Playing: Earthbound (SNES) (GBA) (WII U)

Earthbound_Cover

There’s no doubt in my mind that I simply love retro gaming. I do have a long list of all the best games that you all should totally play, but for today, I’d like to let you all know of the priceless antique known as Earthbound (Also known as Mother 2). I remember playing this on an emulator at a very young age and I’ve probably replayed it more than 10 times throughout my years. And I must say, this oldie never truly gets old.

The story opens with our silent protagonist, Ness (Fun Fact: Ness is an anagram of SNES), waking up after a meteorite hits a nearby hill on Onett. When the annoying kid next door urges you to follow him, he meets an alien known as Buzz Buzz who tells him he will embark on an epic quest to rid the world of evil. With the story taking place in, well, practically all four corners of the world, Ness and 3 other chosen heroes set out to defeat the evil entity known as Giygas.

Now for a game that was made in Japan, it certainly feels like a JRPG… but also doesn’t. Whilst traditional games during that era were predominantly set in the middle ages and featured wizards and swordsmen, Earthbound had kids armed with baseball bats and frying pans. It’s chock-full of references to pop culture (Like an interesting Yellow Submarine) and is, as a whole, a bright and colourful take on epic quests.

The story is certainly out there – 4 Kids against the world. Literally. The alien entity known as Giygas basically exerts his evil influence on everyday people, animals, machines, zombies, coffee cups and records to name a few. The world of the game, Eagleland, is based on the United States (With a name like that, who knew?) and gives rise to myriad of quirky comments and interesting remarks about Western and Eastern cultures. The game itself is pretty simple to play though: it has an ordinary levelling up system, a turn based battle system, status effects that affect the party in and out of battle, an ATM to store the money your dad gives you… Wait, hold on a minute.

Music is definitely an integral part of the game, and many of the 8-Bit tracks are unique in their own way. It’s definitely an engaging part and it just works so well with the visuals. The graphics evoke distinct moods in the player, evident in the happiness felt as you travel along the streets of your home town, the melancholy in leaving it, the excitement of the big city and the fear in traversing through dark dungeons. The countless sprites and objects that lay throughout the world of Earthbound are without a doubt interesting to look at and provide an interesting sense of humour. Especially when you decide to talk to it (like a black sesame seed in the middle of the desert).

Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose my all-time favourite retro game – it’s always a tie between Final Fantasy V and Earthbound. But despite that little toss-up, this game will forever be a timeless classic in my heart. It really does have it all for me –  JRPG elements, an interesting plot, humour and art all in an excellent blend of retro goodness. It’s disheartening knowing that it may never get the glory it truly deserves, although the recent port into the Wii U warms me up just a little. If you’re a fan of good old games or just want to experience something hilarious and different, please give Earthbound a go. You’ll feel better than a bunch of “Fuzzy Pickles“.

Bry Rating: 5/5
Recommended? Avenge Buzz-Buzz! Play this now!
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Ape ; Hal Laboratory

Advertisements

Watching: Anastasia (1997)

Anastasia_Cover

Taking the spot as my favourite animated film of all time, Fox’s Anastasia gives the audience a unique take on the urban legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia’s survival of the execution of her family. It draws on the mystique of the infamous Rasputin and has a loveable cast, excellent musical score and an intriguing plot.

I remember when I first watched it, it didn’t really stick in the mind of my 9 year old self. The only thing that did seem to stick was the song titled “Once Upon a December” (Do yourself a favour, check it out). It was so unbelievably catchy that 5 years later, it forced me watch the movie yet again – only this time, I actually understood what I was watching and I fell in love.

Anya, an orphaned girl with no memory of her past leaves her orphanage and heads to St Petersburg to find out about her family. When she arrives, two con men, seeing her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia, decide to take advantage of her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia to receive a reward for her return. Unsure of whether or not she really is the lost Duchess, Anya and the two men, Dmitri and Vladimir, make their way to collect the reward whilst the evil Rasputin attempts to kill the girl once and for all.

Anastasia is an incredibly charming story that combines both drama, suspense, humour and innocence in a superbly balanced form. The film, which sustains an engaging plot, receives most of its praise from its animation, visual style, voice acting and (My favourite) the song sequences. Although some may see similarities between the film’s art style and that of Disney’s past movies, the film is authentic in its own right, providing viewers with an original and intriguing tale. It did, unfortunately, receive some criticism for its fairy-tale like depiction of a historical figure, but inaccuracies aside, this retelling of one of Russia’s most known figures is undeniably entertaining for kids, adults, and all those in between.

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite movie is, I can’t give a straight answer. I’ve got one for each genre, and so to narrow it down to a single film is impossible. In saying that, I immediately mention this film when asked what my favourite animated film is – every time. The plot, the visuals, the music – Oh, the music – simply make this movie an absolute delight to watch. If you are ever in need of a good movie on a rainy day or it’s one of those days you just crave for an animated children’s movie, be sure to consider Anastasia. It will, without a doubt, be worth your while.

