The Fourth of July 2020 Post!

Happy America, everybody!

I know, it’s probably hard to celebrate dang near anything this year with everything going on in the world. But finding reason to celebrate even in dark times helps stave off depression, and that’s a good thing!

To my fellow Americans, have a happy Independence Day! And to anyone not from the US of A, you have a happy day, too!

Apologies once more that updates to this site have slowed a bit. I’m really hoping to pick up the pace in the not-too-distant future. And I actually have a list of movie and video game reviews lined up that I hope to finish soon, that I’ve been procrastinating for way too long. Among these will be my review of Return of the Jedi, which will finish up my reviews of the original Star Wars trilogy. Also some reviews for some leftover 2019 games, as well as (finally) some for 2020 games. Hey, it’s been a rough year.

But enough about me, you all enjoy your fireworks and barbecues and all that. Happy 4th of July, everybody! Stay safe, and for goodness sake, wear a damn mask!

 

Per tradition, here’s that classic image of Captain America punching Hitler.

“Hell yeah!”

Some Video Game Stuff I’m Excited About

Lots of big video game announcements recently. Along with all that recent Pokemon news (highlighted by the Pokemon Snap sequel we’ve waited over two decades for), yesterday brought some cool gaming news.

First off, we had the announcement of the first new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character from the six-character “Fighter Pass 2.” It’s Min Min from Nintendo’s ARMs!

Some people were disappointed when Nintendo announced early that the first character of the new batch would be from ARMs, but personally, I think it’s overdue! Why wasn’t an ARMs character added into the game to begin with? It seems like an obvious way to promote ARMs, and it would bring something new to Super Smash Bros. It’s like how Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS decided not to make the Inklings a DLC character. It seems like adding characters from newer Nintendo IPs into Super Smash Bros. would be an easy way to help build prestige for them, so it’s weird how Nintendo is repeatedly late in pulling the trigger on them. And yet, they add new Fire Emblem characters before the game said character appears in has even been released. I don’t get it.

At the very least, I suppose some good came from the delay. Had they added an ARMs character from the get-go, they probably would have gone with Spring Man, since he’s – by default of being the most basic representation of the game’s concept – the de facto “main character” in most peoples’ eyes. But since he was made into an Assist Trophy, we ended up getting Min Min instead, and she’s a far more fun character.

Not only does Min Min look like a fun and unique addition to Super Smash Bros., and represents a game that really should have been represented when Ultimate launched, but also puts an end to the whole “Spirits deconfirm characters” nonsense the internet loved to spew out. Min Min, you see, was one of the countless “spirits” in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which basically means she was a power-up you could use in certain modes represented by a stock promotional image of the character.

For too long, people have been deadset on the idea that a character appearing as a spirit in Ultimate means they have no chance of being made into a playable character. Well, now that nonsense can stop. Now the possibilities for future characters are nearly limitless. There’s hope for Geno and Dixie Kong yet.

Another source of gaming news that broke yesterday was the official announcement and reveal trailer of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Although the game’s title and box art leaked a couple of days ahead of time, it’s cool to have the official announcement. And the trailer’s pretty cool (despite the questionable song choice). See?

The character redesigns naturally have some gamers complaining, but I don’t mind them for the most part (Dr. Cortex looks a little odd). But the game looks like a lot of fun. Also, I love how they’re making the game Crash Bandicoot 4, following up the 2017 remake compilation Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy. I appreciate that they’re ignoring everything from the series post-PSOne era.

Of course, the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy was created by Naughty Dog, back in the 90s, and I hold the unpopular opinion that the studio was at their best when they were making the series. The more “serious” the studio has become, the more they just feel like they’re giving themselves a pat on the back. Crash Bandicoot 4 is being developed by Toys 4 Bob, but it actually looks like a more worthwhile continuation to something Naughty Dog started than a certain other recently released Naughty Dog sequel made by Naughty Dog themselves…

Interestingly, Crash Bandicoot 4 is planned for release this year on October 2nd. So it looks like I’ll be getting at least one more PS4 game by the year’s end.

Yeah, this isn’t much of a post. Just some recent video game announcements I’m excited for. Been slow at updating this site lately, so, this is something I guess… More “real” content soon. Sorry.

My Complicated Relationship with Pokemon

I love Pokemon. I really do.

I love its ever-increasing bestiary of cute and cool creatures, I have a nostalgic love for the TV series, I love the success the franchise has found, I love it as an IP and franchise. I just love the very concept of Pokemon. But recently, I’ve come to a realization…

I don’t like the Pokemon games themselves.

I know, that sounds contradictory, considering the Pokemon video games are the origins of the series and, as such, the actual heart and soul of the franchise. But no matter how hard I’ve tried, I find it difficult to get invested in the Pokemon games.

