This is, and should remain, the biggest media journal post that I will ever do, on account of the fact that I decided to kitchen sink it this time. Last month, I expanded the journal from being just video games to incorporating other media, but I didn’t account for nearly everything that I took in. This month, I’m doing everything, so long as I haven’t accounted for it in previous months.
Because I’m including everything I watch regularly on this list, I won’t need to put a lot of this stuff into future lists. I didn’t go all-out with music—I only included artists whom I discovered this month. This was both for the sake of length, and because I’m pretty terrible at talking about music in general. Moreover, this list is not in any discernible order, because I’d been listing stuff as I consumed it, and sorting it would’ve been a huge pain in the ass. Ratings are next to names.
Super Mario Bros. (+)
This month I went out of my way to play a number of classic, highly influential games. I started with Super Mario Bros., the granddaddy of all modern platformers, and a game which I’ve never been able to get into. I wrote about my lack of patience for this game, and how it led me to save constantly throughout playing it, which left me unable to appreciate it on the deep level that people who have the patience for it do.
Cats Millionaire (+++)
Cat Milly is the second musical artist to come out of the pony fandom that I’ve come to adore on the level of my favorite musical acts. The first was SoGreatAndPowerful, who remixed one of Cat Milly’s songs, which led me to discover her.
Before she did any songs in the pony fandom, Cat had done a handful of strange rap songs inspired by Prunus Girl and the lameness of being nineteen, in which she says fuck a lot. She’s also done a lot of non-pony music on her bandcamp. All of it is excellent and quite varied, though the pony stuff tends to be the best. The video which I’ve linked above is one of the coolest and most inspirational things I’ve seen out of pony fandom.
I’d call Cat’s style somewhere between Shinsei Kamattechan, Sufjan Stevens, and BlackBlack, which is a sentence that can’t possibly make sense to anyone.
Lolwut. I found this short, rather terrible educational video about agriculture while looking for random shit to stream with my brother out of boredom. I have no idea how this thing came about, nor do I know much about it at all. There was one episode made three years ago, and I can’t find a source which conclusively considers it over. Anyways, it’s meant to educate little kids about agriculture, and is on the intellectual level of Dora the Explorer. There was a pretty cool magical girl transformation, though.
Sengoku Collection [9 Episodes] (+)
Sencolle is all over the place. Every episode focuses on a new character and emulates a different kind of cliche story, but doesn’t do anything with it. It doesn’t make the cliches its own, nor even do them particularly well. There are some solid episodes (5, 7, and 8), but the whole show would need to be as good for me to recommend it. I watched eight episodes driven largely by curiosity, but with the show never reaching anything excellent, I figured I may as well call it dropped. Had it been thirteen episodes, I’d finish it, but twenty-six is way too much for a show of this quality.
The second massively-influential game which I tried my hand at this month, I appreciated and enjoyed Doom far more than I did Super Mario Bros. I didn’t finish the game, however, finding once again that I didn’t have patience to master the game. But more so than Mario, I totally get what makes mastering this game fun, and why it’s so replayable.
Doom features masterful level design, and educated me on what so many reviewers mean when they accuse modern games of being too linear and holding the player’s hand. Levels in Doom are expansive and can be tackled in many different ways, which the player must experiment with to get through. The one which sold me was level 7, which I had a blast finding my way around, carefully but very quickly making decisions on the fly and trying my damnedest to survive.
Whenever I got stuck on a level for a while and didn’t feel like trying it again, I used the level-select code to skip it. In the late teen levels, I found myself skipping three levels in a row, and figured it was about time to stop.
Donald Glover – Weirdo (++)
It’s hard to describe what’s great about a particular comedy special, but I found this one hilarious. Donald Glover has some issues with his delivery (saying “like” nine thousand times before getting to the point, for instance), but the jokes are excellent. He uses his unique upbringing and perception of children to his advantage for some jokes that aren’t like any I’ve heard from other comedians.
Game Grumps (++)
I’ll be covering a number of video game-related youtube series in this post, but none is more important to this month than Game Grumps. This series of pseudo let’s plays began in July when internet-famous gamers JonTron (of JonTron show) and Egoraptor (creator of Sequelitis and the Awesome series) started putting out videos of them talking while playing games. En masse. There are one to three Game Grumps videos every day, each being usually ten to fifteen minutes long, and following a random assortment of games.
