Kupo Writes! Game Awards 2023 Day 3!!

Welcome, kupo~!! Here are the awards for Day 3 of the Kupo Writes! Game awards. Here are the last of our rewards until our GOTY!!

Double Ribbon: Big Twilight Vibes/First Platinum Award - Alan Wake 2 by Remedy Entertainment

Presented by Andy

No surprise here, I alongside most people this year are listing Alan Wake 2 as one of the best of this year. And it is. In a greater context, Alan Wake 2 has become this crowning achievement for a new age of Remedy that started with Control. Where Control started a fire, Alan Wake 2 turned that into an all-consuming blaze. What I really hope perpetuates out of this attention is the strengthening and expanding of the New Weird genre.

As I touched on briefly in my review on Control, Alan Wake 2’s overall tone and direction excite me for how the genre will really come into its own in the next few years.

Coincidentally, much of my playthrough of Alan Wake 2 was tied with an agreement I made with my partner; every night after my gamer sessions, we would watch an entry of the Twilight Saga, a series of films that I only ever really knew through osmosis. From this experience I can draw these two conclusions: 1. The three areas of Saga’s adventure, Cauldron Lake, Watery, and Bright Falls shares a lot of similar visual settings as Twilight, given they take place in roughly the same geographic region of Western Washington state. 2. More controversially, Alan Wake, the writer, would have loved Twilight. It's so brutally obvious; the way that Alan Wake writes descriptions of his characters and how they convey emotion is similiar, maybe not in diction, but in prose. Like Stephanie Meyer’s seminal work, Wake can’t help but agonizingly indulge himself in describing every movement and thought of the characters he controls. I’m sure he would have seen Meyer as a fellow artist and inspiration.

One of my favourite shots in Watery.

The narrative of Alan Wake, something I will not spoil, is slightly held back by its pacing, more specifically where the game decides when the chapter (or part, the differences between the two are unclear to me) ends and the next begins. Sometimes a section will end just as the tension is rising in the story or as either Alan or Saga cross some innocuous boundary. The idea of being free to switch between either character is interesting, and the game advises you to ping pong between them, but I felt that in listening to that advice I was being robbed of some agency for their individual story, fearing that I would miss something or wouldn’t get what the story was going for. In hindsight, I don’t really think it elevates the story telling in any significant way.

This guy, though, elevates the story for me, big time.

I don’t think I can say any more than you’ve probably already heard/read so I will keep the conclusion of this review short with some brief notes/short thoughts.

What did this hoarding serve me for? Nothing.

Most Likely to Cause Cramps Award - Panzer Dragoon Orta by Smilebit

Presented by Andy

Alright, I know what this looks like. I put in a weird pull from 20 years ago to garner some weird gamer clout. I can assure you that my thoughts about this game are quite sincere. Panzer Dragoon Orta was developed by internal Sega studio Smilebit, which included some members of the original Panzer Dragoon developer Team Andromeda, and released in North America on January 14th, 2003. Panzer Dragoon Orta captured my imagination at a really early age, I first encountered it and played its second level very briefly at a relative’s house. When asked what I exactly I was looking at, they couldn't give me an answer since they didn’t really know themselves, and so the mystery of this game became lodged in my head, for the last two decades.

This level has been repeating in my head for years. Wow-ee is it gorgeous.

Recently, while finding myself between games I decided to finally put these memories to rest, I managed to configure a solution to play it on the original Xbox release on somewhat original hardware.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a return to form back to its the rail-shooter roots following the difference in direction from the previous title Panzer Dragoon Saga, an acclaimed JRPG in its own right, while maintaining story threads from its predecessors. It controls incredibly simply. Stick to aim, shoulder buttons to change the field of view, a button for form changes, another for your special ability, and lastly the most important button: the shoot button. Long has it been since a game has cramped my hand, but Orta’s demands that you switch between measured holds for charged laser shots and mashing for Orta’s sidearm for the same shared shoot button. While the missions are not egregiously long, after a while you can really start feeling the tension in the tendons. While this not something that I can really slight the game for, it makes for an interesting facet of this game, and a much more qualified person can make some contrast on how game design was different twenty years ago.

While its controls can be considered pragmatic and a product of its time, the greatest strength in Orta is its art direction and camera. These measly screenshots I’ve provided for you absolutely do not do this game justice. Especially in motion. The design of the 3D models is sometimes difficult to discern but are so odd and disfigured at times that I can’t help to find them charming. The set pieces and environments are lush or stark depending the terrain. Especially in the opening and later levels. In a combination one-two punch, working in concert with the environment is how fluid and fast the camera feels. It does a fantastic job of steering you towards grand vistas and action sequences giving a great sense of speed.

Oh yeah, that’s good stuff.

