Nobody who knows me in real life, or who even reads this site for more than a few minutes, could possibly use the word “sunshine” to describe me, except sarcastically. Even so, I have to thank Red Metal of Extra Life for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. As part of this nomination, Red Metal put eleven questions to me and the other nominees, which I’ve done my best to answer below. If any of my answers seem like cop-outs, rest assured that that is completely intentional.
1) In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?
Mahjong Legend Akagi is still near the top of the list of my favorite anime series, but the manga is better if only for the fact that it’s continuing to tell the story of Akagi’s mahjong deathmatch (a literal deathmatch) with the insane billionaire Washizu, while the anime had to cut the story off partway through… because the damn manga wasn’t done yet. More generally, I’d say any work that goes through what TV Tropes calls “adaptation decay” falls in this category. I’m not a big manga reader, though. I can definitely say that anime series based on video games usually are not as good as their source material.
2) Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?
There are a lot of great game soundtracks out there, so it’s hard for me to pin down one that’s the best. I’ll cheat here and say NieR:Gestalt/Replicant and NieR:Automata together. The two soundtracks do have some thematic links, just like their respective games, so I think it works to lump them together. Everything about these soundtracks is amazing. In different parts they’re delicate and emotional, sweeping and operatic, powerful, crushing… well, I can’t really do it justice with words, so you should just listen to the music. You can find most or all of their contents on Youtube, though they’re both well worth a buy.
As a pair of very close runners-up, I’ll put up the Persona and Ar tonelico series.
3) If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?
No need to even think about this one – Skies of Arcadia. Since there was only one Skies of Arcadia game (I’m not counting the Gamecube remaster) it’s not exactly a series, but I’d love to see a sequel, even though the chances of that happening now are lower than the chances of my winning the Powerball.
4) What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?
I really had to dig around for a physical copy of a single album by Tokyo Active NEETs. They’re a doujin music group based in Tokyo (obvious I guess) and their stuff typically has to be imported, if it’s even available for sale online.
Same goes for any limited-release physical copy of an album I want. I was very happy to get the CD release of Moe Shop’s Moe Moe EP, even though I had to import it from Japan. The damn thing sold out in a few hours. It’s probably stupid that I’m into collecting physical copies of albums, games, and books, but there’s always the chance that a Carrington Event could happen and melt worldwide electrical grids and damage equipment, and there go your precious mp3 files.
5) Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?
When my depression is tamped down enough to get me out of the house on a weekend, I’ve always enjoyed going to the theater. Even if the movie turns out to be lousy, it can still be a good time if I’m with friends, especially if it’s a “funny bad” kind of movie. When I’m at home, I prefer to play games.
6) In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?
This is a hard one. I guess I like some of the 80s pop stuff created by formerly ultra-artsy prog-rock bands like Yes and Genesis that’s praised by critics but shunned by a lot of hardcore fans (Yes a lot more, honestly – 90125 is a legit good album.) This answer is one of my cop-outs, though, because I like most of their 70s prog work a lot more than their 80s work, and Genesis was total crap from Invisible Touch until they broke up. Just listen to a Phil Collins solo album and you’ll get the idea. (Better still, don’t.)
7) In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?
The Sonic Adventure games. I haven’t reviewed either of them here, though I did take a look at a related soundtrack a while back in which I called them a mixed bag. I still feel that way, but on balance I do have a lot of fun playing them, especially Sonic Adventure 2. No, they’re not perfect games by any means; yes, they do have absolutely stupid plots that make no sense (especially SA2.) But they don’t deserve the evisceration they get from critics today.
More generally, I side with Sonic fans about the series’ quality for the first ten years of its run, and I’ll fight tooth and nail with critics who claim that Sonic has “never been good.” Sure, there have been plenty of mediocre to poor Sonic games, but that’s no reason to paint them all with the same brush. The Genesis games are still absolute classics.
8) What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?
In terms of cheapness factor, probably Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, though there may be a few old RPGs I played that I’m forgetting about. Nocturne features a lot of old-school difficulty in the sense that it almost never holds your hand or tells you what’s coming next. SMT: Strange Journey is even more difficult, despite the fact that it lets you save almost anywhere – but I’m ashamed to say I have not beaten it yet. YHVH damn you, Mem Aleph.
9) Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?
The two series I still follow religiously are Megami Tensei (starting with Persona 3 in 2006) and Disgaea (starting with Disgaea: Hour of Darkness all the way back in 2003.) In a broader sense, I’ve been following the Mario and Sonic series for longer than either of those, but I’m not an ultra-dedicated fan of either, not even of Sonic, despite all the praise I was heaping on the Genesis games up in answer #7. I still follow Megami Tensei for the variety of gameplay and stories the series offers, from the crushing existentialist terror of Strange Journey to the schlocky fanservice of Persona 4: Dancing All Night and the Arena games, and Disgaea for the characters and the insane level of post-game content available in every game in the series.
