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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Posted on March 27th, 2020

Dave!I've played all of the Animal Crossing games in the main series... どうぶつの森 (Animal Forest) on the GameCube, Wild World on the Nintendo DS, City Folk on the Wii, New Leaf on the Nintendo DS, Pocket Camp on the iPhone, and now New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. For anybody not familiar with the series, it's essential a "life simulation" game where you live amongst animals and pass your time with activities like catching bugs and fish, digging up fossils, expanding and improving your house, and collecting clothing and furnishings to build a custom lifestyle. It's a relaxing way to spend time and forget about the world, and since the game progresses in real time, you're compelled to check in from time to time to see what's new.

The latest effort, New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch adds some important new ideas... while hampered by some really poor game-mechanics which have plagued the game since the beginning (with one notable exception, which I'll get to below). If I were rating it, I guess it would be four stars, maybe? I mean, I do enjoy it very much, but there are times it frustrates me so badly that I want to never play it again.

So let's discuss that, shall we?

This time, instead of moving into a forest (or city), you are dropped on a deserted island with the games business moguls... Tom Nook and his twin (sons? nephews?) employees Timmy and Tommy. The three of them are responsible for building and upgrading your home, selling you stuff, and pretty much run everything. All you have when you start is a tent, a simple bed, and a lantern... along with the clothes on your back. Fairly quickly Tom Nook will inform you that you no longer get the tools you need to survive... instead you have to collect tree branches and stones to craft your own. Like the bug net I made here...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time.

In short order you are informed that the "deserted island" will be getting two new inhabitants. For me this is a pink deer named "Fuchsia" and a body-building-obsessed ape named "Louie." Befriending them gets you advice and occasional gifts, which are much needed when you start the game.

One of the cool new features for New Horizons is the addition of the "Nook Phone." The phone has all kinds of nifty features. Like an app to catalogue all the fish and bugs you catch, your crafting recipes, and even a camera... which has surprising depth of field plus filter features for altering your images. It's a cooler way than a screen snapshot to record events on the island. Compare this image taken with the camera app compared to the screen-cap above...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time, but this time the background is gently blurred and it has some atmosphere to it.

Your early days will be spent collecting bugs, fish, seashells, weeds, flowers, and the like so you can sell them to Timmy and Tommy for "bells" which is the in-game currency. You need bells to pay off your loan for the tent so you can take out a new loan for a house. You also need them to buy stuff you might need for your home. You also need to collect branches, wood, rocks, weeds, and such for crafting tools, furniture, and accessories. Here you can see me sneaking up on a snail that crawled out when it started raining...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time.

New to this game is the idea of "Nook Miles" which are earned for completing certain tasks... catching this many bugs... talking to this many neighbors... selling stuff for this many bells... that kind of thing. Nook Miles can be exchanged for upgrades, specialty items, and (most importantly) a ticket for a plane ride to neighboring islands where you can plunder its resources and raze its vegetation for fun and profit...

My character taliking to Orville the Dodo at an airport ticket counter arranging a flight with Wilbur the Dodo to a neighboring island.

The ecological message here is really scary, albeit historically accurate. You essentially rip everything of value from the island until you are standing in a destroyed wasteland where once a beautiful island stood, all so you can improve your island...

My character sitting amongst the ruins of a once-beautiful island... everything plundered and cut to the ground.

Plunder and raze efficiently enough, and soon you have the funds to upgrade from a tent to a house...

My character sitting amongst the ruins of a once-beautiful island... everything plundered and cut to the ground.

Adding more rooms to your house only takes money. Ever-increasing amounts of money. But, since you can decorate your rooms however you want, that's where the fun is...

My home... crammed with all kinds of assorted furniture and other junk.

You can add progressively more rooms to your house, with each expansion costing more and more bells to procure. Most people turn the first expansion into a bedroom. I turned mine into a big bathroom/laundry room...

My character stands in a medium-sized room which is filled with various clutter and items.

Yes, you can absolutely sit on the toilet and take a dump. It even flushes automatically when you get up! Many items have features like this. The washing machine will start up if you close the lid. The little Nintendo Switch will turn on. That kind of thing.

My bathroom is serious business. I couldn't find a bathtub, so I used an oar-fish pool. The Nintendo Switch is handy so I can play games while taking a dump. The katana swords are there to defend myself if somebody intrudes while I'm taking a dump. Don't mind the fish in the corner, I ran out of storage in my attic.

As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...

A party popper celebration being held in front of the new Resident Services Building.

Every time a new structure is built in town, there's a celebration. But there are other seasonal celebrations to be had... including your birthday...

As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...

My animal friends throwing me a birthday party.

The villagers in my hood are a strange lot. The ape is obsessed with working out and injects it into every conversation you have. He can mostly be found wandering around the island with his ass hanging out...

My character sneaking up on a snail on a rock with a bug net.

The airport also allows players to fly to their friends' islands over the internet, or have them fly to you...

My character looking at the float plane which allows you to fly off the island.

A flight information board showing somebody flying to my island.

At the airport they also have a stationary rack where you can write letters to everybody that they will then deliver for you by the next day. I like dashing out notes to them because they will think you like them and give you stuff. Doesn't seem to matter what you write, they still love getting your letters. As an added bonus, I usually attach a gift of something I have left over...

My letter to Louie which says HAVE A GREAT LIFE, YA DAMN DIRTY APE!

My letter to Fuchsia which says YOU'RE PRETTY, BUT YOU STINK! HAVE AN ORANGE, BABE!

After you get rich enough and have the materials to craft enough, other animals will move to your island. I always welcome them with a warm letter greeting then do a follow-up in-person visit. Here's my letter to Sherb, who looks like he's a goat...

