How You Could Bring Back The Waltons

I recently started a new watch through of The Waltons – my first in a little while. My good friend Liam was kind enough to put every episode onto a hard drive for me so that I could watch them easily enough whenever I wanted to. Of course, I already have the DVDs, but it’s nice to have the episodes stored in another way too.

Once again, I find myself loving every second and also feeling sad that it’s all over. Though some people think it’s gone for good, I still think that there is still some capacity to bring back The Waltons. Here are a few ways that I think it could be done satisfactorily:

  • Next Generation: Many of the adult actors are sadly no longer alive, but I feel like doing a ‘next generation’ style reboot. One of the children (probably John-Boy) could have a family of their own, with them as the grandparent. It could be set in the 80s or 90s and give us a whole new era of stories!
  • Novels: These could be set during any era of the show’s history and cover things we never saw before, for example, John-Boy’s travels around the world or the things which happen in the gaps between the films.
  • Audio-books: A similar idea to the above, but they could be read by Richard Thomas! Then we’d have something more of the character there.
  • Prequel series: Have new actors playing the grandparents in their prime. We got lots of references to the old days, so lets now see those references extrapolated and properly acted out!
  • Remake: My least favourite choice, but I’d still watch it and probably love it if this happened.

Hopefully, before long, we’ll see at least one of these happen. Or, at very least, John-Boy Walton in Super Smash Bros.

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Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

I’d always known that this was a game with a really high regard, but I’d never really given it a chance. I’d only played it briefly once or twice and I thought to myself “sure, this is alright.” and that was the full extent of my interactions with it. Later I played the first game in the series – and it was absolutely terrible. Thankfully, I was not deterred and eventually got around to giving this game a proper play through.

If you don’t know anything about it, I’m sure that you can guess that it’s a typical fighting game. A 2D fighting game with a range of unusual characters from around the world fighting each other. Most significantly, you have Ryu – who has become something of a gaming icon. The characters do represent different countries, and in slightly stereotypical ways, but never quite the the extent of the characters in Punch-Out!!, for example, who boarder on the offensive.

Ryu actually may be my favourite character in that I feel he has the most enjoyable fighting style – particularly his hadouken move, which has him shooting a ball of energy out of his hands. Ken is pretty great too (although I think he controls exactly the same), I also enjoyed Blanka (a strange beast with electrical powers), E. Honda (a sumo wrestler) and Chun-Li (the game’s only female fighter).

You play through as each character, who travels the world fighting the others. After that there are a few boss characters and then a little ending sequence for each one. One of the boss characters, Vega, was really tough (I thought) but generally the game always seemed to have a fair level of difficulty (which you could adjust at any time.) There’s a multiplayer mode which can be pretty fun too.

What I enjoyed most about the game was the fact that it was simple and easy to pick up, all while having some fantastic presentation. The bright, vibrant 16-bit graphics are amazing – the wooden cabins of the Brazil stage, the flashy Las Vegas stage, the Japanese bath house… I love them all. There are so many small details and animations which bring them all to life. And the soundtrack is pretty great too. The game is a slice of gaming history and I encourage all gamers to give it a try.

Rating: 8.3/10

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Appreciation for Children’s Stories

Something that’s quite interesting to me is that there are several pieces of fiction created for children (or young adults) that as a child or teenager, I thought were too childish for me and did not enjoy – yet now, as an adult, I can enjoy these things. The further I move away from the target demographic, the more I appreciate them.

Take, for example, The Sarah Jane Adventures – this was the CBBC spin-off of Doctor Who and made with a slightly younger audience in mind. When it was on originally, I watched a few episodes and thought to myself “no. This was made for children. I am not a child. I do not enjoy this.” and the same goes for several video games made by Nintendo – I played them, found them to be especially child-oriented and didn’t pay them much attention. I was more interested in nineteenth century literature. I felt that it was a sign of maturity that such things did not interest me.

Looking back, however, I see that it was quite the opposite. It was a sign of immaturity. As teenagers, we’re all so desperate to be thought of as adults and that’s certainly how we view ourselves, but we don’t realise that our minds still aren’t fully formed. Or, at least, mine wasn’t. My disliking of more child-oriented things was purely irrational – born out of a fear of not being taken seriously. It was to such an extent that I didn’t even realise this was the case.

But growing older isn’t about no longer enjoying childish activities and only enjoying adult activities. That would mean that the number of things you enjoy never really grows, because you’d lose some while you gained others. But now I see that becoming an adult is being able to appreciate the things that only appeal to older audiences, while retaining that appreciation for the amusements of childhood. Or, at least, that’s how I feel it should be. I’m sure there are a lot of people who worry so much about being taken seriously that they’d never really allow themselves to admit that they genuinely enjoy these things that are essentially ‘for children.’

