Tag Archives: Wizard Dojo

Once Again, A Most Necessary Update

Well, it’s been over a week since I last wrote anything, so now I’m writing something. Pardon the lack of updates as of late, I hope to rectify that soon enough. If all goes according to plan, I should be getting some video game and movie reviews done soon, and should be starting on various video game-related top 10 lists (in preparation for that list). So I hope you look forward to that.

The first video game review that should be going up post-this blog is for the PS4 version of Undertale. After that, I have a few newer games I’d like to review, as well as the remainder of the titles included on the SNES Classic. Movie reviews include Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo, among others. As for the top 10 lists. Well, we’ll see which ones I get to first. But I hope to knock a few out of the way relatively soon.

Sorry again for the lack of updates recently. The last thing I want is for my site to suffer. Life just gets in the way sometimes. Also, I hope to continue down the rabbit hole of learning video game development soon. Once that becomes a thing, I may update my progress on the subject here, if anyone is the slightest bit interested. I’m also still tempted to start sharing some creative ideas/art work here, but fear that may come across as some kind of bragging, which is the last thing I’d want to do (I’m a terrible artist). But hey, I am looking to expand this site in any way I can, so maybe?

And maybe it’s beyond hope by this point, but I have started a Patreon to help me continue providing content for this site, and to hopefully get me started on my long-promised video content. The Patreon can be found here, if you’re interested.

So yeah, looks like it’s back to the old grind. Hope you look forward to my future writings, and apologies again for the absence. Here’s Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle playing Shadow of the Colossus.

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Toys ‘R Us Memories

It was announced last week that, as the rumors suggested for a while now, Toy’s ‘R’ Us is officially closing up shop. While this was expected in many ways, due to the rise of online shopping and such, the news still stings for those of us who grew up in the last several decades, as it was the go-to toy store for many kids for generations.

Of course I’ve long-since moved on to the likes of Amazon and such to do most of my video game shopping, but in my younger days, Toys ‘R’ Us played an important role in my introduction to the video game medium. Naturally, it was the place I would go to as a kid whenever it was time to pick up whatever game I had been eagerly waiting months for, with Nintendo Power and its ilk often directing me straight to Jeffrey the Giraffe’s abode on launch days.

Those were the pre-EB Games days (which in turn were the pre-GameStop days, which predate these days of online shopping). Granted, I still visited more independent game stores than most kids my age at the time (at least I like to think so), but in my early years, Toys ‘R’ Us was the first destination I’d go to when it was time to pick up an anticipated game.

Perhaps more notably, Toys ‘R’ Us was the place where I first encountered and discovered many games. At the expense of sounding like just another of the countless nostalgics on the internet, I do have to admit that kids in this internet age really will never understand what it was like to have toy stores play such a large role in gaming (that’s not a bad thing of course, just a different thing. But one that stings the nostalgia bone knowing that it’s a thing of the past).

One has to remember that the internet only really came into prominence during the 2000s. In the 1990s, a kid wouldn’t get an alert on a cellphone informing them of the announcement of a new video game. And for me personally, Toys ‘R’ Us was my introduction to many video games before I even knew about video game magazines (when I say I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, I mean it quite literally).

“Behold, the location at which I first saw Super Mario 64, Yoshi’s Island, DKC and Pokemon.”

I can remember the first time I saw Yoshi’s Island was at one of Toys ‘R’ Us’s gaming kiosks. For the sake of better context, I was born in 1989, and the Mario games (along with Zelda, Mega Man and Sonic) were a a big part of my childhood. I was still a wee tyke in 1995 when Yoshi’s Island rolled around, so every Mario game at that point was either long established before I was born, or released during my infancy, when I couldn’t really understand the concept of them being ‘new.’ And I must repeat that this was before the internet, and before my knowledge of gaming magazines existed. So for me, the Mario games that were out at the time were the Mario series. I didn’t know franchises could expand beyond the games I had sitting next to my NES and SNES. Suffice to say my mind was blown when my five-year old self was just on a regular trip to Toys ‘R’ Us and suddenly I see a TV screen with Yoshi’s Island on it. Yoshi was that dinosaur from Super Mario World, wasn’t he? What the hell was he doing in his own game? Why did this game look like a drawing (which was, and still is, one of the best art directions in the medium)?

