Monday, March 10, 2014

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope" Pt. 1 & 2

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

This week's Adventure Time brings us the epic saga of a young but reluctant hero destined for great things. Also, he's a lemon. Spoilers to follow.

We open with a dream sequence, with Lemonhope as a cherub, leaving a monochrome bird's nest and flying through darkness, until he finally reaches a red door. He hears a knocking, only to wake up and find that it's time for school.

We last saw Badlemonnohope (A.K.A. Lemonhope) in Too Old, where Princess Bubblegum and Finn found the young boy imprisoned, and broke him out. They managed to escape, with the help of the rest of Castle Lemongrab's citizens, but Lemongrab was very displeased, and wound up eating what remained of Lemongrab 2. Don't worry, though, he was still alive in there.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

In this episode, Princess Bubblegum shows Lemonhope a propaganda film released by Lemongrab. Conditions have never been great in Lemongrab, but things seem to have gotten… worse. The film (titled "Hello! And keep away from Castle Lemongrab!") paints a very bleak picture of the totalitarian city-state (Lemongrab actually calls it that) the Earldom of Lemongrab has become. We also find out that Lemongrab 2 is totally still alive… Inside of the Earldom's fat ruler. It seems that "since they've gotten rid of Hope," Lemongrab has gone even more completely power mad, and Lemongrab 2 reaches out of Lemongrab, screaming that Lemonhope needs to return to Castle Lemongrab and save the Earldom.

The film ends, and Princess Bubblegum notices that Lemonhope hasn't been paying attention, instead doodling a picture of himself. She then tries to see how Lemonhope's empathy has been developing, giving him two cupcakes, and asking if he'll share one of them with Finn (oh, yeah, Finn's there too. He doesn't have much to do in this episode either, but that's fine, he takes up very little screentime and actually does things when he's on screen). Lemonhope licks his thumb, and sticks it in each cupcake, saying that Finn can get his own cupcakes. It seems that, while he's not completely off the rails, he's definitely still a part of the Lemon family.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

I want to take a brief sidebar here. Princess Bubblegum says that they need to take a more hands on approach, and sends Finn off, yelling at him to make sure he read his Geometry homework. Has… Has Finn been going to school this whole time? Granted, it's a one-off gag, but Adventure Time's one-off gags often have meaning, and while this seems like the first time I can think of that we've ever seen a classroom in Ooo, is it possible that Finn's being taught by Peebles?

In any case, PB and Lemonhope travel to the outskirts of Castle Lemongrab, and we see that it now appears as an enormous prison. PB and Lemonhope use cloaking devices, since tensions have become heightened between the Candy Kingdom and Lemongrab, and new pacts and treaties prevent PB from getting very close to it. We see an escape attempt, as a random lemon flies over the walls, before a spotlight hits it, and it is picked up by a bird, and tossed into the center of the castle. "I AM GOING TO EAT YOOOOOU!!!" We hear Lemongrab scream. Then… Surprisingly disturbing screams of pain, which eventually turn into silence. "I DID IT!"

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Lemonhope is supposed to return to Castle Lemongrab and save them all someday, but he doesn't want to. Lemonhope wants nothing but freedom, and being told what to do, even if that means saving his people, infringes on that freedom. Princess Bubblegum tells him that attitude is unacceptable, but before she realizes her unfortunate choice of words, Lemonhope disappears, running away from her.

We cut to an island surrounded by sand, where a (now naked) Lemonhope dances around with his harp and flute, finally free. He sings a short song, before finding a burning town, also on the island, which has just been pillaged by sand pirates. He sees the sand pirate ship leaving the dock, and decides that kind of ship must come with a lot of freedom, so he manages to stowaway.

The cargo hold of the ship has tons of limes in it, which Lemonhope finds hilarious ("It takes all kinds, I guess!"). He plays the harp for some rats, which then form a blanket over him. He falls asleep, only to be awoken by the sound of something happening overhead. A box falls from a shelf as the ship sways, and hits him on the head. When he wakes up, the ship has wrecked, and there's no one to be seen for miles.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

We're treated to another dream sequence, this time with a "very free" Lemonhope-horse walking along, dragging a Lemongrab 2 behind him, who is begging him to stop and help. The Lemonhope-horse steps in some gum, only to find that it's a little Princess Bubblegum, who screams at him that he's UNACCCEPPTTAAAABLLLLLLEEEEEEE!