My letter to Sherb which says WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD, GOAT FACE!

After a while, a stoner dog named Harvey will show up and invite you to the photo studio on his private island. And, yes... it's as creepy as it sounds. If you have Animal Crossing Amiibo statues, you can transfer them to the game and have them pose for photos with you. My Amiibo for KK Slider the musician, Timmy and Tommy the entrepreneurs, and Mabel the clothing magnate worked just fine. For whatever reason my Amiibo for Cyrus and Reese (the alpaca husband-and-wife duo who make furniture) wouldn't work. My guess is that they will eventually be added to New Horizons in the future, and will likely work when they arrive. The photo studio itself is filled with various rooms, props, and wardrobe so you can pose and create various scenarios for your pictures. I don't have that kind of time to waste, so I just photographed us in front of a brick wall...

My letter to Sherb which says WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD, GOAT FACE!

I'm not sure how else Amiibo will figure into the game, but I hope it nets me some cool stuff.

And speaking of cool stuff, eventually Blathers the owl will come to the island to collect and catalog the wildlife and any fossils that are found. Like in the other Animal Crossing games, Blathers will build a full-on museum after you donate enough specimens and artifacts...

Don't be fooled by the building. It may be rather small on the outside, but it is absolutely massively huge on the inside... housing an entire wing for bugs, another wing for fish, and a basement full of fossil displays. It's spectacular. If the museum existed in real life, I would absolutely visit it. All the environments are great, and the way that the fossil exhibit tries to follow evolutionary patterns is cute...

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Bugs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Bugs at the museum.

My real goal... more than anything else... is to complete the museum collection. I've never done it on any other Animal Crossing game, but maybe this time? How awesome would that be?

So... pretty cool game, right?

Not completely, no. Let's get to the bad stuff here...

REPETITION. The first couple times your character catches a bug or walks into the museum, the conversation bubbles that show up are cute... charming even. But after a couple days you want to put your fist through the television screen every time. You can speed up some conversations with the B-button. You can speed up the crafting session with rapid A-button presses. But you can't eliminate them entirely and it's such a stupid, boring waste of time. For heaven's sake... LET US SKIP THIS IDIOCY.

TOOL ACCURACY. I have no clue why Nintendo doesn't fix the most horrifically frustrating part of the game... the total lack of accuracy in using tools. Whether it's fishing or digging or catching bugs, it's a crapshoot to determine where your tool is going to land. People keep telling me "You'll get used to it!" But in all these many years of Animal Crossing games, I NEVER have. I face to where I want my tool to hit... and inevitably end up going somewhere else half the time. You can literally see it in these screen captures. You face in one direction, your tool hits in another... and don't think you can compensate because your character will shift in random ways...

Using a net while facing one way...

...and having the net hit somewhere completely different.

How hard would it be to have a cursor show you where your tool is going to land as an option?

A target indicator showing where the net will land.

I may have hated the way that the iPhone version... Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp... added pay-for-play to the game, but at least you could tap the screen to specify where your tool will hit and save a lot of frustration.

CRAFTING. Crafting is new to the console version of the game. I like it. A lot. You collect rocks, sticks, wood, and minerals and get to make new stuff. It adds new depth and gives you something more to do. But, in addition to having to suffer through the crafting animation every damn time, there's no way to craft multiples of an item. Have seven clams and want to craft seven sacks of fish bait? You have to click through the menus and go through that stupid animation SEVEN TIMES. Good Lord. Nobody wants this. Give us the opportunity to specify multiple crafted items at the same time.

CRITTERPEDIA. The Critterpedia, which keeps track of all the bugs and fish you manage to capture is a fun tool to look at...

Critterpedia is open showing the varieties of fish that I've caught.

But incomplete and hardly efficient. First of all, no listing for the fossils you've collected. Second of all, you can't tell at a glance which items you've donated to the museum. You have to click through on every individual critter to find out...

Critterpedia showing details of a swordfish I caught... including that it's been donated.

Add a fossil checklist. Add icons to each of the caught critters showing if they're in the museum. Make it ACTUALLY USEFUL AS A TOOL instead of a novelty.

SAVE ME. Saves are automatic. But I'm not sure if they are saved online... even if you have a Switch Online account? And you can't transfer your save data to another Switch, making it impossible to have a home unit and a travel handheld unit both be used for the same game. I am assuming that this has something to do with people not wanting to have multiple saves of the same game, but that's absurd. Surely they can make it be a check-in, check-out situation for people who need it.

ONLINE? It's great that you can travel to the islands of your friends and invite them to your island... but why is it so hard to communicate otherwise? In order to send a gift or a message, your friend has to be online at the time? Why? What if your friend lives across the world 12 times zones away? This is phenomenally idiotic. The Switch is online all the time. How hard could it be to allow messages and gifts and such to be sent whenever and retrieved whenever?

SWITCH TOUCH. The biggest problem I've saved for last... the touch-screen when your Switch is in handheld IS NOT USED! I think you can type out letters on the keyboard that appears when you compose a letter. AND THAT'S IT! Shocking. And stupid. You can't tap to do anything. Even stuff it would be perfectly appropriate for. I have no idea... none why this is the case. Every model of the Switch has a touch-screen, and to intentionally ignore it is criminal.

And that's about it.

It will be interesting to see if this iteration of the game will capture my attention longer than the previous games. I always start obsessed with collecting everything only to get bored and frustrated as time goes by.

