District 9 ReviewI’m just getting around to reviewing this 2009 Action Sci-Fi here in 2015. That’s probably worthy of an explanation, so I will attempt to share what happened.

I’d heard a lot about this movie, and I figured I should see it at some point. It wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities, but I knew I would eventually get around to it.

As it turns out, I’ve actually had the DVD in my possession for a couple of years now. To make a long story short, I traded an amplifier for a guitar. Then, I put the guitar up for sale. I found a buyer who wanted to give me a couple hundred dollars, plus several hundred DVDs in exchange for the guitar.

I knew that DVDs were beginning to lose their value, but the trade seemed fair, and I had no intention of hanging onto the guitar, so I agreed to the terms.

That’s how I wound up with a miscellany of several hundred DVDs, many of which I sold and gave away almost immediately. I wasn’t interested in watching every movie, and I could see that the previous owner wasn’t exactly a man of taste (there might be a reason why he was getting rid of those movies). Fortunately, I already had an Amazon seller account, so selling some of the titles proved relatively easy.

I suppose I could have held onto more strictly for the purpose of reviewing those movies, but even a reviewer like me – who has a history of talking about crappy movies – can only tolerate so much crap.

My timing was good in the sense that, had I waited no more than six months to a year from the time I sold my guitar, I probably couldn’t have sold those DVDs at all. Again, they have very little or no value now. People aren’t terribly interested in owning physical media, or even storing a large number of files on their computers anymore.

Do you like music? Great, you can stream it. Movies? You can stream them too. Most forms of entertainment are now headed that way.

My standpoint on physical and digital media is somewhere in between. I don’t necessarily see a reason to collect and hoard, but I don’t think physical goods are completely without merit either. For example, though I do own an eReader, I still like owning physical books.

Truthfully, I find that one isn’t really better than the other. Sure, you can store a lot more books on an eReader, so it’s a great storage device, but you can’t highlight and underline certain sections, write notes in the margins, and so on. You can’t make your book your book, if you know what I mean.

I’m not saying that eReaders don’t have superior functionality, and yes, you can “highlight” and take notes, but it’s not quite the same. I can’t very well open to the exact page I was reading and spontaneously show someone on an eReader. I can’t immediately go back to that page for reference if I want to.

While that is just one example of the differences between digital and physical media, my thoughts across the spectrum are essentially the same. They both have advantages and disadvantages to varying degrees.

Anyway, turning my attention back to the subject of this article, I finally got around to watching District 9 recently. I know it’s been out for a while (and it’s also been in my possession for a while), and I know that I’m definitely not the first to publish a review, but maybe that’ll actually help in this instance.

After all, I haven’t read any other reviews, nor have I really listened to what other people have said about this movie. I went into it with a relatively positive impression, but not so saturated and sponged in other people’s opinions that I might miss forming personal thoughts and impressions on the subject.

So let’s get into this review. First, I’m going to take some time to talk about the setup.

One Finger Death Punch Review
It’s rhythmic stick-death style fighting game.

This game uses only two buttons!

AS video reviews are back by popular and vehement demand! In this episode, AS Andrew and AS Gabefornow take a look at Silver Dollar GamesOne Finger Death Punch, which is super extreme!

Props to Gabefornow who edited this video. It’s not perfect, but don’t worry; we’re going to figure it out. Give us a little grace while we play with different formats.

Did Final Fantasy X’s Tidus really get his name from hepatitis?

Why are there so many levels in this game?

Find out (or not?) in the video below!

Ys I & II Chronicles
The visuals really sell this game.

I made mention of the fact that I played Ys I & II Chronicles last summer. I captured some video, made mental notes, and even gave considerable thought to how I wanted to review this game. However, I have been keeping busy, and I haven’t gotten around to putting it all together in a cohesive way.

But then a time comes when you simply say, just write the damn review.

So, here it is.

Overview

I still remember the commercial for Y’s III Wanderers from Ys. The game would be seeing a release on the Super Famicom system, and the commercial made it look so exciting that I wanted to go out and buy it on the spot.

But you know what being a kid is like. I’d have to save my allowance on order to purchase another game. Not only that, but it would just be one item on my ever growing list of games, comic books and sports equipment that I so desperately wanted to buy.

So I never got around to it. My family moved back to Canada in 1997, and though I’d never really forgotten about the game, I wasn’t able to obtain a copy before leaving Japan.