Back in the waking world, we see that Lemonhope is now disturbingly malnourished, having eaten dozens and dozens of limes. Clearly a significant amount of time has passed. He's run out of limes, so he decides that he has freedom to go find some water. There's a single cloud floating high above him, but it's not looking like rain. He journeys out into the desert. More time passes, and he's shriveled up, clearly on his last leg. He finally stops moving, and his head catches fire from the heat.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Lemonhope is saved by a mysterious man who appears out of nowhere, and uses a cloud in a bottle to rehydrate Lemonhope. The man introduces himself as Phlannel Boxingday, who has been watching Lemonhope for some time from his floating cloud trawler. He thought it looked like Lemonhope could use some help, so he came down (why he didn't do that earlier… Anyone's guess). He says that Lemonhope is free to come join him for a while to make his journey easier. Or not.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Lemonhope agrees, and the two take off. Before long though, the two find themselves beng chased by a Greedlard, a giant grey bird head monster thing. Imagine if Mr. Saturn from Earthbound were a bird monster. It's kinda like that.

Lemonhope manages to charm the beast with his harp skills, and the two kill it by leading it straight into a rock pillar. Lemonhope screams when he sees other lemon-people falling out of the beast's mouth, and screams at Phlannel to stop the cloud. When they get to the ground, Phlannel shows him that it isn't people, it's just "dosh."

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Phlannel makes a living by killing Greedlards, and keeping their dosh for himself. He tells Lemonhope that he's free to join him and make things easier, and Lemonhope accepts.

The third dream sequences is of a marionette Lemonhope being held up by metal chains. As he walks forward, he sees Lemongrab eating a cow. Lemongrab vomits more chains towards him, and the cow screams to run away, but Lemonhope is dragged toward Lemongrab, and when he falls and looks up to the sky, he sees himself as the one pulling the puppet strings.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Lemonhope wakes up, and goes above deck. He tells Phlannel that he had another nightmare, and asks why he can't forget about his people. Phlannel tells him that while he is technically free to help the lemon people or leave them, he feels guilty about leaving them as they are. That makes him a prisoner in his mind. Lemonhope says that's what PB always told him, but that he never listened, and Phlannel says Lemonhope is a doer, not a listener, and had to learn with his hands.

So, what we've got here are several parallels between Phlannel and PB from the beginning, and the fact that Phlannel only intervened when Lemonhope really was about to die. This leads me to wonder whether Phlannel was working for PB (or even was PB in disguise), and whether this whole adventure was the "hands on" learning experience PB mentioned toward the beginning. Plus, Phlannel is pink, PB is pink. Phlannel even parrots PB's sentiments from the beginning, and says that he can't help Lemonhope beyond taking him right to the outskirts of Castle Lemongrab (near where PB took him at the beginning), due to pacts and treaties. Think about it, is all I'm saying.

Lemonhope manages to sneak into Castle Lemongrab, but is quickly confronted by Lemongrab. Lemongrab reveals that he has earplugs in, and that Lemonhope's plan to play the harp to defeat Lemongrab won't work. Lemongrab 2, still alive inside the fat Lemongrab's stomach, hears this, and reaches out of Lemongrab's mouth, pulling the earplugs out. As Lemongrab panics, Lemonhope plays his harp… and Lemongrab explodes.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

We get one more dream sequence, as the cherub Lemonhope from the start climbs stair steps (M.C. Escher style), before returning to the bird's nest the episode started in, now in color.

Finn plays the flute as Princess Bubblegum sews up Lemongrab 1, saying that although he's pretty Frankenstein-ey right now, he should eventually go back to normal (as in "Too Young" style Lemongrab). PB asks Lemonhope if he'd like to stay in Castle Lemongrab as a champion, but he tells her that he really only came back so he could stop thinking about all of them, and that he'd come back when he was tired of being free. Maybe a thousand years or so.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

Princess Bubblegum and Finn are both shocked that Lemonhope decided to leave. PB says that she even had a song prepared to sing about Lemonhope staying, and Finn convinces her to sing it anyway.

