Friday, December 8, 2017

Astra Lost In Space Vol. 1 Review (Hey Poor Player)

So stoked to finally discuss my love for this series! Astra Lost In Space is really one of those series that just keeps getting better as it goes on, so I hope you'll join me on the Astra's adventure.

Anyway, Worldly Weekend may or may not arrive this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Promised Neverland Vol. 1 Review (Hey Poor Player)

My first manga review!!! I put my all into this, so be sure to give it a look. I consider The Promised Neverland an modern classic, so I highly recommend the actual manga, too.

Astra Lost in Space will be arriving tomorrow.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Ah, now there's the smile we know and love! As expected, Kirby's preciousness shines especially well through clay, and there is perhaps no better representative to bear it than Kirby and the Rainbow Curse: a claymation-based title matched only by Kirby's Epic Yarn in sheer cuteness. Even now, we must continue cherishing this pure countenance, for it is the last time Kirby bared this visage for an international audience.

Anywho, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is not only the one Wii U Kirby game, but is a sequel to 2005's Kirby: Canvas Curse, the one series entry notable for captivating non-fans. Hailed as Nintendo's first truly original concept for Nintendo DS, Canvas Curse remains the handheld's hallmark for touchscreen play: drawing rainbow strokes for Kirby to coast along played unlike anything else in the market, and combined with a techno soundtrack and mish-mash of abstract aesthetics so alien to Kirby, it's little wonder it succeeded as it did.

In contrast, it's not so surprising Rainbow Curse didn't meet the same acclaim: while the Wii U GamePad is a perfect fit for its gameplay (stylus and touchscreen, y'know) and its claymation aesthetic is every bit as ambitious, HAL's first HD game reverts to a more familiar presentation in bright colors and light-hearted tunes. With their B-team at the helm, the game itself hardly wowed like Canvas Curse a decade earlier, with fans deeming it either simply entertaining or writing it off as a disappointing budget effort.

On the opposite spectrum lies former employer Nintendojo and their perfect score, and while I cannot claim the same opinion, the Kirby connoisseur in me cannot help but come to Rainbow Curse's defense. Yes, it is no Canvas Curse, but it remains a solid title, a thoroughly pleasant little affair impossible not to be charmed by. 

I mean, by God, that artstyle! Do I ever wish there was a full behind-the-scenes documentary on the design process -- tantalizing as the conception, clay model shoots and how-to videos/features are, they are hardly enough to sate my thirst -- (bold, too, given that this was HAL Laboratory's first HD game). Set to a dreamy score by Shogo Sakai and series newcomer Megumi Ohara, and it's a game that feels as soft as clay itself.

The use of Green Greens -- a homely theme emblematic of the series' warmth -- as a recurring motif is what sells it, and I can think of no better example than the tutorial accompaniment, an especially lovely remix of harps and recorders echoing the reverie of a dreaming newborn. As soft as Hirokazu Ando's nostalgic arrangement for Kirby's Epic Yarn, the opening harp strings captivate us into an innocent world of clay, goading us alongside the actual tutorial.

Perhaps this is why the first world leaves an especially strong first impression: triumphantly emerging with a guitar-ridden theme, we're greeted by the familiar assemblage of posts and star spinners as all the slopes and Star Blocks pave the way for our new toy: Star Dash, a new mechanic obtained via star collecting and plows through a supercharged Kirby through crowds and debris alike. By the level's end, it becomes a playground prone to experimentation.

I say that in spite of the linear design permeating the game, and that's why I can't really get mad at it. True, we could do with more creativity in hidden paths and whatnot, but that's not what Canvas Curse was about, and it's not like Rainbow Curse doesn't do a good job of hiding collectables and supplementing Challenge Rooms. Balancing your use of Rainbow Ropes -- lest you run out of clay and fall -- is also just as meticulous as utilizing the DS game's paint, and much of Canvas Curse's old tricks in shielding Kirby from lasers and navigating around sawblades return.

Really, this is to say Rainbow Curse isn't afraid to get difficult -- narrow escapes from aerial battleships and touch-of-death skulls all the while juggling your ropes prove for some nasty encounters --  but the game remembers Canvas Curse's template being prime for environmental manipulation was when it was at its most interesting, and that's where you get winners such as guiding metallic spheres as switch-pressers or gate-opening keys (naturally, Kirby himself is subject to experimentation: a late-game level has him split in two, and the ensuing chaos of them bouncing into each other is as trying as it is endlessly entertaining).

