The Dark Web podcast episode 1

Technically this is the second episode of the revamped podcast but this was the first official episode of the new year so I counted it as episode 1.

I talked about Masters of the Universe, The Toys That Made Us (Netflix), the Lethal Weapon movies, and near the end I plugged in an interview with YouTuber John Riggs of Rigg’d Games.

Find the episode here. Subscribe or follow on Podbean.

The Dark Web Podcast New Years Eve Special

Click the link to listen to The Dark Web Podcast New Year’s Eve Special episode.

This marks a reboot of the previous Spiders Lair podcast.

This episode includes interviews with three guests. One is a former producer for a local TV station. The second is the managing editor of a daily newspaper. The third guest is the band director of a Texas high school marching band that won back to back state championships.

 

 

 

Porgs vs. Jar Jar Binks vs. Ewoks

Yeah this isn’t exactly going to be all that original. However I thought I might just get it out of the way.

As far as I am concerned Star Wars has always catered to two completely separate but equal audiences. First and foremost it’s a kids movie. Sure it happens to be beloved by kids of all ages, including those of us well past the traditional age of adulthood, but the point is the films have always been targeted to children. I don’t mean to make it sound like they are made for kids, but they are certainly made to appeal to kids. I always find it amusing to hear grown adults in their 30’s and older try to argue it was never a kids movie, while neglecting the very fact they discovered it while they themselves were kids. Okay, I don’t want to beat a dead horse so let’s move on.

I was born in 1982. For me I grew up in the period between the Star Wars Trilogy and the Prequels. As such I was the exact right age to enjoy The Phantom Menace while also recognizing it was certainly a flawed movie. I guess this is part of why the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi never bothered me. If you want to get down to it, my actual first exposure to Star Wars was not even the movies but the Ewoks cartoon series, so you could say I was already appreciative of the fur balls. I also loved shows like Punky Brewster and Alf so sue me. I just never knew there was  a faction of the Star Wars fandom that even hated the Ewoks. I guess growing up I didn’t even know there was a Star Wars fandom. Where I lived Star Wars was old news. All the kids my age were into Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe. To them Star Wars was dad’s movie, it was old. I kind of related to this myself since it was my dad that introduced me to the films. I just chalked it up to how kids dislike things that came out before they were born.

I am not going to defend the Porgs nor am I going to claim they are ruining Star Wars. I can honestly say I rolled my eyes at the scenes featuring them but that’s the extent of it, Disney made sure they were there for the kids but didn’t let them get in the way of the adults enjoying their movie too.

This takes me to the second part of the equation. Star Wars is equally not a kids movie. As a space opera, as Fox used to promote it as, the film has universal appeal. I always considered it more of an epic mythology set in a science fiction based universe. I kind of describe the saga as space fantasy more than sci-fi. I can make the case that the movies are also made to appeal to adults while being accessible to children. I think most die hard fans will probably fall somewhere in line with that point of view. That is except the OUT only nut jobs who scream Han Shot First at their LaserDisc players. Don’t dismiss me just yet, I have Star Wars on LaserDisc myself.

This takes me back to the Ewoks. The complaint I have started hearing in recent years, made famous on How I Met Your Mother, is how the Ewoks divided the Star Wars fandom. I seem to recall a moment in Clerks where one of the characters dismisses Jedi as a movie with a bunch of muppets. I wasn’t sure if he was dismissive of just the Ewoks or the entire films focus on aliens. I didn’t care but it got me to thinking, where there adults that went into Jedi feeling disappointed because it had teddy bears fighting Stormtroopers? I once dated a girl who said Return of the Jedi was the only Star Wars movie she liked. Or as she called it, the one with the fuzzy bears. We didn’t last long.

Looking back I still think Jedi has some great action, plenty of fantastic special effects and a dark enough mood leading up to the grand finale. For me the Endor stuff was fun, I enjoyed it. I am now able to admit some of that was because I was the right age when I saw Jedi, while some of it is giving the movie a pass for nostalgia reasons. Growing up I never owned Star Wars on tape. I never got to see it in theaters. My only exposure was renting it on VHS those rare times it was ever actually in stock or the recordings we had of the films from taping them ourselves off the TV. Unfortunately this meant I had to watch them with commercials on low quality VHS tapes with dropped audio and since the tape ran out Jedi ended with Vader turning Luke’s saber on before taking him to see the Emperor. So for several years growing up that was how Return of the Jedi ended for me.

Fast forward to The Phantom Menace. I was 16 when it debuted. I went to the theater three times to watch it. I made the mistake of reading the book ahead of the film’s release just because I couldn’t wait to enjoy the story Lucas had concocted. This was easy for me as a fan of the books I was already a huge fan of the Expanded Universe stuff. I also subscribed to the Star Wars Insider Magazine, was a member of the Star Wars fan club, and even got the Star Wars.com news letter in my email each month. I was also a political science nerd in high school. I studied politics. I watched C-Span, and yes I was even student council president of my high school. For me the political stuff in The Phantom Menace wasn’t boring at all, it was fascinating to learn the structure of the economy of the Old Republic and to see it dissolve into the Galactic Empire. Up to that point all I had to go on was that brief mention at the front of the book of the original Star Wars From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. I still hated Jar Jar Binks.

I never understood the hate the prequels got but I did fully understand the feelings of anger Jar Jar stirred up in Star Wars fans. I was one of those who hated him so much that I vowed if he was in Attack of the Clones half as much as The Phantom Menace I was going o boycott Episode 3. Fortunately Jar Jar wasn’t the problem with Episode 2. Unfortunately I would have preferred if he was. Unlike Artoo Detoo or the Ewoks before, Jar Jar was slapstick comedy almost on the level of the 3 Stooges. It felt out of place in a Star Wars film. Right at home in a video game, maybe but not a film. But remember, the Star Wars Holiday Special? The series was kind of tainted right from the start.

