Day Eight: Space Cowboys (MotM 2017)

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Wow, a Clint Eastwood movie involving cowboys? Next you’ll tell me Charlie Chaplin’s a silent movie icon.

In all seriousness, Space Cowboys is more about space than cowboys. The people involved never even refer to themselves as cowboys, if I recall. They just have a strong desire to fly, fly as high as man could possibly go. Or more accurately, two of them do. The other two hang out in the background and make a joke or two that fits their deep and engaging character model. I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s kick up some context.

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First of all, I feel the tags attributed to this film are a little misleading. IMDb lists this film as an Action-Adventure-Thriller. With that in mind, one would expect this film to be more on the cusp of Alien than Grumpy Old Men. Alas, the more the movie progressed, the more it dawned on me that the synopsis covers more than half of the movie. Perhaps being tagged as “Drama” or “Realistic Fiction” would be more accurate as genres, as the only action present is a punch or two, the adventure doesn’t begin until over an hour into the movie, and thrilling is an overstatement all things considered.

Additionally, there seems to be a play at favoritism in this movie, with the two characters previously mentioned as lovers of flying getting far more attention and development than the other two. In a stroke of luck, they’re even the kind of people who value one another, but are always at each other’s throats. Having seen Jersey Boys, I’ve noticed that Clint Eastwood enjoys having dysfunctional groups of friends. Though where Jersey Boys had a better focus of developing each member, Space Cowboys can’t seem to find any opportunity to let the others shine.

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For a while, Donald Sutherland’s character seemed to be the weakest link of the cast. His character is nothing but a ladies’ man and cannot seem to function without burying his face in technology or, more often, ogling any woman that passes. However, by movie’s end, the real weakest link is James Garner’s character. While a little more than a one-joke machine like Sutherland, his usual banter involves religion in some fashion and his screentime progressively lessens, especially during the later portions. Frankly, one would have to ask if he was even in the movie! More likable than Sutherland, just not as involved in the major course of things. The movie adores Clint Eastwood, with Tommy Lee Jones as a close runner-up.

Characters outside of the group have varying degrees of relatability or depth, with a lot of them finding resolve through the efforts of the group of “space cowboys.” There’s a female character played by Marcia Gay Harden that receives some development as a human being, though the cracks begin to show as the movie goes along. Her scenes almost never feature her alone, and she seems to develop relationships with the space cowboys almost randomly. Rather, most minor characters interact with the main group as if they’re completely off the script. Sequences of romance, vulnerability, or hostility feel bloated and without cause, almost as though they were thrown in because the writers felt it was necessary for a story to include them. It doesn’t do much for believability, while creating an aura that builds the main group up to be idol-like unnecessarily. Self-insert-like.

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As transparent as it is, Eastwood and Jones’s characters are developed pretty well. Jones especially has a solid performance and has a fiery wit that makes him charming, despite being a little more childish than he should be. Eastwood seemed a little flat at first, but improved as the scenes went on, putting forth more effort to seem convincing enough of not being completely monotone. Their chemistry is light on originality, but sweet enough to take it seriously regardless.

The worst part of any story is a bad story. Redundant, yes, it speaks volumes for a story to feel more appropriate for made-for-TV movies. Background history is established. Years pass. Conflict arises. A character is brought in as “the only choice.” Silliness ensures when something out of the ordinary becomes reality. Chances are slim—always. So on and so forth. The story is nothing short of the most bland “against all odds” plotline as humanly possible, with events that appear only to support such a fragile outer coat. It remains so unenthusiastic that even its attempts at playing with its recurring trinkets become lost in painful ordinance. Not even the ending, which attempts to be bittersweet, hardly causes a clink of emotion.

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One noteworthy praise is with the special effects, which does enough to make the later scenes in space travel feel entirely out of a different film. The mood changes for the better, the characters no longer rub their shtick until combustion, and the stakes become more tangible. It looks wonderful, like one truly is flying around in space, gazing down at the splendid Earth that we inhabit. A tenseness appears with how splendid everything appears, traveling into a world where, honestly, I expected the movie to impede on far quicker than it did. Everything just takes a turn for the better, giving a nasty realization that the film probably would’ve been better should they not have taken so long getting prepared. Of course, they needed to do all of this for the sake of their grand story.

Interestingly enough, the more I type about this movie, the more I realize I don’t care for it. Initially, I found it fair, nothing special, but not something that makes me angry upon consideration. Writing this review made me understand just how benign and forgettable the film truly is, even with a stronger second half. All that leads up to that point is a tired and beaten plotline that adds a little twist through old men being astronauts. Try as it might to build up the characters, two slightly-intriguing characters aren’t enough to carry an atmosphere of crusty, insufferable mush.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Updated Thoughts on Highschool of the Dead

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Generally, most anime watchers will see this image and think one of two things:

Tits

or

Zombies.

