It began snowing yesterday morning, and hasn’t stopped since then. My world is white and slushy and simultaneously pretty and gross. Trees are bending and breaking thanks to all the wet snow clinging to the leaves they never lost when we went directly from summer to winter.

But the incoming cold season is going to be tempered by some HOT NEW JAMS that dropped today: Metal Galaxy, the new album from BABYMETAL.

If you haven’t heard of BABYMETAL (do you even internet?), they’re a Japanese pop idol duo who are backed by face-melting death metal instrumentation. It’s a mash-up of complete opposites, and I couldn’t be more obsessed with them. At least, the closest to literal obsession I’ve ever been. Since I first learned of them, I listen to BABYMETAL nearly every day. I’m sure the fascination will fade eventually -they always do- but it’s been going strong for months now.

Metal Galaxy is maybe the only album I’ve had any pre-release excitement for in 2019. Mostly because I don’t keep up with music very well in general, but also because I’ve been desperate for more BABYMETAL. Listening to their previous album, Metal Resistance, over and over forever is fine, but eventually a boy aches for something new. I do put on their first album, Baby Metal, every once in a while, but the truth is that I’m not really into that one all that much. It leans a little too hard into J-Pop for my liking. But it laid the groundwork for an act that was refined and perfected in Metal Resistance, so I can’t be too down on it. Plus it has “Gimme Chocolate!!” and you’d have to be a soulless monster to dislike that song.

Back to Metal Galaxy, though. Where do you go after you create a perfect album? BABYMETAL’s approach was to go all over the place. From techno to raga to hip-hop to dance, there’s a wide variety of different sounds in this album, each with that mix of idol pop and metal at the centre. While not every song hits the mark, they’re all very distinct. “Oh! MAJINAI” has a weird Irish thing going on, and features vocals from Sabaton’s Joakim Broden. The first half of “IN THE NAME OF” sounds something from Keiichi Okabe, until it mutates into death metal with no actual singing, just metal growls. I appreciate the diversification despite the fact that it makes the album seem a little unfocused. I think it’s a good thing when you couldn’t possibly mistake one of the tracks on an album for another.

We all know that I’m not very good at talking about music, so I’ll wrap this up quick. Metal Galaxy is a very good album. After listening to it only three times, I think I still like Metal Resistance better as a whole, but that could easily change with time and as I get to know the songs more deeply. What I can say for sure is that Metal Galaxy definitely has some of my favourite individual BABYMETAL tracks. “Elevator Girl” is my jam, and I fell hard and fast for “Da Da Dance” which features a solo by Tak Matsumoto, one of my all-time favourite guitarists. “Arkadia” is a suitably epic final song that doesn’t go light on the shredding. And you know how I feel about gratuitous shredding.

Spooktober 2019: The Deer God

So here’s a new thing… I did a video version of this review. Yup. Actually put a lot of effort into it, too. I’ve embedded it right up at the top here, and you can still read the text version below if you so choose.

It’s that time of year again: October! At that means it’s time for spook-’em-ups of all sorts! Actually, we’re already a week in and I haven’t done even a single thing relating to a pumpkin or a mummy. I am a terrible Halloween fanboy.

So here’s a video game! It’s called The Deer God and it’s from 2016. It’s a video game I bought because… the main promotional image is of a lone deer with eerie, glowing eyes standing atop a stone pillar against a nighttime backdrop with a prominent full moon. You can see why I thought that maybe this would be seasonally appropriate.

Spoiler: It’s not.

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What is a Pop-Tart?

A miserable little pile of frosting.

Overused references aside, I’ve been doing more Pop-Tarts reviews over the last couple months. Since the blog’s been dead and all, I took some time off from the internet and then decided to go back to working on video content for a bit. I’ve posted a video every Sunday for nine weeks in a row now, which is incredibly consistent for a flake like me.

I was actually considering starting other video-based content since I wasn’t doing anything with this blog, but who knows now? Writing is just so much easier. Anyhow, here’s the most recent Pop-Tart Review. It’s mediocre!

Welcome to October

Hey. I’m back. I’m writing blogs again. We could simply pretend like nothing ever happened and there was never an eight-month gap in posting, but for the sake of posterity, here’s the story:

Way, way back in January of 2019, I randomly visited the site of my webhost, TopClassHost. Their website was gone, and in its place was a single page that said (and I’m paraphrasing) “We’re shutting down and your websites will be gone as of March 10. So long, losers.”

So I was faced with a decision: stop blogging, or pay someone else for webspace. It was a tough choice, since TopClass was the cheapest around and I’m too poor to really go with a more ritzy provider. So I did what I usually do when faced with a difficult choice: nothing at all.

Long story short, some time passed and then my good friend Edwin, who knows all about this kind of thing, more or less took it upon himself to make this silly website work again at a reasonable cost. What a pal! I bought him a pizza as a show of appreciation, which may not be a fair trade considering how much time and effort he’s put into this.

Now we’re getting into the Halloween season, but I don’t know if I’ll be posting much in that spirit. I’ve continued to write junk here and there, on the odd chance that this website was ever resuscitated, so I’ll be cleaning up and posting a lot of backdated material for the next who-knows-how-long. Look forward to the 2019 archive slowly filling itself in!

