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July 18, 2017

Announcement - delay

Okay, um... I really hate having to mke announcements like this one.

See, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic. I work night shifts at a gas station, which means that I work all night, sleep for most of the day, and only have a few hours in the evening to work on reviews. That, in itself, isn't so bad. Since March, I managed to juggle my job and my blog fairly well. However, a lot of things happened since the end of June. I went to a convention between June and July, a whole weekend away from home, I couldn't write... Then I had problems with my car, which meant I had to make sure those problems wouldn't prevent me from going to work every evening...

Long story short, a lot has been on my mind, and unfortunately the big anniversary review had to be put lower on my list of things to do. As a result, I lost most of my review buffer. I am trying to finish writing this review before posting its parts, but it's quite long. As such, Part 1 of my review of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars may be delayed. There may not be a review this Friday - though if that's the case, I'll try to have said part ready for publication on Monday next week.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

July 17, 2017

Mario Super Sluggers (Part 2)

Go read Part 1 if you missed it! Now, how about we resume this look at Mario Super Sluggers?

Mustachioed plumber versus the big bad's baby.
We’ve freed two areas from Bowser Jr., and there are many more. However, we can go and challenge him on his own baseball field now. We build a team, and head into the toy-like castle. Bowser Jr. has built a team out of regular mooks of the Mario series – mostly Magikoopas and Dry Bones. They’re pretty easy to defeat if you’ve learned the game mechanics. I mean, it’s not like Bowser Jr. is that big of a threat… despite the fact that he is apparently able to turn people to stone! …well, that, or one of his Magikoopas did it, but let’s not get technical. Point still is, he's a spoiled little brat, and it's time to kick him down a notch.

Bowser: Tossing Bullet Bills as if they were mee
baseballs!
When Bowser Jr.’s team is defeated, we can practically hear him cry out for his dad. And what happens? The toy castle sinks and gets replaced by… a miniature Bowser Castle. With Bowser at the commands, and the definitely final baseball field to finish the Story Mode. On top of that, the night falls. As it turns out, daytime in this game is when Bowser Jr is battled, while nighttime is when Bowser can be fought. Dammit Bowser, do you really have to go and one-up every villain that isn’t you, even if the day's villain is your own son? So yeah, you can go challenge Bowser. Make sure to defeat him here, for the first time.

You can switch back and forth between night and day simply by aiming the cursor on the sun or moon and pressing A. There’s a few advantages to this; daytime is where you go to play baseball, nighttime is where you go to play baseball-related mini-games… and perhaps earn money.

Yeah, sure, it looks good at night.
But it also cost millions to make...

Why, yes! You can collect coins here! Oh, you don’t get an extra life if you collect 100, but you can go around and amass a little fortune in order to buy items that will enhance your team when playing. There are some shops around the maps. That’s not the only thing of interest about these shops, though; if you carry enough money, you can actually buy items that will unlock new stadiums – Luigi’s Mansion (because it was apparently taken off the ground where it was and then turned into a baseball stadium) and the Daisy Cruiser.

We should just leave him there...
But then again we do need his talents...
Dammit!
If you really want to, you can go ahead and complete the other parts of the Story Mode. Wario’s stadium, behind an area looking like a city, is covered in fog when you get there, and the electricity has run out. Wario, trapped on top of the building, pleads for you to help him clear the fog and repair the power plant. On DK’s side of things, he is trying to retrieve pieces of an artefact that gave him control of his part of the island – namely, the park and the field around it. Because Bowser Jr. stole the pieces. Why would Peach make something like that on her island in the first place?? Yoshi’s side is an amusement park, but Bowser Jr. broke most of the rides, and thus our job is to repair them. Kill the Piranha Plants that infested the Ferris Wheel! Who knew baseballs could be such useful weapons? I thought they worked only against Moai statues! (If you got that reference, I love you.)

Sheesh, gotta wonder how they do to reproduce so quickly.
Especially if they keep on sprouting back so easily in those
little ferris wheel seats...

And all the way through, whenever you find a new hidden player, they’ll challenge you to small challenges. Because they all want to be sure that you’re good at baseball, right? But the challenges they demand are usually very, very easy. It’s almost laughable. Like, dude, why do you bother with that mini-quest?

Could you imagine this as a Mario-based fighting game?
You don’t need to save all of the team captains before going against Bowser in a baseball match, but you’re gonna have to do it anyway if you want to unlock every playable team member. Donkey Kong can break barrels and crates, Yoshi can pound the ground near shaking trees and go through sewers, and Wario can open treasure chests (which contain special moves) and use a magnet for various purposes. Every single area in the game has hidden players that can be unlocked only if you have the captain with the required ability. How many playable characters are there? Excluding the 12 captains… 59. Granted, species like Yoshis, Toads, Piantas, Nokis, Kritters, Magikoopas, Dry Bones and Shy Guys come in multiple colors and are represented by only one on the team player selection screen, but that’s still a lot. The actual number is closer to 42, if you don’t count the alternate colors – and even there, that’s still an impressive number. The roster includes resident species from various kingdoms, staples of the Mario series from both heroes and villains, and we even have many characters from the Donkey Kong series, whether it’s Kong’s family and friends or the Kremlings, including their leader King K. Rool. Also, five Mario babies… what, were they afraid that they wouldn’t appeal to a younger demographic otherwise? Oh, and yes, you can use up to 8 Miis as well.

