Double Sunshine

Life still hasn’t let up, kicking me in the delightfully shaped rear end while I kick back even harder.  Time’s at a premium, so it’s hard to get posts together, but luckily, that’s where you get friends stepping into help out.  We’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award several times already.  We possibly might be the most nominated blog in history.  For all I know.  And as I’ve said before, although I don’t really do these viral blog awards the dignity of passing them on, I do appreciate being nominated, as it’s a good way of putting together content when time is limited.  And it’s always nice being considered.  So, very recently, when we’ve gotten Sunshine Blogger nomination number 5 from AK at Everything is Bad for You and number 6 from Red Metal at Extra Life Reviews, it came as a nice breath of fresh air in these busy times.  Good for me, because I get to make some content that I enjoy doing, and good for you, because you get to learn more about the best thing that ever happened to you.  So lets hop to it.

First up, obligatorily and enthusiastically, if you’re hanging out around my parts, you probably already know AK and Red Metal.  You’ve likely spent a lot of time at their blogs.  Because at this point, the three of us bounce things get on so much we’ve essentially formed a Player Character Party in the JRPG that is the blogsphere.  But if you haven’t, check them out.  If you like my work, you’ll likely like theirs as well.  

On to the questions!  Starting with AK’s.

  1. Are you buying or have you bought one of the new next-gen consoles, and if so, which? What factors played into your decision?

I imagine the first priority for me will actually be picking up a new PC.  My current battlestation has been incredibly faithful, but it’s been showing over and over again its on its last legs.  At some point after that, I’m planning on getting a Playstation 5, but I’m not in a hurry.  Specifically, I’m planning on getting it when I have enough credit card points to not actually pay for it, which I imagine is not going to happen while it’s still in such stock shortages as it is now.  Until then, I’ve got plenty to catch up on.

As to why the PS5 specifically?  Some of it’s legacy.  The Xbox One may have backed off of their always-online no used games stance before release, but I still found it such an offensively controlling one that I absolutely refused to get the console, and thinking about getting a Series X still brings those memories up for me.  On the other hand, the PS4 has been a joy for me, being very reliable, accessible, and even going so far as to improve my health, so I’ve got a lot of positive feelings wrapped up in that.  Beyond that, the PS5’s offerings seem to be centered on great games you can buy and just own, while the Series X looks like it’s all about that game pass.  Which I’m sure is great for those for whom it works, but I like collecting these things, and I want to possess them for ages.  Moreover, I live in the mountains, and our internet sucks, so having a service centered around constantly downloading and expunging them later wouldn’t work as well for me as it does for other.  And as far as current gen goes, all the Xbox exclusives I’ve been wanting to try have ended up playable on PC, and between my PS4, my Switch, and my gaming rig, I’ve been able to be on top of everything.  So I’d be interested in continuing that.

2. Related to that, how much importance do you place on the specs of a new console?

Not a whole lot.  I care about what the games on a console can do with those specs.  I don’t need the shiniest graphics or the most p’s but if it opens up new things to do in games, that’s about where I’m at.  Although I’ve been feeling like we’ve been getting diminishing returns between consoles since the start of last generation.

3. Are there any emerging technologies you’re especially excited to see develop? If so, what are they?

Not really.  I don’t keep track of a whole lot of emerging tech, and the stuff I do get interested in, my hopes are pretty tempered.  I would definitely be game for new and better medical tech, and I’ve been falling in love with fitness trackers lately, but nothing I’d call myself ‘excited’ for.

