Quick Updated Thoughts on Ano Natsu de Matteru

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A rather hard rewatch, this was for me. As a title that holds something of an emotional attachment to my younger self, I can’t help but think fondly of the time this anime almost made me cry. This, out of all anime I watched in late 2012, was the one that got me closest to actually shedding tears. Since then, only rewatching Katanagatari has gotten me to reach for a tissue. OCD in full effect, I figured I’d keep the rewatch train rolling and see if Ano Natsu de Matteru held up after nearly five years.

It didn’t.

One can almost feel how hard this anime tried to be its own AnoHana, from the interactions between characters to the love octagon that takes effect as time goes on. Both series also deal with an inevitable fact that the characters try to ignore, but are destined to face. The difference between the two is through execution, which Ano Natsu de Matteru does well only in very specific measures.

What is immediately apparent about halfway through the series is that the writing is very, very dumb. The entire purpose of a single character, Lemon, is to push the plot forward and manipulate the cast to her whim for the sake of fucking with them. And because she has a “more than she knows” background, she knows everything that’s going to happen and how to prepare for it. Don’t you love having a character that can destroy all the tension and seriousness of an otherwise tensile and serious plot by making everything feel a-ok through their Godly knowledge and dexterity? Even more so, she more often than not forces the characters to change, instead of the story giving them the opportunity to either do it themselves or slip into situations of genuine, awkward conflict. It’s a shame that she’s so hamfisted in, because the general character roster is… tolerable, with Mio, and to some extent Tetsurou, being the saving graces of the anime.

Without Lemon, the writing still deals with things that have already been done in plenty of other anime, to a lesser extent. Lots of angst, lots of surprised faces, lots of dramatic outbursts and emotional spurs. While not on the same level as a soap opera, some episodes give a little more heart than necessary. Some don’t even feel like normal characters, rather pieces set up to provide controversy.

Animation is pretty nice, which is one thing about this anime that’s fairly praiseworthy. Not always the most smooth of physical activity, but its bright and distinctive in its approach. I wish Ichika was more like an actual alien than a human being (a lot about her alien persona doesn’t make sense), though that’s more of a nitpick.

In the end, it’s not nearly the anime I used to see it as, with a lot of issues in its writing and how it incorporates its characters. Strange as it might seem, the final episode still left me with a good emotional impression, something that even surprised me considering how cynical I was of it up to that point. I really wish the audience was treated to more of Mio and her active and understandable change halfway through the series, something only a few characters get a snippet of. Lost potential and all that; Ano Natsu de Matteru leaves viewers waiting for the translation of AnoHana: Alien Edition.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Updated Thoughts on Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (1st Season)

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In a strange turn of events, instead of going by the usual style of rewatching something and then updating my thoughts on it via blog post, I decided to leave poor Haganai alone. I find this even more curious because this is the only case of it happening, at least within the years where I took my blog seriously enough to update it semi-often. Noting my penchant for waxing nostalgic, it’s an even more confusing sentiment that this anime, which was among the first five anime I ever watched in its entirety, didn’t receive any special treatment. To drive the point home, I even finished a knock-off manga version and read up until the second-to-last volume of the light novel before it was taken off Baka-Tsuki for copyright reasons. Why did I feel the need to let this rewatch wither and die within my MAL archives? Regardless, I’m correcting it here and now after a two-year wait.

“Wow,” you may be thinking. It took me two years to write this post? My only excuse is that it simply slipped my mind again and again, until finally realizing it about a year ago… and then forgetting again until a few days ago. The rewatch took place in early August of 2015, so another thing you may be thinking is, “Are you confident enough to remember what you liked and disliked about it after so long?” Fear not, as fate hath given me future perception, and I wrote myself a very detailed post explaining exactly that back in 2015, so for what I cannot recall now, I will simply resort back to my crude notes.

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The strongest argument I have toward this series’s good worth is the main duo of female leads: Sena and Yozora. Each character is blunt, stuck in their own ideals, and offer a helping of development as the series goes on. Not to mention, their chemistry with each other, and flaccid male lead Kodaka, makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch, especially within the first three episodes or so. Even while at each other’s throats, one can see the distance between the two supposed opposites begin to close with each passing day.

