Films watched in September 2019:
- Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019)
- Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
September is an amazing time of year for films, isn’t it? Sometimes, I think distributors need to be like game creators and release their stuff whenever. Releasing all the Grade-A material during Christmas may sound like a good idea until you realize that everyone has already spent their money on other stuff.
Anyway, I began this month by watching Repo Man. Honestly, I could’ve used it in that editorial I wrote about critics rejecting good films if we beamed current-day sensibilities into their predecessors because its satirical elements, though present, don’t detract from the hilarious narrative Mr. Cox wove. It’s almost like filmmakers actually cared about storytelling back then or something. Who knew? I can imagine present-day critics insulting Mr. Cox for making the metaphors too subtle.
Speaking of stuff to criticize, I then decided to take a chance in theaters by seeing Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. The film is very lucky to have been released when it did because it absolutely depends on the people whose opinions actually matter thinking a certain way. If it didn’t pander to the critical zeitgeist, it would’ve rightly been dropped like a hot potato. So yeah, not a good showing there, Hollywood – get your act together.
Games reviewed in September 2019:
Sonic the Fighters (Sega AM2, 1996)
Sonic the Fighters was one of the games proudly featured in the Sonic Gems Collection, which is honestly one of the absolute worst compilations I’ve ever experienced. Sure, it had Vectorman and its sequel while the PlayStation 2 version had the three Streets of Rage games, but if a Sonic the Hedgehog compilation has to rely that heavily on unrelated franchises to make it passable, it failed at its intended goal by most standards. Basically, the only real reason to have purchased it back in 2005 was to give people an opportunity to play Sonic the Hedgehog CD, which I honestly have to say does not strike me as one of the stronger games of that series in hindsight (certainly not in terms of boss fights, anyway). Strangely, the menu defaults to Sonic the Fighters, which should give you an indication as to how poor the compilation is.
Other than that, there really isn’t much more to say about it; it’s a mindless button masher that fails to deliver a good Sonic fighting experience. We’d have to wait until A) Mario threw his hat in the ring with Super Smash Bros. and B) Sega became a third-party company, thus allowing Nintendo to use Sonic as a character before we finally got a good Sonic fighting game. As the old adage goes, “Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em”.
Pokémon Black and White (Game Freak, 2010)
After Gen III Pokémon, I stopped following the series for a while. By then, the series had lost its pop cultural pervasiveness and suddenly became uncool to like, let alone follow. However, the series gained a new lease on life sometime around the release of Pokémon Platinum – to the point where the Gen II remakes released shortly thereafter were hot commodities. When I realized what I was missing out on, I decided to make a return to the series by picking up a copy of Pokémon White in 2012 (I would play its sequel, Black 2 the following year). All I can say is that Gen V is easily my favorite thus far, having intriguing story beats to go along with the gameplay, which had been improved in many ways since the preceding four sets of games. If someone were to ask me which generation to start with, Gen V would be the way to go.
Super Pitfall (Micronics, 1986)
I stand by my assessment that as much of a sacred cow the 1980s are to gaming, there’s no getting around that it wasn’t as glorious of a period for the medium as the romanticized portrayals makes it out to be. That such a horrible game could bear the Pitfall! name and see an official release by itself is indicative of the many shady business practices gamers had to deal with back then. Words cannot describe just how broken this game is between its utterly nonsensical design choices and unresponsive controls. It’s actually kind of amazing it doesn’t crash every two seconds because it plays like the kind of game that would.
On the other hand, I also, in a roundabout way, see the reception of Super Pitfall as a field in which game critics are ahead of film critics. You see, if a film innovated to the extent that Super Pitfall did (there weren’t many console games with such an open-ended design back in 1986), critics would continue to praise it even if the average Joe could tell you it hasn’t aged well. Gaming critics don’t even give the game credit for Super Pitfall having an open-ended design, which may seem unfortunate, but it shouldn’t deserve points for such an appalling execution.
New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 2006)
I have made it no secret that I don’t have much respect for Bob Chipman. His brand of egotistical posturing and dogmatic elitism laced with a ruinous lack of self-awareness has poisoned the art of both gaming and film criticism in the internet age, and the fact that so many professional journalists have followed his lead is a pretty damning indictment of their collective headspace. Nonetheless, I feel one of the most important traits for anyone to have is acknowledging that boorish people can make good points every now and again.
