Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Release Date: December 1, 1988

Version: Nintendo Switch Online

Rating: 6.5/10

After defeating Ganon, Link has another crisis on his hands. This time, Zelda has been put into a deep slumber and Link has to defeat the evil sorcerer causing this horrible curse.

Playability 2 of 4: Difficulty, thy name is the Adventure of Link. This is probably the hardest game I’ve ever played. There is no difficulty curve either, it starts out incredibly unforgiving and only gets more difficult as the game goes on. It doesn’t help that almost nothing points you in the direction you need to go, or lets you know that you absolutely need to find every single spell and item in order to proceed to the next part. Ultimately, I had to use a guide because I don’t think I’d know otherwise that you need to do half the things you need to do. The vague clues you find from villagers barely lets you know anything, only once did someone say something that let me discover something on my own. Every other time I said to myself, “I don’t know what to do, back to the walkthrough…”

Okay, this is made during the NES’s hayday, only a few years into it’s life before even Sega Genesis hit the scene. Zelda was a huge hit and rightfully so, Adventure of Link was trying to recapture that magic, but was doing so by basically changing everything that made the first game what it was.

First off, the leveling up system doesn’t really work in a Zelda game, it’s made even more frustrating that when you lose all your lives and have to continue, you keep your levels that you’ve earned but lose all your experience for getting to the next level. This isn’t so bad at first when you only need a few points between each upgrade, but gets immensely impeding when you lose literally thousands of experience points all at once and it feels that much farther to getting another level.

Next, the absolute unforgiving nature of the combat system. You see, when you’re walking around in the world, it’s a top-down map like in the original game. But once you enter anything else, whether it’s a cave, palace, town, or random encounter, you’re entered into a side-scrolling, Castlevania-style areas, which aren’t bad and I actually like this aspect, but the combat itself is far from what it could be. For one thing, Link’s sword just feels really short. I find myself constantly having to run inside where other creatures can slash and get hit in order to try to get an attack in, and probably just get attacked myself in the process. This is countered by the fact that towards the end of the game, most enemies either have unbreakable shields with psychic abilities so they always know where your about to slash, or they need to be attacked with magic that isn’t always easy to come by and runs out fast.

…..BUT! At first, this game was so difficult I almost broke my switch right in half over my knee several times in frustration. Then, after a while, partly due to something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, I started playing a lot better, especially after getting the downward and upward slashes. You start anticipating when to shield and when to slash. You learn which enemies aren’t worth fighting if you can help it, and where you can go to get experience easily without needing to worry too much about dying all of a sudden and losing it all….again. So, this becomes a game that’s actually pretty fun, but I nearly gave up on it several times.

Oh, but one more thing that I think belongs in playability more than anywhere else. Dungeon “puzzles” in this game get downright stupid. They’re fine at first in that it’s more like Castlevania and you just got to do A first before you can do B, but then about level 4 or 5 you start having to do things like: Jump down a pit in order to find a hidden room that you HAVE TO FIND TO CONTINUE! Keep in mind that falling down a pit outside of these “secrets” means instant death. Another part is a hidden wall that you, again, have to find in order to move on. I don’t see how anyone figured these points out before the days of the internet because the game doesn’t give even a single clue to their presence.

So, if you’re playing through this one for the first time, use a guide.

Fun Factor 2.1 of 3: As I say above, this game becomes fun over time, but it starts off so difficult that it takes quite a while to get there. The frustration never quite goes away, but it does become at least partially fun.

The best part of this game, and this may sound weird, but it’s right after you beat it. I don’t even mean that in a “now you can finally stop playing it” way. But there is a real sense of accomplishment that I don’t think I’ve gotten from beating any other game I’ve ever completed. Difficult as hell, fun only partially, and I have conquered it! I don’t know, like I said, kind of a weird reason to recommend a game….

