A lot of good’uns this year
In a few days, the hellish anal fissure that is 2018 will be over and the almost guaranteed shit-stained nightmare that is 2019 will begin. For gaming, 2019 is exploding right out of the gate as some of the most anticipated games of this generation will make their debut in January. In fact, that’s a lot like 2018. This year also kicked off with absolute bangers like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Monster Hunter: World, and Iconoclasts.
From January to December of this year, there’s always been something totally worthwhile on game store shelves. While some of 2018’s biggest titles were built on the backs of established names, many of this year’s low-key greats feature casts comprised of original creations. That’s what this post is celebrating as the Destructoid staff picks our favorite new characters of 2018.
So, admitting that my favorite new video game character is the self-insert protagonist from a gacha game is pretty awkward. As I’ve shared in this community blog several months ago, my past enthusiasm for games like Dragalia Lost has dropped like a rock. I’m hesitant to say positive things about gacha games these days because I don’t want people to spend money on a model that, by design, is very likely to leave them immediately dissatisfied with their purchases. Despite this wariness (and considering his main story isn’t tied to that monetization), Dragalia’s Euden left a strong impression on me. He’s actually the kind of hero I’d love to create myself whenever I dabble into writing fiction!
Technically, Dragalia’s cast has several more unique and entertaining personalities than Euden. He is clearly a stereotypical altruistic shonen protagonist, and I personally love that trope, but it’s still an exhausted cliché. Euden is much more entertaining than most who fit that role. In the same scene, he can make sarcastic remarks about a troublemaking ally while wholesomely promising his aid to the same character’s agenda, or he’ll humor a party member’s formal pledge of loyalty immediately before he drops the formalities and asks to be treated more like a buddy. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other main character throw so much shade at a third party he recruits to his cause while simultaneously showing mercy to his enemy (which makes sense in spoiler-based context).
From that moment, Cygames convinced me he was an interesting character to carry the plot forward in his own right. In drastically subverting my expectations of his archetype, the cinnamon chicken nugget called Euden brought me much more joy than every other character this year. Oh, and he can transform into giant dragons! We could use more kaiju representation among JRPG protagonists.
Dung beetles get a bad rap. Sure, they’re insects that eat poop. But if Yoku from Yoku’s Island Express is any indication, they’re also positive, upbeat little creatures that just want to do right by the world and the people around them.
I’m actually not sure if Yoku ever even speaks while delivering mail to the denizens of the island, but it doesn’t need to when it has a button dedicated to blowing into a party horn, showering the immediate area with confetti.
Yoku is just a happy beetle and its mannerisms exude that emotion, making everybody around it happy too. Players included.
Who could’ve known that a game called Genital Jousting would contain a story mode? Even knowing that, who would have guessed that the story would be well written? That’s just what happened with Free Lives’ follow-up to Broforce and I’m here to tell you how a penis named John is the best new character of 2018.
In many corners of the internet, there is this pervasive attitude of toxic masculinity that exists. Here, men act like the world is theirs to shape and that women are supposed to be trophies for acting like a decent human being. You can find forums of people advocating for “Men’s Rights” and crying about how women ignore them even though they really are just nice guys.
Genital Jousting tackles this head-on and shows the folly of that line of thinking. You can’t always think with your penis, even if you are a giant penis! Women are people, too, and John comes to understand that he needs to view everyone as an individual instead of just looking for a lady to hang off of his arm. This is something that basically all teenage boys go through (save for the neanderthals on certain subreddits) and it’s nice to see a game finally showcase a real relationship instead of a power fantasy.
Also, John shoves the Eiffel Tower up his ass, so he gets bonus points for that.
The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories was nominated for the “Games for Impact” award at this year’s Keighleys, and as much as I love Celeste, I think it should have won. Swery may be best known for the many “so bad its good” moments of Deadly Premonition, but at this point, he’s proven that he has a lot more to offer than that. He is a sincere soul with many brilliant insights to share, particularly on the topic of psychiatric illness.
As for J.J., she isn’t the most expressive character in gaming for 2018, but she’s still able to inspire self-reflection and empathy in ways that no video game character has before. Most of her personality comes across in unlockable text messages that load on her in-game phone. In the context of what most players will assume about J.J. at the start of the game, these text paint the picture of a young woman who is skilled at deflecting the advances of clueless college dudes, maintaining platonic friendships, and who is struggling with a complicated attraction to someone who her mother may not approve of.
