Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Movie Review: Dragonball Evolution (The Live Action Dragonball Movie)

So, I'm apparently one of the few people out there who actually watched Dragonball: Evolution, otherwise known as Dragonball: The Crappy American Live Action Movie or more simply, Why Did They Make This? Why did I watch it? Curiosity, mostly, and I'm not really sorry I did, either. Don't get me wrong, it's an objectively bad movie by any standards, but there were a tiny handful of really cool moments, which I'll go ahead and spoil for you later in the review.

Also, I watched it on Youtube, so it's not like it cost me anything except 85 minutes of my life.

So yeah, let's be totally honest: no one really expected this movie to be good. From the first moment any of us heard the phrase "live action American Dragonball movie" we all knew it was probably going to suck. What was even the point of making the movie? People who wouldn't watch the original won't care to watch this movie either, and people who loved the original will be pissed off at every minor difference. This is literally a movie with no target audience.

That said, this movie somehow ended up even worse than any of us could have expected. Allow me to explain why by way of example.

In the show, Bulma wants to collect the dragonballs so she can use the wish they grant to ask for the perfect man. It's a childish wish, but it's perfect because Bulma is a childish character. In the movie, Bulma wants to harvest the energy contained within the dragonballs (oh, excuse me, "promethium orbs") to create an infinite power source. That might be a more rational goal, but it's a less interesting one and it doesn't work for the character anyway because Bulma isn't a rational person. She's a spoiled rich girl who has everything money can buy and now wants what it can't buy.

In the show, Goku's mentor is the Turtle Hermit, Master Roshi, an unabashedly perverted old man. In the movie, he's a generic, middle-aged Chow Yun-Fat. He's not a pervert, he's even lost the turtle motif entirely.

In the show, the villain Piccolo is a truly menacing creature who is more than a match for the heroes. He only wants the wish-granting dragonballs to regain his lost youth and power, knowing that with them he could conquer the Earth with ease. When he's finally defeated, he reincarnates himself in the body of his son who he spawned at the moment of his death. In the movie, Piccolo is a generic evil guy who wants to wish for the world to be destroyed, and he gets defeated after about five minutes of fighting and a single attack from Goku. The end.

Really, Dragonball: Evolution suffers from the same problem as Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. It's an attempt at making the show more realistic in order to appeal to a wider audience, but it doesn't work because Dragonball isn't supposed to be realistic. It can't be realistic. Dragonball is the epitome of cheesy cartoonish anime, with its hyper-frenetic action sequences, goofy plots and characters, and ridiculous special attacks.

And you know what? All of those things are why we loved Dragonball and Dragonball Z. Dragonball GT had those things too, but no one loved that show.

Actually, comparing this movie to Airbender is apt on two levels, as for some reason the use of ki - channeling one's own life force into energy attacks - has been replaced with elemental bending, with the Kamehameha move in particular being described as "the ultimate airbending technique." Um...why? Jesus. The one time they decide to expand on the source material instead of reducing it and they just use it for a cheap rip-off.

KR Rating: [2] BAD

I'd love to just rail on this movie and keep talking about how horrible it was, but... I just can't. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and there were a few good things about this movie. All of the actors are well cast (except Chow Yun-Fat as Roshi, but I digress) and genuinely seem to be trying their best, but they just fail. The movie was doomed from the start, but the generic writing makes the characters and story just fall flat and no amount of enthusiasm from the actors can fix that. In the end, the movie only barely made back its 45 million dollar budget, thankfully killing off any hopes of a sequel.

As I mentioned before, though, there were also a few really good moments, which I'll go ahead and spoil for you now, so you can save your time and not watch this movie.

Bulma motorcycle attack!
For those who haven't watched the show or the movie, there are these things called Capsule Cartridges: tiny pill-like caps that somehow hold vehicles or even entire houses. The cartridges make an appearance in the movie, with Bulma owning one which turns into a motorcycle. In one awesome scene, she presses the button on the capsule and throws it at the villain's henchwoman, Mai, letting it open into a motorcycle in mid-air. Mai manages to dodge the attack, but it's still a really clever idea that makes me wonder why Bulma never tried that on the show.

Master Roshi is not happy with your wish.
Near the end of the movie, Roshi is killed after failing to seal the villain inside a magic jar. After the final battle, Goku and friends use the dragonballs to wish him back to life. His response? "I had the strangest dream. I was in a garden that was like nothing I've ever seen before. I felt no pain or longing. For the first time I can remember I was at peace. ...then you all brought me back."

Bad guys make good bridges.
Goku and his friends are trapped in a volcano. The dragonball they need is beyond a river of lava and the villain's monstrous minions are pouring in through the cavern's only opening. The hero's solution? Throw the minions into the lava one by one, creating a bridge of dead bodies that he can jump across to reach the dragonball. Okay, so it's pretty gruesome and would probably never have even occurred to the innocent-to-a-fault Goku from the show, but still, it's a pretty clever idea.

And that's about it
Now you know the only entertaining moments from the movie. You can now safely ignore this godawful piece of trash.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Video Game Review: The Adventures of Mighty Max

We've talked before about Mighty Max, the toy series from the 90's and the TV show that it spawned. Well, we're not quite done talking about it yet, because there's one more thing that needs to be brought up.

Developed by Ocean Software, a company known primarily for making crappy video game adaptations of movies, The Adventures of Mighty Max might just be one of the worst video games ever made. I'm almost positive that when Ocean's developers were told they were making this game the first words out of their mouths were "What the Hell is a Mighty Max?" I'm equally positive their next words were drowned out by the sound of them all dying from terminal incompetence, because seriously? Even Sunday Funday was a better game than this.

Wait, what's that, Mr. Back Of The Game Box? You ask how I could possibly hate this game when I can...
You lying assholes. Take a look at this.


Damn it, Ocean of America! We told you Mighty Max was "action horror" not "horrible non-action!"

That right there is about a fourth of the game. Yeah, this game only has four unique worlds: the Inca Temple, the Volcano, the Water Cave, and then depending on whether you have the Sega Genesis version or the Super Nintendo version the last world is either the Jungle or Outer Space.

Oh, sure, it does have fifty different levels within those four worlds, but trust me when I say there will never be anything new. You enter through a portal, jump around, dodge enemies, then grab some doohickeys and take them back to the portal. Rinse and repeat until the sun goes supernova. There's never any new enemies or puzzles to challenge you, just a long, hard slog to the finish line. If this is what Max calls an adventure then it's no wonder he doesn't want to be the Mighty One.

Why is it like this? I know it's annoying that I keep bringing up a show you probably haven't seen, but... the show's main selling point was that you never knew where Max was going to end up, or what new and horrible thing was going to challenge him once he got there. Same thing with the toys. They had aliens, dragons, mad scientists, dinosaurs... basically everything that young boys think is cool made an appearance at some point. So, why isn't any of that stuff in this game?

KR Rating: [1] HORRIBLE

The thing is, even if you know nothing about Mighty Max and judge the game solely on the standard of being a game, it's still awful. There's not enough story to explain why you should care about who these characters are or what they're doing, the graphics and sound are passable at best, and the gameplay is pretty much tuberculosis in digital form. It basically works - the controls are responsive and it's not riddled with glitches - but that's about the only good thing that can be said about it.

As for the nameless copy writer who created the box, that guy can go to Hell. Here are a few of my favorite reasons why.

I know all his moves? What moves? Are you talking about the one time when he tripped a guy? Max doesn't have "moves" and, you know, that's kind of the entire point. He's not a street fighter or a saiyan. He doesn't have any Wolf Fang Fists, or Hadoukens, or Kamehamehas. He's a normal kid caught up in a destiny he doesn't want, facing off against villains that are way out of his league, forced to rely on cunning and surprise to win. That's a big part of why the show was awesome.

How can one sentence get so much wrong? First of all, "be the Max?" What the Hell could that possibly even mean? Why not say "be the Mighty One?" Not only is that less grammatically awful, it's also actually a thing from the show.

Second, tennis ball cannon? I hate to keep saying "on the show" but... on the show Max hardly ever used a weapon and when he did it was more like a sword or a crossbow; you know, a real weapon. If Max showed up to fight an average villain from the show wielding a tennis ball cannon, they'd laugh at him and then he'd die horribly.

Okay, at this point you've officially crossed the moral event horizon. You are no longer just casually missing the point. You are now officially trying to make little children cry. Sure, we all want to torment and/or murder little kids, but there's no reason to be a jerk about it.

Oh, goody! That means two players can share the existential torment! Also included are a revolver, two bullets, and a manual on how to carry out a mutual suicide pact. Actually, this game never made me want to kill myself, but it did make me want to kill other people. Among those people: whatever pencil-pusher at Sega is responsible for this:

Sega's highest standards of quality, apparently:
1. The cartridge is not just a taco shell filled with canned pig brains.
2. The game's programming is written in actual computer code, not incantations to Tiamat.
3. That's about it.