Okay so what about Porgs? Or is it the Porgs?  I don’t know I guess I don’t care. Unlike the Ewoks which fans hate for being a contrived plot device or Jar Jar which fans hate for being slapstick the Porgs actually served no purpose other than to ensure Disney could sell stuffed animals to kids. They were underutilized to the point where fans of them weren’t given enough to go on but not over used to the point of becoming a real distraction. Seeing that trailer with the Porg and then the ice foxes made me lose a lot of the hype going into The Last Jedi. Seeing how they were actually handled made me really question why they were even included in the first place?

I don’t dislike Return of the Jedi for having Ewoks. Jar Jar has since grown on me with each repeat viewing of The Phantom Menace. I mean it was the first Star Wars movie I got to see in theaters and I was all in during the pre-release hype so the movie holds a special place in my heart. I get how fans were disappointed but I still love the movie. Porg, had absolutely no impact on my enjoyment of The Last Jedi. He, she, it, they were just sort of there and then they weren’t. At the end of the day Star Wars is supposed to appeal to kids of all ages, including adults who refuse to grow up, so good on Disney for finding a balance that allowed them to put a cute little stuffed animal into the film without making it too important to the plot to ruin it.

Top 25 Action Figures for a newbie collector

If you are anything like me you probably play video games, read comic books, enjoy super hero movies and probably have an interest in collecting the cool action figures you see everyone showing off in their YouTube videos. Well this is a simple buyers guide to assist a newcomer to the action figure collectors scene get a good jump start on a collection without digging too deep into a single franchise. The purpose is to be more or less a guide to be used as a starting off point. For each slot on the list I will include a couple of alternates just for good measure. As with all of my lists this is not ranked, the numbers are sequential only for organization purposes.

  1. Wolverine- X-Men

Picking a good non-traditional super hero is tricky. For a new toy collector sometimes you want to mix things up with something out of the ordinary. On the other hand it can also be just as good picking someone that is easily recognizable. Wolverine fits the bill as he is one of the most iconic X-men but isn’t as popular or obvious as a Spider-Man or Avengers figure.

  1. Master Splinter- TMNT

This is a good figure to get started on a TMNT collection. One thing I like about having Splinter is he is an unconventional super hero figure while also being recognizable enough you don’t have to explain him to many people. Also, since my nickname is THE RAT I kind of have a soft spot for rat-themed characters.

  1. Starscream- Transformers

There are too many awesome Transformers action figures to choose from to narrow it down to just one or two. However if a person is just starting out getting into toy collecting this figure works well because it doubles as a robot soldier in the good versus evil battle and works well as a military fighter jet. Also, he’s one of the most iconic characters in the toy line while not being one of the super obvious ones like a Bumble Bee or an Optimus Prime. In additional to all that, he works well as a good “leader” type since he was always trying to over throw Megatron.

  1. Destro- G.I. Joe

For this toyline I think a new collector should start with someone that is iconic while also being slightly more interesting than just another bad guy. As an arms dealer Destro plays both sides. He is marketed as one of the villains but he can work well as just a capitalist trying to make ends meet.

  1. Mer-Man-Masters of the Universe

When selecting your first He-man figure most likely you are going to be tempted to pick up He-Man or Skeletor. Of course every collector is going to want to get those two into their collections first chance they get, but seriously it’s always more fun to pick a figure you can use as a good talking point while also being fluid enough to fit into any of your other lines for a good solid play session if you’re figures don’t just sit on a shelf. Mer-Man works as a great talking point because he wasn’t one of the mainstream figures but he is easily identifiable as a MOTU figure.

  1. Ripley- Aliens

No action figure collection would be worth it’s salt without a strong female character. While all the hipsters are going to be looking for a Buffy and the boring sheep will stick to Wonder Woman, why not stand out and pick up a character with some solid Sci-Fi chops and a history of ass-kicking in good old fashioned R-rated action flicks. Alright or you could just say she works because you can also pick up that awesome walker she drove in Aliens and make her seem even more bad ass.

  1. Han Solo- Star Wars

Much like Wolverine this entry is one of those obvious choices you kind of have to get first up. If you are setting out to build a good Star Wars collection you need a hero and while most will turn to Luke Skywalker why not give the anti-hero a pick instead? Han was always the more interesting character anyways and for a well-rounded action figure collection Han doesn’t look as out of place as farm boy Luke or religious monk Jedi Luke. Just make sure you keep your Greedo’s smoking guns drawn so Han gets the first shot.

  1. Joker- Batman

The great thing about a Joker action figure is he is a clown. Everyone knows the Joker so there is no point in going for a pretentious pick like Mad Hatter or Scarecrow when you know you want a Batman villain that stands out above the rest. Personally I prefer the Riddler and Penguin as characters because they are more interesting and less obvious but seriously any action figure collection that doesn’t feature a Joker figure is kind of pointless.

  1. Jack Sparrow- Pirates of the Caribbean

You got space pirate Han Solo, why not pick up his OG Disney counterpart? I always compared the Pirates series of films to Star Wars anyways and now that Disney owns both franchises it just makes even more sense to snag a Jack Sparrow to join your action figures on their quest to build up your collection. I like the design of the character because he can also blend in as a historical figure if you wanted to go that route. Also you can claim it’s a Captain Morgan figure for your booze loving friends if you need a way to save face.

  1. Mega Man

The Blue Bomber doesn’t exactly make for the best action figure. Most of his toys aren’t even posable really. But the guy is iconic, he is a robot and well he’s just about the easiest video game figure to pick up and place on a shelf with other non-video game figures if you are going the broad collector route layed out here.