If a new baseball title was made for the Switch, you can bet
they would add MORE babies like Baby Rosalina to that
damn roster. Like babies are what we need in this game...

Switching from day to night, the baseball fields are no longer used for that purpose, and become mini-game arenas instead. The mini-games include:
Magikoopas: When they don't turn princesses to stone,
they make fireworks out of Bob-Ombs.
-Knocking Bob-Ombs into the skies to make fireworks;
-Breaking walls with powerful baseball throws;
-Knocking back Piranha Plants moving towards the players on treadmills;
-Catching various precious stones tossed on the field;
-Smashing barrels and Bob-Ombs with balls;
-Attacking ghosts around Luigi’s Mansion (where else?) by tossing balls at them;
-Running around the square of a baseball field while the giant Gooper Blooper has taken residence within it and is attacking the players with its tentacles;
-Running around a field with a paintbrush to try and paint more than the opponents;
-Playing a weird baseball/pinball mash-up in Bowser Castle. What is it with Bowser and pinball anyway?

Good stuff. And a nice change of pace. A pretty great addition for multiplayer, too.

Go on, Peach. Show Bowser that you, too, can beat him!
We can go and challenge Bowser to a match again. And this time, he’s not messing around – his team has been training, and you’ll definitely find them tougher to defeat. Still, if you toss the balls just right, and know how to use the various mechanics to your advantage, you can win. Replaying for this review, I won 3-1. If you’re good enough, you might even skip the final innings, since there is an option to skip the last full innings if you’re 10 points ahead of the opponent (that applies to story and multiplayer matches, but you can turn it off).

PARTY!
Wait. Peach is the one who won, not Mario.
With Bowser defeated, the heroes celebrate yet again, while Bowser angrily smashes his spiked bat into the ground. However, Peach decides to welcome Bowser, his son, and their underlings, to play with them – and since Jr. really wants to play some more, Bowser reluctantly accepts. Thus, we get the endgame party. Mario is celebrated again (even if you won the final match with another team captain), everyone gets to eat around a table, with a buffet and so much cake – but Bowser and his son only get tiny slices. The party ends with fireworks, supplied by Mario knocking Bob-Ombs into the sky, like in the mini-game.

So Bowser actually decided to be heroic for once? Or maybe
it's just a "Only I get to kill Mario" type of deal.
However, there’s still some scheming going around. Wario and Waluigi approach the Bob-Omb cannon and slip a live Bullet Bill in it, and it’s thrown at Mario, who doesn’t have the power to toss it back. Bowser jumps on the field and smacks the Bullet Bill sideways, sending it back to the Waa brothers, who get caught by it and sent upwards. The Bill then explodes, in a giant blast of light, and the evil bros. fall back to the ground. Bowser doesn’t really want to be renowned for this sudden moment of niceness, so he gets out of the way while everyone else keeps partying in that good G-rated fashion. This closes the celebrations on Baseball Kingdom.

Waaaaaaah!
Also, Waluigi's L is backwards on here.

It’s expected that these characters will hardly ever go back to Baseball Island. Everyone will leave, and it’s a mystery if they’ll ever return. The artificial island will thus be left there, untouched, floating aimlessly, with no one to enjoy its activity, a white elephant that cost a fortune to make, money ultimately wasted. We all know that Mario is almost always busy saving the world or Princess Peach. I mean, we all know he's got a big odyssey coming! That's big stuff! He ain’t got time for baseball!

The plot of Mario Super Sluggers makes no sense – but let’s be honest, we’re not here for the plot. We’re here for some good ol’ pitching, batting, running and sporting. The plot is merely setup. How does the game hold up?

Well, it’s really good! I quite enjoy it. Sure, it feels pretty easy, but it features a large cast of characters and enough bonuses to get you to play for a while. Well, until your arms hurt, anyway. It helps that you can pick between three control schemes – Wii remote alone, remote with Nunchuk, and sideways remote. You can go for the simpler controls with the remote alone, or go for the complex ones that give a wider array of possibilities. With some control schemes (usually when using the Wii remote alone), the game may not always register your movements, which is a bother when batting (can’t have a delay between movement and game, when the ball is already coming towards you!). But overall, that’s not a frequent issue.

Speaking of, a big downside of the game is how so many things are done by vividly swinging or shaking the Wii remote. You swing when you’re throwing or batting, then immediately afterwards you may be shaking the Wii remote to run around the field. This will strain your arm, especially if you use the Wii remote alone.

The game doesn’t pretend to be a serious baseball title, and it shows. It keeps the fairly simplistic controls, with very little baseball strategy to it aside from batting or pitching in certain ways and counting on team members to do certain maneuvers or special catches. It’s not revolutionary or realistic, it just wants to be fun. I can’t fault them for that. If you want something closer to reality, there are other games.

