I’ve Been Nominated for the Unique Blogger Award (Again)

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My thanks to Keiko for the nomination! She’s primarily an anime reviewer, dealing with the standard episodic reviews while occasionally delving into whole series. She’ll also talk at some length about music as a subject, which is an interesting differentiation from the typical aniblogger. A follower of my blog for about half a year (though I could’ve sworn she was around longer than that), I appreciate her taking the time to continue with my output.

The Rules:

1. Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.

2. Answer the questions.

3. In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.

4. Ask them 3 questions.

Keiko’s Questions:

If you were stuck in an anime universe, which would it be and why? 

I’ve never been good at answering this question, because a lot of variously absurd and intriguing anime universes have tremendous drawbacks. Dragon Ball Z has constant threats of alien invaders. Pokémon has terrorist groups running amok every couple of years. And with the abundance of high school anime, there’s nothing to really draw inspiration from aside from appealing characters.

If I really had to choose, based on the way I could use it to play out my own narcissistic fantasies, I’d probably go with the hot hand and say Boku no Hero Academia. The idea of collecting one’s own superpower, and having it be commonplace, is something that’s really easy to get excited about. I’ll also admit that I’ve thought at length about the kind of power I would have (think Todoroki except electricity instead of fire), and it’s really fun to be so imaginative about it. Again, constant threats of opposing villains would be a solid nuisance, but I can’t pass up superpowers being the norm and the fascination that brings.

What anime left the biggest impression on you? 

Oh, that’s easy. Toradora!. It was the anime that really got me into anime—past the stereotypical mainstream of shounen/action titles and rambunctious emotional appeals. It revealed to me what anime could be apart from what was naturally assumed of the medium, and was the “gateway drug” into the many different varying types of anime. Before Toradora!, I really did have the mindset that most anime are the absolute same. It wasn’t until I got my feet in the door that I realized its scope and overwhelming quantity.

I was also a sucker for romantic comedies back in the day (still enjoy the genre now, but not nearly as much), and having an anime actually show characters being intimate after years of having it only be implied or teased was mind-blowing. Had I watched the series now, I very likely wouldn’t have found it so amazing, but it came at the right time for me. And that’s part of the reason it’s my favorite anime.

If you were an animal, what would you be? 

Angry Rabbit (New)

Nominations:

Anyone who has read my award posts in the past know that I don’t really care to nominate a wide variety of people (I only follow, like, ten people on this whole site). So, once again, I’ll refrain from nominating anywhere near 8-13 people, and instead will ask people to look at my recommended ani-bloggers list and discover those I feel are good for those interested in anime-esque criticism and fascination. That being said, I won’t ask any questions.

Just kidding. I will ask questions.

Questions:

“Wait, who are you askin—”

You. I’m asking you, the reader, to answer my questions. Of course, you don’t have to, but it’d be pretty rude of you to outright ignore me, right? You wouldn’t just ignore someone asking you a potentially personal question in real life, would you? No, but seriously, if people wish to discuss my questions in the comments, I’d be more than happy to take part.

  1. If you were to direct an anime film, what aspect would you most likely prioritize over others? It can be the traditional story, characters, art; but could also be as direct as character interaction, detailed animation, or a certain tone.
  2. How would you try to attract the attention of a male (or female) harem protagonist? Asking under the assumption that said protagonist actually deserves your attention. No “Nothing—harem protagonists suck” answers.
  3. What would be more intriguing as an anime adaptation: Super Mario or Legend of Zelda?

Thanks again to Keiko and for those who continue to read my blog. Until the next time!

I’ve Kinda-Sorta Become an Official Video Game Reviewer (And Another Update)

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Longer than anime, longer than football, the longest-tenured pastime activity in my life has always been video games. I started playing before I could even fathom a thought as to what video games even were. A time when I saw a screen with bright lights, a character sitting idly, and a controller in my hand, when fondled with, made the character onscreen move. It started with Donkey Kong Country, and has no end in sight. Despite the hiatuses and breaks I’ve taken to pursue other interests, video games are something I will always love and eventually come back to no matter what.

Completely on a whim, settled within a mindset of “What am I doing with my life anymore,” I decided to Google “video game site jobs.” Lo and behold, the Gods of fate smiled upon me; a listing of available jobs became available in an “Indeed.com” style of structure. Sifting through the debris with a heightened sense of urgency, I came across an opportunity that seemed almost too good to be true. An up-and-coming gaming journalism website that pays and provides various new-release games free of charge? I applied immediately (after checking out the site). Better yet, I used this blog as part of my resume. And it ended up being in my benefit! This rotten blog, which for years has brought me nothing but intrinsic self-indulgence and the camaraderie of the ani-community, actually ended up being useful in future endeavors.