  1. The Thing- Fantastic Four

The great thing about this guy is you can use him as a Marvel hero but he also works well in a match against those He-Man or Ninja Turtles figures as he is in the right scale and style. I like the Fantastic Four comics and characters so I think any action figure collector looking for a little variety in their super heroes should remember the classics too.

  1. Venom- Spider-Man

Basically cut and paste everything I just said about The Thing only replace hero with villain. Venom looks pretty bad ass as an action figure too so there is that as a bonus.

  1. Bender-Futurama

No science fiction action figure collection would mean spit if you didn’t have a robot from solid gold spoof series. I love Futurama and I could have filled this entire list with characters from that show. It would have been a boring list but Bender is the type of figure you can put on a shelf of misfit toys and he stands out above the rest as the top dog.

  1. Wingnut and Screw loose- TMNT

This is one of those figures that not many will have so it makes for a good entry level for a newbie. The characters were barely featured in the cartoon but work great as a duo plus look pretty intimidating despite not really being actually bad.

  1. Robocop

I prefer having a good mix of comic book characters, video game characters and science fiction characters. Since I love robots and space mutants the most I also like having figures that fit into either of those molds. Robocop works great because he spearheads his own film and video game series while also basically being the only toy you need from that franchise unless you want to be a hard core collector.

  1. Morpheus- The Matrix

Basically as far as figures go Morpheus, Agent Smith and Neo are about the only ones that actually look cool enough to put into a collection as far as I am concerned. Unless you are a die hard fan of the movies stick to the man that made the series worth enduring and save the rest for when you are needing filler.

17 & 18 Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees

These two need to be bought as close together as possible to re-create those Freddy Vs. Jason moments that everyone dreamt about growing up. You can re-create scenes from the movie or pretend it never happened and make your own scenarios. Or just place the two most bad ass looking movie monsters ever on your shelf for the hell of it.

  1. Spawn

I could pick any random 3rd party or indie comic super hero but Spawn just jumps out at me as a great pick for a new collector starting out. One thing I like about Spawn is he has ties to Spider-Man and Batman so you can kind of use him as a place holder for either of those lines. Another criteria of mine for these sorts of lists is to have as much variety as I can come up with without being too similar to what you would expect. I think Spawn looks cool as a figure even if the character himself might not be for everyone.

  1. Spider-Man

If you already have Wolvey, The Thing, and Venom then you kind of have everything you need to have some great Marvel team up action, that is once you get the world-famous wall crawler added to the mix. I am fairly certain I shouldn’t need to tell any toy collector they might want to get a Spider-Man into their collection, I just felt that he is one you want early enough but maybe not in the first five or so figures just so your collection doesn’t end up looking like everyone else’s right away. Variety is the spice of life as they say.

  1. Mr. Spock- Star Trek

There are some figures you might think are obvious choices and others you might over look due to them being obvious choices. While I do encourage getting some out of the box picks when you are starting out, don’t lose sight of why you are collecting in the first place, to connect with the franchises you love. A Spock is a type of figure that might get over looked as you buy more and more toys telling your self, yeah I need a Spock but not yet, not right now. Why put it off?

  1. Princess Leia- Empire Strikes Back

Skip the damsel in distress and the sexy slave in the gold bikini and get the version of Leia that deserves to stand on your toy shelf proudly next to that Han Solo figure I know you bought when nobody was looking. No one is going to judge you for getting a Leia figure but they might question your motives if you get the wrong Leia figure.

  1. Batman

I wouldn’t really expect any action figure collector to go too long without picking up any version of the Dark Knight. In this case it doesn’t really matter which incarnation you get, it doesn’t even have to match the Joker you bought earlier. I would shy away from movie specific ones unless you really want to draw attention to your collection. Put a George Clooney Batman & Robin figure in your collection, complete with Bat Nipples, and you might lose some nerd cred.

  1. Hound- Transformers

If you got Starscream earlier for the fighter jet alt mode then now is a good time to grab his ground based counterpart for the same reason, a solid military vehicle to put into your collection and a great looking robot soldier with rocket launchers for the sci-fi robot fanatic inside of you.

  1. Bart Simpson- The Simpsons

I guess he isn’t really an action figure but then again who cares. This guy makes for a great alternate reality companion for that Futurama Bender plus it’s one of the more iconic 80’s characters that some how manages to live on to this day. Like I said before I like variety. Of course feel free to mix this up however you want this is really just a guideline anyways.

There you go a solid list of action figures from a good variety of sources to give a new collector a collection that feels more complete than it really is. I never recommend specializing in one toy line unless you really truly want to limit yourself. I used to be a straight Transformers only collector and while I did have fun building a massive collection over the years, I found I enjoyed myself more picking up random toys from different shows, movies, comics and games than I ever did specializing. The point is to get the toys you want to connect with while not worrying about going for complete collections or comparing yourself to other collectors.

Here are 5 alternates for the hell of it.

Alt 1. Grimlock- Transformers

He’s a T-rex, ’nuff said.

Alt 2. Man-At-Arms- Masters of the Universe

This is a little more known than Mer-Man so take your pick but he has one of those funky names and well I just think starting with the main guys from any toy line is kind of boring. But this guy could get your collection started just as easily.

Alt. 3. Cloud- FF7

I guess if you wanted to substitute Mega Man for a sword wielding emo anime dude that could work too. Actually I am tempted to swap these two on the list so feel free to do so too.

Alt. 4. Scooby Doo

Maybe you don’t want a nerd like Bart Simpson in your collection. Fair enough a talking dog that solves crimes might be more up your speed. I just threw a random generic Saturday morning type cartoon anyways but come to think of it Scooby Doo might make a better fit than Bart anyways. I actually enjoy Scooby comic books way more than anything Simpsons anyways myself.

