** NOTE: During the time of writing the SNES Classic had yet to be announced, and as such Nenedamus was still awesome and ahead of the game **
Nostalgia is wasted on the young. So many things in gaming these days are sequels, or updates, or HD special editions, or whatever the hell most companies feel like repackaging to sell to the old folks like me. And thankfully for something refreshing from that formula, the NES Classic was released – a mini console that thanks to today’s technology was able to pack 30 classic games from Nintendo’s 8-bit era into one convenient unit. It opened for $59.99 and it sounded pretty good at the time. Classic Nintendo IP like the Mario and Zelda series along with Metroid were now plug and play, with many other popular titles rounding out the 30.
And those positive vibes lasted for roughly 38 seconds.
There was absolutely no way in the infinite 8-bit hells that this price was going to remain steady. Just like all other re-issued nostalgia it was going to be bought in bulk, stocked out, and sold to gouge the highest bidders for profit. I saw the device go as high as $600 on eBay (a 1000% price hike for those playing along at home) and people jumping at the opportunity to have one. 1.5 million units were sold in just a couple months on the market. Which turned out to be… well, all of them.
So now we come to the recent development in the NES Classic saga. Recently Nintendo, without any warning or heads up, stopped production on the mini console a couple weeks ago. They have since announced that they would cease production in not only the North American region but in Japan and Europe as well. What happened next, though, surprised the hell out of Old Man Nene though for such a simple thing – the gaming community, at least what I’ve seen on social media, lost its damn mind. But it didn’t make any sense to me. Most kid gamers my age still have our NES and games intact. Younger gamers have online emulators and ROMS. Why was this such a big thing in the gaming community that I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about? What was the draw? Well kids, to all you Aging Gamer faithful that listen to Old Man Nene in his rocking chair tell you how it used to be – I can only offer the immortal words of DJ Khaled:
Congratulations. You played yourself.
It’s basic economics and mindshare. Firstly, Nintendo never meant for this to be an ongoing product – why would they when the Switch was just around the corner? This was always going to be special edition and never a permanent offering. The number of units manufactured was set to reflect that. Look at any supply and demand scenario – the second the “super rare” tag gets slapped on an item the price spikes like a rocket, and people are willing to pay more for a scarce product. What Nintendo did was create an artificial demand and gamers responded precisely the way they were supposed to.
It’s like some small restaurants that have lines for blocks leading to their front door. Sure it’ll draw more people and generate more demand, but they don’t tell you that there’s only 10 seats inside and that’s what causing the line.
[Side note: that was an angry morning in Philadelphia for Old Man Nene. I just wanted some pancakes.]
Secondly, they created an environment where gamers would have Nintendo control every free thought in their brains for the foreseeable future. The NES Classic dropped in November 2016. The Switch hit shelves four months later in March 2017. Look at the timing of those events, including the NES Classic price gouge in the middle. This is not a coincidence. It could be argued that hands clamoring for the NES Classic could ultimately lead to a Switch sale. Bummed that the NES Classic is done for? That 8-bit longing, along with murky rumors about a virtual console on the Switch, could be enough mind control to have gamers shelling out fistfuls of cash in the future for games they bought already via the NES Classic. I mean it’s not really that far a stretch… I’m sure there’s a bunch of Square-Enix fans that have 7 different versions and releases of Final Fantasy IV.
In the end, my prediction is this: The NES Classic is dead, but I can see a SNES Classic in the not too distant future.
So go ahead and be mad that you couldn’t get an NES Classic. Celebrate and rejoice if you managed to snag one. But remember this kids – in the end we’re all just logic boards in the gaming machine.
[And while I cannot condone a workaround that theoretically involves easily constructing a Raspberry Pi powered RetroPie DIY unit, legend has it (seriously you guys) would only take an hour to get together, be ultra cheap and allow you to play your old 8 and 16 bit games. I can also neither confirm nor deny such things exists.]
