channel), and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas stuff.

My Mid Shelf Gaming fireworks

There have been a ton off hilarious things to have come out of this as well. For example, I learned that Jeremiah, my frog neighbor, is a cannibal. We also got so many funny memes, like Tom Nook and Isabelle dancing, and all the different games that people made on their island. For right now, I’ve put this game down, but I will definitely pick it back up at some point and catch up on everything I’ve missed. Thanks Nintendo for making the first bit of quarantine pretty painless and giving me an easy way to distract myself from the world dissolving around me.


Steins;Gate-A Timeless Masterpiece | by Ken Dang | Medium

Steins;Gate

Tu-tu-ruu! So earlier this year, my good buddy and co-YouTuber, Will, said that that he would watch anyone’s favorite anime if they watched his favorite anime, Steins;Gate. I took him up on this because I’m always looking to expand my horizons while spreading the gospel of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which I made him watch. I knew basically nothing going in except wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, but I tend to love complicated plots, so I jumped in.

Honestly at first, the plot was very slow. The first few episodes had some shocking and fun moments, but I kinda struggled to stay engaged with it because I didn’t really know where it was going. After episode 12 however, the plot IMMEDIATELY goes from 0 to 100 in about 5 seconds. When I looked back at those first episodes, it was crucial for world building and setting everything up, because everything that happened after was based on them. It was truly a wild ride by the end and I really want to give it another watch because I get the feeling this is the type of show that would benefit from a second watch and noticing things I didn’t notice the first time. After watching, I’m also tempted to give the games a try, but I’ve heard they’re a bit hard, but we’ll see, I’m usually open minded.


Outlander,' a Starz Series Adapted From the Novels - The New York Times

Outlander

This show has been on my list for a long time, but I was always hesitant to start because each episode is a full hour and it has a lot of seasons. Finally starting while working from home was a great decision. The show centers around a World War 2 combat nurse who is going on a 2nd honeymoon with her husband after the conclusion of WW2 so they can reconnect since the war had kept them apart for so long. They travel to Scotland where Claire falls through time due to magical rocks and lands in 17th century Scotland.

The show explores her journey trying to get back to the present while surviving the difficulties of living in the past where they have less modern medicine or other technologies. It’s a very difficult show to explain on paper because it is very dense and each episode answers and asks more and more questions, but I highly recommend it. Just don’t watch it with your parents, its very nude-y. My mom asked if I wanted to watch an episode or two with her when she found out I was watching and I gave her a big fat no on that.


How Among Us Found Success in Connecting People During a Pandemic | NDTV  Gadgets 360
Tobias and Tori sus

Among Us

I’m gonna put my hipster glasses on for this one because I thought this game was fun long before Twitch realized it was. I found it on sale for $1 about a year ago and tried to convince one of my discords to play it, but no one was really interested save for a couple people, and we had fun but knew it would be better with more people. Then this year it completely exploded and I was glad to have people to finally play it with. It got so big that the developers immediately announced a sequel which they then walked back and said they’d just be updating the base game to make it easier and cheaper for everyone.

The game is a werewolf or mafia type game where you have to perform tasks as a space crew and try to not get killed by the imposters among your crew. It can get very heated at times especially when people are certain they are correct about who killed someone. One thing is for sure though, this game will tell you who has better deductive reasoning skills than others. We noticed the game is hilariously similar to the premise of The Thing, where a crew in Antarctica was infiltrated by an alien who was taking on the form of crew members and killing the others. If you haven’t played Among Us yet, it’s a great time if you can get a bunch of friends together, and with Map #4 on the horizon, it’ll be a good time to get back into it.


Star Wars: Squadrons review: a new hope for Star Wars video games - Polygon

Star Wars: Squadrons

So I bought a HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick (flight stick)) this year for 2 reasons, and this was one of them. Yeah I know LOL EA but I enjoyed Battlefront II once they fixed it and Jedi Fallen Order wasn’t bad, so I was excited to give this a shot when I saw it was a new flight combat game, as Rogue Squadron was one of my favorite series. This game is definitely not for everyone, as it is super super complicated and has a really high skill ceiling, but if you enjoy flight simulators, this is one of the best. It’s been about 2 months as of writing since launch and they’ve already added more ships to the game when they said there would be no DLC, so I think it’s off to a pretty great start.

You can play as either the New Republic or Empire, and each ship feels unique and can be loaded out as you see fit. The story does a great job of teaching you how to play the game and prepares you for multiplayer, as well as telling a pretty good Star Wars story. Multiplayer is pretty standard but it has a lot of room for you to get good and the ranked battles are very fun where you fight against your opponent’s fleet. I am hoping that Star Wars games keep maintaining this level of quality and hope that Squadrons specifically gets some more free content updates.


18 Surprising Facts About Frasier | Mental Floss

Frasier

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a walking repository of 80s and 90s sitcom knowledge, so it was kinda surprising that I hadn’t watched Frasier yet. During quarantine I started re-watching Cheers and started to wonder why I had never picked up Frasier after I finished. Well I finally fixed that, and I was so mad at myself for not having started it sooner.

