Originally, I was going to include these as part of my 700th blog (spectacularsaurus…whatever I called it). But that ended up long enough as it was, and I was writing it really late. So I had to cut things a tad short, but I still wanted to write these bits, so here they are!
Responding to my Mystery Blogger and Sunshine Blogger Nominations
Anyway, since I’m so late in accepting these awards, I’m just going to answer the questions included in the nominations, and maybe nominate a couple of people myself.
Without further ado, let’s get to answering Red Meal’s questions!
Which game proved to be the biggest disappointment to you?
There are a couple of options I can list. Spore is definitely one that stands out. I remember how excited I was for that game due to the pre-released creature creator. It was so much fun with all the freedom you had making creatures, that I couldn’t wait to see how the whole game turned out to see how all these creatures were utilized.
Aaaaand then the game came out, and each stage of your creature’s evolution seemed to last as long as one of Mario Party’s mini-games. Spore was such a disappointment for me, that when everyone else ended up hyped and subsequently disappointed with No Man’s Sky, I decided not to get my hopes up at all. No Man’s Sky was so reminiscent of Spore that I didn’t want to face that level of disappointment again (though the end result is actually a worse game than Spore. Because at least Spore’s creature creator was fun).
With that said, I don’t think Spore quite tops my list of most disappointing games. For me, that would be either Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts or Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
There’s so much to say about Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts… in fact, I hope to not only review it soon(ish), but with all the thoughts I have on the game I may have to write another critique of it separate from the review, to pinpoint how off-the-rails it was for me as a fan of the series. I waited eight years after Banjo-Tooie for a third installment, and instead of getting the third entry in the 3D platforming series, we got a car building game with empty levels, frustrating physics, and an annoyingly pessimistic attitude (the game loved to write off the 3D platforming genre as being old hat. Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to hear when I’m playing a Banjo-Kazooie game).
Now with that said, I do have to admit that Nuts & Bolts isn’t an entirely lost cause. Although the game’s objectives cold have (and should have) been a lot more than they were, the idea behind the gameplay was creative. Was it the right course for the series? Hell no. But it does have at least enough redeeming qualities for me to not think it’s a horrible game.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star, on the other hand, is a bad game. Not only am I a fan of Paper Mario, but anyone who knows me knows I love Mario RPGs. The sub-series had a way of making the turn-based RPG into something more accessible and fun, while sacrificing none of its depth. But for whatever reason, Super Paper Mario decided to veer away from the turn-based structure and opt for a platformer with RPG elements; which in itself isn’t a bad idea, and Super Paper Mario was actually pretty darn good, but it was an idea that really didn’t need to happen. Nor did it make much sense (aren’t the main Mario game’s platformers anyway? Why change Paper Mario into something more derivative?).
So when Nintendo first revealed screenshots of a 3DS Paper Mario that looked to return to the series’ turn-based roots, I was ecstatic. I remember seeing a Green Toad and a Chain Chomp as partner characters, and was looking forward to the series’ return to form.
But…that didn’t happen. While turn-based battles were technically back, it was at the expense of anything even remotely resembling depth. No partner characters, no special attacks, no weapons, armor, leveling up, or even a story. Bowser – the most consistently entertaining character in Mario RPGs – never even spoke, for crying out loud!
Instead, you just got stickers, and more stickers. Every action was performed by using the stickers you collected, meaning all of your actions were consumable. And your reward for performing well in battles? More stickers!
Sadly, this seems to be the route Paper Mario is heading in from now on, as the Wii U follow-up, Paper Mario: Color Splash, was more akin to Sticker Star 2 than a proper sequel to the Paper Mario series. Admittedly, Color Splash was an immense improvement over Sticker Star, but it still pales in comparison to the series’ first two entries, and even Super Paper Mario.
It’s true, Sticker Star isn’t the worst game Nintendo has made – Metroid: Other M and Electroplankton are decidedly worse, as are the Mario educational games if you count them – but with how much I love and appreciate the Mario RPGs, I don’t think any gaming disappointment has stung as much. Even the Mario & Luigi games (while still at least RPGs), have lost most of their depth since Sticker star was released.
Yikes! That was one answer?! Let’s hope the next few are shorter…
Which game proved to be the most pleasant surprise for you?
