Ufouria (NES via Flash Cart)
I loved my SNES PowerPak so much that I got the NES one this past Christmas, and gave it a test run with this. Ufouria has a lot in common with a cartoony (or cartoonier, I should say?) Blaster Master; it's from the same company and plays in one large, nonlinear world you have to collect upgrades to access other parts of, only it's a bit easier and there's no overhead dungeons. Also Ufouria has some major idiocies that should have been addressed before release.
Ufouria uses a control scheme like Ducktales, where you have to hold Down while descending on an enemy to stomp it. This didn't cause much trouble in Ducktales because that game was for small children and pussies; in a game meant to actually be challenging, it can get pretty awkward. With three of the characters you can hold diagonal down and they'll continue moving right or left while set to stomp an enemy, but for some reason this doesn't work with the ghost, whose long jumping means if you come to a part where you need to bounce across a row of enemies to get across a hazard, he's the one you'll be doing the jumps with. This hits its worst towards the end of the game, when you have to stomp across a row of flying mice over a pit of lava. It's bad enough trying (and failing) to make the jumps, but sometimes the second mouse won't spawn, sending you into a nice lava bath. Fortunately the lava doesn't instantly kill you, just saps your health really fast, so to get through this I had to farm health from the other mice in the room for about ten minutes.
However, something occured to me that I hadn't thought about until I downloaded an .nsf of Hebereke and the music seemed really slow. I wonder if some of my problems were caused by the game running fast due to PAL/NTSC inconsistency. Maybe in the future I'll play through Hebereke and see how that turns out, but not right now (especially since it's such a pain to find a ROM because of ESA protection. Maybe I'll have to play it with my Sunsoft Memorial Vol. 4 disc and ePSXe).
Also, I can take the penguin being changed into Honen Calzoun, but the lizard was a cat in the Japanese version. Boo to Sunsoft for changing that.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG)
I feel like this movie could have been cut down to a thirty minute cartoon episode, if you took out all the bombastic fight scenes, rewrote some other scenes, and toned down some of the other fluff like the "peace of mind" stance you have to watch at least three times. And despite all this this, the movie glosses over information I would have actually found useful; the villain's parents being dead comes completely out of nowhere, and why did Tigress sympathize with Po's determination to find out what happened to his village? At least it's pretty and offers some good laughs, which I have a feeling was all Dreamworks was aiming for here.
How to Train Your Dragon (PG)
How to Train Your Dragon actually left me wanting more, but understanding it was complete as it was and anything else would just be unnecessary. Hiccup's a great, smart, funny character, and cat lovers will get the most of anyone out of the dragons. Although technically a kid's movie, there is some not-so kid friendly material, including some adult humor, like the secret of Hiccup's helmet. The first trip through the dragon's nest was rather dark, the climax probably wet some pants (hell, it kinda scared me), and there's the often mentioned ballsy ending.
Also, I noticed the viking with the missing hand and leg, Gobber, sounded like Roddy MacStew on Freakazoid. Sure enough, he had the same voice actor, Craig Ferguson.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXII (TV DVD)
I don't know if Shout Factory covered all the Season One episodes or just finally go it through their heads that they sucked. In this set we've got a Japanese Planet of the Apes knockoff, the female version of I Accuse My Parents, pseudo James Bond in a submarine, and something you'd totally think was an Ed Wood production but surprisingly isn't (I know nitpicking an MST3K feature is the epitome of redundant, but why didn't the blind woman call the police the first time a strange man broke into her apartment?), and plenty of rip-roaring hilarious commentary to go along.
The Brute Man comes with one of my favorite shorts, The Chicken of Tomorrow, which I've seen before on a Shorts collection. Okay, the "state of the art" egg photography technology (which is to freaking cut the egg open) still horrifies me, but the rest is ripe riffing material.