Perhaps most controversial is how Kirby possesses no Copy Abilities to absorb and unleash, and relies only on rolling and dashing to plow through. This does lead to some oversights (more on that in a moment), but I also hold no objections to this: again, given this is their first HD project, I imagine this would've overburdened HAL's claymation process, undoubtedly a grueling endeavor. Conversely, Rainbow Curse must rely on level-specific transformations to impress: Missile Kirby is a particular highlight for the high-speed, high-stakes scenarios involved -- I'm particularly fond of how the climaxes involve drawing out escape routes -- all the while Tank and Submarine provide their respective blends of shmup gameplay (the latter using ropes to guide along missiles).

If there is any one true failure of Rainbow Curse, it surely lies within Challenge Mode, and that's where it fails to compensate for the absence of Copy Abilities. Prized in Canvas Curse for its tough-as-nails difficulty and unique, individualized challenges, Rainbow Curse takes a quantity-over-quality approach in supplying 48 variations of the aforementioned Challenge Rooms; needless to say, taking ten-second bonus games and stringing them together into sequential packages grows tiresome fast. They may live up to their name as a challenge, but that they never reach the same levels of creativity renders it a bust.

There are other quibbles dragging Rainbow Curse down: for example while the controls are generally fine, I could not for the life of me figure out how to operate the gondola rides. They're to be shifted via stylus from rope to rope as they amble along, and yet they just absolutely refuse to register the switch, often leaving poor Kirby to fall prey to bottomless pits and lava pools. Meanwhile, the final level is well-designed for what it is, but the low-key atmosphere (and general weirdness) doesn't accurately convey the tension of a final level. Perhaps the repeating bosses grow tiresome too, but I don't take much offense to that; after all, Canvas Curse did the same thing.

Make no mistake about it, though: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse's claymation is one heck of an eye-catcher. As appropriately plush as Kirby himself, much of it operates in that jerkily authentic movement one witnesses in the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, be it the pulsating flowers decorating the landscape or Carpa fish climbing the underground waterfall. It, too, remembers the most tantalizing Kirby backgrounds aren't just the ones that make us sigh with wonder, but make us go, "how does that work?", hence why we're captivated from the very beginning when those stalk-sprouting houses beg us to take a peek inside.

Truth be told, I somewhat prefer Canvas Curse's fluctuation of abstraction if only it appeals more to the imagination, but I dare any one of you to watch the opening cutscene and tell me it is not a perfect fit for Kirby. Dream Land is as lush and scrumptious as Kirby Super Star and Kirby's Return to Dream Land before it, the adorable antics of Kirby, Waddle Dee and Elline the Paintbrush compelling us to pinch and squeeze everything in sight.

A reaction Rainbow Curse anticipates, hence the presence of figurine galleries and Elline's diary. However, the former's display of craftsmanship and easter eggs find themselves out-shown by the figurine descriptions, which detail the melancholic motivations behind each and every NPC. Yes, as soft and cuddly as Rainbow Curse may seem on the surface, it certainly has room for the broken hopes and dreams of Blados, Dethskullks and Drill Cottas everywhere. Thankfully, Elline's diary balances that gloominess out by ensuring every page will melt you into a puddle of gooey aww's.

And yet for all its successes in art, I can't bring myself to call it Rainbow Curse's glory; nay, again, it is Sakai and Ohara's soundtrack that deserves that honor. I say the following despite being terrible in differentiating musicians, and yet it's amazing how not only this is easily Sakai's finest work for the series since Air Ride, but that there's no evident drop in quality proves Ohara's worth as a Kirby composer.

The Blue Sky Palace world is one such example: Rainbow Across the Skies and The Wild Red Yonder perfectly portray the opposite level spectra of Kirby -- the former, echoing the feel-good, light-hearted innocence defining his world, making what's what's already a pleasant soar more soothing than it has any right to be; the latter trumpeting the grand exploit of Kirby fending off a nefarious clay airship.

