RANKING THE PIXAR MOVIES: No. 14

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NO. 14 – Monsters University (2013)

DIRECTOR: Dan Scanlon

If there’s one thing nobody really expected Pixar would attempt to do, a prequel wouldn’t be low on the list, especially a prequel to what many deem to be one of their best films. Also, weren’t there parts in the teaser for the original and the original itself where Sully tells Mike about how he spent time passing notes to a girl in the fifth grade, and where Mike tells Sully that he (Sully)’s been jealous of his looks since fourth grade? Bizarre decisions and continuity errors aside, how does Monsters University fare on its’ own? Pretty darn good, actually. Okay, it isn’t exactly great and it definetely doesn’t top the original (not that anyone was expecting it to do so), but it’s time we truly start to delve into it. Ever since a fateful elementary school field trip, Mike Wazowski has devoted his life to becoming a professional Scarer for Monsters Inc. Eleven years later, his dream is closer than ever to becoming a reality when he becomes a student for Monsters University. There, he meets his future best friend (I mean, come on, that isn’t really a spoiler) and one of the “jocks” of the university, James “Sulley” P. Sullivan. The two start off on rather rocky terms, and it escalates to the point where an incident results in the both of them failing the semester’s final exam. However, a sheer miracle shines through for them in the form of the “Scare Games”, the only problem being that they’re competing against the university’s strongest fraternity Roar Omega Roar, and that the fraternity they’re on, Ozma Kappa is…well, not the strongest by any means. Now with all odds against them, Mike and Sulley have to find a way to pull through, while also forming a strong bond in the process. With all of that out of the way, let’s get into what’s good. The animation (as to be expected from The Big P) is gorgeous, with the monsters having wildly creative and varied designs, along with some fine textures in terms of their fur, scales, horns, etc. The attention to detail that went towards the university is very impressive as well, as there are times where you’ll really feel like you’re at an actual college (expect with, y’know, monsters) more often than not. Heck, they even made a fake website that’s still up to this day! The development of the relationship between Mike and Sulley is also very well done, as they come to realize that while their obsession with trying to outdo each other has led them to their current situation, they can manage to work together along with Ozma Kappa to get out of it. Speaking of which, the other characters, both old and new, offer plenty of charm and likeability, the lovable misfits of Ozma Kappa being a shining example. In addition, the action sequences are fantastic, being exciting, fast-paced, and even a bit suspenseful at times, the Library scene and the climax being the most worthy of this notion. Now, let’s move on to the flaws. While the plot is executed in a satisfying manner, I won’t deny that it can be a bit slow at times, as a chunk of the plot is spent towards Mike and Sulley’s eventual friendship rather than the Scare Games. There’s also the problem that for a Pixar film, it can get suprisingly mean-spirited at times. I mean, just watch the final exam scene and the (SPOILER WARNING!!!) part where Sulley admits to Mike that he essentially helped him cheat without him knowing and you’ll see what I mean. Regardless, Monsters University is a perfectly good prequel that manages to stand on its’ own ground.

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REVIEW: Rayman (1995, PlayStation)

In the mid-90’s, the gaming industry was undergoing a drastic and bold transition from the fourth generation into the fifth generation; developers were working harder than ever to refine their technology, a wide variety of iconic franchises were introduced, and the third dimension was officially taking center stage. However, if there’s one game that perfectly signifies this transition more than any other one released during this period, it would have to be the first game to star Ubisoft’s limbless wonder and mascot of sorts, Rayman.

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Initially released for the Atari Jaguar and later ported to a multitude of consoles throughout the years (and I do mean a MULTITUDE), this side-scrolling platformer revolves around the titular character as he must make his way throughout a wide array of bizarre lands to thwart the schemes of the evil Mr. Dark. With that said, how does this game hold up years after its’ release? Let’s find out, shall we?

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THE LOOKS

Right off the bat, these are visuals that WILL grab your attention just by the sheer vibrancy and creativity of them. Not only is this the best looking 2D platformer of its’ time, but it also might just be the best looking 2D platformer, period. Rather than just using the typical “grass world, desert world, ice world, lava world” and so forth, each one is extremely distinct and unique in its’ own right, Band Land and the Candy Château being the best examples of this. It especially helps that you can tell that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making each and every one of them as bursting with creativity as they are, which can also be applied to the many characters that Rayman will encounter on his journey, whether they be good or bad. I don’t know what else to say other than it’s simply pure eye candy.

