As promised, this will not be nearly as big as last month. I’ve been working full-time for all of October, and in my free time I’ve been focusing more on art and playing Mass Effect than blogging and consuming media. Of course, this didn’t stop me from taking in a good amount of stuff.
Homestuck Act 6 Intermission 3 Games
Even though I’m not a member of the fan community on any level, I see myself as a diehard Homestuck fan. I consider it to be the best work of fiction I’ve ever consumed, and it never ceases to impress me. The three recent intermission games are as good a place as any for showcasing what’s so great about it.
These three flash games are over an hour long apiece, and are done in the same style as other games throughout the series. They involve controlling one character through a level, opening chests to find secrets, and mostly having very long conversations with other characters. In the course of these three games, six new characters are formally introduced and characterized, integrating them into the story en-masse, effortlessly.
What makes these games so interesting is that they feel like a puzzle. It’s not a hard puzzle to solve, but there’s just enough agency to allow the player to figure out what they should do to reach the end of the game, through controlling different characters and finding who interacts with what. Homestuck games are never challenging, since they’re necessary parts of the story, but they intrigue through art, music, and good design sense that gives them a sense of adventure. This adventure happens to the player directly, which helps to flesh out the world of the story on a deeper level.
Andrew Hussie must have known that introducing all these characters and trying to explain the changing environment where they’re found, while managing a ton of conversations between all of them, would’ve been incredibly difficult to follow in a sequence of regular pages, and is way more comprehensible in large chunks. The games are brilliant on a narrative level along with being fun to play, which is the charm of the series on the whole.
The Indoctrination Theory Documentaries
This post will go on to talk about Mass Effect 2 and 3, and my radically different reception of each game. If my ME3 write-up comes out less negative than it would’ve been, it’s because of the several hour-and-a-half-long documentaries which explain the Indoctrination Theory. This theory was created through collecting overwhelming evidence that the ending of the game was not as it seemed, and it seeks to redefine the story in a way that allows for many of the largest plot holes and breaks in verisimilitude over the third game to be corrected.
I greatly enjoyed these videos, which took me being in a pissed-off mood about Mass Effect 3 and helped me to be more at ease with the game. They also did even more to reaffirm my desire to replay the trilogy and make a giant analysis movie about it.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 shows how a game can overcome its flaws by being so overwhelmingly good at everything it does right. There is a hell of a lot to love about this game, and I’ll be breaking it down to the greatest extent that I can in my upcoming review, and later in my posts which will span the entire Mass Effect trilogy.
Mass Effect 2 fixes the first game’s pacing and length issues which held it from being one of my favorites, and retroactively made the combat and planet-exploring mechanics of the first game seem like a complete chore (whereas I didn’t dislike these elements my first time through the game). It has the best and most interesting version of the galaxy across the trilogy, the most exploration, and the most colorful cast of fun characters to meet and get to know. I can easily say that this is one of my top five favorite video games, if not my outright number one.
Brandon Tolentino’s Top 100 Bands List
We all know that I’m obsessed with favorites lists, and I’m constantly trying to get my friends to make lists as well. Lately, I’ve been hanging out with Brandon Tolentino a lot, and he was surprisingly receptive to the idea of making favorites lists. I first got him to make a list of his top 5 movies (1. The Goonies, 2. Gummo, 3. Irreversible, 4. For A Few Dollars More, 5. El Topo, honorable mentions: Ichi the Killer, Cocksucker Blues, and Coffee and Cigarettes), and then talked him into doing a list of bands. I started by giving him my top 30 (pretty much the same as what’s in my canon), and then he decided that the best way for him to do a list was to make a top 100. After we posted our lists, we each posted one song by each of the bands on one-another’s Facebook walls, which meant a lot to listen to.
Brandon later explained that his methodology with the list was a combination of his emotions, how good he thought the music was on a technical level, and looking at his iTunes stats to see how many plays he’d given each band. It’s a pretty solid level of analysis, not unlike some of the lists I’ve made in the past.