The true score highlight, however, lies within the treasure trove of unlockable remixes from across series history. I'm not quite sure what otherwordly force compelled Sakai and Ohara to successfully juggle experimental takes on Kirby's Adventure's Forest Theme and Kirby Super Star's Rest Area, turning Yogurt Yard into even more of an infectious headbopper, and the awe-inspiring nostalgia of Milky Way Wishes, but the euphoric shudders one experiences when hearing the saxophone/guitar solos of Moonlight Capital is enough to claim Rainbow Curse's soundtrack may rival Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Return to Dream Land as being the finest of Kirby this past decade.

Of course, even if that all didn't exist, the unexpectedly groovy Haunted Ship theme would be enough. Perhaps the most tonally dissonant song in series history, my fascination grew so large I frequently played it at full blast in my college dorm. I regret nothing.

(By the way, I cannot be the only one that noticed this song bears an eerie resemblance to the My Neighbor Totoro theme. An innocent coincidence, I'm sure, and yet it's right there.)

In the end, yes, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse doesn't push the bar as Canvas Curse did for innovative entertainment, but it doesn't have to. In light of its shortcomings, what it does accomplish within the constraints of its ambitions is a success in itself.  For a budget title as gentle as this, I couldn't ask for more.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

As this review's been nearly six years in the making, it's only fair I cut to the chase: I still intend to bury The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Admittedly, I embark on this task with some trepidation: it is not a game that is outright terrible, as I have implied in the past. This is not the so-called sorcery of the previously-discussed Zelda Cycle; a carefully-evaluated 100% run does reveal it is a professionally-designed title with your typical Nintendo polish and all that, and like Twilight Princess before it, there are some good moments I dare not wish to minimize.

That does not, unfortunately, dissuade me from believing Skyward Sword is possibly the most underwhelming output from Nintendo's own studios in their entire history of game development. This is not to say it is the worst -- Donkey Kong Jr. Math and Urban Champion have endured three decades of mud-slinging for a reason -- and this excludes second-party efforts and third-party collaborations (Metroid: Other M, being worse in every way that matters, would obviously be the runaway winner).

Nay, I talk about games strictly designed from The Big N itself, and this is also a hesitant claim when you consider the general quality imbalance of the Wii/DS era: fellow series entry The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for DS could match the very same claim, and the copy-and-paste composition of Animal Crossing: City Folk remains uncharacteristically lazy nine years later. And yet it's the non-existent impression of Skyward Sword that stings the most: it's a game that recognizes Zelda has grown stale, yet for all its ambition it not only fails to solve any growing pains but go against the very values the series cherished in the first place.

Gameplay-wise, most everything to do with this involves the overworld. See, Skyward Sword  presents a balance between two worlds: The Sky, where Link and the rest of civilization live, and the unexplored Surface. Whereas decent arguments exist for The Sky's purpose as a Hyrule Field-esque hub, I've yet to encounter anything remotely similar for The Surface, with its goal of "the entire world being a dungeon" falling short in its fatal flaw: the emphasis on level-based progression. Every region has a "zone" to clear, with all being centered around puzzles -- be they bombing bridges, rescuing woodland critters and using magic stones to revert time -- all the while dowsing for trinkets and finding your way to the region's specific dungeon.

In other words, the whole game is essentially a take on Twilight Princess's Twilight Realms, which need I remind you were never very popular in the first place. Because everything's designed as a puzzle, traversing the world becomes a tedious process as you'll find yourself repeating the same minor puzzles again and again: you'll swim through that flooded tree again, you'll be navigating those same minecarts again, and you'll have to climb that goddamn Eldin Volcano again and again. We could, of course, simply zip back up to the sky and dive back down again into another spot, but when considering a) the natural progression of the story and b) how obviously tiresome that is, it's not really much of an option. The game embrace the identity of being "dense" with these confined zones, but exploration yields little fun thanks to repetition, and barring perhaps the Lanaryu Desert the puzzles are hardly worth deviating from Zelda's open origins.

When considering how Skyward Swords segues these puzzles into the dungeons, it's a big problem, and it leaves an especially bad impression with the first two spelunkings. Both are entirely cookie-cutter, consisting of one floor each and failing to leave any sort of impression thanks to their brevity. The Earth Temple is an especial shocker, squandering its only solid concept (rolling on a boulder through lava) in largely restricting it to traveling purposes and making even the iconic boulder-chase a complete joke with low-key xylophone music.