Story 1 of 1: If you read through the booklet, which you can find online for free, there is a lot of story going into this game. Something you at least partially miss out on if you’re just jumping straight in. But, with the induction of people and towns in the series, even if they only say one thing per person, it feels a lot more real and a lot more like the Zeldas we all know that came after this game. It creates something that feels like a real country instead of a barren place devoid of civilization like the first game, though the former title more than makes up for that with its environment.

Graphics and Sounds 0.8 of 1: The music can be a tad annoying sometimes, but fits in with Zelda as a whole though I think I’d have preferred just reusing music from the first game, personally. Also, the graphics are pretty good for it’s time, but Link’s face just looks downright strange.

Replayability 0.6 of 1: Like every Zelda, I could see myself replaying this further down the line, perhaps when I’m feeling a tad masochistic. And the world in this one is big enough I’m sure there’s tons of secrets still to discover. Also, I wonder how good I’d be at the beginning now that I know the combat a lot better than I did. At the same time though, I feel the accomplishment of having beaten it and I don’t know if doing so again is really worth the effort. Even having “mastered” the game, it’s still incredibly hard. I’m not sure if a replay is worth the immense frustration.

Wonder Woman s1e4: The Feminine Mystique Part 1

Air Date: November 6, 1976

Rating: 7.5/10

Drusilla, Wonder Woman’s sister, is sent to Washington to tell Diana to come back to Paradise Island. In the process, Dru uncovers a nazi conspiracy but without her sister to help, she’ll have to call upon her own inner Wonder Woman to try to save the day.

A bit of a strange one as it feels more like the first half of a movie than what one might expect from an episode at this point. This was the first two-parter in the series, so that makes sense, but it feels very disjointed because of it. I mean, I think they knew since early serials that you make each episode stand on its own, and then end on a cliffhanger to set up the next episode. This was probably more to set up the eventual VHS tape that showed these episodes as if they were a movie. Actually, everything kind of makes sense when I think about it that way. But, being that I have to review these episodes separately, just like everyone else had to watch it two days apart from each other when it was on originally, it really doesn’t do this show any favors.

The problem is that the tone of this show is all over the place. First we’re on Paradise Island, then Wonder Woman is doing something heroic, then we’re having a silly moment with Dru, then scary things are happening with Nazis, etc. If I was just watching these parts as micro-episodes on YouTube (or as one of those serials I mentioned earlier), that would be okay. But, as a complete episode, it’s very disjointed and I legitimately didn’t know what the actual plot was supposed to be until the last ten minutes.

It does make me want to see the next episode though, so that’s something.

SCORING:

+7.5: It’s not terrible, each scene is good unto itself but they don’t mesh well

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The Simpsons s1e6: Moaning Lisa

Air Date: February 11, 1990

Rating: 8/10

Lisa is suffering from an existential depression and meets Bleeding-Gums Murphy, a fellow sax player who helps her get out of her funk. Meanwhile, Homer tries to beat Bart in a video game.

A much more emotional episode than the typical funny stuff we’ve seen up to this point. I was four when this came out originally. I remember not really liking it, probably because I was too young to understand sadness on this existential level. Depression is probably what we’d call it today. Now that I’ve grown up, I appreciate these themes and the use of music to a much greater degree. I only mention the music because I remember at 4, this being my first introduction to jazz, not liking it very much. This episode shows how one can, in a way, celebrate said sadness in the blues.

Sorry, I think I got a bit nostalgic there. Anyway, this was a fine episode, the side story with Bart and Homer supplied a bit of comedy between the more serious stuff with Lisa. And Lisa’s storyline is very well done and we take a look into who she is and how she asks these deeper philosophical questions.

But this feels more like it’s the first act of a movie. It asks these questions but the payoff is summed up in “Just sing the blues,” essentially. This setup feels too great for it’s payoff. I really like the scene when Marge pulls Lisa away from the school to tell her to just be herself. That part feels more powerful than anything to do with Bleeding-Gums’ character and his moral for the story. I mean, this is essentially Lisa being sad but then meets a cool homeless man? Life doesn’t get better, so just sing the blues, I guess.

