The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Remembering Meteos: A Retrospective

The other day, there were plenty of people on social media who were discussing their “Gamestruck 4”. For those who missed it, the inspiration for the conversation was the day before, when movie streaming service Filmstruck started a hastag asking people for to name the four films that “defined them”. From there, other people began applying the thinking to other mediums, hence “Gamestruck 4”.

With that background out of the way, I decided to think about it some. Video games have been a large part of my life, so which four could be the ones that most “defined” me, whatever that meant? There were a lot of contenders. Super Mario World, as the first video game I played, was a starting point. I’ve probably put more hours into the Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart series than any other games. I’ve written about my love for series like Mario, Pokémon, and Backyard Baseball in the past, all of which had major impacts on my formative years. There are more modern titles that remind me of why I love the medium, like Super Mario Odyssey, A Hat in Time, and Undertale (which I’ve wanted to write about for years, but still have no idea where to even start). Or, I could pick games that are highly representative of genres I like, or which line up with my aesthetic tastes.

There were some interesting titles there, some of which included games that I hadn’t thought about for years. Golden Sun was a big one, an old Game Boy Advanced RPG with a sprawling fantasy epic at its core centered on a group of magic users traveling the world. I spent a lot of time on that one, but of course, I already had a potential RPG representative in Pokémon. Then, there’s games like Tetris and Tetris Attack; I love puzzle games, but especially ones like that.* But what about something that could combine those aspects?

*I have no idea what the official subgenre name is. “Match Three Games” seems like the style, but name that doesn’t really apply to Tetris. Wikipedia suggests “Tile Matching”, which seems the most accurate even if I’ve never heard it used before. Of course, I’m also fond of my mostly-buzzword-yet-technically-not-wrong descriptor, “rougelike puzzle games with permadeath”. 

And that’s when I remembered Meteos.

For those who weren’t fortunate enough to try it, Meteos was a 2005 Nintendo DS puzzle game created by Q Entertainment (and under the design lead of the brilliant Masahiro Sakurai, of Super Smash Bros and Kirby fame) in the same genre as Tetris. But whereas Tetris felt (to young me, at least) like something basic and ancient, even primal, that had always existed in some form or another*, Meteos felt distinctly new.

*And to be fair to young me, Tetris predated me by nearly a decade, so it was pretty close.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Few Criticisms of Avengers: Infinity War

I’m just going to cut straight to the point: I don’t think necessarily think Avengers: Infinity War is a bad movie. I enjoyed myself watching it in some capacity, which is ultimately what Marvel Studios was going for. But it was a certain type of movie, the kind where, as I’m watching it, I start thinking of all the ways it could have been better. So with that, I figured I’d give the few most significant changes I think would have improved the third Avengers film. As a warning, if you haven’t seen Infinity War yet and you’re concerned about spoiling the movie for yourself, maybe hold off, because I’m going to cover some major plot points.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Hat in Time and Level Design Philosophies in 3-D Platformers

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my favorite indie games from the past year and I lavished high praise on A Hat in Time by the development team Gears for Breakfast. It’s a throwback to the 3D platformers of the ‘90s and early 2000s that I loved growing up, but like all of the best nostalgic throwbacks, it’s good not just because it references the classics of a past, but because it understands what made those classics work, and consciously decides to do its own thing. Now that I’ve more or less finished the entire game, I feel like I can begin to break down some of the things that the game does especially well.

Every aspect of A Hat in Time is meticulously designed and pitch perfect. The aesthetic side of things are incredibly strong; the game is filled with beautifully-animated, cel-shaded style worlds, each with it’s own hilariously-written and quirky side characters. The entire thing is scored with a triumphant and exciting soundtrack that makes you feel ready to set out on an adventure. Protagonist Hat Girl is given a strong personality with almost no dialogue, and is one of my favorite new main characters in the past decade or so. The controls are tight and so much fun to use, which is critical to a platformer that relies on navigating spaces. Few games make simply moving around a level feel so natural and easy.