Bonus!
Take a look at the back of the box in all it's anti-glory! Click the image for a better view.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jessica Lugo Sucks: 5 Video Game Franchises Ruined By The Fans (Only Not)

Just to make things absolutely clear, I'm not actually talking about the games I think were ruined by the fans. Rather, this post is about why Jessica Lugo's Rant Gaming article, 5 Video Game Franchises Ruined By The Fans is total bull.

Incidentally, I briefly considered making my own list of the top 5 game franchises ruined by the fans, but I found it impossible because I'm not a corporate stooge and therefore don't think that way.

5. Mega Man
One of the defining characteristics of the Mega Man franchise was always the rock-paper-scissors mechanic of how the bosses' powers worked together. Since you could take them on in any order and take their weapons when they're defeated, you find the order that works out the best. You fight Guts Man first and take his power to throw rocks. You use that to beat Cut Man because rock beats scissors (get it?) and then you use Cut Man's scissor boomerang to beat the lightning-powered Elec Man, because scissors cut wires, and so on. Makes sense, right?

Then we get to Mega Man 6, and... wait, Flame Man? How is he different from the first game's Fire Man? And okay, I can guess how his power would work with Blizzard Man and Plant Man, but how would Knight Man and Tomahawk Man's powers work together? What about Centaur Man, or the spear-throwing Yamato Man?

Well, part of the reason they ended up with such weird robot bosses is because by this point in the series they were taking most of their ideas from unofficial fan contests and suggestions in magazines like Nintendo Power.

Except, wait, the robot masters turned dumb as early as Mega Man 2. Wind blows leaves like nothing, so why do Wood Man's leaves decimate Air Man? Metal Man's weakness is his own weapon? How the Hell am I supposed to exploit that!? And okay, even if the developers hadn't turned retarded early, how is this the fans' fault? If they couldn't figure out how to make the fan suggestions work then they could, I don't know, stop taking them? Or better yet, keep taking them but only pick ones they can figure out how to use right. Saying that this is all the fans' fault means implying that the developers had no free will.

Also, critics never really complained about Mega Man 6's stupid bosses. Most of the criticism revolved around the fact that it was basically the exact same game as Mega Man 1 through 5. In fact, the fan contests were never an issue, even for the developers. Series creator Keiji Inafune even said he loved them. So...why is Jessica Lugo blaming us?

4. XCOM
So, there used to be this really cool real time strategy game series called XCOM. You might have heard of it. It was fairly popular for a while but then sort of dropped off the radar for a lot of years. Finally, in 2010 it was announced that the series would be returning... as a generic first person shooter. The fan reaction was immediate and killed that game as soon as it was announced. Fortunately, fans got a real XCOM strategy game in the critically acclaimed XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but some fans are still a bit upset about differences between the newest game and the old games it's based on. According to Jessica this proves the fans are "unpleasable" and will "never see a new installment" thanks to their own selfishness.

Can I be real here for a second? As I've mentioned on the blog before, my favorite game of all time is the tactical RPG Tactics Ogre. If I found out tomorrow the game was being remade as a rhythm game, I'd be pissed. With that in mind, of course fans were mad when they found out that one of the best strategy game series of all time was being reborn as a cheap Halo ripoff.

Setting aside the fact that this is a series that isn't really ruined at all, is Jessica Lugo trying to argue that standing up for what you believe in is bad? Well, maybe not. Trying to turn a beloved strategy game into something entirely different is stupid, but it's not like it's a deliberate hostile action. Still, it was a bad idea and the people let the developers know that. Why does Jessica think that's shameful?

3. All of the Big Nintendo Titles
Nintendo has sort of the same problem as Square-Enix. People will always buy the latest game that has Final Fantasy, Mario, Zelda, or Pokémon in the title, like that one name is somehow proof of quality. The games' developers are guaranteed a huge audience no matter what, so why innovate?

First, because fans really won't just buy anything with Mario in the title, and if you don't believe that then check out the fan reaction to Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. But okay, it is true that they'll always be able to sell games like Pokémon: Black/White Versions 2, even to people who thought the first Black/White was bad. Yeah, I bought Black 2 and I won't apologize for it. You want to fight?

Moving on, the problem here is that logic. Yes, it's true, if we want to force Nintendo to make the next Zelda game better we accomplish that by not buying the current Zelda game. Thing is, that makes it at best partly our fault. Jessica's assertion here is that it's all our fault. Nintendo can get away with never doing anything new and therefore -according to her- they have no choice but to not do anything new. This philosophy, "we can get away with it, therefore we must do it" is literally the philosophy held by 100% of all the world's bad people, with the "it" in that statement being replaced by anything from "ripping off stockholders for billions of dollars" to "murdering my wife because I'm an enormously famous football player and can afford to hire Johnnie Cochran to defend me." Doesn't personal accountability come into play at all? Apparently not in Jessica's world.

But this doesn't quite prove that Jessica Lugo is an objectively bad person yet. Let's continue.

2. Borderlands
On the same note as the XCOM entry, how can the fans have ruined a game series that is totally not ruined? Borderlands was amazing, and Borderlands 2 is also amazing. Well, according to Jessica it's because we didn't complain about it, which led the game's developers to believe they didn't have to fix any of the game's problems, which has led to...nothing. Okay, there is an issue that I'll talk more about in a second where some people are losing their saved games, but this isn't a problem with the game and I'll explain why when I get there.

Here's the big problem with this one. Do Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have problems? Yes. Do I forgive the games for those problems? Yes. Why? Because the games are awesome. The problems don't really ruin my ability to enjoy the games, and by the way? They have fixed a lot of those problems because the game's developers, Gearbox Software, actually tend to listen to their fans. As a result even people who hated the first Borderlands liked Borderlands 2. I'm not even sure what Jessica was going for with this one and calling it "riddled with glitches" and "the gaming equivalent of jingling keys in our faces" pretty much translates as "this author clearly hasn't played this game."

Oh, and that thing that's causing some peoples' saved games to be deleted? That's not a glitch in the game's programming. It's a virus. It was created by a third party with deliberate malicious intent and spread unwittingly by infected gamers. You know, just like every other computer virus in the history of the Earth. Trying to hold Borderlands developers Gearbox accountable for it is like the ESRB threatening to give The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion a rating of Adult Only because of a third party mod that removed the underwear from character models. ...sometimes this world is depressing.

1. Mass Effect 3
If you know anything about gaming, you know about the controversy surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3, either because you played the game yourself or because someone you know did. After three award winning games and years of devotion, the series' creators Bioware finally brought the story to it's conclusion by (Spoiler Alert) completely undoing everything that happened over the course of the games, killing every single one of the characters we'd come to know and love, and deleting an entire universe worth of incredibly in-depth lore. I think I'd like to take a moment to say, "WHAT THE HELL, MAN?"

Look, don't get me wrong. I understand that in the grand scheme of things it's ultimately meaningless. It's not like I cry myself to sleep at night over the ending or anything. Hell, I hadn't even thought about it for months before this article. Still, the ending did hurt me, because it was quite literally the worst ending that they could possibly have made for the series.

What bothers me the most here, and really reveals Jessica Lugo's true colors, is this bit of logic, where she talks about how "in our whiniest, most wrongfully entitled voices, we fought to 'Retake Mass Effect' as though we somehow held a stake in the creative talent behind the game's creation." Yeah, great, except wait a minute... we did have a stake in the game. When we've devoted five years of our lives to a game series that we love, we deserve to get something out of that relationship.

See, that bit of logic, about how it's their game and we have no right to complain about it when they use it to hurt us? Yeah, that's a lot like saying that it's okay for me to stab people to death because, hey, it's my knife, so what right do you have to tell me what I can and can't do with it? When my actions affect other people it is no longer solely my own choice. That is one thing that every religion, every philosophy, and every even remotely moral person agrees on.

Also, Jessica, we weren't retaking Mass Effect from the game's creators, Bioware, which actually earned second place in Escapist's "Best Developer" contest despite the controversy surrounding the ending of ME3. We were retaking it from the soulless mega-corporation EA Games, who bought Bioware out and then ruined the game, and who were also voted to be the worst company in America by Consumerist Magazine, and if you really don't understand why then please, read this article from Cinema Blend about why EA deserved it. In fact, read that article anyway.

Jessica Lugo, you have no idea what you're talking about and every gamer who read that article knows it. Every repetition of "we gamers" comes across like an alien invader trying desperately to pass as an ordinary Earth Hyoo-Man. Hell, you wrote an article comparing free-to-play games to Socialism. You're pretty clearly either a corporate collar being paid to shout down the fans or a sniveling sycophant, desperate to sell out to the first person willing to buy you. You suck.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

President Review: Why I Won't Be Voting For Obama Again

I've mentioned before on the blog that I have sort of a rule against political posts. This isn't because I don't care about politics - I care a lot and love discussing politics, even with people who disagree with me. (Heck, especially with people who disagree. Just saying "I agree" over and over doesn't make for interesting conversation.)