Highschool of the Dead is infamous for being notoriously lenient with its female cast’s anatomy and non-stop zombie-killing horror. These two things stick out far more than the rest of the anime’s core features, due in part to the quantity of time dedicated to employing different things in just about every episode. Some years ago, when I was still a young’n in the world of anime, this series turned out more entertaining than anything else, and even got some attention as an anime I wish I had viewed earlier than I did. It’s almost a strange case study, as despite the ecchi eruption, Highschool of the Dead is different than about every other alternative.

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The best thing about the series is actually the first four episodes. People like to insinuate that the sexual fan service is non-stop and continuous throughout, but there’s a modest amount between episodes two and four. A good amount of attention is put into developing the phenomenon that is the zombie apocalypse, mixing with the unknown the main characters have to face as it begins to grow out of control. Characters are established via hair color personality and their relationship with others within the main group, and acclimate to the situation well enough that the viewer can see them as a capable bunch of fighters. Some might question the characters’ abilities, particularly Hirano, which is justifiable. Balancing out the action, the sexual fan service (though never really necessary), and the character interaction is done well enough within the “Set-up” phase of the anime that it actually becomes fairly immersive and enjoyable.

Unrealistic or not, the main cast has a charm to it that’s lost on a number of other anime with a rag-tag bunch of opposites. While slightly archetypal, the heroes have a good head on most of them, giving a better realism to these particular individuals being so well-equipped to survive. Interactivity between the six is also fairly enjoyable, particularly whenever Takagi is involved, with her fierce determination and tsundere air about her. One member of the group, the airheaded nurse of the school, is a useless, uninteresting, and magnet for sexual fan service character. I’d rather she get cut from the series altogether.

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As the series continues, the flaws within its writing begin to rear themselves and mold the story into an eye-rolling tirade of zaniness. Though the first few episodes aren’t completely devoid of this, when the group sets off for the city, the insanity begins to take over the pacing. The action begins to pop up out of nowhere, throwing off the progression of the group and any sense of rest. A few (useless) new characters are added, and recurring characters that were seemingly left to be fed to the zombies become important for short spurts, only to be shoved off yet again. If not recurring characters, then complete strangers. Yes, there is a sense of urgency in trying to make the world seem as psychotic as the events transpiring. And it is because of this that the biggest flaw of Highschool of the Dead becomes far too frequent.

Not the sexual fan service, not the random and unrealistic action scenes; the biggest flaw of the anime is its focus on self-insert style writing. Early on, there was chaos, so no one was really sure how to handle or cope with the situation. Cut to days later, with everyone getting “used to” what was happening, a majority of the characters focused on outside of the main group become A) retarded, or B) insane. Quite often, a situation is presented where a stranger comes up and says or does outrageously stupid things, as the camera cuts to the main group’s serious faces, their eyes narrow in obvious disagreement. Yes, the main group is the only one capable of surviving without a moment’s hesitation, being the clear level-headed intellectual superiors to grown adults and everyone else involved. A bunch of angsty teenagers who write depressing monologues at the beginning and end of almost every episode. Yep. Uh huh.

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It makes the scenes hilariously cringy and simplistic. God forbid the series challenges the main group’s line of thinking and lack of experience in the real world in a time where an adult’s wisdom would likely help them tremendously. And the nurse doesn’t count because she’s an idiot. Instead, we have adults chastising these kids because they’re kids and they’re adults and they know everything and the kids know nothing because fuck you. Or we have school teachers who hypnotize a bunch of delirious school students into having orgies inside a school bus (?!?!?!?!?!?). Seriously, the hell is up with this series and its relentless attempts at making the main cast as God-like in every regard as possible? It’s boring, boring and incredibly irritating.

One very positive thing about the series is the focus on art and animation. The series, even for early 2010’s, looks like it could’ve been animated months ago. Everything is very sleek and sharp, accustomed to the current trend of how high-standard anime look. The lighting and atmosphere make the more tense scenes all the more tense… assuming the sexual fan service or stupid characters didn’t ruin it beforehand. The characters are all fairly attractive (even Hirano) and the sexual fan service, as much as people harp on it, works efficiently enough at arousing some members. Not mine, personally, as I’ve become immune to such blatant attempts without any payoff, but it looked very nice. Very nice. Even the animation was pretty consistent, without a lot of shortcuts taken.

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As perfect as the story tries to make them out to be, the main cast varies in excellence. Surprisingly enough, there is some effort into developing these characters, most particularly the relationship between the male lead and his childhood girlfriend. Strangely enough, I feel these two are the weakest characters, mostly because of their bland, purer-than-thou personas. Their development (especially the girl) feels somewhat forced, while also a little bit too pseudo-intellectual. That comment about depressing monologues at the beginning and end of each episode wasn’t a joke. The male lead drones on all the time about “the end of the world” and it gets tiring fast. The rest of the cast (excluding the nurse) are a little bit better in this regard. Hirano being the chubby, silly weakling without a gun, and an ace-shooter “badass” with guns, Takagi as a no-nonsense tsundere with a bad mouth (my personal favorite), and Busujima, the mild-mannered and polite swordsman with a desire for power. These characters have a lot more spunk to them that make conversations all the more lively and believable, which is important for a character-driven story. I would almost recommend the anime simply for these three characters, but they don’t match up against the force of mediocrity in the writing.

