Early Impressions: New Game!!

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Four episodes in, I almost miss the first season.

Now, it’s been more than half a year since I watched New Game!!’s debut season, so my collective insight on the ins-and-outs of the series may not be as I remember. All I seem to hold on to is that this second season feels a little more… serviced than its predecessor. Good things may be lying in wait, but was there ever so much fan service in the first season? Not just in conveniently-angled shots that showcase characters’ assets, but the sort of behavior that is considered very, very moe. Thinking about it, all of these characters are moe to some degree, and a third of the way through this season, the series seems determined to flaunt that. Though encouragingly, there is some degree of inner conflict with characters who didn’t receive a ton of development in the first season. Only issue is that some are resolved quickly.

More than anything, the essence of a sequel is something I’ve discussed to varying lengths before, whether in anime, movies, or video games. A sequel should seek to improve upon what came before, or allow a different direction to take place that still holds its own within the context its predecessor designed. New Game!!, so far, feels as though its meandering around its potential for the sake of character cuteness.

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Why is Aoba’s friend suddenly into game design? Why is the Eagle Jump company that the girls work for only taking in young, beautiful women? Why is it that so many young, beautiful women are suddenly within a realm where young, beautiful women design video games and sleep within their office space without pants on and flirt with one another. Why are all of these women conveniently different in personality so to blend with one another in a dysfunctional family-esque environment where they must learn to deal with each other’s quirks? Why am I bringing all of this up? Evidence; there is a disconnect from reality that this series has that makes it feel somewhat artificial. How everything comes together so perfectly, so succinctly exploitable for fan service, makes its attempts at serious development feel too self-indulgent. The best of both worlds is so hard to capitalize, such as with my wavering thoughts on Mahoujin Guruguru.

Even with my stabs at its moe nature, New Game!! offers more than the average Urara Meirochou. At least it’s doing something with its characters past the benign standards of archetype development. At least it’s allowing for the motive of self-improvement to take the forefront when the serviced charm wears thin. While inner conflicts resolve somewhat quickly, they’re there, and to some extent that’s all one can ask for. Thus far, it’s worse than its predecessor for reasons relating to its balance of serious development of characters/plot (whatever it may be) and close-up booty shots—at least I think so. What it all amounts to in the end is an above-average show.

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Though I’ve noticed, perhaps because I’m more actively looking for it, some fluctuations in animation. The overall design, which is still absolutely spectacular for its moe undertones, holds its own yet again. Although, animation can be shaky from time to time. Nothing incredibly noticeable, but aside from highly-detailed booty shots, basic mannerisms come across as too sketchy. Moving in just the perfect amount of delay to make things feel a tinge robotic. Easily ignorable, for those who wish to do so.

If Made in Abyss is current MVP of the season, this show would be LVP—though not by much. Only that the magic contained in the first season that made it so enamoring to watch is fading fast. For the first time, despite looking forward to watching this sequel season, I felt bored going through some episodes. Perhaps it is the artificial nature of the anime’s absurd setting that finally feels too noticeable to ignore; unfortunately, I value realism more than most in realistic settings. Should New Game!! employ a “Why are there so many girls running a video game company? That’s weird!” without making it sound like an obnoxious preaching from the cronies of social justice, I would find the setting more natural to take in. However, even stating that desire opens up a can of worms I’m not about to put my stake into.

Early Impressions: Mahoujin Guruguru (2017)

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Six episodes in, it rekindled my appreciation for occasionally lowbrow parody anime.

Sometime in the lost years of my innate weebness, I would watch an anime by the name of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo every week on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block. Initially, I found the show immensely entertaining, though as it went on I became more interested in “serious” anime, such as Naruto. Hehe. Mahoujin Guruguru reminds me quite a bit of Bobobo, though while the latter’s absurdity overtakes everything else, Guruguru has the awareness to remain both serious and non-serious, with priority being given to whatever feels necessary. The first episode was nearly perfect; introducing things light-heartedly while also establishing the inborn bond between the two lead characters, the only thing that made it better was the satire of classic JRPG scenarios. Needless to explain further, satire is something I can get behind in series.