Of course, if you follow my blog you also know I break this rule a lot. Well, since it's election season I thought I'd break it again. If you're not interested, feel free to ignore this post. I'll probably be posting again later this week so tune in then to hear me rant about some video game or something. For the rest of you, yes, I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. While I think that might have been the wrong decision I stand by it. He was the best choice that I saw, and I will not apologize for voting for him. I will, however, say that I'm not going to be voting for him again this year. Allow me to explain why not.

First off, I know that right now some of you are saying "well of course you shouldn't vote for Obama!" So let me start by explaining why I voted for him in the first place. I can still tell you the exact moment when I knew I was going to vote for him. The point where Obama hooked me - and many other Americans - was ironically the number one thing the Republicans loved to scream about during the 2008 election season: the Reverend Wright incident. For those who don't recall, Rev. Jeremiah Wright was an anti-semitic, America-hating former pastor whose church Obama had attended briefly. The American people were understandably worried when this information came out and demanded to know, how could Obama ask to lead us when he had associations like that? Obama responded by doing something very few Presidents have ever done before: he told the truth.

There were any number of ways he could've handled the situation. He could've denied knowledge of Wright's beliefs, he could've denounced the man, he could've embraced the man. Any one of those would have earned him a lot of votes. Instead, he spoke to us all as if we were actually thinking human beings, explained that while he didn't share the Reverend's beliefs he couldn't condemn a man just for being angry at the injustices he's suffered in his life. Obama made himself look like not just another politician, but a human being. That was why America elected Obama in a landslide two-thirds decision.

That leads us to the most notable failure of Obama's presidency: the "Obamacare" health care bill. This was potentially the biggest thing he would have done, and we NEEDED him to walk us through it, to answer our questions, to alleviate our fears, to explain step-by-step what he was doing and how it would make things better, not worse.

And...he didn't. He put the bill up before Congress and just let them have it, all for the purpose of getting it done. This was a chance not just to prove himself, but to actually do something real that would really help America out, and he failed catastrophically because he didn't do it the right way.

And that's not even the worst part. The whole time he kept going on about healthcare, I just kept asking myself, why haven't we brought industry back to this country? Why haven't we lowered the national debt? And don't tell me that it's impossible. While my own state of Virginia may have many problems it has always been very good about keeping a balanced budget, in part because both of our last two governors willingly slashed their own salaries. When was the last time you remember hearing about anyone in D.C. doing that?

Hell, the politicians in D.C. keep raising their own salaries and voting down acts that would force them to balance the budget because they know doing so would require them to make sacrifices. They're actively resisting any and all attempts at forcing them to behave responsibly, all the while demanding more and more money and power, grabbing selfishly for whatever they can take, and blaming the rest of us for all of our country's problems. Whether you believe Obama is a part of that or not, you can't deny that he has done nothing to stop it.

Look, I honestly believe that Obama is a good person, and that he really thought he could make things better. You know, and I really would love to believe that he has made things better. But he hasn't. He's made things worse - way worse. I'm sorry, folks, but the numbers don't lie. Obama has -in just one term- raised the national debt over twice what George W. Bush raised it in two terms. He's not been good for this country, and the fact of the matter is that myself and many others do not believe America can survive four more years of his presidency.

America as we know it is on its deathbed. Greed, cynicism, and laziness have poisoned it. We need a leader to bring us out of this mess. Checks and balances can't do it. We need someone who can take charge, say "no" to the corporations, special interests, and career politicians who are tearing our country apart for their own selfish gain. Obama has proven that he is not that leader. Despite what he made us believe four years ago, Barack Obama has made it clear that he couldn't unite two lego bricks, much less a country.

Mitt Romney ... is also not that leader. I do not believe that Romney is capable of fixing our country, nor do I agree with the vast majority of his ideas and goals. He is another prime example of why I hate politicians - a man who makes more money in one day than most Americans will make in ten years and yet still demands more. But... at this point he is the lesser of two evils. My only hope is that maybe he can keep the country alive long enough for a real leader to show up.

Or, who knows? Maybe whoever wins will prove me wrong by actually making things better. Wouldn't that be swell?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Top 5 Halloween Songs

It's that time of year again! It's that special day when we all dress up like Booker T. Washington, hang the stockings over the fireplace, stuff ourselves full of turkey, and light the sky on fire with illegal rockets! Well, at least that's how I celebrate my Halloween.

The point is, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It combines all of my favorite things: darkness, fire, ghosts, and sitting in my house with all of the lights off hoping the screeching vermin my neighbors call children don't egg my house! For those of you who aren't schizophrenic sociopaths, however, I've put together this fun list which combines two of my other favorite things: music and talking endlessly about nothing of importance.

Grab a slice of pumpkin pie and warm yourself over the burning corpse of an unsupervised minor, because here's my personal top 5 Halloween songs!

*Disclaimer: Do not actually burn any children to death. Unless they belong to my neighbors.

5. This Is Halloween, by Marilyn Manson
Winner: Best Halloween Movie Theme

One song that keeps cropping up on lists of the best Halloween songs is the Ghostbusters theme song. Alright, fair enough. It's a catchy tune. But I can do you one better. Let's take a theme from a movie that's actually about Halloween, then have the creepiest artist you've ever heard of remake it.

This cover is from the album Nightmare Revisited, an alternate soundtrack for Nightmare Before Christmas featuring covers from KoRn, Rise Against, Shiny Toy Guns, Marilyn Manson, and others. Manson does a really good job here, turning Jack Skellington's goofy intro song into one that not only rocks but is pretty damn sinister to boot.

Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King now!

Also Try: The Ghostbusters theme song. I told you it was catchy.

4. Trick And Treat, by Rin and Len Kagamine
Winner: Best Foreign (and Super-Nerdy) Halloween Song

Rin and Len Kagamine don't technically count as musicians, being as they're not actually human. They're actually singing computer programs from Japan, called Vocaloids. Since it's the funniest way of describing it, imagine if a text-to-speech program and an auto-tuner had a baby, only the result is about 1,000 times better than what I'm sure you're imagining. As it turns out text-to-speech only sucks in America. Also probably in Turkey. I haven't checked but, you know, it's Turkey.

The lyrics to this one are in Japanese (so, yeah, admittedly probably not the best choice if you're looking for music for a Halloween party) but essentially the song is from the perspective of two evil spirits who disguise themselves as children, lure an unsuspecting victim to their house in the woods with the pretense of friendliness, then proceed to drug and murder her. This is, to me, the very best of the many great Vocaloid Halloween songs, and one of the best Halloween songs period.

With apologies to any Turks reading this. Congratulations on getting the internet to work on your rock!

Also Try: While I'm being the huge nerd I am, here's a bonus version of the Ghostbusters theme for those other nerds who will get it.

3. Day of the Dead, by Voltaire
Winner: Best Reason Voltaire Is Awesome For Halloween

Voltaire isn't a particularly well known artist but he really should be. He's a great and often hilarious musician with a unique sound most often described as dark cabaret, with folk, symphonic, and even country influences. Voltaire perfectly captures the dark and spooky essence of Halloween, even when not singing about Halloween.

Day of the Dead, from the album Ooky Spooky, is actually based on the Mexican version of the holiday: Día de los Muertos. It's one of Voltaire's funnier songs and one of his most unique, combining his usual violin-heavy style with mariachi influences.

If you're a fan of dark wave at all then you're probably already a fan of Voltaire too, or at least you should be. If you're not a fan then listen to this song anyway because it really is a great tune.

And here's to the only entry on this list with a title that doesn't start with the letter T!

Also Try: Because Voltaire's Zombie Prostitute is not even remotely safe for work, you get Blood Red Sandman, by Lordi. Because the main point of this entry is clearly to show the people calling Manson "devil music" just how wrong they are.

2. Thriller, by Michael Jackson
Winner: Best Michael Jackson Song

Don't even pretend you didn't expect this song to be on this list. Unless you were recently discovered in an ice crevasse and thawed out by scientists you know who Michael Jackson is, and even if you despise everything about him if you have any appreciation for music at all then you have to love this song.

Okay, so technically Thriller isn't about Halloween at all. It's about horror movies, with the 14 minute short film specifically being about 1950's era drive-in serials. Regardless of any of that Thriller manages to perfectly capture the essence of Halloween and why being scared is fun. Also, come on, it's seriously one of Michael's best songs.

This is the short film. If you just want to hear the song, skip to 4:40.