Okay, so I have many a fond memory of Pokemon Red and Blue, and Gold and Silver. I also fondly look back at the Diamond and Pearl generation. I even love some of the spinoffs, with Pokemon Snap in particular – while maybe not a finely aged game – being one I’ve long wished would receive a sequel. Of course, the Pokemon game I’ve easily invested the most time into is… Pokemon Go.

That might sum up my stance on the series, that my most played entry in all of Pokemon is the cellphone game that “isn’t a real Pokemon game.” But hey, Pokemon Go makes for a nice secondary activity when going on walks, so it’s found its way into my daily activity. It may not boast the complexity of the “real” Pokemon games, but it keeps finding ways for me to revisit it pretty regularly, if even just for a few minutes at a time.

The “core” Pokemon games, however, have consistently failed to grab me in the same way. I don’t think they’re bad games outright, but I do feel that – while the character designs of the Pokemon may continue to show inspiration – the games themselves are creatively lazy. That becomes all the more glaring when you remember this is a Nintendo franchise, and Nintendo is a label that usually indicates an inventive spirit (whether they sink or swim usually depends on execution).

Despite being a series that has an emphasis on the evolutions of its titular creatures, Pokemon is – quite ironically – Nintendo’s most un-evolving series. Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda have been around longer, and yet, they continue to create experiences that feel fresh and new to this day. There is a clear distinction between one Mario or Zelda game and the next. But with the exception of the graphical updates and additional creatures, Pokemon still feels like the same experience it was back in 1998 (or 1996 in Japan).

Some might highlight Pokemon’s status as a “second-party” series, and not one made by Nintendo themselves. But just because it isn’t literally made by Nintendo doesn’t mean its developers couldn’t learn a thing or two from Nintendo’s other prominent properties (after all, the Kirby series may not have reached the same heights as Mario or Zelda, but it still shows a similar creative spirit, even as a second-party franchise).

Yes, there have been marginal tweaks to the Pokemon games here and there, and the hardcore Pokemon enthusiast would no doubt point out some obscure difference in the game’s “meta scene” from past installments. But there’s nothing that actually makes the games feel or play differently than they always did.

It happens every time a new generation of “proper” Pokemon games are announced. I always tell myself “This is it. This is going to be the Pokemon generation that draws me back into the series in the same way it did in its booming early years.” And every time, without fail, the games end up trying my patience with their outdated structure and repetitive gameplay. I want to love these Pokemon games. I really do. But they feel so complacent. So sure of their success (guess I can’t argue there) that they don’t feel the need to invent or reinvent anything about themselves. Every time I play a new Pokemon entry, there’s a huge sense of “been there, done that” about the whole thing.

Sure, Pokemon games may be “bigger” than they were back in the day, given all the advancements to hardware that have occurred over the years. But every new Pokemon game feels bigger than the last for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same exact experience, but bloated and dragged out.

For example, Pokemon Sword and Shield, the most recent installments of the main series, looked so promising from a distance: A mainline Pokemon game that can take advantage of being on a home console? Hot dog! Think of the possibilities!

In execution, however, Pokemon Sword (the version I purchased) feels like it simply redrew the same old Pokemon blueprint, but just drew it on a much bigger sheet. It feels ridiculously padded. I’m talking Uncharted 3 cruise ship chapters/Red Dead Redemption 2’s unnecessary trip to Guarma levels of padded!

It’s one thing if, in an RPG, I willingly sidetrack myself with secondary objectives or farming enemies (even in Pokemon Diamond, I took the time to level up a Machamp to the max). But every new Pokemon game feels like it forces me to do more and more things in between going from point A to point B. Most of which feel needless.

Going back to my point in Pokemon Sword, the entire introduction segment felt like I had to do two dozen objectives before I was even allowed to begin heading towards the first gym (although I admit it wasn’t as ungodly long as the introduction of Pokemon Sun and Moon). Not to mention that every last character has to rant on and on about the mechanics of the series which everyone and their grandmother is familiar with by this point (okay, I get it. New fans are going to be introduced with each new entry. But for a series this popular, can they at least have an option for veteran players to ignore the never-ending walls of text that explain the basics of the series? At the very least, can they give the ability to shorten the dialogue?)

When I eventually managed to slog my way through the first gym (with my starting Pokemon already feeling ridiculously overpowered), the path to the second gym was actually pretty short. With a sigh of relief, I thought “okay, so it just had a slow beginning, but now I can just zoom through the story if I want.” Seeing as most Pokemon fans seem to insist the real fun begins after the “story” aspect of the game is complete, I didn’t feel the need to drag the story out. But then what happens as soon as I approach the door to the second gym? I read a sign telling me that I can’t go inside the second gym until I go do some other pointless task first! That’s some Skyward Sword levels of tedium!