Also, I wanted to point out that this episode came out only two months into the 1990s and the kid Homer meets in the arcade is one of the most stereotypical 90s things I’ve ever seen.

SCORING:

+8: This episode isn’t bad by any means

-1: …but the moral, or whatever, isn’t really very good

+1: I like the jazz/blues in this episode and Marge, just as a person

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Lovecraft Country s1e2: Whitey’s on the Moon

Air Date: August 23, 2020

Rating: 10/10

After a night of fighting monsters, the mystery thickens as Atticus, Leti, and George find themselves in an expensive mansion they believe is holding Tic’s father against his will. Tic soon finds out that something even darker is at play involving his lineage. Along with a shadowy cult calling themselves the Sons of Adam.

I feel like you can practically gauge a film, or any visual media, by how expertly they use their music. A standardly used song would just be something thrown in to set the scene, a masterfully used piece of music practically tells the story all by itself. I think the sound editing in this episode is great. It’s anachronic, like playing Marilyn Manson after a 50s car crash, but the show uses these pieces so well that it fits in with everything else. The title song of Whitey’s on the Moon by Gil Scot-Heron is something memorable, to say the least. Now that I think about it, the out-of-time songs are actually the least weird part of this episode.

Most of this episode was downright surreal. It’s a different take entirely on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories from the previous episode. I liked it a lot, but the former was very monster oriented and juxtaposing that with the Jim-Crow-racist law enforcement. Here, we still see the racism, but that’s countered with absolutely crazy, magic-using, narcissistic wizards who are using spells to trap people in their own psyche as much as they are shooting people with bullets. It’s more of a psychological thriller than the cabin-in-the-woods themed horror we saw in the last one. This episode is a different shade of Lovecraft, of the horror genre, and of its racial themes. It makes me wonder which tropes we’ll see in each category for the next episode, and hope this wasn’t just a fluke and we’re going right back to monster-smashing after this. Actually, I’d be fine either way.

SCORING:

+10: Masterfully done

The Simpsons s1e5: Bart the General

Air Date: February 4, 1990

Rating: 10/10

After standing up for Lisa against a bully, the biggest bull of them all, Nelson Muntz, is out for Bart’s blood. Bart has to enlist the help of Grandpa Simpson along with Herman, perhaps the craziest man in Springfield, to declare all out war against Nelson.

Matt Groening commented in an interview that they had to jump through hoops in order to get this episode past the censors, but nowadays it would be quite tame compared to today’s television (or even today’s Simpsons episodes). Though this features Bart as the main character the much more adult themes of war and what it means to be a leader are displayed. Something kids were much less privy to in the early 90s. Now I feel like stuff like this is covered on Adventure Time or other kid-based television. It was pretty heavy stuff for it’s time even if they didn’t go very far into deeper themes, but it’s message is there.

This is the first episode, outside of the Christmas Special, that feels like a real Simpsons episode. All the characters feel like they do in later installments, something I wasn’t sure would change this soon, but I’m glad that all the elements we love about the Simpsons seems to be in place.

I really like the character of Herman, someone who I don’t think shows up in any other episodes. I’m not sure though, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a lot of these shows, some I don’t think I’ve seen since I was a kid. The same kid who was influenced by this episode to declare war on my own Elementary School bully, oh, the bloodshed… (that “joke” only makes sense if you know about how much parents were worried about the Simpsons influencing children to be “bad” like Bart, this was before the days of things like South Park existed, or even before Comedy Central I believe).

SCORING:

+10: A great episode that shows for the first time just how far the show can (and will) go, also some pretty unique animation in this one

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Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage

Release Date: January 27, 2009

Version: Xbox 360

Rating: 6.2/10

The Lone Wanderer of the Capital Wastelands picks up a mysterious radio signal to help a few Outcasts from the Brotherhood of Steel to get to a weapon’s cache. However, in order to get there, the Hero/Villain of Vault 101 must complete a training tutorial that covers the Annex of Alaska by the Chinese during the war.