In the coming months, DC Comics will be releasing a slate of comic books featuring the reimagining of some of the most iconic cartoons characters ever, including Scooby Doo and Flintstones. As a preview to this, a few of this month’s Annual issues feature crossovers and backup stories of a selection of Hanna-Barbera’s other characters. One of these crossovers takes the Suicide Squad, a team of villains put to good use in a government wetworks program, and pairs them with the Banana Splits, a group of rock-n-rolling anthropomorphic animals from a show that aired in the late 1960s.
Full disclosure: I never watched the Banana Splits. It was way before my time. The only reason I even know about it is from the Liz Phair cover of “The Tra La La Song” on the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits soundtrack. But that song is so ingrained in my psyche that when I saw the Banana Splits were featured alongside the Suicide Squad, I needed to pick the issue up.
The story opens with the Banana Splits getting chased by the police for a relatively minor traffic infraction. Through a misunderstanding, they’re arrested and sent to Belle Reve where they catch the eye of Amanda Waller, who just happens to be looking for a team of patsies to back up the Suicide Squad on a mission that has gone south. The two teams meet and, as expected, high jinks ensue as they join forces and take care of an unimportant plot point.
Written by Tony Bedard, the issue was not nearly as fun as I wanted it to be. Though most of DC’s readership likely has no idea who the Banana Splits even are, Bedard solves this problem by making a quick introduction of the characters by the second page, then immediately cracking a joke about how no one remembers them anyway. Unfortunately, that’s one of the few jokes that hits. Much of the issue is devoted to half-hearted humor and easy one-liners. The opening sequence is meant to be played for laughs, with the police mistaking Fleegle’s wallet for a weapon and immediately opening fire. Given how often stories like these flood the news waves, it’s actually surprising that this was meant to be funny but, well, here you go.
Even the tone of the book vacillates from page to page. Suicide Squad is, in general, full of mindless, action packed stories. Banana Splits, on the other hand, is mostly family friendly slapstick humor. Bedard manages to jam both of these tones into the story but they are often at odds with each other. The animals come off as gentle and easy going but two pages later are brawling in the middle of a prison riot. The sudden switch in characterization is jarring and the only way it works is just to shrug it off and go with it.
The art team, consisting of Ben Caldwell on pencils, Mark Morales on inks and Jeremy Lawson doing colors, manages to hold the story together though it’s not the most eye-catching display. The progression is easy to follow and Caldwell varies his angles to keep the pacing interesting, however, there is very little of note throughout the book. The colors are flat, panels and characters lack detail, and most everything is presented without subtext. Though I do have to say that I enjoyed many of the facial expressions Caldwell gives to the Banana Splits gang; not only did it seem difficult to give these animals humanistic expressions and make them feel natural, but they actually happened to be the funniest part of the book.
In addition to the main story, the book features an 8-page back-up starring Snagglepuss, another classic Hanna Barbera character that doesn’t have much of a millennial fanbase. This short was written by Mark Russell and imagines Snagglepuss in the center of the House Committee Un-American Activities during the 1950s. ‘Puss is a flamboyant playwright and he’s being questioned on what’s deemed his less-than-savory attitudes. Most of his dialogue is snarky and capitalizes on the literal interpretation of questions he’s asked, something that those who’ve seen a Snagglepuss cartoon would expect. But the story takes a swerve and settles into a social commentary on the importance of writers and how they’re perceived by society.
The art of the Snagglepuss story is just as clever as the writing. Howard Porter’s pencils are sharp and full of life, providing rich detail to his characters and environments. His panel layouts tend to get a little confusing, especially when he varies the angles to such a degree that it’s difficult to get a take on the scene, but given that almost half of the tale is set in a courtroom, this was likely intentional to keep things from getting boring.
Steve Buccellato’s colors are just as deep. Despite Snagglepuss being a large, pink cat, Buccellato approaches the character in such a way that his appearance in front of a bunch of business-suited men doesn’t come off as ludicrous. Luckily, Buccellato was smart enough to understand that the satire is evident in the concept of the story and bright, outlandish colors would have subverted it.
