September of 2018 ended up being quite a productive month for me. I managed to make up for that one week in which I didn’t post any reviews (due to my piece on Breath of the Wild going on for over 10,000 words) by posting my reviews of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3 within the same week. Even better, thanks to having recently written two reviews rather quickly, I am now one week ahead. That is, during a given week, I will be working on next week’s review. This is helpful because it means I won’t feel the need to rush these reviews as long as I stay on schedule. I’m also proud to announce that I have now written over 200 posts on this site!
Films watched in September 2018:
- Searching by Aneesh Chaganty (2018)
- Alpha by Albert Hughes (2018)
- A Simple Favor by Paul Feig (2018)
- Dragon Inn by King Hu (1967)
- An Autumn Afternoon by Yasujirō Ozu (1962)
- Sanjuro by Akira Kurosawa (1962)
- Brazil by Terry Gilliam (1985)
- Hero by Zhang Yimou (2002)
- The Witch by Robert Eggers (2015)
- The Bad Sleep Well by Akira Kurosawa (1960)
- Marketa Lazarová by František Vláčil (1967)
- Mandy by Panos Cosmatos (2018)
2018 film distributor logic in a nutshell:
- Fifty Shades Freed, Death of a Nation, and Peppermint = Wide release
- Leave No Trace, Three Identical Strangers, and Mandy = Limited release
Quite frankly, I’m not sure who have had the worse track record this year – critics or film distributors. |My answer: Yes.|
September of 2018 may be the first month since I began extensively documenting my film viewing habits that the films I saw in theaters were better overall than what I saw at home. Obviously, I saw plenty of good films at home, but between Brazil and Mandy, I found myself unable to recommend anything I was watching, which culminated in the first feature in which I awarded zero passing grades. That’s not even considering the fact that Alpha was actually released the previous month, meaning September itself was decidedly dry (or, once again, the distributors weren’t doing their jobs properly).
I find how I got around to watching Brazil an interesting subject because it took the exact opposite path as Life of Brian. That is to say, I was looking forward to watching Life of Brian only for me to find it something of a letdown. Meanwhile, I was somewhat dreading Brazil only for me to find it highly enjoyable. This situation right here is why I insist on actually watching films before voicing an opinion on them. Sometimes my conclusion matches my attitude going into the film, but that’s not always how it pans out, and my stance on Brazil is proof of that.
Otherwise, the most shocking rating of the month is doubtlessly awarded to The Bad Sleep Well. It’s the first Kurosawa film I found myself unable to recommend. This doesn’t mean I think it’s bad, but I think of it pretty much exactly as I do Vertigo in that it was mostly good up until the final act when it spectacularly blundered away all of its goodwill. If you want a film that hits a lot of the same notes, watch High and Low.
Games reviewed in September 2018:
Super Mario Bros. (1985)
I can imagine old-school enthusiasts getting mad at me for daring to give Super Mario Bros. a 5/10, but as I said in the review, I think it’s the single most appropriate grade I could’ve given it. In fact, if I still considered it one of the best games ever made, that would be a rather damning assessment of the gaming industry, as it would imply it never evolved. That’s because going back to it is a rather difficult proposition given its unpolished controls. At the same time, nobody had anything better to offer by that point; Tezuka and Miyamoto were crafting an experience that didn’t have a style guide at the time. Therefore, they saw fit to write it themselves. If anything, the fact that it’s still as playable as it is all these years later is astounding, but between its repetitive level design and lack of continues, recommending it in its original form is a somewhat difficult proposition for newcomers. Like Dragon Quest III, I feel newer generations of enthusiasts are fine acknowledging how important it is to the medium – actually experiencing it is optional.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (1986)
How could they not release this game back in 1986?! It’s the perfect predecessor to the first Mario game!
With the obvious joke out of the way, I have to say The Lost Levels, though slightly better than the original if for no other reason than because it doesn’t recycle any of its stage designs (or at least not until the bonus worlds), isn’t a marked improvement over the original. I still consider completing the All-Stars version one of my greatest gaming accomplishments, but I find it difficult to recommend. The problem is that for every issue The Lost Levels addresses, it introduces a new problem. The result is a game that’s often difficult to an unfair degree. A platforming experience shouldn’t force players to look at a guide make sure they don’t trap themselves in a borderline unwinnable situation. For those who want a challenging version of Super Mario Bros. specifically will love this game, but few others would. I can appreciate it for continuing the series, if nothing else.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)
Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of those games for which I was prepared to draw a different conclusion than what ended up being published. Originally, I felt it to be inferior to The Lost Levels given its radically different gameplay, and I was going to award it a 5/10. However, when I began writing down my thoughts on paper and began describing the gameplay, I realized it was an improvement over the original and its alternate sequel. It’s a far cry from the best Mario game out there, but it was an inventive game for its time, introducing a far more dynamic level design on top of having a good variety of boss fights. Both aspects were exceptionally rare in platforming games back then, and though the sequel would be return to form, I can appreciate the long-term influence Super Mario Bros. 2 had on gaming.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)
For a majority of my readers, my review of Super Mario Bros. 3 is quite a momentous occasion. That is to say, it’s the first time I ever awarded a passing grade to a game made in the eighties. That’s not entirely accurate, as I did award a passing grade to Police Quest when I reviewed it. However, that was back when the only regular readers I had were Aether and The Otaku Judge. I think it stands to reason that there was such a large gap between positive reviews because quite a lot of games from the eighties were like Super Mario Bros. in that they were good for their time, but fell behind in the long run once the medium became more sophisticated. Super Mario Bros. 3 is not one of those games – with its excellent controls, unique level design, and fun multiplayer, it has stood the test of time remarkably well, still feeling fresh and original three decades later. If a new enthusiast vowed only to ever play a single eighties game, this is the one I would recommend to them.
