Well, it wasn’t easy, but I am now finished with the Zelda retrospective. To everyone who managed to stick with it from beginning to end, thank you very much.
Films watched in August 2018:
- BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee (2018)
- Crazy Rich Asians by Jon M. Chu (2018)
- The Last King of Scotland by Kevin Macdonald (2006)
- Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa (1956)
- Blackmail by Alfred Hitchcock (1929)
- The Philadelphia Story by George Cukor (1940)
- Red Cliff by John Woo (2008-2009)
- Breathless by Jean-Luc Goddard (1960)
- Tokyo Drifter by Seijun Suzuki (1966)
- The Blues Brothers by John Landis (1980)
- Drunken Angel by Akira Kurosawa (1948)
- Carrie by Brain De Palma (1976)
Based on what I’ve seen in theaters, I’m led to conclude that August wasn’t a particularly good showing on Hollywood’s part. From what I’ve heard, 2018 was an improvement over 2017 in terms of box office sales, though other sources suggest a lot of that was momentum from the prolonged success of Avengers: Infinity War. I can buy that there was a severe drop-off considering I saw seven films in July in theaters as opposed to two in August. It doesn’t help that even within those two films, one can get a sense of 2018’s inconsistent quality with BlacKkKlansman failing to stick the landing gracefully and Crazy Rich Asians being a good (if formulaic) romantic comedy. Now, to be clear, I think BlacKkKlansman is a decent film – it just doesn’t fully escape the worst trappings of the 2010s satire scene, making it difficult for me to officially recommend it.
Because of all this, my home viewings proved far more enlightening. It’s interesting because part of what spurred me into writing game reviews was my dismay that critics and creators alike were beginning to place style before substance. Critics would write overwhelmingly positive reviews of indie games such as Limbo and Braid. This was in spite of the former not being particularly innovative and the latter being pretentious to the extent that it bordered on parody.
How does this relate back to the films I’ve seen at home? Simple – I was convinced that film critics, having many more decades to practice their craft, would have these matters sorted out. It stands to reason that the best films rise to the top while the worst ones are forgotten – regardless of their popularity back when they were released. However, my attempts to watch Breathless and Tokyo Drifter proved me wrong. While I had seen a few critical darlings that most certainly did not live up to expectations (e.g Vertigo), I could at least understand why they were liked because the plot came first. This isn’t the case with Breathless or Tokyo Drifter; they get so wrapped up in their style that their stories suffer. Breathless in particular is praised for its technical innovation, which I can appreciate, but just because it was a good film in 1960 doesn’t mean it’s still a good film today. Unlike Citizen Kane, which has stood the test of time, Breathless has been surpassed several times over, and that critics still consider it one of the greatest of all time suggests an unwillingness to let go of the past. While I thought film critics had the edge over their video game counterparts, it turns out they’re not so different. At the very least, their advantage over them isn’t as substantial as I once thought. A little perspective goes a long way, doesn’t it?
On a positive note, I managed to see Red Cliff and The Blues Brothers for the first time. One is an epic war film the other is an epic comedy. See both if you haven’t already; you will not regret it.
Games reviewed in August:
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
When it came to assigning a grade, Skyward Sword gave me a lot of trouble. Back when I didn’t have a firm grasp on my rating scale, I was prepared to give it an 8/10 due to its technical innovation. I ended up reducing it to a 7/10 when I gave the experience a chance to settle and realized there were a lot of things wrong with it. Ultimately, I awarded it a 6/10 because it wasn’t good enough for me to give a straight recommendation. I really don’t like saying that because when Skyward Sword is good, it has a legitimate claim as one of the best games of all time. The problem is that when it’s not good, it’s actively bad. A lot of people complained about the blatant filler in Twilight Princess, but it has nothing on the filler present in Skyward Sword. Sure, undoing Link’s curse in Twilight Princess was pointless, but at least he always had a means of defending himself. The Wind Waker demonstrated how terrible gearless stages could be when placed at the beginning of the game, but Skyward Sword makes the case that they aren’t any better placed near the end.