4. Is there an upcoming game, film, anime, or other work you’re especially looking forward to?

Lost Judgment.  I’m a huge Yakuza nerd, although I really didn’t like the genre shift to RPG in the most recent game.  Not that that genre shift itself is a problem, but if you’re going to change an action series to an RPG series, don’t change a good action series to a bad RPG series.  Anyways, they’ve recently announced that with Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s success, that’s the direction the series is going to be taking going forward, with the Judgment subseries holding on to the classic Yakuza gameplay.  I hope they’re able to improve the RPG gameplay and make it not quite so mindless in the future, but in the meantime, Judgment was one of my favorite Yakuza games, and not one I expected to be followed up.  It showed a very different side of the typical Yakuza story and setting, made for a much more intimate experience than usual, and had some of my favorite fights in the series.  With it getting a sequel, and with it having a new version of the gameplay I’ve loved for years, I am absolutely down for that. The original Judgment did a really good job of showing the civilian side to all those crime dramas that compose the Yakuza series’ plot, and I’m particularly interested to seeing what they do with that perspective now that Yakuza: Like a Dragon really shook up the traditional Yakuza families at the core of all this.

5. Is there a genre (of game, novel, film, whatever) you liked as a kid but now dislike? Alternatively, is there a genre you disliked as a kid that you now like or at least appreciate more?

Uh, does the Young Adult section count as a genre?  There’s not a lot of what I’d call traditional genre’s that I dislike now, I abide by most everything, but there’s a lot of novels from my youth that I’ve gone back to, and their stories are a bit too simplified to hold my attention.  And yet there are also some young adult stories that are still good reads.  So maybe never mind that.  In my later teens, I really liked horror, and I don’t have a particular affinity for that now, so that’s probably a better example.  I don’t dislike horror things, on their own, but it does take a level of quality most examples of the genre don’t have for me to enjoy them.  

As far as the alternative, again not a genre, but I used to dislike things that were set in the modern, contemporary world.  I loved my fantasy, I loved my sci-fi, I loved historical fiction, but if you got things set in the real world, I just couldn’t get into it.  I’ve definitely grown out of that.  

6. We’ve probably all read, watched, or played through at least one story with a disappointing ending. Do you feel a poorly written ending hurts its entire work or series, and if so how much? Can you still enjoy or appreciate the work even if you feel the ending was lousy?

It really depends.  How good was the work beforehand, and how bad is the ending?  And why is the ending bad?  And probably a whole bunch of subjective factors that I’m not quite skilled enough to explain get counted in there.  

There definitely is a level of ruination there with a lot of things, where having gone through the ending leads me to the feeling of “Well, they’re going to ruin every bit of goodwill towards the plot and affection for the characters I have by the end, so there’s no real point of getting invested in them”.  Like, for whatever reason, I keep coming back to Avengers Academy as an example on that, which was a Marvel Comics series that was really interesting but low-selling, so they ended up combining it with another low-selling series and a bunch of OC’s in a poorly written Battle Royale copy that saw some characters die uselessly and most everyone that was left way out of character.  I used to love that series, but I haven’t been able to go back to it since I read the endgame.  Knowing how they end up makes it hard to invest in them.  

On the other side though, some things I’m just able to enjoy in the moment, the bad ending notwithstanding.  Like Mass Effect.  Its ending, even the expanded cut version, basically sees it going out on a wet fart after years of buildup and anticipation, but playing through it again recently, it didn’t bother me that much.  Like, I knew some of the underpinnings were going to lead to really dumb places by the end, but it didn’t bother me.  Now, what makes Mass Effect work for me but Avengers Academy not?  I really don’t know.  Like I said, a lot of this is subjective.  Some things, I’ll be re-whatevering, know I’m going to be disappointed in the ending, and just enjoy it up till then before I internally roll my eyes and figure I’d come this far so might as well get it over with.  Others, just the thought of picking it up again makes me remember all the things that bothered me about the ending, and that overshadows it going through all the rest.  

7. Are there any good new blogs or sites you’ve found recently? I’m always looking for new reading material.

So, I’ve been really enjoying the works of Non-Player Girl lately.  She’s got a mix going of introductions to small-scale indie games, updates on upcoming Otome and other games of interest, shining the light on gaming related things that don’t get much widespread press, and more.  And it’s well-written, and I find her subjects rather interesting, generally, as well.