Alt. 5. Goku- Dragon Ball Z

I purposefully shied away from anime characters because there are too many and they tend to actually be specialty toys. However, Goku is iconic enough while also being the sort that could blend into an eclectic collection easy enough.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Feel free to share your changes in the comments and please share this article with all your friends who you think will appreciate it.

 

Star Wars: Where does it go next?

I have been watching review videos of The Last Jedi online. Now that it has been more than a week since I have seen the film I have had time to digest it.

Just before the movie released I was talking about how I really wasn’t hyped for this movie. I ended up taking my 14-year-old nephew to see it the Monday after opening weekend so it can honestly say I didn’t see it opening night like I did The Force Awakens. After seeing it though I am slightly more excited to see what direction Episode 9 goes in. I am fairly certain the Skywalker saga is coming to a close with this trilogy. I just haven’t figured out what that means for me going forward.

I am one of those Star Wars fans that got into a little bit of everything over the years. I never considered myself a Luke Skywalker or Han Solo fan, I always said I was a Star Wars fan. To that end I enjoyed the prequels, the special editions, several of the books, some of the comics, plenty of the video games and just about everything inbetween. For me, Star Wars is a vast universe that doesn’t have to be centered on the Skywalker family.

When I was a teenager I was so obsessed with the Star Wars expanded universe I read nearly every book I could get my hands on. I understand how some EU fans are not liking the direction the new films are taking, especially with them essentially wiping out all that history. I guess I was somewhat able to get over it because of two factors. The first, despite their efforts to bring things from the EU into the films, the prequels often times contradicted the EU stuff anyways. I learned to accept that the films were official canon and the books were, basically, licensed or authorized fanfiction. I was fine with that. I also was fine once I realized many of the books I enjoyed the most didn’t even feature any of the main film characters. I especially loved the X-Wing series of books. I also liked some of the Old Republic stuff, a lot of the Prequel-era stuff and some, but not much, of the New Jedi Order stuff. So for me I was already accepting that the “official” canon was already a mess to begin with. It makes sense for me to wipe it all out and focus on new characters. In some ways I wish Kyle Ren wasn’t a Skywalker by blood but so far it’s working out.

One thing I never cared for was how it always repeats. The old Republic rose to replace some sith empire only to crumble into a sith empire to be over thrown and replaced by a new Republic that in turn became a new sith empire and the cycle repeats, over and over. I am sure I am over simplifying things but seriously the expanded universe history of Star Wars is more complex than real world history in some ways.

The question remains, where do they go next? If Kylo Ren is going to become the new Emperor, or Supreme Leader or whatever they call him, then does that mean Rey has to become the new Luke and kill him at the end of the next film? I must say at this point I would happy if Rey turns evil and joins Kylo Ren, that would have been a much more interesting arc. I hate to sound morbid but with recent circumstances I hope Leia dies off screen inbetween films unceremoniously.

I still don’t like BB-8 so I would be happy with him being destroyed but I understand it would make more sense of Artoo and Threepio do be donated to a museum by this point than to continue appearing to be in any kind of functional order. I mean we saw burned out rusted old droids barely able to function in A New Hope, why is it Artoo and Threepio are able to stay in such great shape considering how old they supposedly are in universe and how poorly equipped the resistance is supposed to be. I mean if you think about it Artoo, at this point, is basically the same as WW2 technology being used in Iraq today. Threepio was hand built, supposedly, by s child slave using junk parts. There is no logical reason for either of those Droids to still function, let alone be in active military service. I can’t stand BB-8 but I dislike Artoo and Threepio not falling apart in a junk heap even more. If nobody addresses that in the next film I will just assume nobody else seems to care.

A part of me hopes Vader’s force ghost makes an appearance. I don’t know how Force ghosting works, if Vader is in Star Wars hell for being bad or if Luke was right the Force doesn’t care about light or dark it’s all just an energy field and doesn’t matter? Either way I would love to see either Hayden show up as Anakin (shut up) or Ewan McGregor appear as Obi Wan, either way would be fine by me. I would prefer Vader to appear to Kyle Ren and give him some business about how  wrong Luke was and that he only killed the emperor to save Leia. I don’t know whatever they’ve written them selves into a weird place I hope they can just find a way to use the Force in new ways in the next movie.

No matter what they do the ONE thing I DO NOT WANT TO SEE is another giant spaceship. It’s getting eye rolling bad with how each ship is larger than the last. Okay the super GIANT Star Destroyer in The Force Awakens and the Starkiller Base were meant to show hey these bad guys mean business. But they are getting crazy with how each movie introduces and even larger ship than before. I mean seriously at the height of it’s power the Empire couldn’t make ships that big, how is the First Order able to do so? Oh whatever I guess who cares technology progresses maybe? I just don’t want to see larger ships, show me new designs I haven’t seen before, show me new capabilities I haven’t seen before, and yes show me new maneuvers I haven’t seen before but stop making the ships bigger to make them more interesting. In so many ways this new trilogy isn’t flying in the face of the prequels, like some would suggest, they are actually belittling the beloved Original Trilogy more.

I think we are past due for a Lando cameo. At this point they need to address what happened to him. He was a large player in the books and OT films he was in so leaving him out entirely is really strange. I kind of HOPE they aren’t going to suggest he is Finn’s dad but I get the sneaky suspicion they might go that route.

Whatever happens I am glad Disney is throwing their money behind these films because even if it takes me longer to get hyped, I am certain I will still enjoy each one. A few years ago George Lucas did a comic book of his original draft of A New Hope. I am kind of hoping he will find some way to get Disney and Marvel to allow him the opportunity to do the same thing with his draft 7-9 scripts/ideas just to get an idea of what exactly he would have done.

Also while we are at it. Sure, the EU is officially no longer canon, that doesn’t mean they can’t do either an all CGI adaptations of the books, or a mixed CGI/Live Action with new actors down the road. If we are going to keep getting prequel territory cartoons and spin off films why not adapt some of the fan favorite films into feature length, even direct to digital releases for that upcoming Disney streaming service. You’re welcome Disney I just gave you the trillion dollar idea that make your platform stand out above all the rest. Reward me with stock certificates.