The rating went down quite a bit, but I had a decent time with this series, at least for a little while. By series’ end, I was ready to be done with it, as the last three episodes are a complete drag, full of the issues I made note of. Should the anime (miraculously) get a second season, I’d be more than willing to watch it with meandering expectations. It has a nice amount of bloodshed and fun that makes for a mindless brainfizzler, along with some above-average characters. If only the series tried to be a little more like The Walking Dead than Zombeavers.

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

Updated Thoughts on Myself; Yourself

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Sooner or later, all of these posts are going to start with a personal story about my past experience with anime! Myself; Yourself was one of the earliest anime I’d seen after my anime renaissance back in mid-2012. At the time, I thought the show had a very dull progression and forgettable cast, but managed to build strength with a dramatic second-half. Four years later, both of these points remain poignant, though there are some good things to the bad, and bad things to the good.

The anime has somewhat of a reputation for being boring, especially in the first few episodes. I recall a number of anime critics and reviewers chastising Myself; Yourself for being so dry and bland with its themes and color palette. While I don’t think the characters themselves are bland (albeit moderately clichéd), I feel the writing is incredibly simple. Think of the most unenergetic, cookie-cutter conversations you could possibly have with someone. “Hello.” “How are you?” “Fine. How about you?” “Pretty good.” “How’s the family?” “Good, good.” “Weather’s been great.” “Yeah, totally.” A lot of the conversations play out similarly to this, and should the conversations evolve into something a little more memorable, the stiffened straight-man responses come in full force to brunt that enthusiasm. Very few characters escape from this monotony of normalcy, and whether or not they become archetypes because of it is no matter to the story at-hand. Either one is boringly normal, or entertainingly one-dimensional.

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At the same time, the anime can brag about having normal characters. The premise is of a normal, quiet small town where people aren’t meant to be upbeat or enthusiastic. Bland as it may be, the series has a very comfortable mood that is rarely perturbed by any unnecessary wackiness or bombast. Suiting the atmosphere, the characters become more believable in their situations and camaraderie, more so than other anime where groups of friends oftentimes butt heads with one another. One could argue that the twins fight all the time, but they’re siblings, so it doesn’t count. I can speak on their behalf. I am a sibling.

The twins in mind, Shuusuke and Shuri are probably my favorite characters of the bunch. While they’re slightly one-dimensional, they provide a spark to the group that makes them more tolerable to watch, and have great chemistry. I also like that they aren’t polar opposites, which siblings in anime tend to be for shits n’ giggles. Both physically and in personality, the twins are pretty similar to one another, which makes their “connection” to one another feel more than just a ploy to use that against them later on. If only Shuusuke didn’t become soberingly serious near the end of the series, almost as if someone flipped on a switch. This in of itself becomes somewhat of a problem later on in the series.

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Even now, the drama present near the end of the series was engrossing enough to keep me entertained through the mind-numbing mediocrity of the robotic writing. However, a lot of it felt somewhat out of nowhere; keyword: somewhat. Myself; Yourself does a decent job of foreshadowing (if not a little too bluntly) things that will become of importance later on, and the severity of the things it foreshadows appeals to those hoping for something remarkably grim. Myself; Yourself does a very good job at maintaining the calm before the storm, with sirens blaring in the distance that the viewer can hear at all times. Only issue is that while the build-up is good, the execution tends to fall flat, and falls further once the climax has passed. Things popping up out of nowhere, characters committing foul acts and then never being mentioned again. It feels all the more robotic—much in tune with the character dialogue.

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What better way to emphasize and realistic premise and town than with a gray overtone? Even the artistic style of Myself; Yourself is boring. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s most similar to School Days, except a tad less glossy. There’s a darkness present that makes the series feel both gloomy and diluted, with not a lot of emphasis on animation. There are times when animation improves, with characters’ faces becoming more clean-cut and easy to look at, placed between cheap animation tactics and far-away shots to lessen the workload. At least it prioritizes making the characters look different, with a lot of differentiating characters such as… hair color/style, eye color, and breast size. Perhaps not the most creative of distinguishing traits, but I enjoy the detail present in the personalities reflected with their appearances. The twins have light, short hair to emphasize their spunkiness. Nanako has long, dark hair and red eyes to attain a nature of grace and tragedy. Aoi has a super high-pitch voice and giant tits to serve as the moe character. Even more uncharacteristic of anime, the male lead has a reason to be bland and forgettable. Good work, anime.

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Properly paced and optimistically dramatic makes Myself; Yourself worth watching regardless of its benign approach. The blunders it makes along the way definitely wear it down, though not enough to make it hazardous to the touch. There’s a simple effectiveness to the characters and the storyline that make it all in good fun, despite how dark it gets at times. Still, it tends to take some leaps in logic on occasion, or make characters horribly antagonistic to ramp up the popcorn machine. The ending is one that made me want to squeeze the bridge of my nose, though that’s more of a personal conundrum, as it’s not exactly of poor quality. Just a little abrupt. And a tad too “Happily Ever After.” While not entirely sure of my rating for it then, my current rating reflects the effort put forth to make an immersive and interesting tale of a group of friends and the struggles they have to (or had to) deal with. It just could’ve tried harder to make it feel real.

