Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What I Played in 2018 [Fat Jesus Video Game Thoughts]

I’ve played a lot of new video games for the first time this year. From 2018 releases like Celeste and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, to older titles such as Mega Man for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. I’ve streamed my adventures listed below on Twitch to boot. The only games I feel I’ve missed out on are God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 (both of which I would have played, had I still had my PS4.) Also, I don’t feel I’ve missed out on Spider-Man for the PS4 since I watched my friend play through it. I’ve played hacks, ports and even a 3DO game, and while I haven’t played a ton, I feel that these 26 games were a full year of myself jumping into digital adventures. I hope you all enjoy my thoughts on what I’ve played in 2018! (After my top six, I’m going to only being giving brief thoughts.)

Celeste (PC) - 10/10
Celeste is already up there as one of my favorite games of all time and is up there with Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong Country 2 as my favorite 2D platformer of all time. It’s not just a jumpy jump game, it has an emotional nature of the story, beautiful art, precise gameplay, tight controls and astounding soundtrack. You can pick up this game a play through it in a couple of hours, or you can spend countless hours collecting Strawberries and doing the B and C-Sides of the worlds. All of this adds up to one of the most complete games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in my life.

Super Mario Odyssey (NSW) - 9/10
I finally got my hands on a Nintendo Switch in October, and oh boy was I stoked to get my hands-on Super Mario Odyssey. As a huge fan of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine growing up, Odyssey falls more in line with those to games than it does with the Galaxy titles. The game is packed with plenty of collectables (Power Moons, purple coins and outfits), a wide array of completely unique worlds and an awesome soundtrack to boot. Even if you’re just finishing the game and not collecting all the Power Moons and purple coins like I did, there’s an abundance to do.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW) - 9/10
I’ve already put over 30 hours in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I haven’t even touched the online yet. I played a healthy amount of my time has, so far, been finishing World of Light and collecting spirits. I’ve also done a few of the Classic Mode runs to hit my nostalgia. Both modes are incredibly varied and highly creative (if a bit repetitive.) I put quite a few hours into Smash 4 between my Wii U and 3DS, but it never really captured my attention like Ultimate has thus far. The unbelievable number of fighters (with six more to come), what feels like every stage ever, an incredible array of original, remixed and reintroduced tracks and gameplay that feels more refined and faster than the previous entry.

Mega Man (NES) - 9/10
I need to get to the rest of the NES Mega Man games because this was a blast to go through for the first time since I was a kid. I’m still not convinced I beat this as a kid either. This game is tough, but the gameplay is still very fair. Each stage is challenging, and you feel a sense of accomplishment finishing a stage and the game. Not to mention this game has some of the best music from the NES era.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS) – 8/10
Ever since I played Danganronpa, I’ve been looking to get into more visual novels, and the first one I played since finishing Danganronpa V3 was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The game play is a bit dated, as is some of the dialogue, but this was a joy to play through. Each case had its own distinct feel and story. The overall story was great, the characters are memorable, the music is banging and the gameplay (both collecting evidence and in the courtroom) will leave anyone satisfied.

Hollow Knight (NSW, 70% Done) - 8/10
I’d been waiting to play Hollow Knight since it came out but never had the opportunity until now. I’ve never been huge into Metroidvania’s, but playing the game next on my list really spurred me to getting Hollow Knight as soon as I got my Switch. With great gameplay (both platforming and power-ups), awesome stage and background design, a huge map, challenging enemies and bosses, this game so far (I’d say I’m about 70% done at the moment) hits in all the right places.

Metroid Fusion (GBA) - 8/10
The afore mentioned Metroid Fusion clocks in just outside of my top five. Great gameplay, awesome design, engaging story and good mechanics, power ups and movements.

Pokémon Crystal Clear (GBC, Open-World Hack) - 7/10
If you’ve ever played Pokémon over the years, you’ve been clamoring for an open-world adventure, where you can start off and go anywhere. Pokémon Crystal Clear gives you an open world, scaling gym leaders, an abundance of starters to choose from, following Pokémon, customizable music and a litany of other customizable options.

Kirby Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA) - 7/10
I’m not a huge fan of Kirby games, I would say that these GBA Kirby games were the last exceptional ones. Nightmare in Dream Land is a remake of Kirby’s Adventure and it makes everything much nicer to look at, listen to and most of all, play.

Kirby Super Star (SNES) - 7/10
I only put this below Nightmare in Dreamland because of focus. I enjoyed traversing a map and going from world to world more than going to a main menu to go to the different portions of the game. Though I will concede, that Kirby Super Star still has the best gameplay of all Kirby games.