Bubblegum sings over the last scene of the episode. A very old Lemonhope walks through familiar areas. Finn and Jake's treehouse is now miles high, far above the clouds. We see a ruined city reminiscent of one from the great mushroom war, but on closer examination, it's a much more technologically advanced version of the Candy Kingdom.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

After walking through those ruins, he makes his way to Castle Lemongrab, which now looks… Exactly the same. He wanders through the old castle, to a room which PB had prepared for him, climbs into bed, and closes his eyes.

Adventure Time Recap - "Lemonhope Pt. 1 & 2"

The Good:

Oh, geez, what didn't work this week? This is the kind of episode that makes me really love Adventure Time. It's unabashedly silly, but there's real emotional depth to the whole thing. Lemonhope's other episode, "Too Old," didn't really give him much of a personality, but he really gets a chance to shine here. He's given a distinct personality from the Lemongrabs, but he definitely still has some similarities to them.

It's funny when it wants to be funny. It's dark when it wants to be dark. It's really disturbing when it wants to be disturbing. The second and third dream sequences especially are really uncomfortable, which is exactly the feeling anything Lemongrab related should have.

By far my favorite part of this episode though was the last scene. As far as I can remember, this is the first time we've gotten hints at a cyclical nature to the world of Adventure Time. The past world, the world of Humans, got very advanced and then undid themselves, and now this hints at a similar fate for Ooo somewhere in the future. Now, we really don't know how long Lemonhope was gone for, it may have been a thousand years like he referenced while leaving, or it may have been ten thousand, either way we've now seen that the Candy Kingdom can't last forever.

The Bad:

I really have very little to say against this episode. If I had to nitpick, perhaps I'd say that the first and last dream sequences seemed pointless, but even that really is a nitpick.

Title cards taken from the Adventure Time wiki.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

Tonight's episode was a little bit... Weird. Even by Adventure Time standards. Spoilers to follow.
All right, I'm going to be up front about this, I do not like Lumpy Space Princess. I have no fondness for her whatsoever. I think she is an obnoxious character to watch, and I understand that's the point, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't like watching her. I'm sorry, I know she has her fans, I'm just definitely not one of them.
That said, while tonight's episode was an LSP-centric one, this was by no means a bad episode. In fact, it was a good example of the increasingly dark tone Adventure Time has been developing over time.

The first thing you'll notice about "Bad Timing" is the bizarre border onscreen during the episode's duration.

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

I honestly have no idea what to make of this. I'll touch on it again in a bit.

The episode opens with Finn and Jake (again, bit parts this week, but I didn't mind since they really took up very little screen time beyond a callback to last week's episode) and several other Candy Kingdom residents watching as Princess Bubblegum unveils her latest invention, a psuedo time-travel device which scans the molecules within it, and then rearranges them to a previous state... Or something. The end result is that everything in the time bubble is reset to a previous state (ignoring the horrifying screams of the test creatures which were being disintegrated).

Jake argues that this isn't really time travel (and that Ice King did it better last week), but Bubblegum tells him that for all intents and purposes, it still works like one. It's at this point LSP, who had been lurking outside a window, comes in and starts flipping out, telling Bubblegum that she needs to reset time back to a time when Brad still loved her. PB tells her that's not how the machine works, and LSP flips out, screaming that PB is a tramp who doesn't know what it's like since everyone in the Candy Kingdom loves her. All right, all right, she doesn't use the word tramp, she says... I don't know, but it sure did sound like tramp.

Any way, LSP gets depressed, and heads to a bar. While presumably trying to get drunk, LSP runs into an old High School classmate, who she once called Ugly Johnny.

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

LSP has discovered that Ugly Johnny is no longer Ugly, and starts flirting with him. She asks what he's doing in town, and he tells her he has some sort of business meeting with Princess Bubblegum, where he's trying to sell to her. She asks where he's staying, and he says that he's subletting an apartment. "Talk is cheap, Johnny. You should take me there."

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

You know... Sometimes I really wonder whether Adventure Time was originally intended to be an Adult Swim show, before getting knocked down into "kids" programming.

Any way, the two hit it off, and LSP spends the night at Brad's house... On the couch.

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

The next morning we totally get a one-night-stand fakeout, before revealing that LSP was there after all. Looks like she's got a new boyfriend! Awwww.