I applied and I was accepted, though I started on a trial period, so I delayed the announcement until now, when everything became prime and proper. I am officially a video game reviewer for KeenGamer. I’ve had two reviews published as of today, should one be interested in how I’ve fared.

With this now established, there are a few things I’d like to provide via update. The first being that on Twitter, I will now be addressing myself by my real, full name. I contemplated giving myself a real picture, as well, but I couldn’t say goodbye to the bunny persona I had created for myself, so that will stay. Plus, it’d be rather drastic for my (INCREDIBLY LARGE AMOUNT OF) followers to suddenly see a bunny called “Kopo” turn into a real boy named “Dakota Gordon.” The entire basis behind this change is a manner of consistency, seeing as I will now be very vocal about my new job via Twitter, and any potential followers could make the connection that the “Dakota Gordon” on Keengamer is the same “Dakota Gordon” on Twitter.

The second is that this blog will likely not be as active (or lengthy in its content) as it once was. I’ve already been debating as to whether or not I should scrap my second blog, seeing as I hardly write there anymore even without this new development. Anime output will still continue, as well as various pieces from other visual media, but it won’t be as, how should I say, weighty? Or even as consistent. My focus now is on what’s more beneficial, and this reviewing job is nothing short of my dream job—I AM LIVING MY DREAM—and it takes priority. I also said this before with going back to school and all, but now it’s held twice over. I am more busy with life now than I have ever been.

Let this not be a farewell, but a greeting to a new beginning. Old things come and go, steadied by a consistent desire to hold it afloat, and I assure any follower that despite the workload, this blog will continually be updated until I say it’s done with. I thank everyone who has read any one of my hundred pages of musings on whatever topic, and have continued to support me in my years on WordPress. I’m unsure if I could’ve gotten this far, or taken this many opportunities without the aid of those who continue to interact with me here, on Twitter, or elsewhere. The times are a changin’, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier with it.

An Ode to Vinesauce

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For those unaware: no, that is not the 1-Up Mushroom.

This is the Vinesauce mushroom, the icon for a team of video game streamers since somewhere back in 2012. Founded by a lone jabroni by the name of Vinny, it eventually took off with the rise of Twitch as a collective online pastime. Of course, Vinesauce isn’t just a team of video game streamers. The group is most notable for their variety of game-breaking shenanigans, corruptions, and highlighting of fan-made games which, inadvertent or not, capitalized on the meme-y nature of online interactions. Vinesauce, as a whole, is more of a collection of normal people trying to make ends meet, surrounded by fans wanting to see shit hit the ceiling.

While some members have come and gone, the current team consists of its founder, Vinny; Joel, Mentaljen, Rev, KY, Limes, Imakuni, Direboar, Potato (or Darren), Hootey, and Fred. Some are more popular with viewers than others (some garner three to six-thousand viewers a night while most others barely top a thousand), but all play a part in making the Vinesauce community what it is—a friendly, albeit obnoxiously chaotic collection of dedicated fans. This becomes more prominent once a year, during the annual Vinesauce Charity Stream.

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Depending on the individual streamer, the selection of games vary dramatically, as every streamer is interested in different things and have their own schedules to adhere to. Vinny, Fred, Direboar, and Limes tend to stream most days in the week, while the rest are prone to sporadic absences. Aside from Vinny, who tries to keep a balance of serious and non-serious games, the rest of the aforementioned named are pretty apt to sticking with one game, usually serious, from beginning to end. Debatably, this type of streaming is likely why they aren’t as prominently known, but their dedication to their schedules and their personalities are the tools which help them succeed. Those who have yet to be mentioned in this paragraph are those who stream only semi-often (or rarely), with Joel being the one singled out for his tendency to create new memes with every stream (some of which are featured on channels such as SiIvaGunner).

Description overload out of the way, my personal experience with Vinesauce dates back to early 2014(?) when my brother introduced me to a certain video. Marathoning a number of related videos later, I was officially “onboard” the Vinesauce hype train. At that time, I was only aware of Vinny and Joel, completely unaware of the collection of other streamers which stream under the Vinesauce name. When I finally found out that it was more than just two people, and that they had their own functioning website dedicated to them, I was quick to peruse the merchandise.