With this trait, Haganai becomes immediately recommendable; not just due to characters bickering with each other in a humorous way, but the set-up that justifies their behavior. Execution aside, this anime is fairly unique in its approach to popularity, hierarchy within the school system, and the concept of friendship. It’s almost like Oregairu before Oregairu, but without the cynical Hikigaya. Unfortunately, a lot of what could’ve been achieved with these themes and the characters that make up the cast are undermined as the series continues to bring in more characters. With these new characters comes more and more of what makes the high school rom-com setting so predictably bland (and popular): implied harem vibes, an aimless pursuit of having fun and nothing more, and one-dimensional personalities for the sake of humor.

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A sequence of bliss and charm surrounded the series as it began, introducing the slightly off-kilter characters and their motivations. The trio of Kodaka, Sena, and Yozora made a wonderful ensemble of fun as each played off of each other in a colorful manner, with Kodaka being the middle-man through it all. Once the series began to attract other specimens, that charm became buried under the weight of outside interference, muddying its core themes and underlying potential for the sake of appealing to the masses. There is a lot of moe present in Haganai, and much of that didn’t start until the trio became a quad, and then a quint, and so on. And these new characters, if not for some subtle growth in the following season, are completely useless. Maria and Kobato should be scrapped altogether or rewritten, while Rika and Yukimura need more than one quirk to move along with—so much so that they all nearly ruined the series for me, at least for this season.

With the mess that was made during the mid-section of this anime, I’m glad I can say that the final episodes make up for it… slightly. Again, the presence of heart and character growth are pursued with full enthusiasm, along with resolving a (horribly executed) secret that loomed in the background throughout the series. It allows some figment of closure before carrying on with the same shenanigans that the series spoils itself with time after time. Not only is it appreciated as a viewer, but the characters (or one of them) become a lot more than what her usual persona portrays.

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At one point, the art style for Haganai was a serious turn-off. Their eyes too vivid and large, with their lips protruding and their heads more like tomatoes than apples. Its expressiveness through character design is fairly strange compared to most, with even minor changes to the perspective of where things are, how they’re shaped, and what’s most highlighted making such an impact on the final product. It was weird, to say the least, but I eventually warmed up to it, and now find it one of the anime’s stronger points. With little twitches of movement better humanizing the characters on-screen and only occasional fidgets of inconsistency, it’s worth praising not just for its effectiveness, but its desire to stay true to the original light novel’s art. The only other anime I can think of with a similar style is Denpa Onna.

It’s a fascinating series to go over, seeing as it holds such nostalgic value to me, as well as having a lot of good underneath a mountain of bad. Cut the cast down to the main three, continue what they did for the first three episodes, and incorporate some more perspective on what they feel friendship should be and how they feel the general mass exploits it, and Haganai could’ve been a really fascinating piece of work. Dealing in “what if’s” does nothing here, as the way it stands, it needs to hold onto the crutch of popular exploits to steady itself in relevancy. With things such as lolis, incest, harems, cross-dressing, poop, and pre-teen angst being thrown around like it’s candy, I can only step back and ponder why I gave the series such high regard in the first place.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

An Ode to Super Mario World

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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.

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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.)

Quick Thoughts on Sonic the Hedgehog (1996 OVA)

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American audiences don’t know this as a two-part OVA released in 1996. Rather, they know it as a “full-length movie” released in 1999. There is some notoriety around this OVA for a few memes that have floated within the confines of the lulzy internet, including Sonic flipping off Robotnik and the classic, “SHUT UP, TAILS!” My own experience with the OVA includes a few late-night watches around 2004 while my father slept in the room next door, so this most recent viewing was a bit of a nostalgia trip. For the most part, I recognized the events that took place throughout the movie, especially a few notable scenes, but was somewhat surprised by how controlled the scenes transitioned one by one. My expectations certainly weren’t very high, as I don’t recall being fond of it back then—still, there’s a retro charm to it that makes it more than a mindless escape.

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First and foremost, the OVA is very stupid. The characters, the plot, the voice acting; nearly everything the OVA attempts is either incredibly mediocre or simplistic. One can tell within the first five minutes that this was intended for kids. Robotnik tricks Sonic and friends into falling into a trap so that he can have Sonic duke it out with his newest invention: Metal Sonic (Or Hyper Metal Sonic?). He also kidnaps the teenage daughter, who is an idiot, of the president of the planet(?) in hopes of marrying her, because why not? The set-up is horribly overused and predictable even by naive eyes. Characters literally walk into traps with glee, defy the rules set by the world itself, and are influenced by the most odd motivations. Needless to say, the OVA only goes off of the “lore” of the parent video game series sparingly.