For a five-year old kid with no knowledge of the game’s development or promotion (if that gross-out disgrace of a commercial was on at the time, I hadn’t seen it); this was like some kind of phenomenon.

Similar experiences happened the year prior and the year after. In the case of the former, it was Donkey Kong Country, whose state-of-the-art visuals certainly caught my eye in that Toys ‘R’ Us aisle (though the details are a little fuzzier on that one). In the case of the latter, it was Super Mario 64. Now, unlike Yoshi’s Island, I had actually heard that Nintendo was making some kind of “3D Mario game” beforehand. But I hadn’t seen anything of it up to that time. Once again, stepping into Toys ‘R’ Us and seeing Super Mario 64 at a kiosk and, actually taking a controller in hand this time, playing it for the first time, is a gaming moment I’ll never forget. I can even tell you what section of the game it was.

It was the hallways of Peach’s Castle where you can follow that Boo to the castle garden, though I instead went into the lower chambers of the castle by using the key you get from beating the first Bowser fight (or the “Key from Zelda” as I called it at the time, as the key in question is basically identical to the boss keys from A Link to the Past).

Going back to the era after I discovered video game magazines, my first time playing Majora’s Mask was also at a Toys ‘R’ Us, in which I fought against the game’s first boss, Odowla, whose shamanistic chanting has stuck with me ever since. Though unlike the previous memories listed, the “Majora’s Mask experience” was at a differing location than my ‘childhood Toys ‘R’ Us.’ The location of said Majora’s Mask experience is long-since gone, while my childhood Toys ‘R’ Us, for the time being, is still standing (yes, I can still remember the exact locations of where these gaming kiosks once stood).

Okay, by now this is starting to sound more like “Video Game Memories” than “Toys ‘R’ Us Memories,” but the fact of the matter is, without Toys ‘R’ Us, I wouldn’t have these specific memories. And such memories spawning from Toys ‘R’ Us continued for a good while, and not just for games. Whether it was tracking down action figures from the upcoming Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (a movie that would surely be good), or collecting every last one of those Digimon miniature figurines (which I proudly still have), Toys ‘R’ Us gave me plenty of childhood memories.

The funny thing is, I even have some relatively recent memories of Toys ‘R’ Us. Around Christmastime of 2010, after seeing a Christmas stage show with my sister, we decided to stop by the nearby Toys ‘R’ Us on a nostalgic whim, where I was greeted by a beautiful “25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros.” kiosk. Sadly, the very next year when me and my sister tried to recreate the experience (after seeing the same stage show), the Toys ‘R’ Us in question had closed down. That was the first time in years I had stepped inside a Toys ‘R’ Us, and a few years later I would find another item to bring me back to the once iconic toy store: Amiibo.

Now, I’m not exactly a big Amiibo collector (I own eight total, two of which came bundled together), but there are a few that I simply couldn’t resist forking over the thirteen-or-so dollars for. The only problem is that Amiibo have a tendency to sell out quickly in online stores, and most of the ones I had interest in were gone from GameStops within minutes. And well, I really wanted the Shovel Knight Amiibo. After being unable to find one online or at GameStop, I decided to check out Toys ‘R’ Us (my childhood Toys ‘R’ Us, as I happened to be in the area at the time). Lo and behold, they had at least a dozen Shovel Knight Amiibo. From then on, whenever I wanted an Amiibo, I knew exactly where to go, and it never failed.