10) In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?
If we’re talking professional video game critics/journalists, I certainly have my problems with them, but I do think they tend to be more in tune with the tastes of the consumer. A lot of it comes down to the distinction between high and popular art that I consider totally artificial. There’s good art and bad art (of course, these definitions are subjective) but how do you draw a clear line between “high” and “low” art? Good art is good art, no matter what other labels you care to hang on it. PC and video games are still a young medium, a medium that’s looked down upon by many critics of other media. So I think a lot of video game critics don’t make that same high/low distinction with games that critics of film, music, theater, etc. make.
As the medium continues to “mature”, though, I think that will change. We’ve already been seeing this with pieces by game critics calling certain kinds of games “unacceptable” and “immature”. If maturity means that PC and video games generally become more mainstream, corporate, and safe, I think I prefer immaturity. But nobody asks me what I prefer when it comes to video games or anything else in the world.
11) How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?
I’d like to say it doesn’t, but that wouldn’t be true. When a game turns out to be less than expected in quality, I’m more disappointed according to the level of hype the game was receiving beforehand. Mighty No. 9 is a good example. I did not give a single flying fuck about all the drama surrounding the community manager genderbending the main character in fanart or whatever that controversy was about, but I ended up disliking the game anyway because it wasn’t that great in terms of level design and control, and I think the game probably received more hate than it deserved just because expectations were so high at the outset. As I get older, I grow more cynical, though, so I don’t buy into hype quite like I used to.
I held up my end of the bargain. Now here are my questions. Almost everything I write about on this site is on games and music, but I tried to keep my questions open to fans of all kinds of media.
1) What’s your favorite or most-used medium for entertainment?
2) What character in a work of fiction would you inhabit and why? (Assuming you’re experiencing the entire storyline of the game/novel/film/whatever as this character.)
3) What work would you wipe all memories of from your brain if you could so that you could experience it all over again?
4) What’s the most annoying trend occurring in your favorite medium today?
5) What’s the most promising trend occurring in your favorite medium today?
6) How much or how little romance do you like in your games/films/novels/etc.?
7) If you had to be the ruler of one country in any work of fiction, which one would you pick?
8) Do you think virtual reality will improve anytime in the near future to the extent that it’s actually worth using? Or are we already at that point?
9) I’ve heard people say that the novel is a dying form of art and that changes in attention span length and the constant multitasking our generation is involved in will make them obsolete. If you have an opinion on that matter, do you agree or disagree?
10) Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?
11) Cake or pie? (There’s only one right answer.)
And here are the 11 (edit: 12. I can’t count.) people/sites I’m tagging. Yeah, for once I’m following the rules of the game. If you’ve already been tagged, or doing this kind of thing just isn’t your style, feel free to ignore my questions. Of course, anyone else is also free to take part if they feel like it.
Keep the faith on a new Skies. The folks at Sega sometimes randomly bring back a series from the dead. We are getting a new Streets of Rage after all.
I’ll keep hoping. Maybe the lighthearted feel of Skies is just what we need right now to balance out all the dark apocalyptic stuff.
Yeah, most of the time when I see an anime (or manga) adaptation of a video game, I ask myself “why am I not playing the game right now?” That was my more or less my reaction to the Ace Attorney anime (though from what I’ve seen of it, it is decent). I think a good adaptation would have to come up with an entirely original plot because when it’s just following the game’s plot, there are no surprises to be found; you’re just waiting for the pieces to fall into place.
From what little of NieR: Automata I’ve played, I can confirm the soundtrack is indeed excellent.
Skies of Arcadia is one of those games I’ve heard about for the longest time, yet never got around to actually playing. I really should look into it at some point.
I don’t think getting physical copies of music is stupid; if you know where to look, they can be cheaper than downloading digital copies. Plus, the older CDs tend to sound better than remasters because the latter versions tend to be compressed.
I tend to see films when they come out so I can review them on my site. I think I’m luckier than most because I tend to get good audiences almost every time. Even kids tend to behave during the screenings I attend. That said, I actually don’t have a preference. Some say you need to see certain films on the big screen, but to that, I would counter a good film can be enjoyed anywhere. A film that needs to be seen on the big screen to be good would be like a game that relies 100% on its graphics.
Excellent, I’m glad someone out there agrees that 90125 is a good album. Sure, it’s poppier than Yes’s seventies output, but it’s still a quality record. If nothing else, it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as Genesis’s worst pop albums.
And yes, I think Sonic Adventure 2 in particular is more maligned than it deserves to be. While I don’t think it’s as good as the series’ 2D installments, it is solid game for the most part. I don’t think Sonic Adventure has stood the test of time, but I think it too gets a little more heat than it deserves.
Yeah, from what I’ve heard SMT III is one of those games you need to take seriously or else it will leave you behind in the dust. Still, I do enjoy how Atlus likes to implement challenging boss fights.