One oddity I can point out in Orta is lack of significant context it gives the player as a standalone experience. After the opening scene of the game you are given some pretty scant information: Orta is important for reasons, and there’s a cool dragon that serves as some sort of harbinger of destruction. Unless you’re familiar with some of the overarching lore, the game does not provide much more context. It uses a lot of jargon and can be a bit difficult to discern the stakes of the narrative. The game is still wholly enjoyable regardless of this, and a quick synopsis reading can provide plenty of information for those who are curious to learn more.

Orta, is a beautiful relic of time long past. It’s sleek, it’s cool, the music bumps and it can be finished within a few hours, so it does not overstay its welcome. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those who are affectionate towards games like Kid Icaris or Star Fox. Sure it can be a bit wonky at times, but the amount of joy its brought me, I will continue to think fondly of this game.

MID MID MID Award - Starfield by Bethesda

Presented by Mog Knight

I watched a video recently of a Hollywood propmaster teaching one how to eat a bunch of burgers for a take, downing six or eight burgers in a row as he narrates. They were pretty convincing-looking hamburgers too. At the very end, the grand reveal: he has hollowed out the meat and bread in all the burgers, leaving only a ring made to fool any onlooker.

That to me, is Bethesda’s Starfield. On paper, sounds completely solid. Space. Companions. Adventures. In practice, however: emptiness, cookie-cutter followers, and point A to point B (C, D, E, ect.) kiddie coasters.

It’s pretty astounding to me how we got here. To one of the most mid experiences I’ve had in gaming. Not of just this year, either. And dear reader, I’ve played my share of bad slop to games at the cusp of being remotely good to games to games that just don’t have a spark in them.

What makes Starfield so different to where I have to highlight it for this year is that this is a triple A title, one that’s been in production for so many years, one that’s supposed to be one of the hit original games of this year - and it falls so short to where even marketing cannot save it. Even the little tricks Bethesda pulled during launch could not save it.

But I was curious. I do not play triple A games often, nor do I beat them. But this being released on Xbox Game Pass, and with me having enough free time at the time - I’ll give it a shot!

Almost 48 hours of gameplay later and reaching the ending, I remember telling my friends (with their first question being “why did you do this to yourself”) that I am very glad I did not spend full price for this game. My favorite part of the game was finding all the food cubes and seeing all the high-poly space food that didn’t need to be that detailed but they were. I sure enjoyed looking at them. In fact, here are a few that I really like.

It’s disappointing how there are so many good moments and parts where one can tell a writer or a designer had a good time with it. Wes Johnson’s voice acting was fantastic. The ending had some really nice ideas and execution. I liked the quest where you had to save everyone from these little alien pests that turn into terramorph monsters that can destroy an entire colony. Well, the ending decision at least.

Some of the set designs and interiors and even art designs were done so well that it's a shame they were in a game like this.

But those three are really about it. The rest just feels as empty as the actual game itself. I wrote on the bird site that every single element of this game is done way better in other games. Planetary and space exploration, companionship, twist ultimatum choices (the one they force you to do was sooo bad, it barely had any weight to it at all), space combat, side quests, sci-fi elements/narratives/plots, factions turned into peacetime united council that still lowkey hate each other, gun combat, inventory management (the use of a weight-style system is still beyond me nowadays), base building, gun combat, loot systems, research trees and building. It’s like they were inspired but did not know how to both execute nor make everything connect. Every single one of these aspects, other games have done better. Which is so crazy to me.

The binary of like and love. Andreja (this character) was really the only companion I liked, as she was so different from everyone else. A true outsider in a crappy found family situation. Perhaps that's why she was so interesting.

I can go on and on with specifics and details, but that’s for another time. A time that might not come unless asked because there’s so much criticism out there made by people smarter and more succinct in their words than me that you’re better of going to them. I will say, even though the game was extremely mid, I did have fun in my own weird way. I always say that it’s a miracle games get made in the first place. I do not blame the programmers, designers, artists, and everyone in the studio for Starfield’s shortcomings. At the end of the day, they swung. They missed the ball. One can only hope that they can reflect on it. One can hope that Todd or whoever in upper management will use this opportunity to steer the ship in the right direction. Very unlikely. But until then, play something better than mid. Please. I spent two days of my life to tell you this. Mass Effect 2 is still good and timeless. Play that instead.

Obligitory 3rd Annual Genshin Impact Award - Genshin Impact by Hoyoverse

Presented by Mog Knight

It’s that time of the award show where I enter my Genshin Power Hour and give out awards for the game I have been playing daily for about 3 years now since launch. This is the longest I have played any game, including my MMORPG phase and my web browser game phase of Neopets and BattleOn. And I do not plan on stopping soon, I have made it this far that I have to see it through.

This year finished the rest of the Sumeru quests of 3.0+ and entered the land of Fontaine in 4.0+. As much as I found the events and the lands of Sumeru to be astonishing, Fontaine introduces its own lands that really fit my own vibe - from the corpse of a dragon to an underwater academy from a lost generation to deep water exploration to giant cubes floating in the sky from an experiment gone wrong to underwater pipe prison to a giant opera house to so, so much more. There’s so much for me to gush about, but I’ll keep it brief. Here are some of my favorite moments and events from this year of Genshin Impact. Oh, and you can read more of my Sumeru options on the bird site too!