And a while back, I was running a series of in depth analyses on the Higurashi: When They Cry visual novel chapters, basically getting down my thoughts in a manner free of spoilers from beyond a given chapter so that other people who were going through the novel years after all the VN/anime nerds knew all the reveals could get a good place to theorize about it.  I only made it two chapters in before the large amount of work involved compared to my limited time and the little interest it saw lead me to moving on, but years later, Helbrute, who was in just the type of situation I was making that for in the first place, came along.  He decided to pick things up right from there, and started his own Higurashi analysis over at Weeb;Notes, and judging from how things look so far, it should be shaping up well.  

8. Are you planning to return to the theater/cinema soon, or once you feel safe going (assuming you liked going in the first place?) Is there anything about the typical moviegoing experience you’d change? 

So I’ve actually already been to the theater a couple of times.  Because I’m vaccinated and in a community with very high vaccination rates, so I get to do that.  I caught Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat in theater.  I was actually the only one in the theater for Mortal Kombat, so almost as safe as if I watched it from home, anyways.  As far as what I’d change about the moviegoing experience, get me footrests.  Or maybe recliners for seats.  I’m a big powerful man and have a hard time fitting in the tiny theater aisles, but it doesn’t quite feel like I’m supposed to be hanging my feet over the chair in front of me.  Give me a place to lean back and put those up, and I’ll be golden.  

9. Finally, a vital question, and one that I think might have been asked before, but if it’s not, I’ll ask now: what’s your opinion of pineapple on pizza?

Pineapple, onion, and jalapeno is one of my favorite pizzas.  And you can skip the jalapenos if you’re not up for that.  Pineapple and onions go surprisingly well together on pizzas.  It’s like, the onions make them whole on there, and it’s absolutely delicious.  

Ok, that takes care of AK’s queries.  Now onto those of Red Metal.  He’s asked a lot of things in pairs, so we can go ahead and tackle them in pairs.  Because that’s how I roll.

  1. Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the least consistently reliable?
  2. Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the most consistently reliable?

Alright.  We’ve got a choice of three critic types here.  Pretty simple already.  But we can simplify it even more than that.  Because by this point, with the way I find, explore, and enjoy music, music critics may be reliable, may not be, and it doesn’t really matter, because they are utterly irrelevant to me.  I make a good living but am still thoughtful with my spending, and time is definitely at a premium, so most works I get interested in require an investment of some sort to find out if I’ll even like it in the first place; some sort of opportunity cost, where I spend that time and usually money on some work and not on something else I could be doing.  So it’s helpful to get some opinions on it prior to making that investment, to vet how I’ll be spending those resources.  Music though, is generally such a passive mode of experience that I can just listen to it while I’m working or doing something else (like writing this blog post!) and I can listen to practically anything I’d like to on Spotify or Youtube or something, so unless I’m heading to a concert it really takes almost no resource investment to pick it up.  So if I’m interested in something, I can just check it out and see what I think myself.  I don’t need critics to tell me what’s good there, because most of it is available to me, and if something catches my attention I can check it out better than reading their opinions.  

So that just leaves it between Film/TV critics and Video Game critics.  There, I’d say the VG critics do a lot better than the film buffs.  Although even at that, they may not necessarily hit a high bar.  Individual tastes being individual, any review from anybody isn’t necessarily going to resonate with what I enjoy and the way I enjoy it, but even beyond that, it seems critics in general analyze and rate things in a very different way than I enjoy them.  I’m more or less interested in certain things than critics seem to be, and seem to look at the totality of a work in a very different way.  But yeah, I dig video game reviews more than I do film and television.  And you can see it all around award season.  Whatever video game awards or top ten lists you look at, there’ll usually be a bunch on there that I’ll end up thinking, ‘yeah, I’d totally like to check that out’.  For film awards?  I’ll usually be interested in like one of the nominees at most.  

