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!”

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…

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…

Marching Onward!

It is now March of 2020…already, and given that I only wrote six total posts in February, I figured I’d give a brief update of what I hope to do for this site in March.

 

Wait a minute… Oh no… does this mean… THE RETURN OF THE FILLER POSTS?!

 

Aw well, it’s still probably better written than The Rise of Skywalker.

Seriously though, this is a one time return of filler, I swear. But talking of The Rise of Skywalker, one of my plans for the near future is to finish my reviews of the Star Wars movies. I was originally trying to review them all around the release of Rise of Skywalker going in episodic order, but only got up to the original film (Episode IV). It’s as if I saw something so contrived and messy that it disheartened me from continuing for a time…

So yes, that leaves Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the entire sequel trilogy left to review. So hopefully I’ll get back to those soon.

Also, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I plan to review Pixar’s Onward once I see it. And not too long after that, once the movie soaks in my mind a little, I hope to (finally) do a revised version of my ranking of every single Pixar film. Now we’ll know just how highly Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur will rank!

Also also, I hope to do my film and video game awards for 2019 in March. Yeah, it’s kind of late, but I’m just one man, cut me some slack. After I’m done with the 2019 awards, I hope to do my lists of best games and films of the decade (2010 – 2019). And hopefully not long after, I can do my similar lists for the 2000s, 1990s and 1980s. Then maybe that will finally give me the incentive to (seriously, finally and for reals) make my all-time favorites lists.

And yes, as promised before, I will start reviewing TV/streaming shows soon. And also very yes, I will update you beautiful people on my game development learnings when I have something to update on.

So there you go. What I plan to write in March and the near future. Sorry again for the filler.

Wizard Dojo’s 2019 (The Whole Dang Year)

Alright, one more dangling thread from 2019 to un-dangle. Y’know, besides those 2019 games I still need to review. Technically, I somewhat did this in my 2019 Christmas post, but for the sake of closure, let’s give it its own post.

After every three month period in 2019, I briefly went over the different reviews I wrote in the year up to that point. Now that 2019 is a memory (a mostly pleasant one, despite all the overrated movies that are now becoming even more overrated with their Oscar nominations). So before we get any further into 2020 and this makes no sense whatsoever, let’s knock this out of the way while it still makes a tiny shred of sense.


I think this was the first year where I ended up writing more movie reviews than video game ones. But because I haven’t actually taken the time to fact-check that, don’t take my word for it.

Anyway, here’s what my reviews were and when they were written, along with the scores they currently hold (you may find I’ve retroactively altered a couple of them, due to my changing feelings upon giving it more thought). This time I included the links to the reviews…just like I did in the Christmas post which is making this feel even more superfluous. Don’t worry, I’ll have new reviews soon.

Titles in bold were released in 2019.

Total Movie Reviews Written in 2019: 40

Total Video Game Reviews Written in 2019: 38

 

January Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 8

Bumblebee – 7/10

From Dusk ‘Till Dawn  – 5/10

Mary Poppins Returns – 6/10

The Cat Returns – 7/10

Ralph Breaks the Internet – 8/10

Unbreakable – 7/10

Split – 6/10

Glass – 3/10

Video Game reviews: 5

Wario Land II – 6/10

The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game – 6/10

Inside – 7/10

Donut County – 7/10

Tetris Effect – 8/10

February Reviews

Movie Reviews: 1

Fighting with My Family – 7/10

 

Video Game reviews: 3

Red Dead Redemption 2 – 8/10

Wario Land 3 – 6/10

God of War (PS4) – 8/10

March Reviews

Movie Reviews: 2

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – 5/10

Captain Marvel – 5/10

VIDEO GAME REVIEWS: 10

Kingdom Hearts 3 – 5/10

Tetris 99 – 7/10

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove – 7/10

Wario World – 4/10

Sonic the Fighters – 2/10

Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble – 4/10

Tails’ Skypatrol – 2/10

Tails Adventure – 5/10

Sonic R – 2/10

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – 9/10

April Reviews

movie reviews: 5

Dumbo (2019) – 6/10

Shazam! – 7/10

The Avengers – 8/10

Avengers: Age of Ultron – 5/10

Avengers: Infinity War – 8/10

Video game reviews: 3

Yoshi’s Crafted World – 7/10

Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee – 5/10

Wario Land 4 – 7/10

May Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 2

Avengers: Endgame – 9/10

Pokemon Detective Pikachu – 6/10

VIDEO GAME REVIEWS: 2

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – 7/10

Wario’s Woods – 7/10

June Reviews

MOVIE REVIEWS: 5

Aladdin (2019) – 7/10

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – 6/10

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – 4/10

The Secret Life of Pets 2 -4/10*

The Dark Crystal – 5/10

video game reviews: 1

WarioWare, Inc. Mega Microgames – 7/10

 