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Regardless of its flaws, the OVA remains almost consistently entertaining. There’s a clear plot, a nice array of imagery and different settings, and characters actually have a personality(!). Cheesy, yes, but it has an attitude that makes the flat voice acting and stupid character behavior more tolerable. It even has moments of heavy impact throughout, particularly with the ending and the descent into the Robotopolis. It reminded me somewhat of the Sonic the Hedgehog series with Sally Acorn, which had a more dark(er) atmosphere. When all is said and done, the major purpose is to entertain fans of the series, which I feel the OVA does well enough, even if it’s not much more than an hour-long distraction. Of course, where else are you going to see Sonic being attacked by a giant, metallic replica of Robotnik that shoots sticky oil out of its ass? That alone makes the OVA worth watching.

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The best part by far is the design and animation. Don’t take this the wrong way, as the entire production is pretty middle-of-the-road. Aesthetics just have a step above the rest. Lots of intriguing settings, such as a dark utopia, pleasant island settings full of run-down machinery, and an icy sanctuary in the northern parts of the planet. Characters are pretty neatly stenciled to include a wide variety of facial expressions and bodily movements, which is a far-cry for today’s standards. If nothing else, one can lament about the retro days of anime and how the industry cared about what they animated and all that jargon. Doesn’t necessarily make the OVA better, but I liked the attempt. I came out of it with positive impressions, even knowing full well that what I watched was incredibly derivative. I blame my nostalgic love for old Sonic games.

Something like this would only be recommendable for fans of the Sonic franchise. Anyone outside of the anime scene may get a small kick out of it, but veterans would find next to nothing with this, aside from maybe some nostalgic appeal. There’s a lot of enthusiasm to characters and animation, which may or may not mesh well together in most people’s eyes, but I had a decent time with it. I also was witness to Sonic Boom first-hand, so I may just be clinging to a world where it wasn’t even conceived.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

An Ode to The Original Star Wars Trilogy

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Genuine question: how many thought of John Williams’s score upon seeing the title of this post?

Like many others, I grew up with a heavy dose of Star Wars in my life. Even before the release of Episode I back in 1999, I had spent the first six years of my life being exposed to all things Star Wars, as my father was a huge fan of it. (My mother, as well!) I don’t remember a lot from my experience with the original trilogy as a kid, but Star Wars as a whole shaped up to be one of the most engrossing and exciting film franchises of my lifetime. I remember individual scenes, such as Luke’s descent into Dagobah, The AT-AT attack, the Death Star trench run, and more, but never smoothed seemly into a complete package back then. I was more enamored with the cool action and special effects. Weren’t we all?

With a recent rewatch, my fondness for Star Wars began with a bit of a tumble. A New Hope was actually fairly average in most respects, though I enjoyed the intrigue of things to come and the subtle character quirks through interaction with others. It wasn’t until Empire Strikes Back that I was able to rekindle that passion for the franchise. The scenes held more weight, the characters had pizzazz, and it all felt like a bigger-than-life adventure. A truly captivating movie experience. While not quite as good, Return of the Jedi still had a lot of what made Empire so dazzling to watch. Though it also had a number of things that would foreshadow the state of the franchise for when George Lucas decided to develop the prequel trilogy. The Ewoks, in hindsight, were kind of a stupid plot device. Nothing more than glorified teddy bears.

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Even after the rewatch, I still love all of these films. A New Hope somewhat leveled my expectations, which surprised me, as it’s typically more beloved than Return of the Jedi. There’s this sense of walking on eggshells in the first film that I don’t really like. It was definitely within those introductory stages that made everything feel little more than “Getting to the good part.” Not to mention, everything felt clumsily pieced together as if one were directing the scenes to occur one-by-one straight off of a storyboard. This may not have been such a problem had the characters been charismatic. Only few characters felt as though they shined in the spotlight, but given some props, they tried their best. The most disappointing character was Darth Vader, who played like a second dog to a mightier hound in the grand scheme of things. One could use the argument that he always has been a la Emperor Palpatine, but in A New Hope, he takes orders from a mere senior representative. Hardly the figure someone as destructive as Darth Vader should be taking orders from. This feels even more silly when in Empire Strikes Back, the first scene featuring him has him giving orders to troops in a triumphant tone and getting the plot moving. “He does so in A New Hope, as well,” you may say. My response would be to compare the tone and the mood of each scene and see how menacing Darth Vader seems in both of them.