And while that all is nice, there’s one specific aspect of the design that I’d like to focus on: the construction of the worlds that serve as your digital playgrounds. A Hat in Time makes some interesting choices in how they went about building these stages that I feel like digging into a little, because I think the variety they provide are part of what keeps the game feel so exciting and new at every turn.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My Favorite Indie Games of 2017

I’ve written a decent amount in 2017 about video games, but mostly about larger titles from bigger companies. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s also not really indicative of a lot of what I played this year, either. And that’s kind of a shame, because a lot of smaller, indie titles rely on good word-of-mouth to get attention. So maybe I’ll write a full article about one or more of these games later, but in the meantime, I wanted to run down a list of the smaller titles that I enjoyed this year. Not all of them came out this year, necessarily, but part of the joy of smaller games is finding something you missed the first time. With that in mind, consider looking into one or more of these if they sound interesting.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Music Monday: Best Music of 2017

Picking my favorite music for a year is a little weird, the more I delve into it. A lot of stuff that I “discovered” this year actually came out last year or earlier. Some of my favorite albums that came out in 2017 include songs that were released in 2016 or even 2015. When you think about it even more, there’s a very good chance that I haven’t even heard my favorite song from 2017 yet. Even if I have, I still might grow a new appreciation for something that I initially brushed off. Drawing up lists like this always involves some degree of arbitrariness.

But I still wanted to do something to mark the end of the year, so I built a list of my favorite songs from this year. I tried to stick to a full rules, though:

1) Songs should be from 2017 when possible. 2016 is okay if I wasn’t aware of the artist until this year, or if the song was released as an early single for a full album that came out in 2017, but try not to go earlier than that.

2) I decided to limit myself to 2 songs from a given artist. If they have two songs on the list, it should either be because the artist had multiple releases this year, or because I really liked the release in question. Generally speaking, I like the larger body of work of every artist here and would recommend listening to more of any of them if you like what I included here, but I didn’t want the list bloating up too much; it’s already nearly 5 hours as is.

Seeing as this list is 80 songs, I’m not going to touch on every single inclusion, but I’ll highlight a few things here and there. With that out of the way, let’s get to it:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Best Pokémon Missing from Pokkén Tournament DX

I’ve been playing a decent amount of Pokkén Tournament DX for the Switch as of late. Fighting games aren’t always my jam, but I’ve found myself liking it a lot so far, which maybe isn’t surprising given my love for Pokémon as a series. And given that love of Pokémon, I have some opinions on the roster that was chosen for the game. Granted, the roster as it is isn’t bad or anything. At 807 total species in the series, narrowing it down to about 20 is a difficult task, and the 21* that were included in the game do as good a job as any others.

*Well, 19. Two of the characters, Pikachu Libre and Shadow Mewtwo, are variations of other Pokémon already on the roster. So they don’t really widen the total scope of species represented, even if they are unique characters in their own right.

But at the same time…since DX is a port of an earlier game, a part of me hoped it would include a couple of new choices to expand the roster into at least the mid-20s. Instead, we basically just got one new character (plus four others that were in the arcade version but not the Wii U one). It would have been nice to have seen a little more added in to this updated version*

*I didn’t really play the original version all that much, so I feel like I can’t complain too much since it’s all new to me either way. But still.

There’s still hope, of course, in the way of things like downloadable content, but there’s been no news on that front. Given all of that, I assembled a list of my thoughts on the most notable Pokémon omitted from Pokken Tournament DX’s playable roster.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Meet the Robinsons Is Two Clicks Off of Being a Disney Classic

I love Disney movies (that may have been obvious already, not sure), and I love time travel movies (may not be as obvious), so I figured it was long overdo for me to revisit what remains to this day the only film in the Disney Animated Canon to tackle time travel, 2007's Meet the Robinsons.

The movie has kind of been forgotten, which maybe isn't too surprising; it did come out at a rather low point in Disney's history, after all, on the heels of a string of failures in the first few years of the millennium.* But, it came right before the turnaround that lead to the re-invigoration of the studio, where we find it today once again something of a juggernaut, and appropriately enough, contains a lot of very strong points in what's otherwise a solid but occasionally uneven movie.

*I don't feel like getting too into the nitty-gritty of each movie, but I feel like it's pretty safe to say the only unqualified success for the studio in the early 2000s was Lilo and Stitch. And while there were some good movies in that stretch that underperformed, I don't think I'll run into too much resistance in saying that the three films immediately preceding Meet the Robinsons, namely Chicken Little, Home on the Range, and Brother Bear, are all among Disney's weakest feature films.