Sunshine Blogger!

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This is an award winning blog.  You know that.  And I suppose it’s purely natural.  I am the type of person that awards just seem to gravitate to.  And it’s happened again, recently.  Courtesy of Red Metal passing on his Sunshine Blogger Award to what seems like half the internet.  Including our not-so-humble private space on the internet right here.  Have we won the Sunshine Blogger Award before?  I don’t even remember.

You probably know the drill by now.  I’m not one to pass up easy content the chance to talk about myself curiousity, and Red Metal’s leveraged some questions at us.  Let’s run through them!

In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

I’m going to assume Red Metal’s really asking about when would I deem a manga superior to the anime based on it, because otherwise the only manga based on an anime I’ve read has been Samurai Champloo, and that wasn’t superior to the anime, so this would be a pretty awkward answer.

Having a story that actually finishes would be a big point in its favor.  A lot of anime, even good anime, even long running anime, has a tendency to end before it actually finishes the story.  I remember spending a lot of time with Tenjho Tenge, Eyeshield 21, Tokyo Ghoul, Inuyasha, etc, only for the anime to end long before the climax point they’ve all been building towards has been reached.  And I hate that.  I hate getting involved in a story, committing to a story, that just stops before it reaches its conclusion.  That’s the worst feeling for me.

Otherwise, it’s mostly an issue of pacing.  Which one delivers its energy and momentum better, and tells the story between major beats more effectively?  Sometimes it’s the anime.  The Naruto manga had a horrible sense of pacing, but the anime smoothed it out considerably.  Sometimes its the manga, when the anime creators weren’t able to properly transfer that over.

Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

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I’ve never even played Killer Instinct 2013, yet I still find myself digging the soundtrack like crazy.  At least the first season.  Mick Gordon made some absolutely beautiful music for that game that draws from a lot of very interesting cultural sources that still really fit for it.  I have to really admire it.  Later seasons of the game brought on Atlas and Celldweller instead of Mick, which… just didn’t grab me.  Which is odd, because I’ve loved Celldweller’s other music, and his style seems a perfect fit for Killer Instinct, but it just didn’t seem to synchronize.  But yeah, first season Killer Instinct 2013 is absolutely marvelous.  Check it out.

Otherwise Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the soundtrack I’ve gone back to more than anything else.  Some of the most honestly beautiful music I’ve heard in a game, on there.  And it’s incorporated beautifully into the game, matches the settings and events perfectly.

And for a bonus, the soundtrack to Bastion is pretty marvelous as well.

If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

Saints Row.  Which is an odd one.  Developer would insist it’s not dead.  After all, Agents of Mayhem follows up on the ending of the final Saints Row game and uses a lot of the same characters, and they’re totally working on another Saints Row project otherwise!  Wikipedia says so!  But we haven’t seen a game in the series that wasn’t, in essence, just a stretched out piece of DLC since 2011, and the current franchise owners seem to mostly be sitting on it.

I’m not even sure what version of the series I’d want to see back.  The original Saints Row was a fun game with a lot of frustrating gameplay hooks and an irreverent but straight-laced plot with some surprisingly intelligent writing hidden beneath the surface.  The second was a pitch black comedy with a plot that went to some rather gritty places, but once again, had some surprisingly smart story beats if you dug into things.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the hidden intelligence, took the idea that ‘haha, crazy funny game series’ up to eleven, and basically made an evil Saturday morning cartoon.  Saints Row IV and Gat Out of Hell took that change and went crazy with it.

So yeah, like I said, I don’t know what I would want from the series, but I want something.  I loved Saints Row 2.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the things I loved about Saints Row 2 and replaced them with something else, but it was still a crazy fun game.  Following up on either of those would make me happy.

What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

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Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.  I’ve said it before, but my favorite game is Persona 4.  I fell in love with that game immediately upon playing it, and wanted to bury myself in the series leading up to it.  Thing is, before Persona 3 made it popular, the Persona series was a very niche JRPG series on the PS2 with a limited run, and it was hard to get copies of the game years after for a reasonable price.  Especially given that they weren’t available on the Playstation store at the time.  I was able to track down the original Persona easily enough, although I still had to pay more than I wanted to for it, but Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for a reasonable price was difficult to find.  Especially given that I wasn’t willing to pay more than original MSRP for a used copy, and I wanted one that came with its original case.  It took me a couple of months, and I ended up doing some minor negotiations with an Amazon seller to get a deal I was satisfied with, but I ended up picking it up for $50.

Of course, now it’s just like $10 digitally on the PSN store.  Progress is a wonderful thing.

Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

At home.  Theaters are mostly a date thing for me.  I don’t usually just watch a movie or show on it’s own, I’ve usually got something else going on if I’m just going to sit down and watch something, so being at home lets me multitask.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

In general, when you’re dealing with an entry in a games franchise that throws in some deep changes to the established structure, critics seem to weather it better than the fans do.  And I would say I handle it more like the former camp, even for franchises I love.  I understand where it comes from, the new work isn’t meeting up to established expectations, but I feel my enjoyment of the game comes more from its own value rather than the expectations built up, so in general, I don’t get the ‘It’s different it sucks!’ feeling a lot of the fans seem to.