It was in that moment when I turned the game off and, as of this writing, I haven’t played Pokemon Sword since. I feel a little bad saying that. Again, I don’t think the Pokemon formula is bad, just one that needs to add some actual change and depth to it, instead of just dragging out the same old same old and calling it new.

want to go back to Pokemon Sword. I would like to beat the story and review it here on this site. But every time I think about going back to play it, I remember how bland and tedious the experience was, and I feel like I just don’t want to bother and put in that kind of time.

“It’s a good thing the characters are still so cute.”

Think about that for a second. This is a series with hundreds of charming creatures throwing lightning and water at each other. In concept, that is so much fun! But in execution, it feels like an absolute chore to get through. It would be one thing if Pokemon Sword were the first experience I had like this with the series, but the truth is it’s happened with pretty much every entry post-Gold and Silver, and it has been happening earlier and earlier within each subsequent entry (again, I at least took the time to max out a Pokemon in Diamond and Pearl, but now I just feel like throwing my hands in the air after the first gym).

So many people are still so obsessed and engrossed with all things Pokemon. I so desperately would like to be among them, and to get the same joy out of the Pokemon games that they do. I may love the concept of the series itself and its creatures. The old episodes of the TV series – and especially the original theme song – give me a uniquely strong sense of nostalgia (as in, it doesn’t just remind me of my childhood, but emotionally takes me back to it, even if the series isn’t what I would call great television). I still play Pokemon Go and long for a Pokemon Snap sequel. And yet, I just can’t bring myself to enjoy the mainline Pokemon video games.

I want to like them. I try to like them. But time and time again, the Pokemon games leave me feeling disappointed with their padded, outdated structures, and their ironic refusal to evolve.

It’s weird, because the video games are the origin and the core of the Pokemon franchise. But it’s the one aspect of the series that continuously leaves me cold. Imagine if someone liked the Star Wars TV shows and video games, but didn’t like any of the Star Wars movies (even the good ones). That’s what my relationship with Pokemon is like.

Maybe one day I’ll work up the patience to finish Pokemon Sword, but I’ve said that about other Pokemon titles in the past, and a new entry would be released before I ever got around to revisiting the previous one.

I love Pokemon. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to love the Pokemon games. If I could somehow bottle up the feeling the franchise itself gives me, and sprinkle it onto the games, I would. Sadly, the nature of Pokemon itself may speak to my inner child, but the games have continued to bring out the curmudgeonly old man in me.

My 2020 in Gaming (so Far)

Like everyone else in 2020, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home this year. And while I’m trying to use this time to be creatively productive, it should go without saying that much of my time indoors has gone to video games.

Going into 2020, I was already planning on cutting back on my new gaming purchases. As I’ve stated in the past ad nauseam, gaming is both expensive and time consuming these days. So while I would like to play through and review every big game released, that’s simply unrealistic…unless you’re Richie Rich (specifically the Macaulay Culkin version).

Well, it turns out that current global situations would emphatically reinforce my limited buying in 2020. So far, I have purchased four fully priced retail games this year (including one that’s a pre-order and not out yet). Heading into the year I was only planning on about four or five full-priced purchases, so it looks like I’m almost there (though I will of course make exceptions if a really notable game catches my attention). So far in 2020, I’ve purchased…

Dreams (PS4)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Final Fantasy VII Remake

and Paper Mario: The Origami King (pre-ordered)

 

I know, I seemed pretty critical of The Origami King in my initial impressions, and while I stand by the claims I made, I still think the game is worth my checking out. More importantly, I want the game to be good. It seems like so much of the gaming community is so ready to write anything and everything off, and actively wants things to be bad so they can complain more whilst talking obnoxiously loudly in their YouTube videos (“Like, share and subscribe!”). But that seems like a pretty miserable way to be. As much as I’m skeptical of Origami King, I don’t want it to be bad. Even if fans’ requests for a proper Mario RPG continue to fall on deaf ears, there’s still a chance Origami King could be a good game in its own right, and I hope it is (I still hope we get a proper Mario RPG again one day though).

Plus – as is probably abundantly clear if you’ve read anything of mine in the past – the Mario RPGs are quite synonymous with my gaming life. So even if they may continue to deviate away from the things that made me love them in the first place, it’s one of those things where I have some weird sense of obligation to continue diving into them.

Dreams and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are easily where most of my gaming time this year has gone. And yes, I am overdue in reviewing them, I’m sorry. Hopefully soon.

Perhaps my purchase with a big question mark attached is Final Fantasy VII Remake. I’m not the biggest Final Fantasy fan, and as I’ve said before, I think the PSOne RPGs in many ways undid a lot of the progress the late SNES RPGs made for the genre. But I admit curiosity got the best of me with this particular remake, seeing as it seems to be a remake that completely overhauls the original. I figured what the heck? And considering my “on the fence” purchase this year was between either FFVIIR and The Last of Us: Part 2, I think I went with the better option.