For me, I’d say Mario is the series I’ve been following for the longest time. Like Zelda, it’s a series that has been consistently good since its inception. I also want to try Disgaea at some point.
In all honesty, I think with video games having as many objective elements as they do, I think the stereotypical Serious™ critic is going to have a difficult time manifesting in this medium because they tend to be the ones who fall back on “all art is subjective” argument when their sacred cows receive heat. Indeed, a lot of the game critics you mention who write about games being “unacceptable” and “immature” tend to get mocked for their troubles because they rarely write about the quality of the game itself – and the backlash isn’t limited to those they believe to be anti-intellectual. I used to think that the gaming community needed to grow up and follow the film community’s example. While I still think gamers could stand to grow up, I don’t ever want them to end up like cinephiles. Cinephiles never grew up; they grew old – big difference.
I really only use hype as a means to learn about new works. After that, there’s no guarantee as to whether I end up agreeing with the buzz or not. If anything, I think I tend to agree with the positive press more often than not, though when it came to films, journalists seemed to lose their minds in 2018. They had it together up until then, but during that time, they went off the rails. I wouldn’t say I’ve grown cynical as a result, but I do take what they have to say with a grain of salt. I’ve always felt it’s important to consider the climate of a work’s release when parsing its quality.
I used to turn my nose up at Yes’ 80s stuff when I was younger because it was poppy, but I think I’ve matured enough to appreciate all kinds of music – whether it’s pop or prog or anything else, as long as it’s catchy/well-written I can enjoy it. It seems like Genesis turned to crap once Phil Collins completely took it over, from what I understand. Too bad, because he really was (still is? not sure) a great drummer and a pretty good singer, but he basically sucks at writing music. Trick of the Tail is still one of my favorite Genesis albums even though there’s no Peter Gabriel on it, but it’s also in that proggy period.
SMT3 definitely beats out later Megami Tensei titles in difficulty, except for Strange Journey, which is the king of beating the player’s ass constantly. That game and Redux are both rough to play. The Disgaea games really aren’t, though. They can be intimidating at first with all their features, but I do think they’re pretty easy to get into, and they include a lot of the kind of humor I like. Artist and character designer Takehito Harada is also a big part of why I like the series. I still need to get more of his artbooks.
Your question about game vs. movie critics was interesting. I feel that kind of criticism a little personally sometimes because series I love (like Disgaea) are occasionally in the crosshairs of journalists who don’t appreciate the goofy tone of parts of the games. I have to guess part of the problem is that the game industry in the West is a different beast than the industry in Japan, and we still get a whole lot of our games from Japanese developers who may have different approaches to social issues than we do. The reactions to the treatment of Kanji and Naoto in Persona 4, for example, show some of those differences.
I try to keep an open mind about all kinds of opinions and criticism, but I also hope that game critics and fans won’t “grow old”. I remember reading a piece by Roger Ebert about how video games aren’t art. While I disagree with him, I also think it might be a hidden blessing for games to remain in that “not art” category in the minds of most people as long as possible.
Thanks for tagging me, and I totally agree with what you said about hype.
No problem. Hype can be hard not to fall for sometimes, but after being burned one too many times you end up with a few calluses.
Thanks a lot for the mention! I appreciate it!
Of course! I look forward to reading your answers if you decide to take up my questions.
Thanks! I will try to get to them.
Although I always say that and I end up forgetting all about it later.
No, I get that. I hope it doesn’t feel like I’m giving you homework or something.
Not at all! These questions are always fun to answer. They break the mold of writing analyses of games, albums, and movies. It’s a nice detour. =)
Happy to hear. I feel the same way.
SMT Nocturne had a really uncommon style of difficulty. Usually in JRPGs the random encounters aren’t deadly unless things totally get away from you, but that’s not the case here. The randos won’t usually get you to the point where you’re risking death every time you see the screen wipe if you know what you’re doing, but at the same time, if you’re not on point, you’re not consciously learning and counteracting the capabilities of the goons you’re facing, you’ll find yourself starting at the beautifully crafted game over screen over and over again.
Yet, while that’s going on, you need to develop a strategy for conserving your resources, else the randos will have you exhausted by the time you reach the boss. You have to get both a short term strategy for each individual encounter and a long term strategy for the level as a whole going.
That’s quite right. Nocturne is one of the first games I played where I was at real risk of dying from a random encounter. The game teaches you to diversify your party, which means you have to recruit demons on a regular basis for fusion fodder, and you have to be wise in the use of your magatama lest some asshole sneak up on you with an instant death attack that you’re weak to. Matador was the point in Nocturne at which I (and most players from what I’ve read) realize that you can’t just brute force your way through. Maybe it’s not fair to call Nocturne cheap – it’s definitely difficult, but the game gives you all the tools you need to master it.
I do love that game over screen, though.
Thanks man! I’ll reply to your questions in the near future!
Definitely! Looking forward to it.