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

I’ve Been Nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award

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Thanks to Yahari Bento for drafting me first overall in the third round of their Sunshine Blogger Award draft. I’ll do everything I can to make coach Bento proud and better the team with my powerful sunshine. Bento has a lot of analyses on their blog as well as a lot of award nominations. If they’ve been nominated that many times, they’re sure to have some quality content, so go check them out.

Rules

  1. Display Award
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.
  4. Summon Nominate 11 bloggers from the magic circle and write then 11 new questions.

(I just copied the rules from his post. I will go along with said summoning.)

Questions:

1. Your favorite anime series/movie in this year?

Assuming it doesn’t abandon ship by its end, Flip Flappers. If not, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge.

2. You are aniblogger, but do you play games too or not?

I play plenty of games, and normally post reviews of various games on my blog. My preferences for genre are side-scrolling puzzle/action games (a la WayForward), turn-based RPGs, and platformers.

3. Which main characters from which anime do you want to descend from anime world to the where in front of you?

I wouldn’t mind TK from Angel Beats! to descend into my world. He seems like a cool cat.

4. While you are playing internet, what do you like to eat while do that?

Oooooh, no. I don’t normally like eating while on my laptop. If I do, though, it’s usually snack food. Fruit snacks or nuts or something small.

5. Characters you worship/like/love in the latest, will be the one we call “the best/final girl/boy” or not? And that person is…

I… think I understand the question. We will all bow down to Togame and her wisdom. Cheerio!

6. If this world will not produce any anime anymore, you will…

Praise the high heavens that I no longer have to sink years of my life into an art form that I barely care for!!! Seriously though, move on with my life.

7. Do you ever were caught by your parents when you watch/read anime/manga too much? And how do you FEEL when they/he/she are/is in front of your door?

My mother is aware of my anime-consuming habits, as are my siblings. They tease me for “watching too much,” but it’s more just playful bickering than anything serious. It’s a comfortable environment. Also, I watch anime out in the open (laptop and all), so I don’t technically have a “door” in this situation.

8. When you are reading manga/LN, will you lie down and read them like Gi*nt in Dor*em@n or not?

Once again, laptop (I barely own any physical manga copies). I’m more of a sit-down reader, so I only lay down if I’m on my bed and sitting grows tiresome on my bum.

9. Right now, are you sleepy, aren’t you?

Just woke up an hour ago, dude. Muy bueno.

10. It’s not like I’m worried about you, but you are tired answer my questions, aren’t you? (My instinct tells me to run, now!)

No worries! I enjoy the questions.

11. Congratulations! You reach the last question. So if I want you to wave your hand in front of your computer/phone screen, can you do that? Fub! (…There was a power cut in my house.)

I can, but how will you know I have? Will you trust me, coach? My sunshine and all?

Nominations:

Once again, not going to nominate eleven people, as I barely even follow eleven people. I’ll just choose three different bloggers from last time I want to highlight.

  1. AniMonologues: A fairly new follow of mine, they discuss anime in-depth as well as animated films (or just films) in general. They have a well-written style of writing that keeps me intrigued and have a lot of bite to their critiquing style, which is sure to sway me in. They don’t post often, but it’s a better day for me when they do.
  2. PlainPasta: New to the blogging world, PlainPasta writes her thoughts on anime and certain ongoing series. She also has a tendency to pick up series most wouldn’t care to, such as gdgd Fairies and Sekkou Boys. She has a writing style that’s almost bizarrely entertaining, combining an innocent enthusiasm with unemotional objectivity. Definitely worth checking out. Also a hoot on Twitter.
  3. Nichi-chan: I was drawn to N-chan’s blog after a post about how Welcome to the NHK! served as a grim reminder for his lifestyle at the time. His writing technique is wonderful and horribly captivating, adding a sentimental edge to his formulated technique. His usual mantra is episodic thoughts, but will on occasion post the single thought piece or anime review. A great blog to check out.

And as for the questions, I’ll try to keep them swift and painless.

  1. How are you today?
  2. What is your favorite genre of music?
  3. Do you have any pets? If not, why do you hate animals to the point where you wouldn’t consider adopting one?
  4. Have you ever tried to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop just by licking?
  5. If anime became more widespread in its popularity, much in the sense that video games have in the last ten years or so, what anime do you think would take the crown as the general public’s favorite?
  6. Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon? Or Stardew Valley? Or anything like them?
  7. Finances aside, would you rather travel by plane, train, or boat?
  8. Do you think the “Eww, gross! Weeaboo!” stigma of anime and manga would translate to that of a standard light novel enthusiast?
  9. Watch any sports?
  10. What is a story you’d like to see adapted into anime form? (Whether it be from a novel, movie, video game, or otherwise.)
  11. Average hours of sleep you get in a night?