 

The Super Mario Bros series part 2: a look at the 3D games

When it comes to the 2D Mario games, SMB1 on NES through SMW on SNES, my opinions tend to fall mostly inline with the mainstream gamer audience as a whole. However, things diverge quite a bit when it comes to the 3D games.

My first exposure to 3D gaming in general was a Pseudo-3D games on the NES called 3-D Battles of the World Runner. This was one of those games that I first played at a friend’s house then picked up a couple times later from rental stores. Much like the modern day 3DS and the contemporary SMS 3D glasses at the time, this game relied on a 3D gimmick that used those red and blue glasses to trick the gamer into seeing a 3D image. I tried playing this game with the glasses and 3D effect turned on and it didn’t really do much for me.

My next exposure to 3D gaming was in my junior high computer lab. I got to experience a host of 3D games running on modern technology, at the time, including Duke Nukem 3D, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, MechWarrior 2, Heretic, and a few others I forgot the names to. In the interim 3d and VR had begun to take the tech industry by storm. Sadly, I must confess that even to this very day I have yet to experience VR in any shape or form. I am strongly interested in picking up a PS4 VR headset at some point in time, but I fear it will be much like my acquiring of a Sega CD, too late in the game to experience it when it was right to do so. Still 3D gaming and VR was all the rage in the mid-1990’s. SO much so we as a society had to endure the likes of the Lawn Mower Man, Virtual Boy, and that terrible VR scene in Double Dragon, among other pointless references including Virtual Bart.

Once I walked into K-Mart and put my hands up to that brand new kiosk playing Super Mario 64 on the brand new N64 machine my mind was blown. Unlike many gamers at the time, I missed out on Star Fox and similar early 3D type games because I had a Sega Genesis at that time and was more impressed with Mortal Kombat and Shinobi games. Hey what can I say, I was 12 and those games had scantily clad digital images of boobs, Star Fox looked worse than Lego’s. Thus, once I first laid eyes on Super Mario 64 I was legitimately blown away. I hadn’t experienced anything like that before, computer, arcade or elsewhere.

Super Mario 64

I played the hell out of this game. It was so mind blowing that even though I bought a PS1 and and N64 the exact same day, my 18th birthday with my hard earned paycheck, I spent easily 2-3 times as much time exploring that vast (for the time) 3D world. Much like Super Mario World this game has become an absolute favorite of mine. I replay it more than almost any other game, SMW notwithstanding. I have also owned it on multiple systems including the original N64 cart, the DS remake, the Wii and Wii U virtual console and I even have the rom on my laptop. Don’t judge me, I have given Nintendo more than enough money for this game, if they were ever to re-lease it on Steam or a similar service you can be sure I will buy it again.

I spent a lot of time playing this game in my late teens to early 20’s and on to today. Super Mario 64 had been my absolute favorite 3D platforming game for a very long time. I haven’t really enjoyed many of the other 3D Mario games since so let’s move on.

Super Mario Sunshine

I will just say I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I understand from a fanboy perspective why this game is beloved. However, I just couldn’t get into it no matter how much I tried. The problem is I absolutely adore the GameCube, to the point I sometimes claim it to be my favorite game console ever. I can go back and forth but it easily a contender. I just didn’t like this game. It just happened to come out at a time when I was getting into Playstation following a very devoted teen years with Sega at the forefront so for me I was losing interest in the more kid-friendly Nintendo stuff. Even though I did have this game early on, I hardly ever played it. I preferred Smash Bros, or even Sonic Adventure DX despite all the hate I got online for having that opinion. In the end I still enjoyed the GameCube thoroughly but this game just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like the tropical island mechanic, or repeating the jumping into paintings to travel to the levels. I felt it was trying to hard to be the next revolutionary Super Mario 64 yet it was doing all the wrong things. Sadly, I see the games potential and have given it a second, and third, chance over the years yet it continues to be one I can’t enjoy nearly as much as I thought I should.

Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2

I will keep this short as I picked up both games the same day. One I got used for the Wii, to play on my Wii U, the other I downloaded the discounted $10 virtual console version also for Wii U. I skipped these games when they were new and you can guess why. I HATE motion controls. But that wasn’t what did it for me. I just didn’t care for the running around upside down on broken pieces of levels. I thought it was just a strange gimmick to hide the hard ware limits of the GameCube 2.0 Waggle Edition. It was obvious to me that the developers chose to use very small, limited environments to trick the gamers into thinking the graphics were better than they actually where by throwing all the power into smaller levels. They were somewhat fun games and despite the limits of the machine don’t look at all bad, especially the art direction. I just couldn’t get into running around on floating orbs. I tried watching some Let’s Play’s to see if the later levels would appeal to me but I got bored and gave up. I am NOT saying these are bad games, just that I, personally, couldn’t get into them. I wish I could but they weren’t fun for me and that’s more important to me than following the mob.

Super Mario 3D World

I will say it, this is *the* game that pushed me into buying a Wii U. Even today it’s the only game for the console I have clocked more than an hour into, not counting virtual console or eshop titles. All I can say is that this felt like a true sequel to Super Mario 64 despite it being more linear and having a fixed camera. I can see why some fans, especially the ones who liked the other 3D games, didn’t enjoy this one much but I had a blast playing it. I got burned out on New Super Mario/Luigi U (I have both discs) but I can still go back and pick up the Wii U Game Pad from time to time for some Super Mario 3D World.

I am not going to discuss the handheld games because 1, their’s just too many of them and 2, I consider those entirely separate franchises to this mainline saga.