I’m tempted to say Undertale, due to my less-than-stellar track record with falling in love with popular indie titles (no amount of ‘immersion’ or ‘atmosphere’ can make up for empty gameplay, eh Limbo?). I actually dove into Undertale only after Red Metal’s recommendation, and am very happy I did. Far and away the best indie game I’ve played.
But I think I’m going to go with the Dark Souls series to answer this question. Because for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exactly fit the usual mold of my favorite gaming franchises (at least, not on face value). As they say, never judge a book by its cover.
Although I played Dark Souls a bit when it was first released, and enjoyed it, I never beat it. Dark Souls 2 got me a little more into things, I assume because I had some experience with the formula by that point. But again, didn’t get very far. It was with Bloodborne that I officially ‘got into’ the series.
My brother, who had been a fan of the series since Demons Souls, had beat Bloodborne multiple times by the time I got into it, and helped me out with the game by allowing me to summon him to aide me in the brutal adventure. This helped me to progress and, by extension, to see what the series really had to offer, and I loved it! So much so, that Bloodborne became the first game I got the platinum trophy for on PSN, which was then quickly followed by Dark Souls 3 which, as any of my long-time readers know, was my Game of the Year for 2016.
Because I now have a better appreciation for the series, I hold the original Dark Souls and even Dark Souls 2 in a much higher regard than I did before. It’s easily one of my favorite gaming franchises, and my favorite that isn’t made by Nintendo (though Dark Souls comes much closer to ranking alongside Super Mario than I initial thought it ever could).
Damn, another long answer…
What is the most memorable scene from a film you’ve watched?
Is it cheating to just list the entirety of Spirited Away?
There are a few scenes I could choose from a few different movies. And yes, most of them are Hayao Miyazaki movies. I know, I sound like a one-note person with how frequently I bring up the same few things. But hey, we have favorite things for a reason; they’re the things that leave an indelible mark on us. It’s not like we suddenly have favorite movies/games out of nowhere.
For now, I’ll list the scene of My Neighbor Totoro in which Mei first meets Totoro. It’s incredibly simple, but the sheer purity and preciousness of the scene has been known to make my eyes well up with tears (in fact, my eyes are doing just that as I think about the scene writing this).
What inspired you to begin blogging?
The short answer is that I’ve alway been a really opinionated person, And I love movies and video games, and I wasn’t really a fan of how a lot of people wrote about those subjects. So I decided to give my two cents, and hopefully add a unique flavor of my own to the proceedings.
If you could go back in time and see any band that has permanently broken up perform a concert, which one would you choose?
Again, I’m going to appear very one-note, because honestly, my knowledge of popular bands is extremely limited. If it didn’t originate from a movie or video game, it may be hard for me to name a song! I am such a cardboard caricature…
With that said, I do like to listen to some Oingo Boingo and Journey from time to time. So maybe them? Also, I like Styx. So sue me.
What is the dumbest competition you ever got in with your friends?
I’m going to be honest, I’m a pretty boring person, and don’t really partake in any crazy/stupid competitions, so I can’t really think of anything.
If you could form a band, which genre of music would you end up playing?
Video game music. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
What is the first film you ever watched in theaters?
I’m really tempted to say Toy Story, but I seem to have really blurry memories of seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas and even Jurassic Park in theaters during their initial release. I would have been three or four years old.
What is the oldest film you’ve watched all the way through?
I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I’ve seen so many movies over the years it’s hard to say. However, the title may very well go to A Trip to the Moon (1902) by Georges Méliès. Though this may be a bit cheating, since the movie in question is only about 18 minutes long (there was no differentiation between feature films and shorts back then).
Have you ever fallen asleep watching a film before?
The only instance I can think of was when I tried watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s extended edition for the first time. Now, before you crack any jokes, I actually enjoy the Hobbit trilogy (though freely admit to its many faults and inferior quality to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation), but it was just really late, and I was really tired. And it’s a Peter Jackson movie (extended edition!), so it’s like a bajillion hours long. I dozed off, woke up after the movie had ended, and gave it a re-watch the next day.
What is your personal record for most number of films watched in a day?
I want to say four which, given how much I love movies, may not be all that impressive. Unfortunately, while I can distinctly remember watching four movies in one day on at least two different occasions, I can’t remember what they were.
