Ryan’s Bizarre Blog Post

Bear with me a moment here, this is a difficult thing to talk about… I’ve… been watching a lot of anime this year. “A lot” for me, of course, is basically just any value higher than zero. Still, it’s a thing that’s been happening with an alarming frequency. And it’s all Netflix’s fault.

First I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion and its two film follow-ups, which I kind of hated. I don’t know. I guess you had to be there. Then I watched Devilman Crybaby, which was unbearably dull until the last three episodes where it went bonkers and I really got into it. Now I’m going through JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This seems to be currently “in” with the internet nerds everywhere, but it’s not really landing for me.

I want to like JoJo. I really do. The premise – generations of heroes carrying on an eternal battle against immortal foes – is certainly interesting to me. It smacks of Castlevania, but without the gothic theme and Universal Monsters. Jojo‘s battles are usually cool, with neat twists and flashy magic powers and all that stuff you’d expect. Plus, the art! It’s a little weird, but I think that’s what I appreciate about it. Great visual style. Lots of panache. And the ending theme is “Roundabout” by Yes, which is an excellent way to make sure your show always ends on a good note.

But then there’s the exposition. I kid you not, Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure is roughly 90% exposition by volume. You could probably condense and entire story arc into a single episode if you cut out every instance of a character over-describing what’s happening. It’s bad. It’s really bad. And it’s making the show so hard for me to really get into. I’m a couple episodes into the second story arc (with the pillar man), but I don’t know if I care enough to keep putting up with it. Word on the reddit is that it gets better, but my time is precious and I’d prefer to squander it on something I can really dig.

Looking at the bigger picture, the exposition problem is one of the major things that’s kept me disinterested in anime in general. I think it generally stems from Dragon Ball Z, which was hot when I was younger, and I wanted to like it, but got annoyed because it was mostly just the characters endlessly describing whatever was going on. Or endlessly grunting as they charged up special moves. To be honest, I don’t know if this really is a problem with anime in general, but it seems like it gets parodied a lot, so maybe I’m not just making things up? I remember Shaman King having the same problem, but I can’t be sure. If it did, I somehow managed to get over it because I was completely fascinated by the lore of that one.

Anyway, I think my point stands: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure sure seems like the kind of show that I would like, but in practice, it’s got one major flaw that really turns me off. I wish I could push past it, but every time friggin’ Speedwagon opens his mouth, I shout at the screen “Show, don’t tell!”

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: November 2019

~ Game Over ~

Star Fox (SNES) – Ran the easy route. A good way to burn half an hour.

Pixel Puzzle Collection (iOS) – Wrote this. Still playing for 200%.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch) – Having come fresh off Dark Moon, which I felt was a little lacking in certain areas, Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks like a damn masterpiece. It’s obviously not perfect, but I’m willing to suggest that it may even be better than the original. If absolutely nothing else, the cutscenes may very well be the best that Nintendo’s ever produced. LM3 is a wonderful cartoon of a game, and if it weren’t like 17 hours long I’d jump right back in for a replay.

Continue reading

Spooktober 2019 – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Yes, I know that Spooktober is over. But I’ve been crazy busy with other things over the last couple weeks and haven’t had a chance to finish up this review, so… gimme a break?

Also I just finished playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, which is the most recent game in the series. But before I talk about that, I feel like it’s necessary to chronicle the previous game, which I completed merely a day before LM3’s release.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the second game in the series, a direct sequel to the original GameCube launch title. While Dark Moon was released in 2013, I didn’t actually get a copy until 2015. And even then, I didn’t start playing it until halfway through this very month. Perfect timing!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, Luigi’s Mansion puts… Luigi in a… mansion and has him hunt down and capture oodles of ghosts with a modified vacuum cleaner. Also you’re encouraged to try sucking up everything in sight to see if it shoots out a bunch of money. While the first game more or less gave you free run of a single, gigantic mansion, Dark Moon breaks it up into five smaller locations whose classification as mansions varies from “definitely a mansion” to “a mine with a small chalet above it”.