July Reviews

Toy Story 4 – 6/10*

Spider-Man: Far From Home – 7/10

video game reviews: 3

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge  – 4/10

Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman – 6/10

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong – 6/10

August Reviews

movie reviews: 2

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 4/10*

The Lion King (2019) – 5/10

video game reviews: 2

Super Mario Maker 2 – 8/10

WarioWare Touched – 6/10

September Reviews

movie reviews: 2

Dora and the Lost City of Gold – 7/10

The Peanut Butter Falcon – 6/10

video game reviews: 2

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – 8/10

Wario Land: Shake It! – 7/10

October Reviews

Movie reviews: 2

Abominable – 6/10

The Addams Family (2019) – 4/10

video game reviews: 4

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch) – 8/10

Untitled Goose Game – 7/10

Wario: Master of Disguise – 3/10

Luigi’s Mansion – 7/10

November Reviews

movie reviews: 4

Maleficent (2014) – 5/10

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 5/10

Terminator: Dark Fate – 4/10

Joker – 7/10

video game reviews: 2

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair – 8/10

Mario & Wario – 6/10

December Reviews

movie reviews: 5

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace – 5/10

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – 4/10

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – 6/10

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 7/10

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope – 9/10

video game reviews: 1

WarioWare Twisted – 8/10

 

* indicates a title whose score was lowered since my last such update. Because seriously, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a deathly bore.


And there you have it, all of my movie and game reviews of 2019. But there’s still some unfinished business to take care of leftover from last year. Like these…

 

2019 movies I saw, but probably won’t get around to reviewing for a while (with approximate scores).

Last Christmas – 5/10

Judy – 6/10

 

2019 movies I’ve seen and hope to review in the near future (saving the scores for the reviews)

It: Chapter 2

Jojo Rabbit

Knives Out

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

2019 movies I might still see, maybe review.

1917

Parasite

Cats   (yes, it looks abysmal. Every now and again I get the sick curiosity to see a notorious movie on the big screen).

 

2019 video games I should have reviewed already and hopefully will soon.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

Luigi’s Mansion 3

 

2019 video games I need to play more of to review

Astral Chain

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Ni no Kuni Remastered

Pokemon Sword

 

And well, those are the last lingering threads of 2019 I hope to tackle. Those and my awards, of course. There are a few 2020 movies on the horizon, and a couple of upcoming video games, that I’ll hopefully get around to as well. Also more older games and movies and such. But we’ll get to those when we get to them.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Thanks for your support throughout 2019! And all of your support before then, and your continuing support now.

 

Dawn of the New Decade

“Entering the new decade like”

Greetings and salutations, weary traveler! A new decade is upon us, for it is now 2020. If I were a Dark Souls NPC, this is the part where I’d start laughing maniacally.

I know what you’re thinking, “shouldn’t I have posted this on January 1st?” Ideally, yes. But honestly, after my Frozen II review had been delayed for way too long, I knew that had to be my first writing of the decade. It just had to be. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, Frozen is both one of my favorite films, and one of particular importance to me. Thus, because it took me so long to finish my review of its sequel, it made sense as the one and only option as my first writing of the 2020s.

Why not read my Frozen II review again, while we’re on the subject?

If you’re curious what else I have planned for the near future, I… what’s that? You’re not curious…

Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

I hope to finish my reviews of the Star Wars films, continuing in episodic order. I most recently reviewed the original Star Wars feature, Episode IV – A New Hope, which means next up is the best Star Wars feature, The Empire Strikes Back. Then of course I’ll cap off the original trilogy with Return of the Jedi, followed by 2015’s delightful return to form, The Force Awakens. It’s just a shame they stopped making Star Wars films after that. But at least they went out on a high note, I suppose…

… Okay, okay. I’ll review The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker as well. *Sigh*

Along with those, I also plan on reviewing Knives Out, another Rian Johnson film that, like The Last Jedi, seems to believe that swerves and twists for the sake of swerves and twists equate to originality and creativity. Apparently Mr. Johnson isn’t aware that M. Night Shyamalan has already proven on numerous occasions that isn’t the case. Oh please, don’t make me re-watch Glass!

