Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! How about that Solo, eh? Oh wait, that was several months ago. My “how about that [recent Star Wars movie here], eh?” schtick doesn’t work this time. Dang it, Disney! You ruined this running gag!
Whoa! Wait, hold up! It’s Christmas already?!
Yes, somehow it’s already Christmas Day of 2018. That means that, somewhere out there, Grant Kirkhope is obsessing over eggnog, and it’s WWE wrestler Rusev’s birthday. It also means that it’s the anniversary of the launch of Wizard Dojo! Santa be praised!
Indeed, it was Christmas Day of 2014 that I launched Wizard Dojo. Okay, okay, so technically I bought the domain name and set up the basics a number of days beforehand. But it was on Christmas Day that I published my first wave of posts. So that’s the official launch, as far as I’m concerned. While I published over twenty different posts that day, I specifically selected my review of Mario Kart 8 to be the very first post here at the Dojo. That’s right, Wizard Dojo was built on the shoulders of Mario Kart 8. A pretty darn game to build one’s site on the shoulders of, I must say.
Yes, it’s been a great four years, building up the Dojo with hundreds of video game and movie reviews, Christmas specials, often-promised lists of my all-time favorite games, and endless ranting about why Geno should be in Super Smash Bros. (he really, really should).
Now, in keeping with the tradition of my Christmas Specials, the rest of this blog will be separated into multiple chapters of varying degrees of nonsense. So let’s cut with the chit-chat and get right to the good stuff.
Chapter 1: The Best of Wizard Dojo’s Fourth Year
As usual, we start things off with the more notable blogitty blogs I’ve written in the past twelve months.
Notable video game reviews
Notable movie reviews
Notable lists and writings
Chapter 2: Wizard Dojo in 2019
Ah, yes! The chapter in which I discuss the things I hope to do on this site in the next calendar year, and then proceed to only accomplish some of it. Lovely.
In all seriousness, I will try to continue to crank out movie and video game reviews in 2019, and finally start doing some TV reviews (though, as I’ve stated in the past, don’t expect them to appear as regularly as movie and game reviews. TV shows are a bigger commitment). Hopefully 2019 will also be the year I finally, finally make my list of all-time favorite video games.
On that note, my list of favorite video games may be built up to with different lists first. I’m tempted to make a “Ten Top 10” list (ten lists of the ten best games in ten different genres) a la Edge Magazine circa 2003. Also, a list of the best game (and maybe the runner-up) on every console I’ve ever owned. Also, I plan on making a revised version of my list of Game of the Years for Every Year of my Life (something I did some years ago, and noticed over the past year that it’s become something of a trend, with other people taking credit for the idea. But I did it first!). This time though, my GotYfEYomL will be made into its own page, so it can be updated as needed. Maybe if I do all these first, it will make my all-time favorite list clearer.
Also, seeing as 2019 is the last year of this decade (?!?), I’ll probably be making different “best of the decade” lists around a year from now, for both movies and games.
Perhaps most importantly, I hope to get back to my studies of video game design and sprite making. I will probably use this site as a means to update on my progress with such things, and slowly but surely see my very first video game begin to take shape. On that subject, I may also share some of my drawings and/or creative writings here on my site, if there’s enough interest (but be warned, I am no great artist). And of course, I hope to actually follow through and make more top 5/10 lists during the next year. Of course, if I get really serious learning game design, I can’t guarantee how frequent updates will be.
So basically, I hope that 2019 proves to make everything bigger, better and review-ier here at the Dojo. Who knows, maybe I’ll cook up something good as soon as January. And maybe I’ll even pass the 400 video game reviews mark next year…
Chapter 3: Random Top 5s
Ah yes, the traditional chapter of my Christmas post designated to weird top 5 lists that I never get around to making the rest of the year. I should probably change that. Who doesn’t want a weird top 5 every now and again? But for now, here they are in the Christmas Special.
Top 5 Pun-y Video Game Titles
Few things are as delightfully cheesy as a pun. As far as video game titles go, these are the ones I think are the pun-iest around!
5: Grabbed by the Ghoulies
It’s a game about ghosts and ghouls (thus, ghoulies), and they can grab you. But ‘goolies’ is also British slang for…something else. You can figure it out.
4: Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Admittedly, I was a bit dense to this one at first, and it wasn’t until after the game was released that I got the joke.
You see, the phrase “to spin a yarn” is another way of saying to tell a story, or an epic tale. So as far as the title is concerned, “Kiby’s Epic Yarn” is referring to Kirby’s epic journey to save Patch Land. But the game’s visual style is also based off yarn and fabric. Get it? Epic YARN!
3: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved video games of all time. It also has one of the cheesiest puns of a title in all of video games. A LINK to the Past! Get it, because the main character’s name is Link!
Admittedly, the title doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense, seeing as you travel between worlds in this entry, not time. Come to think of it, A Link to the Past might have been a better title for Ocarina of Time, seeing as you traveled back and forth through time in that one…
2: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
1: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Pity on the poor souls who still think the subtitle for DKC2 is Diddy Kong’s Quest. The misplacement of the apostrophe and S completely remove the joke. It’s not simply a quest pertaining to Diddy Kong, it’s a play on the word ‘conquest.’ In fact, I learned the word conquest because of this magnificent game.
