Little Chewy

Today was one of the hardest days of my life. I had to say goodbye to the dearest friend I’ve ever known.

For nearly fifteen years, Chewbacca – or ‘Chewy’ – was my little buddy, my best friend, and my brother. He made me a better person, and showed me more love and friendship than I ever thought possible.

Chewy touched the lives of everyone who met him. To know him was to love him, and he lived everybody. He helped me overcome fears, comforted me through hard times, and brought joy to my life each and every day.

He may have been a dog, but he made me a better human being. In so many ways, Chewy was the best person I know.

I can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me, my little buddy. I miss you more than I could ever express.

I’ll always love you, my little Chewy.

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The 2018 Christmas Special/Four Year Anniversary Celebration!!

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.

 

Continue reading “The 2018 Christmas Special/Four Year Anniversary Celebration!!”

Incoming Content

Uh oh, this is another filler blog, isn’t it? Maybe. But hey, it’s a good means to write about what I have in store for this site, which in turn is a good way of getting around to writing those things.

Anyway, I am currently in the process of writing reviews for Red Dead Redemption 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Creed II, in addition to my annual Christmas Special. Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve worked on this many different posts simultaneously for this site, as I usually follow the unprofessional (yet affective) method of writing a single blog all in one sitting, while maybe writing another in bits and pieces at a time on the side.

So the aforementioned posts will be the ones to look out for in the near future. I also have some reviews in store for January, as well as some potential top 5/10 lists (including Top 10 Nintendo Consoles). Hopefully my reviews for God of War (PS4), Ni no Kuni 2 and Pokemon Let’s Go will be among the January lineup. Lord knows I’m overdue on those. Naturally, I also have my movie/game awards planned for January, but depending on how many more 2018 movies and games I’m able to watch and play in the coming weeks, my awards may be postponed to February. I have a few other surprises in store for the first few months of 2019, which I will explain more in my Christmas post. So stay tuned.

Oh, and you may have noticed (but probably not) that I added a new “Specials” sub-page under the ‘Writings’ category. This will be where you can get quick access to my past awards, milestone blogs, and the aforementioned Christmas specials.

So yeah…something better next time… hopefully. Sorry for the filler.

Something about 10/10s, Best and Favorite Games

*This post is something of a follow-up of another one I wrote several months ago on the subject of 10/10 games. That post was from when I still used a .5 rating system, but much of what I said then still applies, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.*

I have a weird interest in trying to guess the favorite games (and movies) of people I know based on how fondly and frequently they bring up certain games (and movies). I can tell you from experience that trying to list your own favorites isn’t always easy. As soon as you think you have it figured out, you remember a few others that creep in. This has sparked my aforementioned “weird interest,” as it seems like, based on what people praise the most regularly, that it may take someone else to acknowledge those works as a person’s favorites. Now, obviously this is no exact science (there is no exact science for favorites of anything). But I like to think that the inner indecisiveness can sometimes be filtered out when speaking to others, to some degree anyway (or, I could just be full of BS, which also seems likely).

Anyway, recently this got me talking to a couple of my friends about what our top 10 games are. One of my friends is a big Sonic fan, and naturally had multiple Sonic titles in his top 10: Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Colors and Sonic Mania. He also had his favorite Zelda game, Majora’s Mask, and a Phoenix Wright title included, as well as Tetris. My other friend’s list featured the likes of Super Mario World, Twilight Princess, Okami, Red Dead Redemption, and BloodBorne (that’s as far as I got with my guestimations on both their lists).

But then, we got around to talking about my favorites, and that brings us to this particular post. One of my friends guessed that Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 were on my list. I agreed that Super Mario World would have a spot, but I questioned that 64 would quite make it into my top 10, as I’d say the Super Mario Galaxy titles and Odyssey are better 3D platformers. But then I got to thinking, with how many times I’ve replayed Super Mario 64, and all the memories I have of it over the years, am I lying to myself by claiming it’s not among my top 10?

