Superhero TV Show Power Rankings

TV is currently inundated with superhero shows and I watched them all. Okay, not all, but most. Even I have to draw the line somewhere. Still, with nearly ten superhero shows airing over the last year, there were a lot of superheroics around. So now that all of the seasons have reached their conclusions, I am going to rate them.

Agent Carter – While it has many of the problems of Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter is pretty damn enjoyable. That is partly due to the period setting and partly due to tone. Setting it in the Post-WWII era makes it different from just about everything else on TV. Plus, it keeps a fairly upbeat tone, something I am very much in favor of. I am certainly going to miss this show. This time, Agent Carter goes to Hollywood and gets entangled with some mysterious science stuff. If I am being honest, I missed a few episodes in the middle of this season, but I loved almost every second of it I watched. A

Jessica Jones – The second Netflix effort from Marvel was even better than the first. I do have some complaints with Jessica Jones, especially with the second half of the season, but for the most part it was a great first season. Jessica is an almost broken person to start, and the show gets to the heart of her problems, as well as her strengths. It also had a pretty great villain and a great performance by David Tennant. I would argue that this would have been a stronger 10 episode season than a 13 episode one, but it is still mostly good. It is hard to get around some of the shocking twists existing just to be shocking twists, but it never dips below a certain level of quality. A-

Arrow – An improvement over S3, but this show still has plenty of problems. This season went a little too big and got messy. I really liked Darhk as a villain, but the parts of the season that haven’t already faded in my memory only stuck because they were annoying. The flashbacks were inconsequential and a lot of stories seemed to go in circles. They killed off Black Canary, but that was a character the show never really knew what to do with; she had been all over the map over the course of the show. There are some interesting developments at the end that season that could set up some good stuff next season, but I think I’ll wait and watch it on Netflix, other than the obligatory crossover episodes. C-

Daredevil – The first season of this Netflix Original was excellent, but it seems like they took some pointers from Arrow for the second one. The high production values are still there, but as the season went on nearly everything else fell apart. It starts off good, with some fine episodes about the Punisher and seeds what could have been a really good season. Then Elektra shows up and things start to go to crap. As the show gets further and further in the ninja war and the Black Sky bullshit, the worse it got. I don’t know how, but they managed to make ninja fights straight up boring. Even the good episodes bring in their fair share of stupidity, like the episode with The Punisher in prison. It is largely an excellent episode, but there is still the prison fight that seemed intent to use the show’s entire fake blood supply. The show doubled down on my problems with the first season, mistaking blood and darkness for maturity. I don’t know how eager I am for a third go round. C-

The Flash – This season did not match the incredible first season, but it was still highly entertaining. All of DC’s shows need to work on their central plots and that was very true of this season of the Flash. Outside of a couple of episodes and some neat reveals, Zoom didn’t work. It also hurt to lose the rogues after the first half of the season. Another episode with Captain Cold or Trickster would have really helped down the stretch. The ending was kind of stupid, first in a good way and then at the very end in a very off putting way. With luck Season 3 will recapture the magic of the first season and bring back a little light after what became a pretty dark second season. B

Legends of Tomorrow – I think I’ve been saying this a lot, but this was a messy season. The central conflict between Vandal Savage and Hawkman/Hawkgirl was dull. And stupid. Really, after the opening few episodes, every time Savage showed up the show was a mess. Still, there is a lot to like here. About 2/3 of the cast is really good and hopefully with the block hole that was Hawkgirl gone, the show can improve. When the show clicks it is so good, but this didn’t click often enough. Still, as a humongous JSA fan I am definitely in for next season. Hopefully they have something to replace Captain Cold. C+

Supergirl – It was uneven and a little too goofy at times, but Supergirl was maybe my favorite show this season. The plotting was weak, especially at the end of the season, but the show never lost its positive outlook. It also has the absolute best episode of the year with its Flash crossover. Still, the show is a little scattered and it kept letting its plots loose immediately instead of giving them time to develop. I hope they calm it down some in season 2. The show has good characters and a good look, it just needs slightly better scripts. Still, there is a lot more good than bad here, and I can’t wait to see more of this show. B+

