Alright, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these tags. The responsible party, once again, is AK of Everything Is Bad for You, although the tag is slightly different this time around. It’s the Let’s Blog Award, and the rules are as follows:
- Answer the 10 questions sent by the nominator.
- Write your 10 questions for the nominees.
- Answer your own questions.
- Nominate as many bloggers you want for this award and notify them that they got nominated.
- Tag the post #Let’s Blog Award.
It’s quite a lot of work, but I think I’ll manage, so here we go.
- Have you played/watched a series that you first liked but felt went off the rails at some point?
I haven’t really experienced this much, thankfully. Although, one example that stands out in my mind would be the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but probably not for the reason you’re thinking. My stance on The Last Jedi has changed somewhat this past year when I realized that films most vocal detractors on Youtube (the so-called Fandom Menace) are full of it.
While I still don’t think it’s a good film and don’t intend to revise my scoring, I have to admit the reason it doesn’t hold up wasn’t entirely its own fault. Many people have argued (myself included until I had the full picture) that Rian Johnson’s subversive storytelling ensured there was nowhere for the plot to go in episode nine, but that was entirely untrue. Colin Trevorrow’s original vision for the ninth episode, then named Duel of the Fates, was far more comprehensive and featured a darker, artistically riskier storyline that actually did follow up on what The Last Jedi did.
But, that’s not what we got. What we got was exactly what I hoped the trilogy wasn’t going to be when I saw The Force Awakens: a complete and total sellout. The film spent half of its runtime retconning what The Last Jedi did, and it walked away a worse product for it. It was almost as though the writers spent all of their time on Reddit and Twitter, read the complaints, and addressed every single one of them. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Solo’s lukewarm response effectively torpedoed any risk taking on the executives’ part, so The Rise of Skywalker felt like an attempt to regain the fans who posted negative reviews of The Last Jedi on YouTube. It was a spectacularly bad move because it turns out those fans were a vocal (and insatiable) minority. It would’ve been a smarter idea to cut their losses and go full tilt on what The Last Jedi set up; trying to get back the so-called Fandom Menace was a lost cause because they were never going to like what Disney gave them. It’s never a good idea to give the squeaky wheel the grease when it’s completely rusted through and unusable; just get a new wheel at that point.
And while I still think Mr. Johnson’s writing got in its own way, I actually now think The Last Jedi is the best film in the sequel trilogy because, however flawed its execution may have been, it was the only film that tried to be something other than a carbon copy of the original trilogy. It didn’t work as well as its fans think (in fact, I would argue it wasn’t daring or subversive enough), but it was the most artistically accomplished film in the trilogy. Regardless, the sequel trilogy represents a gigantic waste of potential that could’ve been averted if the powers that be had an actual game plan. Granted, the original trilogy didn’t have one either, but the people behind the sequel trilogy knew for sure there would be three films, so they had no excuse. Either way, it’s impossible to recommend a story that gets off to a good start only for its ending to be complete garbage.
- What about the reverse — a series that you first disliked or had no feelings about but came to enjoy?
This is a bit of a stretch, but, similar to my feelings about The Last Jedi, I will concede that I don’t dislike The Last of Us Part II as much as I thought I did. In fact, I realized that giving it a 3/10 was a bit too harsh and revised it to a 5/10. Honestly, I was going into that game expecting a Metroid: Other M-level disaster, but its allegedly infamous moments weren’t really that bad. The actual gameplay is fairly good and the story, while misbegotten, is also better overall than that of the original. Yes, the game is flawed for much of the reasons I’ve heard repeated countless times (no likable characters, a lackluster ending, and a narrative that doesn’t really belong in a video game), but I have to counter that not a single one of those problems originated in The Last of Us Part II; those were problems Naughty Dog games have always had. The only difference between that game and this one is that the second game was released to a reactionary crowd who were more than willing to point out those always-existent flaws now that Neil Druckmann and company deliberately decided not to dance to their tune.