   

Bullet Sunday 654

Posted on March 15th, 2020

Dave!We all may be in social distance, self-quarantine exile, but you're in good company... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Rise? I both liked and hated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I first saw it. On one hand, seeing many of the original trilogy characters come back one last time was pretty great, and the special effects were visionary and sublime. On the other hand the script was complete and total shit. JJ Abrams perverting The Force into whatever he wanted it to be in order to fill in a few of the many, many plot holes in his crap story was embarrassing and insulting. And the fact that almost nothing in the movie made sense, had past precedent, or was ever explained, was ten buckets of lame. Nowhere was this put into such vivid relief than in a reply by Elijah Wood(!) to one of several expositional chunks of story left out of the film, but dropped in fucking tweets...

On Friday I got an email from Apple telling me that my digital copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was available to watch (a few days early because Disney is doing their part to keep people home). I ordered it when I didn't think I'd make it to the theater to see it... then forgot to cancel after I finally saw it. And so I watched it again. Now I've totally changed my mind on the film, I just outright hate it now. What a shitty, SHITTY way to close things out. My only consolation is that the shitty sequel trilogy was marginally better than the horrendously shitty prequel trilogy when taken as a whole...

My ranking of the Star Wars movies from Perfect to Complete Shit in this order: Empire, Rogue One, Star Wars, Awakens, Solo, Sith, Skywalker, Last Jedi, Jedi, Clones, Menace.

Thank God that whole mess is over. Now just let the Skywalker crap finally die like it should have done after Return of the Jedi. As the excellence of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown us, there's far better things to do with the Star Wars Universe than continuously rain shit upon it.

   
• Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Along with the digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney also released Frozen 2 three months early. I guess they figured they might as well try to drive up subscription numbers for their streaming service since they've had to shutter most all of their movie/television productions...

I'm going to be perfectly honest... I am not a fan of musicals. Some of them I like more than others, such a The Lion King, for instance. Live-action is more difficult, but tolerable if I like the soundtrack (like Grease and Xanadu, for example). The first Frozen was annoying musically, but I loved the character of Kristoff (wonderfully brought to life by Jonathan Groff). And so I tuned into Frozen 2 to see what his character was up to. Turns out he's acting weird and being made to play the fool while a really tacked-on story unfolds. It's not that this was a bad movie, it's just that I didn't get what I wanted out of it. Still, better than nothing, I guess? Or is it? I can't help but feel that things should have been left alone after the first one. Except... the animation and design is phenomenal, beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.

   
• Joy! In addition to crap Star Wars and an unneeded animated sequel, I've been delving back into all five seasons of Killjoys. The show always amazes me. It has fairly good (but not extravagant) production values which are complimented by complex stories and multi-faceted, highly interesting characters. Every episode feels as though they made the best possible use of budget and resources while never losing sight of the big picture of the universe they were building...

Smart, funny, violent, serious, disturbing, and all-around good sci-fi, this is the whole package. My amazement only grows as I rewatch it from the beginning (the fifth and final season ended last September). The series follows three "killjoys"... bounty hunters... as they work through their personal demons while trying to skate a moral divide between doing good and doing their job. It started strong. Got better. Kinda dropped off a bit at the end, even though I can't really complain about how it ended. It probably was good to cancel it before the show bottomed out, but I can't help but think there were more stories to tell. And could be more stories still if we get some movies or specials or something.

   
• MAR10! March 10th is known in Nintendo circles as MAR10 (MARIO) because a number of games and Mario products end up with a discount. One of the games on sale was Yoshi's Crafted World for $20 off, so I snatched it up. The game itself is a simple, fun, and clever platform puzzler which has a cool "handcrafted" look where everything is made from paper, cardboard, and other crafting junk...

Yoshi games have always been fairly easy to play... slightly more difficult to complete at 100%... which makes it a perfect choice for a casual gamer like me who wants a distraction instead of a serious challenge. Oh yeah... it's adorable too.

   
• Go West! And so... the third season premiere of Westworld is finally here. I had read some seriously mixed reviews of the first four episodes that were made available to the press. I, of course, have only seen the first episode. It was... interesting? I mean, they've completely jettisoned what made the show be the show... i.e. Westworld... so it's pretty much just fake people on a murder-spree in Futureworld, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...

Watching Delores go full-on Terminator in a wonderfully-imagined future is pretty great... so even if that's all we get, I'll keep watching. The thing about the first season which made it so fantastic is that it was so beautifully plotted and deep in concept. The second season was far shallower, but attempted to compensate by going non-linear with the story to poor effect (the first season played with the timeline amazingly well, so I don't know what happened there). It looks like they are not bothering to play with the timeline this time around... unless this really IS Futureworld and Delores is a GUEST? How mind-bending would that be? Well, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright are phenomenal, regardless, so I'm hoping this reduced 8-episode season is worthy of their talent.

   
• FIVE! Tonight was also the finale of Avenue 5, a fantastically funny space farce starring Hugh Laurie. I have been loving the show, even when it took a decidedly dark turn last week (in a way that was actually still pretty darn funny). The ending isn't an ending, which would have me furious if not for the fact that HBO has already renewed it for a second season...

It's surprising that HBO is fostering such a delicious series when I know that the twisted humor is not going to appeal to the masses. But it very much appeals to me, which is all I care about. I am really hoping that they can manage to expand on the show for next season instead of retreading what they've already done (something that was already starting to happen at the end). And thank you to HBO also for giving the show such a massive special effects budget. I mean that... the sets are expansive, beautiful, and look like they cost a fortune. Worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

   
And that's enough of that... keep washing those hands, everybody.

   

Bullet Sunday 652

Posted on March 1st, 2020

Dave!We may be at the beginning of a pandemic, but the bullets are still flying... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Hertz! Michael Hertz has passed away. He is largely responsible for one of the most beautiful and elegant map designs you'll find. It's the New York City subway map, which sought to simplify and clarify the depiction of the various lines by making them easier to understand...