Naturally, this brought up the prospect of “favorites” versus “bests” when discussing one’s top 10 of anything. If I’m going by the warm and fuzzy memories, Super Mario 64 pretty much has to be in my top 10. And while it would still find a spot on my list somewhere, if we’re talking games I appreciate by their quality, 64 is bested by a number of titles.

Of course, with my OCD-riddled mind, making big deals about pretty much every thought that passes through my head just kind of happens. And in this case, it means this discussion lead me to thinking about how I score video games I review here on my site, primarily the big 10/10s.

As of this writing, I’ve awarded nine different games a perfect score: Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario RPG, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dark Souls, Undertale, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I stand by my giving these games 10s on their own individual merits, but I also started to wonder if all of these games are necessarily my favorites. Like Super Mario 64, they all may rank somewhere on such a hypothetical list of mine, but I’m not sure if they’re all top 10 material.

For example, arguably the game I most regularly praise on this site is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which currently sits at a 9/10. Since it was originally released in 2014, I’ve beat it several times over (both in regular and hard mode) and can’t seem to praise it enough. To put it simply, it has as good of a chance at being in my personal top ten games as any game I’ve given a 10/10.

Point being, should that make it a 10/10? As I stated on my prior blog on this subject, one idea I’ve bounced around was to – at this point in time – award a total of ten 10s, to reflect my top 10 (as I stated in the past, I would of course add more 10s should one be released or I discover one from the past I missed out on. But the top 10 would set the precedent). Of course, if I were to go this route, I may have to alter some of my existing scores, if some of my current 10s don’t quite rank in my personal top 10 (should I actually manage to solidify it). I’m not a big fan of altering my scores (although I’ve done it in the past, but not with perfect scores), and again, I stand by my 10s in terms of their quality.

Of course you want to be objective when reviewing anything, but seeing as video games are a creative art form, should my personal taste have a little more influence than I’m giving it? Again, Tropical Freeze (along with Bloodborne, for that matter) is basically a 10 in my heart, so should I really deny it of that because it may not match up to what I’ve designated as a 10 in my head?

Basically, if my top 10 were to be ranked by personal sentiment/enjoyment, there’s no doubt that Super Mario 64, Banjo-Tooie, one of the Super Smash Bros. titles and Tropical Freeze would make my top ten. If I were to go by what I think are the best of the best, my top ten would simply include games I’d award a 10/10. And if I tried to find some middle ground, I could potentially place some 9s in with some 10s. A combination of quality and personal experience, meaning that Tropical Freeze could sneak its way in anyway, seeing as I see it as my ‘uncrowned 10’ (again, along with Bloodborne).

The weird thing is, I don’t feel this same indecisiveness with the films I’ve given 10/10. My perfect scored movies currently sit at only four: Inside Out, Frozen, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (yes, all animated so far). I would easily say all four of those films are among my favorites, so there’s no second guessing from me there. But when it comes to my game reviews, I’m pondering if my 10/10s consistently reflect my ‘favorites.’

Essentially, I guess the point of this entire post is to once again display my indecisiveness when trying to concoct my concrete list of favorite games. Perhaps I simply need someone else to point out what games I’ve leaned towards over time. The other point of this post is that it got me to thinking if I should re-evaluate my 10s. Again, I don’t like to change my scores – and on one hand, the idea of altering my 10s makes me cringe – as changing scores seems fickle, and risks devaluing my rating system. At the same time, I’m kind of intrigued at the idea of pulling a Thanos, snapping my fingers and altering the landscape of my 10s.

Now, I don’t want to appear pretentious, and be one of those people who thinks they need to have as minimal perfect scores as humanly possible just because. But at the same time, I don’t want to feel overly generous with my scoring, either. I mentioned how DKC: Tropical Freeze and Bloodborne are akin to my “uncrowned 10s,” and while I have thought about upping their scores to give them perfect grades, the idea that I can award some of my all-time favorites with 9s, I feel, makes my 9s mean something as well as my 10s. I also don’t want to be one of those critics who holds 10s on some pedestal, yet every other score seems interchangeable.

