Monday, December 31, 2012

To a Happier New Year

    Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, sentient computers of the future, and inquisitive time jumping, computer wielding trilobites of the past.  It's the end of the year 2012.  If you think about it, we've actually made it pretty far along.  At the beginning of the past century we were figuring out how to fly planes and then a little less than seventy years later we landed on the moon.  This past year we landed a pretty impressive rover on Mars.  You must admit the human spirit is quite determined.  About ten days ago we joked about the world ending, and today we are heralding a new year.  Modern scholar Charles Van Doren once said in his book The History of Knowledge (and I paraphrase since I don't have the book in front of me) that following a perceived doomsday is usually a flourishing of science, wealth, and culture.  After the year 1000 there was a rise from the darker days of the Middle Ages to the era of grand cathedrals and strong national spirit.  After the year 2000, we've seen computers go from bricks on tables to little things in pockets that are also phones. (And yet we still call them phones, even though that's hardly the function that's used. Crazy, am I right?)

   However, I can't help but notice an all around negativity wherever I go.  I hop on facebook and see a number of melancholy posts.  I hop on youtube, and I am greeted by one of my favorite people being quite sad.  This past year was rough in many regards and in many degrees.  That is the truth of it.  Sure the Olympic games were quite impressive, but it's been some time since that happened.  

   In an effort to brighten the mood for the coming year, I decided to show a few of my favorite things.

1. Another Winter by Anamanaguchi

This song by the chiptune (electronic music manufactured by the sound card of retro game consoles) artist Anamanaguchi premiered in the video game based on the movie and hit graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs The World (the movie is excellent too, just nobody saw it).  The song sets up a hope for things to come as Scott, the hero, travels across Toronto in the first level with bandmates Stephen Stills and Kim Pine as they fight hipster thugs on their way to a battle of the bands.  The concept is so fantastic I can't help but smile.  This music captures the mood perfectly.  

2. Mega Man X Street Fighter

Capcom was perhaps one of the foremost names in both the home and arcade video game markets during the 80s and early 90s.  For the NES there was Mega Man, a jump n' shooting robot who battled against the evil scientist Dr. Wiley. In the arcades there was Street Fighter, a 2d fighting game where Ryu, Chun Li, and a number of other iconic martial artists battled for justice against the terrorist M. Bison and the enigmatic Akuma.  This past year was the 25th anniversary of both franchises, but since mainstream markets have changed, Mega Man went without a new game and Street Fighter fell short in the poorly selling Street Fighter X Tekken.  

Fans responded with this project and Capcom's blessing.  

Simply put, this challenging but addicting game is free to download on the Capcom website.  

3. Silmarillion

The Hobbit recently came out in theatres, and I was overall pleased with it.  I would read The Hobbit to pass the time for part two, except I already did that some time ago since it's actually shorter than any individual part of the Lord of the Rings.  I took to reading Tolkien's posthumous title, The Silmarillion.  The word I would describe this is legendary.  It is told in a different regard than a hero's quest like The Hobbit and LotR and is told, as I described, as a legend or myth.  It covers the creation story of Middle Earth and how everything in the main story fits into the the overall backstory.  Now we can finally know who Morgoth is and why he has a Balrog.  Get an audiobook, or put it on your ebook thing or actually get paper bound in a cover or something.  It's good.

4. Chrono Trigger

I love a tale of timey wimey as much as the next nerd, but there's something special about Chrono Trigger for the SNES that few other time travel stories have.  Few other RPGs for that matter.  This game, made by Square Enix (the people who keep cranking out the Final Fantasy series like there's no tomorrow) has many qualities unparalleled by any other game.  It's a shame they really only made one, but here are some things in this game that make it an excellent experience. 

 - Medieval people with time machines
 - A ginger samurai protagonist (I was sold at this point, and that's only 3 seconds into the game)
 - epic gameplay
 - a multitude of possible endings
 - a frog with a broadsword

5. Sherlock Holmes

I'm a pretty die hard Sherlockian.  It's no secret really.  However, I am also a fan of pretty much anything to do with Baker Street's famous detective.  Whether it's with ol Cumberbumbles, RDJ, classic Rathbone, Doyle's original series and post Reichenbach reboot, or the many other forms of media that bear the name of Sherlock, I can enjoy these stories.  Many fans turn there noses up to Sherlock in one form or another while praising a singular form to be canon.  I've heard arguments that the BBC series can't be the true Sherlock because Sherlock Holmes was something confined to Victorian England.  Others would say the recent movies are a poor representation built upon explosions and cross dressing and no actual detective work.  And then others still hold to my belief that most if not all are great.  