By the end of her story, those texts take on a whole other meaning. How you react to J.J. at the start of the game, and again after the credits roll, is sure to tell you a lot about yourself. Most of us aren’t who we want to be, and none of us are exactly who we think we are. That’s something that I know for a fact that you, me, and J.J. all have in common.
From the moment I played Celeste all the way back in January, I already knew that it would be one of my favorite games of the year, and certainly one of the most important. Besides the excellent gameplay, the characters of Madeline and her initially hostile counterpart known only as a Part of Madeline were the primary reasons why.
In order to make it to the top of a mountain, Madeline has to deal with her anxiety in a very real and literal way. Over the past year, the fandom has taken to calling Madeline’s dark alter ego “Badeline”, but I would say that’s a misnomer. That Part of Her isn’t bad, it’s just all of her fears and insecurities running rampant. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. It’s what keeps you from trying to cross a busy highway, for example: “You’re not a ninja, you can’t dodge all these cars. You’re not fast enough.” It’s only when these insecurities seep into our worth as a person that they start to keep us down. When you start telling yourself that you’re not good enough for that job, that relationship, or anything really, that’s when that Part of You needs to be addressed.
That’s exactly what Madeline and Part of Her face as well. At first, Madeline thinks she’s got it all figured out: “I’m in a good place now, so I can leave all these fears behind wholesale”. It doesn’t stick. Part of Madeline can’t just be tossed aside, because…well…it’s Part of Her. It says it right there. It’s only when Madeline acknowledges and accepts this Part of Her, gives it a place and works with it that they (together) are able to progress; towards the mountaintop and in life.
At the time when I played Celeste, I was also dealing with a lot of hurt and anxiety in my personal life. Madeline’s story was exactly what I needed at the time, and almost a year later it still resonates with me. What makes the protagonists of Celeste such great characters is that we’ve all felt at least a little bit like Madeline at one point or another, and Part of Her is Part of All of Us.
This one’s quite a late entry considering he only became officially available in-game as of today, but my current favorite character of 2018 is Merlin, legendary wizard and the newest 5-Star Caster-class Servant in Fate/Grand Order.
The Fate franchise can always be counted on for an interesting take on a popular myth, and their version of Merlin’s kind of wild. An immortal half-human, half-incubus, Merlin is a supernaturally talented mage, but isn’t, so to speak, a man. Though he can feed off human emotions and dreams, he can’t feel them himself. That would typically make the classic recipe for a sociopath, but instead, this Merlin’s devoted himself to making sure mankind sticks around to amuse him some more. He may not feel things the same way everyone else does, but he knows enough to know that he wants to see humanity through to its end, making for both the most effective ally you could ever ask for (case study: King Arthur), and the shadiest jerk in all of time and space (case study: King Arthur)
He’s also one of the most effective support characters in FGO’s history, now and for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad I managed to luck into rolling him without going over my gacha budget. Thank goodness for that!
For my pick, I’m having to choose between a something that’s definitely a new character and something that you wouldn’t necessarily call a character. I find myself choosing between Lancer from Deltarune (with no spoilers) and, um, Nergigante from Monster Hunter: World.
I think Lancer is a perfectly normal choice. As a reference, he’s like Papyrus if he’s was an even more naive child wearing Sans’ colors. His theme is catchy, his quirks are hilarious, and his growth is admirable. I mean, you’re supposed to feel this kid is some bad guy early on and but he has a difficult time swearing. He’s a perfectly believe person because he isn’t a purely, black and white character in a game but a kid who was taught a set of beliefs and learns how to change slowly for people.
But then there’s Nergigante, the only other thing from a game I actually played this year. Maybe it’s not so much character personality for this monster than there is lore that is established about every facet of its design.
Nergigante is the eater of elder dragons. Elder dragons are already the top of the food chain in the Monster Hunter ecosystem, so Nergigante is now at the very top of that chain. There are elder dragons that explode, create tornadoes, generate freezing winds, searing flames, and all of these examples just from being nearby, not even actively doing something. Elder dragons change the very environment they stand in with their mere presence. Nergigante is able to prey on such powerful beasts, not with any fancy, elemental prowess, but with sheer brute strength. Its body is covered in spikes and its musculature is built like a rock. Even as those spikes may get blown away by fantastical displays of elemental fury, Nergigante just regenerates at such a frightening pace that it just powers through anything in order to smash it good with its forelimbs.
