May 2018 in Summary: Extra Life is Now Four Years Old!

Well, I’ve done it. May 20th marks the four-year anniversary of my very first post on WordPress. I may have taken down my initial review of The Last of Us in favor rewriting it three years later, but I still remember that day. Considering how infrequently I would upload reviews back in 2014, I never would’ve imagined that A) I would find a way to post reviews on a weekly basis and B) an overwhelming majority of the reviews I post now eclipse my earliest reviews in terms of length. Thank you to all of my readers for your continued support!

So far, 2018 seems to be the year where distributors decided “Yeah, you know those films at all sound interesting and get rave reviews from critics? Let’s not bother giving them a wide release.” In other words, it’s like 2017 without all of the good/great films to balance out the bottom-of-the-barrel material said distributors seem to have no qualms about giving a wide release (i.e. Fifty Shades Freed). Then again, the summer blockbuster season has yet to begin in earnest, so here’s hoping it doesn’t end up like 2009’s.

Either way, because of the slim pickings, I only saw two films in theaters this month. Luckily, I have no such restrictions at home. As before, these entries are color coded (red = not recommended, yellow = ambivalent, green = recommended). Entries made bold represent highly recommended works.

Films watched in May 2018:

  • In theaters:
    • Tully (2018)
    • Deadpool 2 (2018)
  • At home:
    • Chimes at Midnight (1966)
    • The Hidden Fortress (1957)
    • Vertigo (1958)
    • Dekalog (1988)
    • Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
    • Woodstock (1970)
    • The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
    • Ran (1985)
    • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    • It Follows (2014)

Games reviewed in May 2018:

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996)

As longtime readers know, I’ve been reviewing Ace Attorney and The Legend of Zelda installments in tandem in 2018 after running out of Final Fantasy installments to discuss. I set myself up to review Prosecutor’s Path, the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations, but then one week prior, I realized that Star Wars day was rapidly approaching. Therefore, in celebration of that day, I saw fit to review the first Star Wars game I’d ever played. This was a childhood favorite of mine, but I fully acknowledge that it has not stood the test of time. I had always been kind of disappointed that Rogue Squadron and its first sequel didn’t feature any missions on foot, but considering how well the Battle of Hoth stage has aged in comparison to the ones that follow, it was for the best that LucasArts went in that direction. Either way, I give Shadows of the Empire credit for combining multiply gameplay styles, but it’s always better to implement one idea near-flawlessly than it is to implement several only semi-competently.

Super Mario Land (1989)

Considering how often I’ve discussed Nintendo’s work, I can imagine it was quite jarring to some readers for me to suddenly review a Mario game right out of the blue – and not the game that started it all at that. The reason for this sudden decision had to do with my Prosecutor’s Path review. By Monday of that week, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish the review in time, and I didn’t want to leave my audience without a review for a week. Noticing that my friend Scott of the Wizard Dojo was reviewing the Super Mario Land trilogy, I thought I might as well give my own take on this game because I knew it wouldn’t take me too long to review.

As for Super Mario Land itself, my opinion of it remains the same – revisiting it isn’t a terrible idea, but a lot of what made it good back in 1989 has been forever lost. While Super Mario Land had one over Super Mario Bros. 3 back in 1989 in that it was portable, it’s a little more difficult to appreciate that advantage now that getting a copy of the latter on a portable console is just as easy. Combined with the awkward controls, short length, and ill-conceived Superball power-up, and I think it’s safe to say this game has not held up well.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – Prosecutor’s Path (2011)

Fun Fact: My first playthough of this game roughly coincided with me deciding to start this review site. I had no idea how I could possibly review this game back then. I reviewed the original Ace Attorney at the end of 2016, but it wouldn’t be until the beginning of this year that I finally had the knowledge and confidence to review story-heavy games.

It really says something about how good of a year 2011 was for gaming that, in my book, this is only its third-best game. As of this writing, I consider it the best game that never left Japan. It’s amazing how much of an improvement it manages to be over the original Ace Attorney Investigations.

