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The Nintendo Observer Awards For 2020

by Donald Theriault - December 29, 2020, 9:00 am EST
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Special thanks to Bryan Rose for clearing this.

A few years ago (2015), I decided to do a series of awards for the year loosely based on the awards for the leading professional wrestling newsletter, the Wrestling Observer. Little did I know that a few years later, someone who was writing for NWR at the time would end up working for them as a contributor and streamer. (Shout out to Bryan!)

In light of those factors, and thanks to a couple of items in particular, I figured it was time to dust off the awards for 2020 since there’s a few things I want to call out or recognize.

Chrono Trigger Game of the Year Award: Hades (September 17)

I still haven’t beaten Hades as of press time, but my chief complaint with roguelikes is that I can’t feel like I’m making progress. Hades turns the entire concept on its head. Yes, the rooms are random. But the deaths not only allow for building of the character through new weapons and abilities; they also unlock new conversations with everybody from Cerberus to Hades himself. We often joke about a sense of accomplishment thanks to EA, but Hades actually has one. And the voice work is incredible. If I can appreciate a game with roguelike elements, it must be DAMN good. Runners-Up: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (June 30), Paper Mario: The Origami King (July 17)

Most Valuable Game/Best Box-Office Draw: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (March 20)

It may not be for me, but the Switch breaking practically every record it could worldwide is largely attributable to Animal Crossing hitting at what turned out to be the perfect time. If it’s good enough for the president-elect, or to hold graduations, it’s good enough to win this award. Oh, and it’s probably going to be one of the three best selling Switch games when we get Nintendo’s quarterly results at the end of January.

Most Outstanding Old Game: Fire Emblem Three Houses (July 26/19)

As was discussed previously, the only reason I was able to not go crazy at the end of my pre-pandemic self-isolation was the drive to complete the support log in Three Houses - and yes, it did involve doing eight complete runs. Runners-Up: Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (August 28/18), Super Mario 64 (September 18 as part of Super Mario 3D All Stars)

Most Outstanding Re-Release: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (January 17)

I already loved the original in 2016, but the ability to spice up the game with the new costumes / Session members and cut the game down by 15 hours with the quick animations and inherent lack of loading from being a Switch game makes a great experience even better. If I had reviewed the game, the floor would have been a rating I haven't used in three (for the Patrons) or four years. But really, when you're partially set in the Tokyo Dome, don't you automatically get a review score boost? Runners-Up: Xenoblade Chronicles; Definitive Edition (May 29), Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (December 4)

Satoru Iwata Memorial Trophy (Best Game - Technical): Doom Eternal (December 8)

The first of the modern Doom games was impressive enough on the Switch, but the fact that Doom Eternal runs as well as it does with only about nine months of additional optimization is, as no less of an authority as John said, “a miracle.” In that case, Panic Button is now one more port away from sainthood. Holding a steady, consistent framerate in wider-open worlds than 2016 on an engine that was designed to run on four-year improved PCs/PlayStation 5/Xbox Series? Amazing.

Best Gaming Event: New Game Plus Expo (June 23)

The kind of games I love—and what often appears on Switch—are quirky stuff that requires localization. Although these kinds of things get announced at the late, lamented (that I went) E3, they are often buried by the Ubis and Microsofts of the world. So when the state of the world forced everyone online, it actually gave room for the AA game to shine. My only hope is that if it comes back in 2021, Atlus brings something a little stronger than Catherine to the Switch. Runners-Up: Nintendo Partner Showcase (July 20, September 17)

Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic: GameStop tries to kill their customers on multiple occasions

This was probably the hardest one to determine: Nintendo shutting seemingly everything on March 31 of next year is the truest to the category, Ubisoft being outed as a den of harassers and not including a promised apology in a video was a strong runner-up, and CD Projekt Group made a huge December push. However, none of them directly sunk to the level of GameStop in 2020.

Let’s review: As the United States entered a pandemic lockdown in March, GameStop tried to claim “essential service” status until finally closing down to in-store purchases on March 21 - coincidentally, just after everyone picked up their Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing pre-orders. They also flaunted distancing rules when they did stay open, putting their own employees at risk. Later in the year, they encouraged people to flood into stores on Black Friday by only offering the new consoles in stores, and to top it off held an internal TikTok dance competition where among the prizes was “ten extra labour hours on Black Friday.”

Really, if you attempt to create superspreader events on multiple occasions, putting your employees and customers at risk solely so you can try to stay alive for another fiscal year, you deserve to die.

Best Babyface: Orlok (Piofiore: Fated Memories)

Orlok, of all the people I followed a romance path on this year, was the only one who managed to elicit tears. The only suitor in the Mafia-focused game who actually isn’t in the Mafia, Orlok is a quiet boy working for the (not named but heavily implied to be) Catholic Church whose path involves everything he knows being shattered to pieces. Fleeing from both the church and three different Mafia families, his crisis of faith is not something I ever expected to experience in an otome game. Runners-Up: Zagreus (Hades), Bobby (Paper Mario: The Origami King)

Best Heel: Hades

Being the lord of the underworld is going to make you pretty brusque, but a lot of the motivation I had to keep fighting through the underworld in Hades is that the man himself is the perfect kind of heel: the unrepentant villain who might be right, but you still want to give him his comeuppance anyway. Runners-Up: Freyja (Fire Emblem Heroes book IV), Zygarde (Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra)


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