New York City subway map by Michael Hertz.

There were other versions of this map over the decades, but this modern version from 1978 is the one most people today are familiar with. It was proceeded by an equally beautiful (yet slightly more confusing) version by Massimo Vignelli...

New York City subway map by Vignelli.

My first dozen times visiting New York City I ended up buying a new fold-out pocket subway map each time because I always forgot to bring an old one with me. Now, of course, I've just got the map on my iPhone. But I'll always have a place in my heart for the map I used for decades to get me around the city.

   
• Nygaard! Another designer who passed away that's definitely worth noting? Jens Nygaard, the guy who created the LEGO minifigs...

The technical drawing of the LEGO minifig.

An assortment of LEGO minifigures lined up.

As somebody who started with LEGO before the minifig was introduced, this was absolutely a game changer. Prior to the minifies, which I believe I first got in the LEGO Space sets, we just drew a face on a stack of bricks. The "official" people of the LEGO Universe were a fantastic addition to the toy which took it in a fantastic direction that continues to this day.

   
• Dyson! Completing the trifecta of those who passed away this past week... Freeman Dyson. This brilliant mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (among other things) was such a huge influence on me that my pen-name, Maach Allon Dyson, was in honor of him. Because, seriously, just look at some of his accomplishments from his Wikipedia page. Though the thing that he's likely best known for... especially by me... is the Dyson sphere...

The idea is that a technologically advanced civilization would have the ability to maximize use of energy from their sun... by surrounding it with a sphere or a sphere of rings or a sphere of panels or something like that. It's a mind-blowing idea that would require mining materials from a huge number of celestial bodies (such as comets and asteroids) in order to construct. Pretty fantastic stuff.

   
• Apps on Parade! I ran across this video and had to laugh at just how frickin' brilliant it is at showing the sheer absurdity of Adobe's "Creative Cloud." I pay $57.34 per month to use exactly four of them... Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I also use Lightroom Classic to catalog my photos, but it's not something I need to have. Which means I essentially use less than 1/10th of the apps I have to pay for...

I would be willing to bet that this is the case for at least half of the people paying for Creative Cloud. Hardly getting our money's worth here, but that's what happens when you've got a lock on the industry. My only hope is that eventually another developer... most likely Affinity... will get to the point where Adobe will not be the only option for me. But until then? Blergh.

   
• Manga Mac! Apple released a clever new commercial which shows various times that Macs have appeared in Japanese manga animation. It's pretty great...

Just makes me want to rewatch the hundreds of manga that I've loved over the years.

   
• New Horizons! And speaking of ads in Japan... Nintendo really knows how to hit all the feels in their advertising...

The new version of Animal Crossing called Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops on March 20. It's one of those games that always starts out interesting, but I grow bored with fairly quickly. There's only so many fish and bugs you can catch before it gets old. Though maybe the online collaboration will keep it interesting for longer? I don't know that I want to spend $60 to find out.

   
And with that, bullets have come to a close this fine Sunday. Wash your hands!

   

How Old Am I Again?

Posted on February 6th, 2020

Dave!I haven't had a chance to play video games in months.

I bought Untitled Goose Game the day it was released on Friday, September 20th, played it through the weekend, then never picked up my Nintendo Switch again. The brand new LEGO Jurassic World game I bought for Black Friday hasn't even been taken out of the wrapper. That's a darn shame, because it looks like big fun...

Monday when I got home I had to tear apart my media center to diagnose why I had no internet. I discovered pretty quickly that one of the cats was underneath and hit the fiber box so it dropped and came unplugged (found a toy there and the security cameras showed Jenny was the culprit). Since I had it pulled out, I unhooked everything and started re-wiring everything from scratch. Since I had gotten rid of cable internet and satellite TV and wired speakers and such, I was able to rip out a bunch of junk that was adding clutter for no reason.

I was seriously considering not plugging my Nintendo Switch back in and tossing it in the drawer with my PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Wii-U. Why bother to have it out when I'm not playing it?

On one hand, this is pretty sad. I love video games and would dearly love to have more time to play them. On the other hand, I have hobbies like woodworking and drawing/painting that I'd much rather be doing over playing video games.

Which has lead me to the conclusion that the Nintendo Switch will likely be the last video gaming console I buy. And boy does that make me feel old. I mean, ME, NOT PLAY VIDEO GAMES? Insanity.

Not wanting to be this old this quickly, I plugged the Switch back into my media center. Who knows if I'll ever have time to play it, but at least it fends off my impending decrepitness for a while.

   

Bullet Sunday 630

Posted on September 22nd, 2019

Dave!I can't believe the weekend is already gone! But all is not lost, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• FAKE FOOD! Like many large cities, Tokyo has several districts which specialize in various goods. If you want to see electronics, head to Akihabara. If you want Western fashion and high-end restaurants, you need to go to Ginza. That kind of thing. One of my favorite places to look around is Kappabashi Street, which specializes in restaurant supplies. Pots, pans, dishes, utensils... and a staple of Japanese restaurants... fake food. Because most all restaurants have their windows filled with representations of the dishes they specialize in so people will get their mouths watering and want to come inside. Most of the plastic foods you can buy here in the US are crap, whereas in Japan it's a true artform...

Yes most of the stuff has a bit of a high-gloss sheen to it, but once it's wrapped in plastic to keep it from getting dusty it's pretty darn realistic. The above video is a fascinating look at how it's made.

   
• Goose. After a long time of reading about it being "released in early 2019," Untitled Goose Game is finally here! The object of the game is to be a complete asshole, which is something I can totally do...