I thought about not doing this and maybe mentioning it when I review the rest of Fallout 3, but DLC is made after the rest of the game, so it’s usually completely separate from the main story and gives one the sense that it’s a completely different game, often adding new elements that can only be found there, just off of another game’s engine.

Playability 2.4 of 4: Overall the controls work fine, as long as you’re okay with the Fallout 3 controls by the point you begin this (something you can do as soon as you leave Vault 101 without much issue). But they kind of subtract more than they add for this one. For one, no looting of corpses and instead you’re just looking for ammo drops and occasionally extra weapons that can be found throughout the world of Anchorage. I also don’t like that there’s not much weapon options if you didn’t go for Small Guns right away (only one Energy Weapon?…but why?).

Another thing that bugs me is that nothing you do in the world really matters at all, and though I went for a straightforward approach while completely the mission, I wonder if there was a way to skip it entirely and just open the cache since it seems like the same thing is accomplished in the end. So, yes, it is playable, or as playable as the main game, but most of it seems pretty pointless aside from getting extra experience points. I think they were maybe going for the more mainstream FPS crowd with making this add-on, but I think they forgot about their main fans a little bit.

Fun Factor 2.4 of 3: It’s plenty fun actually running through and killing Chinese soldiers as they invade Alaska, blowing up their bases and trying to get an upper hand, but it’s plagued with weird moments where your meant to take this whole video-game-within-a-video-game seriously. It’s distracting from what I think is more or less just a time waster in something that’s already meant to waste time. I dunno, it’s a strange addition to Fallout 3, to say the least.

Story 0.4 of 1: This feels like a missed opportunity where it could show us some real history of what was happening during the war that ended the world. Instead it feels more like a Call of Duty simulator where one was neither asked nor called for. Also, the Brotherhood Outcasts are a bunch of idiots and I feel nothing for them, probably because they don’t have a story. I don’t even know why they’re outcasts? I’ll admit I may have missed something when they were first explaining themselves but even if I did these people don’t stand out to me in any way, just

Graphics and Sound 0.9 of 1: Well, graphics is as good as in Fallout 3 (fine for it’s time) but there are a few moments in this where the graphics really stood out. One is when your entered into the program and it goes from staring at a blank wall to going in through a portal. Another is when you blow up the artillery guns before being sent to Anchorage Main. Truthfully the graphics are probably better than in the main game, actually.

The sound is fine, but as a person who likes to listen to the radio throughout the main game I feel I have to ding it for not offering some kind of alternative for these moments.

Replay Value: 0.1 of 1: Not much here really, you can’t go back into the program once your out anyway. So you’d have to start a new game to do it again. But there’s not even moral choices to make like in the rest of Fallout 3 so you can’t play through again with the alternative Good/Evil choices you made the first time. It’s just straightforward and can help you get Power Armor really early in the game if you want it, but there’s no reason I can see to actually want to replay this again… until you make a new character and want that Power Armor at level 3.

Lovecraft Country s1e1: Sundown

Air Date: August 16, 2020

Rating: 10/10

The works of H.P. Lovecraft are brought to life in this show about racial relations in 1950s America. I’m not even kidding. Atticus Freeman gets a mysterious letter from his father and together with his Uncle George and his friend Letitia, they set off across the country to find him. Only to discover that a corrupt police system under Jim Crow laws are the least of their worries.

I’ve just discovered this show a little randomly and am pleasantly surprised by it. I was told it was good, but I didn’t expect it to be something more than just another horror show. Horror, in this case, seems to be more a backdrop for saying something about the real-world history of African-Americans during one of the darkest points for African-Americans in our history. Well, unless we’re going a hundred years before that…

Enough depressing history aside, this show uses horror-tropes incredibly well. It’s something when the tensest scene in the episode isn’t even when the monsters show up but one of the scariest parts I’ve seen on any screen is while our main characters are doing their best to drive the speed limit out of the county. You have to see it to know what I’m talking about.