Each mansion is also further broken down into several missions and capped off with a boss stage. This is where I think Dark Moon suffers a bit. In the original game, you would end up backtracking a bit, but that’s because you needed to explore one huge location, similar to early Resident Evil games. The mission structure in Dark Moon has you revisiting the same rooms over and over again, often having to clear the rooms of ghosts or solve puzzles on each pass. Not always, but often enough that it starts to feel repetitious by the end of the first mansion. This tedium is really what kept me from truly getting into the game, and why I generally stuck to playing one mission per play session.

Oh! And the first boss is a garbage fire, but the rest of them range from inoffensive to pretty good, so I won’t come down on it too hard.

On the bright side, those are really the only things that I didn’t like about Dark Moon. Other that that, it was pretty much on par with the precedent set by the first game. Which is to say that it was a fun experience, but not one that you’d ever have to feel like you’r missing out on. The basic gameplay of “battling” ghosts is still exciting enough, even after you’ve sucked up hundreds of ghosts. Each mansion also has its own theme, and while they do fall into the standard video game environments (forest, desert, ice, etc..), there’s enough of a twist to each that they feel fresh and unique.

The puzzles within the mansions don’t really ever get all that difficult. Most of them involve rotating a fan or sucking up a false wall. Occasionally you’ll have to deal with something a little more complex, but I never once got hung up trying to figure something out. Really, I think the puzzles are just there to give you something else to do besides sucking up ghosts, so I can’t really fault them for never going past the point of ‘tricky’. Something that really stood out to me is that there are a number of missions that require you to escort a Toad around, and they are surprisingly the least tedious parts of the game. The Toads are cute and squeaky, and it’s always fun to suck them up and then blast them across the room. The whole “escort mission” thing doesn’t ever really get in the way, either, as the Toads will just follow you around as you do your thing and never cause any sort of troubles with combat.

Where the real challenge lies are in finding all of Dark Moon’s vairous collectibles. Each mansion has like… a dozen sparkly gems that are hidden away, and they’re generally behind the game’s true puzzles. So if you’re itching for a brain-bender, you may want to make it your goal to find all the gems. The reward is a little statue for each set that you complete, so it’s really more about the journey than the destination for these. Every mission also has a single Boo hidden somewhere, and capturing all the Boos in a mansion unlocks a time attack stage. Lastly, you’re ranked on your performance during each mission, on a very mobile one-to-three-stars scale. This seems like the most arduous task that Dark Moon gives you, and your effort for a perfect three-star file gets you… nothing but bragging rights.

What really shines above all else in Dark Moon is, well, Luigi. He’s so elaborately animated and full of character that it’s simply a pleasure to see all of his various reactions to whatever’s going on around him. He’s also got more voice lines than he or Mario have ever had before, and I feel that it goes a long way to giving him just that much more personality. Professor E. Gadd and all the various ghosts are fairly charming in their own ways as well, but Luigi absolutely steals the show. As he should.

At the end of the day, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that is definitely worth playing. It’s fun, charming, and will absolutely scratch that OCD itch for vacuuming up every piece of the environment to see how it reacts. While the only major flaw is that it feels too segmented and repetitive because of the mission structure, I feel like that one problem really does get in the way. It really did make Dark Moon feel more like work than it should have. I think the game would have been better off just making each mansion a self-contained chapter. Yes, it would have cut down playtime by probably a third, but all that time is just spent re-clearing rooms you’ve already been through anyway. Still, I’m happy that I played it. If absolutely nothing else, it thoroughly prepared me for Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Let’s Talk About Pixel Puzzles

And by pixel puzzles, I mean off-brand Picross, of course. Because I guess Ninendo has copyrighted the Picross name? I’d never really given it any consideration before now. I always kind of assumed the puzzle style was called picross, rather than it being the brand name for Nintendo’s “nonogram” games specifically. Now I’ve done the research and know better.

Right, so my point of focus today is, strangely enough, a mobile app. At some point in the distant past (last year?), Konami released a nonogram game for smartphones called Pixel Puzzle Collection. As you may assume from the title, it’s a collection of nonogram puzzles that, when solved, form images of sprites and whatnot from classic Konami games. You’ve got elements from huge franchises like Gradius, Castlevania, Bomberman, and Tokimeki Memorial, as well as many others. It’s a real nostalgia trip, and I appreciate the theme. I always like it when these games have a binding theme, or at least themed sets of puzzles.