The simple placement of that aforementioned apostrophe and S turn what would otherwise be a simple sequel title (character’s name + quest/journey/adventure) and turns it into a brilliant little joke. Get it, because they’re KONGS. Y’know, apes and monkeys and stuff. And it’s a conquest, because they’re conquering a land ruled by the bad guys. Hence, Kong Quest.
Top 5(ish) Characters Who Should Have Been in the Super Smash Bros. Series Sooner
The title of this list is pretty self-explanatory. The following are a list of characters who have appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series who – given their prominence in their respective series and/or Nintendo’s history, as well as fan requests – should have added to the series sooner than they were. That’s not to say anything against the characters who made it in before them, just that, given various circumstances, you’d think these characters would have made the cut much sooner. And no, Waluigi isn’t here.
5: Ridley and King K. Rool
Ridley and King K. Rool – along with Super Mario RPG’s Geno – have been dubbed the “big three” for many years now, as they were the three characters with the biggest fan campaigns and most devoted followings to be added to the Super Smash Bros. series. We’re still waiting on Geno (dear lord Sakurai, just add him to the roster already), but we did finally manage to get Ridley and King K. Rool.
The only thing is though, shouldn’t we have gotten them sooner? Don’t get me wrong, their inclusions in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really helped get people excited for the game, and their executions are terrific. But seeing as both Metroid and Donkey Kong were bafflingly underrepresented in Super Smash Bros., combined with the sheer fan demand for both characters, shouldn’t they have made the cut in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U? Or even Brawl?
Here’s where I have to make Sakurai’s white knights cry, because the Smash Bros. director seemed bizarrely adamant against adding these two characters for the longest time (which makes no sense whatsoever. This is a franchise built on fan-service, so why deny the characters fans so sorely want?). It seemed with every iteration, Sakurai would have an excuse for Ridley’s inclusion, with the most recurring being that he’s “too big,” and that making him smaller would not be true to the character. Huh? Isn’t Bowser usually much bigger than he is in Smash? Isn’t Olimar supposed to be only a few inches tall? We had no problem changing their sizes to make them work, why would it be different for Ridley?
And then we have, perhaps, the most laughable excuse imaginable for K. Rool, when Sakurai stated that some characters didn’t make the cut because he and his team “have to evaluate the uniqueness the character would bring to the table,” before specifically mentioning King K. Rool. Uhhh, what other crocodile pirate/kings are their in Smash Bros? Who else uses a blunderbuss? It would already be a terrible excuse given that King K. Rool would have always been unique, but it’s downright hilarious when you remember all the clone characters who are already in Super Smash Bros. Do Dr. Mario, Roy, Lucina, Dark Pit, Lucas, and Pichu really bring any “uniqueness” when they’re literally retooled versions of other characters?
I don’t want to be too hard on Sakurai, but come on. Surely there’s a better excuse than that. Still, I’m happy he finally listened to all the Ridley and K. Rool supporters. Now if he could just listen to us Geno folk…
Here’s a unique example of a character who, given his status with Nintendo, should have for all intents and purposes been in Super Smash Bros. sooner, but actually benefited from being added later.
I would say Melee, the second Super Smash Bros. game, would have made sense to include Wario if we’re going by prominence (I can understand why he wouldn’t be in the first entry, which mainly consisted of main characters and Luigi). But had he been added then, he may have ended up being a mere clone of Mario or something. But between the releases of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, the WarioWare series came into being, which redefined Wario’s place in Nintendo.
Because of this, the War we ended up getting in Smash was a very refreshing and unique fighter. His erratic movements, motorcycles and penchant for flatulence made him a more standout character than he otherwise may have been.
Sure, he could have/would have/should have been in Melee, given that he’d already starred in a number of games by that point, but he benefitted from being staved off for later use.
3: King Dedede and Diddy Kong
Fun fact: King Dedede was actually considered to be in the original Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64. But, due to hardware limitations, Sakurai had to shorten the roster. And, not wanting to show favoritism for his own characters (having created the Kirby series), Sakurai decided to give King Dedede the axe. This same scenario happened again with Super Smash Bros. Melee (though it seems that humility melted away with subsequent entries between the over-powered Meta Knight of Brawl and the sudden increase of Kid Icarus references in Smash 4, after Sakurai had helmed Kid Icarus: Uprising).
As well meaning as that may have been, I think King Dedede would have fit in just fine in either of the earliest two Smash games. Hell, I even think Dedede, not Meta Knight, should have been the Kirby character present in Brawl’s reveal trailer. Remembering that in the days before Smash 4, not every new character got their own trailer, just the first batch with the reveal. And Dedede had been more important in more Kirby games than Meta Knight was.
Diddy Kong is another character who felt like he should have been in Melee. Given how big DKC was in the 90s, you’d think that, being released in the early 2000s, Melee would have found a spot for the second banana of the Donkey Kong series. I don’t mind that Diddy was held off until Brawl, since it gave me something to look forward to. But again, it just seems like he would have fit in the second entry in the series.
The fact that it took three games before we got King Dedede and Diddy still seems kind of baffling to me. I can understand them coming in after Bowser and Ganondorf. But after Dr. Mario, Pichu and the Ice Climbers? Something ain’t right, there.
