There have certainly been years past where I posted my predictions for my end of the year ‘top five’ contenders and many of the anime and video games I mentioned therein did not make the cut, so I suppose I ought to encourage you to take the following with a grain of salt. On the video game side of things, I feel that there is still plenty of room for variation, as some of the 2014 releases I am most excited for are not yet available (Watch Dogs, Ghost Song), while others may follow in the footsteps of Killer7 as older titles that I have not yet properly experienced. As far as the anime side of things is concerned, however, I anticipate that all of the titles mentioned below will end up on the top five list, unless some truly magnificent and mind-blowing release sneaks up on me later this year.
- Video Games –
Killer7 – Weird even by Suda51 standards, Killer7 is something of an antithesis to his Wii cult classic, No More Heroes, as it deals with a dark and serious story of six assassins given corporeal form by one aged Harman Smith, and their intermediary known as Garcian, all of whom are tasked with stopping the mutated walking time bombs known as Heaven’s Smiles and getting to the bottom of a global conspiracy. It’s a game that pays an insane attention to detail as it weaves as thinking man’s story, all the while presenting an odd yet surprisingly well-designed gameplay that combines on-rails shooting with action and puzzle elements, wrapped up in a hyper-cel-shaded package.
DmC: Devil May Cry – Admittedly, this reimagining of Dante and Vergil’s story is a bit on the short side, but what it lacks in length it makes up for with a grungy modern European art style and far and away the smoothest gameplay the series has seen yet. Dante is foul-mouthed, brash and impulsive, but an entertaining anti-hero nonetheless. The boss fights are quite nicely varied, and the demon and angel weapons as creative in design as they are fun to lay a smack-down with.
Grand Theft Auto V – The series that really brought sandbox gaming into the limelight, Grand Theft Auto’s fifth installment sees two men whose glory days have long since passed team up with a young up-and-coming hustler to revisit their criminal tendencies in a gaming world that truly pushes the limits and expectations of what modern gaming is all about. There is so much to see and do in GTA V, and while the heists are intense and thoroughly enjoyable to plan and execute, it is easy to find yourself spending hours on end exploring the metro of Los Santos, stealing cars, planes, ATVs, boats, shooting up rival gang members, purchasing properties for a weekly income, biking to the tops of mountains, taking a submarine to the depths of the bay, base jumping off a skyscraper, or any of the other multitude of activities available. It’s crazy just how much content is crammed into this single game, and even harder to believe just how smoothly it all runs.
- Anime -
Puella Magi Madoka Magica – One of the last genres I expected I would ever watch with such anticipation, Madoka takes the tropes of magical girl anime and turns them on their heads. It’s a dark tale, one that dares to be bold and original, one that dares to provide a practical yet interesting explanation for each plot point, one that dares to follow in the footsteps of Neon Genesis Evangelion without identifying too closely with the pseudo-mecha classic. And while the series does introduce a couple of plot points late in the story that seem a tad out of place, the overall product is a brilliant realization of a heavily-stylized story that gradually layers its relevant information, and one that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – I’m a bit late to the Jojo's party, I’ll admit, as the 2012 anime provided my first proper exposure to the long-running series. Still, its combination of wacky fighting styles, somewhat darker tone, and classic rock references make for a one-of-a-kind action comedy. Whether it is the first season’s lovable Joseph Joestar that lands the first season on my end-of-the-year top five list, or Stardust Crusaders' incorporation of Stands that secures the second season the title of the superior Jojo’s tale, I can almost guarantee that one season or the other will end up near the top of the stack for 2014.
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn – I’ve mentioned a number of times how much I appreciate the time and effort that has been put into this OVA, and while I’m sad to see it go, it has been one heck of a ride over the past couple of years, with each episode being at the quality of a theatrical release. The pacing is spot-on, the balance between mobile suit action scenes and exposition perfect. While it is true that I have yet to view the final episode before writing up a proper review on this, Unicorn Gundam would have to fall flat on its face to make me consider it anything less than one of the very best entries in the long-running franchise.