From there, things are hit-or-miss: when it's slogging around and emphasizing dull puzzles, you get non-entity duds like Fire Sanctuary (which creates the unfortunate sideffect of two nearly identical-looking fire dungeons). When it actually taps into its imagination and continually ties in a compelling mechanic throughout the overworld (Timeshift Stones), you end up with winners like Lanaryu Mining Facility and the Sandship. It's an uneven balance that gradually wears away that familiar anticipation of a new dungeon, and only the Timeshift Stone dungeons stick out as being particularly successful. (For the former, I suspect since you're constantly venturing into caves/abandoned buildings beforehand -- all of which utilize the same mechanic --  as opposed to the first two dungeons, it's the one area that succeeds as the "overworld that feels like a dungeon" template).

I can't but wonder if this is partly in fault of a weak artstyle. Skyworld Sword's impressionist "painting" aesthetic is a concept that's nearly as eye-grabbing as The Wind Waker's cel-shading, but while it executes a presentation that's more colorful than Twilight Princess (which is good), but it makes numerous failings that prevent it from being especially distinctive (which is bad). This could just be 2011 speaking -- by then, Wii's SD presentation was more woefully outdated than ever -- and yet when considering the deliciously plush Kirby's Return to Dream Land was released just a month prior, I can't think of any other reason why inspired concepts like the Ancient Cistern --  a dungeon take on an ancient Buddhist fable -- don't leave any impression.

This isn't entirely fair to its technical accomplishments --  the draw distance has a neat effect where the background renders colored dots so emblematic of impressionism --  but I'm stricken far more by its technical failures; case in point, what's up with the trees? That screenshot you see above was from the Skyward Sword's initial E3 2010 presentation, and I remain stunned at how representative it is of the final game. If N64 graphical techniques were necessary to maintain the impressionist look, then I'm not sure if it was worth the effort.

This even extends to the character design: while the human characters are generally fine (check out the animated merchants that populate Skyloft's Bazaar), the enemy design -- particularly the bosses -- continually undermine any sense of danger, be they ridiculously simplified to the point of comedy (Tentalus, who could very well be the gargantuan lovechild of Mike and Celia from Monsters Inc.), come across as mid-boss material (Moldarach) or just look really dumb (any and all Bokoblin variations). It's very hard to take most of them seriously regardless of any inspired concepts going on (which, honestly, isn't many: Tentalus is perhaps host to the series' most obvious weakpoint), with only Koloktos and the final boss succeeding in engaging design (the latter less so, if only in that I was so demoralized from everything prior).

The Imprisoned is by far the biggest offender on both an aesthetic/gameplay front, being an  incarnation of evil that is a giant goofy worm who you must slay by slicing his toes and engage in three incredibly repetitive boss fights. On top of all the malfunctioning camera angles, the infuriating stomp-induced shockwaves and that it generally takes forever to kill, it's simply not fun. While defenders have pointed to clever uses of the air draft to take it down quickly, that just further highlights what a waste of time it is, as I really do not want to run around like that three times.

Nor do I care for Skyward Sword's directive as an "origin story". Let it be reminded that with Ocarina of Time being the original "first" game chronologically, there are naturally going to be retcons, and Skyward Sword is in no short supply of those (and while we're mentioning the N64 masterpiece, let us also note the frustration of this being the fourth consecutive 3D Zelda title contextually riding on its coattails). Even with that in mind, it falls into the all-too-common prequel traps of explaining/retconning things we already knew (how the Triforce came to be), introducing things that don't end up having much relevance (mentions of an ancient kingdom) and perhaps even undermining things we already knew (we already knew why Ganondorf became the way he did, and this eternal curse deal arguably trivializes The Wind Waker's poignant monologue).

Much of this can be distilled into one problem: Skyward Sword's story really likes baiting the player, and it is never not the most frustrating thing. I can't fault this direction entirely given the world set-up (Skyloft, the floating island where Link, Zelda and the rest of the humans reside, is the only organized civilization in the world, whereas The Surface is mainly un-colonized wilderness), but this means there's not lot of meat to chew on besides the main plot points; consequently, it ends up feeling unusually thin. Take, for instance, the ancient kingdom we learn about in the opening and eventually excavate within the aforementioned Lanaryu Desert. The introduction of a fourth Goddess immediately grabs our attention, the Timeshift Stones imply this was once an area of much greenery, and the monkey-esque robots reanimating to life present an adorably bittersweet intrigue.