The Game Grumps schedule is chaos because of how the videos are made. Jon and Ego play a game for an hour or two, then split the video into ten-minute parts, which they release bit by bit, usually every two days. It’s impossible to tell if they are still playing a game at any given time, or when the next episode will be out, or what new games they’re going to add to the ever-growing series. As a fan, all that matters is that there’s two new videos every day—take what you get.
Game Grumps has a magic that no other let’s play or show about two dudes talking has captured, by virtue of the fact that both Jon and Ego are hilarious, and neither of them EVER shuts the fuck up. They start criticizing themselves when they go silent for more than five seconds, which is a pretty rare occurrence. A lot of what they say is dumb and senseless, and much of it has nothing to do with the games they play, or video games at all. But that doesn’t matter, because the thing which makes it so entertaining is that Jon and Ego are interesting, hilarious people, and most of what they say is entertaining. Plus, you occasionally get to hear some decent analysis, albeit not usually well thought-out.
The Gaming Brit Show (+)
I discovered this show through youtube suggestions, which pointed me to his excellent and very long (thirty minutes) dissection of what makes Metroid Other M a terrible game. The Gaming Brit knows what he’s talking about and his analysis is very good, but like most video game analysts, he mostly focuses on terrible games. When he does talk about games he likes, he doesn’t analyze them as thoroughly. Still, I think most of his videos are worthwhile, and he seems to release with decent enough frequency.
Another games analyst whom I discovered through youtube suggestions, HyperBit’s videos about horror games (his specialty) are great, but his series on his favorite villains in games isn’t as interesting. There just isn’t as much depth to the analysis in those ones, and they’re more like character profiles. Still, I think he’s worth watching out for, especially since he did a cool collaboration with Errant Signal.
Investigative Journalism (+)
This guy’s videos seem to be all over the place. The ones wherein he actually analyzes games are great. The rest of his videos seem to be more about the gaming community and meta stuff which I don’t care about at all. He tends to present things like a Micheal Moore documentary, which in the context of video games, is overblown. Like HyperBit, though, I’m gonna watch him, because I’m always happy to see more game analysis.
So Great And Powerful (+++)
My favorite artist to come out of My Little Pony fandom, SGAP came back from a six-month hiatus at the end of August, and has already put out three new songs, one of which is a remix of a Cats Millionaire song, which introduced me to her. SGAP’s music hits me really hard for some reason, and I’d go so far as to call him one of my top five favorite musicians, so seeing him put out new stuff is an absolute joy.
Oddly enough, what led me to finally check this out was an episode of Game Grumps, in which Jon jokes about making a avant-garde horror game out of Banjo-Kazooie called Eraserhead-Kazooie. Anyway, I found the movie on youtube, and gave it a go.
There’s not much that I can say about it, because it’s a bizarre avant-garde thing that plenty of others have seen and no doubt talked about before me. In any case, I enjoyed it a lot. I’m a fan of works that can be bizarre and slow, but arresting through force of atmosphere. I got the feeling that Eraserhead might have been a big influence on the style of Texhnolyze as well. It had the same kind of overwhelming atmosphere and could be physically painful to watch.
American Dad (? Episodes) (++)
I don’t really know why, but I’ve started falling in love with this show. The characters never cease to amuse, and some of the situations are nothing short of brilliant.
Banjo Kazooie (++)
As I’ve been playing older games, I’ve started to feel like the N64 is among the worst-aged mainstream consoles. The games are awkwardly 3D, and most of the mechanics introduced in these games were later perfected, making it hard to go back. There’s little cause to go back and play Mario 64 when you’ve got Mario Galaxy, and even less cause to go back and play Goldeneye when you’ve got any current-gen FPS.
But Banjo Kazooie is different, because the IP essentially died with the N64. There was Nuts & Bolts, but I don’t think anyone wants to remember that. Playing Banjo Kazooie convinced me that the N64 was worth revisiting, even for its awkward 3D platformers, because it does certain things so well.
The level design and emphasis on exploration are superbly done in Banjo Kazooie. Each level has oodles of personality, with graphic design and music that creates a consistent, unique tone. Mechanically, the game is smart to give the player a fuckton of different moves, which make it easier to interact with every kind of situation that 3D platforming can provide. It accounts for every contingency of the design this way.
That all said, the game has a lot of frustrating aspects which have kept me from finishing it. It’s overall surprisingly difficult, confidently pushing its varied control system to the limits. There were a number of parts that I found frustrating, and this was coupled with one of the worst fucking lives systems I’ve ever seen in a game. I quickly found myself relying on save states to keep from getting too pissed off all the time. Suffice it to say, there’s no way I’d play this on an actual N64. I own Banjo Tooie, but I’m skeptical of playing it on there.