Something very important to note here, is that this is one of the least greasy mobile games I’ve ever played. It’s completely free-to-play and never once will ask you for money. That’s great! The catch is that after every puzzle, they show you an ad. But it’s just an image, and you can dismiss it right away, none of this unskippable 15-second video crap that other apps love to use. The ads in Pixel Puzzle Collection are all for other Konami apps anyway, so they even sort of make sense in the context of the game. It’s the least intrusive in-app advertising I’ve ever experienced.

There are two classifications of puzzles in Pixel Puzzle Collection. The regular puzzles range from 5×5 to 15×15 grids, and are generally pretty easy to complete. They mostly reveal sprites ripped directly from Konami’s classic games, and some are parts of bigger images made of 4 panels. The other kind of puzzle is the “boss” puzzle. These are always 15×15 grids, and are typically require a little more thought. The other thing about these ones is that they’re where the free-to-play timer comes in: there’s a three-hour cooldown timer to sit through after each one you complete. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise here, as it kept me from just burning through the entire game in a week. It really made it -and excuse my crudeness- the perfect pooping game.

You’d be hard-pressed to actually finish this game in a week though, as there are a whopping 500 puzzles to solve. I don’t know what percentage of that is stuck behind the Boss Timer, but it’s probably at least 25%. It took me months to finally work my way to 100% completion. And then… it turns out that was just normal mode. WHAAAA?

Yeah, once you finish all the puzzles, you get to play in Expert mode, where you aren’t allowed to use Xs to cross off squares that definitely aren’t supposed to be filled in. (Aside: I’m just going to keep assuming you know how picross is played.) It’s not the worst problem, as there’s a feature that auto-Xs all empty squares in a row or column when you meet the number requirements on the side. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you filled them in correctly, but it’s still super helpful to have, as completing a 15×15 puzzle with no Xs would be a pain. I initially toyed around with the idea of not bothering with Expert mode, but it turns out that there are a handful of new puzzles exclusive to Expert, so off I went on my quest to 200%! It’s not like I could just cherry-pick the new ones either, because puzzles are handed out in a completely random order.

Oh and also the Boss puzzles are all free in Expert mode. No waiting three hours between them any more!

To touch on the one thing I strongly dislike about Pixel Puzzle Collection, which applies to literally every smartphone-based nonogram game: I hate playing picross on a touchscreen. The 5×5 and 10×10 puzzles aren’t so bad because they have nice, big squares to accommodate my sausage fingers. when you get to those 15x15s though, the squares are tiny and I would have gotten intensely frustrated if there hadn’t been a life-saving undo button.

At the end of the day, I really liked everything about Pixel Puzzle Collection besides its choice of platform. Finger-style touch controls just don’t work well for me, and honestly I don’t even like playing Nintendo’s Picross games with stylus touch controls. My point being that I would happily pay money to play this again if Konami released it on Switch or whatever. Touch control aside, it’s an excellent nonogram game, easily one of the best I’ve played. The fact that it’s 100% free and is also a mobile app that isn’t engineered to soak as much money as possible out of players is just the cherry on top. This one definitely put my respect for Konami up a few notches.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: October 2019

~ Game Over ~

Link’s Awakening (Switch) – A wonderful shot-for-shot remake of my favourite Zelda game. Honestly, I think I would have liked to see a little more changed/added to it, to really justify the choice to remake it. The new presentation and quality-of-life tweaks were great though, so I really shouldn’t complain. Excellent game. Had a strong urge to dive right into a replay after finishing it, but there’s so much else to do!

Transistor (Switch) – Transistor is clearly the follow-up to Bastion, and it was better than Bastion in nearly every way. The story was more complex and interesting, the characters were more than mechanical puppets, the gameplay was deeper but never overwhelming. I wasn’t a huge fan of the more sterile visual style, but I suppose that was kind of the point.

Continue reading

Spooktober 2019 – A.M.I.

I’ll be perfectly honest here: I will 100% judge movies by their Netflix cover image. If that little picture and the title don’t immediately appeal to me in some way, I’ll never watch it (unless someone tells me to). If it doesn’t look good, I can’t even guarantee I’ll read the summary blurb.