2: Bowser and Princess Peach
In all fairness, I can get why Bowser and Peach were introduced to Super Smash Bros. through Melee, seeing as previously mentioned, the original was mostly comprised of the main heroes of each represented series, as well as Luigi (who makes sense) and Jigglypuff (who doesn’t make quite as much sense). But when you remember that we’re talking about Princess Peach and Bowser, it does seem kind of weird that they weren’t in the original Smash Bros.
Another fun fact: Bowser, like Dedede, was planned to be in the original. But once again, hardware limitations prevented that. So this is at least a scenario I can understand. It’s just that, when you think of the core of Nintendo, it kind of goes back to Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Link, Samus and Donkey Kong… maybe Kirby (Pokemon’s popularity almost seems like a separate entity). And well, when Peach and Bowser are the only members of that lot to have not been in the first Super Smash Bros., it makes them stand out.
Again, I understand the circumstances here. It just still seems kind of weird is all…
1: Dixie Kong (and also Geno)
Okay, so for my number one choice I’m kind of going against the description I gave for this list. Dixie Kong still isn’t a playable character in Super Smash Bros. But that’s kind of the reason why she’s number one. She’s basically the only major recurring Nintendo character who isn’t a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. yet. And frankly, if we’re going by the presence/prominence of characters in their series, I’d say DK of course belonged in the original, Diddy in Melee, and Dixie in Brawl. It’s science.
But here we are, all the way to Super Smash Bros’ fifth installment with Ultimate, and Dixie still isn’t in the series. Granted, the fact that we got K. Rool means we finally got some added DK rep, which is awesome. But the fact that Dixie seems to be the last “main character” of a Nintendo series not to show up means she sticks out like a sore thumb.
As for Geno, well, I’m sure any of my readers know by this point that I want him in. Of course he’s going to share the top spot. If it were just me who wanted him I would totally understand his absence. But I’m far from alone here. As stated, along with Ridley and K. Rool, Geno has been at the top of many a Smash Bros. wishlist. And sure, in the past I could understand when people would say “he was in one game,” “he’s obscure,” and “he’s owned by Square-Enix.” But with each new entry, more and more of those reasons (excuses?) no longer hold weight. And by this point with Ultimate, there’s literally not a single excuse to give for Geno’s absence. We have plenty of one-off characters and obscurities (hello, the Ice Climbers aren’t exactly have a bunch of games with Pokemon levels of success to their name). And maybe Square is being stingy, but they let Sakurai use Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and, notably, got permission for Geno’s likeness for a Mii costume. If Square is willing to let in their character, and give the rights to Geno’s likeness, what’s the issue here?
After Sakurai went on record and said he’s actively wanted Geno in the series for quite some time now, we thought for sure that Mii costume was a mere appetizer for the future. After Ultimate revealed the two other members of the big three were joining the ranks, Geno seemed like a shoe-in. And yet, he’s still not in the game. Like, seriously, what the hell is preventing it at this point? Could Square really be that stingy?
Well, here’s hoping Sakurai can continue to squeeze Square’s arm until they relent and give him what he and all of us fans have wanted for years, and just let Geno join Super Smash Bros. through DLC. And here’s hoping Dixie makes it in because, well, her omission is glaring at this point.
Top 5 Angry Video Game Nerd Episodes of 2018
Cinemassacre’s Angry Video Game Nerd series is widely acknowledged as a trailblazer in the world of independent gaming critiques (even if the series is more entertainment than review). Since it started in the mid-2000s, James Rolfe’s AVGN has proven influential and entertaining even today.
As a big fan of the AVGN, it’s become part of my Christmas post tradition to include a list of the top 5 AVGN episodes of the year. Rolfe released nine new episodes of the Angry Video Game Nerd in 2018, and it was a pretty strong lineup. But as far as I’m concerned, these were the five best.
*This time, I figured I’d include Cinemassacre’s AVGN videos here. Naturally, there’s plenty of NSFW language abound*
5: Super and Virtual Hydlide (Episode 161)
Eight years ago(?!), the Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed Hydlide, one of the most notoriously awful NES games ever released (a game which I personally scored a 1/10). Now, AVGN takes on two of its sequels. As you might expect, his facial reaction to the terrible mo-cap characters of Virtual Hydlide are priceless.
4: Amiga CD32 (Episode 162)
Here, AVGN takes a look at the Amiga CD32, a home console so unspeakably bad, it killed the once major force in gaming, Commodore. His reactions to Kang Fu are particularly hilarious.
3: Resident Evil Survivor (Episode 160)
Here, the AVGN travels back to the days of the PSOne. Well, it’s final days. After discussing a brief history about the Resident Evil series, the Nerd dives into one of the series’ most infamous entries, Resident Evil Survivor. Things get really hilarious once the Nerd starts integrating himself into the game’s cutscenes.
2: Home Alone Games with Macaulay Culkin (Episode 164)
The Nerd gets an unlikely guest star when Macauley Culkin himself drops by disguised as a pizza boy, and forces some notorious Home Alone games on the Nerd. Hilarity ensues.
1: EarthBound (Episode 156)
The first AVGN episode of the year was not only the best of the lot, but one of the best episodes of AVGN. Period. It also happens to be the longest episode in the web series’ history.
It shouldn’t really be a mystery why, as AVGN tackles none other than EarthBound itself. Though the Nerd typically reviews bad games (to fuel his anger), this is a rare instance where the Nerd loves the game he’s playing (while admitting to its faults). But realizing how strange EarthBound is, it begins to affect his psyche. Before he knows it, the game is becoming the Nerd’s reality, and the only way to set things right is to ask for help from his fans (including me! No joke! I’m the one wearing Cappy) to help defeat Giygas
And now, back to more family friendly territory.