The wide selection of playable character and the nine available baseball fields are nice touches. I especially like the various gimmicks, such as the Star Moves, the special throws that some characters possess, as well as the obstacles and hindrances found on most baseball fields. The whole character chemistry mechanic is a good addition, and it gets quickly important to count on the interactions between characters. You’ve got slightly better chances of winning by sticking together the characters who share chemistry.

Like I said, the “Story Mode” of sorts is nothing to write home about, just an excuse to make you play through the game, discover its mechanics and have the odd mini-match here and there. You go around, discover secrets, free everyone and collect captains and team members. It gets kind of annoying after a while that most people you free will join your team only after you’ve “proven your worth” and shown that you could be a decent baseball player. The Story Mode areas are pretty small and don’t offer much, and are done in such a way that you can’t fully beat one, go to the next, rinse and repeat. Your best bet is to gather the captains first, but some captains are in faraway areas and you need other captains to reach them, and so on. It’s like a big puzzle that you can’t complete until you’ve got the full array of abilities. Once the final match against Bowser has been won, you don’t have much of an incentive to go back, unless you want all the playable characters and special moves.

The mini-games are quite enjoyable and add a nice color, and so does the Toy Field. There are many things to do with many players, something to encourage you to try out with friends. Only downside being, back when you could play online on the Wii, this game had no online capabilities. Wanna play with friends? Gotta do that in your house.

The graphics are suitably cartoony, and the music’s okay. There’s really not much else to say about those.

All in all, a pretty fun title. If you don’t mind overworking your arm by swinging all the time, you should enjoy it. This concludes my review. You know… we’re getting closer to the blog’s fourth anniversary. Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for almost four years. What should I do this time around… I need a big game for the anniversary review.

Let’s see… Ah! Yes, this one will be perfect. Let’s stay in the realm of the Mario series, shall we? And reminisce on one of the most beloved titles of its time, one of the games that people still play or want to play. The combined powers of two developers, for a truly epic adventure… which went on to be nearly ignored afterwards by the Mario series, despite fans clamoring for it to get more recognition.

Yes indeed. Next Friday, get ready for my fourth anniversary review. I’ll be reviewing Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars!

July 14, 2017

Mario Super Sluggers (Part 1)

(Title card whenever I can. I got the cap, I don't have a bat or a baseball. Yet.)

I have a… complicated relationship with team sports. I mean, solo sports, no problem; swimming, bicycle, Just Dancing, even some of the sports that are practiced alone but could be played competitively, sure. I’ve held a real bow and arrow and aimed at a wooden target at least once in my life. But team sports, I always need reminders of the rules (when I learn them at all), can’t bother to remember the teams and players, I don’t find a lot of enjoyment in watching them. Yeah, I’m one of those guys who watches the SuperBowl only for the ads, and cares little about the game. The only exception may be hockey, since I’m Canadian, but even then I only care about hockey because it’s all over the goddarn news here, I know at least a few more players. Also, when our team, the Montreal Canadians, make it to the series, there’s an air of innate hope and happiness from just about everyone around me, and I find myself wrapped up in the hockey series hype. Well, until the Montreal Canadians lose, at least…

Pictured: Stuff I pretty much never used in my life.
Then there’s baseball, the interest of many an American – and the interest of many a mathematician, for some reason. I never got into the sport, I saw maybe one game live, and never really understood the rules. But hey, I’m a fan of the Super Mario series, and the franchise includes a lot of sport spinoffs, so one day I found and bought Mario Super Sluggers. I knew I quite enjoyed the baseball mini-game in the first Wii Sports, but I decided I would enjoy a Mario-themed game based on the sport…

…Nah, okay, I admit it, it was part of the Nintendo Selects brand and one of the cheaper Wii titles at the store, so I went ahead and bought it. True, I do like the Mario series enough to try its games, and I was intrigued by this one. I knew about Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube, and wanted to try the sequel. So hey, I knew what I was getting into. And it’s summertime, so I figured it was the perfect time to review this game. Shall we get to it?

July 7, 2017

Spectral Force Genesis


I don’t walk around with my smartphone’s web browser opened on Metacritic or another review score aggregate at all times, on the off chance that I stumble upon a game that interests me, and I can look it up online, and see if it’s a good game or not before purchasing it. Thus, sometimes I just check the box before I buy a physical game for the DS, Wii or 3DS. And boy is it a mistake sometimes. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? I remember doing that with more than a few games, Anubis II being one of them. That was a big mistake! Even on Steam; although it’s possible to check the reviews for a game before you buy it, you can’t tell if you’ll enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to.

Such was the case for Spectral Force Genesis; its box art looks great and promises some interesting anime style, the back advertises it as an RPG, war simulator and real-time strategy game. How do these genres fit all together? By fighting for supremacy with each other on top of a sort-of story that only follows the logical beats of the setting!

Let’s just get this one over with, shall we?


Totally not villains.
When one starts a new game in Spectral Force Genesis, you’re shown the World Map, covered in flags of the various locations to capture. There’s about 30 countries, though only a few are available when you pick a starting one. The top screen helpfully shows the place’s Lord, its number of Troops, current status, as well as how much money it has.