Also Try: There's a thing musicians do called sampling, where they take sound bites and insert them into their songs. In Threatened Michael takes this to the next level, editing together Twilight Zone sound bites to create an entire verse "rapped" by Rod Serling. Check it out.

1. The Monster Mash (Remake), by The Misfits
Winner: Ultimate Halloween Song of Ultimate Destiny

The Monster Mash, by Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers, might be considered just a goofy old song now but for a while in the 1950's it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It's also been on just about everyone's list of the best Halloween party songs for more than half a century. Love it or hate it, it's become a fixture of the Halloween season, the same way It's A Wonderful Life has been linked inextricably with Christmas time.

Horror punk band The Misfits have been rocking slightly less time than that (since 1977) but in a lot of ways they embody the macabre feel of Halloween even better than Voltaire, with songs like Skulls and, of course, Halloween.

In 2007, these two came together at last with this remake. It's still all the goofy cheese you know from the original song, but in a way that rocks hard. It might not be the best song ever, or even the best song on this list, but it is pretty much the ultimate Halloween song and that earns it its spot at number 1.

Dracula still wants to know what happened to the Transylvania Twist.

Also Try: Alice Cooper's Feed My Frankenstein, which totally would've made the list if I had anything to say about it except that it's freaking awesome. Back on the topic of the misfits, though, how could I not include this? Halloween, by the Misfits.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Television Review: Mighty Max (The Show)

Anyone who was a child during the 1990's is doubtlessly familiar with the name Mighty Max. If you're not, a little background. In 1983 Chris Wiggs invented a toy called Polly Pocket. It was basically a miniature dollhouse built into a case the same shape and size as a makeup compact. In fact, Wiggs' prototype was literally built into one of his daughter's old, used up compacts. The toy became relatively popular and in 1992 the company started producing a version marketed toward boys, called Mighty Max. Mighty Max was the same basic concept, except while Polly Pocket was all about pretty clothes and bright colors, Mighty Max playsets had gruesome monsters, wicked villains, and a boy protagonist instead of a girl.

Even as kids we all instantly recognized that Mighty Max was totally a knockoff and it instantly became known as "Polly Pocket for boys." That said, that didn't stop us from buying the toys, and Mighty Max quickly dwarfed Polly Pocket in popularity. In fact, screw it, even though Mighty Max came second, I'm calling Polly Pocket "Mighty Max for girls" because, like with almost everything else, the boy version was just so much better.

Please allow Kenner to make my point for me. Click on the picture for a better view.

The toys became so popular, in fact, that they eventually (as in, one year later) inspired an animated television show. The show lasted for two seasons and features characters from the toys as heroes and villains. It also added two other heroes: Vergil, a chicken-like humanoid creature with the ability to see the future, and Norman, a gigantic swordfighter. (Incidentally, both of these characters would end up appearing in later toys too.)

If I had to describe the show in one word, that word would be "weird." If I had to describe it in three words, it would be "pancake bunny mushroom" because after watching this show I'm pretty sure part of my brain leaked out. The sky tastes like yellow.

KR Rating: [] DELICIOUS SAUSAGE

Wait, let's try again.

So yeah, this show is really, really weird. This show is so weird sometimes that I honestly can't even tell if it's racist or not. I mean, yes, I get that if a show depicts all Africans as spear-chucking savages with bones in their noses that yes, that's racist, but what does it mean when a show's depiction of an average Congolese native is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white man wearing bear pelts and wielding a caveman club? When that same show's depiction of Haiti includes an Aztec pyramid filled with mind-controlling zombie bugs, what does that mean?

Sometimes, though, the show is weird in a good way. My personal favorite part of the show is how ridiculously violent it is. Max, Vergil, and Norman are the polar opposite of politically correct. When they meet ice aliens, there's no "we come in peace." Hell no! Max lights their asses on fire and blows up their spaceship. Screw you, ice aliens! The best part is, that despite this the show never depicts any acts of "traditional" violence. You hardly ever see anyone use a gun and when they do they never hit anything. Also, while Norman does have a sword he only uses it on things without blood, like rock monsters and giant skeletal turtles. So what do they do with humanoid enemies?

Well, they choked that guy with a chain, then threw him into an iron maiden, then dropped the iron maiden into a pit of freaking spikes.

Holy shit, Max and Norman do not play around!

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

Like most television shows based on toys that were developed back in the day (for example: Transformers, GI Joe, My Little Pony), the Mighty Max television show was pretty obviously mostly intended to sell the toys. That said, there's definitely something here that's worth a look, and the show does manage to do some things that are fairly original. I like the way the show depicts the concept of destiny and prophecy, and it's also an interesting choice to have the main character be less heroic and more...well, kind of a dick really.

There's also the talent on hand. Mighty Max was voiced by Rob Paulsen, better known as Pinky from Pinky and the Brain and Yakko Warner from Animaniacs. He also did the voice of Rev Runner from Loonatics Unleashed, but we can forgive that because he was also on The Boondocks. Tony Jay, the voice of Vergil, was also Chairface Chippendale on The Tick and a whole lot of video game characters, most awesomely the Elder God from the Legacy of Kain series. Finally, there's Richard Moll who plays Norman, who also played Two Face on a whole lot of shows including Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and The New Batman Adventures. He also had a part in Justice League, but it wasn't Two Face because that would be too awesome. It also has Tim Curry as the voice of the main villain, SkullMaster. You might have heard of him before.

Of course, the show does have problems too. For example, the season 1 finale, which really should have been split up over multiple episodes. I can't say much without spoiling it, so let me just say that when we're introduced to not one, but four major characters in just about six minutes, it's going to be very hard to make us care about them. This is actually a problem with quite a few episodes: the writers try to cram way too many ideas into their half-hour episodes and the results sometimes feel rushed.

Also, news flash, writers of Mighty Max: you can't spend an entire episode telling me that Africans and cavemen are interchangeable, then expect me to think you're smart because you end with an "educational" segment about how silverback gorillas are endangered. You morons.

At the end of the day, I would suggest this show to anyone who is a fan of action horror and animation, and I would definitely suggest watching it for anyone who was a fan of the toys. If that doesn't apply to you, there might still be something interesting here for you, but probably not. Unfortunately, the show isn't available on DVD or on Netflix, though you can very easily find episodes posted on YouTube.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions

I've talked before about how much I dislike Final Fantasy Tactics. It occurs to me, however, that I've never entirely explained exactly why I hate the game. With that in mind, allow me to present to you the top 5 things I hate about Final Fantasy Tactics, or more specifically about the PSP re-release, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.

5. Blatant Sexism
There's an equippable item in this game called the Chantage. It's a perfume that permanently gives the equipping character the Reraise buff, which automatically resurrects them if they fall. Since it's persistent even after use this makes the equipping character immortal as long as they have it. Of course, they can still be turned into a frog or a statue, so you also give them the Ribbon headwear item, which gives 100% immunity to status effects. At this point the character is invincible. Oh, by the way, both of those items can only be equipped by female characters. There are no male only or even non-gender-specific counterparts to either of them. There' isn't even anything similar that males can use, and it's not even like they're ultra-rare items you can only ever have one of either. If you know what you're doing you can farm them by the dozens in the mid-game. The result? Using any male character in Final Fantasy Tactics is pointless, if not downright detrimental.

Don't get me wrong, I do realize how silly it would be to have your male characters running around with ribbons in their hair and wearing girly perfumes. But if that's the problem, why not just make the items something else? There's no reason the status protection item has to be a ribbon. It could just as easily be a magical crown or an enchanted helmet. Hell, if the developers really wanted to they could have made it a demonic circus peanut that you jam up your nose.

And to any feminists out there saying "well, it's about time we got something over you men" think of it like this: this could also be interpreted as saying that your gender is so disgustingly pathetic in all respects that you need godlike stuff to be able to carry your own weight.

4. It's Easy To Lose Everything
The main draw of Final Fantasy Tactics has always been the level of customizability for your characters. You want to make a ninja with a sword that turns people into frogs? You can do that. You want to make a heavily armored tank who teleports around the battlefield and bonks people with a book? Weird, but you can totally do that too, as long as you're willing to put forth the effort of searching out rare items, grinding out JP - job points - to purchase all of those abilities, and if you save your game compulsively.

See, it's really easy to lose all of the stuff you've worked on getting. Enemy knights can use the Rend skills to destroy your super-rare equipment, and enemy thieves can steal it, and in either case you can't get it back ever. Sure, you can also equip your character with the Safeguard skill to prevent item destruction, if you're okay with wasting your one and only support ability slot.

You can even lose your characters if you're not careful. When participating in random battles you'll find the game loves to put you up against hordes of massively powerful enemies, but even if it doesn't you can still lose your people. When a unit is reduced to 0 HP in this game, with a few exceptions, they are downed for a 3 count at which point they are dead forever. If you fail to successfully cast Raise or Arise on a fallen ally - which is entirely likely given the pathetic success rate of those spells - then kiss your hard work good bye!

