One of the most popular songs of 2013 was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, son of the late Growing Pains “star” Alan Thicke, and Pharrell Williams. The net effect of the song was that it was wildly overplayed, ripped off Marvin Gaye, and led to “wow, really” tabloid fodder for Thicke, making them both fall from grace, and for some reason end up as reality show judges on different shows. What does this have to do with LEGO, Video Games, or Movies? Nothing, the song was mindless pop fodder that no one has heard since; it just made for an interesting opening.
For this series, we’re going to walk through the years and go through some of the touchpoints that we’ve been through in the big focuses of our site… movies, video game, and of course… LEGO.
This was a pretty important year for video games, with the release of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One seeing the crown pass, yet again, between the big giants duking it out in the premium gaming space. Weirdly, though both systems came out that year, neither had a killer title that justified getting the console – unless you were a sucker (like Nick was) that purchased one or more of them on launch day and played alone because none of your friends made the jump.
Ace’s Pick: So yeah, not to sound like a broken record, but I had two very little kids at this time. One couldn’t walk. One was in preschool. But if I wasn’t holding my daughter’s hand or holding my son’s diaper, I had my 3DS on me. And there was one game that I just poured hours and hours into:
The Japanese audio, the delicious anime cut scenes, the hardcore mode, the relationships, the DLC, it all combined to create a great turn-based strategy game. It was my first Fire Emblem game and it did not disappoint.
Eric’s Pick: 2013? Not a great year for games, in my opinion. A couple of standout hits, but almost every game I see that came out – even the best of the best – have major flaws. Aside from the Last of Us, which really didn’t do much in terms of gameplay innovation, though it had a great story, there ain’t much there.
Oh wait except I forgot about:
Nowadays, everyone loves Zelda, but the series was in a funk back in 2013. The last mainline entry, Skyward Sword, was largely disliked (but now, of course, it’s all “10 things we should appreciate about Skyward Sword because people make me want to tear out my throat”). The game was accused of being way too formulaic, or, as I like to call it – boring and bad. Nintendo was also deep within the WiiU blunder years, releasing games that weren’t bad, but weren’t, you know, Super Mario 64. We were still four years off from the Switch.
So a Link Between Worlds was promoted as a return to basics (before the returner to basics of Breath of the Wild) – strip away all the BS from Skyward Sword, put gameplay first. And they delievered. This game is super streamlined, easy to understand and pick up, and, most importantly, doesn’t waste your time. You could raise some arguments about Nintendo reusing the world from A Link to the Past, but the wall-merge mechanic introduced, where Link can crawl along walls in 2D, was fresh enough to throw the whole map into a different context.
And, most importantly, A Link Between Worlds introduced the greatest Zelda song to date – the Minigame Theme – a.k.a. the song I will play at my wedding and also probably my funeral. We’ll have to see how the mood is.
Nick’s Pick: So, I’m going to talk about a video game that’s not my pick: 2013’s The Last of Us. If you haven’t played it… it’s some of the finest storytelling ever done and it’s well worth playing. It’s the opening, however, that packs a particular punch, and that punch is amplified a hundred fold if you are a parent playing the game. Penny Arcade had a comic that captured this feeling so well, and I felt the exact same thing when I played it. It was fantastic, and I’m excited about the sequel when it comes out next year… but there was one particular game that simply dominated my play time of 2013.
If you’re not familiar with the Saint’s Row games… they started out as an Xbox 360-exclusive Grand Theft Auto ripoff that actually had a pretty good story. The first two in the series had humor, but certainly took themselves seriously. The third entry, which was recently released on Switch, decided that you know, maybe they can lean into the camp a bit… and that led to a game that was legitimately fun to play, and funny as well. Comedy is an insanely hard thing to do in a video game.
Then came Saints Row IV, which was like one big, long, hold my beer answer to “how do you top the last game” question. Spoilers for the story, but there’s a part where you sneak into a terrorist compound, find a bunch of mutant super soldiers, try and fail to disarm a nuclear missile, climb aboard said missile when it launches (at which point Aerosmith’s Don’t Want to Miss a Thing starts playing) to disarm it in midair, after which you jump off sans parachute and land in the Oval office.
This amounts to the first twenty minutes of the game. Credits roll after you land, and at no point does it ever let up. Yeah, by the end, you can tell they are burning through literally every idea… but it’s wonderful mix of fun, funny, and parody that’s rare. Keith David is in the game and he’s playing himself. There’s a Dubstep gun… and a bat that’s just a giant adult toy. It’s stupid, silly, and was a blast to play.
