Hello everyone, and welcome to the 46th annual 2020 Jordie Awards. I’m your host, the frog/whale mafia boss from Mirai Sentai Timeranger, and it is my genuine pleasure to be here with all of you tonight. Let’s begin.
Best Live Game
Winner: Monster Hunter: World Iceborne
Honorable Mention: Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Iceborne respects my time better than any other live game I’ve played. Whether I’m working to take down the latest monster, hunting for specific materials to build new armor, or doing daily quests to earn event rewards, I always know what I’m doing, why, and am secure in the knowledge that at the end of the day, I’ll have what I want. (Or, at the very least, be some quantifiable amount closer to getting what I want.)
This isn’t the case in Destiny 2, which is built on making players “earn” their rewards by grinding randomized drops until the gods smile upon them. I can spend a weekend in Destiny 2 and not have anything especially interesting or fun to show for it, but that’s never the case with Iceborne. If I want a specific weapon, I know exactly what materials I need to make it, and exactly what tasks I need to perform to acquire those materials. Some materials do drop randomly, granted, but I always know exactly where from, and can focus on that specific task until I get what I need. I have never spent time in Iceborne that wasn’t somehow productive, which isn’t something I can say about Destiny 2 or the other live games I sunk time into this year.
Best Music Creation Software Attached to an Okay Rhythm Game
Honorable Mention: Ableton Live 10
I’ve spent a pretty significant portion of my life in music creation software suites, and from a technical standpoint, Fuser is a genuine marvel. It’s not going to give you access to the minutiae that a true DAW will, but as far as like, a consumer-level tool for creating music, there’s never been anything like it. The work that Harmonix’s engine is doing in the background to match tempos, keys, and engineer transitions is honest to God flabbergasting — a level of musical math never before attempted (or even dreamed of) by other rhythm games. It’s kind of a bummer that the actual game side of Fuser is essentially a glorified tutorial, and that the goals presented by the campaign don’t really teach what I would consider to be best practices for creating an interesting mix, but as a sandbox for musical expression, Fuser is peerless.
Best Game That Made Me Cool for Liking the Developer Before Everyone Else
Winner: Genshin Impact
Honorable Mention: Paper Mario: The Origami King
Most westerners had never heard of Mihoyo before Genshin Impact imploded the free-to-play scene earlier this year, but I’ll have you know that I’ve been on that tip since 2018’s North American release of Honkai Impact 3rd! That’s right, before it was making commendable anime homages to Breath of the Wild, Mihoyo was making commendable anime homages to Bayonetta on mobile. Honkai Impact 3rd doesn’t share the same scope as Genshin Impact, but the hundreds of hours I put into it over the years are testimony enough that there’s plenty to do. I’ve never played another mobile game that makes 3D character-action combat feel this good on a touchscreen, so much so that even when the official PC version dropped, I still preferred to play on mobile. If you dig Genshin Impact‘s whole deal and want to see how Mihoyo got there, Honkai Impact 3rd is still available and still worth your time.
Best Neo Geo Pocket Color Rerelease
Winner: SNK Gals’ Fighters
Honorable Mention: The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny
The Neo Geo Pocket Color was a great little handheld that never really got its due, mostly because of the dominance of Nintendo’s Game Boy line, and also due to SNK’s comparatively weaker name recognition in the West, at least as compared to Nintendo or Sega. Still, SNK managed to put tiny little chibi versions of its best games on that thing, and while fighting game fans on the Game Boy had to make due with trash like this, the Neo Geo Pocket Color had a generous stable of tight, mechanically rich fighters for those in the know. Gals’ Fighters is far and away my favorite of them all, and this year SNK rereleased it on Nintendo Switch for a mere $8. The lack of online play is unfortunate, but at this price, it feels a little silly to complain about.
Most Valuable Contribution to Amateur 3D Filmmaking
Winner: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Honorable Mention: Resident Evil 3
Best Small Turbografx-16
Winner: Turbografx-16 mini
Honorable Mention: Sega Game Gear Micro
If you’re in the market for a small Turbografx-16, you can’t do better than Konami’s Turbografx-16 mini. Released earlier this year after I willed it into existence back in 2018, the mini contains 57 games that range from “bizarre thing that’s interesting to look at” like The Kung Fu, and some all-time greats like Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. I still dislike that you can only get one by feeding $100 to Jeff’s Website, but for the complete details of everything I love about this small Turbografx, check out me and merritt k’s review podcast.