Crash Bandicoot Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
I never had a PlayStation growing up, so I had no nostalgia for these next two series. I liked Crash Bandicoot slightly more than Spyro, but as far as platformers go, you can do way worse, even if you’re playing the originals. Side note, playing Crash 1 blind is absolutely brutal.

Spyro the Dragon Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
Like above, you can apply everything I said about Crash Bandicoot to Spyro the Dragon as well. It’s a decent time and there’s many other games you could go to from that era that don’t have the same sense of fun behind them.

Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! (NSW)– 6/10
As someone who has played every main series Pokémon game, this is far from the worst, but I’m not giving it an A+ either. The removal of random encounters was nice, and it was cool going back to Kanto on my Switch in HD. But, the game is short, made far too easy and packed with Pokémon Go gimmicks and has a post-game that simply not worth doing after a few hours.

Detective Pikachu (3DS) - 6/10
I played Detective Pikachu after Phoenix Wright and I was hoping for Ace Attorney x Danganronpa x Pokémon. I kind of got that. This is a short game, with okay mechanics, a decent story and characters and a vibrant world that just doesn’t quite click on all cylinders.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon (3DS) - 6/10
Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube benefitted from its brevity. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that plays well and has a good story, but I felt like I was doing too much of the same stuff over and over and over in each different mansion.

Pokémon Penumbra Moon (3DS, Difficulty Hack) - 6/10
If you want a little more challenge in your Pokémon games a difficulty hack is the way to go. I felt sense of accomplishment when I beat Hau and took my place atop the Alola League that I can’t say I felt after playing the base game.

Pokémon Sweet Version (GBA, Full Rom Hack) - 6/10
This is a full hack, with all new “Sweet” inspired Pokémon, pixel art, with an all new type chart and story. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to learn the new types, it seems like the Pokémon aren’t placed with any reason and the story is just okay.

Cave Story+ (PC) - 6/10
I wanted to like Cave Story+ a lot more than I did. The platforming and power ups were fun and there were challenging parts too. But I just wasn’t as enamored by the art and story as much as a lot of other people.

Mom Hid My Game (3DS) - 6/10
If you’ve got an hour, you too can save your game console from your mother who keeps hiding it from you in ridiculous ways. Take the time to play this gem that’s sure to get a laugh out of you.

Comix Zone (GEN) - 4/10
The idea and presentation of Comix Zone is great. Unfortunately, this is a game that is difficult and punishes you as well. On top of that the controls aren’t the greatest and it’s mired in the arcade style of “you game over, you start all the way over.”

Hatoful Boyfriend (PC) - 4/10
All visual novels aren’t created equal and this falls into the “tries too hard” portion for me. In Hatoful Boyfriend you’re turned into a bird and go to a bird high school. You do anything a Japanese kid would do, but you’re a bird. Yeah.

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (PC) - 2/10
In this 90s misfire turned internet meme, you’re trying to help a man get together with a woman he meets in a parking lot. The writing, humor, story, acting in this 3DO title is all just awful.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Leap of faith. As you probably know, I’m moving in two weeks. I’m afraid, emotional, anxious and excited all at the same time. Even though I’m only moving in with a friend, it feels like that leap of faith I need to take in my life. I’ve slowed down on writing, I got my small degree last year, I’ve worked on growing bit by bit on Twitch all the while I’ve been unable to find work in a barren job market. I feel like I felt three years ago when I decided to go back to college, stuck and scared. I’ve been here for five years now, I’ve watched countless films and I’ve changed in my views and beliefs about life in general.

I think it’s fitting that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is likely the last film I’m seeing in theaters here. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I was a kid. He has also given the superhero genre a jolt on three separate occasions now over the past three years with his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, his first MCU film in Spider-Man: Homecoming and this. Sony--who just released the most bare-boned superhero origin story since Thor, in Venom--has done a 180 with this animated feature that explores Miles Morales’ origins as the successor to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows the familiar story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a bright teenager living in Brooklyn, New York who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and starts to become Spider-Man. He meets Spider-Man (Chris Pine) as he is fighting Green Goblin while trying to stop Wilson Fisk from starting a particle accelerator to try and access different dimensions, so he can get his family back. During the fight, as the machine is running, Goblin holds Spider-Man into the beam which ultimately leads to his death at the hands of Fisk. Unbeknownst to anyone, reality was bent and a cavalcade of Spider-Men and Women have been brought to Morales’ dimension and he must work together with them to save his world and get them back to theirs.