What’s also worth mentioning is that this is currently the longest review I’ve written. Part of what got me into reviewing games was to serve as an antithesis to the attitudes of independent critics wherein negativity ruled the day. Such an ethos didn’t, and still doesn’t, strike me as particularly forward-looking. After all, if a work proves to be highly innovative and the most trusted critics fail to realize it and bash it for the sake of comedy, it might discourage anyone else from thinking outside of the box. A common phrase I’ve heard is that it’s easier to be negative than positive. For a little over a year, my revised review of The Last of Us was the longest one I had written, meaning I was seemingly proving the adage true.  Fortunately, that’s no longer the case; my longest review is a positive one. Therefore, I can safely conclude that anyone who believes it’s easier to be negative than positive is clearly not trying hard enough.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

I’ve always found discussing Twilight Princess in relationship to The Wind Waker to be a highly fascinating subject. The Wind Waker was not received well by fans – even in light of the overwhelming evidence that said cynics were clearly betting against the house.

Because it worked so well for them when they thought Metroid Prime was going to bomb, right?

Meanwhile, Twilight Princess seemed to promise a return to form of sorts after the highly animated, ostensibly kiddy The Wind Waker (furthering my theory that anyone who held such an opinion didn’t actually finish the game). Though both games were well received, the public opinion seemed to turn slightly on Twilight Princess while fans became a lot more receptive of The Wind Waker. In a lot of ways, it’s the textbook Hollywood ending – the work that nobody appreciated received its vindication while its initially more popular follow-up proves to be all flash and little substance.

However, I don’t think it’s quite that straightforward. I agree that The Wind Waker is a great game and I’m just as glad as everyone else that it’s rightly considered as such these days, but at the same time, I feel Twilight Princess manages to be an improvement. The dungeons it offers are both better and greater in number. I’ve heard some argue that the game suffers because quite a few dungeon items are barely used outside of them, but in all honesty, that’s nothing new (just look at the Magic Rod from Link’s Awakening). At the end of the day, both are quality works, but I definitely lean more towards Twilight Princess for having just a little bit more focus in its level design and its darkly atmospheric presentation that still bears that distinctive Zelda identity.

Featured articles:

You guys managed to put out some interesting content this month – whether it was talking about songs reminiscent of games, horror games, or critically acclaimed television shows and how they defined their respective decades. Here are the ones that managed to stand out in my mind.

Still to come:

This month, I’m going to try something a little different. Rather than leaving the games I intend to discuss next up for speculation, I’m going to outline them all right here. The first review of June will be of Super Mario Land 2: Golden Coins. I’ve actually already completed it; all that’s left it for me to edit and post it. After that will be my next Ace Attorney review: Dual Densities. Keeping true to my pattern, it will be followed up with the next Zelda installment in line: Phantom Hourglass, which I recently completed for the first time. I wasn’t originally going to review that game, but after seeing what a positive reception these reviews have received, I decided I might as well play all of the Zelda games I skipped and make a complete retrospective. Once that is completed, I’ll discuss a Sonic the Hedgehog game for the first time since Sonic R. This time, I’m going to review Sonic Heroes – a game I was looking forward to as a kid, but was ultimately disappointed by. Finally, I’ll round out the end of the month with a review of BioShock 2.

I intend to post all of these reviews on Saturday morning. Those who have been following me will know I’ve been writing a series of short film reviews in a new segment I call Reel Life. I intend to post a new feature every Monday night because I usually end up seeing at least two films per weekend. Any additional posts will be made on either Wednesdays or Thursdays.

Links to my reviews:

Links to my other posts:

And that’s it for me this month. Any of you been up to anything interesting lately?

28 thoughts on “May 2018 in Summary: Extra Life is Now Four Years Old!

    • You’re not the only one; I’m surprised I’ve been at it this long. Before, I could barely conceive the idea of writing 2,000-word reviews twice a month. Now, 2,000 words would be considered a short review. It’s been one interesting journey that’s for sure, and I thank you for commenting on my work as frequently as you have been!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Happy birthday to Extra Life and congratulations on working on it this long! It takes a serious amount of dedication and hardwork to get to this point, so this defintely deserves the respect. It’s also great to see that you’re constantly experimenting with each month and trying new things, in this case detailing the reviews you’re going to do in the next month and the Reel Life content soon. I absolutely adore Extra Life – it’s my favourite blog channel, simply because it’s clear just how much work you put into the material you produce.

    Thank you for tagging my article in this summary! It means a lot. There should be more essay style things coming soon, hopefully that can surpass that one. Thanks once again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m truly flattered that mine is your favorite blog.

      I have to admit I wasn’t really taking it seriously in my first two years. In 2014 and 2015, I went entire months without posting. In fact, it arguably wasn’t until 2017 until I finally established a somewhat consistent pattern wherein I posted at least twice per month.