I admit, I haven’t gotten around to playing FFVIIR yet (Animal Crossing is very addicting), but I will hopefully get to it soon and review it once I’m able. I will get around to reviewing all four of my current purchases at some point in the (hopefully) near future.

In addition, I’ve also made some cheaper purchases this year, two of which I already reviewed (Frog Detective 2 and SuperMash), as well as the Switch bundle of Planescape Torment/Icewind Dale. I’ve been meaning to play/review Planescape for a while, and when I randomly found a Switch version bundled with another game at a reasonable price, that seemed like the ideal way for me to get it.

Otherwise, my gaming time this year has gone to revisiting Super Mario Maker 2 (given the massive recent update), and I started the year revisiting classics Super Mario World and Dark Souls, the latter of which bleed into me playing and reviewing Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 2.

Yeah, I feel kind of bad I haven’t reviewed any of the actual 2020 releases I’ve purchased yet, hopefully soon (Animal Crossing and Dreams for sure). And I still have 2019 releases I either need to catch up on (such as Sekiro and Astral Chain, two critical darlings that admittedly failed to grab me when I played them), and a couple of games I really have no excuse why I haven’t reviewed them yet (Luigi’s Mansion 3…I’ll get to it).

Naturally, with the world in the state it’s currently in, developers and publishers have been pretty quiet with further 2020 releases, with E3 getting cancelled, and then later getting even more cancelled (no online presentations even). As such, there’s nothing currently on the horizon after Paper Mario: The Origami King that really catches my eye. That may be for the best, since it A) gives me more time to brush up on my own creative endeavors, and B) gives me ample time to play and review the games I have and need to catch up on.

Will there be any other games released in 2020 that I will end up purchasing? Of course that’s always a possibility. Especially if those rumors of a 3D Mario HD remaster compilation are true, I’d buy that in a heartbeat. But so far, it looks like I’m doing pretty well in regards to staying true to my limited gaming purchases this year… even if that may be more due to the world being on pause than my own wisdom in purchases (I’ll take what I can get).

Here’s hoping 2020 will at least deliver another game or two that tickles my fancy. And here’s hoping going forward that I use this quarantine time to actually get to reviewing these games instead of writing posts like this…

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Turns 10!

“Behold, my (new) Super Mario Galaxy 2 poster! I’m building up quite the video game poster wall.”

May 23rd of 2020 marks the ten year anniversary of the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii in the US (which is where it was released first, so I guess I could have just said Galaxy 2 is ten years old, without having to specify which region it was released…).

That’s right, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a decade old now.

Wow, the anniversaries of both Super Mario RPG and Galaxy 2 are separated by a mere ten days? May is a hell of a month for our man Mario. We should rename the month “May-rio” in honor of this. We should totally do that.

Anyway, this is a big anniversary in gaming, as Super Mario Galaxy 2 puts up a major case to being the best video game of all time! Yes, it’s that good. The first Super Mario Galaxy already felt like a perfect game, but Galaxy 2 was somehow even better than perfect. It’s advanced perfect!

How good is Super Mario Galaxy 2? Well, back in 2015, on the game’s fifth anniversary, I gave it a 10/10 review! The first 10/10 I ever dished out to anything on this site! You can read my review of Super Mario Galaxy 2 here (and boy, do I feel old now).

Happy anniversary, Super Mario Galaxy 2!

Super Mario RPG Turns 24!

“Behold, my Super Mario RPG poster! Fittingly next to the poster of my other favorite SNES game, DKC2, and one of my other favorite Mario games, Galaxy 2. I need to squeeze Super Mario World and Odyssey in there somehow…”

Today, May 13th of 2020, marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of Super Mario RPG’s release in the US (it was released in Japan two months prior, in March of 1996, and wouldn’t be released in Europe until its 2008 release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, which at the time was a record for longest delay between region releases for a single title).

As far as I’m concerned, Super Mario RPG is one of Nintendo’s finest achievements, and has steadily remained an all-time favorite of mine for these twenty-four years. If you ask me, it’s still the best damn RPG ever.

Sadly, despite being one of the most acclaimed and beloved Mario games of all time, it’s one of the very few that never received a direct sequel (it did inspire the wonderful Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, but none of them quite recaptured the same magic as the originator). And it’s basically the only Mario game to not have its characters or world elements carry over to subsequent games (save for a cameo or two). But that hasn’t stopped fans (myself most assuredly included) from hoping and begging Nintendo and Square to bring back this beloved game either through a sequel or simply resurrecting its characters for new titles.

Seriously Nintendo, just put Geno in Super Smash Bros. already. We’ve only been asking for it for twenty years! I don’t mean an insulting, slap-to-the-face Mii costume. The actual character as a playable fighter. You can’t stop adding those Fire Emblem swordsmen that no one asked for. Why not add another character people have actually wanted and asked for for years?

 

Anyway, happy anniversary to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars! A Legend indeed.