Chapter 4: WWE Awards & Stinkers
And now that random moment when I decide to talk about pro-wrestling, which probably means nothing to my readers given video games and movies are the main focus of this site.
2018 was NOT a good year to be a WWE fan. Sure, NXT was great (of course), and Smackdown really picked up towards the end of the year, but Monday Night RAW – the supposed ‘flagship show’ of the WWE – royally sucked for pretty much the whole year. The obnoxious lengths taken to protect Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar barely showing up to defend the Universal Title (and when he did, his matches were the exact same borefests they’ve been for the past few years), non-existent storytelling, and cringe backstage segments have made RAW and, to an extent, WWE as a whole, a hard pill to swallow this past year. The fact that RAW has broken its record for all-time low TV ratings multiple times over really says it all.
As such, I only have so many good things to say in regards to WWE this year. So, while I’ll dish out a handful of positive awards, most of this chapter will be dedicated to “honoring” the worst of the worst of this stinker of a year for WWE.
First, the good stuff.
Best Female Wrestler
3rd Place: Asuka
2nd Place: Ronda Rousey
Winner: Becky Lynch
With the exception of Roman Reign’s continued mega-push despite total disinterest from fans, nothing showed WWE’s utter disconnect with their fanbase quite like their decisions of keeping Becky Lynch heel despite being the most popular wrestler in WWE all year. By being one of WWE’s top workhorses, putting on many of its best matches, and becoming one of its best characters, Becky Lynch earned every last cheer she garnered. No matter how much WWE tried to get her boo’ed.
Best Male Wrestler
3rd Place: AJ Styles
2nd Place: Johnny Gargano
Winner: Daniel Bryan
When 2018 started, Daniel Bryan was still retired from (legitimate) injuries. For two years we all thought he’d never wrestler again. But 2018 marked Bryan’s triumphant return to in-ring action, and capped off the year by winning the WWE Championship. Sure, it still seems baffling that WWE would turn him heel despite being the most beloved wrestler of the decade, though his excellent work in the role makes it an easier pill to swallow. But by defying the odds and coming out of retirement, showing zero signs of ring-rust along the way, Daniel Bryan once again proved why he’s possibly the best in-ring performer alive today.
Match of the Year
5th Place: Becky Lynch vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flaire (TLC Match at Tables, Ladders and Chairs)
4th Place: Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (WWE NXT)
3rd Place: Six-Man Ladder Match for the Inaugural NXT North American Championship (NXT TakeOVer: New Orleans)
2nd Place: Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia)
Winner: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa (Unsanctioned Match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
Ever since 2009, the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania duology have been the benchmark for which all other WWE matches are judged (sorry, Cena vs. CM Punk). But Johnny Gargano put on a series of matches this year that somehow managed to reach that same level of in-ring excellence. Whether or not they were better than the Taker/Michaels matches is all up to opinion, but the fact that they’re consistently compared to them is a testament to their greatness. Gargano’s showdown with Andrade Almas set a new standard for NXT, but his blood feud with former Allie Tommaso Ciampa was pure poetry. And in this day and age where WWE seems to butt heads with its fans over who should and should not be cheered, it was great to see a rivalry where we could all get behind a genuinely sympathetic hero in Gargano, and boo the heck out of a dastardly villain like Ciampa. Their clash at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans? Pure wrestling perfection.
And now, we get to the royal suckage. In no real order,. here’s the worst creative decisions and missteps WWE made in a year chock full of them.
WWE Fails of 2018: Roman Reigns Loses to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34
Okay, pretty self-explanatory here. As much as we all hated Roman Reigns for his constant presence in the main event scene, being treated like Superman at the expense of more popular (and talented) wrestlers, and being promoted as a hero even though everyone and their grandmother boo’ed him and his actions just screamed ‘villain,’ WWE had backed him up to no end for over two years. The ‘master plan’ all along was, after Brock Lesnar ended the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania four years ago, he’d be booked to mow down everyone, before eventually falling to a heroic Roman Reigns.
WWE was so adamant in this narrative that they outright denied fans what they wanted and continued to make Roman Reigns the star of the show. He was originally going to beat Lesnar three years ago, before fan reactions caused WWE to change course. But the plan was merely postponed, and this was to be the year of the payoff. As much as we didn’t want to cheer Roman Reigns, we all wanted this experiment (and Brock Lesnar’s boring world title reigns) to come to an end.
So when we finally got to the supposed final confrontation between Reigns and Lesnar at ‘Mania 34, what happened? Roman Reigns lost, rendering these past few years of storytelling completely pointless. Sure, Reigns would eventually beat Lesnar after a couple more tries, but it was beating a dead horse by that point. We were tired of this narrative years ago, and to drag it out passed Wrestlemania when it should have ended. Forget it. Why did we waste all that time building Roman Reigns up at the expense of everyone else just to not pull the trigger at the end? Boring.
WWE Fails of 2018: The Bayley/Sasha Banks Rivalry that went Absolutely Nowhere
What. The hell. Was the point?
WWE has, in recent years, had a notorious habit of starting and stopping storylines at the drop of a hat. And this may just be the most egregious example.