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Of course, these are purely the negatives. A New Hope gets a passing grade despite the flaws as a means of being entertaining with its sequence of events and characters. While not as free as they could, Luke, Han, and Leia all showcase their signature bravado whenever given the chance. With signature lines such as “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?” to “Use the force, Luke,” it paints a picture of who these people are and what they’ve been through, along with how their influence changes those around them—Luke particularly, as the young and rising Jedi. Young Skywalker has the least personality of the bunch, but in the role as observer and “fish out of water,” he doesn’t necessarily need to have much. His role, such as the entire film, is a symbol of things to come, leading to bigger and more grander events that will shape the galaxy. And this presence, with which the movie coats itself with with every change of setting, makes the movie not only devoid of dullness, but amorously  foreboding.

This aura of bigger things pays off tremendously with The Empire Strikes Back. Things move along and the Rebel Alliance has set up a defensive against the Empire’s rebuttal. Immediately, the audience is shown something new—a distant planet full of danger. The scenes swap back and forth between good and evil, developing a story that provides insight on both sides, giving more emphasis on character than story, though the narrative progresses smoothly enough. The enthusiasm needed to care for the things happening to the characters, something that required work in the first film, is beautifully handled. Mixed with the now dark and serious transition of the story, showing the power the Empire is capable of, makes for an unpredictable outcome with every new scenario. It’s far more entertaining, far more insightful, and far more within the reach of its unreachable grasp. The only real problem? The scenes still feel a little clumsy, the characters a little one-dimensional, despite how nice it all feels at first glance.

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It all accumulates into the final film in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Debatably, this is the most problem-filled film, with the entire Empire being defeated by a bunch of primitive teddy bears and Jabba’s Palace being… not that important at all, outside of saving Han Solo. Despite the questionable decisions, the last film harbors some of the most emotionally satisfying scenes in the entire franchise. Luke facing off against Darth Vader for the final time. Luke’s final visit with Yoda. Leia is told of her relation to Luke. Star Wars decided to let it all out, with fantastic results. I would describe the fight scene between Luke and Vader as my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. So fulfilling after building up from the very first movie, and the fulfilling of destinies described from the prior film makes every fan of prophecies incredibly satisfied. Characters still have their charm from Empire, if only they had a story to really develop upon more of it. Luke and Vader are the big subject here, with everyone else in the background. It retains that fun and fantasy epic that the series is known for, just at a lesser expense. With teddy bears.

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It has the charm, the fantasy, and the heart to remain strong even now. The emphasis on story, character, and subtle development of both makes for a surprisingly emotional ride. I was quite surprised by how emotionally respondent I was to the film, as many would say that the series is more pragmatically satisfying than anything else. There’s a genuine spirit of adventure, and the bond between characters shows through without warning. One roots for these characters, and stay for the immersive plot developments. Despite its unnaturally futuristic setting and identity, Star Wars is a more human endeavor than anything else, showing that no matter how out-of-reality a movie can be, it’s the aspect of humanity that carries the legacy forward.

The rating for these titles and all others can be found on my IMDb account.

Metroid Prime Review

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In my life, there are two types of games: ones that get me, and ones that don’t. My enjoyment of a video game is a tad more finicky than the average player, as my expectations revolve around not only the core gameplay, but the impact the game has on my emotional fortitude. Most often, this comes down to the story or characters that are involved within a particular game. While one can debate the importance of these aspects, as evidenced by the games I most cherish, story and/or character focus tends to give the games that I play an extra push that leaves a lasting impression. Of course, games can also rely too much on these aspects, leaving a mess of a product trying too hard to appeal to every interest the gamer has in mind. Sometimes, the most subtle exposition gives meaning to the epic of adventure.

Insert Metroid Prime, Nintendo’s first attempt at a first-person Metroid game. This was the first game within the franchise I had ever played, knowing Samus Aran only from Super Smash Bros. My first contact came when I was visiting my cousin, who had just gotten the game. I watched him escape from the Space Pirate frigate and struggle with the game’s first boss. Despite whatever doubt may have been floating in the back of my childhood mind, it was love at first sight. I wanted to play it. I needed to play it. Soon enough, I was begging my mother to buy it for me, and eventually the day when I got my hands on a copy of the game came, and I never looked back.