Overall, I do give credit to DC Comics for dusting off an old franchise like Banana Splits and introducing it to modern audiences. And while pairing them with the Suicide Squad was a bold move, it isn’t one that worked out too well. Instead of a one-off story in an annual issue, I would have prefer to see them in a mini-series of their own, to allow the writer room to expand on the characters and round them out a little more. At the very least, it may have been prudent to put the title into the hands of a different writer, one that’s less willing to turn a troubling social issue into a joke.
The Snagglepuss story is a prelude to a full series coming in the fall and is the most enjoyable part of this particular comic book.
Grade (Backup story): A-
Spring just arrived recently and winter has finally come to a close. So far in 2017 we’ve already seen quite a few great releases, the most recent being the Legend of Zelda machine, the Nintendo Switch, and the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda. As much as I’ve enjoyed Nintendo’s past offerings and felt the nostalgic pull of Zelda and since I’ve never actually played a Mass Effect game, they just weren’t on my list of upcoming things I’m looking forward to. However, on my list are other games, tech, events, and some are just random nerdiness.
In no real particular order, as they say, let’s get some 2017 HYPE!!
I love me a good piece of tech. Who doesn’t really? In my tech arsenal, among other things, I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop PC. My smartphone I use all the time and my PC handles everything my smartphone can’t. The tablet and laptop though, I find gather quite a bit of dust. The tablet I only bring out when there’s an app that I would just like on a little bigger screen than my smartphone, and the laptop only when my main PC is down and I still need to perform desktop-like tasks. Those times are far and few between and every time I turn them on they have hundreds of updates waiting.
This is where the Sentio Superbook comes in. Using an Android app that turns the Android OS more desktop-friendly, the Superbook is essentially a laptop shell that uses your smartphone for the processing power. According to the Kickstarter, the Superbook “provides a large screen, keyboard and multi-touch trackpad, 8+ hours of battery, and phone charging capabilities”. Always up to date, and never falls behind your Android’s tech. This I can see completely replacing my tablet, fitting usefully between my phone and desktop.
Release: Pushed back from February until June for initial Kickstarter orders.
Fun fact: I’m an original card-carrying member of the MST3K fan club. I remember having Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, eating myself silly, and then relaxing watching the Turkey Day marathon. I didn’t have cable growing up, which is how I’m easily able to live without cable today, but MST3K was a treat. When they announced they were Kickstarting a new season, I legit threw money at my screen. Got myself the t-shirt to match my older MST3K t-shirt, a couple nice prints, a keychain (I think… don’t tell me I’ve already lost it…), and the satisfaction that I’ll be able to watch brand new episodes. To answer your burning question, I think Joel was better than Mike. Fight me.
Release: April 14th, 2017! So close I can taste the movie sign.
I’d like to think that when I game on PC, the games I play are complex and deep. However, I’ve never wanted that complexity on my phone. For mobile gaming I like keeping it light and in small increments, hence why the Switch was never a draw. Cook, Serve, Delicious is quite possibly one of the best mobile games I have ever played. It’s light, tricky, takes a bit of skill, never felt like the phone hardware ever got in the way, and had entertaining graphics to match. You don’t have to play it on mobile, you can play it on other systems, but it shines on mobile. So when they announced CSD 2 at the end of 2016, I was giddy. Giddy.
Release: “Available on Steam and PS4 in 2017“. Not specific, and no mention of mobile, but their alpha trailer was released in Dec 2016, so hopefully soon.
CBS announced in November 2015 that following the 50th anniversary of the original series of Star Trek, and 12 years after the last official Star Trek: Enterprise episode aired, they would be opening a new chapter in the Star Trek Prime universe. Yes, the Kelvin timeline exists, and while I personally really enjoyed Beyond and what the reboot has brought to the series, it’s no Prime Universe goodness.
Set 10 years before Captain Kirk started his famous 5 year mission, they’ve announced the main protagonist will be Lieutenant Commander Rainsford, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, and referenced in the show as “Number One”. Star Trek: Discovery will revolve around the USS Discovery, although they’ve announced casting decisions for a second ship, the Shenzhou, and a number of Klingons. This, and other rumors, hints that the plot may revolve around the Klingon-Federation scrap-up at Donatu V, mentioned in the episode The Trouble with Tribbles which led to a Cold War between the two factions.