Best Moment/Event: Riding the roller coaster loop-de-loop in the summer 3.8 event Secret Summer Paradise

I am the most sucker for the Genshin summer events, from the Golden Apple Archipelago to the Golden Apple Archipelago 2 to now Klee’s little carnival adventure in Secret Summer Paradise. The premise of the adventure is really cute - Klee gets invited to this magical world that’s apparently found in a bottle in Sumeru’s desert and it turns out to be some kind of amusement park full of rides, a circus tent, plays and dramas, and these little water dudes called hydro eidolons that like to play games with you. There’s a whole big story involved and the ending was so cool. Genshin has gone three for three in all its summer events for me. Especially this one.

But the coolest part for me? Riding the Choo Choo Train. They put a loop-de-loop! They didn’t have to do it! But they did! Hell yeah!

Best new soundtrack: Fontaine

I have been listening to Fontaine's OST for months now ever since they released it. I absolutely love everything about it - from the underwater tracks with such an ethereal voice that makes it seem like you are truly floating to just all the classical tracks of the overworld with flutes, reedy instruments, and accordions combined with guitar and orchestra that is a really good contrast to all the wonderful Sumeru music.

There's one track, in particular, I really love: "Romaritime Recollection". The rhythmic almost plucky ostinato, or the repeated part, led by the violin/orchesta/piano then followed by the smooth saxophone lead is just so wonderful. Then you keep that ostinato and add not just a doubled orchestra but also a sweeping either guitar or a marimba doing faster notes all underneath. Just a lot of simple layers, but still one of my favorite tracks. The night version "Pilot's Rest" keeps all the same elements but not so strong - melodica, synthesizer keyboard, and now the sweeping guitar smooth melody.

There's so much more music to pick from. I haven't even gone over all the underwater tracks to find out what I really love, since they are all sooooo good. Even if you don't play Genshin, I do recommend you listen to the tracks, especially Fontaine's, for some good original video game music.

Best new character: Furina

I adore lady Furina, the archon character of Fontaine. When you first meet her, she prided herself on being the archon - well-beloved by her people and willing to take you, the traveler, on in court if needed, almost threatening you as she makes her speech while standing on a wooden crate at the port you just arrived at. An aura of smugness and a hint of arrogance. The second time you meet her, she starts to have these internal monologues of nervousness and doubt, but when she turns to you her attitude and demeanor changes to a confident one. She accuses your friend of murder, and you are forced to take her down a peg to prove your friend’s innocence. And take her down a peg, you did. Public perception of her starts to waver as people see her cracks, so she makes her escape while doing her best at damage control.

As you continue on with the archon quests, more of her true personality starts to unravel. The way she appears and acts in public is different from how she acts in private. But she still maintains her sense of duty, though you also pick up how afraid she truly is. There is a prophesy of her land basically facing destruction through a great flood - and she’s running out of answers to stop it. It lingers in her mind, and when asked about it she gets defensive, almost deflective about it. Is the great archon, the great god of Fontaine, powerless to stop even fate? She cannot let public perception waiver. She is the true archon. She has to protect everyone.

Ffinally, you find the truth. The truth about the prophecy. The truth about the people of Fontaine. The truth about who Furina really is. Not without the most dramatic series of events in Genshin so far. You basically destroy Furnia in public on Fontaine’s biggest stage, shattering all her acts and revealing not just who she is, but her role in the bigger picture of things. And boy was my mind blown. Multiple times.

After, she gets really depressed. She now lives in an apartment laying in bed all day, reading novels, eating macaroni in different sauces because that’s all she knows how to cook. One time her friend from before all this did a wellness check on her and was so surprised by the state of Furina’s sadness-induced living that she convinced her to attend an outing with her, where she did get a chance to enjoy herself. Turns out, 500 long years of suffering that all culminates into a shattering tramatic event in one day really takes a toll on you.

Furina still maintains a kind of smugness to her, but she still remains her kind and compassionate self. She now struggles to adjust to her new life and find her new identity. But she has her friends to help her. To push her out of her apartment a little bit and try things. New things. Old things.

Furina is one of the best stories to come out of Genshin, one of the best characters just by her development throughout her big archon quest. One of the best experiences so far. Furina really deserves the best, she deserves to be happy. I wonder if they’ll ever top it with the next nations. If they do, then I will be really impressed. Until then, I hope we get more stories with Furina.

Best Photos I Took of 2023

I really like Genshin. I don't get to talk about it much. So thanks for bearing with me, it makes me happy that I get to write about it and share my thoughts. Also, if you ever want to talk Genshin with me, I'm always down.

Thanks for reading Day 3!! Come back tomorrow for our Game of the Year!!

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