Not helping matters is that Skyward Sword saw fit to introduce one of the absolute worst characters in the entire franchise in the form of Ghirahim. If I were to make a list of the worst Nintendo characters, there’s a good chance he along with Linebeck and Porky from Earthbound |and Mother 3| would end up in my bottom three. Yes, I feel he’s worse than Tingle. Tingle is pretty dire himself, but at least he was helpful at times – in Majora’s Mask he even managed to complement the surreal tone well. Ghirahim, on the other hand, is a product of a time in which a villain’s worth as a villain wasn’t measured in trivial terms such as motivation or personality, but rather the number of memes they could spawn. I’m not sure what I’d call these kinds of villains (the memesis, perhaps?), but I’m glad they’re slowly starting to die out because a lot of otherwise great story beats fall by the wayside when viewers opt to quote them endlessly in lieu of paying attention to what’s actually going on.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)
I feel it’s worth emphasizing that 2013 really was not a good year for gaming. There were a number of reasons why this was from the shock the industry felt when the eighth console generation was to begin (which could’ve been avoided if they bothered to make the new consoles backwards compatible – just saying) to various acclaimed games from that year utterly failing to live up to the hype to Ride to Hell: Retribution being released.
To make matters worse, Nintendo was going through something of a dark age owing to their Wii U console being a sales disappointment. Fortunately, even at their worst, Nintendo still saw fit to ensure 2013 had at least a few good games when they released A Link Between Worlds. Anyone attempting to do a retro throwback should take lessons from this game because it hits all of the right notes. It uses a beloved classic as a springboard to explore new ideas rather than reveling in the older title’s success. Even better, with its parallel dimension, A Link Between Worlds successfully revives the open-world elements missing in the series since the original. In a lot of ways, it was a prototype to Breath of the Wild, which would be released four years later. If that’s true, A Link Between Worlds is one of the best prototypes one could buy. Its story may be sparse, but as always, there are many interesting twists to be found. Plus, having a better-written villain didn’t hurt at all.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (2015)
When it comes to crafting a work that takes cues from the past, it’s important to know that there’s good nostalgia and there’s bad nostalgia. A Link Between Worlds proved there’s nothing wrong with a retro throwback as long as you have something new to say. Tri Force Heroes, on the other hand, is an example of a game that does indeed revel in the success of the series’ past accomplishments. No amount of callbacks to A Link to the Past could save Tri Force Heroes from being an unwieldly game with an insipid premise. In that regard, it is to A Link Between Worlds what Yoshi’s Story was to Yoshi’s Island. Lady Maud may not be as irritating as Ghirahim, but what she lacks in annoyance, she makes up for in blandness – a fitting metaphor for the driving conflict of the story as a whole.
As Scott from the Wizard Dojo astutely pointed out, Tri Force Heroes is “[t]he only Zelda game even Game Informer couldn’t give a 10”. Speaking as someone who was willing to write a complete retrospective of the series, if Game Informer gave this game a ten, it would’ve decimated whatever remaining credibility they had.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my readers. As an independent critic with no obligation to praise this game, I should’ve called the mainstream outlets out on their obvious misfire. After all, the open-world format was old hat by 2017. The only possible reason Breath of the Wild could’ve achieved its accolades is because of its branding. My original plan was to write a 2,000-word critique on why critics were fooled into praising what was clearly an incomplete mess. Instead, I ended up writing a 11,000-word review all while making the case that it’s one of the greatest games of the decade. I guess I let Breath of the Wild get to me. I’m disappointed in myself because other than its excellent presentation, superb cast of characters, intricate puzzle design, inventive dungeon design, creative boss fights, and one of the greatest open-world designs the medium had known by 2017, it really has nothing to offer. My bad. I’ll do better next time.
But seriously, going into the 2010s, there was a strange anti-Nintendo sentiment permeating independent games journalism. I can think of a few individuals responsible for starting and perpetuating it, but it didn’t take long for the sentiment to spread to the fans themselves. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool to admit to liking Nintendo games in certain circles – though a majority of them could give someone a pass when discussing classics. As a result, a common narrative when mainstream outlets praised Nintendo games going into the 2010s was that they were placating Nintendo’s fans by writing perfect/near-perfect reviews for them. This, among other grievances, caused many of them to believe the critics liking Nintendo games was a sign of bias.