Johnny heads off to his business meeting with PB, which he nails because of the "good vibes" LSP was sending him. (I'd make a joke that she was sexting him, but there's enough actually innuendo in this episode that I reeeeally don't need to add any.) Johnny and PB set up a dinner meeting to hammer out the details... But when LSP finds out she isn't invited, she snaps.

Johnny heads to his business meeting, only for LSP to STRIKE!

Adventure Time Recap - "Bad Timing"

And by strike, I don't mean anything cutesy, I mean she throws a molotov into a window of the palace, and sends a truck speeding through the front door. Princess Bubblegum tells Johnny that she's off to defend the castle, and that he should hide under the table, and chew the cyanide-laced gum stuck to the bottom if he hears anyone come near.

That's not a joke. That's a scene that really happens.

While Princess Bubblegum is distracted, LSP bursts into the dinner room with the time-travel device from earlier, having completely snapped, and tells Johnny that she's going to transport him back in time to a point where he still loved her, so they could have another chance. Before he can react, she shoves the device onto his head, and disintegrates it, before doing the same with his body.
LSP rushes back to Johnny's house to search for him, only to find that he's not there. Princess Bubblegum shows up again, and tells her that she used the device improperly, and that his molecules were merely torn apart and never reassembled. LSP asks where Johnny went, and Princess Bubblegum tells her that she just doesn't know.

Jeez. That's dark.

It does get a little better. I missed this myself, but browsing the Adventure Time subreddit I learned that apparently once disintegrated, Johnny does reappear in the border surrounding the screen. So, that's the purpose that served, I guess.

The Good:

I liked a lot about this episode. I loved the ethically void route they've been taking with Princess Bubblegum lately, and the cyanide gum might be one of my favorite gags ever.
Despite being an LSP hater, she was totally tolerable this episode, and watching her become the kids show version of an axe murderer was a lot of fun.

The adult jokes in the episode were pretty funny in a "how is a Cartoon Network series getting away with an episode where a character says something very similiar to "tramp" and "skank," goes to a bar, and then has a drunken one night stand?" kind of way.

The Bad:

I hated that border. It served very little purpose, and I would much have preferred the even darker ending which left Johnny's fate ambiguous, with implied death. I have no idea whether this strange world filled with flat creatures will show up again, maybe we'll see more of Johnny, but I thought the border was a gimmick which detracted a lot more than it added.

Screengrabs taken from the Adventure Time wiki.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Adventure Time Recaps - "Betty"

Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"

So, I just finished watching tonight's Adventure Time episode "Betty." THAT HAPPENED. Totally mathematical spoilers incoming.
Jeez, that was a lot of stuff to process. Let's do a little recap of the episode, shall we? So, the episode opens in Wizard City with the wizards involved with some sort of mysterious ritual which has been going on in the background for, like, ever, finally performing the ritual... Summoning an ancient evil called Bella Noche.

Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"
This guy.
So the summoning ritual takes place right as Ice King shows up to try and be included in the wizard stuff happening, and Bella Noche is freed, only to reveal itself as a creature of anti-magic, who absorbs (or negates?) all the magic in the area... Including the Ice King's crown.

As a result...

Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"

Yeah, Simon is totally back. So Simon escapes Bella Noche as he begins destroying Wizard City, and heads back to the Ice Kingdom via a magic carpet he stole from Marceline's Ex, Ash. Once he gets back to the Ice Kingdom, he not only reveals another room behind the room of repressed memories (or whatever Ice King called it back in "I Remember You") but calls Marceline up and tells her to bring Hambo.

We get a little bit of flashback filling in any new viewers about the Simon and Marcy dynamic, and then we get treated to Marceline (who was wearing the very same outfit she wore as a child) and Finn and Jake (who do nothing in this episode, not sure why they're even here) travelling to a now melting Ice Kingdom, where we finally get a heartwarming reunion between Simon and Marcy.

...Which is then interrupted by the information that SIMON IS DYING. YEAH.
Luckily, it turns out that Simon just happens to have created a time machine which he can use (by consuming Hambo, which provides a link to the past) to create a portal to say one last  goodbye, and apologize to Betty

Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"

...And then Betty jumps through the time portal, into the land of Ooo. And then Simon collapses. Betty decides that the only course of action is to destroy Bella Noche, fix the crown, and return Simon to being the Ice King until she can find a method to return him to normal and keep him alive. She pulls him onto the carpet, much to his protestations, and flies all the way back to Bella Noche. (Notice how I didn't mention Finn and Jake doing anything this episode? That's because they do nothing this episode.)