As of right now I am on the fence about whether or not I will even like Super Mario Odyssey. I know that it certainly looks more like a typical Super Mario game than some of the others and the high reviews it has garnered give me some hope. But Galaxy 1 and 2 both earned extremely high reviews too and I am afraid much of that might have been a combination of fanboyism being caught up in the success of the Wii and the hype around it so I am a little cautious since in so many ways the Switch is a lot like the Wii. Not that I am complaining, I enjoy it tremendously and have put more hours into it than I did the original Wii and am gaining on the Wii U.

Over all I can honestly say while some of these games weren’t quite my thing, none of them were terrible and I did enjoy each of them, to a degree, while I had the chance to experience them. I wish I could go back in time and like Galaxy but the reality is it just didn’t do it for me. I am willing to give Odyssey and fair shake, hopefully I will enjoy it too.

BONUS

Super Mario Super Show/Super Mario Bros: The Movie

Real quick I just wanted to share my first impressions of the Mario cartoons and feature film since I brought them up in the previous post.

I was around six or seven years old when the cartoon first aired, or at least when I first noticed it. I distinctly remember getting excited for new episodes. I was so into this show that I watched all of the versions, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. In fact I even watched other cartoons that featured the same voice actors just because. Around this time Mario was huge. I never did try any of the Nintendo foods but I did have a few of the Super Mario Happy Meal toys. I remember it fondly from my childhood as a result I won’t watch negative reviews of it by adults that try to critique it from grown up eyes. Leave it in the past where it belongs.

As for the movie. I have mixed feelings for this. Like many people I fell for the hype. I read about it in magazines. I got excited for the preview every time it played on TV. I should have known something was up when it showed up at the dollar theater just 2 weeks after premiere. I didn’t care I was getting to see it in theaters while it was still brand new so I was super stoked. Let me tell you like most kids my hype sunk into bewilderment once that cheesy cartoon started up. Then the movie ended. I went home and told my parents don’t bother buying a Super Nintendo get me a Sega Mario is dead to me. As a movie, I must admit, I still enjoyed it. I mean I like science fiction movies and I like dystopian futures. The movie certainly has flaws but I managed to enjoy it for what it was, but in doing so I divorced it from Mario and in my mind it was just an alternate reality movie that happened to have characters named after the Mario Bros. characters. I mean, looking back no I didn’t hate it, I did buy some of the toys from the movie, but to me it wasn’t Mario.

I guess that’s all for now.

A rundown of the Super Mario game series: Part 1 Arcade to SNES

I own a Nintendo Switch and currently have yet to pick up a copy of Super Mario Odyssey. I know financial reasons have gotten in the way, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take this time to look back at the franchise as a whole. At the very least I can skim over the mainstream games and talk about the things I like about each game. This time instead of talking about the games themselves, I am going to discuss them in the context of my own personal experiences with each and every one.

First up, Donkey Kong.

Technically this is not a Super Mario game but this is where it starts. I am fairly certain my earliest memory of DK was playing the game at a laundry mat sometime when I was very young, I think around 2nd grade if I am not mistaken. This wasn’t my first exposure with the Mario character but I will share my earliest memories of this game as it’s where the super hero plumber turned globe trotter got his start.

I don’t have a lot of memories of playing Donkey Kong in actual arcades. I was young enough to remember the heyday of the video arcade, this game happened to get released while I was still an infant so as a gamer I was already more into games like TMNT and Ghosts N Goblins. I wasn’t really seeking out primitive games such as DK and the like, at least not right away. My curiosity about this game in particular grew once I read an article in a video game magazine about Mario turning 10 years old and getting his start in the arcade hit Donkey Kong. I also started to notice other Nintendo arcade games with similar mechanics, Mario Bros and Popeye were the two that really stood out. Sometime around 1994 I would try seeking those older games out to give them a try. I ended up enjoying Popeye as a game more than DK around that time. This, of course, would change about a year later once Donkey Kong Country hit the market, but this story is about Mario so moving on.

Mario Bros.

I have to admit I stumbled upon this game entirely by accident one day. The city I lived in at the time had 2 different shopping malls. Each had their own video arcade. One had a smaller game room across the lobby from the movie theater which mostly featured newer, state-of-the-art games, and the other mall that had a very large arcade in the back of a yogurt shop. This place tended to have a vastly larger selection of games thus they were mostly older but still more popular games. In this arcade I discovered the Nintendo VS machines that were hosting Super Mario Bros Vs., among others. I had an NES so I wasn’t really interested in dropping quarters into a machine to play a game I could get at home. What I was interested in is digging into this classic. I remember dropping my token into the machine having no clue what to expect. Yes, it was one of those game rooms whose machines all took tokens. I always hated that but they had great selection of games for the most part so I gave it a pass.

Just a few months later one of my friends brought over a copy of Classic Mario Bros. on the NES which was a port of this arcade game. I tried it out there and became somewhat obsessed with it over the next few years. I was happy to discover it was the basis of those versus levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 and then to see it again turn up as a stand alone mode in the GBA games. Needless to say I became a huge fan of this classic machine.

Super Mario Bros.

I wish I could tell you the story of how my first memory of this game was unwrapping an NES one Christmas morning and popping this fantastic cart into my TV to whisk me onto a journey of awesome. However, that is not the case. In fact my first experience with this game was playing it with my cousin Kevin in his bedroom. He was a great many years older than I was so I don’t have many memories of Kevin other than that time he let me play his Nintendo. I spent what felt like hours, but was probably just a few minutes, trying desperately to get past that first mushroom man monster that would haunt my dreams for days to come.