Agents of SHIELD & Gotham – I didn’t watch either of these shows. My interest in SHIELD is measured in negative amounts. I’m sure it is a perfectly fine show despite the fact that doesn’t connect to the Marvel movies in any meaningful way. I tuned out in the first season and haven’t looked back. Bringing in the Inhumans is not going spark my interest. Gotham also lost me in its first season, seeming to be a grittiest take on Smallville possible. If they had some consistent, logical character growth I might have stuck around, but this show exists to tease Batman villains and be comically dark. It is terrible.

Season MVPs: Captain Cold and Supergirl – Every second Wentworth Miller is on screen as Captain Cold is an absolute delight. For long stretches of Legends, he and Caity Lotz were the only reasons worth watching. His delivery of every line is amazing. Plus, he had maybe the most satisfying character arc of anyone on any of these shows this year. He journey from cynical villain to self-sacrificing hero was fun to watch and big reason that Legends ended up being worth watching. Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl was just as good, in a better show. For all of Supergirl’s, the show, faults there is never a disappointing moment with Benoist. I am so glad the show will continue, hopefully for a half dozen more seasons.

It is a little too early to have a strong read on what new stuff is coming next year, other than Powerless on NBC and Luke Cage on Netflix, but I can say which of these shows I will be watching.

  • Agent Carter – Unfortunately cancelled, so no, I will not be watching this next year
  • Agents of SHIELD – Still no.
  • Jessica Jones – When this show comes back (likely in early 2017) I will be right there to binge watch it.
  • Arrow – Other than the crossovers, I think I am out on Arrow. That could change, and might just need a bigger role for Mr. Terrific, but I think I’ve seen enough Arrow.
  • Daredevil – If and when this gets a third season, I will probably watch it. But I am not really looking forward to the prospect.
  • The Flash – Yes, I will. Season 2 was a minor disappointment, but it still provided plenty of what I want to see.
  • Gotham – God no. I’ve really grown to hate this show.
  • Legends of Tomorrow – Yes, if only because I am one of the world’s biggest JSA fans. Some tinkering over the summer could fix a lot of this show’s problems.
  • Supergirl – As long as Melissa Benoist is playing Supergirl, I’ll be watching the show. So yes, I am back for this one.
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The World’s End Review

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Two of the best comedies of the last decade are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Both are excellent send ups as well as excellent examples of their respective genres.  The third in this cycle of films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost may lack the obvious genre ties of its predecessors, but The World’s End may be the best and most ambitious of the three. The World’s End is more specific, being a take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers rather than entire genres of film, but in addition to being a comic version of that, it is also steeped in Arthurian symbolism and an incredible depiction of addiction.

The World’s End tells the story of Gary King, a man desperate to recapture the glory of his youth so he gathers his high school friends together to try to complete a pub crawl of their home town, which they had failed years before.  Despite their very good reasons for not wanting to go with him, all four end up in Newton Haven with Gary once more.  Initially their problems are with the obsessed Gary; soon they realize that there is something more sinister going on in town.

Wright deftly juggles numerous concepts and plot threads, giving us a layered movie that delights on several levels.  What stands out most is its take on the Arthurian Cycle, with each of the protagonists serving a medieval role.  Those roles are spelled out in their surnames: King, Prince, Knightly, Page and Chamberlain.  Gary King is the leader, Andy Knightley is loyal retainer, Chamberlain keeps them on track, etc.  The quickly told story of their first attempt at the golden mile is echoed and expanded on their second attempt. The cycle repeats, only this time they finish.