I reviewed Super Mario RPG as my special 300th video game review. You can read my 10/10 review here.

Happy Star Wars Day 2020!

 

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! Hope you’re enjoying binging Star Wars content on Disney+ as we’re all stuck inside our abodes.

I am currently trying to finish my review of The Empire Strikes Back as I write this now. So, to further celebrate Star Wars Day, why not read my past Star Wars movie reviews? I mean, you’re stuck inside, so why not?

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars: Episode IV – A new Hope

 

May the Fourth be with you, always!

Mystery Blogger Award

Seeing as I’ve been twice nominated for this now (by Red Metal of Extra Life Reviews and Matt from NintendoBound), it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these blog award things, and the fact that I was slow to update my site in April, I figured I’d write my response to this Mystery Blogger Award now. So thanks to those who nominated me! Now let’s just get on with it and answer those questions.


 

1 -What is the most unusual work you have experienced?

 

Well, that’s an incredibly broad question, when one considers the use of the word “work” could mean a work in any medium. I don’t think I can compare certain things with others, so I don’t know if I can name one definitive work that ‘out-unusuals’ them all. There are a few I could choose.

BUT, for the sake of answering these questions, I will give my answer in the form of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and – subsequently – Twin Peaks: The Return.

Now, I’m probably about 90% sure that Twin Peaks is my favorite television series of all time (though there are a few other contenders). It is a delightfully weird show.

However, as weird as the show’s initial (and tragically short) two season, thirty episode run was, the subsequent materials that came after are much weirder.

The prequel film (yeah, a lot of people forget Twin Peaks had a movie), Fire Walk with Me, is a wild, trippy venture, one that triples down on the show’s darker elements, which (sadly) comes at the expense of the series’ more lighthearted and humorous bits (the series is widely known for changing tone and even genre on the fly). The film, which I won’t delve into detail because it would spoil both it and the series, not only magnifies the show’s strangeness, but it’s also the kind of follow-up where you really would have to have seen every episode of the original series to even begin to understand things.

As such, the film – unlike the beloved series – was alienating when it was released in the mid-90s (it only found any real success in Japan). It has garnered more praise over the years, and I myself like the movie well enough. But it is downright bizarre, and if someone saw it without having an intimate knowledge of the series, I can imagine Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me might come across like some kind of fever dream. Hell, it might come across as such even if you’re a fan of the series.

That leads me to 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return (or simply the third season of Twin Peaks). Appropriately picking up twenty-five years after the original series ended (something which the final episode of the show’s original run eerily predicted), The Return is an eighteen episode madhouse where both everything and nothing at all happens. While the original series slowly chipped away to reveal supernatural elements, The Return dives headfirst into fantasy, science fiction and horror right out of the gate.

“In Fire Walk with Me, David Bowie portrayed the character of Phillip Jeffries. He was set to reprise the role for The Return, but sadly passed away before filming. David Lynch worked around this by… turning the Phillip Jeffries character into a talking, inter-dimensional tea kettle that spouts bubbles of smoke…”

That’s not a bad thing, of course. But because this is a David Lynch creation, The Return utilizes these genres to their strangest, and leaves many details largely unexplained. Twin Peaks: The Return received universal praise from critics, but had a more polarizing reception from fans.

While I ultimately enjoyed The Return, I think my feelings toward it lie somewhere in between the two sides of the argument. I do appreciate the many risks it takes, and it does avoid the nostalgia problem of today by denying its narrative of repeating beloved moments for the sake of fan service, but there are aspects to it that are downright frustrating. Effectively turning the main character, Dale Cooper, into a magic savant may lead to many entertaining moments, the idea does feel a bit dragged out after a while. But perhaps the most frustratingly bizarre aspect of The Return is how it utilizes the characters of the Horne family: Ben, his brother Jerry, and Ben’s daughter Audrey.

Despite being arguably the most memorable characters from the original series, The Return seems largely disinterested in doing anything with the Hornes: Ben is stuck behind a desk the entire season, Jerry spends several episodes panicked about something terrible he may or may not have seen while high, and Audrey – who doesn’t even show up until over halfway through The Return – spends what little screen time she has arguing with her bizarre husband, before dancing in one of the seasons’ many musical moments, and ultimately “waking up(???)” in a mysterious white room, which goes unexplained.

Again, this is an eighteen episode season of hour-long episodes, and that’s what David Lynch came up with for the series’ best characters. What’s worse, is the story they come up with for what Audrey’s life was like between the original run and The Return basically puts her through hell, and then to not give her story any semblance of closure feels unnecessarily cruel.

But I guess I’m starting to sound like I’m reviewing the season. There’ll be a day for that. But I’m pretty sure, even from my vague descriptions, you can tell that both Fire Walk with Me and The Return take what was already a weird and unusual series, and took it into absolutely insane levels of absurdity.