I remember the days when Edge Magazine was pretty conservative when dishing out perfect scores (they still are relative to other magazines, but you can still pretty much guess when they’ll award them these days). Or the (sadly) recently discontinued GamesTM Magazine, which also only awarded so many 10/10s. Again, I don’t want to be stingy for the sake of it, but when those publications give/gave 10s, it meant something (or, at the very least, it tried to). I’ve always kind of wanted to achieve something similar to that. And while I think I have succeeded to some extent, I have to wonder if my flip-flopping of my favorite games should alter my list of 10s.

Yikes, I’m really going off on another tangent, aren’t I? Basically, I guess my point is how difficult it really can be to categorize your favorites of anything in any “official” capacity. Although my taste has remained surprisingly consistent throughout my life, things do fluctuate. Who knows, this entire post may end up being entirely pointless and I won’t change a thing. I already hit a soft reboot when I swapped my ‘.5’ rating system for one consisting of whole numbers, so I’m not sure if tinkering with things at this point alters my site too much. Again, I don’t want my scores to end up feeling pointless and finicky. But at the same time, the benefit of running an independent site is that I can change things to reflect my changing tastes when necessary.

If any of my kind readers have any feedback for how I should approach things going forward, feel free to share.

RIP Stephen Hillenburg

Yet another tragic loss in the entertainment world this week. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants – one of the most beloved pop culture icons of all-time – has passed away at age 56.

With all due respect to The Simpsons and South Park, Spongebob Squarepants may just be the most influential television cartoon of all time. While The Simpsons changed up both primetime and television animation, and South Park continues to push the envelope, one could easily claim that Spongebob Squarepants has shaped the sense of humor of an entire generation. The show’s lighthearted absurdity has permeated all facets of popular culture, and anyone, anyone from my generation can instantly recognize even a passing reference to a joke from the show’s heyday.

I don’t think Stephen Hillenburg – or anyone else – could have imagined that nearly twenty years later, his creation would still be going strong. Although the quality of Spongebob Squarepants has fluctuated over the last decade (after Stephen Hillenburg took on a smaller role in production), its classic episodes are as timeless and hilarious as television gets. Its endearing characters and sharp wit have etched its place in television history.

Everyone and their grandmother knows of Spongebob’s antics with best friend Patrick, and how they constantly get on the nerves of their pretentious neighbor Squidward (whom both Spongebob and Patrick naively idolize). Everyone knows of Mr. Krabs’ insatiable lust for money, and how the sacred Krabby Patty secret formula is the target of the “evil” Plankton’s many failed thefts. People can quote Spongebob’s many songs word for word, and the show as a whole has delighted children of all ages for over two decades. And everyone who grew up with it, and continues to grow up with it, will make sure it continues to do so forever more.

Thank you Stephen Hillenburg, for bringing so much joy and laughter to the world.

RIP Stan Lee

The world of entertainment lost one of its greatest minds today, and the world lost one of its most profound imaginations. Stan Lee, the mastermind behind Marvel comics, has passed away at age 95.

Stan Lee is well-known the world over as the creator of timeless characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men, among many, many others. His characters and worlds brought joy to countless lives over the years, due in no small part to the depth and human understanding Stan Lee weaved into his stories.

Although his creations ranged from superhuman to cosmic beings, Stan Lee didn’t rely solely on epic feats of strength for his characters, but grounded them with human reliability that many people in the comic book industry seem blind to, even today (the less said about what more contemporary comic writers have done with his characters in works such as Marvel Zombies, the better). While many comic artists strive to be “cool” and “edgy,” Stan Lee knew it was most important to make his characters human, no matter how outlandish their powers or outward appearance might be.

A forward-thinking storyteller, Stan Lee was often described as having “a heart of gold and balls of steel.” He made characters who were flawed, and who taught readers it was okay to be different. The fact that famous creation, Spider-Man, is depicted as a nerd who was regularly bullied in school is a testament to how ahead of the game Stan Lee was, seeing as movies and other mediums have only started catching up in making such characters in more recent years. Stan Lee wrote stories that appealed to people of all backgrounds, that captured the imagination, and made even the biggest outcasts feel at home.