While the movie is immensely funny, what puts it over the top is how it affects real emotion.  The characters feel like real people with real problems.  I would have loved this movie without its big twist, that the entire town has been replaced by aliens who are essentially colonizing the Earth, and it had just been five friends hashing out a couple of decades of problems.  As with all of these movies, the central relationship is between Pegg’s and Frost’s characters.  Frost’s Andy is a guy who has done everything right, and still his life is falling apart on him.  He is struggling to move forward.  Pegg’s Gary has screwed everything up and is desperate for his young glory.  To, the golden mile represents the lost promise of his youth.  That was supposed to be the prelude to his life, not its apex.  For the lead in what is ostensibly a comedy, Gary King is a deeply sad character.  It is actually a chilling look as the life of an addict.  

That the World’s End manages to include that, along with rousing action scenes and big sci-fi concepts and have every part reinforce the other parts instead of distract from them is what makes it a great movie.  For example, in one of the big fight scenes, Gary, despite being the second most able fighter after Andy, spends the bulk of his time trying to keep from spilling is drink.  There is chaos all around him, but he cares more for alcohol than anything else going. It results in some very fun physical comedy, but also in a sadly funny character moment for him.  The action serves to reinforce the character moments.

The World’s End is a great film, as are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. My opinion as to which of the three is the most entertaining may be fickle, but I tend to point to The World’s End most often.  It has layers and depth that the other two movies can’t quite match.

25 Years, 25 Games #9: Run Saber

Okay, I know I’ve been promising Super Mario RPG for at least two months, but this entry on my celebration of the SNES is Run Saber, another fairly short action game. A pretty great action game, as well. I mean, its Strider. While it isn’t quite a 1 to 1 copy of that game, it is definitely more than just reminiscent of that Capcom’s classic. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Run Saber is a copy of a pretty dang good game.

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The story of the game is some generic sci-fi stuff. The Sabers are some sort of cyborg super soldiers, dispatched to deal with a mad scientist bent on conquering the earth, as well as a rogue saber. The player gets to choose between Allen, the male Saber with lightning powers, and Sheena, the female Saber with ice powers, or both if playing two players. It controls well, with the player given a decent array of moves. You can jump and attack, as well as use a screen clearing super attack. The player character is very mobile, able to climb walls and ceiling as well as perform a Mega Man like slide. It is a solid set up for a game.

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It all plays out about the same way as Strider, with fast paced over the top action. The game has five fairly sprawling levels. The levels are more elaborate affairs than just going left or right, taking good advantage of the acrobatic skills to move the levels up and down and back and forth. The regular enemies aren’t particularly varied or numerous, but they are enough to keep the player busy. There are quite a few bosses, most of which look nice. I never really learned them, opting instead to cheese through with an emulator, but they provide new and interesting challenges. The boss of the first level takes place on top of a flying jet, with the player character hanging on for dear life as the plane flips and rolls.

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The game looks good as well. Good, not great. The player’s sprites a big and colorful, but they seem to be lacking some animation. The animations they do have look good, but there are times when it seems like there should be more there than there is. The big one I am thinking of is the running animations, because there aren’t any. Double tapping one direction will set the player running that direction, but while the character goes faster the moving animation stays the same. It is disorienting.

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In all, Run Saber is a lot of fun. It is clearly derivative, but it still possesses its own charm. It is also apparently the only output by its developer Horisoft, which is sad since this is a very solid first effort. I don’t really know where they could have taken Run Saber from here, other than to make it bigger and prettier, but gameplaywise this is about at the pinnacle of 2D action.

What I Read April 2016

April was not a banner month for me, with me only managing to finish two books. I did read a handful of comic TPBs, but that is not really the same thing. I expect to get back on track in May.

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Console Wars

Blake J Harris

This book purports to be the story of Sega and Nintendo and the 16-bit console wars. It really isn’t. It is the story of Sega and the 16-bit console wars, with a chapter about Nintendo’s rise and one about them buying the Mariners. That isn’t to say it’s not good, the story of Sega’s rise and fall is one worth reading, but Nintendo is only a small part of this book. I am sure the writer had much greater access to former Sega employees than Nintendo ones, which results in getting the story from their perspective.