Despite being two of the best performers WWE has, and having one of the best rivalries of recent years back in NXT a few years back (a rivalry which was largely responsible for the “Women’s Revolution” WWE loves to tout so much), WWE somehow had no earthly idea how to make it work in 2018 on the main roster. Granted, they’ve handled Bayley pretty poorly ever since she was “promoted” to the main roster two years ago, but this storyline was a new low.
Why was it so bad? Because WWE, in the most literal sense, never took it anywhere. For months – I repeat, months – WWE was building to the friendship between Sasha Banks and Bayley to eventually implode. And what happened? Sasha Banks turned her back on Bayley…but then they were back together the next week without explanation. Then Bayley seemed to go heel (another mistake right there) and attacked Sasha Banks after a match… which then just ended up sending them to “comedy” segments in therapy for the next couple of weeks (this worked back in the day with Daniel Bryan and Kane, as both were comedic characters at the time. But this was building into a serious rivalry, and then…what?). This kind of thing went back and forth over and over again, and then Sasha Banks confessed her confusing behavior was because she ‘loved’ Bayley.
This seemed, at the time, to be hitting a reset button on this storyline and make the relationship between Sasha Banks and Bayley’s relationship a romantic one (which may seem forward thinking, but this is WWE so don’t hold your breath). But then…it didn’t go anywhere. AGAIN! They tag teamed again for a while, and then the whole thing just faded out of existence.
Way to waste everyone’s time, WWE! And way to waste two of your best talents.
WWE Fails of 2018: The Mishandling of Asuka
When Asuka’s two-plus year long undefeated streak came to an end at the hands of Charlotte Flair at Wrestlemania 34, I thought it was the wrong decision, but one Asuka could still bounce back from. After all, she had become the winner of the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble mere months earlier, surely the end of the streak would go somewhere.
Oh but then, but then, BUT THEN!
WWE, apparently thinking the streak was all there was to Asuka’s character, completely lost track of how to book a strong character. She began losing matches to opponents unworthy to share the same ring with her like Carmella, was put in a pointless tag team with Naomi, and floundered on the roster for the remainder of the year.
Yes, as of this writing, Asuka has recently won the Smackdown Women’s Championship, which is great, and hopefully serves to rebuild Asuka’s mystique and stardom. But to think this was the payoff of some master plan that began at the Royal Rumble would be outright foolish. WWE simply didn’t know what to do with Asuka after her Wrestlemania defeat, and is only now trying to pick up the pieces after months and months of mishandling one of their best talents.
WWE Fails of 2018: 50/50 Booking and Meaningless Victories
Another of WWE’s problems over the past few years is the notorious “50/50” booking. That is to say, having one wrestler beat another, only to put the same wrestlers in another match a week or so later with the opposite result. For very specific rivalries, this could work. But by making this the norm, it essentially makes wins and losses pointless. How can you build up characters when they just trade wins and losses back and forth? How can you make any consistent storylines out of that (the answer is you can’t)?
If you need a specific example, look no further than Bobby Lashley’s victory over Roman Reigns at the Extreme Rules Pay-Per View event. Again, this was on pay-per-view, and Bobby Lashley’s victory initially felt like it meant something. But then they had a rematch on a random episode of RAW to name the number one contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship, which Roman Reigns then won. So why should anyone have cared for the PPV match between Lashley and Reigns when they would just undo the outcome with actual stakes on the line on free TV a few weeks later?
WWE Fails of 2018: Responding to Fan Complaints by… Not Changing a Damn Thing
As stated, RAW really, REALLY sucked in 2018. It got so bad, that WWE had to admit how terrible it got by means of Seth Rollins in a December edition of the Monday night program. However, the problem was that they had Seth Rollins address then on-screen authority figure Baron Corbin as the cause for RAW’s suckage. Using Corbin as a scapegoat for WWE chairman Vince McMahon could have worked in storyline, if it were intended to make Corbin a mega-heel. But of course that’s not what they did. Instead, they used the storyline bad guy to attempt to get real life heat off of McMahon (exactly how dumb do they think their audience is?). Suffice to say, it didn’t work.
And how exactly do you think WWE decided to address the issue? By removing Corbin from his on-screen position in embarrassing fashion (why bother trying to make another top tier villain?), and then having the McMahons family take over power of both RAW and Smackdown.
This makes absolutely NO sense for a number of reasons.
1. The McMahons never left power. It was Stephanie McMahon, the ‘commissioner’ of RAW, who appointed Baron Corbin in his position.
2. We all know the (countless) problems with WWE stem from Vince McMahon being completely out of touch. You can’t pass the blame onto someone else in storyline and expect fans to fall for it.
3. Seeing as the McMahon family owns the WWE, how is their “taking control” of it going to change anything?
4. Why did they need to change Smackdown when it was (and is) receiving acclaim just because RAW sucked?
Just…ugh…let’s move on.
WWE Fails of 2018: Hosting Shows in Saudi Arabia
No… Just… No.
Alright, enough with these painful memories of WWE’s 2018. It’s Christmas, let’s move onto something happier.
Chapter 5: Christmas Gaming Memories
And now, a chapter that’s actually dedicated to Christmas. More specifically, some of my fondest video game related Christmas memories.