...And then she manages to do what no one else could do, jumps right on into the protective shell Bella Noche has going on, punches out the anti-wizard inside.

Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"

The whole thing explodes restoring the magic to everyone in Wizard City, and healing Simon... As the Ice King.

The episode ends with Ice King talking to (a kidnapped) Muscle Princess, telling her that the girl of his dreams saved him during his blackout day... Only to be lost as a casualty of Bella Noche's destruction.


Adventure Time Recap - "Betty"

...And all of that (plus a bunch of jokes which I didn't even mention, including a subplot involving Death following Simon) happened in 11 minutes.

Look, I really like Adventure Time, I've really come around on it, and they do some absolutely excellent work within the (admittedly difficult) 11 minute format. I can name half a dozen episodes which workextremely well within that restrained time, including the past two Simon episodes, "I Remember You," and "Simon and Marcy," as well as the excellent recent episode "Blade of Grass."

Unfortunately... This just isn't an example of that. This really should have been decompressed into multiple episodes, even if they took up an entire season (as Adventure Time often does).
As it stands... It's just too much stuff packed into the format, and it feels like a lot of things don't get the gravity they should. Simon and Marceline being reunited really should have been its own episode, and as it is, the way they just glaze over what should be the most powerful reunion the show has ever had really bothered me. Marceline is really just a supporting character in this episode, and that just isn't right.

I know Adventure Time rarely does two parters (although Holly Jolly Secrets Pt. 1&2, Incendium/Hot to the Touch, and The Lich/Finn the Human/Jake the Dog has proved they aren't opposed to the idea), but even if this were stretched over multiple episodes in a season, and had Simon just in the show in the background in some capacity, that would have been better.
The Adventure Time fan in me really loved seeing a lot of the stuff which happens in this episode, and Betty being introduced as a real agent in the story is really exciting, but I felt burned by the lack of focus, and the way the episode simply has to keep moving because of the amount of content packed into it.

Still, even with that complaint, this was a really fun episode as a fan of the series. We got to see a lot of stuff from previous episodes finally pay off, and it's left us with some interesting places to go in the future. I'm really excited to see where they eventually take this all.

(Screengrabs taken from the Adventure Time wiki.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fourth Annual Wherin I Rant Awards - 2013

Welp, it's that time of the year again, and once again I've brought together lists of my favorite games and movies and miscellany that I really really liked, ordered them from least-awesome to most-awesome, and written some words about each of them. Now, you get to read those words! Hurrah!

Top 5 Games of 2013

All right, let's get this out of the way. There are some pretty big gaps in my game library this year. I just didn't have the time or money to play everything that I would have liked to. Now, I played some pretty great games, and I've got a list of those here, but there are some things which I've either not touched, or only played a little bit of from this year. I have no doubt that Ni No Kuni, Zelda, Rogue Legacy, GTA 5, Tomb Raider, and quite a few other games are absolutely great, and would probably have pushed this into a proper top ten list had I played them. As it is, I just haven't played them, or at least haven't played enough of them. So, here's a list of some of what I did play, and really liked.

5.  Saints Row IV

You know what's awesome? The Saints Rows franchise. This is a franchise that, until late last year, had completely passed me by. I remember hearing some really good things about Saints Row 2 way back when, but never picked it up. Then, I remember back in late 2011 hearing some amazing things about its sequel, but was so utterly consumed by Skyrim at that time that I never got into that, either.

So late last year I finally picked up Saints Row: The Third only to find that, yeah, it's an amazing game. Saints Row: The Third, while not exactly as packed with content as I'd like an open-world game to be, has one of the funniest campaigns of all time, and goes up there, in my opinion, with the funniest games of all time, like Psychonauts and Portal.

Then halfway through this year, I got Saints Row 2 through a Humble Bundle, and found out that, once again, that game was amazing too! I played that co-op, and while it isn't as overtly funny or well written as The Third, it's much more feature rich, and is a very good game in its own right, dealing with an overall more serious tone than the third one..

