[GAME REVIEW] Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Introduction

Escape’s debut game, Wonder Boy, became a hit when it was released in arcades in 1986. Because the publisher, Sega, only had rights over the Wonder Boy trademark, the company entered a partnership with Hudson Soft to have it released on the Famicom – or the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as it was known abroad. Wonder Boy, retooled into Adventure Island, would go on to be a beloved classic in the NES’s library as well. As a result, the game managed to find a broad audience, being one of the few titles legally available on both a Nintendo and a Sega console. With this success, two members of Escape, Ryuchi Nishizawa and Michishito Ishizuka, began work on a follow-up. To mark the momentous occasion of having released Wonder Boy, they changed the company’s name to Westone, believing the name Escape made them sound unreliable. Westone is derived from the first kanji in these two artists’ names – “Nishi” meaning “west” and “Ishi” meaning “stone”.

In the same year in which Wonder Boy saw its release, a skilled programmer named Yuji Horii put the finishing touches on a game known as Dragon Quest. This title was a massive success upon release, introducing countless Japanese enthusiasts to the role-playing game. One person who took note of this game’s popularity and its subsequent impact on Japanese enthusiasts was none other than Mr. Nishizawa. Drawing upon his experience, he sought to create a game that combined arcade and role-playing elements.

The result of this experimentation, Wonder Boy: Monster World, was released in arcades in August of 1987. Although the original arcade version never left Japan, it received a port on the Sega Master System in 1988. This port, which was redubbed Wonder Boy in Monster Land overseas, is frequently considered one of the stronger games in the Master System library. Similar to the case with the original Wonder Boy and Adventure Island, it also saw retooled ports on the PC Engine and the Famicom under the names Bikkuriman and Saiyūki World respectively. Bikkuriman was based off of a 1980s franchise centered on sticker collecting. Saiyūki World, published by Jaleco, was inspired by the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West in which players assumed the role of the monkey king Sun Wukong – or Son Gokū in Japanese – on a quest to save his country. Of these various ports and retools, only the Master System version saw the light of day in the West. Did Mr. Nishizawa successfully use the increasingly popular role-playing genre to give Wonder Boy a worthy sequel?

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[FILM REVIEW] Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017)

Two years have passed since the defeat of Ultron in the battle of Sokovia. Thor has been imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur. While in captivity, the demon reveals that Odin is no longer on Asgard and the realm will soon be destroyed following an event known as the Twilight of the Gods – Ragnarök. Just when Surtur unites his crown with the Eternal Flame burning in Odin’s vault, Thor frees himself. He then battles Surtur’s forces and seizes the demon’s crown. Though he believes he prevented Ragnarök, the battle has only just begun.

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[FILM REVIEW] Legion (Scott Stewart, 2010)

A winged being descends onto Earth in Los Angeles. He then raids a weapons warehouse and steals a police car, traveling towards the edge of the Mojave Desert. Elsewhere, a single father named Kyle stops at the Paradise Falls Diner. There, he meets the owner, Bob Hanson. Also at the diner is Bob’s son, Jeep, a short-order cook named Percy, Charlie, a pregnant waitress, Howard and Sandra Anderson, a married couple, and Audrey, their teenage daughter. Though it appears to be an ordinary day, things take a turn for the strange when the diner’s communications equipment fails and an anomalously hostile elderly woman steps inside.

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[FILM REVIEW] Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014)

A programmer named Caleb Smith works for the world’s premier search engine company Blue Book. By chance, he wins an office contest, allowing him to visit the luxurious abode of Blue Book CEO, Nathan Bateman. The CEO lives alone with his sole companion being a servant named Kyoko who doesn’t speak English. It is here Nathan demonstrates his latest invention: an android outfitted with artificial intelligence named Ava. Nathan wants Caleb to judge whether or not Ava has a true consciousness.

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[GAME REVIEW] Pokémon Stadium 2

Introduction

With the international success of Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64, Game Freak’s bestselling franchise had presence on both the handheld and console markets. The latter game was especially novel for its time, having introduced the Transfer Pak. With it, players could insert their own copies of Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow into these devices and have the creatures they raised battle it out in 3D. Naturally, Nintendo EAD was compelled to make a sequel following the release of the mainline series’ second-generation games: Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. This sequel was showcased at the Nintendo Space World festival in 2000. It was originally going to be entitled Pokémon Stadium 3 domestically before being changed to Pokémon Stadium Gold/Silver, seeing a release in December of that year. Western fans wouldn’t have to wait too much longer for the game to be released internationally, seeing the light of day in March of 2001 in North America and October of the same year in Europe. As only the second of the two games in the series left their native homeland, it was dubbed Pokémon Stadium 2 abroad. Does this game successfully keep up with the core series’ evolution?