They need to start giving Godzilla some Academy Awards.  That’ll line things up with my tastes a lot better.

3. What was your single worst theatergoing experience?

4. What was your single best theatergoing experience?

My worst was going for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  I quite enjoyed the first Transformers film, and my ladyfriend at the time absolutely loved it.  So the sequel came out, and she got me and another friend together on opening day, rushing to our local theatre as soon as we could.  And it was sold out.  So we went again the next day.  Sold out again.  And then the third.  Sold out once more.  So we looked into the theatre in the neighboring town, and they had another showing starting soon.  So we trekked out there that night, getting in after the film had already started and buying the last three tickets they had.  Theatre was packed, it was too late for us to get refreshments, we were surrounded by children and adult children who wouldn’t shut up, it was sweaty and smelly and hot…. and the movie was dog awful.  Just completely and utterly bad.  I could not stop myself from groaning at several points during it.  I had so much anticipation after just barely getting in to see it on the third day, and it really did not live up to it.  

My best theatergoing experience had me going with another ladyfriend I rarely got to see in person, watching some forgettable rom-com in a very fancy theatre with really nice seats, having the theater to ourselves and getting rather close and personal with each other.  And that’s as far as I’ll go on that description.  I don’t kiss and tell.

5. Do you think a lousy ending can completely ruin an otherwise great work?

Yep.  Although as in the answer to AK’s question on the subject, it depends on a lot of things.  If the work is truly great otherwise, I’d think it’d still be worthwhile, although it’d definitely be held back from hitting its heights by the ending.  But a lot depends on why the ending is bad and how much the content of the work stands apart from it.  In the example above, Avengers Academy, which was good, got tied up too much with its endgame in Avengers Arena, which was bad.  However, Mass Effect had enough going on that although its ending still made me cringe and I rolled my eyes going through it coming across the plot points I knew would lead to dumb developments, it still had enough substance that wasn’t tied to the ending in my mind that I could have a fun time with it overall.  

6. Do you think an incredible payoff can redeem an otherwise middling (or even bad) work?

Sort of?  It’s not going to make a bad work good, but it might make a bad work worthwhile.  Same for a middling one.  Like, it could make it to where I’d willingly go through it again, but I can’t recall such a work that’s been uplifted by a good ending the way a good work gets downgraded by a bad one.  A good work can be made great by an incredible payoff.  I don’t think a mediocre work can be made good by one, though.  Although it can be made much more interesting.  Which I suppose is a way of making it good, so maybe I’m wrong earlier.  It’s a lot rarer than having a good work turn bad, however.  War, the 2007 Jet Li and Jason Statham film, did pull it off in my view.  It spent most of its runtime being an action movie of somewhat less quality than you’d expect given the two leads’ pedigrees, but has a twist at the end that turns it all on its head, and I know that’s driven a few late night rewatches for me.  

7. Do you feel the price increase of AAA games was justifiable or not?

Oh yeah.  It’s been a long time coming.  I’m not going to say the price increase is a good or bad thing, but its definitely justifiable.  I remember, when I was a cub, my mom taking me to the video game store at the mall then getting into a conversation with a cell phone salesman outside the store-front about the new consoles, who went on a long spiel about how he was going for the Playstation instead of the Nintendo 64 “Because that’s why they call it the N64, all the games cost 64 dollars!”  That was when I was a kid.  I’m a man now.  I have the big muscles and the amazing hair and the financial stability and everything.  It’s astonishing games have retained that price point for so long.  And heck, I wrote about it way back in 2013, when this blog was just a baby thing, on how ridiculous it was that game budgets have been going up to the point where they could sell millions of units and still fail to break even, and how unsustainable that was.  Either games scale back, which by the nature of competition is extremely unlikely to happen unless the audience just completely blows out, developers go for some extreme measures to produce material within a reachable development budget, which they’ve been doing and it’s been horrible for the people involved and it has a limit on how far they can go with it anyways, or the price just has to go up to keep things feasible.  The price increase was not only justifiable, it was inevitable.  Anyone with even a basic understanding of how economies work could tell you that.