Ace’s Pick: This was not a good year for movies. Not just because I saw maybe three of them that year, if that, but just overall looking at the field… it was not a good year. If I had to pick one though, here it is:
Elysium was Neill Blomkamp’s second major film. I had liked what he had done with District 9. And I’m a bit of a sucker for dystopian future films so combine the two and I’m in. It’s not your typical Hollywood, happy-ending kind of movie, but dystopian movies shouldn’t be like that anyway.
Eric’s Pick: A few of these picks I didn’t even know the year for, but I knew that they were already on the list. And Ace is right – 2013 kinda sucked for movies, though we did get Edgar Wright’s last Cornetto film The World’s End, and the surprisingly awesome Pacific Rim. And, of course:
If you don’t know the concept of About Time, let me break it down: it’s about time. Travel. Literally. The main character can travel through time, and he uses it in ways where I go “yeah, I would probably do that, too”. It’s earnest, it’s sweet, and it’s a time travel movie where you can’t think about it too much or it will fall apart. So calm down and turn on this delightful movie.
Nick’s Pick: You know, looking at my movie selections, perhaps I don’t have the most refined taste in movies. I mean, I was really thinking about picking Gravity here… it’s a stunning movie that drives you insane if you have a knowledge of orbital mechanics and a concept of the parking orbits of satellites and manned space stations. Instead, I’m going to go for a movie that was a critically panned, but was still vastly better than the one that came before it…
I’m not certain if I’ve talked about G.I. Joe on the site before, but it was my toy of choice as a kid: more than LEGO, Transformers (which I wasn’t that big on), or anything else. I still have some of my original toys, I own the cartoon on bluray, and I read the comics from time to time. I love G.I. Joe.
2009’s G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra was a boring, tedious, mess. It took a few actors that should have done great in the role and squandered them for effects that make Michael Bay’s wingsuit obsession look better by comparison. It wasn’t ever going to be great art, but it should have been entertaining. So it was kind of a shock when they greenlit a sequel, and then made it clear they were serious about making it better by casting Dwayne Johnson into a role that he seemed literally born to play.
I won’t make an argument that it’s a great movie, it’s not… but it is entertaining and feels so much more like what the source material should be. It’s eye-rollingly cheesy at points, silly in others, and all camp. It sadly redeems a character from the first movie only to kill him off in the early act, and we never got another entry into the series, but it still stands as a movie that’s just fun to throw in from time to time for good action and laughs.
Ace’s Pick: This may come as a surprise:
The Stagecoach Escape set gets my pick. Red Harrington remains as one of the most stylish minifigs ever created. This set gets you the Lone Ranger, Tonto, Red, and two bad guys. Well. I’ll be honest. I”m not sure if they’re the bad guys. I never saw the movie, but I assume they are and that they’re attacking the stagecoach that has the safe on it. Regardless, this $30 dollar set had everything going for it. Good guys vs. bad guys, great minifig selection, and you get both of the main characters from the movie it was based on. Plus the stagecoach itself wasn’t all that bad looking.
Eric’s Pick: When I was a kid, and really into collecting Lego minifigures, the one figure that always eluded me was the old sand green Jabba. Which, by today’s standards looks ugly and undetailed, but I wrote an entire essay last year on why that’s not a bad thing. And the little collection of sets that Jabba came in – Jabba’s Palace, Jabba’s Message, and Jabba’s Prize – were always on the top of my want list. But I never got them. In 2012, Lego released Jabba’s Palace Mk. II, a nice little set with 2012’s updated minifigs and building standards. But! BUT! In 2013 they turned it up a notch by showing us the Rancor Pit.
Which, cool set, right? Sure, but it ATTACHED TO THE 2012 JABBA’S PALACE. Which instantly sent me spinning back to those days 10 years earlier. It’s such a cool idea that really accentuated the whole “playset” part of Lego. It’s just a shame that this is one of the few examples in the Star Wars line.
Nick’s Pick: The only way it could have been harder to pick a set for this year would be if it was actually 2006 and we were focusing just on Star Wars. 2013 was the year that brought us 10232 Palace Cinema in the modular building lines, 10235 Winter Village Market in the Christmas theme, 10240 Red Five X-Wing Starfighter in the UCS Line, and 75021 Republic Gunship in the regular Star Wars Line. It was also the year that brought us Galaxy Squad in the Space lineup, and, of course, the Mandarin’s Golf Cart. But there was one set, one I reviewed for this site, that still stands out…
I’d be hard pressed to come up with a set that was more of just a joy to build than this set was. It was huge on a shelf, ridiculous to have around, and I just adore it. It’s on that list of sets I will never get rid of… hell, I will probably never get rid of a Return of the Jedi minifigure just because I will someday rebuild this set and put them all in the set. Because I can. Looking back on my years collecting and building LEGO, and 10236 Ewok Village is probably still one of my top five sets.