Thanks again to coach Bento for believing in my shininess and I hope to make the world proud. Thank you all.

Top 10 Video Game Time Sinks

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Over the course of a lifetime, it’s safe to say I’ve played a lot of games. Perhaps too many. Consumers always feel the need to get their money’s worth when it comes to buying video games, and while short games can offer some short-term fun, if they have no replayability, they’re likely to sit on the shelf for a while. Wouldn’t it feel somewhat deflating to spend sixty dollars on a shiny new AAA game, only to play it for a combined ten hours of gametime? Games become more memorable and more impactful when the player feels as though they can spend long periods of time with it without getting bored. This emphasis on replayability is something I feel most game developers don’t account for, but it hasn’t always been that way. For this list, I’ll be counting down the Top 10 games I’ve personally put the most time into, and not researching the Top 10 games that would likely be the most time-consuming to complete. That list would be full of MMORPGs. I also tried to limit this list to one game per franchise, so it’d be safe to assume that if a sequel/prequel game appears on this list, I’ve likely spent a lot of time with others games in its franchise, too.

10. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2

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Anime wasn’t always a near-constant in my life, but if there was one series that always suited my fancy, it was Dragon Ball Z. It always amazes me to this day how much time I spent on this relatively pointless game. The game is a fighting game, in a style similar to that of most other fighting games. It provides a variety of modes and activities for the player to partake in, but all amount to collecting money or other artificial collectibles to obtain moves or special abilities for characters to fight more efficiently. In the long run, it doesn’t seem to warrant playing it for so long, but as a child, there was always one thing I enjoyed more than anything.

This mode was simply dubbed “Dragon World.” It served as the major mode of the game, akin to a “Story Mode” of sorts. It displayed the story of Dragon Ball Z in a board game-like fashion, with selectable characters as pieces on a large map that corresponds with the story. While on the surface this seems trivial, there are also hidden collectibles throughout each stage that make exploring the world more appealing. One can search for stat boosts, dragon balls, money, and others while combating the characters that make their approach. As a kid, I always loved this style of play where I could boost my character’s stats to absurdly high levels and obliterate the competition without any effort. I’m also a fan of exploring, too, so the options given during this mode always had me digging in every spot I landed in. It’s nice when your attack stat is at 170%, your defense is 180%, and you can move three spots a turn.

I’m sure some would read this and think “How can this stay entertaining for multiple hours at a time?” I’m inclined to agree with their confusion, because I really couldn’t tell you. Every level in Dragon World is essentially the same: dig for goodies and beat the bad guys. Eventually, the player will be transported to a different location where they’ll get to do it all over again with other characters. There’s really no reason why this should be so fun for so long, but I really enjoyed it, and I played it for a very long time. If not for Dragon World, I’d be entering Tournament Mode to compete for money and going in and out of the Item Shop to look for specific skills. Most importantly of all, I just enjoyed playing this simplistic, yet effective fighting game. I wouldn’t put up with everything for so long if the game wasn’t fun. It certainly was.

9. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

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It’s almost cliché to say at this point, but Sonic Adventure 2 was one of my favorite Sonic games as a child. This game was basically an accumulation of everything about the Sonic franchise I held dear. I got to go fast with Sonic and Shadow, treasure hunt with Knuckles and Rouge, and blow stuff up in cool machines with Tails and Eggman. This was a truly magical experience for my childhood mindset, and one that I will always hold dear, despite the fact that the game today is a little less than satisfying.

While it may be cliché to say that I loved this game as a kid, it might be even more cliché to say that the game is very clearly overrated. The story makes zero sense, the sound quality is jarring, and the enjoyment of the game really depends on the level of interest one has with the style of gameplay each character incorporates. Going fast, treasure hunting, or shooting things with robots. It all sounds fun, but Sonic Adventure 2 has a way of making things more dull than meets the eye, but this isn’t a full review.

A large portion of my time dedicated to this game came in the form of “Chao World.” This mode isn’t even part of the main storyline. It’s a side thing where players can raise little creatures called chao and use them to compete in wrestling, races, or otherwise keep ’em company. Defeating robotic enemies in a level will have them drop a certain colored core, and the player can take them to the Chao Garden where the chao will feast upon the nutrients to raise its individual skills. That sounds horrifying described that way. In any case, my love for leveling things up powered through and gave me an innate motivation to power these little buggers up to the highest possible level, while having them transform into “mature” chaos. This process of leveling up and caring for the chao takes quite a bit of time, too. One can’t expect to raise a perfectly OP chao over the course of a weekend. It takes weeks of dedication and playing the game over and over again. While it may seem cheap as it’s supposed to take a while, Chao World is probably the single-most largest reason I spent so much time logging hours into this game. Not for the game itself, but for a cute side mode that requires time and dedication. Almost like Tamagotchi or something.

8. Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense

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It’s at this point in the list where we can finally get down with our bad selves.