Sure, this was maybe telling about the future of the store chain (if a popular item can be easily found at a specific location, how many people are going to that location?), but it certainly was convenient whenever I wanted an Amiibo (what’s that? The Zelda 30th anniversary Amiibo are impossible to find? Not at Toys ‘R’ Us they weren’t!). More importantly, it gave me a means to revisit the aforementioned memories, and many others.

“See that blank space between the door and the gaming shelves? There was once a Donkey Kong Country 3 poster there. Why the hell do I remember this?”

Yes, Toys ‘R’ Us is only a toy store, and its inability to adapt with the times probably had as much of a hand in its downfall as its online competition. But for many of us, those trips to Toys ‘R’ Us were pure childhood bliss. For those of us who grew up with video games, Toys ‘R’ Us was a contributor to our love of the medium. And for someone like me, who hopes to one day make a game or two (or five, or ten) of my own, these early gaming memories of my life have clearly left an impact. I can still make my dream of making games a reality. It’s just a shame no one will ever get to see them at a Toys ‘R’ Us kiosk.

Ask Me Anything: Episode III – Revenge of the Questions

Okay, so a decent amount of time has passed since the last time I did this (over a year), and since I’m approaching my seven-hundredth blog here at the Dojo, I figured ‘what the hell,’ let’s give this another go. And well, the fact that I’ve been slow in writing reviews as of late has me feeling like I need to write something. So hopefully this can tide me over until I write some reviews proper.

So yeah, this is another “Ask Me Anything.” It is what it sounds like. Just ask me some questions, and I’ll answer them in my 700th blog. You can ask me about this site, my opinions on things, what’s happening with my learning game-development, pretty much anything of the sort.

Not surprisingly, I’ve never got too many questions in the past, and I don’t expect that to change here. But since I’ve gotten some new followers in the past year I figured I may as well give this another go. I do recommend leaving any questions you want to ask me in the comments section of this particular post, but I suppose you can write them in one of my other blogs as well (though I recommend informing me that your questions are for the AMA if that is how you go about it).

So yeah, ask away, and I’ll answer in blog 700. And don’t worry your pretty little head, I’ll get to those reviews ASAP.

Coming Soon…ish to Wizard Dojo: My List of All-Time Favorite Video Games…But First…

Oh lord, I’m doing this again, aren’t I? Well, let’s skip the crap and cut to the chase.

My recent review of Dragon Ball FighterZ was my 285th video game review here at Wizard Dojo. That means I have only 15 more games to review to hit the 300 milestone. As stated at the start of the year, hitting that 300 milestone will be something of a segue for me to finally get around to making my long-promised list of all-time favorite video games.

But first (oh, damn it!)…

Okay, so during (and after) the trek to 300, I will also be making a few other video game related lists to build up to the big one. Because, well, doing my all-time favorites list first would kind of undermine the others, don’t ya think?

I’m still going to try my best to not postpone all of this for too much longer, so hopefully you won’t be too mad at me for delaying my favorite games list once again. I don’t even know why I keep writing these things about it. Who besides me is all that interested in knowing my favorite games? I guess since I first mentioned making this list some time ago, I just feel a wee bit guilty that I keep going back on it. Yeah, that’s it. I’m totally not just writing these for the sake of writing something…

Okay, so basically, along with the 300 reviews milestone, my other big idea leading up to the big list is to make an updated version of My Game of the Year for Every Year of My Life. I’ve noticed more and more people in my blogging circle have started doing this, and cited others as the originators of the idea. But I did it first, damn it! Okay, so there’s probably plenty of people out there who thought of similar ideas in the past, but as far as my blogging circle goes, it was my idea!

*Ahem!*

Anyway, the new version of my Game of the Years will be made into a sub-page on this site, as opposed to a blog like last time. This way, I can update it every year after my annual awards.

In addition to reaching 300 game reviews and re-making my Games of the Years list, there are a couple of other video game related lists I’d like to do before I make my ultimate list of (probably 30) favorite video games of all time. Though whether or not I get around to doing all or just some of them beforehand just depends on how quickly I can get them done. Here’s what I have planned.