Christmas 1996: Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64
I will never, ever forget Christmas Day of 1996. Though I was only seven years old at the time, I still remember it clear as day. Me, my two older brothers, and my younger sister all woke up to the beautiful sight of a Nintendo 64 right in the middle of our living room, with Super Mario 64 along with it. We also each got one of those first edition Nintendo plushies that were out at the time in our stockings. My oldest brother got Donkey Kong, older brother got Bowser, my sister got Yoshi, and I got the Winged Cap Mario. The memories of booting up the N64 and walking Mario around the grounds of Princess Peach’s Castle remain burned into my mind. I had only played Super Mario 64 previously at a Toys ‘R’ Us, but seeing this new 3D Mario was astounding to my seven-year old mind. It was like some kind of miracle.
We all played Mario 64 for a few hours, and I think I played with all the plush toys (remember, this was in 1996, Nintendo plushes were a new thing back then). Perhaps I was just at the right age at the right time (the N64 was the first “new” Nintendo console of my life, seeing as I was born into the NES and the SNES was released when I was too young to remember). Whatever it was, I’ll never forget that magical Christmas Day of 1996 with Mario and friends.
Christmas 1999: DK! Donkey Kong!
Let’s get this out of the way first, Donkey Kong 64 has not aged particularly well. With over bloated stages, tedious amounts of collectibles, and downright unfair mini-games, DK64 is sadly a product of it’s time. The red-haired step-sibling to the far more timeless Banjo-Kazooie, if you will.
Still, that doesn’t change the soft spot it has in my heart. Partly because I love the DKC series, partly because the game seemed so epic at the time, and partly because of Christmas of 1999.
I remember being so, so hyped for this game. Re-reading the Nintendo Power articles on it again and again. I was excited for the new Kongs (apparently not realizing how entirely lame Tiny Kong was at the time, seeing as she’s just Dixie Minus), the weapons, the levels, the bosses, everything! I think I even had the promotional VHS from Nintendo Power on repeat.
At the time, the game did not disappoint. It was like a DK dreamland. There was so much to do, so much variety with five different characters, it was amazing.
No, perhaps DK64 isn’t the best game made by Rare in retrospect, but it created a Christmas memory I’ll always cherish.
Christmas 2000: A PS2, and Majora’s Mask, Too!
While I can appreciate the convenience of being able to pre-order video game consoles online now, I have to admit that I kind of miss the days when you had to camp out to get the hottest new console on the market. Granted, I only ever personally camped out for the Wii, but my older brother knew what we were getting for Christmas in 2000, as he camped out with my mom to get a PS2. I had no idea at the time, but he would often bring it up after that Christmas. *Sigh* I miss camping out for consoles…
As if getting a new console weren’t great enough, we also got one of the best N64 games, Majora’s Mask, for Christmas as well. Although I really enjoyed Ocarina of Time, something about Majora’s Mask had me a lot more excited. Maybe it’s because I liked Ocarina of Time, or maybe because the ability to change forms with different masks was awesome and different. Whatever the case, it was a good gaming Christmas between a new console and a new Zelda.
Christmas 2001: A Smashing Good Time… Advanced!
It’s a testament to how much fun the Super Smash Bros. series is that – even after renting Super Smash Bros. Melee and unlocking every character – me and my siblings couldn’t wait to get it for Christmas just a few weeks later. As expected as it was to get it on Christmas, it didn’t change the fact that we all still played it for hours on Christmas Day.
To top it all off, me and my brothers also got our own Game Boy Advances, complete with Super Mario Advance and Mario Kart Super Circuit. Little did I know at the time that the Game Boy Advance would end up being my favorite handheld system (unless we count the Switch).
Countless hours of the Smash Bros. series and many GBA games later, and I’d say Christmas of 2001 was a great starting point for many gaming memories for me.
Christmas 2003: Games Galore!
Wow, here’s another Christmas morning I remember clear as crystal. As 2003 was the year I first saw Spirited Away, I was greeted to the sight of some Spirited Away mini figurines (and keychains), the first Spirited Away merchandise I ever received outside of the soundtrack. Those weren’t the only figurines I’d get, as I also got the Homestar Runner figurine collection.
In terms of video games, I hit the jackpot this year. Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Viewtiful Joe, and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg all joined my GameCube library. Though Double Dash may have been one of the more gimmicky Mario Karts, it was still an undeniable good time, and one I enjoyed for quite some time. Viewtiful Joe is simply one of the best beat-em-ups ever made, and Billy Hatcher was one of those underrated Sega games that seemed prime for a franchise if it weren’t for Sega’s inability to franchise their creations that aren’t Sonic.
Ah, but then, for the Game Boy Advance, I got Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Though the series formula would be perfected with Bowser’s Inside Story, the gameplay, sense of humor and art direction of Superstar Saga left a major impression on me that stand to this day.
This was a hell of a Christmas for me.
Christmas 2004: Two Screens!
Ah, Christmas of 2004, the day I got my first Nintendo DS. Questionable marketing aside (“Touching is good?” Really Nintendo?), the Nintendo DS was one hell of a handheld. Of course the first game I got was Super Mario 64 DS, which sadly may not have reached its full potential as a remake of Super Mario 64 (the controls and changes to the game’s structure held it back), it was pretty amazing to play it on a handheld. And although the touch screen wouldn’t be as mind-blowing as the motion controls of the upcoming Wii, it still felt so fresh and different to play a game across two screens and affect gameplay with touch controls. This was also the year I received Viewtiful Joe 2. So a good follow-up to the prior Christmas. Shame Viewtiful Joe 3 never happened.