So of course, as a part of the Steam Sale this year, I had to pick up Saints Row IV. Saints Row IV, or as I like to call it "The Adventures of Gimp-Suit-Uncle-Sam and Lazy Goku," because that's how I played it, is a great game. There are some things about it which bother me, particularly the eternal twilight and occasional deliberate graphical glitches spoiling the look of an otherwise great looking game, which might hold it back from being quite as much fun as the second one was, but it still brought the excellent writing and video game satire of the third game, along with a slightly darker tone.

Plus, the game switched gameplay focus from being a satire of Grand Theft Auto, into being something more along the lines of Crackdown, Prototype, or InFamous. I. Love. InFamous. This game playing somewhat like InFamous means I love this game.

I also just want to mention, this is a game that gets co-op right. Don't give me your seperate co-op campaign. Don't drop me into the world with a friend and tell me I can't do any of the missions or side activities. Just put me in the world with a friend, and let me play. This game does that, and that makes it all the more fun.

Saints Row IV is awesome, and I haven't even finished it yet.

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

I want to get this out of the way: Purely in terms of gameplay alone, this is the absolute best game released in 2013. Without regards to characters, soundtrack, story, or any of that, and only talking about actually playing a game, this game is very, very close to being perfect.

And, don't get me wrong, the rest of the game is pretty great too. The characters are memorable (Lucina might be one of my favorite characters of the year), the art is great, the story is very by the numbers, but not bad. Those things weren't the draw, they were just icing on a very, very tasty cake.

Between Fire Emblem, SMT4, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon, this game very nearly turned into "my top five 3DS game of 2013." Astonishingly, this year the 3DS went from being kind of a joke into becoming what I can say with confidence is my absolute favorite handheld of all time. The catalog this thing has gotten over the past twelve months is incredible, and I just want to make sure everyone knows that now is the time to buy.

Fire Emblem is brutally unforgiving on its higher difficulties, and it's some of the most fun I've had playing a video game in 2013, beating out a lot of quality experiences. This game is absolutely worth buying a 3DS for.

3. Pokemon X

But yeah, there was that other 3DS game that I liked just a little bit more.


I was, overall, pretty disappointed with Pokemon White back in 2011. I respected the fact that the game tried to tell a more nuanced story, and actually did it surprisingly well until the last hour or so, but I thought the new Pokemon designs were astoundingly awful, and the lack of old favorites to fall back on, while not inherently a bad idea, bummed me out since I only liked a very very small handful of the new designs (Bisharp and me are gonna go wreck things).

But I'm still a huge fan of Pokemon, and so when X and Y came out as the first 3D Pokemon games, I was still there day one, unsure if the magic could ever be recaptured, but willing to give it one more try. And, somewhat surprisingly, Pokemon X was great. I even think there's an argument to be made that it's the best Pokemon game of all time, though it's not an argument I would personally make (Soul Silver is the best one, for the record).

The new designs are almost all terrific. The 3D battles look great. The unique animations for the Pokemon were impressively broad. The new minigames like Pokemon-Amie worked well, and Super Training finally means I don't have to spend countless hours EV-Training the perfect Pokemon.

The improvements made to multiplayer alone made this a terrific experience. I was caught up in the zeitgeist of playing at launch, and I had tons of friends from all over the world playing with me. Having a friends list at the bottom screen at all times, and being able to send short messages, or ask to trade or battle with them at a moment's notice made the game exponentially more fun.

But not only did the internet work, the game was a blast. Although the game didn't tell even a story up to the standards of White (which was unfortunate), story has never ever been the draw to Pokemon, and, while the game was far too easy, I still had a blast with it, and sunk nearly 100 hours into it during October.

While there are probably other, technically better games that I played this year, there probably isn't a game this year I had more outright fun with than Pokemon X. It's a great game whether it's your first Pokemon experience, or you've been playing for over a decade like I have. Another one worth buying a 3DS for.

2. The Last of Us

All right, enough of that fun stuff, it's time to talk about what video games are really about-- Soul crushing depression.

Congratulations, Naughty Dog! You finally made a game I actually liked! The Last of Us is an amazing game. Every single thing about this game is good. The visuals are jaw-dropping, pushing the Playstation 3 to its limits as a system. The gameplay is some of the best stealth I've ever seen, with intelligent choices made every step of the way, and since it's a stealth game, you don't have to put up with hours and hours of awful, awful shooting like certain other, more Indiana-Jones-Esque Naughty Dog games.