This game is already familiar to those who read my Top 10 Most Impactful Games of My Childhood list, so there isn’t much need to go over a lot of for this list. Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense is a poor man’s Twisted Metal. Though I would be willing to debate that this game is better than Twisted Metal. With a full roster of unique (and peculiarly diverse) characters and a premise of “blowing shit up,” Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense is a revamped and reloaded sequel that manages to remain fun and fresh throughout time. Whether or not this infatuation of the game is due to my own nostalgic spectacles is beyond me, but it won’t stop me from recommending it every chance I get.

This game, unlike the two games before it, is something I actually still play to this day. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle gets old after the first couple of playthroughs, and Budokai 2‘s gameplay mechanics and modes pale in comparison to future titles, such as Budokai 3. What makes this game so amazingly replayable is… to be honest, I’m not really sure. Whether it be, once again, the nostalgic value I feel for the game, the overpowered cheat codes, or the glitchiness of the game that makes the gameplay incredibly unpredictable, 2nd Offense has this magic power over me that has me wanting to play it every time I think about it. The catchy music, the memorably bad (and almost indistinguishable) character dialogue, the silly story, the bizarre character-specific special weapons; this game has so much going for it that it’s a shame not many know about it. I cannot begin to describe the amount of entertainment this game has provided me.

The only reason this game doesn’t make it higher on the list is because when I do play this game, it typically isn’t for very long. Completing the game 100% shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, and aside from doing the Quest Mode, most other modes are pretty mediocre. The only one I can recall off-hand is Survival Mode, which is exactly what it’s titled. Something I’d do once maybe for something different, but it’s not really too immersive. Had this game not had that magic longevity to it, it probably wouldn’t have a long shelf life. But it does have that magic to it—at least in my eyes—so it remains as one of the most replayable games among my video game library.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I should start playing this game again…

7. Pokémon Silver

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It seems like I’ve been talking about this game a lot recently. No matter; Pokémon Silver is the game that introduced me to the main line of Pokémon games. It’s the game that introduced me to the gaming phenomenon that the Pokémon empire had been building up to that point. I was already fond of the Pokémon anime, along with various Pokémon game spin-offs, but I never really got the taste of a true Pokémon experience. Until I played Silver.

Like 2nd Offense (You’ll be seeing this a few more times), Silver is a game I still play to this day. While I no longer have a physical copy of the game, I still have an emulator to play the game for me, and the amount of time I spent with the game as a kid combined with recent playthroughs, Silver has taken a pretty big chunk of time out of my life. While the game is somewhat limited with the efficiency of certain pokémon as competent main party material, I also do my best to vary the pokémon I have with every playthrough. I actually went through with Togetic as a main party member with my most recent playthrough, and have even used Corsola as a party member before. Who uses Corsola?

Admittedly, the game does get a little stale after the first couple times. I don’t play this game religiously, and only ever start another run after a year or so. I know almost everything about the game at this point that it becomes more of a chore to grind and listen to familiar dialogue than anything. Still, if I was so tired of it, I wouldn’t continue to go back to it. Regardless of its age and lack of player-friendly resources, Silver remains the pinnacle of Pokémon in my heart.

6. Smackdown vs. Raw 2008

svr 2008

Here’s a fun fact: I was a gigantic fan of the WWF/E as a kid. Wrestlers such as The Undertaker, Kane, Hulk Hogan, Booker T, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and more hold such a nostalgic place in my heart as one of the most testosterone-fueled interests I had as a kid. It was also the only testosterone-fueled interest I had as a kid, as a childhood reclusive gamer. I played a lot from the Smackdown vs. Raw franchise, but 2008 was the one I remember playing the most, as it was the only game from the series I actually cared enough to own.

Growing up, I only had Nintendo consoles, for the most part. The Smackdown vs. Raw series of games didn’t make the jump to Nintendo consoles until this game (though optimization to the Wii was not pretty). I was introduced to the series by a friend of mine, who had a Playstation 2, and was a huge fan of the WWE. Several years later, I was given an Xbox 360 as a Christmas present(?) by my father, along with a copy of this game, which is where the timely love affair began.

One of the most charming things about this game is not the story or its large roster of characters. It’s the Creation Modes. Creating wrestlers in this game (and most other games in the series) is an abject fetishist’s dream come true. The possibilities given to the player are downright hilarious. Players can choose to create characters with deformed limbs, absurdly huge or small body parts, and can even have accessories such as horns and wings added to the character for good measure. The creative monster within me always has a blast creating horrid, abominable creatures to duke it out in the ring with normal wrestlers. I truly wish I had the ability to share an archive of characters I’ve created over the years. Believe me, they’re things of beauty. Playing through the Story Mode with these created characters is equally as entertaining.

The other thing that has made me spend so much time with this game is something called General Manager Mode. It’s a mode where the player can act as a General Manager of one of three shows the WWE has to offer, where they can assign matches, build wrestlers’ popularity and work with their needs, and compete in ratings with the other two networks to achieve an award by the end of the year. As this is a week-by-week sort of basis, this mode takes a very long time to go through in its entirety. And I was horribly addicted to it. I’ve always been one who enjoys control in video games, and given the opportunity to control an entire brand of the WWE, choosing who I want to be champion and who gets to be popular and who gets to be in a rivalry and… you get it. It was something right up my alley, and I never looked back. I must’ve played this mode a good dozen times before I ever got tired of it. The hours racked up like crazy, and when I start at noon, then look down at the clock to see it half past five, that’s when you know you’re completely immersed. Oh, how unproductive of a teenager I was.