 

Yeah, apparently I got a lot of Friends gifs…

Anyway, I also have a list of games to review, so hopefully I’ll start knocking those off said list soon enough. Mostly leftover 2019 games, but some older ones as well.

In fact, I have a schedule that I hope to stick to for 2020 in regards to the number of movie reviews, game reviews and top 10 lists per month. Fingers crossed I follow through!

As you may have guessed, with the new year comes award season. Everyone and their dog seems to do it, and I am no exception. I plan on doing my best of 2019 lists in not too long (I hope). But also seeing as we’re in a bright, shiny new decade, I also hope to do some ‘Best of the Decade’ awards reflecting on the movies and video games of the 2010s. And maybe that will lead me to make retroactive decade lists for the 2000s and 1990s. Maybe even the 1980s as well, seeing as I was born during that decade. Yeah, I was born in September of ’89, so we’re grasping at straws here, but any excuse to revisit 80s movies is a good one, I say. Funny thing is the 80s really stick out to me with movies, while the 90s really stick out in regards to video games. I don’t know why I pointed that out, but I thought it was interesting.

Oh yeah, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to finally make reviewing TV shows a thing. So again, fingers crossed.

I’m hoping to review the three currently-existing seasons of Stranger Things, as well as The Mandalorian, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and maybe some others. Also, now that I have Disney+, maybe I’ll start reviewing The Simpsons. But just the classic seasons. I don’t know if I could stand to watch the more contemporary seasons. I would rather watch Glass again than watch new Simpsons.

Well… actually I’m not sure about that. That’s a lose-lose scenario if ever there were one. But yeah, classic Simpsons is still on the cards.

At any rate, this “New Decade Post” is coming dangerously close to becoming one of my filler posts that haunted 2019, so let’s wrap this up before that happens.

Anywho, I hope you lovely people are all having a great, productive new year so far. May the new decade be one of great new beginnings and some cool returning stuff, I guess. Hopefully the next time I’m writing a blog like this, it’s updating my progress on learning about makin’ the vidya James.

The 2019 Christmas Special/Five Year Anniversary Celebration!!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! How about that Rise of Skywalker, huh?

It’s hard to believe that 2019 is coming to a close, and with it, the decade itself. Mayhaps I should start doing some ‘Best of the Decade’ awards along with my yearly ones?

But let’s think about that a little later. It’s Christmas, holmes! And being Christmas Day, that also means – you guessed it – it’s WWE wrestler Rusev’s birthday!

Oh yeah, it also means it’s the anniversary of Wizard Dojo’s launch!

Okay, so technically I launched this website earlier in December of 2014, but decided to wait to post anything until Christmas Day of that year. So Christmas is the official launch of the Dojo. And this year is a big one, as today marks the five-year anniversary of Wizard Dojo! You know, five years. As in half a decade.

So let’s try to make this Christmas/Anniversary special a good one!

So pull yourself away from those new Playstations Santa Clause brought you for a few minutes, grab some hot cocoa, a Victorian-era top hat, and take a seat to spend your precious time on this sacred holiday not with family and friends, but reading the crap I write. ‘Tis the season.

So let’s get crackin’ and get this show on the road!

Continue reading “The 2019 Christmas Special/Five Year Anniversary Celebration!!”

The 900th Blog Spectacularsaurus

 

That’s right, Kevin! I have finally amassed 900 blogs! The road to the big 1-0-0-0 is on!

“I’m kind of like Yoda in a way. Except not at all.”

Thank you, my dear Padawan readers, for sticking around and reading all of my nonsense. You deserve a big round of applause!

I have to admit, I’m going to have to cut this milestone blog a wee bit short. I still have Star Wars and Frozen II reviews to write, not to mention my annual Christmas special. So let’s not drag this out so I can go write those things instead. Don’t worry your pretty little heads, I’ll make up for it in the 1000th blog spectacularsaurus, which I’ll surely make a big deal.

Here’s a gif of Wallace eating a chunk of the moon.