I know I’m focusing on fiction and stories created for children, but I feel that this general principle applies to all aspects of life. There’s nothing shameful in enjoying the things you enjoyed as a child – it merely shows that you are empathetic enough to be able to remember how it really feels to be a child.

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The Difference a Week Can Make

I started this week, not feeling low, per say, but without any high expectations. I had a couple of social plans which I was looking forward to, but nothing too special. In fact, I predicted that it might even be a little stressful due to a couple of factors.

But, at this point, I can say that it was an excellent week. I’d rather not talk too much about the details, as I will save that for a future blog post, but as it turns out, this week provided me with an amazing unexpected development which brings me so much closer to achieving one of my biggest goals in life. And not only that, but it is pretty life changing too – and for the better! Everything is coming together in ways that I never imagined and I’m so excited.

And what’s wonderful is that you never know when something like this will happen. For all I know, next week will contain equally exciting developments. When I look back at all the best and most exciting things that have happened to me, none of them really happened on a schedule. Every Monday morning when you force yourself out of bed and make your weary way to work, you could be at the start of a week in which everything changes for the better!

I know that may all sound very cliche, but it felt worth nothing, because I didn’t expect anything from this week and then it turned into a very significant turning point! I hope that your upcoming week brings you something similar.

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Starwing

When you think of the SNES, you probably imagine 2D side-scrollers and RPGs, but actually it was also a console on which you could find some of the earliest examples of 3D gaming, including Starwing, the first game in the Star Fox series.

You play as Fox McCloud flying through various levels in his Arwing spaceship – shooting at enemy ships and aliens as you do. I’m sure some people will play it and instantly think the game looks terrible – it is very primitive 3D and all of the ships are made up of untextured polygons. But to me, that just adds to its charm. It’s a very unique look.

I’m also very fond of the game’s 16-bit soundtrack. It perfectly captures the feeling of 90s sci-fi video game adventures and really gets me in the mood to play. The old sound effects for explosions and gun shots are also pretty great. I never played this game as a child, but it’s one of those games which has aged in such a charming way and embodies all the good things about retro gaming.

Each level is ‘on rails’ and your ship flies on forward by itself. You then move it around trying to avoid oncoming ships and their shots. Each level ends with a boss battle. It’s a simple formula, but it works – even the controls are alright. I’ll admit I lost on the first level a couple of times, but before long I got the hang of things and I found it all easy enough. Although that’s not to say that the later stages aren’t without their challenges. Also, while you can do all of the game’s levels relatively quickly, there are alternative paths to take, which encourage you to replay.

Overall, it’s a great game. If you like Star Fox and want to see where it started, you should definitely play this. It introduces Fox, Slippy, Falco, Peppy and all the rest and although there’s no voice acting, you still get all the comical interactions between them. It’s an excellent game, full of character.

Rating: 8.4/10

Buy it here.

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My Thoughts on Banjo-Kazooie in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

This week has been the week of E3 and there have been a number of exciting pieces of video game news and announcements. There were a lot of things I was particularly impressed by, but the thing that appealed to me the most was the fact that Banjo-Kazooie will be playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s delightful for so many reasons.

First of all, I was particularly pleased with that way that they were revealed. Donkey Kong, Diddy and King K. Rool were all really happy to see them, which is satisfying for so many reasons. Banjo came from Diddy Kong Racing, so he is really a part of their world, but with Rare being bought by Microsoft years ago, the connection between the two is rarely acknowledged – some even going so far as to say it’s not legitimate. But I prefer to see the games of Rare as a shared universe and this trailer validates that view. Then there’s the fact that it was originally Duck Hunt Duo in disguise – a clever reference, perhaps, to people who previously suggested that their inclusion meant that Banjo and Kazooie wouldn’t be worth it due to being too similar (I love the Duck Hunt Duo, by the way.)

On a similar note, I’ve always held onto the belief that everything is eventual. People said that Banjo and Kazooie would never again have anything to do with the worlds of Nintendo, but I thought that was very short sighted. In time, everything ends up happening – especially in fiction. I always imagined that there’d be an emotional reunion between Diddy and Banjo in some way or form in the future – and now it has happened! This is something I’ve thought about for well over a decade and its marvellous to see it fully realised.

Secondly, it’s just so nice to see Banjo and Kazooie back and fully animated in 3D again. It’s been almost a decade since they last had a proper appearance and, yes, there have been things like Minecraft where they’re technically there, but none of their personality seeps through whatsoever. As a big fan of them and their series, I am pleased to see them being put to good use.