Once you’ve picked a country, you get a short cutscene showing that country’s Lord and their turmoil. If you picked the country with the biggest army, highest amount of currency, and the like: Good job, you picked the villains. But what if you chose any other available country? Oh, don’t worry too much, unless you’re of the unlucky type you should fare okay. The villains are the head of the Republic, who are trying to keep a strong grip on what they own. The world is on the verge of a war, and there seems to be nothing to stop it. The various factions are preparing themselves for battle, but that hasn’t stopped the trades, accords and diplomatic trips from happening. It helps that every country has some allies it can rely on, if things were to get rough.

July 4, 2017

An Episode In Gaming: Sonic Boom (Part 4)

Part 1 – Part 2Part 3Part 4


In Season 2, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles go on a road trip.
Really. And they reference the "Gotta go fast" meme.
I’m going to end this review today! I’ve discussed everything else I felt like discussing: the origins of the show, the updated characters, the first few episodes, the continuity, the fourth wall breaks… All in all, I’ve been pretty positive. And yes, this is a very good show. I do think that I should point out a few more gripes I’ve got with the show in general before giving my final thoughts – and perhaps a bit of insight on Season 2.

Let’s see… I already discussed the terrible villagers, I discussed Sticks as a conspiracy theorist (which, admittedly, can be pretty annoying to some, though I find her bearable – not to mention that I’ve seen worse examples of the trope being used). The TV show being so self-aware and making piques at itself and the Sonic fandom in general can be both a good and a bad thing – while some fourth wall-breaking humor is a good thing, too much of it can feel really forced or redundant after a while. Like anything, it’s great as long as it isn’t overdone. On to the new points to be made before my verdict.

Purdy.

First, you’ll notice that the CGI in this show is very, very good! It looks polished and pretty, it looks colorful. It’s a very nice show to look at, especially in large shots of the village or its surroundings. You can tell that the artists who made the CGI modeling of the worlds, objects and characters really did some excellent work. The animators… that’s a slightly different story. The animation of all these elements is still pretty good for the most part, although CGI animation experts may notice the characters’ movements to be a bit stiff. That really is a minor problem for people who don’t mind that so much. After all, it changes nothing to the stories told. But for those who specifically appreciate to watch and study the animation of these characters, it’s noticeable and a bit difficult to ignore. Maybe that’s the case because of the rush in completing episodes, I can’t tell. Still a minor issue, and it has apparently gotten better in Season 2, but it’s going to be a problem to some while watching Season 1’s episodes.

That,s from the Season 2 episode, "I Can Sea Sonic's Fear
From Here", the first underwater episode. Maybe the only
one, but we'll see with time... 
Season 1 ends with a final fourth wall break, when Orbot and Cubot mention the second season and Orbot quips, “Just think of all the hundreds more stories to be told using the same eight characters and four locations!” Yes, four locations. Most stories in Sonic Boom up to that point took place in the village, around the team’s homes, in the surrounding wilderness or in Eggman’s lair. Sure, there are subsections to these locations, but it still significantly reduces the scope of the world, and thus the number of stories that can be told. Thankfully, it appears that newer episodes are also improving that aspect, featuring stories that take place outside of those commonly-seen places in the show’s setting. Among others, there’s an underwater episode (about Sonic overcoming his fear of water) and one in space. I look forward to seeing more environments visited in that season!

From the Amy-centric Season 2 episode "Give Bees A
Chance", where she befriends one of Eggman's Beebots.
That episode was actually written by Amy's voice
actress, Cindy Robinson!
On to the characters now. A rather noticeable issue is how many plots focus on Sonic. Sure, every other main character gets their episode here or there, but when the focus isn’t on a character in particular (or when the whole team is important), Sonic will still usually take center stage. The show IS named after him, so it may be understandable, but it’s nonetheless annoying when the other characters who are part of the main 5 don’t get as much screen time. Knuckles’ lines are often reduced to being simply more references to him being dumb, except when the current story is about him; and it’s similar for Amy and Sticks, with the former often having just a few lines to show her nice yet bossy self, and the latter making another reference to her nutjob conspiracy theories. Tails often has more screentime as well, though he’s still inferior to Sonic in importance on the show.

"Would there be a reason to involve Eggman in this
episode?"
"Yes! Put him in!"
You know who else has major focus almost all the time? Eggman. As hilarious as he may be, sometimes it feels as though the writers feel forced to stick him into just about every plot they’ve thought up. On 52 episodes in the first season, he’s absent of only three of them. It’s like he always has to have a role in the plot, even when he isn’t the focus villain! If he isn’t a part of the plot, he’ll force his way in or other characters will pull him in. Is it part of Mike Pollock's contract or something? One example being the episode “Late Night Wars”, about Knuckles getting sudden popularity and stealing Comedy Chimp’s talk show, and out of the blue Comedy Chimp enlists Eggman’s help to boot Knuckles out.