Judging it for what it is and not what it isn’t, Console Wars is a fascinating read. The events that lead to Sega making such a splash with the Genesis and then failing utterly to capitalize on that success is a good one. It does spend a little too much time lionizing the Sega of America crew, seeming to suggest that if Kalinske and crew had been allowed to set their own course then Sega would have never fallen, but I am not sure that is the case. Still, the way they took it too Nintendo for the first handful of years the Genesis was on the market was kind of amazing.

One thing that really did drive me nuts about this book is how wrong it got some stuff about games. I know it was written from the perspective of the guys at Sega, but to suggest that Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing is even in the same league as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is ludicrous.

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The Glass House

Ashley Gardner

This is the third of these Captain Lacey detective novels I’ve read and the series isn’t quite clicking for me. It is mired with characters that might be interesting, but they don’t interact with each other, only Lacey and often seem to be clogging up the mystery. That is honestly a nitpicky problem, but it is just one that comes to mind that keep me from fully enjoying these books.

In The Glass House, Captain Lacey finds a young woman who was fished out of the Thames and tries to find out how she got there. He finds a lot of people with motives, but his investigation also leads him closer to people he would rather avoid. The mystery is solid, with each revelation leading to a completely new line of questioning. If only the series character stuff moved with the same life as the mystery. That stuff just kind of trudges along. Still, it’s not a bad book.

Collected Comics Reading

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Angela: Asgard’s Assassin Vol 1: Priceless

Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennet, Phil Jiminez, Stephane Hans

I like all the creators involved in this comic, and they do a good job. However, this book mostly just left me cold. I don’t care about the character Angela and this book did nothing to change that. The whole story requires every character to act like a dick for no good reason to work, with each and every one of them coming off looking stupid. The art is good, at least. Honestly, I am being too harsh on this book because it really isn’t bad, it is just a (sorta) superhero comic about a hero that I find actively disinteresting.

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Silk Vol 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon

Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee

A lot of my complaints about Angela could be repeated here. I picked up the books during a sale, willing to try them out, but neither really moved the needle for me. I liked this one a little more than Angela, if only because Silk’s goals are at least understandable. Angela is kind of an inscrutable character, which does not make her the most engaging protagonist. Silk is mostly just a female Spider-Man. I don’t know whose idea it was to shoehorn her into Spidey’s origin, but it almost works. The book has a peppy tone and some really engaging art, but this is not a character whose continued adventures I am especially interested in reading about. Especially since it ends with a lead in to a reality altering crossover. Spider-Man fans would likely get a kick out of this, but I am not a member of that group.

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Jem and the Holograms Vol 1

Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell

I am not the biggest fan of Jem and the Holograms the 80’s cartoon. It is just a little too old for me and I never saw it as a kid. But I heard enough good things about this comic that when I saw it on sale on comixology I went ahead and snatched it up. It is great, especially Campbell’s art. The book looks excellent, with distinct and expressive characters and just an overall great look. The story occasionally seems like its treading a little water, but it does a good job of introducing all the characters and providing some compelling conflicts for those characters to face. I realize I am being vague about this, but while there really isn’t anything too shocking or surprising with the story, readers should experience it for themselves. A great book.

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Wonder Woman Earth One

Grant Morrison, Yannick Paquette

I’ve got a big post about this coming soon, but in the meantime I will say that I liked it very much. It is conflicted and strange at times, but it is one of the most thoughtful Wonder Woman comics I’ve read in a long time. Morrison really does take things back to the characters roots, for good and ill. Wonder Woman is a strange character, so any one actually trying to engage with her is going to produce something a little strange.

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Seaguy Vol 1

Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart

I’m not quite sure what to make of this; I really think I’ll need to read it again. It is a strange coming of age tale for a strange sort of hero. Seaguy is a man is a scuba suit, a would be hero in a seeming utopia with everything run my one Mickey Eye, an anthropomorphic eyeball that acts as sort of a Mickey Mouse type character. With his sidekick Chubby da Choona, Seaguy sets out a series of surreal adventures. It is a world where everything is both great and unsatisfying, so when even the smallest adventure appears, Seaguy jumps at the chance. For such a slim volume, there I a lot to unpack here. Seaguy is beautiful (Cameron Stewart’s art is great), haunting, sad and funny all at once. The sequel has now shot to the top of my to buy list.