I have experience with every single streamer on the site, but to absurdly different degrees. Vinny is far and away the streamer I watch most often, even now when my schedule is much tighter than before, while I’ve only spent a single stream with MentalJen, Rev, and KY; none of those lasted more than ten minutes or so. This isn’t to say I don’t like the streamers themselves, but their selection of games and infrequent streaming isn’t of huge interest to invest my time into. Some streamers can carry through an uninteresting game through character alone (Joel, Hootey, Imakuni), although the perfect blend of interesting games and enthusiasm is what makes for an effective and immersive streaming experience. Vinny is normally very good at this, as well as Joel and Limes. Frequency is the issue at hand for every streamer, too, as like any aspect of life, people can have off days.

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Vinesauce is also to thank for a variety of different purchases—and to some extent, revival of interest—of video games in my lifetime. I first learned of Axiom Verge during a Vinny stream. I bought Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 on a whim after seeing Joel fuck it up on-stream. Similarly with Fred and Megaman & Bass (except he was just losing a lot). These are but a few examples after years of watching the Vinesauce team. Who would have thought that all one needed to regain their interest in video games was to see one having fun with video games? And the creativity (and memeness) that goes into a variety of fan-made projects is so tempting to do for myself (except I have no motivation or time). It would make sense that my favorite streams of all time were both from Vinny, playing Sonic Dreams Collection and the Super Mario Bros. X Contest.

Yet the memeness of the team isn’t necessarily the only enjoyable aspect. The manner at which streamers continue through a game one at a time can be gratifying in and of itself, to be able to experience the journey with them. I recall being bored one night sometime in 2015, when I saw Darren streaming Dragon Quest VIII(?). I popped in there and spent the next few hours talking with members of the chat, with the occasional comment to Darren, and watching as he ground for experience and struggled with some casino game. To this day, it was one of the most enjoyable streams I’ve ever been a part of, simply because the chat was quiet (which is a rare feat, let me tell you!), the content was interesting, Darren was charming, and I felt I was part of the collective experience. That sort of ultimate immersiveness is what I live for when watching someone stream. It’s always fun to watch someone react wildly to crazy things onscreen, but it’s the little things, like a streamer acknowledging your question/comment, the passive lethargy of video game intake, and being able to be a part of the streaming process without being lost in the sea of “LOL’s” after a funny incident that lead to truly memorable pastimes. I really enjoyed Vinny’s recent playthrough of Final Fantasy VII and Darren’s playthrough of Final Fantasy IX because of this.

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Due to my former job requiring me to turn in early, I didn’t end up watching many streams during the latter part of 2016 and early parts of 2017. For a time, I thought my interest in watching the members stream live had passed, that was until just a couple weeks ago, when Vinny and Imakuni joined forces to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which was such a wonderful stream that I’m kicking myself for not being able to watch the entire thing. Their chemistry was fantastic, and Imakuni’s knowledge of the franchise compared to Vinny’s complete ignorance was such a treat to watch play out as the stages continued. Once again, my interest in the Vinesauce brand was reignited with the aid of a single stream; how mystifying that it can happen that way. As a side note, I would absolutely recommend one watch the highlight video of their collaboration.

I don’t watch many people stream, at least not anymore, but Vinesauce has been a constant in the last three to four years of my life. Should I be privileged with riches beyond my imagination, I would gladly support every member without a second thought. The team has brought such a wide array of fond memories that I feel almost indebted to them, yet I do not have the means to compensate them. All I can do is continue to watch, share, and write giant “Ode” posts such as this one, singing praise and sharing personal stories. Vinesauce means a lot to me, not just because it pertains to a major interest of mine, but because the people who inhabit it seem like good people capable of good things. For that alone, I would recommend it to any fan of video games in general.

Top 10 Most Nostalgic Newgrounds Animations

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Who needs Youtube when you have Newgrounds?

Introduced to the animation-based site back in the mid 2000’s by my cousin showing me the infamous Numa Numa Dance (not on this list), it provided years of humorous comfort for my pre-teen-esque brain to indulge in whatever video game parody animation I wanted. A lot of time and a lot of videos I saw back in those days, by creators who have long left the Newgrounds life for the boring reality, encouraged me to pursue my own horridly embarrassing OC series. They are all gone now, so don’t look for them.

