The Times They are a (Really) Changin’!

Wizard Dojo Digivolve to! ….. Still Wizard Dojo, but different!

“Wizard Dojo’s change is not THIS drastic…”

That’s right, I’ve finally changed things up here at the Dojo, you’ve probably noticed the site has a new overall look. Though admittedly, I’m not sure this is the look I want to stick with since I can’t seem to have the site’s different pages right at the top of the homepage like I did before (the links to them are still intact on the right side, however). But I figured the changes I’ve made deserved a fresh coat of paint.

Now it’s time for the big change… I’ve actually revamped my rating system to include only whole numbers, 1-10.

*Before I continue, I’d like to emphasize that this only affects my reviews. AfterStory can continue using the .5 system if he so desires, or can follow suit if he so desires. That’s entirely up to him.

In a way, things have come full circle, since whole number scales are what I once utilized way back before the Dojo existed. When I launched Wizard Dojo, I used the .5 system for two main reasons: to start fresh and differentiate what I did before, and to build the prestige of the “near perfect” score of 9.5. I feel I was decently effective in both respects, but over time, it became apparent how that system was only being partly utilized.

What I mean is that there may have been a clear-cut difference between a 9.0 and a 9.5, and even between 8.0s and 8.5s, but when you get lower and lower on the spectrum, the .5 scores seem superfluous. Does anyone care about the difference between a 3.0 and a 3.5?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed using the .5 system, but when a good number of the scores seemed to have no concrete difference from each other, I felt a change was in order.

Does this mean I’m going to be a softer grader now that I’ve effectively pulled a Thanos and eliminated half my scoring system? No sir! I’m going to do my best so that each number actually means something, and isn’t just a number. If you want more information, you can check out my updated scoring system page.

And yes, I did go back and rescore every single one of my reviews, both video game and movie, to reflect my new standing (boy did that take some time). While many of my reviews still retained a similar score (some 6.5s became 6s, and so on), others were more notably changed.

For example, to still keep the prestige of the “near-perfect” score, what I once gave a 9.5 is now the standard for the ‘9’ score. Most of what I rated a 9.0 in the past are now in the 8 (great) range, with only the 9.0s where I seriously considered a 9.5 keeping their nine-dom (Mega Man 3, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Overwatch, Shovel Knight, and so on). The rest of the former-9.0s are now 8s. Not as punishment, but to give the 8 score more prestige of its own.

This has had no effect on my perfect 10s, however. In fact, I purposefully reviewed my most recent 10, Dark Souls, right before I made this change to hit the point home. The 10s are 10s. Dark Souls was the bridge from the old rating system to the new one, showcasing that the best of the best are still the best under any criteria. …What the hell am I talking about?

There were, however, a number of games that dropped in scoring. Perhaps the most notable being The Last of Us, which I originally scored a 9.0 back in the day, before lowering it to an 8.5. But it now sits at a 7, to reflect some of my changing thoughts on the game that have occurred over the years. I still ultimately think it’s a good game, but one that stumbles a lot more than it itself realizes. And I have altered/added text to the review to reflect that. Other games to drop include Cuphead and Dragon Ball FighterZ, which now sit at 7 as well.

Going forward, I’m going to do my best to make sure these number grades more effectively represent my standings. But as always, read the whole review to get the meat of my thoughts!

Now, join me on embarking on this new chapter of Wizard Dojo. Because numbers!

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Second Thoughts

So I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for the second time last night, and I actually enjoyed it a lot more the second time around. Though most of my complaints still stand (the Indoraptor is not nearly as memorable of a movie monster as the Indominous Rex, too much of the film takes place in the Lockwood mansion, etc), I just thought it was a more fun film this second time around. Still not as good as the first Jurassic World, which is still one of my favorite popcorn movies of recent memory, but more enjoyable than I thought it was the first time around.

Of course, this has me considering if I should make some edits to my review of the film. Nothing major, mind you, but maybe enough to showcase my newer appreciation for the Jurassic World sequel. Normally, I hate changing my reviews (outside of correcting spelling and grammatical errors, and lord knows I have to go back and do that often), but it’s not like I’ve never done it before. Opinions do change, after all.