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I have gone through and beaten this game, 100%, three or four times in my life—most recently about a month ago. I know this game like I know the back of my hand. The areas, the data, the order of key items; all of these are things that I know by heart via repeated playthroughs. One would think that with all of this background knowledge that the sense of exploration and intrigue would disappear completely. To some extent it does, especially during my second 100% playthrough last year. The quest to accurately describe my feelings for a game so entwined with my childhood naivety and the impact it had on me remains a true mystery, even at the writing of this review. At times, I find the game a modern masterpiece, with immense attention to detail and absolutely perfect control and durability. Other times, it’s a slog of going from one place to another without any sense of freedom. Prime is so unbalanced within my objective qualifications that it becomes difficult to feel entirely comfortable with the heaps of praise I could give the game.

This all changed with my last playthrough, as I’ve found the justifications to marvel at this game’s ability, polish, and intellectual intrigue, while also bashing it for the things that make it less than the irrefutable best. This is likely the most time replaying a certain subject before knowing my true opinion ever, so take note that everything I say is not just objectively right, but established by way too many revisions.

One thing about Metroid Prime that becomes more impressive as the years roll by is how well it still runs and how good it still looks. The Gamecube is often the butt of many performance-based jokes, but this is one very notable exception. Back when Nintendo brought their A-game in developing first-party content, Metroid Prime emerged as a gold standard for performance and innovation. Even now, I find myself overwhelmed by how amazing the game’s graphics hold up. I would argue they look better than anything Metroid-related Nintendo’s released since Metroid Prime 3. It goes a long way in creating an atmosphere of dread and suspense, much like the opening sequence.

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What is likely the greatest compliment one can give to a video game is that it works wonderfully. Glitches though it may have if exploited, the game is a carefully crafted diamond that very rarely lags and very rarely gives one trouble with control or camera distinction. Button input is solid and the gameplay remains a fluid rate of sixty(?) frames per second. In terms of power, Metroid Prime is among the best the Gamecube, and all of Nintendo, has to offer. The game itself is an occasionally thrilling and consistently entertaining work of build-up and climaxes. The assortment of weapons and items provide a number of ways to play the game and combat the enemies within an area, as well as explore places originally out of reach. Whether fighting, scanning, or exploring Tallon IV, the game is an archaeologist’s dream combined with the precision combat that the franchise is known for.

But as said in the first paragraph, core gameplay isn’t all that makes a game for me. Thankfully, Metroid Prime is one game that passes the category of narrative or character intrigue, but to what extent? The concept of the Scan Visor and all of the information provided to the player is somewhat up for debate as to whether or not it really adds to the game. I’m sure many would gladly state that it was a good idea and adds another dimension to the world-building of Tallon IV, but the execution is somewhat on the fence. Scanning everything in sight somewhat breaks the flow of the game, and while the player is getting more information about the environment, one could end up scanning and reading more than they are actually playing the game. Not only this, but scanning various things gives the player the answer to all of their questions, threatening the sort of “Isolation” vibe that so many adore from this franchise. It makes the game considerably easier, as weak points are given away and vantage points become noted. And should the player decide not to scan and spoil themselves to these things, they are still depriving themselves of that world-building it provides as well. This is somewhat balanced by the importance of a scan distinguished by colors of red or orange, but one can’t know what they’re going to find nevertheless.

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I am one who enjoys scanning, and I scan everything. Even the most mundane of information becomes something I can use to piece together the process of the story prior to Samus’s arrival on Tallon IV. And by scanning everything, I feel I have enough to criticize some of the writing within the game. Two important scanning material include the Chozo lore and Pirate data, two different tellings of the events before from two different perspectives. Comparing the two, the Pirate data is far more interesting in its detailing of events, as the Chozo lore feels too one-dimensional in its spirituality to remain interesting. Of course, this also paints the culture of the Chozo in general. The Pirate data is a lot more involved, more grounded in practicality and dedicated to pinning information down to the period. Their almost obsessive attention to detail is prevalent with their organization and constant research and development. This is reflected within their writing, as well, which has enough objective jargon to paint them as an intelligent species dedicated to obtaining power at all costs without sounding cliché. Overall, these hidden notes provides an in-depth look at the events that lead up to Metroid Prime, along with “humanizing” the evil Space Pirates and holy Chozo race.