I can remember a few times I’ve watched three films in one day though. I once watched Frozen, The Incredibles and Spirited Away all in the same day (my favorite films from Disney, Pixar and Studio Ghibli, respectively, though since then Inside Out may have taken Incredibles’ crown). And on the tenth anniversary of the theatrical release of The Fellowship of the Ring, I binged all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There have been a few times where I’ve watched three or so films back-to-back with my cousins.
What is the single most heretical opinion you hold when it comes to video games?
What, you mean just one? I’ll list a few.
The fact that I don’t think the Bioshock series has any truly noteworthy traits, and that its creator Ken Levine, despite his acclaim, is actually a poor storyteller probably wouldn’t sit well with most.
There’s also the fact that I don’t believe storylines, ‘immersion,’ open-worlds and difficulty are necessary traits for a game to have in order to be good. I have no issues with stories in video games (see my above sentiments on Paper Mario), but unlike movies, video games aren’t fundamentally built on stories, and can flourish in their absence. Meanwhile, ‘immersion’ in no way makes a game better, it’s just something that’s there or it isn’t. I’d also argue that the majority of history’s best games are lean more towards linear, and that having an open-world doesn’t somehow magically make a game better. Being linear or non-linear are just two different types of games, neither is innately ‘better.’ Finally, as someone who (as mentioned) loves Dark Souls, I don’t need every game to boast that level of difficulty in order to enjoy them. It’s the overall gameplay and creativity that determines whether a game is good or not. Whether a game is easy or hard isn’t a testament to its quality in itself, they’re just a means in which the gameplay and ideas can be presented.
Also, I’m not sure if this counts as ‘heretical’ or not, but while most people argue whether Final Fantasy or Zelda is the series with the best music in gaming, I will happily tell you that Donkey Kong Country is the only true victor in that category.
What is your proudest achievement in gaming?
Wow, this may be a question I’ll have to revisit sometime. As there are many potential answers I could give. My aforementioned platinum trophies in Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 certainly felt hard-earned. The regularity in which I’ve replayed and beat Super Mario World with all 96 exits might also be considered impressive. Again, there are a few options.
For now though, I’ll give two examples, one from my youth, and one that’s a bit more contemporary.
The first time I beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as a kid is something that still stands out to me. I remember I couldn’t find my original copy of the game, but I really wanted to play it again, as I had never beaten the game. As a special treat (I think after I finished a school semester or something), my mother got me another copy of Sonic 2, and I played the heck out of it until I finally defeated Dr. Robotnik. If I play Sonic 2 today, I’m lucky if I can get past the first few zones. How my younger self did it when I have more trouble with it now is a bit of a joke on myself.
The other memory I’ll share for now involves Super Mario Maker. I remember I was searching through some player created stages I wanted to play, and saw one titled “Bramble Scramble,” which of course is also the name of a stage in Donkey Kong Country 2. This got me curious, but then I saw that it had a 0% success rate despite attempts from hundreds of players. That only made me want to try it more, to see if I could be the first to topple what I thought was a DKC-inspired level.
Although I think the naming similarity ended up being merely a coincidence (the level used the NSMBU theme, so you couldn’t even play as DK or Diddy), it certainly lived up to that 0% success rate, as it was hard as all hell. Normally, I would have probably just tried a different player level after the umpteenth attempt. But for whatever reason, on that particular day, I was determined. Every new try I inched little closer, survived a little longer (keep in mind this was before checkpoints were added to the game). After what must have been – at least – nearly 200 tries, I conquered that bastard of a level, being the first person (other than its creator) who could claim to have done so. It may not have been one of those mechanic-breaking ‘kaizo’ levels, but for me, this level was a beast.
However, this story doesn’t end there. Because like someone possessed, the next time I played Super Mario Maker, the first thing I decided to do was see if I could conquer that same level again, and prove my victory wasn’t a fluke. Apparently it wasn’t, because this time around, I beat it on the first try. So the level went from having 0% completion, to having me lose to it hundreds of times, to have me beat it twice in a row.
Who knows how many people have beat that level now. But for me, that was pretty awesome.
What do you believe to be one of the few advantages that gaming critics have over film critics?
The first thing that comes to mind is simple: Sequels and franchises don’t have the stigma in video games that they do in movies.