This also got me thinking of another 2018 movie I’ve been thinking differently about from when I first saw it, but in this case, for less positive reasons. This film is Deadpool 2, which I find myself liking less and less the more I think about it. Yes, I do think it was an improvement over the first Deadpool, and I think that it is decently well made for what it is. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I like what it is. I don’t hate it, but the whole self-referential/deprecating humor of movies has run its course in my book. In this internet age, when things are mocked for taking themselves seriously, entertainment and media has followed suit, insisting on mocking themselves to “stay cool with the kids,” as it were. This isn’t saying I have a problem with humor. A movie can still be a comedy or even a bit of a stupid entertainment, and still take itself seriously (perhaps “genuinely” is a more accurate word?).

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that all Deadpool is is self-referential jokes. There’s only so many winks and nudges I can take from a movie. And just because you make fun of yourself for following easy tropes doesn’t change the fact that you’re still following those tropes!

Okay, now I’m getting a bit sidetracked. I suppose I’ll save my rants on modern media’s insistence on self-parody just to appease the cynical internet age for another day. My point is that I initially awarded Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom a 6.5 out of 10, while I gave Deadpool 2 a 7.5. After consideration on Deadpool’s sequel and seeing the Jurassic World sequel a second viewing, I actually find myself wanting to flat-out reverse their scores. I haven’t quite decided on that just yet, so in the interim, I’ve altered both movie’s scores to 7.0s, until I can more strongly decide on whether or not to alter my reviews. Of course, some might say a second viewing of Deadpool 2 may be in order before making such a decision, but that’s just the thing. I don’t find myself particularly wanting to see Deadpool 2 again any time soon. Doesn’t that say something?

Does this dilemma of indecisiveness and possibly changing review scores make me a bad critic? Eh, maybe. But I’d also feel a bit lame if I felt my reviews no longer represented my opinions. Besides, it’s not like I’m altering something I thought was great and suddenly am claiming it to be terrible or vice versa or anything.

This whole ‘ordeal’ has opened up another can of worms, however, in that I’m once again considering changing my rating system from its current .5 state to a simpler whole number scale. With simple whole numbers, the possibility of altering a score just doesn’t seem quite as taboo. Then of course there’s my silly idea of the “mostly” whole number scale, in which it’s whole numbers, except the 9.5 score remains, both as a means to be a little cheeky and have some fun at the expense of people who are maybe a little too stingy with their scoring, while still being able to seriously retain the prestige of perfect and near-perfect scores. Because if my earlier sidetracked rant a few paragraphs earlier was any indication, I have a fondness for things that can balance sincerity and silliness.

Again, I’m sidetracked. Case in point: my complaints with Fallen Kingdom still stand, but I thought it was more fun the second time around, while Deadpool 2 seems less appealing with time, so I might change those scores. Hell, even Black Panther, one of the better movies this year which I scored an 8.5, is feeling more like an 8.0 to me. That is, if I keep that ‘.5’ differentiation at all.

So anyway, I thought I’d ask you, my beautiful, beautiful readers, your thoughts on the matter. Is altering scores and tweaking reviews too unprofessional? Or does the changing of opinions justify such actions, if even just on occasion? Am I a bad critic (even if I am, I’m gonna keep writing anyway. So that’s a moot point)? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and whatnot.

What Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Needs to do to Actually be the Ultimate Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. hype is a unique entity for me. On one hand, Super Smash Bros. is one of the few remaining series where the announcement of a new entry gets me genuinely excited. But of all my favorite gaming franchises, Super Smash Bros. is the one that can (and has) disappoint(ed) me the most. Of course, it shouldn’t be too surprising, considering this is a series largely built around fanservice, so when it fails to deliver on a much-wanted character or (in the last entry’s case) seems to cater to director Masahiro Sakurai’s favoritism, the experience can feel a bit sullied.

That’s not to say that the games aren’t good though. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, despite being the entry I have the most complaints about in terms of character selections and omissions, is actually the most solidly designed and technically sound iteration yet. Hell, even the bafflingly reviled Super Smash Bros. Brawl is still a really well made video game. But again, this is a series that’s built around Nintendo’s history, and its fandom. So when it feels like Nintendo’s history and its fans are being ignored, it really stings.

“Proof that Sakurai hates us all.”

Case in point, Masahiro Sakurai has actively asked fans to suggest characters for the series since Super Smash Bros. Brawl was in development, and yet, the three most consistently requested characters – Metroid’s Ridley, Donkey Kong’s King K. Rool, and Super Mario RPG’s Geno – were just as consistently ignored. None of them made it into Brawl, and in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Ridley was made into a stage hazard, while Geno and K. Rool weren’t even that lucky, being represented solely by Mii Fighter costumes, which felt like a blatant middle finger to the fans on Sakurai’s part, especially seeing as that particular entry had a sudden emphasis on his own characters (Kid Icarus suddenly seemed to get plenty of references, conveniently after Sakurai directed Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS).