Thanks again for the continued support, dollface! I hope you’re looking forward to those aforementioned reviews, and whatever the new year will bring to the Dojo. Maybe I’ll finally, finally start making progress in video game design, which I can then update here. And maybe I’ll finally start making videos of some capacity in the new year. I’m still not sure what I’ll do for my videos, but seeing as I hate damn near every YouTuber I’ve ever seen, I’ll probably at least try to avoid doing…whatever the hell it is they’re doing. I’ll probably have no audience, but whatever.

I actually have a list of movies and video games (and TV shows!) I plan on reviewing, and have – believe it or not – finally managed to start chipping away at said list. So here’s hoping the next few months prove prosperous for ye old Dojo.

Okay, now I’m turning this milestone post into one of my filler posts. So let’s wrap this up now.  Thanks again for your readership, yadda yadda yadda, gonna write more stuff. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go review Revenge of the Sith…

Frozen and Me

I just got back from seeing Frozen II and I have to say, as a fan of the original, that was a very rewarding sequel.

I plan on writing my review for Frozen II soon, but first I’d like to give some early impressions of the film, due to reasons that I’ll explain right now.

When Frozen was released in 2013, it was quite unlike anything I’d seen. Internet cynics would probably lambast me for saying that, seeing as it’s a Disney musical and thus ‘can’t be art’ yadda yadda yadda. But as someone who has been a lifelong fan of Disney, I admit there were still things about the animation studio’s output that I always felt were outdated. Frozen, as it turned out, was the Disney movie I always wanted, but never knew I’d actually get.

As much as I appreciated Disney films, I never would have put them on the same level as Studio Ghibli or Pixar’s animated features. Ghibli and Pixar would craft stories that were driven by the characters. Disney, meanwhile, used characters who were defined by a small handful of archetypes, and seemed to exist for the sole purpose of pushing the plot forward. Compared to the characters of Studio Ghibli or Pixar, well, there was no comparison.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a plot/concept-based movie. But knowing what animated storytelling was capable of due to the likes of Ghibli and Pixar, it felt like Disney was unable/unwilling to break away from their formula. Granted, Disney movies were mostly good, but kind of interchangeable really. I could name several Studio Ghibli or Pixar movies that would rank among my favorites, because they all felt distinct. But I felt I could pick one Disney movie to represent the entire lot because, well, they very much had their formula down pat (in case you’re interested, I would have listed Beauty and the Beast in a pre-Frozen world).

But Frozen changed all that. In one fell swoop, it addressed and rectified the issues I felt were holding Disney back. Sure, the archetypes were there, but there ended up being so much more to these characters than what was on the surface. What seemed to be marketed as “just another Disney Princess movie but with two princesses,” ended up being the most thoughtful and meaningful film in the Disney canon. Said princesses were fully fleshed-out characters, the comic foil (Olaf) existed for more than just comic relief (though he was also great at just that). Even the Disney Prince, the most bland and uninteresting of Disney’s archetypes, was given an overhaul, and the film featured one of the very few plot twists that genuinely surprised me.

Frozen subverted expectations before subverting expectations was cool. And honestly, it did so way, way better than the works that have attempted it since. Perhaps The Last Jedi would have been less polarized if Rian Johnson had studied how Frozen subverted expectations, as opposed to seemingly writing off what J.J. Abrams and company started with its predecessor. No doubt Frozen did to Disney traditions what Rian Johnson could only hope to do with Star Wars.

On top of defying tradition and giving new depth to Disney storytelling, Frozen was also a hell of a lot of fun, and the catchiness of the songs needs no explanation. Again, the cynical and snarky would love to ridicule me for saying something like this, but Frozen was a perfect movie (and certainly THE perfect Disney movie). Sure, naming my favorite Disney movie still has an easy answer, but now it’s because there’s one that’s just so damn good, as opposed to one I simply feel best utilized the studio’s formula (I still love you, Beauty and the Beast).

Now I have to get a bit more personal. On top of being the Disney movie I always wanted/never expected, Frozen also had a profound impact on me personally. Sorry to sound like a sad sack, but I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Depression and Social Phobias. I have my entire life, and in that particular point in time I had been feeling especially low. But Frozen, a Disney movie about a magical snow princess and her sister, believe it or not, helped me better understand and subsequently deal with my demons. And I have been improving myself ever since.