It’s not even as though the problems are worse this time around; if anything, it has far more self-awareness than the original game ever did – particularly in how it treated the original game’s protagonist and softly retconned the ending (which is good because said ending really hasn’t aged well at all). It’s to the point where I find myself giving Mr. Druckmann some credit because, in a stark contrast to its predecessor (and, again, like The Last Jedi), there was an actual artistic risk being taken here. Now, an artistic risk shouldn’t come at the expense of hospitalizing your subordinates, but the fact remains that, nine times out of ten, a failed experiment is going to outshine a failed attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
- How forgiving are you of glitches in a game?
It depends. If the glitches render the game unplayable, then chances are you’re not playing a quality product. Bethesda games are notoriously buggy, which is why, even if I have fun with them, I tend to favor more polished products such as Dark Souls over them. That said, things get interesting whenever glitches are intentionally left in or otherwise elaborated upon in future installments (i.e. the combo system in fighting games and the wall jump from the Mario series).
- What about a poor localization?
A poor localization may not negate a good story outright, but it can really detract from the experience in its own way. I once played the infamously bad English localization of Breath of Fire II, which is a shame because the story is actually fairly good (or at least once it stops sending you on pointless fetch quests). It really didn’t do justice to the story at all, and worse, sometimes, the bad translation would result in plot holes. I’m glad that localizations tend to be better these days – even for obscure franchises.
- How do you feel about cursing/general vulgarity in art and media?
I don’t really feel one way or another about it. Basically, I think the question to ask is whether or not it fits the tone of your work. If it does, great, but if it doesn’t, you really run the risk of making certain bits of dialogue impossible to take seriously.
- What three countries would you most like to visit, assuming you could do so without worries about time/cost?
I have already visited Japan, but I would definitely like to visit that country again. When I went there in 2013, I stayed at a hostel in Yokohama, so I when I visit it again, I would want to go to Kyoto. Otherwise, I would definitely like to visit Europe – probably the U.K., Spain, or Germany due to the fascinating history they have.
- What’s your favorite drink(s)?
It’s strange you should ask that because in all honesty, I don’t vary up my drinks at all. I usually just stick to milk and water (mostly the latter).
And now it’s time for my questions:
- Do you prefer RPGs where your characters end the game at a high level (70+) or a lower one (20-30 or so)? Assume that these outcomes are not simply the result of grinding levels for hours.
Personally, I like games in which your characters end up at high levels by the endgame over ones where you spend too much time on one level. A good role-playing experience should have an epic feel to it, and having those high numbers can showcase character growth – at least in terms of gameplay.
That said, I don’t mind games with comparatively low level caps – especially if it’s something like Fire Emblem wherein you have way more than four characters to micromanage.
- Do you prefer RPGs with turn-based or real-time combat?
I think turn-based combat is the kind that allows for better, more complex boss fights, so I tend to gravitate towards those for that reason. Then again, Dark Souls has demonstrated that you absolutely can make great boss fights in an action-RPG, so really, my answer is the same as AK’s fifth question in that if you can make it work, do it.
- Do you prefer RPGs that introduce your entire lineup upfront with no changes beyond the prologue or ones that feature rotating lineups? Assume in either case that you have no control over your party lineup at any point.
I think the latter option can lead to more dynamic storylines than having a static lineup. Having played through Grandia this past summer, I can say one of the more interesting aspects of that game was the rotating cast. I liked seeing how the main character interacted with different team configurations. On the other hand, I can see it also making a blind playthrough rather daunting because you run into the problem those kinds of games have wherein you end up wasting a lot of resources on a character who leaves your party permanently (one character in particular acts like a main character only to be permanently benched roughly one-third of the way into the game).
Grandia actually is slightly ahead of the curve in that regard because you can transfer ability points from party members who leave, and they give you their equipment when they do so, although any power-up items you use on them are wasted. Then again, Grandia is a fairly easy game, so it balances out in the end?
On the other hand, having a static lineup allows you to develop all of the characters from the beginning to the end, which avoids the problem both Grandia and Lufia II have by introducing their respective final party members so late in the story.
- Do you prefer games that have advanced enemy formations, but no boss fights or comparatively simple standard enemies with boss fights in between?