I blazed through everything in just one morning, which is disappointing, but it's a pretty fun game otherwise. Nintendo's eShop has it on sale for Switch at 25% off for a limited time.

   
• Drugs are Bad, Mmkay? This commercial where the girl takes off her seatbelt and runs her car into a dumpster so she can get more Vicodin? More disturbing than any horror movie I've ever seen...

   
• X-Pan I had no desire... none at all... to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix. For one thing, it's the capper of a slew of shitty X-movies, after which Marvel will be bringing the X-Men to the MCU and completely rebooting it to (hopefully) something that doesn't suck. So it's essentially a wasted effort and makes no difference. And, if this hilarious "honest trailer" is anything to go by, it's a pile of shit anyway...

Maybe if it shows up on Hulu or HBO or Disney+ or something I'm already paying for, I'll invest my valuable time. But buying or renting it? Not even a little bit.

   
• Name. An interesting article: Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren't "Hard," They're "Unpracticed"

My first "real" international trip was to Japan in the late 80's for work. In Japanese, the "V" in my name doesn't exist as a sound. The closest they have is a "B." And yet they made an effort to say the "V" as best they could, even though it was a struggle and unnatural for them. That kindness has never left me, and I feel incredibly blessed that I learned how important a name can be so early in my travels. Which is why I try my very best to listen when I hear names and put my every best effort into pronouncing them correctly.

So many times I've had co-workers, friends, and people I meet who have "difficult for English speakers to pronounce" names who will say their name... then follow it with "But you can call me..." and give either a completely different "English" name... or some butchered version of their name. Whenever I can, I've asked about their actual name, worked with them to get an acceptable pronunciation, then ask if they mind that I use their real name. And the result is always the same appreciation that I felt that first trip to Japan so many years ago.

Your name... whether it's yours by birth or the name you've chosen for yourself... is key to your identity. Endeavoring to respect a person's name by listening, working to pronounce it, and saying it with your best effort, is such a small thing, really. But it means so much.

   
• Emmys. I do not watch the Emmys. The television I like is rarely represented, so I just don't bother. That being said, I do read the results the next day and have some thoughts...

  • DRAMA: The fact that Game of Thrones can take the big prize seems odd given what a pile of shit the final season ended up being, but okay.
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: That being said, Peter Dinklage 100% earned that Emmy for his performance in the final season. He elevates any material to new levels, and this was no difference.
  • LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA: This was kind of an absurd category because winner Billy Porter from Pose was about the only one who I felt deserved it. Maybe Jason Bateman from Ozark, but Billy owned this and I'm glad he won.
  • COMEDY: I would have taken Fleabag, Barry, Russian Doll, or Schitt's Creek... but was secretly hoping for Schitt's Creek. Yet... not the least bit upset that Fleabag took the prize.
  • VARIETY: I am really torn here. Yes, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver deserves tons of recognition. But overlooking The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is really a tough pill to swallow. Trevor is killing it every night.
  • LIMITED: I would have liked if When They See Us won because A) It deserves awards, and B) It deserves attention. But Chernobyl was incredible. So good. I ended up watching it all the way through twice because it's such a powerful story.
  • DIRECTING: That being said, Ava DuVernay should have gotten the Emmy for best director when it came to When They See Us. Oh well.
  • COMPETITION: I was very happy to hear that RuPaul's Drag Race won this. It is, by far, the most entertaining of all the nominations.
  • LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY: While I would love for Catherine O'Hara and Natasha Lyonne to get recognition for the incredible work they do, Phoebe Waller-Bridge earned this one for Fleabag.
  • LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY: I'm thrilled that Bill Hader took the Emmy for his work on Barry! The show is 100% bananas in the best possible way, and his work there is just above and beyond.
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY: I simply do not get the appeal of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as I find it neither funny nor entertaining. But Alex Borstein definitely does a fantastic job in the show, so I'm kinda torn on this one. I would have preferred that Kate McKinnon won for Saturday Night Live, however.

   
• SNUBBED! A few nominations that should have been made...

  • Ricky Gervais for acting and/or writing After Life. I am still a bit shocked he got no recognition at all for this one.
  • Tracy Morgan for The Last O.G.. That show is hilarious, and his performance is fantastic. For either to get some recognition is not out of left-field.
  • While I'm not sure The Good Place deserved all the nominations it got, I am sure that D’Arcy Carden should have gotten nominated for Supporting Actress, Comedy... AND WON IT. This is criminal.

   

And... I'm spent. See you in a week with more bullets.

   

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

Posted on August 21st, 2019

Dave!With the new television season a month away, I'm in an odd position of having very little television to watch. Since I like background noise while I work, this means I've been re-watching shows I like or checking off shows and movies I've been meaning to watch but haven't gotten around to.

One of these being Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime...

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master movie poster featuring a graphical spaceship with lasers coming out of the bottom.

This was not the first movie which chronicled the downfall of my video-gaming childhood... there was Atari: Game Over which came out three years before... but Easy to Learn, Hard to Master was the one which had the most interesting assortment of talking heads discussing the rise and fall of Atari in the video game arena. Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Howard Warshaw, Steve Wozniak, David Crane, and more were all interviewed. It also included insight from Manny Gerard and Ray Kassar from the Warner side of the disaster.

The movie was a good watch, even though I didn't learn anything astonishingly new. Atari's meteoric rise and fall has been commentary fodder for decades and is well-known. It did, however, get me thinking about the whole video game revolution that was my childhood. Along with comic books, the Atari 2600 was probably the most important part of my childhood...

The Atari 2600 Video Game System with controllers!