The Muppet Movie (G)
I like the Muppets but I wasn't even born when they were in their prime, so they are a bit before my time. I'm also going to confess something right now, that I have never liked Miss Piggy. Whenever she appears in the show I just want her to either suffer a painful accident or go away and make room for a Muppet I give a crap about. Still, this was a fun romp with plenty of said Muppets I give a crap about, great music, and a wide variety guest stars, even if most of them don't get a lot of screen time, ranging from Dom DeLuise to Mel Brooks and a big surprise in the producer's chair, and the Muppets' trademark sense of style and borderline insanity. It's like an episode of the show taken to the big screen.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast Volume 2 (TV DVD)
So, I pop the first disc in, and hey, it's Joel Hodgson! You know, the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000! Joy of joys, maybe he'll give us some inside information on the show! Then his interview is spent exchanging childish name calling with Space Ghost instead of talking about his show, or anything else worth a crap. That pretty much set the bar for this DVD set. At least it was nice of them to change the intro to something a little less seizure-tastic for the second disc.
Family Guy: Blue Harvest (TV DVD)
As I've said time and again, a lot of Family Guy's "humor" comes from insipid pop culture references. This seemed like it was going to be one big one, but surprise! It's not totally awful, and even cracked me up a few times like the new dialogue when Luke enters Leia's cell dressed like a stormtrooper. But for every witty (for Family Guy) Airplane! reference, there's a tedious exchange of dialogue between two of those wheeled box droids on the Death Star that goes on for way too long.
But my biggest problem with this special? The fact it's bloody Family Guy? Surprisingly, no, and actually I've been thinking more charitably about Family Guy ever since suffering through American Dad. No, it was that creepy old pedophile as Obi-Wan. Do people seriously find that character funny? And the Robot Chicken plug at the end didn't exactly leave the special on a good note for me.
Because I like Thor and J. Michael Straczynski, and I'm feeling generous, I'd say this movie suffered from being confined to a two hour movie. That's just not enough time to make Thor's change of attitude from pompous dimwit to honorable hero believable, a transition I imagine took longer than a day in the comics. Especially not when it also had to get Loki's story in, namely by chopping it up and stuffing it into the spaces between Thor's story, leaving that side-plot a convoluted mess of "Why did he..."s. Like, why did he start questioning who he was and touch the Frost Giants' box thingy in the first place? Why did he, well, do basically anything that he did?
Note from CK: As pointed out in my October 2013 quickies, some of these complaints are misunderstandings on my part that became clearer on a second viewing.
Still, I can't imagine anyone but die-hard Thor fans really getting anything out of this, and even that's wishful thinking because comic book fans are a picky bunch, and the slightest inaccuracy would have turned them against the film. People will no familiarity with Thor are going to be confused by everything that was cut out for time. Even after I figured out why Odin collapsed on the stairs, I don't think I would have deduced that from the movie alone, as Odinsleep was only mentioned once or twice and never explained. Hell, I only knew what Odinsleep was from Marvel Ultimate Alliance, of all things.
The acting also left something to be desired. Odin acted like he was bored half the time, and during the big final climactic duel Loki makes a "Yah!" that made me snicker at how half-hearted it was.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)
I might have liked this more than Order of the Phoenix, but only because it's 200 page shorter and it drops Hermione's elf rights padding (and then replaces it with preaching about Harry "cheating" in Potions by following the notes a previous owner wrote in the book - how is using somebody else's notes any more cheating than following the author?). I'm sick of ranting about the angst and Rowling failing to understand "show, don't tell" so bad she tells and THEN shows, so instead of repeating myself I'm going to take this review to rant about some general nonsense in the books.
First of all, Quidditch is bullshit. I guess this is a frequently asked question on the Internet, but what is the point of everything in a Quidditch game besides the Golden Snitch? Why not just toss the two Seekers in and let them go at each other? And if only the school team plays Quidditch at a school, how is anyone supposed to get good enough to get picked for the school team in the first place?
I forget which book it was, but at one time in McGonagall's Transfiguration class they were vanishing snails and mice, and Hermione was so advanced she'd aced mice and moved up to vanishing kittens. Forget the witchcraft controversy, nobody's arguing that mutating animals and sending them to oblivion is animal cruelty? And that along with Umbridge's collection of kitten plates and cat patronus (yeah, that's from the next book, sorry to jump the gun there), what does this series have against cats?