And then...that's it. We don't learn anything about how this technology came to be, or the shift in biomes, or really much about this ancient civilization at all. There are tantalizing hints, yes, but that's all they remain, and that it always happens with the most interesting details is never not frustrating (right down to the sudden namedrop, build-up, and the irrelevant introduction of the "Temple of Time" in the same location. Granted, there is another location that eagle-eyed fans should recognize as being said area, yet not only does that feed into the same problem, that an overhead shot from the ending implies it's supposed to be something else strikes as a shocking oversight)

Even on its merits as a standalone tale it's frustrating, which mainly boils down to its character utilization. Let's put it this way: I enjoy most of the characters at their base level, but care not for how the story ultimately handles them. For instance, Skyward Sword's iteration of Zelda remains the most adorable yet, and the budding romance between her and Link does work and all that, but I care not for how the plot requires her to continually bait the hero. Yes, this is done purposefully, and admittedly it does pay off with a heartfelt scene, but it does not scrub the frustration of just how little context is shared about The Surface, and without substantial sidemeat to chew on it never comes off as anything but barebones (particularly when considering how previous 3D Zeldas laid the major stakes by the second act; here, Zelda literally just goes "take this harp kthx bye").

Meanwhile, the villain Ghirahim is deliciously evil with all his gruesome dramatics, and yet...did anyone else notice he doesn't do much of anything? Yes, he does summon boss monsters to torment poor Link, but it's not until the very end that he succeeds at any of his dastardly deeds, and consequently he just comes across as a bumbling lackey. Compare him to the similarly vain Yuga of 2013's A Link Between Worlds, and I yearn for what could have been.

Only two exceptions exist for this self-set rule, and it's never not fascinating how they lie at entirely opposite ends of this spectrum. On the good end, you have Groose's transition from the local bully to being a genuine, good-natured hero by the tale's end. That he's a constant force throughout the story (and has the best lines) is what makes this work, and also makes me yearn of how this could've been accomplished with the other characters.

On the other end lies Skyward Sword's greatest sin in Fi, who I can confidently claim is one of the worst characters in Nintendo history. A robotic soul dwelling within what will become the Master Sword, Fi's presentation as an analytic servant would be logical for such a character's initiation, but that she stays that way throughout the entire story is nothing but wasted potential. Adding insult to injury is the teeth-gnashing "goodbye" sequence, a scene so lazily rote that it screams of writers forgetting they had to flesh out an actual character until the last minute.

Far, far worse, however, are her infamous analyses, serving the worst case of handholding within the entirety of Zelda. Fans are quick to dismiss these by pointing out "well, Midna did it more in Twilight Princess" or "well, there were those power-up explanations in Link's Awakening," and while these are worth observing, they hardly match how patronizing Fi is in pointing out the obvious. Below are paraphrased examples I collected from my replay:

"Master, I am detecting new enemies ahead even though you can see one standing five feet in front of you. Did you also know you press Z to target an enemy, then Down to call me even though I told you already?"

"Master, I know you just started the game, but I wanted to tell you your Shield Durability is low even though I told you that the last time you played."

"Master, I think this door is important, which you can tell because it needs the Boss Key."

"A report, Master: I can no longer detect Zelda's aura even though she obviously left in a big climatic cutscene just moments ago."

"Master, I can confirm you lost the trial. I am now going to tell you the rules again even though you already know."

"Master, this strange mark appeared when you played the harp. I can confirm it reacted to your performance, which should be obvious to anyone with eyes."

"Master, your new bow's elasticity can propel arrows through the air allowing you to hit targets from afar, which everyone not just familiar with bows but with Zelda games in general should know. Also, I'm going to tell you exactly where to fire it right now."

Common is the Zelda sidekick who points out information you just heard, but none match the aggravating matter-of-fact tone treating the player as a baby, offending both fans and newcomers alike. This isn't even the worst offender, which would be her initiating a godawful chime reminder to change your Wii Remote batteries. Yet another defense arrives that you have to initiate the verbal warning from Fi, but hell no I'm not going to wait out the ten seconds for the sound to go away.

Worse still is how handholding grows beyond Fi, with item description reminders reducing Skyward Sword to a slog every every single time you start up the game, Yes, the game has the decency to not do the same thing with hearts and rupees again, but the Amber Relic you've picked up 40 times before is never spared. After enduring "You got a blue rupee!" five years earlier in Twilight Princess, it's especially tone-deaf.