Sakurai has tried to explain his reasons for leaving out requested characters, but most such reasons seem more like half-hearted excuses than anything. He often claimed that “Ridley was too big,” even though by that logic, Captain Olimar should be too small. Or he would claim that he would go over the character and see what uniqueness they would bring to the table…only to fill a good chunk of the roster with clone characters.

Basically, Sakurai’s excuses end up feeling like just that, excuses. Look, I get that not every character can make it in, but when you actively ask people to suggest characters, and then continuously ignore their most wanted characters for over a decade, it’s kind of hard to accept the excuses.

Even worse, however, are the people who defend Sakurai’s every action (whom I refer to as “Sakurai apologists”). Again, I understand not everyone can make the cut, but when people actively defend things like the “Ridley is too big” argument and the overabundance of clone characters, it’s like, just… come on! Sakurai is a great game designer, but it’s okay to admit to his mistakes. And well, blatantly ignoring fan requests after asking for fan requests, and resorting to simply copying existing characters and claiming its another are definite mistakes.

These people will often question what a potential character’s moves would be, but that’s an argument that seems beyond pointless, considering that from Super Smash Bros’ very first entry, Captain Falcon has been a playable character. He’s a character who, in his own series, was never seen outside of his racing vehicle! If they could turn him into a fighter back on the N64 in 1999, there’s no reason why Sakurai and company couldn’t get even more creative with current hardware.

This brings me to the point of all this ranting: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has the opportunity to live up to its name. The game is being billed as the “Smash Bros. for everyone” and is set to include every single returning character from the series’ history, which is a good start. However, the real big news is that Ridley has finally joined the Super Smash Bros. roster as a playable character! Finally, after over a decade of waiting, the patience of Metroid fans has been rewarded.

On the downside of things, Sakurai has already stated that there won’t be too many new additions to the roster this time around. I suppose that makes sense, with so many characters in the game, they’re running lower and lower on classic characters to choose from. But that’s just my point, if we’re only going to get a ‘few’ new characters, why not make them characters that count?

Of the three most consistently requested characters, Ridley has now become the first of the trio to make the roster. So, why not finally pull the trigger and deliver the other two as well? K. Rool and Geno are two characters that have so much potential for the series – let alone their fan support – that not adding them in at this point would seem like petty spite. Hardly what you would want from a game that’s supposed to be the Ultimate edition of a franchise largely built on fanservice.

That would already make something of a statement for the series. It’s like, not only would we be getting every past character from the series history, but also the three most requested, ever-elusive characters. Whatever other newcomer selections could also potentially be filled with old fan-favorites. Again, if the newcomers are going to be few in quantity, they really better make them count in terms of quality.

Of course, even with Ridley’s inclusion, there are still causes for some concerns. The fact that clones now have the ‘official’ label of “Echo Fighters” has me greatly worried that Sakurai might just be doubling down on them (again, quality, not quantity. A bunch of clones is hardly something to get excited over). And in another downer, Bomberman is finally making his debut in the series…as an Assist Trophy. Considering how big of a multiplayer franchise Super Smash Bros. is, it’s a real shame that Bomberman – one of the pioneers of multiplayer gaming – can’t make the cut as a playable character.

Still, Ridley’s presence gives hope that not only could Geno and K. Rool make their long-awaited debut, but that the select amount of newcomers might bring out the more creative side of the developers. If Sakurai and company can deliver everything from Super Smash Bros. past (which looks to be the case so far), and throw in the few remaining missing elements that fans have been craving, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may just live up to its name.

Between the presence of every returning fighter and the debut of Ridley, so far so good. But to make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly the ultimate Super Smash Bros. experience, the rest of those newcomers really have to mean something.

Small Update On Some Future Things and Stuff

Apologies that updates have been a wee bit on the slow side as of late. I hope to fix that soon. But since things have been slow, I thought I’d share some updates on things I’m planning for this site in the not-too-distant future, as well as some changes I’ve been contemplating. Let’s blast through them, shall we?