And the story... My god. The one thing I can say for Naughty Dog, and has been true since Uncharted 2, is that their games are cinematic like no others. Uncharted 2 looked like a movie. The action was impressive, and didn't feel like something you would play. The Last of Us, from its heartbreaking opening moments, is absolutely that.

The Last of Us has twists, and turns. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it threw me for a loop, but not in the way many video game stories do. Even as someone who absolutely loves video games for the way they can tell stories, I can admit there are very few games with stories that can stand alongside the best of other mediums. Mass Effect is always the example that jumps to mind. And yet, The Last of Us is absolutely on that list. The ending will leave you shocked, and emotionally destroyed, but not in the way you'd expect.

I don't care how burned out you are on zombie games, if you haven't played The Last of Us, you are missing out on one of the best games of the generation.

So what beats it?

1. BioShock Infinite


BioShock Infinite is a masterpiece. Let me be clear: Every. Single. Thing. About. This. Game. Works. 

From its opening moments, BioShock defies any expectations you might have after the first one. It is just such an incredibly great game, I don't know how I can even talk about it. I mean, to start off with, it's one of the best shooters out there. But I mean, even beyond being an incredibly solid shooter, everything else! The art is gorgeous! Look at it!

Look at it!

And the sound! Speaking of best soundtrack of the year, the sound design is a stroke of brilliance! The way this game uses music, the way it works it into the story in the most brilliant ways... I can't even tell you! Just-- JUST WATCH THIS CLIP!

SEE? SEE HOW BRILLIANT THAT IS? No you don't! If you haven't played the game, then of course you don't!


I love the original BioShock. I think it is one of the defining games of this generation. Infinite blows it out of the water in every aspect.

I can't talk about this game. I can't explain how great it is. It. Just. Is. Game of the year? Absolutely. Game of the generation? ...Mmmm, that's probably still Mass Effect 2, or maybe Fallout: New Vegas, but it's pretty close.

If you play only one video game from 2013, play BioShock Infinite. Full stop. If you don't like this game, I can't help you, because that means you are probably dead.

Top 5 Best Movies of 2013

5. The World's End

Until this year, I had never seen any of the Cornetto Trilogy. In case you're unfamiliar with that term, it's used to describe the three movies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and directed by Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End. They are completely unrelated films, but thematically linked enough that they are often mentioned together.

So, until this summer, I hadn't seen any of the three. Then, I watched Shaun of the Dead. It's amazing. Then, I watched Hot Fuzz. It's even better. Then, I watched The World's End. It's... Well, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are both probably funnier, but The World's End stands up as a very strong story, perhaps surprisingly so. The acting is great, the story is surprisingly touching and heartwarming, and, yeah, it's really funny.

4. Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was a surprisingly divisive movie, with many fans loving it, and many hating it. I can only assume that the people who hate it are literally insane, because it's a fantastic film, perhaps my favorite of the Iron Man trilogy.

It's really hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the big reveal partway through, but suffice it to say that the film takes some shockingly huge risks which pay off incredibly well.

On a more personal note, the thing that makes this one of my favorite films of the year is the way it deals with Tony Stark's anxiety after the attack on New York in The Avengers. Speaking as someone with an anxiety problem, it's an issue that pop culture almost never talks about, and to see it actually portrayed really well-- Especially being portrayed by one of the superheroes I adore so much --personally touched me in a way no other movie managed to all year long (or even further back).

It does bother me that once it's time for the climax of the film they kind of forget about the anxiety problem they established Tony was having earlier in the film, and if they had handled that better this might have even made it to the number one spot on this list, but as it is, the film still works really well.

3. Frozen

Of course the new Disney Princess movie is on this list! I'm the guy who said Tangled was the best movie of 2010!

Frozen is not as good a movie as Tangled, but that's all right, because very few movies are. Frozen is, in a lot of ways, about defying every expectation you have about Disney movies. It takes many of the tropes commonly associated with Disney films, plays them straight just long enough for you to start rolling your eyes, and then BAM, turns them on their head mid-eyeroll.