Come on Perci, you're almost never around. And yet you
were kinda important in the games, no?
Please show up more often.
Of note, I think I mentioned that the TV show features new characters, but also some that appeared in the Sonic Boom games – among others, Mayor Fink and Fastidious Beaver (the former as a more reasonable authority figure, the latter as an annoying grammar corrector who’s rightfully ignored most of the time). One of the few other game characters popping up in the show is Perci the Bandicoot; in Rise of Lyric, she’s implied to be an action girl, descendant of a family protecting the island from the lingering potential threat of the Ancients. And Lyric is an Ancient. Unfortunately, Perci is seldom-seen on the show, having very few episodes to herself (one or two, at most) and being featured in crowd shots or for quick gags (often with clones, as a sign that the show’s animators don’t have enough characters to fill large crowd shots). And it’s a shame, too; with her backstory and cool look, why isn’t she featured more?

Aren't they adorable?
Thankfully, some other characters created for the show get a bit more screen time, like Zooey (a fox who becomes Tails’ crush and, later, girlfriend), Comedy Chimp, Soar the Eagle, or any of the other minor villains like Dave the intern or T.W. Barker. It would be pretty great to see more characters from the video games, though – at least as an acknowledgement that the games existed, and as a chance to give these characters a new purpose and a moment to shine outside of the impression they may have given because of the games’ poor critical reception.


Soar the Eagle, another recurring minor character.
Yet he's almost the only bird on the entire show.

Yeah, I know it started from a false rumor about Shadow
showing up in Sonic Boom with a Hawaiian shirt, but
with all the memes and franchise in-jokes that the show has
had so far, it's a surprise they haven't done it yet.
Shadow in a silly shirt = instant comedy.
I’ll be honest, I would love if the TV show tried to have more ties with the plot surrounding the Ancients from the Sonic Boom games; I’m sure there would be a number of great adventure episodes to make out of that, all while keeping the show’s lighter tone. Maybe we’d have a chance to feature Lyric as well. The snake villain was derided by the fandom – how dangerous could a snake really be? And yet, his serious attitude would be a great addition to the show, by playing off of the sillier portions of that world, acting as a sort of straight man surrounded by silliness, much like Orbot around Cubot. Hell, bring in more Shadow! Even if he stays serious, I’m sure there are plots that could be made around him again! Why should his appearance be a one-time thing? Show him wearing the Hawaiian shirt already!

I guess that covers it all. I haven’t watched all of Season 2 yet, and I personally think I should report on it only once all of its episodes have aired, but I’ll keep watching. In the meantime, I’ve at least discussed various aspects that have been ameliorated – many of the flaws of Season 1 were addressed and there was an attempt at correcting them. On top of that, the series started using multi-part episodes, starting with Robots from the Sky (which is split in four parts, from episodes 78 to 81). On top of all that, two new writers joined the team: Ian Flynn, who originally wrote for the various Sonic Archie comic book series (whether it’s Sonic X, the main Sonic series, or the Sonic Boom comic that lasted 10 issues), and Evan Stanley, who also contributed to many of these comic series through penciling, coloring, inking and writing. I’ll be pretty happy to watch through that season when all of its episodes are out! Honestly, I’m eager to see what they’ve got in store for us. Seems like the entire team behind that show wants to deliver a quality product and will do their best to please the fans.

For the sake of mentioning them, what are some of the plots of Season 2 episodes, aside from “The Biggest Fan”?
That's a lot of tails... a lot of Tails.
-Sticks starts a radio channel to discuss her conspiracy theories with the townspeople;
-Sonic is brought into the sea to conquer his fear of water;
-Tails splits himself into multiple copies, with disastrous results;
-Eggman’s robots go on strike;
-Orbot becomes an evil genius, and a genuine threat;
-Knuckles gets a… desk job? I think?;
-We learn more about the village, the one which, despite lacking a name, is the setting for most episodes;
-Eggman’s brother comes by for a visit;
-And the 4-part "Robots From The Sky" series.

Gotta say, i quite like the "Multi-Tails" episode.
"Look at that, I can kick my own ass now!"

Honestly, I can’t wait to check them out. These already look rather promising, and I’ll be happy to watch them!

"Ah, I cannot get anything done, this blue screen and these
white formulas are blocking part of my sight!"
So yeah, Season 1 isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely good.  Best episode of Season 1? “Hedgehog Day”. Worst episode? “Just A Guy”. Yeah, I know, that last one is kinda obvious, you’ve probably read my rant about it in Part 3… Why do I just state these two? Because I really don’t think I could make a Top 12 list of the best episodes, because I would struggle to take away episodes from the list – there are too many good ones. I also doubt I could make a Top 12 list of the worst episodes, because I can’t say there’s 12 legitimately bad episodes in that season – maybe when Season 2 ends? I dunno. The quality has been pretty consistent so far, and while the show’s flaws do exist, and probably some of them still exist in Season 2, they rarely get in the way of the stories the writers tried to tell.

I’m not even sure what else to add, really; this is just a good TV series, go and check it out.

Wave 2 of the onslaught of bad Sonic OCs in 3... 2...
In other Sonic news, some time ago we had these new trailers for Sonic Forces. Looks quite promising; a bad present where Eggman has already succeeded in taking over the world, through some form of time travel, with Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic teaming up to stop the threat. In comes a third hero – an original character. Yep, a customizable character, made from various parts as the player sees fit, picking among the six or seven species available. Every species has an advantage of a sort over the others, usually in a form of physical feats (being able to double jump, having longer mercy invincibility after getting hurt) or in ring collection (keeping one ring when hurt, being able to collect back the lost rings).