What I find most interesting about Brandon’s list is that it’s very easy to classify most of it into a handful of genres. There’s a ton of shoegaze, low-fi indie rock, 80s new wave, simplistic punk music, and a spattering of unclassifiable avant-garde stuff. This is strange to me, because Brandon listens to all kinds of music from almost every genre and loves all of it, yet his favorites seem to take from just a few genres. My favorites, meanwhile, pull from a smorgasbord of genres, with no more than one or two bands even sharing a genre on the list.
When I asked about this, Brandon explained that his first major musical influence was his dad, who listened to the sort of low-fi simplistic music, and his second major influence was his uncle, who listened to lost of 80s new-wave. His favorite bands were largely bands that he’d known about for a long time and had been the seeds of his listening habits.
This is very understandable and is the way that most people handle favorites lists, even when they go out of their way to call them “current” (as Brandon did). On my list, a lot of the bands which were a foundation for me are still present (Agalloch, Opeth, Isis, Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Mastodon), and many of them remain in prominent positions. However, my number 1 and 2 are artists which I discovered in 2011 and 2012 (Shinsei Kamattechan and So Great and Powerful, respectively). I’ve got a lot of other, more recent discoveries too, and ones which have nothing to do with my founding genres.
I’m not sure which one of our lists is really more surprising. It’s possible that the lists aren’t as much as indicative of the way we handle music on the whole as they are of the way we handle favorites. I’m sure it also has to do with the way I listen to my core favorites exponentially more than I do any other music, which strengthens their favor in a shorter time, whereas someone who listens to their favorites more evenly with everything else will be more inclined to things that they’ve been listening to for longer and have stood the test of a constant flood of music. Either way, his list is excellent.
This movie’s a trip and a half, and a fun as hell one at that. Albeit, it has the Stanley Kubrick 2-part movie thing going on, where the first half is a fast-paced trip, and the second half slows down a lot and ends up seeming to drag a bit. This kind of problem usually can be done away with by rewatching, but I don’t rewatch movies much, and I don’t think I can handle watching all of this again for a while.
I loved this movie’s decision to largely forego dialog in favor of striking images and symbolism. The dialog that does exist is awesome (“You’re seven today. You’re a man now. Bury your first toy and a picture of your mother”), or otherwise as esoteric as the plot, which doesn’t so much convey meaning as it does vaguely suggest it. I can’t say that this will be one of my favorite movies or anything, but I do appreciate it.
Freaks and Geeks (4 eps)
I’ve seen some episodes of this on IFC, and caught a few more when Brandon and my brother Victor marathoned it this month. I enjoy this show for the obvious reasons (solid writing, awesome cast that goes on to do some of my favorite movies), but I’ve always felt a bit barred from all TV shows and movies about school life, because I can’t relate to them at all. At my school, there weren’t very hard lines between all the different cliques, even though they definitely existed. It helps that my school’s “freaks and geeks” numbered some fifty, which is hardly a small group of weirdos.
Hey Ash, Watcha Playin’?
These short, bizarre videos are quite addicting. I love that the whole family is involved in the videos, and how dedicated they are to playing complete assholes. The characters are memorable, and the jokes are often funny as hell. It also adds to Borderlands 2, knowing that Anthony Birch wrote the game, and Ashley performs in it. It also helps that Anthony had done his Rev Rants series from years ago, which made some interesting observations about game design.
I was very impressed with this guy’s series of forty-five minute videos, analyzing each of the 3D Legend of Zelda games. As you may know, I’ve been on a journey to find and create truly in-depth reviews, and this guy’s are about as in-depth as they get. His other reviews are good too, and I look forward to his futuer ones. If you do watch them, be sure and show some support so videos like this can get bigger on youtube.
I got linked to one of this comedian’s videos because of a Critical Miss strip, and I ended up wasting a whole day just watching his god damn videos. Stewart Lee has an ultra-deadpan style, and isn’t afraid of getting really weird with his delivery. The video I’ve linked above is particularly memorable, and the delivery is perfection. (That I’m linking it in this way also makes it even more hilarious.)