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Descender Vol 1

Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen

Descender is something like a comic version of Mass Effect, but told with some actual storytelling ability. Ten years after giant robots show up and decimate living populations on several planets, people have all but stamped out robots. On a backwater colony, a small robot boy named Tim-21 wakes up to find everyone in the colony dead, possibly including the boy he was supposed to be the companion of. His creator finds out that that little robot might be the key to figuring out what drew the giant murderous robots, so he sets out with a team to retrieve it. The book is just incredibly well done. You feel for the characters, even those that are far from perfect. And there are so many possibly directions for this story to go that I am eager to get more. Because this book is just the first chapter, it whets the appetite for what I hope is a lengthy story to come. I will likely jump on the recently released second volume sooner rather than later.

Captain America Civil War

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The first two Captain America movies were among the best of Marvel’s solo movies and the ones most closely tied into the larger Marvel universe. In a lot of ways the first Cap movie was a prelude to the Avengers (It even had “Avenger” in the title) and the second Winter Soldier, aside from being the best Marvel superhero movie to date, was the bridge between the first and second movies. That connection is even stronger in Civil War, which is more Avengers 3 than Captain America 3. Captain America Civil War is everything that Age of Ultron should have been, even if it doesn’t quite nail the landing on the Captain America part of its story.

The bad first. I don’t think the movie fully sells its villain’s plot or the gives enough time to the ideological split that ignites the conflict. Time that could have been spent having Steve and Tony actually express their points of view rather than have them assumed by the other party was used instead to introduce new characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man, the latter of which has an especially small role in this film. Also, there is little resolution at the end of the movie; instead the characters all reach the end of this movie’s journey by the mid-point and the rest just kind of plays out with little consequence.

Those are my complaints with the movie; aside from some other inconsequential ones (I did like the location titles). Otherwise, it was pretty great. The Russo’s did great work with Winter Soldier and this continues that. What it might fail at from a plot perspective, it nails from a character one. Civil War is a movie with a lot of characters and nearly all of them are portrayed well. The newcomers, including Ant-Man, all shine and bring a lot of fun to the film. This movie does more to let viewers into the head of Scarlet Witch and Vision than Age of Ultron ever even attempted to, while still giving viewers good moments with Falcon and Rhodey and Black Widow and Hawkeye. The character’s journeys, as short as then end up being, are mostly well done.

While I found its last act anti-climactic and didn’t completely buy the confrontation in it, the big fight scene in at the airport is pretty much perfection. It is everything I want in a superhero fight, with a dozen heroes duking it out in a variety of combinations. Somehow it remains coherent while juggling all of these characters and letting each one show off their powers and personality. Most time these sort of extended, consequence free fight scenes end up being a drag, but Civil War’s airport scene keeps through new wrinkles on often enough to keep things interesting.

Civil War is, like the last Avengers movie, completely overstuffed. That this movie is trying to pass itself off as a Captain America movie is disingenuous, but that doesn’t make it unenjoyable. The perfect casting of each of the heroes really helps them find their voices and the sides they take feel like natural outgrowths of their characters, even if the conflict comes about absurdly quickly. This might not be the best Marvel movie (I would put it below Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy at the very least) but it is still highly entertaining.

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25 Years 25 Games #8 Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

It has been a while, but I’m back with another game from my bread and butter genre: the side-scrolling platformer. Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse is the first of three Mickey Mouse SNES games from Capcom. The overwhelming quality of the Capcom’s NES games made me eager to try out some of their SNES output. Magical Quest, while largely enjoyable, does not quite live up to that pedigree.