Bry Rating: 4/5
Recommended? Yes – and you won’t regret a thing
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Playing: The World Ends With You (DS)

The_World_Ends_With_You_ Cover

Very rarely does a game surpass my expectations of it, yet The World Ends With You proved to be one of those few. With an deep plot, interesting game mechanics and a superb soundtrack, TWEWY will surely exceed your expectations too.

The story takes an interesting spin on purgatory – those who die in the RG (Realground) are given the chance to return to life in the UG (Underground). Neku, after waking up in the middle of the scramble crossing in Shibuya, is forced to flee after being attacked by beings later called “Noise”. He meets with Shiki, a fellow “Player”, who explains the basic idea of the world they find themselves in and how to survive. Players meet the bad guys, meet some new friends and go forth into battle (Typical of Square Enix titles, no?)

The playable characters (And a handful of NPCs) themselves are highly relatable, each with their own agendas, dreams and regrets. Whilst it’s arguable that some characters are overrated or cliché, its interesting to note that they raise a variety of modernist ideas. In a sense, the characters are used to acknowledge modern social issues, ranging from depression, ideas of beauty, perfection and even familial disorder. The best part? These are all aimed towards young adults.

The art style of the game is, in my opinion, addictive, original and exciting. The characters themselves are detailed sprites in both the over-world and battle screens. The story art and backgrounds are extremely stimulating –  almost as if hip hop was translated into 2D art (Which isn’t surprising when listening to the music of the game). Song tracks in the game are a reflection of typical “teen” interests, with most of them being upbeat and highly rhythmic (It’s one of them cool hits, Yo).

Most of the game is controlled via the touch screen of the DS, with certain functions and the story being in the upper screen. The weapons and items of the game are also “modernised” – traditional Square Enix swords, magics and potions are transformed into “Pins” that are controlled by the mind. Armour gets a makeover too – shields, chest plates and helmets become dresses, accessories and clothes that augment the user’s abilities.

“Psych” Pins can be levelled up and evolved through three different methods and there’s even a mini-game that details the in-game popularity of the Pins. Players can also scan the area they are in with a special Pin, allowing them to see surrounding noise and the inner thoughts of RG inhabitants. Battle gameplay is slightly awkward and complex as the game allows players to control Neku (with swipes, taps and holds) whilst also controlling his partner on the upper screen (with the D-pad). Overall, the mechanics of the game are overwhelming and understandably difficult to follow for both the inexperienced and the more seasoned gamer alike.

Yet despite these faults, the game is intoxicating to play. With a plethora of secrets, collectibles and side-quests (Apparently, style is very important – as is befriending all those cute storekeepers), TWEWY is a refreshing change to traditional RPGs within the world of hand-held gaming. Despite being one of the lesser known games of Square Enix, this interesting mix of pop culture and gaming makes it one of the more memorable titles of video games.

Bry Rating: 4.8/5
Recommended? Yes
Country Of Origin: Japan
Developer: Square Enix ; Jupiter

Watching: Sunny (써니) (2011)

Sunny_Film_Cover

Whenever I speak to anyone of my interests, I always try to sneak a mention of this film to people. Never have I felt such sadness, shock, joy and happiness watching a film. I was outraged – the mere thought of a film, a fictional story, reducing me to tears. A blubbering mess, I was ridiculed by my family who failed to watch it with me.

Going into it, I was expecting a light hearted story about a group of friends – and for the most part it actually was. Yet the constant time jumps from the past and the present (and the “convergence”) gave it more meaning than any plot device could. Laughs eventually turned to tears and the pain in my stomach turned to pain in my eyes.

The story itself is about Im Na-Mi, a housewife that meets her childhood friend by chance, Ha Chun-Hwa. This chance meeting is not in the best circumstance though – as she is slowly dying due to cancer. She asks Na-mi to regroup their old group, “Sunny”, as she wants to meet them one last time.

Director Kang Hyeong-Cheol tells the story in an interesting manner – while showing the bright and colourful past of the girls (which is ironically set against the backdrop of the Gwanju Democratisation Movement and civilian-military clashes), he also tells of the dull, if not depressing lives the girls live in the present. Memories of what was and what could have been are presented to the audience in an insightful manner, adding to the  sincerity of the film. It forces people to reflect on their own past – and how they’ve changed through life.

There is very little doubt that this movie is my all time favourite drama, and it would be extremely difficult to take its place (I would love to see someone try). The plot, soundtrack (Especially Boney M’s cover of the song Sunny), scenery and humorous references to Korean culture cements this film in my mind and heart. Even if you don’t enjoy foreign films or dramas in general, I sincerely wish everyone to watch this film – it’s certainly not one to miss.

Bry Rating: 4.7/5
Recommended? Absolutely
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language: Korean