That’s something else to look forward to in the Sonic series. The Sonic Boom games were disappointments, so we’re all hoping for a return to form for the franchise. Unlike some Sonic fans out there, I actually have hope for the franchise, despite the many missteps and failed attempts at reinventing the series. Secret Rings, Black Knight, Unleashed, many Sonic games tried something new and didn’t quite succeed. We had Sonic Colors, a genuinely great game, and we had hope again. The franchise isn’t dead, unlike what the worst fans would like you to think.

Maybe this time they'll do the time-travel plot right!
Seriously though, this negative attitude has to stop. The stupid screams of the franchise being dead with every new announcement of an upcoming game… it gets grating. It’s annoying as Hell. And I don’t get why it’s the Sonic FANS who act that way! Yeah, new games have missed the mark, very frequently, but the self-defeating attitude has to end. We’ve got a decent TV show as a tie-in to Sonic Boom, we’ve got Sonic Forces that sounds like a great idea; I’m hopeful. If you’re not, that’s your choice, and you’re entitled to your opinion, but don’t annoy everyone else about it. And enjoy Sonic Boom, the TV show. It's proof that there's still quality entertainment in this franchise.

Well, that was a tangent. Okay, well… See you in the next review. What is it that I have to review… Oh yes! A Nintendo DS game. Urgh… I’ve got only two left, and one of them really doesn’t interest me… better get that one done right away. Next week, Spectral Force Genesis.

June 29, 2017

An Episode In Gaming: Sonic Boom (Part 3)

Part 1 – Part 2Part 3Part 4

I presented a few episodes from the show in the previous part. Now, I believe it’s time to discuss the show’s continuity in greater depth. Yes, I mentioned in Part 2 that the show first tried to have no continuity, but then resigned to having some, if only in recurring characters and references to past events. Eventually, comparing the show to the games also becomes a bit of a necessity, as some episodes feature characters who have roles in the game. Of course, it also means that we’re going to be touching on another important topic: The supporting cast. That is, the villagers.



Mayor Fink. He's a politician.
We should trust him... but only a little.
You can’t have a slice-of-life story taking place in a village and not show off the various characters who are a part of that village and its surroundings. The fifth episode, “My Fair Sticksy”, was the first episode to feature prominently the villagers, including Mayor Fink. In the games, this mouse guy is more interested in his next re-election than in listening to Sonic and his group about the current threat. This comes back to bite him in the ass when Lyric, the games’ villain, uses Metal Sonic and RAZES HALF OF THE FREAKING ISLAND. In the show, he’s more reasonable. He listens to the villagers when they have problems, takes part in the various activities, and seems to be at least a decent mouse being, so that’s already a step in the right direction. He doesn’t give the impression that he’s only interested in being re-elected.

Yeah, that thing is definitely not friendly.
Clearly, the writers of the show want to include many elements of the games into the show – whether it’s secondary characters, locations or items (Awardy Award, anyone?). There are hints here and there of something strange hidden underneath the mostly-normal world Sonic and friends live in – like that time they battled a golem. These may be remnants of the Ancients, a race that existed long ago and made use of very advanced technology for their time. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if later episodes of Sonic Boom revealed more elements of that world’s past, tying the games' continuity to the show. But, aside from a few nods here and there, this isn’t the focus of the plot in Season 1.

See, that’s the thing with having a show that combines slice-of-life and action; the heroes are dealing with everyday problems (with a touch of silliness obviously), but have to battle threats and villains (mostly Eggman). There’s bound to be some overlap. Thus, no earlier than in Episode 7 (titled “Double Doomsday”), we meet Dave.


That logo is the quintessential depiction of "Meh". 
NO! Hell no. Dave is a nutria later known as Dave the intern… actually, wait, that’s all anyone knows him by. Dave the Intern. On his debut episode, we see him on his day job at Meh Burger. Let’s take a moment to mock the name of this recurring location, shall we? Meh Burger: Our burgers are just good enough, our meals are edible, our staff is mediocre and will mess your order on purpose, and our menu is nothing worth of praise. But hey, we’re still better than White Castle! *Meh Burger jingle plays, poorly, on a kazoo*

Apathetic, teenager, uninterested, gives no damns about the
clients. Yup. That's a fast food restaurant cashier alright.

Dave rebels in three... two... one...
Eggman has a knack for turning people against him.
Dave is shown to admire Doctor Eggman and villains in general, hoping to be one himself. As such, he sweet-talks Eggman into taking him in as an intern. Things start well, with Dave doing menial tasks under the doctor's guidance, and getting a look at that shiny villain life (it's implied that villainy is as good a career as any other in this universe). Obviously, Eggman isn’t the kind who’d respect his interns, so Dave soon gets fed up and activates one of the doctor’s doomsday machines. Eggman activates a second one he owns, forcing Sonic’s team to step in and disable them. Dave goes back to work at Meh Burger, but remains as an antagonist on the show – although a fairly ineffective one.