This list is dedicated to the particular videos on the site that exuded the most memorable and endearing qualities that I, as a child, found captivating. Said videos don’t necessarily have to be Newgrounds-exclusive to make the list, only that I first watched them on the site. And with all lists I plan to incorporate nostalgia with, only a specific timeframe is allowed; in this case, anywhere from before I was first shown the site, roughly around 2006, to 2010.

A quick clarification: this list is not dedicated to quality. Only the impact of nostalgia.

#10: Sonic: Uncut 2 – HyperactiveYouth (2004)

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If you asked yourself why I felt the need to put that little disclaimer up there, this is the reason.

Sonic: Uncut 2 is the second “episode” of a three-episode series that takes the Sonic series of characters and puts them in real life situations (kind of). Put frankly, the animation is incredibly stiff, the voice acting is questionable, the comedic timing is atrocious, and the humor overall is somewhat juvenile. What lands it on this list is the fact that it is Sonic in a way I never would’ve imagined him at the age of 13. And for that almost alone, I adored it.

To give it credit, there are a few memorable lines and situations, most notably with the entire chaotic process of going on vacation to (a very stereotypical) Mexico. I find myself quoting Pablo’s “Sometimes I dream of free-dom!” line from time to time. It’s possible that the entire series was enough to get me to remember many of the moments from this particular episode, it being my favorite of the three, that it found itself in my brain only because it out-muscled the others. Whatever the case, it didn’t stop me from watching it a million times, so I have to live with knowing it essentially like the back of my hand.

#9: Rokémon! – DragoonFenix15 (2004)

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Pokémon combined with Mega Man? Nice.

A little bit of animated flare, a little bit of crossover madness, and a lot of creativity in what should probably not be sanctioned in a traditional Pokémon battle, Rokémon! is a one-off animation (though a sequel was supposedly planned) showcasing the fun of pure turn-based battling with no limits. Some harmless fan service never hurt anyone.

I remember this animation specifically motivating my desire to create my own Pokémon (Again, gone. Don’t look for it), rather than take copyrighted characters/enemies and give them evolutions and such. It would have been nice to see this turn into a full-fledged series, as while I wouldn’t trust their narrative chops, they’re more than capable of making individual attacks look, in internet slang speak, “epic af.” I don’t have nearly as much experience with this as the one listed above, but rewatching it brought a wave of unexpected nostalgia that made me warm and fuzzy.

#8: Dumbass Luigi – Bigfoot3290 (2006)

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The first creator on this list that had another project that very well could’ve made this list. Bigfoot3290 was also responsible for Mario’s Castle Calamity, which was also something I enjoyed during my younger days. What took the cake was an earlier work: Dumbass Luigi, and how it’s basically three-hundred times better than the original work, Dumbass Mario.

While not necessarily all that funny, the one thing Dumbass Luigi has going for it is tone and memorability. Remember Weird Al’s Alternative Polka? I first heard it here. Another scene showcases a lone boo following Luigi around, only to have Luigi lift up a container of salsa to his mouth like a crane. He stops midway, as an automated voice tells the boo the “insert one coin to continue.” The boo then shits out the coin. This process repeats until the boo spins around Luigi and shits out a barrage of coins at him like a machine gun. How the fuck do you think of things like that?

This was an easy choice for this list, though I’m somewhat surprised by how low it is. I remember it being bigger and better than what it really is, but alas, it’s only enjoyable on merit of originality. It’s not nearly as funny as it once was.

#7: Sonic Riders in 3 Minutes – RogerregoRRoger (2006)

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Oh, another Sonic video? Gee, it’s almost like I loved Sonic as a kid or something. Huh.

Let not the scary-bad design strike fear unto thine heart. It’s an intentional quirk to a series that just wants to go fast—much like the series it parodies. Complete with sped-up, chipmunk-like voices and hyper-fast vocal quips, it’s almost like Teekyuu! before Teekyuu!. I thought the video was hilarious as a child, and it still holds up quite a bit today! Well, except the fart joke.

The creator of this video is one of the rare Newgrounds artists to still be going with a signature series. One is more likely to find him on Youtube than Newgrounds, but his “[Sonic title] in [number quantity] minutes” series is still ongoing to this day—a series he started over ten years ago on a humble animation site.

#6: 4 Swords Misadventures (Eps. 1-3) – HadoukenDude (2004-2006)

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This one’s actually more popular outside of Newgrounds, but the site is its home, and that’s where it gained its following. The reason for specifying the episodes on this list is that the series is still ongoing, and I remember the first three episodes the most fondly.