Silent Hill 4’s an example.  Critics thought it was ok, the fans hated it.  I was more in the former camp.  I felt it was a complete mediocre game, but one that wasn’t necessarily poorer than average for the time.  But it was missing a lot of the things that went so successfully in earlier Silent Hills, and for that, the game got blasted online.  Those didn’t really resonate with me.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

A lot more often than the above, really.  To be honest, I find the fan reception to be a bit of a better indicator of the chances I’ll have of enjoying a work than the critical reception, for a lot different reasons.  If a fan is excited for the game, and I resonate with the things that make them so excited about it when they describe or show it to me, that’s probably the thing that makes me most likely to get into the series.  Hell, I haven’t cared about Devil May Cry since I tried out the first game and found it too clunky for my tastes, but after watching an LP series by people who absolutely love the games, I’ve been convinced to give a second go to later games in the series lately.

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That works the opposite way, too.  I’ve been finding critics to be a little too impressed with polish over substance, and too hesitant to give outright negative reviews to games that come from large-scale publishers.  Dragon Age II is an example of that.  Outside of the setting, I find the game absolutely horrid.  Combat is unengaging, enemy spawning is blatantly stupid, and you have to go through the same levels so many freaking times that it makes me wonder why I’m even bothering putting time into it if I’m just going to have to circle back and do the same things later.  The plot hits some interesting beats, but it continually undermines its own themes, and ends up feeling like a lot of what you did doesn’t really mean anything shortly after you did it.  I hate that game.  The fans hate that game.  Metacritic ranking?  Well, just see above.

What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

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Does DLC count?  I don’t think Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve beaten, but I think the Artorias of the Abyss DLC might be the hardest gaming experience I’ve had.  Manus absolutely took me to the wall and back, and before him, I had to enter some sort of weird zen state and tap into my pure gaming instincts just to get past Artorias.

Otherwise, Zelda 2 comes to mind, but I had copious amounts of save-state help on that one.  And I’ve beaten Binding of Isaac, which adds harder levels and harder bosses on top of the previously ultimate challenges each time you beat it, but I haven’t exhausted its challenges as yet.

Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The original Super Mario Bros. Was one of the first games I owned.  And I’m still digging it.  So that one.

Vanilla answer, I know.

In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

You’re asking the wrong cowboy here.  I have an odd relationship with film.  Got burnt out on it a while back, after some stressful experiences working on the borders of the film industry.  Since then, I’ve had a hard time looking at films purely for enjoyment, and as such, don’t pay much attention to it now.  So I guess that’s the way game critics are ahead, I might actually read a review from them every once in a while.

How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

If other people are excited for something, and the features that they’re excited about are things that seem interesting to me, that can be infectious.  See the Devil May Cry example above.  I love a lot of character action games, but I didn’t enjoy the first Devil May Cry, so I never gave the series another thought.  Until recently, in prep for DMC 5, the Let’s Play group I followed played through the series, which is one of their favorites, and I find myself wanting to get into the newer games and get that same excitement for myself.

Hype can ruin a work too, though.  Like, for example, with Planescape: Torment.  With the dialogue surrounding that game, I was expecting it to be transcendent, that it would completely blow my mind.  It didn’t.  It did one thing very, very well, but that was surrounded by a lot of flaws and a gameplay engine I abhorred.  I don’t know that I necessarily would have enjoyed the game more were it not for the hype, but I do recall having a very distinct moment of disappointment early on that soured me for a lot of the rest of it.

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6 responses to “Sunshine Blogger!

  1. I don’t think I’ve watched an anime that didn’t have a definitive ending, but I can understand how you feel about that. I think it’s a given that the manga is better in cases in which the anime ends before the manga on which it’s based finishes its run. It can work in series with self-contained episodes, but in an ongoing series, it just feels as though they forgot to write a third act. Also, given the absurd amounts of filler in Naruto I would’ve assumed the manga was better, so I’m surprised that it apparently had even worse pacing.

    Nice to hear that even after falling off the radar screen, Rare properties can still have good music. I really need to dive back into Xenoblade at some point.
    I also should probably check out Saint’s Row at some point because everyone I’ve spoken to has said it’s great.

    I myself went through a lot of trouble to get a copy of Red Mecca by an electronica/industrial band called Cabaret Voltaire. I had the opportunity to buy it off of Amazon for a low price and completely missed it. Fortunately, I managed to get a copy recently by importing it from England. A lot of older games like Persona 2 were impossible to get for the longest time, so I’m thankful for digital distribution methods.

    I tend to give films my undivided attention, so I don’t really have a preference either way. I do kind of prefer going to theaters because it makes it easier to concentrate on the film. It helps that I tend to get a cooperative audience.