And if those spikes manage to go a while without being broken, they harden into extremely hard, almost armor-like black spikes, making it even more difficult to actually hurt it. Finally, after it gets mad enough, Nergigant will throw its entire body at whatever it hates with its rock-hard spikes in an attempt to grind everything in its path to dust. Nergigante is the ultimate display of brute strength in a portion of ecosystem conservation that is mostly concerned with simulated natural disasters.
Monster turf wars are a sight to behold, but Nergigante’s always amazing to see something manage to claw swipe something as big as Teostra or Kushala Daora clean into the ground in a display of overwhelming dominance. Nergigante might not be a character with a background, but it is a fully fleshed out creature with design aesthetics and minutia that doesn’t waste an ounce of space.
My pick for the best new character of 2018 is from one of my absolute favorite games of 2018, The Messenger. This little-robed fella keeps you equipped with upgrades, is quippy as hell and might be holding onto some world-altering secrets.
The Shopkeeper in the world of The Messenger doesn’t typically leave his counter, but he wants to make sure you’re outfitted with the latest upgrades, and he has plenty of conversation to offer up. This dude is the biggest source of this games amazing and self-aware writing.
Whether it’s a fourth wall breaking nod to Ninja Gaiden or pass aggressively commenting on your fashion choices, he does it all.
When we ran this article last year, I felt absolutely spoiled for choice, given the releases of Persona 5, NieR: Automata and Horizon, among many other titles. Then I chose Pearl from Splatoon 2… *cough*
Things were harder this year. Very few “all-new” characters* really stood out to me. Frankly, once Holmes grabbed J.J. Macfield I was stumped. But I tell you who I do get a kick out of; Overwatch’s rootin’, tootin’, rifle-shootin’ hero Elizabeth Caledonia Ashe, apparently known as “Calamity”, though to who I’m not so sure. Sounds like a nickname she gave herself.
Ashe made her debut in an excellent animated short for Blizzard’s online shooter, alongside her intriguing bank-robbing squad, The Deadlock Gang. In a clip that saw her face off with fellow gunslinger McCree, Ashe not only showed off her great design and personality but also had the show stolen out from under her, thanks to Bob, a robot enforcer that rocks a great Derby hat and, somehow, a moustache.
In the game, Ashe is a lot of fun, blending sniper tactics with a very aggressive forward strategy. Armed with a powerful repeater rifle, a space-clearing sawn-off shotgun, and a classic fizzing stick ‘o’ dynamite, Ashe slips into teams with ease, a threat at long-distance and point-blank range, with surprisingly adept verticality. On top of all this, good old Bob is always up for a ruck when the going gets really tough. Yee-Ha, sister.
*It’s worth noting that League of Legends’ “Subway Artist” variant of Akali doesn’t count as a new character, or she would have walked away with this in a hot second.
428: Shibuya Scramble originally came out about a decade ago in Japan, but it never released in English until this past year. It has a cast full of delightful personalities, however, Mr. Yanagishita takes the cake. He’s a con man who’s always scheming some master plan to strike it rich. Basically, he’s a selfish jerk, and I love him for that.
Despite his crooked tendencies, the guy has a lot of heart. He may try to steal all of your possessions and money, or sell you phony weight loss beverages, but I can assure you, he’ll feel bad about it for a few seconds afterward.
When I think back on the best characters of 2018, there’s a lot to choose from. A few of the top contenders are from this very same game, but Mr. Yanagishita’s crooked smile and nonstop deluge of dingus humor won me over in the end. How could I say no to that face?
As an amateur ornithologist, I can appreciate the beauty and majesty of God’s flying creatures. The bird is perhaps the most elegant species on planet Earth, which is why I’m appreciative of Ben Esposito for including a pair of bird lovers in his hit game Donut County. The brothers Salt and Pepper are ardent bird watchers who come to quarrel over their enthusiasm for these winged creatures. In a game full of oddball characters and detestable raccoons, it’s nice to see something nice and wholesome as a pair of brothers who love nothing more than to gaze at birds in their natural habitats.
Wait, hold on one second. Pepper brought his laptop to the middle of Joshua Tree to watch bird videos. Is he… is he masturbating to videos of birds? Oh my God, are these guys bird perverts? Peeping Toms? Scratch that, Tweeting Toms? What kind of sick fuck do you have to be to rub one out to a bird? Of all the no-good, awful, disgusting, repulsive, sicken–
If you need me I’ll be in my bunk.
(Mandarin Duck image courtesy of Buiobuione)