While it’s true that for a long while movie sequels were almost always disappointing, that hasn’t been true for a long time now, with plenty of sequels matching and even surpassing their predecessor. And sure, there are still a lot of movie sequels that are cash-grabs, but the truth of the matter is that even if a movie is made with hopes of breaking the box office, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a great movie.
But for whatever reason, most movie critics still shake their heads and furrow their brows at sequels and franchises, apparently unaware that even the same world and characters can tell a different story.
Video games, meanwhile, fully embrace franchises. Now, that’s not to say that franchises are always good – those with annual iterations like Assassin’s Creed can get wrung dry quickly – but the idea of sequels are more welcomed in the gaming world.
This is yet another reason why I detest the likes of Yahtzee and his ilk, as they seem to be living under the halfwitted mindset that games need to be treated more like movies to be taken seriously, and thus try to implement the simplistic “franchises bad, indies good” into their views on gaming, as if it will bring them legitimacy (something that may actually be achieved by more constructive criticism, and less insults and swearing). But the truth is that gaming’s embracing of franchises has more benefits than the film world’s reluctance to accepting them.
Have you ever bing-watched a show?
If we’re talking entire seasons/series, then yes! I have binged Arrested Development, Twin Peaks and Stranger Things. Usually in several episodes apiece, but sometimes whole seasons (I really like these shows). I have also semi-binged Monk and Psych (never a whole season in one go for either, though). The only other series I can think of off the bat that deserves this same treatment is Seinfeld, but with how many episodes that show has, it could prove difficult.
Expect me to discuss these aforementioned shows more if/when I get around to reviewing TV shows.
Do you follow any webcomics?
Unfortunately no. I have nothing against webcomics or anything, but I couldn’t even think of the name for one, let alone admit to reading any of them.
Holy crap! I’m finally done answering those questions. Geez! I was not expecting to write such lengthy answers.
Now, to wrap up this… umm… extension of my 700th blog (I guess?), here are a few quick fun facts about me and this site.
Facts that are fun…to me, anyway.
All of my Game of the Years so far on this site have something in common.
This isn’t referring to my “Game of the Year for Every Year of my Life” thing I wrote a long while back (and will revise sometime in the near future). But in regards to the games I’ve crowned Game of the Year during my annual awards on this site, from 2014 to 2017.
My Game of the Years here at Wizard Dojo so far have been Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (2014), Undertale (2015), Dark Souls 3 (2016), and Super Mario Odyssey (2017). Along with winning my GotY award, they all also won my award for Best Music for their respective years! And if we were to rewind the clock to the year before I launched this site, then my favorite game of 2013, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, also would have snagged Best Music as well (as would a number of other prior years).
My love of video game music is no secret, and it only makes sense that part of what makes a game stand out for me is a memorable score. Though winning my award for Best Music isn’t a Game of the Year guarantee, so far on this site, a Best Music winner being named my Game of the Year stands at 4 for 4.
Again, no guarantee, but the music definitely helps.
I was (kind of ) in an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd
James Rolfe’s amazing web series The Angry Video Game Nerd has always been a favorite series of mine (web or otherwise). So when James Rolfe asked fans on Twitter to send in photos for an upcoming episode to show support for the Nerd in defeating a final boss, I jumped at the chance.
As I expected (given the ‘support in defeating a final boss’ thing), the game ended up being EarthBound! The episode in question is the longest single AVGN episode (as well as the most recent, as of this writing). But it’s well worth the time, as it’s also one of the best episodes in the long-running series. And I was happy to see that, when the Nerd made his way to Giygas near the episode’s end, my photo was among those of many other fans giving the Nerd their support. I thought that was kind of cool.
Well, I’d like to list some more fun facts (the ‘Best Music/GotY’ one was the main reason for adding this section), but now I believe this blog is longer than the actual 700th blog! Plus it’s late, I’m tired, and I gotta get ready for E3 in a couple of days. I know I’ll probably remember another ‘fun fact’ in the morning and then kick myself for not including it. But I guess there’s always the 800th blog down the road for that.
Anyway, thanks for reading! If you’ve actually made it this far, you’re a trooper. Also, thank you to Red Metal for the questions and Mystery Blogger/Sunshine Blogger nominations! To return the favor, I nominate the following peeps for these same awards:
Fellow Wizard Dojo writer (and his own writer), AfterStory.
You know, I should really make my own blogging award one of these days. What would I call it? A Wizzy?