So yeah. That’s my answer for now.

 

2- What is the best work you have experienced that no one seems to know about?

 

Well, again, I find this to be a hard question to answer. Maybe back in the early 2000s, I could have listed several video games I played that I only later found out were these obscure gems. But in this day and age of the all-encompassing internet, I’m sure plenty of people know about many of these obscure works I once experienced, even if I’m sure only a handful of people who have heard of them have ever experienced them firsthand. I hate to say it, but I may have to properly answer this at a later time, as I’m having trouble of thinking of something I have enjoyed that “no one seems to know about.” Or maybe it’s so obscure that I forgot I know of it?

Sorry. I’ll answer this as soon as I can.

 

3- If you could go back in time and go to the premiere of one classic film, which one would you choose?

Well, the only movie premiere I’ve ever been to was Rango, so there’s no shortage of options to choose from. I’m tempted to go with the easy answers and just pick one of my favorite films released in my lifetime, such as Spirited Away or Disney’s Frozen.

But for the sake of not creating a time paradox in my own movie life, let’s go with something from before I was born. The obvious choice then would be Star Wars (or “A New Hope”)  in 1977, followed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

But I’m going to go into the not-too-distant past from before my time, to 1988, the year before I was born, and pick Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That movie is a visual miracle even by today’s standards, and given the unanimous praise it received in its day, the way it revolutionized visual effects and revitalized the animation industry, that would be a wild ride to witness firsthand.

“Also, Jessica Rabbit.”

 

4- If you decided to write fiction, which genre would you choose?

Finally! An easy question to answer!

As I’ve stated in the past, I do have a particularly active imagination, and would love to create my own video games some day. As such, it should come as no surprise that my genre of choice would be fantasy. Or I guess I could say it is fantasy, seeing as I’ve always enjoyed creating worlds, characters and stories since I was a wee tyke up to the current day. So it’s more or less a question of how to “officially” make and release such things, since I’ve technically been doing it my whole life.

Why fantasy? Easy, because – much like animation – it’s a gateway into any and every genre. It knows no limits. It can be as real or as fantastic as you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be swords and sorcery, and can really be any kind of story.

With all due respect to science-fiction, fantasy is its superior, as even sci-fi has its limitations. Science fiction might have to resort to explaining its elements, and sometimes those explanations can make things goofier. Fantasy, existing purely in the imagination, doesn’t need to explain itself to anyone. And that’s badass.

 

5-What is the most disappointingly predictable plot twist you have experienced?

 

Apologies to Matt From NintendoBound, but honest to goodness, my answer is identical to his. It’s Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. The movie is directed and acted well enough, but I remember from the moment the plot officially kicked in, I figured out exactly where it was ending up. I kind of hate to say that, for fear it might make me sound like one of those snarky CinemaSins/Honest Trailers clowns who basically worship themselves for finding flaws in movies. But I’m not trying to find fault in a movie with big names like Scorsese and DiCaprio attached, it was just such an easy twist to figure out.

Runner-up goes to recent history with Knives Out, which spent so much time trying to throw viewers off the scent of one particular character, that I couldn’t help but think “when’s the movie going to reveal that character as the culprit?”

 

6- What do you consider to be the strangest title for a work?

I’m going to avoid the easy answer by exempting every B-horror movie from the list of possible answers.

With that out of the way, I guess I’d select the animated short film The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. It was a pretty good short, from what I remember of it. But that title…

 

7- Where in a theater do you prefer to sit

Normally, as close to the center as possible. Middle seat of the middle-ist row. However, I may surprise some people by saying this, but when it comes to animated films, I honestly don’t mind sitting in the front row one bit. It really absorbs you in the visuals of animation. To paraphrase what the late Roger Ebert said for both Finding Nemo and Ponyo, “this is one of those rare films where I want to sit in the very front row, and drown in it.”

 

8- Do you have any graphic novel/manga series you’re currently following?

Sadly no. My time outside of life’s impositions is usually dedicated to working on my passions of drawing, writing and (as mentioned above) creating my own (for lack of a better word) “things.” And trying to learn game development, of course. Naturally, my creative passions include video games and movies, so those are what I tend to gravitate towards with my free time. While I like graphic novels and manga, I just simply don’t have the same passion for them that I do movies and video games. I loved the comic book series “Bone” by Jeff Smith growing up, and the entire series has been available as a single graphic novel for quite some time now, so I’ll probably pick that up eventually. And I wouldn’t mind a new graphic novel or manga in theory. But whenever I’m not dealing with life, trying to create “things,” or writing on this site, I’m watching movies or playing video games. So it’s difficult for me to make the time for comics, sadly.

 

9- When it comes to reviewing films, which do you feel are more effective – traditional, written reviews or video essays?

Well, for me personally, I think it obviously has to be written reviews. I have been wanting for years now to do some form of videos centering on video games or movies, but my Social Phobia and general awkwardness continues to push that back. Written reviews are more welcoming to people like me.