Much like Sonic: Uncut 2 (though not as significantly), 4 Swords Misadventures is, at times, not very good. The first episode specifically is a giant bore, and sequences in both the second and third episode are largely so, as well. What makes this series charming is the level of ambition HadoukenDude has taken to make his parody series more than just another one-off project. Fully voiced, a somewhat original plotline, and over a decade of dedication to the project, 4 Swords Misadventures is almost like The Simpsons of Newgrounds classics.

What makes the series so memorable to me is, without repeating myself, seeing a different interpretation of an established classic. Each Link has a different personality dependent on their color, and their dialogue with others and each other have a charm that makes up for the sacrifice of consistent entertainment. It has that “homegrown” appeal, almost like being proud of something simply because you did it and you had fun with it. Such can be said for many of the videos on this list, but 4 Swords exemplifies this perhaps the most of any of them.

#5: Almost Anything by Egoraptor (2006-2010)

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Have you ever heard of Game Grumps? Y’know, that insanely popular Let’s Play group on Youtube? One of the creators of that is a man named Arin Hanson, also known as Egoraptor. You may not know this, but before playing video games for a living, he used to be an animator.

And he was fucking great at it.

Should I pick any particular video of his, it’d probably be closer to sniffing #1, but I decided to sacrifice a high spot on this list to expand his library for the world to see. It still ended up #5, anyway. It all started with Metal Gear Awesome 2, which is, to this day, still one of my favorite videos on Newgrounds. But it didn’t end there. Awesome Center Redux, Awesome Cracks Down, Awesome Crossing, Awesome Reach, and 3rd Grade Transformers are all great pieces of animation. He really had a knack for it. It’s only unfortunate he doesn’t have the ambition to continue doing so.

Should I not have any integrity, many places on this list would have an Egoraptor animation. For the sake of variety, however, his works are all jumbled together in one spot. Don’t let that be an indication that none of his works are good separately, but that all of his works are so good that I can’t leave them all off. Egoraptor himself basically holds this spot.

#4: $00pah NiN10Doh! – Kirbopher (2009)

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(WARNING: Link is NSFW.)

Another quick clarification: The author is Kirbopher, but the video is a collaboration between many different creators and artists. Listing them all would make the number line awfully long.

As with many collaborations, there are highs and lows, but with this particular collab, the highs are tremendously high. You ask me to point you in the direction of one of the most quotable animations on the internet and I’ll show you this video. There is a lot, a lot, of passion for the “art” of animating and the world of Nintendo present. Many franchises are represented, as well: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Wario, Kirby, Earthbound, Excitebike, Pokémon, Game & Watch, and more. Originally presented, at least to some extent, in celebration of the latest Super Smash Bros., the collab took on a life of its own that spanned a number of sequels; this being the first sequel.

There’s simply too much here for me to describe in full, as many of the skits are between five and thirty-seconds long. Notable favorites include the Star Fox sequences, the Warioware skit, the Kirby vs. Meta Knight skits, and the Tetris scene. Nostalgia included, it’s an entertaining, if not stimulating, watch.

#3: ‘Zelda: Don Keyote’ Series – TX2 (2005-2006)

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Not technically an animation, not technically any good. Don Keyote nevertheless tells you all to fuck off and let it live.

Forget what I said about 4 Swords Misadventuresthis is the most “homegrown” video (series) on this list. It’s literally just a guy with a capture card recording gameplay and voicing over it, making up a story as he goes. But by the good grace of God, he’s actually funny. Such memorable lines as “A disturbing need to roll around in the dirt,” “Ma’am, are you aware that crime is a criminal offense in this area,” and “Taaaaax exemptioooooons!” are some of many quotable lines in this Kung Pow-esque parody series. It was also one of the very first parody series I had ever seen on the site, too, so that helps.

Don Keyote stands as one of those very rare cases where one really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The quality is garbage, the technical aspect is laughable, it’s one guy voicing every character, and the entire project feels inherently embarrassing. Dialogue and an infinitely oozing amount of charm is what makes this series so dear to me, despite its off-putting ineptitude. Even now, this is what I think of when someone mentions Don Quixote. Every time.

#2: There She Is!! Step 2 – SamBakZa (2005)

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Hello, inner weeb of my former self that refused to acknowledge your existence. This gave you all sorts of urges, didn’t it?