3. Everything is Random
I already mentioned how even reviving your fallen allies is a crapshoot where you'll usually have about a 50-50 chance at best of your spell working with each cast. Thing is, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Basically everything you can ever do - buffing your allies, hurting your enemies, etc - has only a small percentage chance of actually working. While you'd think this chance would get steadily higher as you become more and more awesome over the course of the game the opposite is actually true, as your enemies become more awesome too.

The worst is reaction skills. As the name implies these are skills which activate as a reaction to some event, almost always being attacked, like counterattacking an enemy who hits you, or boosting magic power when struck by a damaging spell. Reaction skills, like basically everything else, have only a percentage chance to activate which is higher or lower depending on the skill in question. Skills like your basic counterattack will activate fairly regularly but anything cooler, like Parry (blocks melee attacks) or First Strike (stops enemy attack and attacks first) will activate so rarely you'd might as well not even have them equipped.

That's pretty much the game in a nutshell right there: the cooler what you're trying to do is the less chance it has of actually working. Anything more badass then a basic character using basic attacks will fail so often they'd might as well not even exist.

2. The Story Sucks
I can forgive a lot in a game as long as it's good. Even the randomness doesn't bother me too much. Hell, Class of Heroes is way worse about it and I love that game. The problem here is the story sucks. It's interesting, I suppose, and it's told well enough but it's ultimately pointless. The main character is Ramza Beoulve, a nobleman even amongst noblemen, from the most prestigious family in the world. When his best friend's sister is killed, essentially for being a useless peasant girl, he abandons his family and his duty and decides to put the world to rights. Spoiler alert: he fails.

Oh wait, that's not a spoiler because it tells you that he failed right at the beginning of the game. What is a spoiler is how he fails. See, despite Ramza's moralistic ranting you don't actually do anything to make the world better at all. You actually have to fight the people who are trying to make the world better, because Ramza doesn't like the way they're going about it. After you personally kill basically every good person in the world evil wins, your name and deeds are stricken from the history books, and the world is plunged into a thousand year long dark age. And no, that's not the bad ending either. That's the only ending.

I get that this was supposed to be "realistic" and "dark" and "edgy" and all of that drivel, but there's a reason people don't usually make games like this. It's because when we already live in a world where an elitist 1% opresses and humiliates us daily for fun we don't want to escape into a game world where the same thing happens except we help them do it.

1. There's Really Not That Much Customization
So yeah, I mentioned how you can do a whole lot with your characters, like making a black mage who wears heavy armor and can jump 500 feet in the air. But if you want that armored mage to also have a sword you can go to Hell.

Each character has five ability slots: two skill command slots (one of which is taken up by that class's default command set, for example "Black Magick" for black mages), one reaction skill slot, one support skill slot, and one movement skill slot. Trust me when I say each slot has a lot of good skills for it that you'll probably want to use. Buuuut, you can't.

Even worse, there are skills you need to have to avoid becoming gimped, but that means any other skills are useless. For example, if you're making a character to use for physical attacks then they need to have the Dual Wield skill to attack with two equipped weapons, or else they won't be able to deal enough damage to keep up in the later game. But what if you also want the Defend skill or the Concentrate skill which makes all attacks always hit, or the Arcane Defense skill to resist magic? Too bad. Melee attackers need Dual Wield, period. Oh, and forget about taking the Equip ___ skills so you can use the equipment you want regardless of class, because that's an enormous waste of your one and only precious support skill slot.

Mages have it just as bad. Mages need to have the Manafont skill, which restores some MP to them whenever they move. Without this skill they will run out of points to cast their spells very quickly, even if using the Halve MP skill. But what if you want your white mage to be able to teleport or fly, to get healing or raise spells to an ally who needs it more easily? Too bad because you need Manafont, period.

KR Rating: [2] BAD

I've often compared this game unfavorably to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, but even taken entirely on its own merits, this game is really bad. That said, this is nothing against the game's developers, the Ivalice Alliance. They fixed a lot of these problems in later games in the series, like Final Fantasy Tactics A2. That, along with Final Fantasy 12 proves they're more than capable of doing really good work.

It would be easy to blame this game's problems on the fact that it was the first in the series, but that argument kind of rings hollow when you consider that they still made it after they made Tactics Ogre. (You may recall I've mentioned before they were made by the same people.) Final Fantasy was a huge step backwards for the development team.You can just look at the secret "bonus" dungeons from each game to see that. Tactics Ogre has the 115 floor Hell's Gate (Palace of the Dead in the remake) dungeon, while Final Fantasy Tactics has the comparably pathetic 10 floor Deep Dungeon.

That right there is a fairly accurate metaphor for the game itself. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is basically Tactics Ogre, except only one eleventh as good.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania. I was recently invited to go see this movie with someone else who, henceforth, is no longer allowed to pick the movies.

Basically, the story goes like this. Monsters do exist, but far from being murderous hellspawn out to destroy the world they really just want to be left alone. The infamous lord of the vampires, Count Dracula, spends all of his vast fortune to build Hotel Transylvania, a secluded castle where monsters can go to hang out and have fun without humans chasing after them with pitchforks and torches.

In the middle of all of this is his daughter, Mavis Dracula (more on that god-awful name later), a stereotypically rebellious teenager who wants to go out and explore the world, much to the chagrin of her stereotypically uptight father who wants to keep his baby safe at home. Eventually he relents and lets her go out into the world, but then orchestrates a fake torch-wielding mob attack to bring her back home. This, unfortunately has the side effect of bringing a stereotypically obnoxious human boy to the hotel. Mavis stereotypically falls in love with him, her dad stereotypically tries to break them apart, and we all get clichéd all the way to stereotypesville before ending with a really horrible musical number about zinging, and no not the kind of "zing" where you burn someone with a cutting joke, but the "love at first sight" kind of zing. ...more on that later, too.

Where to start? Well, I promised I'd say more about Mavis' name, so why not there? So, do I even need to bring up that Mavis isn't even remotely a slavic name and therefore doesn't make any sense for the character, or that technically her name should be Mavis Tepes if she's really count Dracula's daughter? I really hope not because if you don't get why that's bad then it's going to be really difficult to explain why referring to Frankenstein's Creature as a "Stein monster" named "Frank" is also stupid.

That brings me to another point. The premise of getting together all the popular movie monsters - Frankenstein's Creature, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and so on - and showing things from their perspective could be really awesome. If done right, it could deconstruct the characters and the very concept of monster movies. It is not done right here. At best the jokes they make about these characters are lazy as Hell, at worst they get the characters completely wrong, like with the hotel's head chef, Quasimodo, who...wait, Quasimodo? As in the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Not only is he not a quintessential movie monster, he's not even a monster! He's just an ugly guy with a messed up back! What's next, a pair of fleas who speak with high pitched voices? Wait, they did that too? WHAT THE HELL?!

KR Rating: [1] HORRIBLE

So yeah, this movie didn't do anything right, and it's not even like they were trying. I saw absolutely every plot twist and joke coming because there's literally not one single thing that happens in this movie that isn't a cliché, and they can't even claim it was supposed to be satirical because every one of those god-awful clichés is played completely straight.

The movie didn't even have a worthwhile message to put across. The moral of the story (or "theme" for you lit nerds out there) is true love at first sight, feeling the "zing" with your special someone, how you only "zing" once in your life, and honestly I don't even have to explain it because it's been in so many stupid movies. Okay, let's be completely honest here. How many people reading this have been in love before? Okay, now think back to the first person you ever loved, the first person you ever felt like you really connected to...now think about how much your life would totally suck if that person was the only person you would ever, could ever love, and that you had to spend the rest of your life with that person.

Okay, so maybe it's not like that for you. Maybe you got lucky and managed to find your perfect match on the first try. If so, good for you and I hate your guts. For the rest of us, let's just take a moment to be really glad that this particular trope is complete garbage, shall we?

Ah...that does feel better.

Side Note:

I don't hate Adam Sandler. Everything I've heard about the man says he's one of the nicest guys in Hollywood and I do enjoy some of his movies. Hell, I know everyone on the net hates Eight Crazy Nights but I didn't even really mind that one, and while this movie was really bad I do have to admit Sandler's version of Dracula wasn't terrible and might have been one of the movie's few good points.

That said, it's time to admit something: Adam Sandler has never been in anything that can be called really good. Even Billy Madison, arguably his best movie, becomes seriously stupid and bad if you think about it too hard, especially when you realize it's basically the same movie as Happy Gilmore, Water Boy, and Big Daddy which also really suck if you think about them too hard.

I guess what I'm saying is that thinking about Adam Sandler is a bad idea.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia

For the first time ever on Knight's Reviews I'm actually talking about a movie I refuse to watch.

No, wait, don't leave yet. Let me explain.