  • I am indeed starting piecing together my list of favorite video games. Because that’s a thing I’ve been saying for a while. Can’t say when it will be done though.
  • I also would still like to make a joint list of “greatest games of all time” with some of my fellow bloggers, if we can find a way to communicate on such a thing (why doesn’t WordPress have direct messages again?).
  • I hope to start reviewing movies a bit more frequently.
  • I plan to start reviewing TV series, probably by seasons, while maybe highlighting exceptional (or not-so exceptional) episodes.
  • I have still been considering changing my rating system from the current ‘.5’ system to a whole number system. Or my humorous-but-serious “mostly whole number” system, which would be a whole number system but with the ‘9.5’ score intact. But I may just keep things as they are.
  • While I do hope to continue climbing the centennial ranks with my video game reviews, I do see my purchases of new gaming releases shrinking come 2019. Seeing as I don’t get paid to do this, video games remain an expensive hobby and – these days – an incredibly time-consuming one. And I’m the kind of person who likes to take their time with games, so I can see myself reviewing a few notable games released in a given year, with handfuls of older, shorter titles (or shorter indie titles) comprising more and more of my reviews. I just can’t dedicate myself to one 100+ hour game after another like I used to.
  • Like my list of favorite games, I’ve also been promising to do some form of videos, and I plan to try that out soon. I’ll start with something simple, and if that goes well, I may just expand on that. My reviews will still primarily be in written form, so I’ll think of other things to do in the video format.
  • I plan on getting back into sprite-making and to further my studies on video game design. As I’ve stated ad nauseam, I’d like to create video games someday, so I best start dedicating more time to that. I may even use this site as a means to show/talk about my progress. Or maybe I could make another site for that, if you good people feel that would get in the way of things here.
  • I have also been tempted to share some of my drawings and/or creative ideas on this site. I am no great artist, nor do I pretend to be. But I like to draw weird, cartoonish creatures and cute characters, so I dunno. Maybe a sketch or two here and there. Or maybe not.
  • I have contemplated making simple changes like making sure to do a weekly movie review (Movie Monday?) and game review. Not that such a weekly review would be the only day for a review in any given week, but it would be a consistent one.

Okay, there’s some stuff. I’m going to try and write a review or something more meaningful next time, I promise. …Or maybe something else about Waluigi.

Why Waluigi Could Have Worked in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually a little disappointed that Waluigi is only an Assist Trophy and not a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Unlike a lot of people, I wasn’t rooting for Waluigi to make the roster due to his nature as a meme these days. In fact, I never thought of him as a worthy inclusion as a playable character on the Smash Bros. roster until after Ultimate was revealed. He still wouldn’t be one of my most wanted characters, mind you, but after some consideration, I can’t help but feel Waluigi is being treated rather poorly (at least, when we consider certain circumstances).

Now, some people complain that there are “too many” Mario characters in Super Smash Bros. But that’s nonsense. Exceptionalist that I am, I think the most accomplished series deserve the most characters, and seeing as Super Mario is Nintendo’s most accomplished series, it can have however many characters it damn well wants. Zelda and Pokemon have achieved similar success, and would be the two other series that could potentially keep adding characters and I don’t think anyone could make an actual argument against it, though I understand that Zelda has less notable characters to work with than Mario or Pokemon.

My point is that Waluigi was not someone I considered to be a worthy character to be playable in Super Smash Bros., seeing as he only exists for the purpose of giving Wario a tennis partner, and he only ever appears in the Mario sports games and Mario Kart as kind of a filler character, leaving no real impact on the series other than to be the butt of jokes.

But then, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate revealed Princess Daisy – a Mario character who is basically a filler character in Mario sports titles and Mario Kart who has left no real impact on the series – as a playable fighter in the upcoming Switch release. If she can make the cut, why not Waluigi?

In fact, I can think of two (somewhat connected) reasons why Waluigi actually makes more sense than Daisy. The first is that Daisy, being a clone (I refuse to call them Echo Fighters from here on out), doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I know, apologists like to claim that the clones “don’t take too much data to make and don’t get in the way of other fighters,” but they’re still just lazy, copied-and-pasted additions that don’t add anything to the game. I’d rather see less characters and have them all be distinct, than see the number of characters rack up simply because the developers were able to copy enough existing characters. Waluigi wouldn’t have to be a clone though (I guess Daisy didn’t have to be one either, but here we are). Considering Wario’s moves are primarily built around WarioWare – a series which Waluigi has no involvement in – it’s easy to separate Waluigi from the Wario that’s already present in Smash Bros.

This leads me to the other reason why Waluigi would be a decent(ish) inclusion compared to Daisy: his differences from Wario – and subsequently, the less likelihood of him being a clone – could mean drawing on different inspirations for a unique moveset, which could then lead them to draw from the Mario sports games themselves.