While the classification of this video and its parent series as anime is debatable, what one can’t deny is that this series is cute, cuddly, and harmless. Until Step 3, but that’s for another time. I remember watching this again after several years around Christmas of 2015, and the flood of nostalgia hit me at full force. My heart shivered, my skin crawled, my eyes blinking incessantly. My own body was reacting in defense to my emotional splurging! Needless to say, it was a feeling I wasn’t accustomed to; that feeling in and of itself, in response to this short, makes it special to me.

The opening statement is directed towards the style of animation, one that I found myself charmed by, and still do. While it may or may not be anime depending on who you ask, it was absolutely inspired by anime, seeing as the creator is based in South Korea. I was a little too drawn to the, as I felt at the time, feminine design that I only enjoyed it at a base level. What I didn’t deny, however, was the song that accompanied the video, which I adored then and adore now. A little tame, but it matches the mood of the animation wonderfully and holds up even without it. The combination of good music, decent animation that appealed to my inner interests, and cutesy romance that has become a guilty pleasure of mine, There She Is!! Step 2 becomes a treat with every viewing.

There She Is!! was only hampered by having a slightly worse song. It’s nearly as good. Watch that, too. Watch the whole series.

#1: The Ultimate Showdown – altffour (2005)

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Aside from porn, this is the most viewed video in Newgrounds history. For good reason.

This is Newgrounds. This is everything that Newgrounds hopes to achieve with its site, its creators, and the fun of the internet. Everything about this video is absolutely perfect in that context. Almost like the “Crazy Frog Dance video” on Youtube, this is the kind of perfect creative absurdity that a normal ol’ bloke from wherever, who cares could achieve with a little thing called “passion.”

The Numa Numa Dance was the first video I saw on Newgrounds. The Ultimate Showdown was the second.

It is also my favorite video on the entire site.

Honorable Mentions: ‘Final Fantasy Day Care’ SeriesDad’s HomeShao Kahn Party.

An Ode to Chester Bennington

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On July 20th, 2017, lead singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was found in a private location with a noose around his neck. The news hit the internet immediately, and it didn’t take long before Twitter was abuzz. I recall browsing the world wide web when my sister ran down, phone in hand, simply saying, “Y’see this? This is not okay.” Chester Bennington; Born: March 20th, 1976. Died: July 20th, 2017. It took me a moment to register what I was seeing, then took another moment to remember that Google isn’t Wikipedia, where anyone can edit it. After hearing my brother utter a “Holy shit,” it finally hit me that the voice that had been embedded into my soul since childhood was gone.

I won’t pretend like I knew Bennington personally, or knew him outside of his music. I didn’t follow him through interviews, on social media, or make any effort to humanize the voice that sang the songs that gave me constant entertainment. He was simply Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of Linkin Park and abundant internet meme. Still, knowing how large a part Linkin Park was to me as a child, I couldn’t help but be saddened not just for him and his family, but for myself and my family and anyone else who was impacted by their music. It also inspired me to write this post, though this is the least I could do.

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Linkin Park was the first band I ever really “got into.” The first band whose albums I would blast on repeat and want to know more about outside of individual singles. I recall as a kid only being interested in what played on the radio, never making any effort to explore more of an individual person or group’s work, but Linkin Park was a different scenario. The moment Minutes to Midnight released, I was begging my mother for it. I hadn’t asked my mother for anything but video games up to that point… possibly ever. Well, candy perhaps, but that’s a short-term luxury. While a so-called musical renaissance for me didn’t really flourish until my addiction to Guitar Hero years later, Linkin Park remains a testament to my first musical crush of sorts.

The love wouldn’t last, as upon hearing the first single from A Thousand SunsThe Catalyst, I found myself coming down to Earth. What was this? It’s so… electronic.So artificial. Where was the “rock”? Where was the traditional instrumentation? The band was heading in a direction I wasn’t fond of, and after getting the album and listening to its entirety, I was disappointed. Linkin Park was no longer the band I loved. It changed. I didn’t. I didn’t want to accept change and I didn’t for years. I’ve made peace with it since then, and while I’m not huge on that particular album, there are a few songs (sure enough, that don’t feature a lot of electronica) that not only sound good, but take advantage of Bennington’s voice. Still, it set the precedent for my eventual indifference to Linkin Park’s newer music. I’ve only heard one track from The Hunting Party.

In hindsight, accepting Linkin Park’s desire to experiment with new sound was something I wasn’t mature enough to handle. Now, I find that desire respectable, even if their output no longer interested me. I’m sure Bennington had a hand in some of that creative direction, though perhaps it caused some dismay seeing as he had a side-band and filled in for Stone Temple Pilots for a couple years.