However, I propose the opposite was true. That is to say, some time into the decade, I found the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Nintendo games to be the only ones I could trust anymore. This is because Nintendo has always been content to do their own thing, ignoring or even outright defying what the often monotone AAA industry was doing. Because of this, I knew whenever they garnered a significant amount of critical acclaim that they did so honestly and without pandering to the zeitgeist of a given era – in other words, being cool. Nintendo has been a lot of things over the years, but cool has never really been one of them – even back when they were effectively the only game in town. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Cool has a shelf life. Nintendo has always strived to be fun, and unlike cool, fun never expires. So while the 2010s AAA industry was complacent to relish in a nihilistic ethos, Breath of the Wild rebels against it, giving us an experience that demonstrates the series continued relevance three decades after its inception.
4 Games that Influenced Me Growing Up by BeardedGamer82 – The Bearded Gamer is a relatively new blogger and among his first posts was an article detailing the games he grew up with. I had played many of these games myself growing up, and it was great to see another person’s take on them.
Top 10 Video Game Launch Titles by Scott @ The Wizard Dojo – A console is nothing without games, and Scott over at the Wizard Dojo highlights what he considers the ten best titles released in tandem with their respective platforms. A lot of them are Nintendo games, which is unsurprising given their propensity to put their best foot forward in a given console generation.
Ōkami: Artistic Classic Swipes Onto the Switch by Mr. Wapojif – Ōkami was one of those games everyone was raving about back in the mid-to-late 2000s. Despite this, my own attempts at playing the game resulted in me losing interest rather quickly. Even so, I enjoyed reading what Mr. Wapojif had to say about it, and I do intend to revisit it at some point.
A Link to the Past by Matt @ Nintendobound – I’m not the only one reviewing Zelda games. Matt over at Nintendobound has taken it upon himself to review as many games in the series as he can. Naturally, he couldn’t overlook A Link to the Past, which was a major step forward for the series when it debuted in 1991 and stands to this day as the best 2D installment.
Staying Informed with Game Informer by Cary @ Recollections of Play – Cary talks about the magazine commonly associated with GameStop and how it’s doing in a time when the future of the printed word is uncertain.
Review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope by The Otaku Judge – Of the Harvest Moon series, I’ve only ever played Harvest Moon 64. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading The Otaku Judge’s take on Light of Hope, the latest game in the series. He makes the case that, with Stardew Valley, the students surpassed the master.
Random Battles: Society vs Gaming – Social Deviancy’s Boss Fight by Mike in 2D @ Reggie Reviews – Part of what prompted me to ask that question about what film fans could learn from gamers in my last Sunshine Blogger Award tag was that I feel they are actually ahead of the curve in quite a few aspects. Despite this, society often shames adults for gaming. I personally think mainstream media has a role in this. While some of this stigma is admittedly self-inflicted, I have seen earnest efforts on the gamers’ part to meet the mainstream halfway and prove they’re normal people. I have never seen a similar effort from the other side; they seem determined to latch onto the stereotypes with an iron grip. Mike in 2D wrote an excellent article pointing out this disconnect and why gamers shouldn’t be ashamed of their hobby.
Still to come:
Now that I’ve finished my Zelda retrospective, I’ve been thinking about reviewing more Mario games. I’ve already reviewed the Super Mario Land trilogy, and I’m interested in talking about the series starting with Super Mario Bros. In fact, the review is already finished; it will be posted this coming Sunday. However, I’m going to go about discussing the Mario franchise a little differently than The Legend of Zelda. Each month, I will talk about every main entry in a given console generation. For example, this month, I will be discussing Super Mario Bros., both versions of Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Furthermore, with my Zelda retrospective done, I feel it’s appropriate to cap it off with a list wherein I rank the entries from worst to best. I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s about to be posted.
Links to my reviews:
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Links to my other posts:
- Reel Life #13
- Reel Life #14
- Reel Life #15
- Reel Life #16
- Sunshine Blogger Award from The Brink of Gaming
- Reel Life #17
That’s all I have for now. Are any of you up to anything interesting?