I didn’t finish Banjo Kazooie, because as it gets harder and more complicated, I find myself having less patience for it, and I’d rather move on to other games. It’s definitely gotten me interested in 3D platformers though, and I’m anxious to see how games like Spyro and Jak and Daxter compare.
Adventure Time (++)
My brother and friends are a lot more into this show than I am, and I think the main reason I can’t get into it is the 11-minute episodes. The show is full of fun characters and ideas, but never gets to explore them at length. It’s called Adventure Time, but the episodes don’t feel like full-on adventures, because there’s not enough time. Some episodes do manage to cram a decent-sized quest in, and some of those are great, but other times they have the thinnest possible narrative thread connecting random ideas thrown together.
Sadly, the writing is at its best when the adventures are small, and the characters get to interact a lot. Even then, it’s got a very slice-of-life style, since it’s difficult to establish meaningful situations and also have a lot of dialog in the same episode. I just wish they’d make more full-length episodes, and elevate the plotlines to the level in episodes of Gravity Falls or MLP:FiM.
The Dead Do Not Improve (++)
This came out of nowhere—a random book that my dad bought because the book he was looking for wasn’t in, and this sounded like something I’d like. I did like it. An absurdist piece that is evidently a study of “otherness,” with the goal of being an “angry Korean novel,” the book tries to feel in the vein of Catcher in the Rye while being very self-aware of this fact, which is interesting.
As I read it, I felt like there was a conflict of interest between the dense central mystery and the meandering narratives of the two narrators, but when it finally came together in the end—or rather, didn’t—it became apparent that this was pretty much the point. I just wish it had been more clear from the start that the central mystery wasn’t going to amount to much, but then I guess it would’ve been that much harder to read if it was nothing but a string of internal monologues.
Dungeons and Dragons (+++)
After binging on Arkham Horror last month, my friend picked up Dungeons and Dragons and started DMing our few through a most bizarre and awesome set of games. The dungeons we play are mostly standard fare, but the way we interact with them and the nature of our characters are stupid and bizarre in a great way.
My character started the game named Nigga, and later had an epiphany and spiritual awakening that led to him becoming Nigga Rafiki. I started the game by blowing my 100 starting gold on 5000 bottles of Ale, which I use for everything from throwing them at enemies, to healing, to starting fires and getting other players drunk. Nigga Rafiki is a Tiefling with a tendency to run around naked, and praises the deity Mydick.
Besides that, one of my brothers, a dragonborn, was turned blue, then seduced a dragon enemy to join his team after it went blind. It was later killed in the closing of a dark portal, which was controlled by our group’s arch-nemesis, Azador Fucknuts. Then one of our friends got his character killed (we play with perma-death), so he started a new, evil character, that burned most of our main town and killed almost all the NPCs.
The Curiously Strong Peppermints (+)
Some decent psychedelic folk that a friend introduced me to this month. Their songs about the Mushroom Kingdom going to war and shit are pretty neat.
Zero Punctuation (++)
I’ve been watching this show every week for four years now, so it’s safe to say I’m a big fan. I love Yahtzee’s voice and writing style, and I’ll play or read or watch anything he does. That said, while ZP is entertaining and often raises great points, its lack of thoroughness leaves much to be desired as far as reviews go. I think Yahtzee’s videos are best seen as a sort of conversation starter, opening the door for broader discussion about games.
Gangnam Style (++)
An individual song/video might seem like I’m breaking this list down too small, but I did watch Gangname Style ten times this month, along with parodies and making-of videos, so I think it’s a legit contender. This is such an entertaining song, and has one of the most fun videos I’ve ever seen. The dance is infectious, the song is addicting, and the women in the video are heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Mass Effect (+++)
The Mass Effect franchise has made its way up near my top five, though I can’t say I love them quite in the big way that ghostlightning does. Nevertheless, here’s my review of the first game, which would be one of my favorites if not for some big problems which the second game does a stupendous job correcting.
Circa Survive – Violent Waves (~)
For the record, I’ve only listened to this album all the way through twice, and that’s because SNORE. Apparently Circa Survive wanted to capture the vibe of their live show on this album, and if so, they failed. All they succeeded at was lower production quality than Blue Sky Noise, which is the only album I like from them, and owes a lot to its high quality production. The songs an Violent Waves are boring, despite the title, which in no way reflects the insane high-energy of their live shows and their better songs.