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I recall the day Bennington hung himself, I read in a Yahoo! article that he dealt with drug/alcohol addiction and was sexually abused as a child. It made me recall Vincent Van Gogh and his perilous life of having to balance his desire to paint and the tragedy of supporting himself through it. It’s almost a sad truth to accept that tragedy and creativity make an emotionally-riveting pair. To know and understand the lyrics that typically accompany Linkin Park tracks, it almost comes as no surprise that Bennington was carrying a lot of emotional baggage. He likely put his soul into his work, and not to speculate, but that may have mounted even more pressure on him to establish himself. It rings eerily familiar of another popular lead vocalist that committed suicide twenty-three-years before, and I’m sure many others.

And so I say to thee, cherish what life you have and make the best of any situation. If you ever have the darkness that clouds your judgment, please go and talk to someone about it. Get help. There is certainly much that life has to offer (even if it doesn’t seem like it) and the experiences that follow. And to any who would be affected by this, know that I feel the same. A great mind and voice was lost, and a part of my childhood died, as well. I’ve been listening to Linkin Park nearly non-stop since it happened.

Rest in peace.

I’ve Been Nominated for the Entertainer Blogger Award

entertainer blog

Many thanks to the not-always-so-lethargic Lethargic Rambles for the nominating me as a suitable entertainer. Chances are, if anyone reading this enjoys the content on this blog, whether it be anime reviews or thoughts on various video games, you’ll also adore LR’s styling of fighting back against the trolls of anime and delivering heartfelt odes to all things Nintendo. In all seriousness, while his posts are somewhat infrequent, most of his posts are ones I would willing recommend to anyone looking for a dependable and knowledgeable source on anime to go to.

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Add these rules to your post.
  • Answer all the questions below.
  • Display the award picture in your post.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers who are funny, inspiring, and most important of all entertaining.

I was somewhat confused by the rule “Answer all the questions below,” as there are no questions actually provided, unless they’re just in the original post and no one bothered to copy/paste them. I’ll just go ahead and answer whatever anyone else answered.

Also, I’m removing the unnecessary u’s to these questions because I’m AMERICAN and we don’t need them got’dam u’s!

Questions:

1. Why did you start a blog in the first place?

My answer isn’t very interesting compared to most others. While many respond with “I wanted to interact with the community” or “I wanted to voice my opinion,” my response boils down to simple boredom. I made my blog, primarily, because I was bored, and I saw a MAL friend had one and thought, “Hey. That looks cool.” Thus, Criticism and Thoughts was born.

What some may not know is that I created this blog back in 2013. I’ve had this place for nearly four years now. I never really took it all that seriously, as I used it as a dumping grounds for thoughts I would already put down in the comment sections for individual anime on MyAnimeList. The first time I even thought of putting pictures into my blog posts was in June of 2015, and I didn’t start advertising my work on Twitter until 2016. That’s why if one were to dig really deep into my blog’s past, they would see a lot of picture-less pages with loads of text and no likes or comments. Experimental times, back in the day…

Now, I see my blog as a sort of catalyst for my dream job, which is to be a critic of visual media. It’s not much, but I adore the feedback I get for each post and, when I eventually find the time/motivation/courage to expand further, I hope to make something out of what was, initially, a hasty and thoughtless nothing.

2. What is your favorite book?

Not much of a book-reader, but I have a huge fondness for Suzanne Collins’s Underland Chronicles. She’s much more famous for her work with The Hunger Games, but I fell in love with her storytelling years before then. Even now, I clamor for some sort of media acknowledgement of her other books by means of film adaptations or otherwise. Gregor the Overlander as a film would be fucking great… if handled correctly.

3. What do you dislike the most?

I’m not sure how anyone could really like the mainstream media. I’m not usually very political online, nor do I make the effort to show my affiliations, but if there’s one thing about the mainstream media I despise is their subtle use of cherry-picking, framing words and sentences, and biased attitude. It’s much more prevalent online than not, but many, many, many news sites are filled to the brim with “holier-than-thou” writers who cannot help themselves and spew their political garbage whether it pertains to the article at hand or not. Furthermore, whatever’s popular is what gets written about, so imagine my absolute glee when I get to see headline after headline, image after image, late-night TV-show host after host, bitching about Donald Trump at every, little, miniscule, cell-sized opportunity, just so they can feel relevant, feel better, or advance their own status. It’s absolutely disgusting, and I get so unbelievably sick of this click-first, think-later mentality.

