And of course after coming up with that title, the weather had to go and improve where I live. I can’t say that was my plan all along, but I’ll definitely take credit for it.
Films watched in March 2019:
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Dean DeBlois, 2019)
- Captain Marvel (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2019)
- Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
- Apollo 11 (Todd Douglas Miller, 2019)
- Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, 2018)
- They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018)
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois, 2014)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
- In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)
- Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018)
Continuing from last month, I ended up watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 before seeing The Hidden World the next day. The former was a decent sequel while the latter seemed to fall victim to that strange “third installment in a trilogy being the worst” curse. It made it out better than many other cases I could think of, but not enough avoid disqualification. All in all, I’d say the first one wins.
Later that weekend, having seen The Sting the previous month, I felt it appropriate to revisit one of George Roy Hill’s earlier works: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was so good, they had to go and name an entire film festival after it. That’s pretty impressive if I do say so myself. Around this time, Captain Marvel ended up receiving a cacophonous, preemptive backlash. Said backlash reminded me that I hadn’t preordered my ticket, so I departed to my favorite theater to rectify the problem posthaste. Thanks! That’s what you wanted me to do, right?
The following week, I ended up seeing In the Heat of the Night, one of the many iconic films from the sixties Sidney Poitier starred in. It was certainly a solid film that holds up. I think a lot of people attempting to make any work dealing with race relations need to examine this film more closely because a lot of what allows it to hold up is that the director was interested in telling a story rather than preaching to them a message.
The weekend after that, the film industry fully got out of their winter rut and released Us. I won’t give away too much in this post, but see it blind if you haven’t already. It is currently the best film I’ve seen this year so far. The next day, I ended up seeing another film in which the number 11 is relevant. Apollo 11 is a film that takes footage from the historic moon landing of 1969 and explains many of the technical aspects of how the launch worked. It’s a great complementary piece to First Man, and the way it’s arranged actually reminds me a bit of Woodstock, which is fitting given the time period.
I started off the final weekend of March by watching Gloria Bell, one of A24’s first public releases of 2019 (officially, it was released in 2018, so that wasn’t a typo). It’s probably the single most stereotypically A24 film I’ve seen so far. I get the feeling if somebody sought to parody their output, it wouldn’t turn out terribly different. All they’d need would be a few jokes to let the audience in on the joke, and they’d be good to go. Have you ever watched a film, expecting it to go somewhere and it just doesn’t? That’s how I’d sum up the experience of watching it. The next day, I ended up seeing They Shall Not Grow Old. With most works electing to focus on the Second World War, it’s interesting seeing a documentary on its predecessor. Using modern techniques to restore century-old footage, it gives its audience but a miniscule fraction of what life in the trenches was like. Finally, I capped the month off by seeing the acclaimed Paweł Pawlikowski film Cold War. It was pretty good, if a bit compact for the kind of story it was trying to be.
Games reviewed in March 2019:
Jumper Two (Matt Thorson, 2004)
My feelings about Jumper Two are pretty much exactly the same as my feelings about the original game. They were both admirable efforts for their time, and platforming fans would most certainly find these fulfilling experiences. Those who aren’t platforming fans may be a little underwhelmed, but it’s still a free game, and you may find yourself surprised with how addicting the experience manages to be. All in all, I’d say it edges out its predecessor, though not enough to earn an additional point. It is what you would want in a sequel, featuring more gimmicks and interesting set pieces to interact with, and I’m impressed how Mr. Thorson was able to step up his game in such a short amount of time.
Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand (Nihon Falcom, 1995)
One mentality I’ve always found interesting is when fans insist that only the original creators can do their series justice. I have played many games over the years such as Prosecutor’s Path, Spirit of Justice, and any good Fire Emblem installment released after Genealogy of the Holy War that prove that notion doesn’t always hold up. On the flip side, we have Ys V. Immediately after recovering the series, Nihon Falcom managed to issue the single most reviled game in the series, being even more controversial than Ys III. We are very lucky they managed to bounce back with the series eight years later because this would have been an exceptionally sour note to end on. It wasn’t for a lack of trying because I admire that Nihon Falcom tried to evolve their series. The problem is that it cast away its identity, looking like a generic Super NES JRPG and providing no challenge whatsoever. It’s not irredeemably bad, but there is a sad irony in how the two companies to which Nihon Falcom outsourced Ys IV managed to do their series more justice than they did themselves.
Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind (Accolade, 1993)
When I was doing research for Bubsy, the single most surprising thing I learned about it was that it actually garnered a fair bit of critical acclaim upon release.
Now, in a majority of the cases in which I play a bad game, I’m doing so for the sake of reviewing it for this site. That is to say, these aren’t games I grew up with; I’m just reviewing a bad game for the sake of bashing them. If you see me giving a negative review to a game I didn’t go out of my way to bash, it’s either because it hasn’t aged well or was an extreme example of a game not living up to the hype. Bubsy is a rare exception. My first exposure to this game was back in 1998 when I got a Windows ’98 computer. One of the games that came with it was Super Bubsy, a port of this game that featured several enhancements. The most notable was that the stages had television collectables. If you managed to get them all, you would get to see the pilot for the proposed animated show in its entirety.
This game is a lot like Pac-Man 2 in that I enjoyed it as a kid, but I now realize just how flawed it is. Those who pine for this era remark about how much more character diversity there was compared to now. To that, I would respond that these diverse character designs mean nothing if the gameplay is consistently terrible. Sure, the AAA industry’s overreliance on first-person shooters in the early-to-mid 2010s made for monotone experiences, but at least most of those games were playable. The same can’t be said for Bubsy and most of those other ‘tude mascot platformers that spawned in the wake of Sonic the Hedgehog’s success.