8. What work did you like as a kid only for you to realize it doesn’t hold up at all?

9. What work did you not like as a kid only for you to later realize it’s amazingly good?

For the thing I liked as a kid only for it to not hold up at all, Super Mario Bros. 2.  Was one of my most played games as a child.  As an adult, I can’t stand it.  It’s just not a good platformer.  It doesn’t control well, the levels and bosses are poorly designed, and it has a lot of irritating and gotcha-style gameplay features.  Not a good time.

As for what I didn’t like as a kid only to really enjoy later, that’d be the Star Wars trilogy.  As a small child, my parents got with some family friends and decided it was going to be a Star Wars weekend.  They were really digging it.  Three days, one movie each day.  They had me sit through all of them, and I remember being incredibly bored with all of it.  It just didn’t capture me at all.  Then, years later, I moved to a different school.  All the friend group I had there was super into Star Wars, so I gave it another try.  And wound up quite enjoying it.  Enough that I got super into the expanded universe as well.  I was that type of nerd.  At least until Disney started ruining it all.  That’s right, I stuck with it through the prequels.  But I couldn’t handle the Disney films.

10. Are there any podcasts you listen to regularly?

Well, I’m not really much into podcasts, so ‘Regularly’ is a stretch here.  I mostly only listen to podcasts when I’m painting or drawing, which I only get the time to do once in a while.  When I do, The Tablo Podcast is what I typically go for.  It’s hosted by rapper Tablo of group Epik High, and is in the music category, but is barely about music at all.  Really, it’s about whatever’s on Tablo’s mind, usually Marvel movies or whatever’s going on in pop culture or life or bashing/being bashed by his manager and frequent co-host, but Tablo’s really entertaining and low-key so I really enjoy it.  It’s on hiatus now, so be prepared to go archive diving rather than getting the hottest freshness, but if you’re cool with listening back through time, it’s pretty solid.  I’ll also occasionally listen to Tama’s Island, because as you may know, I’m a huge New Japan Pro Wrestling nerd and I think that’s the only English-language podcast by one of their wrestlers, and is really interesting in its own right if you’re into getting a glimpse into wrestling’s backstage, but I feel that it’s probably more of a niche interest.  

11. Taking cues from AK’s last question, what is the most bizarre combination of ingredients you enjoy?

Probably pineapple onion pizza.  Seriously, who would think to put all those things together?

Give it a try, though.  You’ll love it.  I swear.

5 responses to “Double Sunshine

  1. Thank you for the mention! I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying my rambling. I tend to write whatever I feel like so I’m never sure if it’s going to stick or resonate with anyone!

    That Transformers incidents sounds horrendous but if, it’s any solace, you got a good story out of it… I really miss the cinema. They’ve recently opened again where I am but nothing has caught my eye yet. I can’t believe the last thing I watched was Parasite last year – it was great though!

    • As long as you keep writing well and picking up interesting things, as you have been, I’ll be happy to keep enjoying your rambling. You’re putting up some great content, there.

      I missed the cinema too, but didn’t really realize it until things started opening up again. I rarely ever watched movies, let alone went to the theatre, pre-pandemic, but I went twice in the first month things started opening up again now. Guess it grew into an ache. But yeah, the pandemic hasn’t been kind to the film industry, and from what I’ve heard, the quality of recent releases have been dropping because of it. Eventually, I’m sure something good and up your alley will come out, so you’ll get the chance then.

      • Yes, the lockdown really made me appreciate certain things I probably took for granted! Hopefully I’ll find something soon or I’ll just go anyway for the experience.