CGP Grey (++)
Upon discovering this channel, my brother and I watched all of the videos in one fell swoop. Entertaining, highly educational, and just plain great!
Delta Heavy (++)
I discovered this electronic group through a ponification of the video for Hold Me, which is pretty great. I was in love with that song for a few days, and it’s probably the group’s darkest, but I actually like their lighter stuff more. It’s fun, excellent dubstep, with killer, catchy drops and goodness surrounding. Dubstep is a genre that a part of me wants to love, and Delta Heavy gives me a big push towards doing so.
Clams Casino (+)
Discovered through a friend, this is easy chill music. Some of it has been used in Adult Swim bumps, which is probably why it feels so much like Nujabes to me. I don’t know that I’d listen to this much, but it’s great for chilling.
For the record, I didn’t watch any of these for the first time this month. I’ve rewatched these videos again and again, because they’re just that fucking good. The analysis is rock solid, the videos are entertaining, and Egoraptor is the man all-around. I’ve seen the damn Mega Man video so many times I can’t watch it anymore, but I’m still up for spinning the Castlevania videos again and again, especially because I played a lot of Castlevania this month. The video above gave great context to a lot of my feelings about the series.
Errant Signal (+++)
I’m so glad that Errant Signal updates way more regularly than Sequelitis. Christopher Franklin is easily doing the best video game analysis that I’ve seen so far. I wish that he covered more games I’m likely to play, but his insights into whatever game or game concept he talks about are invaluable. His videos provide one of the best springboards into deeper games analysis.
How to Cope With Death (+)
Entertaining short animation. Not much to say, really.
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (++)
Thanks to being on Twitter at just the right time, I caught word of this band and was blown away in the span of two songs. I sent them to my friend, and both of us were rock hard ten minutes later. The only flaw of YT//ST is that their debut album is too god damned short. It’s amazing the whole way through, but just doesn’t have enough to sate my appetite. I really hope they put out another great album, so I don’t end up with a situation like Spiderland by Slint or the Penelope EP by Shabutie.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (++)
When this game came out, I didn’t end up playing much of it. The controls felt different and slightly worse than those from Melee, and I just wasn’t interested. Years later, I decided it was time to check it out, especially since it’s so damn well-liked. My brother and I played a ton of matches over the course of about five days, and it was fun, but I just can’t get that into it. The characters and moves are cool, and the animations are top-notch, suggesting that the Wii may be a bit less shitty than I’d been led to believe by other games.
Nonetheless, I don’t love it. To be fair, the entire fighting genre is hard for me to love, because I tend to get bored of having the same fights again and again. Within the genre, only the ones I love the most really stand out, and SSBB doesn’t stack up against games like Skullgirls and Guilty Gear XX.
Garfunkel and Oats (+)
This duo is simple fun. Their songs are bizarre folk that feels like a gender-swapped take on Tenacious D; a comparison which feels even more apt since the duo has a series of short sketch videos on HBO, which are funny and very out-there.
Game of Thrones (+)
Disclaimer: I’m not, and have not really watched this show. I think I’ve seen four complete episodes in total, from all over the first and the start of the second season. This month, my brother marathoned the show, and I sat in on some episodes, while he explained the plot to me.
I enjoy this show, and shows like this, but I find them hard to watch, because the episodes are long and it’s hard for me to get absorbed in it. My brother generally loves watching long HBO shows, but I can’t sit still for that long. Besides that, I can’t tell you anything about this show that someone else can’t. It’s solid.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (+)
On the opposite end of the solidity spectrum, there’s Aria of Sorrow: an entertaining game which ultimately feels empty and unmemorable. You can find my review here.
Also known as the Happy Video Game Nerd, lophatjello’s videos are entertaining, but usually not very helpful. They tend to run longer than they need to and are very repetitive, but at least HVGN has a bright personality and voice that makes him easy to listen to. His videos that detail the histories of franchises and introduce games which we might not know about are noteworthy, but the “Is it really that bad?” videos are overlong, boring, and don’t tend to contain any useful analysis.
Initial D Megamixes (+)
I fucking love Eurobeat and Initial D music. I can listen to Running in the 90s on repeat for hours, and this is basically doing that, but with slightly more variety. I usually get burned out around halfway through these things though, because it really is the same beats and shit throughout, and the transitions in some of them are too frequent, taking me out of the song too often.