    From what I’ve heard, Silent Hill 4 had a lot to live up to, so I can believe that it would take a long time to build its legacy. And you’re right, I don’t get the “different = sucks” mentality either. I tend to be less sympathetic to complacent sequels. It’s part of the reason why I tend to have more respect for Skyward Sword than Uncharted 3. Skyward Sword’s worst mistakes are worse than Uncharted 3’s, but the former is the more ambitious title by far whereas the latter was clearly made solely to cash in on the success of its (far superior) predecessor.

    For me, I think it’s on a case-by-case basis, though I have to admit I’ve been siding with fans more often than not as of late. I feel the problem is that critics have become openly hostile to their audience, so when a critical darling is maligned, you can expect think pieces about how the general population has substandard taste to begin popping up. They also seem to have a narrow definition of what constitutes a good experience – or they don’t consider the experience as a whole when they’re assessing them. To wit, the Ace Attorney series tends to get fairly modest reviews compared to whatever AAA project is making waves at the moment, but those aren’t games that are intended to be played for a bit and abandoned halfway through – they need to be completed in order for the player to get anything out of them. That was a series in which the fans got me interested and the critics had nothing to do with that.

    I want to say Dark Souls is the most difficult game I’ve completed in terms of genuine difficulty. If we’re talking artificial difficulty, then the NES Dragon’s Lair has it beat handily (though I had to resort to abusing save states myself).

    Yeah, that’s my answer as well. In fact, Super Mario Bros. was the first game I’d ever played.

    You worked on the borders of the film industry? Ouch. I heard that’s rather daunting. And I think that’s the answer I’d go with too; film critics tend to write in purple prose, which makes their critiques tedious to read.

    I find hype doesn’t really have much of an effect on how I feel about a work; ironically, given the many problems I’ve had with critics, I’ve been impressed with critical darlings more often than not. Granted, there have been cases in which critics hyped something that was merely good, but I don’t think I consider that when handing out my own grade – unless it’s a complete and total disappointment (in which case, I would’ve failed it regardless of what critics had to say).

    • Well, the pacing problems with the Naruto manga are more micro than macro. It’s more that the panels move through events too quickly, without giving them impact or a good sense of action happening between the panels that’s so essential for the medium. If you’re thinking of the pace between major story beats, yeah, the anime filler kind of kills that.

      Saints Row is great if you have a high tolerance for things that are deliberately ridiculous, because that’s where that series thrives. They’re a lot of stupid fun. And if you love overthinking things like I do, they have enough continuity in there that they can keep things rolling a while.

      So, I’m pretty cheap. And patient. I will generally wait for games to hit a rock bottom price before picking them up. But I learned you can’t really do that with most lesser-known JRPGs. There was a while there where I would make a habit of buying the JRPGs I wanted when they were only a few months old, completely in contrast to my other buying habits, because I knew if I didn’t there was a decent chance of the market price raising those games above my budget and I’d never get the chance to get it. So market forces caused me to behave exactly like a proper consumer, I guess? Digital distribution helps a lot with that now, I no longer have to get potentially rare games way ahead of when I’m actually going to play them.

      Critics becoming openly hostile to their audience, man, I really, really hate that. And you seem to see it so often these days. I get that looking at whatever medium they’re critiquing on a professional basis does change one’s perspective on it, and critics being out of touch with the audience is nothing new, but I’ve been feeling like there’s a lot more anger behind it of late, that people don’t fall in line with the critic’s opinions or appreciation of the form, and especially a lot of resentment for the behaviors of the communities around it.

      Yeah, I ran a film commission. Basically, was a location scout/local liaison, trying to get film producers to spend money shooting in the areas I represented as an economic development measure. I wasn’t very good at it.

      I think that’s something I’ve come to trust in you, you’re very true to your own thoughts, whatever all those words surrounding something or even general consensus says.

  2. Yeah, Persona 4 is a great game. The two Persona 2 games don’t get very much love, partly because they’re harder to find (especially Eternal Punishment as you say – it’s one of those 90s games that rose in value thanks to rarity) but also partly because of their janky gameplay. I still consider Nocturne the best Megami Tensei game, but the Persona titles aren’t far behind.

    • Yeah, I think they’d be in a very different space now if they had more exposure. Persona 2 fit its place pretty well in its day, but man, they really didn’t age well.

  3. I too prefer to watch movies at home. Maybe I would think differently if my local cinema wasn’t so tiny. Congrats on beating the difficult Dark Souls DLC. I can’t even manage to best the base game.

    • That’s true in my case, too. The theater in town is pretty compact. Although people have spoken to me before about audiences making up so much of the experience of watching a movie in the theater, but outside of like two times when I’ve been part of a group that rented out the place and I knew everybody in there, I haven’t had that.

      And thanks! It really did feel like an accomplishment.

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