IT'S DECEMBER, which means children everywhere are hopped up on eggnog and greed, Santa Claus is gearing up for his transcontinental trespassing expedition, and the lonely, desperate realists among us are taping suicide notes to our festive sweaters before climbing headfirst into the nearest oven. Of course, that also means it's time for the Mercury's annual videogame awards! Our dedicated team of scientists and sorcerers have pored over thousands of computerized score sheets and arcane runes in an effort to bring you the completely meaningless results below. Enjoy!
Most Adorable Gelatinous Blob:Dragon Quest IX
Another year, another stunning accomplishment in the field of gelatinous blobbery. From the series' cutesy blue mascots to its rare liquid metal slimes, nobody does gooey chic like Square Enix's Dragon Quest series.
Best Use of Voice Actor Steven Blum:(TIE) Vanquish, Call of Duty: Black Ops, BioShock 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Final Fantasy XIV, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Singularity, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet, Quantum Theory, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Clash of the Titans, Transformers: War for Cybertron, Dead to Rights: Retribution, Metro 2033
Whether you prefer the stereotypically masculine growl of Vanquish protagonist Sam Gideon or the stereotypically masculine growl of Marvel Comics' Wolverine, Steven Blum is the man to call. I won't go so far as to say, "you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Blum-voiced character," but I will say it's pretty likely that Blum will be voicing the cat's inner monologue.
Best Castlevania Sequel:Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
It would be easy to say Lords of Shadow won because its only competition was an HD remix of a few handheld games, but in truth, it earned this award by not bursting into flames when I popped it into my Xbox 360.
Best Anime that Isn't an Anime:Vanquish
Surly antiheroes, cigar-chomping military hardasses, cybernetic body enhancements capable of ignoring the law of conservation of mass when necessary—no, I'm not talking about Ghost in the Shell or Casshern. I'm talking about Vanquish, the hyper-kinetic shooter from Platinum Games and Sega. Featuring all of the aforementioned clichés and a protagonist voiced by Steven Blum, Vanquish couldn't be more derivative if it featured a tie-in collectible card game or an army of adorable monsters to capture.
Best Patrick Stewart Voiceover: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Admittedly, Lords of Shadow didn't have much competition in this category—but given that my only other exposure to the erstwhile starship captain this year was his totally kickass Macbeth, it almost feels like Dracula beat Shakespeare.
Most Depressing Casualty of Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops Hype Machine: GoldenEye 007 for the Wii
If you watched television, caught a movie, or played an online videogame since October, you were likely exposed to an ad for Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops. The world's biggest software publisher spent so much money on the title's ad blitz that anything else released even remotely near Black Ops' November 9 release date was lost in the noise. Sadly, that means that Activision's own Wii-exclusive GoldenEye 007 was roundly ignored, despite being an incredibly competent remake of the most widely revered shooter in console history.
Best Reason for the Downfall of Las Vegas: (TIE) Zombies and Nuclear War
2010 was a rough year for Sin City. First Dead Rising 2 filled the casinos with hordes of ravenous zombies, then Fallout: New Vegas devastated the entire Southwest with nuclear bombs, Radscorpions, and megalomaniacal Romaphiles. I'm sure there's a lame "What Stays in Vegas, Kills its Entire Population" quip somewhere in there, but I'm too depressed over the loss of Blue Man Group to work it out.
Best Ominous Latin Chanting: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
What's usually a hotly contested award wasn't even close this year. Kudos, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Kudos.
Most Disappointing Final Fantasy Sequel: (TIE) Final Fantasy XIIIandFinal Fantasy XIV
At least Square Enix was kind enough to offer fans a choice of reasons to be upset. On the one hand, Final Fantasy XIII is the most linear roleplaying game since, well, ever. It's essentially an adventure game that just so happens to include a screen full of statistics about your characters.
On the other hand, Final Fantasy XIV is a competent evolution of the publisher's first massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, Final Fantasy XI. Of course, by "evolution," I mean "Square Enix lifted all of the game's strong points from World of Warcraft in a mad scramble to compete in a genre they know little about."
Given the sales of each game though, I suppose this category should have included a third option: That Final Fantasy fans will buy absolutely anything in the series, regardless of quality.
Best Evidence Nintendo Isn't Just for Kids: Metroid: Other M
Samus stands alongside Mario and Link as Nintendo's most-beloved characters, and handing her latest appearance to the developers responsible for the boobtastic Dead or Alive: Xtreme beach volleyball series is a bold move. Too bad the end result is so forgettable. Yes, Other M is certainly aimed at a teenaged audience, but it almost feels like Nintendo handcuffed Team Ninja, so instead of being able to do their best work—which would likely have bordered on cheesecake pinup calendar eroticism—the developers turned in a muted, rote action game. Still, it's certainly not aimed at the denizens of your local kindergarten's after-school care program.
Best Evidence Nintendo Is Just for Kids: Kirby's Epic Yarn
Yeah, it's in the run for best platforming game of the decade, but Kirby's Epic Yarn still sports an almost nonexistent difficulty level and aesthetics straight out of Your Baby's First Coloring Book. It's just too bad the bright color palette will drive away so many gamers "too cool" for a kids' game like this.
Best Colon Placement in a Game's Title: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Okay, at this point we're just making up excuses to pimp this game.
THIS TIME IT'S (PARTIALLY) YOUR FAULT
The Mercury's regular Geek Out column gives us an infinite canvas on which to express our opinions on games, but you readers are so rarely heard. So this year on the Mercury's blog, we put out a call asking you to craft your own categories for the Mercury's gaming awards. The response was surprisingly lengthy and intelligible. Propers for that!
Though we don't have space to feature all the categories, we did round up our favorites and come up with winners for each. Have a look below.
Best Special-Edition Swag (from "tk."): Life-Size Zombie Statue (Dead Rising 2)
Yes, it was nearly impossible to get a hold of, but the full-size model of one of Dead Rising 2's tourist-cum-zombies would make for a gorgeous bit of paraphernalia in the home of anyone geeky enough to actually display the giant, seemingly rotten corpse out in the open. Plus, that Hawaiian shirt/shattered skull combo really complements any decor.
Best Minigame with Actual Replay Value (from "marteeee"): Lost Viking from StarCraft II
What does it say about shoot 'em ups that a faux arcade machine found in a virtual bar within StarCraft II offers one of the best examples of the genre seen in years? Yeah, so it obviously lifts its best ideas from a handful of classics like Galaga and R-Type, but thanks to the StarCraft II engine and Blizzard's Midas touch, even this throwaway minigame will absorb your attention for hours.
Best Place Where They Obviously Went Cheap/Ran Out of Money (from "themanwhoeatslettus"): Minecraft
Sure, Minecraft is the breakout hit of the year. Its single-man development team became a millionaire almost overnight and it single-handedly spawned a new form of sandbox gaming genre that's so radically new the industry still can't come up with a name for it. That said, it looks like a handful of change could have financed the entire thing—mostly because that's the reality of its creation. Still, what it lacks in production values, it makes up for in novel gameplay mechanics.