I finally did get an NES the following Christmas and it came with that SMB/Duck Hunt cart we all know and love. Over the years my appreciation of this game has grown exponentially to the point where I am currently considering it to be one of my favorite video games of all time. Fortunately for me as well I was experiencing this game at the height of it’s popularity, and during the course of it’s first run as a consumer product, so I was able to be the right age to enjoy the Super Mario Super Show that accompanied it. Needless to say it shaped my imagination for a very long time. I used to give out Super Mario Valentine’s Day cards when I was a kid. I loved this game so much I still have a poster that came bundled with it hanging over my shoulder in my living room. In fact it is right behind me now as I type this.

Super Mario Bros. 2

The earliest memory I have of this game is actually a Toys R Us TV commercial that showed just the briefest of clips. I was already HUGE fan of the first game as well as that cartoon so I was anxiously waiting for my opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this little gem. I honestly didn’t know about the backstory and to this day I don’t care, this was a great follow up to what was, at the time, one of my favorite video games. I was so enamored by that TV commercial I used to get up early in the morning when everyone else was a sleep and re-enact the moves from the few brief clips of game play I had seen until I was finally able to rent the game and experience it for myself. In later years I would discover I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did back then, but it was still a great experience for me nonetheless. I also liked how it was more colorful and cartoony in the graphics department and the music was a lot more varied.

Super Mario Bros. 3

I have to admit I did not see the Wizard when I was a kid. To be honest I wouldn’t see that movie until 2010 when I showed it to my sisters kids. It was one of those things I somehow missed out on. I will even say that to this day I still am thankful I got to see that live action mess of a SMB film over this, so I don’t really have any regrets. I do, however, vividly remember the rest of the marketing campaign. To be honest, based on my total lack of memories of that movie makes me question how many others actually do too considering how much attention it gets in the discussions of this game. Regardless, the point is I do remember seeing TV commercials for this game. I also remember the soda promotions where you could get tips from the game inside the boxes of certain soft drinks. There were a ton of promotions surrounding this game and even though I don’t remember the movie that was used to propel it to mainstream status, I did till enjoy the game tremendously. By the time it came out I was actually able to get my parents to buy me a copy instead of renting it so I could enjoy it any time I wanted instead of only on those rare weekends it was in stock.

I just finished a complete run of this game a few days ago. It’s one of those rare games I have played clear to the end and it’s one of the fewer I revisit and try to beat again. Normally if I beat a game I usually consider that mission accomplished and don’t look back. I might re-visit a game if I liked it but most of the times I don’t finish the games I play so it’s even more rare for me to beat a game more than once. Not this game. I don’t make it an annual crusade or anything but I try to go back to it as often as time will allow. In an effort to keep it fresh I don’t like to play it too much because I love it that much.

Super Mario World

I have said many times over this is my absolute favorite video game of all time. I certainly place it in high regards, it could be a contender for greatest video game of all time if it wasn’t for Final Fantasy 7 being pure damn golden goodness. Still, this is quite literally my favorite game to play. I play it a lot. More than I play any other game, new or old. Even with all the hours I sink into Minecraft they don’t compare to the amount of time I put into this game.

My earliest memories of the game were seeing it featured in one of those video game based game shows that I watched. I can’t remember which one it was but they showed some footage of the game and it was awesome. My first time playing the game was this one kid who was saying in the campsite near the trailer park we were living in at the time had it set up in his tent with a Super NES and a small TV. He would invite me over to play his Super Nintendo all the time. Well I say all the time, they were only camping for the weekend so he wasn’t around long but it was enough for me to develop a very strong desire to get an SNES and this very game. As it would turn out due to a series of events I won’t share here, my parents ended up not getting me a Super Nintendo and instead opted for a Sega Genesis. Like I said, I won’t go into what happened and no it was NOT a matter of me getting stuck with a Sega and liking it despite the fact, I had actively switched sides and wanted a Sega over a SNES so there is that to consider. I blame a kid on the school bus that showed me his GameGear and his copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. Suddenly Mario was no loner on my radar. It wouldn’t be for at least 3 more years before I went back and got a Super NES for myself second hand just after the launch of the N64. It was a strange period too coming back to Nintendo and Mario after leaving them for Sega for a very long 3 years. Once I had a SNES and a copy of SMW things had changed. I didn’t turn my back on Sega but I was firmly back in the Mario camp, this time for good as it would turn out.

This is already getting long winded so let’s end here and do the 3D games next time.

The internal struggles of a tech writer

Life is full of struggles. Conflict is a part of what defines us. Some people, like myself, do everything to avoid conflict and confrontation. As a kid I used to stay after school learning how to program computers. I never had a computer at home growing up so I would spend as much time in the library, and later computer lab, as I could. I was born in the early 80’s at a time when our society was transitioning to being more centered on information technology. Yet I maintained my inner struggle throughout it all.

When I was 12 years old my parents got me one of those old typewriters. I know they did it as a way to placate my growing desire to have a personal computer in my life. Despite not having an actual computer I did have computer devices, a Nintendo and a Sega game console to be specific. A year later they would pick up an electronic digital word processor that allowed me to write my stories then transfer them to a computer using a floppy disk. During this time I continued to struggle with being torn in two very different directions. I didn’t really want to write stories nearly as much as I wanted to write computer code. Even a few years later when I got my first computer, an aging Commodore 64 that I used to continue learning the BASIC computer programming language. There was just one problem, I sucked at math. So much so that I had to attend special ed courses to learn how to pass my math classes.

Sometime after I discovered the internet after finally getting that computer I always wanted I realized I had been on the wrong path all a long. For me a computer was so much more than a tool. I saw it as an extension of myself. The things I could do with a computer went far beyond just being able to write stories in a word document or to draw terrible bitmaps using a lousy Paint program. I discovered I just enjoyed learning as much as I could about computers. I studied their history. I learned how they work and how to modify both the hardware and the software. In the computer circles modifying computers is called hacking. Outside of those circles, however, hacking refers to only one small aspect, the illegal stuff. I don’t really want to make this entirely about how much it bothers me that the word hackers has been turned into such a negative descriptor. Instead what I want to do is discuss my personal struggles with balancing my love of computer technology with my increasing desire to become a writer.