How exactly does magic work in this series? How can magic-powered buttons with offensive messages ("Potter Stinks," and yes I know this is from Goblet of Fire, not Half-Blood Prince) on them be accidentally changed to say an even more offensive version of what it said before ("Potter REALLY Stinks"), and not just screw the button up to say gibberish? If somebody who doesn't know a pointer from a compiler tries to hack a computer program, they would sooner right-out break the program than accidentally do the opposite of their intention. And obviously I understand why certain ingredients are used in a potion or letting it simmer on a flame, and I can sort of justify how using the blade silver knife to crush a bean might provide more juice than the ordinary tool, and hell, I even vaguely understood that parallel between making an antidote and Pythagorean Theorem. But how does the direction and number of times you stir a potion affect how a potion turns out? Why would stirring it the other way every seven stirs improve the potion? And would it be possible for a muggle concoct a potion?
And don't say "It's magic, it doesn't have to make sense!" A flavor of reality makes myth easier to swallow, and if Hogwart's is supposed to parallel what's taught in real-life or "Muggle" schools, there has to be some logic behind it.
American Dad! Volume 2 (TV DVD)
Blah blah blah not funny blah blah bad animation blah blah subtle as a technicolor peacock blah blah blah MAN BOOBS.
HOARD (PC, E)
This is really a game you just play for score, so it's hard to say when I "beat" it, but I got at least a bronze medal on all maps. And being a game played for score, there's not a whole lot to it. You fly around a map, burning down crops, carriages, towns, wizard towers, and giants for cash, upgrading your dragon to make collecting treasure easier. But there isn't a whole lot of freedom to upgrading your dragon because you're going to have a hell of a time standing your ground if you don't prioritize your points on Fire and Speed, and I'd always end up upgrading my dragon the same way each game. But I suppose the best way to play against other dragons is to be a tremendous dick, torching your rivals while they try to burn down carriages and stealing princesses from their hoards in Princess Rush, and that amuses the evil side of me.
And to be nitpicky, there is something seriously wrong with the game's menus. After you complete a map, you'll have the Retry and Continue options. Retry will replay the current map, but Continue will send you back to the title screen, where you then have to make your way to the next level manually. And for some reason, the menu started starting on Princess Rush instead of Treasure mode some time into my play. I also couldn't find any option to turn off the Christmas decor; not the snow, I mean the giants looking like Santa Claus and what not.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (G)
I will say right off that this movie was (mostly) a visual feast. I imagine it's full claymation, or at least stop-animation with clay-like models, since real clay melts under studio lights according to something I read about The Neverhood, but if this was CGI, they did a hell of a job making it look like real clay, fabric, fur, and dirt was used, going as far as to put fingerprints on the characters. Wallace's inventions, while wildly impractical, are still fun to watch play out, the clay rabbits are cute, and I was impressed by how much Gromit says with just facial expressions and body language. There's also plenty of laughs, and one section of Gromit and the pit bull's fight on the airplane is just too funny.
However, I wasn't at all fond of the human side of this movie. Maybe it's because I find the human models hideous (hence the "mostly" qualifier before), or maybe it's because I went in knowing bugger-all about the series and the only thing this movie taught me was that Wallace was a wacky inventor who loves cheese, but I just didn't give a crap about any of the humans and the villain is a second-rate Gaston knockoff. The human story hits its nadir towards the end when they try injecting some Ang Lee Hulk-esque romance (bleh). I'm also glad I never saw this in theaters, because the G rating was sure to advertise it as a family movie, and I'm sure (spoiler!) Wallace's first on-screen transformation into the Were-Rabbit caused kids in theaters across the nation to break out screaming.
Some of the story didn't make much sense. When Gromit arrives home after getting pulled around in the car by the Were-Rabbit, Wallace gets on him about running off. But this makes no sense because (again, spoiler) Wallace would have had no memory of what happened between him going to fetch the female rabbit puppet (where he turned into the Were-Rabbit) and him waking up in bed the following morning, and wouldn't have known Gromit took off. It's like they were trying to trick you into thinking the rabbit was the Were-Rabbit, forgetting that this outburst didn't make any sense if Wallace was the Were-Rabbit. Also, the way the Were-Rabbit is cured reeks of cop-out, especially since it leaves the subplot about the broken machine to undo it hanging. And why was the moon full four nights in a row?