  • Top 10 Nintendo Platforms
  • Top 10 Nintendo Franchises
  • Top 10 SNES Games
  • Top 10 Switch Games (so far)
  • Top 10 PS4 Games
  • Top 10 Indie Games
  • Top 10 Retro Games
  • Top 10 Greatest Flawed Video Games
  • Top 10 Multiplayer Games
  • Top 10 Games from my Childhood
  • Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks (maybe separated by retro and modern?)
  • Top 10 Video Game Villains (and maybe heroes)

There are other such lists I’d like to get around to – top 10 N64 games, a revised version of my top 10 Wii U games (though that one seems to be becoming redundant with how it seems every Wii U game is becoming a Switch game) – but since I want to actually get to making my favorite games list, I have to narrow things down to the ones I want to do the most. Obviously, the last two lists that I…uhh… listed… don’t necessarily need to be done before my favorite games list, but they’d be nice to do, at any rate.

Anyway, I hope you look forward to whatever I write, and I really hope I can get around to writing all these as soon as possible. Thanks!

What Makes a Game a 10?

*The following blog owes credit to the many banters between me and Red Metal of Extra Life Reviews*

Since I launched Wizard Dojo on Christmas Day of 2014, I’ve reviewed nearly 300 different video games. Of that lot, I’ve awarded six games a perfect score of 10/10 as of this writing, and I plan on reviewing the remaining such games soon. But what makes a game deserving of such top honors? Well, that’s a question that will of course elicit different answers depending on the individual you ask. But if we’re going by my personal ratings, there are a few different ways to look at it.

The easiest answer is simply that a 10 represents the absolute best I think gaming has to offer. The shortest way to describe what makes games 10s is that they are games that not only define their genre’s, but execute everything they do so greatly that whatever missteps they may have are entirely inconsequential.

During the 2000s decade, there seemed to be an utterly batty mindset amongst many gamers on the internet that, because nothing is technically perfect, that no game deserves a perfect score. That is, of course, a load of BS. If you have no plans on using a rating system, why the hell do you have a rating system? As long as you have a rating system, you should use it to its fullest, if even only on occasion.

What’s funny is that things have seemed to have taken a complete 180 turn during the 2010s, with many sites and gamers dishing out perfect scores left and right, if the hype is strong enough. Now, not everyone has to be stingy when giving out perfect scores (different rating systems will work differently, of course), but I can’t help but feel a lot of people are just trying to make up for lost time for how stingy they were during the 2000s.

The way I see it, the 10s I award can be separated into two primary categories: contemporary masterpieces that I believe showcase the pinnacle of modern gaming through both staggering quality and invention, and classics from yesteryear that have defied the aging process, and can still go toe-to-toe with the best of modern gaming.

Of course, because video games are a medium that evolves so quickly, many games of the past can quickly begin to feel outdated. As such, a game that has endured through the years and can still claim to be among the best is a pretty rare thing. Because of that added achievement, I do think the number of retro games that I would award a 10/10 would ever-so-slightly outnumber my more contemporary 10s. But for those same reasons, my near-perfect score of 9.5 would probably be housed more by modern titles than old-school ones. Obviously, the overall quality of the game itself determines how highly I’d rate a game, but that added “test of time” could be what edges one game over the 9.5 category and into the realm of the perfect 10.

This also leads me to some hypocritical territory, as I have trouble thinking of a game released during the 2000s decade that I can safely say I’d award a 10/10. Now, the difference between me and others who never awarded perfect scores during the 2000s is that, if one were to ask my past self during the 2000s the games I’d give top honors to, I probably would have listed a few games from those years. But because I started this site in 2014, I am primarily looking at things retroactively by modern standards. So most of the games I’d award 10s to can claim to be either A) the most exceptional titles from the 2010s or B) the rare 1990s game that still feels like it gets everything right.