Through Elsa, the snow queen who gives Frozen its name, Disney somehow created a character who serves as a universal and sympathetic allegory to such issues (and many others). Many people have also viewed Elsa as an allegory for homosexuality, and more power to them. But that goes back to what made Frozen so special: What other Disney movie featured characters and elements that were allegorical and left so much room for interpretation?

Again we go back to the internet smartasses, who would no doubt laugh at me for claiming Frozen – a kids movie (and perhaps even more so, a popular movie) – of all things, is what has helped me better understand myself. Surely they would point out all the arthouse and indie films that deal with mental issues and such in a literal manner. Well, I’ve seen a good number of such films, but even with the good ones, I’ve felt a bit of a disconnect with them. Along with a tendency to feel more than a little bit like award-bait, many such films tend to display mental issues and the like as a hopeless tragedy, or something that is simply to be pitied or vilified. But through Elsa, Frozen told audiences how these issues – even though they may be hard, and sad, and tragic – are a fact of life for many. These things shouldn’t be feared, but we should learn to accept them and be willing to face our issues to better ourselves. Elsa may have been the antagonist, but not because she was the typical Disney villain who was out to cause evil because reasons, but because people were ignorant and feared her, which caused her to run away from her problems and create the core conflict of the movie. It’s through the selfless love of her sister Anna, the film’s protagonist, that Elsa in turn learns to love herself.

Yeah, it’s a bit deeper than the usual Disney fare.

For one reason or another, Elsa was a far more relatable character to me than anyone found in “more intellectual” films. I may now be a 30-year old male, and (as far as I know) I lack magical ice powers, but Elsa is indeed the movie character I relate to over all others. I am not the slightest bit ashamed to admit that.

Frozen, of course, eventually became a worldwide phenomenon. Along with Pokemon and Harry Potter, it’s probably among the biggest pop-culture phenomenons to have occurred in my lifetime. While it was great to see something so good be rewarded with recognition, the fact that we live in the often-abhorrent internet age naturally meant that as soon as Frozen became popular, it became ‘cool’ to ridicule it (how dare children like things!). But despite generic internet contrarianism (a YouTuber complaining about stuff? Oh, how original), that first year or so of Frozen-Mania, when the film was absolutely ubiquitous, was probably the first of maybe two instances in the 2010s where the world seemed to find something that made it genuinely happy and brought people together in a way that’s incredibly rare in this cold, disconnected internet age (the second instance would be the release of Pokemon Go).

Frozen became the highest-grossing animated film in the world for nearly six years (it was somehow displaced by that uncanny valley Lion King remake. Though I suppose Frozen can still claim to be the highest-grossing good animated film). And yes, a sequel became an inevitability. As with any sequel, it’s a risky move. That’s especially true of something that had no pre-conceived expectations (Frozen may be very loosely inspired by Hans Christen Anderson’s The Snow Queen, but really only in the fact that it features a snow queen). Again, Frozen originally just looked liked the “Two Princesses” Disney movie. No one would have guessed it would become what it did.

I should point out now that, ahead of its release, I myself rolled my eyes at the advertisements to the film, as I – in my certain knowledge – knew it was just going to be another example of the Disney formula. Never before or since has a movie made me look like a fool so beautifully.

Here we are, six years later, and Frozen II is a reality. I’m sad to see a number of ‘professional’ critics were cynical even ahead of its release (and some after). Yes, the success of the original surely swayed Disney to make the sequel, but if this were a mere cash-grab, it would have happened years ago, and simply repeat the same beats as the original. This is a genuine sequel, and it’s sad to see some still write it off basically because it’s a sequel and thus “can’t be art.”

Earlier this year, Pixar released Toy Story 4. While that particular movie was decently good on its own merits, it paled in comparison to its three preceding films and, at its worst, retroactively rendered its immediate predecessor pointless. Yet Frozen II is the one cynics are targeting as being “all about the money.” It seems a bit hypocritical, considering that Toy Story 4 is the fourth entry in a series that already wrapped up with its third entry, and is a series that’s literally about toys (I love Toy Story, and Toy Story 4 certainly wasn’t bad, but c’mon, if any party in this scenario is guilty of milking a franchise, well…..).  I am aware that Toy Story 4 currently has higher meta-ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and its ilk, but I don’t see that as a reflection of the actual quality between the movies, so much as yet another reason why we should stop giving Rotten Tomatoes and company any credibility and form opinions ourselves. It also seems kind of strange that franchises primarily targeted at young girls are usually the ones that come under fire for “being greedy.” But that’s perhaps a discussion for another day.