I've tried to get into a great many detective stories over the years, but though many are good, none quite have the same charm as Sherlock Holmes.  Poe had a similar detective, but I always felt cheated at the end of those stories.  I believe the term is that the story was railroaded as one would say in a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Dame Christie has great mysteries, but her detectives just aren't as impressive as Holmes.  So what is it that makes Holmes stand out, and why do I like him in so many radically different interpretations?  I suppose it would simply be the inexplicable spirit of the entity.  It's like looking into a night sky and admiring certain constellations only to finally lean back and realize all the stars are splendid but that each piece could do the whole lot justice.  I guess I say all this to conclude that we all have something remarkable that due to some click of the psyche and what not we can accept that which others may not.  If we find that thing, then maybe we can move along with more spring in step knowing that there's something absolutely remarkable that we get, something that makes our outlook unique.  

Having finished this list, I have been throwing around ideas for New Year's Resolution.  I think I've got something, but there's no need to get ahead of ourselves.  It's not the New Year yet, and there's a time better for declaration of such things than the time at hand.  Being home with the family to celebrate the New Year is great enough, and I appreciate all of you who read this blog.  So as I type with my cat Mittens, my two Jackal statues Ozzie and Rammy, and my bonsai tree named Yoshi, I wish you all an excellent 2013.  

Adieu for the night.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

X Men Origins Wolverine 2: Less Miserable, Revolution and Review

   It is a certain matter that troubles me that the prequel to this movie was less than stellar when it first came out.  You didn't come for that so I'll sum up my thoughts in three words:  That's not Deadpool.

  So in this movie (abbr. XMOW2LM), it certainly takes a different approach that pays off considerably.  It doesn't even ride on the coattails of First Class.  Everything from setting to delivery is all new and quite remarkable.  Not to mention, it paid a good homage in a crossover to the movie Master and Commander, in which Russell Crowe's character has fallen under Stockholm Syndrome and become a Frenchman.  So before anything is said, everybody starts singing.  Everybody.  They get up in each other's face and start singing, they sing while performing manual labor, sing while getting shot at, sing over each other, and collectively sing songs while being separated by considerable distance in some cases.  Overarching music sets the tone to each scene that progresses with the plot, quite like when you move from town to town in Pokemon.  If I could compare it to something, it's like in sitcoms where somebody hits their head and then suddenly everybody around them can't stop singing until the lead character succumbs or goes mad.  Given that Wolverine was shot in the head at the end of the last movie, this is no surprise.

   It's all quite charming.  There's a love story, some fighting, social ills, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (sans Burton), redemption, life and death, and an ending that will have you saying "good night Irene". That bit is in quotes because you'll be saying it.  You really wouldn't expect something like this to be in the head of a guy who experienced the horrors of the Civil, World, and Vietnam Wars.

   Not entirely sure where this fits into the continuity of the Marvel Multiverse.  However, from some comics I've read which feature Tony Stark as a Spanish baron in the seventeenth century and a fight between Red Skull and the Joker as the latter defends the American way, I am willing to accept this story.  I'd accept it for the songs alone.  I'm still humming half of them.

   It was of some interest that I don't believe I saw a single French actor in a movie set in France.  I'd say this solidifies my view that the British and Australian actors continue to do their part in representing the entirety of  Western civilization.  At least it's not like how Doctor Who suggests that all of time and space looks like Wales.

In summary, I give this movie ten angry mobs out of ten.  Just like the ones that will be forming outside of my dorm room for writing this.

Really, go up to the window in front of the big building. Say "I want x amount of tickets" but don't actually say x because they'll look at you weird.  Find a seat and watch it.

And it's Les Miserables.  ok. that's all she wrote.  We're done here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The End and the Beginning: Majora's Mask part 1

It would seem odd to continue this series since the world didn't end and now Christmas is right around the corner followed by a new year. However, I'm going to keep writing this for a number of reasons.  It's the most productive thing I could be doing, and Quetzlcoatl might pull a fast one and end the world on the 12th of January or something. (Disclaimer:  Quetzlcoatl is Aztec, not Mayan, my deepest apologies to anyone who didn't understand that joke.)