That’s not ruling out the possibility of a “perfect” game from the 2000s decade, of course. Just that I can’t think of one right off the bat like I can for the decades immediately before and after it. Namely because I feel that many of the best games from the 2000s have been bettered by similar experiences from the 2010s, and since I’m doing things retroactively, they can’t help but be compared to each other. The original Super Mario Galaxy from 2007, for example, is a 10 for all intents and purposes, as the issues the game does have are incredibly minimal. But if/when I get around to reviewing it, I may award it a 9.5, because I feel its 2010 sequel (which I have reviewed and gave a 10) polishes the experience all the more. And since both games are relatively similar experiences, the edge goes to the latter.

Had you asked me back in 2005 some of the games I’d say deserve top marks, I might have listed The Wind Waker and Shadow of the Colossus among them. While I still think incredibly highly of both of those titles, I think their shortcomings are a little more obvious to modern eyes. Again, those are still among my favorite games, but I’d be lying if I said they felt as technically sound as something like Breath of the Wild.

Does that mean that my modern 10s will one day fall short of future standards? While I suppose that’s possible in some cases, I do think 3D gaming has finally reached a level of quality that I think will hold up strongly down the road, much like 2D gaming did when it reached the SNES days. And once again, I don’t give out perfect scores freely, so I try to make sure that when I do dish them out, it’s to games that I can see still being regarded as classics down the road. Or at the very least, that I can see myself still obsessing over down the road.

Again, it’s because we can’t peak into the future and I can’t say for sure what will hold up the best why modern masterpieces often get the 9.5 treatment from me, whereas the timeless classics get that extra .5 to make it a perfect 10 (though of course there are exceptions in both categories). I can only give my best shot and predicting the future. But I do think gaming is at a point where it becomes apparent how a game will hold up relatively quickly.

This now brings me to a little bit of a dilemma in my potential future 10s. Of course, people’s opinions change (if even slightly), and one’s criteria may change over time. Though one’s favorites tend to endure, they can also fluctuate. I’m even thinking about reviewing subsequent releases of some of my 9.5 games (such as the PS4 version of Undertale and the upcoming Switch port of DKC: Tropical Freeze) to see if they go that extra mile, now that they’ve had time to marinate in my mind.

My “dilemma” stems from the fact that some of my criteria has fluctuated since Christmas of 2014. Not by a whole lot, mind you, but enough that it has dictated two possible outcomes for my ultimate amount of 10s I would currently grade to the video game world.

When I first launched Wizard Dojo, I knew I wanted to make sure that awarding a perfect score would feel special. But of course there are different ways of going about that. Again, the quality of the game is what ultimately dictates the score, but there was always the question as to what should define that quality. As stated, a game like Super Mario Galaxy puts up an argument for that elusive 10, so did I give 10s based on that quality alone, or did I go the route of comparing games with similar titles and allowing personal preference to tip the scale in favor of the game I feel is superior?

In the end, I went with the latter method, partly as a means of limiting the number of 10s I give to make them feel more special (which is admittedly a wee bit pretentious on my part), but it’s also a nice way to let personal taste come into play to better define which ones are my all-time favorites, given the retroactive nature of many of my reviews (As much as I try to be professional and objective with reviews, when it comes to reviewing what I think are the best of the best, why not let my personal take tip the scales a little? Despite having more objective traits than many other forms of media, video games still provide more than enough room for subjectivity).

With that said, I still find myself somewhat at war with these two methods of awarding 10s to games even today, as this balancing act of objectivity and subjectivity allows my list of 10s to continue down two different directions. Again, I’ve currently awarded six different games a perfect score. The way I see it at this point, I could either continue reviewing the remainder of my shortlist of potential 10s, and should they hold up, my total number of 10s might be around double what they are now. But the other way to go about things is to allow my perfect 10s to solidify my top ten all-time favorite games. So ten 10s to define my favorites.