Crusader of Centy (Genesis)
First of all, where did the guys who put together the back of the box get 40 hours for this game? Even 10 hours might be a little generous. And it's not so much an Action RPG as the front of the box claims, more like the Genesis' (really late) answer to Link to the Past, with some Soul Blazer mixed in.
There's plenty of decent Zelda-esque puzzles to solve with the help of your animal friends, but your sword's area of effect is off and the game is easy on top of short. The story is trying to make some statement about language and how humans, animals, and monsters aren't all that different, but it's hard to tell what that statement is because the dialogue is so shaky. I was also a bit surprised by the game ending when it did. It's not bad, it just came up a bit short on everything it set out to do.
The Wizard's Pen (PC, E)
In this game you reveal sections of an objects and try to guess what it is in as few reveals as possible. Obviously it's a computer program and isn't capable of deciding if an answer is good enough for itself, but how close you can be is still really weird. One time the picture was "Salt and Pepper Shakers", and it accepted "Jars". And the one picture in the game I missed, a heart with an arrow going through it, I missed because the game decided "Love Arrow" wasn't close enough to "Love." It's okay for what it is, but what it is isn't very much.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volumes 2 - 4 (TV DVD)
A lot of you are probably thinking "American Dad, Aqua Teen Hunger Force... Codie, why are you watching all this crap, knowing you're going to hate it?" To get *some* worth out of it before I get rid of it at the local Hasting's. Now, the question I'm thinking is, "What possessed me to buy this crap in the first place?" The animation is horrible, Shake is one of the most annoying characters in animation ever, and Meatwad is a pain in the butt to understand sometimes. I'm generously giving this half a Skitty because there was one joke that made me chuckle, although I bloody well don't remember what it was now, but also because it's at least still better than Drawn Together and something else I'll get to shortly.
Flying Omelette's shrine to this game piqued my interest in it. If you hear anything about this game anywhere else on the Internet, you'll probably hear people calling it one of the worst games of all time with not much to back it up than a clip of the player bumping up against a tree or complaining about drowning, and I'm going to have to use Penn Jillete's catchphrase on that. Another complaint you'll often hear is you can't control your characters. I wasn't bothered by that so much as by the characters being morons, often straying from the fight or circling a table in the corner. And if it's really that important to you people, you can control one character in battle and attack the enemy by pushing the character up against them (yeah, I didn't figure that out until late in the game, but still) and issue basic commands to the others, so maybe people should start saying Star Ocean sucks because you can't control your characters. Okay, I have my own nitpicks, like that I had to keep interrupting the game to bring up the map and make sure I was going in the right direction, I kept passing my intended targets because you have to practically be right on top of the map icon to see it anywhere around you on the field, and having a character's armor break in the middle of a dungeon would make me angry, but it's a perfectly playable game, and in fact it's rather easy.
The first time I beat the game, I got the punk rocker head to appear in the credits. But every time I rebeat my file trying to determine the condition to trigger it, it didn't appear. Maybe it's just completely random.
Little Britain The Complete First Series (TV DVD)
This show was so bad, and I have enough terrible shows for this month that I considered skipping the quickie for it like I did for Street Fighter Alpha Generations (Just check Rage Quitter's summary of it). But you know what? Bad as American Dad and Aqua Teen Hunger Force were, they didn't quite fill me with the eye-twitching foaming-at-the-mouth hatred this did. I think this show deserves a verbal bashing.
In a documentary I watched, "The Funny Blokes of British Comedy," the host summarized British comedy as "a bunch of white men being silly." I would summarize Little Britain as a bunch of white men being fucking irritating. And yes, men, because practically all the women on this show are really men in drag, making the skits with the man in drag trying to convince everyone he's really a lady kinda redundant. And because each episode runs almost 29 minutes - no, not with ads, the actual show is that long - any given episode is an exercise in tedium and frustration.
The worst thing, though, is that with one exception involving the hypnotist at a flea market which was the only time this show got so much as a smirk out of me, the "joke" of each skit is always the same. The fat gay guy will mope about how he can't do anything gay because he's the only gay in the village, then when other gay people show up he'll get rid of them then go back to moping about his plight. The fat girl in pink will ramble incoherently when asked a simple question. The teacher at the Fat Fighters meeting is a bitch. The retarded guy in the wheelchair will insist on something without even looking at it whhile his caretaker tries to reason him out of it and eventually yield, then when all is said and done he'll want what the caretaker suggested. Okay, there's actually two possible outcomes to those skits, the other being that the guy in the wheelchair is perfectly fine and will get up and run around when the caretaker's back is turned, and make his way back to the wheelchair just before the caretaker turns back around (also, the premise of "guy faking mental handicap" was done boatloads better in Just Shoot Me). You've really got to wonder why more than one episode of this garbage needs to exist.