Best Entire Game Boy Advance Library
Winner: Everdrive GBA X5 Mini
Honorable Mention: RetroArch
I don’t know if you’ve looked at Game Boy Advance games on eBay recently, but the prices are out of fucking control. People are out there ponying up $50 or more for copies of extremely common games, without the boxes or manuals or anything, and there’s even a cottage industry of people selling reproductions of stuff like Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, which sold 16.2 million copies!
Vintage game collecting has gotten a lot more expensive overall since the pandemic started, but I’ve never seen a segment of the resale market go off the rails to this extent. It’s madness, and I refuse to participate, so instead I’ve purchased one of Krikzz’s Everdrive GBA X5 Mini flash carts. I can play whatever I want without having to worry about bootleg cartridges, repros sold as originals, or fueling an industry that has legitimately lost control of itself. Its compatibility with normal Game Boy/Color ROMs isn’t great, but if your goal is to experience the GBA’s best games on original hardware, you’ll probably save money in the long run.
Best Storytelling With the Worst Combat
Winner: Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Honorable Mention: Cloud Gardens
I only made it a dozen or so hours into Like a Dragon, but it was clear my time with it that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio hasn’t lost its ability to structure a story. This series has always been exemplary in terms of its pacing and its ability to walk the line between absurdist comedy and crime drama, and Like a Dragon is no exception — I’d likely have seen it through to the end, were it not for the clunky and wholly unsatisfying semi-real time turn-based RPG combat. I get that it’s thematically appropriate for Ichiban’s love of Dragon Quest and everything, and I really appreciate the guts it takes to try something this different seven games deep in a series, but it just doesn’t land. I wish that Ryu Ga Gotoku had gone for a more traditional, non-active turn-based solution, or had just layered the cool new job system onto the series’ existing brawler mechanics.
Best Combat With the Worst Storytelling
Winner: Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Honorable Mention: Tetris Effect: Connected
Destiny 2 has never been great at telling its story, but this year’s Beyond Light expansion is the sloppiest narrative content Bungie has ever released. It’s a flat, slapdash sequence of incongruous events with few explanations or justifications, where characters that have not been seen or heard for years are suddenly thrust into the spotlight without context, while the primary stars of the last few years of Destiny 2 are relegated to the sidelines.
Spoken dialogue often contracts what’s written, characters make grand proclamations with no narrative evidence to support them, and while the player is constantly being told that something huge and important is happening — something that could redefine what it means to be a Guardian — we never see it. All that actually happens is that a bug tells you to kill another bug and then a robot from a different game gives you a magic rock. We don’t confront the Darkness, we don’t learn the secrets of the pyramids, there’s no development on Eris’ whole deal, nothing. Everything that you might possibly have cared about over the last year is dropped like a dead Ghost in favor of bugs and rocks.
Thankfully (for Bungie’s sake and mine), Destiny 2 is still the best-feeling shooter ever made, and Beyond Light keeps up the pace with interesting new abilities and repeatable bounty content that I actually don’t hate for once. I just wish they could finish a thought.
Actually the Best Game I Played in 2020 Probably
I may not have gotten all the chievos like merritt did, and I may not have been singing the praises of this game since its Early Access days like Steven, but I’ll gladly sit here and tell you that Hades is the best game I played in 2020. Supergiant has a pedigree for a reason, and I don’t think anyone would expect one of their games to be a stinker, but I also don’t think anyone could have predicted that Hades would nail absolutely everything it sets out to do.
No matter what part of the game you’re looking at — design coherency, combat fluidness, voice acting, character development, environmental design, story structure, sound design, character design, anything — it’s all exceptional. There’s been a lot of writing about Hades already this week (and in general on Fanbyte, for good reason), so I won’t belabor the issue, but this thing really is as good as everyone says it is. Steven was right.