On the whole though, I don’t think either method is necessarily more effective than the other, and just depends on the individual.

One thing is for sure though, the “YouTube method” of video reviews – lambasting pretty much everything whilst promoting oneself – has to go. It’s obnoxious, and is only damaging the creative industries. I remember reading – if I remember correctly – that the Russo Brothers wanted to make Captain America and the Winter Soldier “Honest Trailers proof.” If creators are seriously trying to cater to the judgement of self-promoting internet types, then creativity is truly dead.

Film criticism should try to instill and reflect creativity, similar to movies themselves, but obviously in a different way. YouTubers and their ilk just seem to try to find faults in the littlest details to put down real creators and stroke their own egos. It’s toxic.

So while I don’t think either the written word or video essays are more ideal than the other, I guess the former has provided a bit more respectable examples in this day and age of “everything sucks so like, share and subscribe to me!”

10- What aspect of old school game design do you wish would make a comeback?

As obvious as this may sound, modern games could learn the valuable lesson of putting gameplay above all else from their ancestors.

It’s actually kind of sad how many games emphasize their stories and cinematics over the actual game. It’s not just the games themselves, but gamers have bought into it hook, line and sinker. It’s irritating hearing people say things like “the things I look for in a game are good story and characters.” Tetris has no story, and is still a masterpiece decades later. Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls emphasized story, and were always crap.

Now, that’s not to say that I have an issue with video games with stories, but the gaming community seems to blindly follow the idea that “having a story = a good story.” Sorry, but The Last of Us is cliche-riddled and self-important, and Kingdom Hearts is incoherent gobbledygook.

Nintendo’s naysayers insist there’s some kind of “Nintendo bias” as to why the Big N tends to produce many critically acclaimed titles. But there’s no such conspiracy at play, and in fact Nintendo getting top marks are probably the only consistently trustworthy examples of video game critics dishing out rave reviews because Nintendo’s philosophy has always been to put gameplay at the heart and center of things. Not every game Nintendo makes is great, but it really shouldn’t be such a surprise that Nintendo produces so many critical darlings in the video game world considering they  put the actual game first. The only conspiracy here is provided by those suggesting  Nintendo is at the center of some conspiracy (all while review-bombing Nintendo games on Metacritic, of course).

Again, you hear Nintendo’s critics accuse Nintendo of being in the past, but they’re only in the past in their philosophy of games being about gameplay. And in actuality, that’s a notion from the past that’s forward-thinking. Other areas of the gaming world, in a desperate attempt to be “legitimized” decided to make video games more like movies. And in doing so, video games devolved in a number of ways.

It’s not just storylines, though (and again, those can work, if designers remember they’re making games with stories instead of stories with a game attached). But it seems developers are always obsessed with trying to show off their production budget, whether through unnecessary detail or blatant padding to add to a game’s total runtime (two things Red Dead Redemption 2 – a game I mostly loved – is very guilty of. I can’t imagine how many hours I could have saved if I didn’t have to watch Arthur Morgan meticulously pick up every last object on the ground and Rockstar made it more “video game-y” and let the player just walk over items). Hell, it’s because of the fact that developers no longer see games as being games why we now have vile concepts like “games as a service.” Hope you like micro transactions!

So yeah, if video games could remember what old school games knew (and what Nintendo and select others still know) – that video games are games first – they’d be much better off.

 

11- What aspect of old school game design are you glad went away?

Despite my above statements, old video games weren’t perfect. Far from it, in fact. While Mario, Mega Man and Tetris are timeless, I might argue that the NES is one of Nintendo’s weakest consoles in retrospect, since it housed many games that showcase the archaic elements of gaming’s early days.

Those who grew up in the 1980s and 90s need only watch a few episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd to remember “oh yeah, the NES had a lot of crap.” Notably, the publisher LJN was an infamous example of early gaming not caring about the quality of their products.

“While video games are MOSTLY subjective, games like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure were so unpolished and untested, that they can only be described as “objectively bad.””

Gaming’s old school years saw countless titles that were rushed out the gate, featuring things like mechanics that don’t work as they should and insanely cryptic elements that no one would logically figure out, and were often flat-out unfinished.

Even some of yesteryear’s classics, like the original Legend of Zelda and Metroid titles, haven’t aged well due to their overly cryptic nature (though they were infinitely better than many other games of their time). It’s really no surprise why Super Mario was the series at the time. Its ideas were so forward thinking for the medium, that most Mario games are still fun even by today’s standards.

Other games weren’t so wise, however. And while the 16-bit generation marked a vast improvement – to the point that a number of its titles still rank among history’s best games – even it wasn’t immune to “old video game jank.” Even the SNES housed the dreadful Lester the Unlikely and the unplayable Batman Forever.