Mr. Chipman once stated that it would have been better had New Super Mario Bros. been released between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, and I find that aspect forms the crux of my primary criticism of this game. Considering how much of a step in the right direction Super Mario World was compared to its direct predecessor, New Super Mario Bros. felt too risk-adverse and conservative. Obviously, this doesn’t make it a bad game, but in light of two of its sequels tweaking the gameplay in various ways, it comes across as bland. It can certainly tide over Mario fans, but there are better options to use as a gateway entry.
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (Game Freak, 2012)
Believe it or not, this is the first 9/10 I’ve awarded a game since Yoshi’s Island (and by extension, in 2019), which I reviewed almost a year ago. Anyone who has been following me for a long time knows that for one of the times in which I was tagged back in 2018, I asked my tagees if they ever completed a game abroad. I asked this question because I’ve actually completed at least one game in every country I’ve ever visited. I beat Pokémon FireRed when I visited Canada back in 2005. Eight years later, I found myself living in Shanghai for two months, and it was there that a majority of my Black 2 playthrough took place. In fact, I was in a different location when I got each badge, culminating in me completing the game on the observation deck of Jinmao Tower.
As I said in the review, I feel anyone who dismissed Black 2 and White 2 as token sequels ultimately failed to give the games enough credit. It seems to be a reoccurring thing with Nintendo wherein they create a sequel that seems like a carbon copy of the original when viewed from a distance, but if you give it the time of day, it turns out there is even more creativity to be found – you just have to approach it with an open mind. The same was also true of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (to a lesser extent, it was also true of New Super Mario Bros. U, though in that case, it took them a few tries to get it just right). Opinions may vary as to what set of Pokémon games reign supreme, but for me, it would be these two right here.
Mario Golf – N64 – This month, Nathan of Gaming Omnivore took a look at Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64. It was a great effort for its time, presenting the sport in a way that even those not in the know could pick up.
I Finally Did John Wick! – Book Beach Bunny at last took the plunge by getting into the highly popular John Wick series. It was interesting getting to read a take from someone who basically did a crash course on the series – I know I’ve done that a few times.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – To me, Wario Land, despite being more of a spinoff than a sequel to Super Mario Land 2, is incontestably the best Super Mario Land trilogy. Matt of Nintendobound’s take on the game made for a great read.
A Tragically Low Sum from a Number of Parts – Super Nintendo – Secret of the Stars – 1993 – The SNES spawned many classic JRPGs, and quite a few slipped beneath the radar as a result. The3rdPlayer takes a look at one such game: Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars.
Goat Simulator – Ever play a game so long the hours just fly by? The Mid-Life Gamer Geek was astounded over the sheer amount of time he spent playing Goat Simulator.
Do you (or should you) separate the artist from the art? – Ospreyshire asks a question that makes for an interesting conversation piece – the ability to separate the art from the artist. Although I can appreciate that bad people can make good art, I do think one of the (many) problems with critics is that they far too often try to have their cake and eat it and their insistence on placing objectively scummy people on pedestals is damaging to their victims. But nothing should get in the way of the pursuit of true art, right? Paul Schrader certainly thinks so.
The Art of Abandoning Books – I have regrettably been unable to finish certain games, and reading about how Lashaan Balasingam of Bookidote makes the decision to let them fall by the wayside was certainly intriguing.
The Peanut Butter Falcon Review – I wasn’t the only one who reviewed The Peanut Butter Falcon. Scott of the Wizard Dojo threw in his two cents around the same time and we made a lot of similar observations.
Still to come:
I’ve already scheduled my first two reviews for October. They will be of Aegis Wing and Pokémon Snap. After that, my 200th review will follow. Now, I envision it taking a long time to write the review, so if I don’t have enough time to edit it properly, I may have to skip a week. If that happens, I’ll try to write an extra film review to compensate.
Speaking of which, I am also currently working on reviews of Apollo 13, Repo Man, and Hustlers. I’ll try to have them done with all due expediency.
Links to my articles:
- Sonic the Fighters (2/10)
- Pokémon Black and White (8/10)
- Super Pitfall (1/10)
- New Super Mario Bros. (5/10)
- Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (9/10)
- A Question for the Readers #17: No Fair Taking Shortcuts!
- Double Tagged! Awards from thedeviot and Pop Culture Literary
- Sunshine Blogger Award from Fed of Fed’s Life
- Impeccable Timing: 5 Classic Films That Contemporary Critics Would Have Hated
- Yet Another Sunshine Blogger Award from AK of Everything is Bad for You