As I've mentioned before, I coveted the thing from the minute I was aware that it existed. I think it was being sold at Sears, and my non-stop begging eventually wore my parents down. I finally got one for my birthday or for Christmas or something. And from that moment onward... I was playing video games, saving my money for video games, and begging for new video games at every turn.

I amassed quite a collection.*

Well, not really... I managed to get 32 of the 532 games that were available in North America.

Which brings me to my next movie: Nintendo Quest...

Nintendo Quest Movie Poster featuring two guys in a van hopping around North America with NES cartridges flying everywhere.

In this movie, a guy named Jay Bartlett attempted to collect all 687 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games that were released in North America... in 30 days... but without using the internet. Nope, he drove around northern North America trying to find them.

To be honest, I was more than a little bored throughout it. The actual collecting didn't have much going on. It was the stuff in-between than made it worth watching. And remembering back to so many of those awesome NES games!

And my last video game movie? A "mocumentary" film that was clearly trying to be the This Is Spinal Tap for video games called Going for Golden Eye...

Going for Golden Eye Movie Poster featuring video gamers ready for action!

While nowhere near the level of This is Spinal Tap, I thought it was a pretty good effort. It definitely had some funny moments to make it all worthwhile.

And I think I've had my fill of video game movies for a while.

Until the next one comes along, I'd imagine.

   
*And here's the Atari 2600 titles I ended up collecting...

  • Air-Sea Battle
  • Combat
  • Indy 500
  • Star Ship
  • Basketball
  • Breakout
  • Casino
  • Night Driver
  • Superman
  • Bowling
  • Adventure
  • Circus
  • Dodge 'Em
  • Space Invaders
  • Asteroids
  • Missile Command
  • Warlords
  • Bezerk
  • Centipede
  • Defender
  • Haunted House
  • Pac-Man

Third Party Games...

  • Skiing
  • Freeway
  • Kaboom!
  • Stampede
  • Atlantis
  • Chopper Command
  • Demon Attack
  • Frogger
  • Pitfall!
  • River Raid

   

Bullet Sunday 615

Posted on June 9th, 2019

Dave!The time for revolution is now... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Lander! In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first Apollo Moon Landing, LEGO has released this amazing new set...

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

It's pretty dope...

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

It's also $99, which seems totally worth it, if you've got that kind of money to burn.

   
• Saga! Speaking of LEGO... they've just announced that LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will be released in 2020, combining all nine films in a single game...

I'm guessing that it will be the existing Star Wars games but with new material added at the end to close out the saga. Since it is being released for the Nintendo Switch, I don't mind that at all. I'd love to replay everything from the beginning.

   
• Lucifer! One of my favorite shows, Lucifer was cancelled, then picked up by Netflix. Apparently it did well enough that they are giving the show a fifth season to wrap everything up...

Lucifer Season 5!

Time to celebrate...

Lucifer Season 5!

It's a bit depressing that the show will finally be ending... but at least they have the opportunity to create an actually ending.

   
• Eighty-Four! Director Patty Jenkins released a teaser poster for Wonder Woman 84 this week. One year to go before we know whether this "Not A Sequel But a Reimagining" is going to be worth a crap...

Wonder Woman 84!

I'd like to think it will be, especially since Jenkins is back onboard, but it's really impossible to say. Why they would toss away a continuing story for some kind of soft reboot is puzzling. Unless it's because the DC Cinematic Universe was a pile of shit and they wanted to just bury that once and for all? 360-whatever days until we find out.

   
• Jedi Thrones! Well, this is pretty special...

Given what a massive disappointment the final season of Game of Thrones was, I'm happy to see anything that redeems the franchise, so I'll take what I can get. In the meanwhile, there's this interesting look at how things went South.

   
• Chase Dreams! One of the biggest surprises of the past year's television season was The Other Two, which was hilariously funny in places, despite kinda sliding late in the season...

Still, if you're bored and want something to watch over the summer, this is worth a look. It's pretty foul and definitely not a good fit for mixed company, but you can stream it for a limited time at Comedy Central.

   
• Fan! A bit of a different direction for MUNA here...

Can't wait for their new album in September!

   
Have a great Sunday!

   

Video Game Switch-Up

Posted on February 20th, 2019

Dave!I've been a fan of video games for as long as video games existed.

It all started in the 70's when my family was eating at Mr. Geno's Pizza and they had a Pong machine that you could play from your table on a television that was mounted in the corner. It was magical being able to turn a knob and actually control something displayed on the TV. I ended up wanting to eat at Mr. Gino's a lot.

Flashing forward... I was on a field trip to coast where we were on a ferry boat for some reason (I can't remember why or where we were going). This is where I saw Space Invaders for the first time. It was a lot of money to play... 25¢... but it was worth every penny.

Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 2600 so I could play video games at home. My parents obliged me for my birthday... or Christmas... or something... and it was all I wanted to do.

Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 800 computer... not so I could learn how to program one, but because I wanted to play Star Raiders.

Flashing forward... The neighboring big city gets an actual video arcade. The local pizza joint installs video games. I spend my 80's playing Q*Bert, Donkey Kong, and loads of others.

Flashing forward... And video games have been a huge part of my life. I've owned an insane number of home/handheld consoles over the years...

Flashing forward... Though I owned a PS4, Xbobx One, and a Wii U, I rarely played them because I never had time. Most all my video games were played while traveling, which meant they were played on my Nintendo 3DS. A system I loved so much that I upgraded to the 3DS XL the minute it became available.

Then the Nintendo Switch was released...

At first I mostly ignored Switch because I already had two consoles I was ignoring. But then I started spending more and more time waiting in hospitals and doctor offices with my mom throughout 2017, and the idea of playing console games on-the-go was too good to be true. So I traded in my PS4 and Xbox One and got one.