So then how in the heck did I end up watching A.M.I.? Mostly because I do read the descriptions for any movies that are obviously about social media or smartphones to laugh/groan at how stupid they are. But then I saw that this one is Canadian, and also it’s only 75 minutes long. This was probably going to be one of those special terrible movies.

Let me tell you, it was special all right. And I’m trying to think of a way to make fun of it for being “special” without being offensive towards mentally or physically disabled peoples, but I cannot. So let’s just move on.

Continue reading

Spooktober 2019 – IT Chapter Two

To be completely honest, I went to see IT Chapter Two before the calendar rolled over to Spooktober. But you know what? I’mma count it anyway. We need more spookles on this here website. The more the better, I always say.

I was very excited to go see the first chapter of IT back when it released in 2017. I liked the original TV miniseries version, so I was very eager to see what it would look like with an inflated Hollywood budget. And you know what? I ended up quite liking the new one too! The kids were darn good actors, and I was very impressed with the monster effects. When Pennywise’s lips start to peel back and reveal those rows and rows of teeth? I love that visual. And I’m the kind of person who minimizes his use of the word “love” as much as possible.

The thing that I didn’t know going into that film is that it was only part one of two. I mean, knowing the original story, and that they didn’t show any of the characters as adults in the trailers, one could have inferred as much. But I never heard anything pre-release about a plan for a part two. So it was a happy surprise when the title card came up at the very end of the movie and we got the “Chapter One” reveal. Needless to say, I didn’t waste any time booking my tickets for the sequel.

If you have no idea what these movies are about or need a quick refresher, here’s a very basic plot summary: Children are disappearing in the town of Derry, and seven weirdo kids known as The Losers Club decide to investigate and stop it. The culprit is a clown called Pennywise (also referred to as the titular “It”), who can shapeshift to take advantage of his victim’s greatest fears. The first film ends with the Losers defeating Pennywise, and the second picks up 27 years later when It returns to start snarfing children again.

Continue reading

More Pop-Tarts than you can shake a toaster at

Yep. I’m still at it. Here’s the insider scoop though: I’ve only got three more of these left before my Pop-Tart supply runs dry. Then… I don’t know what happens then.

I put way too much time into this one for what the final product ended up being… It’s not the worst, but it took so much more time for me to figure out how to mash those very basic effects together. Didn’t help that apparently my computer is not meant for video editing? Once I popped in a second audio track it was just like “Nah, I don’t really feel like doing this.” Or maybe the old version of Camtasia that I’m working with is just trash. Also, why in the heck did Camtasia leave that weird green zoom frame in the video? That’s so stupid, but I couldn’t find any way to make it disappear.

What I’m taking away from all this is that if I want to continue to improve my videos, I’m going to need better equipment as much as I am knowledge on how to use it. So… don’t hold out hope.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Monster Hunter is a series of video games that has only very slightly changed with each new iteration. It has adhered to very strict game design rules, making it so that while gameplay is refined and smoothed out in more recent entries, they still play more or less the same as the very first game. This was fine. Fans were fine with this iterative approach.

Then Monster Hunter World came along last year and smashed all of those rules. Not the least of which was that the fact that all DLC for Monster Hunter had always been completely free. Though to be fair, MHW only asked you to pay for superficial, silly things like costumes and gestures. You could ignore all of that junk and still enjoy the game to the fullest. All of the major updates that added new monsters and quests came at no cost to players. What we didn’t see coming was a paid DLC expansion pack.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving Food Coma

I didn’t do as much internet work over the long weekend as I should have. I did exactly the bare minimum, which was to upload a new episode of Ryan’s Pop-Tarts Review. To be fair, it is by far the most effort I’ve ever put into a Pop-Tart video.

Oh, and I also added in all of 2019’s Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up posts. Yes, I’ve been keeping track all this time. I would link to each one individually, but it’s each one from January to September and… who could really be bothered? Let’s be honest, that feature is 100% for me. If you’re really interested, there’s a “search by category” dropdown box on the left-side menu for a reason.

Later this week (probably): Another Spooktober 2019 review (though I do not guarantee a video version), and also I have the urge to write too many words about Monster Hunter World: Iceborne.