So can we say anything nice? As mentioned before, there are some things I don't want to entirely bury, although those are mired in themselves. For instance, I can never make up my mind about the motion controls -- Skyward Sword's use of Wii Motion Plus for swordplay certainly made sense, although it can't escape being a product of its time. While it's hardly the only Wii Motion Plus title with the required initiation of setting down the Wii Remote and letting it calibrate every time the game begins, it settles further into "deflating slog" territory thanks to that ritual.

At the same time, it does work for what it is. I'm of the opinion it sets the learning curve a little too high (enemies like Bokoblins rely too much on sudden feints, and the training dummies in Skyloft's dojo don't prep you for that) and the 1:1 movement does render Link's movements a little unnatural, but it's the one of the sole oases of successful experimentation: when it's focused on analyzing holes in enemy postures; it is interesting; when it highlights quick n' dirty exploits (Lizafols and the Jenga-esque Beamos) it feels natural and dare I say thrilling.

Other maneuvers feel more clunky: bomb-bowling takes getting used to, swimming is an exercise I'd rather not partake in again, and playing the harp is akin to torture, but the rest are harmless. If there is any argument hailing Skyward Sword's motion controls as a success, they must begin with the Beetle, a flying gadget that yields countless experimentation, be it grabbing faraway items or chasing down frightened Bokoblins. If only the same could be the same for the other new items: Gust Bellows and Mogma Mitts are just lamer versions of The Minish Cap equipment.

Then there's the music, which... look, I really don't want to slam Skyward Sword's music, what with a) Hajime Wakai and Mahito Yokota leading the way and b) it being the first orchestral Zelda. There are effective MIDI songs, mind -- Skyloft is a particular standout, perfectly channeling that wistful nostalgia of "home sweet home" -- but like both Mario Galaxys before it, the orchestral songs are the runway highlight. While I could cite the stirring boss themes (which, in the cases of problematic boss design, elevate their encounters to the perilous threats they aim to be), The Sky theme is easily the best to my mind: unlike the Comet Observatory and Starship Mario, this hub accompaniment barrels out of the gate as a grand, rousing tune echoing the vast reaches of the sky, gradually evolving via percussion.

 And yet, just like Twilight Princess, I can hardly bear to remember much anything else. At first glance, one may blame Skyward Sword largely restricting its orchestral compositions to the boss fights/cutscenes -- when considering how the Mario Galaxy titles frequently switched between orchestra/MIDI, it's certainly an easy target -- and yet, would that really have salvaged tracks as pedestrian as this? Again, there are effective MIDI songs when considering the ethereal likes of  Bamboo Island and Fi's Theme, and yet even those remain locked in isolated instances -- when it comes to song accompanying the bulk of gameplay, most are far too subdued to leave any lasting impression (the battle theme is representative of this problem: it's literally just tribal percussion, ).

The only exception that comes to mind is the Lanaryu Mining Facility theme, which drives one to insanity no less than five seconds in. I'm not quite sure what that tortuous leading instrument is (a xylophone?), but I'm in no rush to get reacquainted with it; hell, even just finding the link nearly gave me a migraine. Regardless, it too is emblematic of undermining what is a compelling example of game design (the other being Fi's constant interruptions threatening The Sandship's pacing, which is otherwise the game's best dungeon).

Which is why if I must champion any part of Skyward Sword, Skyloft is the only acceptable choice. It is perhaps the most compelling Zelda civilization since Majora's Mask's Clock Town, complete with gut-busting sidequests (namely one involving a very expensive chandelier, which preys upon our destructive gaming habits), easter eggs (ever wanted to spy on an old man in the bath? Here you go.) and an opening tutorial that isn't nearly as painful as Twilight Princess's, remembering to world-build with its skybound concept (Not that it's not annoying: hope you like catching pets and moving boxes).

But Skyloft is an aerial oasis in a sea of mediocrity. As a whole, Skyward Sword is the culmination of frustrating design choices that plagued the series since Twilight Princess -- be it handholding, sluggish padding (swimming for music notes?!?), and un-Zelda level design --  that aggressively reduce any ambitions to the point of feeling not just tone-deaf, not completely at odds with what the series is about, but completely, utterly ordinary. And as a title meant to celebrate the series' 25th anniversary, I can hardly think of anything more disappointing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Leave Luck to Heaven's Future, Twitter, and Hey Poor Player

Hello. Given the lack of reviews and whatnot for Leave Luck to Heaven, it's time I shared my upcoming plans for the blog, so you'd better sit down.