For the sake of this series, I got out my copy of Majora's Mask.  Now, as some people know, my first console was a Gamecube.  As such, my copy of Majora's Mask was part of the LoZ collector's edition that was released for the Gamecube a while ago for some reason or another.  It had four games, the original two for the NES and the two for the N64.  I said all that to say I played OoT and Majora's Mask at the same time.  Since I already described the gist of OoT in the previous post, I'll start with Majora's Mask here.

   The story opens saying that it takes place a few months after the end of the previous game.  Link, the protagonist, has set out through the woods on his horse searching for an unnamed friend.  The hints dropped point to this friend being Navi, the companion fairy from the previous game.  So everything so far is set up like old times, in the woods, on a horse, looking for the famous crier of such infamously annoying phrases as "HEY!" "LISTEN!" and "WATCH OUT!" Then every convention of everything goes out the window.  Two fairies jump out and assault Link.  Yep, two little balls of light with wings drop our hero who in the previous game had defeated an all powerful evil emperor wizard pig ginger man.  Goodbye traditional story telling. Text me when you get to purgatory.

   Walking up to the unconscious Link and horse is a fellow dressed like a scarecrow wearing a mask.  Actually, the mask looks quite similar to the one on the cover, and in the title screen, but for the sake of pacing we're going to play dumb and assume it's just a guy dressed like a scarecrow wearing a mask.  The masked man looks out from under the mask around to ensure there's no witnesses and then also reveals he's in cahoots with the fairies.  To veterans of the series, this character is recognized as a skull kid.  To those who have not played these games before, a skull kid is kinda self explanatory.  Basically, it's a child who dies in the forest and comes back as a macabre scarecrow looking thing.  Morbid? a little. How far are we into the game? Roughly a minute. Best part is, all of these things could still happen in the previous game, we haven't gotten to the really dark weird stuff yet.

   Link regains consciousness to find the skull kid has looted him of the Ocarina of Time, the magic flute of the previous game.  Link tries to catch the skull kid, but it runs off with his horse deeper into the woods.  Link chases him to a cave where he falls deep into an abyss.  Greeted by several weird symbols, Link lands in a strange cavern.  The skull kid's crafty behavior fits with all other encounters in the previous game up until this point.  He summons two spotlights down on him out of nowhere, taunts Link a bit, and then what happens next is as if Guillermo del Toro and David Lynch had a baby (Lynch being the mother in this relationship).  The mask's eyes glow as it shakes around on the skull kid's face.  A vision is shown of Link being swarmed by a mob of tree people to finally be chased by a giant tree creature, and Link snaps out of it to find he has been turned into one such tree person with no sword or shield.  So now everything old is new again and everything new is beak-on-a-giraffe bizarre. Have fun!

To be continued in part 2...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Terrible Fate: Majora's Mask Intro

    Remember that other time when the world was supposed to end?  Not the rapture one a couple years ago.  I'm thinking about the big one, ol' Y2K.  There was the fear of computers breaking down, and people actually spent the last year of the previous millennium preparing for it.  Rewriting computer code, digging shelters, stockpiling twinkies which were still being made, not caring, and most importantly joking about it.  I was in first grade around that time, so it really didn't make much of a difference to me.  In the year 2000, a game came out that centered around the end of the world, and it was rated E for everyone.

   Before I get to that, let's jump back to 1998.  The Nintendo 64 has been out two years and it had been rocking the gaming market for some time.  The only true competitor was the Playstation which came out in '94, and at the time it didn't have the sort of brand recognition as Nintendo, which had released two excellent consoles and many great titles before the Nintendo 64.  In '98, Nintendo released the long anticipated title of one of their most beloved franchises, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LoZ: OoT for the sake of brevity).  

  This game summarized the spirit of the industry.  It took the classic hero's quest, one that had been experienced countless times in the 2 dimensional classics of the SNES and NES, reinvented it, and brought it to life in a timeless 3d world.  It was a save the princess where the princess was also a ninja who would help you through your journey,  It was a coming of age where we would see the hero literally grow from childhood to adulthood,  It was the focal point which the entire series would revolve around, and on top of all of this it was a virtually flawless game.  

Then two years later, the classic hero's tale was followed up by this 

Enter Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.  My favorite game of all time.  

To be continued in part 1.