Having seen Frozen II, I genuinely felt it was a worthy follow-up to the original. I hope to review it ASAP, but part of me wonders if I should review it. After all I’ve said of the personal impact Frozen had on me, no doubt many would think I’m an unreliable source due to my love of its predecessor (which seems a bit strange, when you think about it. Who exactly are sequels made for if not fans of the original?). But I would say, if there are means to justify biases, x-thing helped me understand and deal with mental illness seems like a pretty decent one. It certainly has a stronger case than it’s a sequel ergo it’s bad, I like to think. And in my defense, I do try my best to still be fair and honest when I review things. Sure, I have preferences (I am a human being, after all, not a robot), but that doesn’t mean I can’t also view things from a critical lens. I could have easily awarded every Hayao Miyazaki directed film a 10/10 based on personal feelings and history, but of the eight of them I’ve reviewed so far, their scores range from 7s to 10s (Miyazaki still unquestionably makes good movies, so nothing on the lower half on the scale from him, admittedly).

Yes, I honestly felt that Toy Story 4, while decent, was a retrograde sequel that undermined Toy Story 3, while Frozen II felt like a meaningful continuation that added to the growth of the characters and world of the original.

The big question has to be: Is Frozen II as good as the original? Well, that’s kind of an unfair question at this point in time. Again, I have been praising Frozen as Disney’s finest achievement for six years now, and it has played a surprisingly big influence in my life for that same amount of time. It’s kind of difficult to compare. I will reiterate that Frozen II is an exceptional sequel that – like any good sequel – feels different from its predecessor while simultaneously adding to it. It was worth the wait, and it feels like something that came from the heart of its creators, as opposed to a token sequel merely capitalizing on the success of the original.

I hope to review Frozen II in the near future, and maybe after better analyzing it and contemplating it, I can give a proper comparison between it and its predecessor. But at the moment it feels like an unfair task on myself. Frozen II is an incredible sequel, but with the impact the original had on me, can I of all people make that comparison? It would be like if I saw a really great anime movie, and someone were to ask me if it compares to Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. It’s like, well no. Of course not. It’s an unfair battle.

I loved Frozen II, and yes, I even cried. When I do review it, expect it to be pretty glowing. It genuinely saddens me that a number of critics are writing it off because of that ‘II‘ in the title, because the film is more than that. But whether or not I think it matches the original is, for once, not a matter of the film’s quality itself, but a testament to what the first film accomplished, and what it did for me.

200 Movie Reviews!

I have finally amassed 200 movie reviews!

That’s right, Kevin! My review of Joker marked the big 2-0-0!

Okay, so technically speaking I am now at 203 movie reviews, and Maleficent was actually the 200th. But, if we go back in time in the Dojo’s DeLorean, three of my movie reviews were for short films that were about five minutes in length (Frozen Fever, Sanjay’s Super Team and Riley’s First Date?). I listed them as “mini-reviews” and, although all three reviews were positive, they weren’t given a number grade. I just didn’t know how to rate something that’s five minutes using the same scale as I use for feature films (or even just half-hour shorts). So if we view the ungraded “mini-reviews” as separate, then Joker is my 200th movie review. Huzzah!

Admittedly, it did take me quite a while to reach this milestone. This Christmas will mark Wizard Dojo’s fifth anniversary, and I’ve only just now reached 200 movie reviews. Compare that to my game reviews, when I reached 200 in about April of 2017. A bit quicker there, and I really don’t know how, considering video games tend to be exceedingly longer than movies. Well, I suppose if I stick to my plan of only purchasing a handful of new games next year, I can catch up with the movies.

You can check out all 200(plus) of my movie reviews on my aptly-titled Movie Reviews page. Here’s hoping the next 200 won’t take me so long. Pick up the pace with my movie reviews. Y’know, on top of learning video game design, making videos and that other stuff I want to do… Maybe I’m stretching myself too thin.

Anyway, thanks for sticking around for 200(plus) movie reviews! Here’s too many, many more! Onto the next milestone!