It's not as powerful as a PS4 or Xbox One... not by a long shot... but you can play games in the palm of your hands that are full-on console-quality and that's pretty amazing. Then you can also dock it to your television and play there as well. And the transition is seamless. Like the above commercial demonstrates, you can start playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the plane as a handheld, then come home and dock it to pick up exactly where you left off. And the games look pretty good either way.

What's surprising is that the Switch dock doesn't have any expanded hardware in it. When you are using the Switch's built-in screen for handheld, it's running at 720p. When you dock to your television it can run up to 1080p, and it's all coming off of the Switch unit. Given how ridiculously small the system is, that's a pretty incredible feat.

Now, when it comes to games, I'm not at all hardcore. My favorite thing to do is to sit back and play the latest LEGO video game. They're relatively easy and a lot of fun. Just what I need to kick back, relax, and forget the world. And because this is as taxing as my gaming gets, I'm Nintendo's core demographic... and the ideal candidate for the Switch. But things have taken a surprising turn. The hardware is powerful enough that some decidedly non-Nintendo-ish titles are being released. Including critically acclaimed games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and my most favorite game on the Switch, Diablo III: The Eternal Collection....

Diablo III on Nintendo Switch
And, yes, I ended up buying the blue/red version of the Switch*

It's a flawless translation. It looks wonderful in handheld or console mode. It plays like a dream no matter how much chaos is on the screen. I have no idea how they managed to do such a good job, but it's a joy to play. And I've played it a lot since it was released last November.

Do I miss my PS4 and Xbox One? Kinda. The buttery smooth 60fps, hi-res graphics and raw power of those consoles makes video games a complete dream to play... but Nintendo's plan to sacrifice power for portability is a good one. There is nothing quite like playing Diablo III on an airplane at 30,000 feet. Especially since that's about the only place I have time for video games now-a-days.

So thanks for that, Nintendo!

   
*When I first saw the Switch, I was horrified by the lopsided blue/red color scheme. But when it came time to buy the thing, I passed over the grey/grey version because I decided I liked the colorful one after all. It's just so unique and pretty.

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Gamers Club Locked

Posted on February 19th, 2019

Dave!Well, boo! Last week got an email from Best Buy saying that their "Gamers Club Unlocked" program is ending. I haven't been buying many video games the last couple years... preferring to spend my money on woodworking tools... but the 20% off you get from the club was great. Whenever there was a game I wanted, I'd wait for there to be a price drop or sale, then take the 20% off of the reduced price so I could actually afford it. Because, seriously, the $50 to $60 that games cost now-a-days is crazy. 20% off of $30 ($24) is much more my speed.

Oh well. I probably shouldn't be spending money on video games anyway. I've got plenty of games to last me.

The bummer is that I've got all these Best Buy rewards certificates I was saving up for the Next Big Game. Because paying $0 is even better than paying $24.

And by "Next Big Game" I'm guessing the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening which looks plastic cartoony and wonderful...

What's truly remarkable is how they updated everything, but stayed true to the original and made it look so familiar...

So cool. And boy does that bring back video games memories.

But more on video games tomorrow...

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LEGO Video Games: RANKED!

Posted on September 25th, 2018

Dave!As any long-time reader of this blog already knows, I am hopelessly addicted to the LEGO video games. They are mostly (fairly) simple puzzle games which involve looking for various objects and trying to figure out how to combine them to complete a task needed to advance in the game. Most all of the titles are really funny, even with the source material can be rather gory (I'm looking at you Jurassic World!). And that's the appeal. LEGO games are a mindless distraction from all the horrors of the world that I like to escape into from time to time...

And so... here's my ranking of all the console LEGO games I've played (I haven't played the latest LEGO online game, LEGO Worlds yet because I am hesitant to buy into an online game that could be set down like LEGO Universe was).