Something else I have to say is that I think using the 50s as a backdrop is a very good choice. And I enjoy that we’re seeing Black people as the main characters because Lovecraft was kinda racist in his writings and this isn’t just a different take on his stories, it’s showing us a different light (a very dark light) for how things were during this time period. On a related note, I love seeing the culture and the music of this the fifties on screen and I really hope that there’s a lot more of both moving forward.

SCORING:

+10: Horror is simultaneous my most and least favorite genre, when it’s good, as this is, it’s really good, the problem is that it’s really hard to make horror this good

The Simpsons s1e4: There’s No Disgrace Like Home

Air Date: January 28, 1990

Rating: 8/10

After seeing how more loving the other families are at the power plant’s picnic, Homer decides the Simpsons need therapy. They enlist the help of Dr. Marvin Monroe, licensed psychiatrist, to help save their family.

Well, after last episode’s somewhat depressing tone, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this outing into the program. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very hilarious episode with absolutely no drama at all. This is a good thing! Okay, I feel that the need for drama in a sitcom is necessary but I also think the comedy should come first. And, after those first two clunky episodes (remember that the Christmas Special was actually 8th in production order), I’m glad to see that the Simpsons are coming into their own. Showing us just how zany this modern family can be.

I’m also glad to see one which focuses on the family as a whole and not just on one character or another. It’s nice to see how this family acts as a group and the hilarity to be had by such interactions. I suppose if I had any complaint about this episode it’s that some of the things are out of character for who they are later, especially with Marge and Lisa, but I know this is very early in this shows run and it’s not the writers fault to be trying things out before we know who these people really are.

SCORING:

+8: A hilarious episode though still a bit clunky as the show continues to fine tune its mechanics

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The Simpsons s1e3: Homer’s Odyssey

Air Date: January 21, 1990

Rating: 4/10

Bart takes a field trip to the nuclear power plant that ends up with Homer losing his job. In a fit of depression, Homer decides to kill himself. But, before he can he realizes his true purpose in life is to fight for safety and try to take down Mr. Burns and the power plant once and for all.

Bart going to the power plant on a field trip has some pretty great jokes, but everything after Homer getting fired becomes more than a little dramatic. Not that having drama is a bad thing in a show like this, but I turn on the Simpsons for a bit of hilarity and escapism but this episode seems to be more rooted in the real world than it usually is. I know this show is just starting out and just starting to find it’s form, but this is stuff that’s neither funny nor entertaining, it’s just stuff people do.

I suppose this is kind of the opposite of the last episode in that there the end was good while the rest was lacking, here the beginning is quite good, but everything after that is more than a bit lacking. Fun Fact: Smithers is drawn to be Black in this episode but that was changed by the next episode. Meaning they should probably get his voice changed to a African-American actor because that’s what’s important right now…

SCORING:

+5: Decent beginning

-1: …doesn’t really make up for a sub-par middle and ending

The Simpsons s1e2: Bart the Genius

Air Date: January 14, 1990

Rating: 6/10

After cheating on an IQ test and switching his answer key with Martin, Bart is taken to a school for genius children. Can Bart keep up when he’s not who he claims he is?

Well, here’s a lot of firsts for the Simpsons. Such as the first couch gag, the first episode exclusively about Bart, along with the first appearance of Martin. Despite this significance in Simpsons history, I mostly just felt kind of bored. It seems like this should have been a fish-out-of-water story with lots of laughs, and it got the Bart out of his element aspect, it just wasn’t as comedic as one might expect from something like this. I think that Bart doesn’t really try to hide who he is, just sort of goes along with everything and no one really questions it, let alone the people who should question it the most: Homer and Marge.

There was a pretty hilarious part at the end when Bart finally confesses everything to Homer, but I don’t think sitting through an entire mediocre episode is worth about 30 seconds of funny. Then again, this was the first official episode, and it’s not too bad as an introduction to the series, just the Christmas Special, as it was initially advertised, is just so much better.

SCORING:

+5: Has an okay storyline, it’s just not all that entertaining

+1: There is a decent part near the end

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