Normally I would complain that a series mixes serious and non-serious vibes too earnestly for one to be able to take the serious moments seriously. One only need to reread that previous sentence to realize how serious I am about it. Within satire, however, it’s easier to justify, as the viewer is under the impression that a lot of it shouldn’t be taken seriously anyway. Nichijou isn’t technically a satire, so when it tried to develop its characters (in the little time it chose to), it only worked minimally due to the outright bizarre scenarios hogging all of the attention. This also applies somewhat to Guruguru, as it is prone to making serious plot developments within non-serious situations, which makes it lose a little of its magic. Yet, it’s the fact that it tries to deepen the relationship between the two leads and their desire for adventure and fun on a semi-consistent basis that makes it so fun to watch.

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Is the series funny? Not usually. Guruguru has actually managed to make me chuckle twice, which for those who have read my blog long-term know is an accomplishment in and of itself. Occasionally lowbrow humor, much like one would find in a kids’ show (potty humor, especially), is accompanied by anime standards, like the Straight Man set-up and random zaniness pushed to extremes. I actually find my favorite parts to be when the male lead is taken by his lust and constantly halts everything serious so that he can gaze upon the female body with the most grim of expressions. I’ve always been fond of the “seriousness” behind the male’s desire for sexual intimacy in anime. The most I could say is that the series is consistently humorous.

Another consistency is within its design, which is so vibrantly varied (though less so later on, sadly…) that one can’t help but appreciate what it’s parodying. Simple, chibi-ish designs that every so often spur into random changes in aesthetics to emphasize humor. Pixel-animation is also used quite often, which speaks to me on a personal level. Pixel animation is best animation. In-anime text boxes will also spring up randomly, further emphasizing the parody aspect, which altogether makes for a dazzling display of heart within its goofiness. It doesn’t hurt when the general aesthetic for the show is clean and bold, making every character and creature poignantly placed in the world around them. And within the satire genre, it allows animators to get creative with the presentation… while also justifying their need for shortcuts on occasion.

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Should there be one core issue to the series, it’s that despite its consistency everywhere else, the only thing it’s not consistent at is delivery. It’s first episode was magical, and I was ready to crown it MVP of the season right then and there. Since then, it’s floundered a tad, flip-flopping between good and decent so long as the type of humor changes and its serious aspects begin to overpower the satirical nature. At one point, near the halfway mark of episode five (I believe), I was actually somewhat bored, as it was ankle-deep in a muck of seriousness that I didn’t think fit the show. It’s at its best when it uses that seriousness as a back-up option, rather than employ it at the first sign of trouble.

I have high expectations for this series knowing that it’s a two-cour adventure. Quite a lot can happen in that span, and for the time being, it’s used its time wisely enough for me to aptly recommend it. Unfortunately, the manner of decreasing charm is starting to rear itself, so perhaps the heaps of praise is but a precursor to serious criticism. Time will tell. Until then, I will marathon this adventure between light hero and dark mage until it kills me. Pleasurably.

Early Impressions: Made in Abyss

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Four episodes in, the atmosphere of adventure never fails.

My one true complaint, aside from being only a third of the way through the series and not knowing what it’s trying to establish, is that the pacing seems a little too quick. By the end of episode three, the whole world has been established, the camaraderie between characters is put to the test, and a number of plot devices are hinted at, resulting in a bloated opening act whose foundation isn’t completely stable. I suppose for those who just want to get on with the inevitable journey, this is no problem, but I enjoy retaining the taste that will lead unto what many refer to as “the good part.”

I lied, there’s one other complaint; I wish Made in Abyss delved more into the societal pressure of profit and competition, almost like an otherworldly capitalist culture. There are occasional hints said in dialogue and established through rules of the central town, but everyone just seems gung-ho and accepts it as non-conflicting. Aside from the adventure-esque nature of the anime and straightforward, yet not completely one-dimensional characters, there’s not much else to grasp onto. Again, this may be to blame of the quickened pace.