The adventure set forth upon Tallon IV and before on the Pirate frigate has somewhat of a linear feel to it, despite what some may argue. Generally, one can’t go and find items of their own whim, needing to get one item to get another and so on. The one thing about the game that could be accessed “wrong” is the first Chozo artifact, one of many key items necessary to open the final area in the game. Official guidebooks will direct these artifacts as only available after Space Jump Boots, but one can easily access the Temple with only Missile Launcher, which is the first acquired item in the game. Some would chastise the game for not being lenient with its progression of item collecting, among the likes of the original Metroid or Super Metroid. However, I feel even with this linear style, the amount of exploration and simply going to find each key item id fun enough to forget that one is, essentially, running on a straight path.

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The collection of these aforementioned Chozo artifacts can be a pain to some—I’m inclined to agree with this to some degree. I prefer when a game can smoothly transition the game’s progress so that the player can collect key items along the way to other more important items at that point. Metroid Prime does this very sparingly, forcing the player to go back to areas already explored so that they can find that one room again where they needed that one item to retrieve that other one item. One with knowledge of the game (such as myself) may not be hampered too much by this backtracking, but inexperienced players will likely struggle to find the specific room and specific condition to find the artifact. Perhaps cutting the amount of total artifacts would help, but also to tiptoe the artifacts along the story instead of out of the way.

Samus as a character was never really a scene-stealer. Prior to 2010, she hardly talked outside of Metroid Fusion and remained a relatively unknown figure, being simply the eyes of the player. In Metroid Prime, she has her first chance to express herself as a character through body acting. Though not the most expressive bounty hunter, there are a number of scenes that play that show Samus’s facial expressions and tense defensive mechanisms. In a term, she’s “badass,” but I’d rather see it as a sort of experience in her profession. She’s trained enough to be able to understand the in and out’s of the dangers she faces and how to combat any situation. Even outside of this, she shows a very, very slight amount of humanity, most hinted by her removing her helmet at the endgame should one complete the game with a high enough item acquiring percentage. More of these scenes are shown in subsequent sequels, but there’s enough in the first installment to launch the idea.

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Scenes most memorable within Metroid Prime come when Samus is knee-deep in enemy territory, particularly with Space Pirates. The Research Center in Phendrana Drifts, Phazon Mines, and the Space Pirate frigate in the opening are all immensely memorable, though vary in terms of enjoyment. Phazon Mines is somewhat of a crap shoot in terms of difficulty and exploration. The Research Center and frigate, however, are just compressed enough and evoke a particularly dark mood to make the run not only memorable, but also somewhat scary. These scenes are, debatably, the best for the mood of the game’s genre of Action/Adventure. Constantly on the edge, with a destroyed/darkened area looming with oodles of information and world-building at one’s disposal, they’re the high points of an already sky-high experience. One constantly cites the franchise’s consistency with mood and immersion, and Metroid Prime has a little of everything. Gloomy, spiritual, dark, and desolate. Emotional impact is an understatement.

While I still have a huge backlog of games to finish and critique that linger upon the distinction of masterpieces, Metroid Prime is currently the frontrunner of receiving the title of my favorite game ever. It simply has too much nostalgic value to have me not regard it as a personal favorite. It also helps that the game is genuinely great in many categories. Shame as it may be that there is enough wrong with the game to limit it below a perfect score, I still find a massive amount of entertainment value in playing the game over and over again. Each experience isn’t quite like the first, not even quite like the second. It does, however, retain the intrigue and, ultimately, fun of being exactly what video games are meant to be created for. It has all the heart and soul one can appreciate from a game dedicated to showing the power of imagination and insanely hard work that can come from the right team. Here’s to you, Nintendo. And to you, Retro Studios. Thank you for creating one of my all-time favorites.

Final Score: 9.5/10

The rating for this title and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.

(Gameplay screenshots courtesy of ShadowMario3 and The Super Gaming Bros.)

My Day In Gaming – January 19th, 2017

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Here’s something a little different.

In this post—and any post like it, should I continue with it—I will detail the accounts of my gaming in any individual day, whether it be progress reports, general thoughts, or the primary intention behind the creation of this post: sharing humorous stories. I feel a lot goes unsaid with video games, especially when talking of it online. There are a lot of strange moments to be had when gaming, whether it be due to a game’s glitchiness or a perfect “Right place at the right time” sequence that produces a hilarious outcome. I felt, in-between the constant focus of reviewing and critiquing almost everything I decide to write on, that I could relax myself a bit, invite people to join me around the campfire, and share some of my personal stories with a pastime I’ve had since long before the internet’s boom in accessibility. I realize not everyone will understand some of the things I have to say, so I’ll do my best to make every situation clear and have the context be resolute.

