May 2019 in Summary: Five Years of Blogging!

Well, it has been a whole half of a decade since I made the fateful decision to start reviewing the video games I played. I wasn’t really taking it seriously in my first two years, but when I started building up momentum, I really got into it. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I do not intend to quit any time soon, so to those who have stuck with me this entire time and for those who just tuned in, I truly thank you.

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[FILM REVIEW] John Wick (Chad Stahelski, 2014)

The wife of a man named John Wick has succumbed to a terminal illness. Just before she died, she had given John a gift to help him with the grieving process: a beagle puppy named Daisy. Over the next few days, he bonds with the puppy, driving her around in his vintage 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. Trouble brews when at a gas station, a trio of hoodlums led by a young Russian gangster named Iosef Tarasov insists on buying his car. John assures him the car is not for sale, but Iosef refuses to take “no” for an answer. He makes his frustrations known when he and his cohorts follow John to his house, knock him unconscious, kill Daisy, and steal his car.

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[FILM REVIEW] Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)

Two close childhood friends, Amy and Molly, are about to graduate from high school. After graduating, Amy plans to travel to Botswana for a few months while Molly has been admitted to a prestigious school. The two of them have a reputation for being overachievers, choosing not to party and instead focusing on their studies. While using a restroom, Molly overhears her peers making fun of her. Molly then realizes that she and Amy didn’t have enough fun in high school and should use the remaining time before graduation and go to an end-of-year party being held by a popular kid named Nick.

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A Question for the Readers #14: What’s in a Name?

MINOR UPDATE: As you all know, I’ve been working on a retrospective of sorts for the Wonder Boy/Monster World series. Last December, I wrote a standalone review of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. I did not originally intend to review the entire series. Instead, I was just going to talk about The Dragon’s Trap and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom when I got around to finishing the latter, but I eventually decided to marathon the series so I could have the necessary context. Now that I have recently cleared Monster World IV, I learned a lot about the series I didn’t know when I originally wrote that piece. As such, I amended the introduction and parts of the review proper to better reflect the series’ progression. You can read the revised review by following this link.

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[GAME REVIEW] Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

Introduction

With Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Westone Bit Entertainment had another hit on their hands. The idea of an arcade game placing a great emphasis on role-playing elements was something rarely seen before or since. If one wanted an experience similar to the one offered by Wonder Boy in Monster Land, they would need to pay for a powerful gaming computer or the latest home console. It was therefore highly ambitious of Westone to place such an experience in a scene known for fast-paced, simplistic gameplay.

By this point, Westone clearly had a flagship series, so it was only natural of them to continue the momentum by creating a sequel. The third installment in this budding franchise, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, debuted in domestic arcades in 1988. Though it wouldn’t reach international arcades, it was ported to many popular home consoles such as the TurboGrafx-CD. Strangely, this would be the only port North American gamers received. One was created for the Sega Mega Drive, allowing Japanese and European enthusiasts to play it, but a Genesis port never surfaced. With its two predecessors different as night and day, what did Westone decide to do for the third installment in their popular franchise?

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[FILM REVIEW] Knowing (Alex Proyas, 2009)

In 1959, a young girl named Lucinda Embry heard whispers from an unidentified being while staring at the sun. She convinced her school to make a time capsule, and each of the students drew a picture of what they believed the future would look like. However, Lucinda began writing down random numbers to put into the capsule. She went missing after the capsule was buried. When she was found, she had been scratching numbers into the door of a utility closet. Fifty years have passed since that day and the time capsule is about to be opened.

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[FILM REVIEW] Godzilla (Ishirō Honda, 1954)

The Eiko-maru was sailing around Odo Island only for it to mysteriously sink. Another ship, the Bingo-maru, was sent to investigate but it too met the same fate with only a scant few survivors. A fishing boat is also destroyed shortly thereafter with only a single person surviving. Compounding matters is when the locals fail to catch any fish during their latest expeditions. An elder residing on Odo Island blames a sea creature that had supposedly terrorized the oceans for generations. That creature is known only as Godzilla.

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[FILM REVIEW] You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011)

A woman named Erin has traveled with her boyfriend, Crispian Davison, to a vacation home in rural Missouri. It is a family reunion held by Crispian’s parents, Aubrey and Paul. Also joining them is Drake, Kelly, Felix, Aimee, Zee, and Tariq. Drake is Crispian’s older brother and Kelly is the former’s wife. Felix and Aimee are Crispian’s younger siblings – their partners are Zee and Tariq respectively. Unbeknownst to this family, a man wearing a lamb mask has recently killed a woman, writing the words “You’re Next” in blood. This simple reunion will hit a snag when this killer decides to pay a visit.

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[GAME REVIEW] Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Introduction

Escape’s debut game, Wonder Boy, became a hit when it was released in arcades in 1986. Because the publisher, Sega, only had rights over the Wonder Boy trademark, the company entered a partnership with Hudson Soft to have it released on the Famicom – or the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as it was known abroad. Wonder Boy, retooled into Adventure Island, would go on to be a beloved classic in the NES’s library as well. As a result, the game managed to find a broad audience, being one of the few titles legally available on both a Nintendo and a Sega console. With this success, two members of Escape, Ryuchi Nishizawa and Michishito Ishizuka, began work on a follow-up. To mark the momentous occasion of having released Wonder Boy, they changed the company’s name to Westone, believing the name Escape made them sound unreliable. Westone is derived from the first kanji in these two artists’ names – “Nishi” meaning “west” and “Ishi” meaning “stone”.

In the same year in which Wonder Boy saw its release, a skilled programmer named Yuji Horii put the finishing touches on a game known as Dragon Quest. This title was a massive success upon release, introducing countless Japanese enthusiasts to the role-playing game. One person who took note of this game’s popularity and its subsequent impact on Japanese enthusiasts was none other than Mr. Nishizawa. Drawing upon his experience, he sought to create a game that combined arcade and role-playing elements.

The result of this experimentation, Wonder Boy: Monster World, was released in arcades in August of 1987. Although the original arcade version never left Japan, it received a port on the Sega Master System in 1988. This port, which was redubbed Wonder Boy in Monster Land overseas, is frequently considered one of the stronger games in the Master System library. Similar to the case with the original Wonder Boy and Adventure Island, it also saw retooled ports on the PC Engine and the Famicom under the names Bikkuriman and Saiyūki World respectively. Bikkuriman was based off of a 1980s franchise centered on sticker collecting. Saiyūki World, published by Jaleco, was inspired by the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West in which players assumed the role of the monkey king Sun Wukong – or Son Gokū in Japanese – on a quest to save his country. Of these various ports and retools, only the Master System version saw the light of day in the West. Did Mr. Nishizawa successfully use the increasingly popular role-playing genre to give Wonder Boy a worthy sequel?

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[FILM REVIEW] Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017)

Two years have passed since the defeat of Ultron in the battle of Sokovia. Thor has been imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur. While in captivity, the demon reveals that Odin is no longer on Asgard and the realm will soon be destroyed following an event known as the Twilight of the Gods – Ragnarök. Just when Surtur unites his crown with the Eternal Flame burning in Odin’s vault, Thor frees himself. He then battles Surtur’s forces and seizes the demon’s crown. Though he believes he prevented Ragnarök, the battle has only just begun.

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