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May 2023 Retrospective

Next month will see the release of Final Fantasy XVI. The first mainline entry in the series in nearly six and a half years. Based on everything that I have seen it will be a good game by all objective measures. But at the same time I fear that I will not enjoy it because it will not represent what "Final Fantasy" means to me. The age of turn-based RPGs appears to be over. The reign of third-person action RPGs is here.

I am getting old. That is a statement of fact. I do not resent it or fear it. But over these last five or ten years I have really started to feel that the things I grew up loving have changed into something that I do not recognize anymore. Again, that is not a bad thing. Change is inevitable. But it is interesting to watch games like Breath of the Wild, PokΓ©mon Scarlet, Doom Eternal, heck even Call of Duty or Battlefield, change so much that I probably wouldn't even care if I never played one again.

The Good

Read Death on the Nile

At the risk of sounding like an Agatha Christie fanboy, Death on the Nile is another fantastic novel of hers. If you are a fan of murder mysteries you absolutely must give it a shot.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

I know I am a bit late to the party with this review but The Super Mario Bros. Movie is basically perfect. It is a prime example of a film that knows exactly what it should be and does it without any reservations. We're talking 90 minutes of constant references to any and all Super Mario Bros. video games and TV shows that have ever existed. It was pure, distilled fun.

Also, the brouhaha about who was doing the voice acting is so stupid in retrospect because they are essentially unrecognizable. If I didn't know ahead of time I would have had no idea that Chris Pratt, Jack Black, or Keegan-Michael Key were in this film. The only people I immediately recognized were Charlie Day and Seth Rogan because they just straight up used their own voices. There was absolutely no attempt to hide it and you know what? It still didn't matter because they all did a great job.

Especially Lumalee. They were perfect.

Watched the Tetris film

If you have a subscription to Apple TV+ I highly recommend you give Tetris a watch. It's a biographical film in the same way that The Social Network was for Facebook. The core of the story is true but they inject a lot of drama to spice things up and I think in Tetris' case it also works quite well.

The Bad

Read False Gods

Last month I wrote about Horus Rising and how excited I was to read more of the Horus Heresy series.

This month I get to write about False Gods and how I never want to read another word of the Horus Heresy series.

This was easily one of the worst books I have ever read. Both the writing and the storytelling are what I would expect from a high school student. This book is suppose to explain how Horus, champion of Mankind and greatest of the Primarchs, falls to Chaos and starts an intergalactic war that will claim billions of innocent lives. So you may (like I did) think the reason behind this would be absolutely epic and you could not be more wrong. Essentially some random dude calls Horus a pussy and insults his Dad. So Horus, being the master tactician he is, goes into a complete rage and charges headfirst into a impossibly convoluted trap. Said dude then stabs Horus with a magical knife which causes Horus to fall into a coma and obviously the only way to revive him is through Chaos magic. When Horus wakes he immediately begins acting the exact opposite to how he has behaved for the past 200+ years.

I swear to god I started bleeding out my nose when I wrote that summary.

Honourable Mentions

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Before I say anything negative about Tears of the Kingdom I wanna start with the positives.

It is a technical marvel. For an open world of this size to be running on the Switch, which is less powerful than the smartphone you are probably reading this on, is absolutely bonkers. I know that the texture quality and level of detail aren't great but the fact that I basically experienced no hitches when traversing the world, especially in the air, is worthy of praise. Sure Nintendo effectively short themselves in the foot by releasing it on such shitty hardware but they at least did an amazing job at treating the wound.

Also, if you enjoyed Breath of the Wild there is no doubt in my mind that you'll enjoy Tears of the Kingdom. They essentially redid the whole map and added all sorts of cool new abilities. But the core idea of throwing you into a sandbox and just telling you to explore Hyrule, however you'd like, is still there.

At the same time that does make Tears of the Kingdom feel more like DLC for Breath of the Wild rather than a true sequel. It's a sequel in the same way that each new Far Cry game is a sequel. Every single problem that I had with Breath of the Wild six years ago is still in Tears of the Kingdom. Weapon degradation is still bullshit. The stamina meter continues to exist only to punish the player. The UI is not just bad, it is downright hostile. The paper thin story is told through little vignettes that honestly don't matter much, and the combat is incredibly basic and frustrating.

It is insane to think that Nintendo spent six years on this game and none of those things were addressed. Even the games that have blatantly copied Breath of the Wild fixed those issues.

But what's hilarious is that Nintendo was actually so close to fixing weapon degradation but then just doubled down on making it worse. In Tears of the Kingdom something has happened to Hyrule and almost all of the weapons are in a decayed state. So you can use your new "fuse" ability to attach essentially anything to your decayed weapon to make it more powerful. The strongest things to attach are pieces of the monsters that you kill. So this creates a great loop where even if your weapon breaks when fighting a monster, theoretically you get a piece back that you can use to strengthen something else. But the problem is that when a weapon breaks you lose both the base weapon and the thing you fused to it. All Nintendo had to do was make the fused part break but the base weapon remain because the base weapons are so weak that you're forced to fuse stuff to them. I'd love to be holding on to 10-15 different types of weapons that I'd use for different situations and be constantly fusing the necessary pieces to them. But instead I'm just grabbing whatever random thing is closest, fusing whatever random thing is fairly powerful, and mindlessly bonking the enemy with it. Like I keep saying, it amazes me that in six years they could not have implemented some improvement like this.

The best thing I can say about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is that it has made me realize how much I want The Elder Scrolls VI.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

I played almost two hours of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp on a flight this month and there really isn't much for me to say. At its core it seems like a solid turn-based strategy game. But at the same time there appeared to be a lot of learning through failure kind of gameplay. I know that is weird for a fan of XCOM to complain about, but something about that type of failure just made it difficult to convince myself to ever pick the game up again.

Season 3 of Ted Lasso

I am about halfway through season 3 of Ted Lasso and while it is enjoyable, it really is just more of the same. I still think this is a show that absolutely everyone should watch, especially season 1. But it feels like Ted Lasso has run its course and I would love to see it go out on top rather than clawing for story ideas like so many successful sitcoms end up doing.

Review May Goals

June Goals