On the right is T.W. Barker, a villain who's fine with any
job as long as he can cause trouble to the good guys.
Here, he's Eggman's lawyer in an obvious kangaroo court.
Dave’s first appearance is the point where the show decided to have a continuity. Following this, Dave shows up every once in a while – sometimes as a bad guy, sometimes as the Meh Burger cashier. I mean, aren't those the same thing anyway? However, he’s not the only new villain; among them, we also have a walrus who’s known as a criminal around town, and whose body shape resembles Eggman’s. Then, we have T.W. Barker, a con man wolf man. He manages to trick Cubot and Orbot into taking Eggman’s floating orb for a test drive and never comes back, then later traps 4/5ths of Sonic’s gang in a circus. He’s surprisingly competent, and reappears many times afterwards.

Of course Dave is one of them. He wouldn't pass up an
opportunity for evil, no matter how pitiful.
Then we have the Lightning Bolt Society. These recurring villains are a group that attempts to do evil around the island, although their idea of evil is just pathetic. Needless to say, Dave the intern and the walrus are a part of that group. They’re about as harmless as most other villains in the damn show, minus Eggman of course. It's like they get even more pathetic as a group, though. Much like Dave, they come back every once in a while to cause mischief, but rarely anything worse. Well, aside from a few exceptions.

Some episodes directly reference the Sonic canon, or at least feature opponents met also in the Sonic Boom games – at one point, they even fight Metal Sonic. Other minor characters from the games, like Perci the bandicoot, also make appearances.

Shadow is described by the showrunners as "too cool to
use". Well duh, he is too serious a villain for the show.
We get to the season finale, Episode 52, “It Takes A Village To Defeat A Hedgehog”. Eggman and the Lightning Bolt Society team up and welcome a new member in their group: Shadow the Hedgehog. Yep, THAT Shadow the Hedgehog. A much darker character than in the original games, this Shadow is nasty, cruel, and an outright villain rather than an anti-hero. Oh, and he hates nonsense, which clashes with the very comical ambiance of the show – he’s not even treated as a joke, but his serious behavior somehow makes him funny put next to the menagerie of silly baddies. I won’t say much else about the episode, but I guarantee that Shadow is the biggest threat faced by the group. Fitting for the season finale, no?

Also, a selfie allowed Sonic to defeat Shadow.. Have I mentioned that this
show didn't take itself seriously?

I at least applaud the show for featuring townspeople of all
species, appearances and ages. I mean, have you ever seen
a goat before in a Sonic series? An ox? A mouse?
A lady walrus? Elderly people???
Now that the continuity has been discussed, let's go over other elements of the series. There is one issue you notice over time: the townspeople are jerks. I mean, not all of them, and not consistently, but as background characters, they usually only serve the purpose of "being there". In crowd shots, as people at events, that sort of thing; they're not always interacted with, and sometimes are only there to add some life to the sets. Thing is, due to the slice-of-life nature of the episodes’ plots, sometimes they’ll merely serve to hammer the point home, antagonize the team (when the public has a part in the plot against the heroes), or to be obstacles. Some of them really need to learn about gratitude, too. Oh, and maybe some extra intelligence wouldn’t hurt. Then again, in a world where villainy is a valid career path… Some examples from Season 1 include:
So easily swayed, they're ready to pronounce Sonic guilty
of a crime, by the villains no less. What idiots.
-“Don’t Judge Me”, where despite the blatant kangaroo court against Sonic – who saved their village countless times – the villagers are ready to condemn him for (supposedly) hurting Eggman’s neck while the latter was attacking the village and endangering them;
-“Late Fees”, where they all seem to do their darndest to block Sonic from bringing an overdue book to the local library;
-“Chez Amy”, where the feud between Meh Burger and Amy’s new restaurant causes the VERY fickle villagers to go from one to the other as soon as they introduce a new gimmick to beat the other – even if said gimmick is completely pointless, like a drive-thru for a restaurant on an island where nobody has a car;
-“Blue With Envy”, where Sonic is banned from the village after he loses a battle against a new guy (who later turns out to be an android created by Eggman), and they friggin’ refuse to let him back in when Eggman actually attacks them and the new guy is useless;
Yeah, sure. Y'all get pissed at me because I don't want a
civilian to get hurt, y'all get pissed at me after a civilian
gets hurt because you pressured me into bringing him into
the action. Y'all can go to our kid-friendly version of Hell.
-“Just A Guy” is the worst example, as the townspeople get offended when Sonic calls Mike the Ox “just a guy”, when that’s pretty much what he is, and they get even more offended when he calls them “people”… All because he doesn’t want a civilian to get hurt. Oh, and when Sonic caves in and brings Mike to a battle against Eggman and Mike freaking gets hurt, the goddamn villagers start berating Sonic, fucking saying he should have never brought Mike to a battle after they fucking pressured him into it after they got all offended that Sonic wouldn’t bring a fucking civilian in a battle against evil and… RRRAAAAAAAAAUUURRGH! Fuck you, townspeople in that one episode. No wonder Sonic tells them in G-rated terms to piss off, angry that he never gets any recognition or goddamn respect!

I… I think that’s enough. Whoa, I lost my cool there for a second.