[Removes tin-foil hat.]

4. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. Any kind, really. Bread with marinara sauce and cheese melted on top. All I need. If I didn’t get fat immediately upon eating it, I’d have it at every meal.

5. What is your favorite past time?

Very likely football (Americano). Anime and video games are also both up there, but there’s something about football that get me so riled up every time I watch it. The players, the positions, the strategy, the organization, the coaches, the drama, the history, the execution, the [insert everything else here]. Football is so multi-faceted that it becomes more and more interesting the further one gets into it. Even the offseason is exhilarating with all the upcoming events like the Scouting Combine and the Draft and Free Agency. It’s kind of a lot to take in, but man, I love football with all of my soul. Wish I was fit enough to play it.

Nominations:

Not going to recommend anyone specifically, but I would like to encourage any reader to check out my Recommended Ani-Bloggers list for people within the aniblogging community who I, personally, find to be the best people to follow. While I’m not tagging anyone for this award, if anyone there would be willing to do so, by all means, have at it. They’re all pretty cool people, too. Definitely have a look-see.

Thanks again to LR for the nominations and thanks for the continued support!

An Ode to Super Mario World

super mario world 1

It’s intriguing to me that it’s taken me this long to look at one of the games that made up my very early childhood. Comprised of this, each Donkey Kong CountryMega Man 7, and Super Ghouls & Ghosts (with various others), my first experience with the world of video games came in the form of the Super Nintendo, with Super Mario World heading the charge.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when looking back at this game is how it’s held up, if the game has become dated with time, seeing as it was released over twenty-five years ago. The most dated thing that can be applied to the game is its presentation, which all things considered, is excusable due to limited hardware. I don’t mean its spritework, by the way, which is fantastic to this day. I’m referring to narrative presentation, the sort of linear perspective of level-to-level, world-to-world process that would be somewhat dull to new age players. Looking at gameplay alone, the game is polished, innovative, and a shining example of Nintendo in their prime.

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Nostalgic gauges pumping their pistons within my inner mind go into a systematic overload whenever the colorful images or catchy tunes of Super Mario World invade my imagination. A wave of happiness overtakes my usual resolve and reminds me of a time when video games were my reason to get up everyday, looking forward to getting further and further into the colorful crusade. It was my first taste of the Italian plumber and his Goomba-stomping adventures through the worlds that embody or surround the Mushroom Kingdom. Better this than Mario Is Missing!, I’d say.

As a kid, I would never get past the third area in the game, the Vanilla Dome, as I would lose the motivation to trudge through the rising difficulty with the game. Something about the levels involving flying Cheep-Cheeps always got to me. I’ve beaten this game before as a small child, I know I have. The brazen image of Bowser flying off and Princess Peach floating gently to the roof below her is a moment I will never forget. Remembering the joy I felt as I screamed to whoever would listen that I finally beat the game. Thinking about it logically, I likely hopped onto my father’s file and just went through the final castle until I could figure out how to beat Bowser. That, or I used the Star World to my advantage and warped all the way to the final world. Nice of the game to let the player exploit it like that.

super mario world 2

Something that wasn’t as noticeable to me as a kid when playing it now is how slippery Mario handles as a character. Controls are tight to some extent, but Mario is human, and he needs time to steady himself. The biggest difference between this and the original Super Mario Bros. is that Mario looks like a normal human being. The butter underneath his signature brown shoes is just as prevalent here as in games prior. While annoying, it’s nice that a player has to take his somewhat wobbly movement into consideration when timing jumps, running, and platforming. The emphasis of making the game a tad more challenging makes the platforming all the more rewarding for elite players, who dedicate themselves to things such as speedrunning. Extra stipulations to various levels also give a nice spin to the variety of possibilities within.

For me, Super Mario World was an excellent platform into the world of Nintendo’s flagship franchise. I would absolutely recommend anyone (roughly six people on Earth) who hasn’t played any Mario games to start with this title, as its the perfect creation of accessibility and challenge that Nintendo used to master effortlessly with their games. It still looks great, it still plays great, and if one can overlook the incredibly limited fashion of linearity, it can provide a lasting impression, one that’s touched millions of people worldwide. Regarded as a timeless classic by many gaming veterans, Super Mario World is one of many games from Nintendo’s heyday that made them the gaming empire they are today.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of SaikyoMog.)