Sin and Punishment (2000)
I actually had the idea to review Sin and Punishment back in May. Part of the way into my review of Prosecutor’s Path, I realized I wasn’t going to finish it by the end of the week. At first, I considered reviewing Sin and Punishment, but I changed my mind when I realized I wouldn’t have enough time to write it. That’s when I decided to review Super Mario Land instead, for I realized I could write it in a short amount of time. After that, I ended up getting distracted by other games to review until last week when I finally got around to talking about this one.
Like the case with Super Mario Bros. 2, my review of Sin and Punishment had me drastically change gears halfway through writing it. I was ready to give Sin and Punishment a 6/10 for its unique gameplay and creative boss fights. However, when I began detailing the awkward control scheme, I realized I couldn’t possibly award it such a grade. It’s true that the control scheme is slightly more forgiving on the Virtual Console version, but it’s still awkward. Not helping matters is its incomprehensible plot, which, while ambitious, collapses in on itself far too often for its own good.
Top 10 Epic Final Bosses by The Brink of Gaming – As most of my readers know, when I’m about to assign a grade, I have a strict rule regarding endings. Specifically, a game is not eligible to receive a passing grade if it has a weak ending. One of the many reasons why I was so harsh on games considered the best of all time such as System Shock 2, Mother 3, and The Last of Us is because, as The Brink of Gaming demonstrates, there are at least ten games out there that manage to stick the landing far more gracefully. One of the perfect ways to cap off a gaming experience is with an epic final boss – it lends an extra degree of satisfaction when watching the credits roll that the AAA industry simply can’t replicate by taking cues from Hollywood.
I Am a Pollyanna: Personal Positivity in the Face of Societal Negativity by Matt @ Normal Happenings – Matt from Normal Happenings wrote an excellent article there needs to be more of quite frankly. He even makes sure to note the dismal state of modern science fiction. I myself have made it no secret that I consider the 2010s the single worst decade in science fiction. Part of the reason is because modern science fiction seems to actively hate science – to the point where it borders dangerously close on anti-intellectualism. So while hardcore cinephiles pen dissertations about how soulless the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, I give them credit for providing one of the very few science-fiction titles that have the audacity to not hate science with a fiery passion. That’s why I can appreciate this article; it actively questions why smart people insist on being so negative.
Marvel Spider-Man Review by emonyagami – Spider-Man is a game I intend to get into at some point, apparently being considered the greatest adaptation of Marvel’s famous web-slinging superhero since the Spider-Man 2 adaptation in 2004. Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed reading emonyagami’s take on the game.
Guest Post: Father & Son: Reviewing the Latest God of War by Nick @ Particlebit – Speaking of games I’ve been meaning to get into, in a guest feature on Particlebit, Nick, who runs a blog named The Cloak & Quill, wrote a piece on God of War. It was quickly considered one of the best games of 2018, and reading this review made me excited to play it.
The Curious Case of Telltale Games by SarcasticJuice – As major enthusiasts know, the past month marked the time in which the highly admired Telltale Games filed for bankruptcy. Though I have never played any of their games, I can imagine, given their status as one of the greatest adventure game developers of the decade, it came as a major shock to the community. I suspect it may be a result of the industry’s business practices. A majority of the AAA industry is keeping themselves afloat with a series of short-term victories, but nothing really sustainable. It’s actually kind of amazing they’ve kept it together for this long, but the inevitable closure of Telltale Games may be a symptom of a larger problem plaguing the AAA industry.
Still to come:
I’ve already posted my first review of the month. It’s of an obscure PC game known as Nerves of Steel. It was made by the same guys who made Isle of the Dead, which I reviewed last year. Isle of the Dead is considered by the few who played it (including me) to be one of the worst games of the nineties. Did Rainmaker Software redeem themselves with Nerves of Steel? You can read about it here.
This coming Saturday, my review of King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown is scheduled to be posted. After that, I intend to review the 16-bit Super Mario World as well as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. The latter isn’t quite a true sequel to the former, but I figured because I reviewed Yoshi’s Story some time back, it’s about time I finally got around to discussing its vastly superior predecessor.
Links to my reviews:
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Sin and Punishment
Links to my other posts:
- Reel Life #18: Searching, Dragon Inn, Alpha, and An Autumn Afternoon
- Reel Life #19: Sanjuro and Brazil
- A Zelda Retrospective Addendum: The Series Ranked from Worst to Best
- Reel Life #20: Hero and The Witch
- Reel Life #21: A Simple Favor, The Bad Sleep Well, and Marketa Lazarová
- A Question for the Readers #10: Something Bugging You?
That’s it for September. What do you have in mind for this month?