And please, when I say this show is shit, do not tell me I only think that because I don't get British comedy. I say it's shit because it's shit, and if it's a shining example of British comedy, then British comedy is shit.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
I am so glad to finally be done with this series, its trio of bland heroes who have far more luck than actual skill, its needlessly long page counts, the angst that gets magnified here by some unexplained need for the characters to wear one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, and its torturous teen romance nobody cares about. I'm assuming everyone's already read this or had it spoiled to them, so no spoiler whiting here, folks.
In the Half-Blood Prince quickie I talked about things in magic that don't make much sense. Well, Deathly Hallows beats that by not having much of anything make sense. Like, the stuff about wands changing their allegiance. So, every time somebody casts the Expelliarmus charm, why doesn't the other person's wand then belong to them? Also, you'd think the Elder Wand being obtained by an individual killing the previous owner would have been a sign that the Unbeatable Wand wasn't so unbeatable. And maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but there was all this jazz about how special Harry's invisibility cloak was as opposed to all the others, that it made its wearer truly invisible and it was immune to any of kind detection magic... except in Goblet of Fire, Moody's magic eye saw through it. Twice. Oops?
Because of an online discussion I was mentally prepared for how retarded the Ravenclaw Diadem being destroyed by a never before mentioned spell cast by an unimportant bit character was, but I wasn't prepared for all the other bloody retarded things about that scene. Even from Rowling's seat of having to write how the Horcrux gets destroyed, it makes no sense; Ron and Hermione brought a bunch of basilisk fangs back from the Chamber of Secrets when they went down there to destroy the cup, and all they had to do was stab the diadem with one when they got out of the junk room. And if Hermione knew the Fiendfyre spell could destroy Horcruxes, why didn't she mention it when they were trying to figure out how to destroy Horcruxes? That would have been a great time to foreshadow it and not have it come out of somebody's ass, Rowling, and have Hermione explain how hard it is to control and that while she's all for beating Voldemort, even if she could cast it she'd rather not burn down half a forest to do so if there's an alternative.
As well as having a final chapter that reads more like a bad fanfic than an epilogue, the book leaves a lot of threads hanging. What happened to the Dursleys? And Laura's father? Did Hermione put her parents back right (and for that matter, what happened to Crookshanks)? Was Umbridge sacked from the Ministry? Was Stan Shunpike really a Death Eater, or was he under the Imperius Curse? Or when the real Death Eaters broke out of Azkaban, did they offer him a membership card if he wanted to get out? But yeah, I'm just nitpicking here and can totally see that this stuff needed to be cut in favor of endless camping.
Also, somebody really should have informed Rowling before she decided to kill off half the cast that it doesn't take very long for deaths to stop being shocking and become really hoaky.
Dragon View (SNES)
When I was done with Drakkhen, I almost immediately jumped into this. Dragon View improves upon Drakkhen in almost every way, with the exception of weirdness. I even kind of prefer the soundtrack; Drakkhen's soundtrack is certainly pretty, but I barely remember anything from it and nothing in that game really stood out to me as well as the Keire Temple theme here. Dragon View is a very enjoyable action RPG, and it was interesting to go through it again, now familiar with Drakkhen, and catching the references to it.
Dragon View's biggest hangup is it suffers from Ys Syndrome, meaning one or two levels can mean the difference between barely being able to scratch an enemy and making it your bitch, so the bosses rely more on levels than skill. But there's still plenty of dungeon exploration and puzzles to make up for that. Also, the ending is really stupid. I don't want to spoil it too much, but it's like they were setting up a second, less pathetic form for the final boss, throwing everything that happened after you beat him into the garbage, then decided to cut that because they realized players were going to get pissed off if they sat through all that exposition, only to have to sit through it all again if they got their butt kicked.