They did it, the magnificent bastards.
They referenced the meme.
On to happier topics. Kind of. There is one thing for which I applaud the show: They’re very self-aware. Clearly the writers love to slip in little fourth wall jokes. Even better, they seem to be in touch with the fandom – including the memes and in-jokes. Sonic the Hedgehog’s official YouTube and Twitter accounts are a treasure trove of those, and I think that’s the best approach SEGA’s PR team could ever take. When the trailer for Sonic Forces came out with the reveal of custom characters being a part of the game, people immediately started referencing Coldsteel the Hedgehog and Sonichu. And whoever manages these accounts took it all in stride. And really, that’s the best attitude to take – it’s always good to have a sense of humor about yourself, and this seems to be their way to do things. Especially when interacting with the Sonic fandom, which hasn't had the best reputation.


Look at that, Knuckles in his fantasies thinks he's Superman. 
One of the earliest references to memes may be in episode 8, “Double Doomsday”, where Tails asks Sonic to quickly act in order to prevent the titular doomsday. While doing so, Tails uses the phrase “But if you’re too slow”, those last words said in a similar intonation to Sonic when he says them in his Super Smash Bros. taunt (the one where he mocks the other fighters with a “You’re too slow!”). And it doesn’t end there. One of the earliest known glitches of the first Sonic Boom game was an infinite jump that could be performed, among others, by Knuckles – the player simply had to pause in midair. This is referenced in a scene where Knuckles imagines himself as a hero and savior, and at the end of his fantasy he flies off into space. More Knuckles goodness, when his design was revealed, fans started saying he skipped leg day – and another episode references that, with Knuckles saying in one episode that he doesn’t like leg day.

The fourth wall gets broken down brick by brick as time goes, with more and more jokes of that type being made – at the end of the 26th episode (just before a hiatus between both parts of the first season), Eggman’s lair gets destroyed and he asks for a truce until it’s rebuit – a truce as long as the hiatus until the 27th episode. Over time, they even start to acknowledge their own running gags. Starting in the earliest episodes, there’s that walrus lady whose baby is always put in danger because of Eggman – cue her screaming “MY BABY!” in a panicked tone. Before Season 2 even rolls around, she’s reduced to referencing just how often it happens, now saying “My baby! Again!”, or switching it up to “My baby! ...pictures” at one point when her purse gets stolen instead. Overall, the second half of Season 1 doubles down on fourth wall jokes, with minor characters acknowledging that their situation (the story) can’t move forward until a character shows up. Said character? Knuckles, again. Yeah, I noticed that a lot of these jokes revolve around Knuckles. In another instance, an episode about Sonic and him participating in a friendship TV game show has Knuckles saying “I thought this was a Sonic and Knuckles episode…” I won’t mention every other instance, but as you can see, it’s frequent.

Greasy look, nerd glasses, overweight.................
...Yup. The look says it all.
That’s the fourth wall breaks; but as I mentioned, there are also many references within the show to the Sonic fandom in our world. Those culminate in a Season 2 episode titled “The Biggest Fan”, where Sonic meets, you guessed it, his biggest fan: A neurotic tapir named Mark, who decides to become his hero’s assistant. Mark is obsessive, considers everyone else inferior to his favorite hedgehog, spends an uncomfortable amount of time hanging around Sonic, and even paints a big portrait of him with tan arms. The character is a parody of crazy Sonic fans – of which there’s unfortunately a lot.

Note the arm color.
Such a character brings to mind Christian Weston Chandler, AKA Chris-Chan, the “author” of Sonichu. I won’t discuss my opinion of the person, I’ll just say that the portrait of Sonic with tan arms in the episode may be a reference (accidental or not) to Chris-Chan’s outrage at Sonic’s arms being blue in the “new” Sonic Boom continuity (even if it’s officially a spin-off, not a reboot). Sonic’s arm color is only one example of mundane and inconsequential tiny changes (in a franchise, ANY franchise, I’m counting every famous series here) that has the overbearing fans, the loud minority, act like raging jackasses. There are fans, no matter the series, who will throw a hissy fit when even the smallest things are changed, and make everyone else press their palm to their forehead. It’s far more common than you’d think – and these people deserve to be called out, whether it's in the Sonic fandom, or in any fandom. Okay, enough with the tangent.

"Is your family name Wilkes, by any chance?"
"Hm? No, it's The Tapir."
"Really? I could have sworn..."
In a ploy to keep Sonic all to himself, Mark goes full-on Annie Wilkes from Misery, and after crashing his motorbike (and supposedly harming Sonic in the process), keeps his hero in casts in his bedroom. Things get VERY creepy from there – not as bad as the original Stephen King novel, thank God. Don’t worry, Sonic manages to get out of trouble thanks to his team. We do get another reference to the fandom (and its reaction to the first reveal of the Sonic Boom characters’ updated designs) when Sonic wraps Mark in bandages to immobilize/defeat him, and Amy says Sonic “always overdoes it with the sports tape”.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!



It's a miracle that the fourth wall is still standing. This show is precious.

Does this large amount of fourth wall jokes and acknowledgements of the fandom help in making the show good? Definitely, though it may feel like too much from time to time. As with anything, the show does have its flaws, and I’ll go back on this in Part 4, the final part for this look at the show.