One day, something compelled me to check Steam for Ys. That’s when I found Ys I & II Chronicles and immediately decided to purchase it.

Having now played Chronicles, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Ys is the best RPG series ever conceived, but it definitely has its moments.

Action Mechanic

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the action mechanic at first. In order to fight enemies, you essentially need to bump into them at the right angle. If you don’t catch them at the right angle, you get hurt. Otherwise, they get damaged.

I was looking forward to playing a classic Action RPG for a change, so when I found out that the player really has very little control over the action. I was not thrilled.

However, over time, it grew on me a little. At times, it makes it all too easy to defeat an enemy, and at other times it makes it really hard. You have to approach combat with some care, because enemies that are stronger than you will take you out in a hurry.

Graphics

I & II are enhanced remakes of the original two games in the series. Even so, I love the vibrant colors, the cute sprites, the Anime style NPC dialogue screens, the map textures, and the overall smoothness and quickness of control and response.

Story

The story is really nothing out of the ordinary as far as RPGs go. Red-haired Adol Christian is tasked with finding the six Book of Ys in Ys I. He is transported to the floating civilization of Ys II, where he has to solve the secrets of the land and eradicate evil from Esteria.

When taken together, I & II do end up connecting in some interesting ways. However, it doesn’t feel as though there was a ton of forethought. In other words, it comes across a tad forced.

Gameplay

Frankly, it’s not that hard to lose track of where you’re going or what you’re supposed to be doing in Chronicles, especially in Ys I. Like some of the other early RPGs, they don’t exactly spell it out for you.

It’s also interesting that Adol is essentially the only playable character. RPGs often allow you to build a party, but I suppose it would be a little hard to have multiple party members, especially with the action mechanic being what it is.

Conclusion

Though I is enjoyable, II is where it really starts to get good. It’s a little sad that these RPGs are kind of trite; a better storyline would compliment the hard work that clearly went into the development of these games.

With that being said, I would still recommend Chronicles to those who have an affinity for Japanese RPGs. It’s not a complicated game, though it is a little mysterious at times. It’s also a bit of a study in how RPGs have evolved since.

AS Rating: [usr=6.5]

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Street Fighter II ReviewI still remember that one momentous day when I stepped into the recently opened video game store across the street. I must have been about eight or nine years old at the time, and Japan was my home.

I remember hanging out at the video game store every once in a while. I don’t necessarily remember a whole lot from those days, but I think I often went there just to check out the new titles and drool over them, knowing that the next time I would even get a new game was when a) I saved enough of my allowance, b) I had a birthday, or c) it was Christmas.

On this particular day, there was a new arcade machine located by the front door, and several local kids were gathered around it. Curious, I decided to check out what they were playing

Hadouken!

What in the world? I’d heard of Kamehameha, but I had no idea what a Hadouken was. It looked similar, and yet the Hadouken was more of a fireball than a continuous wave of energy like a Kamehameha.

I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at yet, but I was mesmerized. Though I was familiar with the fighting game genre to a degree (mostly Famicom games at the time), this one seemed to be in a class all its own.

Blanka. Chun-Li. Dhalsim. Honda. Guile. Ken. Ryu. Zangief. Stretching limbs? Flying sumo wrestlers? An electric jungle beast? Man, these characters are weird!

I think, to a degree, these impressions of wonder have stuck with me, like a cow at a new gate (I’m not calling myself dumb, just in case there’s any confusion).

I just hadn’t seen anything like Street Fighter II. The characters, the special attacks, the voices… Everything felt so… different.

Incidentally, I did end up blowing my allowance at this video game store, probably several times over. Not on the cartridges (that would have been smart), but on the arcade machine. I’m pretty sure I battled my friends and even financed their hopeless attempts at beating the resident champion. You know, that intimidating older guy that seems to have all the time and money in the world because he’s always at the machine just in case anyone dare challenge him. Yeah.

Later, after playing Street Fighter II on the Super Famicom at length, it became one of my favorite titles for the system, and even ended up inspiring some of my other favorite fighting games, like Garou Densetsu (you can imagine the impression Mai Shiranui left on my young impressionable mind) or Ryuuko no Ken (also known as Art of Fighting). God, Ryuuko no Ken. I really wish I had that game.

Anyway, regardless of console or iteration (Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II’: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II – The New Challengers, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Hyper Street Fighter II – The Anniversary Edition, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, etc.), this game is still worth playing. As you probably know, there have been many new titles since, but if you’d like to see where the series really started to gain some traction, check it out.