  2. Personally, I find that music critics tend to be the most reliable of those three sets because their consensuses have never led me to purchase an album that is flat-out bad like the other two sets. At worst, their suggestions were of average quality. I think it’s because it’s the only medium in which confirmation bias doesn’t really get you far; being with it can get you some of the way there, but at the end of the day, you have to be good at playing your instruments to have any shot of getting the critics’ attention. Along those lines, I’d say music critics also win because they’re the only set of critics who constantly demand innovation whereas film critics (and, to a slightly lesser extent, game critics) fell a little too comfortably into patterns and got complacent as a result.

    That being said, I do find that game critics are slightly more reliable than film critics. They don’t have the same passion for their own medium cinephiles do, but they do know somewhat what makes a good game whereas film critics are liable to ignore serious flaws as long as they hear their beliefs echoed back at them. That being said, if it’s one thing that film critics do I wish game critics did, it’s support the indie scene. That is one of the very few things I admire about film critics – their willingness to promote new talent (even if said new talent isn’t doing anything interesting). Gaming critics, on the other hand, are a little too close to publishers, which means indie game developers have to go the extra mile just to get the critics’ attention. And even then, they have to deal with the fact that gaming critics don’t let them compete on an even playing field with AAA productions. While their consensuses are somewhat reliable, I feel game critics are going to have to seriously reinvent themselves if they’re to remain relevant.

    That is way too much effort put forth in order to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Reminds me of the trouble I went through to see The Last Jedi on opening weekend. Strangely enough, though, where I am, the hipster indie films such as Eighth Grade and Midsommer tend to draw more obnoxious audiences than the big-budget blockbusters. What they lack in size, they make up for with the inability to stay quiet. Conversely, my Endgame audience was a lot of fun, staying quiet when they needed to be and laughing/cheering at things that actually elicited such reactions.

    A weak ending won’t always completely ruin a work for me, but if it’s severe enough, you can expect me to hand out a penalty. The Star Wars sequel trilogy was so bad that I ended up having to penalize all three films. As it is, all three films now have failing grades. By the end, it really wasn’t a trilogy anymore seeing as how they completely failed to build off of each other. And then there were countless plot threads that didn’t go anywhere or were resolved very unsatisfactorily, making even the least bad entry, The Force Awakens, an impossible sell. If you skipped out on the ninth film, I don’t blame you.

    As you know, I have an entire set of rules for when a work has a bad ending, but I find I’m actually just as tough on middling/bad works that have great third acts (if not, more so); they’re just not explicitly penalized. I think you’re right in how an incredible work can make a good work great, but not a mediocre one good. Live a Live is one of the very few examples I can think of in which an otherwise below-average experience filled to the brim with bad game design choices was made worthwhile with its final act.

    • Yeah? Well, I suppose maybe I should be giving the music critics a bit more credit then. And maybe a little attention. It is true that I’ve sometimes turned on to something after hearing it has great critical acclaim. Like, I’d know Kanye West mostly for his personality flaws, buffoonery, and that one good song that was in Saints Row 3, were it not for the critical acclaim he had. I would have written him off like so many other overhyped clowns were it not for that, but the disconnect between my perception of him and the critical ratings he was getting led me to check out his music, which is honestly pretty good, overall. So yeah, they should get some credit there.

      Yeah, it does seem, at least on the outside, because I don’t pay a lot of attention to film critics either, but it does seem that film critics have a bit more of a boundary between themselves and the creators than do games critics. Game reviewers tend to also be game journalists, which requires they maintain good relations with the companies putting out those games, so there’s a bit of a conflict of interest there. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s quite the same situation with film critics. They just tend to go for completely different things than I do, and yeah, like you mentioned, of late they’ve been really preferential towards things that check their boxes no matter how sensible of a statement they make with them.

      You know, I did skip out on The Force Awakens. After all of the Last Jedi, but especially the ending there, which was full of a lot of “Wait, whyyyyyyyy?” for me, I just absolutely had no interest in continuing on with what they had to offer. Things just happened. Without making sense. The film was awful in the first place, but that final act just capped off my complete lack of interest in the piece.

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