5. Team Fortress 2

TF2 2

I’ve already dedicated an ode to this game that you can read up on, but in case you have, I’ll make this entry quick.

Team Fortress 2 is a game I’ve known about for a while, but never really had the know-how to download it onto my computer. That all changed one day when I was informed that the game had become free to play on Steam. After finishing off the still-humorous character trailers available for each class, I was ready to download and play the game for myself, and I had myself a damn good time.

I played this game for years, and have seen it go through constant amounts of updates and changes, but despite all of this, I’ve only accumulated a little over 100 hours of playtime, according to my Steam. I think part of this is because the game doesn’t take very long to play. Each match ranges from two to maybe seven minutes tops, while varying modes take varying amounts of time to complete. After I’ve had my fill of every string of matches, only an hour or two has gone by, and that’s mostly how it went whenever I played. Team Fortress 2 isn’t a game I can play for long stretches of time. It doesn’t have enough substance for that. This is a game one can play to have a near-guaranteed good time, but that’s about it. While it has some staying power, there are times when the game can become stale. After all, I haven’t played the game in years.

I’ve stated before that having games like this compete with games such as Pokémon Silver, which is supposed to take 20-30 hours to complete a run through, is somewhat unfair, but for what its worth, Team Fortress 2 took up a longer span of my life than Silver did, which I think accounts for something. It isn’t so much that Silver doesn’t have staying power, but Team Fortress 2 can stay fresh for extended periods of time. The only thing is, for people who enjoy a “point” in a game like me, it’s a game that’s destined to sit on the shelf for a while. Only its spontaneous results can save it from staying there for too long.

4. The Sims 2

the sims 2

This is the part of the list where I feel especially ashamed of all the time I wasted.

I feel this is an easy choice for a lot of gamers out there. How couldn’t you spend a lot of time on a game like this? On a game that lets you simulate real life? The game is absurdly popular and is a safehaven for almost every kind of gamer out there, especially casual gamers. I know people in my family who almost never play video games that have spent countless amounts of hours on this game. There’s just something about this game that has people from every type of life obsessing over controlling gibberish-spewing human models.

I already explained before about my love for control. This should have become an immediate thought after stating so. Why not control the lives of fictional people the way I want to? Why not create myself and live the life I was destined to live?  Oh, the exploitations this game can have on one’s ego. Make yourself skinny. Have lots of friends. Get all the girls/boys. Get your dream job. Explore the vast world of this fictional Earth! Y’know what? I think I know why this game is so popular.

I was one of the little pudgekins who enjoyed divvying up fictional characters into a community full of normal people. For the most part. The Sims 2 also plays host to some leniency when creating characters. One can make aliens, most notably, and can also contort characters’ faces and bodies into that of horrid creatures. Not to the same degree as Smackdown vs. Raw 2008, but enough to get some chuckles out of. But if one has some mods for this game, prepare for complete chaos. However, I tended to take this game rather realistically. I enjoyed playing God with my characters and genuinely cared about their well-being, so I guided them through to an upstanding path, straight and narrow. I enjoyed it so much that I did it for years. But alas the game, like most, gets dull after so long.

I haven’t played The Sims 2 in many years, along with subsequent sequels. However, I played it enough during my childhood and teenage years to warrant a very high spot on this list. Once I was getting up there in age, the game became more fun to play around with than take seriously, so I decided, with the help of my brother, to change the tale of Pleasantview and its population to that of murderers and psychopaths, all living within a world of immoral and disgusting acts of anarchy. The appearance of the people were changed to suit this new setting, and it entertained me for a long while. But a joke gets old quickly, and afterwards The Sims 2 became yet another dust collector for my old cupboard. I can only look back fondly and think, “Wow, I was an evil child.”

3. Guitar Hero III

guitar hero III logo

The passion started with Guitar Hero II, but once I had my hands on Guitar Hero III, I never, ever let it go. As a teenager, I always felt somewhat ashamed that I knew almost everything I knew about music because of the Guitar Hero games. But now, I see it more as a blessing than anything. It’s amazing how a collection of video games can help improve my knowledge and widen my horizons on the world of rock music, and it certainly did. Bands like Kansas, Heart, Foo Fighters, Danzig, Black Sabbath, Social Distortion, Thin Lizzy, Avenged Sevenfold, and many others were introduced to me (some only by name) thanks to this collection of games. I think it’s amazing that a game can both be fun and educational, though this type of education probably isn’t one that’ll likely be very useful in real life.