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In Magical Quest you play as Mickey Mouse, on a quest to rescue his dog Pluto from the villainous Pete. Along the way he gets some outfits that give him different powers, like a Wizard’s costume that lets him shoot magical bolts or a fireman’s costume that gives him a hose. It looks good and plays good, but it feels somewhat lacking. A lot of that is due to the fact that game can be beaten pretty easily in an hour and a half. Magical Quest has six levels split into four stages each, none of which are particularly long. The only part of the game that does feel long are the bosses, all of which take about 4 hits more than would feel natural to beat. It is not that the bosses are particularly hard but that they are tedious because you have to repeat the pattern so many times.

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The outfits are a great conceit for expanding and limiting Mickey’s powers. The problem with them is that the game doesn’t do enough with them. The game is more than halfway over before you get your full array of powers and it doesn’t really build on them in any real ways. It gives the player the abilities to do some things, but it doesn’t ever require the player do them. Sometimes you need to be a magician to shoot magic, sometimes you need to spray things with water, and sometimes you need the last outfit’s grappling hook. Rarely, almost never, do you need to use them in any sort of conjunction with each other. There are grappling levels and fire levels, but no levels with some grappling and some fire. It ends up feeling like the first half of a game. Unlike something like Mario, Magical Quest never really builds on its mechanics. They just are. I realize comparing this game to some of the absolute best ever isn’t really fair, but it is obvious that it just doesn’t compare to the depth that those games offer.

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This is just the kind of game I wanted to go back and experience with this project. Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse is a good game, but not a great one. It is the sort of game that is easy to miss at the time, but is a game that is worth playing. It looks good, sounds good, and plays fine.

Star Fox Zero

There is nothing less surprising than the reaction by the gaming press to a Nintendo release that experiments with motion controls. Most reviews were little more than tantrums, with the reviews coming off as spoiled toddlers crying about being told to eat a new kind of food. Not even vegetables, something that is not expected to taste good, more like a dessert that just happens to be green or something. Instead of considered evaluations of the game, I’ve seen a lot of kneejerk wailing and whining about motion controls. That being the subject of discussion is a disservice to the game that is Star Fox Zero.

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With the Star Fox series, Nintendo seems to be stuck. They have an admirable yet disappointing refusal to just make Star Fox 64 again (except with Star Fox 64 3D, which was exactly that), which is what everyone wants. And they can’t quite figure out what to do with that series otherwise. It is worth noting that Star Fox Zero is only the fourth Star Fox game Nintendo has both developed and released. The original was perfected with 64, but after that the series ground to a halt. Ignoring the farmed out games, both of Nintendo’s Star Fox games have stuck tightly to the structure of SF64, but have experimented with controls. Many parts of Star Fox Command just didn’t work quite right, aside from the game having a story that was filled with batshit insanity. Star Fox Zero, once the player learns the controls, approaches Star Fox 64 in feel and quality.

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The game doesn’t put its best foot forward. The first few stages are easily the game’s weakest. It is frontloaded with a couple of levels that use some of the game’s least fun vehicles. Aside from the Arwing, Star Fox Zero puts the player in control of the Landmaster, Gyrowing, and the Walker. Each one has different controls. For the most part adapting to each set of controls only takes a little bit of time, but the first few levels switch the player from Arwing to Walker and Gyrowing mid-mission, giving no time to learn them. The second and third levels can be extremely frustrating due to that, at least on the first time through. After that they work just fine.

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While each of the vehicles is a fun time once learned, the game is at its best when it just lets the player fly the Arwing. Those portions are just as good as Star Fox 64. There are some changes, including a view mode that locks the TV on a target, making the player deal with a strange camera or play on the tablet using cockpit mode. It is awkward at first, but it soon feels, if not natural then just not particularly cumbersome. For the most part the Arwing missions, and to a slightly lesser extent the Landmaster ones, perfectly capture that joyous feeling of being in a Star Wars style dogfight.

