Why I Review the Way I Do

Almost as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been writing reviews. My current play-through of Pokemon Red led me to look at some old reviews I did for GameFAQs about 4 years ago, and I had a revelation. I looked at my review of Ratchet and Clank Going Commando, which I was calling ‘the greatest game ever made’ at the time, and noticed that in spite of it’s stats I had specifically not given the game a 10, but a 9.6. I realized that this is something I still do, not giving even my favorite anime a perfect score (though Eureka Seven has a 9.9) not because I think another show could be better so much as that even in my purely subjective opinion of the show, there are still little things that bother me that I can’t hand it a 10 even if it’s the best show ever.

This got me thinking about the origin of this review style. Why do I write them this way? And then I realized that, like a lot of things in my life, it all traced back to Pokemon. When I was 7 or so, I got really into Pokemon, and would be for at least another 5 years. We bought Pokemon Snap for the N64 back then (awesome game) and my mom got addicted to it. She couldn’t find some of the Pokemon, though, so when she saw a volume of Nintendo Power magazine that had the secrets in it, she picked it up. As it turns out, if you bought a subscription to the magazine, you could get some kind of Pokemon thing (I think it was a TCG gameboy game) so my mom bought the subscription.This set the wheels in motion.

When the Nintendo Powers started coming in, I started reading them (‘reading’ used lightly) and as a result became a humongous Nintendo fanboy (to the point I wouldn’t touch a PS2 until 2004). I also started writing. My first writing projects were all attempts at creating my own Nintendo magazine. I copied pretty much all the sections out of NP. Sure, my stuff was crap, but I was like 9.

But one important thing about the magazines sticks out in my memory. Before they totally ruined it in their major magazine changes in 00-01, Nintendo Power had really great reviews that used a 100 scale. The highest score they’d ever given was a 97 to The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, with a second place 96 to Perfect Dark. Now, I doubt I actually read any of the reviews, but I’ve always been one to memorize the scores that things get religiously. This most likely is what first seeded the review style in my head. When I was 10 I actually completed a 97 page Nintendo magazine on lined paper complete with images crappily traced from NP and even fake advertisements. I can’t remember if there were reviews.

Some time later when Funeral and I got into anime, I created another magazine. This one was a shitty 22-pages where Funeral and I dual-reviewed some DVDs, and it had a more simple scale since it was mostly fanboying. I wouldn’t do my next major review work until 05 when I got into video games heavily (and remember, in 05 I was still just 14). This is where I wrote the Game FAQs reviews, which suck in retrospect, but made me feel like a badass at the time. I did 22 reviews, which almost surprises me that I did so many. (it’s also worth mentioning i did some editorials for RPGamer (see the ones by ‘conrad collins’), one of which won 5th in a contest (repetition is good) but I never got my FUCKING Makai Kingdom poster).

Around then, I also found a new influence on my review style. Now, I did read a lot of Game Informer reviews, but those guys scores are completely arbitrary, with the text being all that matters. That wasn’t the source – it was Gamespot.com, the ONLY site I ever have or ever will consider to be purely objective and ‘correct’ (I know this sounds insane coming from me, but I truly admire those dudes.) From the release of the PS2 onward, Gamespot did not have a single game achieve a perfect 10 until 2008 when Grand Theft Auto 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4, both polar opposites, raised the bar for all games by achieving the score. Anything that gets a 9 or above from them is pretty much a must-play, and anything 8 or above is probably worth checking out. They’ve periodically raised their standards as games get better, so while Metroid Prime and Halo have the highest scores on 9.7 and 9.6 respectively, it’s only because they raised their standards since, keeping everything balanced. I think since then, Gears of War was the only game to get a 9.5. Anyway, I digress, they write amazing reviews.

In 06 I had a music review site and once again my scores were very strict (so much so that I kept questioning them and changing them and stopped writing in frustration.) Once I got back into anime and had eventually seen a lot, of course I wanted to do some reviews, but iit took me several years to come up with a perfect review system, which I did late last year, and only in the past few months have I started using this system. A system that still gives my favorite show only a 9..9. A purely, 100% subjecive 9.9 that is inclusive of all love and fanboying. I just think it’s interesting that I may love this system so much because it’s been programmed as the correct way in my mind since childhood.

6 thoughts on “Why I Review the Way I Do

  1. Holy shit you just brought me back a ways. Pokemon Red was and still is a great game boy game (haven’t played it in ages) and I owned Pokemon Snap too, which was also, as you said, and awesome game (I remeber my friend (who hated Pokemon) and I were obsessed with getting the Gyarados….good times).

    I had completely forgotten about Nintendo Power. I remember they had Zelda and Goldeneye as the top two games for like, ever (they were the top two games for N64….ever…..although I loved Super Smash Bros……and yes, I was Pikachu, and yes, I kicked ass).

    As far as reviewing, the fact that you never give perfect scores isn’t rare, or at all, bad. Grading an Anime is almost like grading artwork, where as it is impossible for artwork or anime to actually be perfect, because of the fact that a lot of it is based on opinion when compared in contrast to say a math problem, where there is a 100% correct answer, and everything else is wrong. (I think I fucked up my words a bit….whatever).

    I on the other hand, am way to generous with grades. I’m trying to become more strict, but it’s hard to change.

  2. All linear point-based rating systems are ultimately arbitrary and inherently incomplete. Better to give general impressions, really – you can’t capture nuance without the use of adjectives, which are noticeably missing in a numerical rating system. Hell, even in the foodie world, there’s a whole universe’s difference between Thomas Keller’s 3-star French Laundry and anybody else’s Michelin 3-star “can’t-miss” restaurant.

  3. @ Glo – I know it’s a common system,, I was just wondering why I used it. And I was Pikachu too! Always used the jump and then side+a move like crazy.

    @ Gonzo – I disagree. I think a rating system can have assloads of meaning and personality. There is nothing arbitrary about my system. The numbers are representative perfectly of my opinions. Any show scored even one point higher than another is, in my opinion, the better show, period, and I have no problem whatsoever putting everything on the same giant scale.

  4. Pingback: Favorites Lists, Guilty Pleasures, Branding, and ORE NO RUURU! « Fuzakenna!

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