While much of the recent drama has come and past, the blog has fallen to the wayside as Hey Poor Player and my real-life job have taken priority. This has induced some heavy guilt upon me, although it's hardly a new feeling: for years now, I've struggled to maintain a consistent output, all the while deadlines were missed and numerous announced projects and plans never came to be. This isn't the first time I've had this discussion, either, so for readers who have been frustrated with my droughts and broken promises, all I can say is that I truly am sorry.

Over the past several months, I've done some deep introspection over my writing habits and came to realize my evolution with writing: you know how waaaay back when I first started, I felt it necessary to write numerous posts just for one game? As Leave Luck to Heaven started out as an experimental platform, I felt that direction was necessary to establish my unique, but I came to recognize a year later that was far too excessive and time-consuming. Since then, my singular reviews have gradually evolved not just beyond syntax and grammatical improvements: reviews are no longer book-sized, and I've since done away with embedding game music via YouTube.

Upon reflecting on all that, I've come to the conclusion that if I truly desire a consistent schedule, then I'll have to make concessions with my key writing habit -- that is to say, review sizes will now be firmly within 1500-2000 word territory. Having spent the past two months trying to get my next Nintendo review out, it's become evident I can no longer sustain this gargantuan model anymore. Hammering this point is how I have way too many games lined up for review, and I cannot afford to write 3000+ word essays for them all.

At the same time, though, I understand it's my wordy prose that's a huge appeal of Leave Luck to Heaven, and so I'd like to reiterate this is not to say extra-meaty reviews are gone for good. I may be willing to stretch to 2500+ words for certain games, but I'll probably only reserve that for games I deem especially worthy of such deep analysis (off the top of my head, only The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and most of the Super Smash Bros. games come to mind). I'd like to also mention that 2000 words won't be a strict limit; if a review just happens to surpass that with 2150 or so, then, well, that happens.

Regardless, a monthly four Nintendo/two Worldly Weekend review model is still my goal, and adjustments are already being made to accommodate this process: games will no longer be subject to 100% completion before reviewing, for instance, so as to quicken the process for review (bear in mind this was only applied for Nintendo games).  Meanwhile, I must also announce Biweekly Music Wednesday! will be going on hiatus until I maintain an acceptable review output. While disappointing, that column has admittedly been interfering with said output, so I'll definitely bring it back once things are steady.

In the meantime, I'd also like to announce my final decision regarding Twitter. After much going back-and-forth on the matter, I've decided to remain on the platform. While not an easy decision, like the rest of social media Twitter is simply far too intertwined with interaction and my profession to simply chuck away, so barring any public statements condoning the racists/bigots on the platform, it looks like I'm here to stay. However, in exchange, I will certainly be active in voicing my displeasure with said bigotry, and I'd like to call upon you to do the same.

Finally, I'd like to announce an exciting development with Hey Poor Player: starting next month, I will be reviewing manga! Those who follow the site have noticed we've covered movies and Netflix shows and the like, and as a huge consumer of manga, I figured that wouldn't be a stranger to the lineup! Having read manga for thirteen years, it's only natural I'd want to discuss my second favorite medium. We're still working out the details, but I'm aiming for two reviews per month, and I'll be beginning with the first volumes for Astra Lost in Space and The Promised Neverland, both fantastic series I've been following on Viz's Shonen Jump subscription. I've already been studying manga reviews, so needless to say, I'm quite excited!

Anyway, that's all I have to share. My next review is finally wrapping up, so I may be seeing you shortly. "Till then!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cat Quest Review (Hey Poor Player)

What, you didn't think I was gonna play this?!? Hardly one of my longer reviews, but perhaps the short length complements the game?

Anyway, please stay tuned for an important post tomorrow detailing Leave Luck to Heaven's immediate future, as well as my decision regarding Twitter. Also, some fun news regarding Hey Poor Player!

On Mario Odyssey's Photo Mode And Its Expression of Freedom (Hey Poor Player)


A bit late posting this up, but here's something I wrote about Super Mario Odyssey's wondrous Photo Mode? Why did I use such a dreary-looking pic for the header? Only one way to find out!