For the rest of this post, I will be organizing said stories and impressions based on the game I was playing at the time.

Metroid Prime

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I wrote a post about this game a couple days ago for those wanting some more juicy description as to why I adore the game so much, but early this morning, I beat the game for the fourth(?) time within my lifetime. I find it fascinating how I always seem to drift back to this game whenever I feel in the mood to play something fun and impressionable. Doubly so knowing of my own quest to cement a certain game as my all-time favorite, something I’ve been trying to discover for years now. With my most recent playthrough, Metroid Prime is in a comfortable spot, seeing as other contenders such as Custom Robo and Paper Mario: TTYD proved to be less than stellar after recent replays. Still, games such as Soul Calibur IIVigilante 8: 2nd OffenseSuper Mario Sunshine, and Glover need to be tested before I crown any one game winner.

I will comment on some ironic twist of fate, as while Metroid Prime‘s opening sequence is little short of brilliant, its ending area and boss fight are incredibly lackluster. The final area, the Impact Crater, is only five rooms long, not including the Missile Recharge Station. Only one room among these five rooms will last more than a minute to get through, either. While the beginning had a slow, but gradual build-up of suspense and intrigue, the Impact Crater has one of the most irritating enemies in the game in the form of Fission Metroids, Metroids capable of splitting into two and are only susceptible to certain beam weapons (And Power Bombs, thankfully). They inhabit one huge, empty room with little to take in. It feels more like a placeholder area for game testing than anything, with not a lot of narrative intrigue or need to use many accessories.

And the final boss? Should one know what they’re doing, the final boss is a pushover. Sure, knowing the game makes most bosses easy, but there are a few, such as Meta Ridley or the Omega Pirate, while easy to analyze their weak spot, make that weak spot hard to access. The final boss shoves it front and center, and its second form (because no Japanese game can go without another form) is essentially a waiting game. It doesn’t have that epic feel that the designers were going for, and is a far-cry to what the game could’ve accomplished with some finer tweaking. Still, this doesn’t soil so much as it does dull the experience near the end, as the game is still a very solid experience regardless.

Animal Crossing

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On the complete opposite spectrum of Metroid PrimeAnimal Crossing gives me that escape whenever I’m not in the mood to play something that requires a level of efficiency and attention to gameplay. A fun little slice-of-life-esque game about living life and updating a town only a villager knows how.

I’ve been playing Animal Crossing for about fifteen years now, dating back to when I first got the game around 2002. That isn’t to say I’ve had the same file since 2002, but I recently started up another town to relive the memories of my younger days. As a kid, I liked to dub myself the “Fish Master,” as I always loved to fish, no matter what. I would fish in my spare time and fish quite often, selling them to Tom Nook for about 1,000,000 bells (The game’s currency) at a time. No matter how much I fished, unfortunately, there was always one fish that alluded me: the Stringfish! A rare fish that never seemed to want to show itself to me. Even worse, my brother caught one! I was the Fish Master and he caught the one fish I was missing! Years would pass, and I never caught that accursed fish. All these years and I could never find it. Not even once.

Today, I booted up the game and time traveled backwards because I forgot to turn on the lighthouse the night prior (Optional sidequest). After turning it on, I made my way up the town’s acres, walking along the river in case anything of interest caught my eye. Something did, as a large shadow loomed in the middle of the river around Acre D-4. “I swear to God, if this is a tire,” I said to myself as I got my fishing rod out and cast the lure right in front of the shadow’s face. It went for it immediately, hooking onto the lure on the first nibble. I managed to reel it in, with the time signifying that it wasn’t a tire. Once the reeling process was complete, the fish turned out to be…

A Stringfish.

I laughed, laughed to the depths of my soul, for I had finally caught the one fish that had alluded me for so many years, that I had meticulously hunted until my will had broken into two. It was a momentous occasion and an ironic one, with the sound of my laughter filling the quiet basement around me, my brother (the one who had caught it) laughing with me. I time traveled for the sole purpose of turning on the lighthouse, and here I was avenging my younger self for the time wasted searching for it. Mirthful and satisfied, I continued to walk up the acres. With just one square north, wouldn’t you know, another large shadow! “This one looks pretty big, too,” I said aloud. I cast my rod, getting it just out of sight of the shadow. I reeled in and cast again, this time getting it close enough to fetch the shadow’s attention. This one was a little more hesitant, taking three or four bites before sinking the lure. I managed to successfully catch the fish, and with the time spent reeling signifying again that it wasn’t a tire, the fishing Gods smiled down at me warmly. As if making up for the time I had spent years before, while also giggling mischievously at the absurd odds of what was to come, the fish turned out to be…

Another Stringfish.