By the time I got into high school my plans had shifted. I wasn’t trying to limit myself to writing computer programs anymore. I was writing songs, poems, stories, works of fiction, even comic books in my art class. I discovered that what drew me to video game development in the first place was, at the core, my desire to tell stories. I noticed this when I realized my desire was to develop story-driven Role Playing Games. Specifically my desire was to combine elements from Western RPG’s with JRPG’s in a way that was both new and familiar. Ultimately when it came time to go to college I started down one path, diverted slightly before settling on where I am now. My love of technology and writing began to blend together. Now I try to write articles about technology from the perspective of a person who appreciates the technological advances.

I am the sort of person that owned a Beta Max and a RCA SelectaVision CED library of movies because I was fascinated by the technology. At the time I began collecting these formats, as well as LaserDisc and a few others too obscure to really discuss here, the rest of the world was trying to decide between HD-DVD, Blu-Ray or the budding digital streaming service Netflix was trying to launch. If you want to know which side I was on, put me down for neither. I jumped all in. I picked up an HD-DVD player, a Blu Ray Player and my first digital streaming device, a Western Digital WD media Player (followed by the doomed Google TV) all around the same time. You see, for me I never bet on one form of technology over another. Now my sister may remind me from time to time I was openly rooting for Blu Ray to fail, but that was more akin to my being a huge Nintendo fanboy at that time than it was actually believing in the merits of the rival format that it beat out. Still, despite being quite vocal about my position, I ended up buying stand alone Blu Ray player not long before I grabbed a PS3 for the gaming I realized I was missing out on.

Every once in a while I am reminded of my love of technology and how it has shaped me as a person. I know that writings articles for this blog in many ways gives me a way to sort that out. While I have begun making a career out of writing for a periodical publication, I still like to hold onto something that is entirely mine. I could say my dream has always been to write for a big tech blog. I can’t say that it has honestly always been that, but as with all things in life dreams change. I have had so many dreams I can’t really say that anything I do isn’t on that list somewhere along the lines. What I can say is that if my parents hadn’t allowed me the opportunity to discover the technologies I fell in love with for myself, I might not have been able to find a purpose in my life. The truth is, as a techie, nerd, geek, hacker, whatever label you wish to throw at me, at the end of the day all I really want is to provide a place of discourse with others who might share my passion for this wonderful technology that has developed over the years.

Not every article or entry in this blog is going to be a reflection of my own personal life. I just want to stay grounded in reality so I try to keep my true passions at the center of everything I do. If you want to call me a nerd because it makes you feel better then so be it. I have learned through the years that what other people think of me doesn’t matter. What does matter is what I think of myself. Right now, I want to share this with the world then get back to streaming Community, on Hulu, via my PS4 connected to my HDTV using my WIFI router. That’s what technology does for me.

 

Lethal Weapon vs. Die Hard: Which action movie is better for Christmas?

One thing I never understood was all the people who insist Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I understand it takes place at Christmas time, but does it really capture the spirit of the season like, say A Christmas Story or A Wonderful life? As I gave this some consideration, I wondered what about Lethal Weapon?

I always considered the classic buddy cop movie more of a Christmas movie than Die Hard. This was especially true considering how I first watched it with my dad right around Christmas time. Now I want to take a look at both movies as action films first, and see which one do I think captures the holiday spirit more.

They both take place around Christmas time so as far as setting goes they are close to tied. Lethal Weapon has an absolutely fantastic scene that takes place in a Christmas tree parking lot. There are plenty of references sprinkled throughout the film reminding the viewer of the holiday backdrop. However Die Hard almosy exclusively takes place inside an office Christmas party, the Christmas theme is almost essential to the whole plot. Not exclusively because it could have just as well been a New Year’s Eve, or hell, even a Halloween office party. The fact it was so relevant to the plot gives it a slight edge over Lethal Weapon.

Point 1: Die Hard.

As far as music goes both film feature prominent holiday tunes to set the mood. While Die Hard does take place at a holiday party, the Christmas mood is far more prevelant in Lethal Weapon. There is a family theme running through the entire film. The references aside, the family invites Riggs into their home to enjoy their holiday dinner, the mood is set Riggs is a part of the family and Christmas is all about family. 

Point 2: Lethal Weapon

Both movies being basically tied in terms of theme, setting and holiday dressing it now comes down to the tie breaker. While the office party was a Christmas party, as mentioned before it really could have been any office party and still worked. It was prominent thus earned the point, however Riggs depression and suicidal tendencies are maginfied with it being, as he put it in the film, “the silly season.” If you make Die Hard a New Year’s Eve, or even a Valentines Day party, nothing else about the film would have changed. If you set Lethal Weapon in the middle of the summer, for example, the suicide, depression and emphasis on the season, it lessens the impact of his struggle. Sure, people can battle depression year round, but it is well documented the suicide rate goes up around the holidays, a point that is made during the course of the film.

Point 3: Lethal Weapon.

Personally, I have always felt Letgal Weapon was the superior film. As a cop movie it works better because them being cops is basically the whole film. Mclain could have been an ex-marine or even a soldiet on leave and his actions wouldn’t have been out of character. I like Lethal Weapon more as a buddy movir as Die Hard is basically a one man show. Don’t get me wrong I like both flicks, I just think Lethal Weapon is clearly the better movie and, to me at least, the easily better Christmas movie. 

Now all things considered, I can’t really say either are what I would call Christmas movies, so to that end it’s kind of irrelevant. That being said feel free to enjoy either movie any time of the year you wish. As for me, if I am watching an action movie during the holidays, chances are high it’s going to be Lethal Weapon, not Die Hard.