First, I'm not actually reviewing the movie Bridge to Terabithia, I'm just talking about the book. Second, while I hate it completely I also admit that it's a good book and definitely deserves its popularity. Just hold tight, you'll understand eventually.

Also, there will be spoilers. If you don't want that, read no further.

Bridge to Terabithia follows Jesse, a preteen boy living a normal life when he meets Leslie, the rich girl who just moved to his town. The two become friends and together create Terabithia, an imaginary world full of fantasy creatures where they rule as king and queen. The story takes us along on various adventures with the two until, at the end, Leslie dies a death almost as horrible as it is completely avoidable and Jesse suffers terrible grief. The end.

Okay, so that's kind of an unfair summary. Actually, Leslie's death helps Jesse learn about life and he moves on after a lot of heartache, a stronger person for the experience. There's nothing particularly wrong with writing a dark story, or even a dark story aimed at children. I completely understand that terrible things can happen out of nowhere and shatter our happy lives and I do see the merit in teaching that message to children so that they're not devastated by it when it inevitably one day happens to them too. So yes, I can totally understand why this story was written and why it was made into a movie.

I just hate it.

Bridge to Terabithia's message is a lot like getting vaccinated. It's a hard and painful thing that you need to go through once so that when the real thing happens later you can deal with it and move on instead of dying. That said, would you want to be vaccinated every day, for fun? Of course not. The story of Bridge to Terabithia is horrible and depressing and pointless, teasing you in with fantasy and friendship and then bashing you over the head with the brutal death of a preteen girl. It would be like if Lassie ended with a tree falling on the dog, or if Alf ended with the titular alien being captured and dissected by the government.

KR Rating: NOT RATED

I don't think I can really fairly review either the movie or the book, so I just won't. What I will say is that the story is well-written and the characters are very likable. The fantasy world of Terabithia, as well, is interesting and imaginative, no pun intended.

But that's kind of the problem. If Bridge to Terabithia had been entirely about exploring the concepts of mortality and the meaning of life then that would have been different, but it's not. Instead a harmless, upbeat story about friendship and imagination is derailed for a clumsy message that's just as painful and out of nowhere as Leslie's death itself. That is why I fucking hate this story.

That said, at least it's not Doggy Poo.



Annotation From The Future:

I have recently revisited this in order to give it an actual rating. See my new review here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

5 Reasons Nintendo Are The Kings Of Obnoxious Game Characters

There's no denying that Nintendo have a lot of classic video game series and characters. Everyone knows Kirby and Zelda, and no matter how much you love Halo and Call of Duty if you have a heart there's got to be a place in it for the Mario brothers. Let's face it. Nintendo are the kings of gaming, no matter how much Microsoft and Sony may hate it.

Nintendo might also be the bridge-dwelling trolls of gaming, though, because all of their best games also include at least one extremely obnoxious character that seemingly exists only to piss you off. These are the five worst.

5. Navi, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Following in the footsteps of the massively popular Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time helped to popularize the 3-D action/adventure game genre. Even standing on its own, however, it's no exaggeration to say that Ocarina is one of, if not the best game in the Zelda franchise. The story and gameplay still hold up well even today, and the game also cemented main character Link's place as an icon of the homosexual community, for some reason.

This brings us to Navi, Link's fairy companion in the game. It was Navi's job to buzz around your head and help you out occasionally, whether by explaining things you might not have understood, or by pointing out items and characters that are far away or easy to miss. She also had the job of reminding you what storyline quest you were supposed to be doing, in case you forgot, and this is where her usefulness completely broke down.

If, like most people, you were content to spend your time scouring the world for heart containers, rupees, and collectables, you would be interrupted every half an hour or so by your fairy dive-bombing your head and screaming in a high-pitched, annoying baby voice: "Hey! Hey! Hey! Listen! Hey!"

Yes, Navi. We all know we're supposed to be going to fight the evil villain. We don't care. Shut the Hell up.

4. Tingle, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
The direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask sent Link, as a child, to an alternate dimension to stop an evil mask and prevent the moon from crashing into the world. It also released Navi from her duty as Link's helper, but don't think that means the game was without an obnoxious character. Mask introduced us to Tingle, a creepy, effeminate goon who wants to be a fairy.

Tingle was a horrid abomination in form-fitting spandex made for someone 50 pounds lighter. He ended every conversation with his annoying catchphrase, "Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah!" You couldn't even ignore him because he was the only way to get the maps you needed to find your way around in the game. Even worse, unlike Navi he's still a recurring character in the series. Worse than all of the above, though, is that as a middle-aged man obsessed with fantasy and adventure, Tingle is the creepy, awkward guy all geeks are secretly terrified of becoming.

3. Baby Mario, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
If I have to explain to you why Yoshi's Island was awesome, then you obviously never played it. Go do that now. I'll wait. By which I mean I won't wait, but since this is text you can just go ahead and play it, then come back and finish reading later.

For those of you who were too lazy to play it when I told you to, this game takes place while the famous Mario is still a baby. His future arch-nemesis, Bowser (also a baby) kidnaps his brother, Luigi, in an attempt to stop a prophecy that they would ruin his future empire. You play as a series of multi-colored dinosaurs who carry baby Mario on a quest to defeat the baby Bowser, thus allowing baby Mario and baby Luigi to save the world in the future. Because Japan is weird like that.

Weirdness aside, Yoshi's Island is still the second best game in the Mario series, just above Super Mario World but just below Super Mario 64. The problem is baby Mario himself. Did you know that humans have a biological predisposition toward hating the sound of a baby screaming? Of course you did, and you now know why everyone who has played this game despises the little brat. Okay, so he only cries when you drop him (ie. when you get hit) and the annoying sound encourages you to get him back quickly, but that doesn't make it any better...especially when the bubble he floats in randomly decides to float just out of your reach, as it loves to do.

It gets to a point where your yoshi's death comes as a welcome release from the ungodly shrieking of the little vomitpile. If you've ever heard a hack comedian joke that babies are cute to prevent us from killing them, this is why.

2. Joey, Pokémon: Gold/Silver Versions and HeartGold/SoulSilver Versions
You know how the upcoming Pokémon: Black/White 2 is being heralded as the first direct sequel in the franchise? Well, punch anyone who says that in the nose, because it's not true. The first direct sequel was also the second regular series game: Gold/Silver. G/S is the perfect example of a sequel done right. It expands upon the original while still being its own thing. Also, spoiler alert: you get to fight your character from the first game and he is harder to defeat than God. (That's not a joke. In the Pokémon universe the supreme being and creator of the world is a pokémon named Arceus and yes, you can catch Him.)

G/S also introduced the Pokégear. It was a combination cell phone, map, radio, and clock - basically a smart phone from before anyone knew what a smart phone was. One of the cool things about the Pokégear was that you could store the phone numbers of certain NPCs you met along your journey and later if they had something good for you - sometimes an item, sometimes a rematch with high level pokémon - they would call you and let you know.

Unfortunately, while G/S might have predicted the smart phone they also predicted the obnoxious text messager. What I didn't mention was that the NPCs you stored in your phone would also message you just to talk sometimes, and never about anything worthwhile.

The worst offender of all was Youngster Joey. He was one of the first trainers you fought and the third phone number you got (after your mother and Professor Elm). He had only one pokémon, a purple vendor trash rat, and he would message you constantly to tell you how wonderful it was. Part of his annoyance was that you got his number so early, but even in the late game he was still the most common person to call you.

And that's how a random 7 year old boy inspired me to destroy the world. Don't worry, though. My Ho-oh only burns to death obnoxious text messagers. That doesn't describe you...DOES IT?!

1. The Dog That Mocks You, Duck Hunt
The infamous Duck Hunt Dog was the one that started it all and is still the quintessential annoying video game character. For those of you who are too young to remember the game, Duck Hunt was a light gun shooter game for the NES. It required the use of the Zapper, a pistol-shaped controller with a spring-loaded trigger that made a loud "SPANG!" sound whenever you pulled it, so that was pretty obnoxious.

Regardless, it was incredible for the time. Oh, sure, it's old technology now that we have the Wii and the Kinect and the PlayStationMove. And sure, light gun technology had already been around for about 50 years from the first light gun toy (Seeburg's Ray-O-Lite machine) in 1936 to Duck Hunt's release in 1984. Oh, and yes, it's also true that Duck Hunt wasn't even the first NES game to use the Zapper. That honor belongs to the more obscure Wild Gunman. The point is, shut up. It was considered awesome and groundbreaking for the time, no matter how stupid that is.

Anyway, when you started the game your trusty hunting dog would jump into the bushes to scare out the ducks, which would then fly around the screen for a while before fleeing. You had to shoot them before they got away, at which point you scored some points and your dog would appear to hold up the ducks you caught.