Tales of Zestiria

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Whoa, dude! Isn’t this a currently-airing anime? It is! And I just so happened to get my hands on a copy of the game it was based on for the PS4! I wasn’t even aware it had an anime, either. Must’ve been why I looked at the title and thought, “Damn, why this look so f-a-m-i-l-i-a-r?” Helping to buy a PS4 for the family just last Christmas, I needed something to add to the collection, so that I wasn’t just using the console as a paperweight. Tales of Zestiria, it is!

It kinda blows. I mean, technically, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with the game on its own, but there are a lot of little nitpicks here and there that make the game hard to even sit through. First of all, the dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Some of the most cliché and predictable sentences come out of every character’s mouth. Secondly, the facial structure of the characters hardly move, so a lot of the dialogue with added feeling, such as anticipation, fear, irritation, or loneliness are met with a stone-faced, ever-blinking character model. It looks horribly unnatural. Thirdly, and I may have gone into some detail with this before, but I really can’t stand most English voice actors for Japanese-based games/anime. It sounds unnatural to me, for English actors to voice lines that may not be intended to be voiced in the way they perceive it. Not to mention, I feel the voice acting in the game overall is mediocre. Whether it be the case of overemphasizing or underemphasizing, each line or three are delivered with a sense of forced bravado or aloofness that supposedly suits the character, I guess? I also don’t find the combat all that entertaining. You’re essentially hammering a single button with directional combinations, then guarding when the sequence is through. (Or just keep hammering it down. Whatever works!)

Of course, I’m only an hour into the game, so as the game goes along, perhaps the combat and story will improve to some extent. As the saying goes, unfortunately, the beginning is only a precursor to more of the same. I won’t keep my hopes up, but I’m expecting to have some guilty fun out of it, whether it be being immersed in the story or making fun of it.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

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You didn’t think I’d just stop with the first game, did you? Heavens, no. I plan to play each game and find out where they fare when compared to my favorite games ever, as they do have some nostalgic value to them, as well. However, Metroid Prime 2 is a game I never actually finished in its entirety, only getting as far as the second main area or so before quitting to watch my brother finish the rest. Funny story: I get too involved with watching others play the same game to finish the game myself, as I feel if I play the game too soon after watching someone else play it, I won’t enjoy it as much. I ended up waiting about ten years after he completed it to continue.

This is a story, however, as I’m not too far into this game, either. I was playing the game at a brisk pace, somewhat struggling to remember what exactly to do in each room. I had gotten to a room within the opening area where I first discovered a creature called a Green Kralee. As I always do, I scanned the creature first to read up on its data and weakpoints before destroying it. I had gotten about one sentence into scrolling through the text when, within the blink of an eye, the TV screen went black. The TV didn’t randomly shut off. The power didn’t go out. I never clicked any button to reset the game. The TV remotes were untouched upon the room’s coffee table. The screen just went blank for seemingly no reason.

With two of my brothers in attendance, I slowly looked over at one of them, dumbfounded, as he looked back at me with a nervous smile. Just as he was about to say something, the TV lit up again. On the screen was the Wii’s Youtube browser, showing the front page trending videos. The one that stuck out to me was Trump’s Inauguration Concert. (Why do Presidents need concerts at their Inauguration, anyway?) All three of us immediately start laughing, as the level of “WTF?!” was off the charts. Here I was, enjoying a nice game of “Blow different alien species up,” and the Wii has the gall to take me to Youtube to watch Trump’s Inauguration! It seems his reign will include taking over electronic devices to watch his progress at every turn! Thankfully, my brother picked up the TV remote and set it back to the default source, which immediately brought me back to the data on the Kralee. As if nothing had happened. It was a delightful intermission that reeked of outside sources fucking with my hardware. Though, one of my brothers stated that it may have been his phone taking voice commands for no reason.

That’s all I have this time. Thanks as always for reading and I hope you enjoyed the tales I had to tell today.