      You’re welcome! I am interested in checking out The Wire soon; I need to set aside the time. I look forward to reading any more essays you might write.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s awesome! Happy 4th Birthday! I haven’t been blogging long so it seems an awesome achievement just for you to have kept it going that long, but the quality and number of your reviews make it an even bigger achievement!

    Thank you so much for including my article in the list, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I wasn’t sure if I would end up running this site for this long, but I’m glad I did because I’m proud of how my latest reviews have been turning out.

      You’re welcome! I kind of think that video games set people up for having an eclectic taste in music when you consider how they use varying styles to evoke different moods.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on reaching the four-year mark and doing so with a whole lot of quality reviews posted; certainly some of the best I have ever read. I am looking forward to more of them, and the ones you have outlined for this month seem interesting. It has been a while since I played Phantom Hourglass, but I remember liking it quite a bit, despite its numerous obvious issues. I am curious to see what you will say about it.

    Anyway, and thanks for the mention. I am glad you liked that review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m glad you’ve been that impressed with my work. Your stuff has been great as well.

      To avoid spoiling too much, I will say Phantom Hourglass has a lot of good ideas, but the execution is a bit inconsistent.

      You’re welcome! It was a good, balanced review of a game that seemed to have many good ideas weighed down with a lot of bad ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all- congratulations on four years! That’s an amazing length of time to be at this, and it sounds like you’ve learned quite a bit as you’ve been writing- which is always fun to look back at!

    Second- thanks for finding my article interesting enough to mention! As I’m pretty often glued to yours, I feel pretty honored to get a mention. 🙂

    I’ve been enjoying the Reel Talk and I’ve definitely enjoyed the Zelda retrospective, so I’m anticipating the next part of it once it’s put together. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I can say I’ve learned quite a bit writing these reviews. Before, I went about writing them in a formulaic way, but because I’ve always went about awarding grades based off of the experience as a whole, it never made much sense. I’m not really a fan of the approach mainstream outlets often take wherein they award an aggregated score based off of its individual components (graphics, music, gameplay, story) because it seems a little too mechanical. It works for some games, but I’ve been confronted with several where if I did that, my final scores wouldn’t make any sense. Planescape: Torment and The Last of Us are both examples of games where if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to award them the scores I felt they deserved.

      And you’re welcome! I really enjoyed reading that article. It reminds me of when I’d play video games with my family growing up.

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying those segments! Next is Phantom Hourglass, which I think you mentioned you weren’t fond of. All I’ll say for now is that I fully understand why you don’t and that it is a major step down from The Wind Waker.

      Like

    • When it’s done well, it can be really effective. I didn’t find games such as Resident Evil 4 or The Last of Us scary because they weren’t really survival horrors; they were simply action games with a bit more blood thrown in. I think the key is to resist the urge to make it an action game and take an approach like the Silent Hill series wherein you control an ordinary person with no combat experience. On the other hand, if you hamper the player with bad enough controls, you risk making a bad overall game. Then there’s the fact that the genre is pretty subjective in the first place. There is no objective list of what is and isn’t scary because what is to one person isn’t to another.

      Thanks! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my writings.

      Like

      • Yes, Resident Evil 4 felt more like an action game. I never really considered it to be survival horror. I still enjoyed the game for what it is tho.

        And you are welcome. Your taste in videogames and movies are not so different from mine so it’s interesting

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Turning four! Congrats! One more year and we’ll be sending your blog off to kindergarten.

    Seriously, congrats. That’s a big milestone, one that not many meet in this transitory interwebs of ours.

    Like

    • They grow up so fast, don’t they?

      And thanks! I wasn’t sure I would make it this far, but I’m glad I did. Indeed, quite of our fellow bloggers have come and gone over the years, but you can bet I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Woot! Congrats on 4 years. You’ve certainly accomplished a lot and it’s been fun following you for the few years I have been 🙂

    I’m also very interested in reading your thoughts on Phantom Hourglass. I found it overall meh for a Zelda game, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. It’s good to hear from you again; I was wondering what happened to your blog.

      I’ll try not to say too much about Phantom Hourglass now to avoid spoilers, but I fully agree; it was a major step down from the last portable installment (The Minish Cap). For that matter, it was rather unworthy as a sequel to The Wind Waker.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome! It’ll be an 8 year anniversary before you know it, haha.

        Thanks. Yeah, I kinda deleted my blog and disappeared to deal with some issues… These days Athena is letting me write for AmbiGaming (very awesome of her to do that) and I’m on the fence about creating a new blog of my own. We shall see! Either way, I’ll keep enjoying your reviews 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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