Finally, I think Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a pretty great game. The previous two games in the series had felt somewhat lackluster to me and I was starting to lose interesting in the series, but this one was much more enjoyable and the addition of Banjo-Kazooie is something which will make me enjoy it even more. I’m glad they were added to this Smash Bros. and not the previous one.

They said of the game “everybody is here” and I really agree with that now. As a child, I wanted to see Donkey Kong, Banjo and Mario characters coming together and now I have a game that has all of them. But not just all of them – also characters from just about every other game I loved back then. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were two other favourites of mine – and Young Link, the star of them, is included. You can be Bowser – as a kid, I always wanted a game that let you control him. Wario Land 2 was another favourite and Wario’s there as well. We’ve got various Pokémon, particularly from the first generation, which captivated me so much when I first played it. Super Castlevania IV is another one of those games I have a lot of sentimental memories of – and now Simon Belmont is playable. I could go on. Not only are all of the video games of my childhood now represented, but also those of my adulthood and I can’t think of anything else that brings together so many of the things I love in one place, especially not in such an enjoyable way.

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Super Mario Odyssey

As much as the quality of the series remained relatively high, I have to say that by 2017, Mario’s games had started to become a little predictable. Sure, there’d be a new power-up or something like that, but you’d know what you were in for with each new instalment. Standard platforming fun around the Mushroom Kingdom which you’d grown to know so well over the years. There were never any really exciting surprises, but it was nice, comfortable and familiar. This all changed with Super Mario Odyssey.

Yes, once again Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and you have to travel across the lands in order to rescue her, but this time it’s a very different journey. Instead of simply kidnapping Peach, Bowser actually wants to force her to marry him this time and so has steals artifacts from all over the world. As you chase after them and retrieve these items, you head to many corners of the world into which Mario has never ventured before.

But before I get into the worlds that Mario explores, I need to tell you about an important new character: Cappy. Mario’s iconic hat is destroyed in the opening of the game, only for him to then team up with a spirit called Cappy who merges with his old hat. Cappy gives Mario the ability to throw his hat like a boomerang and use his hat in lots of other cool ways – most significantly, he can now throw his hat onto enemies to take control of them.

The ability to ‘capture’ enemies like this, provides a huge amount of variety in gameplay. You can posses a tyrannosaurus rex and go on a rampage, you can possess a Para-Goomba and fly around the stage, you can possess a Cheep-Cheep to explore the ocean without the need for air, you can possess a Bullet Bill and launch yourself into cracked walls to destroy them. There are quite a lot of things you get to possess and it’s really fun to get a feel for playing as all of these different creatures. Later in the game, this is used in some really significant and amazing ways – I’d not like to spoil it, but I was so excited when I first got to these bits…

On top of the new abilities that Cappy brings to the table, you get to explore huge, beautiful worlds quite unlike anything we’ve seen in the series before. There are expansive desserts, open forests, frozen landscapes, beautiful beaches and even a realistic city. It’s not one big open world, but instead you fly between them in a ship called the Odyssey. Each world is filled with Power Moons which you get by completing various tasks and these moons power the Odyssey, so the more you have the further you can fly – opening up more worlds. You can also buy souvenirs along the way to decorate the interior of your ship.

What I like so much about this game is that each world really feels like a ‘world’. You’re not just avoiding enemies and jumping across platforms to reach the end of an obstacle course, you’re exploring locations with a history behind them and interacting with a cast of wacky characters who are just getting on with their lives. It all feels so much more immersive and I love the excitement that exploring these places provides.

My favourite is New Donk City – this is the realistic city I mentioned above. It looks a lot like New York City and is full of references to the Donkey Kong series. There are streets named after Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and even King K. Rool. Most excitingly, Pauline herself is mayor of the city and it’s implied that this city may even be the location of her kidnapping by the original Donkey Kong all those years ago… it’s a real treat for the fans.

And this whole game is full of delightful references for fans of the series. One other new feature is that Mario is now able to change his clothes. There are so many outfits to unlock and just about every one of them is a reference to one of his past adventures. I was particularly excited when I saw that one of his outfits was a reference to the game Qix – you may never have even heard of it, but it nicely highlights how comprehensive they were in choosing the outfits!

In the past, Super Mario 64 DS had been my favourite 3D Mario adventure. I thought that would probably always be the case, because it had nostalgia on its side, but it has finally been dethroned. This is the Mario game I always wanted. It has a lot in common with games like Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie and as I love them enormously, it was no surprise that I loved this too. I think what really says a lot, is that this is a game I can happily play just walking around the levels and doing nothing in particular. Only the best of the best can achieve that.

Rating: 9.8/10

Buy it here.

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The Joy in Order

I’m writing today’s blog post much later than I had planned to do so, and do you know why? It’s because I started making a spreadsheet. I was having so much fun, I simply could not draw myself away to start writing a blog post – and the funny thing is, I like writing blog posts!

