Archive for September, 2008

Performance Review – Mega Man 9: From Hell’s Heart I Stab At Thee

September 29, 2008


Everyone is up in arms about Mega Man 9. A new sequel to the classic series that’s resurfacing after ten years. That was enough to send the hardcore fanboys into a tizzy. Then Capcom really pushed their joy button: it wouldn’t be returning to the cartoony sprites of Mega Man 8 or going the polygonal route… it would look just like the NES installments that the fans have a fondness for. And they went nuts for it. What a ballsy move! The mock box art they produced a few months later that poked fun at Mega Man 1‘s original shitty box art made them even giddier. It’d be just like the old days!

Then the game launched on WiiWare and the locust-like fans descended upon it and devoured it in record time. Reviews flew up left and right from die-hard fans spewing jizz all over the game’s aesthetics, gameplay, music and challenge. But most of all, its nostalgia. Hell, this blog even produced one of those. But what about those that are uninitiated? What about the gamers that never grew up with a NES or Mega Man to play on Saturday mornings? What about those with no fond memories tied to the Blue Bomber? Would they have anything nice to say about it?

I knew something smelled about Mega Man 9 the moment I saw that fucking awful box art. It was the stench of pandering. Of manipulation. Capcom knew exactly what it was doing by going back to NES sprites. It was preying upon its loyal fanbase, feeding upon the memories of Mega Man 2. It seemed less like appealing to our sense of good gameplay and more about appealing to our sense of nostalgia. Play our game, it’ll make you feel like you’re back in 1988. It all seemed so very underhanded and slick; predatory.

Well here I am to give you an impression of the game that’s untainted by goggles of vaseline-smeared nostalgia, unfettered by years or training to play this type of game and uncaring of the feelings of anyone it happens to cross on the way to its inexorable opinion. I hope this grump ruins friendships. I hope it dissolves marriages. I hope it scorches the very earth it stands on and poisons the water until all that’s left is blackness. There will be no getting along, no compromises, no uneasy truces.

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MEGA MAN 9 – For Everlasting Fun

September 23, 2008

In Ratatouille there’s a scene in which the grumpy old food critic Anton Ego takes a bite of Remy the rat’s titular dish and he recalls a memory of a time when he was small, wide-eyed and innocent. Everything was simpler, everything was fresh, the sun shined a little brighter, and mom was there to cook his favorite food. Anton’s bitter, jaded defenses, built over years of tasting the same bland junk over and over again, crumbled against the might of Remy’s refined technique and mastery over what is called a “peasant dish”, something boring, nothing special. He took what is common and plain, saw what worked, saw what didn’t, remixed it, kept it simple and ended up with something extraordinary, something even an ultragrump could not only appreciate but stack up next to the best dishes of the past.

This is exactly (well, maybe not exaaaactly) the situation Capcom and I are in. After years of tepid sequels and endless spin-offs the chefs at Capcom scanned their vast history, reworked their basic recipe and gave me, er, us the best Mega Man game since Mega Man 2, or Mega Man X. Playing Mega Man 9 flashes me back to those Saturday mornings full of Captain N, Super Mario Cereal and hot chocolate me mum made for me. Fueled by sugar and early morning sunlight – or better: dreary, gray rain! – I waged war against Dr. Wily and his creations for everlasting peace. 18 years later, I’m a little taller and really unshaven, but I’m the same Nintendo-loving kid stuck in arrested development. I rolled out of bed, downloaded MM9 on the Wii and turned the Wii-mote sideways to better resemble a NES pad. The opening title revealed old-school pixel art and 8-bit sound. It was Saturday morning again.

you now have mega man music in your head
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Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass – Superman the Movie: Are We There Yet?

September 23, 2008

So Batman’s out of the way. Now it’s time to tackle the Big Kahuna himself, Superman. Is there a bigger cultural icon to come out of the 20th century? Well, maybe Mickey Mouse. Still, who out there doesn’t know about Superman? He’s practically the archetype from which all other superheroes were based off of. He’s the poster boy of the comic book industry. He’s got about 70 years of history to him. He’s a legend.

But is his first motion picture as successful?

I WONDER WHOSE MOVIE THIS IS

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THE DARK KNIGHT – Praise Be to Dent

September 16, 2008

If you look at the most successful movies from the past 8 years you’ll see they’re all superhero movies. They capture peoples’ imaginations like no other genre, a genre we here at Grump Factory are keen to focus on with our dopey articles most of the time, because each new superhero flick carries with it a certain amount of weight, of hype and expectation due to familiarity with decades of comic book continuity and because many of the movies, despite their overwhelming success, are so lousy they deserve a proper skewering. For some perspective as to where The Dark Knight sits on the superhero movie scale, it was only two years ago when X-Men 3: The Last Stand made a killing. Now, people are rewarding a good movie and it’s not a feel-good movie. This is a feel-bad movie with one of the saddest endings I’ve seen in a mainstream movie. I’ve heard comparisons to movies as stark and cheerless as Se7en and Requiem for a Dream. I think it was statements as hyperbolic as that that made up a perfect storm of reasons for people to go see the movie, and go again, and again and again: to see if it lived up to the impossible amount of hype, to see the final full-on performance of Heath Ledger, and because the movie’s been in the public conscious in the past two or so years thanks to the most ambitious viral marketing campaign ever perpetrated.

Chances are you’ve seen it, most likely twice, in IMAX, and from here on I’m going to assume you did.

noir noir noir noir noir noir noir noir noir

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BATMAN BEGINS – Rebirth

September 9, 2008

With Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan undoes a decade of damage done by Warner Bros.’ stooges by centering the story around the goddamn Batman. Like Tim Burton, Nolan applies all of his auteurist fetishes to the beloved character, but they’re a far better fit for the “realistic” approach he attempts. Issues of obsession, identity, memory, self-delusion and repetition – favorite themes of his found in more concentrated form in Memento and The Prestige – litter the screenplay, co-written by Nolan himself and Blade Trilogy mastermind David S. Goyer. By bringing the story back to the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s life, and the circumstances of his transformation, a live-action Batman movie, for the first time, has a clear and focused narrative. Everything is explained, but never to the point of exhaustion. The costume, the vehicle, each gadget, every single facet is painstakingly explored so you care more about Bruce Wayne and his plight, so that there is no disconnect between him and his alter-ego Batman. It’s an approach that has become shorthand in Hollywood in recent years for “better movie than we would’ve got in the 90s”, or, the franchise “reboot”. The guys in charge of Iron Man, James Bond, Star Trek and pretty much every other franchise/character out there definitely took note.

Ohmygod what is going on

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