THE SOUND

A good percentage of my favorite music comes from video game soundtraccks, and this is no exception. The music is just amazing, managing to range between a wide variety of styles, whether they be atmospheric, buoyant, or whimsical. The sound effects help to add to the general aesthetic to the game, helping it feel like you’re truly playing an interactive cartoon. In addition to the visuals, the sound might also be the best I’ve ever heard in a 2D platformer.

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THE GAMEPLAY

Now the gameplay is where things get difficult to throughly summarize. On paper, it’s fairly typical – you go from A to B collecting stuff while avoiding enemies, fighting various bosses along the way until you get to the guy who’s been causing you all the trouble in the first place. However, there are plenty of things to keep it fresh. To start off, as you progress throughout the game, you gain more and more moves, whether they be using your hair as a helicopter or using your detached fists as a defense mechanism, that will aid you against certain types of enemies as well as being beneficial to certain areas. You’ll also have to search for the MacGuffins of the game called Electoons, which are scattered throughout each of the levels and are locked in cages. The level design is superb, offering the right amount of platforming as well as some stages that can get pretty brutal at times in turns of difficulty. You can also gain extra lives by collecting 100 Tings, which are the coins or rings of the game. While some might be turned of by the difficulty, the gameplay is still very much fine as it is.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I can see why the Rayman franchise has stayed around as long as it has, and the first game is definitely an ode to this notion, giving an engaging, immensely colorful, and challenging take on the side scroller. While I like the sequels and LOVE both Origins and Legends, there’s something about the original that keeps bringing me back for more. I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s surely enough for it to earn a spot in my favorite games of all time.

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Top 5 Games I Want To See On The Switch

As you all are probably already well aware, Nintendo has held a conference that raised the curtain on a myriad of details centered around one of their most anticipated projects to date, the Switch, to its’ price, its’ hardware, and the many games that will be released for it. Oh, and to those who are wondering, I absolutely loved it. Getting back onto the main topic, I’d figured it was the right time to make an article about the games I thought would help make it a worthy addition to the Nintendo legacy, while also proving why they are regarding as THE video game company. With that said, join me as I list off the Top 5 Games I Want To See On The Switch.

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NO. 5 – A Third Retro Studios DKC

I’ve stated before that I’m not a big fan of the original Donkey Kong Country games, especially the first one. While I’m definitely aware of their status in fourth generation platformers, there’s nothing all that grandiose about them outside of the pre-rendered visuals, and even then the advertisements for Diddy’s Kong Quest and Dixie’s Double Trouble didn’t bring them up, at least none that I’m aware of. However, the original games in question bring us to the topic at hand in this fifth spot. Donkey Kong Country Returns and its’ sequel, Tropical Freeze, are not only great platformers in their own right, but they’re also a prime example of how to revitalize a franchise. Or should I say…PRIMATE?

Yeah, I gotta remember to see myself out for that. Anyways, given how they’ve handled the Metroid Prime trilogy, a third Retro-developed DKC game wouldn’t be too unrealistic of an option. And trust me, people would definitively regret it if it was. Considering the many ways that Tropical Freeze expanded upon the formula that Returns laid out while also bringing in elements from Diddy’s Kong Quest and going as far as to bring DAVID FRIGGIN’ WISE back, one can only wonder how this could pan out. Maybe they could bring back other members of the Kong Family, the Animal Buddies, heck, why not bring back the Kremlings? Matter of fact, why not make it a prequel to the original trilogy? It would explain why they weren’t present in the previous two games while also bringing things full circle nostalgically for the fans. It might not happen for the time being, but we’d certainly go bananas for it if it did.

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NO. 4 – A Fully 3D Kirby Platformer

If there’s one thing that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, it would be the day when Chris Seavor finally joins Playtonic to announce a spiritual successor to Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Other than that, a Kirby game that goes for a fully 3D format instead of the 2D/2.5D format that the series has been raised upon isn’t that far behind. When you look at how successfully Nintendo’s other franchises have translated into the third dimension, one can only wonder why they haven’t given the little pink puffball of mass destruction the treatment. After all, a little shake-up wouldn’t hurt anyone, especially when you consider the series have been going on for nearly twenty-five years. Of course, that’s not to say that I have a problem with the Kirby staying as a side-scroller, because even then the games are fantastic as they currently are. After all, just because one franchise can make a transition well doesn’t mean others will

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NO. 3 – A New F-Zero

After the lackluster reception of Star Fox Zero, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing Nintendo try to revitalize some of their more “cult classic” properties. And it’s a damn shame if you ask me, because that would mean the agonizing wait for a new F-Zero would turn into an endless one. The games were built upon a high-adrenaline foundation that no other racing game had, from the memorable characters, the flashy, futuristic style and visuals, and of course, the challenging and fast-paced races. Like DKC, it probably won’t happen for the time being, but a geek can dream, can’t he?