...unless you didn't manage to shoot any. If that happened then your dog would instead pop up sporting a shit-eating grin and laugh at you. It was the ultimate insult. You failed at your goal and you're already feeling bad about that, then your only ally in the game betrays you and humiliates you even further.

It's not even like it happened because you suck. As the game goes on the ducks get faster until there's no way you could hit them. Couple that with the inaccuracy of those stupid light gun controllers and you end up with a game that forces you to fail and then humiliates you for it.

Why? Because Nintendo are dicks, that's why.

Friday, June 22, 2012

100 Posts

Today's update marks a special occasion: the 100th post on Knight's Reviews, as well as the 5th year anniversary of my first post ever. It wasn't my original intention to wait two and a half months between reviews, but I really should have started work on this at post 90 instead of post 99..

I thought that for my 100th update I should do something, but I wasn't sure what. At first I thought, "I know, I'll go back and add annotations to some of my old posts saying what I think of them now, or maybe expanding on stuff that I left out before," but I already did that.

Finally I settled on writing one single meta-post, sort of like a larger one of those annotations, covering everything on my blog, and mentioning some of my favorite things in the categories of movies, video games, music, etc. I also decided to make it long and rambling so that no one but me would enjoy it. Enjoy!

On Music.

At the time of this writing I have only one music review up, on the topic of Ciara's awful Like A Boy. A lot of you are probably thinking this is because I'm not a music person. Well, the truth is a bit more complex than that.

Actually, I only recently (about 4 years ago at the time of this writing) became a music person, thanks to a combination of Guitar Hero and an independant online radio show hosted by an acquaintance of mine. Since then I mostly just listen to what I like and ignore everything I don't.

At the same time I'm not quite enough of a music guy to be able to talk confidently about chord progressions and composition and stuff like that, so if I tried reviewing what I like it'd probably just end up as a list of some of my favorite bands and maybe links to some of their songs. (Rise Against, Blind Guardian, Nightwish, Pain, Edguy, Sonata Arctica. You're welcome.)

Before I became a music person, though, I either listened to my local pop radio station or whatever my friends or family had on. During that time I heard a whole lot of crap. The only band I really regret not taking on from that time, though, is Finger 11. For those who don't know them, be thankful for that rock you're living under. For those who do, here's a sample of some of the material I had for them.

Q: Why is Finger 11 called Finger 11?
A: Because you need to grow a third thumb just to put the proper number down.

Q: Why are all of Finger 11's songs about strip clubs?
A: No other place on Earth plays bad enough music for you to have a chance of hearing them.

Q: Why do all of Finger 11's songs sound the same?
A: Because there's only so many different types of shit.

Hey, I just said I had material, not that it was particularly funny or informative..

On Video Games:

While I might not feel completely confident discussing all the ins and outs of why I like certain bands and songs, I absolutely do feel more than comfortable telling you all about my favorite video games.

Donkey Kong 1994
I talked before briefly about how the crappy little Nintendo Game Boy beat the pants off the (technologically) vastly superior Sega Game Gear, by virtue of having classic games like Pokémon: Red/Blue Versions while Sega wasted their handheld on ports and time-waster garbage. What I regret not mentioning was just how classic some of those games were. I actually sat there and played Donkey Kong 1994 on my Game Boy all day, every day as a kid despite having a working Super Nintendo not a few feet away. Why? Because it was a masterpiece of an action puzzle adventure with over 100 unique levels and it took me a month of basically nonstop play to beat it, that's why. Seriously, I probably spent more money on batteries for my Game Boy then I spent on my last car.

Pokémon: HeartGold & SoulSilver Versions
If you need to be introduced to the concept of Pokémon then you're clearly a time traveller. It's one of the best-selling video game series of all time with nearly 30 games, a hit television show, 14 movies with a 15th on the way, and a trading card game so popular it makes even Magic: The Gathering look like peanuts by comparison. Even people in Ethiopia know what Pokémon is, and even the most out-of-touch among us could almost certainly name at least one of the creatures off the top of his head (Pikachu, obviously). The point is, the Pokémon franchise is huge, so it's actually quite the compliment to say that HeartGold/SoulSilver is the best thing to ever come out of the series. These two versions are based on the second installment in the main series, Gold/Silver, which are a perfect example of a sequel done right: they expand on the original while also maintaining their own individuality and stand on their own as truely great video games. In 2010 they were remade as the aforementioned HeartGold and SoulSilver. To make a long story short, if you only want to buy one Pokémon game ever then I highly reccomend you make it HeartGold/SoulSilver.

And a few more that I don't have a lot to say about: the Boktai series, SaGa Frontier, Monster Hunter Tri, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Guardian Legend, Borderlands, the Guilty Gear series)

On Movies:

As I mentioned before, one of the websites that inspired me to create a site of my own was the Agony Booth. I didn't say very much about the site or what it means about me, though. Agony Booth used to be a compendium of lengthy recaps of awful movies, though lately it's become more about just general reviews of movies. I have a keen appreciation for certain bad movies is the point I'm making. Especially if those bad movies come with sarcastic commentary from a guy and his robot friends.

At the same time, I'm a lot more forgiving than the folks at The Booth. As I mentioned in my review of Dungeons & Dragons I can forgive a lot in a movie as long as it's obvious that a few of the people involved either really cared about it or were really having fun. For example, you may remember a while back I reviewed that silly Wendy's training video and while I gave it a lot of crap I actually loved it. It's the kind of goofy cheese you don't see nearly often enough, and it's obvious at least one person involved tried really hard and was really enjoying himself.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have so low of standards that I'd campaign to have, say, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 classified as anything other than shitty. That's why it would earn a 2 out of 5 from me: because while it was bad it's also plain to see that the writer, director, and the actors all cared about what they were making. They wanted to make something good, something people would love, and...well, they failed. They failed hard. I can tell you the movie sucked, but I can't damn the people who made it for an honest mistake. If you feel like you can then I'm sorry you had to find out this way, but you're a horrible person. You're going to miss out on everything fun because you're too snobby to see it for what it is, then you're going to die angry and alone.

The point is, the only movies I really hate are the ones that obviously don't care: the cheap "me can haz money plz?" cash grabs like Epic Movie or Soul Plane or Stan Helsing. The creators of those movies would probably say "well, we knew the movie was bad when we made it, so it's fine." No. That's worse. That means you intentionally made everyone's day just a little bit darker so you could get a few bucks and 15 minutes of fame. You're an asshole and despite what you think being stupid is better than being an asshole any day of the week.

With that out of the way, a few of my favorite movies:

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Tremors, Dark City,

And a special mention:

Casablanca: I wanted to mention this seperately because I have to admit, saying you like Casablanca is a lot like saying you hate Hitler: you're not impressing anyone. This movie is a classic and one of the most copied films of all time, with remakes, tributes, and homages ranging from god awful to actually kind of decent. Still, I have to mention Casablanca, not just because it honestly is my favorite movie of all time, but also because unlike most classics, which are more "culturally and artistically important" rather than actually "enjoyable," Casablanca actually still holds up today, even with its black-and-white graphics and World War 2 sensibilities.

On "From Another Universe"

I've made two posts so far with the label tag From Another Universe. As you've probably guessed, this is where I use the premise of an alternate universe to explain how great creations would've sucked if they'd followed the traditions of stupid modern society.

Well, you guessed wrong. I was actually completely serious about the whole thing. You won't see anything about it on the news because of the cover up, but the black hole has now consumed the entire southeastern United States. I've already left your sad, doomed dimension for a new one and I suggest you do the same. It's great here. The President of the United States is literally ice cream. The downside is we all get paid in chewing gum. Yes, those stupid commercials were actually from this universe.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

6 More Obnoxious Internet Commenters Cracked Missed

Way back in 2003 I was inspired by a combination of Seanbaby (NSFW link) and the Agony Booth to create my own website, full of all my artwork, role-playing character biographies, and various video game reviews. That site was Knight Productions and it sucked. In 2007 I was inspired again to create a blog with better reviews, less other stuff, and 100% less Angelfire bullshit.

While I was not actually inspired by Cracked.com, the website version of the now-defunct Cracked Magazine (aka the poor man's Mad Magazine), it has influenced me quite a bit since then, mostly by showing me that list-based articles are very easy.

While I try not to rip them off completely, a few of my own posts have been based on expanding on things they've said, like when we discussed The Top 5 Superpowers, and Why They'd Suck to Have or The Most Awesome PSA Ever.

I thought it was time to give credit where it's due, because I'm expanding on another of their articles. This time it's The 8 Most Obnoxious Internet Commenters. Following are six more obnoxious commenters. They might not be quite as archetypal as the ones in Cracked's article, but they're almost as common and unlike Cracked's 8 you'll never be able to get rid of them.