While this game specifically isn’t one I still play today, I do fancy some playtime with other Guitar Hero games every once in a while. But this one is what I consider my favorite, as its the one I spent the most time with, and the one I used to nurture my skills to near perfect levels. I’m able to play on Expert with ease, with very few songs able to put me on edge. Through the Fire and Flames, specifically, is one of those songs. I’ve gotten through it before (Though I probably couldn’t now), and damn was I proud when I finally got through that hellish intro. It took me hours just to get through that part alone. Playing the rest of the game, well, that’s a story of its own.

Guitar Hero III is one of those rare games where I can always pick it up and instantly have fun. I really enjoy the variety of different songs to play and the complexities of some of the harder songs. A lot of the bonus tracks provide great fun, too, especially Impulse by Endless Sporadic. Many people regard the Guitar Hero series as overhyped games for casual players, but most casual players wouldn’t be able to play on Expert Mode. I almost shudder watching someone mess up on difficulties lower than Hard. I don’t see Guitar Hero III or any of the other games as “casual games,” but I can definitely see why people would consider them so. The game is far too tough for me to consider it casual.

What I find even more impressive is that I played this game on the Wii, which is notorious for lagging. If I can boost my skills that much playing the game for years on the Wii, the Xbox 360 version came as a Godsend. It was then that I could truly challenge myself to get as high a score as I could, and get the longest streak of notes hit. However, a lot more time spent on this game was done so in the efforts of bragging rights. If you’d like to get a glimpse into my Guitar Hero obsession and slightly cringey comments, you can go check out my page on Scorehero, where I spent heavy amounts of time back in 2009.

2. Madden 12

madden 12 one

People who read my blog had to have seen this coming, especially for people who read my ode to it a few months back. I already described the massive amount of hours I’ve put into this game, and still do to this day. It’s essentially my Minecraft; even when the action gets dull, I still find it fun from my imagination alone.

My love for Madden 12 came at some point after my blooming love for football in 2011. It allowed me to memorize all the names of all the teams and all the players and all their numbers and all their heights and weights and all their ratings and holy hell how long will this sentence run on? I was in a phase of my life where I was experiencing something enormous for the first time, and Madden 12 was sort of the gateway into that realm. It eased me into the rules of the game, the players who inhabited it, and the complexities of offenses and defenses. It did so much for me in terms of what football really was, almost in the sense that Guitar Hero III introduced me to a wider margin of musical talents. Madden 12 is the game that keeps on giving, even if in the eyes of normal people the game is rather half-assed.

The game is basically just that: football. You can either choose to play exhibition matches, play as a single superstar, or control one (or all) entire organization in Franchise Mode. What would you assume a lover of control chose to spend the most time with? Indeed, Franchise Mode is the go-to mode for me whenever I decide to play. In fact, it’s the only mode I’ll willingly play. I am literally only playing this game for a single purpose, and for some odd reason, that single purpose has yet to become boring to me, even after four years. I still log countless hours into this game, though it helps when games take an average of forty-five to fifty-five minutes to complete. It’s almost cheap, in a way. But what if I told you I spent more time organizing teams and playing with players’ stats than I have actually playing in the games? Wipe the pity off your face. I’m just as ashamed as you are.

It’s simply a game that never gets boring to me. There are stretches of time where I don’t play it, but once I start playing it again, I can’t put it down. It’s genuinely the closest I’ve come to an addiction to a certain game in my entire life. I can back up this claim by also mentioning that I have bought four copies of this game, broke one copy out of frustration, and returned a copy just to come back a month later to buy it back.

I need serious help.

1. World of Warcraft

wow logo

I don’t think this really needs a thorough explanation.

It’s a gigantic and popular MMORPG, one of the most ambitious games of the mid-2000’s, and very, very captivating. This is truly the pinnacle of fantasy gaming and has been for many years. While its current state leaves much to be desired, private realms still exist to give back to the community the magic that Blizzard Entertainment once gave to millions of people worldwide. I was one of those millions.

Let me describe how much time I spent with this game. Over six years of me spending half the day traveling through Azeroth and the Outlands. Buying every expansion pack up to Cataclysm. Making at least a hundred characters, and getting them to varying levels. My mother constantly jabbering the family about how addicted we were to the game. My already minimal social life dwindled into obscurity. My weight skyrocketed. My eyes shrunk. My life was forever changed after one recommendation from a long-lost online friend.

World of Warcraft wasn’t so much a game but a larger than life experience to me, but I’m sure everyone says that after becoming addicted to the game. The amount of detail to the game was staggering for the time, and the huge map to explore made the game incredibly time consuming. The quests, the impact, the lore, the everything. Everything was great about World of Warcraft. I couldn’t possibly leave it alone. And it couldn’t leave me alone.

That’s enough gushing. Fact of the matter is, World of Warcraft is, by far, the biggest video game time sink I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Is it a predictable choice? Yeah. Is it an easy choice? Yeah. Does any of this make its spot any less warranted? Absolutely not. The amount of time that has zoomed by because of this game is on levels unheard of by mortal beings. It’s not just me, either. Many people can attest to the amount of time this game has spent biding their time. But hey, it was fun, and that’s all that really matters. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Honorable Mentions: Mario Party, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door