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However straightforward, Made in Abyss seems to draw inspiration from many olden tales of young rebels going forth on journeys of self-growth. Its art direction is wonderfully unique and eye-catching, leaving the more intricate details to the world it places its characters in. And wonderfully so is this accomplished, as everything surrounding the mystique of “The Abyss” is accentuated in a calm, mature manner. Overexplanatory by nature of the people who wish to discover its details—and a convenient characterization for the female lead—while also leaving the most weighted nuggets up to viewer interpretation. Through four episodes, I only spotted one sequence that looked clunky from an animation standpoint. Some shortcuts are taken in making the characters look less crisp, especially when shown from far away, but otherwise, I have no issue with artistic presentation.

Believe it or not, I tend to watch anime at a very quiet volume, inhibiting my ability to take in the soundtrack accompanied a lot of the time. Only recently was it that I found this to be something of a cardinal sin, as one should certainly be willing to listen to every detail as one would visually analyze every detail. Made in Abyss was a fantastic piece to hear, as a lot of the instrumentation is rather unique from the standard fare. It sounds almost jungle-like; tribalistic, I suppose. Reminding one of a rainforest setting with men in grass skirts and tiki masks hurling spears at prey. From what has been established, the technology is almost on par with that, and the fear of the unknown, ever-looming in plain sight, allows for more of that adventure-esque atmosphere to take hold of the viewer’s anticipation.

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Somewhat lingered upon above, characters are relatively straightforward in their beliefs and personality. Motivation and goals are more at play here, with the relationships built between one another already established prior to current events or behind the scenes (the first and third episodes have a two-month split). Why do people wish to explore The Abyss? What does it mean to them to become someone who explores The Abyss? Many, thus far, serve to aid with the two leads in their journey, with hardly any intention to make them more complex as characters. The leads themselves are more in it for personal reasons, ones typical of the types of characters they are. Should one want to find any positive attributes within, one should search for execution of base personality, which many are spirited enough. The stars are kids, after all. Kids are usually pretty upbeat, right?

This is a shining spot in a season already full of delectable choices (at least the ones I chose), so it goes without saying that I would recommend this without any true hesitation. Still, there are nine episodes left to change my mind, but I’m not one to cower before the unknown (in anime). Perhaps a spectacular tone and art palette will be enough to cruise past the finish line.

A Casual End of Year Update

School is back in session. I’ve recently started a new job. These two things combined have taken quite a bit out of me, so my normal schedule of posting may seem a tad lax in the future, at least until I can get myself comfortable with my now semi-busy schedule.

This serves as both an update and filler, for those who care to know the circumstances behind the rapidity of my posting. And with the now slower-than-normal frequency in which I watch anime, many posts will likely concern outside topics such as video games or films, but I will try to squeeze in some weeb culture here and there, for the sake of the majority of my “audience.”

Thank you for reading and for staying with me.

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.

Adhering to the Value of Narratives in Video Games

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Do not let the “Plan to Play” section of MyVideoGameList fool you; I have played a number of games throughout my life. Video games were, without a shred of exaggeration, my first love in life—the thing that I would most look forward to waking up to in the morning. It would make sense that throughout my time experiencing a wide variety of different games that I’ve come to develop a certain “fetish” for specific game types that appeal to me more than anything else. Pondering this for years, I always had an affinity for Nintendo games, games with colorful and cartoon-ish art direction, and games involving a lot of puzzle-solving. However, there is a specific aspect to games that has not only become more popular in recent years, but has evolved the state of video games into something that’s been debated on ever since. I am speaking of narratives, games with grandiose stories and moral messaging within its compact code.

For some time, I never realized how prevalent the impact of narratives in video games had on me as a gamer. In recent years, it’s become almost necessary for a game to have some sort of contextual motivation in order for me to care to try a game at all. Games such as Splatoon, Overwatch, and Sonic Mania are all titles that have fun features to their credit that make them enjoyable experiences, but none give me a lasting impression because there simply isn’t enough there for me to really care. And this isn’t to say the mentioned games don’t have narratives to them, they’re just not explored to the point where they become interesting on their own—whether because all further information is found through other sources or the game focuses more prominently on gameplay than story. This doesn’t bode so well for my standards, however, as my preferences have become more tailor-made to the manner in which a video game can immerse me within its world, something that is done best through world-building via characters and story. This leads me to uphold a likely unpopular opinion:

Narratives in video games usually make them better.