6. The Sheriff


A variant of Cracked's great defender, the sheriff can be found on any site with a regular staff of writers and performers making their articles and videos. The sheriff has made it his duty to protect the site, its content, and its staff at all costs. However, as opportunities to do so are rare he usually ends up just harassing random people.

Any comment that isn't completely worshipful will get a response from the sheriff. Trying to phrase your criticism in a nice way won't help either, as there is no disagreement polite enough that he won't burst in, call you a basement-dwelling homo, and start a petition to have you shot in the street.

To the sheriff it's a rough world full of haters and he's the sole protector of peace and goodness, always ready to run in guns-a-blazin' and deal out sweet justice. To everyone else, he's a sycophantic asshole who doesn't understand the concept of constructive criticism.

Why you can't get rid of him:
Because he's not really a troll, per se. A lot of times he's a long-standing member who's just afraid of his favorite website changing. Really, his whole deal would be almost noble if he actually had any real bad guys to fight.

5. The One Line Wonder


A relative of the ninja from Cracked's list, the one line wonder is generally more eloquent, though only slightly. Unlike the ninja, their goal is not necessarily to piss people off, but rather to make themselves look cool, funny, or smart.

It doesn't matter what the current conversation is or how much time and thought other people are putting into their arguments. He'll inject himself into the conversation just long enough to toss off a sarcastic bon mot, then leave the discussion until the next opportunity arises.

Why you can't get rid of him:
For every one line wonder out there trying his hardest to destroy the concepts of communication and debate, there are at least 10 worthless yes men who think he's absolutely amazing. They will follow him around, hang on every word he says, and defend him so rabidly that even the sheriff would say "okay, that's enough."

4. The Stealth Troll


At first glance this guy might look like the sheriff, above, as he appears wherever there's a comments section to rabidly defend whatever it is you're looking at. If you look a little closer, though, you realize two key differences. The first is that his insults are never in reply to any one person. The second is that his defense of the original material seems to be an afterthought at best; 99% of his post is just telling everyone else what a sad, pathetic collection of wasted lives they are.

Why you can't get rid of him:
The stealth troll frames his trolling in false admiration of the original material. He might add in phrases like "you keep doing what you're doing, sweetheart" and "some people are so quick to bully others" right before he goes back to his string of profanities. This combination of flaming and ass-kissing ensures he'll have the support of the site staff while still getting him the slew of angry responses he so desperately wants.

3. The Crusader


The crusader has never been to your site before, he knows nothing about the way it works, who runs it, or what the fans are like, but he heard that you disagree with him on certain issues and now he's pissed. These issues will almost certainly have nothing to do with your site and probably don't even really matter to anyone but him. Regardless, he's out for blood now and he won't stop until your website is brought down and all its staff and fans are dead.

Why you can't get rid of him:
Because he believes so strongly that his cause is just. He'll spread his argument to every comment section (or thread if you're on a message board) that he can until you're forced to deal with him. Even banning him doesn't always work, as the crusader has usually been banned so many times from so many different sites that he's found lots of tricks to get around it.

If there's only one crusader you might be able to talk to him and convince him that he's wrong. If they bring friends about the only thing you can do is ban them as many times as needed and hope they get bored.

2. The Inquisitor


A relative of the crusader, the inquisitor can also be seen as a stealthier version of Cracked's Hitler's apprentice commenter. At first he doesn't appear to be out of the ordinary. He pretends to be just another fan, the only strange thing about him being that he asks a lot of questions about one particular person on the site. Eventually he reveals his master plan: the person he's been stalking is a member of some group he hates, and this entire time he's been setting up an elaborate ambush to unmask and destroy them.

The inquisitor likes to believe that he's a master detective, putting together the clues -DaVinci Code style- to uncover the massive conspiracy that is the internet. Ironically, he'll always be completely baffled when his trap has been sprung and he instantly becomes hated by the entire community; he thought he was doing you a favor by revealing this wolf in sheep's clothing. If you're lucky at this point he'll realize he was a jerk and apologize. Far more likely, however, is that he'll decide you're all indoctrinated and transform into the crusader.

Incidentally, the inquisitor is also the kind of person who will look at the graphics I made for this post and become convinced there's some sinister meaning behind all the good guy characters wearing blue.

Why you can't get rid of him:
The thing that sets the inquisitor apart from the crusader is also the thing that makes him way more obnoxious: by the time you know what he is the inquisitor has already done his damage. At that point he also has a good chance of turning into the crusader, meaning he gets to annoy everyone as both and is just as hard to get rid of.

1. The Vengeful Ghost


So you've just signed up at a new website. You think it seems like fun and you happily put up your first post. You come back an hour later to discover your post has been endlessly insulted. Maybe everyone's an asshole, maybe you're the asshole, or maybe no one's an asshole and you just got off on the wrong foot. Regardless, you just don't fit in and any attempt you make to earn everyone's respect just makes them hate you more. What do you do?

If you're most people the answer is something along the lines of telling them to go to Hell, then leaving. You have no obligation to stay there, so why waste your life at a place you hate trying to get people you hate to like you when it would be much simpler to just find someplace else where you can actually be happy?

This simple logic is completely lost on the vengeful ghost. For whatever inexplicable reason he has declared that he will be a part of your site, whether you like it or not. He's been banned more times than anyone can keep track of and he keeps coming back. In the end he's really only hurting himself, but good luck convincing him of that.

Why you can't get rid of him:
Because you already did. He obviously knows a way around whatever measures you took and like any good movie monster he keeps coming back for more. As with the crusader you could try talking to him and you might be able to convince him he'd be happier somewhere else, but honestly if that logic was capable of getting through to him you wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. The only other option is to just ban him whenever he comes back and wait for him to get the hint.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Non-Review: XBox 720 and Playstation 4 To Restrict Used Games?

Recently there've been rumors that the next generation of Sony's console will restrict the playability of used games; when a game is first played on a Playstation Orbis console it will rewrite the coding on the disc, tying it to that console forever. If it's ever placed into another Orbis it will play only as a demo copy, unless you buy a patch from Sony.

Microsoft's next console, the X Box 720, could possibly be even more restrictive. As with the Orbis the disc will be rewritten, returning an "unreadable" error on any other 720 console it's placed in. Other rumors say that Microsoft is planning on doing away with their disc drive entirely and offering every game as download only.

At the risk of bringing a lot of grief on myself, I have to admit that there could be some good to come if they do this. Of course, there could also be a lot of bad, and it might not matter anyway. With that in mind I give you another installment of a feature I'm calling Knight Argues Ineffectually With Himself And Somehow Loses.

Why this could be good:
In the old days you had to know what a game was like before you bought it, because once you bought it that was it. You might get lucky and sell it at a yard sale or something, but aside from that the only way you could get rid of the game is to give it away or throw it away.

The ability to trade a game back in to Game Stop or Replay has made consumers less discerning. There's just no need for a gamer to know what they're getting before buying when you can just take it back if you don't like it. While shovelware games have been around since the Atari, now even our good games are starting to suck. Compare what's considered a good game today (Mass Effect 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) to what was considered a good game years ago (Final Fantasy 7, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) and there's no comparison. Even our best games today are released half-finished, a couple hours long at best, with key characters and plot points removed to be offered as DLC later. Developers can get away with this because consumers will buy a game without thinking, and consumers do that because if it sucks, who cares? They can take it back to Game Stop and get most of their money back guaranteed.

Not only that, but this will also lower the price of games. Not only does the game store keep 100% of the money from used games, they also take a cut from the new games too. This forces the developers to jack up the price of the new copies and is part of why we're paying 60 dollars for games. No used games means we could see the price drop back down to 40 dollars like in the old days, or maybe even less.

Why this could be bad:
Speaking of giving games away to your friends and family, some of you right now are probably wondering, do Sony and Microsoft even realize that sometimes more than one person in a household owns an X Box or Playstation, and might want to share games? Well, the answer is that they do, and as far as they're concerned if you let your brother borrow your copy of Mass Effect then you'd might as well shoot a cop and expose yourself to an underage boy too, because you're already the worst criminal in human history.

Here's a better question, though. What if your own console breaks and has to be replaced? Not only are you out the price of a new console, but now you have to re-buy all of your old games, which might cost you even more than the console, depending on how many you have.

Why it doesn't matter:
The May 2012 issue of Game Informer included a release from Microsoft saying that they will not restrict used games, and if you think about it it wouldn't make sense for them to do so anyway. It's almost certain that the first console to do so will crash and burn and the console manufacturers damn well know it. The only way any of them would be willing to take the risk is if all of them are doing it. With Nintendo already dominating console sales worldwide and having already said they won't restrict used games there's no way Microsoft and Sony will give up their share of the market.

The generation after next may very well see this restriction, but as for right now? There are too many technical, marketing, and diplomatic reasons why this is a stupid idea. Come back in ten years and maybe this will be an issue.