The show will initially air in the US on CBS, after with episodes airing on CBS All-Access shortly after. Outside of the US, episodes will air on Netflix. I personally don’t care how they air it, I’m just psyched for new Star Trek!
Release: As of this writing, it appears to have been pushed back until late summer/early fall, with possibilities of being pushed back further. Blech.
If you haven’t yet played Life Is Strange by DontNod Entertainment, by god what are you waiting for?! Go play one of the most fresh and stunning games you’ve ever played! If you have played it, then you probably understand why Vampyr, another game in production by DontNod Entertainment, has me so excited. Action-oriented with a sort of Assassin’s Creed meets the episodic genre vibe, set in 1918 London? Sign me up. I don’t play brand new games often, but with this setting and story potential, I’ll play.
Release: This site is suggesting Q4 2017, maybe just in time for Halloween?
I’m a Disney World nerd. What can I say, I’ve visited the parks quite a few times and each time have had some amazing experiences. Nothing beats having fun all day with family and friends, seeing all the sights, riding the rides, and sitting down for one of the best meals you’ve ever had in your life. Cap it all off with a phenomenal show and fireworks every night you’re there! I wasn’t so much a fan before I met my wife, but now that she has shown me what I was missing, I’m a big fan.
So when Disney makes changes to their parks, which happens all the time, it just makes me excited for the next time that we’ll visit. At this point, it may be a few years before the next trip, but by then hopefully the big EPCOT changes announced at the D23 Expo last November will have come to fruition. When the Chairman, Bob Chapek, tells the Imagineers to “dream big” and to expect a “major transformation,” I’ll lap up any news like I’m dying of thirst. I mean, shoot, they’re adding hanging gondolas to their transportation roster. Gondolas! How cool is that?!
Release: Changes won’t happen for a few years, but hopefully we’ll hear what they will be at the next D23 Expo July 14th-16th 2017.
All the way back in May of 2013, one of computer gaming’s legends, Richard Garriott, started a Kickstarter campaign with his company Portalarium to bring back a “spiritual successor” to one of the most influential game series of all time, Ultima, called Shroud of the Avatar. Since I’m a huge fan of the Ultima games to this day, I backed it to a non-ridiculous degree. To say that it’s been a long journey since the Kickstarter launch is quite an understatement. Like most Kickstarted projects, the feature creep has been quite extreme, to the point that the game still hasn’t been completed yet in full. Posing primarily as an MMO, the features they want to add are story mode with content delivered in episodes, written by Garriott and Tracy Hickman, a single player offline mode, different multiplayer modes, a vast classless character system, PvP, player housing, a crafting-based economy, full guild systems, player owned towns, and all the other accoutrements one would expect with MMOs these days.
As of right now, Shroud of the Avatar is still in a beta state and they stopped issuing character wipes in July of 2016, but still has not officially “launched.” I’m not one to play incomplete games though, so if they don’t consider the first big chapter complete yet, I have no issues waiting. I’ll finally jump in once they start officially calling it “launched.”
Release: 2017, or so the FAQ says.
Near the end of last year, I took the plunge into home automation and bought a Google Home while it was on sale. To say the least, my wife and I have been enjoying it quite thoroughly. I quickly discovered that home automation is a deep rabbit hole, with Google Home itself being the gateway drug. It started with one Google Home, then a second, and then a Chromecast Audio to sync all of the speakers together to form a whole-house audio system. A Philips Hue starter kit later and we had voice-controllable lights. Ten more bulbs later and we rarely touch our lightswitches anymore.
We bought it early on in its development because we expected more functionality to come, and so far they haven’t disappointed. More, though… we want more.
Release: Ongoing, since Google Home has already been released in 2016.
If you’ve never heard of the quirky podcast Welcome to Night Vale, you are sorely missing out. Based around the community radio station of a fictional, and quite strange, desert town located somewhere in the southwestern US, Welcome to Night Vale has been chronicling the town’s oft-bizarre happenings since June of 2012.
In 2015, WTNV’s creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor released their first novel, Welcome to Night Vale, based on the town. More heartfelt and personal than I was expecting, I enjoyed it, so I was excited when during the episode “After 3327,” they announced a second novel! Finally, around mid-March they announced the title and a release date of October 17th, 2017.