Frasier follows the psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane after he leaves Boston and Cheers and moves

Moose (dog) - Wikipedia
He is the one true good boy

home to Seattle for a fresh start. He is a radio psychiatrist and a man of culture, and I was reminded of the days when my mom would listen to Dr. Laura in the car sometimes. The cast was so perfect for this show and I loved it so much that I watched all 11 seasons twice. There are a few episodes where Cheers characters are brought in and honestly those were my favorite episodes because as much as I believe Frasier is the better show, the characters of Cheers still hold a special place for me. Also honorable mention to the best dog in TV history, Eddie AKA Moose.


Fall Guys fans are heartbroken over the game's elusive crowns - Polygon

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

I’ve been burned out on battle royales since they all seemed kinda samey, and then THIS came along. There hasn’t been a game in such a long time that I just bought on an impulse and absolutely fell in love with AND I was actually good at it too. Fall Guys succeeded in being chaotically fun and even when I lost I still had a great time. They also have the absolute best social media team and have gotten so popular that brands are reaching out to THEM for crossover skins, which to me is the greatest symbol of success.

The game is split into rounds where you compete in mini games and aim to win the crown. There are some mini games that I absolutely love, while others I cannot stand. Whenever I jump in with some friends, we have a great time and it makes me want to keep coming back for more. As of writing it is currently in the middle of its 3rd season, with no signs of stopping. My bet is that next season is going to be space themed.


Is Final Fantasy VII Remake actually a remake, or is it something much more?

Final Fantasy VII: Remake

Final Fantasy VII: Reboot Remake is one of the best remakes ever done hands down, and is my game of the year. Now, if you’ve played the game, you know why Remake is an interesting choice to use, but either way, this game was fantastic. I love the original FFVII and always wished we got to explore more of Midgar than the tiny hallway sections they had given us. This game gave us exactly that. While mostly still linear, it is far more open than in the past with a completely revamped combat system, more detail given to the story, and lots and lots of side quests. The only thing I have to say about the ending is Nomura/10, because I know Austin still hasn’t finished, so everyone shame him in the comments down below.

I don’t know when or how many installations of this remake we will be getting, but I am absolutely excited for them. I think the new voice cast did a great job despite the fact the odds were stacked against everyone’s nostalgia. I am glad that they took their time with this game and hope that the detail put into this one will allow them to consistently put out good games, no matter how long or short each one turns out being.


5 Best Anime like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - Japan Web Magazine

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

If Bleach and Naruto had a baby, I’d imagine it would look similar to Demon Slayer. I hadn’t checked out a Shonen series in awhile because I was a bit burnt-out after being a Naruto fan for so long and keeping up with My Hero Academia and One Punch Man. I was surprised at how good this show wound up being.

Visually the show is stunning. It has a really unique style where the attacks seem to be straight off of manga pages while the animation is still clean. I think the best part of this series is it didn’t waste any time. It had the typical origin story and learning to be powerful, but it only lasted for an episode or two, and then jumped right in with the plot. Most fights resolve in an episode or two, which is unusual for a Shonen series, since they have a tendency to drag on. Once it was done with something, it moved on and didn’t drag at any point. The manga also finished recently, which I am glad to hear the mangaka didn’t drag it on for years past their original vision.

Demon Slayer also had a movie come out recently, and unlike a lot of other shows, the movie is actually its next arc, so it is REQUIRED viewing if you intend to keep up. The movie broke box office records in Japan, dethroning Spirited Away and other records held by some movies for a really long time. I am very excited to give it a watch once it comes stateside.


Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game  Details

Bug Fables

Paper Mario is one of my absolute favorite games, and I have absolutely hated the franchise ever since Sticker Star. So instead of playing the one that came out this year, I played one made by a fan that blew me away. Bug Fables is an RPG where you play as a group of insects in what I’m pretty sure is just a backyard. The gameplay is very resemblant of classic Paper Mario gameplay, which I have been craving for a long time. First thing, if you are a Paper Mario vet, play on hard mode, you can do it I believe in you, it’s so worth it. It uses the badge system so uniquely that you can form a variety of strategies in order to tackle the challenges you’ll come across.

The story is nothing to write home about, but it more than makes up for it with combat. I have not stopped singing this game’s praises since I played it, and with a free content update that just came out, I’ve been shouting about it again. If you are a fan of RPGs, do not pass this one up.


Honorable Mentions

The Intuition of Haruhi Suzumiya – I was so ecstatic when I saw a tweet from the now official Haruhi Twitter account that a new book would be coming out in November. It’s been 9 years since we’ve had one, and as such, it has been awhile since I’ve read them, so while waiting for the new book to come physically in English, I’ve been rereading the old ones, but this announcement was still super exciting.

Westworld Season 3 – I’ve talked about Westworld a lot before so I didn’t want it to get on my list again, but this show took a dramatically different turn this year and was yet another great ride. I can’t recommend this show enough.

My Hero Academia Season 4 Kinda felt hard to give this one a slot on the list by itself, but I am greatly enjoying this show still and hope it continues to be awesome. Can’t wait til April for season 5!

Mario 64 PC Port/16 Star Speedrun – I can now play Mario 64 in 4K @ 60 FPS on my computer because I’m a filthy PC Master Race. I used this to learn how to do a 16 star speed run of the game and I feel really accomplished knowing how to do this since it’s one of the first games I ever played. My current best time is 33:20.


I know 2020 has been a hard year for many, but keep on keeping on and we will get through this and be able to have a pint at the next con. Whisper “Third Impact 2020” in my ear at the bar and your first drink is on me.

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