A game review for Switch will also be up on Hey Poor Player today, so look forward to that, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Checking In + Review Updates

Look at me, I'm a mess! I said tomorrow and I ended up posting this four days later. Unfortunately, I had some bad allergies and been lacking stamina, so we'll chalk it up to that and move on.

As far as good news goes, my cousin's wife is now cancer-free and on the road to recovery, although we did have an unexpected bump when we had to put down my dog not even two days before her operation. We've been prepared since he'd been growing deaf all year, but it's not like you can predict a stroke, sadly. I've been going through some drama lately, haven't I?

As far as the blog goes, I'd like to announce that I'll be going back to certain reviews and making grammatical/spelling updates. Most changes (and there won't be many) will be minuscule alterations, although my Sonic the Hedgehog review will include something I can't believe I forgot to mention. This is why review notes are important!

Speaking of reviews, I've been making strides in my review schedules and balancing that with personal game time. I'd rather go into detail in case it falls through (again..), but if it goes well, I may share some insight on the process!

Anyway, I'll be seeing y'all soon.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fire Emblem Warriors Review (Hey Poor Player)

Woops! I was so distracted by the drama from last week that I forgot to put this up here! In case you didn't know, I think it's been up for nearly a week now, ahaha.

Anyway, I'll be providing a quick update tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Regarding This Month's Drought and My Social Media Presence

Hey, all. Things have been quite slow this October, and when also factoring in some recent Twitter comments of mine about leaving the platform, I figure I should clue y'all in on what's going on.

First and foremost, I desperately wish this drought could be explained by it being a really busy work month (although it certainly has been that), but I'm afraid that's not the case. Earlier this month, my cousin's wife was diagnosed with an especially rare form of the paraganglioma, a cancer that's already rare in itself. While we've since approached this situation with optimism -- this isn't the first time a close family member had a brush with cancer -- as I'm extremely close with the family in question, it's naturally still on my mind 24/7, and we won't know the cancer's severity until the operation on Halloween. As two (very) young children are involved, needless to say it's a scary time.

Not to mention...honestly, it's already been an overloaded month as it is. Never mind all the hours of work, I took an insane amount of workload for Hey Poor Player earlier this month (three feature articles in three straight days), and I've been working beyond my limits to raise awareness for the site and match my monthly post quota. Furthermore, my next review...well, I won't spoil it for those waiting, but it's been a long time coming and given the massive size involved, it's been a huge stress factor as well.

In short, things may stay Hey Poor Player-only for a little while until I get my scheduling/life in order. It's a huge bummer personally since I finally set a proper set-up in penning my reviews and whatnot, but the extra workload has prevented me from carrying it out. Regardless, I hope you understand.

There's also the issue of Twitter; for the uninitiated, I have expressed a desire to drop the platform entirely. Over the past year, I have felt immense guilt associating myself with a site that, thanks to piss-poor moderation, has allowed the likes of racists, Neo-Nazis, misogynists and harassers on their platform, and I could no longer in good conscience tolerate their presence. It's immensely useful tool for sharing my work, yes, but would I be any better than those who value ad revenue over their users' safety?

However, a certain...incident threw a monkey wrench in my plans. NeoGAF, a forum I frequented for four years, underwent chaotic anarchy following sexual assault allegations against the owner, and I, like many others, did not wish any more association with the site. The exodus was immensely disheartening for everyone involved, and Twitter was the only reliable tool we had to stay in touch with old friends. In many ways, there was truly nothing like NeoGAF, it being one of the final gaming bastions of progressive ideology and a zero-tolerance policy towards any any of the alt-right rhetoric that's plagued our medium for the past several years.

Thankfully, since then we've made a smooth transition towards spiritual successor ResetEra, and while I personally couldn't be happier with how that's turned out, I'm still a little shaken by what happened. NeoGAF was set to be my one and only social internet connection once I left Twitter, and with that suddenly ripped from the equation, I'd be left with nothing else. Again, ResetEra's shaping up to be a worthy replacement, but that whole incident forced me to reconsider all my internet-related plan, and so that's why I'll be giving Twitter one last shot to redeem itself while being more proactive in calling out the filth plaguing the platform. This may, however, change depending on any further scandals with the service, so please bear that in mind.

Anyway, that's about it. I'll probably be spending the next week sorting this all out. Reset assured, Leave Luck to Heaven has some big plans in the future.

 In the meantime, it's time for me to Do the Odyssey. See ya soon!