I’m going to get my negatives out of the way first, because these are only minor gripes. One, the disenfranchised kid (regardless of ethnicity) “winning the lottery”, so to speak, to go the better place (in this case it’s a school) is a dumb trope and doesn’t really need to be done with the Miles Morales or Peter Parker characters. They have always been portrayed as smart teenagers who kick their lives into high gear with the advent spider-bite. You don’t need more of a push to these characters. Motion blur during the action scenes was used heavily in this. Except it wasn't motion blur, it was a technique known as "smearing." I don’t mind smearing (or motion blur for that matter) for effect, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as much as it was in this. I know they did it to accent the comic-book style, but at times it was kind-of distracting. Finally, the climactic scene seemed a bit rushed. In a film that was almost two hours, there shouldn’t be a finale that feels as rushed as it did. It’s not that it was short or unoriginal, but it should’ve stood out as the final fight it was, at least compared to the rest of the action in the film.

While we’re talking about the action, it was sublime. Motion smear aside, the scenes were wonderfully choreographed, and all had purpose for the progression of the film. Even before all the Spider-people bleed in and the fights really ramp up, the action was well-crafted and relevant towards the story. While not as quippy as in the PS4 Spider-Man game, each fight felt like a Spidey fight because of the signature tone and humor that is naturally injected by it just being Spider-Man. The integration of the BAMs, THWIPs and POWs to the background of a given fight were also great touches that added to the comic-book flare that permeated throughout the film.

The CGI in the film was beautiful, again motion smear aside, the world, character design and overall vibe of the film. This film is a stylized comic-book brought to life. As I mentioned above, BAMs and POWs are all over the places. Comic-book covers are used to introduce each hero before a brief introduction about their origins and that was perhaps my favorite touch of the film. Comic-book panels were frequently used to explain things as well. The unique colorized style (and in your face soundtrack to an extent) remined me a lot of the Jet Set Radio series. It was a sensory masterpiece and you never want to take your eyes of the screen. I would compare the animation heavily to the incredible “real world” CGI used in Doctor Strange had a few years back. Everyone’s suits and style looked great and stayed true to their comics designs. I also highly enjoyed the imposing size of Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and the unique style of Doc Oc and Aunt May (Kathryn Hahn and Lily Tomlin). Seeing Scorpion, Prowler and Tombstone was pretty great as well.

Miles and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) were written and voiced quite well and will satisfy fans of both main Spider-Men. Spider-Woman / Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), was fine, but I honestly enjoyed her not being the love interest of Miles--even though that’s what is planned for a sequel. It was refreshing not needing a love interest because there’s so much emotion in just the origin stories of Gwen and Miles. While the agony of both Peter Parker’s in the film also fuels any emotional connection you would want to make. The rest of the cast including Nicholas Cage as Spider-Noir, John Mulaney as Spider-Ham and Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker all have a unique voice, even if they’re relegated to supporting role. I feel like all the people in Miles’ family, are just alright in the film and seem more generic than anything else, even though his father and uncle are central to Miles becoming who he is.

The story isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s the story of almost every Spider-Man movie, show, video game, ever made, but it works. I’m not huge fan of--like I said above--handing out an upgrade to a disenfranchised for the sake of doing it. I think it’s to make Miles more relatable, even though he’s very relatable already. You don’t have to force the “you worked your way to this school by winning a competition and then working hard.” Just let him go to the school, we know Spider-Man alter egos are usually bright teenagers, you don’t have to politicize everything. Everything else is enough of a twist or homage to this established and beloved origin story. I’m not a fan of the whole “we are Spider-Man” thing from the end, but I get the marketing power behind it. I more related to the “leap of faith” element throughout the film and think that is the aspect people should be focusing on more. I think taking that leap of faith in your life to get to where you need to be is a much more realistic message compared to “YOU TOO CAN BE SPIDER-MAN!” I enjoyed it because it’s the most faithful adaptation of Spider-Man we’ve seen to date in a film. As much as I like Tom Holland’s MCU Spider-Man, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have totally encapsulated the essence of a Spider-Man comic in this.

I don’t feel I need to say much more about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s a well-crafted, visually striking film, with a competent story, great design, genuine humor, good voice acting and engaging action sequences. If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, this is the film for you. It has minor problems and I have some minor gripes, but this is the most I’ve enjoyed a film so far this year and I can’t wait to give it a second watch.