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There is no denying that a video game’s mechanics are what come first in a successful game. If gameplay is boring, then why bother? Gameplay, despite the message of this post, is the most important factor of a video game. With that in mind, the typical ratio for the critical player is usually 80/10/10 in accordance to gameplay/story and characters/art and sound. My own ratio is closer to 50/40/10, leaving games with stories/characters that utterly bore me and gameplay/art/sound direction that astounds me at best a 6/10.

Picking on Sonic Mania yet again (due to it being the inspiration behind this post), it follows this train of personal analysis. Gameplay is solid, smooth, and inspired. Art is perfect for what it’s trying to convey and adds even more pizzazz to the spirit of the Sonic series. Sound follows the same path as art style. Despite all of this, the story is bare-boned, and the characters’ personalities are only shown through very meager actions. I bought the game when it released ten days ago and I have yet to finish it, despite the game’s short-ish length. Why? Because I’m bored with it. Its gameplay and design aren’t enough to compensate for the lack of empathy I have to continue forth with the game, which is directly attributed to its simplistic story, and to some extent, its fan service. If I had to give it a rating at this moment, it would be a 6/10, verging on a 5.5/10. And I know that would make a lot of people upset.

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Alternatively, a video game like Undertale is capable of being rewarded a 7/10 from me, despite having gameplay that barely passes off for a typical bullet-hell/Earthbound type of gamestyle. From a gameplay standpoint, Undertale is a pretty dull game that doesn’t have much to offer. The most challenge one faces is trying to identify how to pacify a particular enemy while dodging their attacks in the meantime. Very typical RPG mechanics. Where it lacks in gameplay, it more than makes up for in story and (especially) characters. While the narrative plays a little too much into THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!, its characters are a wonderful variety of fun that makes the game far more entertaining than its gameplay would imply. This succeeds in pulling the player in with assisting (or playing along with) the trials that face the people around them, giving them more motivation to explore the world and find information about said characters or about the major goal.

Of course, there are times when a game gets too ahead of itself and focuses far too much on one aspect, most notably narrative, to compensate for the lack of anything else. Games such as Gone Home or Depression Quest are examples of the narrative > gameplay argument that people rattle over to this day. With the technology present to humanity today, in which we can create games that allow these narrative-driven wholes, are games that focus more on story than gameplay really video games? Such is a debate that rages on among the levels of “The Console Wars,” but in the end, more games are more games, and I’m all the happier for the people who dedicate their time to doing what they love.

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As I continued pondering, I began to understand that narratives in video games have always been the most prevalent and notably nostalgic games of my childhood. Hell, thinking about all the games on my Top 10 List of Nostalgic Games has more than half the list contain titles with heavy doses of dialogue/text or detailed story progression. It took me twenty-something years to realize that the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Sunshine was the fact that Sunshine had more charm through its ridiculously idiotic story and character roster. Such is why I hold the latter to be a better experience, and a better game altogether.

So, with this in mind, the next time you come across a video game review from me, know that there are types of games I enjoy and those I don’t, but I try to critique a game to the nature of its parts and what I feel it tries to exude most notably from them. Still, I’m not perfect, and games like Sonic Mania will end up getting somewhat low ratings because my mind is accustomed to games with a lot more narrative-focus. It’s something I’ve had to learn to get over, though these internal stipulations do have their share of exceptions, hence why I said games are “usually” better with narratives. My fondness of storytelling is something that happened to cross over into my gaming preferences, leaving me to feel encouraged by the future of video games and what they can offer. Such a path will not always be straight and narrow, unfortunately.

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Hateno Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I could have added this bit to the disclaimer, but I felt it too much for one bullet point. Since my last post on this subject, I have switched to the Switch version of this game and have gotten farther in the game than with the Wii U version. Needless to say, that means I have played over these oncoming events twice over, so the stories and situations I share will become muddled with oversaturation. While there’s no real need to distinguish the two playthroughs, know that I’m a lot more experienced with the game than I was since starting this collection of Traveling Thoughts.

Though I still haven’t beaten the game. Trying to find all those shrines. I’ll likely have them all by the time I write the next entry.