“Stan Lee even appeared in animated form in Disney’s Big Hero 6.”

Despite being a comic book writer, Stan Lee’s influence has reached out to seemingly all forms of media. The world of cinema is now dominated by Stan Lee’s creations, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular being the highest-grossing film franchise in history. And let’s not forget that, over the years, Stan Lee became the “King of the Cameos,” appearing in virtually every movie based on his characters in Hitchcock fashion. He even ended up having cameos in films unrelated to his works in more recent years.

Stan Lee has left a nearly unparalleled legacy in the world of entertainment. One that will continue to delight and inspire countless people forever more.

Excelsior!

Coming Soon to the Dojo…

Well, looks like November isn’t much busier here at the Dojo than October was. I’m really hoping that changes soon, and I can get back in my stride. Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. Ain’t nothin’ gonna hold me down. Oh no, I’ve got to keep on moving’!

Anyway…Since things have been quiet, I figured I’d at least let my readers know what I’m working on for the near future.

First of all, video game reviews! I plan on finally playing/finishing some of this year’s biggest titles, and will review the following games as soon as I can.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

God of War

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Red Dead Redemption 2

And of course, I plan on reviewing Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate when the time comes. Red Dead Redemption 2 will be a special case in which I will write separate reviews for its single player campaign and its upcoming multiplayer mode (if both are going to be released as their own entities, why not review them as such?). Also, I might finally get around to Detective Pikachu and Octopath Traveler at some point, but don’t be surprised if those two reviews don’t happen until 2019. Finally, I plan on playing through/reviewing the surprise kind of/sort of/somewhat (but not really) sequel to Undertale, Deltarune.

All those reviews should keep me busy for a while, but I hope to also have a few movie reviews written here and there. And as stated in the past, next year I suspect I’ll be reviewing more movies and older games, and maybe the occasional TV show. But I only plan on buying a small amount of 2019 video games. As much as I love gaming, I’m becoming less and less able to invest the ludicrous amount of hours modern gaming often requires. Sure, I’ll be getting Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Animal Crossing Switch, and a few others that I’m really excited for. But with the possible exception of Kingdom Hearts 3, I don’t see myself getting prominent games for the sake of reviewing prominent games anymore (and if I make an exception for KH3, it’s because I’m a sucker for Disney). Gotta choose wisely if a game’s going to take me forever to beat.

Yeah, I know. I complain about the length of modern games a lot these days. But it’s because of a valid reason… Modern games are too damn long!

As for what TV shows I plan on reviewing, well, it may seem cheap to start with some personal favorites, but the way I see it, it may make it easier to get into the groove of writing about something I haven’t before (in this case, TV shows). So I suspect Twin Peaks and Stranger Things might show up, among others. Maybe I’ll also give Castlevania on Netflix a looksy, and review it if I have enough to say.

To add a cherry on top, I’m hoping to finally write some top 5 and top 10 lists I’ve been meaning to get around to. While I don’t want to spoil what all of them will be, I may start with something like “Top 10 Nintendo Systems,” “Top 10 Nintendo Franchises” and “Top 10 Games from my Childhood” (as in, what games enthralled me the most during my adolescence, as opposed to which ones have held up the best since then).

Oh, and I’m hoping to finally get back into making sprites and studying game design, so depending on how quickly I start making progress on that, I will also try to update how that’s going every now and again. As I’ve stated ad nauseam, I’d like to make my own game, damn it!

Well, that’s about all I have to say for now. Sorry again for the slow updates. I hope to get the ball rolling once again as soon as possible. Hopefully now that I’ve mentioned some of these things it will help me get around to writing them faster (I’m in the process of writing my Spider-Man PS4 review, so I suspect that will come first).

Alrighty! Take care you handsome devils!