Post Script: WordPress has changed dramatically in the last eight months and I kind of hate it.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: January 2019

~Game Over~

Mega Man X (SNES) – I play this game at least once a year. Usually I like to have it as the very first and/or very last game that I play in a year, just so I can have one nice, consistent bookend. In 2019, it would be the first, just like in 2018. I was also trying to finish it in under an hour, and I was on pace to be very close! But then I whiffed in the Wolf Sigma fight, got killed, and ended up taking about 1:10 instead. Boo.

Bomb Chicken (Switch) – I was pretty excited about this when it was first revealed, but opted to wait for a time when it was more financially feasible. For example, during the eShop holiday sale while I was swimming in eShop gift cards. As for the game itself, the best way I can describe it is “sideways Bomberman”. That’s not exactly right, but I feel like it gets the idea across: solve platforming puzzles and collect gems as a chicken whose only verb is to poop out bombs. It’s tight, challenging, pretty, and exactly the right length. Aside from the somewhat frustrating final boss, it was a very good way to start the new year.

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Arrival of the Fitness

As everyone who read my write-up of the demo likely expected, I did end up purchasing the full version of Fitness Boxing. I was on the fence all the way up until the night before release day, when I randomly noticed that the Government of Canada had graciously sent me a free $100 GST refund. What better way to spend it on than software for improving my physical well-being? (And also that way I can get around taking the cost out of my video game budget.)

Before I go any farther, I just want to take a second to express my disappointment that my stats from the demo didn’t carry over into the full game. It’s not really a big deal and not at all worth getting upset about, but I pouted about it for a little while anyway. End sidebar.

When I wrote about it last time, I mentioned that Fitness Boxing has a bit of a limited song selection. That’s definitely still an issue, but the sheer variety of other options almost makes up for it. The demo’s daily workout was always just one or two 5-minute routines, but the full game gives you many more options. You can choose the duration of your workout, what part of your body you’d like to focus on, if you’d like to do a guided stretch before and after, and whether you’re out to burn off extra calories or just maintain your current level of fitness. The daily routine has definitely been good for me so far; a 35ish-minute workout that mixes around routines and songs enough that even though I’m just shadow-boxing at my TV for half an hour every day, it hasn’t started to feel repetitive.

I haven’t really explored all of the other options, because one is just to choose a song and/or routine and then have at ‘er, and the rest is two-player stuff I’ll never touch. I have been swapping out trainers every day, though! They all have the exact same lines and basically just differ in physical appearance and voice, but I still haven’t been able to settle on one. I’m leaning toward just sticking with Lin, because all the other girls have larger breasts (or Lin is the only one who wears a proper sports bra) and their unusual jiggle physics weird me out. Can I take a moment to wonder why this exercise program even has boob jiggle to begin with? Was that particular omission going to be the thing that ruins players’ immersion? I guess there are a couple male trainers to choose from as well, but… no.

Something else that is proving to be an issue is that the game uses your weight to help track your progress, and by extension, customize your workouts. But it doesn’t support the Wii Balance Board and I don’t own any other scales. So I guess I actually do have to go buy an accessory to get the most out of Fitness Boxing. (That or boot up Wii Fit U once a week to weigh myself. Nah.) On the other hand, all the extra physical activity I’m getting is great for helping to expedite egg hatching in Pokémon GO, now that that game imports data from my phone’s activity tracker. I’m definitely punching my way to more kilometers “walked” than I’m getting from actual walking these days. I blame winter.

Yes, I still play Pokémon GO. Wanna fight about it?

One fun thing I noticed is that they mark unlockables on the calendar at the estimated date you’ll earn it, and each one is earned through a milestone number of punches. At the outset, I had rewards reaching all the way into 2020, but after two days of vigorous workouts, the game had recalculated my last unlock to be in June 2019. And that was before I upped my daily workout from 25 to 35 minutes. Regardless of how long it’ll take to earn everything, I like the idea that the game is always giving you that little incentive to keep going.

Overall, I’m having a great time with Fitness Boxing. I described it as “the best mini-game from Wii Fit, turned into a full game” before, but now I think that a better comparison might be “DDR, but with punching”. Sure, I’ve only had it for two weeks and it’s still got that new game smell, but I think I can stick with this one for a while. I know that eventually it’s going to get dropped by the wayside, but I hope to keep it up at least until winter goes away and I can start getting outside and running again.

If absolutely nothing else, it helps me feel better about myself and gives me another excuse to avoid going to an actual gym. And that makes it worth every dang penny.

Here’s to leaving your mark

Happy New Year! …A couple days ago!

2019 is going to be great, I just know it! Or maybe it’ll be mediocre, like this Pop-Tarts Review I posted recently. It’s been some time since I did one of these!

I know, I know, the sound levels are way off. I tried fixing it, but my video editing software crashed over and over every time I asked it to normalize the volume. So there was nothing left to do but post as-is. And start a search for a better program.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up : December 2018

~Game Over~

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (Switch) – I don’t like the EXP distribution changes, because it makes trainer battles feel pointless, but other than that? Muah! *Italian chef kiss*

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch) – Much like how the Switch is what the Wii U should have been, this game is exactly what Smash for Wii U should have been. It’s so good.