Now then, on the journey from Kakariko to Hateno, the range of area to explore rivals that of when one leaves the Isolated Plateau. Link is tasked with finding a Sheikah researcher named Purah, who is capable of repairing the Sheikah Slate to its full potential. (A device I never mentioned once until now, despite it being the first item the player receives in the game. Oops.) Essentially, the Sheikah Slate is the tool to end all tools, capable of allowing Link to use runes (another thing I neglected to mention once; supernatural abilities spanning from bombs to a time-freezer), look at a map of Hyrule, collect info from shrines and towers, take pictures (no selfies included), warp to established shrines and towers, and pinpoint specific locations for future perusing. Really, the more area that’s explored, the more of a Godsend the Slate becomes. At its state upon leaving Kakariko, however, there are still functions missing (such as the camera). Purah is the only person for the job.

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One little note to make is that while this becomes the main objective, it doesn’t technically have to be. After visiting Impa, Link is told of the Divine Beasts originally created to combat Ganon—and their current rampage upon Hyrule—whom then become objects targeted for the main quest. If the player chooses to go calm them, they’re free to do so without going to Hateno. In hindsight, going to Hateno isn’t drastically important, as the upgrades provided are more for extra security than anything else. For the purpose of consistency, as both times I went (relatively) straight there, I’ll continue the path that way.

Along the way, I recall in my first playthrough finding the first of many Stable areas placed throughout Hyrule. One can register their horse there (if they choose to tame one), collect side quests and info on the land, and collect essential goodies from the area. As stated previously, I felt a certain sense of joy discovering even more humanity present within the land, though this was far less impactful. A few quips here and there, and characters that will eventually become standard when visiting more stables, it was a cozy, albeit short break from the wild. I also discovered that every Stable has a shrine next to it, presumably to ease players into having a horse at all times.

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Contrasting from Kakariko Village’s serene and traditional atmosphere, Hateno Village is more cozy and homeland-feeling. Kids run around, people work on their farms, architecture looks more Western, and the musical score is cheery and almost child-like. The people are more outspoken and varied, almost as though they come from a number of different places. Some of them are even mean. And socially awkward. And fedora-tippers. I-Is this a statement of some sort? Certainly more pleasant in tone, but something was missing. Perhaps the emotions felt by Kakariko made my expectations too high for other places, as Hateno felt a little more “sideshow” than “main event.” Despite this, Hateno Village ends up becoming one of the more frequented areas in the game, even now. Whether it be praying to the Goddess Statue for extra hearts or stamina, dyeing my attire different colors, or showing a kid weapons I spend hours trying to find so he can give me the American equivalent of ten bucks, it’s a nice home base.

To make up for the lack of personality with Impa, Purah is a delightful little ball of energy that I can’t help but wonder was affected by her latest experiment. The situation goes that Purah is over a hundred years old, yet looks like a big-headed child. Some nasty side effects from an experiment caused her to reverse her aging to the point where she looks (and acts?) like a kid. Better than nothing, I suppose, as her voice (no talking, just grunts) is cute and her dialogue is all the more. While getting somewhat tedious after a bit, her background information is present in a diary at the top level of her research laboratory, which highlights a lot of the details left out by conversation, something I’d recommend reading.

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What’s a little disappointing is that, adding to the “sideshow” feel of the whole village, Purah is only important for this one time, as all future visits are the same old dialogue with nothing new. Link can ask her assistant for an optional side quest, but that’s the bulk of the priority for them. Once the Sheikah Slate is repaired, she has no use. Not as a person or a partner. She’s just there. I suppose with Impa, there’s a little more to her place in the game thanks to the multiple amounts of times Link can speak with her that provides new dialogue. Purah, in compensation for her enthusiasm, is almost like a one-track record. I really wish she were implemented more into the story.

As a little cubbyhole in the gargantuan mass of Breath of the Wild’s scope, Hateno Village is little more than an escape from nature. Its usefulness and simplicity provides a place to come back to when all’s said and done—the player can even buy a house there! There’s just not much more to it than that. Lots of side quests, along with shrine quests for areas yonder, but nothing that really makes it feel as though it’s a people-driven environment. Most won’t have a problem with this, but after experiencing the loveliness of Kakariko Village, I’m left emotionally unperturbed. I can be glad the town isn’t full of annoying main quest dribble, thankfully.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)