Good boss fights tend to be the highlights of a game, so I welcome them wholeheartedly. Having to go through multiple standard enemies gets very repetitive very quickly. My friend, Aether, once said that boss fights are something of a lost art among today’s AAA development teams, but I think that’s just more of a consequence of American developers rising to prominence in the 2000s after they completely lost their console dominance following the 1983 crash.
Indeed, if it’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years, it’s that, barring a few exceptions here and there, American developers can’t program a good boss fight to save their lives; if they exist at all, they’re just normal enemies with larger health bars. At first, I thought that it was just because they tended to develop games that didn’t really preclude boss fights, but both Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild proved that you absolutely can have boss fights even when developing games with Western sensibilities, so there’s something else going on.
It also seems to be a problem endemic to the North American AAA scene because both Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom and Divinity: Original Sin, which were made by a French and Belgian team respectively, had amazingly good boss fights, so my guess is that there’s some philosophy that gets lost in translation.
- Do you prefer games where you create your own character or ones where you play as a character created by the authors?
Honestly, I think it just depends on what kind of story you’re going for. In general, though, I prefer games with protagonists created by the author because then the rest of the narrative is designed around them, which, in turn, makes for a more organic experience. Creating your own character has its own appeal, but I think it has a bit more impact when the protagonist is an actual character and not simply your avatar. That being said, I do think creating your own character works really well in games such as Dark Souls wherein the narrative is more malleable and up for interpretation.
- What is your opinion of sequel hooks?
Don’t. Unless it has already been greenlit or is in production, never bank on the possibility of your work getting a sequel. If it backfires, you’ve just written a story with no ending/a terrible ending. And even if the sequel is already in production, you run the risk of going faster than your writers can keep up. Admittedly, it’s also the reason I find it difficult to get into most forms of television. Who knows if this series with a great story will actually get another season and/or completely fall apart in the last season?
- Many film directors seem to be under the impression that seeing their work in theaters is the definitive viewing experience. Would you agree?
I do think there is undeniably a great appeal of seeing a film on the big screen in a theater with other people who are equally invested in seeing what the director has to offer. That being said, my personal motto on this matter is, “If your film is only good when it’s on the big screen, you’re doing something wrong”. If your film is good, it should be good if you’re watching on the big screen, a TV screen, or a smartphone screen. Visuals are important, but unless you’re completely eschewing a conventional narrative and going for a purely visual experience, then the real draw should be the quality of your script (and even then, I stand by my previous statement).
It’s like how James Cameron’s Avatar managed to rake in the big bucks, yet left almost no impact on pop culture because people collectively realized, when watching it at home, that the story is nothing special. Conversely, I watched Caddyshack for the first time while onboard a plane en route to Shanghai on a screen whose quality is comparable to a primitive late 1990s portable television I once owned. And I still found Caddyshack to be a much more worthwhile cinematic experience.
- What do you think of post-game content?
I think it can add to the experience, but it shouldn’t be the main attraction to the game; that should be the campaign itself. You can kind of get away with it if the gameplay is good, but otherwise, clearing post-game content doesn’t have the same satisfying sense of closure as seeing the credits roll. It’s like adding a fourth act to a story with a three-act structure.
- When you see a film in theaters, what time of day do you prefer to go?
I tend to go to the early morning screenings because A), those tend to have the less crowded audiences and B), I am much better at watching films in the morning/daytime than I am in the evening/night.
- What is a word you really like, but can never seem to spell properly?
For me, that would be “predilection”, which is shame because it’s a great word. The problem isn’t necessarily that it’s difficult to spell, but rather if you spell it wrong, there’s a good chance spellcheck won’t give you the right word (it usually gives you “predication” if you do). In fact, to answer this question, I had to consult the thesaurus to remind myself how to spell it (searching the word “tendency” did the trick).
And there you have it! Now, for the people I’ll be tagging:
- Alex’s Review Corner
- Mr. Wapojif
- Games with Toasty
- Amanda Hurych
- Gaming Omnivore
- Scott of the Wizard Dojo
- Matt of Nintendobound
Thank you, AK, for the shout-out once again!