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NO. 2 – A Fourth Metroid Prime

From the embarrassing flop that was Other M, the mediocre reception of Federation Force, a remake of Return of Samus getting DMCA’d, and the complete failure on Nintendo’s part to acknowledge the original game’s 30th anniversary, the Metroid franchise has definitely seen brighter days. You know what they say, though – when you’re at your lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up, and a fourth game in the Prime series would most certainly  be a great place to start. Heck, Retro Studios is working on a new game as of this writing, so maybe it could see the light of day after all! I mean, it has to get better from here, doesn’t it?

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NO. 1 – A Proper Fourth Paper Mario

Let’s not mince words – Sticker Star and Color Splash, while perfectly good games on their own, aren’t what fans of the Paper Mario games have been craving for over ten friggin’ years as of this writing. The original three Paper Mario games, Thousand Year Door especially, are magnificent in nearly every way imaginable. From the charming and simplistic yet vivid and unique visual style, the memorable characters both familiar and new, the unforgettable music, the epic stories, and the sheer attention to detail of the gameplay, we’ve waited long enough for this series to receive a true return to form. As for whether or not I’d want it to have gameplay similar to SPM or the first two games…well, as underrated as SPM is, the series’ roots have been known to rest as an RPG, and that would easily be the best way to win back those who have given up on the series. Again, it might not happen, but man do I wish it would.

BONUS QUESTION: What are your thoughts on the Switch press conference?

©2017 A retr0pia Production

RANKING THE PIXAR MOVIES: No. 15

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NO. 15 – Cars 2 (2011)

DIRECTOR: John Lasseter

Cars is often regarded as Pixar’s lesser franchise, and when people provide evidence to back this statement, they frequently point to the sequel, which is considered by many to be the first ever “not good” Pixar film. However, if you ask me…it’s actually not that bad. I’d even go as far as to call it decent! So, what about the story? Some time after the events of the original film, Lightning McQueen and his allies head overseas to compete in an international racing championship aptly titled the World Grand Prix. However, Mater is mistaken for a spy by a secret agent car named Finn McMissile, and ultimately ends up getting tangled in a fuel conspiracy which inadvertently puts his friendship with Lightning on the line, and holy smokes what isn’t going on in this. With that said, the big issue that everyone has with this film is…well, just take a gander at my plot synopsis. As you can see, the focus has shifted gears towards the main comic relief of the film, Mater, whose reception is quite mixed throughout the Pixar fanbase. If you want my point of view, I actually like him a lot. I guess his whole “dimwitted but big-hearted country guy” shtick can get a bit wearisome after a while, but it doesn’t bother me that much and I do get some good laughs from him. The story itself is well-written, putting a balanced emphasis on both plotlines while also never really losing focus on the other. This also leads into one of the other major strengths, the animation. Not only do you really feel like you’re on a world tour, there’s also some neat action scenes to boot, being frenetic and exciting, with the climax being especially noteworthy. Cars 2: It ain’t Pixar’s finest, but it’s far from being truly awful.

What’s To Come…

(note that these won’t be uploaded in any particular order)

REVIEWS:

Crash Bandicoot

Boogerman Revisited

Digger T. Rock

Another World

Rayman

Looney Tunes Games 2

Yooka-Laylee (when it gets released)

Marvel Games

The Smurfs

TOP LISTS: 

Top 10 Powerpuff Girls Episodes

Top 5 Worst Mascots With Attitude

RETR0SPECTIVE:

The History Of Nintendo Consoles

Insomniac Games

Rare

OTHER EXCITING STUFF:

The continuation of Ranking The Pixar Films

SketchQuest potentially beginning development sometime later this year

AND MORE!

Hold on to your hats, folks. It’s going to be a crazy year.

 

Art, Art, And More Art

HAPPY NEW YEAR, MY FELLOW RETR0PIANS! I guarantee that 2017 will be a year chock full of classic video game goodness! In the mean time, here’s some artwork, and as always, stay retr0!

Swaghammer the Womanizer

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Small in Size, Smaller in Temper

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Juggling Ira

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Nedford’s House

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Don’t Ask

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