Now, modern gaming isn’t without its untested messes (one of the most infamously unfinished games of all time, Ride to Hell: Retribution, was somehow released on the PS3 and Xbox 360). But there is a bit of a precedent now. And if developers and publishers hacked up the same kind of hairballs that LJN and their ilk did back in the day, they’d vanish without a trace after their first attempt. No one would be allowed to get away with that kind of track record in this day and age.

Bad games will always exist, but they’re a rarer beast now. With video game critiquing becoming more prominent, as well as the medium becoming mainstream and leaving its infancy some time ago, publishers and developers can no longer hide from the discerning eye. Quality control is a thing now, and wasn’t back in day.

 

……..Also, turbo controllers. Let those things rot in Hell.


 

Thank you for reading my responses. Hopefully you at least kind of enjoyed at least something I said. Thanks again to Red Metal from Extra Life Reviews and Matt from NintendoBound for the nominations.

I have to apologize, but I’m going to have to break tradition this time around, because I have no one to nominate, and thus, have no questions to ask at this time. Much like comic books and manga, I don’t really spend a whole lot of time reading other blogs (the only two I still read with regularity are the two that nominated me). I used to read a lot more when I first launched this site, but both due to an increasingly busy schedule, and the sad fact that my blog has outlived a number of those I used to read, I’m not quite as well-versed in blogs as I once was. Hopefully I can find/rediscover some good ones in the near future (especially seeing as we’re all trapped in our houses at the moment). But I really don’t have anyone to nominate at this time.

Thanks for reading! See you soon with my review of The Empire Strikes Back… hopefully…

Another March Update

I know, I know. I said I was done with filler posts. But as I’m quite sure you’re aware, we are in a very unique time period right now, so I figured I’d give a small update, given the circumstances.

Suffice to say I’m in the same situation as many other Americans (and people around the world). I’m cooped up in my house, and with a lot of free time. So hopefully I can use that time to get a little more productive, whether that be through this site or other means, but I admit that, so far, this whole situation has done no favors for my depression. So if you’re wondering why I was getting through my video game awards pretty quickly, and then they suddenly stopped for a week before I did my Game of the Year, well, it’s simply because I wasn’t in the emotional state to write. Sorry if I’ve been slow at getting to things around here.

Hopefully, as I get more accustomed to these bizarre circumstances, I can use this time to be more creative.

Here’s some of what I hope to write about in the near future.

With my annual video game awards out of the way, I will of course follow suit with my top 10 films of 2019. I may do some additional movie awards as well, and it’s something I would definitely like to make an annual thing here at the Dojo. But I’ll for sure be doing my top 10.

Also, I managed to see Pixar’s Onward before all this craziness went down, and it’s actually the only 2020 release I’ve seen so far other than Sonic the Hedgehog. So expect my review of that soon. I figured I’d also use this time to catch up on other movie reviews I’ve been meaning to write. Amazon Prime, Netflix and Disney+ are great friends right about now.

Of course, I also have some video games to review. So far, my 2020 video game purchases have been limited to Dreams on PS4 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons (which I’m still waiting to have delivered), so I’ll get to those as soon as I can. And much like the case with movies, I have some old/older video games I’d like to get around to reviewing. I’ve been playing through Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Edition lately, so that will probably be my next “big review” for a game. But there are some shorter retro titles I hope to get to soon.

Anyway…yeah. I know, a filler update. Just thought I’d make it clear that, despite slowing down in the second half of this month, I still plan on getting to writing those things I talked about before.

Take care, stay safe, and stay home.

Video Game Awards 2020: Best Sound

Now let us begin my 2020 video game awards proper (celebrating the video games of 2019). Why don’t we go with tradition and start with the Best Sound category?

Sound effects are among the unsung heroes of any medium, particularly video games. Just imagine Mario grabbing a coin with no shimmering *clink* to accompany it. It just wouldn’t feel right.

When it comes to the category of Best Sound, I find myself usually going with either games that use sounds to help create their personality (such as the aforementioned Mario or other such platformers) or games that use sounds to create and enrich their atmosphere, which seems to be where I’ve been leaning the past few years. And 2019 continued this trend, because…

 

Winner: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

No one in the video game world does sound better than FromSoftware, and that was once again true in 2019 with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which continued the studio’s tradition of pulling players into its world with every last sound effect.

I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Sekiro (though I do hope to get back to it soon), but no doubt it continues the traditions of Dark Souls and Bloodborne of giving a sense of weight to its every creature and object through the sound work.

The clank of armor, the growls of monsters, the sickening sounds of cutting them down with your blade. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice once again showcases FromSoftware’s mastery of sound design in video games.

 

Runner-up: Super Mario Maker 2

 

Past Winners

2014: Dark Souls II

2015: Bloodborne

2016: Dark Souls III

2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

2018: Red Dead Redemption 2