Also known as the one where Red Metal does a traffic light impression with the games he reviewed.
Films watched in July 2021:
- Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981)
- Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
- The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)
- The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese, 1986)
I started off this month by watching Time Bandits, the first installment of Terry Gilliam’s Dreamers Trilogy. I’ve actually watched quite a few Terry Gilliam films by now, and from what I’ve seen, I feel he’s a great writer with a major weakness – that weakness being that he has tremendous difficulties sticking the landing. He once stated in the DVD commentary of The Brothers Grimm that he hates happy endings, and, despite what edgelords and certain critics believe, I think that tendency tends to work against him just as often as it benefits him. And I get it – endings are tough, but it’s absolutely an important skill to master in order to elevate your work to those upper tiers. To wit, the endings to The Holy Grail and Brazil worked because they were self-deprecating and tonally fitting respectively, but Life of Brian (which he didn’t direct, but did cowrite) ended up stretching an admittedly good joke way too far whereas this film just kind of peters out at the end. It certainly displays more imagination than the average contemporary fantasy film, but its rough landing makes it a difficult sell. I can see others getting more out of it than me, though, and it did heavily influence the Ultima series (Ultima II especially), so I can at least appreciate it for that.
Next, I watched Mike Judge’s Office Space. Mike Judge is one of those creators whose work I’m quite familiar with (King of the Hill is a personal favorite of mine), but I haven’t had much of a reason to bring him up until now. I’ve heard a lot of people say he’s the kind of creator Seth MacFarlane tries and largely fails to be, and that’s a pretty apt comparison. Mr. MacFarlane is a little like Doug Walker in that he stumbled into one successful enterprise and tried to stretch his talents, but with limited success. Mike Judge, on the other hand, is what Seth MacFarlane would have been if he had the talent to back up his ambition.
Despite providing insufferable elitists everywhere with their holy bible in the form of Idiocracy and having cocreated the nonstarter known as The Goode Family, I find Mr. Judge is an incredibly reliable creator, not limiting himself to any one thing and succeeding fairly well in what he sets out to do. And boy, Office Space is one of those legendary comedy films that absolutely lived up to the hype… and then he had and go and ruin everything by ripping off Superman III. Instant 1/10 for that.
And finally, I ended up seeing The Hustler and The Color of Money back-to-back. Both are classic Paul Newman films that make for great watches even all these years later. The Hustler is more iconic, but The Color of Money is not to be discounted. It’s really intriguing seeing a sequel to a film made several decades after the fact and starring the same actor; you really get a sense as to how much time passed. Then again, it’s evident just when examining the background only to realize that, in The Color of Money, arcade cabinets adorn the bars.
Games reviewed in July 2021:
Seriously? The main antagonist of this game is named Boobus Tuber? Are we sure Beavis and Butt-Head didn’t make this game?
Anyway, every so often I’ll get a game that’s mechanically better than those that came before yet fails to surpass them by virtue of making two or more new mistakes for every improvement. It’s happened with King’s Quest V and Mother 3, and we have another instance of that weird phenomenon occurring with Keen Dreams as well, which is pretty impressive given that the series was already pretty subpar up until this point (even if its influence is a lasting one). The better controls don’t mean much when you’re saddled with the single most worthless weapon in the history of platformers. Coupled with a bland level design and the ability to skip most of the experience, and you have quite the mess.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Now, this review was a long time coming, wasn’t it? There is a bittersweet sentiment to revisiting this game (far more sweet than bitter) in that it just misses the mark of being a 9/10 or even a 10/10 by the slimmest of margins that it’s a crying shame it didn’t make it. In a way, it’s kind of The Wind Waker of the fourth console generation – a superb effort that, thanks to a distinct lack of follow through (two dungeons being cut from The Wind Waker and a general rushed design in Lufia II’s final third), cheats itself out a well-deserved spot in those upper tiers.
Don’t think that makes the game unworthy of your time, however. In fact, I’m positive that this game can win over people who aren’t fans of JRPGs (or even people who slightly dislike them) because it does a lot of things other games in the genre simply don’t do. A JRPG having dungeons with genuine Zelda-style puzzles would be commendable today let alone in 1995. It is truly difficult to believe that the series had gone from mindlessly imitating better games to offering an experience that left many Nintendo or Square games in the dust in less than two years. If you haven’t played this game before, just ignore the fact that it’s a sequel and jump right in blind; you won’t be disappointed.
Donkey Kong Country
Also known as the one where Red Metal loses his Rare fans.
I tend to retrospectively approach Donkey Kong Country the same way I approach The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I hear from fans about how they’re some of the greatest of all time, causing me to think that perhaps I missed something about them when I played them as a kid. And then I replay them as an adult only to conclude that, while I did frequently miss the mark as a kid, in these particular cases, I was right the first time.
Much in the same way that I tend to favor Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages over Link’s Awakening, I tend to lean more towards the sequels to Donkey Kong Country over the original itself. I can kind of see why the original would be lauded the most because it is, ironically given what issue the Stamper brothers attempted to address, the only game of the original trilogy in which the title character is actually playable. And at the risk of getting a little ahead of myself, I can certainly understand why the third game isn’t highly thought of.
Nonetheless, I always find myself slightly disappointed whenever I revisit Donkey Kong Country because I feel like I’m playing through the prototype of a masterpiece when I could be playing the real deal. On the other hand, it’s not the style-over-substance experience the circa late-2000s independent critics would have you believe. I myself once compared it to the original Uncharted. It kind of is in the sense that its presentation outstripped its quality, but between the games, I can easily say Donkey Kong Country has aged much better by virtue of A) providing substantive challenges to the player and B) not suffering an identity crisis. Also, while it’s not as impressive now as it was in 1994, I wouldn’t trust any source that insists it belongs on a list of the most overrated games of all time. If it’s overrated, it’s because fans insist it’s one of the best games ever made when, in practice, it’s just merely slightly above average – bad (or even average) it is not.
Donkey Kong 40th Anniversary – A Barrel of Memories – Yes, as mentioned before, Donkey Kong, the classic arcade game that put Nintendo on the map is now forty years old! The Gaming Omnivore takes a retrospective look at the franchise.
Donkey Kong and Mario Turn 40! – And, of course, Scott of the Wizard Dojo, a fan of the series, pitches his two cents about its anniversary.
Project G-The Return of Godzilla (1984) – Continuing with his Godzilla retrospective, Aether leaves the Showa era and enters the Heisei era (well, not really, but close enough), starting with the 1984 reboot The Return of Godzilla.
Post-Pandemic Check-in: Orchids, tin whistle, and video game music! ♪ – In the midst of this pandemic, Backlog Crusader checks in and posts various interesting updates about what she’s been up to.
The Beast Inside – Luca of vgartsite takes a look at this interesting horror indie game The Beast Inside.
Superman III (1983) Movie Review – Lashaan Balasingam takes a look at Superman III, which is generally considered the worst of the classic Superman films – even if Mike Judge totally ripped it off.
Summer cleaning game review (?) special #7: Super Radical Solitaire / ART SQOOL – AK, having purchased a summer bundle, takes a look at the various games included therein.
This Game Wasn’t Made For You: The Interesting Impressions of Cyberpunk 2077 Athena – I swear after 2013 or so, the AAA industry can’t seem to go an entire year six months without making complete fools of themselves. Athena takes a look at the scandal surrounding the controversial Cyberpunk 2077.
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