  1. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham — Where do I even start? Dozens of awesome DC characters on amazing adventures that are far, far more entertaining than and DC movies hitting the screen. This is the Justice League people deserve to see, and it's a fun, hilarious, entertaining ride from start to finish.
  2. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga — What's so fantastic about LEGO games like this is that they follow the general narrative of the movies... but add so much more. The "Complete Saga" has games covering everything from the original trilogy (mind-bogglingly good) to the crappy prequels (which are so much more fun in LEGO than the actual movies). Like most LEGO games, the vehicles are a mess to control and I don't have much fun on the spaceship missions, but everything outside of that is gold.
  3. LEGO City Undercover — When this game was first released, it was a Wii U exclusive. I didn't have a Wii U, so I just held tight and thought I would wait until it got released on other systems. Then I got to actually play the game at a friend's house. I was so absorbed into the massive city and all the clever missions that I had to have it. So I bought a Wii U just to play it. Expensive way to play a game, but worth it. The integration of the Wii U controller into the game was great, the levels are hilarious, and some of the challenges were more difficult than in other LEGO games. A winner all the way around.
  4. LEGO Dimensions — Blending so many licensed properties in a single game was a fantastic concept that worked exceedingly well. You start out with LEGO Batman, Gandalf (from The Lord of the Rings, and Wildstyle (from The LEGO Movie)... but you can add any other character you want from any other franchise to any Free Play mission you want. Want to team up The Wicked Witch of the West with Bart Simpson and Beetlejuice? Have at it. I loved LEGO Dimensions and bought every single set that LEGO released for it. Needless to say, I was gutted when they discontinued LEGO Dimensions. But I guess it's okay because I still have a ton of stuff left to explore on all the expansion packs I bought. Hopefully they won't shut down the servers before I have a chance to complete everything.
  5. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes — This is a fantastic game which feels inspired by the Marvel Studios movies, but encompasses all the Marvel characters. It's also massive. It feels like the entire city of New York has been recreated in LEGO form and there's just so much to see and do. With each new release the LEGO games just keep getting bigger and better. I can't imagine what LEGO: The Incredibles and LEGO DC Super-Villains are going to be like!
  6. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super-Heroes — Well, here we go. I had no idea how they were going to put powerful characters like Superman and Wonder Woman into a game and have it work (they are invulnerable and can literally fly anywhere, go anywhere), but they obviously put a lot of thought into that dilemma, because everything works flawlessly. I got this game on a Friday, then ended up playing all weekend and taking a vacation day at work on Monday because I was so absorbed in unlocking all the secrets hidden around Gotham City. Fantastic follow-up to the original game.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I wasn't going to buy this one... I was going to wait until all of the new trilogy games were collected in a single game... but I couldn't resist. Hearing that all the characters were voiced by the original actors was compelling enough to make me buy in. I did not regret it. This is a hilarious parody with improved game-play from the earlier Star Wars games. As if that wasn't enough, it has levels that link Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens which makes this a must-have game not just for LEGO fans, but for any Star Wars fan as well.
  8. LEGO Marvel's Avengers — A direct lift of Marvel Studios films of the day (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, etc.), this game doesn't feel as "open" as later games, but is still a heck of a lot of fun. All the characters are Marvel Cinematic Universe versions, which makes for a slightly different mindset than other games which are more tied to the comic books. That just made me love it even more, and I had a blast playing it.
  9. LEGO Ninjago Movie — I'm only half-way through this one, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm only barely familiar with the Ninjago franchise (I've never seen the movie but I have all the characters from the LEGO Dimensions game... but, fortunately, familiarity isn't required to play. Experiencing the game makes me really want to see the movie, so I guess that's as big an endorsement as you can get.
  10. LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4 and 5-7) — I am not a fan of the Harry Potter movies or books. I honestly don't get their popularity, because they seem like derivative works that rely on deus ex machine to tie up the endings of each story. That being said, the LEGO games are awesome. They seem a bit more "puzzley" than other games, and that worked to keep me interested through the entire series. I do think the game would have been enhanced if I had seen the films, but I was okay without it.
  11. LEGO Batman: The Videogame — I am a huge Batman fan and a huge LEGO fan, so I bought this game not knowing anything except it combined two of my favorite things. Before this, I had been playing the LEGO Star Wars games and liked them, but here is where I became obsessed. They got a lot right with the Batman franchise from the very start and everything that followed was gravy.
  12. LEGO Indiana Jones (Volume I and II) — The Indy Trilogy films were born to become LEGO games, and the result did not disappoint. I had a lot of fun roaming from adventure to adventure... so much so that I bought this game twice! Once on my Xbox 360 and once on my Nintendo DS handheld (which was surprisingly different than the console version). Released in two parts, I thought the second half was lacking compared to the first, but still enjoyed the whole game.
  13. Pirates of the Caribbean — This title felt way too much like "more of same" that we had been getting, but lacked the variety of games which preceded it. Despite all that, it was a lot of fun to play and looked beautiful. I lost interest in the movies after the first two, but this game kept me interested all the way through.
  14. LEGO Jurassic World — Putting Jurassic Park in a LEGO game is kinda a no brainer (the LEGO Dimensions pack was fantastic). What made this game shine was having the original actors voice all the characters. The game would have ranked higher on my list if there were more dinosaurs used as playable characters... otherwise it's just regular human after regular human. Sure they have unique skills, but still. If I have a serious complaint, it's the annoying as hell Compsognathus dino attacks which beseige you far too often to stay entertaining. By the end of the game I was thinking "Holy crap, did anybody beta test this?"
  15. LEGO Lord of the Rings — As a big fan of Tolkien's books and somebody who really enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, I could not wait for this game to be released. And it was definitely worth the wait. Except... it kinda fell short when compared to the other LEGO games being released at the time (namely, LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes). Even so, it was highly entertaining and had me absorbed from start to finish.
  16. LEGO The Hobbit — I thought that Perter Jacksons' absurdly drawn-out movie adaptation of the beautiful and simple story that's The Hobbit was way overboard. This should have been one movie... not three! That being said, if you're going to do a video game movie adaptation, you'd better finish what you started. In this case, they did not. The final Hobbit film (The Battle of the Five Armies) was supposed to be released as a downloadable content pack, but wasn't. How lame is that? The game didn't have a lot of variety in characters, but made up for it in other ways, which was nice... but lack of a finale kept the game from ranking high on my list. As it is, there's only two games left which disappointed me more.
  17. The LEGO Movie Videogame — I have no idea what went wrong, but this is one of the few LEGO games I was unable to complete. It was glitchy as hell, which was hugely disappointing given that this was a LEGO game about a LEGO movie and had so much promise. It's kind the height of irony that this is the game that failed so badly. In the LEGO games there are always little glitches that pop up... but none that kept me from enjoying the game like this one did.
  18. LEGO Universe — What a mess. I signed up to be an early beta tester because they were developing a MacOS X version of this MMPORG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). Apparently it was running under emulation, so it was slow and glitchy in spots. Especially when a lot of characters were on-screen. Even so, I loved playing the cool missions and seeing what new insanity they would add to the game next. Until they stopped adding. And then shut down the servers so you couldn't play anymore. I mean, I know that each game has a shelf-life, but LEGO Dimensions felt as though it was shut down way before its time, and I'm still pretty raw about it.

That's a lot of LEGO games. And it doesn't even include the versions I've bought for my iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, and Nintendo DS! And next up? LEGO: The Incredibles! How awesome is that?

   

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