Christmas 2006: The Christmas Before Christmas
As stated earlier, I camped out for the Wii, so that was my Christmas right there. Sure, it came a month early, but I still got some additional games for the Wii on Christmas Day. Man, I remember how amazing the Wii felt for the first several months after its release. I had a blast just navigating the home menus with those motion controls.
Christmas 2007: Welcome to the Galaxy
As many fond memories of gaming as I have between the SNES to the Wii, there was something about Super Mario Galaxy that seemed to reignite the kind of magic I didn’t feel in video games since my early years. The excitement of seeing Mario flying around in outer space was unreal. Now, I wanted to buy it for myself, but my mother – rest her soul – loved to make Christmas special. So as painful as it was, I had to bring myself to wait a whole month after Galaxy’s release for Christmas.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t cheat a little, as I’d visit Gamestops to play Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii’s they had on display. I’d only replay the same few segments as to not spoil too much of the game, but boy, was it glorious fun. As hard as it was to wait for Christmas, I’m glad I did. Not only did it mean my mom got to give me a standout Christmas present, but it really did take me back to 1996 and playing Super Mario 64 on Christmas Day all over again. Pure magic.
Also of note, I got both of my brothers The Orange Box for Christmas in 2007. Although I hadn’t played Half-Life at that point in time (though I knew of it), the idea of five games bundled into a single release intrigued me. Scratch that, it fascinated me. I was interested in the Half-Life 2 games included, and was hyped for Team Fortress 2. But it was Portal that most caught my eye. And yes, I know I said I got two copies of the game for my brothers and now I’m taking like it was for me. Well, it wouldn’t be a entirely dishonest to say this was a case of a “once for you, twice for me” gift. But hey, we all got good games out of it. So it’s all good, right?
Christmas 2012: From Wii to U
Alright, now things are going to become a bit of a downer. Sorry.
The Wii U may not have been the revolution the Wii was, and yes, it had its share of problems (lack of third-party support, slow first year, etc.) but I have defended it in the past because, the good games it did have, were damn good. Yes, now that most of its best games have been re-released on Switch makes the Wii U harder to defend today, in its time, it had some gems on it (any console that brought the world Tropical Freeze couldn’t be all bad).
But that’s not what this is about. The fact is the Wii U will always have a place in my heart as the last Christmas gift my mother ever gave me. As mentioned earlier, my mom always tried to do something special for Christmas. As far as I can remember it was her opportunity to spoil me and my siblings. Even when I got to the point where I could buy my own games, she would always emphasize what games I shouldn’t buy ahead of time (which kind of spoiled the surprise, but would you argue with your mother about what Christmas gifts she wanted to get you?).
Her health had been failing for some time by this point, but even at that point she still wanted to go all out for Christmas. And if any of the above mentioned years didn’t already say so, a new video game console was always as big a Christmas gift as I could ever ask for.
Yes, the Wii U had many an issue, but it will forever be that last special gift my mom got me for Christmas. No lack of third-party games can ever take that away.
Christmas 2015: Getting Caught Up
Although the Playstation 4 was released in 2013, I was going through a lot at the time and, as such, wasn’t exactly in a rush to play a bunch of video games. But in 2015, my grandparents – wanting to keep tradition alive – decided to go all out and bought me a PS4 for Christmas.
Since then I’ve done a lot of catching up with my PS4, fell in love with the Dark Souls series through Bloodborne, played through the Uncharted series for the first time with The Nathan Drake Collection, became addicted to Overwatch, and discovered a lot of great games. It’s also given me plenty to write about on this site. So thanks, grandma and grandpa!
Chapter 6: The Best Games of Each Score (Minus 0s and 10s)
Here’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, showcasing the game of each number score on my rating system that I consider the best of that number grade. Of course, when I thought about it, I realized I should exclude the perfect 10/10 games for now, as that may spoil my eventual list of favorite games (oh lord, I’m talking about that again). Also, I’m not counting the 0/10 games either. I’ve only awarded two zeros to games thus far (to Hong Kong ’97 and CrazyBus), those games are so bad they don’t even count as games. As such, they aren’t here. But, from 1 to 9, here are the best games of each score (even if the term ‘best’ is only relative in the first few cases).
The (Very Relative) Least Sinful 1
Winner(?): Xena: Warrior Princess – Talisman of Fate
As truly, truly awful as this game is, I can at least laugh at its utter ineptitude. Ergo, it’s not as sucky as the other 1s, nor does it hurt my feelings quite as much.
The Slightly Less Terrible 2
Winner(?): Knight Lore
Knight Lore is often considered a landmark title in the world of British game design. For that reason, I give it this dubious distinction of being “less bad” than the other 2/10 scored games. But that doesn’t change the fact that the game feels like an absolute relic of outdated game design.
The Least Offensive 3
Winner(?): Top Gun
This NES licensed title is fondly remembered by some, and for its time, it was probably a half-decent flight simulator. But time has not been kind to it. Top Gun is too shallow, and its controls too clunky (seriously, how do you land the plane?) to hold up today. Still, seeing as – unlike many other 3s – it probably seemed playable at one point, I recognize it for being better than the flat-out bad 3s.