I put one of these megamixes on my ipod so I could listen to it going to and from work. When I leave at 3 AM, it’s pretty awesome, but coming home, I learned that Running in the 90s is depressing when you’re doing 40 in the 45 because of traffic.
This game gets my recommendation, and it’s one that I really want to enjoy, but I can’t get into it. The rest of my thoughts are in my post on games about flow.
Dark Souls (+++)
Oh man, this is the super big one. At some point, I’m going to do a big post, or a series of posts, about why this game is so fucking amazing, and why I’m obsessed with it even though it’s so hard for me to play (not just because it’s difficult).
This month, my brother and I started a let’s play of the game, though none of it is online yet. We also did a five-hour livestream on Twitch TV of my brother’s friend playing, who knew nothing about the game, which was quite entertaining.
I started watching a lot of the shows on The Escapist besides Zero Punctuation because the videos from the Escapist Expo got me interested in a lot of the creators. Jim’s shtick is self-aggrandizing and being angry, which I ordinarily am not fond of, but he takes enough of the piss and keeps his vitriol just on the right level to where I find it entertaining. It helps that he’s also right a lot of the time, but I don’t think his videos are as good an exploration of video game constructs as those by Extra Credits, who cover many of the same topics.
Yet another writer for the Escapist, Moviebob has a series for reviews of individual movies as well as one for more general movie analysis. The reviews suffer the same problem as most reviews, which is that they’re made in the same week the movie is released, so they’re more like impressions than analysis. His The Big Picture videos are more interesting and informative, but aren’t always on topics that interest me.
Loading Ready Run (++)
This comedy troupe has three different video series on the Escapist, as well as one on Penny Arcade, and other stuff that they release just through their site. In other words, they’re busy as fuck, and a lot of their stuff is really damn entertaining. My favorite of their series is probably Feed Dump, which I binged on for most of a day and still didn’t finish half of. These guys are a big inspiration and are what I want to be when I grow up.
Oh My Dayum (+)
Just a dumb, but very entertaining auto-tune video of an also dumb but very entertaining review of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Kinda takes me back to my own Double Down review from years ago. The song, funnily enough, isn’t very good, and I can’t listen to it again and again, but holy fuck is it an earworm. I had it stuck in my head my entire first day of work, and it just about killed me.
I almost gave this just the one + because it’s short, and it’s an NES game, and I’ll probably never play it again nor, in fact, make it past Death, whom I gave up on. That all said though, however brief it is, Castlevania is a masterpiece of level design, and it’s very easy to see why the game was revered and influential. It’s probably the best NES game I’ve played and holds up very well, thanks to excellent visual design and easily my favorite NES game soundtrack. It also teaches a lot about the failures of its unfortunate lineage.
Others I Tried:
These are mostly things which I played/watched anywhere from ten minutes to several hours of and couldn’t get into them. I will probably not pick any of them back up.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – I was kind of overwhelmed by all the suck at the beginning, and after not caring for Aria of Sorrow, I’m not coming back.
Super Mario Advanced 4: Super Mario World 3 – Confirmed: I hate old Mario games.
Digimon Battle Spirit – Played this randomly because I saw it on a list somewhere and it’s an ultra-adorable but super bare-bones fighter. Not very good, no lastability.
Joshiraku (1 ep) – Not as bad as some had led me to believe, but I still found it boring. To be fair, a year ago I probably would’ve enjoyed it.
Bunny Must Die Demo – I found the controls confusing and the design ugly, didn’t even manage to finish the demo.
Cave Story 3D – A big disappointment. At it’s core, it’s exactly the same as Cave Story, but the visual overhaul is terrible. The visuals are chaotic and ugly, and the colors of levels lead to enemies which blend in. A definite downgrade from the original, and $40 more.
The Guardian Legend – I saw this on a list of good NES games that no one played, but it kinda played like Zelda 1 but worse.
Metal Storm – NES game from the same list. I didn’t make it more than a couple minutes. Too hard for my taste.
Not Yet Qualified
These are all the media that I’ve consumed to some degree and am not yet done with. They might fall into any of the lists above on my next journal post. Any media from last month’s post which aren’t in any above category still apply to this list.
Renkin San-kyuu Magical Pokaan (1 ep)
Penguin Musume Heart (1 ep)
Yoshi’s Island DS (much better than other Marios)
Chrono Trigger (so far so good)
Mass Effect 2 (most likely +++)