King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (Sierra, 1988)
It would be a grand understatement to say that King’s Quest IV is rough around the edges. At the same time, I’m still mostly on the side of recommending it because it really is a forward-looking experience. This game was made in a time when you just didn’t see princesses go off on adventures on their own – at least not until several entries after their introduction. Rosella, on the other hand, manages to go off on an adventure of her own on the same day she gets rescued. This wasn’t a last-minute plan either; Roberta Williams has stated that she envisioned Rosella in the lead role of a game as soon as they created her. King’s Quest IV certainly has its flaws, but I consider it a step up from its predecessor when all is said and done. It turns out putting actual puzzles in your game instead of making players follow directions from a manual counts for a lot.
Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2007)
2007 is generally considered one of the best years in gaming. Though I wouldn’t quite agree, there’s no denying that a lot of the most iconic games from the seventh console generation such as BioShock, Halo 3, and Metroid Prime 3 were released during this time. And of course, there’s Super Mario Galaxy. Starting in the fifth console generation, Nintendo had lost its dominance in the gaming industry, and fans were beginning to dismiss the company as irrelevant. When the Wii launched, the venerable company proved they hadn’t launched their touch, releasing one of the greatest Zelda installments, the greatest Metroid installment, and the single best 3D Mario game the series had known by this point in history within the span of a year. After experimenting with Super Mario Sunshine, Yoshiaki Koizumi managed to knock it out of the park with Super Mario Galaxy. Though Super Mario 64 has aged surprisingly well given that it is the first good 3D platformer, Super Mario Galaxy surpassed it by having taken the genres to places rarely seen before or since.
Bubsy II (Accolade, 1994)
Proving that lightning can metaphorically strike twice in the same place, the most shocking thing about Bubsy II is that the apathy that went into its creation translated to better review scores overall.
To be completely fair, Bubsy II is a slightly better game than the first, but that’s not saying much. Many of the problems plaguing the original from the game’s poor optimization to the overall boring gameplay are still there. In fact, one problem that was only made worse was the stage design. For a significant portion of your playthrough, you will be wandering around with no idea what to do or where to go. Combined with doors that can potentially lead to two different places and a distinct lack of landmarks, and you will have a miserable time playing this game – though probably not as miserable as the developers who made this game.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2010)
Well, this is it, March of 2019 is the first time in which I managed to review seven games in one month. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, to me, the greatest game in the Mario franchise. Reviewing it served as a perfect antidote to my playthrough of Bubsy II. While Bubsy II reveled around in its predecessor’s success, Super Mario Galaxy 2 built upon its predecessor and explored new ideas with its mold. Better yet, the team took the few criticisms lodged toward Super Mario Galaxy, giving us a product with markedly more polish to it. When this decade comes to an end, I will likely declare it the greatest period in the medium’s history thus far, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 ensured it got off to an excellent start.
Retrospective: Yume Nikki – Weirdly, it seems that most of the best RPG Maker games aren’t actually RPGs. AK over at Everything is bad for you talks about one of the most famous games in that category: Yume Nikki.
Space Quest II review – Despite having been more into King’s Quest, Space Quest II was actually the first Sierra game I’d ever played. Despite being better than King’s Quest II, it was the latter series I ended up perusing. It was great getting to read DarkwyndPT’s take on the game.
Divine Divinity: problems with an “open world” – Having recently cleared Divine Divinity, Mr. Backlog regales his experience playing it. He makes the case that the open-world format doesn’t really work with traditional storytelling or game-making techniques.
5 Times The Games Industry Did Something Insane – Although independent gaming critics insist the nineties was the greatest decade, the truth of the matter is that the industry has always done strange things. Rob over at I Played The Game! points out five downright weird things the industry has done over the years.
Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon – Circle of the Moon was actually the first Castlevania game I played so reading Nintendobound’s Matt review of it was a nice throwback.
Kingdom Hearts 3 Review – Many people have played the highly anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3, and it was especially interesting seeing the Wizard Dojo’s Scott, a notable animation enthusiast, give his two cents on the game and how much of it is actual substance or fanservice.
Persona Dancing Games – As a fan of Persona 4, it was really interesting watching Aether review the dancing rhythm games based on the three most popular games in the subseries. He makes the argument that they are a step down from Persona 4 Arena because they ultimately don’t go all in, settling for being mere fan games.
The Life and Death of Vita – I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in picking up a PlayStation Vita. Nonetheless, it was interesting reading the Maximum Utmost’s pine717 write a piece on it now that the platform has been retired.
Still to come:
If you thought I was foolhardy enough to play Bubsy 3D after talking about two of its predecessors… you’d be entirely correct. That’s the next game I intend to review. After that, I will cap off this mini-Mario retrospective by reviewing Super Mario Odyssey. I’ll say right now that while I don’t think it’s as good as Super Mario Galaxy 2, it is a great game in its own right, and it proves that Nintendo has still got it after all these years. Depending on how things go, I will review either Gen III Pokémon (Ruby and Sapphire) or King’s Quest V. I haven’t quite decided yet, so I’ll just play things by ear. If I don’t get around to reviewing both, whichever one I don’t choose will end up being reviewed in May.
As for films, I intend to post my reviews of Us, Gloria Bell, and Cold War – hopefully sometime this week. I do not intend to write full reviews of Apollo 11 or They Shall Not Grow Old because they’re documentaries constructed from existing footage (the reason I reviewed Free Solo was because it was all original footage and had a definite narrative to it), but I may end up doing a “quick takes” article on them.
Links to my articles:
- The Sting (8/10)
- Fighting with My Family (7/10)
- How to Train Your Dragon (8/10)
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 (6/10)
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (5/10) [Disqualified]
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (8/10)
- Captain Marvel (7/10)
- In the Heat of the Night (7/10)