Now, some might argue that the latter method would pigeonholed my perfect scores. But I’m not saying those would be the only 10s I’d ever award (there’s always going to be another one down the road, and I could always discover one from the past that I originally missed out on). I’m just saying that – with my reviews so often being retroactive – making my 10s and my personal top ten favorites one and the same at this point would set the standard for any future (or retroactive) 10s thereafter. The former method is obviously less confined for the time being, but neither way prevents the possibility of more perfect scores.

By this point you’re probably thinking I’m just way other-thinking all of this, and you’d be absolutely right. Of course I’m other-thinking this, these scores are after all not an exact science or mathematic. Rather, they’re just a vague way to sum up what I feel are the greatest works in a creative, artistic medium. Creative mediums aren’t so exact, which is one of the reasons I love them so much (with all due respect to science and math, I could never love them the way I love the arts). Plus, I have OCD, so over-thinking things is just how I am.

Wow, this has really gone off-the-rails now. I only wanted to give a little bit of an insight as to why I give some games a perfect 10/10, while other games that are on a similar level receive the “near-perfect” 9.5/10. But now I’m rambling about solidifying my favorites and whatnot. Again, these scores are, in the end, little numbers that we try to use to sum up our feelings to what we’re reviewing. Hopefully the people who read my reviews actually care about the words that lead up to that number, and not just the number itself.

So whatever route I ultimately decide to take – whether it be basing my favorite games around my perfect scores or my perfect scores around my favorite games – I hope you enjoy the reviews I write, and look forward to my eventual list of favorites, and whatever else I write down the road.

Oh, and one more note. Although I technically “broke” my scale in the past to dish out a couple of 0/10s, a means to showcase the works so bad they don’t even count, I will not be breaking the positive end of my reviewing spectrum. Awarding anything higher than the highest score is just wonky; even when people mean it as a joke it doesn’t make sense.

“Sorry Eleven, no 11s here.”

Wizard Dojo on Patreon!

Well my friends and dear readers, this isn’t exactly something I wanted to do until this site (potentially) got relatively popular, but due to some unforeseeable circumstances, I had to pull the trigger on it. Wizard Dojo is now on Patreon!

I know, I know, it seems kind of pushy to resort to a form of crowdfunding for a site this small, but hear me out. The truth is – as I’ve said before – I really want to branch out my endeavors a bit, including making videos (like YouTube and Twitch stuff), and of course my seemingly never-ending quest to learn game development so that I can make my own video game at some point. But I still very much want to continue reviewing stuff and writing crap here. But life has recently dealt me one of its unexpected low blows, and times are rough.

I decided to make a Patreon now for the simple reason that any little bit helps. I don’t get paid to write these reviews, and I gotta purchase video games and movie tickets with my own dough. Suffice to say less money means less games and movies, and thus, less to write about. With just a little extra help, I can keep things going for Wizard Dojo as is, while also taking care of other matters. And with a little extra extra help, I can begin my other creative endeavors in the near future.

Now, I know I’m not currently in the position to give out any meaningful backer rewards for those who would support me on Patreon, but I will try to provide what I can to backers, and gradually include more rewards as I get a better hang of this Patreon thing (maybe backer-exclusive blogs or something). Because of this, I don’t expect a whole lot of support (I mean, even less so than I would with my current status). But again, any little bit helps.

Oh, and don’t worry, if this Patron thing ever catches on, I will give AfterStory his share of the profits for his contributions. I’m not greedy. Just a bit needy.

If you want to help me continue to produce content for this site, and help me branch out into other endeavors, you can become a Patron here. But you don’t have to. No pressure.

2018 Video Game Awards

Here you can find all of my 2018 Video Game Awards (celebrating the best of 2017) in one convenient place.

Best Sound

Best Music

Best Visuals

Best Remake/Re-release

Biggest Surprise

Best Online Multiplayer

Best Local Multiplayer

Best Content

Best Handheld Game

Best Indie Game

Best Gameplay

Best Platform

 

And of course, Game of the Year.