Finally, the last thing I’m excited about for 2017 is the “relaunch” of the MMO The Secret World, a personal favorite game of mine. The news of Funcom’s plans to relaunch it’s 5-year-old title came as a bit of a surprise, having been “announced” on Funcom’s 4th Quarter 2016 financial reports. Boasting changes from a redesigned new player experience, a “major improvement” to gameplay and combat, new player retention systems, and changes to the game’s business model, a lot of players are simultaneously nervous and excited for the upcoming changes. Funcom’s community team has been silent on the subject, focusing first on PAX East and Conan Exiles before making any big announcements about The Secret World.
Release: We’ll most likely hear more about the relaunch by the end of March, and see some changes before the end of June.
If a tree falls in a forest, and a mythological gigantic ape picks it up to use it as a weapon, does it make a sound? Yes, that sound is me in the theater audibly uttering “wow” through a giddy smile. This is the true test Kong: Skull Island has to pass or fail. Could it not only entertain but “wow” audiences with its spectacle? Fortunately, it unquestionably amazes with its stunningly-crafted CG and scale, but it’s at the expense of smooth dialogue and strong characters.
In the latest Kong retelling, the story is as thin as you’d expect, since the emphasis is on the origins of these monsters. As the Vietnam war comes to an end, a group of determined scientists implores the government to send a military escort with them to an undiscovered island. Along the way, said scientists hire a tracker (Tom Hiddleston). Separately, a photographer tags along (Brie Larson). The plot broken down in a sentence is essentially “some dummies go to Kong’s island to study things.” I’m never a fan of being reductive, but a film isn’t supposed to make it so easy to do. Regardless, I suppose that’s not why we eagerly watch these types of popcorn blockbusters.
Commendably, Warner Bros. Pictures employs one of the strongest ensemble casts you’ll see in a movie all year. Hiddleston, recent Oscar winner Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, and Jing Tian star, to name a few. The film also features a Straight Outta Compton reunion with cast members Jason Mitchell (Easy E) and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre). The casting aspect alone held so much promise on paper, but this potential felt largely squandered.
Sam Jackson and John C. Reilly are clearly taking liberties and enjoying it in their respective roles, but everyone else is strikingly forgettable. There’s attempted interplay between a couple of the marines that ultimately falls flat. Heavy-hitting actors Hiddleston and Larson are simply present to be a conduit of plot details for us, the audience. Most of what they do while on camera is react with the best surprised expression they can muster. Sure, the two have distinct occupations but it’s merely an excuse to carry them into this dangerous adventure. Not to mention, Hiddleston’s James Conrad did very little tracking at all. As far as definitive personality traits, I didn’t notice any from Hiddleston, Larson, or the many other expendable individuals.
As I touched on, Reilly and Jackson are a blast to watch as they chew up their scenery. Whether improvised or purposefully written, the jokes never seem to land pre-Reilly. Like he does in his prior comedic work, he has a natural delivery and general presence that inspires laughter. Jackson as Colonel Packard recited some insane lines in the vein of a cheesy ’90s action villain with such hilarious conviction. The duo was nothing short of a joy to see perform.
We have to praise the real star of the show: Kong. Everything about him in Skull Island exceeded my expectations. If your primary complaint of 2014’s Godzilla was “where’d that enlarged lizard thing go?,” prepare to be satisfied. Kong appears in the first 3 minutes, and they don’t hold back as a means to build tension (which I personally appreciated in the latest Godzilla effort). At times, he’s spotted merely walking around the island, and every frame he occupies feels majestic. Terry Notary put forth a tremendous motion-capture effort that added a surprising amount of nuanced personality to the familiar beast. More than that, Kong is written with a layer of ingenuity. In his several oversized-creature battles, he uses his surroundings and tools he might spot at random to their full potential to aid him in bringing down his enemies. Kong himself should satisfy the majority of moviegoers.