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Top 10: Best Films of 2018

I can’t say I’m as knowledgeable about films as I am video games, but I do find myself in the theaters quite often. Indeed, if one were to take the journalists at face value, one could get the impression that 2018 was a triumphant year in filmmaking, setting the bar higher while surpassing the masters of old. Having watched many classic films at home throughout 2018, I can confirm this is absolutely not the case. As a year, 2018 had not even the vague affectations of consistency. While I admittedly enjoyed a majority of the praised films from 2018, every now and again, I would see an acclaimed dud. In 2017, the worst film I saw in theaters was also the one with the least acclaim. In 2018, there were several instances in which I enjoyed films with relatively low scores over ones universally praised. When critics think solely with their hearts, it can make assessing the quality of their favorites tricky.

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[FILM REVIEW] Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)

In the rural Bengal village of Nischindipur, Harihar Roy does whatever he can to provide for his family. He lives with his wife, daughter, and an elderly cousin – Sarbajaya, Durga, and Indir. Indir and Sarbajaya cannot stand one another, though Durga has a fondness for the former, often stealing fruit from a wealthy neighbor’s orchid for her. Harihar is especially determined to find work because his wife is pregnant with their second child. When he is born, they name him Apurba – or Apu.

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[FILM REVIEW] Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013)

In the distant past, Bor, the father of Odin, faced off against Malekith. The leader of the Dark Elves sought to unleash a weapon called the Aether on the Nine Realms before Bor handed him a crushing defeat. Following his victory, Bor secured the Aether in a stone column, though Malekith and a portion of his forces manage to escape.

It is now the year 2013 and Loki, the adopted son of Odin, stands trial for instigating a coordinated attack with the Chitauri in New York City one year prior. Meanwhile, the Bifröst has been recently reconstructed, causing no shortage of turmoil in the Nine Realms. Thor, along with Frandral, Volstagg, and Sif, repel an invading army on Vanaheim. After achieving victory, Thor and his comrades learn of the Convergence – a rare event in which the Nine Realms align. This causes interdimensional portals to appear at random. One such portal happens to be in London, England on Earth, drawing the attention of Dr. Jane Foster.

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[FILM REVIEW] Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)

In the year 965 A.D., a fierce battle was waged between Odin, the king of Asgard, and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. The Frost Giants’ leader, Laufey, would stop at nothing to conquer the nine realms, intending to start with Earth. Before his ambitions came to pass, the Asgardian warriors defeated the Frost Giants in in Tønsberg, Norway. In doing so, they seized the source of the Frost Giants’ power: the Casket of Ancient Winters. It is now the year 2011 and Odin’s son, Thor is prepared to ascend to the throne of Asgard. However, after hearing about the Frost Giants’ desire to reclaim the Casket, he, without Odin’s knowledge, travels to Jotunheim to confront Laufey. Assisting him are his brother, Loki, childhood friend, Sif, and the Warriors Three:  Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun. Though he is doubtlessly brave for his efforts, Thor may suffer a dire consequence for his rash actions.

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[GAME REVIEW] King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!

Introduction

On the eve of the release of King’s Quest IV, series creator Roberta Williams had many reservations – many of which were shared by her company, Sierra. Their flagship series’ fourth installment was to cast a female character in the lead role in an era when the medium had a predominately male fanbase. Princesses were expected to get captured so they could be saved by the noble hero; giving one an adventure of her own was simply unheard of. On top of that, Sierra had just finished developing their new game engine: the Sierra’s Creative Interpreter. Having been specifically designed for 16-bit little-endian computers, they feared many longtime fans lacked the resources to play it. They could not have anticipated King’s Quest IV to sell 100,000 copies within two weeks of its launch. Many journalists had nothing but praise for the new female lead – a sentiment shared by fans of the series.

With this success, the series had a future after gaining a powerful rival in the form of LucasArts. It was therefore only natural for Sierra to keep up the momentum by developing a sequel. After the significant technological leap from King’s Quest III, the programmers were in the process of refining their newest engine. The second version of the SCI engine, SCI1, was to feature 256 colors. Ms. Williams once again found herself in the director’s chair for the game that was to showcase the engine’s new capabilities.

As was the case with King’s Quest IV, Sierra sought to make the game as accessible as they could. The original version would be released on a floppy disk while owners of top-end computers could utilize a format gaining popularity for its superior storage capabilities: the CD-ROM. Furthermore, it was during this time that PC game developers began taking note of the rapidly growing console market. Thanks to the successful launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the North American console market had recovered from its devastating 1983 crash, and it was soon outpacing the PC in terms of popularity. While PC gaming required a degree of expertise most people simply did not possess at the time, anyone could place a cartridge into NES and commence playing. By the end of the decade, anything released on the NES was guaranteed a significant return on investment for the developers. As a result, Sierra collaborated with the prolific, Tokyo-based developer Konami to create and release a port for the NES.

This installment, King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, was released in November of 1990. Sierra spared no expense making King’s Quest V, giving Ms. Williams and her team a budget of one-million dollars. The company’s gambit paid off, for the game, like its predecessor, was a commercial success, moving 500,000 copies over the next few years. For a significant length of time, it had been the best-selling PC game of all time until 1995 when Cyan, Inc.’s Myst surpassed it. Many magazines praised it for its exemplary VGA graphics and sound card utilization with critics considering it the single greatest installment in the series thus far. Was King’s Quest V able ensure the popular series had a leg to stand on in the new decade?

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