For a while now, I’ve felt like this website needs better archives for things – especially its reviews. You may have spotted that I have posted updated archive posts for each of the different video game franchises I’ve reviewed. On all of those, I’ve made a table which shows the year the game was released, the title and the score I gave it (along with a link, of course.) Just before bed last night, I had a great idea: why not make a huge table which lists every book that I’ve reviewed here? The excitement of the idea almost kept me from sleeping.

So today I started making this table. Adding the title, the author’s name, the year of publication, the type of book (e.g. novel, anthology, etc.) and finally my score. I have to say, adding a new thing onto this table was like eating out of a box of chocolates. “I’ll just add one more,” I’d tell myself, only to still be doing it half an hour later. But that’s where my comparison falls flat – it’s hard to stop eating chocolates, but eventually my stomach hurts from eating too much and I have to stop – but when it comes to updating a spreadsheet, nothing ever starts hurting, I love doing it and I can never stop. I never have to.

Eventually, I just had to close the tab, because it was getting late and sooner or later I’d spend so much time listing books I’ve read that it would cut into the time I have for actual reading! But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Why is it so satisfying to list things on spreadsheets and make lists? I can’t really explain. I guess, in a way, it now makes all reading activities feel like part of one big over-arching interconnected task, which is quite appealing, but generally speaking I struggle to explain the raw animalistic thrill I get from making spreadsheets and lists of things.

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Pokémon reviews:

Nintendo’s hugely beloved and insanely addictive RPG series, based around catching and training a myriad of fantastical creatures.
YearGameScore
1998Pokémon Red Version & Pokémon Blue Version9.6/10
1998Pokémon Yellow Version9.6/10
1999Super Smash Bros. ¹6/10
1999Pokémon Snap8.9/10
1999Pokémon Gold Version & Pokémon Silver Version9.7/10
2001Super Smash Bros. Melee ²9.5/10
2004Pokémon FireRed Version & Pokémon LeafGreen Version9.6/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl ³9.5/10
2008My Pokémon Ranch8/10
2010Pokémon Black Version & Pokémon White Version9.5/10
2013Pokémon X & Pokémon Y9.1/10
2013Puzzle Swap7/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS8.9/10
2015Pokémon Shuffle8.3/10
2015Super Mario Maker9.4/10

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Pikachu and Jigglypuff are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  2. Various Pokémon are playable and there are multiple stages based on the series.
  3. Various Pokémon are playable and there are multiple stages based on the series.
  4. Xerneas and Yveltal appear in one of the game’s puzzles.
  5. Various Pokémon are playable and there are multiple stages based on the series.
  6. Various Pokémon are playable via Mystery Mushroom.
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Starting a New Book

Vigilant readers may have noticed that it has been quite a while since I last posted a book review here. There is a reason for this. I have three books that I’m reading at once: one actual book, one on my Kindle and one on my 3DS. Having three on the go at once is quite useful, because it means that if one of them isn’t that great, I don’t grow tired of reading entirely, because I can focus more on one of the other two, while slowly making my way through the more boring one so that it still gets read.

However, as foolproof as this system may sound, I very recently discovered that there was a possibility I had never considered: what if I end up reading a boring book on all three platforms? Well, I know the answer to that question and it’s this: I end up reading much less and then am unable to keep up with my bi-weekly book reviews. Once I start a book, I always make sure to see it through to the end – which is good and bad. Sometimes my opinion of what had initially seemed boring turns around as I come to the end, but other times I find myself slogging through an unenjoyable book with no payoff. Ulysses by James Joyce is a good example of this.

Anyway, the good news is, I finished a book today! I started something shortly after and right away, I loved it. I want to read beyond the designated reading hour I had in the day and it felt so good to feel that way again, because after spending so long with unengaging books, it was something I hadn’t felt in quite a long time. It’s a shame because that’s actually a pretty great feeling and I missed it… but I guess now I appreciate it all the more! Plus, it helps because my renewed enthusiasm for reading in general means that I can more easily make my way through the more boring books – which probably doesn’t make sense to non-readers, but think of it like this: bad books are not good exercise for the brain’s reading muscle, but good ones are, so now my reading muscle is being exercised properly again and I can make more progress with everything.

Starting a new, good book after finishing a chore of read feels amazing – even better than starting a good book after a good book would do. That’s one nice role that boring books play. Sadly, the bad news is that the boring book I finished was just one of the books of The Bible and I’m not going to review them individually, just one of the whole thing, so I’ll still be book reviewless for a short while!

Still, it’s great to be enjoying reading again! Its like reuniting with an old friend…

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