The music is great. The characters are great. The story is extremely strong. It isn't quite the pitch-perfect success that Tangled was, but it comes really close. With three hits in a row, I'd say it's safe to say we're entering a new Disney golden age, and if the movies keep being as great as this, then I'm happy to be along for the ride.

2. Catching Fire

I love the Hunger Games books. I think that they're very well told page turning novels. They're my favorite YA series since Harry Potter, and I've read a lot of YA series.

And the first movie was good. It wasn't perfect, but it was good! This, however, is the difference between a good movie, and a great movie. I know I'm weird, and that Catching Fire is my favorite of the novels, but this is one of those movies where you are just captivated, and can't look away.

My favorite thing about the second book, and my favorite thing about the second film, might be considered a spoiler (even though the trailer totally showed it), so I won't talk about it here. Suffice it to say, don't miss this movie, whatever you do.

1. Pacific Rim

If you only watch one movie released in 2013, please make it Pacific Rim.

Pacific Rim was absolutely the most fun I had seeing a movie this year. I've said this a lot, but this movie is like what the Transformers franchise should be. Good robot designs. Excellent characters. Beautiful cinematography, and just an overall gorgeous LOOK to the film, part of which can be attributed to it being set primarily in Hong Kong, but a large part of which is just because of smart choices made with the film.

I've heard people criticize the movie for not having a good enough story, and... Yeah, ok, I can kind of see where they're coming from, but I don't agree. Story is not the primary thing you're coming to for this film, but it should still provide you with a good one. Here's the thing: It does. It's not the best part of the movie (that's the part where the robots are punching the monsters in the face), but it's competently done. The characters and the acting all really captured me, Mako Mori, Stacker Pentecost, Hannibal Chau, these are all very very distinct characters, and you really feel like you're only getting to see a little bit of a much more complicated life story with each of them. Even the background characters feel like fully realized characters who we're only seeing a little bit of. The stereotypical "RUSSIANS"? I think there's a reason those two have caught on in such a big way with so many people.

And here's the thing, I'd be lying if I called Pacific Rim some sort of deep, philosophical movie. I definitely think the movie has some interesting things to say, and I love the way the forces of the Earth have all grown together in the years since the first Kaiju attack, but at the end of the day I don't think it's trying to give us some deep insight on the meaning of life. It is, at it's core, an action movie about giant monsters and giant robots punching each other. But the thing is, not every movie needs to have some deep philosophical message. I like it movies do have some sort of deep meaning, but sometimes taking a fairly shallow concept and executing on it really, really well is just enough.

I re-watched this just the other day (for the record this is the first Blu-Ray I've felt the need to own since the best film of 2010, Tangled), and you know what? It still really holds up. This movie just does so many intelligent things. Taking a Kaiju film, and changing them from being a metaphor for the atomic bomb, like Godzilla, or even for 9/11, like Cloverfield, and turning them into what feel like a force of nature, into a hurricane, that's clever. Giving us a really fleshed out world, but then letting the audience figure out, or not figure out, a lot of the details of that world based on their own inference? That's brilliant.

And, yeah, the bits where the robots and the monsters are punching each other are really great too. I've been called a hypocrite for liking this movie so much, while still thinking that the Transformers film series is tantamount to a hate crime against people who like movies, but here's the thing: Every word I've just said, you can say the opposite about for those films. It's crazy how much more I'll enjoy a movie when I actually like the characters on the screen. It's amazing how much more fun I'll find the fight scenes when I can actually tell what's happening, because the cameraman isn't having a seizure. It's incredible how much more I'll like a movie when it's actually a good movie.

Pacific Rim didn't do super well in theaters this year, and that makes me really sad, because I can't even think of a movie that's as much sheer FUN as Pacific Rim is. The type of sheer glee I had when I left the theater, the only movie I can think of that match that was the last fifteen minutes of Cabin In The Woods (by the way, you should totally watch Cabin In The Woods), but this kept that dopey smile on my face for the full 2+ hours.

I would be willing to bet money that the story of Pacific Rim isn't over yet, and I don't mean in terms of a sequel (although please, please make a Pacific Rim 2). I see a future, twenty years from now, where people are still watching Pacific Rim. Where it goes down as one of the Sci-Fi Action classics. Until then, I'll just have to go watch it alone a few more times. But, seriously, that bit with the rocket punch? Amazing.