The Fairly Forgivable 4
Winner(?): Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Speaking of games that used to be good but aged poorly, here comes the N64! In this case, it’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, a game that was one of my favorites back in the early days of 3D gaming. Even Edge Magazine, the British publication famous for its strict scoring, gave Turok a 9/10 back when it released. That seems laughable now.
Again, Turok wasn’t always bad. As one of the early 3D first-person single player adventures, it was decent for its time. But its horrendous controls have ensured it wouldn’t endure.
The Most Respectable 5
Winner: Goldeneye 007
Many people still argue that Goldeneye 007 is one of the best first-person shooters ever. Those people are wrong.
Now, before you grab your torches and pitchforks, I’m not trying to completely crap on Goldeneye. It was one of my favorite games as a kid, and I still have a nostalgic soft spot for it. But I would be absolutely lying if I said it’s aged as gracefully as, say, Super Mario 64.
Yes, Goldeneye wrote the rulebook on what a multiplayer FPS on consoles should be. But it seems like many, many readers of that rulebook improved on it in just about every way.
For all the influence Goldeneye 007 has had on the FPS genre, and multiplayer games as a whole, its controls and overall setup feel archaic. I can’t imagine many people would play Goldeneye when we have the likes of Overwatch as alternatives.
The Superior 6
Winner: Donkey Kong 64
Admittedly, choosing the best 6 isn’t easy. I think I’ve given more 6s than any other score to games as of this writing (though if you want to filter through my reviews and fact-check that, feel free). In the end, I decided to go with sentimentality.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter, I have quite the history with Donkey Kong 64. I may regret this choice and realize a better 6 later, but if we’re going by my favorite game in which I’ve given the score, it has to be this one.
Yeah, DK64 hasn’t aged particularly well, but it still could have aged worse (it could be Turok). But I have a soft spot for DK and the gang and, impressively, DK64 is an N64 title that still feels massive even by today’s standards.
The Magnificent 7 (har har)
Winner: Pokemon Go
Alright, so the score of 7 may be the actual hardest to pick. Honestly, there are a few options I could go with, but because I still regularly play Pokemon Go, and it has given me a fun social activity to partake in with friends, I’m giving it the edge here. Though I may regret this selection later…
Pokemon Go may not technically be as good as a number of other 7s, but I had to pick something. And since Pokemon Go has probably had the biggest personal impact on me, and because it continues to evolve, it takes the cake here.
My Most Grateful 8
Winner: Shadow of the Colossus
Ouch, now this was a tough one. I’m still not sure I made the right pick, but seeing as Shadow of the Colossus is a game I’ve gone back to relatively frequently, and has always stood out in my mind, I had to make it my selection for the greatest 8…at least for now.
Yes, it’s true, the camera can become a cumbersome mess at times, but Shadow of the Colossus still stands tall as one of the best ‘art games’ – if not the best art game – ever made. Its minimalistic content and entirely focused direction should really be imitated a lot more than they are. Especially today, when so many games feel so bloated and drowned in padding.
Shadow of the Colossus certainly isn’t perfect (again, that camera), but it is indeed one of a kind.
The Witch-King of Angmar (The Greatest of the 9)
5th Place: Mario Kart 8/Deluxe
4th Place: Overwatch
3rd Place: Super Mario 64
2nd Place: Bloodborne
Winner: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
What’s this?! Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze getting praise at Wizard Dojo? Surely this wasn’t expected!
Just kidding, if you’ve read even one of my blogs in the past, this was probably a given. DKCTF has always been, for lack of a better word, my ‘uncrowned 10.’ It may not reinvent the platforming genre, but it’s by far and away one of the best experiences the genre has ever produced.
The level design is as creative and entertaining as any game I’ve played, the different characters all bring something to the table (but let’s face it, Dixie is the most useful), and the soundtrack – by none other than a returning David Wise – is an underrated all-time great.
As much as I adore Bloodborne, as many fond memories as I have of Super Mario 64, and no matter how many hours I’ve logged into Overwatch and Mario Kart 8, when I think of the best of the best (that I somehow didn’t give a 10), I always go back to Tropical Freeze.
It’s platforming bliss.
Chapter 7: The Last One
Don’t worry, folks. We’re almost done here.
I know, my first two Christmas specials went for a total of eight chapters, and when my last special went to only six, I said I’d make up for it next time (which is now this time). So I may only be one chapter longer than last time, and one chapter short of my first two Christmas specials. But judging by the word count I can see at the bottom of my screen as I write this, this is bar none my longest blog thus far in the history of the Dojo. So technically speaking, I did keep my word.
Yes, all good things must come to an end. Even obnoxiously long Christmas specials. Hopefully you’ve had some fun reading this, and here’s hoping 2019’s Christmas special will be even more obnoxiously long.
So now, I’ll just wrap things up by saying thank you to all my loyal readers, my disloyal readers, the spambots, and all of you lovely people.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Rusev Day, Festivus, Finn Wolfhard’s birthday, Decemberween, Wizard Dojo’s Anniversary… whatever it is, have a great one. Spend time with family and friends, party hard (but not too hard), drink hot cocoa, quote prequel memes, fight off the Grinch, and give Santa Claus a most righteous high-five.
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals…
…and a Happy New Year, too.
I hope you look forward to my shenanigans, reviews, and possible game development thingies in the year to come.
See you in 2019!