AS Rating: [usr=8.5]

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Super Mario Bros. 3 ReviewPower Button. Flash. A red curtain scrolls up. What looks to be cardboard cacti bolted onto some sort of stage set come into view followed by a moustachioed plumber and his younger brother–and they just…PICKED UP A TURTLE SHELL? WHOA! AND NOW HE HAS A RACCOON TAIL?! WHAT?! This is how Super Mario Bros 3. starts, continues, and finishes. Without any theme music or sounds, and without warning, it shows that it is not the same game as its predecessors, the passing familiarity only there to make you feel comfortable so it can surprise you, over and over again.

It may be entirely pointless to write a review for a game that no longer needs introduction, but with such fond memories of “Mario 3” as a child, I feel like this is more love letter than critique. If you’re looking to simply decide whether or not you should buy this game in one of its many available formats, I will summarize this hug-a-thon now in one word–yes.

Super Mario Bros. 3 MapWhen you finally pick your jaw up off the floor at the mini-cartoon you’ve just watched, and press start (coin noise!), the game shocks again. It’s a map. A map of Mario’s world! There are castles, and some weird spade thing, and there’s things… moving things on the map! Your desire to find out just what everything on the map is and what it does and where it goes is what drives you to move over from the START square you’re on, to the {1 square and press A.

So colourful. That was what I remember thinking when I first played World 1, Level 1 all those years ago. Immediately apparent to anyone whose previous experience with Mario are the first two Super Mario Bros. games, is that this game looks much prettier, and somehow also looks more fun. Still, you acclimate yourself to the controls and find they’re about the same so far as the first game, and so you begin to run and jump, controls as tight as ever, hitting that first question box, which is probably a mushroom! (mushroom grow noise!)

Mario’s new run is as peppy and jovial as his new, smiling face. You can’t help but grin along with him either as you hit that next ? block. Probably a coin right? Nope! Surprise! Touch that leaf! (poof noise!)

Super Mario Bros. 3 Hammer SuitSuper Mario Bros. 3 introduced the concept of multiple suits, a series staple even as of the latest entry on the Wii U. The suits offer different abilities, which allows players to tackle situations in a bunch of different ways. This first one, the Raccoon Suit, gives you a satisfying (thunk noise!) tail whip attack, but more importantly, gives you a new defensive strategy– run fast enough, and you can take off and fly. Suddenly those big gaps and scary piranha plants don’t seem so impossible anymore.

If you discover that Raccoon Mario can fly right away, another facet of this game comes to light– there’s a whole secret world of secret things right above your head! The game has a completely optional, but incredibly fulfilling focus on exploration, that, save for warp zones, wasn’t in the previous Mario games. In fact, assuming I haven’t got my wires crossed, very few NES action games up to this point felt so vast in scope, save for maybe Metroid. There are things to find in almost every level. Much like in its presentation and pacing, the level design of Super Mario Bros 3 is built on one word–surprise.

So this is a bit of a sidestep, but it’s worth mentioning a school yard memory here. Due to the game’s vast cache of secrets, this was a game where every kid who played it knew a kid three doors down whose cousin found “a secret turtle suit” or a “secret world 9”. But one story (stepping back into focus!) was true– the whistles.

There are three warp whistles in this game. Made in a time where there wasn’t an internet to consult, and all game tips and tricks came from very expensive (for a six year old) guide books, no one knows who first discovered the whistles. Nothing shows you how to get the whistles. Nothing. These three items are mythical and legendary until you accidentally stumble upon them, entirely by following your own impulses.

“Oh I feel like flying through this whole castle cause it’s faster and whoa!” “Ugh this hammer thing sucks because it doesn’t do anything and OH yeah it totally does!” This is Nintendo’s own brand of grassroots, learn-as-you-go gaming at its peak.

I would love to, and very much could, go into detail about all of the levels in this game. But there are 90 of them, and besides, why would I want to spoil everything in writing? Quickly however–every single world has its own distinct and exciting new theme. There’s the desert world with its crazy sun, the water world’s never ending map and frog suit, giant world with its colossal enemies, the sky world that is actually two worlds, a world of ice, a world of pipes, and a world of battleships and darkness. If you dreamed about a Mario game when you were a kid, these are your dreams come true.

This is Super Mario Brothers 3. Surprise!

AS Rating: [usr=10]

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