Another facet I appreciated from the picture was director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ work behind the camera. There are plenty of carefully constructed frames with a remarkable colorful concoctions. After the movie rushes past certain crudely-written scenes with one-dimensional supporting characters, Vogt-Roberts squeezes in intricately vibrant set pieces. Whether it’s a fast-paced action sequence involving an abundance of fire or Kong purely looking at a sunrise, he shows off his knack for capturing the beautiful production design in a visually-palpable way. Unfortunately, he’s not given many opportunities to display these skills on more than a couple occasions.
I may have levied quite a few criticisms against this flick. Nevertheless, a visit to the theater to see Kong: Skull Island on the silver screen is a good investment. If you expected occasional astounding visuals and fantastic monster fights, then Skull Island will distribute that in spades. Anticipating tangible character development and dialogue that doesn’t make you cringe is simply too much to ask. While we always prefer a satisfying mixture of both, Kong is still an enjoyable (literal) giant blockbuster. Also, don’t forget to remain seated for a post-credits tease. You’ll start to see how the larger Warner Bros. MonsterVerse starts to connect, and it’s very exciting.
Well, it’s that time again. It’s almost March and I haven’t written an article for this month yet. Better go over another short selection of things I hate.
Every year. Every year, without fail, I have to sit through posts on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc. all rallying around the idea that somehow, this year was the worst year of all time. “Okay no I know I say this every year. But this time for real, 2016 was the WORST. Fuck you, 2016!”
NO, FUCK YOU BRADLEY. 2016 is an artifical construct, a useful unit by which we can tell how much time has passed. It’s as arbitrary and meaningless as your corduroy jacket with the elbow patches you call your professor jacket, you irrelevant moron.
It’s not original, it’s not funny, it’s not even a good rallying cry because guess what? You’re going to say the exact same thing 12 months from now! We’re two months into 2017 and I could write an actual, full fledged, not well received novel about the horrible events from this year, but nowhere do you see “Fuck 2017!” Nah, gotta wait until you have to throw away the Thanksgiving leftovers and wrap a present for your estranged cousin who just showed back up in the family after being in a cult and we all have to pretend it’s okay. Some strange combination of holiday stress, the reminder of mortality, and the end of a time period makes people look back on that time and think “you know what, so many bad things happened this year. There’s no WAY next year will be as bad. In fact, you know what…”
“This year’s gonna be my year!”
Is it? No really, is it though? If it’s your year, how’s it gonna be my year?
Listen. Bradley. My dude. The weird importance you place on arbitrary time markers is understandable, but ultimately as useless as your “fine dining for cats” start up idea. If you didn’t make last year your year, why did you wait until it was over to try again?
And this shouldn’t be taken to discourage anyone from trying to better themselves. If you really needed something as dumb as New Year’s Eve to start losing weight, writing your novel, or quitting smoking then lemme be your Dick Clark cause I got balls to drop.
I’m just saying keep trying all the time. Go after your goals with as much fervor today as tomorrow as next week as summer as December all the way until you die. Don’t wait to go get what you want, and don’t blame the year if it doesn’t go right.
When someone disagrees with you and ends a sentence in “right?”
Me: “I don’t know man, I just didn’t like Majora’s Mask that much. It was fine, but kind of stagnant in places and the pacing was awkward.”
Them: “I mean…it had the best story, right?”
Internal me: You manipulative motherf-NO. THAT’S WHY WE’RE ARGUING.
External me: “….YOU MANIPULATI-”
If we’re in a debate about something, the purpose of which is to leave the other party with more understanding of your position and views and maybe even to convince them, the absolute WORST way you can come at me is with some “X is true though, right?” nonsense. If I thought X were true, why in Master Splinter’s name would I be actively providing evidence that it’s not?
What are you even doing? Are you trying to duck season, wabbit season my ass into agreeing with you?
You can’t Zac Efron your way into a “well okay, I guess you’re right.”
I’m just tired of making a case for something and in the middle of it, have every point we’ve both made undermined by “…buuuuut I’m right though, right? Like what you’re saying it objectively wrong and I’m just right?”
Next time I hear a sentence ended by a “right” and a condescending tone, you’re gonna catch this right hand to yer gob I swear on me mum.