Why would this mean anything? Well, because the Mario sports games have no representation within Smash Bros’ character roster, and while it’s a series that may not need representation, the Mario sports titles have been around long enough and have had enough entries that it doesn’t seem undeserved to have a single character represent it.

I know, people could again argue that he’s “another” Mario character (but again, it’s a series that’s earned it), but the thing is the Mario series isn’t a singular series, but a franchise that encompasses various series within different genres, with the Mario sports titles being among the only Mario series not represented in Super Smash Bros. People could also argue that Daisy does represent just that (again, the sports titles are basically where she shows up), but because she’s a clone of Peach, Smash Bros. missed the boat on that one. Waluigi more easily avoids the clone possibility, and could have been given a Mario sports titles their Smash representation.

Think about it, moves based around tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, go karting, hell, maybe they could even throw in some kind of Mario Party inspiration in there. If Waluigi were even considered for Smash, that is.

Waluigi’s exclusion from the playable roster isn’t a major loss for Super Smash Bros. Like I said, I never even thought about him being a worthwhile character for the series until after Daisy’s reveal. But once Daisy was revealed to be just another clone, while Waluigi remains an Assist Trophy, it made me realize that, if Sakurai and company were willing to bring in C-tier Mario characters, they missed a little opportunity here for a more unique character, and an aspect of Nintendo’s biggest franchise that has yet to get acknowledge in Super Smash Bros.

Also, WAAAAAAAAH!

300 Video Game Reviews!!

“Har har! I’m making a 300 reference!”

I have finally amassed 300 video game reviews here at Wizard Dojo!

That’s right Kevin, my recent review of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars marked the big 3-0-0!

Funny thing is, back in the day, Super Mario RPG was going to be my 100th video game review, but because I had (relatively) recently given perfect scores to both Super Mario World and Galaxy 2, I decided to hold off on reviewing another of my favorite Mario titles. I was then going to review it on the 20th anniversary of its release (May 13th, 2016), but I didn’t get around to playing it in time. It was then going to be my 200th video game review, except I was at one-hundred and ninety some-odd reviews at the time I was playing Breath of the Wild, so making that review number 200 was just too good to pass up. From there, I contemplated making Super Mario RPG number 250, or even just any random number. After I got to a certain point, however, I knew Super Mario RPG had to be the 300th.

So, here we are! After over three and a half years, I have finally reached that 300 video game review milestone. Admittedly, that last one-hundred took me longer than the hundreds that came before, so here’s hoping I don’t slow down too much. I’d like to be celebrating 400 and 500 in the not-too-distant future.

I know some people will say I’m cheating, because some games that have different versions/releases I’ve reviewed twice (Shadow of the Colossus on both PS3 and PS4, Mario Kart 8 on Wii U and Switch, Undertale on PC and PS4, and DKC: Tropical Freeze on Wii U and Switch). But I wrote brand new reviews from the ground-up even for the repeated games. So they count!

Anyway, I’d like to give a big, fat thank you to all of my readers, and I hope you continue reading my crap for as long as I’m writing it. But, y’know, no pressure.

For those interested in all 300 of my current video game reviews (as well as those by AfterStory), you can find them all on the Game Reviews page, or you can go right to the thick of things and see all the games me (and AfterStory) have scored a perfect 10 or a near-perfect 9.5. 

Or, for quick reference. Here are the eight games (as of this writing) I personally have given a perfect 10/10:

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario World

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Review #100)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Review #200)

Super Mario Odyssey

Undertale

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Review #300)

Yep, I’ve certainly come a long way since I launched Wizard Dojo on Christmas Day of 2014, with my review of the original release of Mario Kart 8 being the very first thing posted here. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take me quite this long for the next 300. I still have so many games in my library that I have yet to review, and there’s always more new games around the corner. Though I think I might slow down on new purchases in the near future, not just to save money, but time. I’m sorry, but modern games are too damn long. If I ever want to make a game of my own I have to dedicate less time to playing others. So while I may have plenty, plenty more reviews to write, I think pretty soon I’ll only be purchasing the games I just really, really want. No more “eh, why nots?”

Anyway, I’m rambling. Nothing new there.

Thanks again my dear readers, for sticking with me for 300 video game reviews, some-odd hundred movie reviews, and, uhhhh…all those other things I wrote. Here’s to many more! Stay beautiful!

“Now, give me cake!”