Star Fox Zero is not a home run all-time classic like the best of Nintendo’s output, but it is still a solidly fun game. At its best moments it is on par with the untouchably good Star Fox 64. It is too bad the game is caught in that inescapable trap that the wider gaming community and Nintendo themselves have caught Nintendo in. The story goes that the WiiU is a failure because no one takes advantage of it dual screen set up. Except that when a game does, like Star Fox Zero or The Wonderful 101 or even Pikmin 3, the complaint is that the game uses both screens and has tied itself too closely to the WiiU hardware. There is nothing changing the narrative of the WiiU at this point, but the unrelenting negativity to one of the only companies that seems at all interested in moving games forward in some meaningful way is why I am feeling more and more disconnect with the medium at large. No, Star Fox Zero is not a perfect game, or even a great one, but it is damn fine game in a genre that doesn’t get much love these days that also tries to explore new ground with how games are played. I would much rather play it than yet another FPS.

What I Watched April 2016

Movies

Best in Show – Great Movie. Funny every time. I don’t know how much I actually have to say about this. Watch it if you haven’t. *****

Chef – John Favreau is very hit or miss for me. Chef is one of his hits. It isn’t especially great, but it is amusing and heartfelt and just all around enjoyable. Charming. ****

Zootopia – read review here. ****

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – I stumbled on this on Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. It is a period comedy starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, both of whom are excellent as two very different women. Adams plays a performer who accidently hires McDormand as a personal assistant to help her juggle her three boyfriends as she waffles trying to choose one. It is marvelously funny and often touching. ****

The Jungle Book – read review here **1/2

The Huntsman Winter’s War – read review here ***

47 Ronin – This should be a lot of silly fun, and at times it is, but it frequently takes itself way too seriously for a movie that climaxes with Keanu Reeves sword fighting a CGI dragon. There are times when it seems it wants to break out into something genuinely fun and enjoyable, but pulls back, trying instead to be some somber epic that falls flat. **

The Assassin – Beautiful, evocative and a bit vague The Assassin is something special. I don’t know how much I actually enjoyed it, though. It is impossible to argue with how beautifully this movie is shot. Every frame has something wonderful to show. But it is also quite slow and sparse in it storytelling. It is definitely worth watching, especially If you don’t go in expecting a martial arts movie, which this only barely is.****

The World’s End – I was going to link to my previous review of this film and write about how it improves on even how much I enjoyed it the first time each time I see it. That is how I found out that I never wrote a review for The World’s End, so that is going to have to change and soon. I think this is my favorite of Edgar Wright’s films. It is layered and smart and just so much fun. *****

Old School – This was a favorite of mine from the end of my time in high school and early days in college. I still like it, but I don’t love it like I used to. It has a bunch of great scenes, but it doesn’t quite hold together as well as it might. It is no Animal House, or even a Wedding Crashers, but it has its moments. ***

TV

Outlander S1 – I rewatched a few episodes of this in anticipation of the second season. This is an excellent show, at times beautiful and others brutal, but always with thought and purpose.

Trailer Park Boys S10 – I was really disappointed in this season of Trailer Park Boys. It just kind of muddled along. After a pair of really enjoyable seasons on Netflix, this one just seemed lacking, especially the extended guest appearances by various weed aficionados. It still had its moments and the characters are great, but it feels like a case of diminishing returns.

Bob’s Burgers S5 – This show rises in my esteem every time I watch it. I liked the first couple of seasons, but I have really fallen in love with it over the last few. Going back to the early stuff, it seems more thought out than how haphazard it felt upon first watching it. Season 5, though, is great. There are numerous stand out episodes and musical numbers, the probably being Hawk & Chick, which manages to be both hilarious and touching like few shows can. This might yet eclipse Loren Bouchard’s other great show, Home Movies.

The Ranch S1 – The Ranch isn’t good, but there is something comfortingly bad about it. Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson have some great chemistry. They were funny together on That 70’s Show and they are good on this. Sam Elliot is always a delight. It is too bad that most of the show is unable to get away from cliché or a small set of marginally funny jokes. I could live without seeing any more of this, but the odds are good I’ll wind up watching more if Netflix makes it.

