Thursday, April 13, 2017

Best of the Best: 2013

Old School.

Year: 2013
Movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Game: Super Mario 3D World
Album: Skull by Evile
Song: Tomb by Evile (or Cry of Achilles by Alter Bridge)   

 I wouldn't go so far as to say that 2013 was another "dead year". And yet, I'm hard pressed to say it was all that great either. Right at the ass end of the year, I did finally manage to move away from a crappy college neighborhood I'd stuck myself in for the better part of a decade. Being a writer, something I've wanted badly for a very long time, is to live somewhere where, on a daily basis, I can get a regular dose of peace and quiet. Sadly, while I did get to a neighborhood not rife with loud bass pounding my walls sometimes from parties happening a block or more away (yes, really), in a way I kind of traded one set of noise in for another. Meaning I made the sorry choice to move into a downstairs apartment, and have regretted it since. That's enough about that, really, but let's just say I still yearn to, and fully intend to someday actually attain a QUIET home. Someday.

The Wii U was out in Fall 2012. And I was initially happy with the console, because while the "Gamepad" controller was a bit bulky and took a little getting used to, it is in essence a regular controller, that just happens to have a huge touch screen. The system still can use the Wiimote and other Wii accessories, in fact it is 100% backwards compatible with all Wii games, which is a nice touch in an era when that is not really longer the case with other systems. But it became obviously early into 2013, that something was not quite right in paradise. Big games were getting delayed, alleged exclusives were being delayed AND made multi-platform. There were multiple months in 2013 when zero retail Wii U games released at all. That's what we in the gaming business call a "drought". And as a fan, and owner of a new system that I rushed out to own? It sucked. I specifically got a Wii U, personally, for one major game, and that was Pikmin 3. It was announced as in development for Wii prior, but then was moved, and was originally supposed to release fairly early on in the system's life. It got delayed til August 2013, and when I finally got it, I was, sadly, very underwhelmed. They took a few of the most key elements of Pikmin gameplay that had made me love the first two games so much, namely the ability to independently control the Pikmin with the second stick, and camera zoom (and even MULTIPLE save files) away, for no good reason. They also switched to new characters, and a focus on collecting fruit, but zero treasure. The treasure hunting alone had been a big part of the fun of Pikmin, because you always wondered what little trinket you were going to find next. So the game that had been my most anticipated for Wii U, was a big let down. Not a BAD game...but it's not really Pikmin, not the complete experience.

So the game I chose for my Game of 2013, IS a pretty good game, even if it wasn't the big epic HD Mario game that everyone wanted (and is still waiting for). Super Mario 3D World is a follow up to the Nintendo 3DS title Super Mario 3D Land, which was the first fully 3D Mario game on a portable system. It had but in comparison to that game's bite-sized levels, this game features much bigger stages, arguably better overall design, and as you can see in that picture up there aways, for the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2 (or if you want to be technical, since it's remake Super Mario Advance), you could play that classic 80s line up of Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool (Peach). They also, as has been their habit over the last several games, added new a new "suit" power up, this time being Cat Mario, which in addition to being adorable, allows you to climb walls (somewhat), and claw enemies to death. The thing is, not only is 3D World not the big, sprawling epic HD Mario many (myself included) dreamed of, but they also missed a key opportunity with it,  I feel. The game already has SEVERAL subtle hints and traces of Mario 2, so why not just go full bore? Why not, instead of having another game where you have to fight Bowser, and instead of sending the heroes to some generic "fairy land", why NOT just have a return to Subcon, and have the Mario 2 bosses like Mouser, Tricyde, Birdo and Wart return? Why NOT have Shy Guys and Sniffits and Phantos all over the place? That would have made the game far more unique and memorable. But as it is, it IS a fun game, with decent 4 player co-op play, and the ability to play those four characters (including Peach being able to float, ala Mario 2).

Typical "evil looking" modern metal album cover.

2013 was another fairly dry year for music, but it did feature an album by a band that I had thus far only partially gotten into, the UK thrash metal band Evile. They are not an old 80s relic, but rather a young band trying to recreate that style, and while their early work sounds more like the band Slayer (whom I'm not terribly fond of), their last two albums, including this one, really see their sound progress and get richer. "Skull" is definite evidence of that, and I'd like to see them continue going in that direction. Most of the songs are still pretty "balls to the wall" thrash, but there is one brooding "ballad" piece (that in true thrash fashion gets heavy near the end), called "Tomb", that is lyrically super depressing, but also very poignant, and a very good song. If you're into metal at all, I'd suggest checking them out.

So there.

Another on the list of "movies I didn't actually watch in theater but rented later and liked", Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was another nice surprise. It's directed by Stiller also, which makes it the third film he's directed that I liked (the other two being Cable Guy  and Tropic Thunder). The movie is more of a serious film, though it does have it's comedic moments. And it presents, while a bit ridiculous, something I myself have been all too familiar with my entire life: living a rather unspectacular life, and wanting something more, and having fantastic daydreams as a means of escape. Walter Mitty is a simple guy who works as a photo editor for Life magazine, which is sadly defunct, and finds there is a key photo missing that his boss wants for the cover of their last ever issue. So he has to go on an impromptu adventure to find it, and in doing so, goes on a journey the likes of which he has only ever imagined, which truly chances his life, and him as a person. It's really strong, compelling, at times even profound stuff. In some ways, it's Stiller's best work, both as an actor and director.

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