GRIS (Switch) – I’ve played pretentious indie platformers before, but never one anywhere near as pretty as GRIS. The beautiful, watercolor worlds are reason enough to give this one a go.

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A Fresh Fitness Fixation

Remember Wii Fit? Man, that was a pretty fun way to delude myself into believing that I was getting a reasonable amount of exercise. All those delightful little activities that gamified physical exertion, bound to the somewhat cumbersome but absolutely integral Wii Balance Board accessory. Which, I might add, doesn’t work properly on my condo’s carpet. I got really into Wii Fit three or four times, always quickly falling off the wagon, like you do when you’re as lazy and unmotivated as me.

My favourite exercise on Wii Fit was the Rhythm Boxing, where you’d use a combination of the balance board, wiimote, and nunchuk to simulate beating up a robotic punching bag. It wasn’t overly challenging, and was kind of slow since it was simon-esque, where your trainer would call out a sequence of moves which you’d then have to copy. I tried to put wrist weights on my arms to get more out of it, but that ended up somehow making my punches harder to read. Accelerometers! They’re weird!

Fast-forward to earlier this month when this demo for a game called Fitness Boxing shows up on the Switch eShop. In the summer months I likely would have ignored it completely, but now that we’re in the middle of winter where I’m getting little exercise and trying to avoid a never-ending tidal wave of holiday junk food, I decided to see what was up. Oh lordy-loo, was I ever in for a nice surprise!

Fitness Boxing, as it turns out, is a game developed by Imagineer and published by… Nintendo? This becomes very obvious when you see that the game’s menus are ripped almost directly from Wii Fit. The overall style and green-and-white theme were immediately familiar. I’m pretty sure that even the fonts are exactly the same. So that’s a good start. Clearly Nintendo had a hand in guiding this project along, so there’s likely going to be a good level of polish to it. What sets it apart the most, in non-gameplay terms anyhow, is that your trainer is no longer a pale mannequin. Despite the title screen’s featureless lady, there’s an actual character named Lin, who is animated quite poorly and has a noticeable Japanese accent. I find her surprisingly charming, but you can unlock five other trainers if she’s not doing it for you.

So the gameplay, it’s got a similar framework to Wii Fit, where you do a daily check-in exercise and are then free to play around as you want with the other modes. But this one’s all boxing, all the time! And also, the call-and-repeat format is axed in favour of a much more fast-paced system that plays just like any other rhythm game. You’ve got two scrolling tracks on the screen, and various symbols will scroll by. Your job is to deliver the correct type of punch with precise timing, all to the beat of the music. It’s a lot of fun! They also get your lower body moving by having you change up your stance once in a while, and encouraging you to bob back and forth to the beat. The best part is that the only accessories you need to play are the joy-cons; I’ll never have to pull out that awkward balance board again.

While the workouts are very fun on their own and high-score mechanic gives you something to strive for (besides better physical wellness), Fitness Boxing has another trick up its sleeve to keep you coming back for more: a constant stream of unlockables. From songs, to workout routines, to new clothing options for your trainer, it seems like there are a ton of things to unlock in this game. Some are gated behind good performance, and some are based on checking in for a certain number of days. I’m sure they won’t be a long-term draw, but just the idea of so many things to earn has me very invested in the idea of purchasing the full version. What can I say? I just love amassing collections of pointless virtual junk!

As for the music… that’s the one part where Fitness Boxing really falls flat. There are twenty popular songs to punch along to; I think that I genuinely like four of the tracks and despise roughly half of the list. The nice part is that they’re all vocal-free, electronic covers, so even the worst ones don’t grate on me as much as they could. Did I think I’d ever find myself getting fired up to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? Not in a million years, but it happened! 20 songs also seems like a very limited selection; and I really hope that there are a few DLC songs in the pipeline, but don’t actually expect to see any. Maybe if the game gets really popular, but that seems unlikely.

If it wasn’t clear before, I’m pretty well sold on buying the full version of Fitness Boxing when it comes out in January. I’m not 100% on board yet, but it seems likely. The demo version has already run its course, since they give you a very limited number of plays (three daily workouts and ten “free play” sessions), so we’ll have to see if I’m still interested come next week, or if the excitement has already passed by then. But I sure had a heck of a lot of fun with the demo!

Merry Xmas!

And Happy Other Holidays from your good pal, Ryan.

As a Xmas gift to all my loyal reader, here’s a video game review that I wrote in November but didn’t ever get around to proofreading or posting. Enjoy!

Once October rolled around, my plan was to put any games I was currently playing aside and focus on more spooky fare. Then I continued to spend most of my gaming time on Picross games and Monster Hunter anyway. Because I am incorrigible.

I did manage to mash a few spooky games in anyway (see the Monthend Wrap-Up for deets), and one of those games was Hollow. This is a first-person shooter with a sci-fi horror theme, and if I had to review it in a single sentence, it would be this:

What if Dead Space was kinda crappy?

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