Documentary Now! – Some former SNL guys do riffs on famous documentaries. Most of them are hilarious. And short. It is easy to get through these 6 great mockumentaries and each one has its own stuff to offer. I sure hope there are more coming.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S2 – I loved the first season of this show, and that level of quality is there in flashes during the second, but it doesn’t quite maintain it as well. A lot of that is the more scattered nature of this season. The characters aren’t as tightly tied together, with Kimmy being the only thing to bring most of them together. Still, this show has plenty going for it. Tina Fey’s appearances as a spiraling out of control therapist are funny and sad, with her forcing Kimmy to accept that she can’t help everyone even as she loses control. Letting Tituss actually have a romance seems somehow important as well. I liked this season, but it isn’t quite as perfect as the first.

Outlander S2 – The first season was great, and the first 4 episodes of the second are just as good. This season has moved a lot faster so far, not needing to spend the time introducing everyone and everything. It has also streamlined what was a meandering half of one of the weaker books in this series. It has still nailed all of the important points, and maintained great moments for all of the main characters. I am hoping to get to see more of Fergus as things go along, but I am already disappointed about how little Roger and Brianna we seem likely to get. Still, this is one of the best shows on TV.

Superhero Shows – Once the CW shows end later this month I will have something about all the various superhero show seasons. Most of them are going along quite nicely, though April was mostly a skip month for Arrow and Flash. Hopefully, all three of the CW shows can go out with as well as Supergirl did in it (hopefully not only) first season.

Now Playing April 2016

Beaten

Mega Man Legacy Collection – Wrote about it here. The only game I beat was Mega Man 2, but I played some of all of them and got close to the end of Mega Man 3.

Star Fox Zero – review coming soon.

Ongoing

Super Mario RPG – Progress was made, a write up is coming. It is taking me way too long to beat what is a fairly short RPG. I am liking it much more than I expected and probably more than I would have if I had played it back in the day. It is definitely the odd duck when it comes to Mario’s forays into this genre.

Bravely Second – It is too early to say if this game has fixed the problems of the first title, since that game’s flaws did not become apparent until far into the game, but it has certainly retained the first game’s charms. It brought back the best characters from the first game, added some fun new ones and kept the spirit of adventure and job shenanigans. I am having a blast with this so far. It can be too chatty at times, and some of the new classes are strange, but I am liking it a lot.

Trails in the Sky – wrote about it here. I am done with this game for the foreseeable future, and likely with this series. I still hope they all get localized, but I am not particularly eager to play them.

Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse – I’m about halfway done, but I haven’t had the time I’ve wanted to play recently. I should have a write up before too long.

Enslaved Journey to the West – I haven’t played much more than the opening, but I think I am going to like this. It is so unlike everything else I’ve played on the PS3. It is colorful and fun.

Return to Popolocrois – I said I wasn’t going to rush through this game, and I am not. Especially since all of my 3DS time is now Bravely Second time. This game is still suffused with warmth and charm that few other games can touch, but that does not in itself make it a particularly compelling experience. Still, I am going to take this at a relaxed pace between tons of other 3DS RPGs this year and hopefully get it finished sometime.

Upcoming

Hyper Light Drifter – I got this for PC when I wanted it for WiiU. But WiiU was a dicey proposition, so I figured I would just take it on the platform I had. Since I’ve borrowed an Xbox controller from my brother to play it with, I hope to spend some time with it in the near future. So far all the Kickstarter games that I’ve gotten have been excellent; I hope this continues the trend.

Illusion of Gaia – This is the first game that I am playing for my 25 SNES project that I am actually playing on my SNES. It was more than a decade ago that I stumbled on this game at a garage sale. I hadn’t actually heard of it, but something made me determined to buy it. I’ve sat down with the intention of playing several times in the intervening years, but I’ve never gotten more than an hour into it. I have heard so many good things about it that I am not going to give up this time. It seems like the perfect early summer game, so I hope everything works out.

Sparkster – This is due up once I finish Super Mario RPG and Magical Quest. I expect to get to it before the end of the month and play it in conjunction with Illusion of Gaia. No promises.