Despite the fact that I find the host’s voice annoying, and a lot of the videos are fairly pointless, I think this is a great series. The episodes about real and fake breasts in game characters, the theory about Donkey Kong Country being a political commentary on the banana wars, and most especially the episode about Princess Peach are must-watches. The last one turns Peach into one of the most interesting game characters around.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 was a massively frustrating experience for me. Understand that I went into this game as a big fan of the other games, and expected that despite what most fans said, it was going to be a great game. This was corroborated by the fact that it’s ghostlightning’s favorite game in the franchise, and my friend Josh who’s played the games enough to get all of the achievements in the franchise also said that it’s possibly his favorite.
ME3 took out and changed a lot of what I considered to be the best mechanics in Mass Effect 2, and replaced them with mechanics that I hated. The game borrowed a hell of a lot of influence from the Gears of War franchise, in some good ways (the revamped combat), and some aggravating ways (pointless turret sections, bullshit flowbreaking cutscenes, etc.). It had some of the worst missions in the franchise, far less exploration and colorful characters, and a central story that I absolutely hated until the Indoctrination Theory (and even then I still question it a lot).
I will play this game again, several times if need be, and I’ll review it each step of the way. Hopefully, when I get to play it with a PS3 controller and not the horribly broken keyboard controls, and I’ve got more patience to deal with it, I’ll like it more. Either way, I’m very happy to have played it as a big-time Mass Effect fan.
Towards the start of the month, I tried to continue in last month’s quest of playing well-loved and influential games by checking out Half-Life 2. I got about three hours into it before losing interest, and I generally found it to be disappointing and in no way deserving of the sheer level of praise it gets. I don’t think it’s a bad game, and I understand why it would’ve been a big deal when it came out, but I’m rather amazed that it gets called one of the greatest games of all time when I think it holds up horribly.
Almost everything that I don’t like about the game is covered in Errant Signal’s video on it, which is why I didn’t bother posting about it.
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 probably won’t pick any of them back up.
5 Days a Stranger: I kinda want to play it because it’s one of Yahtzee’s games, and apparently is pretty good, but I have no patience for point and click adventure. Maybe one day I’ll be ready for this.
BIT-TRIP RUNNER – I was having fun at first, but as the difficulty escalated, it became infuriating. I hate that it always starts me back at the beginning of the stage, when the stages often have long beginnings. Ragequit on level 12 or so.
BTOOOM! (1 ep) – Straight-up bad.
Hayate the Combat Butler reboot (1 ep) – This was appallingly bad to an extent which is hard to comprehend. The fact that the art is so lavish makes that fact feel really strange.
Ixion Saga DT (1 ep) – Kind of a shame because it’s got a bunch of Gintama people on it and is made by Brains Base, but this show is just kinda dumb and trite. Not bad, just dumb and trite. I would’ve liked it when I was twelve or so.
K (1 ep) – If it wasn’t bl, I would’ve assumed this show was made for thirteen year-old black guys. I know a few guys who would’ve loved it as kids.
Shin Sekai Yori (1 ep) – I had no idea what the hell was going on throughout this episode. All I know is that it didn’t grab me, so I dropped it.
Spelunky – It’s kinda like a side-scrolling, cave-exploring roguelike? I’m not big on arcade-style games, nor high difficulty, so there wasn’t much here for me.
Wizorb – Gave it a shot because it was in the Humble Indie Bundle 6, and the sprites are made by Pat Robertson, who I dig a lot. I hate Breakout though, so this was never really going to appeal to me.
Zetsuen no Tempest (1 ep) – I didn’t even finish the ep to be honest. Too boring for me.
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.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (not really enjoying, but better than Aria of Sorrow)
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (2 eps) (it’s fun I guess)
Girls und Panzer (1 ep) (best opener of the season)
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (3 eps) (fucking amazing, but arg censorship!)
Little Busters (1 ep) (not sure I’ll ever get back to this)
Rochard (so far it’s really interesting but I haven’t played much)
Sakurasou (1 ep) (Pretty well-done for what it is, don’t know if I’ll continue)
Silent Hill 2 (Hoping to play a lot of this today and on Halloween)